Friday, September 21, 2012

I Absolutely HATE Being Sensible

Yes you read that right, but I'm also discovering that the older I get the more sensible I become.

I started running in early 2000. I was 30 years old and had begun a quest to run the Chicago Marathon -- which I did that year and four more times before I last ran it in 2008. Back then it was pretty easy to ramp up the miles, and though I had an IT band issue during that summer, it went away and I was back to running.

I've been lucky to not have suffered any serious running injuries, like a tear or a stress fracture or anything that has befallen some of my friends and training partners. I have had a few things crop up here and there but they would come and go with time.

One thing I have noticed as time has passed is that the "going" part of an injury takes much longer than it used to. A couple of days has turned into 5-7 days, and sometimes even more.

Back when I first started running I probably ran through a lot of issues that I maybe shouldn't have, but I'm stubborn and competitive and don't like to give in. Even when I'm sick I try not to let it affect my daily routine. I used to have bad sleep apnea and 2 1/2 years ago I had a surgical procedure where I had my tonsils taken out, my pallette shaved and bone spurs cleaned out of my nose.

People I had talked to before told these horror stories where they were laid up for 2-3 weeks after having the surgery. Though I did take an entire week off from work, I was so stir crazy I was up and doing many of my normal things about four days later.

That's me...at my age still young and stupid sometimes. But I have gotten better over the years, even though I hate it.

Which finally brings me on topic. Back in June I had a cramp of some sort in the lower part of my right leg. It sort of stuck with me for a few days and it went away. A few weeks later, I was about two blocks away from completing a run when, in the same spot, I felt this really big pull.

Back on the shelf.

Things had been OK with it since. I have been stretching and am continuing to run slow, just because keeping at an easy pace doesn't take as much push-off on each stride.

It came back yesterday. On a walk of all things! I had gone on about a 2.5-mile walk at lunch, but I wore my older dress shoes instead of changing into my running shoes. I mean, come on, I was walking...what could possibly go wrong?

Well when I got back I felt a twinge back there again. So I walked it off and streched it a bit, and was thinking of giving it a go on a short run last night. I was halfway to the door and I felt it twinge again. So I didn't run.

I brought my gear to run at lunch today, and I felt it again. Which means I didn't run.

Sensible? Yes. Frustrating? Yes!!!

Back in the day I would have probably given it a go. It didn't hurt too bad, and if I were careful maybe I could run through it until it went away.

That was back in the day. The odds of my aggravating it would probably be much higher now, so all I can do is wait. Ugh.

So I'm being sensible, which I don't want to be. Today would have been a great day to run. It is about 60 degrees and there is a light rain. I love to run in the rain -- not a coming-down-in-buckets rain, but just a light shower that keeps things cool.

Fall is one of the best times to run. It just feels so good to be out in the cooler temperatures, and the humidity is usually down. My motor runs much better in these kinds of conditions.

But I wait. Instead of running I spent my lunch going to Walgreens to buy some heating pads that you stick on and leave for several hours. Those seem to work pretty well for me. Buying heating pads and talking about the weather...is this what getting old is all about?

I guess the toughest part is that I had a couple of great runs this week and was looking forward to continuing that momentum. I had a great 5.25-mile run on Sunday and then I put in 4 miles on Tuesday, and even though I picked up the pace a little it felt easy.

But it's better I wait. There are lots of good runs waiting out there for me if I'm smart enough to be able to run when that time comes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Expectations

I've been through a lot of things over the last few years. You know those lists of the most stressful things that can happen in a person's life? Yeah, I've lived most of those. A lot of them at the same time.

But you know what? Like anything else, I made it through. Maybe not unscathed, because there are very few things that happen in our lives that don't leave some sort of permanent mark. Still, days turned into weeks, and those turned into months, and here I am. I don't know if I can say I'm stronger, but I'm different, and in my case, different is better.

I learned an interesting lesson during those times. I was talking to a counselor once and she stopped me mid-sentence and said "You know what? I think one of your biggest struggles is that your standards for happiness are too high".

When I thought about it, she was dead on. I was always one of those people who thought that if once I accomplished certain things, I would be happy. Like if I lost weight I would be happy, if I ran a fast marathon or broke 80 on the golf course, I'd be happy. The mere fact of moving on from a difficult marriage was going to make me happy.

You know what? I was wrong, and that's why I wasn't happy! The things that need to make us happy are the things that are right in front of us, because those things are the only ones we can enjoy. It's been a difficult transition, but one big change I've tried to make in my life is this:

Love the journey, not the end result.

In a stark contrast from the past, I try to be happy with what I have done, or where I am, instead of expecting things to get better down the road.

In the past, I might have been mad about the 5K I ran over the summer. It was so slow, and I had to stop and walk, and on and on and on. But the thing is, two months before I couldn't run "a" mile, let alone 3.1. I passed a lot of other people who had at times slowed to a walk, so I wasn't the only one. And get this, I had a great time!

For a long time, I had gone to races all by myself, which was fine. But I'd always thought it would be fun to run with a couple of friends and get together for some beverages afterwards and rehash the experience. To truly participate in the bond between runners.

That night, I did that. I hung out with Darcy, who is always a great companion, my friend Scott, who I hadn't seen in months, and Bernie, who's just a cool dude. We hung together the first mile and while I was a bit behind them at the end, we got together for some photos and then headed to the post-race party, where we had a couple of beers and laughed...a lot.

Honestly I remember that way more than my time, and that's the point! When I did look back at my time, I saw it through a more realistic set of eyes. I got out of it exactly what I put into it.

It's like losing weight. We get stuck on that number on the scale, which isn't the only quantifiable number that matters. We get discouraged if we go a week and lose, say, a half pound. That's only part of the story. Sure, we only lost a half pound, but maybe we ran a bit farther than we had the week before, or we went five minutes longer on the treadmill or ellipical or whatever.

When I got on the scale the other day I was at 245 pounds, meaning I had maybe lost a pound over the previous week. But at the same time, I had done a long run of 5.25 miles, the farthest I had run in over two years. And I felt so good, I think I could've even gone farther!

It all adds up, and it all matters! Because if we are doing the right things: eating well, exercising, taking care of ourselves; all of that will add up to good things. It has to, there is no other way.

Trying to adapt that attitude has been a true game-changer for me. The passion to do things well, and the desire to compete -- not only with others but myself as well -- hasn't gone away. It's just channeled in a different direction, and one that in the end will benefit me more and more.

In another session I made the following statement: When my only expectation is to finish something, I'm never disappointed.

That's a real mantra to me now. Because it isn't lowering my expectations, per se, it's more giving in to the process and trusting that process to take me where I want to be. I've found that mindset takes me even further, and makes me happier, then setting lofty goals that are hard to attain and sap my happiness in order to get there.

At this point in my life, it's just dumb to continue beating my head against a wall. Striving to compete, to give my all and do my best, is going to take me further than I've ever gone before. I just know it. The journey is what makes me happy, and that's the way it should be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I've Had an Epiphany Of Some Sort

(Did I spell that right?)

Anyway, it's been a great last 10 days or so as I felt inspired and set some goals.

The first one is that I am running the Chicago Marathon in 2013. I've run seven of them before, and the last one was in 2008. Back then I wondered if I would ever want to run one again. Don't get me wrong, race day is awesome, but the idea of training and running 20-milers all by myself wasn't thrilling.

But now I have some people in my life that I know will love and support me and be with me every step of the way, so that decision was made pretty easy. It also helped that I read the novel "Marathon" by Hal Higdon, which is about the final 72 hours leading up to the Lake City Marathon (or as I quickly figured out, Chicago by another name). As he details the characters' actions and feelings in the final hour before the race, I started to get butterflies. Seriously! It was then that I felt like I had it in me to do it again.

In the short term, I'm also running the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago on Nov. 5. It was just going to be the 5K, but a few of my peeps talked me into taking on the longer race, and I thought it would be a nice challenge.

I went out and ran 4.8 miles on Monday night and that felt really, really good. I followed that up with a 3-mile run Tuesday and a 4-mile walk tonight. I think I will follow that two-on, one-off routine for the next few weeks, and add a 1/2 mile or so to the long runs so that I will be close to the 9.3-mile distance when the race rolls around.

I have been eating much better, and got on the scale at 244.8 today. Just a couple more pounds and I will be down 20 since I started! Exciting!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Getting There!

I got on the scale today and was surprised to see I was sitting at 247.4! I don't really feel like I did enough over the past week to drop six pounds, but I will take it anyway. I started thinking about how good it would feel to be down 20 pounds -- meaning I have five to go to get there -- and I hope to make it in the next couple of weeks.

Slow and steady! I have to keep reminding myself that. I think I have eaten pretty* well this week, but I am giving myself an asterisk because I had a few lapses. But overall I gave it a pretty good effort. I brought my lunch to work for several days which is always a big help, although I have to admit I've had some ballpark food the last couple of days.

As a freelance sportswriter, I spend my summers covering a minor league baseball team. Very few perks come with that, but one of them is that I get a free meal from the concession stand. Unlike past years, where I went up there like it was a trough, I have shown an amazing amount of restraint this season. But with the season (possibly) ending on Labor Day (today) I have indulged because it is a long way until the 2013 season opener next April!

On the workout front, I was held back a bit because of work, but I finished the week with a late-night three-mile walk. I sort of lead a strange schedule in that I often don't go to bed until one or two in the morning, so being out walking my neighborhood isn't a strange thing.

Back when I was running a lot, I did a lot of midnight running. A great thing about that is that you don't have to worry about traffic and it is very quiet -- and in the summer the weather is a lot cooler. In fact, some of my best runs have come late at night.

I've been having some back issues over the last few days, no doubt overdoing it a little when I played a bunch of golf on Wednesday. So I've stuck to walking over running, but that should change in the next day or two. I want to get going again so I can run a couple of 5Ks before the year ends. In fact, there is a fun 4-miler on Thanksgiving that I have run in the past, and it would be nice to get in shape for that.