Monday, February 21, 2011

Cross Training and Me

It has been two and a half weeks since I last ran. My ankle is still a bit achy, but I think it's getting better. I think, I think, I think.


I see my PT later this afternoon and I am expecting to get the okay to start up running again later this week. Here's hoping I don't go out and run 20 miles off the bat and undo all this healing on the very first run. So tempting.....

I have been cross training my butt off. Literally. Have you ever taken a spin class? Holy guacamole! These classes are killer. Especially to a poor little runner like me with nary a cycling muscle to bless her. These classes are short and incredibly intense: the polar opposite of my usual running style (slow and mellow, dude). I get off the bike after 45 minutes or an hour dripping sweat and gasping. It takes a few minutes for the walls of the room to stop pulsing in and out.

You might say I am becoming mentally tough, which has never been a particular strength of mine. We'll see.

I have also been swimming, which was my first love in the grand scheme of things. I grew up on swim teams and now help coach my kids' swim team. I am slowly getting back into swimming shape. Just yesterday I banged out five 200 IM's in a row and felt great. I am once again getting acquainted with my arms and back and core. And it's all good. I feel better overall.

Sometimes I cry because I miss running so much. But swimming and biking are pretty good, too. Just a bit more difficult to fit into my crazy schedule. I really do need to incorporate more cross training into my running life. When I run every day, often twice a day, I get injured. I need to get that through my thick head. I really am going to try to keep up the cross training once I start running f'real (hi Paige!) again.

Here's my Monday Patch post. The temps hit 50 here last week, so the kids and I hit the beach! There are a few more photos on the link.

We are visiting friends in Stonington who just happen to live near a beach. It’s chilly outside, but sunny enough to wander down to the shore to see what’s going on.

Out on the sand the snow is mostly gone, save a few patches of scaly, salty slush. This stuff is oddly textured and impossible to walk on. It slides with your foot and sends you reeling. The kids run from patch to patch like drunken sailors.

They are all in explorer mode, prying the sand for treasure. There is a shocking amount of life for a mid-winter beach. Live scallops open and close in the shallow water. A few of their cousins are stuck in the tidal mud, and the kids throw these back in. Gulls and ducks float just out of reach looking for food. There are black-headed mergansers here as well, I’m proud to tell you. I am slowly learning the local birds.

My daughter Nell finds a horseshoe crab shell. She tells me the shell has been shed by a live crab (rather than left behind by a dead one), because the front is missing. I didn’t realize horseshoe crabs shed, but it makes all the sense in the world. I’m so happy the learning channel is starting to run in the other direction.

Our friends tell us they recently saw mink tracks, though we don’t see them today. We do however see deer tracks in the sand as well as flappy, triangular duck tracks in the sticky mud.

The kids find a dead cormorant belly up at the water line and everyone gets wet. They take sticks to the carcass and start a crude dissection. They get the mouth open and look down past the tongue to the long esophagus. Everything beyond that is picked clean to feather and bone. It’s too cold and clean to stink. When they flip it on its back red blood flows into the water and they all run away.

The next day is oddly mild, a February thaw, and we still have the beach in our heads. I have an afternoon appointment in Westerly so we stop for an hour at Nappatree Point. It’s like we’ve stolen into another season. There is no snow here and no ice. Tucked into a dune in the sunshine it almost feels warm. The water looks so inviting; it’s difficult to remember we are wearing coats and hats.

But these quickly come off. Who cares if it’s still a bit chilly, we’re at the beach! We shed socks and shoes and stand in the 34-degree water for as long as we can take it. This is a contest I always lose. I bolt for the warmish white sand and bury my aching feet. What is it with kids and cold? They never seem to feel it like I do.

I’m not a huge fan of summer beaches, but I love them in winter. The muted light on the water is beautiful and the place is usually empty. Today is no exception. There are a few people walking their dogs way down the beach and us. That’s it. Paradise.

I lie back on the sand and point my face to the sun. I hear the surf and the kids playing and I swear I’ve found a little piece of summer.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jut like freaking clockwork

The minute I decide to run 100 miles, my foot and leg go all wonky. I'm beginning to think it's all mental. I'm beginning to think I'm psychotic.

Literally the day after I upped my registration from 100K to 100 miles, my right foot and ankle started to feel a bit squishy. Of course I went ahead and ran too far anyway, and now I'm downright injured. Not terribly so. I have hope that this is a passing thing. That I stopped running in time for it to heal in a week or two.

Here's hoping.....

Last Thursday afternoon, after I ran a bit too far on my aching leg, I stopped into our local running store, Kelley's Pace, to try on a pair of Saucony Kinvaras. The legendary (1957 Boston Marathon winner, two-time Olympian) John Kelley himself was behind the counter chatting on the phone.

He finished his call and scurried over -- a wizened, almost toothless sage with a lifetime of experience to draw on.

"Hi Pam! What can I do for you today?"

I love my town.

We had a long, philosophical talk about running. (John is a talker.) We talked about his grandson's third place finish at the JFK 50 this past fall. We talked about early mornings and Hemingway and clean, well lighted places. I told him about my sore foot.

That's an overuse injury, he told me. I know you think you can't give up the training, but you really should take some time off.

When a living legend tells you to take some time off, you damn well take some time off.

So I haven't run since. Today is Tuesday. I did a three mile trot in the neighborhood this morning and the foot felt about 85%. Which is better than yesterday. Which is better than the day before.....

The rest was nice. I was exhausted. I swam and lifted and walked. I read and wrote.

Here's my weekly Patch column. An uncomfortable encounter at the Goodwill. Not my most shining moment!

The kids and I are at Goodwill and we have been standing in line for quite some time. I hadn’t realized it was 50% Off Day when I agreed to stop in here, and the place is packed. This is the kids’ favorite store. Unlike almost every other store in their experience, this is a “yes” store.

A pair of jeans for $2.00? Yes!

An old wooden game of Scrabble for $1.50? Yes!

A glass bunny figurine for $.50? Yes, yes, yes!

When we joined the line it stretched half way down the center aisle. We’ve been inching forward for ten or fifteen minutes and weirdly no one has jumped in behind us. We’re all in our sledding clothes, which are uncomfortably warm. The boys are getting fidgety and keep trying to wrestle. With just one person now ahead of us in the line, which has been branching right and left as cashiers become available, we are still last.

The woman in front of us finally moves to the left-hand register, her cart brimming with glassware, each piece of which must be carefully wrapped and artfully placed in a big plastic bag. We, at last, are first.

Just then a rather glamorous (for Goodwill) woman with a pile of white coats slung over her arm sashays up to the right-hand register, which has almost completed its sale, ignoring my ragtag group completely.

The meek little me of yesteryear would have let it go. I would have stood there like a mouse while this aging beauty stole my place in line. I would appear to any onlooker (what onlooker?) to be the patron saint of patience. But inside I would be seething. I’d be peeved at the woman for cutting, but even more frustrated at myself for allowing it to happen.

These days I’m a bit bolder. I don’t know if it’s parenting that has opened the floodgates of assertiveness or if it’s simply a function of age. In my case, the two go hand in hand. Perhaps by the time I’m eighty I’ll really be a force to be reckoned with.

Last summer our family was out at a restaurant with my parents in Virginia. When my son Ben’s grilled cheese arrived at the table slightly burnt, I did not hesitate. I tracked down the waitress, sandwich in hand, and politely requested a new one.

My parents almost toppled out of the booth. I guess they don’t see me out in public very often these days. Surely this was not the same person who spent her entire childhood dying of embarrassment at the slightest hint of conflict? The girl who would expire under the checkout counter while her mother returned all manner of unwanted clothing? Who would almost pass out the moment her father had the slightest disagreement with the teller at a bank?

Like all new skills, assertiveness is coming to me in fits and starts. Because I’m a beginner, I don’t always do it well. Often I let things go too far before jumping into the fray, after I’m already a bit heated up. My unruly emotions, rather than my rational calm, sometimes win the day.

Which is what happens here at the Goodwill. I wait too long to speak to the woman with the white coats. Surely she will notice us here and recognize her error, I think to myself. Surely a grown woman would not blatantly and deliberately cut in front of a bunch of children in line. Surely she will not force a confrontation?

Unfortunately, no. I am, it seems, forced to take action.

“We have been waiting here for a long time,” I tell her, with perhaps a slight edge to my voice, a sort of high-pitched squeakiness common in women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. “This line is for both registers.”

If only she had left it at that.

“Oh, no,” she says. “That’s not the way they did it the last time I was here.”

I think my hands start to shake. Why is this such a big deal? Why can I not calmly deal with this woman and get on with my day?

“It’s a new world,” I snarl at her, seemingly out of nowhere. “Get used to it.”

My daughter Nell sort of giggles nervously in a mad attempt to diffuse the situation. Clearly I have crossed the line of civility. How did this happen?

The woman gets in line behind us and we move to the right-hand register to ring up our sale. I feel about two inches tall. Not only did I lose my cool, I did it in front of my kids.

I apologize to her on the way out. “I’m sorry I was short with you. We were in line for a long time.”

She looks at me agape and says nothing.

Back in the car I tell the kids I behaved badly. These little encounters always leave me shaken. I don’t even sleep well that night.

Next time I’ll try to speak up before I lose my good humor. Next time I’ll keep my cool. Next time at least I’ll be civil.