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.


  1. The best part of going to Kelley's Pace is John! He is the one who encouraged me to keep on running even though I was barely managing a 12 minute mile. He is the one who told me to stop eating the stupid GU if it was upsetting my stomach and use real food. He's a smart guy. You're a smart lady for listening to him.

  2. I love your encounter at the Goodwill! Hee hee. And yes, in that scenario, I am you. Except probably without the apology, but with the not sleeping well over it. You even explained it to your kids, so it was a good learning experience for everyone. Education in action! Totally worthwhile. :)

    And I wish I could go into my local running store and talk Hemingway with a legend. *sigh* So sorry about your foot!! Hope it gets better soon.

  3. I love your Patch columns. I am impressed with your actions...I will still usually stand by and brim with annoyance in that sort of situation, unless I'm already fired up about something else, lol. Maybe one day I'll learn, too :)

    I hope that foot/leg gets with the program and heals up :(

  4. Helen, we are indeed lucky to have John Kelley in our town!

    Gretchen, it's an honor to talk with this man. He so unassuming. You'd never guess at his accomplishments.

    Paige, me too! I'm getting discouraged about this damn foot.


Please feel free to leave thoughts, suggestions, advice or queries. I love comments!