I Hate You, I Love You, I Hate That I Love You: Track Workouts

Yep, I hate you track workouts. But I also kind of love you. I love how you hurt so good sometimes, but then other times I hate how you use me up.

I am nervous each time I toe that line on the track. It’s a different nervous than when I’m running cross country style. The track is all smooth and level with no barriers or terrain changes to impede my running. I have no excuses for slower running. I have nothing to look at to distract me. It’s just me focusing on my speed and it’s horribly wonderful, or is it wonderfully horrible? Either way I’m challenged and I’m forced to work on getting better. There is nowhere for me to hide. I’m on total display.


When the cross country girls and I run the trail or retention pond or around other areas of the school we get to explore. We have objects to dodge and interesting things to look at. When the girls and I run the track, we are right there, running circles, in full view. It’s very convenient for the coaches to yell at me, “Arms, Dendy! Use your arms! ARMS!” and other helpful corrections. When I hear this, I focus on my arms. It is good for me to have someone watching me run and evaluating my form. This is a true gift. I am appreciative of the feedback and I’m always quick to thank the coaches for taking the time to notice me and scream at me. This is true. But, I also kind of hate it. Sometimes it feels like they’re mean … then I remember that I’m just being emotional and the best runners focus on the practical, not the emotional, and I tell myself to quit being a sensitive wuss. Incidentally, this whole notion of emotion vs. practicality in running is something that intrigues me and I’ve written about it before. But I digress. I am thankful for the corrections and I earnestly try to implement all of the corrections I receive when I’m out running without coaches present.

But I still can’t help the way I feel. On the track I always feel inferior. I feel like I have no place on the track. You see, I don’t exactly consider myself a real athlete. Real athletes are fast. Real marathoners have Boston qualified. I’m over here still trying to break four hours on my marathon. Now, of course, I realize that I am a real athlete and many people would kill for a 4:10 marathon, I know this. But I still can’t help but feel that I’m not fast and I’m a fraud and everyone else thinks so too.


Now, I work hard. I really do. And I try not to give up. I really do. So all of this makes me an athlete and it truly makes me proud, but for some reason when I get on that track, any running confidence I once had goes out the window. Incidentally this also happens when I run with fast people, run in a new situation, on random neighborhood runs, etc. So maybe the common denominator is me and not the track, huh?

So, slowly, running is teaching me confidence and speed work on the track is the ultimate test of my confidence.

Am I a Dreamer, Or Just a Fool?

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In graduate school I took an American Literature course where I learned about the Romantic Period and the Realist Period in art, most specifically in literature. The Romanticists’ characters are larger than life, the plots are unusual and typically contain a happy ending, the setting is often made up, and the language is figurative and flowery. Conversely, the Realists’ characters are common, the plots are ordinary with a possible unhappy ending, the settings actually exist, and they employ everyday language.

This whole concept of Romanticism vs. Realism has always stuck with me. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve always been so fixated with this concept, but I think it must be because I struggle with finding a balance between these two modes of thought. Flowery language, made up places, larger than life characters, and happy endings are so much fun! I guess that’s the stuff of which Disney movies are made. It’s fun to think in this way; to have my head in the clouds and the sky be the limit. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Life is a wonderful adventure. Let’s think of happy things and pursue our hopes and dreams. It’s all very kumbaya; very, “let’s go sit Indian Style (or Criss Cross Applesauce) in a circle around a tree and be one with the universe.” But, alas, the dreamer must come back down to earth and operate in the real world if she wishes to live a normal life.

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So, I’m a bit of a dreamer by nature. I’m a romantic. The fact that I am this way makes me kind of hard to love, honestly. I tend to have whimsical illusions that border on fantasies. I need practical, rational people around me to sort of talk me down from these ledges I find myself perching on at times. Often, I talk my own self down, but sometimes I need someone else to do it. If all we did was dream and focus on the pretty stuff, when would we ever get anything done? The real world is one of mortgages, child rearing, employment, and household management. It’s paying bills, grocery shopping, and attending meetings. It’s traffic jams and waiting in cash register lines. It’s holding our tempers and often losing our tempers. It’s saying things we don’t mean and neglecting to say the things we genuinely mean. In short, life is rough. The real world can be cruel. It’s easy to become disenfranchised. Amidst all of this real world turmoil, a little dreaming is a respite.

So, the answer to the Romanticist vs. Realist conundrum is to find a balance between the two schools of thought. Live in the real world. Keep your feet planted on the ground. Maintain a good head on your shoulders. Remember that we must be tough to survive. Conversely; however, keep dreaming. Keep setting big goals and achieving them. Keep believing in yourself. Don’t immediately shoot down an idea or goal telling yourself that you’re too busy or too tired. Fight for what you believe in and what you want. Be a dreamer insofar as you believe in the possibility of success, even if you fail at your initial attempts.

Be a dreamer that expects a lot out of yourself and  inspires and motivates others, but also mind your real world duties and responsibilities.

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Be a dreamer, but don’t be a fool.

 

Who Needs Sleep, Hygiene, or Sanity?

tirmonumentSo I just completed another overnight relay race and it was wonderful. Was I sleep, hygiene, and sanity deprived? Yes. Did the lack of sleep and frequent running make me weary and light-headed? Yes. Did I bond with like-minded runners exploring new terrain and learning a lot about myself along the way? Yes. Yes, all of that happened.

My husband and daughters greeted me at the finish line and my husband said what he says each time I do this: “I just could never do that. I would go crazy without sleep and a shower.” I can certainly appreciate that sentiment. I mean, sleep and common creature comforts are what help to make the world go round. It is truly the little things in life that make us comfortable and secure. One thing that strikes me as incredibly interesting; however, is that when we take ourselves out of our day-to-day existence and deny ourselves of our beloved creature comforts, we learn more about who we truly are as people and what is important in life.

So, since I’ve been back from my relay race, I’ve been thinking about what it is exactly that appeals to me about a race of this magnitude, and the following is what I came up with.

  • It’s like an adult sleepaway camp or some sort of spiritual retreat.tirgirlies

I don’t want to say that an overnight relay race is a spiritual retreat exactly, but it really kind of is. Think about it. You’re out communing with nature, devoid of excessive technology and creature comforts, focusing on your passion and your community with like-minded people. You are learning about other modes of thought and perspectives and there’s really no way you can walk away from an experience like that without feeling inspired and transformed in some way. I believe this, right here, is the single most important reason I love participating in the overnight relay race.

  • You are offered a unique experience.tir finale

Participating in an overnight relay race affords a runner unique opportunities. You get to do things you wouldn’t typically get to do at home. Run down the shoulder of a highway at 2:00 a.m. with volunteers present and a van full of supporters? How unique is that of an experience? Run a prepared course that takes you through some really interesting areas full of history and beauty? Yes, please. All of the legwork has been done for runners all so that they can have a special experience. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

  • It forces you out of your comfort zone.darktir

Were you all snuggled into your comfort zone? Well, this will get you quickly out of it. First and foremost, you’re out of that normal day-to-day grind that you are so accustomed to. That load of laundry, sink full of dishes, carpool drop off, etc.? That’s all being handled for you. You’re nowhere around. Being away from home and with new people allows a runner to focus solely on running. Additionally,  there is no home court advantage. Runners are all thrown in this together and must work together exploring new territory. This intimidating setup gives you confidence to try new things, and I believe confidence is a key component to living a fulfilled life.

  • You get to act like you’re 12 years old again. name tags

It’s so much fun to get to act like a kid again. No responsibilities, nowhere to jet off to, you really are only responsible for yourself … not your children, not your spouse, not your animals, not your home. You are FREE! There isn’t the hectic schedule to adhere to. Runners get to be totally selfish and it’s wonderful.

  • You are having old fashioned fun. tir2017

A race set up like this takes away a lot of the distractions. It disconnects you a bit from technology and puts you in touch with good old-fashioned fun.  Looking at things from an unconnected perspective can have a profound impact on how we approach things in life and it allows us to be more open to learning new things. But, above all that, hilarious conversations and one-liners among teammates abound an overnight relay race, and it is fabulous. It is so much fun to be silly with other runners, and being around other runners as they share their experiences is a great way to learn new tricks of the trade, and I am always most appreciative of this aspect of the relay race.

  • You make fast friends.tirgirls

I would venture to say that relay runner friends are friends for life, experiencing a connection like no other. It’s a deep engagement forged through shared experiences.  The experience is unique not only because of the quantity of time with which a team is together, but because of the quality of the time teammates enjoy. Again, this is time away from creature comforts and the day-to-day grind, so it’s uninterrupted bonding time and it’s wonderful. I so enjoy the friendships created on an overnight relay race, and even though I may not be able to visit with these relay friends in person that often, I enjoy a connection through social media with them that I cherish.

  • Self-exploration is inevitable.fly girl

An overnight relay race is a chance for you to really explore yourself. To stop being so hard on yourself and to truly think about how you can grow as an individual. It opens you up to different possibilities. My goal is always to take home things I learn along the way, and every time I do this. I learn a lot from my fellow travelers and I learn to relax and trust my intuition and to just be happy. Above all, be happy.

So, what’s not to love about an overnight relay race? If you’ve never done one, it’s time to change that.

Pre-race Jitters

raceMany times I have written about the ritual of races. A race is a sort of ceremony. There is magic on race day. It begins with the donning of the bib and the toeing of the line. It’s the nervous anticipation of the starting gun and the instant camaraderie created with the runners that will race alongside me. It’s the shared struggle we runners will experience together. It’s all of this, and it’s wonderful.

I have never taken the time to think about the days leading up to the race and how exciting they are. Yes, the actual race is the performance after many dress rehearsals, but those days that immediately precede that performance are very special.

A few days before a race I really start to think about my nutrition, hydration, stretching, activity level, and sleep patterns. At this point, the training has been done, and it’s time to simply take care of myself so that I can run on fresh legs and in the right frame of mind. Sort of like a bride preparing for her wedding, I begin my racergirl grooming by doing the following:

  • Drinking tons of water and Nuun water
  • Eating my complex carbohydrates
  • Foam rolling & stretching
  • Deciding on a race day outfit
  • Preparing my pace band (I may follow it to a tee or a may “sort of” follow it).
  • Picking up my packet
  • Laying out my race day outfit
  • Deciding on my driving route, parking, and estimated time of departure (I like to arrive at a race 45 minutes before start).
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Then, it’s race morning!

Like Christmas morning to a child, I bolt out of bed and begin my pre-race ritual. After all of my basic hygiene, it’s time to get dressed and hydrate while I watch the news or some trashy reality show I have taped. I’ve already decided what I’ll wear down to my socks and pony tail holder, so there’s no stressing about locating items or items not working well together. I just put the stuff on that I’ve laid out. I always like to pin my bib on at home before I get in the car and drive to the race. I just like to center it on me in the bathroom mirror. It’s kind of fun. I typically unpin it and re-pin it in a slightly different spot about four times before I’m satisfied with its placement. As I’m doing this I take note of the fact that my hands are shaking a bit. Funny, I race multiple times a year, but I know that I’ll always be riddled with nervousness before a race. It’s an exciting nervousness, of course, and ultimately it’s fun. It is funny; however, to recognize the signs of my nervousness as they happen to me. I kind of become an outsider looking at myself. It is in these moments that I want to cry some happy tears. I’m truly so amazed with myself right now. This is me up early preparing for a race. Me! I have never been an athlete. I’m the girl that is quirky and kind of awkward in life. I am always struck by how cool it is that I am about to compete. I feel brave and accomplished. I’m about to race.

Next, I like to go and make sure my car will start about fifteen minutes before I really need to leave. Why? Well, last July the battery in my mommymobile decided to go bad. I hopped in my car the morning of the Baytown Bud Heatwave 5 Miler and the car wouldn’t start. Frantically, I woke my husband, popped the hood, grabbed the jumper cables, moved my husband’s truck, and once my husband came to from his deep sleep, we gave it a jumpstart. I am quite certain that I woke my husband with an urgency akin to the times I informed him of the beginning labor stages I was experiencing before the births of our children, but he was nice and sprang into action. Thanks, David! For better, for worse, crazy runner lady or normal lady. It was a good thing that I was already planning on getting to the race site 45 minutes before race start. I must also add that it was good that I knew how to pop my own hood and get everything ready for the jump, as it saved me some more time. Talk about my hands shaking during that whole ordeal! But, I still got to the race good and early. I got a great parking spot and I finished my pre-race ritual of hydration and fueling.

So, as I prepare for my upcoming race, I am enjoying the fact that I get to race. The fact that I have found a sport that I am passionate about and by which I feel accomplished and strong. The nervous excitement is fun and I will enjoy every last second of it.

Enjoy your racing, everyone. Do you have any fun pre-race rituals?

Fierce & Forty

I turn 40 today and it’s a very happy day for me. I am much more evolved than I was in my twenties, for sure, but the true reason I am so excited about turning 40 is that I get to move up to the 40-44 age group in races. I know, to the casual pedestrian that would sound odd, but chances are, if you’re reading this right now, you totally get what I am saying.

It’s a very beautiful thing that the female 35-39 year old age group is so competititive. What it means to me, is that for the majority of women, their kids have grown up enough to be left alone at times and just generally don’t require as much attention and care. It’s very freeing when a mother can have some independence from her children. Her children are developing their own interests and talents and this frees up quite a bit of ole mama’s time. What to do? How about develop a nasty running habit? That’s what happened to me, at least. It’s funny, when I run with the high school cross country girls, I find that they don’t have the kind of perspective I do. I’ve lived a bit more life than they have. I’ve been knocked down quite a few times and have lived to tell about it. I have gone through pregnancy and childbirth. I have had tremendous highs and lows throughout my adult life, not that my life has been that rough or anything, but life is tough and even small hardships teach us to be resilient. I believe I try more now because I believe in myself more than I did when I was younger.

So, how exactly have I changed as I’ve aged?

1. Well, for starters, I’m an open book. I tell everyone everything that is on my mind. I show all of my cards. People tell me that my face tells them everything they need to know. I also don’t try to hide my flaws from people like I did when I was younger. I used to be very concerned with people discovering I was flawed. Nowadays, I almost speak too much about my flaws to people. It’s as if I’m telling them, “look, I know I’m a mess. I really do. I am working on myself, but sometimes it’s just so much fun to be the way I am right now.” So, the positive is that I am self-aware and can admit my faults.

2. I do pretty much everything with passion and heart. I invest everything into whatever it is I am working on. I sometimes get “tunnel vision” where I become completely consumed by things; however, I find that when I am truly invested in my task it shows in the end result. I like to be creative and successful and my key to this is the passion with which I operate. Overall, this is a good thing. I’m striving to do the things I love and to love the things I do.

3. I am much more decisive now than I was when I was younger. I believe a lot of this stems from the fact that I now know what I want. I find that I don’t grapple with decisions as I might have in my youth. I am starting to realize that I spent a great deal of time fretting over things that were pointless and not worth the stress, and I worried too much about making the wrong decisions. I find that I now trust my gut and I try not to feel guilty if things aren’t perfect.

4. While I still struggle with my confidence, I believe I am much more confident now than I was when I was younger. I tend to put myself out there much more. From rocking fashion risks to admitting my weaknesses, I am learning to do things for myself, not in order to look a certain way, and I enjoy laughing at myself. I believe this has all made me much more secure. But, in the spirit of honesty, I still tend to be quite insecure. Perhaps I can overcome this by my 50th birthday. Maybe 60th or 70th?

5. I believe I am more fierce at 40 than I have ever been. Fierce and forty … now that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I feel healthy, strong, beautiful, driven and dedicated. My perseverance and tenacity have given me more guts, for lack of a better word. I feel better, I respect myself, I’m starting to become less emotional and more practical. In short, I’m learning to like myself.

So, for these reasons, I’m happy to start this next decade of my life. I wish for PRs and happy moments with family and friends. I wish to forge a deeper connection with those that I love and admire. I vow to live my life with passion and purpose and to continue to strive to become better.

“May” Dendy Convinces “January” Dendy to MOVE ON!

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Okay, truth time. I’ve been moping around in a state of mourning since Sunday. Yes, I’ve been saying all of the right things and feigning strength, but I’ve been a crumpled mess inside. Now, as I read back what I just wrote, I see how completely ridiculous it is. I mean, people out there are fighting cancer, competing with physical impairments, dealing with the loss of loved ones, and all that happened to me was that I didn’t quite make my marathon time goal! Dendy, get over yourself! You don’t even have a right to be sad! But, alas, I have been sad. I trained for an entire year for my A race. On race day, I brought my A game. I went after that A goal, full effect. I was doing extremely well, all up until the point where I wasn’t. That’s when I became hopeless, and then it was all over. Now, I still finished my marathon, so that’s a great accomplishment. I recently read that only 1 out of every 100 people have completed a marathon, so the fact that this was my third time to do it is really very cool. Additionally, I still managed to finish within a reasonable time for my gender/age group, so that’s something to be proud of. Plus, I felt like throwing in the towel and quitting, and I didn’t. I kept muddling through that marathon until I reached the finish line. That is something to be extremely proud of. So, I’ve been licking my wounds and getting myself into the correct mindset. One thing I did was to go back to a blog I wrote back in May entitled, “What Do Sports Teach Us About Life?” and everything started to come together for me. I realize that sounds kind of egotistical … I went to something I wrote eight months ago to bring me solace now, but it really worked. I have to say, the Dendy that wrote these words eight months ago might as well have been speaking to the defeated Dendy that is writing this now. I wrote a lot about how a true athlete accepts her limitations and setbacks and learns and grows from them. Wow. I need to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. This, right here, is my chance to truly practice what I preach. Of the nine areas I wrote about in that blog entry, four points apply to me now. I’ve copied my own words back from May here and I underlined the points that speak to me now:

emily dickinson1. How to win and how to lose.

Obviously, one of the first things learned is how to lose and how to win. A competitor should be graceful when he loses as well as when he wins. When we lose it’s easy to become upset, and honestly, a bit of upset after a loss is a good thing. For, the goal is to come out on top; to perform well; to enjoy a victory. Often times; however, despite our best efforts, we lose. In these moments it is important to remember the bigger picture. To remember that a loss should not deter us from continuing to work hard for what we want. It is important during losses to continue to honor the spirit of competition; to respect your opponent and to allow them to make you better. Conversely, sports teach us to win gracefully. Nobody likes a gloat. The truth is, as trite as it sounds, we win some, and we lose some. It’s certainly more fun to win, but we must always remember that we cannot win every time. Besides, if we did win every time, would the victories be as sweet? I think not. Emily Dickinson in the poem “Success is Counted Sweetest,” asserts that “to comprehend a nectar, requires sorest need.” In other words, to truly appreciate victory, we must experience defeat.
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3. How to persevere.

Playing sports teaches us how to work hard, deal with discomfort, overcome obstacles, learn from struggle, push our body’s limits, get back up after falling, and to never give up. In short, sports teach us to persevere. These qualities are obviously necessary in athletics, and they certainly spill over and apply to the rest of our lives. In any given situation, resilience and determination are great contributors to success. When we fight through hard times and push past discomfort, we get to the good stuff. All great things worth having in life take effort and don’t come easy. The good things are worth fighting for and require perseverance, right? Sports teach us to develop that part of the brain that is in charge of perseverance, and the sooner we learn to fight for what we want, the more successful we become.

5. How to set goals and have a positive attitude.

Playing sports teaches us to set goals, and this builds confidence and a positive attitude. Achieving an athletic goal we’ve set for ourselves requires us to believe in ourselves, and each time we succeed, we become more confident. Naturally, we will fall short of our goals at times, but we learn to take those losses in stride, soldier on, keep a positive attitude, and keep fighting. Setbacks will happen, but good athletes do not let those setbacks destroy them. A good athlete takes every experience, good or bad, and learns from it. It is truly the way that we respond to setbacks that dictates our future success. A positive attitude, even when we are struggling, will keep us working toward our goals.

9. How to see the bigger picture.

Athletes know that there’s more to life than just the game. They know that family, friends, faith, and education are what holds the true meaning to life. Athletes; however, have an intense passion for their sport. Engaging in their sport brings them great happiness, purpose, confidence, and health. The sport certainly enriches their lives, but it should not be the be all and end all of their worlds. It is important for athletes to be completely engaged in their activity and to take the necessary steps in their lives to accomplish their goals, but they must remember that there is more to life than the sport. Involvement in sports enhances our lives, but it shouldn’t run our lives.

 

Well, so there ya go, Dendy! Quit being weak and defeated. Get over yourself. Aren’t you stronger than this? Yes, you are. So I had a lackluster race. Does one lackluster race negate all of my hard training? No. Did I learn an incredible amount about myself on all of those early morning solo training runs? Yes. Am I stronger for all of my training? Yes. Will I use this setback to fuel my fire? Yes.

Back in May, I wrote the words, ” It is truly the way that we respond to setbacks that dictates our future success.” Yes, May Dendy, you are so right … now convince January Dendy of this, please.

So today I am forced to practice what I preach. This experience will make me stronger.

Marathon Mile Dedication

I will run my third marathon Sunday and I’ve decided to dedicate each of my marathon miles to a specific person or group. I have many people that are very important to me in my life. These people support me and offer me inspiration and motivation and taking the time to think about them during my race will force me to keep pushing. This will be my first year to try this, and I am very excited about it.

When exhaustion sets in, that’s when I feel hopeless. That’s when that horrible part of my brain tells me I simply cannot go on. I’m feeling physically and mentally exhausted, and all I want to do is collapse on the pavement and dissolve into a pool of tears. I just want to curl up into the fetal position and sob. Like an embarrassingly loud, guttural, primal sob. A flat out temper tantrum. Naturally I won’t do that, but boy have I fantasized about doing that a few hundred times! This is where this bracelet with mile dedications will come into play. This is that moment when I need to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place. This is where I remember that I should be grateful that I am running this marathon right now. This is when I need to acknowledge that there are many people in my life that are rooting for me. There are people that care about what I am doing. These people want me to succeed. These people are important to me and in this weak moment, I need to honor them. I’m not only running for myself, I am running for all of them.

I won’t publish my dedication list here … that would just be weird. Kind of like admitting my political affiliation or religion. Obviously, as evidenced by my blog, I am not afraid to share some of my deepest, darkest thoughts, but they are my thoughts that affect me. I shy away from writing about my political beliefs, church involvement, or specific people in my life. It seems rude. For some reason publishing the list seems too personal, too. But, I will tell you some of the obvious mile markers, just in case you are curious.

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Of course my husband, each daughter, mother, and father are on the list. These people are my biggest cheerleaders. Naturally, at times they resent the time I put into my running, but they are the very first people to brag about me to anyone who will listen. They are proud of me. They believe in me. They make me better. Then there are my dear friends. These people aren’t family … they don’t have to stay loyal to me, but they do. They ask me about my runs and offer me encouragement and support on a regular basis. I don’t have a long list of friends, but these people are quality people. What I lack in numbers, is made up for in quality, for sure. There is the cross country coach and the cross country girls. These people are like a family of sorts for me. No words could really ever express the gratitude I have for these people. There are all of my social media friends that inspire me to pursue my passion and cheer me on. There are my coworkers and the student body at my school. I love my job and I consider the people I work with a work family. There are the companies and organizations that took a chance on me and allowed me to serve as ambassador for them. These people opened many doors for me and created countless opportunities for me to become truly connected to the running community. Then, of course, there is me. I will run the last .2 for me and only me. It will be a mad sprint to the finish and I will be smiling the whole way. I will throw my arms up as I step on that finish line as I always do.  

I honestly can’t believe I never thought of this idea with my first or second marathon. I believe doing this will remind me to keep fighting. It will remind me to push past my feelings of inferiority. It will force me to focus on what is important to me rather than my shortcomings. It will remind me that even though I am feeling woebegone, I can ignore that emotional aspect of the discomfort I am feeling. It will give me that eye of the tiger I need. It will make me fierce.

Two Faced … One Looking Backward at 2016, One Looking Forward to 2017.

New Year’s is countdowns, fireworks, champagne, tradition, plans for bettering ourselves, hopefulness, and fresh starts. New year’s is a time to assess the past year and make resolutions for the upcoming year.

 
img_9508I’ve never been one to make a resolution on New Year’s Eve, per se. Honestly, it seems most people make grand resolutions they never really intend to keep. They proclaim they will begin doing something or they will quit doing something, but they don’t make the necessary changes in their lives that would ensure their success. They believe that by proclaiming they’d like their lives to change, that magically their lives will simply change.

Since I became a runner; however, I make running related goals each year. This got me thinking about what new year’s resolutions are and how this practice came to be.

 
Of course I know that a new year’s resolution is a promise to commit to a goal to improve life after careful consideration of the past year. But how did this tradition begin? After some research, I have gleaned that the tradition dates all the way back to 153 B.C. January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. Janus had two faces — one looking forward and one looking backward. This allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future. On December 31st the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.


I rather like this image of Janus with two faces … one looking backward into the old year and one looking forward into the new year. I liked the idea so much I played with graphics, as I enjoy doing, and created a “Dendy of Two Faces” for my (and maybe your) enjoyment.

But I digress. Many inactive people will make a resolution to exercise and/or eat healthier in an effort to lose weight. The advertisements on television and the internet will focus on losing weight, getting healthy, saving money, drinking less alcohol, etc. Many will begin some sort of new regimen for the purpose of a better year. New Year’s is a natural time to set goals, and frankly setting goals and working hard to systematically achieve them is a commendable exercise.

 
New year’s resolutions are seeds full of possibility and potential that set intention. We look back at our previous year and set goals for the new year. The new year is an exciting time. It is a time for us to start fresh. For us athletes, it means that we continue doing the hard work we’re already doing with a new fervor and resolve.

So, while I find it easy to set running related goals, I find it much harder to set life goals. Perhaps this is because life is tough and at this point, running makes sense to me. Perhaps as I gain more experience with setting and meeting my running goals, I’ll become more successful in setting and meeting my life goals. It’s worth a shot anyway. Running has taught me to believe in myself and to try hard to systematically achieve my goals.

So, my plan for 2017 is to approach my non running related goals with the same fervor I have for my running related goals. My resolution for 2017 is to be better. To be better, not just as a runner, but as a person.
Here’s to all of us making and keeping our New Year’s resolutions. Happy New Year’s.

Unsolicited Advice


I’m sure, if you’re reading this, you are a pretty dedicated runner and have had your fair share of unsolicited advice from non-runners, occasional runners, or ex-runners. Don’t get me wrong, advice on running is something I always listen to. I will always listen, I just may disregard the advice and move on with my life, but I will certainly listen and carefully consider running advice. I’m still figuring this whole running thing out and I’m always looking for ways to improve my running. If a knowledgeable person can give me some advice that will help me to improve, I am all ears. It’s the negative comments about my running and words of discouragement I get from non-runners and bitter ex-runners that really gets my goat. Why must you, person who knows nothing about running, tell me that I am running too much? Why must you, person who, for whatever reason, got burnt out on running, tell me that eventually I will be just like they are? Why discourage me? Why offer negative advice? Why make me question what I’m doing? Why? What is the purpose?

Maybe it just boils down to the fact that people enjoy putting their two cents in on topics, whether they have any business doing so or not. People like to feel like experts on a topic … they’ve been there, but this is our first rodeo, that type of thing.

 
Would you ever tell a woman who is celebrating her first wedding anniversary, “Oh, honey. You may be happy now, but check back in with me ten years from now. It won’t be all rainbows and unicorns then, let me tell ya!” I’m guessing that most people would never dream of saying such a horrible thing to a newlywed, but whenever we squash other people’s dreams, burst their bubbles, tell them it will all go down in flames, it is rather like telling a newlywed they are destined for unhappiness. When you think of it that way it’s a really horrible thing to tell a runner that she can’t possibly sustain her running, isn’t it? It’s kind of like saying to her, “well, you might feel really strong and accomplished right now, but you just wait … you’ll be miserable soon enough.”


Now, not all advice is negative advice. There are many wonderful people out there, with various backgrounds in regards to running, that are spirited cheerleaders for us runners. These people build us up, cheer us on, and celebrate with us. These people might warn us to “listen to our bodies. Don’t overdo it. Make sure you take care of yourself so that you can continue to do what you are passionate about for as long as is humanly possible.” When these people offer us this advice, it is coming from a place of love and sincerity. These people get it. These people know that whatever their story has been, the person standing in front of them has her own story, and they don’t want to dampen that story.


I have a beautiful story about a woman who cheered for me when I needed it the most. It was at mile 24 of the Chevron Houston Marathon and my body felt like it was about to give out. I was so tired and I was feeling incredibly emotional. This woman, appearing like an angel, held a sign that read, “FREE HUGS.” I stopped, went towards her, and as she took one look at my pitiful face, she opened her arms to me and gave me an awesome bear hug. I cried a bit on her shoulder and she squeezed me harder. She told me to “keep going. Don’t stop.” I am tearing up as I type this. This woman, who owed me nothing, supported me when I needed it the most. This is the type of runner I want to be. That woman gets it. When I ran off I heard her cheers loud as could be and I knew she was rooting for me. I vow to stand with such a sign at mile 24 of a marathon at some point. I want to offer the kind of advice and support that that angel did for me.


So, I plan to run for as long as my body will let me, but more than that, I vow to be an inspiring, motivational advice giver. I vow to build others up rather than tear them down. I will not be a bubble burster. I will not wish future ill on another.

Weekends away with my husband.

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-10-39-59-amThis isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that I write about how vacation running is simply the best. But even more than that, a vacation away from our kids was simply the best for my husband and me.

 
I had to go to Austin for a meeting with the Texas book selection committee on which I serve, and for the second year in a row, my husband and I turned it into a mini vacation. It was just the two of us, and it was glorious. Then, the following weekend, my husband and I participated in the Shiner Beer Run in Shiner, Texas. So, for two weekends in a row, we took trips without our children and we enjoyed ourselves.

So what is it, exactly about a trip away from home, not even in an exotic location, that is so enjoyable?

 

  • Breaking routine

In short, we enjoyed no kids, no work, and no household chores. We traded in all of that routine for new experiences, meeting new people, and making new memories. It was so easy for us to enjoy each other with the absence of daily stressors. There wasn’t any yelling up the stairs, “Come on girls, we need to leave in ten minutes!” or “Callie, have you studied for your science test?” or “Are these dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty?” It was just talking and laughing and hanging out and it was wonderful.

  • Rejuvenation

Like a defibrillator to our chests, these mini vacations recharged us and made us fresher. The daily grind can be quite cumbersome and a break from the constant commotion was such a relief. One doesn’t truly realize the amount of stress they are under when they are constantly coming and going from one event to another. I guess, in a way, that’s a good thing, for if a person is able to just keep chugging along without a nervous breakdown, she must be doing something right. However, even the strongest people out there need to get their batteries recharged or they will short circuit. My husband and I were able to hit the pause button on our day-to-day lives, hang out together with no real responsibility (except for that pesky all day meeting that Saturday in Austin for me) and get refreshed.

 

  • Appreciation of our lives

Being away from the kids, the home, and work makes us appreciate all of those things that much more. We got to the point where we were actually looking forward to returning home to our family and our work, even though we were having a great time. We love our life. It is truly what we dreamt of nearly fifteen years ago when we got married. We wanted a house, healthy children, and steady jobs. We have all of these things and then some. Our lives are really very good. We have a lot to be thankful for, indeed. Being away from the grind made us truly appreciate what we have back at home.

  • Good old fashioned fun

While we’re certain we couldn’t exist without wifi, it was nice to chill out on the work emails and detox from the excessivie social media interactions in favor of walks in the park, listening to live music, dining at new restaurants, and lazily cuddling. These are the things that truly make the world go round. It was quite fun to do these things with my husband. We’ve been together since the year 2000, but we’ve been parents since 2004, and we don’t always take the time to enjoy each other as we should. These weekends reminded us of this, and for that I am quite grateful.

 

  • Adventure

Even though we were in cities we’ve been to countless times, we felt a bit adventurous, and this was exciting. We felt more closely bonded to each other through our shared adventure away. It got me thinking, too, that I tend to be attracted to people that enjoy adventure. The “adventure gene” should be present in all of the people with which I choose to associate. Obviously, a 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hour trip to a city within our state isn’t the same as a backpacking trip around Europe, but adventure can be found anywhere. I find adventure on my runs in my hometown, and we enjoyed the adventure we had together in Austin and Shiner. Additionally, I really enjoyed my Austin and Shiner runs, as always.

 
One day my husband and I will be sitting around in our rocking chairs asking each other where the time went. We’ll barely remember the specifics of soccer seasons, cross country meets, school projects, etc. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the stresses of our day-to-day lives and to forget what is really important. Taking a break away from home and away from our children really helps us to remember that.