You just never know. Several folks I spoke with before and after the 16 mile run on Sunday confessed to some level of anxiety. Of course anxiety is the imagination of something bad happening —any number of possible unpleasant scenarios and combinations. Pain/injury, getting lost, thirst, being last, being too slow, difficult recovery, discomfort in any form for any reason. The run is over in such a short time compared to the amount of time I might spend thinking about the team mileage schedule in the green book (the printed 2011 log for the Richmond Sportbackers’ training team) and counting up the 20-mile runs. “How many?” “…and what day is that?” “…what else is going on that week?” “How will I fit that around Sarah’s wedding /the Folk Festival/ …etc.?”

In fact, I had a great run. A plan for cutting a couple miles out (right on Grove and back to the stadium rather than left to the final water stop) may have helped. Before the Sugarloaf Marathon, Amy and Amanda had suggested (during a 2 ½ hour aqua-jog one morning) that I have back up plans just in case something happens. Don and Henry were there at various intervals on the course as were many other families. I had visions of being lost out on the rural Maine highway with logging trucks flying past. The visions are usually so much more dramatic, and entertaining.

I started out the run with one of the guys on the team that I’ve enjoyed meeting, knowing he would want to pick up the pace soon but I enjoyed starting off with him. I ran the next several miles with a guy who was on his first run back after an injury and was planning to do just a short run. The idea of cutting off more than just a couple miles wasn’t anything I had considered. I can think of one instance of my doing on a training run fewer miles than planned. Now that surprises me to write, given how extremely (to a fault, I think) flexible I am with plans. I think it drives my students nuts. It may be one more aspect of running that appeals to me, and that I am learning from. (note: I just now read the course plans on the website and see that written into the plans for a long run are several options for cutting the run short. Suddenly the green book doesn’t seem so menacing.)

Bill (I think that was his name) turned back at some point and I picked up some speed to meet up with two women running a similar pace just a few yards ahead. They were sisters, one of whom had completed— I think she said— 18 marathons and the other, a handful; and one together. One elected to drop her pace back and I ran a few miles with the other. I could tell she wanted to push the pace and I lost them both after the next water stop. I may have spent a little too much time chatting with Winnie, a Saturday coach and one of my inspirations for training with the MTT. (For those unfamiliar, the Richmond Sportsbackers’ Marathon Training Team enlisted more than 1000 runners on 11 teams based on experience and pace. And that’s just for the full marathon. There are also a ½ marathon and 8k training teams.) Seeing a friend—a very strong friend—gave me an added boost and I continued on. I caught up with a pair of guys, one of whom was a trainer from a Saturday team, keeping a brisker pace (about 45 seconds faster) than my normal comfort zone but the coach reminded me to “relax, breathe and forget the Garmin”. I ran a few miles longer with them than I would have if I’d been keeping to, what I thought was, “my pace.” I let him get ahead of me after the next water stop but I kept pace just behind him and a woman in a cute green skirt up Grove (which would have been my turn-around). It was my second visit to see Winnie and at that point I was feeling great: confident and strong and really glad to be doing the entire run. I picked up with the woman in the green skirt, Denise, and the two of us (both of us complaining that the guy we’d been running with was pushing the pace a little too hard) ran the last 4 or five miles in together. The funny thing was that even though we agreed to keep it down a little, we were clocking just about the same pace and the final mile was probably my fastest mile on a long run during this training. Big boost to confidence.

I felt fantastic.Very exciting to talk with several women about the project, on the run and afterwards at the refreshment table.

There is another post altogether about the conversations from that day — all reinforcing some of the critical themes of this project: how we balance the many parts of our life, how running informs the other parts of our lives, how what might be unique to women is this effort to balance so much and never feel like any one thing gets our best attention.

And related to that balance: I took an ice bath when I got home. Don and Henry came up to the bathroom to talk about the dogs they were considering for adoption. Until that morning it had been all Henry’s conversation and suddenly, Don was in on it. One thing about Don is that he is the most decisive person I’ve ever met. He saw the house we now own and did a complete renovation on and fifteen minutes after we looked at it he said, “I’m ready to buy.” He was that way about having kids. It was, maybe, five-minute discussion. Gratefully, I agreed to take Henry to the final Harry Potter movie where I knew I could both spend time with him and not feel pressured to be out riding bikes or going for a hike or even something requiring mental attention. Not want to climb upstairs and take a nap…this might be our pattern: head to the movie theater after a long run. I loved the movie: not at all the maelstrom Armageddon I was anticipating. Henry sat on my lap the entire time.



Late getting to work this morning. One thing about a journal/blog is that it allows us to record the many shifts and changes in energy and attitude and it provides an opportunity to chart these. To note patterns, and identify bigger ideas and themes.
The post I wrote dated 8.16 was posted almost a week later (just now, in fact). I still need to record my 16 mile run yesterday that felt fantastic. Great running partners. Fast pace. No pain. No injury. I’m just a little tired today. I’ll write later.

In a world of tweets and texts, we may be adjusting to seeing things as constantly in motion. Isn’t a long run like that? One minute it could be miserable —you’re tired and thirsty and loosing heart—the next, you feel your rhythm and your you’re dialed into great form.

looking back

After an 8 mile run and an evening climbing at the gym with Henry’s camp group, I thought I’d give myself a break and trade rest days. Rest Thursday/ short run Friday. Climbing in the gym is almost like running on a treadmill, in some ways. It’s a substitute for the real thing. Climbing on real rock allows not only for a vast range of possibilities and creative combinations, but maybe just as important the rewards of scenery and, on a long climb, the thrill of sitting on top of a cliff (tied in to an anchor) hanging feet over the edge. Still, climbing in the gym has the rewards of some creative movement and the joy of completing a climb neatly while there is nothing at all enjoyable about the treadmill.

With Henry starting to take an interest in climbing and my getting back on the wall once and a while, I am forced to reckon with giving away my collection of climbing gear and writing those experiences out of my life entirely. And I have to reckon with the reality that running just doesn’t fulfill that primal sense of joy that I knew as a climber. Right now, I continue to struggle with either a hamstring or knee that sort of hurts when I run but not enough to stop my training. But at this point, with all that is asked of me at work and at home running and training brings discipline and consistency into the day, and the week. After a run I feel balanced and clear headed. I never felt that way as a climber. I was pretty much always on edge. And I forget that is the primary reason I decided to move on. I couldn’t stand the tension.
Running just makes me a little more fretful and neurotic but it also more directly serves me in my daily life.

I have a neighbor who might be in his 50’s. I’m guessing close to my age. I see him out running a lot. Sometimes I see him on his bike. The other day I was stopped at a light near VCU and he was on the corner waiting for the light to turn. I rolled down the window to say hi and asked him how long he was out for. “3,” he replied. “Miles?” I asked, confused since we were about three miles from our neighborhood and he answered, “Hours.” I saw him the next day and he says he used to race and now just enjoys running. He reminded me to just enjoy the run. This is one of my challenges to enjoy the run more and fret less about pace, or time or about the next long run. Not counting miles down and telling myself how many more to go. Just enjoying the run.

No escape?

Did I just forget to write yesterday or was I just feeling overcome with everything else I needed to do? I’m trying to put my mind into course preparation. If only I could just pull readings from my files/off my bookshelf, find media to support the themes and call it a day. I need to read over a piece, and think about it and look for a companion article with an alternate viewpoint and question how interesting these might be to my students, and if the folks I’m co-teaching with will find the readings/topic compelling or trivial. This is the hardest part of the semester.

I’ve been up and out the past few days and back from my run by the time Don and Henry are waking up. I like to be home for breakfast. Today I was up way too early— before 5 am— and ready to start the day. Would the scheduled 8-mile run energize me or deplete me? Do other working/running moms ask this question every day? I was out the door just as the sky was starting to lighten and street lights fade. As I crossed the bridge over the river heading north, the eastern sky was colored with pale pink and orange washes reflecting off the water. This is the reward for getting out at dawn. I try to savor these moments and balance them with all the times I glance at my watch and chide myself to pick up the pace, and the fretting about one ache or pain or another, or my concerns that I’m on the wrong training team. But I enjoyed maintaining a steady, strong pace up the long hills on both sides of the bridge and up the final brief hill on Forrest Hill Ave which on some days feels like one final assault.

I dropped Henry off for Passages climbing camp. Either it’s hormones or I am deeply moved that my son is climbing, and I miss it, and it make me tear up just a little. I want him to know (and I miss) that exalted feeling after an especially rewarding or dangerous or frightening climb when you’re safely tied into an anchor and able to enjoy the view from the top of the climb or the cliff. There’s nothing like it. I has no idea what I’d feel like after completing my first marathon. I didn’t cry, as many folks do. I was just hurting and tired and relieved. My friends and family, I think, were more elated than I was. Climbing was an escape. The life style, the culture, the adventure. Running, at least for now, is very integrated into daily life: where I run, how that day’s run affects what I feel like, how I interact with my family…etc. Maybe for others it’s an escape. And now, it’s back to work.

Fitting things in/fitting into things

I missed the group run yesterday when I couldn’t find a sitter for Henry (with Don out of town until later in the day), not that I tried that hard. I was relieved—but sorry for those at the stadium ready to head out—to hear the heavy rain falling on the skylight. It was just a ten mile for the long run and I figured I could work that in somewhere. I still felt depleted from yesterday and the morning coffee did little to wake me up. I was feeling a little dark and low but it was Sunday and Henry was getting restless. Mid afternoon I suggested we go to the VCU gym climbing wall and that got his interest. We spent some time in the pool before the wall opened. I thought I’d just switch my x-training day with the long run and did about ten laps but my heart wasn’t in it and I felt pulled to be playing with Henry in the other pool. I was moody and sulky. We changed and went upstairs to sign out harnesses and shoes and it turned out my old size 4 climbing shoes were smaller than the smallest shoes they had for kids. So I passed them on to my son and took out a pair for myself. Just putting on the shoes began to lift me from my funk. I do miss climbing deeply and I’m ambivalent at having closed what was for several years a major part of my life. With Henry that might be something that comes full circle. Who I was as a climber must somehow play into this story. Maybe I’ll be brave enough to write about that some day.

I headed out the door at 6:45 for my scheduled ten mile run. My hamstring has been bothering me on and off and it hurt during the first mile. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run the distance. By mile 3 I felt okay. And by the midpoint in my run I actually felt great: a strong, relaxed and sustained rhythm. Exactly what I would hope for on a long run. On the last mile my other leg was starting to hurt. I’m not at all committed to a fast time for the Richmond Race. I just want to enjoy it (and not be injured). I don’t think I can put as much effort into the speed work I did in the Spring with so much on my plate right now: this project, designing a couple dozen signs for the Folk Festival in October, and classes to prepare for. I’m surprised I’m not more stressed.


7 mile run this morning felt more like about 10 or 12 or more. At 4 miles I was wondering how I’ll ever run 10 tomorrow, or—even worse—16 next week. One more thing that takes discipline is to stop thinking (and fretting) about another day’s run when I’m in the middle of the present run. I have no idea what I’ll feel like next Sunday let alone tomorrow. A dance teacher citing Luigi, an innovator in Jazz dance technique, encouraged us to be attentive to what our body could do THAT day. To respect that our body was constantly in flux—some unique combination (with varying degrees) of stamina, strength, flexibility, speed …etc. It’s hard when the body doesn’t have much give. I felt tired and groggy for hours after my run. A cup of coffee mid day helped. That, and a long game of checkers with Henry, who beat me just when I was being cocky and thought I had him. I didn’t see how I’d left myself open for him to take two of my last three kings. Ironically my regular (not-running) watch had been through the wash and was both stopping and running slow and that contributed to my feeling like the day was dragging.

I just read that the wild fire in the Great Dismal Swamp is responsible for poor air quality. Some reports were warning folks with respiratory illness to stay inside. Maybe that explains the difficult run. Or maybe the humidity. Or maybe I’m not eating enough. I might need to feed myself more. More carbs, more fat, more protein, more calories. It’s at this point in the training when eating become less an enjoyable experience and more of a job. I know that sounds awful.

Post on a Rest Day

The title for this project relates to a cassette tape I drove around with for years and haven’t seen for a few decades. Esther de Waal writes about establishing balance and rhythm in daily life in effort to manage the demands and pulls of the modern world, drawing from (of all things) the writings of St. Benedict. I can’t remember exactly what she says but the gist of it is that with every step we take we cycle from in balance, to out of balance. There are a number of ways of looking at this. We hover off the ground for a split second before briefly transferring our weight onto one foot. We spring off the ground, then transfer weight onto the other foot. In balance, out of balance, in balance out, of balance.

A primary theme of this project is balance and rhythm. Today is a rest day. I’m writing and getting ready for the start of the semester. At any one moment we are “in” any number of rhythms. The rhythm of the day. A monthly cycle (or not). The rhythm of relationships and intimacy. Internal rhythms ( heart, respiration, hormones…etc) For those of us who teach or have school aged children (or both), there is the rhythm of the school year. The rhythm of training ( Fall marathons, Spring marathons, even the rhythm of races around Richmond: the Monument Ave 10k, the Shamrock Marathon, The Patrick Henry Half…etc).

It’s after lunch. I have a few hours of time to myself (to work— write, research, collects and organize) before picking Henry up from camp. Things will speed up. And then wind down again as we prepare for bed, to prepare for a good night’s sleep, to prepare for a 7 mile run tomorrow.