Day 209: Let It Go

It’s Tuesday and I’m still recovering from the weekend, not because I partied my arse off but because I still can’t get over how much I got done. It was a solid end-to-end, get stuff done weekend. Saturday morning we did a park clean up for Earth Day, sponsored by my gym. The boys didn’t want to go but they went, and as delightful as it was to hear Ryan trying to introduce himself to a girl his age, it was just as delightful to see my grumpy Alex, who refused to participate, pick up a trash bag and start gathering trash around the playground. He saw the rest of us cleaning up, and he pitched in too. I still don’t quite know what motivated him; it may have been something the gym owner said, or something his brother said, but there he was, un-grumping as he cleaned up trash.

After that the gym gave us an hour of Boot Camp, of which I’m still feeling the effects. Next time I come prepared with a better bra. Ryan ached a bit afterward but he did the best he could, given his hip issues. (The girl he was talking to had to leave early, or I bet he’d have busted a move in Boot Camp, trying to impress her.)

Then we stopped for lunch and went home, where I hauled out the lawn mower and gave the grass the first cutting of the year. Yay. It’s times like that that make me prefer shoveling snow, but I did get to sit on the porch for a little while at dusk. (After a 90 minute nap on the couch. I was DOG tired.)

Sunday I got up early to do a 10 mile run, all the while reminding myself of the meme on Facebook that said, “I don’t HAVE to run. I GET to run.” I wanted to get in 10 miles to really get prepped for Broad Street on Sunday, so I went through the park, circling around a few places in hopes of adding miles. My knee was a little sore from boot camp but when I got home, 10.21 miles later, I took some Motrin and cleaned up.

Then I took Alex to Cool Kids, or at least, I dropped him there and then ran up to the store for some groceries. I lost track of time and had to rush back, only to learn I’d miscalculated the time and had 30 minutes to spare. We stopped at Wawa for a coffee and a few treats but I was so tired, I conked out again right after finishing the coffee. Sixty minutes later, I made dinner, watched TV, and hauled myself up to bed.

This morning (Tuesday) I listened to “Let It Go” on the iPod on the drive to work, and again it hit me how much I relate to Elsa. “Be the good girl you always have to be.” I’m so bogged down in doing the Have To’s that I don’t often get to the Want To’s, but Sunday is a big Want To. I want to have a good time at Broad Street. I want to have a good run. I want to laugh with my friends. I want to feel good out there and make good time. (And a part of me wants it to rain in the afternoon so they postpone the game and I can go home after the race and sleep, but that’s not happening, I think.) I want Broad Street. For a few hours, it is all about me. On Sunday, I’m going to let it go.

Broad Street is my last long race until the marathon. I have a 4 mile trail run if Variety does the Dash & Bash again (I so hope they do; I’m hoping to recruit my SFR group and Alex’s teacher to come too) but everything else is 5ks and fun runs. They seem like nothing now by comparison.

Someone put on Facebook yesterday about our first races. I put mine down: my first race was the Phillies 5k in March 2012. I’ll never forget seeing the “1 Mile” sign and seeing all I had ahead of me, and saying out loud, “I may have overestimated myself.” Now my light days are 3 miles. A run that short almost feels like cheating. I should be doing more. I’ll be doing more 10 milers before I even start marathon training, and then I’ll be doing longer. An average long run day means putting everything else aside and being out there for hours on end. I’m reading more about racing technique and form. I want to learn all I can so I can make informed choices and do the best I can to run safely and well. I’m a far cry from that lady in March 2012, barely able to sleep because I’m not sure I had everything together. Marathon training seems to be the art of zen. Prepare yourself, want to do your best, and then let it go.

Day 213: Fantasyland, or, I’m Not That Old

Ten days ’til Broad Street. The nerves are ramping up. I checked Weather.com and so far it looks perfect for the 4th; low 43, high 63, partly sunny, or partly cloudy depending on how you look at it. I’m just happy not seeing rain.

I’m starting to think about the expo. I have to go on Friday because I have a writing workshop all day Saturday and I won’t make it to the city in time. I want to run another 10 miles on Sunday, which means I’m going to have to get up early (on the only day I didn’t need to get up early) in order to fit it in before another outing at 2. But if I do it early, the rest of the day is mine. This is where I remind myself of the Facebook meme, “I don’t have to run. I *get* to run.”

Had an interesting message this week, from a 24 year old CPA in Philly who wanted to know if I’d be interested in a FWB arrangement, because “I’ve always had a thing for older women and I’m now trying to fulfill that fantasy.

I can’t even begin to say how many ways this pissed me off. First, he’s 5 years older than my son. Next, he clearly has Mommy issues he needs to work on. Third, I AM NOT OLDER. Yes, I’m 47, but I don’t look it and I sure as hell don’t feel it, so having some CHILD point that out to me in the guise of, “I think it’d be cool to get laid with a woman twice my age” did not entice me in the slightest. It actually made me want to wash my hands in battery acid to make the icky feeling go away.

I suppose he thought I’d consider it a compliment to be seen as someone’s fantasy, but the one thing I will say for age and wisdom is, I’ve learned that more often than not, fantasies are psychological issues you need to resolve in order to face and appreciate reality. I don’t have fantasies anymore; I want the real thing. I don’t play Walter Mitty, sitting around wishing I could run a race; I go out and sign up and train for one, and then I do it. I don’t sit back wondering what it’d be like if (fill in the blank); I’m going to go f*cking do it. The other day I saw a pic on FB that said, “You don’t scare me; I run marathons.” I haven’t even run one yet but already I’m starting to feel that way. Yes, I’m scared spitless that I can’t do it, but that won’t stop me from trying. I’d rather try and fail than wish I’d made the attempt.

Something this young whippersnapper doesn’t know how to do yet. Forget the fantasies, child, and go get what’s real. Okay, so he’s trying to make his fantasy real, but fantasies are for vacations, and vacations aren’t forever.

But I did buy a bottle of hair color because while I feel like I’ve earned my gray hairs, they’re starting to take over. I don’t feel my age, and I don’t have to look it either.

SMH…

Day 216: New Directions

Today was the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. I had the day off, and I feel like I did nothing because I got up, got Ryan to school, then came home and searched online for a broadcast of the marathon, since Universal Sports decided to be an asshat, telling me I needed to buy a new Fios sports package in order to watch the race. I need the Golf and NBA Channel like I need a new anal orifice. Luckily I caught the WBZ broadcast instead (along with the Universal broadcast via the BAA) and they did a terrific job of it, *and* they were 4 minutes ahead of Universal. Suck on that, Comcast.

I watched the winners come in, knowing that I needed to get out for my run too. I’d pushed off my long run for 2 days and I have 13 days ’til Broad Street, so I needed a long run or I wouldn’t be prepared. Even though my last run was awesome, for some reason I was iffy, hesitant. No idea why, but when Meb Keflezighi came in, I knew my time had come. I put on my BSR shirt, laced up, and went out the door. I felt like a portable Best Buy, however, with my phone in my pocket, my GPS on my wrist, and my iPod on my hip. The only thing I didn’t have was my laptop, but hey, I finally figured out how to work the GPS, *and* I figured out how to plug in MapMyRun. Now I’m confused because MapMyRun says my GPS watch is wrong, but oh well; it told me I did 10 miles, and the GPS didn’t. MMR wins.

Part of the hesitation may have come from the fact that I wasn’t sure where I wanted to run. I could go to the park, where I go all the time and I knew the route, though I could easily mix it up; or I could go try out the Schuylkill River Trail. I had a vague idea how to get there, but mostly I knew it was a long-ass road (maybe paved? I wasn’t sure, and that was an awful lot of miles to be all paved) that ran from Philadelphia to Pottstown. A great place to train; all I had to do was run half the distance I wanted, and then run back.

When I was wired up and ready, I walked out the front door and turned right, my usual route to the Farm Park. I turned right on Beech with questions in my head: left or right? Right or left? Go for the familiar (if tired) or try something new…and maybe end up in the water? Or worse. The running joke, so to speak, is that it’s always runners who find bodies. My concern was that sometimes it’s runners who *are* bodies.

As I got to the end of the street, I knew I had to decide. It wasn’t ’til I got to the corner that I finally turned…right, toward the Schuylkill River Trail. I did make one wrong turn, at the end of the street where I learned that the Trail started a few blocks south. But as it turned out, it’s all paved, and it’s *really* long. I did great for the first five miles, turned around, did another so-so mile, and then lost all my steam. At least I learned two new runner’s rules in the process:

Runner’s Rule 1: Hydration. It’s the law.

Runner’s Rule 1: It’s okay to run throttle wide open. It’s not okay to run mouth wide open. (Gnats: the other dark meat.)

Feel free to add new rules. 🙂

It was a great trip, though, and I learned a new route, so now I have more options. I told Ryan, there’s going to come a day when I’m going to go for a training run, and I’m going to call him and tell him where to pick me up, because the idea of running all the way home will make me throw up. Hopefully, not because I don’t have water. (The water fountain at a small parking area rest room saved my tail, I’m quite sure.)

Oh, and I’m pretty sure I was passed by Bradley Cooper. He waved as he ran around me. I was still on the good side of my run but there was no way I could catch him. Alas, Robert Frost was still right: I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. (I’ve never once seen a shirtless BC look-alike at the farm park.)

Oh, and I heard this during the WBZ broadcast. It’ll be going on my Run playlist ASAP.

SRT BC

Day 217: Building Up

My running addiction is hitting a fever pitch. The weather is right for running outside, and I’m on my last day of vacation. I want to try out the Schuylkill River Trail; it runs from Philadelphia to Pottstown, so that would give me plenty of space for long practice runs. But I’ve never tried it before and I’m a little nervous about going alone. The park is good too, but I go there all the time. I need a new view.

The Boston Marathon is tomorrow, and that’s adding to it. I’m seeing photos on Facebook of the race expo and the finish line and the teams, and all the excitement. I even saw pics of someone I know who got engaged in Boston last night. (I’m SO happy for her!!) It’s got me thinking I want to be a part of that.

Five years ago if someone suggested I go for a run, I’d have laughed. A year ago you never would’ve heard the words “I can” and “marathon” in the same sentence. Now look at me: I have four half marathons under my belt (or, really, hanging from the curtain rod in my room) and I’m signed up for the Philly Marathon. Today I Googled the qualifying times for Boston. If I waited ’til I turn 50, I’d need a 4:00 marathon time to qualify. Wanna hear crazy? My first thought was, “I can do that.”

Seriously, I said that. It would take a 9:16 mile, but I almost did that for the first mile at the Love Run, with Michelle running next to me. Then she took off and I went back to my comfort zone. But give me three years and some training and marathon experience, and I might just make it happen. Either that or the $4k fundraising requirement for the Doug Flutie Foundation. That might be more challenging than a consistent 9 minute mile. 😉

Yesterday I walked 6.2 miles, and it was tough. I think it was 6.2 miles; I’m not entirely certain. I did a 5k with a friend who’s never run a race before, but it was a “fun run” (not timed) so I walked it with her, though I did also keep a pretty quick pace. We did NOT stroll. I don’t think she believed she could do all 3 miles—she has a thyroid condition—but not only did she do it but we had a great time! I can recommend Run or Dye highly. 🙂 (I do have to have some words with the organizers, though, to please ask that they have freelance vendors NOT block the finish line. NO, I don’t want your overpriced pretzel, water or Gatorade.) She was so excited to have done it that she’s already looking forward to the next race, next month. Way to go, Karen!!

After that, I came home, cleaned up, and took Alex to the Impact Store, his favorite place on earth (maybe even more so than Disney, though we haven’t been there since he was 4). I told him we’d walk it together so that if the time came that he wanted to go alone, he’d know how to get there. It wasn’t an easy walk, let me tell you. The way there was mostly uphill, but he wasn’t to be deterred; he was going, no matter what. It took half an hour, and we probably shopped for most of an hour. I warned him not to pick out too many videos because we’d have to carry them home, but he did fill his bag (and put a few in the bag I picked out), as well as a VHS/DVD combo set. He carried it all without complaint, though I did offer to take the video bag for him; I know the unit was not a light thing. You should’ve heard his excitement when he hooked the thing up in his room and called down, “Mom, guess what? It WORKS!” So now he can watch DVDs and VHS tapes in the same unit. That’s one happy kid, made just a little prouder because he walked to the store AND installed the machine himself.

Happy Easter, all! Whether you celebrate or not, remember that it’s all about new beginnings.

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Day 222: Boston

I didn’t get around to pulling the pics from the park last weekend. Funny how the weekends that always seem open, seem to fill so quickly. I got up on Saturday, all ready for a distance run, but it was SO pretty out (60 degrees, light breeze, bright sunshine) that I decided to take my knitting and coffee, and sit on the porch. Not long after, the lady across the street came out with her lawn vacuum (is that even a thing?) and started her yard work. It guilted me into it, so I decided it was time to get the garden cleaned up after that long brutal winter. Two hours later, the yard looked great—except for the straw that used to be grass—and I was dog tired, and I’d promised Alex we’d go to Impact in “Mr. Burns-ville” in the afternoon. (He struggles to pronounce Montgomeryville, and I pointed out how Montgomery is Mr. Burns’ first name. He thinks it’s funny to call it Mr. Burns-ville.)

Sadly, I think part of the problem is that, for some unknown reason, I was scared to go for a distance run. I really don’t know why, but I found every possible reason to hesitate, even when Sunday morning came and I had a limited time in which to run or work out before going to the baseball game. I practically had to pry myself off the computer chair to go to the park, but I finally did get around to it…and damn, am I glad I did!

That may have been my best run EVER. I don’t know what it was, but I suspect it had something to do with the weight machine workouts I’ve started doing, thanks to my friend Michelle’s inspiration. She’s often talking on Facebook about lifting, weights, and strength workouts, and it got me thinking. Most of the winter, all I did was cardio; either running, treadmill, or elliptical. Finally I started thinking I needed to change things up, so after the Love Run, I decided to try using the machines again. I’d stopped because it seemed like the more I built up muscle, the more I gained weight, no matter how little I ate. That gets old fast.

There were times during the Love Run that, despite the rain, I’d keep going because it felt like my legs forgot to stop. Sometimes I’d stop without intending to, and the problem is that once you stop (especially in the cold and rain), it’s hard to get going again. They kind of went on auto-pilot. On Sunday almost the same thing happened, except that my legs felt like pistons; they just kept going without me thinking about it. More than once I’d tell myself, “Just get to the corner and then you can walk,” but I’d start thinking, get to the corner, pass it, and be a block away before I thought, “Oh wait, wasn’t I going to stop and walk? Oh well; keep going!” And I did. I think I ran 5 miles (no GPS with me) and when I got in, I’d run less than an hour. I’m pretty sure if I keep it up, I can PR at Broad Street, and I’ll kill the marathon! Funny how, the more you prepare for something, the less scared you are. I’m saying this at day 222, however. Ask me again at day 22, when I have a few LONG training runs under my belt, but on Sunday I could’ve easily kept going if I had more time.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. I put a transcript of the Jon Stewart rant on my Facebook page, and I’m wearing my “RUN*NOW” wristband from the BSR last year. (Dummy me, I wore blue yesterday, and I don’t seem to own anything with yellow in it.) I love when he says they picked the wrong people to mess with: people who run 26 miles on their day off ‘til their nipples bleed, “FOR FUN.”

I started running 2 years before the bombings, and I’d said before how it changed my life. (And just thinking about signing up for the marathon has changed my mental approach even more.) But when the bombings happened, I felt it very personally. I remember driving home from NY, scanning the staticky AM radio, searching for a news station and any information I could get. I’ve never driven home that quickly in my life, and for me that’s saying something.

I couldn’t understand why anyone would do this, but they’d attacked what I’d come to think of as “my people.” I’m a runner too; I’m part of the running community. It’s where I first felt like I belonged, at a time when I wasn’t sure I belonged anywhere. Runners put massive amounts of time and energy into their sport. Baseball players don’t play every single day; football players play once a week; basketball players take weeks off if they sprain a finger; but there are runners out there day after day, logging miles. As the saying goes, “My sport is your sport’s punishment.”

So here we are, a year later, and I dare say stronger than before. Maybe it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but for the three that died a year ago today, and the security guard who died later in that week, I hope no one minds if I speak for all of us when I say the hearts of the running community are with you and your families. We are all #BostonStrong.runners united

Day 227: Building 17

227 days ’til the marathon. The nerves are creeping in. People congratulated me on Saturday at my VFRW meeting, and my brain rejected it. “I haven’t done anything yet”, it replied. “I could blow this.” Yup, that’s the old Carla we all knew and loved. 😉

I went back to the cemetery on Sunday afternoon. I’m still wrapping my brain around not training for anything, so my plan was to just run where I felt like it, when I felt like it, for as long as I felt like it.

This time I went the other way around the park, taking pictures as I went. I would’ve put them on Facebook but that would’ve bored everyone who looks at my page. Mostly it was just landscape shots. Honestly, my sister has the most amazing eye for photography. I look for distances and hills and spaces, but she sees details like nothing you’ve never noticed before. She finds patterns in leaves and ice and snow. She’ll look at a flower and see something in the ground behind it. I swear she should do it professionally; she really has a brilliant eye.

Anyway, the pics are on my home laptop. I’ll try to post them over the weekend. No “messages” from the stones or the house, though I did still get that creepy feeling there. Maybe because there was a guy walking his dog ahead of me, and I’m pretty sure he wanted to know WTH I was doing there. I felt like a realtor, sizing up a prospect. But having just finished reading “Pride and Prejudice”, that house near the cemetery is my Pemberly. I want to know the details, hear the story, wander inside and see things.

I did some trail running, only because I had so much extra time that I went to the other, formerly believed to be inaccessible house near the creek. It was so peaceful, walking among the trees and moss, listening to the stream, seeing the fisherman on the other side of the bank. For a moment my romantic side took over and I wondered, “What if that’s him? What if he’s The One I’ve been waiting for, and he’s over there on the other side, seeing me as a sylvan nymph?” Yeah, right. But it’s nice to dream. At one point I stopped to watch the stream, and I’d swear I smelled skunk. That was my clue to get moving again. Interestingly, the point where I stood would’ve cut a mile off my return trip. If there were less water running, I could’ve made better time. 😉

I also stopped at Building 17 in the Norristown State Hospital. I don’t know what it is but I love that building; the structure just fascinates me. I have a “thing” for architecture, particularly sports stadiums but places like the hospital building too. Those pics, I have to post. The front and back have circular driveways, and the roof is fish-scale slate. Most of the windows are broken, but in the western corner when the sun is angled just right, I could see into the lower level rooms to the rusted beds still sitting there. It made me wonder who slept there, what was it like, what did they hear. I don’t get the same eerie vibes as I do from the house by the cemetery. Not pleasant vibes, of course, but…I don’t know. It’s just different. I just want to know more.

Sadly, there isn’t a lot of info available. I’ve read up as much as I can about NSH and the history of the area. I hope to take a tour of the grounds if the West End group ever organizes one again. It’s heartbreaking that there’s an “unsafe structure” sign on the front door. I know, given the damage in the place, I’d probably get hurt if I tried to go inside (much like the “Forever Boner” bank building on Broad Street; the upper floors were a penthouse for the bank’s owner) but oh, what I wouldn’t give to walk inside and feel the history. Makes me wish there were a time machine I could ride, so I could see the place when it was in use, and maybe prevent it from falling into such disrepair. There’s something special there. It’s why I can’t take my eyes off it when I run past it, much the way I’ll do later today.

Day 234: Norris Cemetery

Today I went on my first run since the Love Run. The weather’s finally getting better (thank GOD) so I could go to the park instead of driving to the gym to hit the dreadmill. Mind you, the gym has its assets, like the guys. And the various options of machines. And the view of I-476. And the fact that my route to get there takes me past the police station, with makes me think of a certain someone who will go nameless but still lingers in my memory as one of the bravest men I’ve ever met in person. (And wouldn’t mind knowing better, if the stars would ever align.) And being able to read “Pride and Prejudice” on the elliptical. And did I mention the guys?

But the magic of today’s run was that I didn’t have to do it. I don’t start marathon training ’til the first week in August. Granted, the Broad Street Run is a month away but I just did 13.1; I can do 10. (I did 10 twice in prep for the half. Ten isn’t so impossible as it used to be. Had it not been for the rain on Sunday, I’d have been rocking by the 10 mile mark.) No, today I went out with the aim of simply going where I wanted to go, as fast or slow as I wanted to go, and just taking it all in. So I did.

I started on my usual route up to the farm park, but I knew where I wanted to turn. At one point the path has an option to go straight and up the killer hill, or turn right to a section I’d never seen before. It’s the spot where I lost Buddy, my one-time stray black lab running partner last summer, who saw two pretty girls go that way and, hound that he was, he turned to follow them instead of me. You’re welcome for my keeping you from getting splattered by a SEPTA bus, pal.

Anyway, I knew the path might lead toward Norris Cemetery, and I wanted to see if I could get there. Before that it passed two abandoned old houses, probably boarded up when I was still in diapers. The one was inaccessible, but the other? Oh my. It must’ve been something else in its day, with its wide porch and stone steps, and the garage well off the house, connected by a gravel driveway. It had fish-scale slate roof shingles but it was missing some, and I saw a major hole in one corner of the roof. That, I know well enough, is the kiss of death to a house, but it broke my heart to see it fallen into such utter abandonment. What I wouldn’t give to have the resources and the wherewithal to make it vibrant again, but I do have to say that in passing the solidly shut windows, I felt vibrations in there that weren’t altogether pleasant. That was enough to get me moving again. (And really, I did keep a pretty decent pace. I should run to cadence all the time.)

The cemetery was fascinating. I’m one of the crazy morbid people who find death intriguing, but many years ago my mom, sister and I walked through an old cemetery in western Massachusetts, reading the stones, trying to figure out the owners’ stories. There was one man’s stone, and beside him on the left a woman’s stone engraved with, “Her place on earth left vacant, none on earth can fill.” That didn’t stop him from trying because to his right were four other wives’ headstones.

Today I read names, struggled to read dates. So many people who entered the earth before I ever arrived; people who, if they walked through town now, would never recognize it. One stone caught my eye; the owner was “aged 21 years, 11 months, 3 days” when he breathed his last. So many childrens’ stones there too. I remember from the graveyard in Mass., one section that seemed to have an entire family, all passed around the same time. We concluded that influenza or some other ravaging disease must’ve passed through and wiped out everyone in its wake. Sad.

I got to the top of the cemetery and looked down at all the stones, at the view that must’ve been nice before PennDOT took up residence on the opposite hill. I wondered what to feel. I mean, people go to cemeteries for sad reasons, but walking through as I did, I couldn’t find it, not because I didn’t know anyone there but because while all those people were gone, I knew one thing they would wish for me if they could:

LIVE. Go live, be free, be alive and be happy. Our time is over, but yours is not. Go feel joy, breathe, laugh, drink, run, and share that with the ones you love. It’s what we would do if we could.

And so I ran home.

4/20/14: Added some pictures while the laptop is up.

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