Wind, Mud, Hills, and Amazing Grace

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.

– Carl Sandburg

The above quote came to mind this morning because it applies to the past week in both a figurative and somewhat literal sense. Literally speaking, I actually got to watch 2 bald eagles soaring on a trail run and found myself covered in mud on 2 separate runs. Figuratively speaking, I’ve felt ready to spread my wings and soar, but I also really enjoy wallowing sometimes – not in negativity or self-pity, but rather in laziness.

I started the running week off with a wet and muddy run on Monday.  The grayness made me want to wallow. And the run started to go south quickly when some mo-moes in an over-sized pick-up truck purposely drove through a puddle as they passed me. This brought them uncomfortably close to me and covered me in mud. I really don’t understand their behavior, since they could have seriously injured me, but I’m not on this planet to figure out stupid people. I’m just thankful I only got muddy. Ironically, I chose to run on the road vs. the trail on Monday because I didn’t want to get muddy….

I don’t know what it is about Wednesday’s here lately, but Wednesday is when the snow seems to arrive. This Wednesday the snow came with 25 mph wind gusts. Running in wind is challenging on both a physical and mental plane.  It took a lot my energy just to punch down the negative self-talk during the first half of the run that kept telling me to go home and knit. It was tough, but it was a good tough. I liked the challenge in the end and I felt very invigorated when I got home.

Swan at Potato Creek

If you look closely, you can see the swan on the lake. It’s the best I could do with my phone.

On Friday, still in wallowing mode, I decided to lace up my trail shoes this time and set out on my favorite trail. I was still wallowing early in the run when I was startled back to reality by a large splash as I ran past the lake. I stopped to see what made the splash and saw a bald eagle flying into a nearby tree. It must have been feasting on a fish when it heard me coming. It dropped it’s fish in the lake and flew out to a “safer” tree. They are magnificent birds – and big. I’ve never seen one so close in the wild. It’s times like these when the photographer in me wishes there was a way I could carry my DSLR camera and all my lenses with me on my runs.

At first I was upset by the distraction and halt in my running. But after I stopped for a few minutes to take in the scenery and admire the eagle until it flew away, I noticed all the birds on the lake – swans, geese, a few ducks – and the noise was a beautiful cacophony of bird calls. I finally got out of my head and gave myself permission to make this a fun run, which turned into a fun muddy hill run; and much more of a workout than I imagined when I first set out. I also got to see a second eagle soaring over a swamp. And this time I came home covered in mud because I wanted to be muddy.

This week I learned the importance of variation and quieting my chattering mind. I still need to work on the quieting part. I’m making progress though. My mind is still chattering, but with positive, good thoughts now. The wind and the hills worked muscles that have been forgotten about on my recent, fairly flat road runs, which in turn made yesterday’s 2-mile shake-out on a fairly flat road much more enjoyable. The recovery seems better this week too. I think the new challenges woke up my tired leg muscles. I guess they need variety too. It’s easy to stay with familiar routines. It’s comfortable and not threatening or challenging. But because they aren’t threatening or challenging, it’s easy to get stuck and not move forward. And that applies both to training and real life.

I did decide to give into the my wallowing instinct just a little this week by giving myself an extra rest day instead of cross-training. I think it was good call. Wallowing isn’t necessarily bad if the intention is valid and good. And while self-discipline and sticking to the training schedule is important, so is listening to our bodies. It’s easy to get caught up in schedules and what the calendar says we need to do, when what we really need to do is slow down, take in the scenery, and not miss out on the life that is happening all around us.

And since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll leave you with the Dropkick Murphy’s singing Amazing Grace. I love this song. It’s one of my favorite running songs right now.  Since today is not only a rest day, but also a cheat day, the Irish part of me will be celebrating with some Irish whiskey, because we all know “what butter and whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Half Marathon Training Week 4

  • Sunday: rest
  • Monday: 3 easy miles
  • Tuesday: strength and yoga
  • Wednesday: 4 windy miles and core workout
  • Thursday: rest
  • Friday: 4 miles with hills and core workout
  • Saturday: 2 easy miles
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Invincible Summer

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says, that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there is something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
-Albert Camus

The above quote came into my head while I was running yesterday. It has meaning to me on several levels right now.  But if there is anything running this past year has taught me, it’s that there is something stronger and better within, pushing right back. And life is not merely a series of hardships and struggles; it’s a challenge. I may not win, but I’m going to have as much fun as I can trying.

On  a running level, it’s been hard to motivate myself in this cold weather. I normally wouldn’t try to motivate myself too hard “in the midst of winter”, as I firmly believe there is a cycle to our lives that follow the seasons; winter is a time to slow down, rest, and regroup. I guess in the Midwest you kind of have to embrace that way of thinking. However, I signed up for a half-marathon in June and I need to get off the couch and step away from the knitting needles or I will be crawling across the finish line.

Apparently all I needed was a plan to get motivated. I signed up for a couple of races this spring, planned out my training on my calendar, and suddenly it didn’t seem so cold outside and the wind didn’t seem quite so daunting. I found my invincible summer to push back against the cold weather and negative thoughts.

icy trail

I ran once on icy trails this week. I thought I was going to have to cut this run short when I encountered this icy hill about a half mile into my run. There was enough snow on the edges to keep my footing though, so I just slowed down and carried on. I’m glad I toughed it out for that first hill. The rest of the trail was clear and beautiful.

Spring House

The geese are starting to migrate back here and a red-tail hawk flew overhead at one point. I enjoyed watching the geese do whatever geese do this time of year. I don’t know why, but just watching them paddle around the lake always makes me smile. I startled a couple. I think I was too close to their nesting site and they let me know. I moved on quickly. I know that geese can get quite mean and protective. Or maybe they were just trying to motivate me to get back to the task at hand.

geese on the lake

Since the kids have a holiday weekend, I ended up running laps around the neighborhood for my last two runs this week so I wasn’t too far from home. Not too exciting, but I got the miles in.

Yesterday was cold: 20 degrees F (6 with the windchill) and 15 mph winds from the NW. I’m starting to not mind the cold runs, but I’m still looking forward to warmer months ahead! I heard a chickadee singing outside my window while I drank my morning coffee. It gave me hope that spring is coming soon.

June Hymn by the Decemberists played at the end of my last run and made me wish for warm weather even more. The song normally puts a spring in my step; yesterday it helped me conjure up the feeling of the warm sun.

I ended this week with a total of 13 miles. I feel great. No unusual aches or pains, lots of energy, and I’m ready to go. Hopefully the weeks ahead will follow suit. It’s good to be back in a routine again.

On a personal level, it’s been a challenging few months here. Life seems to be throwing us lots of curve balls lately. Some are easy to hit out of the ballpark, but some sneak up on you. I know shit just happens. It’s a fact of life. And the older we get, the more life seems to throw at us. It finally ended with some good news of sorts for us, and I’m glad I kept my head through it all. It would have been easy to wallow and whine and do all the “worst-case first” thinking, but what does that really accomplish? Running has taught me to break each challenge down into manageable parts and I was able to apply that to my real life. It was such a more positive and productive way to face the challenge.

And my husband took note. He came home from his last doctor’s appointment with a brand new pair of Asics. He said I’ve inspired him to start running again, so on his way home he stopped by the shoe store. It made me smile. We’re both so competitive though – this could either be really good for our marriage, or…. I actually think it will be good. Our competitiveness will be a good motivator. And we can each learn how to face life’s challenges in more positive and productive fashion.

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Week one of training:

  • Sunday: easy 2.58 miles, light yoga session
  • Monday: rest
  • Tuesday: easy 3.5 miles, light yoga session
  • Wednesday: strength training
  • Thursday: easy 3.4 miles, light yoga session
  • Friday: strength training
  • Saturday: easy 3.5 miles, light yoga