Six months in, it is mid-July.
Six months to go, and I am already defeated.
Scroll back to 2008. Yearning for personal transformation and a healthier body, I embarked on a 40-day yoga challenge. I had been practicing yoga on and off for years, mostly at gyms and to DVDs in my living room, but I felt the need to change my practice, to find teachers, and to find myself. I was a little lost.
I hunted around on google for a yoga studio either near my house or my office. I was still fairly new to Los Angeles and didn't know anyone who practiced yoga, so it was just up to me and google to find a good place. I didn't know anything about style or teachers in the area. My requirements were location, class time, and price.
I found a sweet little independent studio called Rising Lotus Yoga in Sherman Oaks, and they had classes I could take right after work on my way home. Best of all, they had a "new student special" (still do) that allowed me to take unlimited classes for two weeks and not a lot of money. Since I didn't know if I would like it, that seemed perfect.
Once I had my studio, I settled in for 40 days and 40 nights. Well, 40 days. It was a number of change. It was a number of spiritual awakening. It was a number of transformation. It was the number for Noah, Moses, and Jesus. I figured if it worked for them, it could work for me. I also decided to take one day off a week. On the 7th day I rested.
I should state here that I am not particularly religious. I was raised steeped in an area of Judaism that my brother calls Conservadox. Technically it was Conservative, but on the very conservative side. Things have lightened up in my family since then, but by that time that happened I had pretty much left the religion entirely (except for Passover Seders with friends and Hanukkah candles with the kids). However, this yoga challenge was a body/mind/spirit thing. I needed it on more levels than I consciously knew.
Forty days. Rest on every seventh.
Every day I laid out my mat in the back of the Rising Lotus studio room. I sweated through the poses. I felt like a fool in my shorts and tank tops. I wasn't toned like the others. I didn't know what I was doing. My mind chatter was loud. Who am I? Why did I think I could do this? This is too hard. And then, towards the end of class the teacher would instruct us to lay down on our backs, arms at our sides, palms face up. Close your eyes. Release management of your breath. Release management of your thoughts.
After class, every single time, I floated out of the studio, peaceful, calm, beautiful, happy. I couldn't wait till the next day when I would lay out my mat again.
When the forty days ended, I continued. Six days a week. On the seventh day I rested. Each rest day I yearned to be back on my mat. And then on the day I came back, the mind chatter would start again. And then I would float home and return to the studio the next day.
This is what I was thinking when I decided to Run Everyday For A Month. I wanted to see what would happen. How I would change. How I would deal with the mind chatter. How my body would adjust to the daily demands.
Also, I wanted to prepare my body for #82 Hanson Marathon Training Method in which you train your body not to run 26 miles, but to run the last 16 miles of a marathon on tired legs. I enjoyed running my first full marathon in May so much that I have been looking forward to doing another - but this time with better training.
But I am already defeated.
I attempted my 30 days of running. I got to Day 8, when a difficult truth arose: Stop. I had been ignoring the pain in my ankle/foot, trying to "run through it", trying to discern if it was a real injury or just a mental block with physical manifestations. On Day 9 I realized it was a real injury that needs real time to heal.
Like many people, I find rejection and failure challenging to manage. The most difficult failure of all, though, is when I set my own personal goals and cannot meet them. I have doubts about my athletic prowess, and want to push myself past those doubts. I love disciplined practice -- I am a musician, a yogi, a writer, and now a runner. I love the meditation and focus that comes when I immerse myself in these activities. I find peace and self-worth in them. I love the challenge, and the accomplishment. Having to let go of my goal, give up, is one of the hardest things of all to do.
I suppose this is one of the lessons of The List. I can't do everything. Or, I can't do everything this year. Last year I had the same defeat. There were things I couldn't do last year. The item that was the hardest of all to let go was #100 Run From Our House To The Beach.
So perhaps this is where the silver lining comes in. I wasn't able to do #100 in 2012,but I did do it on April 27 this year. Perhaps because it took more time, more healing, more training, it was even more significant. There are other things, too, that I didn't get to last year that I have been able to do this year. Like #54 Take a Pottery Class. That one became this year's #45 Take a Pottery Class with Em, which we did on March 23.
So, letting go. Another lesson of the list. It feels like a bitter one right now, but perhaps it will be even sweeter later on?
We shall see.
As a yoga teacher, in my classes I emphasis the idea of letting go of goals, hoping that my students will always be compassionate towards whatever is going on in their body/mind/spirit on any particular day. In my book there is no "no pain, no gain" mantra. There is compassion, truth, kindness, healing. I tell them pain -- meaning actual pain, not simply the a sensation of discomfort or the discomfort of sensation -- is the body's message that you should move out of the position or situation immediately. I believe compassion is as much a part of the yoga practice as breathing. The discomfort of sensation is often just an indicator of newness - discomfort is where change and growth happen. Sensation reminds us to breathe and soften our resistance. I compare discomfort of sensation to the first day of middle school, or to going through a divorce, or any other of life's calls to evolve, step up, change, accept, breathe.
But I do believe there is a place for ego. There's the mental thing. Years ago, in my own yoga practice, I noticed that I conveniently got "thirsty" just when a pose got hard. I would come out of the pose and drink some water. I was using my thirst as an excuse to bail. In other words, half of the challenge of a physical practice like yoga and running is the mental aspect. If we always stop at the moment just before we reach our edge, where's the growth? Ego is what helps to keep us on the straight and narrow. It is the thing that pushes us past where we've been stopped before. It's the ego that wants to go further, faster, stronger, better. As a runner I feel it all the time. Ego keeps me moving at mile ten when there's still so far to go. Ego gets me across the finish line, with arms in the air, smiling at the photographer.
Well, ego has it's place. Here I am at Truth. Runners World Magazine calls it The 2-Day Rule:
The 2-Day Rule
If something hurts for two straight days while running, take two days off.
Two straight days of pain may signal the beginning of an injury. "Even taking five days of complete rest from running will have little impact on your fitness level," says Troy Smurawa, M.D., team physician for USA Triathlon.
The Exception: If something hurts for two weeks, even if you've taken your rest days, see a doctor.
And, yep, I'm at The Exception as well. Doctor's appointment is scheduled for 9:15 tomorrow morning.
A numbers check:
There are 6 weeks left to 2012. I've crossed 55 items off my list. There are 3 items that are a little ambiguous - I can cross them off, but technically they aren't *quite* done. There are 2 items that I am fully committed to completing, and another 10 that are most likely going to get done during the holiday season. There are 25 that I'm pretty sure won't be done this year. Hmmm... that doesn't add up to 100. Well, who's counting anyway.
These are two of the main ones going on right now:
#98 Embark on a new writing project
#100 Run from our home to the Santa Monica Pier
#98 has been an adventure in itself. This blog satisfied me when I wasn't sure what the writing project should be, and it helped me find direction. I'll write about that adventure later.
#100 is the one that has me a bit nervous.
Up till a week and a half ago, I felt like I was on a good track (no pun intended) for my training.
#100 is the culmination of this whole year of running, and while I can articulate the ways that running has helped me in other areas of my life, for right now I want to stick with the actual act of running.
It was Halloween week, and I crossed the finish line at the Los Angeles Rock n Roll Half Marathon in 1:58:01. It was my first race, and the third time I'd run thirteen miles. I had wanted to complete it in under two hours. That day I was successful in every way I wanted to be. I felt like I could've run another two miles. I was an Amazon Goddess Warrior and I could do anything.
And then week later, I bailed midway through a nine miler. I had a strong pain that had been nagging for attention for a few days, and at mile 5.5 it would not let me go on. Metatarsal stress fracture? I whipped out my phone to google it, and then called Darby to pick me up. By the end of the day I could barely walk.
The x-rays came back with no fracture (although I've heard MRIs are better indicators of fractures). My doctor is a long-distance runner too, and she said she experienced the same pain -- right under the shoes laces -- after her first 14-miler. Two weeks rest, she ordered, from everything. No running, and none of the other active stuff that I do - vinyasa yoga, spin, biking.
For the past week and a half I've been boo-hooing about lack of sunshine, lack of heart-pumping adrenaline, lack of movement. Lack. These past two days have been the worst so far. I desperately want my foot to be healed, and while it is better, I know in my heart that it needs more time. That said, I'm holding my foot to the two-week timeframe my doc ordered. Two weeks. It better be healed.
Meanwhile, here's the longer-term picture of what I'm grappling with: In six weeks I plan to run my first-ever 18 miler. From my home to the Santa Monica Pier. This is a spiritual journey as much as anything. I am an East Coast girl, running to the Pacific Ocean. My own body is going to carry me over the Hollywood Hills, and I am going to know that this is because of my own determination and my commitment to myself and this practice. I need this sense of accomplishment, because it is tied, metaphorically, to other things in my life that I want to accomplish.
Six weeks. Eighteen miles. I have still only run 13 miles max. I'm still on "rest". I'm nervous that when I go for my first recovery run on Monday (in four days) that I will find myself still not healed. Besides all the unhelpful neurotic mind-chatter (I haven't exercised in 11 days - "I'm out of shape", "I've gained weight", "I won't be able to run ever again"), I also have the less-neurotic (but still not helpful) chatter that goes something like this:
-- I would like to use this 18 miler as a fundraiser for a local charitable cause.
-- If I've never run 18 miles, how do I know I can do it?
-- If I can't do it, I will fail in the fundraiser, in my list, and in my expectations.
Today, to help me work through this, I've created a training schedule. Assuming that my foot will be healed after two weeks rest, this is my plan:
Week 1 - 18 miles (50%): Mon, Tues: 2.5. Thur: 4. Fri: 3. Sat: 6
Week 2 - 27 miles (75%): Mon - Thurs: 5. Sun: 7
Week 3 - 30 miles (less than usual): Mon, Tues: 5. Wed, Thurs: 2.5. Sat: 15 (!!!)
Week 4 - 30 mile: still deciding how to work the recovery/training this week.
Week 5 - 31 miles: Mon - Fri: 5, Sun: 6
Week 6 - the week of the 18-miler. still deciding what day, but there won't be a lot of miles leading up to it, and there will just be recovery runs after. It will be, after all, Christmas week. And happy new year!
Based on my half-marathon pace, it will take me around three hours or so to run 18 miles. I already have friends who have offered to support me in the run, providing food and drink along the way, and emotional support leading up to the day.
This is why this 18-miler is so important to me: is it impossible.
More to the point: it is a once-impossible thing that is now (I hope) entirely possible. The mere fact of making this impossible thing possible alters every other impossible thing in my life: raising $1800 for a local charity. Writing and publishing a book. Recording another album. I love my life in so many ways, but I am still yearning to put some of the other pieces in place.
Three hours of running. Three hours of meditating on the vision of making the impossible possible. And at the end of the three hours, I will have done it. Darby's sweet face will be there at the end, standing on the Santa Monica Pier, on the edge of the continent, to greet me with love and (hopefully) a delicious meal.