I have two routes for my weekday lunch hour runs. The first is mine. It began as a walk through the neighborhood when I started at this company back in '08. I'd walk down to the end of the road during my lunch hour, and then turn back. For a while that's all there was, back and forth down this road, but eventually my curiosity (or boredom) got the better of me and I turned a corner... literally and figuratively. Over time the walk took me through and around the neighborhood, mostly on small residential streets, and I got to know the little quirks of the place. Once I started running - last October a bit, and then more consistently last January - my route got longer. Now it loop-d-loops around to a full five miles.
The other route is my running partner's. She works at a hospital 1.25 miles from my office. Our routes cross over each other, and a few times last Spring she and I passed each other while we were both out. One day, instead of just waving as I went by, I turned around and started to run with her. She was training for a marathon and had her daily 5 mile route mapped out - twice around on the main city blocks, cutting through right past my office. She's slower than me, but I loved her dedicated spirit, and think it's funny that she always runs in hospital scrubs - my coworkers have all asked about "the nurse" I run with. I started running with her just as my own dedication needed a kick in the pants. The first day we ran together she told me that I could definitely run a half marathon. She inspired me, and I signed up for one a few weeks later. We started running together every Monday through Friday.
My running partner only works at the hospital three times a week now, and currently she's still out of town on holiday, but I've been running her route anyway. Her route feels safer, and not because of outside forces. My route, the scenic one that organically developed over time and loop-d-loops around the neighborhood, gives me too many options for bailing. If I turn right instead of left, it's a three mile run instead of the five I intended. My route demands determination that I just don't have right now. I'm a little softer, a little less strong, both in body and spirit, than I was a few months ago. This is the first time since my November foot injury that I am working back up to training mileage, and my route has too many outs. So, I'm running hers.
Her route is not as pretty, and it doesn't wind around the neighborhood streets, but it keeps me on track. It's exactly 5 miles, and I only pass by my office once midway as I loop around again. I pass the same things twice. Once I'm on mile 3, there's no option but to keep going to the end. I like it this way, this week. It's these kinds of little mind games that help sometimes, and I know there's a good payoff later on if I bust through this first week or so of training.
Today I focused on numbers. On New Years Day I sketched out my schedule for the next 6 weeks of training. While I ran today, I considered the next bit. After February's, the next half marathon on my calendar is in April, but if I plan it well, there's a certain run that I've been wanting to do for months - my house to the beach. It's 18 miles, so I have to plan for it - 18 miles doesn't happen on a whim. I love the idea of running to the Pacific Ocean. It feels like a spirit journey. From my home in the "valley" it's not an easy jaunt - the Hollywood Hills fall right between us and the beach. Back in June this idea was impossible, but once I thought of it I couldn't get it off my mind. I trained the whole second half of the year for it, and did my first half marathon in October as a marker for my training. I originally figured I could do it the last week of December, but then my November injury interrupted the plan. During today's run I began considering the possibility of doing the beach run in March. Numbers, miles, days. The trick is staying injury-free.
Of course, first I have to get through this first week of training.
SECOND RUN OF 2013:
January 3, 2013.
Los Angeles, CA.
Temperature in the mid-60's, windy.
average pace: 8:43 per mile
After the celebrations of December and then the ironic timelessness of New Years, I anticipated that today's run would be tough. It's beautifully sunny, not cold at all, but it indeed felt like Sunday's 8-miler around Griffith Park had been a year ago. Well, it was last year - but it was only three days ago. Today's was the first run of 2013 and I feel as out of shape as my sedentary cat at home. I debated throughout the first three miles if I should bother with the last two, but the memory of Sunday's 8-miler pulled me through. Today I needed the inspiration of my own accomplishments. Around mile three, I got my mind on this blog. That's the way it often works for me - thoughts of writing always pull me through. Finally, my head got out of the challenge of the run and into the excitement of starting this blog.
I stumbled into this running life a year ago, and suddenly running and writing became, to me, very linked. On my runs I usually focus on whatever writing project I've been working on that day. Right now I've got several in mind for this year - two books that I'm too shy to talk about just yet, and several personal essays that I'm shaping now for hopeful publication. We shall see. I have two other blogs on other topics - Love Them Apples and The List of 100 Things. Meanwhile, here I am, introducing my newest blog, The Written Run.
The Written Run will be an exploration, and an archive. I'm curious to see what comes up in these posts as I recall my thoughts and experiences during my runs and as I mark my running progress through the year. Inspired by my List of 100 Things, running became a regular part of my life last January. Since then, it's about a 4-6 days a week venture, and since June or July, between 25-37 miles a week. I ran my first half marathon (Los Angeles Rock 'n Roll Half) in October in 1:58:01, bettering my goal of 2 hours by 2 minutes (minus the one second to steal a kiss from my man around mile 5). A week later, I was sidelined by an injury that kept me fairly sedentary in November. December was, well, December - not the easiest time of year to get back on a derailed track. It's January now, and I've mapped out my training for the next six weeks. My first major running point this year is on February 17 - the Pasadena Rock n' Roll Half Marathon.
First, by way of introduction, some grounding details:
I'm a Southerner by birth, Yankee by socialization, a Californian by choice. I was a child of the '70s to parents who were probably not far enough out of their own childhood to properly parent, but my brother and I are somehow working through our issues. He lives in NYC and I live in LA so we don't see each other nearly enough. Our parents each set up separate homes in their own corners of the country. You could say that we've all staked out our own territory. I like to think that we each are creating the lives we most want.
I am a writer, a musician, a vegan chef, and a yoga teacher. I juggle my creative passions and interests in well-being around my day job in the entertainment industry. It usually works pretty well. I run during my weekday lunch hours, spin or take a yoga class at night, run longer distances on Sunday and celebrate life with my man and my stepdaughters on the weekends. The girls are in elementary and middle school and are sweet, snarky, and super fun. My man is my dearest love. I count my blessings every day.
FIRST RUN OF 2013:
January 2, 2013.
Los Angeles, CA.
Temperature in the mid-60's.
average pace: 8:44 per mile
Nothing like the blues to get you in planning mode. I'm still on my doctor-ordered two weeks rest so that my foot will heal from a stress strain on the metatarsal area. This has been particularly challenging as I've been off ALL foot-related activity, which means no running, no yoga, no spin. It's been years since I've been this sedentary - actually, I think the last time was when I was on tour with my band and we had to drive hours a day to get from gig to gig. As it turns out, I'm not well-suited to the dirty (folk)rocker life. Being on the road was depressing, and after the tour ended (Fall 2006) I've been committed to moving my body. (And I've never toured again.)
During the first week of healing, I was pretty patient (and fairly impressed with myself). Then came Day 10. My mood went south. Fast. No running (or even walking as exercise) meant a lot less sunshine. And of course no exercise endorphins. Besides that, I have no idea how to eat for this kind of sedentary life. I've given up trying to figure it out, and just hope two weeks is all the rest this foot will need.
When I'm feeling down, yoga and running are the things that bring me back up, and to be honest, this week has been hard for other reasons as well. Of all the weeks, this is the one for yoga and running. One of our sweet kitty cats passed away Friday morning. Since last Sunday we've been taking care of him, sitting on the bathroom floor brushing his fur and watching him quietly transition out of this world. Yesterday morning I left for work, and Darby held Scooter through his last breaths. He's buried now in our backyard, and today we stood with our girls at his grave. It started raining yesterday, of course, and still is, which suits our moods just fine.
So, to while away my time for the last few non-running days, I'm plotting #100. This is one of the big ones. As I wrote the other day, it feels impossible that my body will carry me 18 miles to the beach. But it can, and it will.
#29 - run for 25 minutes straight.
I've come a long way since #29. Literally. 663 miles, in fact. Friday, January 27 was the first day I started using the sportypal app to keep track. At the beginning of January I couldn't run the 25 minutes. By Friday January 27 I was running 45 minutes. Now, I've gone for 2 hours.
#100 - run from our home to the beach
This will be my longest run so far, on Dec 30, from our home in Toluca Woods to the end of the pier at Venice Beach. I can run 13 miles in 2 hours. This will be an 18 mile run. 18.2, actually. It should take around 2 hours and 40 minutes, if I don't stop along the way. Since I'll need to refill water a few times, though, I think it'll take me closer to 3 hours.
I've gone back and forth between the Santa Monica and Venice Beach piers, and have finally settled on Venice Beach. There's something about the Venice Beach pier that draws me lately. It's less touristy. Lots of fishermen. I have photos of me and my brother down there from a years ago when he came out to LA to visit. Darby and I held hands for the first time as we walked down it on one of our first dates. Later, my first holiday week with his daughters, we all went down to the beach and I have pictures of the girls rolling around in the sand on a moody December day.
Also, I'm particularly interested in mapping out the route and deciding on a date because I've decided to do this as a fundraiser for a charity. I'm still trying to decide on which one. I love animals, and we could do something in Scooter's memory for an animal shelter or Farm Sanctuary. Or, Darby and I recently performed with one of our bands at a fundraising event for Valley Cares Family Justice Center, which provides support and services for victims of domestic violence. Or, perhaps an environmental cause like Heal The Bay, a local organization working to protect and heal the Southern California coastal waters and watersheds.
I'll be considering and researching more about these options in the next few days, but meanwhile I wanted to have a plan for the run so that I can focus my energy on the fundraiser, on my recovery, and on the training with which I'll soon be back on track.
Marking my calendar. December 30. 18.2 miles. From my house to the Venice Beach Pier.
Meanwhile, today is Saturday. A rainy, fireplace-y, pizza and movie kind of Saturday. On Monday I will be off my two weeks rest, and plan to run a short 2.5 miles. THANK GOODNESS!
By the way, speaking of having the blue, it would be a shame to not clue you in to the antics going on here while I've been writing this post: blue hair dye.
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.
My weekday job is a sit-all-day gig. I dig the paid holidays and health insurance, but I've never been one of those sit-all-day gals. For years I used my lunch hour to walk, the highlight of my workday. In 1 hour you can get a good 3 or 4 miles, a few seasonally-stolen fruits (figs, blackberries, mulberries, apples, pomegranates - I've got the neighborhood mapped out tree by tree), and a catch-up call with friends and family around the country.
Walking brings out the details that you never get in a drive-by. In a car there's the traffic, and the curb, and that 4-way stop that the north-south traffic always rolls through.
When you're walking, there are the two mulberry trees whose branches have been grafted together in someone's corner yard - two trees become one - with a little bird house hanging between them. You pass those grafted trees everyday and note the seasons with their pruning and growing. You notice a bird cage with cockatiels that was hung from the branches last spring, and you whistle a melody you still remember from the cockatiels your parents got after you went off to college. You start to think about the trees, and how they are now linked, growing separately but together, and how the love you share with your favorite person in the world is like that, how you two grow independently even as you stay intricately connected.
As you walk by you think also about how much you like that little bird house, and how it looks so much like Dorothy's house in Kansas when it spun around in the black and white dust of the tornado. And then you move on to the next interesting thing.
It was years of that, walking by the mulberry trees growing full of leaves through summer, and then pruned back in the winter, until one day last October. This is where the question of beginnings comes up. Where does a story begin?
Last spring I got my foot X-rayed. For years I had been managing some pain in my big toe joint, but by the spring of 2011 it was so inflamed that I was concerned for my daily walks, and I finally limped down to the doctor. The joint was red and swollen, and hurt to the touch. Date night heels? Forget them. Even my combat boots were hurting. Well, the x-rays showed why. Turns out there's a lovely bone spur that's been scraping against another bone. The more it scrapes, the bigger it gets. Ouchie.
The doctor's fix was to give me custom inserts for my shoes. My fix was yoga. I shifted the focus of my practice to my feet. I lifted my arches. I spread my toes. I noticed my tendency to roll inward and strengthened my stance. Every practice, which was almost every day, was about my feet.
And, defiantly shunning physical limitations, I kept walking. I refused to baby my foot. No bone spur would keep me down. I'd show my big toe joint who was boss of me. Take that, toe. BAM!
Then I heard about this friend-of-a-friend, Milton Miller. In the fall of 2010, Milton was a 235 pound 40-something-year-old couch potato. In the spring of 2011, a mutual friend invited me to celebrate Milton's arrival in Los Angeles. He'd run into town from Miami. On his feet. From Florida. Across the country. To California. An out-of-shape regular non-athletic dude. All the way to the Santa Monica Pier. By himself. R-U-N-N-I-N-G.
Here I was, a fairly active 30-something yoga teacher who walked every day and loved to hike, about to be taken down by her stupid big toe. And then there was this couch potato named Milton who up and ran across the country. I've driven across the good ol' U.S. of A. three times, and in case you didn't already know, I'll tell you: This country is large around the middle. Hell, forget about the country, we could just talk about Florida. His starting point of Miami is a helluva long run to the panhandle turn into Alabama. Anyway, you can check out his blog, 100 Days Of Madness, if you like.
But let's be honest here. If we're trying to find the beginning, it's a childhood kind of thing. Between 3rd and 11th grade I lived in a little mountain lake community in north Jersey. At the crack of dawn across all seasons my mom met up with a friend to run the equivalent of a 5k around the lakeside curvy mountain roads. Back when I was young and knew everything, I could not imagine why anyone would wake up so early, nor why anyone would ever want to run, but there you have it. The root of it all.
This brings us to last October. One day during my usual lunch time walk I had an urge to run. I resisted, of course, because it was a ridiculous notion. There was no reason I -- or any sane person, I thought -- would want to run. I kept walking and finished back at the office where I settled into my chair, happily looking forward to my yoga practice that night.
The next day, however, it happened again. I wanted to run. Was it the intersection of varied lifelong influences? Was it the cooler autumn air? I have no idea why the urge came upon me -- and this immediately spoke to some sort of baffling duality. One "I" wanted to run. Another "I" wanted to know why. The idea of running ignited a bizarre internal struggle, and a third -- the mediator voice -- finally suggested a bargain. I could run, it said, for as long as I wanted, within these parameters:
Running for pleasure. What a concept.
It was with those guidelines intact that I finally ran. I ran two or three times that week, and eventually checked Google maps to see, just out of curiosity, how far I'd gone. I kept the mediator's rules in check and stopped whenever I wanted, but it was a few miles each time. I ran through Fall and into the holiday season of 2011.
I kept those parameters in mind, too, in creating The List. That New Year's Eve journalling was the softening of my recent years' resistance to goals. I'd been goal-driven for as long as I can remember. I was raised that way. Or maybe it's my nature. Either way, five years ago I burned out like a big firework display. I was the morning after a lifetime of plans. I was a rocket ship pummeling back to the ocean. Who cared if mission was accomplished, I was spent. When I moved to Cali, it was less of a life decision and more like an exhausted crawl to floaties. I'd been sinking under my life goals. I needed the gift of the present. I came to southern California for the ride, and when we stopped the car I pitched camp.
It's been five years since I got to Cali. The List's emergence this past New Year's Eve was a tiny voice inside me saying, grow. Show up. Now that you know how to enjoy the present, it's time to stretch. Reach beyond your base camp. In the five years since I crawled to California's arms, something inside had finally healed. I was ready to think ahead. I numbered down the moleskin page.
#28 - Get new running shoes
The shoes I'd been wearing to run were the same shoes I'd been walking in for years. This is not a metaphor, but maybe it could be. The back edge of the soles were worn and likely not helping my big toe issue. Showing up for ourselves means having the support and tools we need to be healthy and happy. I checked off #28 the first week of January.
When I went to get the shoes, I saw the face of a gal I know on the cover of LAS&F magazine. Michelle was often in my yoga classes. The next time I saw her, I asked her what she liked about running. It was her answer that opened up the real beauty of running to me. Her reason was exactly the same reason I love yoga. To be present with whatever comes up. To notice the mind-chatter. To hear the wind and the birdsong. To feel the belly cramp, the shortened breath, the strength, the weakness. To experience everything life had to offer at the moment, without reaction, without judgment. To be aware, and alive, and joyful.
Once I started setting goals, I met them pretty quickly. January surprised me. I was intrigued by my strength and stamina. Each week I ran a little longer. I downloaded the Sportypal app and started tracking my miles and time. I did not set distance goals, only time. I wanted to find my base - what was my natural pace? It was faster than I'd expected. What was my natural exhaustion point? It was further than I'd assumed.
#29 - Run for 25 minutes straight
#30 - Run for 30 minutes straight
#31 - Run for 35 minutes straight
#32 - Run for 40 minutes straight
Through the months of writing and revising The List, I also checked things off. I finished #29-#32 in January and challenged myself to my first 8-mile run in February. Inspired by that, I added:
#33 - Run a raceI didn't commit to what kind of race. I figured time would tell me what I was capable of doing. A marathon seemed extreme, but I knew for sure I could easily run a 5k or 10k. By April or May I was running 3-6 miles, 4-5 times a week, during my lunch hour.
Just as the weather was getting hot, I found a running partner to keep me going. I met Brandi one day in June when we were both out running. Her office is 1.25 miles from mine, and she runs five miles every day during her lunch hour. We started meeting up, and even as the summer heat beat down, my weekly mileage increased. I added longer runs on Saturday to get some hills into my routine.
At the end of July I took an unplanned non-List epic 20-years-in-coming journey back to my old mountain lake hometown in New Jersey. I brought my running shoes. Everyday I ran that old 5k lake run that my mom used to do, past my old house and the houses of my childhood classmates. I saw deer, and smelled the trees, and felt the air. I cried and grieved losses I'd needed to mourn for 20 years. I also spent some time in NYC, and logged my first ever 9+ mile run one morning in Central Park.
As I neared the end of writing The List, a final goal for the year came to me. I knew it was not something I could do anytime soon, but the year was only half over. More than a race, I thought, I would like to GET somewhere. Somewhere to celebrate. Somewhere significant. Somewhere spiritual. Somewhere like the edge of the continent. Somewhere like the Pacific Ocean.
#100 - Run from our house to the Santa Monica Pier
So this is what I am working towards. I plan to do it in the days between Christmas and New Years Eve. We live in the San Fernando valley, so the ocean is 18 miles away by local roads. I'll have to run through Studio City, over the Santa Monica Mountains, taking the Coldwater route which is a beautifully winding road, past Fryman Canyon, over Mulholland Drive, across Sunset Boulevard, down Santa Monica Boulevard, turn on Ocean Ave, over the bridge, to the bike path, to the pier. There on the sand, at the edge of the country, at the end of the year, I will meet my Love and celebrate my year of The List of 100 Things.