The First Kiss of Memphis

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This morning I woke up in my beloved Memphis. This cute little AirBnB is equipped with all of the comforts of home except maybe a bathtub. But I have a shower, and I suppose that’s all I really need. Last night I ran over to the new Fresh Market which would have been right down the street from my house and stocked up with some healthy treats and a few not-so-healthy ones. I tried to think back to five years ago and choose one of my favorite restaurants.

Let’s see …. there was the convenience store on the corner where I used to get this amazing sautéed veggies over rice with a fried egg on top. Of course, there was BBQ everywhere, but I’d want to save that for Wednesday night. The Mexican Deli in Cordova was too long of a drive after driving all day. I even noodled the Vietnamese place on Poplar. Hmmmm … Bhan Thai popped in my head, and I knew right where I was going.

They’ve made some upgrades. The parking lot is bigger. I no longer had to walk down the street to park. They’ve extended the porch so it’s larger. I opted to sit on the porch since it was nice out, and I tried something new – the potstickers – and one of my favorites – cashew nut tofu. I even opted for the sticky mango coconut rice for dessert even though I knew I could only have a taste or two. I’m on vacation, right? A singer sang old favorites from my childhood, and I let myself relax for the first time on the trip. “I am here,” my body said. “Kick your feet up and relax.”

My little vacation spot…

I made an early night of it since I had gotten up early to drive. So I awoke rested and ready for my run. I thought of several running routes but settled on walking out my front door and heading to my old neighborhood. Memories started rushing back as I made my way down the same streets that I’d run a million times when training for marathons. Looks like they finally sold that place over on McLean. Wow, they made some nice upgrades on that house off Lemaster. Dogs, as usual, were being walked all over, the humidity hung like a damp cloth in the air, and the trees of Memphis stood as stately and beautiful as ever.

My old house… with my porch swing.

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I ran down my old street and checked out my apartment where I lived after my divorce. It looked the same. I wondered if they ever fixed that back yard so it looked a little nicer but didn’t have the hooha to walk over and peek over the fence. It was occupied as a fall wreath hung on the door. I thought of the Memphis drummer that lived beneath me and harbored a secret crush on the older woman on the second floor. I passed my house down the street. They chopped down all of those bushes to the side of the house to make a two-car driveway. And they added the porch swing that I wanted but never hung. I longed to look inside to see what else was new.

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Overall, the old ‘hood is the same. Central Gardens is where I am, and Central Gardens is where I lived. It’s where I trained for my first marathon. That house on Carr was Ashok’s first home with me. I remembered with a gasp how hot it was that one summer when temps hung over 100 for weeks on end. My sister came up to go to an outdoor gospel concert during Elvis week. It was 104, but they still held it outside. Thank heavens it’s not that hot today! I remember those countless long runs through that neighborhood where I’d suffer through eeking out another 5 miles … another mile … another 100 yards. And I remember how I felt today when I was done… soaked through with sweat, fully worked out and glad to be here.

I asked myself if I should have left Memphis. I have great friends here, and I really do love the gritty soulfulness of this city. I thought about the year before I moved to Louisiana and what I was feeling. I had a restlessness about me, and I was ready to go. “You are not the staying kind,” I heard a voice in my right ear. I giggled a little and answered back, “Yeah, I suppose commitment is not my strong suit.” Thank goodness that doesn’t mean I can’t journey back for comfort. I may not stay for long, but I’ll be grounded in love and gratitude while I’m here.

Running in the Rain

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I hate being sick. I’m actually not sick that often, but this week I got some kind of awful, debilitating cold with a fever. I was down and out for two days. I slept and slept and slept all day Monday and Tuesday. I still had a fever Tuesday night, and I thought for sure I’d be off work Wednesday to spend another day in bed. But, for some reason, when I awoke on Wednesday, I felt like my old self again. With no fever and no raging river of snot cascading down my nose, I got dressed and went to work.

I didn’t want to revisit that cold again, and since many people at work are getting over it or suffering with it, I sort of kept to myself and treated myself to a lot of rest and relaxation when I got home. But, we all know that you can’t bank exercise, so I texted Jessica who has been coaching me again and committed to running first thing this morning. She sent me a speedwork plan earlier in the week, so I got up at 4:30 and was out the door at 5 AM to check that box. It looked a little like rain, so I brought a rain jacket just in case.

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I got through the first quarter mile repeats with no problem, but then I felt a sprinkle. During the 3rd repeat, it started pouring. It wasn’t a Louisiana pouring, but it was definitely a Michigan pouring. I wasn’t too far from home, so I could have gone back, but I knew I had to finish this run. Surely, it wouldn’t last long, I thought. This isn’t Louisiana. Rain doesn’t usually last long. Ashok looked at me with a sad look in her eyes, and I told her we were going to finish the run. A little rain wasn’t going to melt us.

So we ran in the pouring rain, splashed in small streams and large puddles and I spent a lot of time and effort trying to protect my iPhone. After 5 minutes of feeling like a wet rat, I started to appreciate the freedom of running in the rain. Ashok seemed to mimic my mood and picked up her pace as she raced through puddles of her own. The last of my congestion from my cold made breathing difficult, and I found myself shooting snot torpedoes out my nose more than once. It stopped raining by the time my speedwork was done, and we walked in the house dripping water all over my front porch.

I love the feeling of completing a challenging run. Sometimes it’s the run itself. Other times the weather makes breathing difficult. Cold weather, too, can cause exercise asthma, or icy roads can make running treacherous. The workout can be a b*tch. After work some days, my legs feel like lead posts, and I struggle with every step. But every time I persevere and finish, I feel like a rock star. When I check that box on the finished workout, I have successfully completed at least one task for the day. Actually, when I think about it, I truly am like a rock star when I stick with something hard and finish it. There were a lot of people who slept through that rain this morning. I conquered it.

Go conquer something this weekend. You deserve to be a star.

 

Change is Good

 

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I’m still making it Facebook-free! I think it’s been a week.. or more maybe. I don’t know how long it’s been, and I don’t care. I just know that I don’t miss it at all. I’m finding ways to stay in touch with most of my friends by now in other ways, and that feels really good. Yes, I sort of miss knowing what all is going on in everybody’s lives, but, I don’t miss knowing what’s going on in everybody’s head. Besides, maybe there is something to be said in reaching out to someone instead of lazily stalking their life with no real connection.

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I started using Instagram. I have to admit it doesn’t have the addictive quality of Facebook, but it does offer cute cat videos. I’m calling it the softer, gentler social media outlet. This weekend my friend Cy and I were playing with some of the features. He’s a friend from Louisiana, and he’s sick of the BS on Facebook, too. When I told him about Instagram, he was a little hesitant but thought he might try it. Next thing I know, he’s posting update videos from Livingston of his daily goings-on. He’s becoming an Instagram super user!

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There is a new feature on Instagram called My Story. Apparently, the idea was stolen from the popular Snapchat, but since I never have gotten into Snapchat, I don’t have any judgments. You can upload pictures to My Story, adorn them with text, add the temperature and location and decorate with funny accessories. As the day goes on, My Story grows, and your followers can view it like a slideshow. After 24 hours, it disappears! I had fun on my adventure this weekend chronicling all my stops with videos and pictures. I had a few followers sharing in the fun. They say a picture paints a thousand words, so Instagram is an efficient way to get a point across.

I’m also meeting different people on Instagram. Some of my friends are on Facebook and Instagram, but many of the ones on Instagram are not on Facebook, so I haven’t been “socializing” much with them in years. It’s nice to see my friend Amy’s kids growing up and catch up with a couple of my runner friends in Memphis. It’s just a bit of a different experience, and I don’t find myself obsessed about being on there. I actually have time to read and cook and exercise.

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I subscribed to the New York Times, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. When I was on the News app on my phone, all I got was stories on politics and tragic happenings. Now that I have the Times I try to go in and read some of the features, scour the book reviews, devour the articles about history and occasionally read about politics. The writing is so good. Articles are well researched and actually have a real story behind them. I feel so much better about the world. Yes, there’s drama going on at the White House, but the rest of the world seems to be moving along quite normally.

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My Virtual Boot Camp is almost over, so I’m trying to decide what I want to do next for fitness. I really do miss the heart-thumping cardio from running, so I’m considering getting in shape to run again. I did my first 30-minute run/walk tonight. Injuries have plagued me the last few years every time I got started, but I’m hoping if I take it slow enough I’ll get back into it. I’d like to keep the distance at 5k or 10K at the very most because I want to continue my yoga and strength-training, too. I think marathons are in my rear view mirror. I’d rather be hiking!

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Will I ever get back to this again? I miss my runs.

I’m continuing to follow Weight Watchers’ maintenance plan, and the accountability has helped me stay on track and actually lose a few pounds the last few weeks. Tonight I made some delicious butternut squash soup, and finished it off with smoked trout from Lake Michigan and some homemade bread with goat cheese. It was delicious! I feel so much better when I’m eating right. I’ve been tempted a couple of times this week to indulge in the crap that is out at work, but I’ve stayed on track due to the “rails” I have in place. I even ate pretty healthy over the weekend while I was out of town. I’m sort of proud of myself.

I head to Chicago this weekend to stay with my friend Nancy. I’m looking forward to being in the city. We might go ice skating, walk around downtown and will probably just hang out and laugh a lot. Meanwhile, I have to get through Thursday and Friday at work. It’s only Hump Day, y’all! Friday’s coming…

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Great Evening for a Run

 

 

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After last week’s push with training and getting my floors done, Monday seemed like a cake walk. I got done with work around 5, and I headed home to get Ashok to go for a long-awaited run. I’ve been sporadic at best the last few weeks, and I’m feeling it. She was boarded last week so I know she was anxious to get out. I could hardly wait to put on a windbreaker and my running shoes to get out the door.

We ran the mile downtown, and I decided that we would head out on the pier beside the lighthouse. When I lived here before, I went out there all the time, but I haven’t been since I moved back. We meandered through downtown, over the sidewalk on the beach and headed out toward the lake.

It was very breezy, and the whitecaps were kicking up and over the lighthouse. I’ve seen it a lot worse, but when it’s worse, you really can’t get out there. It was just a perfect evening to get a feel for the power of Lake Michigan when the wind is blowing off the water. I’d forgotten about the wind here. Louisiana had monsoon rains that blew my mind, and St. Joseph has wind that rattles my windows and makes me worry about the stability of my house.

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After hanging out a bit at the end of the pier, we turned around and ran home. I cooked some cabbage soup, roasted carrots and applesauce for dinner, and I was able to actually sit down and blog tonight. I hope the rest of the week brings some normalcy, and I can get back on track with my exercise and eating right.

Good night, y’all!

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Committing to Run Another Half Marathon: Jazz Half – New Orleans

You can't see the gator, but it's right there in the dark in the right of that puddle!

You can’t see the gator, but it’s right there in the dark in the right of that puddle!

My boss and I have been running this week. Last night, we were talking in the room, and all of a sudden I had this strong desire to run. I started changing clothes, and she said, “Are you going running?” “Yes,” I answered. “I have to move.” She said she was going, too, and we raced downstairs to ask the front desk where to run. As is typical of most smaller town areas, there aren’t a lot of runners asking where to run. He had no idea what to do, and we finally decided to head to the riverfront.

It was already getting close to dark, so we needed to hurry. We found a place to park, and there was a nice trail that went along the Red River. I suggested we run/walk for 20 minutes or so and that way we’d be back to the car before dark. It was actually nice out, and we quickly knocked out our run. The river had obviously been way up recently. Segments of the trail were covered in sand and clay. I stopped at one point to take a picture because it was really pretty in the dusk light. Missy said, “Is that a gator in that puddle?’ I looked. It sure looked like the head of one, but it was in the puddle right next to us, and I couldn’t imagine one hanging out there. “Yes, it is,” she said. “I just saw its eyes blink.” I told her to go stand by it, and I’d take her picture. She refused, and we ran away.

I’ve been doing my run/walk thing for the last few weeks. I haven’t really told anybody or said anything because of all the injuries I’ve endured the last few years. One year I lost probably $300 on race fees for races I couldn’t start because I got injured during training. I’ve been gun-shy to set any race goals or even to run anymore. Plus, the summer is miserable, and I haven’t thought of running at all in this heat. But, lately, I’ve been missing the feeling of finishing a good run, and I’ve been sneaking in a run/walk 3 days a week or so. Ashok only goes when it’s early in the morning because it’s too hot for her.

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I even looked up Jeff Galloway’s training plans the other day. I started noodling doing a 10K sometime in November. I just won’t tell anybody, I told myself. I could train quietly, and, if I made it without an injury for a month or so, then I could commit to a race. I even downloaded one of his training apps which were on sale over the July 4 holiday. But I still hadn’t committed – not even to myself. So, yesterday, Missy started talking about her desire to run a half marathon one day. I told her about my little 10K venture and how I’d like to run the Turkey Day run in New Orleans’ City Park on Thanksgiving Day. She mentioned the Jazz Half Marathon was around that time. I googled it to see what it was about, and the first thing that came up was an article about Runner’s World magazine selecting it as one of the best half marathons in the country. Read the article here.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.17.39 PMSo, I really started thinking about it. The race is on the same list as half marathons in Maui, Chicago, New York and Key West. All of a sudden, I started remembering how much fun it was to explore cities in my previous half marathons. I remembered how much fun it was to be involved in training for a race and the routine and motivation it created. On an impulse, I registered for the October 31 race. I didn’t say anything out loud, but I started talking to Missy as if we were going to do it. I set up the training calendar on my phone and told her we could do our long runs in Bay St. Louis for fun. She said, “You registered?” “YES, I did,” I said loudly and laughed. “Well I’d better get registered, then,” she said. “This is a bucket list thing for me!” She may even see if her husband wants to do it, too.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.46.19 PMSo, I’m registered for the Jazz Half Marathon in New Orleans on October 31st. There … I said it. If anybody wants to join in on a run/walk plan to complete a half marathon, why don’t you join us. Here’s the plan. It’ll be Missy’s first, and it’ll be my first in a long time. I figure if something happens, I can always walk it. But, I’m going to take it slow and easy like a beginner…. and enjoy the party. Apparently the awesome post-race party is one of the reasons it was chosen! That’s all for now. I have to go for a run.

The Measuring Stick of Running: National Running Day 2014

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I subscribe to Jessica’s Blog by email. I like that better because I make sure I see every time she posts. If I don’t, I miss it frequently because FaceBook sucks as a communication tool, and I rarely ever see the post.  As a side note, you can do the same thing with my blog if you want! There’s a space on the front page of the blog that looks like this:

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Click on the ‘Keep up with me…’ button and add your email address. (Or, you can send me your email, and I can add you.) Anyway, I digress with a little marketing spiel. So, today I got her post on National Running Day. I missed it last year because I didn’t realize it was coming, and I didn’t schedule a run that day. This morning I lifted weights so an additional workout was out of the question. So… I missed it again. I already marked the first Wednesday in June  2015 on my iPhone calendar with a week’s notice. I won’t miss it next year.

Apparently National Running Day is a big damn deal in some places. There is a website  – http://www.runningday.org/ – with more information. They have runs all over the country to celebrate, and Jessica made sure she ran today. See her blog for her personal celebration. Maybe next year I’ll pull something together for Baton Rouge. This year I’ll just pay my homage by writing about what running has given me.

I’ve been grumpy about my workouts for the last couple of months. After the injury that I sustained back in November that lasted until March, I was thrilled to be running again. But, to me, it’s a balancing act to run, do yoga, make time for meditation and do strength training. Plus I work 40 hours a week and blog almost every day. Since I’ve added yoga to the mix, I’ve loved what it does for me. The more I get of yoga, the more I want it. So, adding running back to the routine has pushed me to squeeze more into my week than I was previously doing. Previously, I had 2-3 weight workouts with some circuit training. Then I added 3 runs into that … then I added yoga 2-3 times a week. It was getting to be too much time and too much energy. Jessica takes the heat when she texts me to see how it went, and I complain about it all being too much. Of course, I asked for it. I apologized the other day for being so grumpy about my workouts. She said it was part of her job to get me through it. Then she said something that made me think. “Hopefully I’m helping you work through it and find compromises to stay with it instead of throwing in the towel completely.”

It made me think of my struggles with working out and running over the years. It’s been on again, off again at best. There was no focus. The only focus was the scale. I hated that damn scale. For about 25 years, I quit running. It hurt too much. For about 10 years of that time, I did yoga exclusively. I also walked almost every day. Still the scale went up and down. When I finally got back into running, I enjoyed it for a little while and then quit. Then, I met my first running coach at Memphis in Motion. He taught me the walk break intervals I use, and it really worked for me. But, I was just running. I wasn’t losing weight. I felt great, and I was eventually running marathons. I was enjoying myself, but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted fitness-wise. Still the numbers on that scale haunted me. When I first met Jessica I had stopped running again. I was floundering, and I had put on about 10 MORE pounds. We started working on weights at the gym in Memphis. That was the beginning of my running life as we know it.

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Under her tutelage, I started to experiment with speed and different types of workouts. No longer was my running just picking a distance and going there. It became more fun and interesting because of the variety of workouts. We added strength-training because it was important to me to continue to build strength due to my age. I learned from Jessica and running how to view my fitness holistically. Running is no longer just burning calories for me. It’s an anchor to my well-being. It strengthens my heart muscle, fires my appetite and keeps me on track with food. If I eat like crap, I can’t run like I want to. It helps me sleep better. It gives me things to do when I travel, and it’s often why I travel. Now, I’m realizing that the tightness in my muscles from running is also encouraging me to do more yoga to balance it out. And, like I said before, yoga is awesome for me. Anything I can do that encourages me to do it more is a good thing.

Some people love running so much that it’s their only athletic endeavor. For me, running is an essential part of my total fitness plan which changes all the time. I keep wanting to find something set and stick to it, but maybe that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I imagine that someday I may not have the time to dedicate to fitness that I do now. I saved an hour a day commuting to and from work by moving 2 minutes away from my job here. That may not always be the case. I really missed the running component when I was injured. I still kept my fitness doing other things, but I missed being outdoors, exercising with my dog and having fun at races. Running is so much more than exercise. It’s an essential ingredient of my lifestyle.

I told Jessica that her help the last two years was essential. I have been more consistent in my exercise and diet than I have ever been. There have been NO breaks…. .even when I moved cross-country. I may have missed a day or two, but I really didn’t miss a beat. I can also thank the blogging. The writing has helped me define what I want and own my shortcomings. The coaching has been phenomenal for me. It keeps me stay focused on a larger plan, and it helps me have accountability for doing what I need to do TODAY. Jessica has also helped me plan lapses so that if I need to just focus on food for awhile, I take it easy on exercise. She’s helped me see that it’s not a sprint that has to be done perfectly. It’s a marathon that has room for walking, rest and even quitting if necessary. As long as it’s part of the plan, it’s all good. The running has given me freedom from gyms and let me see the sky. It’s allowed me to get a dog and spend time with her. It’s given me reasons to drive places and see new areas. It’s made me faster and shown me that with work, I can improve at any age. Running is the measuring stick that I use for progress. And, I’ve seen a lot in the past two years. I just ran my fastest 5K ever last month. I’ve improved dramatically.

Me and Jessica after the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans on Sunday. Man, I wanted to run. :(

Me and Jessica after the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans on Sunday. Man, I wanted to run. 😦

Because I have the measuring stick of my running, I no longer have to gauge my fitness by the scale. I’m grateful for that. It was a poor measuring stick at best. I have made phenomenal progress in my fitness. In the past two years, my weight has been very stable. I’ve gotten off an anti-depressant that I was on almost 20 years. I’ve cut way back on sugar. I’ve cut out caffeine completely. My anxiety doesn’t rule my moods anymore. I no longer have clothes in my closet that yell at me that I’m fat because they don’t fit. I wear whatever I want because it all fits. That FEELS so good! Now, I judge my fitness by my speed, how I feel on a run and whether or not I’m enjoying doing it. Thank you, running. I hated that damn scale. Now, it’s sitting under my chest of drawers, and I might bring it out when I’m curious. But, it never moves very much anymore. It might go up or down one or two pounds, but that’s it. However, the needle on my running just keeps on going up … and …. up … and … up  …. in one way or another.

Crescent City Classic 2014: 6.2 Miles of Fun

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“This is not normal,” I overheard a woman say, “People die doing this!” I laughed out loud on the race course as I passed her. We – the Varsity Running Club of Baton Rouge – arrived at the Superdome about 45 minutes before the race start. I had forgotten to eat this morning. I was in such a rush to get out of the house for the 5:15 bus, and I didn’t realize I had not eaten until I got halfway there. It was a novice mistake. Some people don’t eat much before a race, but I have to eat. A fellow runner had some cinnamon rolls, and my friend Tracy gave me some yogurt. It was hardly the high protein meal I needed, but it would have to do. There was nothing open where I could get a bite, and I had to wait in line at the porta potties. I’ve decided that the next photo essay I’m going to do is going to be snapping candid shots of people as they exit porta-potties. The expressions are priceless.

NOTE: Click on the pics for captions and zooming. 🙂

Before the Start

The 10 K (6.2 mile) race course for the Crescent City Classic runs from the French Quarter down Esplanade and into City Park. It was absolutely fabulous. I had decided to snap pictures the whole way and enjoy the race route since this was my virgin voyage. I had waited 30 something years to participate, and I wasn’t going to spend it worried about my time and looking at my GPS. I wanted to stop and smell the roses – literally – along the way. When we arrived, one of the guys on our bus gave the newbies some pointers. “If you take anything from any of the locals, it’s probably going to have something in it. Don’t take it unless you are looking for that.” Another person added that the fireman hand out straight vodka instead of water. “Oh, and please pace yourself … I’m talking about the party afterwards,” he added with a laugh. It was going to be a beautiful morning, and I was really looking forward to the race… except for the fact that I was starving – before I started running.

The Quarter & Esplanade

New Orleans streets aren’t that wide at some points, so the race course was crowded. These big races remind me of a microcosm of life itself. People show up on the race course like they do in life. Some are flamboyant in their tutus and costumes, drawing attention to themselves. Others just want to be comfortable. Some are prepared for the challenge, training and educating themselves on what to expect. Others show up with no training and just gut it out. Some want to speed by to compete and win while others just want to enjoy the journey. If you think you know what a runner looks like, you’ve never been to one of these races. Runners are as diverse as the population as a whole. Some are big. Some are small. Some are blind. Some are young and fit. Some limp all the way through in ways that make me wonder how they can get through a race with a gait like that. Some just run for the beer while others run for their health or for their time. There are even superheroes who stride past with their capes and masks like they are flying on the wind. Others run for God, their deceased friends and relatives or their Moms. A crowded race course is filled with charity runners for every major disease and some very rare ones. I find myself laughing, sometimes crying and often motivated by the people I see moving before me in a river of bodies.

Entering City Park

Today’s race snaked through the beautiful City Park in New Orleans among the ancient Live Oak trees. You could see runners everywhere, moving like ants marching through a picnic. And, speaking of a picnic, I made it to the finish but was famished by the time I got there. I was never so glad to see an orange in my life. The race culminated in a massive party with red beans and rice and jambalaya accompanying the main attraction … beer … and lots more beer. I’ll leave you with some pics of the day. I’m tired. I feel very blessed to be healthy enough to run among old friends and new. I’m full of good food and replenished with a massive dose of vitamin D …. I know I’ll sleep well tonight.

Happy Easter, y’all! I saw several Easter Bunnies at the race today. I hope they are not too tired to get with it tonight.

 

Shrimp Acadienne, Rain and Running: Shamrock 10K in Hammond

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Me with my age group medal and my friend Gretchen!

My friend Gretchen called me a few weeks ago and offered me a race bib for the Rotary Shamrock 10K in Hammond. I’m just starting to run again, so I didn’t think pushing my mileage up that fast would be prudent. But they also had a 5K, so I said that would be perfect.  Hammond is about an hour away, so I got up this morning at my usual 5 AM and drove over to be on time. Gretchen made us some race t-shirts since this free bib was a gift for her Holiday Inn Northshore’s sponsorship of the race. I would be advertising Holiday Inn. I got there early and stopped at the PJ’s Coffee House downtown for a hot chai. While I was there, one of the Rotarians stopped in to pick up some coffee for the post-race party. He said there were over 400 people signed up. “It’s huge,” he said. I kind of giggled to myself because I’ve run races with 47,000 people in them. 400 doesn’t seem that huge to me at all. But, nonetheless, he was very excited, and I didn’t want to damper his enthusiasm.

When I woke up this morning, it was pouring down rain. I checked the weather, and it said “cloudy.” Well, that’s stupid, I thought. It also said it would clear up shortly and the sun would shine. It rained on and off all the way over but had stopped raining when I arrived at Friendship Circle on Southeastern’s Campus. The last time I’d run in Hammond was the final run where my injury got too severe, and I decided to give up on running for awhile. I was sidelined from November until about a month ago with a piriformis-glute issue and then hip bursitis.

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My trainer and I struggled with it attempting to use strength-training and stretching to alleviate the pain to no avail. The breakthrough finally came after my friend Lisa advised me to take ibuprofen for the inflammation and ice it. I didn’t want to ice it because I hate the whole icing process, but I’m fine with Biofreeze. That does virtually the same thing without the mess. The other key was the continued strength training and a workout called MYRTL that Jessica recommended. We have determined that the real issue was the sitting I do everyday at work. To make a long story short, they are discovering that when we sit all day, our glutes actually go to sleep. And, they don’t just sleep while we are sitting. It’s difficult to get them re-activated again. So, when I try to run without my glutes – they are napping – I compensate in other places. Thus, I get strains and inflammation. Jessica said she’s starting to think that most of the very common running injuries are caused by this. For more on the sleeping glutes, read this excellent article from Runner’s World.

So, needless to say, I was very excited about running this morning. I decided to run negative splits as this seems to work well for me. While I was lined up at the start, I met a woman named Debi who is going to train for her first half marathon this year. We talked a bit about her running, my injury and the race. We kind of hit it off, and we exchanged phone numbers after the race was over. I’d love to do some weekend long runs with her at some point. The race itself was pretty uneventful. I did my negative splits with ease, and my final mile was 9:46. That’s really fast for me. I felt great. It started raining during the last half mile, and I was disappointed because I figured the post-race party would be a bust with the rainy weather. I crossed the finish line first in my age group at 32:04:5. I was thrilled!

The Holiday Inn had a tent and was serving food, so I wandered over. I’ve enjoyed Chef Rich Poupart’s food at the tailgate parties at the football games, so I wanted to see what he was serving. He had Shrimp Acadienne which was blackened shrimp served over mashed sweet potatoes with an andoille cream sauce. OMG … this stuff was awesome. I spent most of the post-race party standing at their booth saying, “give me some more.” It was delicious. It was fun to watch the racers come up and ask what they were serving. When they described it to them, their eyes would light up. It was such a great post-race food and so yummy. Other sponsors brought pasta, hamburgers, jambalaya, donuts, coffee, sweet tea, fruit and little ham pinwheels. One runner joked that he’d never gone to a race where he’d gained weight. I was thinking the same thing. The food was outstanding.

I was dead wrong about the post-race party. I think everybody hung around after the race. I stayed two hours after the race, and it rained the whole time. I didn’t care. It was a blast. Everybody was friendly. They had a great band playing popular music. The Marines were there with a chin-up challenge. It was fun to watch all of those men – and women – flexing to win the prize. Apparently the Rotary Club donates the money raised to several local causes, so several of them were there. I talked with a woman at length who was with an organization that helps people quit smoking. We were all soaking wet, but it was a ball. It is definitely going to be an annual race for me. I loved it! Hopefully next year I can do the 10K.

I talked with Chef Poupart and asked him if he serves this kind of fare regularly at the Holiday Inn, and he said he does. I told Gretchen to let me know the specials. It would definitely be worth the drive over to get some more of his creative dishes. Nobody could quit talking about it. Oh, yeah, and there was so much shrimp left that I got to take a care package home and have more of it for dinner. It wasn’t quite the same without that andouille cream sauce, but they were delicious. Before I left, I brought some of that Shrimp Acadienne to a cute police officer who had chatted me up when I kept walking back and forth to my car changing clothes before and after the race. I can’t wait until next year! I had a blast.

Wired for Sport

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Bobbi Jo is part of my running community here – and my softball community growing up… she’s wired for sport, too. 🙂

Yesterday I blogged about my friend Sha and our friendship that was anchored in our pitcher/catcher relationship. The weird thing is that nobody seems to remember our team name. I got out the yearbooks and photo albums today to see if I could find any clues. It’s driving me crazy. I wore that uniform all the time. My Mother washed that uniform all the time, and so did Sha’s Mom. They can’t remember the team name either. Neither can my coaches remember the name of the sponsor of our team. I guess it’s one of those things that is just not that important in the scheme of things.

The truth is that there were numerous teams in my family. We were a family that grew up in athletics. Momma was always washing uniforms. Many times she washed uniforms in a few hours between tournament games. All of us participated in sports in varying degrees of enthusiasm. Uniforms, practice, whining, winning and losing were part of the backdrop of my childhood. Our first games were neighborhood baseball games. I remember playing hardball – not softball – in the neighborhood with my cousins. We’d all get together in the pasture next to our house and play all day long. Sometimes it would just be me and my brothers. One time, I hit my brother Terry over the head with a baseball bat. He was standing behind me when I took a swing. Luckily, he wasn’t injured badly, or it wouldn’t be so funny. We’d even play if there were just two of us. One would pitch and play the field. The other would bat. Sammy would hit the ball, and I’d have to run after it wherever it was and try to get him out. Baseball was definitely the game of choice. A few times I’d hit golf balls, and we’d shoot basketball from time to time. But I always, always owned a baseball glove.

When I was about 13 or so, they started the Live Oak Sports Association. My Dad, Marlin Cloud and a bunch of others (sorry I can’t remember their names) went to “bat” to get it started and secured some land up Highway 16 for a few baseball fields. The first years we had no lights. Later, lights were added and a permanent concession stand. It was where we lived in the summers. Now, there’s a state of the art Sports Complex where we used to play, but it wasn’t like that in the first days. It was dusty, and it was the parents who ran it. They umpired, they coached, they ran the concession stand in shifts, and they escorted their kids back and forth to their games and practice. It was where I got my first kiss. I went up there as much as I could because, in those days, we didn’t hang out with people on Facebook. We hung out at the ball-field. And, heaven forbid, if my heart-throb was up there with another girl while I was staying at home. That just would not do.

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The rhythm of our household was sports. Our friends were involved with us in sports. Our lives … our vacations … our priorities were based on sports. I can’t think of a time when somebody wasn’t involved on a team or practicing. We practiced once or twice a week for softball out behind the Junior High School. It was hot, and we carried our water – no Gatorade back then – in those big Igloo coolers. We’d break for water, and the water was full of grass and dirt. I can still hear us whining about the water being dirty, and our coach Judy snapping, “There ain’t nothing wrong with that water. It’s just dirt and grass. You probably ate enough of it out here when you were practicing.” We’ drink the water because we had no choice, and I guess she was right. We never died from drinking that water.

Local companies sponsored the teams, and at the end of every season, they’d usually sponsor a team party. We’d have trophies sometimes, but, more often, we’d have fun and food. One time we went to Bikini Beach. Another time we went up to St. Francisville for a picnic. There was a ritual to the season, and the team party was the grand finale. I remember team names like Sport-N-Center, Live Oak Supermarket, The Eagles Nest, C.M. Penn & Sons and Holsum Bread. They may have advertised other ways, but the way I remembered their businesses were from the front of a uniform. And each team name was tied to the team’s reputation and success.

Through the years, people have talked to me about being an athlete. I suppose I’ve always been one. There are things I’ve learned, and there are things I’ve just been wired for internally. Being an athlete comes from my inner wiring. I always moved. I always treasured the joy of learning a new physical skill and moving my body through sweat. I never had to think about it. It was the expectation. It was our lifestyle. My Dad’s sport was basketball. I played basketball to please him and because there weren’t many sports for women back then. I hated the sport of basketball with its precision-based shooting and tactical plays. I loved the freedom of running, and we got to run a lot in basketball. When other people would complain about having to run suicides in the 95 degree un-air-conditioned gym, I thrived on it. I loved to be sweaty, muscles throbbing in fatigue and chasing a goal.

Turkey Trot in Northwest Indiana .... More Freezing

Turkey Trot in Northwest Indiana …. More Freezing

I gained the Freshmen 15 when I started college. I remember contemplating why I was gaining weight and what was different about my life. I realized that I had always been active, and in college I was starting to be inactive. It was then that I took up the sport of running. I ran with the boys because I was faster and more athletic than most of the girls in P.E. class. It was running that cured my first hangovers. I had a drinking problem, and I didn’t have time for hangovers. The first thing I did every morning after a night on the town was to go for a 5 mile run. I sweated out the booze and felt bad for 45 minutes or so, but I felt great the rest of the day. But I never loved running and exercise as much when I wasn’t part of a community of athletes. It wasn’t nearly as much fun sweating alone as it was to sweat with others.

I also learned the value of coaching. Our coaches growing up weren’t professionals. They didn’t have certifications or college educations in physiology. They were parents of friends. They were authority figures who knew a little more than we did about sports. They also could see more than I could about what was happening with my form, my attitude and my skill. Even though a sport may be an individual sport like distance running or cycling, it is done on a team. There are trainers, coaches, mentors and guides all along the way. And, though the subject we discuss may be sport, so many principles work their way into our everyday lives. Perseverance…. listening to your body … teamwork … sportsmanship …. drive … rest …. respect for others … dependence on others … following the rules and even asking for second opinions … all of these are concepts that are present at work, at home, in relationships and in faith. The athletic field is a great teacher.

My coach these days! Coaches are younger than me now!

My coach these days! Coaches are younger than me now!

When I was in my 30s, I bought a softball and a softball glove. I remember buying it. It just seemed like something was wrong if I didn’t have a softball and glove. I still have it. It sits in my storage shed not even broken in. But it’s there when I get ready. I also love the sport of running. I’ve struggled these last few months as I’ve been injured and worried that I may not be able to do it anymore. I love the social factor of athletics. I love that athletes of all kinds, sizes, ages and speeds are a community. I love the lessons I learn from pushing my body in competition with myself and others. I love the rhythm of training. I even love the washing of the clothes … the uniforms of my sport. I’d like to say that I never think about the benefits of my sport- the weight maintenance, the health benefits and the muscle tone – but that would be a lie. Of course I do it for that, too. But mostly I do it because I wouldn’t know how NOT to do it.

Hip-Hopping Down the Levee

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Monday I woke up and decided I was going to attempt running. It had been two weeks since I’d tried it last. The last time I was only able to run a couple of steps before my hip – alleged hip bursitis – flared up in burning pain. I ended up walking for an hour which gave me some exercise but did not satisfy my urge to break free into a run … or at least a jog. This injury has been plaguing me since early December, and I – Ms. Instant Gratification – was beginning to think my hip was permanently damaged.

I spent the weekend before last in New Orleans watching my running coach and her friends run a half marathon for which I was registered to the tune of $100 and some odd change. It is now the most expensive t-shirt I own. This was the third half marathon race fee that I ate this season due to my hip issue. I’m signed up for the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans in April, and I’m still holding out hope that I can run it. I was so jealous last weekend I could scream as I drowned my sorrows in Cafe au Lait and powdered sugar. So, I rested another week and, Monday, I decided I would try to run. I didn’t tell my coach Jessica because I didn’t want to disappoint her or myself if I couldn’t go more than a few steps. Besides, there was a part of me that worried she may tell me that I had to rest.

I was able to run Monday. I ran 3 miles at a slow pace with walk breaks. My hip nagged me a little, but it never flared up into real pain at all. I was thrilled but didn’t really scream it from the rafters for fear of jinxing my good fortune. Last night, Jessica asked if I’d like to try running again. Well, it was going to be sunny today and a tad warmer…. hell, yeah, I want to try to run again! By the time I got home from work, I was getting a little nervous about how this would turn out.

I packed up Ashok and headed down to the riverfront in Baton Rouge. If this would be a disaster – or a success – I wanted to have some lovely scenery to enjoy. The river was up, and the sun was beginning to set. The sky was brilliant blue without a cloud in sight. Barges being pushed upriver by tugboats slowly fought the powerful current while the sun dipped even more slowly into the orange-hued horizon. Runners on the levee ran toward me and past me as if this was just a usual run on an uneventful day. I, on the other hand, anxiously stepped one foot in front of the other, hoping that the next step would feel normal…. that the searing pain would not start again….that I would not have to stop. I found myself paying way too much attention to each step, so I tried to just let it go and run. However, my attention was on my hip and each footfall. Will it hurt now? Can I ignore it if it does? Ever tried really hard NOT to think about something? Yeah…. it doesn’t work.

I watched a man dressed in camouflage joyride his four-wheeler down the gravel area next to the river and then along the edge of the levee. He was bundled up but appeared to be having a blast. He surged way ahead of me, and I didn’t see him until much later when I spotted him in a small pond of water. I hadn’t realized that four-wheelers could run submerged in water, but he was cutting doughnuts in water up to his thighs. He had to be freezing. As I was running back, I noticed traffic on the Mississippi River Bridge backed up all the way across to the other side. I was so grateful to be out running at sunset instead of sitting in that traffic on my butt trying to get home. In fact, I think sitting on my butt all day is what got me injured in the first place. I was grateful for the distractions, and I was even more grateful that my hip …. that I’d been trying to ignore … had only a bit of pain the entire run. I made it. Run #2 was complete.

At this point, I’m taking it one run at a time. I am not totally pain-free yet, and I don’t trust that this injury is done. I’ve tried a lot of things over this past two months – continued strength-training focused on my glutes and hips, a controversial wood pulp product called DMSO, essential oils, ibuprofen, rest and Biofreeze. I have no earthly idea what worked or if none of it did. All I know is I want to get back to running again. Springtime and nice weather are just around the bend, and I want to be out in it. I loved being out on the levee tonight feeling like I was a part of the sunset and a city moving toward sleep. I passed a homeless man with a cane, and he said he wished he could run with me. “I can barely walk,” he said. It made me feel grateful for my health and my fitness even if only for one day.