Post race

Last Sunday morning I was downtown, in the dark and cold with 19,000 other people. I signed up for the Memorial Marathon, the 5K weenie race. I want to say it was because I believe in supporting the museum and as a remembrance to those who died April 19,1995. I admit it was more about a tech shirt and keeping up a pattern of doing this race every year. The other stuff yeah, the main reasons why there are nearly 20,000 people out there every year and why they keep coming back.

I went downtown Friday after work and picked up my packet. I decided last minute to go ahead and do this thing so my name wasn’t in the self check-in computers. I got my packet from a kindly volunteer, an older woman who assured me I was okay to go. She handed me a clear plastic bag with my bib in it and I mentioned I was just doing the 5K not the half or full marathon, the real races. She replied that every person, no matter which race they were doing, GOT THE PLASTIC BAG. The same bag. This is a big deal, because 2 years ago when I went to pick up my 5K packet I was told that only the half and full marathon people were deemed worthy of a bag. 5K people were not. I had a little feeling of shame that grew and multiplied when I learned this. I did not run or walk much that year, I was slow, old and knew I was good to do the 5K but not to ask more of my body. I had done the half, that was in 2012 but that nearly wiped me out because I ran more than I should have but still, I knew my lumpy little body was capable of doing more.

I had a good excuse for not running or walking. The previous June my husband passed away and most of the usual things I did I stopped doing. Although I enjoyed getting outside and solitude most of the time this year was not the same. It felt like a burden and the endorphins just weren’t kicking in. But I still managed to do the freaking 5K, in part because I knew he would have expected me to do it. So I did, I took my sad little loser 5K shirt and did the race in 2015.

I didn’t do the race in 2016. I couldn’t afford the $60 entry fee and somehow it didn’t feel like something I wanted to do. I was tired and didn’t want to hear about remembering the dead and being positive, about being better or stronger for the experience.  It seemed personal and intrusive in a way the previous year hadn’t. So I slept in and went to Mass instead.

This year I thought about it and tried to decide if I would or not do the race. My mind said to train for the half again, the sticker on my car needed a replacement. My body said forget that, do the 5K, it’s enough and besides you got other stuff to think about. The other stuff being my son’s wedding in Vietnam. My body won this round, as it usually does and I was not ready for the half. So I debated the merits of doing the race and the merits of sitting it out. My pride won out, as it often does, and I signed up online. i told myself to prepare to pick up my loser shirt and bring a bag.

So when this woman handed me the bag I felt grateful and humbled. Grateful that I had a bag to swing around like the big kids doing the real races. Humbled because it’s just a 3 mile race but it is important enough to provide every person with their own gear bag. I stammered something about picking up my packet 2 years before and how I was, wow, surprised and thank you.

The next step was getting my shirt. There was an expo, booths selling running shoes, clothes, protein gels, display racks for your medals, any and every thing that could be imagined for sale. I walked about five minutes before I got distracted and nearly forgot where I was going. But I found my way out of the maze and found several people in line for their shirts and took my place in line. When I got closer I saw only blue shirts. I told the man behind the counter I was just doing the 5K, that I didn’t get a half or full race shirt. He just asked what size I wanted. All the shirts were for the race: 5K, half, relay or full. I was stunned again. I babbled that last year there were different colors for the 5k, half and full. All blue and I told him I’d take a large. There were finisher shirts after the race, for the half and full but we were all in the same shirt starting out. Different bibs but the same shirt.

The race was not bad, almost anti-climactic for me. The real effort was getting up at 4am and driving in rush hour traffic trying to find a parking place in a downtown perpetually under construction.  I finished, not my best time, but I felt good after. Getting free food and finding a short line at the port-a-potties helped too.




That’s a soccer ball on the right, it floated around before the 5K started. 

Yoga

I have done The Yoga for a few years, off and on. There is still a lot I don’t know or understand. There are a few things I have learned.

What I think of when I say  “The Yoga.” But this isn’t yoga, sorry.

Nearly anyone can do yoga, if they really want to try. There’s seated or chair yoga, yoga for senior citizens, pregnant women and kids. I started when I was over 200 pounds, clumsy and terribly self conscious. I was fortunate enough to have a gentle and wonderful teacher who knew what she was doing, allowed us to modify or even skip poses and offered encouragement to everyone. She also told us stories about her cats. 

Nobody cares how deep you can bend, how high you can lift your leg or even what you look like during class.  No, that’s not absolutely true; some people are judgemental but they are the minority. Most aren’t there to compare themselves to others and those who are will not last very long unless they change their mindset. That’s usually those chicks up front who come to class in $100 yoga pants and makeup

Yoga is physical but it’s mostly mental. Consciously thinking about your breathing is more important than pushing your body harder. There is something incredible that happens when you finish the final pose. Your head is clear and your mind is charged and refreshed. It’s probably the extra oxygen. I’ve felt better after a walk but it doesn’t compare to the combination of calm and energy after yoga. 

Yoga will change your body. You may be lucky enough to lose weight but you won’t get a yoga body like on Pinterest. Unless you are built that way. It’s not going to change your height, bone structure or body type. You will look and feel better, and be more toned over time but you won’t look like a ballerina if you have an Elmer Fudd body. I know this from bitter experience.

Speaking of body, yours may do something embarrassing.  You might, you will pass gas. It may happen in a crowded class that is silent except for the sound of breathing. Because your body is feeling loose and there’s movement in your breath your body will feel relaxed and comfortable enough to let go a little. If it happens in that crowded class keep going. No one will speak up, class will go on, you will live and if it is really crowded it is possible that no one will know it was you. I’ve been in classes where someone passed gas, it was no big deal and as for who dealt it, I’m going to plead the Fifth. If you feel you are going to fart it’s best to let it go instead of holding it in, you will feel better. Holding it in restricts your moving, is uncomfortable and you may cramp. Also it’s a good idea to go to the bathroom before class. You don’t want to have to run in between rows of people on your way out of the room just because your bladder can’t wait. I know this from bitter experience. 

You don’t have to become a Hindu or Buddhist to do yoga. There are different types of yoga and it does include philosophy and religion but it doesn’t demand you change your beliefs. Even atheists can do yoga. Most yoga classes and videos I’ve seen are about breath, movement and concentrating on how your body feels. 

Some people will throw around the Sanskrit names for poses (asanas, as you’ll hear). Some people know a lot about chakras and other aspects. A lot don’t, if they are honest. You don’t have to know this unless you really want to delve into it. I just follow the teacher. Most will give the English names such as chair pose, child’s pose and lizard. You will recognize them after awhile and not think much about it. 

One of my facebook friends posted a picture of a sign outside a yoga studio that said something along the lines of “we are our own heroes.” Much eye-rolling and snark followed. Getting up and going to yoga class when you really don’t feel it or would rather sleep in is not heroic. It is discipline. Ironically yoga humbles me rather than exalts me. I am aware of my strengths but of my limitations as well. If I start feeling smug I will lose my balance or feel my t-shirt slide up.

Humility, or learning to stop

I went for a long walk today, I felt good , the weather was comfortable and I nearly passed out from heat stroke.

Hubris is the main reason. I was convinced I could keep going because I felt fine and because I had done it before, when I was in better condition. And I didn’t take any water because I am just an idiot.

I did accomplish a long walk, which was my goal. However I had to stop about 4 times because I could feel my heart rate was too high, I was weary and at one point I was barely sweating in 90 degree heat.

Stopping and taking breaks is almost against my religion. It smacks of laziness, weakness and I know I can keep going, power through and ride it out. I am stubborn and tenacious, I do not give up or give in, I will push my
self harder and go farther. These can be good qualities, in some cases. In others, stupid and potentially dangerous. Today was a stupid and dangerous day.

I did that, but forced myself to stop awhile and sit under a bridge for a few minutes. I tried not to think about the poor quality of Oklahoma ‘ s bridges and waited for the heavy breathing to stop and for my heart rate to slow. I forced myself to sit for 4 minutes before getting up. I took 4 breaks, not counting the time I spent at the most wonderful and beautiful convenience store in the world. Each break was like a tiny defeat, proof I was not the badass I thought I was. But my body knew it needed short rests and it humbled and saved me.

There is no shame in taking breaks or in slowing down. If you need to, do it.

This insight came to me while I was walking, trying to get to the bridge ahead. I was listening to Depeche Mode as is my habit; Dave, Martin and Fletch were out there with me. I realized that Dave took breaks during concerts, he would wipe his face with a towel between songs or take a swig of water. He would even let Martin sing a couple of songs while he had a cup of tea or just sat. If it was okay for Dave then it was okay for me too. Neither of us is as young as we used to be.

I took one break when my son called from Vietnam. I was breathing hard and he noticed, so it was a good time to stop. After that I had another break and told myself I would make it, only one more street left.

That’s when I knew I wouldn’t, not without some water. It was now in the 90’s and I hadn’t drunk anything since 8am and it was noon. Then I saw it, the most wonderful and beautiful convenience store in the world.

I could make it, I would make it there. It was an oasis, a paradise with water, food and most of all, air conditioning.

It exceeded my hopes. They had water, food and air conditioning. They also had bathrooms, with toilet paper and soap. I had made a necessary pit stop at the scary port-a-potty near the halfway point and this was almost enough to
make me weep.

AND THEY HAD TABLES AND CHAIRS.

I bought a liter of water and energy bar. I chugged the water, it was cold and I couldn’t help myself. I had to force myself to eat the energy bar, which told me I was most definitely in trouble, because eating has never been a problem. Stopping eating has, and my Indian name is “Yeah, I can eat.” It sounds all noble and impressive in Muscogee, trust me.

I sat there and recovered for awhile, even bought my first coconut water. An unusual taste but I drank about half. I finally got up and finished my walk.

I was so glad to see my car and just sat there for a moment, checking my pedometer. I felt better but was still thirsty. I started the long walk at 8:44 and it was 1:10 when I checked my phone in the car. The walk should have been over about noon. I am still a little worn out.
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Shorts

I wore shorts today. That’s no big deal to most people, not worth noting. But I haven’t worn shorts in public since I was in 4th grade.

I bought 2 pairs at the thrift store about 2 years ago. I had a gastric bypass and lost 70 pounds, my weight had stabilized. I tried on my shorts and took a picture. Then I stuffed them into a drawer and forgot them, finally sending them back into the river of thrift when I had to move. Never wore them and saw no reason to keep them.

I didn’t wear shorts because I didn’t like my body, how my legs looked. I wore jeans during the summer, even when my mother complained she felt hot seeing me in long pants. My legs were fat and I felt I couldn’t expose people to their ugliness, I hated them.

I am still self conscious about my body, even though it has been nearly four years since my operation. I am smaller, my body is stronger and I am able to do more than I ever imagined. I don’t have to shop in special departments anymore, though it took a long time before I stopped going to Womens, Plus and Lane Bryant. I’ve come to recognize my reflection in mirrors. I am not tiny, petite or thin, I am healthier than before but not skinny. I don’t have the build. My mother did, she was tiny and small boned, like Audrey Hepburn. But my body looks different, feels different and I enjoy finding how I can stretch myself and go further, do more than I thought I could.  There are people who only know me as I am now, who never saw me when I was overweight. None of my current co-workers know my old fat past and frankly I don’t see the need to tell them.

I’m not sure when I decided to buy shorts again. I go for long walks and wear jeans (still) and yoga pants, which I’m okay with in cooler or wet weather. But it has been warm, darned hot even and I thought shorts would have been so much…better. Without giving it much thought I hit the Goodwill and bought a pair of shorts. Long and baggy, they came to my knees. I wore them yesterday, for a short walk with my dog and came home. Then since nothing drastic or horrific happened, I wore them today.

They felt weird. Comfortable, yes, but I felt like I was wearing somebody else’s clothes. That’s probably not an odd assumption since they did come from the thrift, that is they were somebody else’s at one time. But they didn’t feel right at first, they were foreign and it took awhile to get used to the feel.

My dog didn’t notice, she was glad to see me grab the leash and put on my shoes to go out. And no one else noticed either. If any of the people at the river made any judgments or had any criticisms about my shorts or my big white legs they wisely kept it to themselves. Nobody laughed, pointed at me or said I looked stupid or terrible in my baggy thrift shorts. The world did not stop or end. Nobody cared, except me.

I went to another thrift store later, looking for another cheap pair of baggy shorts. I found some, four bucks, and nobody there cared about me or my legs. I am on a roll here.

My legs are not pretty but they are strong. I have a long scar on my left calf and there’s cellulite because there is. They have been through a lot, covered a lot of miles, been in a lot of races and carried me in hot, cold and wet weather,sometimes in the same day. They take me up flights of stairs, only my right knee complains on occasion. My legs do their job, they work and that’s all that matters. Excuse the dirty carpet, my dog and cat still haven’t learned how to operate the shampooer.  And the large white thing is my t-shirt not a moon.

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First walk

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From today, my first long walk in *ahem* months. I am slow, it took me nearly 3 hours but I feel better than I expected. I am still sweating, I don’t sweat much during but after.

Somewhat surprised I did it, I haven’t gone more than 3 miles or so in months. I  hope to do this again, to keep going and even working up to a half. Maybe even run part of it, probably this fall. In the meantime I’m going to have some nachos.

Walk

I’m starting to walk before work. It’s only been a week so I can’t be too smug.

I think I can call myself a runner now, even though I’m only walking. The reason why is I had to drop my pants and pee outside today. Supposedly this is a mark of a “real” or true runner. One of the quirks of the sport is there aren’t always convenient pit stops and you have to improvise. Like today, there were no port-a-potties and I could not hold it til I found a bathroom.  I only hoped nobody saw me.

I saw a cluster of trees, looked around and didn’t see anyone so I very carefully backed into one tree, squatted and did my business. The only possible witnesses were the geese and any people driving over the bridge who happened to look down to see woman bent down in an awkward position.

It wasn’t as gross as I feared; my real fear was being discovered. I got over the gross factor surprisingly quick because, well if you have to go you have to go. It was over in less than a minute and I felt incredible relief after pulling up my pants. Glad I didn’t get arrested and glad my bladder was empty.

I also took a couple of pictures, the geese are very blase about photos. I think they are used to humans and their peculiar behaviors. They probably expect it.

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Beginning of the year

I am getting a late start training for the Memorial race. I know I’ll be able to do the 5k but I want the half.

Jet lag, being sick and the weather have kept me from walking. I’m feeling better and have been out a total of 2 times. Both walks have been an effort; I felt my breath while walking and blew my nose along the way. I am determined to continue and slowly increase my distance until I can walk 14 miles and maybe run a little of it too. It’s not going to be anytime soon and I know it.

So tonight I went to a runner’s club meeting. A friend mentioned it on facebook and I was intrigued. She said she was probably going and that was all the incentive I needed. I have been curious about this especially since they train for the Memorial race and I need all the help I can get. I’m a little leery of joining a group since my walks are solitary and I prefer them that way. I hate feeling I’m slowing someone else down or having to adjust to a slower pace myself for another person. It’s easier to go at my own pace, whatever it might be on a given day. But I still wanted to see what they do.

I went and my friend bailed. I texted her and asked if she was coming. No, she was exhausted and needed to go home. Crap. I was sitting in a crowded room full of strangers, but fortunately they were all chatting with each other and I’m left alone. I’m not usually aware of race, the ethnic kind, but I noticed 4 black folks, 3 Asian and me, the rest looked like plain white folks. After my trip to Saigon I’ve noticed ethnic differences more, I’m not sure why.

The meeting starts and two people from the Memorial race are there. The first, an older man, tells us the course is a little different this year and that there’s going to be a 5th corral for walkers and slower runners. Personally I think putting people in corrals by race makes more sense, even with people ending up in the wrong corrals. But the criterion is speed, not my call but theirs.   He shows us this year’s shirt, it’s blue. Previous years have been white. I like it. Then a woman tells us about the medals and passes them around. They are nice, and I notice the half marathon ribbon is yellow. I hold the medal a few seconds before passing it on. She passes around different shirts: the kids race, half and full finishers shirts. The marathon finisher shirt is green and gets a lot of oohs. The half shirt, the important one, is gray and yellow, with 13.1 in yellow letters on back. It’s a short sleeved tech shirt, v-neck and fitted. I want this shirt.

They had bragging rights, people who did a race or races since Oct 19 were asked to tell what they did. When they asked people what 5Ks they did I didn’t realize until the meeting started that I could have mentioned the Halloween race. Nobody else did that one. They went on to half, marathons and ultra races; each category got smaller until there were only 3 people who did an ultra race. There were door prizes and I won this.

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With grilled cheese and diet cherry limeade. We need more cowbell.

 

I don’t know if I’ll join. I know my pace and distance is too slow and short for their marathon training runs. I rather get on with my slow but bad self and train on my terms. I am built for endurance not speed anyway. I like doing my walks with my earbuds on listening to DM. I read an interview with Dave and he admitted he was a runner. Even though he uses the evil that is the treadmill.  I did a small shuffling happy dance with fist pumps when I read that. Olive danced around me too, she didn’t understand the reason why but just shared the joy.

The main thing is just getting out there. It’s freaking cold and even wearing layers it’s still freaking cold.