Winter Run: A Moving Meditation

Personal Narrative, Temple Building

January 5, 2016 | 7:10 am.

motivating
I pull up to the trailhead, pleased it’s not crowded.

Understatement. Only one other car is here.

It’s cold this morning, so I get it. It’s been unseasonably warm and the past couple of days Winter took over, as is her right to do. But it’s damn cold. My weather app says 27º. Windchill 19º.

I ran yesterday, similarly dressed in thermals and such. I had to ignore the cold to start. Colder now, but I really want these miles, so here I am. Me and one other brave soul.

It’s daybreak. Sunrise is 30 minutes away. The sky is clear. I see stars and a lovely crescent moon. I try to snap a picture, but the camera on my phone hasn’t cooperated in weeks, and the shots are unusable.

weatherI gather myself and get out the car. I lock the door, slip the key in my pocket, stride to the trailhead. There is no time to dawdle. My stride warms to slow jog as I approach my traditional starting point. It’s a golden rod mile marker a few yards from the entrance. I always begin there. When I reach the slim post, I press Blue’s Garmin. It chirps and buzzes and I’m off.

Immediately I feel the wind. I know if I can make it past the first five minutes, I will be warm enough, encouraged enough to continue. My face is uncovered and the skull cap with my long red locks protruding seems insufficient. I zip up my jacket, which I usually find uncomfortable at the neck, but today it’s fine. I just need to stay warm. And although I don’t appreciate the breeze, I’m not experiencing cold in a truly unpleasant way. It’s just cold.

My feet strike the boardwalk. It creaks, irritated to be touched on this cold morning. It protests, loosening. It will be quieter for the  next runner.

And I am around the first bend. The guard rails have frost and I hear the creek rushing under me. I keep running, faster than normal for my first mile, because I just need to get warm. There’s a magic point where your core is warm, and the thermal top and jacket contain that heat so some of it can move to your outer limbs. I’m running for that moment. It’s not far now.

And here I am. It’s a half mile, a little more than five minutes in. I no longer notice the wind. This pace seems sustainable, but I will not push it. I’ll see how long I last. I know I can do three miles; 1.5 out and back, but I’d like to go a litter farther. Hit 3.2 maybe. I’ll decide at the turn around. I was tired by then yesterday.

Now I’m crossing the swamp. It is crusted over with a thin layer of ice. No ducks will be in that water today. I know underneath it is not frozen. It’s not that cold after all.

I’m on the concrete going over another bridge. This one brings me closer to the one mile marker. I like starting at the golden rod mile marker because between here and there it’s one mile. I hear the creek under this bridge, but I don’t look down. I don’t want to break my stride and the sun isn’t up yet anyway.

jacketSometimes I pass runners coming in as I’m going out. Sometimes they pass me, going faster but in my same direction. Right now I’m still alone. I’m warmer, although my hands have not benefited yet. My thumbs in particular hurt. All of my other fingers just feel cold, but I’m grateful the circulation is going well in my legs. My feet are cold, but only my toes are numb. A vast improvement over the time I could barely feel my feet below my ankles. I know my feet are here and working fine.

Ha. The bunnies are hungry. Three big ones eat breakfast on my right. I speak as I always do when I pass them. One runs closer to the forest. The others remain.

Approaching another bridge now. This one goes up and then under the highway, beside the creek. I hear the first bird of the morning. He’s checking to see who’s awake. In warmer weather, the morning meeting would already be underway. It’s nearly 7:30. Sunrise is imminent. I don’t hear a response and he calls out once again.

I’m under the overpass and running up the slight incline. I’m nearly to the turn around. I believe I am maintaining pace. My energy hasn’t flagged so that’s a good sign.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 11.17.26 PMThere’s a kindred spirit – an older woman I think. Thick fluffy hair bounces underneath her hat. She has on black running tights like me. She leans into her run. I wonder if she started from the other side and is on her first stretch, or if she started on my side and is on the way back.

Now my hands are warm. I will go to 1.60 and turn around. There is a green mile marker right around there. When I reach it, I tap it and try not to break stride as I make the u-turn. I’m halfway home already.

I pass underneath a wintered canopy. Is it a canopy if the trees are leafless? And now I’m back at the underpass. I see the creek, but I don’t hear it this time. I tackle the hill back to the straightaway. I spy another bunny.  He’s big like the others but he isn’t still. He’s running – or darting is probably more accurate. I’m concentrating because any moment now I’ll hear the chirp-buzz signaling I’ve reached two miles. Then I’ll only have a mile and change left to go.

And there it is. Chirp-buzz.

I still feel good: I’m warm, and my pace feels solid. My toes are slightly numb, but nothing I mind. My hands are sweating now so I pull off my gloves and stuff them in my left pocket. I know they’ll cool off soon so, I’ll don the gloves again then. I unzip my jacket, just a tad. Yes, I’m really that warm. Not hot, but that zipper is getting in the way.

On I run.

Passing frosty trees on my left, I cross the next bridge. Less than a mile to go now. I notice the frost-dusted guard rails saving me from a long tumble into the noisy creek below. I can’t help myself this time. I reach out and brush the top. Some of the frosty snow (snowy frost?) falls to the ground. The rusting rail gives way to wood and then nothing but the boardwalk.

I’m back to the swamp. That layer of ice remains on the water, but now I look down and see newly wet paw prints on the boardwalk. They seem to be heading toward me but cross to the other side. I immediately think these are raccoon prints, although I’ve never seen racoons here. They probably belong to the countless squirrels who live here.

I pass another runner. I’ve seen this man before. I’m pretty sure he’s just starting. We wave.  I smile. This is my tribe.

This boardwalk is noisy, resisting as the first one did. It’s cold and does not want to be bothered. It will warm up in a few hours. Maybe it will be in a better mood then.

frostI am near the home stretch. I speed up, excited to hear the birds. They are nearly a mile away from the early bird’s podium, but the morning meetings are going strong now. Birds are laughing and catching up on the night’s events, or so it sounds to me. I smile wondering how long they will chatter.

I continue to press, knowing the end is near. This pace is a little challenging, but I’m grateful I’m not wheezing. Keeping my chest insulated makes running in the cold a lot more pleasant, numb toes aside.

I approach the last bridge, which was also the first one. I round the corner and stride down to the boardwalk. As I hit the homestretch mile marker, I begin the countdown. When I’m fast, I can make it from here to the first golden rod marker by zero, but today I am not fast.

One hundred, 99, 98… I count while my feel tap tap in cadence.

I’m going faster than I thought. I’m nearly there when I notice wetness around my face. Is my hair wet? I can tell I will get to zero before I get to the final post, but I won’t have much left to go.

When I hit zero, I count down again, this time from ten. That feels ambitious still, but I really am close. Just after the second zero, I cross the finish line and press the button to stop the Garmin. I save the run.

I stretch and right now I am so proud of myself. There’s still only one other car out here. Today, I have won.

SO much win

Ending the year strong

Temple Building

It’s not winter yet, but Mother Nature has been pushing us to get ready for it. The days are noticeably shorter and unseasonably cold. The weather, along with my recent adventure, has put me in the mood to hibernate. Most mornings (and early evenings), I just want to swaddle myself in a ball and sleep. It’s starting to impact my exercise regimen.

From March to October, I jump out of bed before dawn, ready to log a few of the 40-50 miles I jog each month. I tweak my mileage to allow time for strength training with a barbell and plates. But all of this happens in the warm weather.

Once we’ve entered true fall in north Georgia, I put away the running shoes and opt for indoor cardio. My program of choice has long been Beachbody’s TurboFire. It mixes long, intensive workouts with short, high intensity interval training and strength training with resistance bands. There’s a lot of jumping up and down.

I believe in listening to my body. But lately, when I’ve asked my body to get ready for plyometrics, it has responded with some version of chile please. I haven’t had much of a counter offer, so there I’ve been, snuggled under the cover dozing, instead of running or jumping.

My body seems ready to try something high energy, but low impact, with a lot of stretching. I’ve considered Bikram yoga, for instance. But that involves traveling somewhere, and I don’t like to spend much time in transit for exercise. Plus, despite the generally good reviews, I’ve never really “felt” yoga as exercise. Even though, truth be told, I sometimes naturally perform elements of the sun salutation, just because some of the poses feel organic. So I’m not a yogi, and although I’ve taken a couple of  Pilates classes, it never stuck as part of a regular routine.

Enter, PiYo.

PiYo schedule and DVDs.
PiYo schedule and DVDs.

I shunned this the first couple of times I heard of it namely because of my lukewarm feelings about Pilates and yoga, the main elements of the program. It supposedly takes the best of these two systems and combines them into a high energy, low impact, strength- and flexibility-enhancing program. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Zerlina and Lurie, two people I engage with on Twitter, have raved about it. So I’ve decided to give it a shot.

It’s an 8-week program, with workouts 6 days a week. No equipment is required, and I love that, especially given my travel schedule. I completed the first workout today, which was more instructional than anything else, but it was a promising start.

I feel that good way I feel when my blood is moving as it should.

Workout Freewrite | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Temple Building

In January 2012, I hung up my running shoes and started exercising indoors.

One month into a 12-week fitness program, I placed a full-length mirror in the living room. I spent six mornings a week engaging in high intensity cardio, and seeing the results from day to day – chiseling, bloating, and stops between – proved motivating.

April 1, I went for my first run of the year. I ran a personal best. It burned, though.

Shortly thereafter, I began another 12-week program. This one was weight lifting (Pump). Normally I dislike lifting. Go to a gym and lift free weights or get on those machines? It ain’t happening, son. In grad school I discovered BodyPump, a full body barbell class choreographed to the latest hits. I loved it. When I recently discovered a home-based version of the same class, it was a done deal.

The first day was glorious. I’m probably the only person who smiled during deadlifts and clean-and-presses. It felt good to know a strong body was in the works.

It takes significantly more mental energy for me to go lift weights than for me to do cardio. This, despite the fact I know a strong body is in the works.

Pump has 10 tracks: warm up, squats, chest, bis, tris, back, lunges, shoulders, abs, and cool down. The lunge track remains the most difficult. The last couple of times I finally managed to finish the whole set. Barely.

I resumed running during the designated cardio days. My July goal was 25 miles. I was up to 50 miles a month when I quit for TurboFire. I can’t believe I waited so long. I missed being outside. And who knew how much thinking and processing I do while running!

July 21 was the last day of Pump. I took a couple of weeks off to give my body a rest from the weights, but I focused on getting in some miles. I surpassed my goal of 25, hitting 36 by the last day of the month.

My August goal is 50 miles. I’m in it to win it.

I’ve been sleepy the past two days. I’m realizing it’s likely I’m just not eating enough now that I’ve returned to a serious workout schedule! I’ll fix that beginning tomorrow. Earlier this year I figured out that even if I don’t feel hungry, midday sleepiness usually means I’ve run out of calories. Totally forgot that. Here I was thinking I needed to search WebMD for unexplained fatigue.

I’ve had a couple of people tell me my body was “ridiculous.” (Shout out to the well-meaning Brit on Twitter who didn’t realize this was a compliment). If I would seriously commit to clean eating, I’d agree more wholeheartedly. I love my body though, especially my donk. Even my here today, gone tomorrow abs.

Monday, I lifted weights for the first time in nearly 3 weeks. It felt great! It was hard, and I broke a sweat. But the awesome thing about lifting is increasing your weight over time, witnessing yourself get stronger. So powerful!

I feel like a warrior goddess when I work out. I’m getting my body ready to do beautiful and important things in the world.