Sub 60 10k – Revisited

Today was the first day of my new 10k training program. My goal is to run 6.2 miles (10k) in less than 60 minutes.

Day 1: 20-minute “easy” run, with 5-minute warm up and cool down.

The first time I trained for a sub 60 10k, which also resulted in my 10k personal best, was in 2016. For a lot of reasons I really needed to push far outside my comfort zone and commit to something new and challenging. I spent 16 weeks, very focused, never missing a run, even when I traveled to Colorado for work. Talk about tough. I did the best I could even in that mountain air and on those steep hills, because I really wanted to see it through.

I set a lot of personal records during that time and ended up finishing the solo race at 57:58. Sub 60, yes! I was proud of that run, and still am. I’ve never beat that time, nor have I tried to. I’m not necessarily trying to now, either. My goal is to hit sub 60 with composure.

By the end of that 2016 race, I was walking and sprinting and walking again, holding on for dear life to eke out the finish. It was many things, but it was not pretty. As it turns out, the training program had a fatal flaw, but since I was such a novice, I didn’t know to be alarmed.

Predicted race times after a 9 minute benchmark run.

These days, on older yet wiser legs, I’m up for the challenge. Blue just registered for a marathon and his training program begins, this week. So I’m starting one in solidarity. My current “race predictor” thinks I can beat my personal best. But as long as there’s a 5 in front, and some breath in my lungs, I’ll claim the win.

Do you have any fitness goals underway right now? Let’s do it! See to it.

…but how do you want to feel? (revisited)

I first heard this question, posed in this particular way, in 2013. I was attending a Black women’s wellness conference I’d help to program, and keynote speaker Akilah Richards, invited us to ponder this.

The “but” is intentional. You may be busy, accomplished, getting shit done, but how do you want to FEEL?

Me, feeling silly in the sunshine.

The question struck me quite deeply at the time. I was busy, accomplished, getting shit done, but wasn’t feeling great, and hadn’t been for awhile by then. I know now that part of the issue was likely anemia. But the other part was change. Everything about my life and surroundings was different, and I no longer felt like myself. 

That question pushed me to think differently about my life and my approach to it. 

I’m coming back to this question now as I’m in the middle of reviewing and revising goals. Specifically I’ve been wanting to engineer my days so they are more fulfilling. 

In recent years I’ve focused on what I want to do, or accomplish, but I’m realizing I’ve neglected to focus on how I want to feel.

I’ve started jotting a list of the ways I want to feel. So far I have:

  • Energized
  • In flow
  • Happy
  • Proud
  • Relaxed
  • Day dreamy
  • Smart
  • FREE

I plan to add and subtract and play with this list for a few days, and once it feels right, I’ll brainstorm things I can do (or am already doing!) to feel them more often. I think this will help me find or better use small pockets of time and prioritize certain tasks in more meaningful ways.

What about you? How do you want to feel?

WIPs

My current work in progress (WIP) is a contemporary middle grade novel like my debut.

Main character Maya is a Daddy’s girl, just like me. And in Maya’s world, everything goes like she plans. Except when it doesn’t….

Daddy and me, in the mid 70s!

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MAYA

Maya J. Jenkins leaves nothing to chance. Even the daily spins on her handmade Wheel of Fortune land exactly where she puts them. She avoids improvising, preferring to play it safe, and usually plans her way to success with school, friends, and sports.

All of that seemed to change by the end of the school year when almost nothing went her way. Maya vowed to make up for it by having a perfect summer.  She had it all figured out – even down to winning MVP in her soccer camp.  

Just as summer begins, her parents announce a trial separation. In a summer of surprise, Maya learns to take risks, embrace change, and understand that love and family don’t always fit in a neat box. 

About Your Debut

JUST RIGHT JILLIAN

Fifth grader Jillian longs to wear bright colors in a school of neutral tones. To run and flip upside down while everyone else whispers and gossips. But no matter how hard she tries to be herself, shyness keeps her true brilliance hidden away. Even if it means getting the wrong glasses or losing an easy contest, Jillian keeps her mouth shut.

After a bully tells her she can never be a winner, Jillian gets fed up. She determines to prove, not only that she’s smart, but brave, too. Her goal? Win the Mind Bender, the school’s biggest battle of wits.

But breaking out of her shell is easier said than done. Jillian has less than a month to overcome a lifetime of shyness and summon the courage to fight for herself—or lose her only chance to win. 

This contemporary, middle grade #ownvoices story features a Black main character, and representation of chronic illness (Mama has lupus).

It’s about family and friendship and love.

Introducing

Guess what?

I’m a debut author.

I wrote a book, Versify/HMH Kids acquired it, and a year or so from now, it will be out in the world for everyone to see. Just Right Jillian will be my debut – my first traditionally published book!

This is something I’ve wanted to do and be since I was a little girl reading Judy Blume. I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

This is Debut Author Month, and all month long, most of my fellow #the21ders – other middle grade and young adult authors who debut in 2021, will be posting on social media to introduce ourselves and our books.

So introducing me:

  • I’m Nicole.
  • I think and write about healing and imagination and love.  
  • I’m 46 this year, and proud of it. I’ve never called, nor thought of myself as, “old.” I’m actually shocked whenever I hear people my age claiming it.
  • I’m a Nichiren Buddhist and have been practicing for 20 years.
  • I’m a certified/registered Usui Reiki master. I also know and channel other forms of Reiki as well.
  • I love to dance casino style salsa even though I haven’t done it in ages. Salsa one of my favorite things to do in life. Teaching 4th grade is the other. Some days I miss it.
  • I enjoy coaching adults now because it satisfies some of the same highs as teaching kids.
  • I run outdoors three times a week for fitness and beauty seeking. I take pictures of deer, flowers, and whatever is beautiful when I’m outside.
  • I am currently working to get off high blood pressure medication. Running and breathing exercises have been helping me a lot. They will help you, too, if you do them regularly.
  • I love to cook when I have time and the kitchen to myself. My favorites are savory seafood dishes, roasted veggies, homemade veggie broth and yellow grits.
  • I am married to a man I call “Blue” because I think he looks lovely in blue. His real name is Phillip. I married him at 40 and he came as a package deal with two bonus kiddos, now 16 and 20.
  • I love reading middle grade books, and that’s what I write. For now. My debut and my second novel are both middle grade. I have an idea for a young adult novel and a new adult novel, too!
  • I believe I can do anything I set my mind to. I don’t set my mind to everything, so sometimes I don’t do anything. But when I do, watch out!

A New Ritual

The first time it may be uncomfortable. You may find that the timing and the order of things isn’t quite right. The effort is perfect, in that you gave it your all, but perhaps the results are unsatisfactory. It doesn’t quite click. Your energy is too high or too low or…

Your intuition, your inner teacher, tells you it’s definitely the correct practice, but the student inside still has some learning to do.

When that happens, take a moment to reflect on what you did and how you felt. What worked and what didn’t? What might you do differently next time? Your intuition will have some suggestions. Listen, and take note. Prepare differently for the next time.

Photo of a candle in a darkened room. Decoration.
Image by Paulo Nicolello

Try again. Don’t wait until next week, next month, or next year. Get right back to it tomorrow. You will be wiser then, it won’t be your first time any more. It may go better or worse than yesterday. Your next steps are the same. Pause, reflect, and ask yourself questions. Listen, really listen, prepare and try again.

Do this until it’s not simply “a” ritual, but “your” ritual.

And know that in another season of your life, it may be time to begin anew, to create a new ritual.

Your new ritual.

Step

Me taking a step in Sesimbra, Portugal

At times you feel stagnant. That you have not gotten any closer to a goal than you were weeks, months, years ago.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming – there’s so much to do after so much nothing. And how will I ever get there from here?

The truth is, the answer is the same as it always was. The answer is to take one step.

Do not get mired in the inevitable questions: Step where? How big? Which direction? What if I don’t know which kind of step is the best step? What if I take the wrong step? These thoughts become glue, sticking you right where you are.

There is no predetermined right way for you to get from here to there. There is no other you. No other person with your experiences, your insight, your body, your vision, your heart. You are the cartographer, making the map as you go. But the going is the key.

And to get going, you must take a step.

Breathing

Sunrise in a park
(c) nicole d. collier – Views while running.

I’m learning how to breathe. Again.

After years of mindless tension in my body, and holding my own breath, I’m breathing deeper, slower, quieter, ala Andrew Weil. I’ve figured out diaphragmatic breathing and the wonders of taking air in through my nose.

Like everything else, better breathing is a habit. It takes effort and practice. Commitment.

I’ve come back to this – proper breathing – a few times over the years, but in recent weeks I’ve had more motivation to stick with it. More desire to get it right, and positive results from doing so.

I spent years blaming my stuffy nose on everything except my own breathing technique. Turns out, years of breathing through your mouth makes your nose/nose hairs less efficient. Who knew?

So far I’ve discovered more energy during my runs and increased ability to identify, regulate and reduce stress while increasing internal quiet. Taken together, I’m developing a more balanced nervous system with lower blood pressure.

It’s not a miracle cure, in that it doesn’t happen after one or two days of work. But it’s beautiful to help the body remember and work the way it was designed to.

Creating MAGIC in 2020

As I closed out 2019, I created my 2020 theme. I don’t devise one every year, but 2020 promises to be a year of serious goal attainment, and the consistent, steady efforts it takes to reach them.

MAGIC. That’s my word. That’s the thing I’m saying, thinking, and doing. Perhaps a little spellcasting, yes, but really this is about:

  • Mindset
  • Action
  • Gratitude
  • Imagination
  • Courage

Mindset. To create the outcomes I want will take the right state of mind. This is no time to be defeated by negative self-talk or disbelief in my own abilities.

Action. I’ll need to get out of my head. Taking active measures in the real world is the only way to get from A to B. Don’t think about it – be about it.

Gratitude. Don’t take anything for granted, and be thankful for everything that comes my way. The lessons, the opportunities, and the victories.

Imagination. Getting beyond where you are now means quite literally envisioning a reality that doesn’t exist. It’s easy to accept where you are because you see it, hear it, experience it everyday. But getting to the next step, the next level, means picturing something new. Creating a new image and working toward it.

Courage. Without courage, there’s no chance for meaningful action. Picturing new concepts and moving in new directions means breaking free of our comfort zones. That’s scary. Even adopting a positive state of mind and actively working with a spirit of optimism is a courageous act.

That’s my word, my focus, for 2020. I’ve officially begun a project I’ve been noodling, daydreaming and planning for weeks. Now it’s time to create some MAGIC.

Out of Gas

Forgot my pre-workout snack today.

Before I run, especially on “long run” days (5 miles or more), I eat something. Usually a 1/3-1/2 of a banana plus a scoop of peanut butter.

Today, I was a little rushed to get going, yet also focused on making sure I didn’t forget anything important. Garmin, check. Water belt, check. Water bottle, check. Running pouch, check. Towel, check. Hopped in the Jeep and hit the Greenway.

Near the halfway point of today’s 5-miler, I felt great. Cool temps and lots of birds and cicadas out to cheer me on. But by the time I hit 3.5 I hit a wall. I was hungry – out of calories as I call it.

Then I remembered. No snack.

Me on IG stories, trying to explain why I’m hemmed up.

Thankfully, help wasn’t far away. On Saturdays, I plan for 5, but prepare for 6 or more. That means I take a Gu energy gel in case I need an extra push toward the end of the run.

I whipped it out, took a couple of sips of water and was on my way. Looks like I had everything I needed after all.