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Sometimes you get exactly what you ask for… and then some

standard October 21, 2010 3 responses

This morning I ran around like I usually do, getting the girls fed, dressed, hair brushed, nebulized, and everything else that we have to do before leaving the house. The routine was no different than any other day except for the fact that we were also kissing M goodbye for a few days.

He’s in the middle of a trial and is opting to stay in the city for the week so he doesn’t have to deal with the heinous Bay Area traffic.

We kissed him goodbye and went back to the harried routine. I do this every day. I’m good at the morning routine – from the jumping out of bed to the waking up the kids all the way through to the buckling of everyone (and everything – dolls get buckled too) into the car. It’s harried, but it doesn’t throw me off my game.

This morning I was off my game.

I just felt frazzled, off, and overwhelmed. And as I drove the girls to school and daycare I just kept thinking that I needed five minutes of peace and quiet so I could find my calm center again.

With the girls safely dropped off I realized I had a spare hour before I needed to be at Starbucks (to be introduced to the new in house Starbucks Digital Network – totally cool by the way.), so I decided to stop by Office Depot for a moment.

Fine. It might not be the most normal thing, but all that organization at Office Depot makes me feel all zen and calm. It’s just so neat and orderly. The polar opposite of my life and home.

I pulled up, grabbed my phone and my wallet, and for some inexplicable reason, chucked my keys into my purse… which I then left in the car. You know. The car that I locked as I was stepping out of it.

Today Office Depot did not work its zen magic on me. Instead I walked around trying to find my insurance roadside assistance number. Once I had them on the line I had to convince them that I actually had an account with them. Then I had to wait for the repair truck to come jimmy my door open.

I didn’t get the five minutes of peace and quiet I was craving. I got 45 minutes of peace and quiet… sitting on the curb next to my car. Oddly enough I didn’t find my center of calm until hours later when I made the conscious decision to put the morning behind me and give the afternoon a chance.

And no, it wasn’t during a 5 minute lull in the day. It was while I was at work, surrounded by the usual hubbub that surrounds me the moment I walk in.

One stage at a time I’m acing Couch to 5K.

standard April 14, 2010 2 responses

Robert Ulrey’s voice spoke soothingly into my ear.

“If you are doing day one you will run five minutes, walk three minutes, run five minutes, walk three minutes, then run five more minutes. If you’re doing day two you will run eight minutes, walk five minutes, and run eight minutes. And if you’re doing day three you will run for twenty minutes.”

That was me. Week 5 Day 3. Run 20 minutes.

Me, who seven weeks ago couldn’t run 60 seconds. Today I was being told to run for twenty minutes.

I hesitated at the door, I was pretty tired, maybe it would be wise to stay home, go to bed early, just relax.

But I was already dressed, shoes on, and ready to go.

Maybe I’d just go and redo Week 5 Day 2. I had managed that.

But a tiny voice in my head replied super quietly. “Just go. Try it. You’ll stop if you can’t finish. Every time you’ve thought you couldn’t finish a C25K level you have finished it. You won’t know if you don’t try.”

For a moment I felt like the little girl long ago being assigned the riding teacher’s beloved and fierce show jumping horse for a morning ride through the forest. I had panicked, convinced he was more horse than I could handle, but a good friend had reminded me that the teacher would not have assigned him to me if she hadn’t thought I was a good enough rider to manage her horse.

She was right. The horse and I both made it through that ride unscathed.

Granted it’s odd to draw a parallel between a recorded voice in my iPod telling me I can run a certain distance and a teacher who knew my abilities well. But frankly, Robert hasn’t been wrong yet. He says run, and even when I doubt that I can get through the run, I do.

One stage at a time I’m acing Couch to 5K.

I have no real recollection of the twenty minutes of that run. The minutes flew by in the same dissociated way minutes fly by when you are traveling. I can tell you that it was raining. I can tell you that I was letting my brain wander from one article idea to another. I can also tell you that I probably killed a few snails as I ran around the block three times. But I was in a zone the whole time I was running and when Robert called the ends of the day one and day two runs, told them to walk, told them to start running again, I didn’t falter, didn’t stop, didn’t slow down. I just pushed on.

By the 18th minute I was chanting “You can do this. You can do this. You can do this.” It’s a good thing it was raining and I was alone in the street. I’m not sure I was chanting all that quietly. And at the end of the 20th minute, when Robert finally said “Day three people, your run is over.” I almost burst into tears at the sheer relief of being done and having made it all the way through the run.

As I walked the 5 minute cool down period I fought back tears and giggled at the same time. I ran for 20 minutes. Me. Who seven weeks couldn’t run for 60 seconds.

Faking it ’til I make it.

standard June 15, 2009 4 responses

Back in the day I used to spend a my summers at horse riding camp in Surrey, England. It was a fabulous place – a huge farm in the middle of nowhere. There were endless rolling hills and an amazing number of horses. It was a small camp, run out of a lovely couple’s home, where a dozen or so campers would be dropped off every Sunday at noon and stay until the following Saturday when we would be picked up by our parents – tired, grimy, and happy.

The routine was always the same – up at dawn, shower, dress, clean up the rooms. Rush down to a delectable home cooked breakfast, clean up, then head outside to wait for the day’s horse assignment.

Mornings were reserved for long hacks (rambling treks on horseback) and before we could leave we had to be assigned our horses so we could go out to the fields to collect them, groom them, saddle them, and finally head out.

I remember the angst of waiting for that assignment. We stood, huddled close together, fully dressed in our riding gear, outside the quaint little kitchen window, waiting for the mistress of the house to swing it open and announce our fate for the day. Would we get a nice quiet pony? Would it be one of the annoying temperamental old horses? Would we enjoy a fun hack or spend three long hours battling an unresponsive and obstinate mount?

In the end it didn’t really matter. Or at least now it seems that way. The ponies were, for the most part, equally pigheaded and the horses equally tranquil. There was always the one you had a soft spot for and the one you couldn’t stand. But the fun lay in the prep and the actual excursion.

Except for that one day. The most memorable of all. The day I was assigned the owner’s show horse as my morning ride.

The camp was run by a couple and their daughter, an award winning rider who happened to be a trained lawyer who had put her legal career on hold so she could devote her time to the horses. Every summer she brought to her parent’s camp her prize winning horses. Purebred beasts that outshone the pony school horses in every way possible.

Where the school ponies and horses were dull, bullish animals, hers were sensitive gorgeous creatures. Campers weren’t their usual riders. We were deemed to be too rough on their tender mouths and not experienced enough to handle them.

So the morning she announced my name in conjunction with her more sensitive and somewhat hyper horse’s name my jaw dropped. Clearly this was a mistake. My panicked eye met her calm one and she nodded. No mistake. The kitchen door slammed shut before I could confirm that I had really heard right, but my friends’ excited jabbering confirmed it for me.

I was riding her high strung, sensitive, very big, show horse.

I headed out to the field and all I could think was “She wouldn’t have assigned me this horse if she didn’t think I could do this.” I said it again, and again, and again. And hours later, as her horse cantered out of control through the woods, my rather small body bouncing around in his saddle, following diligently in his mistresses’ other horse’s footsteps, I kept repeating those same words to myself.

I doubt I was ever in control of that powerful beast that day. He was calling the shots, but he let me pretend I was, even as he brushed a tad close to a couple trees, just to see if I could really hold on. He followed her, taking me with him. He stopped when she did. He went where she went. And no one knew I had no clue what I was doing. Before I got on I decided to fake it as long as I could, with the secret hope that maybe faking it would be the same thing as making it.

To all extents and purposes it did.

Years later I find myself in a similar situation. I’ve been offered a job that feels out of my league, but the person who gave it to me really seems to believe in my ability to succeed. With every decision I make I chant “She thinks I can do this. She thinks I can do this.” and I do it. I’m faking it ’till I really make it. Which I’m hoping is soon because the stress of pretending is taking a toll on me.

I’m getting on this horse, I’m going to hold on no matter how hard he tries to throw me, and hopefully somewhere before the end of the ride I’ll figure out how to steer and take control.

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And another runner is born.

standard October 22, 2008 3 responses

I set out and let my feet fly over the uneven pavement. In the dark I can barely see the sticky dark seeds that the Japanese plum trees shed all over our neighborhood, but I can feel the brittle shells crush under the soles of my high tech sneakers as my feet pound the sidewalk.

At the end of the street I hesitate; walk or run? When I first started out I used to walk every other block, but tonight I don’t want to stop so I race on down another block and at the next street corner I keep going. Halfway down the third block I remember that I should probably pace myself. Overtiring my body will just backfire. So, despite the urge to keep running and the headiness of not needing to slow to catch my breath, I slow and catch my breath.

At the next corner I pick up the pace again. For a moment my thighs threaten to start hurting and I worry that my legs are going to start to feel leaden, but unexpectedly the feeling passes and I marvel at the strength that emanates from my legs instead. What a difference just a few weeks can make.

Look at me go! Who is this girl? A month ago she couldn’t hobble down the block. Now she’s running twice as much as walking and she isn’t hating every step she takes!

My route is mapped out in my head and I barely slow as I run around the blocks. My heart is beating fast and my breath is heavy, but I am by no means heaving. I want to pat myself on the back for doing so well, but it would break my stride. I walk every third block and I breathe easy, enjoying being out late in the dark neighborhood. Fellow late night runners cross my path and I nod a complicit hello to them. It feels great to be a part of this secret society.

Last night I ran further than ever before, and when I spied the corner I used struggle to reach, instead of straggling to a stop I picked up the pace and pushed on. I ran up the last block and stopped in front of our house. As I stretched my calves I basked in the glow of my accomplishment, proud that I kept on going when I really wanted to quit. Tomorrow I’m adding another block to my route and I might even research that ½ marathon I keep promising myself I’ll run next fall.