Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Running Into the Future

Last week, I posted a few items from a list I saw on Buzzfeed, "30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself."

This week, I want to add one more of them to my own personal list: Start competing against an earlier version of yourself.

I was a pretty serious runner a decade ago, and running got me through a lot of bad stuff, which is thankfully in my past now and not the subject of this post.

Running also made me feel great about myself because I was successful at it, and I met a lot of great people in the running community.

Anyway, after a few injuries and some life changes, I didn't take running so seriously.  I kept up my decades-long exercise streak, but I was more likely to speed walk, swim, or cycle than run.

Then last April, we got our beautiful yellow Lab, Jodie. She's a little muddy here from some frolicking in the marsh:

Jodie isn't one of those dogs that can be a running buddy--she had two hip surgeries before we adopted her at the age of two. So I became a daily walker to keep Jodie in shape and to insert some much-needed activity and structure into her new life. I enjoyed the 4-mile walks, and I convinced myself that walking was just as good as running--it just took longer to cover the same amount of ground.

Occasionally, I came out of my self-imposed running hiatus to participate in a race that meant something to me.  The Pink Ribbon 5K on the Wilmington Riverfront always brings me out--and the gift cards to Women's Sports Specialties that are given as age-group prizes were an added incentive.

But I found myself feeling frustrated. I loved walking Jodie, but I started to resent my daily workouts being controlled by someone else. I also started reading a blog called Runs for Cookies.  Blogger Katie lost more than 100 pounds and became a runner along the way.  Her weight loss story impressed me, but her writing about running inspired me.  

I know I can never get back to the times I ran in my early 50s, but that's the beauty of age group awards.  I can still compete, maybe not with the earlier version of myself but with the current version of myself.

So I'm back at it.  Doug now takes Jodie for her morning walk every other day, which is great because the days I walk her are now "easy" days in between running, which will save me from myself.

In March, Doug and I both participated in the Attack Addiction 5K in Old New Castle to support a friend who's fighting addiction. Doug walked, and I ran. It was a tough day--the temp when we left our house was 11 degrees. It warmed up a bit by the start time, but it was still cold, and I do much better in the heat.  But here I am in my hot pink fleece rounding the final corner to the finish.

My time? A lifetime worst of 26:06.

OK, so that gave me something to work toward. Two weeks later, Doug and I both entered a shamrock 5K in our own neighborhood.  That day, I managed a 25:35.

Meanwhile, I discovered a great Greenways Trail near our beach cottage that presented a much nicer setting to run than just going back and forth on Bay Rd. This is the view at the trailhead:

The trail has markers every tenth of a mile, so I've actually started doing some "speed work"when we're there on the weekends, running the first and fourth miles at an easy pace and alternating hard and easy every tenth for the middle two miles.  I've learned that you can put up with almost anything for a tenth of a mile, and switching it up makes the workout go by faster.

I was starting to wonder....and dream....

Could I run sub-25?

Mmm, yes, I could.

The day before Easter, I talked my daughter, Christine, into running the Ronald McDonald 5K with me on the Wilmington Riverfront.

All I wanted was a 24:59, and she was hoping for anything below 23:00.  We both "won"--we got our times, and we won our age groups! She ran 22:28, and I finished in 24:22--far beyond my wildest dreams:

We had a blast, and the next day, Easter afternoon, we ran 4 miles together through campus and around town. We ran a little faster than my usual and a little slower than hers, so it was a great workout for me.  She offered to run with me once a week if I want so that I can get faster.  What an awesome daughter I have.....

I'm much happier now that I've provided myself with a new challenge.  And I had forgotten how awesome it feels to run really hard.  I hate running (most of the time anyway), but I love how I feel when I'm finished.

This weekend, I'm running an all-women 5K in Havre de Grace, Md.  There are actually cash prizes, even for the old folks.

I'm starting to realize that a little competition was just what I needed to bring that spark back to my life.

Thanks Buzzfeed and Katie.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lessons from a Humble Cottage

This morning on Facebook, a young woman who is a grad school friend of my daughter posted a link to an article on Buzzfeed, 30 Things To Start Doing For Yourself.

I read through the list and started thinking about the ones that really struck a chord with me and how they related to where I am in my life right now. A lot of them also made me think about our little beach house and how it's changed our lives.

Start making your own happiness a priority, and start creating your own happiness.

I put these two things together because if you're going to make your own happiness a priority, you have to also take charge of it. 

When you have kids, your focus is on them and what they need--new soccer cleats, travel soccer fees, laptops, bicycles, prom dresses, lacrosse sticks, books, hockey pads, running shoes...the list goes on. 

Like most mothers, I never begrudged any of this -- I wanted them to have what they needed to succeed in school, on the playing field, and in the social arena.  I thought nothing of paying a couple thousand dollars for a band trip to England or a soccer trip to Hawaii.

But when it came to myself, I choked at spending large sums of money. My main indulgence was new running shoes three times a year.

But after my kids were grown and out of the house, I started to realize that it was OK for me to think about my own happiness (and of course they're a big part of that happiness now that they're adults and I have a great relationship with both of them). So I decided that it was all right for me to take money out of my retirement fund to buy this hot little mess at Kitts Hummock Beach almost two years ago:

Start noticing and living in the present.

It was hard to take $50,000 out of my retirement account, but it was so worth it.

I don't mean to sound irresponsible here--it's important to save for retirement, and I've been doing it for more than 30 years.  But it's also important to live for now and enjoy things in the present instead of always living for some distant day in the future.

The present is awesome, and we need to enjoy it:

Start giving your ideas and dreams a chance.

I grew up just 10 miles from the beaches in central New Jersey and have always LOVED the beach. For most of my life, I have dreamed about what it would be like to own a beach house.  But the prices made this an unrealistic dream ... or so I thought.  

Every once in awhile, I would visit the website of a beach-based realtor in Delaware and look longingly at two-bedroom cottages listed for $475,000.

But one day, I found a listing for $49,900, and my dream finally had a chance of coming true. 

With the price bargained down to $38,000, we were in business, although Doug still tells everyone how appalled he was when we went to see the inside of the modified 60-year-old trailer for the first time. He was pretty sure his fussy wife would NEVER want to buy a place that looked like this:

But he was wrong because I had a dream, and I was finally starting to believe in it. 

Start looking for the silver lining in tough situations. 

It's sometimes hard to see the silver lining when the only thing in front of you is a pile of junk in the yard and an order for a Dumpster to be delivered the next day.  

But even in that first week, we had some silver linings, like getting the Dumpster completely loaded and ready to be hauled away.

 Start noticing the beauty of small moments.

We have had an abundance of beautiful small moments since we bought our beach shack:

Start accepting things when they are less than perfect.

Well, this was essential with the cottage because everything there is less than perfect--but it's also perfect in its own funky way.

The floors are crooked, the bedroom is so tiny that I have to climb over the bed to get in it, and the kitchen ceiling is so low that our tall friends can barely stand up in it.  

But what's not to love about this adorable little place?

Start focusing on the possibility of positive outcomes. 

Nuff said.  We got our positive outcome even though there was a lot of sweat with some blood and tears thrown in for good measure.  Now, scenes like this are just steps from our front door.

Thanks, Alicia for pointing me to some great life lessons....

Monday, April 7, 2014

All Play and No Work

It was kind of hard to get used to the idea that we could just go to our beach cottage and do nothing.

Yeah, nothing, if that's what we felt like doing.

The work is done--at least for now.  We have water, and everything is fixed and painted and furnished.

When we got there at about 10:30 on Saturday morning, Paxton settled right in for a nap in his favorite chair so that he could be well rested for later--bouncing off the walls and the furniture all night.

We took Jodie out to the beach right away because once we're there, she can hardly contain herself.

Just as we got back to our yard after the beach walk, a car pulled up and stopped.  The woman in the passenger seat asked us if we were the people who blogged about the renovation of the cottage!  We told them we were, and they said they had googled Kitts Hummock and stumbled on my blog.  They kept telling us how much they loved everything we had done to the place. That little encounter really made our day.  Each time we go down now, we feel a little more like we belong in the community.

After the beach, Jodie was ready for a nap too.

I spent most of the afternoon reading on the futon, which is like a built-in window seat in our dining room.

We watched March Madness Final Four in the evening, but Jodie still got me up early the next morning to see this beautiful sunrise at the beach:

For a few minutes everything was pink--the sand, the water, and even the dog--I didn't mess with these photos at all:

Usually, I bring Jodie back after our early-morning trek to the beach and go for a run in our neighborhood, which consists of one road that parallels the bay. I have to go up and back in both directions twice (which means I see the same stuff four times) just to get in 3.5 miles.  But recently we noticed a parking lot with a trail on the road where we go to the store, and I decided to check it out.  I googled it and found out it was the Isaac Branch Trail of the St. Jones River Greenways.

So with that as my planned Sunday morning run, I got there at about 7:30 and parked my car.  It was freezing--35 degrees--and I really hadn't brought enough warm clothes, so I just layered on a tank top and two long-sleeve tees over my tights and running shoes.

It was worth the trip.  This is the view at the trailhead:

The trail weaves in and out of trees with occasional glimpses of the water.  I went out 2 miles and back for a 4-mile run, but I want to take my bike there soon so I can see how far it actually goes. The best part is that it starts near the Wawa, so I can reward myself with a big Diet Coke when I'm done running.

On Sunday afternoon, Doug decided that he wanted to be a trail blazer.  Our little cottage borders wetlands, and we know there are pools of water out in the middle, but all we can see are reeds, or grasses known as phragmites.  So he put on his boots, grabbed a heavy-duty rake and plunged in.  After about half an hour of slogging through thick reeds and sometimes-more-than-ankle-deep water, he reached real water.  But it was kind of disappointing because it was just one of the smaller pools, not the open water we can see from Bay Dr.

Doug's longer-term plan is to build a kind of lookout tower where he can set up his camera with the super-big lens and photograph the wildlife in the marshes. So I guess we'll have to wait until that project is done to get our water view.

We left to come home at about 4:00 on Sunday, relaxed and happy.

We're looking forward to many more weekends just like it--doing exactly as much, or as little, as we want. 

Isn't that what a beach cottage is for?