Running just as fast as we can, now

Spoiler - we just ran a 5k!
Spoiler – we just ran a 5k!

I am not a fitness guru. I’m not even a fitness padawan. I’m a “fitness happens to other people” kind of person. I just did a search of “running” on my blog, and in the first two pages of results, there are none that actually involve… you know… running.

But I also follow the latest research. It turns out that being a great cook and having a job where you sit for a living is not a recipe for happy longevity. I’ve noticed that over time, my mass has gradually crept up. I never lost the baby weight from Grey. Or Thane. And to be completely honest, it was cold water on my face when I stepped on a scale and saw that my weight was about as high as it had been when I was in my third trimester. Taken just on it’s own, that’s bad enough. But as a trend line it just had to be stopped. At some point – perhaps not that far from now – the extra weight would start affecting my mobility (if not my health). Like most people, I find it extremely difficult to lose weight once I’ve gained it. This makes not gaining weight of critical importance.

Tragically, the “easy” ways to lose weight don’t work. Heck, the hard ways to lose weight only work very grudgingly and with great pains. But this spring, I got back to carefully watching the calories in vs calories out.

Pretty typical lunch for me - I'm extremely lucky to have access to free, super high quality healthy food at work
Pretty typical lunch for me – I’m extremely lucky to have access to free, super high quality healthy food at work

If you’ve ever done that, you know that the calories in required to reduce your mass is a desperately small amount. A 1500 or even 1800 calorie diet means that every meal is super small and there are very few snacks. And wine or beer? Fuggedaboutit. But there’s this great tradeoff you can make. If you increase your calories OUT you can take more calories IN. Want a piece of cake? Desperate for some brie and crackers? Longing for lemonade? If you go for a run, you can have eat your cake, and make your goals too.

I picked running because my friend Julie mentioned how much she’d been enjoying it. Also, it was free and immediately available. Don’t underestimate free and immediately available as important criteria for your workout plans. I have access to a gym at work. (But no time.) I used to have a local gym membership (but hated the locale – it was the sort of place that has dire warnings in the locker room regarding the dangers of steroids). I’d run a bit before I blew out my knee, and I’d done track in high school (badly). So I had decent shoes, something to wear and enough training not to hurt myself. Although it’s worth noting that my orthopedic surgeon has said I should try for lower impact sports – I’ll never aim for a marathon because I don’t have enough cartilege in my left knee to support it.

Remarkably consistent with one run a week the last few weeks
Remarkably consistent with one run a week the last few weeks

I ran for about a mile, stopping to walk. The next time, I ran for a mile and didn’t stop to walk. Then I ran longer distances. Julie recommended I use RunKeeper to track my runs, since data is motivational. (She’s right, by the way.) Then Adam started joining me on my runs (Tragically, I slow him down. Men. It’s not fair how much more easily he gets in shape than I do!). Then, we ran in our town’s super low key 5K race. (Side note, the organizers at the Boys and Girls Club of Stoneham deserve all the credit in the world for putting together such a nice, safe, and well run race!)

Maybe next time I'll be in the top half of my age group....
Maybe next time I’ll be in the top half of my age group….

Julie asked me if I get the runner’s high that’s so talked about. For months now I’ve tragically lamented that I don’t seem to get that part. But I wonder if it’s sneaking up on me. It takes a lot of willpower to 75 miles. But somehow, it appears that I’ve done just that. How remarkable!

Let's go!
Let’s go!

Spooky Sprint

This was a delightfully busy weekend. I’m sure you’re all expecting the “The kids were so cute and we went trick-or-treating” post, which may yet come if I get time to write it up. (Note: I just doomed any hope that such post will ever be written.) Instead, I’d like to tell you about what I did Saturday morning.

I ran my first 5k race ever.

Yup. I did. I know. Pretty amazing. And yes, by “ran” I mean “ran the whole way” and by “5k” I mean “5 kilometers which is like well over two miles”.

This story starts with my new job in February. It turns out that there’s a gym in our building, which is something new for me. And the gym is cheap — like $25 a month, $150 of which are reimbursable annually. So I got a membership, figuring it probably wouldn’t work but I’d try it out. For several months I made it maybe once a week, often at about 2:30 pm when I’m completely brain-dead anyway. In spring, as the weather turned nicer, I decided to go run instead of doing the elliptical. About a third of the way through my planned course, I was too tired to continue and had to walk. I intermittently walked and ran the course. I felt completely wretched afterwards. A month or more elapsed before I tried it again. I think I made it half way through the 1.5 miles or so before I had to walk again. Maybe a month and a half ago, I managed to run the whole course without stopping. I still felt like dying afterwards. But then I started working out TWICE a week instead of once. Apparently this makes a huge difference.

Now, this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve run. I did track in high school. I don’t remember running ever getting easy, or less painful. I ran the mile, but I was terrible at it. I only ran the mile because no one else wanted to. I hated the training. I dislike the races. I mostly remember hurting. I also ran while we lived in Malden, with my husband. Again, I don’t ever remember having it get much easier, or make much progress. I’ve never been much of a runner. It hurts all over when I’m done. But I think the real problem was frequency. In high school I don’t know what was up, but as an adult I just never worked out often enough to build on itself.

As the days cooled down, I ran the whole course again. I added another half mile to the run. Then I started running it faster. Tuesday, a very very frustrating day, I pushed it and ran it with adrenaline and frustration powering it. I’m not sure what my time was, but I certainly went faster than I had before. I’d been toying with this whole “5k” thing for a few weeks, and I decided that maybe, just maybe, I could run the whole race.

There’s deciding you’re going to do a run, and then there’s getting up at 6:30 on a cold October morning to get ready to go run. I did it anyway. I stood in the lobby of the YMCA building, surrounded by people dressed as cupcakes and fairies and the Cat in the Hat (I was dressed as a person pretending to be a runner), wondering what I was doing there and feeling profoundly out of place. I had confessed my ambitions to few people, but I’d passed one of my coworkers in the gym as I got my shoes on Friday and he’d given me some good advice. “Don’t start strong”, he said, “I tried to keep up the first time I ran a 5k and I nearly passed out at mile 2. Just start slow and speed up as you go through.” I considered this sound advice. I firmly set my goal to be running the entire distance.

As the air horn went off, i was passed at on all sides, and had to restrain myself from attempting to keep up. I ran through the brisk morning air, leaves crunching under my feet, blue October skies peeking over autumnal lawns and gardens. I ran. I ran on Lebanon street — the route I’d traveled the night I gave birth to my eldest son (yelling backseat driving directions to my husband through contractions). I turned on Sylvan Street, and ran past the graveyard I’d wandered many a time. The people around me laughed and talked and caught up on the latest shared gossip. I waved at one of my son’s teachers at Mile 2 as I turned up the gravel road through the park to the top of the hill. I pondered race etiquette at the water stop, cups flung lewdly on the ground. On Main Street a convict and a cat, pushing a stroller, passed me. I called out to them — my neighbors — and we ran together for a while, before they (showoffs!) put on their final burst of speed to finish the race. Feeling pretty awesome myself, and knowing there wasn’t much further to go, I also put on speed and started passing people. At the last turn, my family was waiting. I called to Grey to join me, and he took off down the blocked street in front of me.

I crossed the finish line 32 minutes and change after I’d departed it.

Now, that won’t win me any plaudits. That’s over ten minutes a mile. I don’t know the winning time, but I bet it was half the time it took me. But you know what? It’s really cool when you remember and realize that the world is full of things you haven’t done yet, but you can do. I’m no gym rat. I’m just as awkward at this as you are. I didn’t have great shoes, or special clothes, or time, or a trainer. But I did it. And I felt really, really good afterwards (if a tiny bit sore today). And now I can think about what else I might want to do. Another 5k? Beat the 30 minute mark? Is a 10k within reach? (Would I want to do one?) Would Grey ever want to run a 5k with me?

I am, for sure, a novelty seeker. I love doing new things. But I rarely do them. I’m not sure why… lack of courage? Lack of energy? But doing new things feeds my spirit. It allows me to create these entirely new memories. My previous recollections of running were almost entirely of pain. These memories include exhilaration, strength and the surprise of those first two!

Plus, now I feel totally justified in eating more Halloween candy. I mean, hey. I just ran a 5k. Right?

Blogger/Reader conference

Last night was my first ever “Parent Teacher Conference” with my sons’ teachers. Grey’s held few surprises. His teacher hadn’t managed to peg his reading level, but stumped him on ‘refridgerator’. Since Grey self-reports well, it was nice but not groundbreaking. I was more curious about Thane’s. While he talks a ton for a not-quite-two-year-old, it doesn’t involve a very good answer to “How was your day?” (Thane’s reply: “BU CAR! BU CAR VROOM! Thane’s BU CAR! My turn!”) The funniest moment’s of Thane’s were the note that Thane does not accept correction. For example, he will misidentify a color “Bu Car!”. You will correct him, “No, that is actually a black car.” “No! BU! CAR!”. He will wear you down until you give up, and he will never admit that it was indeed a black car. This is SO TRUE.

Anyway, afterwards I had a phone conversation with my sister where I updated her on some of the stuff I’m doing, and she was surprised. How can anyone be surprised about my life? I have a blog, which OBVIOUSLY everyone reads with bated breath! (Or not…) So I thought I’d give you an update on what’s been going on with me lately.

1) I’m thinking about running a 5k. (My sister’s response “What, did you fall on your head recently?”) I’ve been working out more often than I have since, hmmm… well, maybe since the summer before my wedding? Or maybe since I managed to lose my baby weight from Grey (a feat I have not yet managed with Thane’s baby weight). Anyway, I’ve been doing this two mile loop, and I’m getting faster and better. Like after I’m done now, I feel good, instead of feeling like I just got out of the tumble dry cycle. And I don’t wish I was dead at the 1.2 mile mark any more. There’s a 5K in Melrose that Grey has been BEGGING to go to… and I think I might try it. Crazy, no?

2) We fixed stuff on the house. Four days of Mr. Handyman’s time and all our window sills are hardened, caulked, repaired and painted. So is the rotting wood on the porch I totally didn’t know about and the basement window cover that was caving in. My husband finally fixed the overhead light in the living room. (Seriously, remote controls for lights? I bet it sounds brilliant when you’re 70 but what a PITA when you have small children. And when you lose the remote, and your light mysteriously turns off, your husband spends his ENTIRE Columbus Day trying to figure it out to no avail. Then you finally go buy a new light fixture, because it is getting dark these days ya know. Then while your poor, put upon husband is taking down the old light fixture and putting up the new one, he finds the little bit of wiring that connected to the remote control you lost two years ago, and now the light works FINE. And you have the new one on your dining room table, but it doesn’t quite fit back in its box. But hey, LET THERE BE LIGHT.

But hey! Our window are no longer rotting! The porch has been structurally rescued from water damage! I won’t have a guilty pang at the basement window every time I walk past! And I have a light in my living room again!

Next up: bats in the attic. At least Mr. Handyman put up the bat house I bought, so I won’t feel quite so horrible evicting them.

3) I got a promotion at work. I’m now a Business Analyst. I’m actually very excited about this, since it is really what I’ve been trying to articulate as the perfect job for me for the last several years. Who knew there was a job title (if a generic sounding one) that means that?! And like books and certification and stuff. I mean, it’s almost like a real job! I like my new boss. I like my new job description. There’s still tons of uncertainty during the reoganization, but my brain is fully engaged at work, and I like it. (I’m also pictured in this year’s benefits package. The picture tells me I badly need a new haircut.)

4) My husband has talked me into doing a solo-player RPG. He let me pick the system, so we’re playing Pendragon. I think it’ll be a lot of fun — I’ve never played a generational game before. He’s been reading this blog non-stop in his free time, which has inspired him greatly. (He says I shouldn’t read it because it’s spoilery.)

In related news, I’m trying an MMORP (LOTR) for the first time with a fellow gamer-parent. Because I need to have fun, that’s why. How bad could it be? I mean, MMORPGs aren’t addictive, right? Right? (If this paragraph didn’t make any sense to you at all, don’t worry. Go read this and feel comforted.)

5) I’ve started wearing makeup. Woooooo. OK, this is actually more of a big deal than you might think. Given #3, and another significant number (32), I have decided it’s time to figure out what level of makeup I can live with every day. That’s the danger of makeup. You start to get used to seeing yourself like that, and then it’s hard NOT to wear it or you look bad. And given #1, I will often have to apply said makeup twice a day. But I think I’ve gotten it to a level I’m comfortable with and I think it does help me look more grownup.

6) Possibly in rebellion to #5, I’ve decided to start liking football this year. You may not think that’s how it’s done… who DECIDES they’re going to like something? But that’s exactly what I did with baseball and it turned out wonderfully, thankyouverymuch. So you may now feel free to invite me to your football watching parties because I’m game. I’ll cheer with the best of them when the Patriots get their first downs, and marvel at their tight ends, and, um, stuff. OK, so maybe I still have a lot to learn….

So that’s what’s up with me. What’s up with you?