This weekend we hosted a very successful Mocksgiving. I’ve hosted a “practice” (or mock) Thanksgiving for 19 straight years now, although I’ve truthfully never actually hosted Thanksgiving. Mocksgiving was the last big thing I needed to get through before life slowed down. A brief litany: camping on Labor Day, two 5ks on back to back weekends, my 40th birthday party, Otherworld (which was amazing – highly recommend), Grey’s birthday, my nephew’s death (weighs greatly on my heart through all of this), apple picking, King Richard’s Faire, finishing and furnishing the attic (huge effort – much Ikea), Adam’s birthday, week long trip to Singapore (plus off timezone prep before and follow up afterwards), Thane’s birthday, Halloween, Carnage gaming convention (full weekend Adam), Mocksgiving. All this while working full time (both of us) and raising two kids. Some of these were logistically challenging. Some of these were emotionally very deep and hard. Some of these were physically exhausting. I’m so grateful to be done, and for a coming few weeks that are massively less scheduled.

We’re also getting to the time of year where I can’t run. I’ve been running for three or so years now. I’m very slow – it’s *great* when I beat an 11 minute mile. I’ve switched up my default course, so now I run about 4 miles on a given run (a bit over a 5k) – I don’t want to go longer. My surgically repaired left knee was telling me at the end of the season that pavement isn’t it’s favorite, but this is the only exercise I’ve been able to stick with and be consistent about. But in winter I can’t really run on weekdays when it gets dark out so early, and pretty soon there will be ice and treacherous footing ahead.

But my body just hurts lately. I’m sore and stiff. I’ve been having constant headaches which, yes, are tension headaches in part. But they’re mostly muscular-skeletal. My C1 and C2 like to go in opposite directions and this gives me headaches. I go to my chiropractor, it gets better for about 2 days and then I move wrong and the headaches come back until my next appointment. UGH. I mean granted I’m over 40, but I don’t approve of constant headaches.

So I decided with the upcoming massive free time (are you skeptical that will happen? It won’t be so much, but it will be better.) to spend a few weeks stretching. The best my troublesome back has ever been (I have a really consistent regimen of massage and chiropractic which is extremely effective which is why you’ve never heard me complain of it) has been when I was doing yoga regularly. That was like for 2 months 10 years ago. We’re talking about getting a treadmill in the basement with our massive game of redo-every-room, but that’s still a while a way. So I’m going to give it a shot – 30 minutes a day of yoga. I’m very curious to see if it helps with the headaches and the back issues and the feeling that if I drop I’ll shatter instead of bounce.

We’ll find out!

And heck, maybe with all this free time I’ll also update the ol’ blog more, and finish my novel, and cook more meals from scratch, and catch up on all my church commitments, and do more local history research, and spend more time with my husband, and finally clean out my junk drawer and ….

Yeah. Let’s stick with the yoga.

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?