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Just Write 52 ~ Strength in numbers

By | September 23, 2014 1:15 am | 0 Comments

“Ok, we’re going to finish up the night with a little fun,” he says with a devious smile.  Everyone groans. Doc’s idea of “fun” usually involves pain.

“We’re going to have a plank-off. Last person planking wins a 6-punch workout card,” he says.

I had run four miles at 5 a.m. that morning and a half marathon two days before that. No way I’m going to outlast the 20+ other people here tonight, I thought as I got down on all fours.

“I’m going to cap it at 7 minutes.”

At that, I snort out loud and say to no one in particular, “SEVEN minutes. He’s insane. Three minutes is the most I’ve ever done.”

“And….Go! Remember keep your butts down.”

It’s one of those odd nearly-autumn days where it’s sunny, but cool and strangely humid. Sweat drips off my face into the grass below. I keep my head, like my butt, down. I have no idea that half the field has dropped out before three minutes.

At three minutes, I think I can hang a little longer. I lift one foot and put it on top of the other.

Four minutes.  I switch feet.

May as well go to five. I can’t believe I can actually go to five minutes.

Everyone is cheering and offering encouraging words for the remaining plankers: “You can do it. You got this.”

I don’t know how many are left. I’ve got my head down.

“What happens if more than one person goes to 7 minutes?” someone asks.

“Anyone who makes it to 7 minutes gets a card,” Doc says.

At that, Kristen who is still planking next to me says, “We got this, Heather. We can do this.”

I can only groan in response.

“Six minutes.”

I’m shifting my weight from foot to foot every 10 or 15 seconds. My back is starting to hurt like hell, but I can’t quit now.

“45 seconds.”

Our fellow Team Adrenaline members cheer louder.

“You can do anything for 45 seconds,” someone yells.

“15…10…”

Oh my God, my back.

“…3, 2, 1. Done!”

Seven minutes. I planked for SEVEN minutes.

A personal record and a personal victory over that doubting bitch in my own mind who tells me what I cannot do.

Even better, I got to share the victory with two equally determined and tough girlfriends. Had he said only one could win, I’d have quit at five or six minutes.  I don’t really like to win. It embarrasses me. I’m uncomfortable being the center of attention. I don’t like the spotlight.

Unless I can share it with others.

There’s strength in numbers, you know.

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About Just Write “What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”

Just Write 51 ~ Qualified

By | September 17, 2014 11:18 am | 0 Comments

The cellphone in the pocket of my hot pink Her Times 5K hoodie – a large because I like them big (the sweatshirt, not the phone)– vibrates. A new text message from friends cheering on the marathoners: Dan just passed us at Beach 10.

I glance at the finish line clock. 2:40-something.

He needs a 3:10 and he’s less than three miles out.

Holy crap, he just might do this. He might qualify.

Since I know I can look away for a bit, I dig through my backpack for a pair of gloves. It’s nearly 60, but the wind is blowing off the lake behind me and I’m freezing. It doesn’t help that the layer under my sweatshirt is wet with (now cold) sweat from the half marathon I’d finished a half hour before.

2:58:12

I can’t see very far down the road because the spectators beyond the finishers chute fencing are closing in, narrowing the running lane, and making it hard to see past them.

Lean in? Lean the f$%# out, people. ARGH!

I’m seriously thinking of throwing on my yellow tye-dye marathon volunteer shirt from working at registration the day before and clearing that shit up with some hand signals & barked orders: Move back! Move back! Move back!

But I’ve been hanging around finish lines long enough to know it won’t last long if a volunteer doesn’t stand in the middle of the road and police it. They’ll lean in again. Then one behind them has to step in just a half step further to see around the guy leaning in and the one behind that person has to take a full step in…and so it goes until the runners have a narrow path funneling them into the finisher’s chute.

And, besides, putting on a t-shirt would mean taking off my sweatshirt and I’m freezing, even more so because the layer under my sweatshirt is wet from the ½ marathon I’d finished a half hour before.

3:06:22

I step up on a sandbag that’s holding the fencing in place. It improves my line of vision a little – at least I might be able to see him before he’s right in front of me.

I keep shutting my camera off & then turning it back on. I want to be ready, but I don’t want to drain the battery. The lens cap stays off.

3:10:45

Come on. Come on. Where is he?

3:12:03

I catch his silver hair, black t-shirt and slightly tilted running form.

I try to stop shivering long enough to get a photo.

“Dan! You did it!” I yell out.

3:13:33 the clock reads as he runs under it. Nearly 90 seconds less than what he needed to earn a ticket to Boston.

Now all he needs is a little luck (they fill the slots with the fastest qualifiers first) and a lot of money. Boston is no cheap date — $175 for registration, $200 for flights (each) and $300 a night for a hotel.

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My friend Eloise made this sign for my husband, Dan, who she calls a humble hero. He really kind of is.
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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”

Just Write 50 ~ Teamwork

By | September 9, 2014 1:42 am | 0 Comments

If there’s one photo among the hundreds (literally) taken of my team at Saturday’s Beast on the Bay that sums it all up, it’s this one:

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With a team 70+ strong of different abilities, it was all but impossible to stay together for the entire 10+ mile obstacle race. We started together and then broke into smaller groups based on pace. Those who ran a similar pace ended up running together and helping each other over the obstacles and up to the crest of that last dam#$@ hill to Waldameer where we all stopped — every single one of us — to wait for the rest of our team members.

On Saturday, time meant nothing. Team meant everything.

I never played sports in school. It’s one of the few regrets I have in life. Though, I seriously doubt it would have been anything like this. Supportive. Inspirational. Fun. Encouraging.

We cheered for every person slogging up that hill, not just our teammates.

Some of us ran down to meet up with the last members of our group, which meant doing the Peninsula Road hill twice…and I seriously didn’t care. I’d have run it 10 times for them.

Then we finished together….just like we started.

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”

Just Write 49 ~ Freedom (child’s play)

By | August 5, 2014 3:35 pm | 0 Comments

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A bead of lake water mixed with sweat rolls down and drips off the end of my nose into the sand below me as I settle down into the sand on my elbows (body lifted, butt down) for 50 partner plank claps. About 20 of us have gathered for an early Saturday morning Beast on the Bay training session at Presque Isle’s Beach No. 1.

John is lining up next to me with his partner for plank claps. “Hey,” I say. “Lisa said you guys might do some tri training at Findley Lake tomorrow. Let me know when you’re going. I might join you, if that’s OK.”

“Are you doing Presque Isle?” he asks.

“No, but I like tri training. It’s kinda fun.”

“OK,” he says with a laugh.

More sweat drips off my face. The sun is hiding behind morning clouds, but the humidity more than makes up for the heat. I want to wipe my face, but my hands are covered in sand.

I groan and whine and hang my tongue out in an effort to commiserate with the rest of the gang, but I’m actually really loving the whole thing. It’s fun. It’s fun to do something different. It’s fun to have no idea what the leader is going to tell you to do next. It’s fun to challenge yourself. It’s fun to jump into the lake and roll in the sand at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Who does that? Not most 42-year-old mothers.

This is how I play.

I get up at 5 a.m. on Saturday so I can meet my marathon-training friends for a quick 6 miles before the Beast training. Then I run another 5 miles with two other friends after the Beast training. Just because I want to. Just because I can.

I’m not really training for anything — just the Beast on the Bay and the PI half marathon in September (which I could — and often do — on any given weekend).

I’m enjoying the freedom of a nearly blank race schedule, untethered to any training plan or charts or mileage requirements. I can do whatever I want right now. No plan is the boss of me.

I can go to speedwork or I can skip it. I can run 12 on Saturday or I can run 5. I can go to a Team Adrenline workout on Tuesday or I can swim laps. I can go for a bike ride on Thursday or I can go hiking in the gorge with the dog.

Mile repeats at a 7:50 pace? OK.  Join friends for a 20-miler to North East? Sure, why not. Bike from Behrend to Sara’s? Hell, yeah. Swim, bike, then run around Findley Lake Sunday morning? Count me in.

I used to be so regimented, so adamant about what I did on which days and exactly how far I had to go on those days. I thought discipline and strict adherence to a plan was key to staying fit.

Now I know the real key — friends who make fitness fun and give me lots of opportunities to play.

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.

Just Write 47 ~ Scars

By | July 22, 2014 2:19 am | 0 Comments

If you were to drive by, you could easily miss the mini-memorial, a styrofoam cross with artificial flowers and a similarly decorated wreath. Both no larger than a house cat. Both stuck into the ground in front of a tree with a much larger memorial — a three foot gash in the trunk, marking the place where a young man who was finally getting his life together lost it.

He lived down the street from us and was just a boy when we first moved in. We saw him grow up over the years. I know his mom. He was home on leave the night he died.

As irony would have it, the cross and wreath don’t look all that out of place as the tree is part of a memorial garden on property owned by a funeral home. Directly across the street is the entrance to a cemetery, where I suspect the young man was buried. He died late one night (or early one day, I guess) after spending the night out with a friend. A passenger in a fast-moving car. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

When I see the memorial as I’m running by in the first light of morning, I pause. Standing there, breathing heavy, sweat trickling down my back, I realize it’s for him — that little boy (as I’ll always think of him) down the road.  I think about what it must be like for his parents to drive past this spot. Do they avoid going home this way now, or does it bring some measure of comfort in knowing their son was here?

Then I think about the tree. I touch it’s scar, where the bark was stripped away as it absorbed the blow of a 4,000-pound  tumbling vehicle. I think about how strong that tree must be to withstand that impact and still stand straight and solid.  I wonder if it, too, will ever really heal from that one terrible night.

I turn around and run back home, grateful to be able to do so and thankful for the opportunities that running gives me to think and to see what so many miss.

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.

Just Write 45 ~ 10,000 miles

By | April 8, 2014 1:04 am | 0 Comments

I knew it would die eventually, I just didn’t expect it to be on a random Tuesday afternoon. That’s how these things are though. We never really “expect” them. There were signs. It’s battery life was growing shorter every year. It was becoming “temperamental.”

When I grabbed it for a lunchtime walk last week, it was stuck in some strange diagnostic (think Courier font) mode. I couldn’t get it back to the main menu and when I returned it couldn’t be revived at all.

I tried everything. A  hard reset didn’t work. Plugging it into the charger didn’t work. Syncing it with my computer didn’t work.

I finally had to accept that my beloved iPod nano was dead.

I bought it as a refurb from the Apple site in 2005 for about $100.  If I figure conservatively, we’ve run about 10,000 miles together since. Much as I love to bash Apple, I think I got my money’s worth.

It’s so old it was a 2nd generation. While it was classically sleek and thin, it was no longer cool or sexy. It was plain black and silver–iPods didn’t come in colors back then. It was my constant running companion before I had running partners, and was still my “go to” for solo runs and distance races.

Several years ago, I had a major iTunes issue on my PC (involving upgrades) and I lost everything. I got the music back, but it was no longer in the orderly categories that you know my anal self had them arranged in and I never found the time to reorganize them. So I listened to the same playlists for years, literally years, until I found the energy to figure out the iTunes mess (mostly because the kids got iTouches).

I ordered a new one Nano weekend. It’s purple and has twice the memory.  But I can’t bring myself to toss (recycle) my old one yet. We’ve been through too many miles and milestones together.

nano

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.

Just Write 44 ~ Spring fever (not so quick)

By | April 1, 2014 1:44 am | 0 Comments

Everyone hates March in Erie. I get it. The weather is completely schizophrenic (it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s hot, it’s cold…all in one dang day, sometimes) and, after a loooonggg, cold winter, we’re all anxious for spring.

I saw lots of signs of spring at Preque Isle State Park this weekend — ducks galore in the bay, red-winged blackbirds (the true harbingers of spring), fishermen in hip waiters, boats being uncovered, a turkey tom fanned out and guarding his hens, etc.

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Weekend Run No 1: We thought it was spring on Saturday morning at PISP.

But, we know winter isn’t over yet.  We know that spring — flowers, grass, regular sunshine, and trees full of songbirds — doesn’t really arrive in Erie until Mid-May, yet every freakin’ snowflake that falls after March 20 feels like insult to injury.

Snow doesn’t bother me now. Because it can’t last forever. It can’t. And it’s on it’s way out.  (I get depressed when it snows in October and we’ve got months and months of it to go).  In March and April, we get a few warm days mixed in with the cold ones. Like little previews of spring. Soon, those nice days outnumber the crappy, cold ones. The daffodils push through the last of the snow, the ducks fill Presque Isle bay, and office A/C kicks on.

So while the six to eight inches of fresh snow that fell overnight Saturday sent many off the deep end — as if their anger alone could melt the icy heart of Jack Frost — I saw it differently. I realized it might be my last opportunity this season to run in a winter wonderland. I’m sure most of you hope that it is.

Weekend run No. 2:  A mere 24 hours later and winter is baaaackkk! 

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Yes, I look forward to solid footing again, but I’m not so quick to wish the winter running season away. I like running in cooler temps. I like cozy layers of Under Armour. I like having pockets to carry my stuff. I like not sweating to death. I like feeling like a badass because I run 8 miles on days other people don’t want to leave their house. I like running in the peaceful silence of winter.

This will all be over before we know it.

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Pix by Eloise

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.

Just Write 43 ~ Pancakes, warm friends, and frozen muskrats

By | March 25, 2014 6:06 am | 0 Comments

I considered blowing the run off when my alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. Sunday, but I knew I’d regret it when I saw all the photos on Facebok later. I told myself what I always do when I get up early on a weekend: I can take a nap later. I never do though.

“What’s the temp?” I ask Dan. He’s going this time because it’s gawd-awful early and that’s how he likes it.

“17”  he says.

“Awesome,” I say.

Why did I even ask?

We are 15 minutes early but there are already two or three cars full of friends there. Several cars, trucks and vans pull in until the little parking lot next to Findley Lake is full. Two dozen runners jump around in the dark and cold, hopping from foot to foot to stay warm. I stay in car, reading the Sunday paper by dome light. I can’t bear to spend one more minute out there than I have to.

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We didn’t even get out of the car for this photo.

When they start running up the road, we jump out and join in. Dan runs ahead. Way ahead. He’ll do two loops (10.5 miles) in the time it takes me to do 1 and 1/4 loops (8 miles).

“If he laps us, we all get to punch him,” I say to the 4 or 5 runners I’m in line with.

We come up on something in the road. The headlamps of the front runners reveal it to be a squashed opossum. We weave around it with an “Ewww…”  and run on.

A minute or two later, we hear “Oh, gross!  Ewwww!” and lots of laughter. The second group must’ve reached the critter’s corpse.

It wasn’t the only roadkill we came across.

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I graduated with CJ, above, who — surprise — was our class clown. You can always count on CJ to lighten the mood, for example by casually running past you while petting and talking softly to a flattened, frozen-solid muskrat.

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See why I love these people? Who else is this happy to be running around a frozen late at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning?

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The sun comes up while we’re running, but I never see it.  Lost in conversation and a constant internal dialog (“I’m freezing. Run faster and get this done,”), I suddenly notice it’s light out. If the sunrise was pretty, I wouldn’t know. I was head down, moving forward. Running only to stop.

That’s not like me. I usually enjoy the journey. That’s why I run, but this winter has beaten me down. Wore me out. Froze me into negativity. This winter’s mantra:  Let’s just get this over with.

There’s a reward though: This winter will make us truly appreciate those first days of spring (when it actually arrives here in mid-May).

There’s a reward after Sunday’s run, too: Buckwheat pancakes with real maple syrup and smoked sausage at Red’s Best Pancake House in Sherman, N.Y.

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All you can eat for $9.25. There are no menus. You sit down and they serve you coffee and OJ and then bring everyone a the table a plate of pancakes and country sausage. The atmosphere is country eclectic. The tables are thick wood with bench seats and the griddle is in full view of the kitchen. There’s a fireplace roaring and next to it are books and games and couches that make waiting less painful for families with kids on busy mornings. Judging by the packed pancake house crowd at 8 a.m. on Sunday, I’d say waiting is probably to be expected at Red’s.

 

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Who knew Eric Carle wrote a book about pancakes, too?

When we arrive, most of us are shivering uncontrollably, which is normal after a long run in 14 freakin’ degrees. I grip my styrofoam coffee cup in both hands for the warmth and to keep from spilling it all over myself when I shiver.

Eventually, we warm….from the body heat of our friends on the benches next to us, from the pancakes with warm maple syrup, from the hot coffee, from the laughing and joking, from the sense of accomplishment…but, ultimately from the camaraderie of like-minded running friends who warm up even the coldest of winter days.

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Hat tip to Eloise for this photo…with the perfect sentiments.

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.

Just Write 42 ~ A complete set

By | February 18, 2014 1:46 am | 0 Comments

Fashion and beauty annoy me.  I don’t have the time, inclination or money to keep up with trends, and I wouldn’t know if you do either. Color me clueless. When I was editor of Her Times magazine, I wanted to dump those categories of content altogether, but my boss would have none of that and would often remind me that I’m in the minority when it comes to not giving a flying rat’s a@#about fashion or makeup.

I do what I have to to get by — mascara, blush, lipstick, eyebrow waxing — but suffice to say, you aren’t going to find me getting pampered at any spa in town. Not my thing.

That said, I’m pretty religious about painting my toenails.

Who can guess why?

Tick, tock…tick, tock…tick, tock.

Ding-ding-ding….we have a winner.

Every runner knows that toenail polish is the perfect cover up missing nails. Ah, finally…one way in which fashion actually HELPS a woman out.

My husband who has to suffer through sandal season with blackened and/or missing toenails from his spring marathon, though he doesn’t seem to care. (Oh, to be a guy.) It kinds grosses me out, though.

I painted my nails the other day — a festive red with sparkles for Valentine’s Day — because I signed up for swim class and felt my feet had to look presentable (cause you know…you can really see them when they’re underwater all the time, right? See..beauty standards are stupid). Anyway…for the first time in months, perhaps years, I actually have all 10 toenails. Holla!

A full set. A real rarity for a distance runner, so I took a picture.

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In reviewing my spring racing schedule, which includes, a 10K, three half marathons and a tough mudder in two months, it’s likely they won’t last for long.

Easy come, easy go.

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.

Just Write 41 ~ 10 in 1 degree

By | February 11, 2014 1:43 am | 0 Comments

I don’t even look at the temperature. Why bother? It’s cold as h#@ …it has been this whole frigid winter. I dig out my thickest, fleece-lined tights. They’re like form-fitting sweatpants — too hot for all but the coldest of winter runs. I don’t think I wore them at all last year. This year, they’ve seen plenty of use, as have my Yak Tracks.

I’ve gotten hardier as this sub-zero winter drags on. There was a time I drew the line at running in temps less than 20 degree. Psshhh…20 feels like a freakin’ heatwave now.

If I wait for 2o degrees, I may not run until flippin’ April, so I put on my thicker running socks, and three — count ‘em three — fleece-lined layers on top — a cold gear mock neck, a fitness hoodie and a double-layer windbreaker. I make sure to pick a winter hat that will completely cover my ears and put on a pair of gloves and top those with a pair of thick mittens.

Yet, a half mile into the run, I am still freezing. I stop as we run up Jordan road to pull up both hoods over my head and tie them tight. I feel and look like a complete dork, but I don’t really care.  There’s no room for vanity on single-digit (1 degree) long run days.  You do what has to be done to get the miles in.

There’s no wind, other than the breeze we are creating by running, which isn’t much because though we seem to be putting in maximum effort, we’re barely moving. Our mouths move faster, discussing everything from our weekend plans to upcoming races to spoiled kids to Yack Tracks versus Stabilicers.

Ten miles fly by in a flurry of conversation, the weather goes virtually unnoticed for nearly 2 hours. We’ve got grinding uphills, bratty kids, and other, more pressing issues to distract us from Jack Frost’s attempts to thwart our Saturday morning run.

Winter running can be exhausting. Gearing up to go, working so to hard to move forward, prying my frozen eyelashes apart, but I’ll still take it over the “dreadmill” any day.

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.