A Turning Point

The past several months, I have been easing back into running.  I wasn’t running any crazy distances; just 2 or 3-milers to build my shape back up.  Lately, though, I’d been craving a longer run.  I miss the days where I used to run for six or seven miles on the trail.  Much of it is laziness; nothing is stopping me from running weekend mornings like I used to, but I elect to sleep late instead of getting up to run.

I ran a four-miler with my dad last week; it was a great run and made me want to get back out to my old running routes even more. All this week, I was craving a trail run.  When I got back from field work today, I knew that a run would be just the tonic I would need to cap off a long week.  So I after I got back into the city and dropped off the samples (today, thankfully, was an fairly uneventful drive), I drove home, grabbed my shoes, and went to one of my favorite trails.

I don’t know why I had the notion of running six miles from the start. But I did, and I wouldn’t consider anything shorter.  As I ran, I could hear my dad’s voice saying, “Jennifer Nicole, you’re going to burn out again if you don’t build up your mileage slowly.” Imaginary Scolding But Concerned Father is right; but I know my dad would understand how essential it is to prove to yourself that you can still do something.

And so I ran.  I wouldn’t win any speed records or anything, but my final time was 1 hour and 11 minutes.  I am unsure of my exact distance, but it was anywhere from 6 to 7 miles (probably closer to 6 rather than 7, but I don’t really know). I only stopped once for a quick water break at the 45 minute mark.  My legs are pretty sore but otherwise, it was a super run.  I feel much, much calmer post-run than I did pre-run.

I am really happy with this run…I haven’t run this distance since before I burned out, which was around January or February. So much of my identity and mental well-being is tied into being a runner…I feel lost when I burn out. When I started the run this afternoon, I wasn’t sure if I could finish it…it feels really good knowing that I still can.

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10 Unimportant and Relatively Uninteresting Things Going On In My Life Right Now

1.  Do you like the song “Extraordinary Machine?”

Fiona Apple said that she wrote it as a pep talk to herself. Every couple of years, I find myself in that place where I get nestled into my comfort zone and am loathe to venture out of it.  My best experiences, though, have come from swallowing my fears and going outside my comfort zone. I realized that I have lost my sense of adventure.  I haven’t had a decent “outside the comfort zone” trip since Philly and my marathon.

This is not to say that I have any exciting trips planned (I wish).  I just want to embrace new challenges with acceptance.

2.  Speaking of Fiona Apple – WHEN IS HER ALBUM COMING OUT?  BECAUSE I NEED IT IN MY LIFE.  Apparently she released a single and I am just finding out about it now. WHAT.

3. I painted my fingernails sky blue and my toe nails forest green. Because I can.

4.  I am breaking out on my chin and it is so unattractive.  Not just one blemish, either.  It’s this gross pizza chin and WHY, GODS OF CLEAR SKIN, WHY?!

5. I really, really want this hair.

Except that summer is approaching in Texas, meaning I will be miserable with heavy bangs coating my face.

6.  Speaking of summer coming in Texas, I have been running again but I am not in the condition I was six months ago, i.e. I am horribly out of shape and a once easy 4.5 mile run has been reduced to agony.  I went running the other day and it felt SO HOT and I was saddened to realize that it was only 85 degrees.  I say “only” because the temperature will jump at least 20 degrees within the next two months.

7.  I have to work this weekend, which really, really sucks.  I am not sure if I can see the Avengers but I want to, but mainly because of this man:

8.  I have the show Charmed on mute in the background, and I am instantly being reminded of fashion from 2001.  Super frilly, pink Britney Spears-type sweaters, cheeky hats, bold lipstick.

God, I feel like this show has been on for the past two hours, WHEN IS IT GOING TO END?

9.  My shoulder still vaguely hurts at night and it’s still a little stiff, even over two months after hurting it.  The doctor confirmed last month that it is healing nicely and that the most I could do with it is physical therapy, if I wanted to. He didn’t sound concerned with it and is unsure if I even dislocated it; he said he has no way of confirming it since he didn’t see me after my injury (all I’m saying is I FELT IT POP BACK IN.)

I guess my dad is right; it will never be 100% normal again, or maybe it will after a long, long time.  That’s okay.

10.  Goals for this month – actually learn a song on my guitar, actually learn a couple of songs on drums, actually finish a book.

Thank you for reading these 10 Unimportant and Relatively Uninteresting Things going on in my life right now.

The Inevitable, Painful Burnout

I’ve extolled the virtues of running numerous times on this blog, so after some careful consideration, I decided that it was worth discussing the other side of running – burnout.

I’ve often said that running can be like a dysfunctional relationship.  Like, you’ll be totally obsessed with running and want to love it until you die and have its babies.  But then you’ll get really tired of running and how goddamn needy it is, and how taxing and abusive it can be on your body.  So you try to let it down gently by ignoring it and hope that it just goes away forever.

Then you start finding yourself missing running, and wondering how running  is doing. Before you know it, you have reconciled with running, and then you find yourself doing things like running out in the rain and cold and trying to figure out why the hell you’re the only person outside when all the smart people are warm and indoors.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Marathon training does a lot of good things for your body. I was in the best shape of my life and generally felt awesome.  If you’re not careful, though, running for enjoyment can quickly turn into an obsession. It’s a complex, untidy thing, and I’m not really keen about going into details but here’s the gist of it: you’re around a bunch of other crazy runners and lose perspective on what it means to take a break. You want to retain your fitness and body even without the crazy mileage; this means that, instead of running for enjoyment, you spend every run berating yourself for not running fast or strong enough, and obsessing that you are losing your shape.

Without even realizing it, I found myself in this spiral, with each run getting worse and worse.  Last week, I ran four miles and felt nauseous, and then saw a migraine aura afterward (luckily, I didn’t actually get a migraine; it was just bad dehydration, hence the nausea).

The next day, it finally dawned on me.  And I can’t even say it was an epiphany.  I was at the doctor getting my biennial checkup for work when I told him about my dehydration episode and injured shoulder.  “Maybe you want to take it easy from running for awhile,” he suggested.  “It seems like your body is trying to give you hints to take it easy.”

And that’s when it finally hit me.  I’m burned out. And all the shitty runs I’ve been having lately totally make sense.

My dad advised me not to run until I absolutely wanted to, but I found myself today heading out on my group run out of habit.  It was only a 2-mile run, but my legs felt like lead.  This run used to be a breeze for me and I would sprint my way to the finish.  Now my pace was plodding and I felt tired.

There were four other women running with us.  Lately, I’ve been feeling completely antisocial, and since none of my friends were there tonight, I felt like retreating into myself and being a hermit.  At one point, all the women stopped because the path was overgrown by grass, and I guess cutting around the grass to get to the path again was too difficult of a task for them or something.  Feeling impatient, I cut around them and started running on the path by myself, feeling the kind of angsty, moody tiredness that I indulged in frequently as a teenager.  I just wanted to be by myself, to be lost in my own frustrations with running without having to make small talk.

I had told myself before the run that I wasn’t going to be competitive, that I was just going to relax, but here I was, back up front, and obsessing about keeping that position.  Two of the women started catching up to me but I consciously stayed ahead of them.  Back in my peak running days, this would not have been a problem, but today my body was screaming, “THIS SUCKS THIS SUCKS THIS SUCKS THIS SUCKS.” And I wasn’t even running that fast.

Ignoring my rebellious body, I pushed through to the stoplight that usually signifies our finish line, feeling triumphant that, even though I was completely burned out, I was going to finish first.  I turned around to look behind me and noted the two women who had been catching up to me were not behind me at all. I looked across the street; they had cut across the street to get to the running store and would get there faster than me. They had finished first after all.

My first thought was, “Well, if jaywalking is what you need to do to finish first, then whatever bitches.”  My second thought was, “This was supposed to be a social run, and I keep turning this into a competition. I totally deserved that.”

So for an undetermined amount of time, I’m going to be taking it easy.  I have to find the joy in running again, the joy I felt on those beautiful mornings during marathon training when I had a good album on my iPod, and I could see the sun rising over the city skyline; fuck, those were awesome runs.

I know I’ll get it back.  This is not the first time I’ve been burned out; the last time I experienced burnout was about three or four years ago.  I’ll still keep running, but not with any set frequency or schedule.  I’ll run when I feel like it, and try to find other supplemental exercises in the meantime that are still interesting and challenging (and won’t kill my healing shoulder.)

And the most important lesson is – I’m too hard on myself, in all aspects of my life. I don’t have to be the best or fastest runner. I need to give myself permission to run slowly, even if it’s a short distance.

It’s frustrating, but it happens.  I still love running, and I always will. Just right now, I kind of hate it.

Another Aborted Attempt At Breaking My Limbs (That Nearly Succeeded)

Spoiler alert – I didn’t get quite as lucky this time as my last misadventure in falling.

I do note a slight trend in these two instances of spectacular falling – they happen on a longer run, and they happen when I haven’t had as much sleep. The morning started auspiciously enough, though – beautiful, crisp and cool.  I had been initially worried about this run.  In between all the traveling I’ve been doing, I haven’t been able to do a long run in weeks.  I ran a 4-miler on Wednesday and it sucked; I felt so plodding and slow that I was worried that I was losing my shape.

Though I took this run at a comfortable pace, my fears subsided and I began to enjoy my run.  I didn’t have an iPod with me, which allowed me to get lost in my thoughts. I didn’t want to stop, and around the 40-minute mark, I extended my run so I could run another twenty minutes.

At around the 45-minute mark, I was running on the sidewalk by a McDonald’s.  I saw a truck waiting to turn right, and I thought I recognized the truck as one from my complex.  As I looked at the truck, it happened again – that horrible feeling when you feel yourself falling, really hard, and knowing you can’t stop yourself.  Like last time, I don’t think I tripped over anything in particular. I think I was just tired, distracted, and I simply fell.  My inner dialogue went something like this:

Mind:  God, NOOOO. NOOOO. Not again! THIS IS NOT A GOOD ANGLE TO BE FALLING AT. Stop! Stop! I STILL WANT TO HAVE ARMS!

Body:  Chill out, I’m trying my best here. I can’t. I can’t! OH GOD.

And what felt like three minutes later, I finally fell and slid.  Imagine a baseball player desperately running to home plate, extending his arm out in front of him as he slides.  Or Superman, flying with one arm extended in front of him.  That’s kind of what I looked like.

And like last time, the first pang I immediately felt was my bruised pride.  I fell right in front of a McDonald’s along a busy road, which is right across the street from a school; I’m sure more than one teenager laughed at me as I munched it.

I stood up, feeling for scrapes and bruises. I knew right away that something wasn’t quite right with my right arm.  I knew just from the angle that I’d fallen at that I couldn’t be so lucky again the second time around.  It just felt…weird.  I started shaking it around. Something didn’t feel right.  It felt numb but different.

Then I felt my shoulder pop back into its socket.

OH.

HELL.

NO.

Let me say right now – I cannot stand bone injuries.  I don’t consider myself a queasy woman by any means and can watch those surgery shows without feeling sick.  But I cannot watch a bone being broken, even in movies. Do y’all remember that movie Descent?  It was not scary like everyone hyped it out to be, but that scene where a chick breaks her leg and the bone breaks through the skin? SCARIEST PART OF THE MOVIE. OH DEAR GOD.  It’s been like six years since I’ve seen that movie and I can still remember that shit.

In conclusion, I would much rather be lying in a pool of my own blood than dealing with a broken bone.  I am incredibly relieved that the only bone injury I had was a dislocated shoulder; if I’d broken my arm, I probably would have curled into the fetal position on the sidewalk and started crying and sucking my thumb.

Not even kidding.

I had about a mile to walk back to place. I did not cry.  I just cradled my increasingly sore shoulder, trying to move it, and alternately telling myself, “Stupid girl,” and “FUCK.”

I was dreading the moment I got back to my apartment, because I was afraid that my arm was hanging at some weird angle.  It wasn’t; my shoulder was sore, for sure, and a bone seemed to be popping out ominously. I also have some sexy contusions on my elbow and leg.  I’m unsure if it’s still partially dislocated, or if that’s just my bone’s way of dealing with, you know, being dislocated and located again in a span of thirty seconds.  I hope it’s the latter, because if I have to go in and get that shoulder set, someone is getting karate chopped in the face.

My shoulder is still pretty sore, but I iced it thoroughly when I returned home, and I took ibuprofen before going to work.  We’ll see how it goes this weekend. I really don’t want to go to the doctor, mainly because I don’t want to have to karate chop anyone in the face.

I read on the internet that you’re supposed to seek immediate medical attention if you dislocate your shoulder, even if it pops back into place. Eh.  I had a small fracture when I was a kid and didn’t really know it, and it ended up taking care of itself. I am hoping that the circumstances will be similar here.  (Of course, I was also 12, and my body healed itself a lot faster.)

Keep your fingers crossed that I will cease this streak of stupidity and actually stay upright for my next run.

Another Sleep-Deprived Post

I have been catching up on my sleep a little bit, I promise.  I still feel tired right now, though.  I guess because I should be asleep, right? NO.  OF COURSE NOT.  THAT WOULD BE THE MATURE THING TO DO.

You know what one of my pet peeves is?  Not returning a shopping cart to its appropriate cart return corral.  I mean, seriously, how long does it take? Maybe a minute at the most?  Instead, people are assholes and leave them wandering like lost cows all around the parking lot, crashing into parked vehicles and just being a nuisance.  I fully believe in karma , and I feel like I will invoke tons of bad karma by not returning my cart to the corral. And I park way out in the boonies, y’all.  If I can return my cart to the corral after parking five miles away from the store entrance, then no one else should have an excuse.  Way to be lazy, America.

I went for a run today and it was full of pain. I was trying to work out this week in my hotel gym because running in these small towns is a no-no unless you want to get raped.  I didn’t have my iPod charged, which meant I lasted maybe two minutes on the treadmill before being all, “THIS IS ALL MY BODY CAN PHYSICALLY HANDLE FOR TODAY.” (God, I hate the treadmill).  So yesterday, in a mad effort to do a workout before heading to a casino (more about that in a future post), I ran up and down three flights of stairs for five minutes. That may not sound like much, but I was really sore today, which meant calves were in pain during said run.  I ran so slowly. It was pretty sad.

Oh man you guys, I don’t know if I’m overtraining or if this is just my body reacting to the wimpy Texas winter or what, but all I want to eat is CARBS.  Two snacks I am in danger of overconsuming are Central Market Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips and HEB Whole Wheat Crackers. OMG.  I don’t even care how uppity and hipster I sound by saying that I am eating cinnamon agave sweet potato tortilla chips, they are AMAZING and HEALTHY (or, they would be if I didn’t have like five servings already today).  If you live in Texas, check them out without shame.  You will not be disappointed.

In case you are wondering about my “Tom Sawyer” progress, I’m on page 2.  Yep.

Goddamn it, is it Friday yet?

I need to sleep.

For real.

Night night.

A Sleep-Deprived Post

So, sleep.

I have not been getting much of it lately.

I think it’s starting to affect me, you know?  I’m a space cadet nowadays, which is kind of terrible, especially when you have to, you know, work for a living. But look, it’s 12:20, and I’m still awake. Not awake awake. I’m pretty sure I’m somewhat comatose. I got off the phone because I was supposed to be going to sleep, and I really did want to go to sleep.  But then I looked on the wall and saw my music.  “Tom Sawyer.” I had not practiced it this week, and I have a lesson tomorrow.

I REALLY WANT TO LEARN THIS SONG.

FOR REAL.

I got through five lines. I consider this progress.

I know I promised you all a misadventure, and I actually have the draft written. I’m just lazy.  Actually, no, I was going to post it while at work, then decided that perhaps I should not update my blog while at work.

Running.  I went for a run yesterday with my group. It was short, just a 4-miler. In between all my travel, my running has slacked and I haven’t done a long run in weeks. I feel myself losing “it” just a little, and it kind of bums me out.  Luckily, my friend did not let me be lazy like I wanted and pushed me through the run.   That’s the one thing I hate about running. The minute you slack off just a little, BAM. It’s like starting over.

At the same time, I should cut myself some slack, you know? I trained really hard for like six months.  That takes a toll on your body. It’s nice to rest a little and do short little runs instead of killing my body with hard mileage.

Speaking of drumming, which totally has nothing to do with the previous paragraph I just wrote –

Oh my fuck, I want to learn this song on drums.

So yesterday somehow set the record for blog views. I won’t say the number because it’s probably somewhat a pathetic number, but I thought, “Holy shit, why do people want to read my blog so badly?” And it was all because of an open letter I wrote a couple of months ago, addressed to people who still wanted to know if two dumbfucks from Jersey Shore are still together.

Goddamn it, America.

I’m going to go to sleep now.  I have to run and work and take drum lessons and other adult things tomorrow – I plan on doing all these things highly caffeinated.