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Good Stuff

Figure 1. The Matilda, reading in my former arctic attic bedroom.

Figure 1. The Matilda, reading in my former arctic attic bedroom.

 

I graduated from my MFA program. Woo! Don’t hurt yourselves, yall, in your mad crush to hire me for big money, okay?

When I came home, my house was significantly changed. Like, no drywall. Like, bare. Like, we are living crammed into two rooms for the near future. Until the roof gets put on. Until the framing-in happens. Until the HVAC and wiring is finished.

This may be awhile. But I don’t care. I hated our house as it was.

At least the bathroom and kitchen are still functional. Well, almost. We don’t have a stove anymore. But what do I care? I don’t cook anyway!

It’s all very exciting.

Then there was perhaps the most fascinating source of a book review ever, from a NOAA teacher-at-sea, who happened to bring Sex & Violence aboard the NOAA Ship Oregon II, where she was a volunteer assisting the researchers. The pictures are so cool, for one thing, but also, amidst all the catching and studying of hammerhead sharks, everyone’s reading, too. INSANELY COOL.

Another thing to make me all giddy is that Sex & Violence got a starred reviewed from Publishers Weekly. Though I think it’s funny that the review mentions S&V as apparently commenting on ‘hookup culture’  as I generally loathe any kind of journalism that uses the phrase ‘hookup culture.’ Also, not to be all sex-dorky, but ‘hookup culture’ isn’t just a sleazy boy’s game. Girls participate, too. Yay! Meaningless recreative sex for all!

(I’m kinda kidding there. Kinda.)

In other news, the launch party for Sex & Violence is all scheduled. Details here. I’m really looking forward to it! And I’m not generally a Liker Of Parties.

And finally, I know I said I was DONE with races. But the excellent Christa Desir might have talked me into doing a RAGNAR relay from Wisconsin to Chicago next June. She wants to build a team of 12 authors. Andrew Smith says he’s in, which just raises the stakes, obviously. Jesus. I get all flop-sweaty imagining doing this again. But, as Christa says, it might just be so psychotically awesome, there’s no way one could pass it up. Plus, it involves VANS. And CAMPING. And MULTIPLE RUNS in one day. In the middle of the NIGHT. The kind of thing that anxious people like me really need to experience.

 

 

The Race Is Over

Figure 1. Norman Reedus rocking the tie & v-neck sweater. This has nothing to do with running.

Figure 1. Norman Reedus rocking the tie & v-neck sweater.  I mean, is the man cute enough in all ways? This has nothing to do with running.

I did my half-marathon in Tacoma.

It was hard. It was okay. Parts of it were good. My body is hurting. My feet are covered in blisters. I hope to get a nice pedicure soon to massage out all the soreness. Now I’m at graduate school and I am hobbling around up the stairs and stuff, but am guessing that shit’ll go away soon.

In terms of execution and anticipation, doing this 13.1 mile race was probably the hardest thing I’ve done all year. Harder than writing my graduate school thesis or critical paper. Harder than any of the fiction stuff I did, either.

I am such a goddamn pussy, you guys.

You cannot know how glad I am to be done with this event. Now I can just run as a civilian and not be beholden to some notion of training.

I’m not a fast runner. I’m not an elegant runner. I didn’t start running until I was 36 years old. I don’t give one shit about my times. I’m not competitive by nature and I’m not that interested in my own physical fitness because I continually eat shitty foods and am not the type of lady to go around in spandex and a sports bra so I’m sort of weird to be doing all this, I suppose. But really, I just go running because I’m out of ideas with my writing. I need to just mull over my thoughts and not be distracted. One of the best things about going running is that I get to be alone. This is why I don’t like races; you have to be next to all these bodies and all these people doing all their weird pre-race rituals and stretching and wearing their strange garments and appliances and devices and Jesus Fucking Christ, I just don’t want to take in any more data, get the hell away from me.

(Also, Male Runners? Do you really have to stretch like that while wearing those tights/short shorts? I can’t help but think you’re being somewhat hostile and aggressive in the way you pump up your nuts in everyone’s face like that. Gaaaaahhhhhhhd.)

There was a lady that I ran with for several miles. She’d run for 30 seconds, then walk. I’d pass her while she walked, then she’d pass me running. This went on FOREVER. I kind of wanted to kill her, to be honest. I wanted her to get the fuck out of my personal bubble and stay in her own lane. I don’t get people who do the walk-run thing in races. I only do that when things are going shitty; it’s not a strategy. Myself, I find it harder to get back into running when I stop to walk all the time. Just face facts; it’s kind of sucky and it’s not gonna get less sucky if you keep quitting and slowing down.

Plus, walking is walking.

Anyway, there’s no moral to this story. Just that the discussion of running will probably cease for a bit. As well as the complaining about it on Twitter.

On Running & Discomfort

Figure 1: Look, it's Norman Reedus. Smoking. Which I should not do. This has nothing to do with running.

Figure 1: Look, it’s Norman Reedus. Smoking. Which I should not do. This has nothing to do with running.

Because I have  anxiety, this means that above all else, my favorite response and coping mechanism to life’s problems is avoidance.

Avoid conflict. Avoid distress. Avoid stress itself. Avoid trying. Avoid upset. Avoid changing the rules or routine.

This is all in service to keeping anxious feelings and panic away. AVOID/BEWARE/STOP/NO

It’s not any wonder that I find examples of What Not To Do highly instructive.

Anyway, how did I become someone who likes running, then? In my 36th year of life, to be specific, after 35 years of hating the guts of running. (I even hated running as a little kid, btw).

Discomfort is part of running. The first bit of running – five minutes, one mile, half an hour, even runner I know has a different metric of how long The Suck lasts – is uncomfortable. It feels shitty and it feels like you are embarking on something insane and pointless, and it feels like it’ll never be over, so why start?

And yet, I do it. And other people do it. And why? Why in the hell?

I can’t speak for other people, but I run because avoidance isn’t the only coping mechanism I should have. Avoidance shrinks your life down until it’s coffin-sized. Certainty makes you into a person who is annoying as fuck. And boring.

I am drawn to people who are wild and spontaneous and who make me a bit uncomfortable. I am drawn to people who are messy and sloppy. I am drawn into their reality; it means we can live our lives a little ragged and unhemmed. I can stop with my goddamn rules and just kind of splatter and those people won’t care. These wild spontaneous people smile and love me and won’t ask me to do anything more than I can.

Figure 2: Example of person who does not if my life is all messy. Also, happens to know everything about how to fix things that are broken. So after he fixed me, I bought the company.

Figure 2: Example of person who does care not if my life is all messy. Also, happens to know everything about how to fix things that are broken. So after he fixed me, I bought the company.

So, I run. Everything bounces, sweat gets in my eyes, it hurts. There’s no purpose, really. I never lose any weight and I don’t win races and I never seem to get faster. But good things happen in my head while I’m doing it. Good things happen in my head after I’m done, too.

It’s a gamble every time I go out, whether anything good will come of this discomfort. And it’s clearly a lesson I need to learn over and over.

 

On Running and Anxiety

 

 

So, I have this thing called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s a mood disorder where you freak out about stupid shit and drive everyone around you crazy. I’ve been taking medicine for it since about age 26 and medication works really well for me. After a disastrous experiment of stopping my meds a few years ago, I have resigned myself to being on meds for this until I’m in the coffin. Really. I’m not wasting any more time suffering with this bullshit.

No one can stand me when I’m anxious. Even people that love me the most. I’m the grossest person alive. Seriously.

Anyway, before I learned what my fucking problem was, I developed all sorts of coping mechanisms and world views that shored up my tendency to panic and overthink and not sleep well and obsess over minutiae.

Even though I don’t have daily panic anymore, even though I sleep well (usually) and though I’m able to get through crises without full-on trembling flop sweat now, I still have been formed by the way my body processes and perceives stress.

Marrying my husband has been such good practice for dismantling some of my more persistent, malignant coping mechanisms. He really is a spontaneous person; he introduces chaos constantly and he excels in emergencies and crisis. Being adjacent to that has taught me that we can ride the wave and not drown in it. I don’t need to anticipate every move; I don’t need to plan the shit out of things; I don’t need to carry the worries of my family members. I can fudge along as I go and be okay. And they can carry their own shit. They can face their own consequences.

(Anxious people are very codependent, too, if you’re familiar with addiction in families. I was the WORST until I started learning about codependency and enabling.)

Anyway, another tool to dismantle my fearful approach to life, my general sense that I am lousy and everything I try will probably be lousy, too, has been running.

In addition to helping me sleep better and giving me lots of nice endorphins and keeping my body healthier, going on a run has taught me to STOP THINKING better than any talk therapy I’ve ever tried.

Before a run, I am checking all sorts of data. The time of day. The temperature. The weather. The time since I last ate/drank. What route will I take? Am I wearing a too-tight sports bra? Or one of the decent ones? Are these compression pants too tight or too loose? Will I need a hoodie? A hat? A rain jacket?

The best thing is just when I get single-minded and I just go on autopilot and I don’t plan and I don’t anticipate and I don’t strategize. I don’t know the route; I don’t know the distance; I don’t know how long I’m going to be out there; I don’t know anything. I’m going to run and we’ll see what develops.

We’ll see what develops: a phrase that anxious people are allergic to.

The worst thing that can happen when you just go for a run without thinking is that you have a kind of crappy run. And even then, you still went running. So you can boast about that or feel silently superior or however you want to frame it. So, really, dispensing with all my pre-emptive bullshit and JUST DOING IT is more than a cliche for me. It’s truth and it lets me continue to shed off all kinds of crap that I’ve convinced myself is worth working myself up into a lather over.

So, I go running. And sometimes it’s great. And sometimes it’s not. And sometimes I do plan it. But sometimes I don’t. And any route I take, I come back better.

On Running & Self-Trust

Unless yr Sean Bean. Then you look like sex in motion, obvs.

 

I’m doing a half-marathon on August 3. It will be my second. This makes me sound like more of a runner than I am. I’ve done a handful of races but I really don’t like races. I like training for them more than I like the actual race. I really don’t like running around other people. I think I’ve spoken about this before. Anyway.

I’m going to do some posts on running because I had a big turning point in my training this weekend (did my first significant long run) so what seemed to be heading toilet-wards is now going in a better direction than I thought.

Running has taught me many things. Fitness and health aren’t the things that I’m thinking of, though. The closest thing I can think of about physical benefits has to do with trust.

I went through puberty early and since then, I’ve been distrustful of my body. If it could freak out and get its period and boobs at age 9, then Jesus Christ, what the hell else was it going to do? From an early age, I didn’t look like who I was. I don’t know if that makes sense but I can’t explain it any other way. I was a tomboy and cerebral and silly and childish and suddenly I had giant boobs and had to wear giant maxi pads and it was gross and awful and I hated it and I hated my body and I was mad at the fucking world for making this happen.

I don’t know if there was anything to be done to prevent this. It just happened. But my mother kind of looked at me like I was growing horns, of course; the whole thing perplexed her just as much as it did me, I imagine. Why is my cute little child changing like this? It seriously was like I’d swallowed a magic potion in a cartoon or something.

This experience gave me a generous helping of self-loathing. I didn’t believe anyone when they spoke positively about my appearance. I thought they were crazy; I still do. I don’t want to talk about it. It brings up gross feelings and doubts and I want them to shut up. I can’t believe in myself, physically, really. I don’t trust my body like I trust my brain.

Running has restored some of that lost trust, though. Not all of it. I will probably always feel sort of ripped off and unsettled in my own skin.

But now I know some things about my body that I didn’t realize before:

1. I’ve got good lungs.

2. My heart does its job very well, too.

3. I can rely on my thighs when shit gets difficult. Those fuckers know how to handle anything.

4. When something hurts, I don’t have to quit; it’ll go back to normal soon enough.

5. After 38 years, there is something in me that might be labeled ‘tough.’