In Defense of Running

On Friday at my physical therapy appointment, there was a woman on the table beside mine who was having her knee worked on. She was telling the tech doing ultrasound how she’d injured it: she decided to start running. She ran for three miles (“that distance seemed easy enough”) for a couple of days and by the end of the week her knee was swollen. So she went to an orthopedic surgeon (“one of the most famous surgeons in Utah”) who told her that no one should ever run because it’s bad for your knees. Then she stopped talking to listen to me explaining to the tech who was helping me about my bunion surgery. “Oh, yes. See, running is bad. Running also causes bunions.”

Thanks lady.

Am I a runner amy sorensen

She kept talking for the rest of the appointment and inwardly I was seething. I’m already seen as the “bad” patient in this office, because once I accidentally said the F word. (Utah is a weird, weird place.) So I just seethed quietly, and maybe rolled my eyes a few times, and didn’t say what I wanted to say:

Running doesn’t cause bunions.

And you know what’s bad for your knees? Deciding one day that you want to be a runner and then just tossing on a pair of shoes and running three miles.

But ever since I started running 21 years ago, I’ve heard the same thing about running. From friends, family members, coworkers, random strangers: running is bad for you.

Even as recently as my surgery, several people told me that I must’ve torn my tendon because I run too much.

These comments always come from people who aren’t actually runners.

Here’s the deal: Running is like any other sport. There are things to learn, research to do, techniques to understand.

Of course if you just randomly run a few miles, your body is going to hurt somewhere. People tend to think that since running is a similar motion to walking, and since walking is what people do, then it follows that you already know how to run.

In my two decades of being a runner, I have taken two running classes from a local running coach. I’ve had my gait analyzed by professionals and spent months teaching my body how to adjust to a proper cadence. I’ve read countless books and articles about techniques. I do push-ups and ab work and hip-girdle exercises, yoga and pilates and barre because I learned that strong muscles mean fewer injuries. I do cross training and take rest days. I’ve been injured and learned that it is part of being a runner. I’ve learned about overtraining, about the muscles that are generally weak in people who run, about how to stretch properly to release the strain that the repetitive motion of running causes. I’ve made mistakes and done it wrong and started again. I’ve had long discussions about the correct shoes with employees at running-shoe stores. (Dick’s doesn’t count.) I’ve experimented with different socks and anti-friction creams. I’ve learned how to time my runs around my meals, how to fuel without getting nauseated during long runs, what to eat after a run.

You wouldn’t decide one day “I’m going to be an ice skater” and then attempt a toe loop without getting injured. You wouldn’t take up rock climbing without first learning how to use your equipment.

Running is the same: you have to start at the beginning. You have to develop strength and stamina. You have to give your body time to adjust. You have to learn about your sport.

“Running damages your joints” is actually a myth. We are discovering, as people have begun running longer and longer, that our bodies adjust. The joints of a runner at the end of her life will actually be stronger than the joints of a non-runner. (HERE is just one article but there are many.)

And “running makes bunions” is just bunk.

What makes a bunion form is either wearing too-restrictive shoes or genetics. I’ve never really loved pointy high heels and have basically lived in Doc Marten’s for a good portion of my adult life. Foot problems run deep in my mom’s paternal line; my sister has had bunion repair, too, and she and some of our grand-nieces and nephews have club feet. I’m 99.99998725% sure that running did not give me bunions.

And as for too much running causing the tear in my plantar plate…only kind of. What often causes second-toe capsulitis (which is the beginning of where I ended up, with my tendon torn and my toe flopping around) is abnormal foot mechanics, which are often caused by a…bunion!

The bunion that I investigated having removed 10 years ago, which my insurance wouldn’t pay for because since it wasn’t causing me pain, it was only “cosmetic.”

Maybe if I had only sat around for the past twenty years and not done any running at all (or hiking or walking) the tear would’ve been delayed. But until the bunion was repaired, the capsulitis would only get worse.

Really, short-sited medical insurance policies caused my tendon tear.

Yesterday I talked to a neighbor I haven’t seen in a while, and he asked me why I was so anxious to get back to running. “Why not just do other things?” he asked.

And I think it is a thing you don’t understand until you actually do it. Until you feel what it’s like to be seven miles into a ten-mile run and you suddenly notice how your body is singing with movement, under the blue sky. How your skin is soaking in sun even as it drips sweat, and how deep your lungs are pulling in air, and how alive you feel. Or until you have the confidence of knowing you can always get yourself back home on your own two feet. Or the pleasure of driving past somewhere you’ve run. The excitement of slipping your feet into your shoes at the start of a run. The sweet relaxation of drinking something cold and fruity while you stretch after. All of it.

I will always be willing to put in the work that allows me to continue running and I hope I can do it until I am very, very old.


Torn Plantar Plate Surgery Story: Part 1

I just realized it’s been almost an entire year that I’ve been dealing with my toe issue, so I thought I’d write about how my injury happened (even though I don’t really have an amazing story to tell!)

I’ve been wearing orthotics for about five years now, ever since I started having capsulitis in my second toe on my left foot. (This is inflammation in the joint that connects your toe to your foot.) I wore them in both shoes to keep things even, although my right foot didn’t hurt in the same way. Then, last year after our epic May hike to Silver Glance Lake, my right second toe started hurting in the same way.

view of Timp along the way to Silver Glance Lake
The hike to Silver Glance Lake was epic because of the fresh May snow up there!


Since I was already wearing orthotics to help with capsulitis, I wasn’t sure what to do. At first, like all good runners, I just ignored it. Shook it off. But it kept getting worse so finally I visited my podiatrist.

We tried several different things. Some taping with an extra insert to relieve the pressure on the toe joint (didn’t work). Shorter runs. Then fewer runs. Then a week off. Still hurting. So I got a cortisone shot, which helped for a little while. I kept running and building up my mileage, but about a month later it started hurting again. This time I got a second shot and then took three weeks off from running. (I was still hiking, though.) I stretched, I massaged, I iced. It was feeling pretty good at the end of the three weeks, so one day I thought OK, this is it…going to start running again today.

Kendell and I went to Costco and then we went to a park where I intended on starting my run. I would run home from there, only about two miles from home, and start out slow, walking for three minutes, running for two. Before he left, I asked him to take a running pic for me, because I wanted to write about how that “first run back” felt, and it is much easier for him to just take it than for me to find a spot to prop my phone and then work with the timer for a few attempts. I walked a bit to warm up my legs, got him positioned, and started running toward him.

And…yeah.

running in the park
Five or six steps in...already hurting

I think it was either my third or fifth step, maybe my seventh. But just seconds into my run, something tore on the bottom of my foot. I didn’t really hear it, but the tear felt like a sound. Like the sound of wet cotton fabric tearing. It stopped me in my tracks (luckily Kendell had gotten a few shots already!) but I tried to shake it off. Shake, shake, shake, literally, just shook my foot. Rotated my ankle in circles. Wiggled my toes. Walked a bit. Then I tried running back toward him, and yeah: No. It was super painful and my toe felt wobbly.

So instead of running home I hobbled back to the car and had him drive me home.

This was the day before we were going to leave for our trip to California to visit Nathan. I had all sorts of plans for going running with him while we were in Monterrey, and he had a gorgeous route all planned out. But…running? I couldn’t even really walk well. With EVERY step, my toe would either slip into or out of joint, depending on where it was on the previous step. On our first day there, we walked around the beaches on Thirteen Mile Drive and gah…it was uncomfortable. Even worse than normal on the sand with bare feet. (But oh. It felt so good to hold my foot in the cold water!) So, no running on the beach during that trip. No nice long run with my soldier son on his favorite route. Just dislocating my toe over and over.

After months of wrangling with my health insurance, I finally got an MRI scheduled. (Side rant: They kept pushing back with things they wanted me to do before I had the MRI. Time off of running. A cortisone shot. PT. Two weeks of taking an anti-inflammatory. All things that I had already done and THEY HAD ALREADY PAID FOR.) The results only confirmed my podiatrist’s diagnosis of a torn plantar plate, the thing we were trying to avoid. Because my doctor’s surgery schedule was full into November, I decided to just wait until January so I could have an entire year of being at my deductible.

This is a great picture to explain what I tore:

plantar plate tear

That tendon helps to hold your toe into the joint where it joins your foot. You have one for each toe, but the second toe is the one most often torn.

While I waited for my surgery, my toe continued to slip in and out of joint. I almost got used to it. I found the ONE pair of shoes I could wear at work that held my foot flat enough to keep the joint stable so it didn’t pop around as much. As the tendon got worse, sometimes the toe would be so out of joint it was just lodged on the top of my foot. (Fairly unpleasant.) Thankfully, I could still hike. At this point, nothing but a surgery would fix it, so staying totally off of it wouldn’t repair it, and my hiking boots also held it enough that I wasn’t miserable. But running…running was out, because the real issue is the point of bending as the foot pushes off the ground in the running stride. Torn tendon made that nearly impossible. So I held on to my mental health by hiking as much as I could.

And that is the story of how I ended up needing a foot surgery. No big dramatic injury, no great story to tell. I just, you know. Sort of wore it out!

Up tomorrow, details about the surgery itself.


Yes, But.

I went for a walk this morning. No headphones, no running, no Kendell tagging along. I needed to go to the doctor’s office for a blood test (my yearly check up of thyroid and other issues) and since it’s only about a half mile from my house, I decided to just walk.

Just as I got to the junior high, I heard the familiar sound of someone running. The pattern of breath and the repetition of footfalls; for a few steps there was a little tap instead of a thud because a pebble must’ve been caught in a shoe, and then it dropped out and the pattern went back to only thuds. I turned to see where the person was so I didn’t accidentally get in their way, and saw it was a black teenager.

Before I go on with this story, I have to clarify that I live in a state, Utah, where there is not a huge population of black people (at the last census it was 12% black), and I live in a county in that state where 2% of the population is black. I don’t know what it says about my prejudice that, when I see a black person where I live, I think “there’s a black runner” (or grocery-store shopper or whatever) instead of just thinking “there’s a runner,” but it is my unguarded reaction. Not in a fear-based what but an observational one, true, but I don’t like that that is my first thought.

As he ran past me I gave him that little wave you give passing runners, but he didn’t see me. He turned the corner and then, a few minutes later (he was fast!), I did too. We were both moving west along a frontage road adjacent to a much busier road, separated by a weedy berm.

Just down the street, there was a police car on the same side of the road, lights on, and a police officer leaning in to talk to the person he had pulled over.

I kept walking and I started really watching.

I thought about Ahmaud Arbery, and I thought about the sound of the running feet of the person running in front of me, how the cadence is measured and practiced, not panicked. That slight irritation of a caught pebble that all runners have felt, and the little relief when it frees itself.

I thought about the bland statement made by the leaders of my seeming faith, which was safe and generic and spoke of love but had no fire or outrage and certainly did not apologize for its history of racism.

And the one from the city where I live, equally safe, which made sure to point out how fantastic our police department is.

I thought about the interactions I’ve had with police in my city, which have always been calm and rational.

I thought about the tiny protest I saw last week, on one of the busiest corners of our town, thirty or so people—most of them white—chanting “no justice, no peace,” waving their signs in the rain, and how, when I was stopped waiting for the light to change, I looked at them and felt ashamed (because I have not protested) and hope (because they were all so young, so unjaded, so bright).

I watched the runner. I watched the policeman on the side of the road.

I touched my cell phone to make sure it was still in my pocket. Just in case.

I wondered what he was thinking—the runner in front of me.

Did he think about Ahmaud Arbery too? Did he think about what his parents taught him about his actions around police? Was he afraid?

As he got closer to the police car, he stopped running.

And, I don’t know. Maybe it was just part of his run that day, maybe he was doing a walk/run cycle, and the walk portion just happened to happen then, when he was passing a police car.

That’s possible.

But it’s also possible he started walking because he felt that was safer.

I kept watching.

I thought about all of the voices and ideas I have heard over the past three weeks. The people wanting to change the financial structure of cities so that less money goes to police forces, and the people who refuse to see that as a viable option. The people who have said “well, I’ve never had a bad interaction with police,” as if that proves anything. The bland voices of my community. The more passionate ones of closer friends who share my perspective. And about my own doubt that I can change anything.

The runner kept walking until he had passed the police car with the flashing lights. He stood still while he waited for the light to change, and he walked across the street. He didn’t run until he was on the opposite side of the opposite corner.

I let my hand stop hovering near my phone.

I’m still unsure. I still feel unable to make much commentary on what is happening in the world. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, I don’t want to be ignorantly racist, I don’t want to cause more hurt. Besides, what insight can I have, this middle-aged woman living in an uber-white community?

But I also remembered: it isn’t about what insight I can offer. Black people don’t need my insight, and what can I say that might help my more closed-minded friends open their perspective a little?

And I thought: it has, at least, changed me. Would I have been watching so carefully, before this spring’s events, when a black runner ran past a white police officer? I don’t think I would have.

I think that one of the keys to being anti-racist is the ability to be open minded, and by that I mean the ability to understand that your perspective is not the only way of looking at the world. The ability of imagination, perhaps: to see a situation with your own eyes and realize it might look different to someone else, and then to be able to imagine some of the possibilities.

(Which is one of the reasons that I find fiction to be just as enlightening as non-fiction.)

If the unrest and the killings and the violence has not given people the ability to see the existence of other realities than their own, nothing I can say will change it.

But those things have changed me. They have taught me that the scope of my imagination was far too small.

They have taught me that I still have so much to learn. So much. They have taught me that even in my white-washed community, I have opportunities to watch, to witness, to be prepared to speak out or take action if it’s needed.

I hear you—those “yet, but” voices. Yes, but our police force is really good. Yes but who are you going to call if someone burglars your house? Yes, but blue lives. Yes, but…all of it. I hear you.

Yes.

But I am going to try to see things from perspectives other than my own.


How A Pretty Pink Skirt with Pockets Changed My Life

I’ve always been a solitary runner. None of my neighbors or friends are runners, so when I picked up running (in the summer of 2000) I went out alone, and I’ve been doing it that way ever since. Mostly this doesn’t bother me, because I appreciate the solitude running solo brings me.

So when I became a Skirt Sports ambassador four years ago, what surprised me was how happy the camaraderie of the group made me. Except for the two retreats I went to, I never physically ran with any of these women; most of them I’ve never even met in real life. But they still made my runs better, in ways I couldn’t always explain. Why would knowing someone else was running in a cute skirt halfway across the country make any difference?

But it did.

Skirt sports 5 1 2020

Partly, it’s about the skirts themselves. Some people have teased me about this, but I don’t care: I think cute running clothes are motivational. Before I discovered Skirt, I was constantly on the lookout for clothes designed for women that were cute and functional. It felt like all of the women’s running clothes I found were designed for “real” runners—the tiny ones with thigh gaps. Who else could wear such short shorts? And why were there never any pockets? Did clothing designers think women don’t need to carry anything? What about keys, chapstick, tampons, nutrition, money, sunscreen, and/or ID? Did they think we were all just running with men by our sides (because men’s clothes always have pockets) to carry our stuff for us? Or we could just tie it all to our shoes?

So when I discovered my first Skirt Sports skirt, on a fortuitous day at Runner’s Corner, the skies opened with angels singing, because here it was: a skirt that was long enough to cover my Mary Lous (no thigh gap here!)! a pink running skirt! a pink running skirt with pockets.

It was so perfectly what I was searching for that I almost didn’t buy it, because what if it chafed anyway? But I took a chance (plus it was on sale), tried the skirt, fell in love.

I own a lot of Skirt Sports skirts now. I own zero shorts—I only run in skirts. I wear some of the longer skirts to work instead of to work out. I hike in Skirt Sports. I wear Skirt Sports capris and running tights under my dresses and paired with boots. Every spring and fall I have waited with anticipation to see the new colors and patterns. I have told friends and family members about Skirt.

Because there really is something about running in functional clothing that also happens to be cute. It lifts your spirits. Sometimes it is the thing that motivates you to take off your pajamas and go running. It’s that feeling when you’re sweating and your face is caked with salt and there’s a smear of dirt across your calf, but your skirt still makes you feel like you don’t look entirely disgusting.

It’s the fact that you can run like a badass and you don’t need black, sloppy men’s shorts to prove it.

But it’s not only the skirts.

When I became a Skirt Sports ambassador, I became a part of a community. And it’s not a community of mean girls. It’s not about who’s the fastest or skinniest or prettiest. It is welcoming and inclusive. It is a group of women who understand: the highs and lows of training, the way an injury is not just about your ankle or knee, the way just the memory of endorphins rushing your brain keeps you hitting the trail. Size doesn’t matter; age and race don’t matter. Your sport doesn’t matter—hike, run, bike, swim, paddleboard, yoga, weight lifting, whatever.

It is a community that embraces movement, that embraces each individual finding and then pursuing her passions and goals.

So today, the day that marks the beginning of the finish line, when Skirt Sports will likely be ending, I want to celebrate what this company and these women have brought me.

I’m still running by myself, but I’m doing it with pink on. (Or aqua or purple or bright floral prints or even, yes, black sometimes.)

I’m still running by myself, but I’m also running with the voices of so many women in my head, encouraging me with their stories, triumphs, defeats, restarts, accomplishments, kindness, generosity. Sisterhood.

My closet is full of running clothes.

My heart is full because I have felt loved and included and because I have been given the opportunity to love and support others as well.

Sure…there will be other cute running clothes. Partly because of Skirt Sports’ impact, the exercise-clothing industry has changed. Other companies have cute patterns and pockets.

But no other company has given me what skirt has.

Support.

Kinship.

Inspiration.

Respect.

Transformation.

I am celebrating.

But I am also grieving.


2020 Goals: March Recap and April Ambitions

Keeping up with my goal to COMMIT this year, here’s an accounting of my March progress and a list of my April goals.

MARCH GOALS:

  1. My EXERCISE goals were to run 50 miles and to go to 10 ballet barre classes. March goals running
    COVID-19 put an end to the ballet barre classes, but I did get in three before the craziness escalated. As the month progressed, Kendell wanted to walk with me, so I walked a lot. More than I ran. I am feeling like getting outside and moving is more important than ever right now, and it matters more that I do it and less HOW. My mileage this month:

6 runs, 23.55 miles
6 walks, 24.55 miles
2 hikes (Dry Creek and Grove Creek), 10.28 miles
58.38 total miles

March goals dry canyon hike

  1. My WRITING goals were to blog two times a week, work on four poems, and finish an essay. Almost total fail. I did blog 8 times, but I worked on zero poems or essays. The enforced togetherness of the quarantine is not fantastic for my writing goals.
  2. My QUILTING goals were to finish the octagon flower blocks, bind Jake’s quilt, and figure out the process for Kaleb’s quilt. I finished a hot pad I made with some scraps from my Crazy Paving quilt (it is named "purple chakra") March goals purple chakra
    and the octagon flowers and I bound Jake’s quilt, but he hasn’t used it yet because I haven’t dared to take it to the laundromat. I did not figure out the process for Kaleb’s quilt but I did print out the pattern so that is a start! My other goal was to NOT quilt as much, and I did accomplish that; I made one little mug rug and I shopped for fabrics for another table runner, but that was all.
  3. My SCRAPBOOKING goal was to make some layouts, and I did that! I organized and executed my Christmas in March week (which is extending into April!) and I made 10 layouts. March goals scrapbooking
  4. My READING goal was to finish the two books I hadn’t and to start The Dark Tower series. Reading has taken the second-biggest hit during the quarantine for me (writing is first), but I did accomplish these goals. But I haven’t read much at all.

March goals dark tower

APRIL GOALS:

  1. EXERCISE: Eight runs (two a week) and as many walks as Kendell or anyone else wants to go on. Three hikes. Pick up strength training again by logging in to my Beach Body account and/or Peleton app. Also, MOVE MORE while I’m working at home. On Wednesday I took several 5-minute breaks where I did a little bit of exercise—jumping jacks, planks, burpees, each one followed by some gentle cobra poses—and my back felt 100% better at the end of the day.
  2. WRITING: Blog twice a week. A couple of days ago, I got sucked into a YouTube add for a Master Class by Joyce Carol Oates. Three things she said I want to remember: “The most destructive thing to our creativity is constant interruption.” “If you feel like you are a writer, you probably are…Take that instinct and turn it into a craft.” “What we all need is the psychological uplift of finishing something.” I was listening to this at the same time I saw that meme about how if you don’t finally do the thing you’ve been putting off doing during the quarantine, you obviously didn’t NOT do it because you didn’t have the time, but lacked motivation. If I don’t finally settle down and write something, anything, during the quarantine, will I ever? Well…who knows? What I want to do is to look at it like a challenge. I WILL be interrupted. I love my people and I love that we are together, but just their presence in the house makes me feel less able to write. (Does blogging count as writing? Yes…but also, sort of no, because it is easier. It doesn’t have the challenge of being chosen by an editor in order to be seen, and so in that sense it is more of a writing exercise.) So, I am making my goal smaller and more specific: I am going to finish an essay I started a while ago and submit it to the Ploughshares emerging writer contest.
  3. QUILTING: Actually make the table runner. Start on Kaleb’s quilt.
  4. SCRAPBOOKING: Finish the Christmas layouts I had planned and make three layouts for my family stories album.
  5. READING: Commit to reading for 30 minutes a day. I have the time. I’m going to try to not let myself feel guilty about this.
  6. BONUS GOAL: Right now, it feels like packages are life. I keep placing online orders for stuff I don’t need. So, I’m setting the goal of MAILING more than I order. I’m going to make and send two cards a week.

Of course...with all that is going on, maybe the best goal is just to survive! How did your March goals go? 


2020 Goals: February Recap and March List

Trying to be more proactive with my goals this year, I’m breaking things down by the month instead of thinking bigger. My word this year is “commit” and while I am not 100% there yet (nor will I probably ever be), I’m feeling good about my progress. I am much more apt to work on my goals if I put them out into the world, so I’m going to attempt to do this each month, either on Instagram (I am @amylsorensen) or here: review the previous month’s work and list the current month’s goals.

February Goals:

  1. Exercise for 30 minutes every day. I didn’t accomplish this, mostly because of a strained hamstring I didn’t want to aggravate. But, I did exercise MUCH more in February than January. Almost 50 miles, two hikes (it’s been muddy here and Kendell can’t deal with mud), and seven ballet barre classes. I’m OK with not making the goal exactly because it still helped me to move more. Goal recap running feb mar
  2. Push ups and planks every day. Yeah…totally tanked on this one. I think I managed it for three or four days, and then random days here and there.
  3. Work on a writing project every Monday, something that is not my blog. Another miss. I am realizing that when I am deep into the quilting process, I put everything else on hold. (Even stuff like laundry and fixing dinner.) However, I did have some ideas that I put down on paper, and besides, see #4.
  4. Blog twice a week—posts that aren't book reviews. I wrote nine blog posts this month, one of which was a book review, so YES. I accomplished this goal! My favorite post was the one about raisin bread and while it is perhaps too personal, this post about my continuously developing relationship with my faith was cathartic and helped me to understand myself better. I feel like picking up a blogging habit again will contribute to my writing progress as well, even if no one reads my posts, because I am remembering how satisfying it is to spend an hour crafting something with words.
  5. Make my January family stories scrapbook layout and one other one from last year. Remember that all-encompassing thing I do with quilting? Yeah…my February quilt is pretty much the only crafting I did this month. BUT. I did get the photos printed for January 2020 and December 2019 for the family stories album, and I have the journaling formatted and ready to print. Plus I gathered up a bunch of photos I had already printed for other 2019 family pages and got them organized into the correct months. So, not fully completed, but progress!
    Goal recap scrapbooking feb mar
    I also managed to buy a few new supplies! These papers don't go with these photos but they are all new.

March Goals:

EXERCISE: 10 ballet barre classes and run 50 miles. I’ll take whatever hiking I can get but it’s so dependent on weather right now I don’t want to set any goals. PUSH UPS AND PLANKS! I know those are so good for me. Also, continue working on my year-long flexibility goals, which are getting my splits back and perfecting dancer pose.

WRITING: Continue blogging twice a week. Finish four poems and polish my pie-crust essay.

QUILTING: Finish the last straggly bits of quilting projects: the octagon flower blocks and bind Jake’s quilt. At the end of the month, sit down and figure out the process to follow for the quilt I want to make for Kaleb. I have the pattern, but the process and fabric requirements are for fat quarters and I’m making it out of yardage and scraps, so I need to create a process. (I’m not going to do this until the end of the month so as to give myself a few more chances at finding any other fabrics I need to include—the main fabric is sharks, and the accent fabric is white with wavy aqua stripes, so I’m just looking for bits of aqua or navy or ocean-themed (but not cutesy) to finish out the collecting phase.

SCRAPBOOKING: Make some layouts! I am going to focus on the family stories layouts but I also have pictures printed for some other layouts I’m excited to make. Also put together my 50 Hikes album—all of the photos are printed and the journaling is written, just need to put it all together. (This won’t really be a scrapbook, per se. A few little embellishments but it’s mostly just photos and journaling in a 6x8 album. I meant to finish this for Christmas for Kendell’s gift. Then for our anniversary. Guess I’ll just give it to him as a “happy Wednesday!” gift!)

READING: I’m almost done with the two novels I’ve been meandering through. Then I’ll start The Dark Tower series.

What are you working on these days?


Winter Running

Somehow we’ve developed a President’s Day tradition: we eat a local Chinese lunch buffet with Kaleb. We’ve done this for five years now; sometimes other kids have gone with us but it’s always Kaleb. He doesn’t eat anything but the fried rice and this Asian-flavored chicken wings, but he loves going there.

The older I get, though, the less I enjoy a buffet. I don’t love overeating and I actually can’t eat as much anymore.

So I definitely needed to exercise yesterday.

When we can make it work, Kendell and I like to go out to exercise together. Because of his hip replacements, he can’t run much, but we start on the trail together. We go to a local river parkway, which is a paved trail running right next to a river along the bottom of a canyon. (It’s one of my favorite things about living where we do.) We choose a time and start our watches, and then I run and he walks/jogs. We both go up for the same amount of time and then turn around, so we usually get back to the parking lot at the same time.

Yesterday when we were dressed and ready to go, we looked outside and realized: holy cow, it’s windy. Then we looked at the temp and realized: it’s also cold.

We looked at each other.

Kendell teased, “remember, you don’t like wind? Remember Loch Lake?”

“Well, there’s a difference between four hours in a blizzard and 45 minutes in wind,” I shot back.

(He thinks he’s funny.)

We drove to the trailhead anyway, Kendell pointing out along the way how the flags were all flying straight in the wind. I told him we’d be fine.

(I told myself I would be fine.)

I realized something. Two years ago, before we started hiking in the winter, given those conditions we would’ve just stayed home.

Only over the last few years have I learned that exercising in the cold is a thing you can do. Before that I was definitely a fair-weather friend of running. I’d do most of my winter workouts inside, grudgingly, or, you know: skip exercising for most of the winter, and then have to catch up all spring to get back my fitness levels.

I still exercise less than I should during the winter. Some of that is due to the inversions we get, as I’m unwilling to expose my lungs to deep breathing when the air pollution is high.

Some of it is that, now I know I can exercise outside in the cold, I really, really don’t want to run on the treadmill.

But I definitely go out way more than I used to. Like yesterday. Partly it’s because I figured out this amazing truth: they make clothes for winter workouts!  I dressed just warmly enough: wool long sleeve and headband, warm-ish tights with a skirt on top. It was chilly when we got out of the car, but that’s the other lesson I’ve learned about winter exercsiding. Once you start moving, you get warm quickly. It’s actually surprising how cold it has to be for you to feel really cold—for me, as long as I’m moving I’m warm unless it’s in the teens or colder.

Unless it’s windy.

Wind makes it feel so much colder.

But one other thing I’ve learned, after twenty years of running on this trail, is where the wind is strongest. So we started at a less-windy trailhead (there are several places to park along the trail) and went up higher into the canyon, and the wind was just a breeze up there.

In fact, my run was gorgeous. I was comfortable and felt strong and the blister I’ve been nursing felt OK.

Of course, as soon as I finished my run and started stretching, I started shivering and I required a long, hot bath to warm up again. (So sad.)

View while I stretched winter running

But I just wanted to toss it out into the universe for anyone else who isn’t sure: winter running is not only possible, it is lovely. You don’t overheat. You don’t get salty. You don’t start feeling dehydrated. It is a sere beauty you run through, quiet and calm sometimes, windy others. If there is water it runs blacker in the winter, a quicksilver, silent companion. If you happen to have a snowstorm begin while you’re out there, don’t panic. Running in snow is lovely, too, the flakes tapping your shoulders and hands and nose in friendly hellos.

To get out into the winter takes the right gear, knowledge of the area, and just this belief: believing you can makes you know you can.

(Which must be a truth that is applicable to many of life’s situations.)


Thankful 13 10k Race Recap

I’ve wanted to run a race on Thanksgiving for a long time, but it’s never felt like I could do it. Not the race itself, but working it in with the busyness of Thanksgiving morning, especially the past few years when I’ve made the whole meal on my own.

This year, though, since we were going out to eat, I decided to run the Thankful 13 race in Lehi, Utah. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time, partly because I ran another race done by the same company a few years ago and I LOVE the shirt from that race. (It was a Halloween race so I can really only wear it in September and October without looking weird, but it’s perfect: exactly the right fit and thumb holes!) They added a 10k option this year, which is perfect for me right now, as I’ve been concentrating on building my base and consistency (and improving my form and cadence) over adding mileage. Plus it took us awhile to decide for certain what we were doing for Thanksgiving, so I didn’t have enough time to train properly for a half.

10k it is!

My friend Wendy was going to walk the 10k with another friend coming from Salt Lake, so we drove together. I almost never go to races with a friend so this was so nice for me. We were a little worried about the forecasted snow but it was just barely starting to swirl when we got to the parking lot, so I left the hat I’d brought and the warmer gloves in her car.

Thankful 13 friends

One way to judge a race: are there enough porta potties at the start? There were roughly 50 and no bathroom line so I took that as a good sign! Wendy and I timed it pretty well, so we just parked, walked over to the bathroom, met up with her friend for a picture, and then they were calling for the 10k racers to gather at the starting line.

The race started right on time (another indication of a well-run race). It had started snowing for real—not thick snow, but a consistent flutter fall of pretty white flakes. The bridges we had to cross were pretty slippery, and then the course went onto the Thanksgiving Point golf course. The path there is stamped concrete and holy cow it was slippery. As a fall is one of my biggest fears whenever I go running, I ran as much of this part on the snowy grass instead of the paved path as I could.

Thankful 13 slippery 4x6

After the golf course, there is an out-and-back section on the Jordan River pathway. I’ve run this path a lot of times (I used to go and run there while Kendell was taking tests at the MATC building when he was working on his degree) and I thought about several memories I have at that section. Most strong is the day Becky called me because she was having an anxiety attack on the freeway and I stopped running to talk to her until she was OK. That feeling is that spot of the trail, which is a weird thing I can’t entirely explain.

On the –back part I passed Wendy going the other way and it was fun to wave! A little bit later, the trail merged with the 5k runners and HOLY COW. I did not like this. It was annoying to be in the middle of a 10k and all of a sudden feel like you were in the first mile, dodging and swerving in a crowd of other runners. Plus there were a lot of kids and they don’t really know race etiquette (like, don’t stop in the middle of the path to wait for your friend) and they were dropping stuff and everyone was forming clumps of people who were hard to get around. I had to remind myself at this point that everyone was there to have fun and it wasn’t like I was going to win, so if I had to slow down a bit it would be OK.

I was still glad when the 5k peeled off though.

Thankful 13 scenery 6x8

(This was a tiny loop off the main trail just before the 5k and 10k merged. Literally not one person around me, swoon. But only for, like, 30 seconds.)

I am still doing walking breaks. (I think that with my knee condition I will probably always do walking breaks now. Part of me feels some sort of embarrassment about this. Part of me doesn’t care because as long as I can keep running I’m good.) When I stopped at about 4.5 miles, the woman who was about 15 feet in front of me also stopped to walk. Then I heard a man behind me who said “don’t stop sweetie! You’re doing great, you’ve got this!” and I said “Oh, thanks! I’ll start running again in two minutes!” and then the man who said that passed me and I realized it was the other woman’s husband and he was talking to her.

HA! I giggled for a bit about this!

Thankful 13 race photo 1

Another nice thing about this race: you can download the race photos for FREE if you just want social media sized files, and for $1.99 for printable sizes. It's pretty rare I actually get a good race photo anyway (I'm still sad about the race photos from my last marathon), but it irks me to have to drop another $50 for the race photos. Not that I don't value photographers, I know their work is difficult, but I think the RACE should pay them. Two bucks is reasonable! I'd even go up to ten! Anyway, the first photo spot was in the mixed-with-5k-mess and I was behind a big group, but for this last one no one was really around me AND I spotted the photographer with enough time to wave!

I texted Kendell so he would know I was getting close and started running again. And I had to laugh at my body at that point. The longest training run I’d done was about four and a half miles, so when I started running again at 4.5 miles, I swear my legs complained. They resisted moving again. They were like…ummmm, what are we doing? It’s stopping time! But I persevered and finished. Kendell was at the finish line and I have to say: I’m always so glad to see him there. Not just because he takes some awesome photos but because it is so good to see a friendly, supportive face in the crowd. He thought I was wearing something different so he didn’t recognize me at first; I finally caught his eye by waving at him.

Thankful 13 finish 4x6

The snow fell the whole time I was running but it never got so thick that it felt dangerous. I started regretting my second layer about five minutes in to the race but left it on until about two miles in. (I really hate running with something tied around my waist.) Since there was just snow but no wind, it was just perfect running conditions. I’m glad I ran it, but I do have one complaint: the shirt! I got a large because that’s the size of my Halloween race shirt I love…and it is way too small. Still has thumb holes but it’s way too tight on my chest (which is hilarious if you know me!), so maybe I’ll have to try it again next year.


Thoughts on Beautiful Bodies

I was waiting in line at Costco in my exercise clothes today—

and before you think “oh, hell, what is wrong with you? wearing your exercise clothes everywhere?” (and by “you” I mean, sure, whomever is reading this, but also the uptight voice in my head that says stuff like that to keep me in my place, to remind me that there are rules and wearing your exercise clothes everywhere is a clear violation of Modesty or Social Fashion Rules or just Plain Old Personal Pride in your Appearance), let me explain that sometimes I like to run to somewhere. So if Kendell and I are going to, say, Costco, I’ll leave 45 minutes or so before him, run there, stretch for a bit, and then go to Costco with him when he gets there in the car. Doing that helps keep running fresher for me because then it wasn’t my same old route around the park.

Before I got to Costco, I finished at Starbucks, because it has a railing that is the perfect height for stretching. It was chilly and when I stopped running and breathing hard, I could smell the cold, new snow on Timp, mixing with that coffee smell, and I stretched and I was smiling because I was thinking, again “I just really love running, I’m so glad I went.” I had an intrusive thought: all those coffee drinkers in Starbucks probably think you’re weird stretching out here but I shushed it because I was happy and grateful and just the right amount of hot from running and cooled by the wind and because sometimes that runner’s high is subtle but so delicious.

Anyway.

I wanted to run somewhere, so I ran to Starbucks where Kendell picked me up and then we went to Costco (which is on the far north side of the same parking lot). We gathered our stuff—milk, zucchini, a new bath towel just because there was a coupon and the soft minty green one was pretty, some chocolate caramels even though I’m not supposed to eat chocolate—and had a few samples, and then I was waiting in line.

An older woman (I learned during the course of our conversation that she is 68) got in line behind me. She said, “I hope this doesn’t sound strange, but I think you have a beautiful body. I mean, I love your cute outfit (I had on THIS rad plaid capri with a skirt), but really, your body is gorgeous.” And then she hugged me.

This could’ve been a weird experience. OK: it was slightly weird for a stranger to tell me I have a beautiful body. But, I confess I hugged her back.

Because life has been a little bit brutal lately. (When will life stop being a little bit brutal?)

Because perimenopause is a bitch. A bitch who’s added a layer of belly fat I can’t seem to shake. Well—that’s not entirely true. I can shake it, and that’s part of the problem. I don’t want it to shake. I want it go just go away.

Because I’m trying to deal with a medical issue that’s not lethal but is really annoying and sometimes painful enough to send me to the ER.

Because I spent the morning mourning.

Because I really don’t feel beautiful, or strong, or powerful these days. I feel like I am a wrinkled lady with greying hair who’s lost her way and maybe wasted her life. (Except the kids. The kids were never a waste. I love them.)

This woman in line behind me at Costco continued talking to me. She talked about how women should take care of their bodies so they are healthy until they die. She talked about how she didn’t learn that until she was 65, but in the past three years she’s turned it around and is taking care of her body. She told me that I need to take especial care to keep my glutes strong.

Then I paid for my stuff and she said “don’t forget your glutes!” and then I thanked her and told her to take care of her own glutes. Then I left Costco.

I’m still a chubby, middle-aged woman who can run but not very fast, with disproportionate thighs (or maybe my waist is the problem?) and a softening waistline. I’m still annoyed at myself to find that I am here, at 47, still trying to figure out my life.

I still don’t know how to believe her that I have a beautiful body.

But I felt like The Universe was paying attention to me today. Not because of beauty, strength, speed, strong abs, or a cute running skirt. But because The Universe knew I needed to feel loved.

And for a little while I did.


My Solstice to Equinox Streak: Thoughts, Results, New Directions

On June 21 I set out to accomplish a goal: MOVE EVERY DAY between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.

Ste streak stewart falls start
To make sure I didn't miss the very first workout of my streak, I did this hike after work. There wasn't a ton of light at the waterfall so this pic isn't fantastic. What isn't apparent, unless you hike here often, is how the area was just decimated by our winter of heavy snows. Trees down everywhere!

So here it is, September 24, the day after the autumn equinox, and I'm thinking about how I did and what I learned and where I'll go from here.

I did 20 hikes including yesterday's, which was, while short, an epic one because there was a moose on the trail, and we had to wait for him to move before we could go around.

Ste streak end aspen grove trail
Same trail head as the June hike, but a different direction so a totally different waterfall. Early evening so still not a lot of light! This is a fun trail with several little scrambly spots and amazing views. And moose!

I'm feeling too lazy to scroll back through Strava and count my runs, but I ran about 45 times during my streak. Two of my runs were on the beach in Florida!

I did a few trail runs (three to be exact) and want to do more, but I think I need some trail running shoes and I haven't made it to the running store yet.

I went to one High Fitness class, which I really enjoyed but my knees sort-of didn't. (Squats are basically impossible for me.)

The rest of the days I did yoga or strength training of some sort.

I missed either one day or four days, I can't decide. When we were in Florida, on the days we were at Universal Studios I didn't do any other exercising besides walking around the park. I think that counts, as we went at least ten miles every day, but it wasn't all sustained, fast, high-cardio walking, so maybe it doesn't. (I know, it's my streak so my rules, but I can't help but think it was cheating.)

My results:

I lost not a single ounce, nor a millimeter of measurement anywhere.

That is, of course, super frustrating. Actually, as I sit down to write this, I find myself almost in tears over that fact. Especially because during that time, I developed a medical condition that requires me to give up chocolate, tomatoes, spicy foods, citrus, coffee, tea, yogurt. Chocolate was the one indulgence I wasn't restraining myself with at all, but after my diagnosis I have had almost none (one mint brownie at our city-employee lunch, one mint brownie at my aunt's funeral, and, yes: A bag of almond M&Ms I bought when we were in Florida because I was pissed at Kendell, and it was actually that moment when I realized how much I've been depending on chocolate for my emotional stability).

So, healthier eating and more exercising for (almost) three months, and not even a pound down? Not even a half inch somewhere?

In fact, my belly is even bigger.

Yes, that makes me feel like crying. (Actually, I *am* crying.) I had my gynecologist test my blood and my levels are normal. I have an appointment next month with my GP, but I already know what he's going to say: something about how my body responds to cortisol, and how the changing levels of hormones effects belly fat. {{{shrug}}} (Cue me going off on a rant about how the medical community is skewed towards men's health, as you can be damn sure if there were a falling hormone level that made something distressing happen to men, they'd have solved the problem decades ago.)

BUT.

I do still feel like I had some results, if only that I changed some of my attitudes. I learned that having a goal helps me to be more consistent. I've watched people on IG or in my running groups do running streaks and right now I can't do that. But this little goal of mine, a moving streak? It changed my thought processes and got me more dedicated to always making sure I take care of what my body needs.

I also learned that I have a LONG way to go as far as strength goes. Mostly this is because strength training is so boring to me. After I finish a run or a hike, my heart is lifted, my spirit is lighter. During a run or a hike I feel that happening. During a weight training session I'm just…bored.

But I know I need it. Especially as I've done more over the past months, I can see where I am weak. I definitely have some asymmetry going on, my lazy glutes are still lazy (I have been known to actually TALK to my glutes on a long uphill hike to get them to do something other than go along for the ride), it's hard for me to work my quads.

Clearly I'm OK with getting my cardio in. I think, knock on wood and barring any injuries, I will continue to be more consistent with cardio. So for my next streak—now that I've streaked once, I want to keep doing it—I am going to concentrate on muscle work. I will still run and hike (and hopefully do more High Fitness classes, maybe just once every other week for my knees' sake), but my goal for today until the winter solstice is to do some strength work EVERY DAY.

It's a strength streak!

Some ways I am going to accomplish this goal:

  1. Use the tools I already have. I have some weights, a couple of yoga mats, and three books with workouts in them.
  2. Actually *use* the workouts I've saved or pinned on social media.
  3. Acquire a few more tools: heavier weights and some resistance bands.
  4. I haven't decided for sure on this one, but: sign back up for Ballet Barre classes. It is SO expensive. But I loved them when I went. But I never managed to go consistently, even though I was paying for them. But I know it would help me. But I feel weird showing up by myself when everyone else seems to be friends (probably that's the real reason I wasn't consistent before). But maybe if I went consistently I would make friends? Why is this a complicated decision?
  5. Post about it. (Not every day, but more consistently than I did with my solstice-to-equinox streak.)

Also, just going to include this other goal: I am searching for a half marathon to do near the end of October or beginning of November. I haven't really pushed myself to up my miles, and I think a race would help with that. Seriously considering the Moab Trail half marathon and I can't tell if the little thrill of fear I feel at that is because I'm actually afraid or if it's just excitement at a new challenge.

Did you streak with me? How did it go? And if not, what are your upcoming fitness or health goals?