Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Singing in the rain and other smiles

Early in the morning the sun begins to poke through.


On my list of fun and stupendous things to do in 2019 is to run or walk the 10 mile Crim race in Flint this coming August. I know it’s something I can walk, barring some sort of injury, but walking takes forever and I’m sure I’m going to want to run some of it.

So I’m trying to stick to a training schedule of sorts.

I’ve narrowed it down to one day a week of trying to run faster, (Don’t laugh) one day of running longer, and one day of just getting some miles in.

Lots of these in bloom today.

Today was my longer run day, and the plan was to do 8 miles at my local bike path through the woods park. Usually I kind of dread the ‘long run’ days, but this morning I woke up excited to see how it was going to go.

It’s done now and I thought maybe you’d wonder how it went, so I’ll tell you, mile by mile. Come on, let’s get started.

It’s a long and winding path.

Mile one started out a bit slow. My excuse is that I was several yards away from the car when I realized I was still wearing my glasses. For a moment I thought about leaving them on, but sweat and running and glasses just doesn’t work for me, so I turned around and tossed them in the car. I’m sure that’s why that first mile went a little long even though it’s almost all downhill, and I usually use it as my shakedown run, checking to see what parts of my body are not into running and might give me a bit of grief. This time there was just a tiny, vague twinge in my right knee.

All systems go!

A bit of fungus art.

Just past the one mile marker I was startled as a grackel (bird) exploded out of a tree and across the path right in front of me. I had been looking for my (as I tend to call him) Mr. Bluebird who has regularly sat in that tree watching me go by. Last time I was out there Mrs. Bluebird sat there and observed my slow progress. I guess they’re both busy right now with babies.

And beyond the two mile marker I stopped quickly to examine the wet tracks of something that had crossed the path not long before my arrival. Maybe a dog, but more likely a coyote. Though I’ve seen them before and they never bother me, I picked up my pace, from a slow hobble to what I like to call hobble+.

See those dark spots? Wet paw prints from something.

Shortly after the three mile marker I ran into two chipmunks goofing off, chasing each other on the path. I decided to call them Chip and Dale. They were having a lot of fun until they noticed me. Then they stood up on their hind legs and watched me. I stopped to watch them. Then I moved closer to try for a picture and they streaked off making all sorts of chipmunk noises to warn the woods about the big noisy clomping person out on the path. Their warning was at least three times as big as their little bodies!

A couple of people on bikes enjoying the morning.

The beginning of mile four goes through some deep woods, one of my favorite parts of this path. Less wet than before, so fewer mosquitoes, but still pretty, and shady for those summer runs. By the end of the mile, though, the woods give way to open meadow with a bit of a breeze that I enjoyed. I had a hard time deciding what to wear this morning, and ended up with shorts and a long sleeve technical shirt. It was a damp 52 when I started my run. Turns out long sleeves were a mistake, I should have worn a tank top even though I feel fat in tank tops.

The sky got a little worrisome.

I was watching the sky as I ran through the meadow, making note of ominous clouds way off to the west. As I hit the four mile marker I felt the first drop of rain. Of course. I was the furthest from the car that I could be. Wouldn’t matter if I turned around and went back or kept going forward, the distance would be the same. I kept going and smiled at a woman on a bike going the other way. We both shrugged our shoulders as if to say….”What are you gonna do when it rains, right?” I figured if she hustled she could make it back to the car before the rain truly hit. Me? Well, I ratcheted it up to hobble++.

During mile five I concentrated on getting along faster. That one rain drop had been a warning, and I knew it could be a downpour at any moment. But I stopped to take a picture of a swath of yellow flowers down in a swampy area. I don’t know what the flowers are, but I was pleasantly surprised by two duck-like birds that rose up out of them when I took my shot. I don’t know what they were either. They were the size of ducks, but were both dark. I didn’t stay to try and figure it out. Time was ticking, the clouds were rolling, and the mosquitoes were swarming every time I stopped.

Don’t know what that yellow stuff is. If you look close you can see some blurry birds flying out of the swamp.

Mile six put me back at what I now affectionately call chipmunk junction. As I approached I saw several chipmunks running from one side of the path to the other, chasing each other and having a good time. They began to scatter as I got close, but I think there were at least six of them. Lots of warnings went up as I hobbled through, and I’m sure they were glad to see the backside of me.

With two miles left to go a few more raindrops cooled my face. Just a gentle rain, as if someone knew I was hot and tired. I slowed my hobble down and smiled. And then I heard the slow flapping of something big off to my left. Something with really big wings was taking off, though I couldn’t see it. I figured it was a hawk, or maybe a crane. But a few minutes later two beautiful blue herons flew right overhead, low and slow, they were just beautiful. I smiled wider. And then, for the rest of that mile I whistled “Moon River” from our concert last Tuesday night…and eventually that made me laugh…the incongruity of a hot, sweaty, slightly overweight, middle aged woman hobbling slowly through the woods whistling while smiling at the birds.

Tempting to sit for a spell…but it’s going to rain.

When I hit the 7 mile marker, with only one mile left to go, I stopped for a second and itched the mosquito bite behind my right knee. Then I took a big breath and contemplated the long hill before me, that last mile, mostly up, and started the slow process of getting back to my car.

And out of the woods came my Mr. Bluebird, just a quick flit out to the path, a bank of brilliant wings, and he was gone. But I smiled to see him and picked up my pace.

When I hit the steepest part of the hill I upped the game to hobble++, smiling all the way. At the top of the hill, with a quarter mile to go, two flickers flew ahead of me, the white triangles on their behinds showing me the way. I stomped in celebration on the 8 mile mark painted on the path and skipped the short bit back to the car as rain beginning to fall in earnest.

Hurry! The rain is coming!

I beat the storm with my own two feet, no bike required. The lessons learned from this run? Well, definitely that two motivators are mosquitoes and impending weather. Summer is closing in fast, no doubt about it and I’m going to have to get faster…

…because I know from experience it’s hard to outrun a black fly.

Lots of these in bloom today too.


25 Comments

Running toward the past

Once upon a time, more than two decades ago, I joined a online group of women who wanted to run. I met some of them out at Kensington, my favorite park, and that first day we walked and ran around the lake, eight miles. We walked the uphills and ran the downhills and had a great time talking.

Today I ran behind this guy for quite awhile, but at 3 miles I turned back and he kept going.

Over the years we’ve run plenty of training runs either together in person or together in cyberspace. Plenty of races too, including several half and full marathons. We’ve even been on a few road trips to do races, those are the most fun!

And after each race or long run I’d post my ‘nature report,’ things I’d seen along the way. Even in marathons I could usually remember one thing from each mile to comment on in my race report delivered to our common website after I was home.

The cowslips and most of the trillium are gone, but I found a few still blooming.

Then, ten years ago I ended up with a stress fracture in my right foot, training for a local half marathon, and the running, for me, stopped. I stayed in touch with the group though, cheering on those who were still running, celebrating life events like children’s weddings and the birth of grandchildren too.

The group is much smaller now, but they still support my attempts to get back to running. On my 60th birthday I met some of them for a race in a small town several miles away. Some of them did a half marathon, I did the 5K and then waited to cheer them in after their race. (If you want a giggle, read the post at the link above.)

I don’t know what this is, it was about knee high, all these blossoms are connected to one stem.

Still, even after that I didn’t get back into the running groove. And time moved on.

I miss my friends, I miss the comradery of preparing for a race together, even if it is online. I miss writing my nature reports.

There’s quite a bit of this, reminds me of perennial geranium in my garden.

So a couple of months ago I registered for a local race. It’s a 10 mile race in Flint Michigan at the end of August, and I used to run it all the time – I think the first time I ran it was 1990. In the past decade I’ve run the 5 mile event, and I’ve walked the 10 mile, but I haven’t really trained to run the long, hot and humid race.

And now that I’m registered, well, I have to get cracking. So for several weeks I’ve been trying to get out the door every other day at least for a long walk. And in this past month or so I’ve been adding running bits.

This little whippersnapper passed me a couple of times. Then she’d walk and I’d pass her.

At first just a quarter within each mile. Sometimes not even that. Some days are just walk days. But this week I had a four mile run/walk where I ran the middle two quarters of each mile back to back. A half a mile each mile run.

OK, so run might not be exactly the right word. It’s not that I’m fast. But still.

Then she got further ahead and when I went around the next corner she was long gone.

Some weeks are better than others, and I’m worried that I’m nowhere near ready to do 10 miles, but I’m trying not to get injured, so I’m going slow.

I’ll be traveling a lot this summer which always makes it more difficult for me to train. But I hope that we’ll be doing lots of walking and somehow I’ll stay in shape.

Hot and sweaty but still smiling.

Once I get in shape of course.

Set the phone camera on ‘selfie’ and held it under the may-apple leaves, shooting up.


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How to celebrate 60

Strong women.   Every single one of them.

Strong women. Every single one of them.

It’s certain there are about 3,500 women, mostly in this state, who are having trouble walking down stairs today. And tomorrow may be only slightly better.

If you’re not a runner you have no idea the quadricep carnage that occurred Sunday morning over in Grand Rapids the result of the Gazelle Girls half marathon and 5K, a women’s only road race. Thinking about it now, if you are a guy, this was the place to be. More than 3000 fit women dressed in running gear swarmed the city.

But that’s probably another blog.

Friends race for the finish line

Friends race for the finish line

I turned 60 on Saturday, an age I’m not too happy about. But what better way to boost my confidence, convince myself that age is just a number, that I’m not old, that it’s going to all be OK, then to run a 5K for the first time in umpteen years.

Superhero giving out high fives

Superhero giving out high fives

Many of my friends ran the half marathon (13.2 miles), but I was thrilled to be running a 5K (3.1 miles). I’ve been walking so when this race came up, a time to reconnect with many of my cyber running friends, I thought I’d throw a little jogging into the training mix and be good to go.

Superhero sees his mom coming!

Superhero sees his mom coming!

And that’s exactly what I did. I went on more walks than I might have if I wasn’t ‘training’ and I threw in some quarter miles of jogging sometimes. Maybe once a week. Or so. Surely that would be enough.

Enjoying the moment

Enjoying the moment

I didn’t carry a camera with me on my 5K race, but so many times along the route I wished I had it with me. So you’ll have to use your imagination when I tell you I followed a woman with a pink shirt that read “too inspired to be tired” most of the race. And that the shadows of a mom and her two seven year old twins followed mine. And then they caught up with me. I ran either just in front or just behind them most of the race. They were adorable. And yes… they finished before I did. Seven year olds.

Running mom into the finish line

Running mom into the finish line

You’ll have to use your imagination when I tell you many women were wearing tiaras or tutus. Or both. A majority of them were dressed in the wildly beautiful bright colors that seem to be in style these days. The shoes pounding the pavement in front of me were beautiful. I so wanted to shoot them. With a camera. Seriously. A camera.

Suddenly I was tired.  I sat on the curb and shot through the fence.

Suddenly I was tired. I sat on the curb and shot through the fence.

Pick up your feet, pick up your feet was my mantra as I kept watch of the crumbling city pavement. I’m too old, now, to fall. I could break a hip, land in a nursing home. It felt quite a bit like that’s where I should be anyway. Especially that last long uphill at the end, that final left turn toward the finish line. Pick up your feet, pick up your feet. Breath.

There was joy...

There was joy…

I went back to the hotel when I finished my race to get my camera because I couldn’t be that long without one. The photos here were taken while I was waiting for my half marathoner friends to come across the finish. There were lots of great people to watch. So many strong women. Such great family and friend support. Beautiful children excited to see their mom or sister or grandmother race by.

...there was angst.

…there was angst.

It was a wonderful way to celebrate my 60th birthday with friends who truly believe you are never old. As evidenced by our “Energizer Betty” who Sunday ran a half marathon at age 72. Who ran a marathon on her 70th birthday.

Our Betty!

Our Betty!

Who I want to be when I grow up.

Politics.  It's everywhere.  :)

Politics. It’s everywhere. 🙂

And there is one thing I know is true; 3.1 miles is a very long way to run. Thank goodness I didn’t have to do ten more!

Me and my water.

Me and my water.


21 Comments

WordPress photo challenge: Seasons

Here in lower Michigan we’ve been confused by the seasons. It’s supposed to be cold and snowy in February. In fact this time last year we had wind, drifts of snow, and frigid below zero temperatures.

So you can imagine our joy at the temperatures this February. And the lack of snow. Sure there are piles of it in the shadowy woods or where city trucks dump their street slush. But mostly, around here, it feels as though we dodged the winter bullet.

Temperatures in the 40’s F (4.44 C) had people running around town like it was the middle of summer. Out at the park I actually stalked a runner for this photo challenge.

I had just finished my own 3.5 mile walk/run, and was climbing into my car for the ride home when I spotted him starting out. I loved that he was wearing shorts in February and that his shirt was bright green. So I shoved the car into gear and raced to a parking lot one mile down the road, where I leaped out and trotted a ways up the path, positioning myself on a curve, pretending to take pictures of the dried up winter lake, when in fact what I wanted was him running in shorts in February in Michigan.

Warm run in February.

Warm run in February.

To show you that ‘seasons’ can’t always be predicted, and staying flexible is always important.

You can see other interpretations of this challenge at the original post. Or visit a few of my favorites here, here and here.

What season is it at your house? Please share with us, especially if it’s tropical. Because here in Michigan we know for sure that this little respite will be brief and winter will be back with a vengeance soon. So we’ll live vicariously through your photos until June or so when we can enjoy our own summer sun.

Just ignore that pile of snow.

Just ignore that pile of snow.


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Active winter

Sunday afternoon at the heron rookery.

Sunday afternoon at the heron rookery.


My folks moved to Alabama when I was working in the Upper Peninsula, so I stayed behind in Michigan. I’d visit them and sometimes meet their friends. As they introduced me to people who had lived their entire lives in the South the response was almost universally horror stricken. “You live in MICHIGAN? Doesn’t it get awfully cold there? And how do you handle all that snow??

Well, yes it does get cold here, and it snows too. Sometimes a lot. But seriously, we don’t sit in our homes and mope — we get out into the fresh air and enjoy it. It’s the only way to get through the winter, to not let it get us down. Because yes it does get old.

But not this year, at least not here. Not yet.

I was out at my favorite park on Sunday and was amazed at all the activity. though I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was chilly and clouds were chasing the sun, but it was a beautiful day. So I thought I’d show you what people in Michigan do on a winter weekend. There was hardly any snow on the ground, and people didn’t want to waste a chance to enjoy some time outside.

Nice day for a long run.

Nice day for a long run.

This particular park is centered on a very large lake. There’s an eight mile (12.8k) bike/walk/run paved path around the lake, and many other miles of paths through the hills and fields including nature paths through the woods.

It’s incredibly beautiful no matter the season.

People were out doing everything you could imagine. Aside from the expected walking and running, it’s a perfect place for well socialized dogs to take their humans for an afternoon walk.

Let's get going!

Let’s get going!

And the fishing is great too, no matter the season. Lots and lots of fisher people stand on the banks of the lake and catch their supper, as evidenced by the lures tangled in the high branches of a tree above the bike path.

Remnants from last summer.

Remnants from last summer.

But this time of year it’s all about ice fishing. I can’t say I understand that sport, but I fully support a person’s right to sit out on the cold lake staring at a hole in the ice waiting for a fish to strike. It’s gotta be fun for some people. Just not me.

It's a chilly sport.

It’s a chilly sport.

On this Sunday the weather was so warm that people were out riding their bikes…

Out for a spin.

Out for a spin.

…and even inline skating.

Faster than running, more exercise than biking.

Faster than running, more exercise than biking.

It felt like spring, and I’m sure we all wish that winter was over. Of course we know it’s not — snow and cold is forecast for later this week. If the snow arrives you might not want to be out on skates or your bike, but you can still wander the nature trails and feed the birds.

Feeding the birds.

Feeding the birds.

Yes there are signs out not to feed the wildlife, but enough people hold sunflower seeds out for the little birds that they now follow nature walkers around asking for a handout. It’s a special feeling to have a wild bird flit to your finger for an instant. Especially for young kids, and those of us still young at heart.

He weighs nothing at all.

He weighs nothing at all.

Sunday there was also a large group of artists at the park, each painting their vision of the paradise that is this park. That was so special it’s going to have to go into it’s own blog. Stay tuned.

So that’s what people will do on a nice winter day at a beautiful public park way up here in Michigan. The next semi-sunny day you have during the rest of this winter head out to a park near you. I guarantee you’ll see something interesting and fun and maybe even beautiful.

Regardless of whether or not it’s cold or there is snow on the ground.

Running in shorts.  In February in Michigan.

Running in shorts. In February in Michigan.


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What’s to miss about running.

Once upon a time a long time ago I use to run.  I was never fast but I got to the finish line.   I used to train for races along with a group of women I’d met online, and then in person at races, and then in person just because they are really cool women.  Then I got busy and I didn’t train as carefully as I should have and I tried to get ready for a half marathon having not run for awhile.  I ran too much too soon and too far and I suffered a hairline fracture in my foot.

The wheelers get ready to start their race.

The wheelers get ready to start their race.

I knew as I was going the longer distances that something was wrong.  I knew the morning of the race as I got up before light and packed the car with all the essentials, warm up clothes, clothes for after, water, food, extra socks, pins, number, that I shouldn’t be running this race.  Still.  I had trained for it.  People were expecting me.  It was an inaugural half marathon through a pretty part of the country.

I wanted to do it.

During the drive to the appointed meeting place I reached over in the dark to the stack of clothing on the other seat.  I didn’t feel my race bib with it’s number, that I KNEW I had put on the top of the pile.  I pulled into an empty parking lot and stopped under a light.  I searched the car.  No bib.  I drove frantically home and searched the house.  No bib.

It was a sign, I decided, that I wasn’t supposed to run this race.  I called my friend and told her I wasn’t coming.  Then I went back to bed.

And I never seriously ran again.  It’s hard to start from scratch.  It takes dedication and time and resolve.  And I can’t seem to get out the door.  It’s been years, the stress fracture is as healed as it’s going to be.  I’ve gone to a foot specialist and purchased custom orthotics.  I could do it.

Anticipation before the race.

Anticipation before the race.

I see runners when I’m driving to and from work, or when we’re on trips.  Portland Maine seemed to be the capital of young athletic fit bodies running half dressed through the streets.  All seem to float effortlessly.  I become enamored again with the concept.

But I don’t float.  I slog and running is not as romantic as I remembered.

 

Here they come!

Here they come!

This weekend I went up to Flint to see the start of the Crim Festival of Races.  Ten thousand plus runners and their supporters were celebrating healthy activity, and the love of running.  I felt the familiar twinge.  No not in my foot; in my heart.  I miss the sense of community running gave me.  I could do that again, I thought to myself.

In order to run you just have to start.

Just start.

Just start.


6 Comments

WordPress Photo Challenge: Fray

There’s nothing quite like the experience of running in a huge road race.  The preparation.  The nervous anticipation.  Excitement builds.  And then you’re off!

Imported Photos 00494

Into the fray.

 

You can see other interpretations of “Fray” by going to this blog post and looking through all the entries in the comments.  Or you can just check out a few of my favorites here, here, here and here!


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Happy birthday Marathon Betty!

Have you ever run a marathon?  Yes, the twenty-six point two miles kind of marathon.  Not many people have.  You have to be a special kind of crazy to want to do something so painful, and my friend Betty is a very special kind of crazy lady.  Sunday she celebrated her 70th birthday by running her 16th full marathon.  It was her 53rd birthday when she ran the first one and she says this will be her last.  But you never know.  Our running group calls her our Energizer Betty; she just keeps going and going.

Before the race.

Before the race.

Another running friend, Jane, and I went down to Detroit early Sunday morning to support Betty, and friends Kim and Kathy in their marathon attempt.  Jane made the great sign; one side had the birthday message, the other side was more general, aimed at motivating all the runners as they went by.   We used the sign to find Betty and Kim in a massive sea made up of thousands of runners corralled before the race began.

Looking for Betty

Looking for Betty

Jane also put together a plan for getting us to different places on the course.  I figured out she and I walked and/or sprinted over 8 miles as we maneuvered to see our runners before the race, then at miles 9, 19, 23 and the finish line.  It was worth it.

If you’ve ever done something so much bigger than yourself, poured yourself into the preparation, done the training, mentally challenged yourself, then you know how adrenalin can push you through the event.  But having support on the sidelines makes the experience even better.  Jane and I, along with members from Betty and Kim’s family were determined to provide all the support we could.

The start before morning light.

The start before morning light.

The race began under a full moon.  The runners were warmer than we were as we waited at mile 9 in the shadow of the Joe Lewis hockey arena.  At first the runners coming by were sparse, but soon enough the street was clogged with athletes.

Happy runners at mile 9

Happy runners at mile 9

By mile 9 the runners had already crossed the Detroit river on the Ambassador bridge into Canada, run the Canadian riverfront, then come back to the States via the tunnel under the river.  Amazingly most of them were still looking good!  I was so cold by the time we left mile 9 I was wishing I was running!  And let me tell you, that’s pretty darn cold!

Jane and I moved on, to the other side of town, into sunshine as we waited for our friends to come by on their way to run around an island in the middle of the river at mile 19.  Jane brought snacks for them, and little Cokes.  Both runners were grateful for the liquid caffeine.

Running strong at mile 19!

Running strong at mile 19!

Jane and I wanted to see them when they came off the island too, we wanted to make sure they were still doing alright.  We both know that the hardest miles in a marathon begin after mile 20.  So we waited at mile 23.  The skies darkened, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped.  We were worried that Betty was wearing a tank top and shorts.  Jane shed one of her shirts in preparation to give it to Betty if she needed it.  We knew they’d be running along the Detroit waterfront for most of the rest of the race and we didn’t want her to be cold.

But this is Betty at mile 23:

She knows she has this one in the bag.

She knows she has this one in the bag.

She doesn’t look cold, does she.  Sure she was tired and she was hurting and she was wanting it to be done.  But she was smiling and she started running again right after this shot.

Inspirational.

Inspirational.

That’s why we have nicknamed her our Energizer Betty.  We all want to be her when we grow up.

Running to the finish line.

Running to the finish line.

She is amazing.  She is strong.  She said it was the best birthday, perfect weather for a marathon, her family including husband, daughter, grandchildren, and friends were there to share it with her.  Her daughter and a grandson ran her in the last couple of miles.

You can’t get better than that.  You can’t ask more of life than that.  To do something you love on your 70th birthday and to share it all with people you care about.

I was  honored to be there.

Athlete!

Athlete!


17 Comments

Activity after

Pretty

Pretty

Sunday my sister and aunt and I picked cherries at a local orchard.  This is the place my family has picked cherries ever since we were little kids.  So in a way it was nostalgic to be there…

Picking

Picking

…but in a way not so much as they have planted new trees since we were kids and this weekend we were picking at the new location.  The picking was sparse but we got enough cherries to freeze a few and make a pie.

Future pies

Future pies

Then Sunday evening husband, sister and I went to the county fair…

Crazy

Crazy

…where we walked around analyzing the rides, trying to decide if there was one I could go on without getting sick.

Crazy

Crazy

We wandered around, standing in front of each ride…

Fun times

Fun times

….and concluded that perhaps the ferris wheel was the only safe bet.

Fun

Fun

So we bought tickets and boarded the ride.  Which was when I suddenly realized I was really sore from my Saturday morning run.  I had a really really hard time stepping up into the gondola…

On the ferris wheel

On the ferris wheel

…and an even harder time getting out after our ride!  So even though I was feeling pretty good since that run and a bit surprised that I hadn’t felt any soreness I apparently had forgotten that I am usually most sore two days after a run, which means….that this morning, Monday, I could barely get out of bed.  Yea.  Now I remember what it’s like to be a runner.

It’s darn wonderful.

Sisters at the fair

Sisters at the fair