Gaining Ground

I gained a pound recently, like, over the past week.  I feel okay about it.  I told my therapist that I felt okay with my current weight and that I was ready to gain, and so I did.

As Frank said, the sky didn’t come crashing in.

It’s not like I didn’t react.  I do feel different one pound heavier.  I feel fuller and I always feel like I just ate.  I feel thicker around the middle.  I feel kind of dulled.  I went through a depression.  It was brief and it could have been worse.   I feel a nagging sense of sadness, of loss.

I haven’t a clue if the one-pound gain has affected my running.  Probably not.  It only feels like it has. The air over the track feels thicker, syrupy almost.  But there is more of me to push through the syrup.  When the wind blows, I feel like I have more power to push against it, instead of being blown away by it.  I just lean into it, and run.

This morning I was out on the track in 16-degree, windy weather.  I mean Fahrenheit.  It was around 7am.  I wore a compression shirt, a fleece jacket, a fleece vest, and a windbreaker.  On my legs I wore two layers of silk longjohns, cotton blend leggings, silk socks, cotton socks, and legwarmers.  I wore two layers of gloves, and my usual blue hat with a headband over it.  I was plenty warm.  And I lost count and accidentally ran an extra lap.  Three and a half miles.  See how powerful I am.

I loved every minute of it.  Did I think about that extra pound I’d gained?  Well, yes, I did.  For the first couple of laps, it was on my mind.  I was tuned into my body and aware of every sensation, every change, and I noticed many differences.  I noticed different sensations in my legs and my stomach area, especially around my middle, and in my back.  My insides felt different.  I digest my food differently.  I don’t like the way I’m digesting my food right now.  It seems like I have too much food in my body, too much flesh.  Maybe there isn’t enough room for my organs to sit in the right places now.

When I run my first lap, I always feel like an awkward teenager.  Ever see a teen run?  I don’t mean a teenager on the track team.  They are like deer.  They are amazing.  I mean the teens you see on the street playing, maybe running around with skateboards.  Their bodies are running away with them.  That’s how I feel.  Like my body hasn’t quite found the right space yet.  My pace isn’t right.  I speed up, slow down, speed up again, and my tempo is off, way off.  My feet seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This lasts for a good portion of the lap, especially as I’m headed into the sun for the first time.  Sometimes, the sun laughs at me.  I can actually hear him.  It’s very embarrassing.  And today, the sun saw the pound I’d gained, even through the clouds, and I felt doubly awkward.

How am I supposed to feel about all this?  Proud of myself?  I went to the running store on Monday and bought a jacket for the rain.  It is a red jacket that doubles as a windbreaker, that has little vents in the armpits, and hand pockets and a vest pocket, too.  As it turned out, I had a bit of time to kill, so I picked out some clothes, and tried them on.  I went into the dressing room and stripped down, and saw myself for the first time in a full length mirror.  Well, it was the first time in a long time.  I realized that despite the seven pounds I’ve gained, I am still skinny.

I hadn’t realized that before.  I thought I was…I don’t know…kinda normal.  I knew I wasn’t fat.  It was just that seeing myself in the mirror made it all clear to me.  I am indeed skinny.  It’s a little embarrassing.

I guess during the second lap, the added pound was on my mind, too.  Maybe for the first part of the second lap.  But soon after, I was concentrating on other things.  My breathing.  My feet.  My fingers and hands.  The way I held my toes inside my shoes.  The music.  The music.  The music.  And I think it was the third lap that I ended up running twice by accident.  One lap gained.  How could I lose?

The only other runner on the track was a sprinter, a woman wearing very little considering how cold it was.  I see her frequently on the track.  She’s very, very fast.  She sprints for about a tenth of a mile, then walks back to her starting place, very slowly, appearing to be thinking, concentrating, plotting out her next sprint.  Then she runs again.  And again.  And again.   She sprints while I run around her, and around and around.  We never wave at each other or acknowledge each other in any way.

This morning, after a mile, I wasn’t thinking about the pound I gained at all.  My pace was picking up a little.  I began to get a better feeling about my body, feeling like I was in synch again.  Two more laps and I had established a comfortable rhythm, and I began to zone out.

The Zone.  I usually get there at the beginning of my third mile.  Today, I got there at around a mile and a half, my seventh lap.  Here, I am scarcely aware that I am running.  From prior experience, I know I run faster when I am in the Zone, lighter, like I am in pure air, never touching the ground.  How can a stupid one-pound gain bother me now?  No, I wasn’t thinking about my weight now, or calories, or food, or any person, not even Puzzle.  I wasn’t thinking about anything.  Because when I’m in the Zone, my mind is on nothing.  My mind, my heartbeat, my feet, and my soul are running and flowing like the purest, clearest stream.

Still in the Zone, my fingers counted off the next lap: eight, nine, ten…and I kept each number in my mind and repeated it to myself as a meditation.  I felt as though sand was slipping through my outstretched fingers, even through the double-layer gloves.  At the ninth lap, I sped up even more.  This is the beginning of the third mile, where I begin to realize my power.  Nothing can stop me.  Not my eating disorder.  Nothing.

After the tenth lap, or what I think is the tenth–it is actually the 11th–I have three laps to go, and I am sliding into place, like something is pulling me forward to the finish line, like a magnet.  It didn’t matter that I had run an extra lap.  I still had power.  Lots of it.  With three laps left to go, I speed up.  Not a lot, but enough to let myself know that I am boss over my feet and over the track.  I am a winner.  I am gaining ground.

One more lap around.  I have two to go.  The music drives me around.  Here, I peek out of the Zone periodically and start to ask myself when I will pick up speed for the last push home.  I decide to do this not now, but partway through the last lap.  It’s windy out and this will be difficult.

But no.  I am alive.  I am alive.  I am alive.  Do you hear me?  I am a living, breathing, well person.  I have a right to be here and nothing will stop me.  Halfway through the next-to-last lap, I speed up.  Faster.  The wind blows against me three-quarters of the way around the track.  No, you will not blow me down.  You can challenge me all you want, and you may always be with me, always following me, always trying to push me over, and someday I may fall, but today, I will run.  So I lean forward and head into the wind, and run faster.

During the last lap I run with the wind behind my back.  Then when the wind is against me, I slice right through it.  Just like that.  I finish the last lap and walk out the gate.

Walking home, I step lightly on the sidewalk and contemplate how it all went.  I am not thinking about my weight.  I am not thinking about thinness.  I am not thinking about what happened in the dressing room on Monday.  I am not thinking about therapy, or about writing.

I am thinking about Frank.  I am thinking about the multitude of advice he’s given me over the past month about running.  He’s told me that if something hurts, I should stop running and rest.  He’s told me when to ice something, when to massage my feet, when to stretch.  He’s taught me about mental attitude, about how to train and build up my muscles, about what to expect at the race on Sunday.  I am thinking about what a winner he is, and how he’s helped me be a winner, in so many ways.

I am thinking about my body.  Tuning in.  What feels stressed or tired?  What needs to be stretched or massaged?  How is my right foot?  Didn’t it bother me on Monday?  What about today?  No, it is fine today.  I decide to do my usual stretching outside my apartment building.  This seems to be the luckiest thing to do.  While stretching, I feel each muscle relax into the stretch, gently, slowly.  I tune into my shoulders, noticing the slight tension in them, letting them drop, and relax, and relaxing my neck.  Everything is fine.  Everything is perfect.  My body is perfect today.

Gee, I never thought I’d say that.

So I get out my key, and let myself in.  And I think about how the key works in the lock, how the lock pieces work in synch, and how my body works in synch just like the lock and key, but that sometimes it can be a little off, and most of the time all it needs is a little lube or a little tightening, and it’s fine.  A lock that gets a lot of use has to be monitored and maintained just like my body does.   My body gets used 24/7.  And if the lock isn’t maintained, if I don’t eat, one heck of a lot of people are going to get locked out and pissed off at being stuck in 17-degree weather tomorrow morning.

But I ate.  And gained a pound.  And have mixed feelings.  I suppose this is allowed, isn’t it?

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My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available  from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access.  To read more about it at my home site, click here.

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