Fine tuning: the week before

I am nervous like you wouldn’t believe, and it’s coming out in my body.  It’s revealing itself to me in many ways.  I’m sure my friends are sick of hearing about it.  Or maybe they aren’t.

I know Frank isn’t sick of hearing about it.  He is revved about this.  Excited for me.  As a seasoned runner, he knows the ins and outs of racing.  He has run, in his life, the distance of going around the world a couple of times.  At 59 years old, he is in fabulous shape.  He is still able to wake up in the morning, put on his running shoes, eat breakfast, and go out and casually run a half marathon.  Just like that.

Come to think of it, how many women, soon to turn 53, can run 5K?  Hey, 53-year-olds: Just about all of you have less than 50 years to live.  Go for it!

Okay, I’m nervous. Wicked nervous.  I wish I wasn’t.  Get this:  Thursday night I got so worried about the teeniest sensation in my back.  Heck, it didn’t even hurt and I was fretting over it.  I went and looked it up on the Internet and found out all kinds of things.  Causes of this sensation: everything from m*sturbation to cancer. (can’t write it cuz this site is googleable).  Frank said, “Take some Advil, stay away from the Internet, and for Heaven’s sake, quit worrying, go to bed, and get some rest.”  I did.  And felt fine in the morning.  Not that I ever didn’t feel fine.  Nerves.

Nervous about my body.  Wanting it to be absolutely perfect.  Wanting every muscle, every joint, every organ, my mental state, my attitude, my emotions, the food I eat, the amount of sleep I eat and when I sleep–everything–to be right on, not just for the race, but every time I run.   So every time I find the stupidest little thing wrong, I make it into this big deal.  I took yesterday off to “rest” my back.  Of course, a day off did me some good anyway.  I had run nine out of the past ten days.  The lure of the track…yeah, every runner knows it.  And when I wasn’t at the track, I was on the treadmill at the gym. I run 5K or 13 laps, just over 5K, every time I run.  I am totally ready for this experience, which is coming up in a week and a day.

And I’m reminded of other times I was faced with big accomplishments.  Graduation at Goddard, for instance.  I was nerved up for that for a long, long time.  The whole semester, my “culminating semester,” the last, that is, I was gearing up, approaching the finish line.  I wanted my thesis to be as close to “perfect” as it could be, and at the same time, I knew I couldn’t make it perfect.  Nobody’s is perfect.  It just doesn’t work that way.  But I wanted it the best it could be.  I worked my butt off that last semester.  And starved myself the whole time.  This was the beginning of the really intense hunger trip.  And it only got worse, not better, after graduation.  Yeah, I was very nervous.  Maybe a better term for it would be “pressured.”  Intense.  And what you might call flying.

My T predicted a letdown afterward.  There is a letdown predicted after Nano as well.  You kind of fly the last week of Nano, and flying is often the word they use to describe the last week.  Starvation can stave off the letdown.  You just don’t feel anything anymore.  Nil.  You’re on another plane.

When I prepare for my run on the track, I’m very nervous.  This has been the tendency all along.  Do I have my keys?  My cell phone?  My medic alert information?  Am I dressed properly for the cold weather–not too much, but enough?  Have I remembered to go to the bathroom?  Have I timed my food and coffee just so?  Is my body in good working order?  Are my shoes tied properly–not too tight, not too loose, and have I remembered to double-knot them?  Is the battery in my MP3 player okay?

Okay, I’m ready to go.  But this morning, my stomach didn’t feel right.  It was like suddenly I felt like my food wasn’t timed right, or I’d had too much, but I knew I had done everything correctly.  Hmm.  I went to the bathroom again, and had diarrhea.  Dang!  Nerves.  I am sure of it.

I went out and ran 13 laps, and felt fantastic.

My body is a delicate machine.  I have learned a few things.  I need to be very, very careful when I stretch.  I have to do it slowly, carefully, gently, and not too much.  I have better luck stretching out in the cold than I do after coming inside.  From now on, no leaning into my left hip when I stand.  This overstretches my left groin muscle.  It is a bad habit I need to break.  I need to stop crossing my legs, too.  It’s bad for my back.  It also puts stress on the quad muscle of the leg on the bottom of the crossed legs.  I am able to double-cross my legs, and of course I can’t do that, either, because it twists my knee joints.  I need to be careful with my back and do nothing weird or unusual with my upper body, but I do need to stretch my back a bit now and then, just lean forward gently.  Gently.  Do not stretch my adductors.  Ever.  Only my feet, calves, hamstrings, and quads.  Relax my shoulders after running; do not tense them.  Do not stop abruptly after running.  Do not stop to put on my outer shell jacket; just keep on walking home.  Abrupt stopping is bad for my heart and muscles.  Nose breathe–in through my nose, out through my mouth.  Do not rush while running.  Keep my eyes ahead.  Make sure I do not drag my feet, ever, or I might trip on them.  Double-knot my shoes, and double-check that I’ve done this, and make a mental note that I’ve done this, so I won’t peek at them while running and “worry” that they might come untied.  Make sure my shoes are firmly tied, because in cold weather, my feet will shrink, and give plenty of time to “test” the way I’ve tied my shoes, and do not retie them immediately before running, as I may tie them wrong.  Let’s see, what else…I know exactly what to eat before, how much to drink.  I eat peanut butter on bread, a banana, and a small amount of orange juice, maybe 35 minutes before I run, and for godsakes I’ll go to the bathroom after I eat–every time from now on, just in case.  I drink my water, not much in this weather, much, much earlier, and drink very little with my food, otherwise I will have to pee while running.  There will be plenty of opportunity to drink afterward.  I drink about 20 to 30 oz after a run, spread out over maybe 45 minutes.  I must, must, take complete care of my body.  Everything has to be fine tuned, well polished, just so.

I need to be much, much less nervous, because the nervousness is consuming me.  I will try to relax.  I do relax while running.  Totally.  I am awesome out there.  As I turn around the beginning of each lap, I face the rising sun, and I know everything is just fine with the world and me in it.  Peace, peace, peace.

Mostly, I need to enjoy myself at the race.  I promise I will.  Promise.

***************

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.

My Run on the Track – December 2, 2010

I was always the slowest runner in the class, never an athlete.  I always got laughed at.  Always picked last for the team.  Even though our family put emphasis on physical fitness, it wasn’t the competitive kind, like baseball or soccer.  We did hiking and skiing, canoeing sometimes.  We stayed in shape, but I felt like I was the wrong shape in the puzzle of the schoolyard.

When I left home, I rode my bicycle out of necessity, frequently riding ten miles or so to my destination, and this kept me in shape.  Over the years, I used my bicycle on and off for transportation, and found it an effective way to get around.  Never was I bothered by the mess the helmet made of my hair, or the street grit on my face and clothes, or the biting wind and salt and sand in winter.

But when I took up running, at age 40, late 1998, I discovered Heaven.  It started at 3am.  I told Joe the night before, “Honey, I’m going to try running tomorrow morning when I get up.  Just around the neighborhood.  So don’t be alarmed if I make a little noise coming in and out.”  He was staying over that night.

I recall he said, “Be careful, Jules.  Are you sure you want to go out in the middle of the night?”

“Yep.”

So I did.  I ran around about three blocks in maybe an inch of snow.  I carried no cell phone, no whistle, nothing.  Just the silence of the night and the sky above me and the whiteness below me and the cold of the air kept me going.  I came back in, showered, and got to my writing and school assignments, and worked until Joe got up.

“Did you actually go running,” he asked, “in the snow?”

“Yep.  It was awesome.  I’m hooked.”

I increased my mileage after that, running a mile, then over a mile.  It was easy, because I was already in shape from bicycle riding.  I brought my dog, Tiger, until I found that she couldn’t keep up with me because of her age.  The vet recommended that I leave her at home, so I did.

After a short while, I wore out my running shoes, and bought a new pair.  Then I wore out the next pair, and the next.  By then, I had established a route that I liked, and had enough sense to run at a reasonable hour.  I ran every morning, early, for a half hour, showered, then walked the dog.  It was my favorite exercise ever.

Then, on November 1, 1999, I broke my leg.

I was walking down the street and tripped on a crack in the sidewalk.  I was just unlucky, I guess.  I was carrying a heavy load on my back.  I hit my knee the wrong way, at the wrong angle.  My bone was sliced clear through.  It didn’t help that I had osteoporosis from years of having an eating disorder.  I ended up with three screws in my knee.

Eleven years later, I am running again.  The parallels kind of freak me out.  When I took up running in 1998, I had just come out of a really bad time.  It had been a year since my amazing turnaround on my 40th birthday.  When I discovered running in 1998, I felt like I was very, very young, like I was just learning to live again.

You all know, readers, that this is exactly how I feel now.  And I am running again.

So when I started out on my run today, I kept thinking of all the runs I did when I was 41, and the fact that I am wiser now for sure, and am taking more precautions, perhaps out of necessity simply because of my increased age.  I thought of where I was then, and where I am now.  I thought of Joe and I asked myself if I had ever grieved for him.

I thought about what I had eaten before my run.  I felt okay with it: peanut butter on whole rye bread, a banana, and orange juice.  My digestion seemed to be working all right and my energy level was high.  It was 44 degrees out.  I was dressed in two fleece jackets over a t-shirt, a hat I knit myself (non-wool), and leggings.  My running shoes, Adidas, are new.  My shoes were tied just  right.  I had my cell phone in my pocket and my keys.  My MP3 player was loaded with music I had chosen especially for a 40-minute run.  I planned to play it loud!

I arrived at the track and set my watch to “chrono.”  I adjusted my clothes.  I started my MP3 player and adjusted the volume, then clicked on my watch and began my run.

I was surprised at my first lap speed.  It seemed faster than usual.  Generally, I like to take it easy at first, but this time, I couldn’t help but run a little faster than I usually move.  Ffran May’s “Stered Aour” was playing.  It is in French and English.  I can’t understand the French, but I know the song is joyful.

Next song: Vertical Horizon’s “You’re a God.”  I discovered Vertical Horizon by accident while surfing for something else entirely.  I’m still hooked.  All this was around 2005.  Oh, 2005…this was when I was on 900 mgs Seroquel and gained so much weight that I could not walk without gasping for breath.  I gained 50 pounds in six months.  I hated my body.  I wanted to hide myself and never be seen.  I remember 2005 was when I met Simon, via the Internet.  I flew to England to meet him.  When he saw me, and saw my overweight body, his face fell.  I will never forget this.  “You deceived me,” he said.

But now, I can listen to Vertical Horizon’s music and not think of Simon.  I can run and think of the feel of the track underfoot and the coolness of the air in my nostrils.  I can feel my body parts flexing and working in synch.  I can feel the beat of the music propelling me forward.  I can remember all airplane trips I’ve taken–not only to England, but to Seattle from Boston to attend the Goddard residencies in Port Townsend, Washington, twice every year while I was studying for my MFA.  While I was on the plane, I knitted dog sweaters for Puzzle.  Vertical Horizon’s music means “journey” to me.  And as I ran the next couple of laps, my journey moved on.

The next song, Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” I find deeply disturbing, and I’ve heard cover versions of it that brutalize it because they trivialize the song to the point of rendering it flat and lifeless.  At this point, I was at a slower point in my run, or so I thought.  But when I heard, “I can see you…your brown skin shining in the sun…” I thought of Joe and my speed picked up.  I remembered how he introduced me to Don Henley, how he had his favorite music.  I thought of the early days of our relationship, when he would pick me up in his Buick, and we rode to old abandoned parking lots….I felt the strength in my body and the lightness in my step at that moment as I rounded the far end of the track, and I sped up.

There weren’t too many other runners on the track today; there never are, really.  I suppose it is more populated on weekends.  Today I saw a racewalker; or, rather, she was walking fast, and a woman runner, and a man runner, both slower than me, and a young sprinter, perhaps 17 years old, male, awkward with a shock of black hair and sunglasses and a sweatshirt.  He kept going back and forth on the track, very fast, checking his time, stopping, dashing, glancing, darting this way and that, but always vigilant, so I wasn’t afraid of bumping into him.  It is some of the more idle walkers that worry me, the ones that do not seem to stay in lane.  My concern is that they’ll weave into my lane and I’ll crash into them!  Needless to say, it hasn’t happened yet.  I see young mothers with strollers sometimes.  There were a couple of them today.  Also, there were two elderly women who walked several laps each.  The most annoying problem I encountered today was some sort of athletic team warming up on the track.  They decided to seat themselves right on the track, leaving only one lane open for runners to pass through.  What was their coach thinking?  Why didn’t he have them warm up in the center field inside the track, instead of right in the lanes?  I ran through the one open lane, hoping no one faster than me was passing through at the same time, and ran on.

When I reached the end of four or five laps, it was just that–had it been four, or five?  I wasn’t sure.  I couldn’t recall if perhaps I’d forgotten to count the last lap I’d done.  Frank, who has encouraged me and helped me so much and in many ways is my cybercoach, has suggested that I count off the laps on my fingers.  I find I lose track if I don’t do this, especially since I listen to music.  But now, I wasn’t sure–had I run four, or five?

Thankfully, I had my watch to tell me.  I swung it around my wrist, while running past my start point, to check my time.  This would tell me.  To my shock, I had run four laps–a mile–in under twelve minutes. It was 11-something.  This was the fastest I’d ever gone.

All my “self-doubt,” as Frank says runners call it, went out the window at this point.  Into the second mile, Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl” came on.  The sun came lower down on the pavement, reddening it, building it up, making me fly further and higher than ever before.  You may think this song is misogynistic.  I grabbed at this notion and immediately stated my opinion to Joe.  “No, you don’t get it, Jules,” he said.  “It’s about one person appreciating and loving the other.”  Joe, perhaps my ways have softened now.  Perhaps I’m less angry.  Perhaps I’m more angry.  Perhaps I just don’t talk about it anymore.  “Hey, she looks all right…she is all I need tonight….”

I sometimes get a surge of confidence once I’m past the halfway mark, into the seventh lap.  Here, I’ve run a mile and a half.  But my pace sometimes falters here.  Bruce Hornsby’s “Every Little Kiss” helped speed up my pace.    Always aware of my breathing, I had gotten nose-breathing into synch now–in through my nose, out through my mouth.  Frank and I had discussed this earlier.  He said this was the most advisable method of breathing for runners.  Today was my first time trying it, and I’m sold on it.  In…out…in…out….It takes focus, kind of a centering, like using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight and burn a leaf.  Slowly, it burns, and a great fire burns and warms me, and fuels me on…”and the day goes down on the water town…and the sun sinks low all around….”

The beginning of my ninth lap, that is, the beginning of the third mile, and also the beginning of the tenth lap, are the time of the big surge for me.  My pace begins to take off  here, as does my energy level.  I am really soaring now, as I do on every good run.  Nothing will stop me now.   I am moving and the track is moving me along, pushing me forward, and my body is doing just what it is supposed to do.  Dar Williams’ live track, “As Cool as I Am” comes on and I feel the joy of my present-day life and I push forward and leave the past behind.

I eat now.  I eat to live.  I live and I feel the joy of life and I run and hold onto this moment, for life is short.  I eat because I want to live.  I do not starve myself anymore.  I will be kind to my strong, powerful body with all its incredible machinery, at least for today, at this moment, here on the track.

Faster and faster now.  I know I am breaking all my records.  Dar Williams comes on with another song, “I’ll Miss You Till I Meet You.”  Why the heck did I put this sad song in here?  Then I think of the sadness I feel over the miles of distance between Frank and myself, the way we have to rely on the Internet for contact, that I cannot look into his eyes for real, or hold him, or hug him for real, and how much I want to keep him from harm’s way through my touch….Maybe that’s why I put a sad song in there, even though I’m close to the end now, and I’m flying ’round the far end of the track, pushing ahead, and hardly anyone’s left walking or running up here now, just me and the waning sunlight, now farther and faster than ever before.

The third mile is nearly over.  “Big Love”–Lindsay Buckingham–live.  Faster and faster furious guitar.  You can hear the sweat on him as he strums, the sweat on me as I run.  Brief pictures of Joe flash through my head–the night dreams I had of him after he passed away.  I remember my favorite of these dreams.  I don’t recall when I dreamed it.  Maybe two years ago, but it’s like yesterday.  He’s wearing his red shirt.  He says to me, “Jules, Jules, you gotta see this place!  The food is great, and they have shows every night!”

He’s talking about Heaven.  And now, running, I’m the one in Heaven.  Because here in the third mile, my body is doing just what it’s supposed to do.  I am cooking on pavement.  And Joe, I know I never grieved for you, I know I never had a chance to say goodbye, I know I just ran off to grad school, and tried to forget, and tried to be strong.  Perhaps my anorexia is a way of stuffing that grief.  Perhaps my anorexia is something else entirely.

What would Joe have said, if he had seen me, shriveling up, not eating, wasting away?  I do not know.  Maybe he would simply have ordered a large pizza, eaten half, and made me eat the other half.

Back in those days, I was so lost that I pretty much did anything anyone told me to do.

Joe, I have to lay this to rest.  I miss you, but I must finish this run.  I must move onward.  At the end of the eleventh lap, I start to run faster.  I am going to burn now.  Everything I ever believed I could do, I can do right here, right now.  At the end of the twelfth lap, I check my time.  Thirty-five minutes!  I have one lap to go.  This will make it just over 5K.  Here, Rockapella sings, “Eye of the Tiger.”  But I don’t care what the music is.  Fuck the music.  I am going to fly.  I am going to make this lap the fastest I can go.

I lengthen my stride.  I imagine it is December 19th, at the Winter Classic 5K, in Cambridge.  People are cheering and clapping for all the runners.  I am wearing a bib with a number on it.  A very lucky number.  The cold nips at my face and my eyes tear up from the wind but I’m wondering if maybe I’m crying a little, just weeping from the excitement of the moment, and knowing that it wasn’t long ago that I was starving myself, and now I feed myself, and what a miracle this is.  And then I take another last few leaps, and cross the finish line.

My time: 37:47.

The Winter Classic 5K is on December 19, 2010 in Cambridge, MA, at 10:30AM.  I’ll see you there.

*********************

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.

I am a National Novel Writing Month 2010 winner!

I have just completed my novel–50,119 words according to my Word program, 50,040 words according to Nano’s word counter.  So I am a winner again this year.

The name of my novel is I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul.

I am finished at last, after 17 days, as of 6:07 this morning, Eastern Standard Time.

I didn’t really stress myself out this year.  I took care of myself throughout the 17 days that I was writing this novel.  I fed myself wholesome meals.  Exercised.  Took care of Puzzle.  Kept my body clean.  Even did the dishes.  Now, I must catch up on the laundry.

The experience was emotional and exhilarating.  I cried a lot.  Laughed a lot.  For much of the time, I was reminded of last year’s Nano, when I wrote Summer in November, a book about my body, locked myself in the library, and starved myself while writing it, the whole time.  I think of last year’s Nano and how different this year is, and I weep, not necessarily with joy.

I hate my body.  I love my body.  I hate my body and love my body both.   During this year’s Nano I went through times that I wanted to starve myself, then just let it go, and once again fed myself.

I have gotten stronger and can run faster and farther.  I kept up with my running throughout Nano, running, running nearly every day.  I ran for the joy of it.  I ran with tears in my eyes.  I ran with sweat on my body.  I ran, and then came home and wrote more words.  And more.

My book ended just shy of 50,000.  I wrote the ending and found I was short 300 words.  It wasn’t hard to add the extra 300.  I found that the bare-bones dialogue needed some extra bit of detail that was easy to fill in.  The last detail I added was a Red Sox shirt on a man who had an overweight beagle dog in a vet’s office.

The book ends with May staggering on Main Street after a spring rain.

The book is dedicated to Frank, and takes place in Boston.  I don’t think Frank has ever been to Boston, but he has been to Worcester, Massachusetts, which isn’t too far from here.

There is a subway stop in Boston on the Red Line called Porter Square that nobody ever forgets.  The stairs are especially steep, and extra escalators have been added.  You don’t want the escalators to fail at Porter Square, and you especially don’t want the elevators to break down.  The height drop is staggering.  If you are afraid of heights at all, or even if you are not afraid of heights, you are afraid at Porter Square.

I hope to climb the stairs at Porter Square soon.  Not take the escalator.  The stairs.

I remember not long ago I couldn’t do a single flight of stairs.  I could barely walk a block, I was so weak from not eating.  I shouldn’t have even been walking the dog.  It was simply not safe.  Now, I can run 5K.  That’s 3.1 miles.  This little fact totally overwhelms me.

A lot of little facts are overwhelming me right now.  I need to rest and get my bearings.  Nano is over.  More later.

 

Awesome machine

I can do so many things.  I can think straight.  I can write.  I sleep soundly.  I wake up feeling great.  I love others.  I nourish my body.  I care for my dog.  I can choose foods wisely.

My body parts work together brilliantly.  See how each part is connected.  See how the veins run back and forth in my arms, veins that carry blood around my body.  See how my teeth sit in my mouth, ready to do what they’re supposed to do.

My body is an awesome machine.  I can walk for miles.  I can even run now.  I have energy.   I have a spring in my step.  If I fall, which is rare, I jump back up again quickly.  My skin is clear and my hair is shiny.  I appear younger than I am.

I care for my body.  I don’t want anything bad to happen to it.  I want to give it all the nourishment it needs.  I do not want to starve it anymore.  I do not want to be mean to my body…ever again!

 

I am strong

I went back to my friends.  They welcomed me.  Something happened and I felt in my heart that they needed me back with them and I went back.  I have not forgiven.  It will never be the same.  But I am getting comfortable with them once again.  I am trying to be supportive and loving.  And funny.   It is okay.  I get tearful thinking about the whole mess, even now.

I got my period.  Much as I hate getting it, it was necessary.  When your weight is low, your ovaries stop producing estrogen, and that’s why you don’t get your periods.  Without estrogen, your bones deteriorate fast.  So I was glad to get my period because it means I have estrogen in my system, and my bones are still strong and won’t break very easily.  My periods had essentially stopped, and I was worried, and I am glad to have them back, or at least one for now.

I have not been in this good physical shape since 1999.  I eat well and take good care of myself.  I am strong and fit.   My legs carry me long distances.  My muscles are firm and I use them well.  In 1999 I woke up every morning and ran for a half hour, hopped into the shower, and went on with my day.  Now, I can almost do that.  I can run a mile without much effort.  Around .7 miles, it is pure joy.  I am sweating and I feel like there is no limit to what my body can do.

All this eating has paid off, apparently.  I continue to eat, and eat well.  I take vitamins, too.  The vitamins make a difference.  I care for my body.  I am gaining weight, slowly.  I have gained nearly 5 pounds.  I do all this willingly.  My hair is shiny.  My mouth has a fresher feel to it and my gums don’t bleed spontaneously anymore.  Only as recently as August, I was staggering around in my apartment, barely able to walk, and now, that is inconceivable to me.

You can’t take your body for granted, ever.  I am lucky to be alive.  I feel so much joy, zooming around Watertown twice every day with Puzzle like two little maniacs.  I feel free and powerful.  The world is mine and I can do anything.