Finding the Balance in Running and Life

As I write this, I can feel my IT band screaming, and there’s a sensitive spot on my left foot that I think is frostbite, a reminder that perhaps I over-iced yesterday, slightly panicked that I may be getting a touch of plantar fasciitis (please let it not be so). I’m concerned about the half marathon coming up next weekend. I’ve just turned in my final paper for this quarter, and I’m frustrated that I’ve not written a haiku in days.

Funny how life turns out. Last year at this time, I wasn’t running or writing psychotherapy papers or penning haiku. I wasn’t even thinking about such things. Now, I can’t imagine life without any of these activities.

Last weekend I ran the Fairhaven Runners Waterfront 15K. I placed second in my age group. About a month earlier, I entered a 5K race/fundraiser for Alzheimer’s, Miles for Memories. I finished first overall in the women’s division.fairhaven_runners_waterfron_15kfirst place

I did not set out to be a racer. I certainly did not set out to run fast or to finish anywhere near the front of the pack. I don’t start a race thinking about how I am going to finish, just that I hope I will finish and that I want to enjoy the run. Now that I’ve had some success with running, I’m beginning to second-guess myself. Whereas I used to just get up in the morning and go for a run, now I wonder if I should go long or short, fast or slow, run hills or flat? Should I ice or soak in Epsom salts? Will taking a day off now hurt or help me in my next event? Am I a poser?

Recently I find myself pondering that place between unconsciousness and deliberation, between being ignorantly blissful (or blissfully ignorant) and calculating. I know I compare writing and running quite often, but again, I find the similarities enlightening. At the beginning of this year, I started writing haikus with abandon. I traded them back and forth with friends, posted them to the Haiku Room on Facebook and just enjoyed the experience. Until I started getting attention for them. Then I started overthinking and performing, writing haikus for an audience, and that’s when my haiku writing came to a halt. I got stuck. I became too aware.

Now, I fear the same thing happening with running. I want to just run, but at the same time, I am extremely proud of my accomplishments. And, I have to say, I totally dig winning medals and ribbons, but I don’t want running to be just about that. I want my running to be about health and happiness, connection and community.

I want to go about life consciously, full of awareness, and making good choices, but what happens when that awareness interferes with spontaneity? When overthinking causes indecision and indecision results in immobility? How can we strike a balance and just run happy?fairhaven15K_medal

August Reflections: Writing, Running, and Wake Surfing

August was not my most prolific haiku month—there was a paper due for my Family Systems Theory class, so Strategic Family Therapy took up residence in my head for a couple of weeks. And now there’s another paper due next Friday, so currently my head is spinning with Narrative Therapy concepts. There was a week of vacation as well, a time during which I thought I might get some writing done, or at least some haiku inspiration, but that time too became occupied with other, more pressing matters (like learning how to wake surf behind my brother’s boat).

I didn’t get as much running in this month as I would have liked, either, though I did enter a race early in the month and came in first in the women’s division (not just for my age group, but among all the women who entered the 5K). So, maybe sometimes it’s not quantity but quality—I’d say about half of the poems I wrote this month were decent and most of the runs I took were solid. My average time came down by about a minute from my July time, even though my overall monthly mileage was down by about 40 miles. I guess the lesson here is that more is not always better.first place

I did run while we were on vacation in Eastern Oregon, up at 4500 feet—quite the difference from running at sea level. My average run, on my favorite running trail, occurs at about 450 feet above sea level. Needless to say, I felt the burn as I ran the roads near Wallowa Lake. I only managed two runs in the thin mountain air, but I also kayaked, wake boarded, and wake surfed.

It’s taken me three consecutive summers to become a competent wake boarder. The first summer, I spent a few sessions behind the boat simply trying to get my ass up out of the water with no success. The next summer, I finally got up, but my runs were short-lived, and I swallowed a lot of lake water. This summer, I popped up on the first try and let the boat pull me around the lake until I thought my arms might fall off. Between my turns on the wake board, I watched my brother, niece, and nephew surf behind the boat—it looked a lot easier on the body, I thought, since there was no rope to cling to (except for getting up on the board), no stiff boots to cram my feet into, and, since the boat went slower for the surfers, less chance of a power douche upon crashing.

I hesitated to try surfing, however, as I remembered the pain of learning to wake board. I felt comfortable in my mediocre competence on the wake board. I didn’t want to fail at surfing. I didn’t want to spend another three summers learning this new skill. Then I remembered my commitment to saying “yes.” So, on our last day at the lake, when the ballast on the boat was loaded for us left-foot-forward boarders, I decided to try, to say yes, to take the risk. To plunge once more into that 65 degree water.

I got up on my first try. I fell, but I got up again. And I surfed behind the boat. And The Little Woman caught it all on video (that’s my very patient brother you hear coaching me). I hung onto the rope, but I didn’t always need it (generally once a wake surfer finds her sweet spot in the wake, she will toss the rope back onto the boat, unless, like me, she’s still learning to find that sweet spot). And isn’t life all about finding that sweet spot?surfing 5

Without further ado, here are August’s haikus. Enjoy!

Our words are relics
Shards from a different time
Sharp broken treasures

Come, worship at my
Word altar. Kneel before this
Poetry’s gospel.

You throw like a girl
Can no longer be hurled as
An insult. Go Mo.

Today’s the day, I’m
living dangerously now.
Carpe that diem.

Despair resonates—
Love is the only ladder.
Rung by rung, we climb.

Whooshing noise and then
flood. Broken water heater.
Theater of despair

Against all advice
And common sense—I reach out,
Touch the white-hot flame.

Break me open like
A rough rock—brush off the dirt,
Find the gems inside

We have already
colored outside the lines—ain’t
No going back now