Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let's Talk About the Weather

The snow is falling. Again. It will be followed by a coating of a quarter-inch of ice. Again. And the temperature on a good day this week will hit a high of 25 degrees.

I'm not sure that this winter could be any crueler.

The other day I delighted in an afternoon that brought just enough sun that I could run in only one pair of tights, instead of two. I shed my usual third top layer and traded in my fleece hat for a head band to keep my ears covered. There was nothing frozen falling from the sky. It was liberating. It was also short-lived.

I don't mean to whine or complain--there is nothing anybody can do about the weather and nobody is forcing me to train for the Boston Marathon--but I think my core body temperature has been hovering somewhere around "really cold" since early November. 

The view from my window

I was thinking about all of this the other day during an easy run. I planned a nice little out-and-back jaunt on a course I use on days I don't feel like dealing with a lot of hills. As I plodded along, trying to share a road narrowed by ice and snow accumulation with a plethora of school buses, I started convincing myself that I was getting acclimated to the difficulty of it all: the constant shivering, the loss of motivation, the ability to cut myself some slack when conditions are unsafe to get out there. Oh, and the addition of shoveling as cross-training.

"I'm getting tough," I thought. Well, I've always been on the tough side. Tougher, perhaps?

After a few miles, it was time to turn around. So I did. And it hit me like a slap in the face: a headwind that just ripped right through all those layers like I hadn't taken the additional 30 minutes out of my morning to put them all on.   

My tougher self trudged on, realizing that the remaining miles would be anything but easy. While I've developed a "suck-it-up-and-deal" training (and life) philosophy, it didn't stop me from noticing that I hadn't even felt the tailwind for the first half of the run. No doubt it was there, easing my effort. 

So, I made a silent promise to myself to take note and savor those times in my life when the wind is at my back, helping me along, allowing me time to gather strength. It's when things seem well that I can let my gratitude wane, perhaps taking the good times a little too much for granted.

Because, let's face it: These days you just never know when you're going to turn around and be forced to fight a nasty headwind.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wishes, Predictions, and Resolutions

There have been few New Years in recent history that I haven't at least partially rung in with my BFF Aimee. Aimee has a magnificent way of creating and perpetuating traditions like no other, which only fractionally explains why she has approximately 10 bazillion friends and is one of the best moms in the world, too.

One such ritual Aimee has upheld for herself and the lucky few who find themselves snuggled up on her couch watching football on any given New Year's Day, is to take a few minutes to write down one wish, one prediction, and one resolution for the year ahead. She hands out envelopes, and after you seal up your thoughts, she files them away until the following year. No sharing required--just a little letter to yourself. Inevitably I always forget about it, but then that plain white, self-addressed envelope, with the words "Do not open until December 31st" written on the back mysteriously appears like clockwork amid the rush of holiday greetings. 

I confess, I couldn't wait until December 31st this year to rip mine open. I could hardly contain my curiosity about where my mind was at this time last year. I knew I was not feeling much like my sunny disposition self--all sorts of things had just gotten way out of hand in 2007 and I was ready to make some drastic changes, though even without opening the envelope, I was 100 percent sure I hadn't predicted that I'd take up residence in Nowhere, PA, no matter how out of whack life had become.

My prediction? That I'd register for Ironman Lake Placid. The reality? I focused solely on running all year and couldn't be happier with the way that decision panned out. My wish? Well, honestly, who doesn't wish for happiness and health for yourself, friends, and family? The funny thing about wishes is that I can keep wishing them over and over again with the same amount of hope that they'll come true. My resolution? To dial down my OCD tendencies in just about every aspect of life--work, volunteering, training--and to spend more time with my friends and family. Mission accomplished. Except in training...I've made peace with the fact that I'll always be kind of compulsive about that.

I suppose it is fitting then that on this December 31st, I ended the year with a 5K run in Bethlehem, PA, with my good friends Michelle and Suzanne. I had a grand total of 8 miles on tap for the day and thought it would be fun to throw the 5K race in the middle of it. We braved the 10-degree temperatures, 30-MPH wind gusts, and swirling snow squalls and were each rewarded with our own box of Peeps for registering (yes, those marshmallow chicks coated in yellow sugar, commonly found in grocery stores around Easter time--bet you didn't know those are made in Bethlehem!). When I got back from tacking on two miles after the race, we discovered that somehow I managed to win my age group, and hence I was given a medal from a human-sized Peep. I could only surmise that most women aged 30 to 39 have the brain cells that I lack, and alas had good sense to stay home that day.

Later, we met up with with Aimee and her family in an absolutely frigid downtown Bethlehem to see the insanity that is the Peep being dropped at midnight. We didn't stick around until midnight, but we did see the plastic Peep suspended from a crane near City Hall. We were underwhelmed. It was plastic, about 25 lbs., and best described as a glorified rubber ducky. We retreated to a local bar within 30 minutes.

In the midst of such hype, we didn't have the time--or maybe it was a lack of inclination--this year to record our wishes, predictions, or resolutions for 2009. Perhaps we all just needed a break from forecasting what our lives might be, in favor of simply leading the lives we have as well as we can for each of the next 365 days ahead. 

Truth be told, I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland this year anyway--the part where she reaches a fork in the road and asks the Cheshire Cat which way she should go.

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," the cat says.

"I don't much care where," Alice responds.

"Then," the Cheshire Cat says, "it doesn't matter which way you go."

"As long as I get somewhere, " Alice adds.

"Oh, you're sure to do that," the cat says, "if you only walk long enough."

Happy, healthy new year to you--may it be just what you've imagined and a little bit of what you never could have.