I think mini backpacks are cool and I don’t care who knows it.

I’m finally feeling like myself again. It’s taken a shit-ton of work. Physical work. Mental work. Emotional work. Hours of therapy. Hours of running. Of listening and meditating on music that feeds my soul. Of advocating for myself and my physical health.

Recently I’ve been reconnecting with the Elizabeth that’s down deep inside, the girl who’s now grown into a woman and hopefully likes what she’s become. As my grandma, Mimi, used to say, “You have to like what you see in the mirror.” Maybe she meant that you like your physical appearance. But I know that mostly she meant that you have to like the person reflected in that piece of glass.

A previous post I wrote about finding my 8th grade journal has taken me on a trip down memory lane. The commitment to writing on this blog with this name comes from a visit to the young Elizabeth who wrote late at night. Wrote poetry. Wrote songs. Some happy, some sad. The girl who in sixth grade went through a very interesting “Harriet the Spy” phase and sat on a stoop at recess with a composition notebook, writing about what she saw. The Elizabeth who wrote a collection of poetry for a project in advanced English in 8th grade entitled “Declaration of Independence”. (I know that period’s in the ‘wrong’ place, btw.)

My language arts teacher mentioned that my poetry was dark and depressing. Fuck yeah it was. I was encountering mental illness for the first time and trying to wrestle with it. Writing was my outlet. I didn’t feel taken seriously, I guess, and I tamped it down and convinced myself all through high school that I hated English class.

“Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

All of these 90’s themes coming back have been a catalyst to coming back to young Elizabeth as well. I remember having high-waisted pants. Scrunchies (even ones my mom made to match some dresses/jumpers she made me). Those plastic rings you used to cinch a intentionally too-big t-shirt. Flannel shirts. God, so much flannel. Mini backpacks as a purse.

This one’s pretty cute.

I look at all these kids discovering these things for the first time and it makes me feel old. It also makes me sad that I ever let go of the things I liked. I’m trying to lean in to what I really like, and rediscover it. When you go through shit like infertility and crises of faith, you question your very being, your soul, your core.

So like I was saying in the beginning, I’ve been doing a lot of work to get back to myself. And dammit, I really like mini backpacks. I think they’re adorable. I really like taking running selfies with the self-timer on my camera and I just don’t care who sees me. I like wearing my hair down after a shower without drying and curling it. I generally am not into wearing a lot of makeup – mascara does it just fine for me. I like playing bluegrass really loudly when the windows are open.

Where did I get the idea that what I like to wear or do isn’t good enough? Where did I get the idea that I have to put on makeup and curl my hair in order to look “professional”? I got those ideas from society and culture, and they’ve been internalized. Somehow the cursory comparisons I made with other women got embedded in how I operate, and I’m sick of it.

I just wanna be me. I’m the same but different.

I turned 33 a few weeks ago, and I am so excited about it. 33 going into 34 is going to be such a great year. Maybe I’ll even buy myself a mini backpack.

Questioning my (running) decisions

Yesterday’s 10 mile run in Chestertown was hot, humid, slightly hilly, beautiful, and HARD. I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis for at least six months. I think I had the beginnings of it going into the Philly Marathon in November and didn’t let it rest after that.

After months of alternately treating it and trying to pretend like it doesn’t exist, it flared up big time in the middle of a run, which normally doesn’t happen.

I had a long drawn out (obviously drawn out.. Got nothing but time on a long run) conversation with myself about my running goals for the year.

After Philly I swore I wasn’t going to run a marathon this year. Two years in a row I had mediocre training and got through a marathon by the seat of my pants. Working full time with all the other things I like to do really doesn’t lend itself to a schedule conducive for training to be competitive (with myself).

It’s time I’m honest with myself and realize that yes, I love running but no, I have no huge desire to run anything longer than about 6-8 miles right now. It’s okay to not sign up for all the races. It’s okay to not be constantly training for a half or full. Just because I’ve done marathons in the past doesn’t mean I have to keep doing them.

Like my husband (and therapist) tell me, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. That includes all the other things I like to be involved in.

Over the past several months through tracking my food and calories, I have proven to myself that I don’t need to be running an obscene amount of miles in order to stay fit or lose weight. In fact, I’d say my eating is better when I’m not burning ridiculous amounts of calories on long runs.

Summer is not usually a time of introspection for me, but the tough run yesterday has prompted me to reevaluate my running goals and become honest with myself. I look forward to the rest of 2018 as a year when I stop doing things I don’t want to do, and I rest when needed. Easier said than done, right?

It’ll be a busy running year

I updated my races for this year and man, looks like I’ll be busy racing all over Delmarva (local name for the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia peninsula). I am not running any full-length marathons this year. My goal was to be half-ready at any point in time, and I’m almost there. Truth be told, my training for the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in DC has been very relaxed. I’ve worked up to 8 miles for a long run at a respectable pace and then put in a couple more runs per week, about 3-4 miles total.

Something broke loose within me during the last few miles of Philly. Actually, it started around mile 15 when I was feeling pretty down-trodden. I do this running thing for fun. It’s not a job, I will never be sponsored or featured in a magazine, I will never be super speedy without working my butt off to get there. Why slog through it and hate on myself with negative talk? It’s just not worth the effort to be like that.

So this year I’m doing a few half marathons. After starting the racing/running season off with the 10 miler, I’ll be doing a half marathon in Canada with my sister who will be doing her first half ever (!!!). Then I’ll train through a hot muggy East Coast summer to do the inaugural Susquehanna River Running Festival half right here in our new hometown. I have a thing with running across bridges, apparently.

Something new to me this year is running races with friends. I’ve been a solo runner for basically my whole running life, but I have a few friends who are into running local races. This fall I’ll be doing the running portion of a sprint triathlon – I will never do swim or bike portions! – and then I’ll be a 1/4 of a Baltimore Marathon relay team with my fellow Sunday School co-teacher.

I’ll close out the season with the Annapolis Running Festival half marathon in beautiful historic Annapolis. Super excited for this race because that late in the fall it’s bound to be cool enough to really reap all the rewards of training through the summer. Maybe I’ll PR my half….

Now, all of this will only be possible if I can keep this darned plantar fasciitis in my left foot from being too much of a nuisance. It seems that shoes more suited for stability (Brooks Ravenna) have helped, as well as inserts with arch support. Those things plus stretching + yoga have been great for this darn heel.

I have enjoyed running around this area since moving here two years ago. There’s such a robust running community and so many options for different kinds (and prices!) of races, both close to home and a little drive away.

Life

I’m reading another book about death, called Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death. Even in 2018 it amazes me how little Americans talk about this complex something that ails every single human and living thing on the planet.

Naturally when I think of the word life I also think about death. We’ve recently taken a more objective perspective on death by writing our wills and advanced directives. We’ve discussed what our wishes are and asked close family members to serve as executor of our estate. It seems a little strange to be not even 32 yet and have these things in place, but it’s important.

So then as I think about death my thoughts are again catapulted into thinking about life. My life. How I want to live it. The legacy I want to leave behind, especially now that it won’t be a legacy of children and grandchildren.

If my family’s genes are any indication, I could very well live to see an entire century. The thought scares me, to be honest. But the time is now to think about what the next potentially 70 years could bring (I’m not kidding about 70 years.. My Nana is pushing 102).

Running to B’More

I’m sore today. As if I just raced hard yesterday. The kind of sore that comes after an almost-half-marathon distance race. I ran the Charles Street 12 Miler through Baltimore, Maryland.

Mileage: 12 miles

Average pace: 10:52 (per watch); 10:59 (per chip time)

Elevation gain: 549 feet

Calories burned: 1,849

Steps: 20,542

I’ve been out of the groove of writing race reports for some time. For a long time, as readers know, I was out of the running and racing loop in general due to some health issues. I raced the Marine Corps Marathon last fall after a tenuous relationship with training. I was exhausted all the time, and I chalked it up to beginning a new teaching position, coaching Girls on the Run, and teaching a college class in the evening. Sure, all those things can make a girl tired, but I wasn’t diagnosed with hypothyroidism until February, a few months after the marathon was over.

However, this fall I’m training for the Philadelphia Marathon and this training cycle is SO. MUCH. BETTER. I feel rested, I’m recovering faster, I don’t feel so anxious and overwhelmed, my eating is more on track, and I don’t have horrible cravings for junk 100% of the time like last cycle. Here are a few things I think are directly related to how great I’m feeling this time around.

  • Finding a thyroid treatment right for me. I started out on thyroid medication in February. I had bloodwork done in May and my numbers weren’t quite where the doc wanted them so he increased my dosage. I had more bloodwork last month and he was very pleased with my TSH and with the dissipation of my symptoms. I go back in February for another checkup.
  • Learning how to say ‘no’ to too many obligations. This has been a hard lesson for me. I grew up as a people pleaser, an approach to life that can cultivate some good qualities for being in a service profession such as teaching, but it has caused me to wear myself out and neglect important self-care. This fall I’ve pared down my responsibilities outside of work. Saying ‘no’ is hard at first, but in the end it feels so much better.
  • Getting my diet on track. After a painful ovarian cyst rupture in June, which made me rethink my health in general, I decided to see if dairy and/or gluten bother me. Turns out that dairy (the more raw the worse it is) really bothers me, so in general I’ve cut out cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, half-and-half, and adding cheese to meals. It’s helped immensely. Everything’s more regular (ahem), I have fewer headaches, and I am forced to eat a bit cleaner.
  • Hydrating like a mofo. I drink at least 8 oz of water right when getting up. I usually take a water bottle when we take our dog for a walk, and I don’t drink (decaf) coffee until after I get at least 16 oz. Then I’m drinking throughout the day – in the car, in my office, at lunch, etc.
  • Eliminating most caffeine. Anyone who knows me knows I live on coffee and have since I was about 12. But I know this stimulant can mess with adrenal function and also irritate the stomach. So I’ve cut out most of it. I still drink decaf coffee, but I’ve grown to love some caffeine-free herbal teas as well. Some of my favorites as of right now are rooibos, chamomile lavender, and Traditional Medicinal’s Healthy Cycle. I’m also feeling way less anxious throughout the day.
  • Reducing alcohol intake to 4 drinks per week. It’s amazing how fresh and awake I feel if I skip even just one glass of wine the night before. After awhile, I don’t want alcohol as much because I know how I’ll feel, and I want to feel good.
  • Having a positive mindset about running. To be honest, cutting things out of my diet isn’t that difficult – I know my headaches and GI issues were tied to mostly dietary factors that I can control, so once I felt good I knew going back to old habits would make me feel bad. But coaching my mind to be kind during a workout proved to be more difficult. I do try to hit certain paces and mileage per week, but if I miss a run or don’t hit a goal pace, I don’t freak out about it. Running is a hobby and it should be fun. I bust my ass all day at work and so running shouldn’t feel like ┬ásecond job, but an outlet and therapy.
  • Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. I’ve never practiced yoga regularly before, but I now attend probably 7-10 classes per month, give or take. I’ve noticed more muscle definition, a calmer attitude, and my form doesn’t suck towards the end of my runs. I’m also starting to incorporate yoga-ish stretches before and after running.

I’ve turned a corner in my physical and mental health 31 has been innumerably better than years past. I’m looking forward to the rest of marathon training and hopefully PR-ing at Philly.