Lessons from the Universe

20160809_170516Eight months ago I was sitting anxiously at Dulles waiting for a tiny little ball of fluff to clear customs. After the heart break of “the dog that wasn’t” I hadn’t intended on getting another puppy, let along a feral dog from Afghanistan but in the weird world of the interwebs our paths crossed and I knew from the moment I saw her that she was my dog.  Now I am convinced that the Universe sent her to teach me about myself.  I pretty much realized this when the very first picture captured of her she had her tongue sticking out at the camera.  (Subtle like a sledgehammer Universe.)

Charlotte, while yes still technically a puppy when she got here, is still a feral dog.  She is a product of survivors.   Between being a source of food, target practice, or dog fighting life expectancy isn’t good her kind in Afghanistan. She was incredibly lucky that some soldiers took in her pregnant mama (against the rules, by the way) and they knew of a charity that would help them find the puppies homes in the States.

The first few weeks here she was super skittish about everything, but her bravado was big.  While her tail was tucked between her legs she would still act like she wasn’t scared.  (Subtle Universe, subtle.) Over time she began to trust me.  She still won’t effuse love the way that Perry does, but here and there she demonstrates it.  As she grew to trust me her personality began to show.  She has a wicked sense of humor.  She can also throw the best fuck you face I have ever seen in a dog.

Still the only time she will be vulnerable and cuddle with me is early in the morning in that time between waking up and actually getting out of bed.  I learned if I “nibbled” on her coat with my fingers the way that she did with Perry she responded positively.  She started licking my arm or burying her head in my neck and sighing in response.  What started off as just a few seconds slowly grew to a few minutes.  She isn’t, nor ever will be, the cuddle sponge that HRH is, but the fact that we have developed a way to express our love for each other is huge.  I guess we just had to learn each others love language.  (Again, subtle Universe.)

Don’t get me wrong, there are days that we can’t tolerate each other.  She hates it when I put the citronella bark collar on her when I’m trying to write a paper.  I hate it when she destroys something she knows she shouldn’t.  No love is perfect, not even HRH at his ripe age of 9.  (Universe I learned this one a long time ago, thanks for the reminder though.)

Patience has never been a virtue of mine.  Throughout my life the Universe has sent various lessons into my life to teach me patience.  Apparently for all the strides that I thought I was making, I guess, the Universe felt otherwise.  Love is patient, love is kind (1 Cor 13 4-13) takes on a whole new meaning when after 8 months someone is finally asking for belly rubs something that I take for granted with HRH.   She has started to trust me to the point where she will cross over a creek on a tree suspended 6 feet in the air.   For all the lessons the Universe as taught me about myself I’d think she has learned that she can trust and love which runs counter to her every survival instinct.

Oh baby trail dog, I look forward to all of our adventures. IMG_2603


Wait, Dads are suppose to know everything

Please bear with me for a brief pause in our usual running/fitness programming;

For years, my Dad and I have used medicine, science, and world events to connect; MERS, SARS, MSRA, West Nile, Ebola, Zika all have been near constants in our conversations and in email.  Having grown up in the ER watching him (long before HIPPA) it is something I’m not only interested in, but it is a way for us to connect.  We can talk about agro-terrorism or pandemics in ways that most families discuss football.  Strange, I know, but it’s ours.

Already possessing two Master’s degrees going back to school wasn’t even on my radar.  Then an opportunity presented itself where work, if selected, would allow me to go to school full-time for a year paying my salary and up to $25k in education costs.  On paper there were a thousand reasons why this was a good idea; not just professionally, after working Latin America and Africa issues for over 15 years, but personally as well. I applied for the program and given that my particular area of focus is not a traditional area for my employer I didn’t give it a second thought.  Meh, they’ll probably give it to someone else, I thought.  Simultaneously, I had to apply to schools.  Meh, I’ll never get it in, I thought.  Then the unthinkable happened.  Not only did I get into both schools I applied to, but I was selected for the program as well.

IMG_8815This is where celebrations should be happening.  I should be THRILLED I have this amazing opportunity. Instead, I’m filled with doubt.  Which was only compounded by attending Graduate Orientation.  Is it anxiety just due to change? Is it because I am old enough to practically be their mother?  Is it because it is not the right path?  Of course, I called Dad, my trail guide/Yoda/guru/center of my universe, to ask for his advice.

I know can have these conversations with my Dad and he won’t pull any punches.  Yet, today, he didn’t know what to tell me either.  Huh.  I didn’t know Dad’s could play the “I don’t know, kid” card.  Instead, he asked me why I wanted to go for this program.

We started talking about emplaced nefarious biologics into and moving across agriculture devastating our food supply.  We spoke of weaponized diseases.  On and on for almost 45 minutes this conversation went.  At the end of the conversation he said to me, go to school over the summer see what your gut says.  If at the end of the summer you decide that this is not the path for you, then don’t walk down it. He went on to say, “You and I both know what sometimes doubt is the Lord’s way of keeping you from a bad path, but it is also the Devil’s work from keeping you from going down the right path.”  But, but, but, I wanted an answer today……..

So, here I stand, wondering.  Is this the right thing?  Is this the right path? Is this the right time? Or is there something else I am suppose to be doing.  I guess I will have to wait for an answer.  Crap…….I hate waiting…….

I’m trying

Sometimes trying is enough. -ShooterGirl

This past week I had my world rocked.  Things that I thought were; weren’t.  I was crushed.  Just functioning became difficult.  Let’s not even talk about the complete dearth of food in my diet this week either.

As I cried my way through my Sainted Mary appointment this week she made the executive decision that I was going to go into maintenance for the next two weeks.  If I worked out, great, but if I didn’t feel like it there was no pressure on me to do so.  This is why I have adult supervision.  She wasn’t thrilled with the number of calories missing, but she recognized that I was, at the very least, not completely shutting down.

Standing in the grocery store, completely overwhelmed by the smells/noise/decisions required ShooterGirl called me to check on me.  I stood in the middle of the diary aisle crying and I said to her, “I’m trying.”  Her response, “Sometimes trying is enough.”

This week I got up this week, I showered, I brushed my teeth and I went to work.  Baby steps.  I don’t want to run.  I’m not ready to run. I may not be ready to run for a while, but I’m trying and sometimes, so I’ve been told, that’s enough.

Willpower is a super power

I have several friends who are into comics and super heros; you know, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.  I have never truly gotten into super heroes.  OK, that’s not totally true when I was 5 I had Wonder Woman under roos, but I digress.  However, after this week I really think I need to begin to rethink the whole super hero thing.  No, I can’t fly, although that would be awesome, my super power would be willpower.

This week has been exceptionally hard for me.  I have struggled all week with wanting to eat+all+the+thingseat, eat, eat.  My nemesis, the petulant 4 year old in my head who stomps her feet and throws a raging temper tantrum, kept whining how she was HUNGRY and that one day of over eating wouldn’t hurt me.    I, however, have not done that.  I have flexed my super power over and over.  More tea?  Yes, please.  More broth?  Yes, please.  There were days where my nemesis almost won, but she did not.

Yesterday I was faced with my ultimate test; a house warming party with no exchanges left over.  See, I was up at 4am to go running before the temperature got out of control.  This meant, however, I was completely out of exchanged by 2pm.  Uh oh.

I showed up at the party and was immediately faced with all sorts of amazing food choices.  You name it and it was there.  I poured myself a glass of water and ignored the food.  My nemesis started squawking, “Come on, have some chips.  A couple won’t kill you.” I’m not quite sure the fight scene that occurred between Willpower and Nemesis I’ imagining a fight scene like the old Batman TV show (the originally), but I’m guessing that Nemesis wound up bound and gagged because after I walked away from the chip bowl I never heard another peep.  I made it through an entire party without consuming or imbibing a single thing other than water. I’m beyond proud of myself.

Social functions are exactly that, social. Eating (or drinking) calories is my choice.  The word no is a very powerful word.  Having friends that respect the word no is even more powerful.   Every day there is a new test.  Every day there is yet another battle royale between my old self and my new self.  However, every day I am getting a little stronger and a little more powerful.  Maybe there is something to be said for being my own super hero! Hmm, I wonder if they still make Wonder Woman under roos…..

wheel on a SUP

Trying new things: SUP yoga

Sainted Mary told me a month or so ago that I should throw in something new to mix up my workout routine.  She went on to explain that not only was this to keep my body guessing, but to keep me mentally engaged.  Yes, because I handle change oh so well (that’s sarcasm by the way).  I decided to do something different, but not too different; stand-up paddle board (SUP) yoga.

If you have never been on a SUP think of standing up in a canoe or a kayak while it’s in the water.  It’s like surfing met kayaking and had a baby.  It takes a ton of core work to keep yourself from falling in.  My last SUP experience ended with me getting dumped in the Pacific Ocean and loosing my GoPro.  Oh, did I mention that this class is on the Potomac River?  Nothing like adding a bit of current to make this just a wee bit more challenging.  I must admit I went into this class expecting to be dumped in the drink.  Lucky for me, Cross-Fit Girl was crazy enough to want to try it out too so I had company! Hey if you are going to fall in make sure that you have someone to point and laugh at you!

We paddled to the west side of Roosevelt Island and dropped anchor on our SUPs. This was to keep us in one place for the class.  While we would move around a bit with the current we weren’t going to wind up down by the Occoquan.  The best part?  We were in the shade so I wasn’t going to get cooked like a Thanksgiving turkey (even through my SPF 100).

If the class were done on land it would have been a pre-beginner or even a beginner level yoga class.  However, once you added the layer of the SUPs it was super challenging.  Every pose you did you had to ensure that you were balanced and centered on the board.  It wasn’t just the big muscles you were working but all of those teeny tiny little balancing muscles that don’t get worked hard very often.

Toward the end of class we had the option of doing bridge or wheel pose.  The first time around I did bridge.  The second time we had the option of going into full wheel.  I determined to try it.  I mean, what was the worst that could happen I get dumped into the river on a 90 degree day?  When I lifted up into full wheel not only are you dealing with the balance of being on the SUP but your brain is trying to process the water being where wheel on a SUPthe sky normally is and the sky being where the water is suppose to be.  I said, “Holy crap!” and began to giggle uncontrollably.  (Of course, I came down out of wheel or else I was definitely going to get dumped in the drink.)  The third time around I went back up into wheel again.  This time my brain was more prepared for what it was going to process.  It was still super funny.

As we went into savasana we were encouraged to put our feet into the water.  I must admit I splashed round like a little kid.  I was in a magnificent mood.    While I can’t afford to do it every week, I will definitely be going back.  I wish that they offered this class or the Intermediate at National Harbor because it would be easier for me to get to, especially during the week, but I’ll just have to keep doing the basic class (for now).

Oh the added bonus and I managed to burn 276 calories which is more than Sainted Mary and I had budged for! Hooray!

GAH!!! Two weeks!

Two weeks from tomorrow I will be standing at the start line of the Shamrock Half Marathon trying to not let me breathing get out of control.  One of the wonderful side effects of asthma is when I get over anxious or excited I wheeze.  Isn’t asthma grand?  Lucky for me I have the most awesome friend ever who is also broken, thanks to the U.S. military, and she is going to ‘run’ it with me.  Two broken people=one whole person, right?

Since the weather here has been absolute shit running outside has been curtailed.  Snow is fine, but we don’t get snow . We get ice.  Whee! For two weekends in a row my 10 mile races haven been cancelled due to the ice.  From lemons comes lemonade.  One of the instructors (Lauren) was offering a charity spin class benefiting Children’s Miracle Network, and she had a couple of spaces left!  Hot diggity.  I immediately signed up for her class and then 1130 spin before it.  Yes, you read that correctly, two back to back spin classes.  I just hoped that I didn’t pull a “Bridget Jones” after Lauren’s class.

I did surprisingly well.  I practiced my fueling techniques that I am going to use on race day.  I drank lots and lots of water.  After all was said and done, yes, my legs left like jelly, but in a good way.  Bonus?  We got a group shot afterwards and for the 1st time you can actually see the difference in my body.

Here’s to hoping that the weather (and trails) are decent enough tomorrow for me to be able to get some kind of run in outside.  I need to test out my hydration pack!  Two weeks to race day!


Christmas morning, ah yes, lounging around in jammies, drinking coffee, opening presents…..Ha! That’s funny.  That was most definitely not how my morning went.

This morning I was woken around 5am as Perry has no idea that I had the day off. I did manage to sneak in breakfast and coffee before I got in the car to head to [solidcore]VA.  I was sore from yesterday’s spin/run combo that I did, but I knew that the only way to improve was to continue to push myself.  The drive there was a piece of cake.  Perhaps that was because every other sane person was actually at home in their jammies, drinking coffee and opening presents! I will admit I had some serious misgivings as I pulled up.  I was already tired and sore.  This was going to suck.

[solidcore]va just opened their doors on the 20th of December.  I have been to them before (in DC) and got my ass solidly kicked. As the trails are too sloppy to run and both my gym and Biker Barre are closed I needed something to work my butt today.  I can’t afford them on a regular basis, but this was a break glass situation.  It was this or I was going to wind up sitting on the couch all day and be lazy.  [solidcore] it is.

IMG_5422The new facility is very nice.  It’s bright and airy.  I know the mirrors are there to check your form, but I tell you what they really do is just reflect back how weak and sweaty you are.  Ok, maybe that’s just what I see.

I had really hoped that with all of the running, barre, and spin I’ve been doing that it was going to make this a little less painful.  Ha!  No, no, not really.  As a matter of fact it was just as painful (if not more so) as it was the last time.

There were five of us in class at 8am.  I take a great deal of solace in knowing that I wasn’t the only nutjob who had signed up to have their ass kicked at 8am on Christmas.  There was a couple; he was new, she was on her 2nd class like me, two girls who came in from DC, and myself.  Of course the two girls who came in from DC made everything look effortless. Nothing like being the only fat person in class.

I pushed myself to my limit and beyond.  Every muscle in my body was screaming at me.  Sometime in the first 1/3 of the workout I really wondered what happened to my sanity that I thought that his was a good idea.  I knew from experience that was my inner sloth whining and I told her to shut up and I kept pushing.  IMG_5424

By the time we reached the end I was a sloppy wet shaking mess.  Oh crap, now I’ve got to drive home?  Crap…..perhaps I could let Perry drive?

Honestly, while I do enjoy getting my ass kicked, I much prefer running, barre and spin to do the kicking.  Huh, never would have thought those words were ever going to come out of my mouth.



Where is my hammer

I’ve always struggled with my weight.  Even as a child I struggled.  When I decided to go into the Navy I went completely off the deep end.  I won’t go into the gory details, but if you look up the term exercise bulimia you’ll have a good idea of what I was going through.  Every.  Single.  Morsel. Was an obsession.

At my heaviestWhen I got out of the service I went to the completely opposite end of the spectrum.  Partially due to a toxic relationship I was in, part of it was depression (see toxic relationship), part of it was my inner sloth getting to take over.  It’s amazing how you can loose yourself.  “It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.” -Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay  How very true those words are.  That’s me, on the left, at my heaviest in 2003.  It was after that picture that I started to put my life back together.

Why is all of this relevant now?  Because I am ready to take a hammer to my scale.  I know how to loose weight; both healthily and, well, unhealthily.  I promised myself I would never become that crazy girl (again) who after eating a 90 calorie yogurt would go out and run until all of those calories (plus a few extra) were burned off.  Yet, I find myself obsessing over the scale again.

MapMyFitnessI’m currently working out 5-6 days week.  I’m running 3 of those days and doing back to back classes (barre and spin) on the weekends for cross training.  I’m tracking all of my workouts on MapMyFitness to not only keep me honest, but to keep track of my progress. I’m using it mainly for my time splits during running and to log all of my miles.  I really want to run a race in Delaware next year that I have to be able to maintain a sub-12:00 minute mile.  Plus, I’m getting ready to start my half marathon training for the next race I’m running.

All of that said, I know I’m healthier.  My times are getting better.  My lungs don’t burn as much.  My endurance is up. My shape is changing. My clothes lay different.  I’m able to fit in clothes I haven’t been able to fit in before. I should be happy.  Yet, I’m not.  Why?  The scale has not moved a single ounce.  I know I probably should throw the thing away (it’s not broken though I’d like to take a hammer to it) and just go off of the way that I feel, but if I do that I lose all accountability to myself.  I use it to keep me from become that 2003 girl again.IMG_5303

I know that muscle weighs more than fat.  I also know that when you are closer to 40 than you are to 30 that your metabolism slows down.  I also know that all of those things I did in my 20s definitely were not good for my system. I just wish the freaking scale would start moving in a southerly direction. Seriously.  Before I actually DO take a hammer to it.

Schrödinger’s Body: Tale of a [solidcore] workout

Schrödinger’s body; (def) a body can be weak and strong all at the same time.

I get bored.  I know it.  Not only does my mind begin to wander when it gets bored, but the natural sloth in me can always find a reason not to workout.  Over the course of many years I have learned this about myself.  This is why I register for races (to keep myself honest and on track), but also go looking for classes that are WAY outside of my comfort zone.  Not only does it keep me engaged, but it keeps me from plateauing.  Two birds, one class.  Enter [solidcore].

[solidcore] comes with it’s very own warning video.  Don’t believe me?  Click the link.  You’ll see.  It’s no joke.  Yet, I had been reading multiple articles talking about how amazing this class was for your body.  Many times several of my co-workers and I have been discussing about possibly trying it with hushed and awed tones.  Could we survive?  Would we survive?  Someone had to be the guinea pig for the group so I stepped up.  Hey, I never claimed to be smart.

After being down for a week being sick and having to reschedule only made the class more intimidating.  It’s like the mountain that is right in front of you that you know that you have to go over to get to the other side, but the more you think about it the bigger it gets.  Today my co-worker (we shall call her Nervous Bunny) finally went to class.

I got there a little earlier than I should have, but given the fact that I metro-ed to one of their DC locations I hadn’t been sure how long it was going to take me to get there.  I’m kind of glad I did.  I got to watch the class before us go.  I was watching skinny girls struggle.  Oh what did I get myself into?! Nervous Bunny and I decided that we would have a ‘safe word’; if it got too much we would say “pumpkin” and we would bail and never speak of it again.

The mega-reformer looks quite a bit like a Pilates machine. The whole purpose of this class is to bring your slow twitch muscles to failure through slow and controlled motion.  My main draw to this class is that it is slow and controlled.  Everyone knows that when it comes to grace I have zero.  What could go wrong with slow and controlled.

As we made our way through class working one muscle group to another I learned just how strong and yet weak I was.  I watched my leg muscles shake.  We weren’t doing anything crazy, no pounding, no crazy miles, no screaming, just slow controlled movements.  Just when your mind screams at you that you can’t do one more thing, they change it up.  What are they mind readers??  From one muscle group to another, over and over again.

I didn’t think I was going to make it.  Nervous Bunny didn’t think she was going to make it.  We grunted and struggled and tried our hearts out.  Then the instructor said the magic words, “last exercise”.  Oh sweet Lord we made it.  Through the ring of fire and out the other side.  We were weak, but we made it through the class making us strong.  After class the instructor of our class and one of the girls in our class (who had been the instructor of the earlier class) came to speak with us.  They congratulated us for doing well.  Then they dropped this little bomb on us, “We teach to the strongest person on the room.  That class wasn’t easy.”  If my jaw had the energy to hit the floor it would have.  Say what?  Teach to the strongest person.  Yikes!  I felt a little better about struggling and then a little ashamed that I had to struggle at all. Running the half marathon was easier than this class.  Holy smokes!

Then came the hard part; getting home.  Nervous Bunny and I chatted while we waited for our separate trains to arrive.  I was already willing to go to another class.  Nervous Bunny wasn’t so sure.  She too agreed that she was surprised that she survived the class.  “The trick is surviving the rest of the day.”  She said.  I laughed.  She did have a point.

Sweaty, stinky, and ever so exhausted I made my way home via metro.  One obstacleIMG_5267 stood between me and my heated car seat.  The stairs.  Now, granted, I could have walked down the platform and taken the escalator, but dammit that was too far.  I limped and whimpered my way up the stairs.  Turned on the car and immediately turned on the heated seat.  Oh wait, I have to drive home?!  Crap.

Sitting at a stop light with my foot on the brake, my leg started to shake.  First a little and then a lot.  The longer my foot sat on the brake the harder my leg started to shake.  Are you kidding me???  Just sitting with my leg on the brake was causing my leg to shake.  Good grief that was some workout.  I definitely won’t get bored that’s for sure.  I am already sore in parts of me I didn’t know could get sore.  All that said, I will most certainly go back.

Now, to climb the stairs to get into the shower….I’ll get there, eventually.

I finished

Whose brilliant idea was this anyway: Across the Bay 10k

IMG_5199There is exactly one span that crosses the Chesapeake Bay.  It’s called the Bay Bridge.  It’s long, it’s tall and in the summer it’s a pain in the ass.  Many moons ago there use to be a Bay Bridge run/walk.  Some time after 9/11 they stopped doing it out of security concerns.  I guess they must have worked them out because this year they re-instituted it as a 10k. Granted, there were no backpacks or no Camelbaks, but that’s the price of security I guess.

My first mistake was that yesterday I did the weight workout my brother gave me to do.  Why, in the blazes, I did something that dumb is still beyond me.  Lesson learned, doing a weight workout before one is going to run up an incline for nearly 2.5 miles is a DUMB idea. My hamstrings and quads werse creaming at me in language that would make a sailor blush.  As I was climbing the bridge I just felt like I had absolutely no gas in the tank.  Yet, I pushed on. As I pushed my way up the bridge I had to play frogger around all of the walkers.  I really wish that the organizers had reminded everyone that runners stay on the left and walkers stay on the right.  I think that the constant zigging and zagging didn’t help my lack of gas.

IMG_5208The good news is that the bridge had built in spacers to account for the change in weather (amongst other more ‘enginery’ type things that someone else could explain to you).  I used those as points of reference.  The conversation in my head would be, “ok, you are going to run to the next arch” or “ok, you can walk once you cross that expansion”.  It made for motivation to keep running and not to allow myself to walk too much.  Oh, how I wanted to walk…

There were tons of cops from the state level, both Anne Arundel and Queen Anne’s County as well as Coast Guard.  The nice thing I found is that lots of people were saying thank you to both the security forces and the volunteers.  One of my favorite cops the whole race was the female that was standing near the top of the bridge who was saying, “water, porta-potties and downhill are that way”.  Oh I could have kissed her.  2.5 miles up hill was hard. My second mistake was not bringing anything to refill my tank (e.g. my cacao goji berry snacks.)

The last two miles of this race were all from my heart.  I was having an extremely difficult time finding my groove. Everything seemed to be off from my breathing to my striding.  I blame the fact that I wasn’t wearing my favorite tutu.  I was doing nothing but just gutting it out.  When I came around the corner between mile 5 and 6 and I saw a small uphill I said, “Are you f*$& kidding me?!” I walked half way up and then started running again.

IMG_5213We turned the last corner the finish line was insight.  Some how I managed to dig deep \ and sprint my way from the traffic light through the finish line.  Relief does not begin to describe the emotion I felt as I crossed over the finish line.  I stopped my MapMyFitness program.  6.52 miles was my ultimate distance with all of the zigging and the zagging.  According to their race records from start to finish I did it in 1:21:59.  That averages a 13:13 mile.

The race organizers had arranged for us to have “lunches”.  While it was a sweet gesture as I opened my bag and looked in it; bagel (gluten), granola bar (gluten), pretzels (gluten).  DAMMIT.  I handed it back to the volunteer and told them to give it to someone else because there IMG_5215was nothing in there I could eat.  As I walked away I heard them say, “I feel bad someone else said that too.”  There was not a banana or piece of fruit in sight.  There was a beer tent (gluten).   ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  As I caught up with one of my co-workers who I had conned into running the race with me we walked the perimeter looking at all of the food vendors there was gluten.  Every.  Single.  One of them.  WTH???  Ugh.  My third mistake was assuming there would be something anything I could eat at the finish.

We walked towards the exit where the shuttle buses were lined up to take us back to our parking spot at the Navy Stadium.  The ride back over the other span of the bridge was filled with contemplation of how we conquered the bridge. About 5 minutes out from the stadium this guy comes up from the back of the bus begging the bus driver to know how much longer until we reached the stadium, apparently he had to really pee.  The second we hit a stop light the driver let him off of the bus and he found the nearest tree in full view of the rest of us still ON the bus.  Hey I guess when you’ve got to go…

Once we got to the stadium we all stood up to get off the bus.  My legs weren’t just merely protesting any more, they were failing to function.  They were giving me a big FU.  I coaxed them off the bus and into forward motion heading for the car.  Thank goodness I scheduled a massage tomorrow because I’m going to need it.