Saturday, December 24, 2005


But I think Christmas is organized. I'm glad to be back in my own house--my mother is celebrating Christmas with my sisters in Connecticut and my sister Sheila had her vacation before Christmas and went back to Perkins. We leave the 27th for Belize. I got in two swims this past week, my two three mile runs and a 7.1 mile run, and two shortish bike rides. But the rest of my time since we got back from Concord has been spent getting ready for Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2005

getting away from rigid thinking

I grew up in a family where there was only one right way of doing things (my mother's way), and I still fall easily into rigid thinking. Having decided to increase my long run by 1/2 mile a week, it literally never occurred to me that I could increase it by 1/2 mile some weeks and by 1 mile other weeks.

I'm trying to remember there are alternatives to that rigid thinking that says life is about trying hard to do everything right. Rather than looking for the right way to do something, I can look for flow and smoothness and creativity. I was talking to someone about my inner work and said that we need to think not in terms of getting it right but in terms of creativity. I imagine a choreographer saying: "Try this. No, that didn't work, try this." It isn't a matter of fixed right and wrong but of trying different things and feeling out what gives the most satisfying result.

We are off tomorrow for a visit to my mother, back Tuesday.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

one of those days

My alarm went off at 5:10 am for swimming. I went outside and there wasn't any ice on the driveway but there was a lot on the trees. I decided I've gone to too many things here in South Carolina in winter weather I thought was driveable only to find the building dark and locked. So I tried to find out if my daughter's school was closed, but it was too early for school closing reports.

About 8 am I called one of my son's teachers and heard that it was raining there but might get colder later, so I decided to try to head on up to pick him up. I didn't see any ice on the roads but the trees were bent over with ice and in many places trees were down blocking one lane of the road. Up at the Eastern Continental Divide on Highway 25 near Hendersonville there was slush on the road for a while, but then it got better again.

When I got to the school their power was out. The transformer at the school had blown, so they weren't expecting to get it back any time soon. I picked up my son, and when we got going he said he wasn't feeling well. We stopped at a barbecue restaurant to get some lunch and he threw up. I took my lunch to go but since the smell had bothered him so much I didn't eat it until I got home. So we set out for home, with my son crying in frustration over having the stomach flu.

We got down off the mountain and then came to a closed road, probably because wires were down. I thought I knew a back way, but I ended up making a circle and coming to the same roadblock again. I followed some cars another way and was able to get past the blocked road without having to sit in the same detour traffic jam a second time.

My son threw up again when we were most of the way home. I had provided him with a bag and at that point I just kept driving, feeling that we most of all needed to get home as quickly as possible. He was saying: "No, Stop, I can't breathe" to his stomach. We made it safely home about 2:30 pm. He has continued to be sick but at least I had a chance to eat and we are at home. We are supposed to be flying to Massachusetts Saturday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

exam done

I gave my last exam for the semester today. Only one lost sheep who had his schedule wrong and missed it. The next problem is weather--I am supposed to pick up my son tomorrow and the weather report up in the mountains where he is is for freezing rain. At least I got in my long run today, 6 1/2 miles.

I was writing an email today about being an older athlete. I've heard that people who take up running in mid life can expect to improve for 7 years, so I'm certainly still at a point where I can seek to beat my own personal best times. But eventually age wins. I imagined then that the goal might be to run and bike and swim more and more smoothly and efficiently. To flow rather than fight. I read a newspaper article a few years ago that talked about flow as what brings us happiness, and I was excited to be given the words to describe something I knew from experience.

Monday, December 12, 2005

believing in myself

I posted a message on my triathlon email group looking for feedback on my idea of doing a half marathon in February. Most people said go for it, your training is fine for what you want to do. But a few advised me not to rush it but rather to give myself more time to build up slowly. I got defensive and wrote:
Am I foolishly risking injury? That is the danger, but I'm trying to be careful and will drop the idea if I start to have problems in my training. I think I can probably do it safely if I don't push myself too much. Am I interfering with the seriousness of the event for real runners? I will be careful to start in the back and not get in anyone's way, and if the race organizers specify a 4 hour cutoff, I assume I won't be the only slow one. I want to do it because it would be fun and exciting and inspiring and I would be immensely proud of myself, no matter how slow I am. I don't have to be good at this (even relative to my age) to have fun and to be proud of myself.
Several people pointed out to me backchannel that I am a real runner. Oops, that was a revealing slip.

And then I went to the race site and the cutoff is now listed as three hours and I temporarily lost my confidence. There are programs that predict your time at one distance from another, and those predict from my best 5K time a half marathon time of about 2:50, but I'm not going to expect to be able to do that with less than ideal training. However, I know these race directors are very friendly about people finishing after the cutoff.

I did a three mile run this morning and it felt good and I got my confidence back. Maybe I just need to keep telling myself I am a real runner. If my knee and hip hold out and I do the half marathon I will do it more in the spirit of an organized century bicycle ride than of a race, but I will feel I have accomplished something big, and that is what it is all about.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

born alone

For several months a poem I memorized years ago has been popping up in my head now and again:
Now Let No Charitable Hope

Now let no charitable hope
Confuse my mind with images
Of eagle and of antelope:
I am by nature none of these.

I was, being human, born alone;
I am, being woman, hard beset;
I live by squeezing from a stone
What little nourishment I get.

In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.
I was convinced it was by Dorothy Parker (famous for "Men don't make passes/ at girls who wear glasses") but it turns out to be by Elinor Wylie.

But what struck me this week is that I am trying to learn to really believe something different: that I was, being human, born in intimate relationship with God.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


I went for a 6 month appointment with my doctor--she has wanted me to come in every 6 months because of the diabetes. It seems silly. I tested my A1c with a home test kit, which I then took in for the doctor to see. A1c measures average blood sugar for three months; mine was 5.1 (normal range is 4.7-5.7). My doctor said she has never seen anyone control their diabetes the way I have. I wish she didn't see what I am doing as quite so remarkable--it is as if she couldn't imagine that anyone else could do it. My approach suits a certain personality (who likes the idea of "my body, my science experiment"), but it isn't that hard. I don't do it by iron will or self-discipline or obsession but by finding what I enjoy and ways to work around things that cause me problems. I had a cup of supermarket eggnog today before I went out for a slow 6 mile run. It is something I used to enjoy that I couldn't normally have now, but it made a good source of fuel when I was going out for a long slow run right before lunch. (I know it wouldn't work for most people, but I have a cast iron stomach.) The exercise I am doing is a lot (about 10 hours a week) but it is an adventure for me. I told several people today how excited I am by the possibility of running the Clemson Half Marathon. I think I would even be prouder of than than I will be of doing my first international distance triathlon.

I did get one piece of useful feedback by going to the doctor--I got my hemoglobin tested and it was 13.2 (excellent--normal range for women is 12.1-15.1). I have a tendency to be low and since I'm having increased bleeding as a symptom of moving towards menopause it is something I need to manage carefully. Clearly what I am doing (Slow-Fe iron tablets about twice a week) is working.

Monday, December 05, 2005

further reflections

I like the quote Dave gave in his comment:
To ask for what we want is human, to accept what we are given is grace.
But I can accept that for adults more than I can for a child in pain she can't understand.

A friend commented by email that while things won't necessarily be well for individuals, she believes God is at work in leading the human race somewhere through all our pain and struggle. I believe that too, but it doesn't work for me as a way to live with the problem of undeserved suffering. I don't believe that a particular person's suffering is necessary to God's plan. (update 12/7: I didn't mean to imply God has a specific plan but something more like that God's intention for the world includes us learning by trial and error.)

I think the most helpful thing I have heard is the idea of just trying to be at peace when things aren't going to be ok. Peace is a good thing, whether justified or not, and I can see that if I am walking with someone going through a hard time I will be a better companion if I can find peace in myself than if I am frustrated that things aren't getting better.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

postal swim meet

I got the preliminary results for the 3,000 yard swim I did. I get the prize for bravery in participating--the slowest time posted (at least among the women). I didn't previously have a record of my final time; it was 1:26:55. I did the first 2,000 yards in 59 minutes so my time for the last 1,000 yards (done separately) was 28 minutes. I'm happy with that.