A Thousand Mile Markers

mile markerMy marriage almost collapsed during my honeymoon, and it was all because of Mille Bornes. My newly-minted husband and I played a quick game before dinner one evening. He is competitive. I am not. He whupped my ass. I didn’t take it well.

I find competition stressful, not fun. This has always been the case. When I was young, I didn’t play sports and since they don’t hold cage matches for orchestras, I was pretty safe. Now, I still don’t play team sports, and for the most part orchestras are still on the sedate side. I do, however, white-knuckle my way through my son’s games. See? I don’t even like watching other people compete.

The Fitbit has changed everything. For those who haven’t heard of it, the Fitbit is like a pedometer that tracks your activity level. My husband and I both got them for Christmas. You have a dashboard where you can view your progress, and they give you fun little badges as you accrue miles and flights of stairs. It’s great for grade mongers like me who need gold stars.

As a writer, much of my day is sedentary. My break is playing music or reading–not exactly calorie-burners. The Fitbit reminds me that I need to get up and move every so often. Sure, I could go to the gym or run because it’s good for me. Not going to happen. I’ll do it because it’s an easy way to get my 10,000 steps. Running is the optimum choice because our neighborhood has hills–I get credit for both steps and stairs.

The  dashboard not only gives you an overview of your performance, it allows you to connect with friends and see each others’ progress. They say it’s a way to support each other. For some reason, however, it’s not working that way for me. I’m determined to best my husband. Life is good as long as I’m ahead.

He went skiing last week. I was doing a clean food detox. He was all over the place. I was huddled with the cats on the sofa. When he got home he kept taunting me. “I’m 2000 steps ahead. Oh look! Now I’m 3500 steps ahead!”

I wasn’t amused. “You were eating protein and carbohydrates,” I countered.

“Yes, but I was at elevation. It’s more difficult. You know elevation? Oh right, you stayed horizontal the whole weekend.”

It was so on.

Friday, while ironing, I made myself run each shirt upstairs individually, and I was disappointed that we had to do so many squats in weight class. They don’t trigger the Fitbit to register a step. For a class that makes me sweat so much, it should be worth more. No dice. I was still behind. So yesterday, I ran in the cold. Normally, I don’t even leave the house if it’s below 30 degrees out. I put on long underwear and did a chilly, four-mile trek. Take that.

My husband was more than a little amused. “What happened to my non-competitive wife?” he asked. “Want to play some Mille Bornes?”

“Go right ahead. Say whatever you want,” I told him. He can laugh all he wants–I’m 12,226 steps ahead.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Mike McCollough © 2008 Creative Commons

I may be crazy, but at least I don’t look crazy

My husband is a man of science. If you want to move him, show him the data. He approaches most things in life that way. Research, test, measure, refine. He is a spreadsheet ninja.

I operate more instinctively, which is not to say that I’m a risk taker. My instincts are just as likely to say that looks like a good way to break a bone as it is to say that could be kind of cool.

I have decided that it is time for me to stop eating like a 12-year-old. He has decided that man was not intended to wear shoes, even while running.

I’m working with a wellness coach who has me eating quinoa, juicing and cutting down on my unhealthy coffee habit. I have no data. I haven’t asked for any. When my coach talks about her approach to food, I think to myself  I want to feel like that.

My husband runs though our neighborhood at 4:30 a.m. in bare feet with a lamp on his head. He’s been tracking his pace while altering his stride. He now runs as fast as he did when he was twenty. I think to  myself I want to feel like that, only with shoes and not at 4:30 a.m.

I don’t expect that any amount of data will get me to run without shoes on. I’ve broken two toes in barefoot freak accidents (I mean really, who breaks a toe tripping over their own Teva), and saw my best friend step on a nail in bare feet when I was ten. Both have scarred me irrevocably.  DSW just sent me a $50 discount certificate, and I swear it’s because they were afraid I might be thinking about it. I think they have nothing to worry about, and that I have some shopping to do.

Last night I asked my husband for a tea kettle for Christmas so I wouldn’t have to microwave my water anymore. He sighed. I have no data, I just want to honor the tea. I want to feel like that.  The tea kettle is $15. It’s a lot cheaper than the juicer. I suspect I ought to start getting my data ready for that one.

Interestingly, barefoot running requires special “non shoes” for winter. Frostbite and all that. I’ll put it on his list. Ironically, it’s a spreadsheet.

Words by J. B. Everett


When less is more, or if you can see the brick wall, by all means, stop

Lately, my running pace has been way off. I’ll be cruising along, about to hit the two mile mark when suddenly, without warning, my legs stop moving. I don’t trip, or fall, or anything like that. I’m moving, and then suddenly, I’m not. Like someone pressed the walk switch. My heart isn’t racing, I’m not breathing any harder than usual, but no amount of coaxing can get my body to move any faster.

I switched to a high protein cereal. Added a bagel thin. Added a bagel thin with cream cheese. Added a bagel thin with egg. Added a banana. Definitely not a fuel issue. Not a lack of water intake.

It’s not my bad knee, either. In fact, having to walk the mile to get home hurts more than running. Running is fine. Walking turns my bursa into a water balloon.

I have various running paths at my disposal–from 2 miles to 5 miles. I can extend them though loops and switchbacks, except for the three mile path. Once I’m on it, I’m committed. I can make it longer, but not shorter. Even though I’ve had to stop and walk for the last four days, I set out saying that it will be different today, and plow forward on the 3 mile trail, even if my body feels like I’ve put it through the ringer.

I view my determination as a positive trait. But I have to wonder if it holds me back as well. These aborted three mile runs take forever (due to the walking), require icing afterwards, and a nap in the afternoon. That’s about 2 hours to make up for 9 minutes of run time. Not a good tradeoff. Besides that, the big squishy knee doesn’t look good with shorts, although it really grosses my son out. Every cloud has its silver lining.

I forget there is a wisdom in how the world works, and perhaps, at this moment, I’m meant to run two miles and no more. Just because I’m capable of doing something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. After all, I can run my car into a brick wall, but you don’t see me doing that either.

My body is clearly sending me a message–I’m tired. Cut me some slack.  We’ll get back to the longer runs soon. Just not right now. It also makes me wonder what other messages I’ve missed. It might be a good time to start listening.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Stuart Crawford ©2010 Creative Commons

Writing the miles

I am a runner. There is something compelling about moving under your own power. Not that I find it easy. I’m terribly slow and I suspect I look like I’m in pain despite my protestations to the opposite. I breathe like an obscene caller and sweat buckets, although my husband says that when it comes to sweat, I’m an amateur. Those of you who know my husband know that compared to him, most us look like novices no matter what the category.

My neighborhood is a good place to run, and there are a few routes that I like depending upon how many miles I want to put in based on the heat, how my knee is feeling, how much wine I had the night before. Most of my longer paths include a loop on Pensive Lane–downhill on the way out, uphill on the way back. At the top of the hill is a white mailbox.

When I reach that hill, at a minimum, I’ve already run a couple of miles. The only way to get home is to get my tired butt up that grade. It’s not steep, but it is long. Long enough that the while mailbox is lit up by the sun, like a  beacon. I fix my gaze on that mailbox, and push forward, knowing that when I get there…

I have at least another mile to go.

I know this. The distance from that mailbox to my house hasn’t changed once, no matter how fervently I’ve wished it would.   I can’t slow down, I can’t let up, and I can only celebrate for a moment, because I’m not done.

I had two pieces accepted for publication this week. Needless to say, I’m thrilled. I set a goal out there, and I’m getting closer to that mailbox every day. It’s bright and shiny and it’s calling to me, and I’m putting one foot after another until I get there. But I know that when I do, I still have a ways to go before I’m done running. And just like my running, once the path I’ve set gets too easy, if it doesn’t push me hard enough, I’ll have to find a harder one.

But when I do finally reach home, I feel at peace, yet energized at the same time. Ready to take on the day. Ready to climb the hill again tomorrow. So I’ll take  a moment and celebrate but no more, because I’m not done. I have a least another mile to run.
Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by mtsofan © 2008 Creative Commons