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Friday, November 30, 2012

Reasons to Love Running in the Cold

To be fair I am hardly an expert on cold and this is probably a pretty disingenuous post if you live anywhere above that much maligned Mason Dixon Line.  Who do I think I am? I live in Georgia and I post "reasons to love running in the cold."  Let me clarify.  Cold, like running, is a wholly individual experience to each person.  Ask someone from Tampa when they pull out the sweaters and they will say 75.  To be fair we have seen snow a few times in the 30 or so years I have lived here.  Probably would not run out of fingers counting those, given the good fortune to still possess all 10 of mine.  Cold weather, and let's go all out inclement weather, is more fun here.  I mean they don't name every snow or ice storm in Pennsylvania.  Not true in Atlanta.  Did you live through Snow Jam 1993?    Anyway, cold being highly interpretive, I enjoy the relief from the oppressive heat and unbelievable humidity that marks summer in the south.  Also for the record the whole thing about thinning blood is an absolute scientific fact so what is 50 to you may well be 37 to a long time resident of the south.

Why I Love Running in the Cold

1) Long sleeves and running tights means my nearly translucent Irish skin is fully covered.  No reason to explain that it is not a white reflecting body suit shining off the headlights in the morning: just my skin.
2) Compression gear.  It compresses, I am a woman, enough said.
3) Breathing, you totally undervalue this skill until May in Atlanta.  Then you really miss it until around October. 
4) Finally being able to sit through a meeting without having to run to the bathroom every 5 minutes.  There is hydrating for everyday running in the cold.  Then there is hydrating, as a survival skill so your post work 3 miler isn't actually the last time you will ever speak to your husband, even though the humidity dropped to just below 155%. 
5) Less people.  Let's face it a lot of folks are wimping it out on their treadmills.  Come on toughen up.
6) Running faster.  I need to rev my metabolism to warm my body up so I got to kick it up a notch. Plus see breathing above.  It turns out, if you can breathe you can actually run faster. File that under learn something new everyday.
7) Cold weather happens to coincide with the holidays and holiday eating so if I want to continue to look like this I better love running in the cold.  Among great philosophical questions should be: "Would I rather run in the cold or run fat?"  No need to ask right, Ladies?  That's why they make winter running clothes so cute.
9) I sweat less.  If this does not seem like a big deal, then you do not sweat like I do.  In fact in the winter my husband does not even run away from me when I come in from my run yelling "take a shower!"  And rarely has to pick up my running clothes with tongs.
8) This one is very important! Apparently cold helps you age more slowly.  So I could be warm on my treadmill but looking 10 years older or I could put on my cute winter running clothes and give myself nature's free botox. 

Hopefully all of this reminds you why you need to lace up and head out into the "spa" provider by old man winter.  That name is kind of ironic, huh?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When did you first say...I'm a Runner

To people who don't run it seems like a stupid concept.  If you run... you are a runner.  Ever owned and laced up a pair of running shoes and taken them for a spin around your neighborhood?  Voila! You're a runner.  Ask the question of helpful runners every where and they will say "the first time you run you are a runner."  Intellectually all of that may make sense. 

Relative newbies to the sport  know the truth that lurks just below that surface.  Other people will call you a runner long before you claim that title for yourself.  I know.  Last year I was in a meeting planning a race for water at work and several people around the table were asking me questions.  So that seemed like as good a time as any to stop reading my e-mail on my phone and pay attention.  As I tuned back in, I caught "ask Kathy, she's a runner."  At first I scanned the room looking for the other Kathy, the one that would be in infinitely better shape than me because clearly she was a runner.  Then I realized I knew everyone in the room and I was the only Kathy.  "Oh, I'm not a runner," I quickly corrected.  Also an unwritten rule, you need to do this fairly quickly and adamantly before the Running Gods who control all running hear this and think you are being way too cocky and suddenly on your next recreational outing you twist your ankle on that meter box that lazy water company never fixed.  Sorry long day of "satisfied" customers at work. Anyway the rest of the meeting was spent grilling me on number of days I run, how many races, membership in Atlanta Track Club.  All of this mind you to sway me into believing I had somehow morphed from someone who detested the idea of running to a runner.  I can assure you if the Running Gods are reading this I in no way took the bait.

Since in previous posts I have identified myself as a runner there must have been a turning point.  You may imagine a run where like in a movie, or Ryan Hall IPod ad, the road gives way to a meadow and there are beams of light and the title of "runner" is bestowed upon you so you can rightfully claim it with no worry of being smote by a vengeful and judgemental force.  How fortunate for most of us that no one is more vengeful or judgemental of ourselves then,  It was nothing so miraculous or "ad" inspiring.  For me it was when I wanted to run more than I wanted to do something else so I made a decision and altered my schedule for "running."  For me it was the day I decided it is just too hot in Atlanta in the summer to run at 5:00PM so I decided to set my alarm and run at 4:30 AM.  This is now my habit, but 5 months ago it was a big step or let's face it a real commitment to the sport.  All the other things my friends listed, it wasn't that they weren't true.  They were.  I became a runner in my own mind when running was in my heart and I needed to do it because I loved it.  Hope you found your moment.  If not keep at it.  "I'm a runner" will slip out one day and you won't even look to the sky out of the corner of your eye!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Addiction Gets a Bad Rap

Today we have a way of categorizing everything.  I am pretty sure prior to say, the last 15 years or so we just called most of these things "life."  Or when something went wrong in "life" my very philosophical father would say "that's just tough apples."  I don't think people think like that anymore.  Nothing is tough apples.  I no longer see people  "walk it off."  When is the last time you saw a kid's soccer game where a kid comes running up crying and the parent says "rub some dirt on it."  Now we dissect everything. 

Nothing is just "life" everything is a syndrome, a complex, or at the very least a disorder.  That brings me to my point; I heard someone talking about Addictive Personality Disorder.  Really? They weren't talking about alcohol or drugs.  They were talking about exercise.  You show me someone who isn't addicted to something and I will show you someone with a complete lack of focus.  Don't get me wrong I am not condoning drug addiction, alcoholism, smoking,or the host of other unhealthy choices to which this "disorder" tethers us.  And I do believe the addiction to alcohol and drugs is a serious disease.  It is the concept of an addictive personality disorder, that labels everyone who seems to have an iron dedication to an activity like work or running or who uses it as an excuse not to stop doing something that is clearly not a biological compulsion like shopping.  Ask a known addict of one of these unhealthy addictions, that made it to the other side, and they will tell you they replaced an unhealthy addiction with a healthy one.  They did not cast spuriously aside the concept of addiction, but rather chose to work with it. 

Oddly enough if you have ever noticed, when you work in concert with an addiction to something healthier you are no longer addicted.  You are forming a habit.  I say give addiciton its due.  If it is to be blamed for all that is wrong and self-destructive, then it should receive the credit when one has a singular addictive focus that leads to greatness, say Michelangelo.  Not all addictions come in a one size fits all nor are all clearly addictive to the naked eye. 

I say pick your addictions to suit your personality and lifestyle.  For me running gives me the sense I suppose some find in church.  I feel centered and relaxed and I feel possibly stronger and better than I really am in the middle of those great runs.   Addiction has its place and diseases and disorders have their place.  I just question our desire to label everything that might actually just be "life."

Monday, November 26, 2012

What is it about New Shoes?

So today was Cyber Monday and I promised myself I would ignore the onslaught of e-mails beckoning me to spend my lunch hour browsing the specially selected, offers for Cyber Monday.  Imagine my surprise at the ability of the Internet to know more about my preferences in goods than my spouse and partner of 20 years.  To be fair he does not have the capability to track my cookies nor does he posses a binary code that deciphers my web history to discover gasp...I am a runner and have a predisposition to buy running gear, over say the latest microwave oven.  Frankly he would be happy if I just baked more cookies, no need to track them he would be the destination.

So I did as I planned; spent my lunch hour going to replenish the food source for our four legged children.  Sometimes proximity to your job, home, and errands is just the devil's workshop.  It was today.  The food fetching took only 30 minutes.  I know what you are asking yourself and the answer is of course I have work I could have been doing in that extra 30 minutes.  Sure I should have selflessly given that time to the Water System, but as a friend of mine pointed out as we roll into 5 years without a raise.  Those goals seem pretty ambitious, in fact they seem like the goals of someone getting a raise.  In fact if this trend continues, of increased insurance and retirement payouts, I might end up making less than when I was hired 2 promotions and 11 years ago.  Fingers crossed; I am secretly hoping to be the first person with a job that often requires 60 or more hours a week where I actually pay my employer.  I digress. 

So Needless to say, and sarcasm aside I did not donate my half hour.  Instead my mind turned to my sad and recently departed Saucony Kinvara 2's.  The upper finally gave up ripping across the top.  These were my recovery shoes.  I usually run in really minimal shoes with little to no cushioning.  If you are a runner you know that there is always that run you want to take, the one your feet and legs say you should not, but the road say "you know you want to, I won't tell."  For that run the Kinvaras had a forgiving cushion that let you run without guilt.  Still minimal, but it lessened the pounding and stress.   Since the passing of my Kinvaras I have loved my NB minimal shoes.  I am now doing a running streak for the holiday and I foresee a need for the cushion of an occasional recovery shoe. 

Like crack to an addict Cyber Monday offered no limit to options.  I was at first committed Kinvara has been good to you, a faithful friend, but like most runners newness and curiosity always wins out.  I found the Skecher Go Runs on Amazon for $40.00.  They are a 4 mm drop and force a mid foot landing.  I have been curious about these shoes and curiosity, a free half hour, established and well used Amazon Account, and discount prices have a new pair of Skecher's Go Runs winging their way to Smyrna.  They are black and wait for it...bright pink of course, my signature running color.  I hope they will be the place of refuge for my feet after long hard runs in my great very minimal shoes.  I will let you know how they are.  It is only since running that the idea of new running shoes is so reminiscent of the way I felt on Christmas morning as a kid.  It is not just tearing open the box.  It is the unique feel of the first run, the way the shoe feels and moves a brand new experience.  Well that is enough for now.  I have new shoes coming and I probably have some work I should have been doing at lunch.  I should work on that while I still make enough for new running shoes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Why Run?

So there are a lot of things we can spend our time doing: watching TV, eating, hanging out with friends, enjoying the heat we pay for and all the modern conveniences of a home, but still a portion of us lace up our shoes pull on our winter running gear and head out the door to run. 
So why do a portion of us ignore all common sense that says there is left over turkey, a good book, a blanket, a purring cat, heat, and some very nice Merlot all saying you should hang out here for the day? Instead we say but today is day 11 of my holiday running streak or well today is Saturday and I always run on Saturday even when all common sense should be echoing back: why?  

I tried to be one of those reasons for about two years. I fought my husband every morning he slipped out of our warm bed and put on a pair of the shoes he loves so much more than me, though he won't admit it. I could not understand the pull that running had over, what seems to so many, a more attractive choice.

Then I became a runner and I admit there might still be days when I am still in the warm house looking at the cat who is cocking his head just slightly in the judgemental way that says "hey do you know it is 22 degrees out there and 70 degrees in here.  Plus we get canned food this morning."  It is also fair to tell you, this runner at least, only thinks that while still in the house.  Once I am out the door and my running partner, my music, or that cool outfit I bought just for this weather beckons I forget all about that smug cat and start doing what I do.

All of that said does not really answer why.  I think the unique thing about runners is the answer to that is "it all depends on the runner."  I don't know what drives my husband to run everyday and be closing in on a two year running streak, especially when in that two years I have seen him in tremendous pain from injury and still get out to do his mile or even more impressive run a race.  I guess the question is why do I run?

Because no one thought I could, especially me.  I feel incredibly strong when I run and I feel like I can accomplish things I did not think I could, like say: running.

I would say even if your thing isn't running you have to have a thing.  Something that makes you ignore the cat and get out the door and feel like you accomplished what you and everyone else thought you could not do.  Find it and be like my husband; fight the pain and inertia and just get out and do it.  I am trying to be more like that and it is not as hard as my cat thought it would be.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Blue Friday

While everyone rushed to the mall today and enjoyed "Black Friday" and a day off, most people probably recognized that retail workers were busy at work and police and fire never get a day off.  Maybe yesterday while giving thanks we may even have thought of those folks.  The employees of Wal-Mart have certainly been in the news as not getting to enjoy the holiday, and I can't disagree.  But as I enjoyed a day off with family and friends, I said a silent thank you to an often overlooked group of people who also operate 24/7 rain, snow, sleet, hurricane, super storm, drought, or flood.  It is not the post office.  It is the water and wastewater operators that made sure your holiday was free from any considerations when you visited the restroom during your festivities or stopped to get a refreshing drink from the water fountain at the mall.

These folks don't spend the holidays with their families, in fact many of them spend the day doing something you would not imagine doing, even on a regular work day.  They do it because they know one simple truth.  The lifestyle we depend upon, and the beautiful resources we know that improve our neighborhoods and make a place a home, and not a geographic location, need to be manned and protected even as most of the country stops to celebrate holiday.  So as we begin to close the books on another Thanksgiving and you think of those Wal-Mart workers who are just now making their tired way to their cars, also think about the water and wastewater professionals, who spent the holiday season making sure you never had to give water and sanitation a second thought.  I often ask folks when I am talking about the industry and representing my utility: have you called up the water system to thank them for delivering clean drinking water and providing safe sanitation?  It may seem like a small thing, but I promise you when people say a developed country and an undeveloped country they could just as easily be talking about the state of their water and wastewater infrastructure.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Crossing 1,000 Miles

As 10s of thousands of Atlantans got out to Gobble Jog, Turkey Trot, and get their Thanksgiving Half Marathon on this AM at the crack of the holiday morning, Hubby and I joined the host of amateurs out deciding that a day dedicated to gratitude and gluttony in equal portions, is also the day they will lace up those brand new "tennis shoes" and get moving. 

The Silver Comet was jam packed with folks sparkling with the new found optimism that this purposeful walk, arms at full swing, is the first step to embarking on a healthier lifestyle.  He and I were doing our own Happy Thanksgiving 5-K and my personal odometer was rolling over the 1,000 mile marker.  Yeah me and thanks running shoes!

Today Dung and I were shoe twins.  We both have a pair of minimal NB 730's they are both super comfortable and super affordable.  It is fun to wear the same thing as my husband since that is his pet peeve...couples who dress alike.  I can't help but point out that no one could ever tell they are the same shoes unless he starts where bright pink running shoes and he cuts off half his foot.  My foot is so small my running store has to special order every time I buy a new pair. 
Today is officially Thanksgiving and we have officially run and are now ready to descend on my sister's house and enjoy turkey and all the trimmings and of course the wine that will make dinner with my family more of a holiday experience.  I always volunteer to bring the wine. 
I already told you I am most thankful for hubby.  No way I would have crossed the 1,000 mile marker without him.  We also have six family members that share our home and our heart.  I am so grateful they are healthy and happy. 
Jazzy and Lena
Happy Thanksgiving.  Hope everyone is spending it with someone they love!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude is an Attitude

Thanksgiving is almost here.  My assistant at work was discussing how disheartened she is about Christmas taking over Thanksgiving.  She was saying it is a perfect holiday.  What other day is designed so you can eat and sit around and watch TV all day without any guilt.  I never thought of it that way, but she has a point.  Of course I won't be sitting around eating and watching TV until I have earned it by running with my hubby tomorrow.  Have to work for the dressing and gravy (my favorites).  Ties right in to my passion for bagels.  People who give up bread are seriously disturbed.  Anyway I think Thanksgiving is really designed for us to slow down take a breath and for one unamerican second stop wishing we had what someone else has and be grateful for where we are right now.

Speaking of grateful for where we are...see what I am most grateful for:

This is my husband Dung.  The light makes him look like a super hero or something.  Well he may not be to everyone, but he is to me.  Also he is a dedicated elementary school art teacher (where does he get the patience) and a great a runner which should be obvious from the picture.  Today we both had the day off.  Even though it is nearly December it was one of those 70 degree days that keep driving folks to live in the South.  We headed out about 40 miles from home to run the Big Creek Greenway and then play at Fowler Park.  I am grateful for my super hero hubby and for the ability to bang out 7 miles in beautiful weather along an area of protected wetlands. I am a water geek by profession so that kind of thing always makes a run even better.

I wish I looked like my hubby when we stopped 5 miles in to take this picture, but again I am not quite the skilled runner he is.  Also I was more interested in capturing the beautiful wetland than my 5 mile sweaty self!

See how I get him to take in the whole scene to make me look really small.  It really is a beautiful fun place to run.  It was not that busy so it almost felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

What else am I grateful for:

My 6 cats, even though today they were out of control and I drugged them with catnip (totally legal)
My job in water because even when I want to quit (like yesterday).  I know what I do everyday makes a difference and no one can really ask for more.
My relatively quiet and calm life (also again a shout to the hubby for being instrumental in that).  All I really wanted growing up was a relatively stable, quiet and drama-free life and I think we have achieved that.
My sense of humor (I left off my modesty but that seemed too obvious).
Good food
Good wine
Great music
Great books
Traveling with my husband
Everyday, even the tough ones (remember that tomorrow many of us are spending the day with our families). I will be rereading this list before I go.

Happy Thanksgiving...enjoy a day sitting around watching TV and eating after your morning exercise.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hug Your Toilet!

I don't mean that the way we used to when we were in college and partying.  Today is World Toilet Day!  The toilet, so simple, so necessary, so neglected.  What has saved more lives than any other invention...the toilet.  Yes it has brought sanitation and public health to nearly 2/3's of the World.  Sadly today is a day to celebrate how far we have come and take note of how far we have to go.

Though we have the luxury to flush our not only functioning toilets.  They are sophisticatedly designed, match our decorating scheme, come with heated seats, auto closing lids, and  the capacity to be ultra high efficiency toilets using less than a gallon a flush.  In the rest of the world there are 2.6 billion people who don't have access to this modern day miracle.  In fact they have no access to safe and consistent sanitation. 

What is the big deal?  It is only a toilet.  Oh if only it were just a toilet.  Ask a 13 year old girl in Pakistan what a toilet is and she will tell you it is an education.  Girls' educations are ended once they become "mature" and have no facilties for maintaining feminine hygiene.  It is a lower infant mortality rate in India because the rivers they bathe in, wash clothes in, clean livestock in, and draw their cooking water from would not also be the waterway by which they convey waste away from their homes.

Everyday 5-10 times a day mindlessly we flush away waste.  We don't ask where it goes.  We don't take time to marvel at the sophisticated wastewater system that cleans that water pristine enough to be returned to the environment or in some water stressed areas cleaned well enough to drink.

Every day in the world the number one killer is water borne disease.  Every 24 seconds a child dies from lack of access that we take for granted.  Unless we are asking why we have to pay so much for water and sewer service. How many children died while you read this?

Just once on World Toilet Day when you flush it and forget it think about how lucky you are.  If this meant anything to you and you feel grateful for all that our sophisticated water and sanitation systems afford us...hug a toilet!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Random Thoughts on Running and Women

I have to admit I am not a professional runner.  I don't break the tape as the first woman in the races I run and I am relatively new to the sport.  Soon to cross 1,000 miles a secret milestone I have coveted since I got serious about running this year.  My husband would laugh because prior to 20 months ago when he asked me to run with him my usual answer was "why would I one is chasing me."  Then I realized as a 41 year old woman at the time something not someone was chasing me...middle age. 

You can convince yourself with the best hair dye and most expensive eye cream that you will be young forever.  But the reality is what you see in the mirror everyday is Newton's dream come true... living proof gravity exists and it is a cruel mistress.  So it is fully armed with awareness that as a birthday present to my husband I slogged and silently prayed my way through my first 5-k in March of 2011.  All the way saying "hope you enjoy this because I am never running again" adamantly stated by a soon to be Atlanta Track Club member who now springs out of bed on the Saturday of a race and waits patiently for the family runner to get ready to join me. 

All of this running has taught me that running is different for women and there are a few universal truths in such an individual sport.

1) A female runner's best friend is a good sports bra.  It is also the best friend of everyone who has ever watched a female runner without a good sports bra.
2) When you run a certain number of miles a week you should get a pass and be allowed to wear running tights to work.  I mean you earned those glutes, thighs, and calves and it hardly seems fair that all that work has to be kept hidden.
3) Body glide is never too expensive.
4) You are running for something or from something.  Women, unlike men, never do anything for no reason at all.
5) No matter what it is it will taste better after a run.  For me that would be a bagel. 
6) You can't out run middle age.

But after almost 2 years nearly 1,000 miles I do feel like I wink at Newton and say not quite yet. Have you seen me in my running tights?

Saturday, November 17, 2012


So today my husband convinced me I too can run everyday, at least through New Years.  I have now signed up for The Runner's World Holiday Running Streak.  For me that is equal to signing a blood oath.  Once I have committed to something I will actually have to die or be forcibly restrained in order not to finish that commitment.  I have some self-discipline and control issues, but hey nobody is perfect.

I also thought this was a good time to start a new blog.  I had an old blog but I decided I never used it because I never really committed to it.  This blog will be a little more flexible and kind of deal with my actual life which is like everyone else's life, constantly in flux.

It is really a journal for me and hopefully a way that I can say what I want here instead of inappropriately saying it out loud at a meeting or something like that. Not that I have ever done that.  Well actually it might also be a fault I have sometimes.  You know the phrase call a spade a spade well my adapatation would be more like call an idiot and idiot.  Not always the best policy.  Sometimes on this blog I will be highlighting the peak of idiocy.  I also hope to share thoughts on things that are very imprtant to me: running, water, books, travel, my hubby and my cats.  A small world but I have learned if you value everything you actual devalue everything.  Sounds deep huh?  No, just lazy!