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My plate is full of great things: Super-sized portions of field trips, a side of piano lessons, and heaps of delicious art classes, during which, Mama goes for coffee (and sometimes ice cream) with her friends.

Still, it’s a lot more than I’m used to. And to top it off, my skinny jeans are getting uncomfortable to wear (must be all that ice cream during art lessons) making it apparent I need to increase my weekly mileage. Oh yes, and I’m teaching writing seminars for the homeschool kids. And I’m going to write a novel this month. Plus there’s that little thing called homeschooling, where I’m SUPPOSED to be the teacher.

I love my life and the opportunities the kids and I have, but I wonder how I’ll get everything done.

The real problem is that for the past couple of months, most of our activities are an hour away. There’s no real solution or way around it, so I find myself spending 8 to 10 hours driving a week, and if you look closely at my kitchen floor and bathroom toilets, you’ll see the cost of the commute.

But here’s the thing: I can stay home and have a perfectly clean house, or I can provide valuable learning opportunities (and fun socialization) for my kids. There’s really no choice to be made–our lives are richer because of the activities and because of the people we get to be with while we’re doing cool things.

All of this means that in the next month, I have to be extremely dedicated to using my time wisely.

So, if you don’t see many funny quips on my Facebook page, don’t be alarmed. If I don’t answer emails right away, don’t call the Red Cross–I’m still here!

And though I will be driving way too much, I’ll also be running (before sunrise), writing (any chance I can get), living, laughing, drinking too much coffee, and loving my family.

All it takes is dedication.

But my house probably won’t pass a white glove test any time soon.

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I didn’t know I was stressed until my husband tactfully encouraged me to go for a run.

The day was sunny, and the countryside was relatively quiet, but running wasn’t on the LIST for the day.

The dreaded LIST.

Dirty windows, dirty laundry, dirty floors…most things on the LIST needed soap and water, in one form or another. I HAD to get it done.

Why?

Because I thought it should all be done.

In reality, nobody else cared about the LIST. Sure windows are supposed to be clear, and not tinted with farm dust and kid-smudges.

But the children had clean clothes to wear, and as for the floor, well, nobody is crawling around on it anymore except for the dog, and he LIKES it dirty.

The stress of the LIST must’ve crept out over coffee somehow. Maybe it was the way I helpfully advised my husband as he made omelets for the six of us.

“Don’t use that pan.”

“You have the heat too high.”

“Can you use real eggs?”

“The heat is too high!”

“They’re not as fluffy as I make them.”

“You need more patience.”

“I told you the heat was too high.”

I don’t think I said “Thank you,” even once.

No wonder he suggested I go for a run.

Okay, so maybe he was just trying to get rid of me, but then he said something really nice.

He told the kids that when their mother goes for a run, all her stress bubbles just float away.

And I could just picture it: me running through the lovely Franconian countryside, a trail of muddy stress bubbles rising up from my head, or my heart, or wherever they hide, and dissipating far above in the atmosphere, where they couldn’t hurt anybody.

As for the LIST, it still has three items on it, but those things will be crossed off, one at a time, just after I go for a run.

 

Eight days ago, I was climbing the final hill into Füssen.

It was so quiet, I could hear nothing but my footsteps and my own raspy breathing. I wondered how long I had been running in need of my inhaler. On the steep cobblestone, I slowed to a walk and swung my pack around so I could grab the inhaler. Two quick puffs, and I was packed up and running the final 200 meters.

Flashback…

It was at that same spot a year prior, an angel in guise of an old man on a bicycle called to me, “Nur Zwei Hundert Meters!”

Only 200 meters?

By that point on my first marathon, the pain in my knee was so excruciating, I trudged along, barely getting my feet off the ground until the end of the marathon, where upon finishing, I leaned on the shoulder of my oldest child because I couldn’t really walk. I finished my first marathon, but it wasn’t exactly glorious.

This year was entirely different.

To begin with the end…

I felt a surge of adrenaline as I crested the hill. Before I knew it, I was running through the tunnel, which isn’t a tunnel, but high rocky cliffs that swallow up the road and lead to the final decent into Füssen—and to the finish line. I felt so good, so strong in contrast with the year prior, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

A smile spread over my face. And when I smiled, the bystanders smiled too—it was contagious. Then I started “woo-hooing” and pumping my fist and crying out “Yes!”

I was bursting. I could feel the goodwill of the people watching, and when I saw my kids at the bottom of the hill, waiting to bring me to the finish, I ran with an energy and emotion I can hardly describe.

Joy is uncontainable when it is layered over recent sorrow.

Running through my head…

I thought about a lot of things as I ran this year. And one of those things was the loss of my aunt to cancer. Last year, I wrote her a long, rambling email telling her about my first marathon. This year, all I could do was take comfort that she was with God, and that maybe He would give her a glimpse of one of the little victories in my life.

I miss her at the strangest times. And I will never watch the end of Mary Poppins again without sobbing. When Jane and Michael beg her to stay, but she gently tells them “spit-spot,” because her job was accomplished; or when she raises her umbrella and floats up into the clouds, away from the mortals, I have to find a place where I can cry without the kids hearing.

If God did pull back the veil on the 24th, so Aunt Kathy could watch the race, I’m sure she was smiling—knowing that while her job was done, her influence was still felt here on earth.

The beginning in the middle…

It was in the upper 40s and raining at 6:00 am when Mike dropped me off at the event tent. A few runners were jogging around the parking lot, the side streets, and through the downtown. Even the bright colors of the jerseys couldn’t overpower the immense grayness outside. My thoughts were completely focused on the first portion of the marathon, which I KNEW was going to be a pain.

I was filled with dread, which was not remedied by the weather.

The first seven miles or so of the marathon consists of running around a very flat, dull lake and through some pasture. You make a loop around the lake, so at the very beginning of the loop, you can see where you end up an hour later, which makes it seem like you’re making all this effort for nothing—literally going nowhere.

Now, if I’d had a better attitude, I could have breezed through the initial part. But in my mind, I didn’t LIKE starting off in the cold rain with runners at each elbow. I didn’t LIKE seeing the end of the trail right at the beginning. And BLAST IT! My Garmin went completely BLANK at mile three–how could I keep track of the miles when everything is posted in KILOMETERS? Was I supposed to do MATH now?  I didn’t even have my watch to stare at, and the lake was SO BORING!

Halt!

I always tell the kids “Boring is in your mind. It means you aren’t using your imagination.”

No matter how much I scolded myself for being unimaginative, I STILL thought the lake was boring.

The path consisted of small wet rocks punctuated with puddles you had to jump over. Fortunately this year, there weren’t any places where you were up to your ankles in lake water. Still, all I could think about was getting through it so the ‘fun’ could begin.

If I could have broken through the dullness in my mind, I am convinced I would have made better time. In my first marathon, the excitement of it carried me through the first half in two hours. When I reached the mid-way point this year, I was bummed to discover I was at 2:06. My mind had cost me six entire minutes.

I had some catching up to do.

The middle at the end…

Once I was through the Slough of Despond, my running really took off. I was relaxed, not in any pain at all, and my muscles didn’t tighten up (as they had during some of my training runs). I felt so good, I could hardly believe it.

Soon, I was picking off runners one by one. Sure, they were mostly old guys. And one guy I felt badly for. I would pass him, and he would pass me at the water stations (where I walked through). We went like this until the last 5 miles, when I zipped by him, and left him breathing hard along the River Lech. I wanted to call to him “Auf Gehts!” or “You can do it!” but I didn’t—I regret it, and hope I get another chance.

What is the point of running if I don’t encourage other people along the way?

My biggest ‘victory’ happened along one of the lakes (not the ‘boring’ lake…but the one we didn’t have to circumnavigate). I had just downed my first Mountain Dew (which I had sent ahead) and was running along when I caught up to a guy with dark curly hair.

I followed for a while, reading the back of his shirt—Münchener Fussballer, something or other. After following him for a little while, he began to slow down. Shoulder to shoulder with him, he looked over, smiled and said something. I’m not exactly sure what it was because it’s hard for me to translate while running (and after 15 miles or so, my thinking isn’t quite sharp), but I think he was complaining about the drizzle, which I no longer noticed because I was drenched with sweat anyway.

I smiled and then ran ahead of him. He tried keeping up for a while, which made me go faster, until soon, I was around the next bend. I didn’t see him again during the race.

Marathons…

I’ve said this before, but marathoning is a strange business. A 38 year-old housewife who only began running 3 years ago can outrun a 20 something Fussballer out of München, and a 60 something lady with jello triceps can leave us both in the dust.

It is an incredible sport. You don’t have to be agile, or particularly fast, but you MUST have physical and mental endurance, which is what levels the playing field for amateurs.

Yes, I love it. And I want to be the 60 or 80 or 99 year-old lady (with slightly firmer triceps) breezing by the young kids someday.

Eat…

Last year I was sucking down goo packs every 30 minutes, which I discovered actually made my knee condition worse. The sodium makes me swell up like a balloon, and so this year, I wanted to do things a little more ‘naturally.’ (Go ahead and laugh about the Mt. Dew…I said ‘a little’ more naturally, and admittedly, Mt. Dew is NOT a natural substance).

I had made some gluten free energy brownies, but during the marathon, I felt like I couldn’t eat anything other than apple slices or bananas—and that was okay.

The biggest breakthrough is thanks to my brother and the Tarahumara runners depicted in the book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall.

My brother is a big proponent of the benefits of chia, and the Tarahumara…well…you have to read the book.

Make fun if you will and sing that horrible As-Seen-On-TV jingle, but ch-ch-ch-chia is absolutely the best if you can’t have the goo.

I added a heaping tablespoon of ground chia with a quarter cup (or less) of multi-fit juice, put it in a snack-pack ziplock baggie, and voila! I had my own goo pack.

While chia may not give you the instant high of the goo packs (hence the Dew), it does give you energy and helps your endurance. I brought 5 chia packs with me for the marathon and only used 4 (mainly because I couldn’t find the other one, as it had hidden itself in the bottom of the backpack).

Drink…

Once again, I brought along my Nathan Hydration pack. I can’t say enough good things about it. This year, I was wise and only filled it about halfway because the Konigschlosser Romantik Marathon does a great job of keeping you fed and hydrated. Last year I finished with nearly a full water pack.

I mainly carried the hydration pack so I could keep my inhaler and chia goo in it. I hate having a marathon ‘belt’ or fanny pack, because they tend to flop around. For me, the backpack is much better. The Nathan is great because it is made of a soft mesh fabric and is very lightweight compared to the camelbak. This year it came in handy because I could stuff my rain jacket in it when I got too hot, as I was sopping wet from the inside out, so the jacket became slightly ridiculous.

I know I said I wanted to do things more naturally this year, and yet I imbibed cans of Mountain Dew along the trail. At first, I felt like I was putting poison into my body (as I detest high fructose corn syrup). But during the marathon, the jolt of caffeine and even the sickeningly sweet taste was good for instant refreshment. Sports drinks just aren’t good for my system, so some old-fashioned, American motivation in a can was helpful.

I’ll experiment and see what alternatives are out there, but it worked this time. And for the record—Mountain Dew and chia is disgusting (I tried).

Be Merry…

The biggest lesson…attitude is everything.

When my mind thinks I am trudging along, then my time suffers. When I pretend I’m flying, my feet lift off the ground.

The people who ran the best (aside from the elite athletes) were the people in pairs or groups. While running, at its core, is a solitary sport, it seems like having a team makes it more enjoyable. Hopefully I will have the chance to run with friends more in the future!

Run with style…

‘Minimalist’ or ‘barefoot’ or ‘chi’ running has been on my mind a lot. During the race, I actually did run with a forefoot style, and it is a much more economical—you can go faster while conserving energy. I’m determined to really give this new style a go and see if it makes a difference in my running and how I feel afterwards. My new trainers are already in the mail.

During this marathon, I wore straps under my knees to keep my kneecaps aligned. Last year, I couldn’t go three miles without my knees hurting. This year, I can go longer without them, but I wasn’t quite ready to go without the bands for the race. 26.2 miles is a long way.

Someday, my goal is to be able to run without the bands. It will require a lot of hard work, but that’s okay. Worthy goals often take a long time to reach.

Finally…

“Number Funf, Ein und Neunzig…Keri Wellman…die Mama!”

That’s how I was announced, crossing the finish line, hand in hand with my kids.

That’s me. I’m the mama—the Marathon Mama—and I am SO happy both things can joyfully coexist.

I truly believe that running makes me a better Mama.

Post-Marathon…

With a medal dangling from my neck, I changed my clothes while Mike ordered a steak and a carafe of red wine for me. I kept my medal on over my civilian duds, because I couldn’t quite part with it just yet. Not only were Mike & the kids there to celebrate with me, but some friends had come down to join us. The best compliment was when my friend Carolin said, “You don’t look like you just ran a marathon!”

Last year, I was hobbling to the massage table. This year, I was dining on steak. I walked stiffly around town afterwards, but overall, I felt incredible.

As we strolled through town, I would occasionally glimpse another person with a medal, and whenever we made eye contact, we exchanged a nod and a smile. There are feelings & emotions & words that are so intertwined, they can’t be pulled apart and articulated.

I think only the other people with medals dangling from their necks could really rekindle and recall that feeling inside. Words scarcely do it justice: It is pride and humility and joy and pain and love and dread all rolled up into one package.

My two goals had been met in this second marathon: #1 to run faster and #2 to have no injuries. Going into this marathon, I was ten pounds lighter, had MUCH better muscle tone, and had done 95 percent of my training on the actual road (as opposed to the treadmill, which is no real substitute).

After the marathon and the eating binge, we drove back to our hotel in Austria, where I spent over an hour in the hotel whirlpool. Later, after putting the kids to bed, Mike & I went out for yet another steak dinner, and we clinked our glasses of the local Blaue Zwiegelt and talked about marathons and kids and life at a candlelit table as the sun set behind the Tirolean Alps (one of my favorite places in the world).

When we got home to Franconia the next day, I didn’t have to walk down the stairs backwards (because of trashed quads) like I did last year; and I actually went running a few days after the race. I’ve been running this week, and I want to keep up with it, so I don’t lose any progress I’ve made.

I have many aspirations, and while not all of them have to do with running, running has everything to do with them.

It is only because of marathon running and the strength and imagination God gives me that I have the desire to dream big and the determination to see things through.

God willing, I’ll overtake these dreams along the trail, and pluck them off one by one, until I reach that final finish line, where I will finally hear my aunt’s voice again and feel her arms around me.

But for now, I’m only 38.

There are many races ahead of me.

Do you work out when you’re sick?

I suppose the answer depends on what type of exercise you’re doing and what type of sickness you have.  For example, it’s probably not wise to go long distance running when you have the stomach flu.

For some of you, fitness is not just a part of your lifestyle, it’s your job.

So how sick is sick enough to stay in bed?

While training for last year’s marathon, I was never ill. Sure I had knee problems and trouble breathing at times (due to reactive airway disease), but I never had a cold, a flu, or any other of the bountiful springtime viruses. Even during our March trip to Tuscany, when every other person in the Wellman house had stuffy heads and our holiday apartment turned out to be in a cold, damp basement, I was healthy the entire time.

Studies have shown that running builds immunity, but if so, why have I felt so terrible the past three weeks?

Is it allergies, or am I just being lazy?

More than once in the past couple weeks I have gotten up for the day, had a cup of coffee, and then gone directly back to bed.

It is well documented that I am indeed lazy, but the extent of this laziness seems unnatural (even for me). Which leaves me with the question: do I run or rest?

Two weeks ago I ran. Despite going through an entire pack of tissues on an eight-mile run, I stuck with it. Afterwards, I didn’t feel any better or worse than before.

This past weekend, I did a long run of ten miles, and aside from the bothersome runny nose (and the knee problems at the end), I felt strong.

But I am still sick.

And I am SO stinkin’ tired of being sick. 

This has been a hot, dry April, so there’s probably a lot of stuff floating around that would have normally been washed away, but when will this end?

Then I think about people like my aunt, who has cancer.

With cancer, you always hear words like ‘fighting’ or ‘battling,’ and I think that’s because of the physical and emotional toll it takes, and as in war, the soldier has his life on the line. Soldiers face hardship and deprivation as well as physical and emotional stress. The only thing that could possibly keep them going is the fight for life.

I have it easy.

Allergies won’t kill me.

But the question I face every day is: do I work, or do I go back to bed?

The other question is: why am I so whiney?

When I think about people who are actually facing difficult things (like cancer or terrorists), I realize I need to just shut up and color.

There’s a marathon in July that’s not going to wipe my nose for me, and I need to be prepared, whether I bring a box of tissues or not.

So, my plan is a little rest this week, then back to the full training schedule.

The marathon countdown begins the first week of May.

*Editor’s note: the phrase “shut up” is forbidden in the Wellman household, as those are unkind words. However, Mike & Keri have been known to occasionally use the phrase to make each other laugh. 

Running downhill with the wind at your back is easy; it’s when you turn around you find out how well you’ve prepared.

Saturday’s long run is a good example. I knew I had to run ten miles, so I gave myself two hours, which should have been plenty of time to warm up, do the run, and cool down.

But instead of getting myself out the door, I sat around drinking coffee, while glancing at my watch occasionally. When I pulled out of the driveway, I realized I would have just enough time to get to the trail and do the run.

Of course, I failed to take road construction into consideration.

By the time I was sneakers on the ground, I was literally running late, which means, my warm-up was non-existent, which means, at 8 ½ miles, I had run out of time, and my knees were hurting.

It was at this point a light bulb switched on in my “learn it the hard way” noggin: every time my knees hurt, my muscles were tight.

There might be a correlation here.

Because I didn’t give myself enough time to properly warm up (which should have been a mile jog followed by light stretching), my knees suffered.

So, in my usual, human guinea pig style, I have vowed to try a proper warm up next time with stretching, and THEN begin my run, even if it means waking up with the chickens on a Saturday morning.

Only by doing a proper warm-up can I determine if my knees are paying the price for my own laziness, or if there is a real medical need to slink back to the physical therapist, tail between my legs.  

In marathon training, it’s not the wind or the rain or even the mileage I’m fighting; it’s my own proclivity towards procrastination.

Time and time again, I willingly slide my toes into the warm, comfortable tar-pit of failure.

Because if I don’t give 100%, I can always say, “Well, I didn’t really try,” or “I needed more time,” or “I had to stop because my knees hurt [because of my own neglect].”

I know that people who do great things are those who commit themselves whole-heartedly. They give every ounce of their being to do something well. No excuses.

I get this.

I comprehend this on an intellectual level.

But it is incredibly difficult to lace shoes on it and go.

It is much easier to fail if you have an excuse.

What if you give not just what you think is your best attempt, but a genuine, 100%, to-the-point-of-collapse effort, and you still fall short of your goal?

That’s scary.

That’s being human.

But that is the fear I must overcome—and soon.

No excuses.

It was a peaceful morning: the birds were chirping, the tractors were still snug in their sheds, and here and there, purple, white, and yellow fragments of color sprang from the mud.  

As I jogged the first half mile slope, I spied the village hunter, who I can always tell from far off because of his huge black mustache. He has a dog, spotted like an Appaloosa, with curly fur on her ears, and so sweetly tempered it makes you sad to think she’s involved in an activity that requires bloodshed.

The dog is not allowed to stop and socialize when they are training. She has to run behind him, and usually the hunter is in his tiny little car, kicking up dust along the country roads.

Today the hunter was on a bicycle, and when we passed, I slowed and reached out to pet the dog, for which, she was promptly scolded. She gave me a look of longing, as if she’d rather be running alongside me. 

I would steal her if I could get away with it.

The hunter is not a bad man. He is friendly and will chat with you (in English even) if he’s not preoccupied with killing something.

I realize the hunter has an important place in this village, where there are no predators to keep the animal populations in check.

Still, I can’t help but root for the animals.

Maybe it’s because when I run, I feel connected somehow to nature. When the sun is shining, and the valley is still, save for the birdsong, I feel part of something bigger than myself—I feel part of a grand design.

I love this countryside.

I’ve memorized the hills, the trails, the fields, the orchards. I know that any day now, I will reach the top of the big hill to see the white and pink blossoms in the orchard below.

Pink trees are things of wonder and worthy of a pause, even if it affects your overall time.

Because running isn’t only about getting faster or stronger or becoming less stressed; it’s about thanking God for where you are at that moment.

It’s about discovering your place in the grand scheme of things.

As I curved around the orchard and up the next hill, I made out the vague shape of deer, nearly indistinguishable from the dirt of the field.

Post-marathon running, to put it bluntly, sucks.

When you have completed a marathon, you are on a high that lasts for so many weeks, you can easily forget to work out, in which case, your body slowly begins to take on the form of the retired Mr. Incredible.

But the increased size and odd shape of body parts is not the only downfall: you also realize that your once-a-week long run is the exact same mileage as your previous daily runs.

Lately I’ve noticed the first four miles of my runs are hard.

Really hard.

I feel so completely out of shape and uncoordinated I seriously doubt I was the woman who ran 26.2 miles last July.

But once I get past the four-mile barrier, something amazing happens: I feel strong.

I can pick up the pace and really focus on what my body is doing. I can challenge myself in ways that, at the outset, seemed quite ridiculous. It’s at this point I begin to realize daily effort pays off big-time.

In life, working towards a specific goal is hard work. And hard work automatically implies a process that is uncomfortable and quite possibly smells bad.

Often as you approach your barrier, you feel like you should just give up and slink back to wherever it is you came from.

Why work so hard when the goal isn’t even in sight?

But if you press through it, you will find that the sweaty, smelly, difficult exercise has made you stronger.

Soon, you are flying along, not even thinking about what you can’t do, because your head is filled with what you are actually doing.

I once heard a pastor who kept talking about the Iditarod he ran once without freezing to death, which is all well and good, but he ran it in 1973.

What had he done lately?

If 1973 was your last great achievement, then you might want to consider that opportunities may be mushing past you. 

I don’t want to be one of those people who talks about the marathon she ran once, a long time ago. I want to be doing amazing things right up until the day I die.

Amazing goals don’t have to be grandiose: you could strive to be a healthy person when you’re in your 80s (like my Grandma), to have a good relationship with your kids (also like my Grandma), or to be the most awesome teacher, friend, architect, parent, or spouse ever—amazing goals are not necessarily the most public ones.

In fact, the most difficult goals to achieve are the ones that come without recognition.

I don’t know when I will run another marathon, but I do have dreams I’m moving towards. And while many of them seemed utterly out of reach six months ago, now, they’re starting to sound reasonable, achievable.

And that is exciting.

But it’s hard.

Really hard.

Sometimes the struggle doesn’t seem worth it. And at those times, the muscle memory of my highs will have to carry me through the lows.

But once I’ve made it past that four-mile barrier, I’ll be flying.

Then I can say:

Sure, the marathon was great, but look at what I’m doing now!

Whatever your goal may be (some of us would like to lose 20 pounds before the high school reunion in August:), keep working at it.

I guarantee once you’re past your own personal four-mile barrier, you’ll be flying too.

It is said that a monkey will reach into a jar to grab fruit and becomes trapped by his own clenched fist when he stubbornly refuses to let go.

In his quest for the prize, the monkey trades freedom for frustration.

The moral is that sometimes we are so focused on what’s in the jar we miss out on bigger rewards. 

I’ve played the primate more times than I’d like to admit.

For several months, a friend and I have been working on a book I feel will benefit many families. It is the culmination of years of experience and provides a new philosophy regarding traveling with children.

But it is much more than a travel book: not only can it help improve relationships between parents and children, but it has the potential to help families build bridges cross-culturally. I believe in the project with every fiber of my being.

But somewhere during the process, things got complicated.

I became stressed, and the harder I held onto the project, the more anxious I became. 

The project I loved became my own monkey trap.

So, I let go.

I let go of fear and worry about the project’s future and simply went on living, running, and writing.

This week I was informed that not only was the project back on, but my prior concerns had completely vaporized.

Jenn and I can write, publish, and market the book how we want.

The prize fell freely into our hands.

I had no idea two years ago how similar the journey through life is to long distance running.

You see, when a runner is anxious or stressed, muscles tighten, endurance crumbles, and pace slackens. It can even come to a point where the harder you try, the worse you perform. The best remedy for a runner in that situation is to relax, release the anxiety, and simply run.

Whether you are running, writing, or walking the unique path of your life, if you find yourself frustrated or fraught with stress, it is best to look down and see what exactly you’re holding onto.

Anything you grasp too tightly can become a monkey trap.

Stats:

Miles: I fell short of last week’s goal, but this week I’m back in the groove. It’s funny how easy it is to ignore running when you haven’t registered for a marathon.

Weather: Gray, clouds, cold, gray, clouds, cold…I want fake spring back!

Wildlife: 4 crazy kids with cabin fever. Lots of little blue and yellow birds. Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing lots of gunfire outside and haven’t seen my deer all week:(

 
WANTED: Bold band of buddies to join me on the journey through 2011. The road will be fraught with frustration, fear, failure, but God willing, a treasure trove of triumph. Must have high goals, gritty determination, and no fear of hair-pin turns.

While it is admittedly cliché to make New Year’s resolutions for health and fitness, that’s what I’m doing nonetheless, and the road won’t feel quite so lonely if someone goes with me.

After going gluten-free in 2009, I began to feel so good that I took up running. Then a friend suggested doing a marathon. She said anyone could do it, and since I am the epitome of “anyone,” I thought I’d give it a shot.

I had a few goals when I began: I wanted to be able to do ten push ups, I wanted to get down to my ideal size, and I wanted to finish the marathon without killing myself.

While I fared nobly in the marathon by not dying, and I can indeed fit into my Misses size 6 jeans, I can not do a push-up to save my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to do great little things, but I also want to take control of my life in areas that are completely up to me. I can always control what I eat, and I can always control when (or if) I exercise. Therefore, my health goals for 2011 are as follows:

                –do my physical therapy exercises 4 days a week, along with weights

                –begin marathon training (just in case I see a tempting one)

                –start the Zone Diet full throttle (to lose enough body fat to ditch the Misses sizes)

                –do ten push ups (in a row)

What are your goals for 2011?

Whether your dreams seem small, such as completing a marathon, or big, such as maintaining your ideal weight, I would love for you to share your experiences with me, for mutual ego-boosting, condolence, and/or virtual happy dances.

I am not asking for a weekly weigh-in or embarrassing tape measurements, but I’d simply like to hear from those who are willing to take this road trip with me.

It doesn’t matter if we fly towards our goals at autobahn speed, become diverted on umleitungs, or get stuck in the occasional stau, together, we can find out where this new road leads.

Auf gehts!

I haven’t been skinny since 1980. Granted, I was seven years-old, but since that time I have been average, athletic, voluptuous, and just plain fat but never skinny. 

 

I know some people who have never donned fat pants after Christmas Dinner. These people work hard to simply avoid looking like skeletons. Many of us think we would love to trade places, but some of these women are just as miserable about being too skinny as the rest of us are about being too fat.

I don’t care about being skinny; I want to be strong.

I can imagine how much easier it would be to run if my legs had a little less padding. If I were stronger, I could do cool things like run 26 or more miles. Sure I ran a marathon, but anybody can do that. I want to be a step above “anybody.”

There’s a forty-mile race in Switzerland that looks awesome. But could an average hausfrau get into good enough shape to sprint through the Swiss Alps like a Heidi on steroids? And why would she want to? She’d have to be crazy…

I threw a first-class pity party after the marathon. My knees hurt constantly, even on piddly 2-milers. All I could visualize was a lifetime of couch-potatoing, watching helplessly as my spare-tire inflated over my size six jeans.

The straps for my knees have saved my running life, as I can now run pain-free. I’ve tried other exercises, but there’s nothing I’d rather do than lace up my shoes and take off through the countryside. I have become addicted to being outside in the wind, rain, sunshine—it doesn’t matter. There’s no rehab center that can hold me.

I love Sundays because the farmers don’t work in the mornings. And if it is rainy, like today, the farmers don’t work at all, which means the roads belong to me.

The sun came out about noon, and I grabbed my gear and was out the door. There was blue sky above me, a strong wind against me, and clouds swirling around. I sloshed along the muddy country road and over the hill, where my friends the deer were waiting to greet me. As they galloped away, a huge stork landed in a freshly-plowed field. It is the fall migration, and the storks are on their way to Africa. I wondered who they would see along the way. I’m certain they will meet better runners than me.  

It was a race with the rain clouds as I headed home, but the sun held its ground. And as I ran, I looked up to see a rainbow.

I’m not making this up.

It was an incredible run.

I want more.

 

The Skinny:

Weight: I have gained five pounds since the marathon. Grr…Not for long. I’m consuming vast quantities of fruits & veggies.

Miles: I’ve been running about 8-10 miles a week the past couple of months. This week I’m kicking back into gear. I ran 3 Monday, 4 Saturday, and 4 today. I need to work out a new running schedule though, so I am slowly increasing the mileage.

New stuff: Today I skipped up hills, which was actually really fun (and really hard).  I don’t know if I’ll be doing that when all the farmers are out…but maybe they need something to talk about.

Weather: it’s gotten cold here in Franconia, which means it’s perfect for running. The biggest problem now is mud and wet shoes. I’ve got a pair of gore-tex running shoes on the way; we’ll see how those work out. My Merrels from last year are too small (marathon training has increased my shoe size). Good thing Nike makes a size 12. Yikes!