A Good Dose of Perspective

Yesterday I had one of those days that, honestly, when I admit to the way I felt people are probably going to be super annoyed with me.  While I know it sounds like a pretty sweet gig to stay at home with my dogs, write about running and animals, run as much/whenever I want, and have constant access to my kitchen, the truth is that there are times I really wish I had a 9 – 5 job that I structured my training around, and that when I came home at the end of the day I knew I was done and could relax.

I don’t feel this way often.  Mostly, it happens after a bad workout (like I had on Tuesday), when Dave is out of town (like he is this week), and when my dog(s) are being especially needy (like they were yesterday).  By the time my massage therapist came over at 6 PM yesterday (yes, I know…I am making my first world problems sound even worse with that last statement), I was over my day.

There were only so many walks, romps in the yard, games of tug of war, and doling out of interactive toys that could be done.  I skipped my second run of the day because I felt like shit after my first run of the day and  I couldn’t re-hydrate to save my life.  I was still annoyed that I didn’t hit a single split in my 5 x mile track repeats from Tuesday (FYI, that’s the shittiest workout in the world when you’re not hitting your times), and I was really behind on work because I’m incapable of ignoring barking, whining brat dogs.

Then, while I was driving to my workout today I saw a dead man on the side of the road receiving chest compressions.  I guess I don’t know for sure that he died, but the fact that the police were still at the scene 2 hours later probably wasn’t a good sign.  He had been hit on his motorcycle.

So, yeah, got a good dose of perspective after that.

I read once in another runner’s blog about a study where when you are faced with mortality before exercise you will perform better.  I don’t know if it’s true.  I haven’t read the study.  It was just something that I remember reading about second-hand and thinking, hmmm.  that’s interesting.  

Today my workout was a simple 5 mile fartlek of 3:00 on, 2:00 off.  This was the perfect complement to Tuesday’s workout, because it was entirely effort based, and I didn’t even wear my GPS to know what my splits were.  I have a 5.3 mile loop that I run, and I figured I would just run the loop while completing as few 3:00 on/2:00 off portions as possible.  I guessed it would take 7.

The funny thing is that after you see a dead person, you start to wonder what you are doing with your life.  Why am I running?  because I can; because I’m talented; because nothing beats the thrill of racing; etc. etc.  What holds me back the most?  being afraid of dying.  Not dying in the literal sense, but in the lactic acid build up, lungs seizing, gasping for air sort of way.

I don’t know if it was what I had witnessed in the past 30 minutes, or if I was seeking redemption from Tuesday, or maybe a combination of the 2, but I was out for blood in my workout.  I certainly started too hard.  Or, at least I think I did.  I was already breathing hard at the first set.  But I didn’t care.  What’s the worse that would happen?  I would die?

I wound up completing the 5.3 mile loop in 30:56….or, right at 6:00 pace.  I have checked and rechecked the distance and the time.  My normal fartlek average is ~6:30 pace, especially because I run my easy portions SLOWWWWW (thing #4306045 about me that drives Dave crazy).  Of course, the day I want to see the data is the day I didn’t wear the GPS.

In general, the past couple months of this training cycle I have been actively working on becoming comfortable outside my comfort zone.  My bread and butter workouts are tempos, long runs, etc. and I haven’t done much in the past 10 years that has made me breathe embarrassingly hard.  I like it, though.  There is something cathartic about sounding like a freight train in a quiet city nature preserve when people are trying to bird watch.

It also turns out that working really hard brings up some weird emotions in me.  I have found myself facing things that hurt me YEARS ago in the middle of these workouts.  I know that emotional release during exercise is a thing, but I thought that was more reserved for deep hip and heart openings during yoga, not 400 m repeats.

I get this sense that I’m on the precipice right now of moving to a new level.  I’m in the process of saying goodbye to the person who calls herself “just a marathoner” and rehashes the story of her leap of faith that happened to work out to someone who is confident in her ability at all distances.  It has taken me a while to get there, but the most important part of this training cycle has been the realization that my hard work is uncovering some talent that has been dormant for quite some time.

With that said, it’s funny how perspective changes.  Two months before I ran 2:38, I ran an 8k in 28:40 AND WAS ECSTATIC.  Last Thursday, I woke up from a nap and headed out to the tow path and did a 5 mile tempo in 27:14.  These are the moments that I reflect on when I sometimes wonder what I’m doing with my life and I remind myself I’m on the right path.

Another dose of perspective:  we adopted another dog last week.  Even though my social media posts about it might have made it seem like an impromptu decision, Dave and I had actually been talking about it for some time.  We were emotionally, and financially, prepared to take on another animal.  (PS, we FINALLY cancelled our cable and replaced it with ROKU and now save $80 a month.  highly recommend).

Anyway, the day after we decided we were ready to take on another dog (our stipulations:  senior and Sadie’s size or smaller), we attended a benefit for the rescue that we volunteer with.  We were touched by the rescue president’s tribute to Smokey that we were unaware was going to happen.  At the end of the night, she told us to let her know when we were ready to foster again, and we said we were actually looking for a small, senior dog.  Her eyes lit up and she told us she actually had a 14 year old spaniel that needed a new home.  I said we would take her after I got back from Florida.

My life’s dream has always been to one day have a senior dog rescue, like Old Friends Senior Sanctuary.  I have always been drawn to animals that need help.  In fact, when I adopted Sadie I was actually looking for a big, male, senior dog.  How I wound up with a small, female puppy is still beyond me, but as far as I’m concerned she is the only dog I will ever adopt as a puppy.

Nothing makes me happier than fixing the problems a senior dog has and watching him or her remember how to dog again.  We are already seeing this with Lucy.  When she came to us, she had an eye, ear, and tooth infection.  Her family gave her up because they wanted a puppy and didn’t like that she no longer played.  After 3 days of antibiotics, Lucy began initiating play with Sadie.  She has been walking 2+ miles per day with us.  She is a love bug, and Sadie has already taken to her, which we have never experienced before (Sadie is typically indifferent and bratty with new dogs).

But, what do I love best about senior dogs?  They are a constant reminder to make every moment count.  When you bring home a 14 year old, you have no idea how long you have.  We could have weeks, or we could have years.  Loving on another dog makes me happy , and I also am grateful for the daily dose of perspective.

Originally published on Going Big, or Going Home 
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