False Starts

I started running again. When you read that phrase, the image in your head is likely one of an elite athlete forced to take a break from their training finally returning to the sport in triumph. I’m going to let you think that.

I am not a runner. My husband is. He’s like a greyhound at the track, long and lean, and likely to chew on your library books. Okay, I made that last bit up. But he’s a runner. 30+ miles a week qualifies him for the label. My one mile a day, three days a week running the Padawan to school does not.

I don’t like to run. If I could get healthy and fit by being beaten with a wooden oar, that’s the option I’d probably choose. I’m short and wheezy and asthmatic, clearly the makings of a top tier competitor.

My absence from the sport can be explained partly by some trouble with my leg. It hurt. Like, a lot. I don’t go to the doctor. I have my reasons. They aren’t sound ones, but I’m a big baby an adult. So I did what anyone would do. Nothing at all. Until I could barely walk. I was finally referred to a physical therapist.

Turns out I’m made weird. My foot does something freakish I should have outgrown when I was 15, resulting in a calf that’s roughly 30% larger than the other. No wonder I run like a duck.

The actual therapy part is painful, and I don’t mean a little. It requires The Stick, a series of giant beads strung on a PVC stick. It’s used to apply pressure up and down the tightened muscles of my calf. The rotten bit is that I cannot use this device properly by myself, which means engaging an assistant. And he hates it.

He’s a little soft-hearted, I guess. He doesn’t like to hurt me. I don’t know it’s the screaming. Or the tears. Or the kick to the groin. But for some reason, after two sessions he has been reluctant to help me. I try to motivate him, to get him in the proper frame of mind for the task, but there are only so many times I can key his car or pee in his running shoes before he takes out a restraining order and I’m right back where I started. What’s a girl to do?

Anyway, I ran again today. After several long weeks, I went to the track. It has less to do with New Years resolutions than the sure knowledge that I’m going to die if I don’t. I’ve had a series of migraines lately and have come to the understanding that if I don’t develop a good way of dealing with stress, my head is going to quite literally explode. So I ran.

It was just a mile. Four little laps around the track. I could do that easily. Except I discovered that when I run, I lose the ability to count to four. I think I ran four laps. Maybe it was three. “Four” comes after “one,” right?

39 degrees is warmer that I thought it would be, and I did eventually need to peel off my sweatpants. Next time, I will try really hard to make sure I’m wearing shorts underneath.

I had hoped to process some plot lines for the novel I am working on, but I was not successful. Unless that plot involves lots of wheezy breathing and vows to never, ever do this again. I’m sure I’ll have better luck with that next time.

If there is a next time. Maybe exploding head isn’t as bad as I thought.

Magic Shoes – With Sincere Apologies to Forrest Gump

I bought new running shoes. I had to. Running shoes are supposed to be replaced every 400 miles or so. I don’t run much, of course, but after two years of ownership, my last pair had seen a good 2000 miles. It was time, due to both condition and aroma. Sauconys don’t smell the best to start with, so after two years and that many miles, I’m frankly a little grateful that severe allergies have killed most of my sense of smell.

I almost didn’t buy them. I asked to see the latest model of what I was wearing, and sticker shock nearly took me out. I’m a cheapskate. I have shopped at thrift stores for more than ten years (if you were to ever see me in person, you’d be painfully aware of it), so the idea of paying full retail for anything is repugnant. Add to that the price increase. This model has gone up about 30% in the last two years, which seems pretty darned steep. ***

I looked the pricey kicks up and down and wondered if I could gracefully back out of the store and put up with what I had for a few more years. But my legs offered their two cents in the form of a well-timed muscle twinge. I don’t know if it’s my old, beat up shoes or my illness that flares up from time to time, but the last few weeks I’ve been unable to sleep due to leg pain. It might actually be worth coughing up the national debt of a small nation to be able to rest well, right? Cognitive dissonance says yes, friends.

I tried on the shoes to make sure I actually liked them. Saucony has surprised me before. Their Grid Omni III was just heaven. The four was unwearable. I tried the current model. It was okay, but if I’m going to plunk down a chunk of the money I’ve been saving for my camera, I am going to be sure I’m buying the right thing. Thirty minutes and eight pairs later, I walked out with the very first pair of shoes I tried on. Of. Course.

They are ugly. Where most brands are moving to a wider toe box (that’s the part of the shoe where the toes go, for those of you who don’t speak the lingo), these are strangely pointy,  but the sole itself is wide. I look like I’m wearing orthopedic elf shoes.

But they do the trick, and that’s what counts. I beat my old time by about two minutes this morning, though that may have had less to do with the shoes than with the bone-chilling temperature. More importantly, my legs hurt less, and that’s worth every penny.


*** Heather’s soapbox Let me just jump in and say that I might could have saved $10 online, but I didn’t. The shop I visited is locally owned. The folks who work there are so knowledgeable that they analyze a customer’s gait before recommending shoes. When my husband first shopped there many years ago, they told him he was actually wearing the wrong kind of shoe for his particular body mechanics. And they were right. You can’t get that kind of advice online. And if I visit a local shop and take more than five minutes of their time getting (good) advice, I sure as heck owe it to them to shop there.

An aquarium shop I used to work for recently went out of business after about 40 years because customers would come in and get lots of great advice on keeping their fish, and then they’d go right down the road to the big box pet supply place to buy what they needed. Or go on the world wide web and buy stuff in bulk. Now there’s no one in town to offer 40 years of experience.

My New Hobby

I started running recently. My husband is an avid runner. He is doing a bit of training with the Padawan, who has now appointed himself my personal trainer. As if I need one. You don’t get this stunning physique from sitting at the computer writing and eating MoonPies. Okay, maybe you do.

So the Padawan and I run to school each morning, which is saying something. When Bill Cosby wrote his bit about his dad claiming to walk to school and it was uphill both ways, he had our neighborhood in mind. Whichever direction you choose, there’s nowhere to go but up. But I do it because it makes the kid happy, and it makes me tired, requiring me to fortify myself with an extra MoonPie. What? I said I was running, not adopting an entirely new lifestyle.

I know lots of writers who draw inspiration from their runs, mulling over chapters, blog posts, short stories as they exercise. I am not one to let such an opportunity pass me by, so here you go. The poem inspired by my morning run.

Beautiful morning! Wow!

Cool breeze. Fall is here.

Padawan is so fast.

I’ll never be that fast.

If he makes fun of my speed again,

I will pound him into the ground.

I need running shoes.

These Chacos just aren’t doing the job.

Are we there yet?

Good Lord, this hill is long.

My legs hurt. I need to pee.

Why did I drink all that water this morning?

Goodbye Padawan! Have a good day!

I will never do this again.

Why are those people staring at me?

I hate them. All of them.

If that car honks its horn at me,

I will flatten their tire.

How long is this hill?

I think I may die!

No, seriously! Someone call 9-1-1.

I am not going to make it!


Catching my breath.


Never moving another step.


But I still need to pee.

Over in those bushes?

No, the neighbors are watching

After the last time.

Moving on.

I see the house!

It has never looked more beautiful.



And scene.


The Latest Fitness Rage

I am so sore from yesterday’s workout that I can barely move. It was a great one. It was tough, and there were times that I wasn’t sure I’d make it, but I couldn’t stop smiling. No matter how bad the burn or how many times I got peed on. Oh, wait. Maybe I should start by explaining my workout. Yesterday, we moved the giant Aldabra tortoises from their off-exhibit winter enclosure to their summer digs. And a good time was had by all.

How do you move three large tortoises all the way across the zoo? Two answers. Very carefully, and pickup truck. They’re entirely too big for us to move them all at once. The girls and the hatchlings make the first trip.

And lift, and lift, and lift! Feel the burn! No, that's not me. I am taking the picture, silly.

The hatchlings? So glad you asked. This:

6 years ago. Time flies.

Is now this:

Yeah. Six years. Incredible, huh? 20 curls, please.

The ladies are taken to the clinic for weights and radiographs to check for egg development.

Patches REALLY doesn't want on the scale. So she peed and pooped all over the vets. I will have to try that at my next checkup. Lift, guys!

The bucket? Again?

And on to their new enclosure. Here’s where my part of the workout came in. My job was to convince these nearly 200lb tortoises to behave like ladies and not step on anyone’s toes. Not always easy. This job involved a lot of “brace yourself and hang on.” And a great deal of poop. Like hot yoga. (note: I have never participated in hot yoga, but this is how I imagine it would be.

There I am! Along with four other people and five tortoises.

Once the girls were safely deposited, it was time to move Al.

To put it into perspective, those guys are all six feet tall. Big Al lives up to his name. He likely tips the scales at 600lbs. I think I'll leave this one to the ones with the muscles.

Riding with Al was a bit of an adventure. His natural curiosity meant some squashed toes and pushing against 600lbs of “I want to see over THERE!” Feel the burn? And the bruise?

It was worth the effort! Doesn’t he look happy? I

In The Name Of Fitness

My husband saw it first, standing in all its dusty glory at the church rummage sale. A marvelous piece of machinery – a Nordic Trac elliptical trainer. How could anyone let this baby go?  At its unbelievable bargain price, we bought it. There was only catch. Actually, there were three of them; our children. We had too many to get our family and our new machine in the van. We tried to give them all a child away, but there were no takers. I would be forced to return to fetch my prize on the morrow. And so I did. Now you can follow the timeline as my fitness dreams come closer to fruition.

11:00am – Locate treasure. Discover with great joy that it has wheels, so moving it will be almost effortless. Two guys offer to help, so it’s even easier! Whole new levels of physical fitness await.

11:05 – Open back of van. Crane neck to one side, and then the other. This is not a warm-up stretch. This is the slow realization that this machine, which measures five and a half feet tall,  may be too big for the van.

11:07 – Remove 75lb seat from the van in an effort to fit the elliptical. Discover stash of bunny crackers and miscellaneous crumbs sufficient to feed a starving nation. Die of humiliation.

11:08 – Realize that there is nowhere in the van to store the dislodged seat. It is heavy, and now it is also loose.

11:10 – Watch two guys struggle to get the machine stowed in the vehicle. Do not wonder how a lone female will remove it when the time comes. Doubt is fatal.

11:20 – Admit that it is not actually possible to close the hatch at all, and the only way to get it home is to drive with the back entirely open. Be very brave as the machine is secured to the van by the grace of God and a strategically placed bungee cord.

11:25 Rummage through a bag of Goodwill donations in the hopes of finding a red cloth to tie to the open door, which protrudes four feet. Find nothing of the sort. Pink striped polo, it is. Off we go.

11:30 – Try to forget that the only thing stopping the loose seat from leaving the scene is a 150lb piece of exercise equipment that is held in place by a giant rubber band. Gravity is not on our side. Avoid hills and imagine buff and beautiful new physique.

11:32 – Begin to wonder why husband insisted on buying this stupid machine in the first place. Consider looking for new man who likes his woman fluffy and weak.

11:37– Try forget that there is no way to actually get home without scaling hills that make K2 look like a prairie. And there is a heavy seat floating around unsecured in the back.

11:39 – Beg Squish not to throw the toy he is holding onto, even though he asked nicely. Try to describe said toy getting sucked out of the van, never to be seen again. Small son not convinced.

11:45 – Breath sigh of relief as the driveway appears. Elliptical machines really are good for the heart. It never stopped pounding the entire drive home.

Not mine. Know how you can tell? All of my walls have fingerprints. And I'd never work out in front of a window. Like, ever. Got this pic from wikipedia.


Stay tuned for Part II:Getting the Ever-Loving, Stupid Machine Into The House And Abandoning It In The Living Room Because The Wheels Didn’t Work And It Was Too Heavy To Move Anywhere Else.