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In Which I Consider Writing as a Practice

In Which I Consider Writing as a Practice

This is the practice school of writing.  Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run.  It’ll never happen, especially if you are out of shape and have been avoiding it. But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. You just do it. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop. And you stop, hungry for the next time.

(from Writing Down the Bones)

Well, if this isn’t right on for me, I don’t know what is.  A little backstory here…

So I have no classes to teach over the summer – none. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Not by my choice, really, but just the way things worked out with my schools (my father, the alarmist, rang up my sister saying that the family had to be prepared to help me out since I had “lost my job.” Yeah, Dad, that’s not EXACTLY how adjuncting works, but that’s apparently how overreacting works, so it’s all good).

The up side to this is that we are ok financially for me to take off the summer. I have a list of things I want to do over the summer, largest of them being to write.  I have a story I need to tell, and it’s one that’s mine to tell, and no one else’s, and it’s important to me that I tell it, and I own it (I came to understand this after reading this amazing memoir:  Straight Pepper Diet, which I heard about on the Rich Roll podcast). But it’s hard work, writing about something painful, and that made you cry when it was going on, but it’s also good work. My arms and legs and back are sore from the work I did in the yard yesterday (work I did to avoid the work sitting in this damn chair, apparently), so it’s obvious that ALL work makes us hurt, but some types of pain are actually positive – they remind us that we are changing, growing, and effecting our world in some way. I made a mark on my yard, which is good and I can feel it in my body.

So I have this whooooooole long summer (that I realize, no, is not really that long, in the grand scheme of things, but on this side of things, it feels pretty long, especially when I think NO MORE PAYCHECKS), and the main, biggest things I want to do this summer are (1) train for the 10k in September (longest run I have done is a 5k) and (2) write/work on my story. So those are my two goals, and while I haven’t been out of school long (a week maybe?) I have noticed a tendency to do anything – and I mean ANYTHING – to avoid doing the two things I ostensibly WANT to do most of all, since I made them the point of the summer.  Here are the things I did yesterday to avoid writing:

  1. Organize my music on my phone
  2. Organize two cabinets in my kitchen
  3. Play my video game
  4. Take Straxi out
  5. Mow the back yard
  6. Weed the garden

Apparently the way to start writing is to do every possible chore in the world, twice. After you finish, THEN you can sit in front of the computer screen and put bit-pencil to byte-paper. I understand now why good writers have gone to such extremes to ensure that they have uninterrupted time in which to write:  we are really, really good at not writing, and we sure don’t need help from anybody else (I’m looking at you, Straxi) to distract us from our intended daily page count.

I’m thinking that this blog will be a great way for me to limber up before I start off on my “real” writing, because when I actually did write day before yesterday, I found that as I was finishing up, I was really starting to find my cadence.

So far what I’ve written on My Story is really pretty horrible, but it could just be that the material I am working with is really hard for me to work through. I think it’s important for me to do it, though, because it’s MINE, and I want to own it and understand it, inside and out, and also because I don’t want to forget it. It was horrible, but it’s MY horrible, and actually, not all of it was horrible.

So I hope to use this blog as an opportunity to stretch, sort of, before I start training on my story. After, when I have said my piece for the day, I will move to training my body and working on that 10k race. I can use it as a treat, sort of, for me and for Straxi.

My view as I try to work...
My view as I try to work…
Paddling

Paddling

So I opted for Hal Higdon’s 10k novice training plan. I’m on Day 3, which is cross training, and which follows Day 1 (stretch and strength) and Day 2 (run 2.5 miles). Yep, Day 3 is definitely after those two days. Certainly.

When I got up the day after I had done the stretching and strength training, I could definitely tell that there was some stiffness and soreness. I haven’t really been doing any strength work, which I realize is a no-no when it comes to trying to extend your miles (which is my goal) and your stamina (also a goal). But I was definitely looking forward to today, and getting into the pool, for some cross training. I love to swim. I was, in various past lives, the following things: a life guard, a mermaid, a swim coach, and a fish.

Ok, maybe not the second one. Or the third. Okay, none of them. But I still love to swim. Love it. I swam on swim teams when I was younger, and had a blue ribbon, a red ribbon, a green ribbon, and a trophy, all of which I was painfully proud. I have no idea what happened to them, but I sort of suspect that they were victims of the divorce and wound up getting chucked when my dad and grandma packed up the house. My books wound up donated to the library, which in retrospect should have infuriated me, but when you are a kid, whatcha gonna do when one of your parental figures packs your books all up into the back of the station wagon and drives off with them?

Honestly, I don’t think I really understood what was happening, and told myself it was ok, since they were all “baby” books – books I had read, loved, and spent time with. I don’t remember being upset, but I still remember it happening – all those filled to the brim bookshelves, and then POW! Nothing. I don’t suppose it’s shocking that I have a house full of books now, and that if someone tried to run off with a book of mine they would be tackled and my dog would be sicced upon them (“Straxi! Trinus libri raptor!” that’s latin for “Straxi! Trip the book thief!” I would never encourage my puppy to be unnecessarily violent, although in this instance, it would be considered, certainly.)

Ok, I’ve gotten rather far afield from my intended topic: the 10k cross training. I swam today, and I didn’t just swim a bit, I swam a mile in 30 minutes. This was staggering to me, even with my memories of the time I spent in the water at the YMCA all those years ago, the pools in the apartments where I have lived, both as a kid and as an adult, and the laps I swam as I was working on my ultimately doomed Ph.D. exams.

As a kid, I swam laps until my mother said she was dizzy. I loved the feeling of effortless movement in the water – I could sort of sink into the pattern of stroke, stroke, breathe, kickkickkickkick as I did the crawl (my fave stroke, btw). I could do a flip off the wall and swim the next length without any trouble, and the next, and the next – I swam laps until I was forced to leave the pool by my mom because it was dark. Of course, I thought this ridiculous: that’s what the underwater lights were for. I never considered that Mom might have had other things to do, or she might have been bored, or that she might have been being eaten alive by mosquitos, or that she may have been tired after working all day. Nope, never crossed my mind. All I thought of was swimming another lap.

I guess I was like Chris’ dog, Rose, when it comes to tennis balls/footballs/any type of ball: put that activity on the table, and you have my attention (that’s Rose in the above picture, btw).

So I got away from swimming, obviously, and the draw of so many other things in life pulled me in: school, work, kids of my own, then various unhealthy habits. So returning to swimming, with a goal in mind, a purpose, but also with a love for the movement, the history it holds for me, and all it represents, is just an enormous opportunity for reflection and (hopefully) a little growth.

I Invoke the M Word and Training is Considered

I Invoke the M Word and Training is Considered

Straxi and I went on a lovely run Friday. Not a long run, but it was nice time spent together anyway. We walked downtown and deposited some money in the atm, and honestly, Straxi seemed very confused by all this sort of thing – all the people, cars, other dogs – she just seemed very unsettled. We usually run on the greenway, and so I can understand her difficulties, certainly. I sometimes wonder how much she trusts me to be able to navigate us home, and get us where we need to be. I think she thinks she needs to run everything, even from the opposite end of the leash.

I want to start focusing on another race – I’ve registered for the local turkey trot on Thanksgiving, which will make Thanksgiving quite fun, I think. I haven’t done a turkey trot before, and I am seriously contemplating buying one of those turkey hats to run in. Costumes are indeed allowed, and encouraged, but I’m not sure if I want to go that route yet. The turkey hat could, of course, become a regular thing for me. Who knows.

But I do want to start figuring out how to move from the distance I can go comfortably right now into longer distances – I know at a gut level what I have to do, and it’s right there in that word that starts with “c” and ends with “ably.” I’m somewhat relieved, though, to realize that the issue is less with how far I can go and more with how long the training takes every day/few days. I guess if I’m going to commit to a longer run (and duh, that’s sort of why I do this, other than, you know, that whole OMG family issues, better run thing) I need to look into some training plans.

I’ve read up on marathon training, and people always, without fail, say it’s the miles you put in leading up to it rather than the miles you run on the day of. They also say that they almost died doing it, sometimes, so there’s that, too. I would love to run a marathon, but at the moment, I can’t imagine running a 10k, or a half. But that’s my goal: ultimately a marathon, with all the steps in between. So let’s look at some of the training options for my next new experience – a 10k (I figure a 10k is a good one to train for next: it’s double what I’ve done in the past, and it’s mathematically neat and will make sense in the structuring and addition of the things on my running necklace, the magnets on the back of my car…you know, the important things).

So who’s this Hal Higdon dude?

His 10k training plan looks easy (easy in the sense that I’ve sort of upped my miles without a whole lot of fan fare to about 3 miles per run, but the runs (because of time/scheduling issues) are not regular.

Obviously this is going to have to change. Although in further digging, I find this: “In describing the amount of time it takes to run different distances in this program, I assume everybody trains at an average of 10:00 per mile.”

Please hold while I appropriately respond to this seemingly offhand comment.

image

I’m a little embarrassed to say how much time I would have to cut off my running pace in order to meet that offhand time frame. Let’s just say it’s…a metric shit ton, relatively speaking.

So Higdon is clearly A Dude of Some Importance in the field of running. He’s written a many books (not as prolific as Stephen King, but seeing as how King’s oeuvre covers all manner of things that may or not exist, and Higdon is limited to…well, essentially a form of movement, we will let that one slide). He’s also obviously run a shit ton of miles, and in scads of marathons. I’m thinking that if he put those magnets on his car, it wouldn’t run due to the magnetic interference with the fuses and other mechanical stuff in the engine.

So just from a really simple google search I’ve already got a workable training schedule. The problem seems to manifest when I start to think about the time frame in which I would actually execute said training.

So the next one in my google search (after quite a few mentions of Sai Higdon – oh dear, I’m getting my author references muddled) is Runners World. That one costs money – TWO DOLLARS AND NINETY NINE CENTS to be exact, EVERY MONTH, so it’s getting kicked to the curb immediately.

Funny that, huh? I’ll entertain the thought of $140 shoes (well, honestly, more than entertain), I will pay $25 to enter a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, but suggest a training plan that asks me to pony up only a bit more than the Turkey Trot entry fee over the course of a year and my immediate response is to click away so fast you’d think midget porn had appeared on my screen. Moving on.

Next on my list to think about: the cool folks at Cool Running who gave us the Couch to 5K concept. If it weren’t for them, I don’t think I would be running today, to be honest, because I never thought I could run any substantial distance, and lo and behold after struggling through all those 60 second bits of running interspersed with walking, suddenly it’s 3 miles and I’m surprised I’m done. So what sayeth the Cool Runners?

Hmmm. First off, I’m seeing language I don’t quite know what to do with. 800m runs? Fartleks? Various paces? 4M? 5M? The education curve is too high. I’m still trying to figure out how to manage fitting all this running into a schedule that’s admittedly pretty open, when compared with that of the standard 9-5 job (which is no longer standard, is no longer 9-5, and for many is no longer the only job they have – FEEL THE BERN).

Hal’s looking a lot better just from the standpoint of ease in understanding. I’m not a novice when it comes to running, or training plans (I do know what a fartlek is, for one thing) but I figure that if it’s going to be hard going to do the actual training itself, I don’t need to struggle to translate the training plan. So Hal it is.

Another question: how do I go about upping Straxi’s miles? I guess the same way? She can hardly cross train, really, at least not with me. Although she will be doing a lot that I’m not (like a lot of jumping, sprinting, wrestling, etc.) so I guess her cross training is just of a different nature than mine, but it’s still there.

Well. So now THAT’S sorted. Oh wait…when the hell am I actually going to do this thing? Let’s think about that.

So Monday is fine: I have access to the gym, I’m off work, not a deal. Tuesdays are ok too, in that I’m home by 4ish. Wednesday is a bit of a bother, since I go in around lunch and don’t get home until 10. So ostensibly I could train before I left for the day. That makes for a very long day. Thursday is the same as Tuesday, and Friday is one class only, so…why am I wrestling with this again?