Things going well

Friends,  I am having a really good few days.  Considering that I usually spend most of my time trying to clean up messes ones others create for me  (yes family, we are alluding to the state of the kitchen at this moment, and ones I create for myself (yes self, I am alluding to the state of the kitchen at this moment), things have gone really, really well for the last few days. (Exception of kitchen status noted.)

Thing the first:  The Frankenmittens are finished, and I love them to bits.

Gauja yarn, from Headwater Wool.  Colours #1 and #21. Took .3 of each skein at $6 CAD per skein, making these a really thrifty pair, which thrills me to no end.  I love it when I find a good, cheap wool.
I wrapped up the second one on the flight home from Portland on Friday, and they worked out beautifully.  I used the braid from Lisbeth Upitis brilliant Latvian Mittens book (pg 24) then part of a chart from the same book (#36) then the beautiful tops are from Terri Shea’s Selbuvotter.

That’s Annemor #15, which is actually a set of gloves, but I repeated the pattern from the back of the hand twice, and voila. Mittens.  (Big shout out to Heather for her great idea which was the total inspiration.)  I did a stripy thumb – since I think that stripy thumbs are dead sexy, and winged a little cross pattern for the palm.   Absolute success in my eyes.  They’re beautifully fussy and traditional and pointy and everything that I wanted. 

Thing the second:  Jacket proceeding well.  Big needles, big yarn = progress-o-rama.

Today is Tuesday, so I’ll be spinning a little.  I have to ply and wash another two skeins to have enough yarn for this, and I’ve decided to spin a companion yarn to this one out of the same fibre  I don’t like to seam bulky things with buky yarn because it adds bulk.  (Predictable, but still took me forever to figure out.)  I’ll spin a yarn that’s the same, only lighter weight, to do do the seaming with. Expect jacket in the next few days, assuming that it’s not knitting that’s making my shoulder hurt but really thing the third.

Thing the third:  I ran 5k.  It was really hard, but I had a secret weapon. 

The delightful creature on the left in this shot is my sister-in-law Katie’s friend Lexa, who is an actual distance runner and some Canadian Version of Sporty Spice.  (After the run she went to yoga and then to play vollyball. It didn’t even touch her energy level)  and Lexa did Kate and I the favour of pacing us for the race.   When she said that we were all going to stick together for the race, I was mortified – and not at all sure it was a favour.  All I could think of was that I was not only going to hold them  all back with my pathetic wheezing and molasses like speed, but that I also wasn’t going to be able to let my failure be a secret. Like most people,  I prefer my humiliations pretty private, so it was all I could do not to insist that they leave me to my fate.  She insisted, and it turned out to be wonderful. She’s the best kind of encouragement.  Cheerful, kind, and firm as bloody concrete. 

There were absolutely a few points where I contemplated dying just so that I would have a good enough excuse for stopping, and a few more times where I absolutely would have stopped if I didn’t know for sure that the other thousands and thousands of runners behind me would have trampled me…

but I learned something really interesting about running, which is that at some point, there’s a trick. When your legs are burning at the second kilometre, your brain tries to tell you that you should stop – because if you feel this bad now, you’re only going to feel worse when you’re more tired… and it turns out that for me at least, that’s not true.  I felt pretty rough at the 2k marker… but my gentle knitters… that’s as bad as it got.  3k wasn’t a third worse, and 4k wasn’t twice as bad.  It got hard, it stayed hard, but it wasn’t a continual descent into hades and the fires of doom.  It was just really hard.

In the end, I walked for about 30 seconds, 4 times – and I finished the run in about 32 minutes, which means that I ran way more, better and faster than I ever have – and used way less language unbecoming a knitter. (Lexa informs me that 32 minutes is absolutely respectable.)  There’s a lot that I credit with that.  You all were right, the emotion and adrenaline carries you a lot, having a friend or two to keep pace with was hugely helpful,  the people along the route encouraging and cheering does give you the will to go on…  and I can’t say enough about not wanting to let the team down, and wanting to deserve all the donations that you all generously made.  I felt like I had to earn them… and that helped me haul it.  Thank you for your really important part in it.  I’m proud of me and I’m  proud of you. 

I’m a runner.  (I think. Funny how I look the same.)

On Becoming Something

Today I went for a run on the beach.  In the rain. 

If you know me, then this should be about as stunning as if I’d hauled off and bought a lipstick. (I haven’t.) I am a creature about comfort.  I seek cozy wool and warm baths and crackling fireplaces.  I hate the rain. I hate being cold.  I hate sweating – and logically I therefore can barely express to you how much I hate sweating while I am in the cold rain.  On good days, I can motivate myself to ride my bike (which is really more about transportation) and go to yoga (which is really sort of cozy.) Most of my exercise and generally fit self has always come from that, and walking a lot, and  having a personality type that moves a lot – when it’s not knitting.

Unfortunately for me, something is happening to me that I am helpless to reverse despite my best efforts.  Something that is trying to slow me down. 
I am aging.   (I hear it happens to the best of us.)  I don’t mind aging, I’m not bothered by the numbers that tell how long I’ve been walking the earth… and I’m not opposed to it as a concept.  I don’t believe for a moment that I’m losing value as I age.  Quite the contrary – actually, I think I’m a better, wiser, smarter, more valuable woman as I age.  I don’t even mind how it looks.  (Mostly.  I deeply miss the previous location and nature of my bust some days, and I agree that I needed less self-esteem to wear a bathing suit ten years ago… but that’s superficial and I try not to think about it.)

The truth is though, that I’m a 41 years old.  I’m a woman.  I’m small framed.   I’m white, and I had a hysterectomy more than a decade ago.  That, my friends, is a short list of risk factors for osteoporosis, and I’ve decided not to go that way- or at least to do what I can to avoid it, and that means weight bearing – high impact exercise.  Despite my fondest wish that it were true, bike riding and yoga don’t do a lot for your bones.  Running does, so shortly after my 41st birthday last year, I bought a pair of running shoes and gave it a whirl. 

By December I had tons of pain, and by January I’d been diagnosed with an "osteochondral injury" which is a sort of fracture in my ankle. (Ironic because of course, I was running to avoid fractures.) That took forever to heal, and when it did, I did a lot of research to try and avoid it happening again, and I found out a lot of stuff about running that’s helped.  (Like, when you start running, even if you have a really enthusiastic personality, you shouldn’t try running a lot every day. It takes time to build strength to avoid hurting yourself.)   I started again in the spring, really slowly, and well.. my improvement has been slow. 

I’ve been slogging away running and running, trying and trying and frankly, it’s been months and I still suck.  I’m slow.  I still have to walk for 30 seconds sometimes to make it possible to go on.  I still think I’m going to die most of the time that I’m doing it. I’m still not sure I even like it, and a few weeks ago I had this terrible realization that what I’m waiting for might never happen.  I keep thinking that if I run enough it will get easy… and then I was out sweating my way down the street and one of those really buff runners passed me.  You know the kind, with all the gear and the shoes and the right sort of jacket and the little water bottles stuck to them… and he had 2% body fat and and you know what? He was sweating like a pig.  He really looked like he was working, and I had this horrible thought. 

I think maybe running is just really, really hard, and that’s why it sucks.

Even after realizing that though, I’ve kept running.  Mostly because I’m stubborn as a mule, I don’t like to get beat by things, because I want to be able to do lots of things when I’m old, because I still think that maybe if I stick with it I’ll get good at it, because I hope that at some point I’ll be a runner, rather than someone who’s running… and because I really, feel like there’s value in trying to do hard things.  I think that if I manage it I might really like it about myself.  (Should I survive.) Also… I did something that sort of locked me in.

Several months ago, when I was still trying to figure out if running sucked or I sucked at it or if I just wasn’t trying hard enough.. I went to dinner with Joe’s Aunt Julie.  Julie’s a breast cancer survivor (and a former Minister of Health for Newfoundland and Labrador) and she’s done the Run for the Cure every year since then, except for this year she can’t, and that night at dinner she said that she was looking for a family member who would be her stand in and do it for her.
I’d had a glass of wine and am the sort of person who rises to a challenge in general.. so… I.. um.  I told her I would do it – and I didn’t just sign up to be a walker…. I hit the run button, because I thought that having a goal would help me become a runner, and because I thought that really, sticking up for a family member who had breast cancer was probably good motivation.

So I’ve been running.. and as of today, I still suck.  I still have to walk about 10% of the time that I’m covering 4k (which actually means that I’m running 90% of 4k, and that’s a big change) and I’ve been living in fear of Sunday October 4th for months now.  I’m terrified of it, and frankly I can’t believe it’s this Sunday.  I’ve actually been scared enough that I haven’t really mentioned it a whole lot, because I was hoping it would go away if I didn’t talk about it, but it hasn’t, and whether I feel ready or not, whether I think I can do it or not, whether I can live up to Julie or not…
On Sunday I’m going to try and run 5k.  You can sponsor me by clicking here if you would like to,  and I’m putting here the little list of things I’m writing on paper and putting in my pocket and taking with me on the run.  

1.  When I started I couldn’t run half a kilometre, never mind 5k.
2.  If you can’t run the whole thing without walking a little, they actually don’t line you up in front of a firing squad.
3. Running 5k is a pretty ridiculously easy cakewalk compared to toughing out the treatment for breast cancer.
4. Eddie Izzard.   

Wish me luck.  I’ll catch you on the flip side, and with a little luck, maybe I’ll have become a runner by then.