Monday, January 2, 2012

Base Mileage


I'm getting set for a run in the weather. The temperature is in the thirties and falling, the wind is howling, and lake-effect snow is predicted in an hour or so, about when I have time to run.

I'm pretty excited about all of this.

I ran yesterday in the loveliest first of the year weather I've known in years. I wore shorts, a long sleeve tech-shirt, gloves and a baseball cap. I didn't bother with shoes, but then again, I almost never bother with shoes. Today will be a different kind of day. I'll be in my running jacket, a hat that covers my ears, gloves, leggings, and maybe even FiveFingers shoes. I'll be fighting the wind and maybe slip sliding away on snow. But I think it just might be as lovely a run as yesterday.

Because I'll be running.

Last night, I lay in bed until about one in the morning stuck in anxiety. It wasn't anything in particular, or rather it was a hundred things in particular. I tried to do some meditation, lying in bed focusing on my breathing, but I couldn't get anywhere. I just fell back into the anxiety and confusion. I couldn't even nail down what it was I was so concerned about, what was the root of my confusion and worry.

This morning, I think that it has to do with the fact that today is the last day of the Christmas vacation and tomorrow I will go back to teaching school. I'm not complaining about the length of the break. Heaven knows I get more vacation time than just about any other occupation affords. It's just that I don't love the job I'm in and don't feel particularly motivated in it. Yet, I also feel trapped because it provides my family and I with money to live on and health care coverage. So far I haven't been able to get that kind of benefit package out of my writing.

So far.

Those are the two words that escaped me last night. I got stuck in a loop of worry about my life. I was creating things in my mind, escape routes and plans, that I couldn't put into practice last night because I was in bed and trying to sleep. I can't necessarily put things into practice this morning either because today is only one day.

What can I do?

I can go for another run today and enjoy the bracing cold and the roaring wind. I can write 750 words and publish them to the blog. I can write out some of the ideas I had last night and find people with whom I can share them. I can begin building.

Back to running (and building) for a moment. I'm not a fast runner and I don't yet run particularly far. I'm coming off an injury (sprained my foot (not my ankle) playing basketball) and so I can't really go crazy out there. What I can do is put in some base mileage. I can run three, four, five miles and see how my body feels. I can't run a marathon this morning. I'm not prepared for it. I might be able to finish one, but I would suffer, lose the joy of it, and injure myself.

Today's run then is nothing in and of itself. It is a small piece in my foundation. During the run I'll build some endurance, some strength in my legs and lungs, but mostly I'll condition my heart and my head. My heart is pretty strong and just needs regular exercise to stay that way. It will carry me through most any run I want to put it through. My head is another matter.

When I first started running, I had to condition my head to keep going. All too often on a run, I quit and walked home. My head told me, "this is too hard. Stop." And I did. Then, with conditioning, I taught my head that I could keep going past that point of wanting to stop and that the world opened up when I did. Now, I can run as far as my body will carry me and not stop simply because of a decision.

Now, when I run, the conditioning I'm working on in my head is to enjoy. To breathe in the world, to see it and hear it. I'm trying to learn to be meditative in my runs. I focus on my breath, I focus on my feet. I am in the run.

Today, I will be in the run and the weather will just be a part of that. It isn't something in the way so much as a complement to the run. Today, I will run through my anxiety (not away from it) and see what happens when my head focuses on my breathing and foot falls. I will keep writing through anxiety and listen to what I say when my head talks to the page instead of flipping through the old pages of worry and ahead to what it imagines will be the end of the story. It's all about building base mileage, base word counts, base breathing.

Two simpe messages that, if I follow them through the day, might let me sleep when the time comes: run on and write on.