Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Run #38: The Five Stages of Grief. Um, I Mean Running.

(This run actually happened last week, but I have gotten behind on my posting.  I've got two newly-toddling toddlers over here who have decided to boycott all naps. Bad combo for running, and especially for posting.  But I'll keep at both!)

I'm wondering if anyone else feels this way.

I've noticed that a typical run can be divided into predictable, identifiable stages.  The duration of each stage changes from run to run and depends on all kinds of factors, internal and external, but the stages themselves remain pretty consistent.

I was thinking about this as I ran the other day, and realized that the stages seemed oddly familiar...

And so, I hereby give to you the Five Stages of Grief Running:

1. Denial

Otherwise known as "The Honeymoon Period," all runs start out this way, although the length of this phase has changed dramatically since I first started running in March.  During the Denial phase, there is no sweating or gasping or sharp, shooting pain.  Your knees feel strong, your lungs feel calm, your cheeks have a light, healthy glow from your warm-up walk, your music hasn't had time to get boring yet.  

The first few times I ran, this phase lasted about three steps.

At the height of my regular workouts, a mere 7-8 weeks later, it lasted closer to three minutes.  These days, I'm back to about a minute and a half before my breathing begins to get a little labored and I start to really feel like I'm.. you know.. running.  And that, as we all know, means that the honeymoon is over.

2. Bargaining

Shortly after the windedness begins, my knees start to assert themselves and I realize that I've only just begun and already I'm exhausted.  Or at least, you know, slightly uncomfortable.  This is when I start to change the game plan in my head: okay, this sucks, there is no way I'm going to make it to the 2-mile turnaround point, so I'll just make this one a 1.5 mile run.   

And then: 1.5 miles is so arbitrary anyway. If I can make it to that tree up there, I can turn around then, and I'll do an extra short run tomorrow to make up for it.

And then: Maybe I'll just walk this one, just today, I'll just walk and do some stretches.  That's still exercise, right?  Walking!  Walking is good!  And I'll go all the way to the 2-mile turnaround.... although that would be really boring, so maybe I'll just go... to the grocery store!  Yes!  I can just go grocery shopping now and do the stretches later!

Or maybe, instead of stretches, I can play Wii!  Yeah, yeah, there are yoga poses in there, and strength exercises... or I can do that obstacle course game... or the tightrope.  Or that snowboarding game.  Or tennis. Tennis!  That's probably good too, right? 

Man, I wish they had Tetris for Wii.  That would be awesome. Tetris.  I haven't played that in ages.  I should play Tetris when I get home.  I can play Wii later-- I'll find Tetris online and play that for just a little while.  

Or Sudoku.  Oh, I love Sudoku! Yeah, a little Sudoku right about now would be great.  And then I can look for those shoes I wanted to get...

And so on.  During this difficult stage, I never fail to bargain my way down from whatever lofty goal I set when I left my house to quitting immediately and couch-surfing for the rest of the day.  Meanwhile, I've kept running.  And running.  And running.  And it eventually dawns on me that I'm not going to do any of the above, but rather I'm going to finish what I've set out to do, and that thought delivers me right smack into Stage Three:

3. Anger

This is when I realize that I am already pretty far from home-- too far to turn around and save myself much effort-- and yet not quite halfway done with my run.  Every step waiting to be taken between me and home taunts me from the sidewalk.  I'm basically damned if  I do and damned if I don't at this point.

Which pisses me off.

I keep running, and a good song comes on, and my mind begins to wander.  I don't know it yet, but I am already entering Stage Four...

4. Depression

This is the most tenuously-connected stage, I admit.  Most of the time it probably gets combined with Stage Three, in a sort of miserable one-two punch.  But I've begun to experience a time after the hyper-awareness of Stage Three that I'm only aware of after it's passed, where I just sort of take myself out of the picture for a while and forget where I am and what I'm doing. It usually happens right around my turn-around point: I get lost in a train of thought, or get caught up in the song that's playing, and the running part becomes completely unconscious for a few minutes.

I'm fine with calling this the "Depression" phase, because while it is not necessarily negative in nature, in its own way it IS a lack of engagement; a checking-out.  It lasts as long as it lasts-- a minute or two, the length of a song, whatever-- and then I realize I've been doing it, which breaks the spell... and I finally, blessedly, find myself in Stage Five.

5. Acceptance

Here I am.  I'm on my way back-- home feels close at this point, even if it's still a good way off.  My breathing has calmed and slowed and feels more fortifying than desperate now.  I become aware of the warmth and ease in my body: my knees feel strong and flexible, my joints loose, my feet solid on the pavement.  The rhythm of my steps follows the music in my headphones; the fluid movements of my arms and legs is organic and helps to propel me forward-- I'm not fighting my own progress anymore.

Stage Five is where I get to feel like a Runner.

It took me a while to get to this stage.  Past the discomfort, past the mortification, past the anxiety and desperation and self-doubt, and approaching the edge-- maybe dipping my toe into the pool, as it were-- of the world where exercise makes you feel great, even while you are doing it!                                      

I know a few people, newer to running than I, who haven't reached it yet.  To them, I say: it will come!  But the trick is, it's not just a physical thing.  I mean, sure, you have get to a point where your body can relax and get into a groove without killing you, but you also have to get to a mental space where you can allow yourself to feel good while you're still running.  That's a bit harder. I don't really know how it happened for me; it just did, one day.  I think that's probably the way it works for most of us.

Just keep running, friends.  It will come.

I guess that means that Stage Four is key to achieving this-- that point where you can actually unhook yourself from the immediacy of what's happening to your body and just let your mind wander.  And I never really reach Stage Four without having been through Stage Three... and likewise for stages One and Two.  Yep, it turns out that even through Stage Five is the goal and obviously the winner, each of the other stages are important in their own way and vital to the process.  There's no Acceptance without Denial; there's no Anger without Bargaining.

For better AND for worse, a run just is what it is.

But for you other runners out there: identifying these stages really helps me, every time, because of their predictable, cyclical nature.  I can make it past the Denial Stage because I KNOW I'll get to Acceptance eventually.  I can last through Anger and Depression because I KNOW they won't be the way I feel forever.  I know that calm, rhythmic, solid feeling is coming if I just push a little harder, a little longer, just a few more steps.  And once I get past Bargaining, even THAT isn't so hard to do anymore.

It will come.  I know it.  It will come.  And then?  Who knows?  I might be able to run forever.

So what about you, fellow runners?  Do you recognize these stages?  Do you experience something similar, or is it different for you?  Any tips and tricks for those of us still new to the process, to help us reach the Acceptance Stage faster and get more enjoyment out of our runs?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Run #37: The Neutrality of Action

Hi there.  I am, as they say in show business (and probably some other places), back.

My back has been bothering me and I've used that as an excuse not to run.  This may or may not be warranted.  But of course, I err on the side of inaction when it comes to these things.  Which is probably why the problems persist, eh?

I've made an appointment for physical therapy and will begin soon.  We also got a book on trigger-point massage, which we've both experienced before at the hands of an evil trainer named Mario and is one of the most painful things known to man, and we've identified some trigger points in my calves (calves?!) that have a HUGE effect on my lower back pain.

Seriously: anyone with muscle pain anywhere, give trigger-point massage a try.  You can do it yourself, or get someone to help.  Try this book.  It is truly outstanding, easy to read, and you will feel a difference immediately.  Like, in five minutes.  I am not kidding.

Anyway.  About action.  I've been thinking about this one for a while and today's run was a good illustration of my theory: that action is essentially (emotionally) neutral, and the meaning it takes on comes from the stories we tell ourselves about it.

For example, my running has been difficult, and if I tell myself the story of how difficult running is for me, the act of running becomes something I dread, something I have a hard time motivating to do, something I don't think I can finish once I start.

However, if I tell myself a different story-- that running is something I never thought I could do but have found it to be far easier than I imagined, and the hard parts usually only last a few minutes, and every time I go I do better than the time before-- all of a sudden, running is inspiring, motivating, a vehicle for change.

The run, though?  The actual, physical, feet-on-the-pavement run?  It's basically the same either way.  Same level of exertion, same aches and pains, same sweat and breath and MP3s.  

We all know that negative thinking takes its toll.  But it seems to me that it doesn't do me much good to pretend that being positive about running makes it less taxing, physically, because it doesn't.  I have no immediate control over how my body feels, or how it performs, in a purely physical sense.  I am who I am.  I gots what I gots.

No, the physical part is not where I have any of the control.  I suspect that a lot of new runners make this mistake-- we think that part should become easy, should become enjoyable, should be motivating in and of itself-- and we're barking up the wrong tree, there.  The physical part is going to be what it is.  Our bodies will do what they need to do to adapt, strengthen, transform, and we're basically just the facilitators.

But where I DO have control-- where I have ALL the control-- is in the stories I tell myself about what I am doing, what is happening within me, what I capable of achieving on the road.

The action itself is neutral.  How you spin it, though: that makes all the difference.

In many ways, this seems pretty self-evident to me and almost ridiculous to point out.  But this isn't the way most of us behave.  Imagine the possibilities that spring from a simple shift in spin: 

"I am shy and awkward, and I have a very difficult time in job interviews. I will never get that job."
"I am shy and awkward, and I have a very difficult time in job interviews. I will find some ways to prepare so that I can make better use of my strengths and overcome my fears, and I will get this job."

Has anything changed about your shy/awkward past?  No.  Will the interview questions be the same?  Yes.  But you've taken control of the story you're telling, and this neutral action becomes part of your transformation instead of further proof that things can never change.

So.  My running story has taken on a new chapter, and that chapter includes physical therapy for the back and continued efforts to get out there and keep it going.  I can tell myself that my back pain prevents me from becoming a runner, and you know what?  That story will come true.

So why not tell myself a different story? The one where I do everything I can to change the way my body works, and become the woman who leaves twenty years of discomfort and incapacity behind and runs off into the sunset, transformed?  Why not choose to believe that this story will come true instead?

In the meantime, though: the road.  One foot in front of the other.  The aches and pains, the sweat and breath, the MP3s.  What they are... is what they are.  That part is beyond my control.  

But what I do with them, what I tell myself (and you) about them, what I choose to make them mean...

That part is entirely up to me.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ode To My Lower Back. And A Bit About Fear.

O back
Do thy job
And hold my sorry ass up
O wait
I mean ass: down
Rest of me: up
You get the picture

Sorry for the silence-- I had no runs to report for a few days, and houseguests as well, and neglected to let you know what was going on.

My lower back is a menace and has been giving me trouble.  Doctor appointment next week.  I've had years of chiropractic manhandling and it still pops in and out of alignment on a whim.  There are days when I feel like I have the mobility of an 80 year-old woman, which is a terrifying thought since I am not yet out of my 30s.  It's not going to get any easier.  This road slopes sharply downhill.

When I was 19, I was in a pretty crazy high-speed, head-on collision with a drunk driver who came around a blind corner on my side of the road.  I was going about 50mph, she was going about 70.  No time to brake. 

Her Honda Civic hit my little '71 Volkswagen Beetle (named Iris; how I miss her!) dead center, and forced the end of a big, wishbone-shaped tow bar that I kept in my trunk (in the front on old Bugs) up through the steel dashboard, where it stopped right behind my steering wheel.  I flew forward with the impact, pressed my knees two full inches into that same dashboard steel, broke the steering wheel with my face, and hit the end of the tow bar with my forehead.  

It popped a silver dollar-sized hole in the front of my skull and came less than 1/4 inch from pushing right into my brain.  I was saved by the flimsy, after-market shoulder strap that I wore only occasionally and happened to have on that night.

Wear your seatbelts, kids.  They really do save lives.

My recovery from that accident was both short and endless.  On the surface, it looked great.  Physically, I was healed up and back on my feet within a few weeks. I had some very minor brain damage from the impact that was like the affects of a mild stroke-- I had trouble remembering certain words, but my circuits rewired themselves over the next year or two and this went away. 

Mentally, I was surprisingly composed and overcame fears of driving within a few months.  Life went back to something like normal, and I got some money from the accident and got a new car and a cool stereo and could afford to pay for a fancy private college.

But there was plenty that stayed with me, and remains with me to this day.  Because of optical nerve damage, my vision has never been the same.  I have a Harry Potter-like scar in the middle of my forehead and another on my chin.  My knees are still numb-- they never regained feeling.  And my neck and my back have plagued me ever since and will never be completely free of trouble.

That's the physical.  It's not a great picture.  And the mental stuff was a little scary too-- PTSD is a real problem for survivors of traumatic events, and this was one for me.  I eventually began to suffer flashbacks, strange associations between everyday actions and the night of the accident, panic attacks and survivor guilt... stuff that lasted for years. 

But it's the emotional part that has done the real damage, I think, over the years.  It's the emotional part that I think I still need to face, on some level, even after all this time.

That night on the highway, I lost a lot more than my car and the feeling in my knees.  I was 19 years old, at the height of my youthful immortality; unstoppable, idealistic, innocent.  I lost all of those things, in a very real sense.  I learned that things can happen to you without your participation or consent. Big, terrible, life-changing things.  Things that come to define you, although you never chose them.  Things that force you to be a different person than you were before, without the gradual life experience that usually makes such transitions feel earned.

A lot of this stuff seems almost silly, now.  Looking back on it from the other side of the divide between youth and adulthood, I know these things to be true, now, just as surely as I didn't know then as my 19 year-old self.  But to lose those illusions in the space of single, violating second is like a boulder thrown into a still pond, sending waves, then surges, then ripples out in invisible rings through your life for a long, long time.  Maybe forever.  I don't know.  

It's been almost 20 years, and they haven't stopped yet.

So what does this have to do with running, you might be asking yourself.  Well, aside from the obvious-- I've got a trick back and need to be careful or my running career will end before it really starts-- I think that one of the ripples from that long-ago night has been a low, steady undercurrent of fear in my life.  Fear of risk, fear of injury, fear of the unknown, fear of the unexpected, fear of a lack or a loss of control.  

Fear of this sort is a funny little demon.  It's not of a "Step back from the ledge--you might fall!" variety, prompted by real circumstance and a legitimate reaction to an actual threat.  It's more insidious than that... it's the tiny, clear voice that keeps you from going near the ledge in the first place. And not just that, but anywhere that MIGHT have a ledge.  and not just that, but anywhere where people might TALK about places they've been that have ledges. 

It's the kind of fear that feels like nothing more than the desire to stay home, or to walk on the paved path, or to order the same thing you ordered last time, or to do the thing you know how to do well, instead of the thing you've never tried.

It's the worst kind of fear there is, I think.  It's the kind that seems like it's just who you are.

I'm not saying I haven't lived, now.  I'm not saying there haven't been risks here and there, adventures now and then, the occasional pushing of the envelope or leap of faith.  But I often wonder what my life would be like if those moments weren't tempered by paralyzing anxiety, or if every step forward weren't a struggle against the four steps backward I had to take to get up the nerve to move. I wonder how many more of those moments there might otherwise have been.

I'm painting this in pretty broad strokes here, and I'm actually surprising myself by how true this feels, even in this extreme rendition.  This is true.  This happened to me.  It is still happening.  This is one of the stories of my life.  And today, I add this twist:  

It is still up to me-- as it always has been-- how central this story will be to who I am.

Running, for me, is a way to conquer fear.  Not all of it; maybe not even most.  But some.  More specifically, it's a way to prove to myself that I DO have control, over my body, my mind, my self.  I get a say.  I get to act.  I get to affect years of impacted pain and loss.  I get to alter the person I was, on my own terms, and become someone else through earned moments, conscious processes, deliberate acts of change.

I am now in charge. And I am not letting fear keep me from getting out there and running, no matter how crazy an idea it seems to be.  This is my decision: to transform myself in ways I never thought I could.  And running is only one of them.  And I will do it.

I am as shocked as you are by what I've written here (maybe more-- ha ha.  Some of you have a much higher opinion of my character than I do).  I didn't know this was in there.  I wonder what else I'll find down the road?


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Run #36: I Want It That Way

Today's run was notable for one reason: I rediscovered the point where the level of difficulty stops going up and begins to go back down again.

If you're new to running, look forward to this: you just keep going when it gets hard, and soon it stops getting harder, and you keep going through that part too, and if you do, you're rewarded: it actually begins to get easier. It's a crazy, wonderful feeling.  All of a sudden, your breathing returns to something like normal, and your legs are warm and flexible, and it's more about rhythm than effort, and you can just relax.

Today, like many of my pre-5k runs, it was easier to run the second mile than the first.  You could never, EVER have convinced me that this was possible before I had a chance to experience it myself.  I'd lost a bit of my edge after floundering for five weeks after the 5k; it's like I'm starting all over.  But it's coming back, and today was proof.  

Remember this, fellow fledglings: it DOES get easier!  

Musical highlight for today was... well... um... I can't quite bring myself to tell you who it was, but I will tell you that it was all because of this

A lot of people wish they could work in an office like that. I did.  It was awesome. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Run #35: Strength From An Unexpected Source

Today's run was supposed to be my long one this week (although only two miles at this point).  Sundays, on this plan, will be my long runs; the others will be shorter.  I love this idea-- I guess I'd assumed that once you started running longer distances, you were supposed to run them every time you went out.  But according to this plan and a very helpful article on coolrunning.com, this is not the case.  

One more example, I see, of the all-or-nothing thinking that creeps into my daily life, despite all my well-therapized, CBT-trained vigilance. Ha.

But I digress. Something sort of amazing happened on my run today.

I took the girls with me (Daddy is off enjoying some well-deserved "Daddy Time"), and I decided to take them along my new residential route.  I don't usually run with the stroller, and while it's never as hard as I think it's going to be, it IS harder than I think it should be.  There is more of an upper body workout involved than you might expect, pushing that thing-- not from the pushing so much as the controlling-and-keeping-it-from-flying-off-the-sidewalk-and-into-the-street.  It requires attention, and this, at my stage, at least, saps energy I'd otherwise be using for running.

So I did my warm-up and my stretches and set off, and realized fairly quickly that this was a lot more taxing than normal, and two miles with the stroller would be tough.  I wrestled with that for a while as I ran, and finally decided I'd just run the same 1.5 mile route I've been running, and count the stroller as the extra exertion.  I didn't want to wimp out but I also wanted to be able to finish my run without stopping to walk.  I was feeling very frustrated with the magnitude of the stroller's impact on my psyche and my ability, and started thinking about something that happened during my 5k run in June.

I told you already that I kept finding myself getting teary as I ran the race that day, and the teariest moment came when I was about 2/3 of the way to the turnaround point-- not quite halfway through the race.  I was running along the center divider of Shoreline Drive, where they had set up a partition to divide the runners from the traffic lanes.  All of a sudden, up ahead, I heard people beginning to cheer, and the cheering was traveling backward through the pack toward me.  

The reason soon became clear: the first runner had made the turnaround and was on her way back, running outside of the partition on the traffic side because there wasn't room for anyone yet in the runners' lanes.

The cheers got louder, and I got an unobstructed view of her as she flew past me on my left at a full sprint.  Short, athletic-looking little spark plug of a woman, probably around my age, tanned and blonde and looking like the cheerleader who is always at the top of the pyramid or getting thrown into the air-- one of those little bouncy badass girls.  That was what I noticed first.  But then I noticed who was with her.

She was running full-out, legs stretching gracefully straight between strides, like a gazelle.  She had a huge smile on her face as people called out encouragement... and she was pushing a little blonde boy in a jog stroller.

That was the moment I truly realized, I think, that I could DO this, that I could make this happen even with two babies, that it was possible. It gave me a huge burst of energy that stayed with me for the rest of the race. It's hard to describe such a profound moment of clarity, but seeing that woman racing past with her stroller was so moving, and so inspiring, that even now, I'm getting emotional just writing about it.

Which brings me back to my run today, where I had the same reaction just reliving that moment in my mind-- I was tearing up and trying to remind myself that my babies in the stroller weren't obstacles in my path, they were the reason I was on the path to begin with, and I was just feeling generally emotional about the whole thing (oh yes, posts coming on this topic).

And then, I swear to god, something happened.

I was chuckling to myself over my weird running tears, and looked up and met the eye of an older woman who was strolling down the sidewalk toward me, about 30 feet away.  She took us in with a glance, and then broke into a huge smile, shook her head in admiration, and gave me a very emphatic double thumbs-up as I ran past her.

Holy shit. That running, smiling woman with the stroller, all of a sudden, was me.

It's all relative, it turns out.  There is no "there" there, no place where all the fit people who love exercise and run long distances go and close the door behind them and leave the rest of us out on the curb with our empty pizza boxes and stale donuts and too-tight t-shirts.  It's not all or nothing.  We each have a chance to make progress for ourselves, starting from wherever we start and going to wherever we want to go, for whatever reasons that motivate us.  We each get to choose our own adventure, and follow it at our own pace.

I'd like to think that that woman kept her smile as she continued on down the sidewalk, and that for that moment and maybe a few more, her idea of what was possible was expanded beyond the boundaries she'd kept before.  I'd like to think that seeing us gave her more spring in her step than she'd had when she started on her walk, and that she felt fortified by our exchange, and just a tiny bit more able to meet what lay ahead of her on the road.

I know I did.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Run #34: Strike While the Irons Are Sleeping

Another 1.5 miles down the road for me, and I finished in 20min, 15sec, or on a 13.5min/mile pace again.  A few seconds faster than yesterday, but negligible in the long run.  Still, it's a big chunk shaved off of my previous pace for no apparent reason, and I'd like it to become the new standard.  I can't be runnin' no 10ks if it takes me longer than nap time!  I've got to strike while the iron is hot around here... rather, while the irons are sleeping, and I can't be dawdling around on a 15-minute mile pace if I'm going to be putting in some serious distance.

I said "no apparent reason" before, and that's not exactly true.  There is, I think, a non-magical reason my pace has increased, and it's so absurd that I just have to tell you about it.  I'm new to running, as you know, and I am just winging it, really.  I have begun to study up on the fundamentals (because, in true nerd fashion, I don't feel bona fide until there is homework), and have been thinking about whether to tackle increasing my pace or my distance first. I'd decided on pace but am seeing recommendations for distance until I have more experience as a runner for more difficult pace work.  Drat.

So. Distance it is; hence the 10k plan.  But in the meantime, I've found something that helps with pace too, and here it is, all you fellow newbies... hold on to your seats... ready?  

I started taking longer steps.

Yep.  That's it.  15 minutes to 13.5 minutes, just like that.  You can laugh, but it is actually harder than it sounds, and requires some concentration to keep it going.  This is where that chronic self-consciousness thing actually helps.  Because OF COURSE I'm already concentrating on every single detail and angle and portrait pose of my body's placement on the sidewalk. Pshh.  

It's pretty cool when we get the opportunity to turn a major weakness into a strength.

I've got some good thoughts brewing and am planning a few posts on what's really motivating me here, and I'll get to those as soon as I can.  In the meantime, a few more music links from today's run:

First of all, forget a slow warm up, especially if you are of a certain age and disposition, since you will appreciate this so much more (Jill, I don't know if your tastes ran to Boingo, but I always consider you my Target Demographic for this stuff).  Oh I know something about the ways of loving!

Second, a real treat for me-- a song I didn't get to listen to when I put it on my phone and haven't heard for years, but was THE song of my life when I was 16 or 17. In that movie of my life that was always playing in my head, this was the song that was playing in the background whenever I walked into the scene.  This song is why I was a goth, back in those days.

Speaking of back in those days, my 16-year old niece and I were discussing awesome footwear recently (you know, like ya do), and I advised her to get these, and then realized that a) I seriously covet these shoes, and b) if I were to wear them, I would look far less retro than "hasn't been shopping since 1988."  Because I AM TOO OLD FOR DOCS.

Oh my god.  And this leads me to the subject of an upcoming post: stress and running.  Wait for it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Run #33: Mansions, Memories, Marilyn Manson, and the Erstwhile Queen of the Divan

All right, here we go. Just back from run #33, following my new 10k prep plan.  I realized, as I sat down to write this post, that when I looked at the plan last night to see how long this first run was supposed to be, I thought, oh man, only 1.5 miles?! Pshaw!  This plan is going to be SO EASY!

Let us recall, friends, that 32 runs ago, I couldn't even dream of being able to run 1.5 miles.  My entire routine, walking most of the way with short, 60-second bursts of jogging, was only 1.5 miles, including warm up and cool down.  I am still shocked by my progress when I stop to think about it.

Another new thing today: I ran a completely different route.  Usually, I run southwest from my house, 2 blocks down to the beach and run the path along the beach (Shoreline, for those of you familiar with Alameda).  Today, I ran northeast, up through a park and then along residential streets the whole way.  This is notable for me because again, 32 runs ago, I would have been WAY too self-conscious to run where there was the potential for so many non-running other people.

Yeah, maybe even 10 runs ago.  Maybe even fewer than that.  I haven't altered my route until now for that reason, even though I've wanted to. Today, I shattered that little paranoid glass ceiling.  It was quite nice, and got me close to the gorgeous Gold Coast neighborhoods of Alameda, with their multi-million dollar mansions and beautiful old trees.  I love looking at those houses, and have hoped to chart runs along those old streets for some time now. Other side of the tracks: here I come!

Today's run came in 2 full minutes under pace, and I'm crediting serendipitous music selections for that.  Before the 5k I loaded up my phone (I have no ipod.  It's me-- I'm the one) with a bunch of old-school stuff to keep me well-distracted.  Um, I mean focused.

First up was "Love Me To Death," an absolutely filthy song by The Mission UK, my favorite band from my late-high school goth days. Wayne Hussy's voice still gives me the warm-and-tinglies.  Oh lordy, what a sexy man. I certainly understood what the song was referring to when I was 17, but let's just say I appreciate it on a -ahem- deeper level now. Yes, kids, that's an actual record playing in the video. This was the first CD I ever bought, before I even owned a CD player.

What else? "The Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson.  Oh Marilyn, how I love you.  It's all relative to the size of your steeple.

But today's winner is the song that single-handedly got me home on a 13.6-minute mile pace: "Ca Plan Pour Moi" by Plastic Bertrand. I double-dog-dare you to listen to that song while running and not keep the pace. Funny thing is, in looking up the translation just now I realized that this song is about a complete loser, "the king of the divan." 

A divan is a couch, right? And here I am, following my post Couch-to-5k running plan,driven to a brisk pace by some guy from 1978 France, reminding me of where I came from and just how far I've come. I am no longer the Queen of the Divan.  Thank you, Plastic Bertrand.  Thank you very much.

Love the jacket.