When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Monday, December 20, 2010

Road running

Living life fully doesn't mean having it all, going everywhere, doing everything, and being all things to all people. Many of us are beginning to see that too much is too much. Elaine St. James

Wow, what a quote I received today for my daily mediation! Sometimes it just really comes timely. Not as a ligh bulb, but as a confirmation of my own thoughts.

My co-worker (and supervisor of sorts) had brought up a conversation of what age do we think was best so far to live at. I, without a moment of hesitation, had responded "past 40". Funny how life is. I really wasn't looking forward to turn 30 when was closing in on it, but since somewhere around 37 I was answering to anybody who asked that I am 40 (or "almost so"). And as soon as the number finally arrived - I couldn't be happier. Why is that? Because I am still extremely young and capable of doing every single thing on my desire list, has more desires than ever before - yet I am much wiser and calmer and accepting things better, and plan on goals that matter, and care about opinions that truly matter. And because I finally don't have to say "when I'll be at that point..." - because I am already at it. It's time to live life fully!

This is a philosophical sidetracking:) I've been road-running lately, and scary to admit, I've been loving it. I had looked at my logs - hand-written running logs, may I add, that I kept ever since the idea of diving into running as a main form of physical exercise hit me on the year following my first 5k - and figured that my best running was when quality outdid quantity, when cross-training was equal miles done running, which left those miles being fast and hard effort, and when yoga was a present if not daily, then at least every other day. Of course, there were a couple of years when I managed to "squeeze it all", and be good, and all...but I was riding the wave, and I also had left behind some important life staples for the sake of being as good of a runner as I could see myself (without actually dropping my job and family all-together completely). And this is not working out that well for me...

So, back to road-running. With winter short days and commitments that take up all of those light hours (and often some), I can't venture to trails in Austin, which are rather technical and which running in a dark in a hurry can potentially produce an injury and simply take more time (leaving even less time to sleep, and I am already functioning on a too-long lasting sleep-deprivation). Thus I run roads. And I couldn't' be more satisfied with a place we live. NW of Austin provides more hills on the roads than I ever encountered on a road run, ever, in my life. Last Saturday's longish outing gave me such an elated feeling about running every step of those hills, picking my way around in a dark, learning new streets, getting lost, and still shuffling every step up that hill...when in doubt, go up, I told myself. I'd crest the hill, and look around. At first I'd greet the city lights flickering in a dark of the night, then a few hills later I'd catch a glimpse of grey mixed up with dark pink, then the grey got wider, and the pink is not so bright...oh, the changes on color, above the sea of green hills - how wonderful that this city kept all the green even as it grew into suburbs of the Hill Country, and all the houses somehow manage to hide inside that ocean of lush green (that even in places shows the color turn into fall's yellows and reds)! Then, finally, while you are getting more tired, you somehow miss that moment of the rising of the sun itself - and as you huff your way up yet another hill, you can suddenly see every detail. And it's beautiful. And it gives you strength, or at least a will power to keep cresting, to keep searching another hill, to keep plugging along...And then, as you turn into the last mile, that is flat, you realize that your quads are busted, and for some weird reason the feet don't turn as fast, and the stride is rather shortened tremendously, and while you think you are doing the best you can, a grandma and grandpa, a couple in their mid-60's with a head full of grey, in their tight shorts and white long-sleeve shirts with a bunch of logos from some race, pass you as you are not moving...and you smile as you exchange "good morning", because life is good if there are folks who should be retired and sitting home in front of a TV, yet they are here, on this crisp morning, blasting by you without even breathing hard. And you think - this is why I am at it. Not for a delusional race result, or getting faster, or skinnier (a goal long abandoned in these particular words), but for a reason to keep moving, so that when I am 60, and 70, and 80, I can grab my darling and we will stride on the street past some younger straggler, than we pick up our backpacks and head out into the mountains, and then we strap our skis and cross the valley full of freshly fallen snow...and all is good in this life, and all is right.

But in a meantime, I am seeing benefits that are more immediate. The track workouts are paying off, and now that there are more groups are showing up on the same morning at the same track, it gets so exciting to push! Heck, I hung up with Paul T. for a full 400m...only to realize he was on his recovery lap! Well, at least because of that my mile repeats turn out to be on a faster pace than my 800m ones - does it mean I am still a long distance runner, even if on the track? Made me laugh. Lots of friends, all faster, all motivating. Reminds me of my NYC running, of the beginning of it all...the true way of training.

And then, when you get on a trail once a week, you appreciate it all that much more. And only when you get on the trail do the ideas of racing seasons ahead start popping on your head and form into something clear. This year I'll finish what I started, but then next year...and the following one...oh, how much there are still places to visit and explore! And still so many other competitions to try your "arm and leg" at! Different, not running, but not any less fun. And being a beginner is something that makes you humble - and humble is what makes you real. And all of it is wrapped up into the same thing - enjoy. Live your life fully. Whatever it means for you.

In a meantime, the tree is up. The Christmas Tree! It's a Holiday Season, and a spirit of celebration. Few more days, packed with so much to do. And then I am on my way home...

"To find the balance you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it's like you have four legs, instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead." (E. Gilbert, "Eat. Pray. Love")


  1. Wonderful post...incredible insights...I agree....life has gotten better after 40...

  2. Tis the season of road running! I'm with ya.

    It is relieving to hear your thoughts on being over 40. I figure you are being honest. I hope I end up feeling the same way.

  3. Uh-oh. I'm turning 37 soon, so I guess I'm actually turning 40? I guess I might as well begin to embrace it!

    Road running, yoga, etc. are all good. I think the main thing is the change up in routine. I end up doing a fair amount of road running during the week. I'm loving the SW hills in PDX for some great climbing.

  4. Love this post Olga! I agree about 40+. I dreaded it but now almost mid 40ies I love who I have become and all around me. The lessons, the comfortable feeling you get from being just who you are and the opportunities without mental road blocks are priceless. I will take the wrinkles and sagging skin to have this much excitement.

    Road running does do the body good. I sometimes forget that but winter always seems to remind me. The lost speed and the need for easy running with shorter days and snow send me to the roads and every year (after the acceptance phase) I enjoy it.

    Keep it up and hopefully there is race crossing in our future.

  5. What an awesome post, Olga! Thank you for these thoughts. There definitely some things in here to make me think.

    Isn't it funny how the trail culture tends to look down on road running? Yet, you are right, that is often where the quality comes. I like doing some road running. I like it because it's fast. It doesn't change trail running being my true love, it just adds a little spice.

    Yup - this is why I'm at it: for a reason to keep moving!

  6. Hi Lady!! How about this Texas "winter" weather! We were at another track this morning, but nothing like thinking you are moving fast (for me) and Paul kept catching me at the end of his sprint. He was going over 1min per mile faster than me. Can't wait to see you soon! Merry Merry to you, Larry, and the kids!

  7. I like road running too.

  8. Forty was the best year of my life. I've had my ups and downs since then, but I definitely like the view from here. Love how your posts always make me think. Happy New Year and enjoy your trip back Home!

  9. I think the best years are probably 38-53. Not that after 53 is no fun, just that the best is here.
    It is good to live every day to it's max, and also good to recognize when too much degrades the journey.
    One of the things I like about long contemplative runs is that I feel closer to everyone when alone on these runs.

  10. For me it's mid-30s. Anyway did you ever think you would be running roads on Austin one day and loving it? Seems like you are really enjoying yourself in your new found love for road, track and Austin. Lots of new terrain in your life and you are eating it all up.

    Happy New Year!

  11. Another great post Olga. I just turned 47 and life could not be more balanced. The older I get, the wiser I become in realizing what is important outside the material world.