Training Update: Week 4: 6/27/09

When I began training, I bought a great little book at Bookshop Santa Cruz called, Santa Cruz: A Guide for Runners, Joggers and Serious Walkers. It shows all the trails, both urban and rural in the county, with maps, mileage, directions, and annotations.

I’ve decided to gradually work my way through the whole book and to do all the state park trails this summer while I’m training. I’ll head out for these hilly, redwood lined or beach trails on the weekends when I do the long distance mileage and focus on street training during my shorter weekday walks. Since the San Francisco 3-day will be mostly on pavement, I need to put a lot of street miles in.

Last night, I dropped Karyn off at the airport for her big trip to India to study with Iyengar, the founder of her yoga lineage. I’m very excited for her and open to the adventure of 6 weeks at home with Eli and Lizzy. However, I got back from San Francisco very late last night, in the wee hours, and then got up at 7:30 to walk today.

I’d set Fall Creek as my destination, the Big Ben Loop Trail, 8.1 miles. It was a gorgeous, at times very steep trail, with many stream crossings, and a grueling downhill on the way back. I was drenched in sweat for much of the walk, and halfway along, I started to chafe where my arms were swinging against my sides. I’d heard there was a product to lubricate the skin to prevent such chafing, but since I’d never chafed before, and my thighs don’t touch, I figured I was impervious. Ha!

By the time I got all the way back to the parking lot, I had a vivid, raw stretch along my inner thigh and on both my upper arms. Now I am walking around the house very carefully, hobbling more like it, trying not to increase the irritation. I stopped at Running Revolution on the way home and bought said product to prevent such raw skin my next time out. This is why they have you walk so many miles—not just to increase your endurance but to figure out the problems that will come up along the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed my solo hike today, but I am becoming increasingly aware, as my mileage requirements on the weekend increase, that this is a serious part time job I’ve taken on. This is what I’m doing this summer.

I have a lot of work piled up that I thought I would get to this weekend, but by the time I got home, stopped at the grocery store, showered, ate, and got Lizzy off to a birthday party, it was 5:30 in the evening and I’m way too tired to have any mental energy left. I couldn’t focus if I wanted to and I don’t want to. I only want to zone out and rest. All those to-do’s and unfinished projects on my list are just going to have to wait.

I am not used to this; having my body dictate my actions, rather than my mind. There’s no way I could override the “good exhaustion” I’m feeling after the day’s exertions, and that’s both scary and liberating and pretty damn exciting.

What do I have energy for? I just spent a half hour surfing the Internet looking up prices for wicking underwear—stuff you wear next to your skin that draws moisture away and keeps your body dry, rather than the cotton underwear I wore today that I had to peel soggy off my body when I got home. That’s why I was chafed down there and until I stopped walking, I didn’t even know it.

Hence the online search. I had no idea there was all this high tech gear available. I’ve always pooh-poohed sports equipment and clothing, but I can see now that I just may need to get some!

While I was walking today, I listened to a teaching talk by Susan Salzberg, one of the Americans who helped bring Buddhism to the West in the 1970s. There was one story she told that stayed with me over all the miles. A friend of hers got a terminal diagnosis and the first thing he said to her was, “I’m not going make an enemy of my own death.” And according to Susan, he didn’t.

That one sentence kept resonating in my mind: “I’m not going to make an enemy of my own death.” And I realized that was very much my attitude when I was diagnosed with cancer. Right away, that was the stance I took: “I’m not going to make an enemy of my illness.” I sought to understand it, to explore it, to accept it, to work with it, to learn from it, rather than to fight it. I did, of course, make choices that I believed would give me a better chance at life, and I continue to do so now that my Western treatment has ended—through diet, acupuncture, meditation, exercise, etc. But I never resonated with the “battling with cancer” imagery. I know that works for some people, but it never worked for me. I didn’t feel like I was in a war: I was having a brand new life experience.

What would our lives be like if we said, “I’m not going to make an enemy out of my aging,” “I’m not going to make an enemy out of my grief,” “I’m not going to make an enemy out of my illness?” We would stop compounding the challenges we all face in our lives with an unnecessary layer of suffering—the layer that wishes our lives were different; were not unfolding in the way they are.

What if we accepted the inevitable changes all beings go through—aging, loss, illness, death? What if we truly saw these things as normal parts of the life cycle, rather than trying to prolong our youth, railing at the aging process, viewing illness as something dreadfully wrong, and seeing death as a tragedy instead of an inevitability?

I think I’m going to keep that phrase with me for a long time, “I’m not going to make an enemy out of….” I’m sure I will come up with many ways to fill in that blank.

P.S. If you’d like to help Laura reach her goal of raising $15,000 for Breast Cancer research, you can donate online.

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