Monday, April 14, 2014

War. Huunh. What Is It Good For?

Perhaps the most useful advice I have ever offered is going to be in this post.  Brace yourselves, boys and girls, this is a goody.

You don't need to fight.  Be patient.  Think about your words.  Let go of your anger.  With few exceptions (which I will share in just a moment), I am a stellar example of peace and calm, so you can trust my experience with this.

First, the exceptions to my lover-not-a-fighter-ness.

  • The Wet Willie-  You know it.  Someone disgusting, immature, and usually male licks his finger and sticks it in your ear when your back is turned.  Spit= Gross.  Surprises in your ear= Gross.  The word 'earworm' makes me shudder.  For real, I just shuddered when I typed it.  The phrase, "I just want to put a bug in your ear about this" makes me want to barf.  I worked with a guy years ago who thought it was hilarious to give me wet willies at every opportunity.  After the first couple of times, I realized he thought I was just regular grossed out by it, so I took him aside and very calmly informed him that if he ever did it again, I would punch him in the face.  About a week later, at our company Christmas party, he licked his filthy finger with his putrescent tongue and shoved it in my ear.  I turned around and punched him in the face.  My only regret is that I didn't hit him harder.  He didn't speak to me much after that, but he also stopped the wet willieing.  Violence was the answer.
I'm not ruling out the possibility that "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" made me disturbingly phobic about things in my ears. 
  • The Drunk Friend-  Sometimes, it is possible to reason patiently with a wasted friend trying to drive home.  Sometimes, it isn't, and you have to take the car keys.  Sometimes, when you take the car keys, it makes the drunk friend angry.  When the drunk friend is angry, she might try to knock you down and wrestle the keys out of your hand.  On such occasions, it is then acceptable to fight back.  In my experience, the alcohol will numb the minor physical pain inflicted by (me) the sober friend, and by the next morning, only the hungover friend's pride will hurt.
  • The Deserved-It-  I was out with a guy I was dating.  He said something that I'm not going to share here, and I knocked him out of his chair and onto his back.  Trust me, he deserved it.  I was much younger then, and hadn't quite mastered the skills I'm about to describe, but even now, when I think about his words and my reaction, I know that I did the right thing.  
  • The Big Liar-  The year was 2004.  I was about to graduate from the University of Central Florida with my B.A. in Psychology.  It should go without saying that I had worked hard, for years, to obtain my degree.  A couple of other people at the restaurant where I worked were also graduating from college, and our manager was kind enough to buy us cards and congratulatory gifts.  The Big Liar asked where her gift was.  She claimed she was also graduating from UCF, earning a Civil Engineering degree.  My goodness.  I could write an entire post, just on this one story.  Short version is that she was lying, and it made me furious.  I didn't punch her or knock her down, physically, but I used my words to make sure everyone knew she was a big effing liar, and to make her sorry for her idiocy.  It's possible that I gave her nightmares.  I do kind-of regret a few of the mean things I said to her.  I'm sure her pathology ran deep and she had little control over her stupid, ridiculous lies, and I could have handled the situation better.
  • The Justifiably Annoyed- There are certainly times that I'm irritated by other drivers' actions, but I'm not a road rager, yeller, or even a horn honker.  Cupcake made me laugh a couple of times recently when we were in the car, and made me glad that I am careful with my words, even when I get cut off in traffic.  Each time I brake suddenly or sharply, she gets this (familiar) annoyed tone and says, "Really?  Really?  Uggghhh."  Could be so much worse!

While we're on that subject, here's another super cute thing our little Cupcake did recently to make me laugh:  As I was cleaning up the dinner dishes, she was playing in her little kitchen, banging around her mini pots and pans, making tea, etc.  She came up and handed me this
with the words, "Here guys.  Dinner time."

Anyway... Now that I've confessed, let's move on.  I feel that I am really quite good at conflict resolution, and many people I know are not, so it seems important that I give a little how-to.  When someone does or says something that makes you angry, you should follow these steps in order to calmly and peacefully manage the situation.
  • Step 1- Stop.  Emphasis on stop.  Seriously.  STOP.  Don't say anything, don't do anything.  Except breathe, of course.  Actually, breathe deeply.
  • Step 2- Think.  Think about what the other person is thinking.  No, don't say aloud, "What are you thinking?!?!?"  Think about whether or not the other person is actually an idiot.  I'm so serious about that.  If the answer is yes, your next step is different than if the answer is no.  
  • Step 3 (Yes, idiot)- Be the bigger person.  You don't need to prove how smart you are, or how angry you are, or how stupid the other person is.  Solve the problem if you can, if not, move on with your life.
  • Step 3 (No, not an idiot)-  Continue thinking.  Think about something the other person did that showed how smart, sensitive, cool, nice, non-idiotic he/she is.  Think about why that person is in your life.  Think about how you will wish you had handled the situation when you look back on it.  Think about your own flaws, as a reminder that nobody is perfect.  Force yourself to think about something else, for a while, and then think fresh, new thoughts.  Think about what you would want the other person to say to you, if your roles were reversed and you were the upset-er instead of the upset-ee.  This step may take a while.  Sometimes, it takes hours.  Also helpful during this step is to do some exercise.  Running helps me to think, but so does practicing yoga.  
  • Step 4- Talk to the person who made you angry.  Sometimes, it will be tempting after all those calming thoughts to skip straight to step 5, but in the long run, you'll be happy you addressed the issue.  Even if you're no longer seeing red, it will be beneficial for you to get all your thoughts out in the open, and it will help the other person to realize, recognize, or defend their words or actions that upset you.
  • Step 5- Let it go.  Come on, did you really think that wasn't going to be one of the steps?  I have never found pleasure, happiness, joy, or peace in stewing over a wrong that's been done.  Once you've explored the problem thoughtfully, and addressed it with the offender, drop it.  Think about it this way:  After I punched the wet willier, and he stopped delivering wet willies, would there have been any benefit if I had punched his face every time I saw him?  No.  Probably by the second time, and definitely by the third time I punched him, he would have hit me back.  I had gotten my point across to him, solved the problem, and if I hadn't then let it go, I likely would have gotten fist willied in my ear.
A couple of years ago, Charming and I were having trouble dealing with Rip Claw's tantrums.  He was 4 years old, and he would go off like a complete and utter maniac sometimes, usually when Charming wasn't around.  Something small would upset him, and he would react badly.  I would dole out a punishment, or yell at him for his bad behavior, and then it would spiral downward until he was screaming and flailing and hitting.  Not good.  

A day or so after one particularly bad episode, I sat him down and talked to him about why he thought he would get so out of control when he was upset.  His words struck me like an Ice Queen's magical icicle to the heart (sorry, just watched "Frozen").  
"I'm not mad at first, but then when you get mad at me, I have to get mad back at you.  It's like you want me to be more mad than you.  So I try to show you that I'm the maddest one."
Oof.  I think what he was trying to articulate, in his late toddler-hood way, was the truth that anger breeds anger.  Yelling leads to more yelling, not less.  Since that conversation, I've made a conscious effort to be calm, even when he or his sister is making me feel absolutely crazy.  It has definitely worked.  He hasn't had a maniac tantrum in over two years.  

So, there you go.  You're welcome.  Feel free to share with the United Nations and/or any warmongers you happen to know.

Ever been in a fight?  Regret it?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why I Love Chafing (And You Should, Too)!

This title is a little strange, I know.  I can't imagine there has ever been a person on Earth who loves chafing, and after last Saturday, I am even more of an anti-chafeite than ever before.  However, Shut Up + Run referred to a fun blog topic generator site the other day, and when I typed in the words on my mind after Saturday's half-marathon (running, chafe, motivation) this title was one that came up.  It made me snicker, and it made my mind wander to all sorts of weird places, so I decided to share it.  This is actually a race recap of what was originally going to be my 2nd 1st full marathon, but ended up being my 3rd 1/2.

First, the basics.  The course started at a place called The Casements in Ormond Beach, where I hear John D. Rockefeller used to live.  There were many beautiful houses along the shady, oak lined streets, the course was filled with friendly volunteers, paramedics on bikes, easy to see markings, and there were more than enough water stops (10 aid stations with gatorade, water, and gels [at one] for the half).  The buckets of rain stopped falling just after 6 a.m., which made for a nice mile walk from our hotel to the start line, but did not help the cone setter-uppers at all.  They couldn't start marking the course as early as planned because of the torrential downpour, so the race started nearly 30 minutes late.  Fortunately, the delay was communicated well, and not just to me, as a relative and friend of the people in charge.  I was really impressed with the organization of this race (again, I'm not just saying that because I'm related to and friends with the race managers).  As an inaugural race, with an inaugural distance for Volusia County, I know that the logistics and planning that went into pulling this off were huge.  Bag drop was easily accessible.  Communication was great.  There were 2 hidden port-o-lets without long lines.  Perfect start!

My training had kind-of fizzled after deciding for sure to switch from the full distance to the half.  Some of the reasons, which sound like excuses to me, but maybe not to you, follow:

  1. There was a lot of sickness in our household.
  2. I have some weird, pretty bad pain in my lower right leg that reminds me of last year's pre-stress fracture pain.  Same spot, different leg.  This pain isn't quite so just-one-spot-there-on-the-bone as when the bone was actually fractured, though.  New doctor ordered an x-ray to check for a stress fracture (sigh) and a venous ultrasound to check for insufficient circulation.  Supposed to follow up with results in a few weeks.
  3. We went out of town for a few days.
  4. March is full of birthdays for our family.  Celebrations don't plan themselves, you know.
Due to my laziness lack of training, injury, and the difficulty of the course, I made it my goal to finish proud.  I committed myself to not walking unless I absolutely had to, and to really giving my best.  

So much prettier on days you don't have to run over it twice.
My good friend/sister's sister-in-law, Kap, has also been dealing with an injury and not running very much, so she and I planned to stick together as long as possible.  I was feeling okay for the first couple of miles.  My leg pain was at a manageable, steady throb, and nothing else really hurt, except for my lungs as I climbed the bridge.  Kap was having a harder time.  She decided to make a pit stop at the second water station, just after the 3rd mile.  There was a small wait for the port-o-let, but I was still quite confident that she would catch up to me, so I didn't argue too much with her insistence that I continue running.  As I ran on alone(ish), I was able to enjoy the silly signs along the course, wave to the few spectators, and respond when people spoke to me.  It didn't occur to me until quite a bit later that I was probably only putting forth about 85% effort.  We turned into Tomoka State Park around mile 4, and then ran on the dirt road through the park for 27 years.

I said "dirt" but meant "mud."  Remember the morning's torrential downpour?  
Lots of Rain
+ The Road Made of Sand
Tiptoeing along the edge of the road with palm fronds slapping your shins

There were mud puddles that spanned the entire width of the road, and other spots where there were narrow paths between 6 or so smaller puddles.  Those were deceptively sticky.  I didn't witness any twisted ankles, but I did worry a lot.  I got to wave to my friend K as she passed after the turnaround, and then got to see Kap again after I had turned around.  Shortly after I turned to go back along the mud road, my mental strength started showing its, well, lack of strength.  
I should walk now.
Not yet.
Yeah.  I should walk now.
Kap shouldn't see me walking.
Kap should see me walking.
There's no reason to walk.
I said I was going to be proud!
But this leg pain...
Ok.  I won't walk until I see Kap.
There she is!  I don't think she's looking.  Walk.
I can still run.
But walking...walking is so nice.
I'll run until the 8 mile mark.
Or maybe the mile markers are off?  It's probably been 8 miles already.

I gave in to the sissypants devil on my left shoulder and started ignoring the confident angel on my right shoulder before the 8th mile marker.  You know how they call it "breaking the seal" when you pee for the first time on a night of drinking?  Because once you go the first time, it's way harder to hold it?  That's how walking during a race is for me.  I broke the seal, and as we all know, seals don't just get unbroken.  

The graph above shows my pace throughout the race.  You can see how I started strong, and didn't even slow down too significantly when crossing the bridge the first time.  When Kap and I split up, I wasn't feeling upset or nervous or anxious about running without her.  At least, not consciously.  But, as the evidence above makes clear, I gradually slowed my pace from the moment we separated.  Oh, and can you point out where exactly I decided to walk for the first time?  I decided to run again, but each running interval grew shorter and shorter.  At one point, I saw an older couple out for a stroll.  They smiled at us as we passed, and I thought, "Walking is good exercise.  From now on, I'll just be a walker.  Lookit how happy they are!  I'm so miserable, and they're so happy.  Running is terrible.  I can go through the rest of my life without being a runner.  I'll just be happy to go outside to meander."  Just then, I noticed someone trying to back his car out of a driveway a few houses ahead.  Immediately, I engaged my Worst Case Scenario talent and thought, "Oh, great.  This guy isn't going to see me.  I'm going to get hit by this car and never be able to run again.  Mental image pops up of me, using a walker for the rest of my life. Okay, okay.  So maybe I'll want to run after this.  I'm sure I've enjoyed it before.  Does he see me?  He stopped for that guy ahead of me.  He's going.  I'm far away.  Now I'll probably fall off the bridge or something."
The thing is, I really wasn't in unbearable pain until very late in the race.  After each walk break, I would gingerly start to trot, and then realize that it actually felt better to run than to walk.  The biggest/only problem was in my *&$%#@! head.  My 11th and 12th miles were each over 14 minutes.  Granted, I did see the bridge during that time, and expended some extra energy to laugh.  It looked so.impossibly.far.

Legoland mini model of San Francisco.
The bridge seemed as far away as California from Florida, and as high as the Golden Gate.
Just before the bridge came into my view, I noticed how pretty the sunlight looked on the water, and how lovely it was to be outdoors.  Then, I saw the bridge and thought, "There is no way I can do that." I slowed to a walk, again, while I chuckled at the idea that anyone, even me, thought for a moment that I would be able to run to, and up, that bridge.  I started to run again, but my knee was hurting from ye ol' IT band issue, so I actually stopped and stretched in the grass for a minute.  Soon after I got back on the road, I saw my dear sister running toward me.  She had worked to set up the race since around 4 a.m. that day, and had already helped 2 other friends over the bridge and across the finish line before running over it again to meet me just before the 12th mile marker.  I was able to converse easily, which I know she must hate.  We walked through the last water stop, and then started up the bridge.  She got a little way ahead of me and told me to focus on her "dumb bun."  She meant the one in her hair.  I told her that I was going to focus instead on the Massachusetts shaped not-sweaty spot on her back.  I did walk on the bridge for about 10 seconds, but ran again when I realized that I didn't need to walk after all.  My 13th mile, over the impossible bridge pace was 3 minutes faster than either of the 2 miles just before I saw my sis.  See what I mean about my brain being the problem?  Maybe she's right, and I wouldn't have been able to speed up at the end if I hadn't walked so much between miles 8-12.  Or, maybe she just knows the right things to say to keep me from beating myself up.

Result: 2:29:40- my slowest half-marathon to date

You've heard "the mind is willing but the body is weak" (it's from the Bible, Matthew 26:40-43)?  Well, when it comes to my racing, the opposite is true.  Mental strength takes practice, discipline, and hard work.  I think it's also important to offer rewards, like chocolate, guilt-free bragging, or some extra time spent with a good book, for good mental behavior.  Starting a tough race without mental preparation is even more detrimental than neglecting to use Body Glide to prevent chafing of sensitive areas.  Trust me.

If you deserve to brag about your mental strength, do so here!  No guilt!