Beating the Blerch

Welcome to the new running blog.

My husband is the best

Over the weekend I accompanied my husband to Seattle for a half-marathon.

Let me back up here. In January 2013 my husband began a “couch to 5K” running program. At that time he was about 60 pounds heavier and loved eating chips while sitting on the couch. I am not sure what motivated him to start this program, or more–that he actually continued with it and is running half-marathons! But whatever that thing is that makes people to do such things is something I admire. Around the same time I began walking and working myself up to jog some while walking, but I developed plantar fasciitis pretty badly and then, later, fell down some stairs and fractured my spine in three places (which is still healing). Anyway, he continued to run and I gave up on it.

He has been talking a lot about Matthew Inman (the “Oatmeal”) comics, all about running. The Seattle race (where people chose to run 10K, half-marathon, or full-marathon) was called “Beat the Blerch”. The blerch is this white doughy character who is the devil’s advocate for doing lazy things and not running, like eating cake and making excuses. I read the newest book by Matthew on our drive home; because of this trip I missed the people’s climate march in Vancouver.

I’ll tie this into climate change in a second, but I will say that this is the best book I’ve read all year. Not really the best literary book, but the best inspirational book. Matthew isn’t stuck on himself. He is also funny. He is down-to-earth. It is hard to believe that a comic can be inspirational, but it is. More so even than the race itself. Though I found that it wasn’t the obviously fit people running that motivated me; it was the older people, the overweight. If they can do it, I can!

At the marathon I did not race. I walked around taking photos and then edited part of a book. I wished I would’ve been fit enough to run. I would’ve been good to mostly walk the 10k, but I didn’t.

Let me point out here that my husband is not awesome just because he ran the half-marathon for the third time ever, and beat his previous time by over 20 minutes, but because he is a nice, loving, patient, easy-going person whom I trust and love very much.

My own blerches

When I was a kid, teenager, and young adult, I was in great shape. I won the 600-yard dash woman’s division in 6th grade! Beat that. I also ran all the time. Even when most people walked, I ran. In high school Dad used to take us to a nearby state park, where I’d run the trails for miles and miles. I was always thin, even after pregnancy and childbirth. But one thing plagued me, beginning in 4th grade. I was running somewhere, and all of a sudden my heart began racing. This is the scariest event that ever happened to me. It wasn’t just a fast heartbeat, like what happens naturally when people run or exercise. I was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, where the abnormal electrical impulses in my heart caused random and very fast heart beats. Whenever I experienced this (and sometimes my heart would go quite over 200 beats per minute), I got dizzy, nauseated, really scared, and had to stop running. As a younger person, this happened only when I was doing extreme exercise–not even like just jogging but sprinting. So naturally I began to get scared that it would happen and stopped running.

As an adult, this also began to happen when I was just sitting idly, generally ending up with a trip to the emergency room to get my heart rate back to normal, because it stopped fixing itself naturally. At one point they were going to use paddles on me, but luckily my heart returned to normal from other drugs they were giving me. More than once I had adenosine, which from what I understood, stopped and restarted my heart. What a weird feeling.

Finally in the fall of 2012 I had an ablation, which fixed this problem permanently–at least so far. Thank you, Canada health care!

But by now I had gone downhill in a few health departments. My heart is healthy, as are my lungs and everything else that is vital. But I have diabetes and finally had to go on medication just this year. That, and getting older, and becoming sedentary throughout the years is not a good combination. It’s not that I don’t exercise, but it’s that I don’t do it enough. I also smoked for years. Then I quit cold turkey in 2006 when I got married. My husband didn’t smoke, and I figured he might not like to kiss a chimney-mouth. Because he is awesome he had never once complained before, but I took it upon myself to be awesome back to him.

Despite all this, I feel way more fit than I have in a long time. I keep active and walk a lot, despite the fact my plantar fasciitis is a bitch. I did the Vancouver Sun Run in 2013 and went on a long rainforest hike the very next day (and then a weekend later could barely move). So, inspired by my husband’s couch to half-marathon, inspired by Matthew Inman’s “beating the blerch”, and I have to mention also being inspired by husband’s Aunt Linda (who is in her 60s and still runs every week), I decided to beat my own blerch.

And while I made this decision, I was feeling guilty for having not made it to the climate march this past weekend. But, I thought, if you can’t fix yourself, how can you fix the planet? Perhaps the planet is beyond saving as far as the climate goes, but we can’t give up, can we? If I, a middle-aged women with diabetes, problems with my feet, and assorted other pains and annoyances, can say “it’s not too late” to work on myself, then we as a population can say the same, right?

The body as an ecosystem

When I wrote Back to the Garden (as pen Clara Hume), one of the themes in the novel was that several characters were broken–as was their planet. Each dealt with personal demons. One had a communication breakdown with her mother and needed to fix it. Another had killed a man in self-defense. One couple lost a child. One character had a weight problem and was struggling to deal with it. Another lost her father and mother as a young child and, growing up lost in a wilder world, didn’t know whom to trust–especially after getting raped; this character then became mute. Another character had been a famous, rich actor once and lived greedily, and then lost his family and, like everyone, had to adapt to great losses in the world. Another had lived with unrequited love for most of his life. Another lost her parents.

We each, every single one of us, faces not so cool events. My objective in the book was that we have to redeem ourselves before being able to have the emotional and physical and intellectual capacity to redeem our planet. And even if we cannot stop climate change–which we cannot now, according to most scientists–we can continue to fight it, which will make our lives, and our children’s and their children’s lives, and so on, healthier and happier. Like Matthew Inman points out in his book, our natural state of mind seems to call for lazy comfort, but real life isn’t that way. And, the way I see it, lazy comfort all the time is not sustainable for either us our planet. No other species is that way, though all definitely have playtime. Where did we get off course?

Our bodies are ecosystems. Livers, hearts, water, blood, kidneys, skin, hair–all of it. If one thing goes out of whack, other parts can be affected, just like on the planet.  I feel lucky that I still have most parts intact. Maybe my pancreas is screwed up, but I have it easy compared to so many people in this world. Thing is, I guess, I just want to make the best of my time here on Earth. If I take care of myself, I think it’ll help me be better at taking care of the world around me. And it’s cool because there’s billions of others on this planet that can work together to do that. It’s not something we’re alone in.

100 years to live

Today I began my couch to 5K program, which wasn’t too agonizing, yet. I walked for 20 minutes and ran for about 10. The times get longer the more you go. I don’t have lofty ambitions. Neither do I want to fall to rationalizing reasons not to continue this. Cake and agony will not stop me! I am too aware, however, that if my foot starts falling apart I may have to stop running. But if I can’t run, I’ll move my legs. Somehow. Just watch me!

I have no idea what Matthew Inman thinks of climate change, but he has some good, practical advice for beating the blerch. One of my favorites is that he is imperfect and we can be too. He pokes fun of the “baked potato” types who use tanning beds and have the perfect abs. My favorite advice in his book is not to be that person. Don’t fall into a tanning bed. Fall into love (or out of love). Fall into something meaningful. His book is about doing something great while still being someone real. His book is about beating your own demons/addictions even though it’s okay if you have cake sometimes. Just don’t have cake all the time. I love cake, but of course already dropped it due to diabetes.

One of the things he points out is the peace and expansive solitary thoughts when running. My husband has noted this too, and I have too in the past when both running and walking. It’s calming, even if you are in agony at times when running (Matthew notes that it’s pain that you control, unlike other pains you have no control over–so there’s that). I don’t think he listens to music when running, but I do.

100 Years, by Five for Fighting, came up today on my playlist, on my first day of couch to 5K. It’s a song I really enjoy. It goes through all years of life in the perspective of one man, but it’s something we can all relate to. The song says that there is still time for us to be 15. I liked that, as when I was 15 I was still young, my tachychardia was somewhat under control, and I had all my life ahead to dream about. It is now much later, and it’s important to me to be able to dream ahead. There’s still life ahead, though who knows how much–the fact is, the present is as much a part of my future as is my future. And we do have today.

Not all of us live to be 100, but if I do, I have a lot of years ahead of me. 100 years to live is the one line that keeps coming back to me. We have 100 years, or maybe less, sometimes more, to fix ourselves and fix the planet–or at least live with ourselves and with our planet.

Let’s fall into something meaningful while living with ourselves and with our planet.