Running for a Reason (other than a new PR)

Be More Charitable

Ragged Mountain Running Shop and C-VILLE Weekly are sponsoring a new program this year that is designed to get people to register for more races that benefit local charities. They’re calling it the C-ville-athon.

cvilleathonIf you register, and then run a total of at least 26.2 miles worth of local, non-profit races before the end of the year, you get a technical C-ville-athon t-shirt.

I don’t need the shirt, but I think it’s a great concept.

I feel like a hypocrite saying that about the shirt, though, since I just registered for my first qualifying race (the Charlottesville Ten Miler) and there was an option on the registration form to skip the t-shirt, and have the extra money go to the race charity instead, and I went for the shirt.

I wish this was an option at more races. In most cases, it’s something I would do, but I want my Charlottesville Ten Miler shirt. They’re promising a technical, gender-specific shirt for what is arguably the iconic local race. It may be selfish, but I want that t-shirt.

To my credit, though, I did make an additional donation to MACAA (the Monticello Area Community Action Agency) the official race charity beneficiary, to make up the difference for choosing the shirt.

In the past (I’m embarrassed to admit) I have often left the “additional donation” field blank when registering for races meant to benefit a charity.

I guess I figured I was doing something just by paying the registration fee, but the truth is, non-profit races are actually very inefficient when it comes to raising money through registration fees alone. Races are expensive to put on. The charities rely on people making additional donations.

So, being more charitable will be my first step in my quest to live a more meaningful life.

Running more non-profit races and actually donating to the charities is something I can do that will make all the training I’m going to do anyway a little more worthwhile.

Just for the record, I’m not completely uncharitable. Kurt and I make yearly donations to a few organizations that we both care about.

We could certainly do more, though, and I’d like to.

Finding Meaning

Lately I just can’t seem to shake a nagging feeling that there may be more to life than just running.

I came across an interesting article last week written by Charles Eisenstein, and while I’m not sure I agree with everything he says, I definitely think the man is onto something.

mutinyHere is an excerpt:

The unspoken goal of modern life seems to be to live as long and as comfortably as possible, to minimize risk and to maximize security. We see this priority in the educational system, which tries to train us to be “competitive” so that we can “make a living”. We see it in the medical system, where the goal of prolonging life trumps any consideration of whether, sometimes, the time has come to die. We see it in our economic system, which assumes that all people are motivated by “rational self-interest”, defined in terms of money, associated with security and survival. (And have you ever thought about the phrase “the cost of living”?) We are supposed to be practical, not idealistic; we are supposed to put work before play. Ask someone why she stays in a job she hates, and as often as not the answer is, “For the health insurance.” In other words, we stay in jobs that leave us feeling dead in order to gain the assurance of staying alive. When we choose health insurance over passion, we are choosing survival over life.

The article offers an interesting way of looking at how we are living our lives.

I’ve never been motivated by money. Working at a job I hate to buy things I don’t care about and don’t want has never made any sense to me.

But, if my goal in life is not to buy the best car and biggest house I possibly can, what is my goal?

To be happy?

Is that selfish?

Not any more selfish than making money to buy things is. But is it any better?

I can’t help but wonder if all of my “injuries” of late have been my subconscious trying to tell me that training like a mad woman for race after race isn’t getting me any closer to finding meaningful purpose in life.

Interestingly, while I was in the middle of writing this post, Erica D. House (who I follow on twitter) posted a link to a blog post she had written a few years ago, which seemed to go hand in hand with the “Mutiny of the Soul” article by Eisenstein that I was trying to write about.

In the post, she shows a graph from her Human Growth and Development textbook that illustrates the answers given by college students about what they value most in life. According to the chart, in 1966, 85% of the students polled said that developing a meaningful philosophy about life was essential. Only about 40% felt that way about being very well off financially. By 2006, those values had switched: 70% said being very well off financially was essential and less than half felt that way about developing a meaningful philosophy about life.

As a society, we seem to be headed in the wrong direction.

But what can I do to make my life more meaningful?

Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve got a few ideas. I’m hoping to put some of those ideas into action. I’ll be sharing them with you in a new category of posts which I’m calling “Simplicity and Meaning.”

Random updates

Running and injuries

My foot is doing much better. In fact, it was doing so much better that I stopped taking my medicine and ran three days in a row. Not surprisingly, on the third day, the pain was back.

Due to snow and below freezing temperatures, the gym wasn’t open early enough to go before work last week, so all of my runs were on our old treadmill in the kitty litter room.

B-DX7BzCQAAQzFi_002I started taking the drugs again, and took a day off.

I ran a few easy miles on the treadmill this morning, and my foot felt fine. I’m going to try to actually follow the training plan next week. We’ll see.

Gym memberships

My four weeks at ACAC is over. During those four weeks, I had decided that if the same deal applied where they’d waive the initiation fee if I signed up within two weeks, I would go ahead and join.

I started getting excited thinking about all the classes I could try and how convenient it would be to train for a triathlon at ACAC in the fall.

But when I went in to talk to somebody about joining, I was told that the same deal did NOT apply and that I had it wrong anyway. I would have had to join within two weeks of purchasing (not finishing) the trial membership period.

I swear the guy seemed happy to turn me away. I left thinking that I would NEVER join, but after I had time to cool off, I realized that most of my interactions with the staff at ACAC had been positive. This guy was the exception, not the norm.

As of this morning, I’m back at Smith and Carver.


I tried a Pummelo for the first time. They were right next to the grapefruit at Trader Joe’s. On a whim, I scooped one up and put it in my basket.

They look just like over-grown grapefruit, but they taste very different. In fact, they don’t taste like anything I’ve had before, and I like that. It has been a long time since I’ve tasted something completely new.

IMG_20150204_123938_253Although they look bigger than grapefruit, they have a very thick skin, plus a thick layer of pith. Once you get to the edible part, they’re about the same size as a grapefruit. I eat them the same way I eat all citrus: I peel them, and eat them by sections.

IMG_20150204_124405_517I bought several more the next time I was at Trader Joe’s, but they haven’t had any lately. I saw some at Harris Teeter, but they were $2.50 each (compared to $1.39 at Trader Joe’s.)

Another month at ACAC (I can’t seem to stay away)

Around Christmas time each year, ACAC offers “The Gift of Wellness,” which is a one month membership meant to be given as a gift.

For the past two years, it has been my present to myself.

Interesting note: Last year it cost $49. This year it was $79. That’s some serious inflation. I guess they can get away with it, though. I paid.

I had to take some more time off from running, so it was VERY nice to have a variety of cardio machines to choose from:

Expresso Bikes

I discovered Expresso bikes at Gold’s Gym a long, long time ago. I can’t believe they haven’t become more popular. ACAC Downtown only has two but they’re usually both free. You have to register on the website (maybe that’s why most people avoid them?) But once you do, you can choose from a few dozen virtual rides that vary in length and difficulty (1-20 miles). There are rides by the ocean, through a redwood forest, in canyons and cities and  even outer space.

IMG_20150212_101658_906IMG_20150212_101740_388You can race yourself from a previous ride, or choose a different pacer. You also get to see how your time compares with other people who have completed the same ride. I finished a very challenging ten-mile ride only to find that I placed last out of everyone who had done that ride at ACAC. That’s motivation!

The older bikes changed gears automatically on hills, but the newer ones (the ones at ACAC) require you to do it. I think I actually prefer the bike to do it for me. I like to keep skill out of the equation, although having to switch gears does keep you engaged. I did a forty-seven minute ride the other morning and was never bored.

 Stair Climbers

I think they’re actually called stepmills. They’re not the ones that were popular in the eighties and nineties, but the ones that are like escalators.

Come on, you know you’ve been tempted to run up the down escalator. Or is that just me?

There’s a reason they don’t want you running up the down escalator: It’s dangerous. These machines might be even more dangerous. They’re pretty high off the ground.


To make things worse, I do the “interval” program. There are a few different models at ACAC, but some of them don’t have a display. That means there’s no warning before it speeds up. You choose a level between 1 and 20, but it doesn’t tell you how fast you’ll be climbing at each level. I once had the thing go from 60 steps per minute up to 130. I almost went flying off. I would definitely not recommend this machine to anyone with balance issues. I love it, though!

Ashtanga Yoga

According to, Ashtanga Yoga is:

“a form of hatha yoga based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and its eight stages or ‘limbs’ and involving ujjayi breathing and a swift series of poses; also called raja yoga, also written ashtanga, astanga.”

I had been wanting to try Ashtanga Yoga for years, so I was happy to finally make it to a class. I like the idea of learning a set series of poses.

I felt a little lost at times, and the instructor occasionally gave cues that I didn’t understand. He’d say something like, “now you can take your jump-back (or maybe it was jump-through?)” I had no idea what that meant and looking around the room didn’t help clarify anything. Most people weren’t doing anything and the few that were moving, all seemed to be doing different things.

I enjoyed the class, though. I would definitely go back.

Keeping life simple

Now that I can’t run (again) I have time to think about other aspects of my life, which makes me realize that in some ways I use running and training for races as a way to AVOID thinking about other aspects of my life.

Anyway, I came across a blog post via Twitter yesterday that I loved. I rarely get this excited about blog posts. It’s not even that it’s that fantastic. I mean, It’s good and it’s funny, but the reason I had such a strong reaction to it is because I AGREED so wholeheartedly.

It made me HAPPY and it made me want to be friends with this guy who is PROUD of his choice to drive an old, crappy car.

YEARS ago, when I first got on Facebook there was a thing going around where you were supposed to share some little-known or unusual facts about yourself. One of my facts was that I was strangely proud of my crappy car. It’s true. I always have been. Or, I used to be.

Charlottesville is a pretty affluent town. It’s easy, over time, to forget that it’s okay to feel GOOD about your decisions to NOT buy expensive things.

I’ve become more defensive and less openly proud of the fact that I drive an older, bare-bones car.

It’s refreshing to hear somebody say “Hell Yeah, I drive an old car! It’s AWESOME!”

Here are some of my favorites from that blog post by the Cash Cow Couple:

19 Reasons Why We Still Drive a 19 Year Old Car

Image by The Cash Cow Couple
Image by The Cash Cow Couple
1. It Runs
2. I Love to Eat – After a certain number of years pass, you just stop caring about keeping the carpets spotless. I’ll eat anything and everything while driving. If it falls on the seat or floor, I’ll still eat it. And never for one moment do I worry about stains.

7. It’s Worry Free – I don’t have to worry about a Walmart zealot dinging my door in the parking lot, or rocks causing the occasional paint chip. If that happens, who really cares.

12. It’s Simple – With less bells and whistles, less power everything, and less engine complexity, there are fewer opportunities for problems and maintenance.
 15. Keys are Cheap – What is going on with those new computer chipped keys that cost $250? Ours can be replicated for a dollar at Walmart.
17. It Makes Me Kind  Life is inevitably stressful, sometimes annoying and irritating even. The last thing I want to worry about is my car. That lady with screaming children who bumps me from behind at the stop sign. No Big Deal! Accidentally backed into that pesky telephone pole again? Just another carefree Monday my friend.
18. It Keeps Us Humble – A 19 year old car draws no attention and helps us remember that cars are meant to get from A to B, not to impress the person in the next lane who is financed up to their eyeballs. – See more at:


To this list, I’d like to add a couple of my own:

1. You can take pictures, do yoga, dance and star-gaze on your car.

Scan034pontiac yogs2. No need to pay for car washes or detailing because (really) WHY?

And the diagnosis is: Certifiable

Well, not exactly, but it feels that way.

The weekend after the Frostbite 15K, the top of my foot started hurting. After a couple of painful runs, I started worrying that it might be a stress fracture, so I called and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Wilder.

My appointment was this morning.

He poked around on my foot and had me stand on my tip-toes and hop on my foot. Of course I felt no pain, which made me feel like a crazy person. Even though nothing he did elicited any pain whatsoever, he still wanted X-rays.

The X-rays showed nothing.

I was happy, don’t get me wrong, but a small part of me was just the tiniest bit disappointed. I wanted solid evidence that there was something wrong.

Even though there is a reasonable explanation for the pain, without proof, part of me still wonders if it’s all in my head.

Dr. Wilder doesn’t think it’s in my head. Although, if we’re being honest, he doesn’t know me very well. His theory is that lingering tightness and swelling from my sprained ankle is causing the irritation on the top of my foot.

He prescribed Meloxicam (a non-steroid anti-inflammatory) and told me to get an ankle brace and wear it all the time.

IMG_20150205_155950_431He wants me to take the rest of this week (and this weekend) off from running, but says I can do half my training volume for the next week as long as the pain doesn’t get any worse.

I went to Physical Therapy this afternoon. The therapist agreed with Dr. Wilder that my ankle is tight. He spent some time loosening it up, then gave me some stretches and exercises to do.


I felt like I was being cautious with my training.

Here is what I was doing following the Frostbite 15K and leading up to my latest injury:


Week Eleven (of my 24 week training program)

Monday: scheduled cross-training
Actual: rest day

Tuesday: scheduled rest day
Actual: easy 6 miles

Wednesday: scheduled easy 8 miles
Actual: 6am cycle class

Thursday: scheduled easy 8 miles
Actual: easy 8 miles

Friday: scheduled rest day
Actual: rest day

Saturday: scheduled 16 mile long run
Actual: 9.25 easy miles (with O-hill X 2)
I didn’t feel recovered enough to do a 16-miler.

Sunday: scheduled easy 8 miles
Actual: 6.55
Pretty much as soon as I started running, the top of my right foot hurt. It was only about 15 degrees out and I really didn’t want to stop and deal with it, but after about a mile I had to do something. I tried loosening up my shoelaces. That didn’t help. I tried taking my metatarsal insert out. That didn’t help either. I ended up cutting the run short.

Week 12

Monday: scheduled cross-training
Actual: 6 am cycle class

Tuesday: scheduled rest day
Actual: rest day
I was pulled over by a cop on my way to work at 4:45 am (!!!) I ended up just getting a warning because one of my headlights was out, but it was NOT a very good start to an already stressful day. By mid-morning my throat was sore and I knew I was coming down with a cold.

Wednesday: scheduled 7 miles with 5 @ tempo pace
Actual: rest day
Between the hurt foot and the cold, I knew I needed a rest day.

Thursday: scheduled easy 6 miles
Actual: 6.2 virtually pain-free miles on the treadmill

Friday: scheduled rest day
Actual: rest day

Saturday: scheduled 20 mile long run
Actual: 5.1 miles
I was so frustrated that the pain was back after my run on Wednesday had gone so well. Both times I’d felt the pain I’d run outside wearing my trail shoes, so I decided to try wearing my regular shoes on Sunday.

Sunday: scheduled easy 7 miles
Actual: 2 miles
The pain came back 2 miles into my run and it was the worst it had ever been. It was 20 degrees out, but I walked the two miles back to my car.


If I’m being honest, this last set-back has left me feeling pretty unmotivated. I’ve been stuck in a cycle of negative thinking for a couple of years now. It’s time to make some changes, but I’ll leave that for another post.