This blog post is about running goals, skunk spray, and the power of great storytelling to help me keep the long view.
February, already a somewhat abbreviated calendar month, turned out to be a disappointment for running. My total miles were just 112.54, way less than the prescribed full marathon plan, and most of those were pretty easy effort, precious few “SOS” workouts. Also, virtually every mile in February was in sub-freezing temps. Fun stuff!
The month started strong but by the end of the first full week I had some Plantar Fasciitis flare up, painful enough to cause me to miss five consecutive running days. (More below on how I spent those days. Fruitful if still frustrating.)
Once my foot and leg felt better (could have been so much worse!!), I ran easy for a few days, got excited to play “catch up,” and then was homebound by a late winter ice storm. I was thankful for a warm home, electricity, and plenty of groceries (and coffee!), but I sure couldn’t drive anywhere to run. The roads were pretty dangerous, and anyway, our front gate was literally iced shut. (Handsome was out of town, and although I tried I just couldn’t chip or sledge-hammer the ice apart. On the last day of bad weather, some guys from his office came to chip me free, ha! Anyway. Blessings counted every day during what could have been a dangerous storm. But running just didn’t happen.
These two inconveniences cost me almost a week each time, and coupled with building stress over how to spend my weekend hours, I made the decision late February to drop out of the full marathon training. Yes, some miles could be rearranged, but being so near the halfway point in training I didn’t feel confident about that. I felt torn between devoting myself more fully than ever to the schedule, to not miss any more key workouts… and staying available to loved ones on the weekends. It seemed clear I could no longer do both. We have some family stuff going on that will potentially evolve to bigger and bigger stuff, and I also can not enjoy running when I feel guilty leaving my husband at home. It’s just not worth it.
I actually cried real, sobbing tears about this!! Good grief. If I had a therapist I am sure even she (or he) would roll her (or his) eyes about that. I mean. C’mon lady.
Anyway. I was deeply saddened to drop out of the marathon two springs in a row, but the decision was made for good reasons. (And maybe I will still run the half!)
The fruitful part of this frustration is that I learned a lot about improving my hip and core strength. It not only helps your current PF flare-up heal; the work can also prevent future flare-ups. I also learned lots about better running form and stability exercises, plus more. Remember how excited I was last year to incorporate dynamic warmups, and more recently, yoga? All these little additions to my wellness routine feel great. And, because I now understand how much running matters to me, these little investments of time and effort are so worth it, big picture. So I’m not too mad.
I will run a good, strong marathon I can be proud of, something with a time goal and great overall fitness. Maybe even this year! Just not this April.
I’m just not there yet.
Okay, I promised you skunk spray.
This part of the story involves Maribeth. For new readers and friends, Maribeth is my friend and beekeeping mentor. She is a pretty amazing human, and I feel lucky to have her in my life.
And her husband Dean? He is a jewel! He can weave any mundane life event into a fascinating adventure worth listening to, though you will never be able to repeat it effectively. He holds your attention hostage with the exact mix of his well worn Oklahoma accent and his utter astonishment at human behavior. He delights in people, you know? And I delight in that! I could listen to him tell any story, about anything and anyone.
And especially Maribeth. You can feel how much he loves her when he says her name.
One Friday afternoon recently, Maribeth and I were headed together to Ardmore for that overnight state beekeepers’ conference. I arrived at her house before she had returned from errands, so Dean and I chatted. Well, Dean chatted and I laughed. He is a lively storyteller! One of the stories he gifted me with was about how the evening before his bride had crossed paths with a pretty sizeable skunk in their goat barn.
Maribeth was skunk sprayed in the most liberal way, which in my mind is almost as funny as her getting stung fifty times by bees. (I’m not a good person. Anything that threatens her natural sense of composure is just funny to me.)
Dean described everything in vivid detail, and the scene was fully illustrated because there was still a heavy curtain of choking skunk spray all over the neighborhood. I had actually smelled it when I pulled in, so strong you might have believed the beast to still be alive and well and not far away.
It was neither alive nor well at this point, so just imagine how sharp and gagging the smell would have been the night before.
Then imagine Maribeth walking into the house, freshly scented.
As the story goes, Dean was inside already when she entered, dressed in chores clothes and veiled in a green smog of unbreathable ick. He forbade her from walking further into their home in that condition and instructed her to disrobe on the front porch, pronto. She did, and she found new clothes, and she joined him in the living room to search Amazon for a quick delivery of skunk wash or some other magical elixir.
At this point, fair reader, she had only traded garments, not washed up. Dean spent a great deal of effort impressing on me the details of her malodorous offense. A gifted storyteller as I told you, he paused at the right moments to let me gasp with him, and our wide-open eyes calibrated shock in unison. He was incredulous that she had just brazenly sat down in the living room like that!! I gathered there was a marital context here, too, something significant about who had warned the other about that particular skunk, no doubt a Rodent of Unusual Size, whose idea it had been to do a certain kind of trapping, etcetera, etcetera, all crucial to the sense of victory Dean brandished as he said the following words:
“Maribeth you ain’t there yet!”
I died. I died from laughter right there in their gravel driveway, listening to Dean elaborate, and picturing the scene for myself. Dean adjusted his ballcap firmly, apparently satisfied that his audience of one agreed that he had been wronged. She should not have entered the house in that condition. End of story.
My sweet, strong, wildly intelligent, hard-working friend and mentor was bested by a skunk spray so putrid that her devoted husband summarily dismissed her to the shower, having declared in no uncertain terms that, no arguing okay, changing clothes and cutting corners would just not do the trick. She just wasn’t there yet.
So, what does all of this hilarity have to do with running and goal setting, with keeping the long view?
Patience and taking the necessary steps, intelligently. Pretty simple.
This all reminds me to take a deep breath (a clean one, hopefully, with no skunks around) and do what needs to be done, without skipping the necessary work to reach an artificial ending.
Just as Maribeth was eventually allowed back in the living room, at the right time and after she took the necessary cleansing shower, I will eventually run a nice, strong full marathon, something I can be proud of, but not before gaining the hip and lower ab strength I need to do speed work safely. And not before building some other healthy habits organically.
Also? Keeping your husband happy is important. Family comes first, too. You might get called out. So I will find the right time in life for marathon training. I’m just not there yet.
Thank you to my friend Maribeth for allowing me to share this story. As I hit “publish,” I understand the drama took turns over this past weekend. There are rumors of men’s work boots that have carried the hotly contested stink indoors, something about a newspaper, and quiet moments of victory. Not that anyone is keeping score.
Do the work!