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Spring Forward Distance Run…15K: I did it!

Published March 30, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Okay, maybe I didn’t RUN the 15K (9.3 miles), but I certainly did WALK it!  spring-forward-image-new-siteAnd although I finished nearly dead last, I DID finish!  And that is more distance than I have done since I used to walk home from downtown Buffalo if I missed the last bus…when I was 17!  At 52, five kids, and a “few” pounds later, I never would have dreamed that I would be in any kind of race, let alone finish a nine mile trek in just under three hours.

But I did it.

A year ago I was preparing myself to do my first 5K ever.   On that day in June, I remember crossing that finish line, huffing and puffing, and nearly falling over.  People caught me and held me up from collapsing, handing me bottles of water to help re-hydrate.  I learned a lot since that first race about hydration and pacing myself and NOT eating dried prunes beforehand!  I was better prepared in August for the Zombie Run, “Push Yourself” in October, and “It’s a Wonderful Run” in December.

Yesterday was a new challenge for me with trying long distance…but that 15K was the dry run for the half marathon I have yet to accomplish in June.   All I want to do is finish, even if I walk the entire way, and even if I end up dead last.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.28.20 PMThis is the map of elevations which outlines the HILLS we were running/walking yesterday!  I am thankful that the half-marathon is on relatively flat ground… but I survived these hills!  What helped at one point when I heard the thunder of the herd coming up behind us was taking the focus off myself and trying to cheer them.  The walkers had left 45 minutes before the runners, and at about 8:30 or so, they caught up to and passed us.  As they went by, I clapped and cheered them on, which took my mind off the hilly road I was climbing up.  And they cheered me, too!  It helped to motivate me and kept me progressing forward.  Just before they started gaining on us, I was feeling like I might not make it after all.  I didn’t realize the steepness of the terrain, and my legs had been used to mall walking to get my practice in.  Seeing all those people running by, many of them my age or older, and even some folks I work with, kept me going.  I called, “See you at the finish line!” so I knew that I had to follow through.  I do try to keep my word as best I can at all times.

That finish line was the most beautiful sight I’d seen all day!  Jeanette and I were both so tired, but we kept each other moving toward that goal!  For the last hundred yards or so, we ran hand-in-hand, telling each other that we were going to make it…and we did!  When I finished, sweaty, sore, with swollen hands (I had to look it up online to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with because I got scared…it’s called hyponatremia), I was just so thankful to have done it!!

When I think of where I was in December 2012 (absolutely no exercise, eating tons of high fat and high “bad” carbs, and smoking over a pack a day), I am so proud of how far I have been able to come.  Am I a svelt size 8?  Nope…and probably won’t ever be.   But that is okay, and I am still smoke-free.  Even if I never get to single digit sizes, I am far healthier than I have been in two decades, and nothing else matters.

It’s also ironic that this week’s Artist’s Way challenge dealt with strength!  This is me showing how strong I am becoming!

Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon…ME??

Published March 8, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Last year I made huge strides in completing four 5K races.  I never placed in the top percent, but I finished every one!  So that’s 20K…just 1K shy of a half marathon over four races.niagara-falls-womens-half-marathon

So this body has done a half marathon already!

Well, at least that is how I am convincing myself that I can do this!  My friend, Jeanette, and I signed up and are going to make a go of it!  And who can resist the logo of “Wine, Women, Walk, Run”… wine?  I’m in!

I have to admit that I have gotten a bit lazy this winter.  It has been a freaking tundra, and I have been pretty much hibernating.  With spring on its way (I HOPE), I plan to get out to train for this marathon.

run DisneyI am going to take Jeanette’s advice and use the Walt Disney World Half Marathon Training Program.   All I have to do is get my ass off the couch to get started!  I will begin with following the training program on Tuesday (in three days), but in the meantime, I will get out and do some prep-walking.  I already know that fully running the half marathon is out of the question, but interjecting some light running into my program will help me to finish the race before the sun goes down!

Incorporating my Tuesday/Thursday 30 minute sessions as my Nature Days as I continue to work through The Artist’s Way will be a great blend of both.  My weekend extended excursions can be built into my Artist Dates.  I can go someplace that requires lots of walking, and I’ll take a pedometer to make sure I get the proper number of miles in for that weekend.   Warmer weather will be a great help to keep me getting outside into the fresh air… sub zero temperatures have done nothing but make me hide almost all winter!

OneNFWHM-FINAL-FLAT thing I am grateful for is that the half marathon is on relatively flat ground!

It’s along the river, it’s scenic, it’s on the Canadian side… no negatives that I can see!

So I think we are going to make a girls’ weekend of it!  Saturday hang out: shopping, casino, dinner, then Marathon on Sunday!

Sounds like an awesome way to start the summer!  Can’t wait!

I just have to get ready…

Reflections on 2013

Published December 30, 2013 by Susan Woodward

2013 was a year of changes for me… challenges, both physical and emotional, tested me to my limits, and I am still here to talk about it!  In one year, I made significant changes that I have, sadly, let slide a bit as the weather turned colder and I began the new school year.  However, I recognize my backsliding, and I am going to make sure that I do something about it.

I really decided to start posting my challenges online because I wanted to leave my thoughts to my children for the future.  I want them to be able to actually look at pictures of their crazy Mom, watch videos of her trying to make a 50 year old body do aerial arts, and read my introspective thoughts so that they might have an inkling of what goes on under all the red frizz.  It’s a pictorial diary, complete with video clips that they can look back on later, when I am no longer here.  That’s why I put these thoughts out there.  If people read them and are entertained or provoked a bit, then that’s great…but the ones I really want to have access to my thoughts are my kids.

So here are some thoughts about 2013:

JANUARY

Bat Girl

The year started off with a real bang…most of them on the mat as I made my aerial arts “debut”.  My first night on the silks and I was flying!  (sort of).  And I remember my two new best friends… Ibuprofen and Epsom Salts!  I am also reminded of my nemesis that was sent into oblivion… yes, Pall Mall and all his cohorts!  No more tobacco!  I have been smoke-free since January 8 and I will continue to be for life!!

FEBRUARYswimming

In February, I turned 51, and Will D’Ovidio helped me ring in the new life year with 51 push-ups for my birthday!  The most surprising thing, though, is that I actually DID 51 push-ups during that Cirque Fit class!  I was eating better, getting stronger, and feeling a whole lot more optimistic about my future.

MARCH

Jenns 6 InjuriesWell, March brought my Circus dreams to an end with tendonitis and problems with both shoulders.  I held on to the hope that I could return in a few weeks, which turned into months, which were finally crashed and burned with a bout of vertigo.  Although I am not able to get back on the silks, March also brought me to the YMCA.  I worked hard to keep the momentum going!

APRIL

beet juiceApril is when I got the idea to try my first 5K, and so I began training.  I have no ACL in my right knee, so I am more of a power walker than a runner, but that’s okay!  I was off the couch!  I also began juicing as a way to cleanse and detox my body.   The weather was getting warmer, so I was making more regular trips to the Rochester Public Market (THE best place to be on a Saturday morning!).

MAY

2013-05-18 16.32.04 May brought the premier of Ombis: Alien Invasion, my screen debut!  Even though I have never really been a horror movie fan, I have to say that I had a BLAST getting zombified a la Tom Savini School of Make-Up and then slimed by what seemed like GALLONS of green goo!  It was a terrific experience, and I am sooo glad that I was able to be a part of the fun!

JUNE

Hiking and Teacher Rally 020Ask anyone my thoughts on the current state of education, and you’d better be prepared to pull up a seat for a long tirade!  The fiasco of the implementation of the CCSS, APPR, SLOs, PLCs, and a host of other acronyms led me to get involved instead of just bitching about conditions.  I went to Albany along with THOUSANDS of others to let John King and Andrew Cuomo know how we felt!  With all the changes so far in the year, I felt my confidence soaring, and I joined in with another acronymical group: the BATS (The Badass Teachers Association)!    I also completed my first 5K in June!

JULY

Portland Headlight with Ram Island Ledge 4 In July, I decided that I was going to head out all by myself,  I was feeling strong enough and confident enough to just get in the car, drive east till I hit an ocean, and then turn left, driving till I found lighthouses and cheap lobster!  And I DID it!  Not only that, I had no hotel reservations or anything…I trusted that everything would turn out okay.  And that is exactly what happened!  I climbed a mountain, hiked, ran in the ocean, climbed into a lighthouse, took TONS of pictures and managed to find about a dozen lighthouses.  The cheap lobster was pretty terrific, too!

AUGUST

100_0746When my Marine daughter told me that she could not come home from San Diego before her deployment in September, I decided that I was going to go to her!  I managed to pick up a summer tutoring gig that paid enough to cover my air fare, and I got to see my Sarah Bear! Never in my life would I have thought that I would put my feet in both oceans that come in contact with North America within a few weeks of each other!   I also spent a lot of time hiking and taking Nature pictures throughout the month of August.

SEPTEMBER

Fist batThis month was certainly a challenge as I began teaching consultant classes for the first time.  Worries over standardized test results (it was announced that 70% of New York State’s 3rd through 8th graders “failed” the state exams).    I was still feeling confident, still working out, still pumping that blood through those veins…and ready to pump up the BAT action with my voice via phone calls, emails, tweets, and Facebook posts.  For so long, I’d felt sluggish, complacent, and didn’t want to get involved with much of anything.  Thanks to everything I’d been working through, I put that energy to work, and the BATS are working hard to make a positive change in educational reform!

OCTOBER

SeanceI returned to performing in October with the Rochester Landmark Society’s annual Ghost Walk.  I hadn’t performed since Titanic and the One Acts in 2012, and it felt good to do a little bit of acting again.  The best part was that we had an indoor scene on the tour, so we didn’t have to worry about the cold and rain!

NOVEMBER

NaNo logoNovember was National Write a Novel in 30 Days month.  Actually, what was required was to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  I’d had The Red Brick Road rattling about in my brain for quite a long time, and I did have a little of it started, so I had a jumping off point.  It was hard as hell keeping up with daily deadlines, trying to make sure that I had the magic number of words so that I could say, “Yes!  I did it!”  Now all I have to do is EDIT it!  But I DO have over 50,000 words!!

DECEMBER

meNearly one year after getting my behind off the couch and actually getting out to DO things, I am still going.  I do have to admit that I have not been to the YMCA recently, but I will be making that change to get back on a healthier track.  Backsliding happens, but NOT ONCE in this year did I pick up a cigarette!  My friend Jeanette and I participated in the It’s a Wonderful Run 5K…in 16 degrees and in the middle of a snow storm!  It was cold as all get out, but we were both dressed in layers (you can see that I look about 150 pounds heavier because of all the layers!) and we survived.  And in January, this body is going to get back out to Bristol to SKI!  I haven’t done that in a couple of years, and I am so looking forward to it!

For me, 2013 was one of my most memorable years!  So many challenges, changes, successes…I feel truly blessed.  Thank you to my friends and family for your support and encouragement, especially to Will D’Ovidio (of Rochester Aerial Arts) and my daughter Illy Welden who got me started and kept me going!

I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings!!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Still Trekking: It’s a Wonderful Run…Well, Stroll!

Published December 15, 2013 by Susan Woodward

banner-5kChalking up another 5K for me in 2013!  That’s a total of 4…and for someone who had NEVER done anything like that in 51 years, that’s an awesome accomplishment, even if I do say do myself.

meOk…so here I am just before the race: thermal leggings, jeans, snow pants…check, check, check.  Turtleneck, t-shirt, hoodie, ski jacket, and racing shirt…check, check, check, check, check.  Wool hat, headband, face cover, hoodie hood, jacket hood, goggles…check, check, check, check, check, check.  Wool socks, cotton socks, plastic bags, semi-waterproof boots… check, check, check, check.  Two pairs of gloves…check, check.  Alrighty!  It’s 16 degrees and it’s snowing…and I am ready to run!  I look about 150 pounds heavier, but at least I am completely insulated.

By the end of the race, I was sweating like crazy!!  Because of the snow, cold, layers, and lack of training, this became more of a Wonderful Stroll than a Run, but it gave me an opportunity to see the beauty of the village and to appreciate the good wishes of all the people who came out to cheer us on!  There were lights, music played, people had bon fires, and some offered hot cider.  It truly was WONDERFUL!

JeanetteThis is my friend Jeanette who was crazy enough to go with me!  Actually, she was the one to tell me about it in the first place…and I am glad she did.  We had an awesome time!

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This is the bridge that George Bailey wanted to jump from before Clarence beat him to it.  I stood at the rail looking into the churning water, imaging jumping in to save someone…I told Jeanette she’d better not jump!

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I have plans for this Main Street at the end of the race!

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Martini’s!!

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If we’d stayed in town longer, I would have gone to see this.  The whole town really gets into the spirit of the holiday and the film!  The florist was giving out roses to the ladies…Zuzu’s petals!  And mine was an amethyst tea rose…my favorite flower in the whole world!

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Just look at the crowd!

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And lots of people came in costume!  People ran with pets, some pushed baby strollers as families participated together, and we even saw a person in a wheelchair while on the trek.

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The race begins on the bridge…just look at all the people lining up for the gun to go off!  We heard that there were over 4000 folks registered for the race!

Because I am a true nut case, here’s video proof:

It truly was a Wonderful Run!

Push Yourself 5K– I did it!

Published October 6, 2013 by Susan Woodward

2013 has been one heck of a year, and ever since January, I have been pushing myself.

Thanks to Will D’Ovidio and Aerial Arts of Rochester, I pushed myself off the couch and into the air (sort of).

Patty Hedrick pushed me in the direction of better eating.

I pushed the pack away from me and quit smoking (nine months this week!!).

I followed my bliss and pushed from one ocean to another this summer.

And I pushed myself to start doing 5Ks…even being chased by zombies!

Push Yourself LogoToday I pushed myself again with the Push Yourself 5K.  What made this one different was that I was surrounded by faculty and students from my high school…it wasn’t just me all by myself, anonymously running/walking.  It’s actually easier when I am incognito and no one knows me because (in my mind) I worry that people I know who are in much better shape than me will look at me and say, “humph…” as I trudge along.  Or that students might laugh at me because I still jiggle when I jog.  That is what nearly held me back from pushing myself out of bed this morning to get ready.

Now people might want to argue that it doesn’t seem like I really care what people think because I posted those videos of myself doing aerial silks and other pictures.   In those instances, the internet distances me from thoughts of judgement or snide remarks, so I am not bothered by that.  What did make me feel a bit trepidatious today was being surround by former and current student athletes who actually intimidate me.  Those who play soccer, and volleyball, and run track… they are all in great shape, and this 5K seems like another run in the park from my viewpoint.

To be completely honest, I felt out of control.  I am absolutely not in my element, and there are witnesses who know me in the classroom as one who is totally in control there.  The roles were reversed, and quite frankly, I was scared to run.  That’s why the other races didn’t scare me…I was my own witness, and then I shared my feelings of success.  Today, for the first time, I was actually afraid of being laughed at.

But you know what?  That didn’t happen.  Students actually encouraged me to “push myself” to keep going along the way.  Some came up to me afterwards to say that I’d done a great job in finishing…and that made me feel all the more successful.

At one point, I even caught up to the boy’s soccer team during the last mile of the race.  I called out to them, “Hey, Guys!  There’s a 51 year old lady catching up to you!  Push yourselves!”  They looked back, laughed (not at me, but with me), and then took off running.   It was fun, and that’s what it’s all about!

 

Altared Perceptions: September Homecoming 2013

Published September 15, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Homecoming once again after a meaningful Summer challenge: Going Off the Map and Facing Our Dragon!

Map 2 Looking at old-fashioned maps, one would often find a dragon icon that would represent uncharted, unexplored waters.  That big, ol’ scary dragon symbolized the unknown which, more often than not, we have a tendency to fear.

And that was our summer assignment: to face our dragons by going places we’d feared to go before.  We didn’t physically have to leave to “go” anywhere; it could be doing something we’d always thought “maybe one day” or “someday I’ll do that.”  It could be facing a part of ourselves that we feared to look at in the mirror.   With so many ways to interpret this assignment, it made it so accessible to nearly everyone. 

Anyone who has read this blog from its beginning knows that I have been working through major life changes over the past couple of years.  I first described myself as being on a twisting, winding path through the labyrinth of life.  I talked about the break-up of a long-term relationship and how my children grew up and moved on to their adult lives left me feeling a bit like I was in the desert, alone.  I even worked on discerning the difference between loneliness and solitude.  But all of that work toward being happy on my own was focused on the walls surrounding me at home.  How did I go home to an empty place every day and not feel lonely?  And I finally came to feel that home was my refuge, my safe harbor.  I’d faced that dragon and won.

However, finding comfort in my home surroundings came with a double-edged sword.  I got too comfortable being home alone, and I took to shying away from people altogether.  I had stopped socializing and preferred to curl up on the couch with either a book or the television…and of course, smoking and overeating.  I was self-medicating while I was home alone.  That was the “too much of a good thing” syndrome.  While it was great to love being home, it wasn’t so great to avoid people.

So I got involved with the Aerial Arts Challenge.  I had a contract that kept me on a schedule, which kept me getting out of the house.  I quit smoking, I changed my eating habits, and I got a whole lot healthier.  I also got more social, even if it was on a schedule.  I began to expand my comfort zone beyond my four walls.  Several dragons slain there!

Okay…so I was getting off the couch if I had somewhere to go with someone.  There was still one more dragon in that scenario that needed to be faced and conquered. 

I had to face the fear of going out and doing things by myself.  It was back to solitude (but not loneliness this time…) and being comfortable with spending time with ME.   I wanted to face the stigma of eating alone in a restaurant without having that nagging feeling that people were looking at me and pitying me.   I wanted to get in my car and just drive without even using a map to get somewhere new… to follow my own intuition and trusting that somehow I would get where I wanted to be.  And instead of calling it “Facing My Dragon,” I called my posts “Following My Bliss.”  I went to Maine, the Renaissance Faire, hiking, climbing, walking, 5k-ing, the Irish Festival, and all kinds of activities all by myself.  I learned to be my own company and to actually enjoy being with ME.  

So now I am comfortable in my sanctuary/home, I am comfortable going out with people, and if I cannot find someone to do something with, I am even comfortable going and doing whatever it was all by myself. 

So how did the Creative Soul Matters/Decor Team represent this on homecoming Sunday at church?Dragon 1

There’s the Dragon!  And there’s the compass rose that took us Off the Map.

I am pleased that the dragon is facing forward, and not off to the side.  It allows each of us to look him in the face and Dragon 2confront him. 

From this angle, his eyes look a bit scary, as if daring us to continue to stare him down.   The challenge was to keep moving toward our uncharted territory while keeping him in our sight. 

I am glad that this Chinese New Year’s Dragon was purchased for this decor.  For one thing, Homecoming Weekend is like a New Year for many UUs.  After a long summer of a limited schedule, it’s back in full swing with three services a week, complete with new monthly themes.  It’s a new year with new goals for the congregation.  For teachers like me, it’s also a new school year with new challenges and new opportunities.  So the New Year’s Dragon was a good choice to face the new year.

The rainbow colors is also significant as it represents the strides made in facing the injustice of prejudice against the Gay community that has been present in America and the world.  Standing up to this dragon is beginning to bring about the necessary change needed in this country and in society as a whole. 

This particular Dragon costume is designed for only one wearer (unlike the traditional Dragon suits that require a team to work together in wearing it!)  This reminds me of my dragon that I needed to face inside myself…it was a solo action to overcome my fears.

Map The compass rose simply shows the four cardinal directions…no specifics.   

For me, this was significant as I tried to go “Off the Map.”   The first time I actually went ahead and trusted myself to get where I wanted to go, I chose to rely on cardinal directions.

When I wanted to go to Maine, I told myself that I would get on the NYS Thruway and head east until I ran into an ocean.  Then I was going to turn left and head north until I found lighthouses and cheap lobster.  Those were my only driving directions.

Well, you can go back to visit my reflections on this trip because I made it!  I left my door at 7:00 AM and I was taking pictures of a lighthouse by 4!

I tried applying that philosophy to my summer traveling in general.  I know that if I drive west out of the Rochester area, I will eventually run into water.  It may be Lake Erie, the Niagara River, or even Niagara Falls, but I will hit water!   I know that if I drive due north, I will also run into more water…Lake Ontario!  Or if I am a bit further east in the state, going north will still lead to water as I come to the St. Lawrence Seaway.   And if I drive far enough south, I will hit the Gulf of Mexico!  So when I want to do road trips that have no specific address as a destination, just a general area, this is my way of going about it.  And I am no longer afraid to get in the car and go alone.

MumsNow look at the flowers.  To me, these mums remind me of fireworks.  The dragon is flying overhead, and the flowers are an explosion of color (they are even more open now).  However, some buds are more open than others…just like fireworks exploding. 

Fireworks are set off during the New Year as a celebration of light, but their noise also scares away any residual negativity from the previous year.  

I faced my fear of going out and exploring my world all alone.  I ate that inexpensive lobster dinner!  I found eight lighthouses!  I climbed that mountain!  I jumped in BOTH the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans!   I joined in at the Renaissance Faire as a participant, even though I was by myself! 

I am very pleased to have faced this dragon and to have completed my Summer Challenge.

Following My Bliss: San Diego!

Published August 25, 2013 by Susan Woodward

100_0745

After making my way to Maine and dipping my toes into the Atlantic Ocean, I really wanted to be able to say that I’d done the same in the Pacific Ocean within the same summer vacation!  When my Marine daughter was not able to come home on leave, I headed to the west coast to make sure I could see her.   So I did it– two oceans in one summer!

I fully believe in the Law of Attraction and that everything always has a way of working out.  When I first learned that my daughter could not come home, I wondered about how I was going to be able to finance a trip out west.  Believe it or not, the opportunity came available the very same day as Sarah’s news.

I got an email that the school district needed someone to tutor the special ed seniors who needed to retake the NYS ELA exam for two weeks…and the pay was enough to cover my plane fare!  I have always believed that the Universe provides for me whenever there is a need…and I needed to get to see my daughter!

100_0746And there she is!  The sun was in our eyes, so we have some squinting going on, but this is us at Mission Beach in San Diego.  I am so happy that I was able to be with her, even if it was only for six days.

This was the only day that week that I had a decent hair day!  😛   I certainly can’t say that same about the rest of the trip!  😀

100_0757While we were at Mission Beach, we went to the midway and rode one of the wild rides…at least wild for me!  Since I had vertigo a few years ago, I have been very shy of amusement park rides, even to the point of avoiding my favorites– roller coasters!  I do miss them because I used to ride coasters with my five kids when they were younger.   It was a leap of faith that my vertigo wouldn’t be activated on this spinning, swinging ride!  Fortunately, I made it through safe and sound, happy that I had not had lunch first!

warriorWhen we went window shopping, the silliness that we used to share started to come out!  🙂  I love how she isn’t afraid to put on masks, hats, or pick up props for photo ops!  This is my warrior…watch out!  Ooh Rah!

margaritasAfter our window shopping excursion, we went for a yummy lunch that included margaritas!  It was so good to spend time with her again…it has been far too long.

And I need to learn how to make that Margarona!  YUM!!

I also got to spend time with Sarah’s boyfriend and his daughter… we had a lot of fun!  We went to the playground, she rode her bike, we went swimming, and we even went to Disneyland!  😀

at the parkFun time at the playground!

with SarahOkay…bad hair day, but it WAS about 100 degrees and blazing sun!

100_0844Waiting for the rides! 100_0787Princess Palace!!!

100_0798And we found some friends!  Rabbit…

100_0797 Eeyore… MickeyAnd even Mickey!!

parade 2Chloe loved the parade, especially when the princesses went by!

Pirate Ship

We even rode a pirate ship…ARGH!!

rideAnd Sarah and I got silly on a spinning ride!

It was a wonderful trip, and I am so grateful that I got so spend time with my Sarah Bear!  It’s hard having one of my children living across the continent, but I have to keep telling myself that it gives me a place to go on vacation!  I miss her greatly, but I am also extremely proud of her service as a United States Marine.  She is not one little lady anyone wants to mess with!

VegasAt last it was time to head back home.  Our stopover was in Las Vegas, so I just HAD to play with the slot machines in the airport!  I didn’t win anything, but my losses only came out to eight dollars.  Not bad for 45 minutes of entertainment in between flights!

When I got my AARP magazine last month, there was an article about seeing the world within one city…Las Vegas.  Where else can you eat lunch in the shade of the Eiffel Tower, followed by a Venetian gondola ride, topped off with an evening in an Egyptian pyramid.  Yup, that’s a trip that I plan to take in the future!!

Viva, Las Vegas!!

And a wonderful visit to Southern California!  🙂

 

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