Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Run. Skate. Repeat.

I've been running. Well--let's not get carried away. It's more of a jog than a run. But I've been doing it! At least four times a week I'm out there. Other days I usually stick to my walking/yoga routine.

All of my expectations about how it would feel, based on past experience, have proved incorrect. For one, I enjoy running at night--something I didn't like in the past. Secondly, I enjoy the actual running, not just the feeling afterward. This is completely new and unexpected.

I eased into it, hopping out for my first jaunt on Thanksgiving morning. I took my dog with me, since she's been my one loyal partner through everything the past seven years. She's my walking buddy. My wintertime beach buddy. My snuggle buddy. My baby. So off we went, walking half of the two-mile route that first day out. The next day we walked about a third of the way. The day after that, we walked only about a quarter of the way. And finally, on the fourth day, we just ran.

Or jogged. Really. I'm hardly running at full speed.

And that's maybe what suprised me most about all of this: I have more endurance, but I'm a whole lot slower than in the past. Granted, I don't feel like I'm being chased by demons this time around, so that might have something to do with it. But my body feels different. I feel like I'm still easing into this routine. So I'm slower. I'm not timing myself, but I'm definitely pushing more of a 10 minute mile--at least. But the pace is good for me. I'm challenged, but I don't wear out. The one day I ran without the dog--last Friday morning--I paid for it. I started out way too fast and was winded halfway through my route. I guess my pup is really like my little pace car. A seven and half year old, mildly arthritic pace car.

The weather has certainly been conducive to this jogging business. Not too cold. Not too hot. Yesterday's rain put a damper on things, though. Due to the weather and my schedule, I haven't been able to run in two days,  Tonight, rain or not, I'm going out there. I need to. Me and the dog, trotting through the neighorhood, wagging our tails.

Word of advice, though: Wait at least six or eight hours between eating a big Indian meal and heading out for a jog. Three hours isn't enough, unless you enjoy coughing up rice and eggplant.

Running's not the only thing I've rekindled in recent weeks, however. Sunday, in an effort to spend a little more one-on-one time with each of my kids, Sean and I headed to the ice rink.

This gets a real O. M. G. I had forgotten how much I absolutely LOVE to skate!

What freedom! It had been two years since I was last out on the rink, having taken the kids a few times that year. The kids get their requisite sledding and snowboarding in every year--and last year's heavy snowfalls made sure of that. But skating is more my thing than their dad's or stepdad's. If I don't suggest it, the kids won't either. They don't actually love it. Or at least, they think they don't.

That might have changed for Sean this past Sunday. Out on the ice, Sean found a new kind of confidence and happiness just skating around by himself. Sometimes we skated together and chatted; other times, we both wanted to be left alone to enjoy the meditative aspects of gliding in circles on the ice to the beat of some seriously 80's slow-dance songs. I quickly fell into the rhythm of skating zen, which I recalled vividly from my days at the rink in New Haven's Edgewood Park. That rink was where I spent my winters as a kid, with my mom, her teenage siblings--and their friends, and my grandfather. Like with swimming, I don't actually recall ever being taught to skate. It just seems like I've always known how to do it.

The rink was packed with tons of kids, many who were quite young and practicing their hockey skating in full gear, minus the sticks. It was fun to see so many four and five year old girls out on the ice with their dads, laced up and charging full-speed across the rink past the teenage boys and their hockey hair, skating backwards while holding their girlfriends tight. So. Freaking. Adorable.

That definitely brought back some memories. How could it not? I dated some hockey players in high school. They were mostly from Fairfield Prep, but I definitely gave chase to a few on Branford's team. My friend Lisa and I used to love to skate near her house at Branford Supply Pond, where occasionally we'd luck out and meet up with the BHS team. If we were really lucky, we'd get a few nicely-taped sticks tossed our way to join the fun--usually offensively, since Lisa and I weren't the best backward skaters. I'm still not. But it's never too late to learn, I suppose.

But all of those preppy boys and their smelly, mildewy hockey gear quickly receded to their well-worn and comfortable corners of my mind on Sunday. I was at the rink with my Seany, enjoying some much needed mother-son time, sometimes holding hands and sometimes waving to each other from opposite ends of the rink. After 45 minutes, he was beat and ready to warm up. By contrast, I felt like I was just getting started out there on the ice. I honestly had no desire to stop skating. When we dropped off our skates at the rental office on our way out, I vowed to buy myself a new (more comfortable) pair of my very own. Skating is a dirt-cheap, fun time. With kids or without, I need to make it to the rink more.

And I need to spend more one-on-one time with the boys, which is something that requires a lot more effort while I'm back in school on the weekends. Still, it's not impossible. Tomorrow night it's Nolan's turn, when I accompany his cub scout den on a tour of our sleepy neighborhood firehouse. Even just a few minutes together, alone in the car, goes a long way to maintain the bonds I have with my boys. I love those precious moments and the funny talks we have. In some cases, the funny conversation can turn downright serious--or reflective. On our way to the rink Sunday, Sean asked me, "Mom, do you ever think about what your passion is in life?"

"All the time, honey. That's why I'm back in school to become a teacher."

"Right. And I want to be an Air Force mechanic."

"You can be whatever you want to be. And you can always change your mind about that, too. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out exactly what we want to do. But remember you're never too old to learn something new or to give something a second chance. And it's never too late to try something different. We have one life to live in this world. Make the most of it."

"Yep. And I'm gonna."

A few minutes later, and two years after not being on the ice, Sean laced up and hopped out there. I was right behind him, and I quickly grabbed his hand.

"You can let go of my hand, Mom."

Later, he came along and grabbed onto my hand for one trip around the rink. And then he let go again and took off on his own, while I folded my hands at the small of my back and glided along, one foot in front of the other.

xo


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