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I Am a Runner (But I Sometimes Take Walk Breaks)

8 Mar

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been training for the Country Music 1/2 Marathon with a group of about 500 runners and walkers since early January. On the first day of training, we all met up at Fleet Feet Sports in Brentwood at 7:00 on a Saturday morning – nearly 500 of us crammed into that small space in our running tights and pullovers, still groggy from the adjustment to our new pre-dawn wake-up time.

Our designated pace leaders held up neon poster-board signs with training pace times scrawled across them in black Sharpie marker, making it easier for us to spot and join a group that ran at our pace. The groups ranged from 7-minute mile runners, to various run-walk-run interval groups, to race-walkers.

Naturally, I scanned the room to find the slowest pace group for runners. I had been running consistently for a few months building up to a 5k, but I was not (and probably never will be) a thin-limbed gazelle.

So on that first day, anxious and excited about this new challenge, I bounded off for our first 4-mile run in below-freezing temperatures with a group of about 20 others who were running at a 11-minute, 30-second/mile pace. It went well. I was feeling great. I couldn’t believe that in just a few months I’d be running 13.1 miles.

But after only a couple of weeks, once we started adding more mileage, I realized there was no way I would be able to keep up with my 11:30 pace group – the slowest runner pace group in the program – for more than a few miles. The longer we ran, the farther I was being left behind. I was discouraged. I felt like a failure. I wanted to quit.

I had a decision to make. I could keep trudging along slowly and singularly and hope I didn’t get lost once my pace group was no longer in my sight. Or I could drop back to a run-walk-run interval group, alternating periods of running with shorter periods of recovery walks.

Neither of these options appealed to me. I didn’t want to run alone; I joined this training group because I wanted to train with a group. Plus, I am hugely directionally challenged, so the chances of me getting lost during a 10-mile run through suburban Brentwood were quite high. And I didn’t want to drop back to a run-walk-run interval group because that just felt like failure. After all, I  had signed up for this program to run a half marathon, not walk one.

However, my fear of being left behind and getting lost outweighed my fear of failure, and about 4 weeks into the program, I reluctantly joined the 10:1 interval group. We ran for 10 minutes, averaging 11 minutes per mile, followed by a short 1-minute recovery walk, and continued repeating the cycle until we covered our total distance.

That first interval run wasn’t so bad. I was able to easily keep up with the group, and I enjoyed the camaraderie and encouragement of my fellow runners. But I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I had somehow failed. That I wasn’t actually “running” a half marathon.

However, despite my viewing it as a setback, I stuck with my interval group. Everyone was friendly and encouraging, and our pace leader, Erin, was great. Then slowly, week by week, as we continued adding miles and I realized that my finish time was actually faster when I ran intervals than when I didn’t, my mindset began to change.

Instead of viewing my interval running as a failure, I decided to accept myself for the runner that I was, walk breaks and all.

13.1 miles is 13.1 miles. It doesn’t matter if 1 mile of that total distance is walked instead of run. That’s still an accomplishment, and I should be proud of that. I am proud of that.

We’re a little over halfway through the training program; we’ll be running 10 miles this weekend. And sometimes the feelings of failure and inadequacy creep back in. But I have to remind myself that if run-walk-run intervals are good enough for Olympic athletes, they should be good enough for me.

I am a runner. I will no longer qualify that statement with “but I sometimes take walk breaks.” No, I am a runner (period).

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Overwhelming: A snapshot of the devastation caused by the Nashville Flood of 2010

16 May

Debris line the streets of a Bellevue neighborhood during the flood recovery process. May 8, 2010

I took this camera-phone photo from the passenger seat of a Honda CR-V as three friends and I were leaving a flood-damaged Bellevue neighborhood late Saturday afternoon, one week after the historic flooding in Middle Tennessee. We had spent the past several hours doing whatever we could to help people we didn’t even know clean up what was left of their homes after the waters had subsided. By the time we had arrived, much of the dirty work had already been done. But we cleaned and sorted and tore down what we could of what was left.

By the end of the day, most of the homes had been completely cleared of possessions.  These had been painstakingly (and I’m sure, tearfully) sorted into separate piles: salvageable items and trash. Family photos, children’s drawings, letters, and high school yearbooks were scattered across backyards to dry out and, in hopes, saved. Books, furniture, appliances, and garbage bags filled with unsalvageable items were piled chest-high out front to be picked up with the trash. Most of the homes had even been stripped down to the frame – carpet, flooring, and drywall removed and added to the piles of debris.

When I looked down the street at an entire row of houses with front lawns piled high with debris, one word came to mind – overwhelming.

From the first day the rain began, I spent hours upon hours poring over photos and video footage of the flooding. I saw photos of these same houses filled with water over my head. I saw the video of the classroom floating down I-24 and the live coverage of the Cumberland cresting and flooding downtown Nashville. I saw the photos of Opry Mills and Opryland and even the Opry stage. These images were all shocking and saddening.

But they were just that to me: shocking images. Seeing photos of the rising water, however, did not compare to seeing the actual damage caused by the water. I was unable to wrap my mind around the depth of the devastation until I saw, firsthand, homes stripped to the bone.  Construction paper drawings that once proudly covered refrigerator doors strewn across lawns. A woman packing up what was left of her belongings, loading them into a car, and pulling out of her driveway with tears in her eyes – tears she had been holding back because until then, there was no time for tears, only tough decisions and hard work. Soggy, mud-covered books being tossed into black heavy-duty trash bags. Entire rows of homes practically hidden by mounds and mounds of curbside debris.

Overwhelming.

But the destruction wasn’t the only thing I found overwhelming that day. In the photo above, if you look past the ruined furniture and the drywall and the trash, you’ll see something else lining the curb. Cars. Cars filled with friends and neighbors, even  strangers. People willing to do the dirty work, the hard labor, the heavy lifting helping people sort through the mud and the debris so they can begin to put their lives back together.

And that made the damage seem a little less overwhelming, a little less devastating, and a little less hopeless. Because in the end, the most reassurance comes in knowing you’re not in it alone.

Nashville, Please Do Your Part to Conserve Water

6 May

After talking with friends recently, I have realized that some people are unaware of the seriousness of the water shortage here in Nashville and the surrounding area. There are people who may not think that it’s a big deal, but conserving water in Nashville is STILL a very serious issue. Just because the flooding has subsided, that doesn’t mean that we are in the clear. Just because life may be returning to normal for you and for others in the area, that doesn’t mean that we are not still in a disaster zone.

If you didn’t already know this, one of our water treatment facilities was flooded and has not been running for several days. That means that we are running at half-capacity. On top of this, our reserves are at around 50% capacity (though that has risen from 37% due to conservation efforts). And though the waters have receded from the treatment facility, repairs need to be made in order for it to be up and running again. There is no estimate on how long this will take. And until this facility is back up and running and our water reserves have been replenished, we are still in danger of having a water shortage.  In other words, many homes across Nashville will have NO running water unless we take steps now to cut back our usage.

To conserve water and to prevent a water shortage, city officials are asking all residents in Davidson and Williamson counties (and possible others) to restrict water usage to only essential use. In practical terms, that primarily means hand washing, cooking, and “navy showers” (turning on water briefly to wet the body, then leaving it off while soaping up). According to Metro Water, lawn watering, watering of plants, car washing, and similar uses are not essential and need to stop until the water shortages are resolved.

A hotline has been set up to report people who aren’t following the water conservation mandate – for example, people who are washing cars or businesses who haven’t shut off their irrigation systems. To report water waste, you can call 862-4600.

For more information and updates on the water shortage from Metro Water, go here.

For more information about the water shortage and the seriousness of it, go here.

And for things you can do to conserve water, here’s a great post from Cool People Care.

As for myself, I haven’t done dishes or laundry since the conservation mandate went into effect. I haven’t washed my hair since Monday. I’ve skipped showers. I’m drinking only bottled water, instead of using the water from the fridge, and I have shut off the automatic ice maker. Even still, I feel like there is more that I can do to help out because ensuring that people have access to water over the coming weeks is more important to me than the minor inconveniences that these conservation methods have caused.

I’m trying my best to do my part. Please, Nashville, I hope you do the same. This isn’t something we have to do forever, just for the next few days until our water supply is back to normal. And things are looking up.

Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’: An Ice Cream Lover’s Dream Come True

5 Aug

Sunday was an ice cream lover’s dream come true. The Martha O’Bryan Center held its 23rd Purity Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’ Contest on the lawn of First Presbyterian Church in Nashville. Basically, it’s all the homemade ice cream you can eat, dozens of unique flavors, all for $8. After church, lunch, and a little naptime, you had better believe the Rutabagas were there for this one. All you can eat homemade ice cream. Who doesn’t love that? We even managed to drag the husband along.

(Read more here)

Back Where I Come From … You Don’t Have to Worry About Getting Stuck on the Side of the Road

28 Jul

Back where I come from, the small town of Eupora, MS (population: 2,300), you don’t have to worry about getting stuck on the side of the road. (Yes, I said road. There is really only one street in Eupora, and that is Main Street). If you get a flat tire or are in a car accident or run off into a ditch, someone you know or who knows your mama will stop to help you (or to call your mama) before you even have time to get out your cell phone and call a tow truck. By my estimates (and this is hardly mathematical), for every ten people that pass by (if that many people would actually pass by you in that small amount of time), you probably know at least half of them. Of the rest, at least half know who you are because they know your mama and them. And the others are probably some strangers who don’t live there. Here’s story to illustrate my point:

On one particular foggy evening during my Freshman year of college, my boyfriend at the time (DP*), my BFF (Kimmie), my closeted at the time gay BFF (JD), and I were headed back to Starkville in my champagne-colored Altima after a Sunday night service at the First Baptist Church. Thick fog made it nearly impossible for DP to see the road ahead, and I failed to remind him of the big, giant curve you have to navigate before you get to the bypass. As a result, DP drove straight through the curve, bounced off the “stop ahead” sign, and landed us completely unharmed into the ditch.

This was back when only the “cool kids” had cell phones, and Kimmie was the only one cool enough to fit in that category. After getting out of the car and laughing for a bit at how funny we thought the situation was, we called my mom. She wrangled up one of my little brothers, a pickup truck, and some car towing apparatus and headed over to bail us out. Meanwhile, we just hung out on the side of the road and waited for the assistance. Within about 10 or 15 minutes and after only one phone call, mind you, my mom, my sister, all three of my brothers, my dad, my uncle, my mammaw and pappaw, two ex-boyfriends, and a couple of random folks who saw my car and knew it belonged to one of those Hitt kids had all converged on the scene.

My car was probably halfway out of the ditch before an office of the law arrived. This is largely due to the fact that no one thought to call for that kind of assistance. Why get the authorities involved when you can handle a situation yourself? Needless to say, when my car landed in the ditch, and we had assessed that everyone was uninjured, I was able to laugh it off. I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to get my car out of the ditch or how I was going to get back home or whether or not anyone would stop to help. I lived in a small town. I had community. I had people. I had no worries.

Now that I’ve moved to a somewhat larger city, basically Nashville, TN, I do have worries. I don’t have that kind of community any more. I have friends. I know people, but it’s not a large number, and they are spread out over the greater Nashville area. Of the 2.300 or so people in Eupora, (10,000 in the whole county) I probably knew more than half of them, and half of the rest most likely knew my mom and them. That’s more than a thousand folks that would fall into the “not a stranger” category. Now, in a metropolitan area of roughly 1.6 million people, I know less than 100, maybe even less than 50. And only a couple of those know my mom and them.

I love my new home. It’s a great city, and the opportunities available to me here are vast, especially when compared to what is available to me back home. Though I loved growing up there, I don’t think I could ever go back. But I do wish I could bring that community, that sense of place, of belonging, to where I am now. Sometimes, without it I feel a little more lost, a little more alone, and a little more afraid of what would happen if I found myself stuck in a situation where I needed to rely on people, on neighbors, on friends, on a community that doesn’t really exist for me here.

Does anyone else ever feel that way? Is it a sign of our changing culture? Of the shift from the community to the individual? Is it time for Americans to start becoming part of communities again?

*Names have been altered to protect the innocent and/or guilty.

Related: My Hometown, Y’all

The Second Installment of Way-FM’s Summer Brown Bag Concert Series

25 Jul

Monday brought the second installment of the WAY-FM Summer Brown Bag Concert series in Franklin, and you’d better believe I was there for it in spite of the heat warnings. I even took a day off work (I really needed a break) so that I could stay for the whole shebang this time. If you read my post on Part One of the Brown Bag concert series, you know that one of my goals for this one (aside from taking off work for the whole day) was to meet one of my “American Idols.” More on that later. Don’t get too excited.

(continued)

Fireworks Are Pretty!

6 Jul

The rutabagas headed downtown and grabbed a spot on the east side of LP field for the Independence Day fireworks.  We had a great view, but we could only faintly hear the Nashville Symphony in the distance.  The show was AMAZING.  Everyone who lives in Nashville should go at least once.  Heck, you could even make it an annual tradition.

(continued)

Bobbie’s Dairy Dip and an Ice Cream Social

3 Jul

Bobbie’s Dairy Dip, located on Charlotte Avenue in Nashville, is the embodiment of small town American charm. Multicolored light bulbs and a shiny, metallic American flag banner outline the long-established drive-up burger joint and ice cream stand, lending the distant yet familiar nostalgia of the good old days – the ones that passed long before I was born. The long line of customers enduring the heat of the pavement in front of the sliding glass window entices passers-by to ditch their air-conditioned cars and join the crowd.

Bobbie’s Dairy Dip has been serving up burgers, fries, hot dogs, milkshakes, soft-serve ice cream, floats, banana splits, hot fudge cake sundaes, and the like to Nashvillians and tourists for over fifty years. Now that’s a long time; at least it is to a young’un like me. In my opinion, this is a “must try at least once” for anyone who lives in the Nashville area and loves ice cream. Though the place has gotten a few negative reviews on Citysearch, my experience at Bobbie’s was quite swell.

(continued …)

Way-FM’s Summer Brown Bag Concert Series

27 Jun

Monday marked the return of the WAY-FM Summer Brown Bag Concert series in Franklin, and you’d better believe I was there for it. My co-worker Nita and I took a little extended lunch break, borrowed a blanket from a soccer mom (thanks, Deb), and set out to enjoy (as best we could in the heat) the blazing summer sun and rocking sounds of Article One and Superchick. Even though we had to leave before the concert was over to get back to work, it was still worth the short trip and the sweat (we don’t think our co-workers minded).

(Read More … )

Root Beer Redemption

20 Jun
Last night at Movies in the Park, Dirty Dancing edition, I decided to give A&W a chance at redemption. This time, I skipped the horrendous Cool Springs restaurant middle man and went straight to the source … a nice, cold can of A&W root beer straight from the bottler (or is it canner in this case? cannery, maybe? Hmm, moving along …). It was perfectly chilled with just the right amount of fizz. Ah, refreshingly delicious. I could not have asked for more. It almost made me forget about that whole other incident. You know the one I’m talking about.

Hey, A&W, a little advice for you: drop the partnership with KFC. Those guys are only brining you down.

(read original post here)