The Thursday After Ash Wednesday

Perhaps it's because it's March, and there has been rain aplenty washing away the snow. Or maybe it's because I heard birds chirping as I walked to my car this morning, or because I can go outside without gloves on and not tremendously regret that decision. Maybe I feel this way because I purchased a gym membership on Monday and am going to start today, opening a doorway for me to be more social with my friends and run with them.
(Tangent: I went as a guest to this gym with my friend. She was on the treadmill next to me while I ran, and the last minute or so of my run she started running, too. We kept pace together and I felt inexplicably happy.)
Either way, it's the day after Ash Wednesday and I feel full of good feeling. My dinner last night was delicious, though I did succumb to the bag of tostitos with a jar of salsa; all of which I am allowed.
February was such a difficult month for me, and I'm going to assume that I'm not alone in that. It's the month where I start to get some serious cabin fever, the urge to vomit every time I see snow (because it's no longer the pristine, soft, blindingly white covering. It's been piled up on the side of the street and it's dirty and brown and gross). I start trying on my summer dresses in my bedroom, trying to remember a time when I could go about with bare arms, letting the sun shine all over me. I try to remember a time when I could fruit other than apples, oranges or bananas; like...oooohhh... a plum, or a fresh juicy peach or nectarine.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the only holiday to look forward to is motherfricking St. Valentine's Day, the day that is an overdose of chocolates and diamonds and guilt-tripping some poor unfortunate man into spending too much money on dinner and teddy-bears and roses. And if you don't have someone to guilt-trip, you're supposed to feel bad and lonely about this. Ugh.
(Tangent: this Valentine's day was quite nice, actually. It involved soul dogs with celeriac soda, a beautiful day filled with sunshine, General Tso's chicken, and Zombie Strippers).
I nearly bowed to the depression of February, curling up in my bed and closing my eyes to the dust bunnies that were gathering in my hallway, the dishes piling up in my sink. I would try to stir myself and run my way out of the inertia, but that was a two-front war physically and psychologically. When someone tried to cheer me up I reacted exactly as a hibernating bear being poked in the eye and nearly scared him half to death.
However, February is a short month, almost as though the calendar gods know there is a breaking point before we all jump off the bridge like lemmings.
Then there is March. With March comes lots of rain, green shamrocks decorating every fricking store front, suddenly everyone becomes Irish. I wake up with daylight, I go home with daylight. I start thinking about what I can eat for the next forty days and what I can't.
A huge surge of energy comes over me right around this time. This is helpful because I have a few challenges looming over me.
The first, obviously, is Lent and the fast that I'm attempting. Last year it was not so successful. I don't know why, perhaps I didn't mentally prepare for it, but I found myself eating things I shouldn't, like rice cakes slathered with nutella, and feeling vaguely guilty about it. I drank vast quantities of almond milk, and used it to make scrambled eggs for breakfast. I even enjoyed a few forbidden squares of Cadbury's milk chocolate.
What's bizarre about my blatant failure last year is that the year before I was quite good about the fast. I invested in veggie burgers and discovered they almost are worthwhile with some onion, and jalapeno pepper jelly. I ate a soy dog and discovered they are not so worthwhile, nor satisfying as a beef hotdog. I ate tons of quinoa, looking for protein, and, as previously mentioned, even experimented with the horrible vegan rice pudding (which, I have noticed, is no longer offered at that restaurant). My mother and my friends started to get a little worried. Well, my mother was skeptical of the whole thing; she thought it was a whole lot of religious mumbo-jumbo and kept telling me that I didn't have to do this (I knew that, already, Mum) and on Sundays she would say, "oh go on, have a piece of cheese. It's Sunday."
I can do this, this year. I have mentally prepared myself, and I'm looking forward to the other side when I make myself a chocolate milkshake (or maybe I'd prefer strawberry... mmmm...), sit down to a nice NY Strip Steak and a chocolate lava cake.
The Lent fast that went really well I had only two slip ups, and they weren't really my fault. One I went to lunch with my coworkers and my boss forced me, literally forced me to get desert. She would not let us leave until I had ordered something. So I chose what seemed the least offensive option; apple pie. But then my boss made me get it a la mode. Then I ate a springroll left over from someone's lunch. It had pork in it, and it was delicious. Like, holy shnikes, why am I not eating these every day? Pork spring rolls are the best thing that ever happened to me.
We went to Montreal for Easter that year, and across the street from the hotel was a steak house. I kid you not, that was the best steak I ever had in my life. I wanted it to never end, and to make it last longer I ate it as slowly as possible.
I want that experience again, and I figure the only way I'll get it is by denying myself meat for the next 40 days and nights.
The other challenge is more with my running.
I've been running since I graduated college in 2007. When I was unemployed I'd go to the gym everyday and run two 10 minute miles, no problem. AC/DC and Outkast were a big help. Then I stopped for a month or two, I got a job, and now it's a huge challenge for me to push through. I've had to add 30 seconds to my pace so that I can run for 15 minutes straight, and by then I have to struggle to finish the rest of the 20 minutes.
This is discouraging and depressing. Shouldn't I have improved a little bit, over the span of 4 years? I would like to run 3 miles, or at least run 2 in better time, and the fact that I haven't makes me feel like a failure.
Still, I dutifully lace up my sneakers, I press play on Thunderstruck and I do what I can. A good run has the ability to make me feel like a champion, even on a very bad day. A bad run makes me want to drown myself in tears, and then I get scared about trying, and failing, again.
My energy surge is purring in my ears to run like hell, and I am totally willing to listen to it. I am champing at the bit like an Arabian mare with something to prove. The problem is my left knee.
Having done some research I think I have iliotibial band friction syndrome, or ITBS. There is a muscle that runs from one's thigh and curves around to attach at the side of the knee. Apparently it can get rather tight if one runs in improper shoes (like I have been for the past 4 years). Going down stairs and running have become rather painful, and not the sort of pain where you can push through it and feel stronger in the end. Walking and going up stairs is completely not a problem, but damnit, I want to run! I even wrote in lipstick on all my mirrors inspirational messages! I purchased a goddamn gym membership because I was tired of 2 out of 6 treadmills being broken at any given time at the college gym!
The embarrassing memory of how I disgraced myself running with my gentleman friend (who unfairly distracted me by running with no shirt) lingers freshly in my mind, and I would lying if I said I had no plans for a rematch this summer. I have been training so that, next time, I can at least keep pace with him, sort of.
Dinner last night was delicious. Tonight will be broccoli with crunchy ramen noodles, beans and sliced almonds with... haven't decided between balsamic vinegar and oil maybe with some ginger, or spicy peanut sauce.


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