After running The New York Marathon in 2018 I wanted to train for an ultra-marathon, but change my training to maintain full range of motion in my legs. During The New York Marathon I was unable to make my goal time because my outer legs, knees to hips, became tight about 2/3 in. A combination of my nursing mind’s whole body approach to training, and my yoga body work training lead to a successful training routine and ultra-marathon outcome!
That tight, decreased range of motion, feeling was some IT band, some Q.L (Quadratus Lumborum), and some TFL (Tensor Fascia Lata).
IT Band – outer leg from knee to hip
QL – origin: iliac crest; insertion: 12th rib and L1-L4
TFL – origin: ASIA (anterior superior iliac spine = front hip); insertion: IT band
When you study body movement the connection between the back, hip, and knee become obvious. The TFL inserts at the IT Band and the QL connects to your back and hip, and is your lateral stabilizer. There are beautiful pictures of the muscles you can find on the internet or Pinterest. Notice where the muscles mentioned above originate and where they insert.
So, strengthening my QL and TFL became a big part of my training. I did several exercises to strengthen them almost every day. I was able to finish the ultra-marathon, here in Montana, in August of 2019. It was on trail with much more elevation gains and descends than New York, and I finished with positive splits and full range of motion. I even walked another mile to meet my husband for pick up. I felt great at the end!!
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I took the long, long way to recovery with my first heartbreak. You can read from my first blog I started running trails. I still run today, but not with any fierce anger, grief, or with a poor me, “I” mentality. Now I run free!
Someone once said, what we resist persists. I’ve had a lot of resistance in my life. Coming to terms with child abuse, running a code on my Dad (he died looking into my eyes), many other deaths in my family, a witnessed death of a small child, a chronic hip injury, a phone call from my husband telling me he had a growth in his pancreatic duct………
I couldn’t run after my hip injury for many months. So I started doing yoga. Yoga, meditation, and the article below helped me through my RESISTANCE. They got me through my grief, fear, and hours of waiting for tests, surgery, and diagnostics at The Huntsman Cancer Institute.
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!…..
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.” Rumi
Exert from one of my favorite books, Radical Acceptance (2003) Tara Brach
Inviting Mara to Tea
“The night before his enlightenment, the Buddha fought a great battle….
One of my favorite stories of the Buddha shows the power of a wakeful and friendly heart. The night before his enlightenment, the Buddha fought a great battle with the Demon God Mara, who attacked the then bodhisattva Siddhartha Guatama with everything he had: lust, greed, anger, doubt, etc. having failed, Mara left in disarray on the morning of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
Yet, it seems Mara was only temporarily discouraged. Even after the Buddha had become deeply revered throughout India, Mara continued to make unexpected appearances. The Buddha’s loyal attendant, Ananda, always on the lookout for any harm that might come to his teacher, would report with dismay that the “Evil One” had again returned.
Instead of ignoring Mara or driving him away, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge his presence, saying. “I see you, Mara.”
He would then invite him for tea and serve him as an honored guest. Offering Mara a cushion so that he could sit comfortably, the Buddha would fill two earthen cups with tea, place them on the low table between them, and only then take his own seat. Mara would stay for a while and then go, but throughout the Buddha remained free and undisturbed.
When Mara visits us, in the form of troubling emotions or fearsome stories, we can say, “I see you, Mara,” and clearly recognize the reality of craving and fear that lives in each human heart. By accepting these experiences with the warmth of compassion, we can offer Mara tea rather than fearfully driving him away. Seeing what is true, we hold what is seen with kindness. We express such wakefulness of heart each time we recognize and embrace our hurts and fears.
Our habit of being a fair weather friend to ourselves — pushing away or ignoring whatever darkness we can – is deeply entrenched. But just as a relationship with a good friend is marked by understanding and compassion, we can learn to bring these same qualities to our own inner life.
Pema Chodron says that through spiritual practice “we are learning to make friends with ourselves, our life, and at the most profound level possible.” We befriend ourselves when, rather than resisting our experience we open our hearts and willingly invite Mara to tea.” Tara Brach Ph.D. Finding True Refuge
Printed is Psychology Today (psychologytoday.com)
My practice worked so well, I thought, I need to share this! I became a yoga teacher in 2017.
Challenge: start each day with a cup of tea in silence, simply being present with your Mara, your thoughts, and the tea, and see how this changes your day. Then, if your Mara shows up in your thoughts during your day, acknowledge him, be kind to your feelings, and say I have radical acceptance. After a week, or two, let me know how you feel.
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to see people age that are right in front of you? We look upon these peoples faces that we have known for as long as we have lived and just graze over the tops of their surfaces. We don’t take in the lines and bumps that have come with time. We skip over the sun spots and the creases that begin developing until one moment we stop for a second, maybe because of an old picture or just because of the silence and we realize that time has taken it’s toll. We see the sun and wind that these people loved so much has changed them as much as it has changed us. We see the lines from the giant smiles and laughs that they have shared over the years. There are creases from nights of worry and stress and there are scars from the work they put hours and hours into, trying to grow their lives from the tiny seeds that they started from. The bones we feel when we hug them have been broken and weathered, and the hands we hold have held many more before ours.
I looked upon my families faces and saw something I had never seen before. I saw the years. I saw the many years of work, and pain and stress that have built them; the tears that have streamed down their faces after losses and being beaten down. I saw the wrinkles around their eyes, from squinting in the sun or from those fleeting moments when their smiles would reach so high they would just barely touch the corners of their eyes. For the first time in years my eyes hovered upon these faces that were once so familiar to me and realized that they weren’t so familiar anymore. In these moments of trying to capture these once so familiar faces I saw the effects time had on them. Time knew them so much better than I and had been working on them while I was just barely glancing over them. Time was showing me that no matter how hard I tried it would always win. But, time also showed me how much beauty it brings. My mother’s sun spots remind me how much she loves being outside and how she was always dragging us on different adventures. My father’s wrinkles on his hands describe the hard work that he put in to give us the best lives we could possibly have. My brother’s wrinkles around his mouth shout out that he has always been one of the happiest people I knew, and he always smiled with his entire face. My boyfriend’s scars are a reminder of his recklessness growing up and how much he loved to cause trouble. These faces that I have known for such a long time, now tell stories that can only be heard if we take the time to hover upon these pieces that have been added over time. If we don’t take the time to recognize these pieces, then we miss out on the beauty that time has added and the story that they are telling us.
Note: I wrote this essay 4 years ago, hoping publication, for THE SUN Magazine. The contest was to write about an inheritance. To my knowledge, it was never published.
An Unusual Keepsake
In memory of my sister
My sister was killed in a car accident. I was the oldest, and it never occurred to me Brenda would die first. In my mind I always pictured us growing old, together, and we’d care for one another’s children. We’d rock away our retirement years, we’d burry our parents, together, and then, I’d go first. I actually used to worry it would be hard for her being the only one left.
To cope with the pain and anger I felt after the accident I started running. For the past 17 years I’ve ran, mostly trails. I’ve found, in nature, the ability to accept, grow, love and find joy daily. And, I bring half a purple handkerchief that I found in my sister’s belongings. There was jewelry, books, a stereo, furniture and photos, but of all the valuables this purple handkerchief, of hers, is the most special to me. I suppose she wore it branding calves one year with our Dad to keep the burnt flesh stench at bay. I’ll never know.
On my runs, I use it to wipe my brow, or more often my nose. But, most of all it has given me a sense of her with me. Her spirit with me. My purple keepsake and I ran thousands and thousands of miles over the last 17 years. It has been with me on several half marathons, a full marathon, and many trail races including The Bridger Ridge Run in Montana where I live. This summer I let it blow in the wind up on Siyeh Pass in Glacier National Park.
A few times over the years my heart has skipped a beat as I feared I’ve dropped it somewhere on the trail only to breathe a sigh of relief, and comfort, when I discover which pocket it’s in.
My purple handkerchief is getting thin with a few holes, but it has been my constant running partner and brought me more joy then a hankie would usually be famed to do.
Current time addition: I ran with that purple hankie today. I also sometimes run with a hankie of my Dad’s, now that he has passed.
In November I am running the New York Marathon. That purple hankie will be with me, and have asked loved ones of my departed friends if I could have a hankie of theirs. I hope to grow my hankie memory scarf in honor of knowing these fine people. If the hankies don’t arrive, I will run the marathon with a mile dedicated to their memory, and our happy time together. Also, as an Emergency Room Nurse I am dedicating a mile to someone whose death affected me greatly, but don’t have means to get such a keepsake.
The hankie memory scarf isn’t a sad thing. Their passing before their time always will be, but I am going to think, they dropped their body……… and will be in the wind with me. I often touch the tall grass, or feel the wind on my face, and know their spirit is with me.