By the numbers

I love spreadsheets — don’t you?

I’ve mentioned my running log here before. Lots of runners have running logs, in which they keep track of planned miles, miles actually run, hh:mm:ss run, average pace, and so on and on and on… Yes, I have one of those. I also have a spreadsheet in which I loosely track time spent doing various physical activities, from running to house cleaning to “power walks” through Costco (bobbing and weaving around the slower shoppers).

The other day I created a new spreadsheet called “Bike Rides.xlsx”. That’s right, I made good on my promise to myself, got the bicycle out of the garage, and did a slowwww 8.7 mile ride along the waterfront and out along the natural sand spit that surrounds the harbor. I rode with a friend, and met up with other friends (who were walking) along the way. It was a glorious, sunny, mild spring day. My knees only complained a little, and I felt strong and happy afterwards. But somehow the experience wasn’t complete until I’d come home, created the spreadsheet, and logged the data for my first ride.

I have a whole series of weather spreadsheets. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’ve been an amateur weather watcher since the day 20+ years ago when I was surprised by an early snow storm that messed up my commute home (at the time I was living in the mountains of southern California and commuting many miles down to “the flat land” for work). After that experience I decided I needed to be aware of weather patterns and learn to be my own forecaster, so I installed the first of several automated weather stations and — you guessed it — logged each day’s data in a spreadsheet. Because I’ve moved about every two and a half years I don’t have many years of data from any one place, but I do have many spreadsheets with data from all those many places. Now that I’ve been in my current house for over four years (not counting those seasonal jaunts down south that I won’t have to do anymore), I’m actually beginning to develop a useful database for this location. During all the time I was gone, my weather station dutifully logged the details for each day, which I was able to retrieve when I returned home. So I can tell you that we’ve had 11.13″ of rain since January 1, and that this is just about normal for this time of year. We’ve had a relatively mild winter (the low temperature was 24 degrees) despite all the warnings that this would be a cold, snowy Pacific Northwest “La Nina” winter.

Yet even though I was armed with all this data including the fact that the thermometer read 55 degrees, when I went out for my long run last Sunday my brain insisted, “Bundle up!” I went out in my winter-weight, full-length compression tights and a long-sleeved shirt over a tank top. I planned to run 7-8 miles, and I ended up running 7.55 miles. I tried to back off the brisk pace of my last few shorter runs, but still ended up surprising myself by running nearly a minute per mile faster than I’ve ever been able to sustain for a longer distance. I do believe my compression running tights are magical… but it could also be that all this hiking and now biking is building muscle strength that keeps me going longer and stronger.

While I relished the pace (which was still slow enough to allow me to enjoy the eagles, loons, and harlequin ducks along the way), I didn’t relish how warm I got. I couldn’t do anything about the tights, but before the end of the run I had pulled off that long-sleeved shirt and I was loving that tank top. Pacific Northwest weather? If it could always be like this, there would be millions more people living here!

But don’t get all excited and move up here — sure enough, today it was in the high 40s and drizzly all day. I had planned to run but I looked out the window and decided to curl up with a good book on my iPad and an iPod playlist that was heavy on British invasion classic rock.

Besides the numbers that I keep in spreadsheets, other numbers have been heavy on my mind this week. Yesterday I bagged up Kurt’s clothes to take them to a local charity. There were eight large bags by the time I was done. Kurt was one of those people whose weight was a constant yo-yo. He could gain or lose 50 pounds easily. He had multiple wardrobes that ranged over several sizes. There were clothes spread across four different closets. I got through all of them. I also tackled some of his papers and personal items, but there are still many more to sift through. It may take me months to years to go through the collections and Porsche-related stuff.

I only had two really rough moments with the things I went through yesterday. I had an unexpected enounter with his wedding ring… I carefully put it away again. The other thing was going through the few clothing items that he was using just before he died. Those clothes were hanging in the downstairs closet where I’d put them when he could no longer climb stairs. Those clothes still smelled like him as I was folding and bagging them. That was difficult… but when I was done, I felt the lightening sensation of relief.

One foot in front of the other.

There is one other set of numbers that I am dealing with this week. Monday was ten months since Kurt died. This Friday would have been his 65th birthday. Saturday will be 19 years since my mother died, coincidentally also of lung cancer at age 64.

Friday night I am planning to go out with friends. While I must and will look back and wish him a silent, sad “happy birthday,” I also need to move forward. I have new friends, new interests, new directions in my life. I know that he expected and wanted me to enjoy life and feel happiness again. I am trying very hard to do just that. It’s just that, sometimes, the numbers can feel overwhelming when they pile all over me like this. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try to make them all add up neatly… they just don’t.

One step at a time.

Posted on April 11, 2012, in grief, LIfe_goes_on, Running and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. …but you made it through one more step in spite of the surprises. I think you’re past the point, but there’s a line in an old folk song “I’ll sit right down, in my grief and sorrow, and let my troubles pass me by.” You know you wait through it, one step at a time.

    • Yes, Colleen, you are exactly right. Looking back I can see how many steps I’ve already taken, one step at a time. Each step gets a little easier but some of them do still surprise me. In the moments of those surprises I just have to take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other.


  2. Somehow I’ve missed catching your posts…and was thinking of you this morning! Always enjoy reading your posts. One step at a time…that’s all we can do.

  3. x2 on the magical compression tights…….. I have to wonder if it will be as good with just compression shorts on, and will test that theory next month, barring the unforseen………. 🙂

    • I don’t know about shorts, but I have used capri-length compression tights and they feel just as good on my knees. What I don’t yet know is whether they’ll have as strong of a magical speed effect. I hope so! and I’ll test that theory next month. 🙂

  4. I love spreadsheets too!
    So cool how you’ve tracked so many things.
    I’m excited about someday being settled somewhere that I see myself staying for the foreseeable future, and properly tracking my spending and saving, and time spent on projects, work, etc.

    • “tracking my spending and saving” – another spreadsheet realm that I didn’t mention in this post! I used spreadsheets to get Kurt and me out of credit card debt and build a financial safety net over a period of many years. I highly recommend spreadsheets for financial planning and control!

  5. I can see how much numbers are prominently in your head right now! I love to track weather, although not in an organized manner. I’m very interested in the La Nina/El Nino cycles. You are so dedicated to your cycling and running and tracking numbers is a good way to mark your progres. You’ve done so much lately you must see encouragement in your spreadsheet! I really feel for you in the anniversaries you’ve confronted this week…your mom and lung cancer, too–that’s sobering. I hear “progress” in everything you’ve shared today. I’m a big believer in just moving forward, even if the steps are so tiny no one else can see them. You know! Debra

  6. Not so much…re the questions “don’t you love spreadsheets?”
    I don’t have a single one…that I use for anything to track it over a period of time. I am not sure if there are enough hours in my day to track something…let alone face the total blankness of a new spreadsheet. That is so daunting!!! There is nothing…when I look at the various options, I somehow feel stupid, so I close it up and smile, certain that my world will not end if I do not track this thing or that!
    Glad that you find such comfort and enthusiasm for tracking things! One step at a time…
    Hugs, Geri

  7. Lori, couldn’t let this one pass by without comment. After all the good natured ribbing you gave me during our ALP days, about all the spreadsheets I kept to mange our projects … I knew you kept track, but WOW, you really do keep track of things!

    Appreciate that you had HB thoughts for Kurt Friday, and suspect that he would appreciate you are taking it one step at a time. Moving forward is positive. Memories are good to reflect upon as well now and then …

    Sending hugs,

    • Patty,
      You got me on that one, but I will counter that there is a difference! Your project planning spreadsheets were a commitment to do X at a specific future date. My tracking spreadsheets are mostly about keeping a record of what has been. Well, except for the budget, the running plan, the vacation route plans, the savings projections…

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