Tough, but pretty.

I walk into the gym on a Sunday night. I’ve been stressed. I need this. Mentally ready to smash this workout, I turn on the appropriate music, Christina Aguilera. Headphones go in and I’m ready to tune out.

As I warm up, an older gentleman approaches me. I set down my dumbbells and pop out one of my earphones. The man proceeds to tell me in the kindest voice possible, “I’m not trying to flirt with you. But good, bad, or indifferent, you look a lot like Ronda Rousey, tough but pretty.” I thanked him, he wished me a good day, and walked away.

I stood there for a moment, somewhat taken aback. Oftentimes, I brush aside compliments. (Not to say that I receive them often.) I smile politely, thank the person, but I’ve always had somewhat of a rule to not let those words go to my head. Fear of too large an ego, perhaps. “Tough, but pretty” was different. It felt genuine and it not only put a smile on my face, but bolstered the rest of my workout. Tough was the last thing I’d felt in recent days, and how perfect was it to be both tough and pretty? The ultimate combination for this girl.

Random compliments are often the most genuine. However, I almost felt guilty for letting someone’s random (and heartfelt) words affect me in such a way. I had to stop and ask myself why though. Isn’t that what life should be about? In the words of Hannah Brencher, “It’s putting your selfishness on the back-burner to make sure someone else feels like they can conquer something today.” With those words, I felt like I could accomplish my workout.

It is often the small words that mean the most.


I spent a long weekend disconnecting in the beautiful PNW. I had to disconnect to reconnect, both to myself and to the world around me. The phone was put aside. The camera stayed (mostly) tucked away. I did not take many photos this weekend. Which, if you know me, is somewhat absurd and quite rare. I found myself wanting to savor the moments, the sights, the sounds, the emotions surrounding each place I visited. Instead, I took mental photos and relished in the disconnect from the stresses of the daily grind.

When the year started, instead of having New Year’s resolutions, I decided on a mantra. Something I could gently use to remind myself of what intentions I have for this year and my growth. “Do more of what makes you happy.” That is exactly what this weekend was about. Re-learning to love myself, appreciating my strengths as well as embracing my weaknesses. It was about finding happiness in the small things and remembering what it is like to show self-care and love.

So often I get caught in the day to day grind. It is all about how much I accomplish, how many checkmarks are made on the sticky note to-do list. It is about how I’m improving myself every. single. day. How clean the house is. How shiny my newest photo on IG is. Measurable daily accomplishments. At the end of the day though, I’ve started asking myself, ‘what did I do for me?’ I take ten minutes for myself and write. I set aside the phone, computer, and other distractions and pick up a paper and pen. I reflect on the day’s events and indulge in a little self-care. It is in these small moments each day that I find myself reconnecting to me.

I went for a run on the waterfront during this disconnect weekend. Nearly 7 miles of crisp air, beautiful sights, sounds, and catharsis. My lungs ached for more, more, in a way that only other runners can understand. My feet felt light and my body responded in a way that only happens once every 674 runs. Never mind that I received a number of odd looks as I was the girl in hot pink shorts in 45 degree weather with a giant smile pasted on my face. I was running happy.

It was on this run that I thought of Oiselle’s increasingly appropriate catchphrase: Head up, wings out. I used to run a lot of trails. With trail running, it is difficult to stare straight ahead. Your eyes have to be trained on the ground, lest you trip over a tree root, rock, or trip over your own two feet. I’ve done all three. I blame these trail experiences on my tendency to stare at the ground while I run.

On last weekend’s waterfront run though, I noticed just how much my eyes were trained on the pavement beneath my feet. Rather than brush it aside, I attempted to retrain my eyes to take in the sights around and in front of me. I thought of my dad when he was teaching me to drive, “Jessica, the best drivers are often looking 10 seconds in front of them to anticipate what they need to do next. Keep looking ahead.”

A couple minutes into the ‘retraining,’ I looked down at my run watch. I was running a full 30″ per mile faster by simply adjusting where I set my gaze. Let’s talk about the physical effects. Your head is up, thereby opening up your airway. Your lungs are actually getting more oxygen, which equates to more efficiency. Not only are you looking to what is ahead, you are aware of what is around you at the time, fully able to savor the moment.

How much can this apply to daily life? So often I get caught up in the day to day grind. Focusing on the to do list, the work schedule. Was this not said above? How much better off am I to focus on the sights ahead, head up and wings out.

So often, we let others’ influence and opinion govern our actions. So much of this last year, I feel as if I’ve been held back. Often chastised for my constant need to look to the future, to plan, to set goals and to set measurable objectives to reach said goals, I’ve hesitated to push for true growth. I am finally in a place in my life where I am again learning to stand on my own two feet and know what it means to be myself. I have realized how important it is to set my sights ahead and dream so big it scares my pants off. To realize that in order to enrich someone else’s life, I need to first learn how to enrich my own and be happy with me. Flaws and imperfections included. It is not weakness to be independent, opinionated, and goal oriented. I am focused. I am strong.

I am tough, but pretty.

Giving Back.

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I almost didn’t write this post in fear of being a part of a cliche. It is entirely non-running related, but is a huge part of my life. This week always makes me take a step back and appreciate all that I have, all that I am, and each and every wonderful person in my life.

Not only is it Thanksgiving, of which I will touch on in a few, but this week was also the annual Oregon Mission of Mercy event. Each year, more than 1,000 volunteers gather to provide free dental care on a first come, first served basis for up to 2,000 patients in 2 days. These volunteers include dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental lab technicians, as well as community volunteers. They utilize portable dental units in a large public area. Every other year, this takes place at the Oregon Convention Center with alternating years in other locations around the state.

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I have had the privilege of participating in this event for 5 years now. Each year, I spend both mornings, starting at 4am, taking x-rays with a fantastic team. As a dental assistant, I would spend my afternoons assisting chairside with various dentists. Now that I am a dental hygienist, I had the privilege to give back in a way that I’d only dreamed of. I teamed with a fabulous dentist. She removed the decay from the tooth and I would placed the filling. I was able to utilize my dental hygiene license to its fullest and directly provide care to those in need.

Each year, I leave this event with an overflowing heart, a few tears,  and a deep sense of happiness knowing that I’ve worked with like minded individuals to give back to our community. The feeling that comes from being able to utilize skills to provide for those in need is absolutely immeasurable. Not to mention two days of 3 am wakeup times to volunteer from 4am-6pm are entirely exhausting in the best way imaginable.

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This photo was after we’d seen our last patients of the day. Tiredness in our eyes, but happiness in our hearts. I could talk about this event all day. Let me just say that this friend of mine right here is entirely special. Friends from my first days as a dental assistant almost 9 years ago. She has been a wonderful friend, mentor, rock climber, cross country skier, and fellow tooth nerd. The company she works for fabricated 100 removable prosthetics (think: dentures) for patients during Mission of Mercy this year.

Following this event, I fell asleep in my chair at home with my scrubs still on and little Jax the puppy on my lap. Happy hearts need sleep too.

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Speaking of Jax, this photo is how I spent my Thanksgiving day. Brisk air, crunchy leaves, many layers, running in the park with the little guy. And by running, I mean attempting not to roll my ankle in Dansko shoes. Have you tried running in clogs? Not recommended.

Great food was prepared (citrus rubbed turkey, quinoa cranberry stuffing, roasted brussel sprouts with bacon sherry cream sauce, apple blackberry crisp,) family time was enjoyed, and I could not have asked for a better day to relax. Don’t worry, we still got our run in.

Happy Thanksgiving fellow runners, family, and friends!

Take a moment to appreciate the small things.

My Motivation Left The Station.

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Fall in the Pacific Northwest means sunsets by 4:30 and rain on the daily. It means doubling up the dose of Vitamin D, warm beverages, and a loss of motivation when it comes to running…what?

This time of year, it is all I can do to lace up my shoes and get out that door when it’s both pitch black and raining. There are so many excuses I can muster up. Cold, wet, rainy, dark, I’m tired. Haven’t I mentioned all of these before? Lately, my middle ground has been to run on the dreaded treadmill at the gym. Gasp! I know. I’ve decided that it at least allows me to keep a solid pace. Which, I’m terrible at doing on both the pavement and trail. Not only that, but it is the biggest mental challenge to run on that damn thing.

Let’s talk motivation. Because that’s what seems to wane this time of year. When does the motivation seem to lack the most? When we need it the most. When we’re tired, when we’re not in a fully positive mood, when the gym or the running shoes seem a million miles away. When work was particularly long or difficult. How do we muster up that energy and get it done?

I cannot speak for anyone else but myself. When I start to climb on the doubt and negativity train, here is what I do:

  1. Remember your why. Why do I run? Why do I workout? Why am I even doing this? Why did I start?- I run because it is my therapy. I run for catharsis and mental clarity. I run for the challenge, both mental and physical.
    – I workout to grow. I workout to gain strength, agility, flexibility. I workout to cross train and better prepare for my runs. I workout to challenge myself and see how hard I can push to see change.
    – I started because I do not like to be stagnant. I need a challenge. I thrive on change. Especially when it comes to my own body. I started because I knew my body had so much room to grow.
  2. Reflect on and review goals. 

    – A sidenote about goals. They need to be clear, measurable, and achievable. ‘I want to run faster’ is a noble concept. However, how do you measure it? Faster than what? How fast you’re running now? Faster than a cheetah? Instead, one might say their goal is to run a sub 8:30 mile by the end of the year. This is faster than their current mile time of 8:45. By making our goals measurable and achievable, we are more likely to actually work towards them.
    – My biggest goal right now is to PR the Holiday Half Marathon this year. This means running a sub 1:55 or about an 8:40 mile. In order to do this well, I need to be pushing myself regularly.

  3. Find inspiration or accountability. -Finding someone who inspires you can help push you towards your goals and help you stay motivated. Just what we want, right? Currently, Oiselle and their amazing flock of runners are my motivation. Their zest for life, their zeal for running and their constant positive spirit keeps me going when the last thing I want to do is lace up. Their motto, “Head up, wings out” has kept me through more runs than I care to admit.-Accountability is also an important component to motivation. Tell someone your goals, post about them to social media, find a running or workout partner. Find someone to hold you accountable to your goals and aspirations. It is a powerful motivator.
  4. If all else fails, suck it up, buttercup. 

    What more is there to say? If nothing and no one can help you find that motivation, you have to find it within yourself. You know your goals. You know what you’re working towards. You know you just need to get it done. So, suck it up, buttercup.

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Rosie the Riveter, anyone?

Does anyone else have any tips for finding motivation?

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Post…

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled, running-focused blog post, to introduce the newest member of the family. Meet Jax, our 7-week old miniature Australian Shepherd. So far, he’s a cuddly and curious little guy. He doesn’t care too much for the rain, he’s terrified of puddles, but he already loves a good ball to chase. Right now, Jax spends most of his day sleeping. I cannot wait to take him out on runs and hikes when he’s a little bigger and the walks to the end of the block don’t exhaust him.

Jax was somewhat of a spontaneous decision. We were out in Tri-cities visiting friends and doing a photo shoot (settingthingsstraightphotography.wordpress.com) and came across a listing in a local paper for mini Aussies. It was the best weekend I’ve had in a while. Friends, photography, road trip and a new addition to the family.

Heading out for a run before it gets dark. Then, it’s back to our regularly scheduled program. Enjoy the cuteness!

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First Bath!

 

You Spin My Head Right Round…13.

I haven’t decided which is harder, lacing up my shoes and walking out the door or running the actual 11 miles. The mental game is often times more difficult than the physical. I psych myself out, I find all of the excuses, I conjure up tummy aches and knee pain. I fall into the thought pattern that I’m just too tired, I wouldn’t be able to put 100% into it, so why should I do it? The mental struggle is real.

This round of half-marathon training is no different. I am currently in week 5 of my 13th round of training. Holiday Half, here I come! You would think that 3 weeks of zero running while in Central America last month would restart all of my motivation. (More on the trip later.) Not the case. This round of training has had an entirely new focus: speed. I am going to PR this next half-marathon. Track workouts once a week, tempo run once a week and a long run. I’ve gone from lifting heavy 6 days a week with intermittent running to focused running 3 days a week, lifting heavy 3 days a week and one active rest day.

It looks a little like this:

# Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 9/20-27 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

7 L Off
2 9/28-10/4 Track

6×200

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
3 10/5-11 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

11L  Off
4 10/12-18 Hill Rpt

5×30sec

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

12 L Body

Weight

 

5 10/19-25 1,2,3,4-

321

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L Body

weight

6 10/26-11/1 Hill Rpt

8x30secs

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L 3-5 E
7 11/2-8 8×100,

4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

7.5 T Chest

Back

Core

15 L 3-5E
8 11/9-15 1,2,3,4,5

4,3,2,1

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L  Off
9 11/16-22 8×100

 

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 T Chest

Back

Core

11 L 3-5E
10 11/23-29 4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
11 11/30-12/6 8×100

 

LD Any

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 T Chest

Back

Core

7 L  Off
12 12/7-13 Rest or

Stretch

6.5 E Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.1 E Chest

Back

Core

REST! 13.1!

 

Track days included a mile warm up and a mile cool down in addition to 4 different dynamic stretches like walking lunges, squats, butt kickers etc.

Each of our gym days are a concentrated power hour in the specified muscle group. It’s heavy lifting and a killer challenge. The tempo run is typically 50% of that week’s long run and it is done at a 10k pace. The long runs on the weekend are generally run naked. That is, without a Garmin or headphones, so I can disconnect and actually remember why I love running.

Like I had mentioned, this round of training is focused on speed. I truly want to get better. But, let me tell you, the track workouts are a reality check! I consider myself an adult most of the time. I hate adulting, but I didn’t think there was much 5 year old left in me. I was wrong. Jess, the small child, comes out during track workouts. I must have thrown 3 temper tantrums during an hour workout. There was so much negative energy, pouting, arm crossing and throwing myself down on the ground. At one point, Eli made the mistake of asking how I was doing. I wailed, “I’m f*&%ing AWFUL!”

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I do give my best effort though. I push myself into asthma attack oblivion. I push beyond my comfort zone. That 5 year old can be quieted if I focus on the track in front of me. I keep my head up. My wings out. Thank you, Oiselle.

It’s all going to make me faster, right?

All of my complaining and failed adulting aside, I actually like track workouts more than I do tempo runs. I have the hardest time motivating myself to push hard for that many miles. Anyone else have such a complicated relationship with running?

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I am looking forward to seeing the improvements in my running. By designing this challenge, I knew it was going to kick my booty. I knew there were parts I was going to hate. What is that adage though, ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.’ I’m ready to change. I want to run faster.

I also want to keep the balance. I love running. I love running for the mental clarity, for the run highs, for the happiness. I love running to discover new trails and to both lose and discover myself. When I push myself to run faster, I lose that joy. It becomes solely about getting through the workout and not the joy of the run itself. I’m working to find joy in the challenge.

Maybe it looks like this:

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Or, perhaps this is just what a break during a long run looks like.

A Yarn About Running.

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Shorts pulled on. Shoes laced. Hair braided. Mind set. Go.

As I tie my running shoes and head out my door, I set my intentions for my run. Is this an interval run, a pace challenge, a hill run? Or is this simply a run because I need it? Am I running because I feel obligated to or because I want to? These questions set the tone for the run as a whole.

Tonight, I ran because I needed it like bananas need peanut butter. I ran because my muscles were tight and sore from my relay last weekend (more on that in my next post.) I ran because it was my therapy

I haven’t written in a while. Fact. Now, I could sit here and give you all kinds of justifiable excuses. But that’s just it, they’re excuses. School, work, relationships, board exams, the dog ate my keyboard…excuses. The real reason I haven’t blogged about running, cupcakes, and happiness is because I’d lost the groove.

I’ve said this more than once, I find my best inspiration for writing after I’ve had a good run. And, I simply have not been putting in the time needed to have good runs, to find that inspiration. Yes, I’ve been running. But, they have not been the feel good runs where magic happens.

Those runs are what make everything else worthwhile. The magic is when everything just falls into place. Your mind isn’t telling you to stop with every step forward. You aren’t worried about time. Or pace. Or distance. You just run. Magic.

It is on those magic runs that I have the best mental clarity.

A side note: You know when you have a skein of yarn that you didn’t bother to roll into a pretty ball? As you use it to knit or crochet, the skein becomes this tangled bunch of yarn. A messy mass of string. The more you tug on it, the worse it gets.

That is how my brain feels before a run. Tangled with the day’s stresses, worries, and the ever-present to do list. It is tangled with thoughts of everything else I should be doing besides running. It is tangled with guilt that I haven’t been more consistent. It is tangled with every bit of negative self-talk tinged with anxiety.

It is not until I’m a couple miles into my run that I can feel those knots start to loosen. I can feel that silly, negative voice in the back of my head start to calm down. The muscle tightness starts shaking loose. The daily stresses start to shake themselves off.

It is so often on these runs that I find myself living in the moment. Once the tangles have been undone and I finally have a pretty ball of yarn. It is then that I can keep my inner voice calm, focus on my breathing, and be thankful for the privilege to run.

This is how today’s run felt. Magic.

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This yarn about running can really be summed up this way:

Before Run = Sad Jess.

After Run = Happy Jess.

And sometimes, it just takes a small reminder to motivate us to keep going.

Set your intentions. Find the magic. Not every run is going to be great. But, remember that a run brings cupcakes, unicorns, and rainbows. Or an untangled mass of yarn. Your choice, really.

 

Never Trust A Fart

Trust :noun: Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Mile 17 of the Bend Marathon. We’re finally coming downhill from a 4+ mile climb. I’m sweaty, grouchy, tired, and my body wants to coast down this hill. I let myself relax….and it happened before I could even do anything about it. I trusted a fart. As I continued running, every backside muscle clenched, I wondered to myself the definition of trust. I trusted myself to maintain composure, I trusted my bodily functions to contain themselves and act appropriately. I was wrong. 

Thankfully, there was a port-a-potty within a half mile of the accident, so I was able to clean myself up the best I could. I never dreamed that this would happen in real life!

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When I try to think of how to describe the Bend Marathon, the only word that comes to mind is humbling. The course was humbling for even experienced runners; plenty of hills and trails to contend with. It humbled me, mind, body and soul. The 4+ mile long hill, that started around mile 12, humbled my mind into realizing that the mental strength I thought I possessed wasn’t adequate even if I tried to convince myself otherwise. It humbled my body into realizing that the 2-3 days/week (if that) of training was not nearly enough to prepare me for this race. This race humbled my soul in that not every person loves to run long distances. And, even if you love them for a while, you may not always feel that way.

I truly felt I loved to run long distances until I ran this race. Maybe it was the lack of training. Maybe it was the lack of happy vibes. Maybe it was the lack of good sleep the nights preceding the race. But, I finally learned what people refer to as “the dark place” when running long distances; that emotional, negative, pit of despair. It was the Blerch in all of his terrible glory. I had to run away from those feelings like the grim reaper (or the Blerch) was chasing after me.

I cried for the first time during a race. Less than two miles from the finish line, in the middle of a park with people around, I lost it. Big, heaving sobs and alligator tears when I told Eli that I just couldn’t do it. 

I still crossed the finish line. I still ate my cupcakes. But not without a small change of heart. I learn a lot about myself while running 26.2 miles. It was certainly no different in this race.

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A huge thank you to Ida’s Cupcakes for the frosted post-race deliciousness!

 

I learned what it meant to push yourself, even when there’s nothing left. Even when there’s no desire to even put one foot in front of the other. You separate mind and foot; you force the body to keep going. It is amazing how quickly weakened the brain can become in such a long race if you aren’t prepared.

I learned what ill preparation does to your mind and body in a marathon. I learned how important proper hydration is, and how much gummy bears really mean to me.

I learned that sometimes the worst side of you comes out during a race. I had a sailor’s mouth and a spiteful heart. The things coming out of my mouth after the halfway point…I truly don’t know how Eli kept by my side, repeating, “I don’t care what you say. We promised to cross the finish line together.”

In the week leading up to the race, I had to be honest with myself. Yes, we had fabulous shirts made for the race. But. The training was nowhere what it needed to be to run a solid race and potentially PR. I was accepting of that fact, and Eli and I decided to run this race for fun. And perhaps take a few selfies along the way…

 

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The above photo was a little more than halfway through, and about a mile into the 4 mile long hill. I was still feeling pretty decent, and even had the thought of beasting my way up the entire hill…Hence the face.

And, here we are, only a few miles out from the finish line. At this point, I think Eli hated the camera as much as I hated the thought of having to place one foot in front of the other. Where had all of our joy gone?

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I wanted to write an inspiring post. I wanted to put a positive spin on a race that did not at all go to plan. I wanted to write how loving, positive and supportive Eli and I were to each other throughout the race. (We were both buttheads.) But, sometimes, things don’t go as planned.

The Bend marathon was a beautiful course. A mixture of river trail, city streets, a daunting uphill climb, and a glorious downhill to the finish. More aid stations than I ever could have imagined, gummy bears galore, and energetic race volunteers. I ate my weight in bananas offered post-race, and the libations were perfection.

I thought the course did a wonderful job of giving a taste of the city of Bend, the beauty of some of their parks, as well as the Deschutes River. It gave those from out of state an idea of all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Aside from my bad attitude, the only other negative thing I can say about this race was the organization/flow. The 300 and something marathoners started at the same time as the 3,000+ half-marathoners. It made for a very crowded river trail, with passing a near impossibility.

Overall, I would do this course again in a heartbeat. I love Bend. The views were fantastic. The course kicked my ass. The aid stations and volunteers were wonderful. And, did I mention the giant wall-mount bottle opener for a medal?!

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We crossed the finish line holding hands, with smiles on our faces. We learned a lot during this race, both about ourselves and each other. The two most important were these:

Celebrate finish lines, not finish times.

And believe me, never trust a fart.