I Found It.

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It. I found it. My running mojo, my running spirit, that zeal that I’ve been missing. It was out there all along. We can call off the search parties. It was out there in the dark and the rain, hiding. I found it after a 12 hour school day, with a headlamp on, reflective gear, and a flashing red bike light on my backside. My running mojo was outside, only to be found after 5 miles of loops around the neighborhood. Sneaky, sneaky little mojo.

How exactly did I find it? By pushing myself. But not that simply put. All of these things mentioned above are easy excuses not to step outside. The lateness of the hour, the rain, the cold, a long day. It was the realization that, even though I was tired, I had the mental toughness to lace up those running shoes and walk out that door. That was one-third of it. The second portion came from the determination to not look at my Garmin. That little GPS watch is an evil thing. Garmin = gremlin. It does nothing but give me anxiety about how fast, slow or how far I’ve gone. Each mile, the little thing bleeped at me. I resisted the urge to look down at it. I didn’t want to know my pace, my exact distance or how long I’d been running. Not today, anyway. Do you have any idea how much self-control that took? And yet, it brought so much more peace of mind. Ignorance, for once, is bliss. And the third part in this discovery of mojo can be summarized in two words: Albuterol inhaler. My asthmatic lungs were appreciative.

In rediscovering my zeal, I made this realization: Running is what you need it to be. Be it therapy, clarity, sanity, happiness, calm, a way to eat more cupcakes, a center, a challenge, training, a way to better oneself… Sometimes it’s all of these reasons, sometimes it’s only one. The only limitations set are placed there by our own self.

This rekindling has made me realize my training has been slacking. Like, real bad. (Say that last sentence with a drawl.) Structured runs have fallen by the wayside. Many would scoff at such an admission, and I must say that I am a bit ashamed of myself. I’ve 5 more races on the schedule for this year, and being focused on improvement would be the wise course to take. However. Semester 2 of dental hygiene school is underway, and stress management is of utmost importance. Running is my therapy, clarity, catharsis, my fun, and not a stressor. I need to keep it that way. This is what I need running to be right now.

With that being said, I give you my Redding Marathon Relay race recap. With a special focus on fun, cupcakes, and a weekend of nostalgic connections.

The weekend of: Through some grace of both the running gods and the god of social lives, I had 4 days off the weekend of the race. How does this happen? Really, it doesn’t. I decided to take full advantage of my time off and, rather than drive the 7 hours to Redding, Ca, I flew to San Francisco on a Thursday evening. I spent the weekend with a classmate from middle school (nostalgic connections, remember?)

Friday was spent exploring the city in as much of its entirety as can be managed in a 24 hour period of time. We traipsed around by bus and by foot, up and down the hilly streets of San Fran like it was no big deal.

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Armed with the best tour guide ever, I was able to see all that the city had to offer amidst fantastic weather. Ready for the sights covered? Deep inhale… Fisherman’s Wharf, Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill (and the nearly 400 stairs to the top), riding cable cars, Presidio, Embarcadero, the Ferry Building, Union Square, Lombard, Chinatown, Haight, Palace of Fine Arts, Russian Hill and the beautiful views that surrounded, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and a plethora of both delicious coffee, and splendid food. Whew! All of that in one day.

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Saturday held more old connections (and delicious food at Stacks) with a friend I hadn’t seen in over 6 years. It held a beer mile relay and party in Alamo Square for a 40th birthday. It held new connections with amazing running people. Sidenote: you know you’re at a party with kindred spirits when a guy walks in and proudly announces he’s just run a 50k that day. Though, he doesn’t like cupcakes. So, I’m none too sure what to make of that. Speaking of cupcakes, that’s how I ended my Saturday night. At Sift. A delicious cupcake bakery. Nom.

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Onto Sunday. Race day: 3:30 am wakeup time. The roads were empty and the clouded night sky padded almost all of the quiet 3 1/2 hour drive. Bon Iver on the radio, and I had the privilege of sleeping instead of driving. Bleary eyed, this is what I woke up to about 45  minutes before arriving in Redding:

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A lovely sunrise and my usual pre-race food: a honeycrisp apple with almond butter. Such a slow, hazy, calm way to begin my day. Race start was 8 am, with a lovely temp of 30 degrees. My amazing 4th grade teacher, Eva, ran the first leg of the race, with 9.6 miles. I ran the second leg with 9.8 miles. The third and final 6.8 mile leg was run by Eva’s amazing 11-year old daughter. And no, I did not get quizzed on my elementary science knowledge. Phew!

The course itself was beautiful. I could definitely see myself returning there to run the full 26.2. The sun came out, the sky was blue, and the choice to wear shorts wasn’t terribly regretted. Although. The rolling hills were a bit grueling. I mean, how did I get roped into the single hilly leg of the course? About three miles in, I came around a corner just as I was cresting a lovely little climb when the sun bursted through the clouds, the intensity temporarily blinding me. And then it happened. My legs saw direct sunshine for the first time in months. And, let me tell you, they positively glowed. I think I could’ve rivaled what’s-his-name, the glittering vampire. Aside from that, the lungs behaved fairly well, as did the mental toughness. My biggest gripe in the course? A hill over a mile long. As I was running up the hill, I came alongside another runner. She said to me, “Now this is just a silly course. A silly, silly, stupid choice in course,” with a pained smile on her face. I shared her sentiments. Post race was celebrated with cupcakes, silly photos, and happily exhausted conversation. And brunch food.

To those of you who know me, I am not what one would refer to as a morning person. I like to get up earlyish (think 8-9 on weekends), and I force myself out of bed early for long runs. But. Getting up before the sun does really isn’t a choice I would voluntarily make. Surprisingly though, Monday brought another pre-dawn wakeup. And another noteworthy sunrise. 6 am and we went up to Twin Peaks to watch the sun creep its way above the horizon line.

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My California weekend brought with it a lot of amazing memories, ridiculous moments, sleep deprivation, and splendid scenery but it taught me one large thing. I spend so much of my time on the go. School, work, running, always planning, sticking to a schedule and my endless amounts of sticky notes. I’m constantly ‘plugged in.’ To email, my phone, social media. Save for my camera, my SF weekend was entirely different than my norm. I put away my phone. My laptop stayed closed. I focused on the moment. I took deep breaths. And I smiled. I kept thinking to myself, wherever you are, be all there. And I did exactly that. The result, I am happy to say, was content and a peaceful happiness that crept its way onto my face 93.2% of the weekend.

The latter portion of Monday morning brought another check off the ol’ impossible bucket list: running across the Golden Gate bridge. Never mind the fact that I ran across the side of the bridge designated for cyclists only, without knowing prior, or that I was informed of this sad fact no less than 6 times in the 1.7 miles across the bridge.

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It was such the perfect run that day, though. Clear blue skies and warm enough to run in a tank top and shorts. In San Fran. In January. Who does that? Me. While avoiding oncoming cyclists and stopping in the middle of the bridge  to assist a couple failing at taking a selfie.

Speaking of failing at photos. Right after I helped the rather surprised couple in taking their photo (I mean, what kind of sweaty weirdo stops their run to help someone take a photo?), I decided to stop for a photo myself. Not a selfie. But, a photo with a view of the city. However, it was so bright outside that I failed to realize my camera was on front-facing mode. I laughed pretty hard at the result. Top photo: inadvertent selfie. Bottom photo: The view I was aiming for. Whoops. What shall I caption this face? ‘Intense concentration’?
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And with that, my San Francisco vacation came to a close, Angus and Julia Stone’s song “Big Jet Plane” on repeat in my mind, and a content smile on my face.

**

I finish this post after a Sunday run with a wonderful friend, delicious brunch, and avoidance of all things school related. As I was driving home from food, still smelly from my run, I decided to stop at the grocery store. Grimacing at the smell emanating from my running shoes (and the rest of me, really), I got out of the car. As I walked in the store, a not unattractive gentleman in his motorcycle leathers strides up to me, smiles, hands me his business card and says, “I am quite certain you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life.” He then turned around and walked away, while I stood there awkwardly dumbfounded with my cheeks becoming increasingly reddened and a dopey smile on my face.

You guys, I hadn’t showered yet. I had salt crystals on my face, no makeup, and my hair looked like an afro. I was wearing awkward layers of clothing that made me akin to the abominable snowman in running tights. And that’s not even getting to the smell. I envision myself like this Peanuts character.

My day was absolutely made. But, it begs a few points here. One, even when we feel we are at our worst, there’s going to be someone out there who still thinks we’re wonderful. Whether it’s just the fact that they think you’re attractive, have a brilliant mind, or just appreciate you for something that goes unseen by yourself.  And two, it never ceases to amaze me how far one small compliment goes. Seriously. I finished my weekly shopping venture walking just a smidge taller than normal.

So you, dear readers, do something for me. Go out of your way once in a while and make someone’s day. Ideally, today. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but you’d be amazed at how far small words will go. Just be honest about it. That man didn’t walk up to me and say, “My, you smell lovely!”

 I’ll never see you again, stranger, but thank you. I’m still smiling.

**

The take away today is this: Wherever you are, be all there. Live in the moment. Breathe. Find balance. Smile, even when others think you’re absurd for doing so.

And don’t forget to find a silly little song to put on repeat (and dance around to in your underoos):

Lost: Running Mojo. If Found, Please Call…

…Me.

I started this post awhile ago. In fact, a couple days after I posted about my race in November. You know, over 2 months ago. I wanted to write this post like a motivated cheerleader and impart my love of running to all those that read this, complete with cartwheels and multi-person pyramids. It is the new year after all, and everyone seems to be getting into the motivated, running spirit. If I’m being completely honest, I fell into a little bit of a rut. I lost my running mojo! Initially, I had no idea how to get it back. I’d been battling a respiratory cold/illness/congestion thing. It aggravated my asthma and I started having attacks on seemingly every run I went on. Not really conducive to keeping the cheerleader spirit now, is it?

Two weeks of running without a mojo. It’s nearly impossible. Running didn’t excite me anymore. Three days went by without running and I didn’t feel like I could consider myself a runner anymore. A number of factors went into this: my stupid injury, the suddenly short days, frigid air, and the approaching end of semester with its plethora of projects and endless studying.

In my head, these were just excuses. But, valid nonetheless. I was hoping it would magically reappear. My desire to run, that is. I know all runners face this at some point, but I felt worthless and pathetic. And then I found this article and this song:

Now, I’m not saying these two things were the cure-all. But, you know that feeling when you discover a new song and you want it on repeat for days? You can’t help but sing aloud and dance around your room in your underoos? …Okay, maybe not the last part. Song addiction though. You binge on the song and it gives you a little boost every time it comes on. You smile to yourself. Your days brightens just ever so slightly. This is what happened with “Counting Stars.” It helped me to realize a couple of things:

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First, there is an ebb and flow to most things in life. Not to sound cheesy, but it’s like the ocean tide. At times, those waves ebb further and further away from the shoreline. And sometimes they come in full, crashing waves against the shoreline and encompass everything around. This was clearly an ebb of running in my life. I had to realize that it was perfectly okay. I hadn’t fallen out of love with running. I was tired, stressed and a little disappointed in my performance at the Happy Girls Run in November. (Full report here)
Too much of a good thing is a real concept. So is burn out. As is giving your body time to heal. Even more than that, I realized that I hadn’t been giving myself credit for the running I’d been doing, the accomplishments. It was time to take a step back.

The second thing was really an epiphany, if we’re being real here. I don’t run to continually accomplish goals. I run because it is now a part of my lifestyle. It is my lifestyle. I’m a runner. It’s like brushing my teeth. It is an integral part of my life. With this realization came a bit of relaxation. I don’t have to be constantly on it to consider myself a runner. Yes, goals are healthy and keep one motivated. But sometimes it’s just good to run to relax. Like I used to. Running used to be my catharsis, not something that stressed me out. I needed to revisit that cathartic running and appreciate that I don’t need to be doggedly chasing goals at all times.

I don’t know that I’ve actually found my running mojo again. What I have found though, is some form of clarity and/or sanity in my running little mind. Part of this clarity came when I had a short conversation with an older neighbor of mine, of whom I dearly adore. He looks like Santa Clause, but is a running beast. He runs 7 miles, 6 days a week in all types of weather for as many years as he can remember (30+.) He returns home to Belgium once a year to visit family and they all run a 10k race together. If I’m lucky, I’ll see him on a couple of my usual running routes. We have small chats, and he always, always has a smile on his face. The particular chat I’m referring to though, he greets me by saying, “Lighter feet, lighter feet!” in his brusque accent. I was dragging heavy that day, as I was running without mojo and it was raining. He slows down and says, “Your running has increased tenfold this year. It makes me smile to see someone out here just as crazy as myself.” I laughed and said, “thank you!” He then continued on his hustlin’ way and I on mine (not so hustlin’.) I don’t care what you say, my day was made!

So, here’s a little reflection. Here is what I need to stop and give myself credit for. In 2013, I ran three half-marathons. I ran my first marathon. I ran my fastest mile, my fastest 5k, 10k… PRs across the board. I inspired others to begin their love affair with running. I accomplished goals, fulfilled intentions. There’s something to be said in that.

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The week before beginning dental hygiene school, we took a tour of the main campus (I attend the health professions campus.) Part of the tour included walking through a labyrinth. Prior to walking through, our program director had us grab a stone out of a basket and reflect on it as we started our small journey. The above photo is the stone I drew from the basket. “Inspire.” It could not have been more perfect. This is what I aspire to do in every aspect of my life. As I traipsed around the spirals of the labyrinth, I thought of who had inspired me to get where I am now, how they’d inspired me, and what kind of attitude I needed to reflect to be able to do the same thing. The attitude? Staying positive, rolling with the ebbs and flows of the tide, enjoying the ride, but never forgetting to keep my sails directed towards my goals, intentions, and dreams.

Oh, I sound so cheesy…That’s what overthinking gets you, I suppose. I truly mean these words though! You, lovely readers, are getting the good and the bad in this post. We can’t always be cheerleaders and coaches. That amount of enthusiasm constantly isn’t real, people. What is real though, is being able to take a step back and look at things objectively. Evaluate. Give thanks.

In evaluating recently, I’ve made a decision. Due to an aforementioned leg injury over thanksgiving break, I’ve stepped down from running my 50k ultra next month. (Big, giant pouty and sad face.) It’s not that I couldn’t make it across the finish line, it’s that I want to finish strong. And, of late, I haven’t kept up my base of running enough to accomplish that. I’ve been allowing myself to heal (somewhat), so that I can choose another ultra and rock the socks off it! I’ve swapped my race entry though, and am going to run the 25k on that same weekend. I can’t throw in the towel entirely!

One thing I’d mentioned earlier with my lost running spirit was my asthma. It’s not something I’d touched on before, as I’ve always viewed it as a sign of weakness. Though, it is clearly not. I have sports-induced asthma. When I began training in 2012, I could barely run a mile without my lungs giving me grief. I used to carry an inhaler with me, and I used it before every run. I began testing myself though. I’d start my runs without Albuterol. So I learned that the more I ran, the further I could go without having an attack. The exception to that being the change of seasons. When the air started to turn crisp or suddenly warm again, my lungs would give me hell. This season though, I didn’t get a new inhaler. What a shame that proved to be. For some reason, regardless of my increased endurance, my asthma is right back to where it used to be. Inhaler needed before mile 2. And that is perfectly okay. 

I leave you with a phrase that has been floating in my brain for a few days now. Read it. Chew on it. Slowly.

We run both to lose and to find ourselves.

Full of Good Intentions

This is where I spent the last days of 2013. Where it matters most: with family and the ocean. Two of the most amazing things in my life. This photo happens to have been taken on a run. With my sister. But more on this at another time.

Happy 2014! The second day of the year, and I already have six races lined up. One of which, I’m proud to announce, is in a little over two weeks! I’m running the Redding Marathon Relay. It was a Facebook cry for help from my 4th grade science teacher. She’d lost one of her relay partners and needed someone, anyone, to take their place. Sure, it’s a 6.5 hour drive. But how many people can say they’ve run a marathon with their elementary school science teacher? A phone call was placed, and decisions were made. Redding, here I come!

As it is just past the beginning of a new year, I thought it only appropriate to embrace the proverbial New Years Resolutions. After sitting down about a week or so ago to create my yearly list, I thought about deciding on things that I would actually stick to or continue working at to achieve. Telling myself I’m going to do 30 push-ups and chin-ups for 365 days straight isn’t realistic. Nor is making it a goal to run 6 days every week. Life happens. Which is why I decided to create a different kind of list in its entirety. It isn’t a list of resolutions, it is a list of intentions. At the top of this list is ‘Balance.’ It is such a broad term, and can be interpreted in a number of ways. But, for me, that’s the point. I want balance in the physical, walking across a tight rope sense. I want balance between school and play, between social time and ‘me’ time, and between training runs and running naked and free (no watch, no music, no Garmin, just for the pleasure.) Beyond that, my other intentions are fairly typical, but a little more clear and definable:

  • Drink more water (80-100 oz per day),
  • Eat vegetables with every meal (because everyone loves spinach for breakfast!),
  • Take more photos (currently embarking on a photo a day challenge),
  • Write daily (even if it’s only a sentence or two.),
  • and PR my next half and full marathon. (without becoming obsessed with pace and injuring myself again…)

I’ve many others, but these are the intentions worth mentioning.

Along the lines of New Year’s resolutions or intentions, I’ve had a number of people ask me recently how I got into running and/or how they could begin their (surely to be) lifelong love of running. A couple even made it a goal for 2014. I’ve been contemplating on just how to present this post for a while now.

How to get started running. It’s simple, really. Get off your ass. Put on some shoes. Walk out the door. Put one foot in front of the other. Get out there and go. Shut up and run. Push yourself a little. But is there more to it?  It took a little bit to formulate how I’d even begun running. When/how I even started. For those of you who haven’t checked out my About Me page, I’ll give you a little synopsis:

I’ve been a sporadic runner for a number of years. I ran track for three years back in elementary/middle school. I was slow. I was chubby. I was that kid who turned cherry red and ran into the nurse’s office nearly every practice because I couldn’t get my asthma under control. As years passed, I started running to rid myself of daily stresses and clear my head. Never more than 2-3 miles, and I never fully enjoyed it, I just knew it would settle me down.

I ran my first 5k race in 2010, finishing with a 10:15/mile pace. Proud of myself for even finishing, I decided to run the same race the next year. In Summer of 2012, I ran another 5k with a co-worker. At this race, I ran into a good friend, who has since fallen in love and subsequently fallen of the face of the earth. (We all know how that goes.) With this friend was Lexi, a badass girl who’d just moved home from Boston. We hit it off. We even became Facebook official friends. It was real friendship. In September, she throws out a post on Facebook. Something along the lines of, “Help! I’ve just been talked into a half-marathon. Who’s training with me?!” This girl, right here. I am. I called her, and the rest is history. Holiday Half was completed 3 months later, and here I am with another year gone by.

I’m a baby runner, for all intents and purposes. I’ve been consistently running for less than 2 years. I chat with those that have been running 10+ years, and they just give me that smile. You know the one I’m talking about. It says, ‘you’re so cute with your doe eyes and eager spirit. I remember those days.’ I have immense respect for those runners. Running has become a part of their lifestyle and not just a hobby. They have this store of knowledge in all things running, and I can only hope to get there one day. For now, I’ll take the inexperienced, doe-eyed look with the unquenchable enthusiasm for all things running related and impart it to you, dear readers.

With this and a giant smile, I present a little list of how to get started:

1. Find the motivation. The desire, the drive. Most of you have this if you’re even contemplating running. The hardest step is always the first. Cultivating the want to even begin something that is sure to be difficult is commendable in itself.
2. Make a goal. What kind of distance are you shooting for? Set objectives. Someday, you want to run a marathon, yes. But right now, you need to make it a goal to complete that first mile without stopping. Or to complete that 5k you signed up for in the spring. Whatever the goal is, make it clear and measurable. Make “I want to run more,” into “I want to run three days a week consistently.”
3. Make a plan. Be realistic. Training for a half-marathon in 2 months is not realistic if you’re still a couch potato. Runner’s World has a lot of awesome training plans for 5k, 10k and half-marathons.There is also the Couch to 5k program which is perfect if you’re just getting started. I think they even have an app. You could even rock on over to Pinterest and find a plethora of plans and info. Whatever you decide to do, make it a doable plan. The idea is not to set oneself up for failure.
4. Purchase running shoes. The real, real good kind. Don’t scrimp. These shoes are your equipment. The wrong fit could cause pain, injuries, discontent. Besides, people at running stores know what they’re talking about. They’ll get you into a proper fitting shoe. My bffs are the guys over at Foot Traffic. Like most running stores, they’ll analyze your gait and get you into the shoe that you need. They’ll answer your questions, and they have more info than you’ll know what to do with.
5. Download an app. The options are endless: Strava, Nike +, MapMyRun, RunKeeper, C25k. Keep track. But not always. This will give you an idea of pace, of distance. That way you can adjust accordingly. As you start running more, a GPS watch > phone apps. But it’s all about starting small. The app will help you to stay on track and see improvement.
6. Start slow. The first time you lace up those new shoes and step outside your door, please for the love of all that is good, don’t set yourself up for failure. This goes back to making a plan. Day 1 of 5k training should not be a 3 mile run. It’s starting out slow and easy.
7. Be patient. Expect setbacks. Don’t stop. Be kind to yourself, recognize accomplishment, and don’t be defeated by setbacks. Remember why you started running. Hopefully the reason was for yourself, for self-improvement, better health. Focus on those.

Run. Do yoga. Lift. Bike. Dance. Walk. Skip. Jump. Ski. Just MOVE. It’s the new year, a new start, a new smile, new intentions. Remember balance.

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