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.

 

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Feats

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Portland marathon: 26.2 miles

Cupcake flavor: Pumpkin with maple buttercream frosting

Wakeup time: 4:45 am

Start time: 7:11 am

Finish time: 11:50 am

Temperature: 60 degrees

Mood: Giddy, excited, happy…after a successful pre-race bathroom trip.

Pre-race meal: Honeycrisp apple, almond butter, and a pumpkin ALT bar.

Race fuel: Nuun, pink lemonade and GU chomps, watermelon

Longest training run: 22 miles

Length of time training post-injury: 10 weeks…yikes.

Here I am, a month and a half later, finally blogging about the Portland Marathon. Sigh. Dental hygiene school gets in the way at times. But, I promise this post is full of happiness and cupcakes!

My training wasn’t the greatest this time around and, quite frankly, pretty stupid inadequate. I was apprehensive about what the Portland held in store for me. I’d signed up for this race a year in advance, and I wasn’t about to give up running because of a silly little injury and a lame boot. Das Boot came off the end of June and my physical therapist was adamant that one, I wait at least a month to begin even light running, and two, that I purchase shoes with lots of support and cushion in them. I did my best to listen.

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My first run back was in mid-July. See the picture? I listened. I waited a month to run and I’m even wearing supportive running shoes (and mismatched socks.) These are an old pair of running shoes, but I even went so far as to go and try out 8 different pairs of running shoes with varying amounts of support in them. I hated them all.

I made a valiant effort to try supportive shoes for 3 weeks. And then I ditched them. Not. A. Fan. They felt heavy and entirely too rigid. I’m so accustomed to my Brooks PureDrift or New Balance Minimus, that anything more felt cumbersome. I like the minimalist, lightweight, flexible, 0-4 mm heel drop, kind of shoe. So, that’s what I returned to. Sorry, Kyla.

My few weeks of training were slow, as I eluded to in my last post. It was humbling, grueling, and a little disheartening at times. I never once kept track of pace. But I know I was slow. It was enough of a mental struggle to get out the door each time, that pushing pace didn’t seem like the smartest thing to do. Not to mention that my tibia wasn’t fully healed either. I was not concerned about pace. I needed to focus on distance, on crossing that damned finish line.

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Here I am chucking deuces at the 22 miles of Forest Park I’d just  conquered. Longest training run before the marathon.

What a run. I set out that morning to run 16. Eight miles out and eight back on Leif Erickson trail. 7 miles in, I had a very sudden and large need for a bathroom. And not the kind of need that can be satisfied with jumping off the trail for a moment. From that point, it was 4 miles to the nearest outhouse. Which happened to be at the entirely opposite end of the trail, 3 miles beyond my turn-around point. My other option was to turn around and run the 7 miles back to where I started. What do you think I chose? My 16 mile run suddenly became 16+3+3=22. At least I had a happy tummy at the end!

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Race day came way too quickly. The stats of which I eluded to at the beginning of this post. I’ve been mulling over (for 6 weeks now) how exactly I wanted to discuss my Portland marathon experience.

Let’s talk about songs. These tend to define the overall race experience in a number of ways. Driving to the race with one of my best friends from elementary school and our respective boyfriends, the nerves were almost palpable. I woke up that morning with a rather ridiculous song stuck in my head, and had no choice but to play it for the car: DJ Khaled, “All I Do Is Win.” What can I say? I was ready to win the race.

After my first real experience with multiple race corrals, I really did start to feel like cattle being herded. The song going through my head at the start line is one I’m rather ashamed to admit. Standing there waiting, I kept hearing, “Players gonna play, play, play. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate. I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake. Shake it off, shake it off.” Taylor Swift, you do not need to be in my head this early in the morning. However, I could stand to shake off those nervous jitters that always take hold of me in the minutes preceding a race start. 

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Here I am in the first third of the race, still entirely too energized and happy. Except, that’s surprisingly how I was through the majority of the run. In the first 8 miles, I kept looking all around at the other runners, in awe of the energy surrounding me. We all had put forth so much effort, so much time, to make this day a reality. This sounds rather silly, but the REM song, “Shiny Happy People” popped into my head as I ran down Naito Parkway. The song is rather repetitive, but it basically talks about being surrounded by shiny, happy people. And that is exactly how I felt. I even felt like a shiny, happy, people. Yes, a people. Shiny, happy, sunshine and smiles.

Again, the first 6-8 miles seemed to zoom by. Partially because they had so much live music for us. The other part being the aforementioned energy. The music though! So many wonderful artists, guitarists, vocalists, multi-instrument ensembles. One group was playing MGMT, “Electric Feel” on a particularly boring straight stretch. Thanks guys, I had that song stuck in my head for the next 10 miles.

Overall, the race went better than I’d hoped. A random spectator during mile 18 saved my life with the most amazing banana I’d ever eaten. I really should just start carrying a banana with me during long runs, because they always seem like pure, ingestible gold 2/3 through a marathon. Remember this? Mile 19 of my last marathon, and my aunt handed me a banana. I am fairly certain I had tears in my eyes. That was how happy I was at the sight of a banana.

Mile 20, there were belly dancers! What a random form of entertainment for the runners. I, however, loved it. Little known fact about me: I belly danced for 4 years in high school. It’s such an amazing form of self-expression, not to mention pretty great to watch…except when you’re 20 miles into a run. I stopped and demonstrated my best hip shimmy and hip circle with a huge smile on my face, as if to say, ‘see I know how to do this too! Can’t you tell?!’ Sadly, I am more than certain I looked very similar to someone having a seizure. Sigh. I tried.

The last few miles of the race, I was accompanied by an awesome runner from Seattle. I’m pretty sure our random babble was what kept me sane.

 

This was about mile 23 or 24. I made my new found friend stop so I could capture this. I’ve been taking pictures of random “Hello, my name is…” stickers for two years now.  You can see them here on my Instagram. I promise you, I’ve never placed one myself.

As we ran the last 2.2 miles, every other word out of my mouth was profanity. Poor friend. All I could think about was the burger I was going to feast on afterwards. I detailed every last topping I wanted.

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1/3 pound burger with pepperjack cheese, over easy egg, bacon and avocado.  Craving was indeed satisfied.

Head, shoulders, knees, and feats. Head, shoulders, knees, and feats. Eyes and ears and nose and mouth…Head, shoulders, knees, and feats.

What a random song to pop into my head while running a marathon.

Head: Positive mental attitude is everything. Without that, the race could not have been conquered. It is remembering why you’re out there, why you run. It is remembering how far you’ve come to be in this moment. ‘Wherever you are, be all there.’ I could not be where I am today without the support and encouragement of my friends and family.

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With tears streaming down my face, I could not think of a better way to come across the finish line. This guy even made a shirt to show his support:

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“Team Jessica” on the front and “#werunforcupcakes” on the back.

These ladies. Forever friends. And an amazing support and more hugs at the finish line.20141125-131834.jpg

 

Shoulders: I had the most difficult time keeping my shoulders out of my ears during the marathon. I kept having to conscientiously relax them. Surprisingly, they were the only part of my body that was sore the day after the race. Explain that.

Knees: Going into the marathon, I reminded myself to keep the pace slow and steady. About halfway through the race, my knee started to twinge. Immediate thought: “Oh no! Another injury! How in the world am I going to make it through the rest of the race?” It is amazing how quickly my brain jumps to conclusions. I pushed on.

Feats: Simply, I crossed the finish line. I completed another marathon. I ran 26.2 miles two months after Das Boot and an incredibly humbling injury. I pushed through mentally and physically to cross the finish line of my third marathon with tears streaming down my face and a giant grin.

Don’t worry, the cupcakes were devoured.

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“She Thinks She’s Fast.”

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Life. Life is about perspective. Your perception is your reality.

You could go to a concert and think the singer had an amazing voice. You would walk away satisfied with the band’s performance. As you discussed it later, you’d stare at your friends in disbelief when they all agreed it was the worst concert they’d ever heard. It doesn’t matter that you all saw the same performance. You perceived the artist as doing well. Your friends did not.

So often this is true of life. Your perception is your reality.

I was running last week and came upon a man doing the sign dance on a street corner. You know the type I’m talking about; usually waving about tax help, mattresses, or in this case, $9.99 Large pepperoni pizzas at Round Table. He had his headphones in, and as I passed him, he muttered under his breath, “Hah. She thinks she’s fast.”

…Excuse me, sir? Just because you have headphones in does not mean that I cannot hear you speak! I fumed about it for the next few minutes as I continued down the road. Who does he think he is? I’m not slow. I’m a damn runner, not a jogger.

And then I realized something: that was his perception. And, you know what? He’s right. I do think I’m fast. That is my perception. I am faster than I was yesterday. I am faster than I was two months ago when I was stuck in Das Boot. I am faster than the demons in my brain that I shake out with every footfall on the pavement. I may not be Meb Keflezighi, Kara Goucher, Lauren Fleshman, or Nick Symmonds. But, I consistently put one foot in front of the other and keep going. That is my reality.

Speaking of reality, it has hit me hard of late. Coming back from an injury is a very humbling and drawn out process. My last marathon was in April, and I’ve hardly written since then. I really think there’s a correlation between a good run and a good blog post. In fact, I would venture to say that I derive my inspiration for writing from my running. No running = No writing.

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But, I’m baaaaack! It has been an incredibly slow process, with lots of listening to my body. It’s taken patience to realize that I couldn’t just jump back into 20 mile trail runs; that 3 miles was asking a lot of my weakened leg. It has taken humility to accept that I’m not as fast as I used to be. And, it has taken a positive attitude to fight all of that mental negativity that comes along with this process.

I want to catch you all up on the process and all of my adventures had over the summer. However, this will be in a separate blog post that I promise I am already working on! Be ready for a photo gallery.

For now, my first race since the injury, the Prefontaine Memorial 10k in Coos Bay. A race I ran last year, and also a few years back in my primary school days.

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Overall, a great race. The weather was perfection. Seventy degrees and clear, blue skies. I really love races in small towns. The atmosphere was so happy and relaxed. It allowed me to achieve that calm, pre-race zen that I love so much. I’ve come to realize that I’m not the competitive type, though I wish I was. I run to compete against myself and myself only. Those other people ahead of me? I’ve heard the whole ‘reel em in’ trick to push yourself. I usually just critique their form and wonder how mine is. The thought of passing them does not even enter my silly mind.

So, the Pre. I sadly went out too fast. I was pacing 2 minutes faster per mile than what I wanted for the first 3 miles. By the time dreaded Agony Hill came around, I was spent. My shin started acting up and so did my asthma. My immediate thought, as I stepped off to the side of the road unable to breathe, was this, “Jessica, you forgot your inhaler. You ran too hard. Your training schedule is a mess. You have a marathon in two weeks and you cannot even run six miles?! You are so full of excuses.” So, I started running again. Damn that negative self-talk.

About that time, this lovely pixie of a runner comes up alongside me. She says to me, as I’m having a very active argument with my brain, “Mind if I pace with you? You’re making this look easy right now.” You must be joking. But, of course I agreed. She came out all the way from Chicago to run this race and be my absolute savior because Steve Prefontaine was her idol. We pushed and paced each other all the way to the finish line, sprinting the last 200 meters. I truly could not have done it without her. Thank you, running gods!

While I was busy wishing I was taking a nap or eating Nutella (damn blerch) around mile 4, this guy was already crossing the finish line, 45th out of 830+ people.

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To think he was going to pace with me, finishing 400th. Hah! An absolute badass. I am so proud of him for ditching me and embracing the race spirit. I’ll get there someday. For now, a great race. Negative self-talk aside. I still crossed the finish line, didn’t I? A great weekend full of amazing people. A great way to get back into the groove. Less than two weeks until autumn’s best race, the Portland Marathon. I could not be more excited (and nervous)!

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Happy first day of autumn! I celebrated with a spectacular run on the waterfront in my new pair of pretties (New Balance Minimus wr10’s)! Just shy of double digits to break them in and catch up with one of my best friends. A run is truly the best way to cultivate a friendship. Sweating, spitting and swearing included. Love.

Current song on repeat:

 

 

Am I a fast runner? Yes. That is my perception. Am I fast as compared to others? No. But do I compare myself to others? Not in the slightest. Be happy, be you. Your perception is your reality.

 

 

Whidbey Island Whims.

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“Sweetie, we need to let Jessica get to sleep. She has to get up before the crack of dawn for her race.”

“When it’s still a butt?”

This is how my aunt informed my ten year old cousin that I would be setting the alarm for the ungodly hour of 4:45am to be at the Whidbey Island Marathon on time. Getting up before the (butt)crack of dawn…when it’s still a butt. At the very least, a pain in one.

What a crazy weekend. Saturday was an all day volunteer dental event called Give Kids A Smile. From there, I drove straight up to Burlington (4 1/2 hours) to meet up with my family. We had dinner together and drove the country roads to look at all of the tulip fields. Who knew there was a tulip festival going on? The dinner was what we call a pre-race meal of the gods: sweet potato fries and a bacon cheeseburger. Not to mention the avocado on top and sautéed mushrooms. Did I mention these were bottomless fries? This decision was not regretted for a moment. Besides, this photo was what went through my head during that evening and probably the three weeks prior to my race:

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In further preparation for the race, I had to make a last minute trip to the store. Who loves gummy bears for long runs? This girl! I don’t mind the Gu Chomps, Shot Blocks or other sport gummies, but I am a firm believer that a gummy bear does close to the same thing. It’s a little sugar boost. I like to suck on them, rather than chew them. It gives my body something to process, my mouth some flavor, and my brain something to think about and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong though, I have a weakness for watermelon flavored Gu Chomps. Just no Gu gels, please.

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Don’t worry, I didn’t buy all three pounds of gummy bears. I cannot imagine how absurd that would have looked running with that bag…I bought a sensible amount. Clearly.

Race day brought that pre-5 am wakeup time. Ugh. I hardly slept the night before. Pre-race excitement is real. I drove out to Oak Harbor with enough time to catch the shuttle up to the race start and pick up my race bib. Crossing over the Deception Pass bridge on the bus, I was reminded of one of the many reasons why I run, why I get up at ungodly hours, why I push myself to do what I do:

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This. Nature’s beauty in all of its simplicity. It was a perfect moment leading up to the start of a marathon. The last 25 minutes until the race start was spent waiting in line for a porta potty/blue room/honey bucket (read: every runner’s best friend before a race.) Then began the 5 minute, 4 minute, 3 minute, 2 minute countdown, which was when I dove into the next vacant stall. There’s nothing like the start of a race to make you pee fast! With not a moment to spare, I heard the gun go off as I pushed my way into the tangibly anxious group of runners, relieved in more ways than one.

The energy at the beginning of this run was palpable. So many energetic, smiling people. The views in the first two miles were phenomenal. That same view above on the Deception Pass bridge was revisited by over 600 runners. Many times throughout the run, glimpses were caught of the snowcapped Olympic mountains.

Mile 6 brought the ever so difficult shedding of my long sleeve. Okay, so taking off a layer wasn’t the hard part. The difficulty came from removing my race bib from my sweatshirt and putting it on my tank top; removing and reattaching safety pins while running. Not easy. I managed to both avoid stabbing myself and put the bib on straight. Success.

Mile 9 brought a lovely hill. And, a sign that said, “Run faster. My legs are getting tired waiting for you!” They, of course, had to put a photographer in place when we were a quarter of the way up it. Quick, hide the miserable look on your face!

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Miles 10-15 found me lost in random thoughts, random chats with runners about cupcakes, and the delight in many gummy bears. It was a perfect mixture of shade and bright, bright sun. I spent nearly two miles trying to remember the saying, “Did not win is better than did not finish, is better than did not start.” Just imagine the variations and disorder in trying to put that together. Mile 16-17 was a struggle. Another beast of a hill. One. Mile. Long. I was losing my rhythm. I started to realize how little sense my thoughts were making.

I’d told my aunt, uncle, and cousin the night before to sleep in. I told them that I could hold my own through the first half, but their support in the second half would be invaluable. Indeed, it was. After climbing that beast of a hill, I needed some positive reinforcement. And there they were, shouting at me, “We love you! You’re amazing! Do you want a banana?” A banana?! To my semi-delirious mind, a banana sounded like gold. Outside of delirium, a banana is such a great snack while running. As she handed it to me though, I looked at the banana perplexed…How do I peel these things, again? I gave my aunt a hug and said, “Thank you! You mean so much to me!” To which she replied, “Don’t pants your poop!”

The runner in front of me turned around and gave her such a strange look. I had no choice but to explain where that phrase was from and the amazingness of this Marathon thoughts video:

Now, imagine a mildly delirious runner trying to describe the above video. Complete with wild hand gestures, shouting about Rob Thomas, second winds, and the perils of chafing. After that, my thoughts were making even less sense. So, imagine my surprise when those thoughts turned themselves into continued conversation with this random runner. I’m really curious what this runner thought of me; especially as I started spouting off about how I fancied myself a ballerina. That is, when my feet get tired and my legs feel heavy, I think about light feet. Keeping my steps light and not plodding. The first image conjured up in regards to light feet is a ballerina. I completed this thought with, what I thought, was a beautifully graceful leap in the air. Mind you, this was mile 23ish. Graceful and 23 miles do not go in the same sentence.

I passed a runner around mile 20. She says to me, “this is what I call guts.” I’d never thought of it that way. What is that ever popular adage? ‘No guts, no glory.’ Miles 18-26 are the guts of the run. It will gut you. It will take guts to push through, to make it, to complete the marathon. Without guts, without mile 18-26 gut of the run, there can be no glory. The glory of the finish line, the glory of another feat accomplished, the glory of knowing you pushed yourself to Empty.

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I think of those last few minutes of the run, coming into Windjammer park. All through the race I’d kept a smile on my face. I was happy out there. I was doing something I truly love. But that last half-mile was the biggest mental game. I wish I could perfectly capture that moment, those emotions, the utter and complete desire to stop moving, stop breathing and pumping my arms. All I wanted was to be done. To cross that finish line. To collapse on that lush, green, sun-soaked grass that had come into view. My lungs hated me, my legs felt mechanical, and JT had become too much in my ears. It was exhaustion at its finest.

I gave everything I had left in the tank to sprint the last 0.2 across the grass. With simultaneous feelings of euphoria and the desire to die, I crossed the finish line of my second marathon. 13 minutes and 20 seconds faster than my last. I found my aunt, embraced her, and, as was true with my first 26.2, cried tears for the spectrum of emotions that washed over me.

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When people ask how my marathon was, I tell them it was both agonizing and amazing. These two words could not have explained it more accurately. It was amazing in that I was pushing myself to do something that less than 10% of the population ever accomplishes in a lifetime. It was amazing how much my body could endure. It was amazing the runners I met, the views of the beautiful PNW, and the strength I demonstrated in which I did not know I possessed. It was equally as agonizing. It was agonizing mentally to push through that negative self-talk. The proverbial blerch that tells you that you’re better off walking up that hill, slowing down for a minute, or, hell, stopping to take a nap. It was agonizing physically as I’ve been nursing some pretty intense shin pain for the last month. It started acting up about mile two.

They talk of people being able to push through pain. The ability to push it out of their mind and focus on other things so that it doesn’t affect them. I never believed this was possible until it happened on this run. I pushed aside the pain in my shin. I managed to push through it all the way to the end. I crossed that finish line and collapsed in the grass. It took a week to be able to walk without limping. But, I just remember this:

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I run for me. I run to keep my sanity. I don’t run for you. Or for them. I don’t run to beat other people. I don’t run to be fast. I run for those who can’t. I run to find myself.

Green With Envy and Spinach.

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“I’m at the start line, trying to find you!” I shout frantically into my phone, as thousands of people are forcing their way around me.

“I’m by the ‘8-9 minute pace’ sign. I’m in a green shirt.”

Right. Because 34,999 other people aren’t wearing green shirts. This is the Shamrock run. Everyone (and their mothers) are wearing green. The smart thing would have been to wear pink. This small fact does little in aiding me to find her, and my phone chose this opportune time to drop the call.

This is how I began my St. Patrick’s Day Sunday. Up at 5:40 am with enough time to have a good breakfast (Mango banana green smoothie, anyone?), meet one of my friends, and walk to the Portland waterfront for the start of the Shamrock Run 15k.

I’ve learned that a smart person sets out their race outfit the night before. It aids in the delirium fog that one has when rising before the sun does. Even so, it didn’t stop me from putting my shorts on backwards the first go round. Green tutu, shamrock tiara, sparkly green underoos, short shorts, and tank. Check, check. Check, check, check, aaaaand check. Let’s not forget our race bib, safety pins (by now, I have a thousand,) Garmin watch, and arm band.IMG_4872

The race itself was fantastic. The weather was mostly cooperative, with only the slight occasional drizzle. I ran the race with the my lovely friend, Megan, who is pictured in the photo above. This was her first 15k and the furthest distance she’d ever run. Originally when we signed up for this race, she had tried to talk me into the 5k. It takes me 5k to even begin to settle into a run. They’re really not my preferred distance. Besides that, there were 35 thousand people running this race. Talk about organized chaos. You’d wait multiple minutes to even cross the start line after the gun went off. No, thank you. So, I talked Megs into the 15k with the  expectation that I would run it along side her the whole way so long as she put forth the effort in her training.

She rocked the socks off the run. She trained her heart out, and it showed in her performance for the Shamrock. The grueling hill near OHSU hardly fazed her, it seemed. I had a gentleman ask me at one point if I would trade my tutu for his beer stein hat. I politely declined. I think Megs’ only slip-up was a mile from the finish line. We’re running together when, all of a sudden, she’s gone. I look behind me to see her stuffing her face with a donut and strips of bacon in her other hand. Who puts an aid station of bacon and Hostess donuts a mile from the finish?! Now, that’s just cruel.

Post-race was spent finding the friends I never could at the start line. The cell reception there was terrible, due to the sheer number of people. We reconvened at a brewery and had ourselves some Guinness cupcakes with Bailey’s irish cream frosting to celebrate our success. Yes, homemade. And yes, gluten free.

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An overall awesome race. But, that was 3 weeks ago. We are now less than one week from the Whidbey Island Marathon. Correction: I, I am less than one week away from the Whidbey Island Marathon. Do I feel prepared? Not exactly. I’ve been diligent about my weekly long runs, but the mid-week mileage has taken a bit of a hit. Truth be told, dental hygiene school is continually kicking my ass. I’m doing everything I can to kick back. I’m just looking to get through this marathon slow and steady. Just enjoy it, really. I hear Whidbey is beautiful and the scenery is lovely. I’ll really get the most out of my race entry this time!

Speaking of lovely scenery, I spent my spring break either running, working or hiking. The weather wasn’t the greatest, but the hikes were still wonderful. Here’s a smattering of photos.

The roommate and I took advantage of a Friday and made our way out to Angel’s Rest in the gorge. 4.8 miles round trip and a 1450 foot elevation gain. We ran up and then scrambled back down once. We met up with a friend and then hiked back up it for the second time in one day. Talk about sore calves and a workout. The photo below is about a mile up. That’s my pup, Monkey. Little rascal.

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This is the view from the top, around the west side of the ‘rest’:

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Gorge-ous! Eh, eh? The views from this place really cannot be beat. Especially considering the proximity to the city. I feel so fortunate to live in such a wonderful part of the world.

The next hike was out to a spot further in the gorge called Indian Point. It was a drizzly, brisk, and windy Tuesday, and the fog gave off such an eery feel to the entire 8 mile hike.

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Just a glimpse through the fog, looking westward from Indian Point:

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And last, but not least, the Wolf Creek Trestle hike. This one was a break from the gorge-ous scenery before, and more towards the coast on an old railroad. 10 miles on an out and back trail, crossing many railroad trestles and traipsing through dark tunnels. I really could not have asked for a better spring break.

 

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Let’s talk about transformations. Those of you who follow my Facebook page have already heard about this. It was about three years ago that I started what is so lamely called my ‘fitness journey.’ I was on the cusp. I either needed to purchase new pants because all of mine were too small, or I needed to get off my ass and do something about it. At 5’9″ and hitting the 200 pound mark, stretch pants had become my best friend and I think my face had seen a few too many chocolate chip cookies.

I started out small. It wasn’t until summer of 2012, when I found out I had a gluten intolerance, that bigger steps were taken. I started eating less carbs, more protein and vegetables with every meal. No more cookies, white flour, or pasta. At least, until I learned to cook gluten-free. I took on a Paleo diet for about a year, but soon realized my love of cheese was too strong. September of 2012 found me naively signing up to train for a half-marathon and taking a boot camp class 4 days a week. I’ve since become a running addict and cannot go a day without a veggie-filled smoothie.

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3 years and 40 pounds later, this is me. Not quite where I want to be, but on the path that I want to go. It’s an ongoing process, and I continue to see changes in both my body and my brain. This is not a before and after photo. This is a ‘that was then, this is now’ photo. This is a, ‘I have a major sweet tooth and have still managed to attain some semblance of fitness’ photo. This is a selfie! This is me as a rhinocorn. You know, somewhere in between a rhino and a unicorn?

Be strong. Don’t give up. You never know who you’re inspiring.

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How To Be Sexy on a Mud Run.

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Simple answer: you don’t.

If looking good is of concern, don’t go near the brown stuff.

There is something sexy though about a man covered in mud pounding the trail ahead of you, just as tired and sweaty as you are. There is something sexy about getting dirty and being proud of it. There is something sexy about running across that finish line brown when you started out black, utterly exhausted. Is it graceful? No, not at all. Mud runs are like a slip and slide. Especially when the mud goes from an inch deep to mid-calf without a moment’s notice. Grace is not the point.

The point is to channel that inner five year old by stomping and splashing your way along the muddy trail. The point is to smile even when you’re sliding two feet backwards with every step you take up a hill (scrambling like spiderwoman! …or so I was told.) The point is to enjoy every moment of nature’s obstacles.

That was the Hagg Lake 25k on February 16th. 15.5 miles of rolling hills, mud, trail, streams, wind and rain. By far my favorite race I’ve ever accomplished. For so many reasons; the mud, the trail, the challenge, the people. Trail runners are a very amiable group of people, and I had some great chats with others throughout the race. We all looked out for one another, especially when we’d venture down a mud slide. It goes without saying that most people took a spill at least once. Or maybe I’m just hoping that I wasn’t the only one who needed to bathe in the lake afterwards…

To give you an idea of how phenomenally awesome this course was. Check out this video (Thank you, Jason!):

There were multiple times throughout this course that I wanted to look behind me. Whether it was to see if I was impeding a faster runner on the single track trail or to give me that little boost to see that others were behind me, I’m not entirely sure. Either way, I felt it an important metaphor to life. It never failed that every single time I tried to look back, I would tumble and fall. I’d catch my foot wrong in the mud, and down I’d go. My focus had to stay on the course in front of me, and not on any person, place or thing behind me.

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Post-race was celebrated with the obligatory cupcakes. Triple chocolate this time with a salted caramel buttercream frosting. Gluten free, as always. And pretty damn delicious.

While we’re on the subject of food. The aid stations on this course were spectacular! They were filled with happy volunteers and the perfect ultra fare: PB&J’s, fig newtons, pretzels, bananas, oranges, trail mix, and my personal favorite, gummy bears! There was, of course, the usual Gu gels, electrolyte beverages and such. But those gummy bears made my heart (and belly) happy. At one of the aid stations, I popped a few in my mouth, placed a few in my gloves that I’d removed, and grabbed a few to keep in hand. Less than 10 minutes later and I took a nice little spill…and lost my gummy bears. Sigh. I forgot about the gummy bears in my glove until I did laundry a couple days later. Oops. Such a sticky mess.

One thing I will say. I knew this run was going to be in less than stellar weather. Which is why I hardly expected to have any of my friends come and support me. Rain and wind is not something I want to make friends stand in for hours while I splashed through mud puddles. Imagine my surprise then, when I rounded the last corner (read: slopped my way through the mud) to cross the finish line and saw this lovely lady and this amazing sign:

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I’m fairly certain I cried. Proper grammar on that sign and everything (She knows the way to my heart.) Two other friends were there with her. Their presence at the finish line meant everything to me. You, you are amazing!

I didn’t listen to music on this run. I’ve not really been putting in the earbuds on the trails lately. Instead, I occupy myself with random thoughts, random songs and singing loudly in hopes that no one hears. This song was one that kept coming up again and again. I wonder why!

Here’s just a little showcase of mud post-race. Mud where it didn’t belong and booty booty booty booty, rockin’ everywhere.

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I really should have jumped in the lake to rinse off. Instead, this is what I had to contend with when I arrived home:

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My apologies to my roommate, because I’m fairly certain it took a week to change my shower from brown back to white. But, I think he is used to this sight by now as it isn’t a rarity to see me walk in the door covered in mud from the knees down and a giant grin on my face.

That’s how I walked in the door yesterday, after a 16 mile run in Forest Park. Content heart, happy face, and a hungry belly. 33 days until the Whidbey Island Marathon and I’m beginning to feel a little better prepared. Asthma be damned.

The take away is this: to be sexy on a mud run, one must get dirty and love it. Embrace the falls and pick oneself back up. Don’t look back. Look forward to the gummy bears, chats with fellow runners, and surprises at the finish line.

10 Reasons To Date a Long Distance Runner.

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It’s national love day. It’s Oregon’s birthday. It is the completion of a hellish week in the school of dental hygiene. I am exhausted. But. This post needs to be shared.

The preface is this: I am not touting my unattached status. Technically, I’m married. To school, that is. It isn’t the healthiest relationship, as it takes up all of my time and currently gives little in return. I’m told that my patience and perseverance will be rewarded in the end, and it will become a mutually beneficial relationship come August 2015. Crossing my fingers. Plus, any and all free time is filled with running. Sorry, boys.

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While I am not a large fan of obligatory displays of love and affection fueled by Hallmark and would much prefer chocolate, flowers, or a covered race entry fee on a random Wednesday, I want to give a shout out to my fellow lady runners in their pursuit of their sole mate. Er, soul mate.

Gentlemen, listen up!

10 Reasons to date a long distance runner:

1. Short shorts.    Need I say more?  Runners wear them. Killer legs usually come with.

2. Determination and dedication.   A lazy person does not make a good runner. A dedicated person has dreams, turns them into goals, and rocks the socks off them. This is a runner. A person who is truly into long distance running is dedicated to what they do. This dedication continues on into each area of life. Totally desirable.

3. Independent and strong.   Runners tend to be self-sufficient, ‘do it themselves’ type of people. There’s a certain personality type that comes with running long distances. They appreciate running with others, but know how to run alone (even, at times, preferring it.) Their strength enables them to push themselves to achieve the seemingly impossible, like running in the snow and pouring rain or going a longer distance than ever before. There’s a certain mental toughness that must be achieved. She’s also the opposite of clingy. She doesn’t need you in her life, and you’re damn lucky if she wants you there. Just don’t try to interfere with her training schedule.

4. They’re Easy.   But not like that. Goodness. They’re easygoing, laid back. They’re what you might call a guys’ girl. They can be showered, ready, and out the door in 20 minutes after a run. The girl that gets along well with your parents and your guy friends. The girl that probably doesn’t know how to put on her makeup like a pro or how to tell whether her clothes match outside of running shorts and singlets.

5. More Brazen.   Long distance running isn’t for the faint of heart. These runners aren’t afraid to accept a challenge and try something new. They’re brazen. They’re badasses. But, they’re not cocky about it.

6. Diet.   I can’t speak for all lady long distance runners, but a lot of us run to eat. And, if you’ve ever seen a runner two days before their next marathon or ultra, you know what I’m talking about. The amount we eat is embarrassing at times. But, we don’t hold back. Food is fuel, and we may just challenge you to finish that next pint. Plus? A lot of runners I know can cook. And, you know what they say about a girl that can cook…

7. Predominately happy people.    All of those miles outside aren’t just for fun. They bring some serious endorphin and serotonin boosts. Runners, by nature, seem to be happy people. Just so long as they’ve gone on their run today. If they haven’t, well, watch out.

8. Cheap date.     I’ve learned that this is a good thing. Low tolerance = athlete problems. A couple drinks and done. Plus? A long distance runner girl is bound to be in bed early on a Saturday night. Sunday run day, remember? And that day is usually the long run day. That’s not to say that she doesn’t know how to party. That, in and of itself, is an entirely different topic. Just not during training.

9. Competitive Nature. She runs races, guys. Do we really need to question her competitive nature? As aforementioned, she’ll take on a challenge and give it her all. That being said, she may not be competitive with others so much as she is competitive with herself. 

10. Runners’ body This is a tie in with number one: great legs. Great body. Not perfect, but damn strong. Plus? Runner girls will not hate you for spending time in the gym and/or running. She does the same. And she encourages you to as well. And well, you know what they say about being in good physical shape…

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