On To a New Space.

Just reaching out to all of my wonderful blog followers. I’ve ventured out and created my own full website! Check me out over on forminfocus.net

 

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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.

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!

 

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.

 

The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big, Round Things.

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I had a conversation with my legs yesterday. And my butt, for that matter. I was at the gym. I’d just completed another grueling, 2 hour workout of lower body and abs. I caught my reflection as I walked into the aerobics room to return my bosu ball. I looked at myself and thought, “hey, is that my butt? -Damn, these squats are doing me well.”

First of all, I’m not conceited, nor do I think I have a perfect body. But, I realized something as I stood in front of that mirror for a full minute, checking myself out; I love my butt. I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of those girls that has always had a bit of a booty. For the first time in my life though, it’s a strong booty. And the tree trunks underneath them? They’ve become just as strong. The phrase ‘working my ass off’ doesn’t apply here. I’ve been working my ass on to get these legs and this butt.

This transition has not been without growing pains. A couple weeks ago, I realized, one, only a single pair of my jeans still fit me, and two, I cannot continually wear yoga pants in public. So, I went shopping for jeans. Oh dear, what an adventure. To realize that you need to go up a pant size because your legs and backside have become bigger is somewhat of a humbling experience. After 90 minutes of failure, I felt like I needed to have a meltdown. The negative self-talk that inevitably takes over… Ladies reading this, you understand my pain.

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Except, in this case, jeans.

Trying on pants is a real test of the ol’ self esteem. I wish this was a story with a happy ending, but those perfect fit jeans are still eluding me. And, I still rock leggings most days. But I know those jeans are out there….somewhere.

I’m a runner. So, what am I doing spending 2 hours at a time at the gym? Well, it started with this guy:

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A couple glasses of this fermented grape goodness:

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And a challenge.

This challenge included 6 weeks of ass-kicking workouts 5-6 days/week. Two days of upper body in a row. Two days of lower body in a row. Two days of cardio, and one day of all over gym goodness. The point was muscle domination.

Upon first hearing about it, I laughed. It sounded like death. I am a runner. I prefer to be outside, and I loathe the idea of treadmills. Spending 10-12 hours a week in the gym sounded perfectly awful. I can handle 2 days a week in the gym, at most. And the words ‘leg day’ meant a good, solid run to me, not squats and Russian dead lifts.

And yet, the word challenge kept niggling in the back of my brain. Why not try it, I thought. I’ve always wanted to be stronger. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two in the gym. It can’t be that difficult.

Or, so I thought.

Here I am now, with two weeks left in the challenge, tree trunks for legs (ain’t no thigh gap here!), a round booty, and arms/shoulders that are becoming too big for my shirts. In fact…

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This happened. Yes, this is a bathroom selfie. Yes, that is a rip between the shoulders of my favorite shirt. Yes, this is from my lifting gains in the last few weeks. And yes, I did cry a little. I mean, come on. The last thing I remember, I was a runner who rejoiced when clothes became loose. I wore running shorts most days and had no clue how to bench press. A curl was what I did to bring the wine glass from the table to my face. The idea that I could become a strong, fit chick is continually appealing, but it’s taking a mindset adjustment as the clothes get a little tighter in weird places. I went from focusing on electrolyte consumption and carb-loading to getting enough protein and wondering if supplements are the way to go.

On the flip side though, the progress I’ve seen in my strength in just these few weeks is unreal. I can do 3 unassisted pull-ups and 7 unassisted tricep dips, whereas I couldn’t  do any of either a month ago. I went from bench pressing just the bar (45lbs) to breaking the 100lb mark just this week! I am almost ashamed to say this, but I actually enjoy going to the gym now.

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But, how could I not enjoy the gym in a shirt like this? Instant motivation. And an excellent Christmas present.

With that, I give you my current challenge. Before and after photos to be posted after the challenge is completed. (Did I really just say that?)

Next up? Marathon training, round 4, starts next week! I’m comin’ for ya, Bend Marathon!

Here’s a little self-love (but skip to almost a minute in for it to get upbeat):

 

Does That Make Me Crazy? Probably.

“You are crazy.” This is my father’s reply to me upon filling him in too enthusiastically on my newest goal: running an ultra. Whether or not he meant it as such, I took this as nothing short of a compliment.

am crazy, Dad. Crazy about life, crazy about running, crazy about breaking barriers, setting goals and pushing my limits. You think this is insanity? You should see me when I don’t run. That is crazy. I went two weeks without running while recovering from my marathon and letting my hip heal. I honestly began to question my sanity.

3.1, 6.2, 13.1, 26.2. Conquered. Naturally, an ultra comes next….right? That’s how my brain works, anyway. My sights are set on February 15th for the Hagg Lake Mud Run. That is a little over 16 weeks from today. Perfect amount of time for training, I’d say. And this is what begins today:

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 4.36.03 PMI guess the training only technically  begins today. Mondays are rest days, but my zeal put a run on the books for this evening. The biggest thing I appreciate about this training program is that only my long run has a set distance, the rest is just for time (45 minutes, 1 hour etc.) This ultra is going to be a lot less about pace than it will be about just crossing that damn finish line without dying.

It is my hope to make a little more time for writing during this training session, as I’ve failed rather miserably in times past. Someone please hold me accountable? I’d rather drone on here about my obsession than bore everyone around me on a daily basis with this stuff…Or maybe I’ll do both? Fellow runners understand. When you set a new goal, you cannot shut up about it. Everyone knows you’re a runner, the distances you like to run, your thoughts on road versus trail or any other random information you like to volunteer to anyone with a free ear. You’re passionate about it, so why quell the enthusiasm? Am I right?

I want to take a minute to brag a little. I have this sister…and she is nothing short of amazing. Four months ago, she decided to start running. I’d like to think that I may have played a small part in this decision. Who knows. Enthusiasm is contagious! She and her fiancee set their sights on The Prefontaine Memorial Run that was this last month, September 21st. A 10k as their first race. Not only did they sign up, but a childhood friend of ours and myself as well.

I feel like a proud parent:

Here we are after the finish. These three blazed through this course and beasted their way up Agony Hill (0.7 miles long.) I was admittedly a bit whiney, as this was the first time I’d run since my marathon (which was only the weekend before!) My sister kept me going the first half, and I helped her get through the second half. My tactic? I just didn’t shut up. I told her every random thing that came to my mind. It distracted, didn’t it, sister? When it came time to climb that beastly hill, we just spewed profanities. Trust us, it works. And then, we crossed the finish line together.

Seriously though, I am so proud of these three people. In ways that words cannot describe. To set goals and smash them? Phenomenal. As if this race wasn’t enough (because really, when is just one race enough?), my sister and her fiancee are running a half marathon with me in just over a month’s time. The Holiday Half on December 15th will be their first. We’re crossing our fingers for good weather (last year was 40 degrees and drizzling.) And I am crossing my fingers that I can convince them to run the Portland Marathon with me next year…But shhhhh, they don’t know that yet!

One more moment of bragging. My roommate. We dressed up as tooth fairies and ran a 5k. Not only did we both set a new personal record (24:14 5k!) but she and I crossed the finish line together. Whether she realized it or not, having her by my side helped me to push myself harder than I had in quite a while. I mean, PR guys, come on! Roomie, you’re amazing. We definitely did Run Like Hell.