Liebster. Round 2&3.

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I have to say. I feel entirely privileged to be writing a post over not one, but two more Liebster Awards. I’m so happy my writing is enjoyed by others!

The rules to this nomination:

  • Make a post about the Liebster Award and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate fellow bloggers for the award.
  • Write 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.
  • There is no actual award, it is just a matter of recognition.
  • Pass on the love.

So, before we get down to business, a big giant thank you to the ladies at Slow and Steady(ish) and Running In Scrubs. You’re wonderful, and I appreciate the nomination! Fellow runners and enthusiastic writers that always leave such wonderful comments. Love it!

 

My questions from Slow and Steady(ish):

Round 1

  1. What made you decide to start a blog?
    When I started running back in September 2012, my running partner (at the time) and I wanted something to hold us accountable for our training. I had high hopes of posting weekly and keeping detailed accounts of our workouts.
    I also have always really enjoyed writing, and hoped that my rambles could help inspire others.
  2. What was the toughest race you’ve ever run, and what made it so tough?
    The Hagg Lake 25k Mud Run. While being the most difficult, it was also my favorite. It snowed here the first weekend in February. It snowed quite a bit for our area. After it snowed for 3 days, it started raining. A lot. It rained all week long. Sunday rolls around, and there you have a 25k trail run at Hagg Lake. There are mud runs, and then there are mud runs. It was a hilly slip and slide. Difficult, but absolutely fantastic at the same time. Full recap here.
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  3. If you could pick anyone, dead or alive, to be your running buddy, who would you choose?
    It’s a toss-up between Kara Goucher and Sherlock Holmes (of the original story variety, not the Robert Downey version.) One being living and a real person, and the other being completely fictitious. Kara Goucher because she is an incredible runner, but also attuned to the values of wholesome families and happiness in simplicity. Sherlock, because I’m a lifelong admirer of his ‘work’ and never tire of reading his stories.
  4. If you could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of your life, which one would it be? Why?
    This is an unfair question. I live in such a splendid food mecca.
    If I have to choose….A wonderful place in North Portland called Tasty N Sons. All of their food is served Tapas style and is made with such flavorful sauces. I can guarantee you that these guys can make you enjoy brussel sprouts.
  5. What is your favorite place you’ve ever visited?
    The top of the south rim of Mt. St. Helens at sunrise. My aunt, uncle, and I climb it every summer as a newfound tradition.
    This was last summer:
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  6. If you run with music, what is your favorite song to run to?
    If I run with headphones in, I’m usually listening to podcasts; namely, Stuff You Should Know or This American Life.
  7. Describe your ideal course for a race (any distance).
    Look up the course for Whidbey Island. Those hills were enough to kick my ass, but not quite enough to kill me. I’d take a course like that with perhaps a bit of trail thrown in for good measure.
  8. What did you want to be when you grew up?
    A teacher. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher and a ballerina for as long as I can remember. That changed about the time my father started teaching and I heard how much stress was involved. Or maybe it was when I realized my love of teeth. The ballerina thing fell by the wayside about the time I hit that pre-pubescent stage and looked not unlike a Butterball turkey. Not very graceful.
  9. Would you rather hold the record for the fastest mile or for the longest distance run in one go?
    The longest distance run in one go.


My questions from Running In Scrubs:

Round 2

1.  If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Is everywhere too ambiguous of an answer? I went to SE Asia over 5 years ago for 3 months. I travelled to Jamaica earlier this month (more on this amazing trip in my next post.) I’ve been to various parts of Canada.

Real answer is this: I would be willing to take the next international flight out of the country, wherever it may be headed. I’ve quelled the feelings of wanderlust for now in order to focus on school and achieving goals. But really, I want to see all the world has to offer. Each destination has something unique and amazing to offer, and I cannot wait to someday explore.

2.  Favorite dessert?

Gluten-free cookies! Soft and chewy, hot and fresh out of the oven. Nom…

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3.  What song could you listen to over and over again and not get sick of?

Love me some JT.

4.  Guilty pleasure?
See #2.
Either that, or devouring a good book instead of doing homework, laundry, or other pertinent tasks.

5.  What is one thing you wish you could do?

Given the current state of my right shin, the answer is easy: run. I wish I could run. Frolic through fields of flowers and sprint down the soft sandy beaches, smile on my face and wind in my hair.

6.  What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Jumped out of an airplane.
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Actually, no. That was exhilarating, exciting, and terrifying all at the same time. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. Probably the best birthday present ever. 

The scariest thing I’ve ever done is quit a job I loved to go back to school full time, fully supporting myself on savings and student loans. I know plenty have done it. But, that does not make it easy. Terrifying, really.

7.  First car?

1969 VW bug, yellow convertible.

8.  Favorite workout?

Hot yoga.

It is an hour of forced stretching. Runners appreciate this. We don’t stretch, as you well know.

9.  Funniest autocorrect your phone/computer has done?

Oh man. This might be a bit inappropriate, but… I was trying to text ‘moustache’ to a friend and my phone autocorrected it to ‘moist ass.’ Hilarity ensued.

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10.  Painted nails or bare?

Bare and short fingernails. I cannot remember the last time I painted them. I used to rock climb, which made it impossible to have nails. Toes are only painted long enough for my running shoes to rub it off.

 

My Nominees: 

It was so difficult to choose who should be subjected to this torture privilege!

My Questions:

  1. What is your favorite breakfast?
  2. Do you have to drink coffee or tea in the morning to wake up?
  3. Name 5 things you want to accomplish before you die.
  4. What are you most proud of?
  5. Do you have a favorite quote?
  6. Pancakes or waffles?
  7. What would someone say is the weirdest thing about you?
  8. (stealing a question from above!) Favorite workout?
  9. How long have you kept a blog, and what made you decide to start it?
  10. What is one of the craziest things you’ve done? (Interpret this how you wish)
  11. Will you please notify me, or throw a link my way when you respond to these questions? I’d love to read them!

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In other news, my weekend was spent with my friends’ 4 little ones, playing ‘the other mom’ for a couple days. Watching these two, pictured above (who are 6 & 7,) play softball was definitely the highlight. The weather was perfect, and their energy was delightful. Das boot adventures are going well, and I’m hoping that there’s improvement soon. Certainly less pain, but I feel like the muscles in my calf have already shrunk. I’m sure it’s all in my head.

More photos of Sexy Boot to come.

 

 

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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.

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.

Inspiration

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14 weeks of preparation. 500 miles of training. 2 pairs of running shoes. Countless hours spent in anticipation, frustration, and even a mild form of fear. All to run 26.2 miles. That is 1.7 million inches. A race against oneself. Testing limits and mental toughness. The race is the reward…right?

I can honestly say I’ve never found a truer form of happiness than crossing the finish line of a marathon. Every other emotion had been exhausted as I pushed myself those last 385 yards. Purity.

It has already been a month since my marathon. September 14th. And it feels like ages ago. And yet, still surreal. For the sake of reliving it though, let’s revisit.

Marathon Day  (Hagg Lake Hybrid)

5:45 am wakeup time. I got dressed in my already laid out and color coordinated clothes. They say preparation is a key to success. Waking up groggy and before the sun is up, I most assuredly agree. Having everything prepared the night before made my life a lot easier. I ate my pre-race breakfast with a knot in my stomach and a giant grin on my face. A pink lady apple with a few spoonfuls of almond butter and a green goddess smoothie, complete with spinach, protein, banana and mangoes.

7:20 arrival to Hagg Lake. What an unnerving time, waiting for such an event to begin! Observing everyone’s pre-race rituals was quite entertaining. ‘Excuse me, sir, but why are you running before you embark upon a race that will surely help you to meet your mileage requirement for the week? Is 26.2 not enough?’ Or, ‘How can you be stuffing your face with Hostess donut holes right now?’ and ‘Who does push-ups before a marathon?!’ It was all I could do to maintain an upright position.

7:30 — Then came the time to decide: running jacket or tank top? Music or no music? Garmin or no? With many trips back to the car, we settled on Garmin watch, no jacket and no music. I never regretted any of the above.

7:45 — Let’s be honest. A bathroom is a marathon runner’s best friend. Pre-race bathroom trips = 5 times. Glorious. I would venture to say that this is not abnormal. Prior to training for any kind of distance running, I had an irrational fear of port-a-potties and a strong aversion to public restrooms in general. It’s not hard to imagine how quickly those changed. When you gotta go, you go wherever is provided. And you thank the running gods for the invention of hand sanitizer.

8:04 am race start. With less than 100 people running the Hagg Hybrid Marathon, it was a low-key but very energized and positive beginning to a race. I have to say, I love smaller races. There’s something so close-knit, as if you’re running the race with a bunch of family. Regardless, my legs were restless, my heart was pounding out of my chest and my head was positively buzzing. This is really happening! 

Many people have asked me, “If you don’t listen to music, what do you think about while you run?” I think what they mean to ask is simply, ‘how do you make the time pass?’ A very good question that I do not have a straight answer to. If I were to try and think of key moments or actual thoughts I had during my marathon at Hagg Lake, I think the sum of them would amount to maybe 5 minutes. My first thoughts as the race began were, “Don’t start too fast. Am I going too fast? Breathe.” I started composing my blog post in my head, wondering if I would be able to tell all of you lovely readers how splendid the run was, or if I would have to report how miserably grueling it was.

“26.2. Think of how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go.” This phrase hit me about mile four, when I still had a smile on my face, and the rolling hills hadn’t taken a toll on me yet.

The rest of the first half was really a blur. It took place on the road surrounding the lake and proved to be a nice challenge with a number of hills. I could not have made it through the first 13 miles without two amazing ladies, TJ and Heather. Between the two of them, they’d run over 70 marathons in the course of 10 years. Their amiable, determined, yet light-hearted attitude was admirable and quite impressionable upon my newbie marathoner mind. Not to mention, their pace was comparable to mine. And so we ran together. I wish I had obtained their info so I could give a proper shout out! Between forcing me to eat gummy bears and a banana at one of the aid station (which were both amazing, by the way) and telling me to “dig in and use as many profanities as needed” when climbing a particularly large hill, I really don’t know that I would have kept going at the pace I did. Thank you, ladies, for answering my incessant list of questions. It kept my mind distracted.

No sooner had I jumped on the trails in the second half of the marathon, exalting at my pace and still seemingly large amount of energy, than I stumbled upon my support crew. 5 of them all poring over their phones, trying to track my location. I was elated to see them, and their cheers meant the world to me. They were there for me at every aid station for the second half. Yelling my name, cheering me on and giving me more support than I can ever express in words.

Somewhere between miles 18-20, I started to really feel the fatigue. I began calling in my usual mental distractions. I dreamed up the best food I could think of. If I could eat anything after the marathon, I wanted a giant burger. With bacon. Avocado. Two patties. Pepper jack cheese. No bun. Sweet potato fries. And cupcakes. Glorious cupcakes. When that mental distraction no longer worked, I thought of what would bring me the most joy in that very moment, nirvana if you will (aside from crossing the finish line.) The first thing that came to mind was my huge polka-dotted down comforter. The smell of clean linen, the feeling of wrapping myself up in its fluffiness and curling up for a lovely nap. Nothing sounded better to me. And so I focused on burgers and linens.

I went through an aid station somewhere around mile 20, and all I wanted was electrolytes. That lovely yellow liquid was like magic to my mouth. Delightfully artificial and hydrating. I had high hopes that it was going to cure the dizziness that had started setting in. Post-race, my friends in the support crew informed me that I looked deathly pale. They hardly believed my two thumbs up while still managing a smile as I passed through the checkpoint.

Those last 6 miles kicked. My. Ass. Thoroughly. The ground kept trying to come up and meet my face. I wanted to die. I swore never to run a marathon again. Never in my life have I felt like I did in those last miles. Death would have been preferable to the burning in my legs. Those hills became giant monsters. I walked them and ran the rest. Not even the thought of food could get me through this one.

My Garmin watch said 24.2 miles as I rounded a bend and caught sight of Boat Ramp C and the finish line. That couldn’t be right. Were they going to make us run laps around the parking lot to achieve 26.2? Preposterous. But I steeled my nerves and told myself not to get too excited about the finish line, just in case parking lot laps were in my near future. But no, it really was the finish line, and my watch was off (which it tends to do on trails.) Those last 385 yards were the most exalting. A sudden rush of energy propelled me across those finishing mats, to complete my marathon in 4:45. I was met with hugs as soon as I finished, and I started crying. From sheer exhaustion, from happiness, from elation at being done, who knows.  But, I finished!

To anyone who hasn’t completed a marathon, it is incomparable to anything I’ve ever known or felt before. The feeling of simultaneous disbelief and accomplishment. Pushing one’s own limits. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” TS Eliot’s words have never rang truer.

This is my amazing support crew, cheering me on every step of the way. If nothing else, the thought of them waiting on me at the next aid station kept me going. Hearing their continual quotes of this amazing YouTube video kept a smile on my face:

 

Let me tell you, I did not see Rob Thomas, I did not pants my poop (which is an accomplishment), and those second winds are real! Of all the songs to be stuck in my head on race day though, lines from this kept popping in at the weirdest of moments:

It took less than a day to realize that I would, indeed, sign up for another marathon (Whidbey Island in April!) and the thought of an ultramarathon wasn’t so far-fetched after all (Hagg Lake Mud Run in February!). I’m an addict. Two more half-marathons this year: The Happy Girls Run in Sisters on November 2nd and The Holiday Half on December 15th.

Through these months of training, with my friends and family putting up with my ever-increasing addiction, I would just like to say thank you. I know it’s not easy to understand why I spend hours each week pounding the trail and pavement, but believe me when I say that it makes me the person I am today. It keeps me calm. It keeps me sane. It is my catharsis and my meditation. Join me on a run, cheer me on. Don’t hate me too much when I can’t shut up about running. I truly love it, and am elated if my zeal becomes contagious.

I aspire to inspire before I expire.