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!

 

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There Are No Problems, Only Opportunities.

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No news is good news. But, this is a blog. I need news to write; be it good or bad.

The good news: No stress fracture.

The bad news: No running.

In other news: Meet my new friend, Sexy Boot. We’ve decided to start going on adventures together around the grand city of Portland. He’s not the fastest means of transportation, and we get some strange looks, but overall, it’s looking like it will be a mutually beneficial (and hopefully short-lived) friendship.

Remember my mention of shin pain in my last post? Two weeks prior April’s marathon, I started getting twinges similar to shin splints in my right leg. The pain worsened, but I still ran my marathon on it. Even when the pain kicked in at mile 2. I gave it a couple weeks post-race to see if it would get any better. It started aching all the time. If I tried walking around on it too much, it would turn into a shooting, sharp pain in the lower part of my shin. The thought of running would make me cringe. I’m not a big fan of doctors. I’m not at all against them; it just takes a lot to necessitate going in. The lack of improvement after two weeks and my complete inability to run was reason enough.

A trip to the orthopedist, an x-ray, and an MRI later and I learned what ailed me: torn tendons in the lower portion of my right tibia. Overuse injury. The Remedy = No running + Sexy Boot + Physical Therapy.

Sometimes, it takes being deprived of something to make you truly appreciate it. Running is a gift. A privilege. I felt that I’d always valued this ability. But, to be suddenly told that I’m not allowed to run, not allowed to partake in an activity that brings me happiness, mental clarity, and most of all, sanity? The world better watch out. It gave me an entirely new perspective. I’ve only been a real runner for 20 months, but it has become such a defining feature of myself. “Hello, I’m Jessica. I’m a runner, an amateur photographer and a lover of teeth.” To have to add a caveat to the first on that list was painful (pun intended.)

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Yes, my house has stayed incredibly clean. I’ve found myself getting anxious and irritable when Sunday rolls around and I’m not heading out on the trails for a long run. I see runners on the road and find myself thinking murderous thoughts that would surely get me in trouble if I verbalized them. Those runners didn’t deserve my negative attitude.  I was (am) surely just jealous. Side effects of not running: mood swings, irritability, insomnia, guilt, crying, irrational behavior, excessive caloric intake to expenditure ratio…

A reality check was needed. I’ve found new activities to occupy my time. Sexy Boot and I have gone on some adventures. We hiked Munra Point in the Columbia River Gorge. This is a view at the top of the hike, facing west.

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It was a beautiful and steep climb that was absolutely enjoyed. The day was warm and none too windy. The hike was 7.5 miles round trip. The only downside of the hike was that the first portion of it, you walk pretty much parallel to the freeway. Once you pass Moffet Creek though, you begin steadily climbing and leaving the road noise behind.

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This is facing south, looking down Tanner Valley. I was perched rather precariously to even get this photo.

In addition to hiking (slowly, I might add), I was given the okay to start biking. This is an activity that Sexy Boot and I are not together for. I’ve been cycling over 100 miles a week to help in my pursuit of the mental clarity that running brings me. I’m also trying to take all of this extra time I have and start learning to properly cross train and strength train. My sister’s wedding is less than 3 months away. As her maid of honor, I can’t be the dumpy looking one of the group…right?!

Sexy Boot is not getting me down. My mantra right now is the title of this post, and comes from one of my dental hygiene professors. She said this to us at the beginning of our program, “There are no such thing as problems, only opportunities.” That is how I’m viewing this setback. It is an opportunity for me to discover new things, new ways to stay fit. It is an opportunity for me to focus on improving my overall body strength, work with physical therapists so as to prevent myself from injury like this in the future. I had three half marathons scheduled for the months of May and June. It has taken a lot of willpower and a humbled attitude to have stepped down from them.

I want to be a runner until the day I die. If that means taking time off to heal now so I can be stronger in the future, then I am ready for it. It is surely a test of my mental toughness, as I have a hard time even considering myself a runner right now. Regardless, this setback is going to set me up for an even stronger comeback. Be ready for it.

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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