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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I Found It.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

Lost: Running Mojo. If Found, Please Call…

…Me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We run both to lose and to find ourselves.

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.

The Pants Dance

Before I even begin. I’m sorry. I know, I know. It’s nearly a week past the half and I can’t ever make this up to all of you lovely readers.

That aside, I survived! The half is completed, and it’s on to the next one. (More on this later though)
The last 3 weeks of training, for lack of a better word, sucked. er, I mean, was fueled by pure energy and motivation. We all have speed bumps. Right?

Thanksgiving was splendid, as I’m sure was true for most. Too much food, lots of family, and perhaps even some relaxation in there? Pretty sure I ate my weight in sweet potatoes. Yum. I, sadly, had an encounter with gluten. The glutton in me had a momentary takeover and decided pumpkin pie was a necessity….sigh.
On the upside though, I went on two lovely runs while in southern Oregon. A perfect 10k loop along the Rogue river both ways. The second of my two runs, my little brother decided to join me. I suppose the term ‘little’ is relative, considering that he is 16 and 6’2″. The conversation went something like this:

“Hey, mister. Wanna go on a run with me?”
“Hell no! You think these chicken legs ever run?”
“Please?” (I even busted out the puppy dog eyes)
“Okay, okay. But I’m riding my bike while you run.”
“Deal.”
And so we ran/biked.

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Jake waiting patiently while I stopped for the following photo op…
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A view of the Rogue river on my run.

Post-thanksgiving left 3 weeks until the half-marathon. I was nearing the home stretch of my training, I should have been elated…but I wasn’t. At all. The weather was getting cold, the days feeling longer, but daylight hours increasingly shorter. With school projects and finals looming overhead, it was difficult to focus on the task at hand: to build my endurance enough to run 13.1 miles.

What was I thinking signing up for a run in the middle of rainy and cold December, the same week as insanely stressful finals?! I thought it was a brilliant idea. A new and novel goal. Not necessarily a realistic one.

I was running for cupcakes, but grasping at straws. For two weeks, I pathetically only ran a total of 20 miles. I was keeping up with my cross-training, thanks only to a set weekly workout. But, I just wasn’t feeling it. The pessimism had begun.

To be completely honest, the majority of this negativity came from an injury. The pain I’d mentioned in my hip earlier? Oh, it had spread down to my knee. Apparently, I’d injured my IT band. Iliotibial band. It connects from the lateral portion of your hip to your knee. It functions in stabilization during running as well as abduction and medial rotation of the hip. In other words, it’s an important part of one’s body. Especially a runner’s. And it hurt. All the time.

I was on a Friday run on the trails near my house. I wasn’t even two miles into my journey, I had rambunctious music blasting, but I couldn’t ignore the increasing pain. I noticed a change in my gait as I winced with every tread on my left side. My breathing started to become labored. And then it hit me- my first asthma attack in months. I had a complete meltdown. Negative mental attitude, hip pain and an asthma attack?! Tears spilling down my cheeks, wheezing like the penguin from Toy Story, and dubstep blasting out of my dangling earphones as I collapsed on the cold, wet ground. Temper tantrum.

I don’t know how long I sat there, but I recovered. Eventually. I wiped away the tears and the smeared snot from my face. Sniveling, I picked myself back up and jogged home. How the hell was I going to run a half-marathon if I couldn’t even run two miles without bawling my eyes out?

I think it’s safe to say that we all have these moments of despair. Or days. It is how we come back from these times, what we do to recover and regain confidence that shows what kind of awesome we are.

The end of term brought about a personal fitness test in my bootcamp class, of which had challenged me the entire term. In 10 weeks time, I’d made improvements. My mile-time went from a 9:47 mile to 8:13. I could bench press more 45% of my body weight and leg press 120%, I had lost 13 pounds and 3% body fat.

Damn. I’d actually accomplished something. I thought, “Hey, maybe I can do this.” Who was going to tell me otherwise?

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The above photo is on the paved Fanno Creek trails near my house. I went on a Sunday early morning run. Let me rephrase that: I went on a run way too early, the morning after a holiday party. Fully feeling the effects of, er, things consumed the night before. Can we say grouchy runner? And then I came upon the image captured above….I couldn’t decide if I should run or swim through. And part of me wished I was still cozy in bed. A little further on the run, water covered the trail for a good 300 feet. It was up to my knees in some places. It is a good thing I love puddle jumping!

Let’s talk about treadmills. I can already hear the groans of avid runners everywhere. Who actually enjoys running on treadmills? Give me pavement or a trail any day, rain or shine. My preferences aside, the late nature of my schedule forced me to run inside for the last two weeks leading up to the half-marathon. I can barely run a 5k on the damned things.

I did learn a thing or two. I learned that I am not coordinated enough to run on the treadmill and watch TV at the same time. Sigh. Yes, I fell off. Twice. And you know that little red button with the cord attached on the treadmill that is used for a very sudden and abrupt stop? Oh yeah, bumped that once too. I also learned that it is actually possible to race someone while running on a treadmill. You look at the guy next to you’s screen. Glance quickly, and see how fast they’re running. Match pace. From there, just see who can run longer. Race on.

And now…the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The moment I’d been training 12 weeks for. The goal I was beginning to think was unreachable. The Holiday Half.

The weather: 40 F and precipitating. It was that nasty soaking mist we here in the Pacific Northwest know and loathe love so much.

The outfit: Red Nike running pants (more on these in a moment), green tank top, red Nike zip up long sleeve, black beanie, and some awesome socks that said “Santa’s little runner.” Also, a rad pair of black running gloves that saved my life during the run. If I had it my way, I would have worn enough layers to look like the abominable snowman. Not very conducive to running 13.1 though, sadly. I was as festive as I could get without wearing a tutu.

The music: Upbeat and dubstep. I started my run to The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” and ended my run with “Pursuit of Happiness” by MGMT, Ratatat and Kid Cudi. “I Can’t Stop” by Flux Pavilion got me through the hardest part of my run at about mile 8. “Music is My Hot, Hot Sex” was a good one too. Thank you, Spotify and your awesome ability to create playlists.

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I. Run. For. Cupcakes. Cupcake Victory pose! Half a dozen cupcakes given to us by the fabulous Bliss Cupcake Shop and a few extras made by an awesome fan. I was nowhere near hungry afterwards, though.

I’ll be honest. The run was not nearly what I expected it to be. It was, dare I say it, easier than I’d imagined. My goal for this first half-marathon was just to finish. Not only did I finish, but I kept a nearly steady pace of 9:28/mile to finish in 2 hours and 4 minutes.

That deserves a cupcake!

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Back to the easier part of things. 13.1 is deceiving. You’re surrounded by thousands of other people doing the same thing you are. They’re dealing with the same obstacles, both physical and mental. This simple fact keeps you going. The one time I stopped running, an older gentleman passed me and said, “great job, runner. Keep it up!” And suddenly, I wanted to start running again.

I’m going to be crass. Tune out, or suck it up. I came across the finish line thinking to myself, “Is it over? Is it really already finished?” My friends greeted me with cheers and cupcakes. They were asking how I felt, if I was cold, what I needed. I looked at them and said: “I’ve never had to poop so badly in my life.” and ran to the lovely outhouses. Any other runners had this issue on a run? It’s just not okay.

Anyway. During the half, I kept my mind occupied with reasons why I run. Here’s a smidgen of the list I compiled:

  • It’s cheaper than therapy.
  • I love cupcakes. And all other desserts.
  • I want to look good naked.
  • To be able to say 4 miles is my short run.
  • To be able to outrun the zombies.
  • To get to the point that I turn to running and not food as a stress release.
  • To be someone else’s inspiration.
  • Because endorphins are addicting.
  • I just might like sweating.
  • To feel elated when I cross the finish line.
  • To be happy.
  • Because I’d rather have a drawer full of sports bras than lacey push-up bras.
  • To effect change.
  • To have great lungs…and great legs.
  • To feel alive
  • Because I can.

One more thing before I end this excessively long post.

Even though this blog has been all about this Half-Marathon, about how hard we’ve worked to attain our goals, and how amazing it is to have accomplished this goal, I wanted to mention The Holiday Half’s Facebook post-race post:

The winner of Portland’s Holiday Half Marathon was not the first person to cross the finish line, the true winner was the lady who crossed it last…..Holding last place was an adorable lady. She was wearing a bright pink shirt and a green hula skirt. Even though it was raining & freezing she still had a smile plastered on her face….. She ended up keeping up and finishing the race. She later came and found us at the Viso booth and told us that last year she had a stroke that had caused brain damage and left her unable to walk. The doctors told her she would never walk again. She had made this half marathon her goal and let no one keep her from believing it was possible. She said it was her Christmas present to herself. Never underestimate the power of believing in yourself. Merry Christmas!”

This, this is why I run. To inspire.

Merry Christmas, all. Happy Holidays. Be safe. Run on.

 

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Candy Coma.

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This was our Halloween. Nancy Drew, amateur detective, chasing after the ever-naughty Ke$ha.

We danced. We sang. We had small adventures. Every runner needs a reprieve once in a while, right?

A guilt run is in order for today. Yesterday was Halloween, after all. That candy coma is still in effect…or is it a candy hangover now? Either way, I’m feeling a new 5k pr in my near future to rid myself of post-Halloween guilt.

I never want to look at one of these again:

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They’re addicting. Mint and chocolate make the perfect union. We won’t even begin to discuss how many I ate. Or how many miles I’d need to run to burn them off. -Wait. I shouldn’t be talking about candy. This needs to be about cupcakes.

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Look at this little inspiration of a cupcake. Isn’t she the cutest thing ever? (As a side note, I was an 80’s rocker chick. I basically found all of the neon in my closet and put it on. Plus my tutu. One cannot ever go wrong with a tutu.)

Trail run this weekend!

46 days, boys and girls. Lexi and I both are officially registered for The Holiday Half

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That’s a wrap.