My Motivation Left The Station.

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Fall in the Pacific Northwest means sunsets by 4:30 and rain on the daily. It means doubling up the dose of Vitamin D, warm beverages, and a loss of motivation when it comes to running…what?

This time of year, it is all I can do to lace up my shoes and get out that door when it’s both pitch black and raining. There are so many excuses I can muster up. Cold, wet, rainy, dark, I’m tired. Haven’t I mentioned all of these before? Lately, my middle ground has been to run on the dreaded treadmill at the gym. Gasp! I know. I’ve decided that it at least allows me to keep a solid pace. Which, I’m terrible at doing on both the pavement and trail. Not only that, but it is the biggest mental challenge to run on that damn thing.

Let’s talk motivation. Because that’s what seems to wane this time of year. When does the motivation seem to lack the most? When we need it the most. When we’re tired, when we’re not in a fully positive mood, when the gym or the running shoes seem a million miles away. When work was particularly long or difficult. How do we muster up that energy and get it done?

I cannot speak for anyone else but myself. When I start to climb on the doubt and negativity train, here is what I do:

  1. Remember your why. Why do I run? Why do I workout? Why am I even doing this? Why did I start?- I run because it is my therapy. I run for catharsis and mental clarity. I run for the challenge, both mental and physical.
    – I workout to grow. I workout to gain strength, agility, flexibility. I workout to cross train and better prepare for my runs. I workout to challenge myself and see how hard I can push to see change.
    – I started because I do not like to be stagnant. I need a challenge. I thrive on change. Especially when it comes to my own body. I started because I knew my body had so much room to grow.
  2. Reflect on and review goals. 

    – A sidenote about goals. They need to be clear, measurable, and achievable. ‘I want to run faster’ is a noble concept. However, how do you measure it? Faster than what? How fast you’re running now? Faster than a cheetah? Instead, one might say their goal is to run a sub 8:30 mile by the end of the year. This is faster than their current mile time of 8:45. By making our goals measurable and achievable, we are more likely to actually work towards them.
    – My biggest goal right now is to PR the Holiday Half Marathon this year. This means running a sub 1:55 or about an 8:40 mile. In order to do this well, I need to be pushing myself regularly.

  3. Find inspiration or accountability. -Finding someone who inspires you can help push you towards your goals and help you stay motivated. Just what we want, right? Currently, Oiselle and their amazing flock of runners are my motivation. Their zest for life, their zeal for running and their constant positive spirit keeps me going when the last thing I want to do is lace up. Their motto, “Head up, wings out” has kept me through more runs than I care to admit.-Accountability is also an important component to motivation. Tell someone your goals, post about them to social media, find a running or workout partner. Find someone to hold you accountable to your goals and aspirations. It is a powerful motivator.
  4. If all else fails, suck it up, buttercup. 

    What more is there to say? If nothing and no one can help you find that motivation, you have to find it within yourself. You know your goals. You know what you’re working towards. You know you just need to get it done. So, suck it up, buttercup.

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Rosie the Riveter, anyone?

Does anyone else have any tips for finding motivation?

You Spin My Head Right Round…13.

I haven’t decided which is harder, lacing up my shoes and walking out the door or running the actual 11 miles. The mental game is often times more difficult than the physical. I psych myself out, I find all of the excuses, I conjure up tummy aches and knee pain. I fall into the thought pattern that I’m just too tired, I wouldn’t be able to put 100% into it, so why should I do it? The mental struggle is real.

This round of half-marathon training is no different. I am currently in week 5 of my 13th round of training. Holiday Half, here I come! You would think that 3 weeks of zero running while in Central America last month would restart all of my motivation. (More on the trip later.) Not the case. This round of training has had an entirely new focus: speed. I am going to PR this next half-marathon. Track workouts once a week, tempo run once a week and a long run. I’ve gone from lifting heavy 6 days a week with intermittent running to focused running 3 days a week, lifting heavy 3 days a week and one active rest day.

It looks a little like this:

# Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 9/20-27 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

7 L Off
2 9/28-10/4 Track

6×200

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
3 10/5-11 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

11L  Off
4 10/12-18 Hill Rpt

5×30sec

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

12 L Body

Weight

 

5 10/19-25 1,2,3,4-

321

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L Body

weight

6 10/26-11/1 Hill Rpt

8x30secs

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L 3-5 E
7 11/2-8 8×100,

4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

7.5 T Chest

Back

Core

15 L 3-5E
8 11/9-15 1,2,3,4,5

4,3,2,1

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L  Off
9 11/16-22 8×100

 

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 T Chest

Back

Core

11 L 3-5E
10 11/23-29 4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
11 11/30-12/6 8×100

 

LD Any

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 T Chest

Back

Core

7 L  Off
12 12/7-13 Rest or

Stretch

6.5 E Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.1 E Chest

Back

Core

REST! 13.1!

 

Track days included a mile warm up and a mile cool down in addition to 4 different dynamic stretches like walking lunges, squats, butt kickers etc.

Each of our gym days are a concentrated power hour in the specified muscle group. It’s heavy lifting and a killer challenge. The tempo run is typically 50% of that week’s long run and it is done at a 10k pace. The long runs on the weekend are generally run naked. That is, without a Garmin or headphones, so I can disconnect and actually remember why I love running.

Like I had mentioned, this round of training is focused on speed. I truly want to get better. But, let me tell you, the track workouts are a reality check! I consider myself an adult most of the time. I hate adulting, but I didn’t think there was much 5 year old left in me. I was wrong. Jess, the small child, comes out during track workouts. I must have thrown 3 temper tantrums during an hour workout. There was so much negative energy, pouting, arm crossing and throwing myself down on the ground. At one point, Eli made the mistake of asking how I was doing. I wailed, “I’m f*&%ing AWFUL!”

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I do give my best effort though. I push myself into asthma attack oblivion. I push beyond my comfort zone. That 5 year old can be quieted if I focus on the track in front of me. I keep my head up. My wings out. Thank you, Oiselle.

It’s all going to make me faster, right?

All of my complaining and failed adulting aside, I actually like track workouts more than I do tempo runs. I have the hardest time motivating myself to push hard for that many miles. Anyone else have such a complicated relationship with running?

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I am looking forward to seeing the improvements in my running. By designing this challenge, I knew it was going to kick my booty. I knew there were parts I was going to hate. What is that adage though, ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.’ I’m ready to change. I want to run faster.

I also want to keep the balance. I love running. I love running for the mental clarity, for the run highs, for the happiness. I love running to discover new trails and to both lose and discover myself. When I push myself to run faster, I lose that joy. It becomes solely about getting through the workout and not the joy of the run itself. I’m working to find joy in the challenge.

Maybe it looks like this:

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Or, perhaps this is just what a break during a long run looks like.

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.

 

Marathon Training and Less Complaining.

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What do you do when you’re stressed out? Do you reach for the large spoon and the jar of peanut butter? Lace up the running shoes and take it out on the pavement? Grab a pen and write it out? Grab some iron and work it out?

I’ve not posed a question to my readers before, but I’m honestly curious as to how everyone handles stress. So, lay it on me! I’ll even put the peanut butter spoon down…

I think I do a combination of all of the above. But, not all at once. Week 3/15 of spring semester of dental hygiene school has just finished, and I already cannot believe the length of my to do list. Numerous projects, six board exams, many clinical hours and long days. Oh, and did I mention round 4 of marathon training?

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This was my, “Let’s rock this!” face before taking my first board exam last weekend. Nerves and coffee had me a little excited. Anesthesia written exam is complete. And I aced it! I’m ready for my next 5 exams! -Or am I? Next up is my clinical anesthesia board at the end of February.

Today begins week 3 of Round 4 of marathon training. This time around, my focus is on injury prevention and keeping my sanity. As aforementioned, I’m busy. You’re busy. We are all busy. Isn’t that the point? We’re always busy. We’re always moving, doing, thinking, planning. But we are never too busy. I am a firm believer that if it is important to us, we will make the time. This goes for anything: meditation, relationships, eating well, studying, sleep. Not just running or exercise.

With this in mind, Round 4 of marathon training has been created with the intention of balance. My previous training plans have included running 5-6 days a week with only the mere thought of cross-training in there. This time though, I’m only running 4 days a week and spending 3 days a week cross training at the gym. This is in hopes of providing a more rounded training plan without completely fatiguing my body. I’m currently compiling a good runner’s workout, and hope to be able to share what I come up with soon!

As for the running, I’ve taken and tweaked a number of marathon training plans, and formed one that actually works for my schedule. Sundays are my long, slow, distance, (LSD) run day with the runs ranging from 12-22 miles. Saturday is my mid-pace run with distances from 6-10 miles, depending on that week’s mileage. Monday-Friday is a little bit up in the air, as my school schedule does vary. I just make sure I get at least two days in at the gym, a fartlek run, and a hill repeat or mid-distance run in.

A fartlek run is basically ‘speed play.’ For me, this means running for one minute and sprinting for 30 seconds and then repeating this for the duration of the run. Yikes. With hill repeats (HR,) I run to a pretty decent hill near my house. I sprint (or, erm, run hard while thinking that I’m sprinting. When, in reality, I look like a turtle wading through peanut butter) up the hill and then walk/light run back down. I repeat this however many times specified.

Here’s a gander of what training is going to look like (Clearly subject to rearrangements and many changes…):

We Run For Cupcakes Marathon Training Plan

W Date Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Jan 12-18 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45min Hill Repeats 5x  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 12
2 Jan 19-25 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 14
3 Jan26-Feb1 Gym Gym  Fartlek 30-45 HR, 5x  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 16
4 Feb 2-8 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8 Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 18
5 Feb 9-15 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 HR, 6x  Rest Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 20
6 Feb 16-22 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 16
7 Feb23-Mar 1 Gym Gym Fartlek 45-60 HR, 6x  Rest Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 22
8 Mar 2- 8 Gym Gym Fartlek 45-60 4-6  Gym Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 16
9 Mar 9-15 Gym Gym Fartlek 45-60 HR, 7x Rest Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 20
10 Mar 16-22 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 18
11 Mar 23-29 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 HR, 8x Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 16
12 Mar 30- Apr 5 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 14
13 Apr 6-12 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 HR, 6 Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 12
14 Apr 13-19 Gym Fartlek 30-45 Gym Gym  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 10
15 Apr  20-26 Gym 4-6 easy No run 3-4 easy No run No run RACE!

 

*****

A moment of gratitude. In the 2 1/2 years that I’ve been a runner, I’ve never been able to coerce someone to run or train alongside me. Granted, I’ve had many a runner join me in the same race. I’ve helped spark that running fire in a number of wonderful people. I have also had runners that are training for the same race. But never someone following the same training plan, experiencing the same agony  joy that I am.

I am so thankful to be able to say that I have a training partner with me to prepare for the Bend marathon. The same guy who kicked my butt at a 6 week fitness challenge is now getting his butt handed to him with marathon training. He is now part of the We Run For Cupcakes team. We do our Monday-Friday runs on our own, as the half-state distance between us prevents us from doing everything together. We then run Saturday, Sunday together.

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This was completing our first week of marathon training together. Tired, sweaty, smelly and exhausted, I was so elated to have someone running by my side!

 

Let me be honest, though. I don’t always love running with someone by my side. Especially long runs, when I just tend to tune out.

We just finished week two of marathon training. We ran 14 in Forest Park on Sunday. I’m never a very happy camper the first 3 or so miles of any run. It takes me about that long to settle into the run, and the self-talk is generally of the negative variety. Never mind the fact that we were also running those first 3 uphill.

I’m not a very competitive person. At least, I don’t consider myself one. Until a certain someone comes along with natural running talent and can just bound up these trails without being winded, while I’m back here wondering if someone stole one of my lungs.

That’s what happened Sunday. First 3 miles. Uphill. I’m trying to calm my mental demons and settle into a steady rhythm. And yet, it is all I can do to keep up with Eli! I’m thinking to myself, “Hey man, these are my trails. This is my domain. I was going to teach you about running. Why are you already showing me up?” The inner 5 year old in me screamed, “It’s not fair!”

No, no, I didn’t say that out loud. I surely was thinking it though! He did the smart thing and ignored my complaints. We laughed about it later, when I finally settled into the run. Maybe I am competitive…?

So, here it goes, here it goes again. Marathon training, round 4. I’m very much looking forward to this challenge in physical fitness and balance of time and energy. At this point, I don’t have a time goal in mind for finishing. Ideally, I would love to finish in under 4:30.

Bend Marathon, here we come!

 

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):

Like a Ninja

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I looked out the window and thought, “Ugh, it’s raining. No one wants to go running in this.” Then, I had a reality check. I am not the Wicked Witch of the West, I am not made of sugar, and I am not water soluble. The rain isn’t going to make me melt, nor is it going anywhere any time soon. This is the Pacific Northwest. I better damn well get out there, get used to it, and use my integumentary system to the fullest of its protective abilities.

That being established, I went on a wonderful 6 mile recovery run. Recovery run? Yes, a run to recover from running. An easy run. One that is preferably devoid of any type of tracking device. A run more for your mind than your body. It is to remind yourself of why you run. Rekindle the love between your running shoes and the hard ground. This particular recovery run was very restorative, to both mind and body. I was feeling a little down after my performance in my last half-marathon. I took the time on my run to reflect on what motivates me, what drives me to lace up my shoes 6 days a week, and why I had suddenly become so competitive with others instead of just myself. It was only 2 days after my half, and the negative self-talk had to stop. This run was a cure-all. I returned home drenched with the perfect combination of sweat and rain and a giant smile pasted across my face. I had remembered how to run happy.

The Happy Girls Run half-marathon in Sisters, Oregon on November 2nd was beautiful. Central Oregon was the perfect change of scenery. Pine trees, red soil, and crisp air. Pine needles made itself a lovely ground cover intermixed with a little mud through the entirety of the 13.1 miles of single-track trail. The weather report said there was a chance of snow for the weekend of the race. Thankfully,  the frozen white stuff did not show itself the morning of the race, but the air was of the kind that cut straight to your lungs. To add to the beauty of the area, halfway through the race itself, we ran along the edge of Peterson Ridge that overlooked the little town of Sisters and the valley below. Not only was the view at once breathtaking and distracting, but the rainbow that had spread itself across the saturated grey sky increased the view tenfold. As beautiful as it was, you couldn’t stare too long. The trail was rather uneven and rocky at this point, and any glance away from the ground was a surefire way to trip and fall.

Beautiful scenery aside, this girl was anything but happy during that race. I started off like a shot. 7:30/mile pace for the first 4 miles. I ran alongside (technically directly in front of, as it was a single track trail) a woman who told me of her previous races she’d run. My favorite was the thought of running a marathon in Hawaii. Yes, please! I love how distracting conversation can be during a run. At the start of mile 5, she tells me, ‘I’m going to turn it on for a bit’ and took off. I didn’t see her until after the race.

It was a crisp 40 degrees F on race morning. The kind of cold that makes your nose run (get it, get it?). Right about this time, I reach up to wipe the snot from my nose — yes guys, girls have boogers too– when I realize just how much serous liquid is coming from my nose. But it wasn’t. The combination of a lingering sinus infection, cold air and the elevation change produced a lovely case of epistaxis. A nosebleed. During a half-marathon. Just what I wanted.

I wish I could say that I stopped, dealt with the situation properly and finished the race in good spirits. Any runner who has experienced any kind of malady or injury on a run can empathize. It is not the fact that you’re injured or experiencing some kind of systemic issue (vomiting, nose bleeds, GI distress etc.) that upsets you, it is the fact you had to stop running, slow down or take the time to recover. In my case, I was thoroughly angered by the fact that it took my nose nearly 5 minutes to stop bleeding. That was 5 minutes of vital race time lost. 5 minutes of stewing about starting out too fast. 5 minutes of watching my fellow female runners pass me by without so much as a look over their shoulder to the girl with her running glove shoved up her nose. But, I rallied.

I wasn’t happy, in case that wasn’t readily apparent. The rest of the run was spent ‘getting my mind right’ so to speak. The trail was beautiful, yes, but my mind wasn’t. I felt like I was running with a stormy black rain cloud hanging over my head, cartoon style. I had to find a mantra. “Good thoughts in (inhale), bad thoughts out (exhale.)” I ran with the dread that the 9 minute mile pacer was going to overtake me, like the Grim Reaper. He did.

I’d like to say I got happier, but all I could think about was finding that damn finish line. And wondering how terrible my time was going to be. I was frustrated by the downsides to running a race on single track trails. They’re wonderful when you’re alone, but running the same trail as a few hundred women…not so fun. Passing becomes an issue. Especially when said women haven’t been educated on proper trail etiquette. What is proper trail etiquette? Holler at the person you’re about to pass, “Passing on your left!” or “Passing on your right!” Do not wear headphones. If you must, keep only one earbud in. You’ll want to hear us when we holler. If you need to walk, step off to the side. Be kind to fellow runners. Don’t cut them off. And for goodness sake, smile! This is a happy run. Run for you. Not against the women around you.

A very fitting sticker outside Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters.

I finished in 2:04 with a 9:28/mile average. The exact same time as my first half-marathon nearly a year ago. Not exactly the new personal best I was hoping for.

Negativity and nosebleed aside, it was an amazing weekend in Central Oregon. My running buddy, amazing friend and previous employer, rocked the socks off her first half in a couple years. She came across the finish line with a smile on her face, only a few minutes after I did. Here we are just after she crossed the finish line (can we tell someone is tired?):

We stayed at a condo in Sisters all weekend, complete with a hot tub. We spent the rest of race day in Bend shopping and catching up with friends. Dinner was spent at 10 Barrels Brewery. That burger was the best I’ve ever had. As was the wood fireplace outside. Imagine sipping a beverage while sitting outside all bundled up in front of a crackling fire. The smells, the sounds, the ambiance…And then the snow started to fall. Soft, white flakes floating down from the night’s sky. It couldn’t have been a more perfect end to a race day. Good company, great friends, amazing weekend.

I may not have run like a ninja, as my socks would indicate, but I ran my heart out. I ran against every negative thought in my brain and still crossed that finish line, even though it seemed a dreadful distance away. I once again neglected finish line cupcakes, but made up for it in trail mix consumption and pastries at Sisters Coffeehouse the next day. Cupcakes at the next race, I swear!

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Gluten free cherry almond muffin. Nom.