Tough, but pretty.

I walk into the gym on a Sunday night. I’ve been stressed. I need this. Mentally ready to smash this workout, I turn on the appropriate music, Christina Aguilera. Headphones go in and I’m ready to tune out.

As I warm up, an older gentleman approaches me. I set down my dumbbells and pop out one of my earphones. The man proceeds to tell me in the kindest voice possible, “I’m not trying to flirt with you. But good, bad, or indifferent, you look a lot like Ronda Rousey, tough but pretty.” I thanked him, he wished me a good day, and walked away.

I stood there for a moment, somewhat taken aback. Oftentimes, I brush aside compliments. (Not to say that I receive them often.) I smile politely, thank the person, but I’ve always had somewhat of a rule to not let those words go to my head. Fear of too large an ego, perhaps. “Tough, but pretty” was different. It felt genuine and it not only put a smile on my face, but bolstered the rest of my workout. Tough was the last thing I’d felt in recent days, and how perfect was it to be both tough and pretty? The ultimate combination for this girl.

Random compliments are often the most genuine. However, I almost felt guilty for letting someone’s random (and heartfelt) words affect me in such a way. I had to stop and ask myself why though. Isn’t that what life should be about? In the words of Hannah Brencher, “It’s putting your selfishness on the back-burner to make sure someone else feels like they can conquer something today.” With those words, I felt like I could accomplish my workout.

It is often the small words that mean the most.


I spent a long weekend disconnecting in the beautiful PNW. I had to disconnect to reconnect, both to myself and to the world around me. The phone was put aside. The camera stayed (mostly) tucked away. I did not take many photos this weekend. Which, if you know me, is somewhat absurd and quite rare. I found myself wanting to savor the moments, the sights, the sounds, the emotions surrounding each place I visited. Instead, I took mental photos and relished in the disconnect from the stresses of the daily grind.

When the year started, instead of having New Year’s resolutions, I decided on a mantra. Something I could gently use to remind myself of what intentions I have for this year and my growth. “Do more of what makes you happy.” That is exactly what this weekend was about. Re-learning to love myself, appreciating my strengths as well as embracing my weaknesses. It was about finding happiness in the small things and remembering what it is like to show self-care and love.

So often I get caught in the day to day grind. It is all about how much I accomplish, how many checkmarks are made on the sticky note to-do list. It is about how I’m improving myself every. single. day. How clean the house is. How shiny my newest photo on IG is. Measurable daily accomplishments. At the end of the day though, I’ve started asking myself, ‘what did I do for me?’ I take ten minutes for myself and write. I set aside the phone, computer, and other distractions and pick up a paper and pen. I reflect on the day’s events and indulge in a little self-care. It is in these small moments each day that I find myself reconnecting to me.

I went for a run on the waterfront during this disconnect weekend. Nearly 7 miles of crisp air, beautiful sights, sounds, and catharsis. My lungs ached for more, more, in a way that only other runners can understand. My feet felt light and my body responded in a way that only happens once every 674 runs. Never mind that I received a number of odd looks as I was the girl in hot pink shorts in 45 degree weather with a giant smile pasted on my face. I was running happy.

It was on this run that I thought of Oiselle’s increasingly appropriate catchphrase: Head up, wings out. I used to run a lot of trails. With trail running, it is difficult to stare straight ahead. Your eyes have to be trained on the ground, lest you trip over a tree root, rock, or trip over your own two feet. I’ve done all three. I blame these trail experiences on my tendency to stare at the ground while I run.

On last weekend’s waterfront run though, I noticed just how much my eyes were trained on the pavement beneath my feet. Rather than brush it aside, I attempted to retrain my eyes to take in the sights around and in front of me. I thought of my dad when he was teaching me to drive, “Jessica, the best drivers are often looking 10 seconds in front of them to anticipate what they need to do next. Keep looking ahead.”

A couple minutes into the ‘retraining,’ I looked down at my run watch. I was running a full 30″ per mile faster by simply adjusting where I set my gaze. Let’s talk about the physical effects. Your head is up, thereby opening up your airway. Your lungs are actually getting more oxygen, which equates to more efficiency. Not only are you looking to what is ahead, you are aware of what is around you at the time, fully able to savor the moment.

How much can this apply to daily life? So often I get caught up in the day to day grind. Focusing on the to do list, the work schedule. Was this not said above? How much better off am I to focus on the sights ahead, head up and wings out.

So often, we let others’ influence and opinion govern our actions. So much of this last year, I feel as if I’ve been held back. Often chastised for my constant need to look to the future, to plan, to set goals and to set measurable objectives to reach said goals, I’ve hesitated to push for true growth. I am finally in a place in my life where I am again learning to stand on my own two feet and know what it means to be myself. I have realized how important it is to set my sights ahead and dream so big it scares my pants off. To realize that in order to enrich someone else’s life, I need to first learn how to enrich my own and be happy with me. Flaws and imperfections included. It is not weakness to be independent, opinionated, and goal oriented. I am focused. I am strong.

I am tough, but pretty.

Tutus, Snowmen, and Continuity.

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It was a clear December morning, and all I could hear was the rhythmic sound of my feet on the path, the thump-thump of my heartbeat in my ears, and the sound of each breath as I exhaled. With each exhalation, the fog of my breath steamed up my glasses. Crisp morning runs like these are my favorite. I ran without thought of pace or distance. I ran to let my mind flow with random thoughts. I ran to appreciate. I ran to reflect on the wonderful, beautiful year that is nearly over.

Last January, I wrote a post called Full of Good Intentions. Among other things, I wrote of New Years resolutions versus New Years Intentions. It made me smile during my run to think about the intentions I’d set a year ago. Last year’s mantra was, ‘wherever you are, be all there.’  The key was balance. Not only physical, but emotional as well. I think, even with my busy and sometimes ridiculous schedule, I managed to do a pretty good job of this throughout the year. One particular moment stood out in my mind. I was beyond stressed with school. -Multiple exams, large projects looming over my head, requirements in dental hygiene clinic to be fulfilled, not to mention an amount of family drama. Normally when I’m stressed, I either run or bake as therapy. In this case, I drove to the beach. With the sound of the waves crashing into the shore, the crunch of the sand beneath my feet, and the salty, brisk air slapping my face, I thought to myself, “wherever you are, be all there.” So, I did. I stood there, breathing deeply. I pushed out all other thoughts. I focused on the moment at hand, thankful to be alive, to think, to love. As my toes sank deeper into the sand, my stresses seemed to disappear with the receding tide. This is what is means to find balance.

This is not to say that I’ve achieved balance in life. Like happiness, I think finding balance is a continuous journey, as life is constantly evolving. That is why I want to set my intention for 2015 as the continuance of 2014 in finding balance. I want to find balance between school and play, social time and ‘me’ time (even if it means learning to say no), and balance between working out because it makes me happy and feels good and working out because I feel I have to.

My other intentions for 2014 were these:

  • Drink 80-100oz of water a day
  • Eat vegetables with every meal
  • Take more photos
  • Write daily
  • PR my next half and full marathon

I can happily report that I ate vegetables 3x/day and drank my quota of water >85% of this year. Now, where’s my skinny body?!

I also PR’ed my marathon in April, finishing more than 10 minutes faster than my first marathon. I did not, however, PR a half this year. The leg injury being a large factor in this.

Taking more photos and writing daily did not happen either. However, with this I provide a very well worded quote and excuse: “You can do anything, but not everything.” My 100% cannot be given to everything, and I had to decide where to place my priorities. Number one: school. Number two: keeping my sanity. I did take photos throughout the year (if the nearly 3,000 photos on my phone say anything.) I did write fairly regularly as well. (Whether this was blogging, writing in a journal, or the occasional bit of poetry.) But, I didn’t want to take two things I enjoy doing and make it something I was obligated to do. Admittedly, I should have blogged more often. I miss reaching out and helping to inspire and entertain others with my internet ramblings.

With that I say, bring on 2015! This year’s intentions:

  • Continuity of balance and personal growth
  • PR my next marathon (Bend Marathon on April 26th)
  • Run the entire length of Wildwood Trail in Forest Park (30.2 miles!)
  • Graduate Dental Hygiene school in August with my sanity still intact
  • Travel outside the country at least once
  • Continue making healthy eating choices (less processed food, more fresh fruits and vegetables)
  • Cross train! (I’ve actually already started focusing on this and cannot wait to share with you the small changes…in my next post.)

Goals. Goals should be measurable and achievable. Goals should have objectives. New Years resolutions are goals. New Years intentions are goals. Make them reasonable. Make them measurable so as to be able to track progress. I refuse to set myself up for failure.

Speaking of failing…

What does one do when it is the weekend before a Monday morning, 600 question, cumulative, all class, all day final exam? Run a half marathon whilst wearing a tutu, of course. Studying is for overachievers.

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I’m kidding. Kind of. I ran the half, yes. I also kicked out my house guests to explore Portland while I studied the rest of my weekend away. In case you were curious, I passed. Sweet relief.

The Holiday Half for the third year in a row. This was the race that started my running obsession in 2012, and this will probably be the one race I continue to repeat every year. The course is flat, the aid stations are wonderfully placed, the weather is unpredictable, and cupcakes never tasted so good as after this race. The flavor this time was chocolate with peanut buttercream frosting.

This year, I was joined again by my lovely sister, her new husband, and Eli. We all dressed as snowmen. Yes, with tutus. And buttons. And orange noses. And mini top hats. As many of you readers know, I have a particular love for doing activities with tutus (Especially this one.) I had only gone so far as to run a 15k in a tutu, but never a half-marathon. It worked out great. For the first time though, we made all of the tutus!

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Two bottles of wine, 15 felt buttons, 4 elastic waistbands, and 32 yards of shiny white tulle later, we had our costumes. The tutus took more tulle than I thought they would. But overall, I loved making them!

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The race itself was fantastic. The weather was perfection. Clear blue skies and brisk, but warm enough to wear shorts and be fairly comfortable. The four of us stayed together the whole run. However,  the dude on the far left of the photo above rocked the socks off his race way ahead of us. I’d like to think he would’ve run faster if he had worn a tutu…

The only downside to the race? My 3 asthma attacks. Yes, 3. And, I even had my inhaler. As I was struggling to breathe, I reflected back to my Pharmacology class and tried to remember what the maximum recommended dose of Albuterol was…to no avail. So, I took another pull off my inhaler. The struggle was real.

I am so thankful to my wonderful family for sticking with me through the entire race, even when I had to walk and wheeze. We ran, we laughed, we sang too many Frozen songs, but most of all, we enjoyed ourselves. -And ate cupcakes at the finish line. Because that is what running is about.

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Happy 2015, everyone! Here’s to another year of balance, growth, and many, many adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And On To The Next One

Happy 2013 all!

Instead of donning 5-inch stilettos and a little black dress for the holiday, Lexi and I ran into the New Year. We put on spandex, running shoes, and many layers to bust out a 5k at the stroke of midnight.

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It was -1 C and freezing. We didn’t have cupcakes at the finish line for this race (we’re not in-training yet!), so we pretended.

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For all intents and purposes, this was a fun run. We didn’t care about time or pace. Besides, I’d just consumed a rather large bowl of pho prior to beginning the race. real smart.

But it is never a pleasant sight when your run is rudely interrupted by a train. Yes, a train.

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I am fairly certain we stood there for 3 or 4 minutes. So much for a new PR.
That aside, the run was completed with smiles and frozen fingers. Oh, and despite the lack of cuppycakes, there was beer and many other goodies to feast upon. And heat lamps. God bless heat lamps.

After the half marathon, I had every intention of slowing down. You know, resting that blasted hip of mine…I think I took a week off, maybe even 8 days. But really, how can one resist trail runs on the Oregon coast?

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Case in point. You don’t see that on a treadmill.
Or this:

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Knee-deep puddles, mud, rain and wind.

Love. I’m in love with trail running. I’m in love with the feeling of every foot beat on the ground. I’m in love with finding new running partners and inspiring others to dig out their running shoes, reach into their soul for that inner badass that is dying to run a half-marathon. I’m in love with setting goals and reaching them.

Which brings me to my next point. It is a new year. And, I’m not in to New Year’s resolutions. Because, honestly, I cannot ever stick to them. But. I’ve made it a goal to run another half-marathon. As has Lexi. And a couple of our aforementioned awesome friends will be training with us, if we can keep them motivated. Cupcakes, guys, come on!

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The Inaugural Hop Hop Half is March 24th. That is exactly 11 weeks from now. The perfect amount of time for a training program.

We will be sporting bunny ears and a bunny tail. And giant smiles. With cupcakes at the finish. Of course.

I hope to be a bit more diligent about keeping all ya’ll informed as to my training and such this time around. School tends to get in the way of my best intentions, it seems.

20130106-234608.jpgThis week, I managed 3 short runs. Around a 5k for each, at an easy pace. No treadmill running for this girl!

My cross training this week? Cross country skiing! This photo is the Swampy Shelter on Mt. Bachelor’s 8 mile Swampy Loop trail. This hut was a welcome sight halfway through our trek. I was in Bend visiting a few friends. One of which is an avid skier and led us on quite the trail.

Yes, everyone. Cross country skiing can be difficult. Especially when you fall 8,264 times in one day. And are afraid of going downhill and ending up in a pretzeled mess at the bottom. Like me.

That being said, after the skiing adventure, we rewarded ourselves with…CUPCAKES! Is it acceptable that I skied for cupcakes this week instead of run?

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11 weeks to go. A sore hip and a burning desire. Cake. Cupcakes, that is. I’ve been reading this book, Born To Run. It is hopeless. Running is an addiction, and this book is a fuel to my fire. It is un-put-down-able. I have fallen asleep the last two nights while reading it into the wee hours of the morning. More on that next time though. I’d like to write about it once I’ve finished it. All I have to say is, maybe an ultra-marathon isn’t totally out of my reach…

One more thing before I go. An explanation of my last blog post title, “Pants Dance.” Up until the half-marathon, I hated running in pants. They were uncomfortable, they got in the way, they rubbed my thighs weird. I still dislike running in pants. But I’ve realized that they serve a purpose. That purpose is to keep you warm when it’s cold. And wet. So, I decided to embrace them for the half. I chose a lovely shade of red, don’t you think? At the start line, as I was fumbling with my phone to set up Nike+ and Spotify, I was doing a bit of a dance…The pants dance. It may become a start line ritual. Who knows.

And one last photo. This is Detroit Lake (The same place Lexi and I did our mud run in October) today on my way home from Bend. Just a little bragging. I am so damn thankful to call Oregon my home. The PNW is amazing.

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