“She Thinks She’s Fast.”

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Life. Life is about perspective. Your perception is your reality.

You could go to a concert and think the singer had an amazing voice. You would walk away satisfied with the band’s performance. As you discussed it later, you’d stare at your friends in disbelief when they all agreed it was the worst concert they’d ever heard. It doesn’t matter that you all saw the same performance. You perceived the artist as doing well. Your friends did not.

So often this is true of life. Your perception is your reality.

I was running last week and came upon a man doing the sign dance on a street corner. You know the type I’m talking about; usually waving about tax help, mattresses, or in this case, $9.99 Large pepperoni pizzas at Round Table. He had his headphones in, and as I passed him, he muttered under his breath, “Hah. She thinks she’s fast.”

…Excuse me, sir? Just because you have headphones in does not mean that I cannot hear you speak! I fumed about it for the next few minutes as I continued down the road. Who does he think he is? I’m not slow. I’m a damn runner, not a jogger.

And then I realized something: that was his perception. And, you know what? He’s right. I do think I’m fast. That is my perception. I am faster than I was yesterday. I am faster than I was two months ago when I was stuck in Das Boot. I am faster than the demons in my brain that I shake out with every footfall on the pavement. I may not be Meb Keflezighi, Kara Goucher, Lauren Fleshman, or Nick Symmonds. But, I consistently put one foot in front of the other and keep going. That is my reality.

Speaking of reality, it has hit me hard of late. Coming back from an injury is a very humbling and drawn out process. My last marathon was in April, and I’ve hardly written since then. I really think there’s a correlation between a good run and a good blog post. In fact, I would venture to say that I derive my inspiration for writing from my running. No running = No writing.

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But, I’m baaaaack! It has been an incredibly slow process, with lots of listening to my body. It’s taken patience to realize that I couldn’t just jump back into 20 mile trail runs; that 3 miles was asking a lot of my weakened leg. It has taken humility to accept that I’m not as fast as I used to be. And, it has taken a positive attitude to fight all of that mental negativity that comes along with this process.

I want to catch you all up on the process and all of my adventures had over the summer. However, this will be in a separate blog post that I promise I am already working on! Be ready for a photo gallery.

For now, my first race since the injury, the Prefontaine Memorial 10k in Coos Bay. A race I ran last year, and also a few years back in my primary school days.

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Overall, a great race. The weather was perfection. Seventy degrees and clear, blue skies. I really love races in small towns. The atmosphere was so happy and relaxed. It allowed me to achieve that calm, pre-race zen that I love so much. I’ve come to realize that I’m not the competitive type, though I wish I was. I run to compete against myself and myself only. Those other people ahead of me? I’ve heard the whole ‘reel em in’ trick to push yourself. I usually just critique their form and wonder how mine is. The thought of passing them does not even enter my silly mind.

So, the Pre. I sadly went out too fast. I was pacing 2 minutes faster per mile than what I wanted for the first 3 miles. By the time dreaded Agony Hill came around, I was spent. My shin started acting up and so did my asthma. My immediate thought, as I stepped off to the side of the road unable to breathe, was this, “Jessica, you forgot your inhaler. You ran too hard. Your training schedule is a mess. You have a marathon in two weeks and you cannot even run six miles?! You are so full of excuses.” So, I started running again. Damn that negative self-talk.

About that time, this lovely pixie of a runner comes up alongside me. She says to me, as I’m having a very active argument with my brain, “Mind if I pace with you? You’re making this look easy right now.” You must be joking. But, of course I agreed. She came out all the way from Chicago to run this race and be my absolute savior because Steve Prefontaine was her idol. We pushed and paced each other all the way to the finish line, sprinting the last 200 meters. I truly could not have done it without her. Thank you, running gods!

While I was busy wishing I was taking a nap or eating Nutella (damn blerch) around mile 4, this guy was already crossing the finish line, 45th out of 830+ people.

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To think he was going to pace with me, finishing 400th. Hah! An absolute badass. I am so proud of him for ditching me and embracing the race spirit. I’ll get there someday. For now, a great race. Negative self-talk aside. I still crossed the finish line, didn’t I? A great weekend full of amazing people. A great way to get back into the groove. Less than two weeks until autumn’s best race, the Portland Marathon. I could not be more excited (and nervous)!

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Happy first day of autumn! I celebrated with a spectacular run on the waterfront in my new pair of pretties (New Balance Minimus wr10’s)! Just shy of double digits to break them in and catch up with one of my best friends. A run is truly the best way to cultivate a friendship. Sweating, spitting and swearing included. Love.

Current song on repeat:

 

 

Am I a fast runner? Yes. That is my perception. Am I fast as compared to others? No. But do I compare myself to others? Not in the slightest. Be happy, be you. Your perception is your reality.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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):