November is Awesome!

I know, I know, it’s an unwelcome month when it comes to weather. We in the Pacific Northwest are just now receiving the gifts of our true autumn – i.e., the onset of nine months of rain. Around the world, (well, in our hemisphere anyway) we simultaneously squeal with happiness about the upcoming holidays and groan as we think of the many plights of winter.

But cheer up! There are SO many reasons to love November.

Movember – (and No Shave November) – This is one of the most unique fund raisers I’ve ever seen. Even in Portland, where ironic mustaches abound for miles, the ‘staches come out of the woodwork in support of a cure for prostate cancer. It’s a creative and hilarious way to encourage awareness and raise funds for a serious cause. There are the usual ways to participate, like donating funds and, of course, growing your own ‘stache, but there are also ways for “mo sistas” and those of “Generation Mo” who are unable to grow bewhiskered finery, such as Mo Running events, Mo Parties, and utilizing social media to get the word out. #Movember

Photo provided by us.movember.com
Photo provided by us.movember.com

Blogember – This is a great way to stretch those writing muscles, especially if you’re not participating in NaNoWriMo. You must write every day, whether it is from a list of prompts, or on topics from your very own noggin. Check out the Blogember link above to get some fantastic ideas. Happy writing!

NaNoWriMo – You know I had to give this its own section. I love love LOVE this program. Not only is it fun to write a terribly horribly mad-scramble novel in 30 days, but it is also a great platform for the fundraisers that the Office of Letters and Light put on for the writers of our future generations.

Thanksgiving! Enough said.

GO H.A.R.D. – Hug a Runner Day – (November 20) You all should know by now that I love running…and hugging…and if you didn’t know, here is a picture of my 2013 Halloween costume. Hug Therapist! That makes it official. So go on, hug your runner friends tightly on November 20th and spread the mutha-huggin love.

#HugLife
#HugLife

Speaking of running (I had to save the best for last), my last reason November is awesome is that I’m doing a REGISTRATION GIVEAWAY for the HOT CHOCOLATE RUN! That’s right! Free stuff! Wooo!

What is the Hot Chocolate Run? Well, you should have read my last blog post about it, but if you didn’t, here’s the scoop. You choose a 5k or 15k distance. You choose the city you want to run in. The beneficiary is Ronald McDonald House Charities. The race ends with CHOCOLATE. I’m talking a LOT of it. In fact, don’t take my word for it, read it straight from the website:

The chocolate really begins to flow at the Post Race Party where runners enjoy music, a family friendly kid-zone (complete with bounce houses and games) and a finisher’s mugs filled with hot chocolate, chocolate fondue and tasty dippable treats! 

And did you see the goody bag??

SO AWESOME!!
SO AWESOME!!


But wait! There’s more. If you don’t happen to win the free registration, you can sign up using my promo code CURIOUSMUG and get even more super cool swag! Join me in Seattle in March 2014 or choose from one of 13 other cities (For my Ohio buddies, this includes Columbus – and it’s next week!).

How do you enter this fabulous giveaway? Simply leave a comment on this post telling me why you started running. Let’s see em, people. You have until November 12th to enter. That’s next Tuesday, so get cracking! I will notify the winner next week. Good luck!

Seattle Trip + BIG NEWS!

Recently I went to Seattle to meet up with my friend Mandy. She lives in Washington DC but is a jet setter around the world for her journalism career. (This girl is totally inspiring!) She happened to be teaching a conference from Wednesday–Friday, and asked me if I wanted to meet up with her for a weekend of fun. Obviously I said yes! I hopped on an Amtrak train at noon on Friday, and when I arrived at King Street Station I was swiftly carried away to my downtown hotel, transported by a cheerful cab driver, where I was soon presented with beautiful downtown Seattle.

--GORGEOUS!--
–GORGEOUS!–

It was a great time to travel, as the autumn rains hadn’t completely set in yet. In fact, it was a flawless sunny weekend, a rare treat in October for the Pacific Northwest. We took full advantage.

We checked out some local gems that first night, starting with the complementary happy hour in our hotel. Free wine every night at 5:00? Yes, please! A fabulous dinner at Ivar’s Acres of Clams and a flight of beers at Pike Brewing found us befriending a grizzled chocolatier named Vladimir (Could he be the man of my dreams? *insert fantasies of living in Willy Wonka’s world here*) who then invited us to visit him at his chocolate factory the next day.

Both being runners, we wanted to test out our legs in a new city, so we ran along the beautiful waterfront Saturday morning and up into the hills for a very challenging run. We richly rewarded ourselves later with a delicious brunch at Planet Java and, of course, a visit to Vladimir’s chocolate factory. Filled with sweet delights, Mandy and I took to the water and took a ferry to Bainbridge Island.

Planet Java's retro counter and stools
Planet Java’s retro counter and stools


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In the evening, we took a cue from our younger years and decided to hit the energetic nightlife in Capitol Hill to go dancing. Seattle, you did not disappoint. There seemed to be a huge variety of places, from your typical club scene to niche bars, to hipster joints to punk rock palaces. We stayed up way past our bedtime and had a blast doing it.

The next day, Mandy had to leave early to catch a flight, so after breakfast I was on my own to explore. I chose to visit the EMP (Experience Music Project) and Science Fiction Museum. I had heard about the excellent exhibits and was curious to check them out, especially the Nirvana exhibit. I grew up in the grunge era and have fond memories of the grunge era, Nirvana and Alice in Chains especially. I also very much enjoyed The Lure of the Horror Film. My dad, should he ever step foot in Seattle, would go completely gaga over this exhibit. He raised me with the classics, and they were all represented at the EMP. There were original costumes and props from movies, mini documentaries about the many horror sub-genres, a screaming booth, a monster timeline, and more. It was seriously cool.

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Seattle is incredible! I definitely created lots of memories to take away with me, and I can’t wait to make more. Give me more than two days and see what happens then!

After I left, all I could think was that I wanted to go back sooner than later. Well, I got my wish! I’m excited to announce that I am collaborating with RAM Racing Series as an ambassador for the Seattle Hot Chocolate 5k/15k 2014! (It’s perfect for me, don’t you think?) This is great news for me and even better news for you. I get to be a part of a fantastic event that is raising money for a worthy charity (Ronald McDonald House) and YOU can join me for a weekend of fun, running, and of course, chocolate! Even better, if you sign up with my promo code, CURIOUSMUG, you not only get the amazing goodie bag (see below for details), you also get a bonus gift because you are awesome and read my blog. This is my chance to give back to you for being such loyal readers and all-around amazing people!

2013-HC-this-is-your-goodie-bag_WITH-sizing-chart

You can sign up today, OR you can wait for my next post, because guess what? I’M GIVING AWAY A FREE REGISTRATION TO ONE LUCKY READER! That’s right! Stay tuned for my registration give-away, and in the meantime, mark your calendars for March 2, 2014.

Last Days of Summer/Autumn Serenade

Is it possible we are actually having an Indian summer in Portland? The sunshine this week, after a few days of extremely hard rain, feels lovely. It’s not what we expect here in the Northwest, that’s for sure, but I know I’m not the only one who has welcomed it back for a small break before the hardcore rain shatters our peaceful evening walks.

The changing of the seasons can be rough at first. We all have different reactions to it. The first hard rain of the autumn gets me so excited for boots and tights and all the fun clothes that come with them. Then, the doldrums set in, and I have to readjust all of my routines. Instead of sunscreen every morning, I have to choose which scarf to wear. I have to remember that my umbrella or rain jacket should always be within reach, and those flats I wore all summer will likely get soaked outside, even if I am just taking a stroll down the block for lunch.

Why else do I love fall?

The brisk winds that make my hair fly every which way.

The excuse to stay in and be a bookworm.

Snuggling up with soft blankets (or whatever snuggly friend is hanging out with me) and putting on a movie.

The beauty of the leaves falling with grace.

That extra helping of holiday happiness. I’ve got a friend who, for years, swore up and down she hated every season but summer here in Oregon. Now, every year around the end of October/start of November, she gets positively giddy with holiday happiness. When we lived together I’d find little holiday presents dropped onto my bed when I wasn’t looking, or yummy holiday teas in the cupboard. And holiday happiness is contagious. Spread the happy rash, people! Changing seasons are fantastic.

Last but not least…the fun fall races! October and November races can be some of the best all year. (Truth be told, though, spring races are my favorite.) If you like to dress up, you’ve got a multitude of choices: Run Like Hell is a classic. Terrapin Events puts on a great race! They pick a different theme every year and it’s always a good one. There are tons of other creepy holiday runs coming up as well, including The Zombie Run, Halloweenathon, Zombie Apocalypse Run (this weekend!!), Dawn of the Dead Dash, and Run For Your Lives. (This one is in Seattle – a fun destination run for those who like to get out of town with a group of friends.)

dash of the dead
Courtesy of The Zombie Run website

Speaking of friends and holidays, what do you do for Halloween? Do you have any autumn traditions? What is your favorite fall month? I have to say that mine is probably November. First of all, it is National Novel Writing Month, so obviously, tons of points there. Then there’s Thanksgiving. I love cooking up all sorts of fun cold weather foods and spending time with family, but I also look forward to Friends Thanksgiving! A group of friends and I get together every year and prepare an amazing feast. It’s a great time to catch up with people and, if we’re so led, head out to a bar after we stuff ourselves and get silly! This year we’re adding to the fun and doing the Ugly Sweater Run along with the traditional dinner. I can’t wait!

Whether your idea of awesome autumn frolicking is running, eating, carving pumpkins, getting spooked at a scary corn maze, or just observing the changes in nature, I expect you to love the next few months and stomp in those mud puddles with cheer when they come, because we all know they will be coming soon.

 

HUZZAH!

Guess what, guys? I have been cleared to run!

Cat happy-10

I’m not completely out of the woods yet. I’ve still got quite a bit of work to do to get back to normal. I’m allowed to do short, slow runs. Baby steps. There will be a lot of form improvement and core strengthening necessary in addition to the actual running. I won’t be signing up for a half marathon any time soon, but I’m just relieved that I can start the process. SO, WOOHOO!

*         *         *         *

I wrote that about a week ago. I still have not run. Apparently, getting back to running is not simply about putting on the shoes and heading out the door. It takes a level of preparedness that I haven’t needed since I first began running three years ago.

Normally, there are days when I’m tired and I don’t want to go, but 90% of the time I am able to suck it up and go a mile or two at the very least. Since the car accident, I get fatigued very easily, and need much more sleep than is normal for me. This fatigue has been the #1 reason I haven’t had the chance to get out there, and it’s very disheartening. Newer still is a nagging fear that because it has been so long, I’ll have lost my drive for it altogether.

Realistically I don’t think this will happen; every time I see someone running outside, I feel this pulsing in my heart and a longing to be in that person’s shoes. The difference between wanting to run and actually tying my shoelaces, though, is the big difference.

I won’t push it. Eventually I’ll get there. I promised myself I would take it slow through this process of healing, and I am keeping that promise. I refuse to shame myself into thinking I’m being lazy or not working hard enough. When it’s time, I’ll know. I recognize that it will feel exciting and daunting at the same time. I may run a mile; I may be able to run three. No matter what the timing, how far the distance, it will be the most important step of the long route back to my running goals.

The Human Race—My Eugene Half Marathon Recap

Last weekend I ran a half marathon in Eugene, Oregon, only two weeks after the Boston bombings.

I’ll admit, I was feeling a little skittish about it right after all the drama happened, but as the day grew near, I could feel the support and anticipation building, and I was able to get excited again. When I drove down to Eugene and picked up my packet at the health and wellness expo, I got REALLY excited. As I noted in my last blog post, the running community is a strong one, and there are probably very few towns that are more supportive of running than Eugene, a.k.a., Tracktown USA. Last weekend, many elite athletes and hobbyists had come to this mecca to celebrate the amazing sport of running.

WOW. Ladies and gentlemen, it is called Tracktown USA for a reason! The joy in this first day of the marathon event was truly palpable. There were smiles to comrades and strangers alike, hugs and excited conversations between friends. I didn’t know anyone else running the race, but I could feel the warmth of the community pulsing through the pre-race expo in waves. There were several memorials to Boston as well, and I experienced them with a somber but hopeful outlook.

That evening I went to bed rip-roaringly early. I took two melatonin pills to aid in a quick sleep, and ate my carbs like a good girl—early bird style. Then I climbed into bed, ready to see the Sandman…and lay there for the next four hours. I tried everything to get to sleep. I played rain sounds on YouTube. I tried telling myself a story. I tried fantasizing. I visualized a gentle stream. Nothing worked. I would have considered asking my host to come in and tell me a bedtime story, but he had gone out for the night knowing that his guest would not want to party hard that evening. I don’t think I ever actually got any quality REM sleep, but I know I eventually closed my eyes for a short while. I wasn’t too worried; I knew there was no chance I could actually fall asleep while on the course, but I was certainly frustrated. Doing this half marathon on my own was a BIG DEAL. I had never run a race alone, much less one of this caliber. The nerves, apparently, were kicking hard.

The alarm went off and I leaped out of bed. Well, I got out of bed anyway. I had pre-laid my clothes on top of my travel bag and arranged my breakfast food just-so in the refrigerator the night before, so my race preparation was flawless. There should be an Olympic category for this. I would win.

I got to the shuttle parking lot right on time, and had a blessedly uneventful ride to Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon. From there the start of the race was terrifyingly close at hand. I took a last minute stop at the porta-potties and got in line in my corral, a.k.a., the corral for the fast-at-heart runners, a.k.a., the turtle runners. My peeps. When corral D finally made it to the starting line, I was ready, and calm. I thanked my body in advance, queued up my watch, and prepared for greatness.

A few general notes before I describe my awesome half marathon finish:  Eugene is GORGEOUS. I mean, Oregon in general is pretty amazing; we are bordered by an ocean coast, have snow-capped mountains, trees for days, and a super-cool desert too. We almost literally have it all here. Eugene really blew me away, though. I made notes to myself to come back as soon as possible for the many hiking and drinking possibilities alone, if not also to visit my host, Eric. He has always come up to Portland for visits, because, as you may know if you live in Portland, it is the sweetest place on planet Earth. I truly believe Portlandians can be a little pig-headed and snobby when it comes to our city. I am guilty of it. (That could be a topic for a whole new blog post.) In other words, I hadn’t given Eugene a fair shake. I now stand corrected. Especially if you’re a runner, you must go to Eugene for a visit or a race.

The feeling of exhilaration and support was to the extreme. People from all walks of life, not just fans and family of the runners, were out cheering, waving banners, hoola-hooping, playing “Eye of the Tiger” with their 10-piece ukulele band (seriously), giving high-fives, dancing on the sidewalks in costume, and riding bikes with boom boxes attached playing upbeat songs to keep us motivated. It was unreal. I had been afraid that running 13.1 miles solo would get tedious. I had a store of monologues ready to go in my head for when I started flagging. Not once did I need to use them. All the colorful sights and music were fantastically distracting. I barely noticed I was running! In fact, the first two miles, I was so excited that when I looked at my watch I realized I was running 10 minute miles, and normally I run at a pace closer to 11:30 minute miles!

In a special bonus, Eric and I realized that mile marker 6 was practically in his backyard, so he got out of bed just to meet me on the course to take pictures and run a few blocks with me. It was a priceless experience.

The run ended back at Hayward Field. I ran around the track towards the big clock, and, as I used my last burst of energy to cross the finish line, I saw that there were hundreds of people in the stands. It was insane! I’ve never experienced a race where the host town and race organizers were so breathtakingly awesome. (I really wish I could find a better word here, but I really can’t.) I almost cried a few times…it was very emotional and overwhelming.

That night Eric and I went to celebrate with dinner, but I felt really awful afterwards so I had him take me home. That was a big bummer because I really wanted to see more of Eugene, and he wanted to take me out to celebrate. Usually I am okay to party after a half marathon, but there really was a huge difference in my body after RUNNING the whole thing as opposed to running/walking it. (Did I also mention that I shaved SEVEN minutes off of my previous half marathon time? Yay for getting a new PR!)

I will be doing this race every year until I can no longer run. It is a standout event, and I’m SO glad I went! No words describe how PROUD I am of doing it on my own, but in my heart I knew it would be great because I could never truly be alone running side-by-side with this wonderful community of people.

Ready for greatness!
Ready for greatness!
100_2225
Surprise! Eric jumped on the course to run with me for a minute.

iBelong

When I heard about the Boston Bombings, my heart dropped into my stomach. It wasn’t because I had loved ones at the marathon, but because I feel so strongly connected to the running community, my community. I simply could not comprehend how anyone would want to hurt a group of people who were participating in an event so pure-minded and non-political.

If I may be honest here, I have a confession to make. The outrage and pain I felt last Monday was 100 times anything I felt on 9/11. Now, I can absolutely tell you where I was and what exactly I was doing when 9/11 occurred—even more so because I didn’t just happen to pick up my smart phone and read it on Facebook. It was a happening. I was in college, picking up a cyberwrap for lunch in the café on the main floor in the student center. People started pouring in, unbelieving and in tears, telling everyone that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. My roommate and I swiftly left and holed up in our apartment, staring aghast at the tv for the next several days. I was horrified for the people that were there and who had loved ones, and felt assaulted on behalf of my country, but I also felt blessedly removed from the whole thing. It stuck with me, of course, like it stuck with every American, but I was able to leave it behind me, to a certain extent.

But Monday’s event stayed with me. In my heart, every single person there was a brother or sister, and I had a front row seat to their anguish. This is because I am a part of a thriving and loving community. It’s not just my close friends or Portland runners that I associate with. I read runners’ blogs written by people all over the earth. When I comment on their blogs, they acknowledge me like family, when in real life we have never seen each other’s faces or touched. I can’t explain the closeness I have come to feel with these people, but I value it so much.

In addition to the events in Boston, I also learned that a pillar of the salsa community passed away recently. I was never more than an acquaintance to Manuel, but I do recall being genuinely warmed by his presence at the small taqueria on Sunday evenings where I go salsa dancing. I imagine he was well into his eighties by the time I met him, but he obviously made a big impression on the salsa community. It touched me to see the memorials to him. I never even knew his last name, but he was important to me because he represented all the generations of salsa lovers uniting. His death got me thinking about my own send off. I don’t mean to be morbid here, but I think it’s perfectly natural to wonder who is going to show up at your funeral.

All of this lead me to start pondering my “place.” I’m one of those people who has always belonged to multiple groups. I consider myself a card carrying member of the salsa and running communities, obviously, but also belly dancers, Quakers, hikers, and I’m sure there are others. I have always felt the need to categorize everything, including my friendships. Some people say that it is not important, that the world is our friendship circle, so why bother to categorize. It is not my intent to exclude anyone, but I also believe strongly that every person in my life is in my life for a specific reason. Having these groups helps me keep track of their lessons and at the same time allows me to bring others together to experience those lessons as well.

Who do we turn to when bad things happen? Our loved ones. The people who can somehow make it all better, or at least try, when things get hairy. Life thrives on love. So if we indulge ourselves once in a while by being corralled into certain groups of people, I’m okay with it. As long as the net around the corral is open to the flow, there will always be enough of me to go around, and it makes me stronger knowing that I have a community of friends right alongside me when bad things happen.

Body Mass Index vs. Body Acceptance

Ever since I moved to the west coast, I’ve been bolstered by the awareness and high regard for healthy lifestyles. My first job in Portland was at L.A. Weight Loss as a receptionist. (Unfortunately, the company is now defunct because Corporate got greedy and prioritized profit from “magical fat burning pills” than actual weight loss support.) When I was hired, I weighed 195 pounds (Wow, that is hard to see in print.). The hiring manager asked me if I would be interested in participating in the plan if I were hired. Um, YEAH. While she never said it was a requirement, I would have been an idiot not to at least try it. Did I mention employees got it for free, plus half off all products? I lost 60 pounds over the 9 months that I worked there. It was a very strict but amazing plan—easiest to utilize when working at the company and living with your store manager. After leaving the company, I gained some of it back, and, having not yet conquered my desired lowest weight, I tried Weight Watchers, which seemed easier because you could have things like chocolate (all in moderation) and log your meals online, while with LAWL, you could not until you were ready for weight maintenance.

Since moving on from WW, I still receive a lot of emails. (Rejoin for only $6 a week! Stay away from that muffin-top with these amazing dessert recipes! WW success stories! MyFitnessPal sux!) The other day I got one about careers. I read the description and was curious enough to open the link. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about going to back to school, and a career in community health has been on my mind, so I was interested to read about what types of jobs are out there.

So, I click the Careers link.

Right at the bottom, this caveat: Upon hire, must be within 2 pounds of the Body Mass Index (BMI) healthy weight-goal range.

Wow. Now, I get it, there is a draw to seeing what you want to look like after completing the program. And granted, it wouldn’t look good to have an entire staff of obese people working at a weight loss clinic, but come on! If I was actually weight/height proportionate (at 5’1”, I am supposed to weigh 106-115 pounds), I wouldn’t have the beautiful curves that I have come to appreciate. I wouldn’t have enough of a belly to truly bellydance. Though I am a little larger than I’d like, I am at my healthiest—not because I’m skinny, but because I have taken up running and eating healthy foods. I am incredibly proud of where I am with my health and body today. I would be willing to bet that if I challenged a handful of “healthy” Weight Watchers employees to run a half marathon beside me, they couldn’t do it. While I understand the goal of Weight Watchers in providing healthy-looking mentors, I think perhaps they should rethink their definition of “mentor.”

While working at LAWL, I got comments daily on my amazing transformation. I obtained the nickname “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” and got my “before” and “after” pictures put up on the Wall of Fame in the office. You know what I noticed when my assistant was around? The clients didn’t bond with or respect her nearly as much. She was skinny. She was probably 110 pounds soaking wet. I’m willing to bet her “healthiness” had as much to do with auspicious genetics and a speedy metabolism than anything else, since she walked around the office with one of those monster-sized candy-bar-in-a-cup Starbucks drinks every day. The clients scoffed around her. When she expressed her sympathies about how difficult the program was, I could practically hear their thoughts. How the hell would you know what I’m going through, you skinny bitch? You know what? I thought the same thing when she said it to me. How would she know?

Losing the bulk of the weight completely changed my life, and I’ve never been happier with my body as I am right now, but I am nowhere near 106 pounds. I wish there was a caveat for body acceptance for lifestyle-changing companies like Weight Watcher’s, because someone with a different view on healthy can undeniably change a life.

Trade-offs

I was reading the always-entertaining, usually-funny-but-sometimes-serious blog, Shut Up and Run, on my lunch break today.  Normally, this blog is about the funnier side of running. For example, on her FAQ page, number 3 states:

Q: You seem fixated on bodily functions, why? Isn’t that gross and inappropriate?

A: Let’s get real. Everyone poops, farts, vomits, pees, sharts. The shart is my favorite because it’s such a surprise. Sometimes we do these things in the most inopportune of moments. But, we all do it. I like to tell my own stories to let people know they’re not alone. I do it for the greater good.

I love this blog because not only does it make me giggle, it also makes me think about and truly appreciate being someone who runs…a runner. It means a lot for me to be able to say that with a straight face. It’s also not just about signing up for a 5k and being able to physically move my legs. It’s a lot more than that. I have found qualities in myself that I never knew existed—the good ones, but also my limitations.

The post entitled More of This, Less of That in 2013 caught my eye and stayed with me. The list really got me thinking about what “resolutions” I could be working on in the new year and now that would improve my life. I will make a list of my own here, but you should really click on the link to read the original. It’s truly inspiring! Here are some of my own:

More ME time, less time feeling pressured to go out (partying in moderation obviously welcomed!)
More sleeping, less night-time Facebooking
More eye contact, less sheepish self-consciousness for no reason
Even MORE faith in the journey, less control freakishness over the little things
More writing, less complaining about how little I write
More loving, less pining
More body respect, less ignoring “gut” instincts

Speaking of gut instincts…that is a popular saying for a reason, people. Over the holiday break, I woke up one morning with a pain in my gut so intense that I ended up going to the emergency room on Christmas Eve. Have you ever experienced a ruptured ovarian cyst? Let me just tell you that it feels like someone is ripping out your insides with a pair of rusty pliers. I knew the pain was something foreign, but before I allowed myself the indulgence of recognizing that something was truly wrong, I asked about 15 people their opinion. Some people said to wait it out, that it would go away. Some people advised me to go straight to the ER. I got a heating pad and lots of tea, and tried to wait it out. That was dumb. Always LISTEN to your body. If it is telling you that the stabby feeling is bad, don’t feel like it’s not worth your time to get it checked out. It’s worth it.

In running as in life, there is always some philosophical feel-good hooey that ends up coming out of a crappy experience. (Oh, you sharted during an important race? That’s okay, you ended up writing a hilarious story about it and becoming an internet sensation!)

I may have been on bed rest for the last week, but I got so many things accomplished (like taking some real time to sleep!), and, most of all, I am glad I listened to my body. It’s a simple concept, but slowing down and checking in with yourself is a valuable lesson. And hey, it may take a little while to read the signs. I went from having a UTI last week to a ruptured cyst on Christmas Eve to falling and almost breaking my nose in the shower this morning (TMI?). Some of us are a little thick headed!! Cut yourself a break, but be sure and say thank you to your body and forgive your limitations. Recognize that some trade-offs might need to be made, and make your list.

See you in the new year!

Vegas Really Big Free Half Marathon Recap

Las Vegas is CRAZY. The minute I got off the plane, I could tell that I was not in my natural territory. I have never felt claustrophobic, but this place could bring that feeling out of anyone, I am 100% sure. I was so overwhelmed by everything. It was huge, loud, hot, bright, smelly, and I couldn’t figure out how to get out of my damn hotel! When I arrived on Friday, I basically just held on for the ride. I didn’t want to make any decisions, I just wanted someone to grab my leash and lead me. This worked out well, since most of my friends had been in Vegas before and knew the right places to show me for my inaugural stroll. We walked around A LOT and had dinner at the Harley Davidson Café, which was decent. Their portions were huge, so Alicia and I split the chicken parmagiana. It was just what we needed, lots of pre-race carbs. We also went to CVS and bought crackers, Oreos, Skittles…all sorts of bad stuff that you’re allowed to eat when you’re doing a half marathon. Heh heh.

Saturday we had to wake up at 4:45 AM, ouch. We all met in the lobby and saw the stragglers from the night before looking pretty darn haggard! The drive was 45 minutes to Boulder Beach at Lake Mead. The organizers started both the marathon and the half marathon later than announced because it was so dark outside…not sure why they didn’t think of that before… Good thing, though, because the line of cars to get into the park was unbelievably long!!! Once we got there and got in the race lineup, it was all good.

The race was HOT. It was HILLY. The first half was incredibly HARD. The elevation gain was “only” 380 feet, which, when I think of that in hiking terms is absolutely nothing. Running, though, it’s a different story. I had to walk quite a bit during the first half, but still, we kept good time. Alicia and I ran together for about three quarters of the race and then she broke off and went ahead. The second half was smoother. I found my pace and it was a lot of downhill, but they took away one of the aid stations so I was just dying of thirst!! We didn’t carry water with us because A) it’s a huge pain in the ass on a longer run, and B) there were supposed to be water stations every one-two miles. They were there in the beginning but they shut one of them down prematurely, which really pissed me off. But what do you do? Unfortunately, there isn’t a vending machine on the trail, so I had to suck it up and keep going!

The final section was all downhill, and you’re staring straight at the finish line for what seems an eternity! Behind it was Lake Mead. It was SO beautiful! I looked at my watch, I ran, I looked at my watch, I wiped my sweaty face, I ran some more…finally I saw my friends waiting for me and cheering me on! I crossed the finish line TWENTY minutes faster than my last half marathon time!!!! AMAZING! My hardcore training totally paid off!

Feeling like I earned my bad ass rep!
My post-race relaxation

 

The most humble people in Las Vegas

That night we did the obligatory partying. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hang, considering my amazing accomplishment of 13.1 miles (and a too-short nap), but my friends and I danced and frolicked until the second time the clock struck 2:00 AM (Daylight Savings weekend)! I will not go into further details here to protect the not-so-innocent. The next day I paid for it, but I managed to get outside because it was beautiful and 80 degrees. When you live in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t argue when sunshine is offered up. You just take it.

And THAT is how I do Vegas!

The Pain is the Gain!

Runners! Dancers! Athletes of all kinds! Have you ever popped an Advil before your workout, thinking you were doing the right thing by heading off possible injury? If you treat the problem before it happens, your feet and legs will hurt less afterwards and they will have a smaller chance of getting inflamed…right? If you are thinking to yourself, why yes, I have done that many times, Becky, then STOP NOW.

Before I started running with the Portland Marathon Clinic group last year, I had no idea that it was bad to take ibuprophen preemptively. I always thought I was a smart cookie to take it before my run in order to prevent muscle soreness and inflammation. In my head it made perfect sense! Then, Coach Patti set me straight. Patti, a totally adorable older lady who looks like she spends her afternoons sitting on her favorite chair knitting, but in reality could whip me in an ultra-marathon, said that taking any anti-inflammatory before a workout can be counter-intuitive  and in reality be very harmful to you. Why is it counter-intuitive? Think about it. If you take a pill that lessens and/or blocks pain during your workout, you may not feel what your body is trying to tell you—that you’re stretching your limits and you need a rest. Pain tells us when to stop or take it easy. But harmful? Really? Here’s why:  the body uses the occurrence of inflammation to tell itself when there is something that is injured. Taking that Advil will prevent the healing process since the body isn’t receiving the signals it needs to activate it. Danger, Will Robinson!

So what you’re saying, Becky, is that I should just suck it up and feel the burn? Well, yes! After all, I feel like my best self after I’ve sweated and burned for two hours after an excruciatingly hard run. We are constantly hearing “No pain, no gain!” That’s completely accurate and a great attitude to take, in my opinion, but that’s not the whole picture. What I want you to know is that, like in many aspects of life, we should not anticipate and perfectly set up the outcome of every experience and every twinge of discomfort in order to avoid the hurtful parts of life. Pain can be a good thing. It tells us when something is wrong, physically and emotionally. How else would we know what to change?

It’s something we all need to be conscious of. Trust in the universe, and feel grateful knowing that each time we stub our toe, it’s merely a reminder to watch where we’re going and perhaps to choose a different path the next time.