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November 2017
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"Happiness does not come from having much, but from being attached to little." ~Cheng Yen


Archive for November, 2017

PostHeaderIcon Run for healing and hope

It’s amazing what running can give back to you. Sure, it takes a lot of commitment, and discipline and time too to make it a consistently good experience.


Running, and race weekends, can help recalibrate when things aren’t going so well. It would feel easier in certain situations to not run, to say no not this weekend, to let an opportunity go by. But time and time again I’ve found that even in the worst of circumstances, when crawling into bed and hiding seems the best option, that actually getting myself to follow through with a race weekend and see what’s possible is the best thing I could do for myself.

Not to get tough subject-matter wise, but here’s a list of how a race weekend in the face of some tough life events has actually been the very thing I needed. Most people would say to me “you’re crazy to go run this race, to go do this weekend, you should take it easy.” And, for me, I knew that not doing it would be far worse for me long term than taking the short cut out of the race. Sure, I’ve had perfectly fabulous reasons not to run, but I did it anyway. And there in lies the power.

And, this is all slightly different than running through pain or through a cold or feeling a flu coming or just feeling tired – things (aside from major injury) we are usually capable of pushing through.

Back in 2012 I had moved up to Seattle after some big life changes that were not my choice occurred and I was feeling down. To be honest, I was depressed. I didn’t run for months. It seemed pointless and I was lifeless. But. I had signed up for Rock ’n’ Roll Portland in May of that year and that motivated me to start walking in April. To be honest, I’d probably ran a total of 13 miles, with maybe about 20 miles of walking, before the race came along. But there was something in me that said, well, you signed up and you’re not going to back out of it – you’re true to your word, you paid for it, you might as well buck up and get up to some kind of ability to do it. And so I did. I was determined to run, walk, crawl, skip, jumprope, roll, and whatever to get across that finish line. And I did. And it did plant a seed of possibility back in me and a month later I ran Rock ’n’ Roll in Seattle and shaved 13 minutes off my finish time. Worth it to get my butt in gear and run the half.

In July of 2015 my best friend died unexpectedly. I’d just moved back to the state he already lived in and we were excited to get to see each other frequently again and all the time. And then he was gone a month later. Well, I’d signed up for the Rock ’n’ Roll Chicago race that year because I wanted to take his advice and do the river architecture tour. You see, it was a city he lived in an one that he considered one of his favorites. So I would be there to celebrate in a way. And then he was gone. A week later I was supposed to get on a plane to do this race. How in God’s name was that going to happen? But I knew he of all people would be mad at me for NOT running because of him, and so I decided to go and try. I spent half the time in a daze for sure. And the race itself was reminders and signs of him everywhere. And it was hard and emotional. And. It was cathartic and the best way I could’ve honored him in that moment. It was worth it to push myself to go and run.

In November 2016 36 hours before I landed in Vegas for the Rock ’n’ Roll half, the guy I was dating all year broke up with me out of the blue. I was beyond sad. I was crying in public for goodness sake. Couldn’t help it. But again, I got on the plane in a mood not normal for heading to a race. And a few days later I pushed myself to run that race. And I felt good – it was good to run, I felt stronger with every mile and more ‘me’ every time I felt a surge of energy. I felt almost sad for him that he wasn’t there to bear witness to my triumph (his loss, of course.) And when I crossed that finish line, despite the fact the I felt way faster than the finish time I registered, I felt empowered all over again, and free to be open to possibility. Holding that medal in my hand, again it was worth it to run through the tears.

In July of 2017 I had signed up again for Rock ’n’ Roll Chicago – it’s a city I love to run in and visit and explore and it had been a few years so I wanted to check it out again. And then Fourth of July my mama had a terrible fall and hit her head on cement hard and sustained a brain injury. It was horrible. And I was there, and I was all in in terms of taking care of her, supporting her and doing what I needed to in her care. And had this race weekend looming just 10 days later. Again, the thought came to me, how would I possibly be able to do this? How could I get on a plane? How could I wander among the crowds? How could I get my body to actually take steps in the form of running? But with my family’s encouragement and okay, I did. I wasn’t a super peppy self in the day leading up to the race, I took it easy and laid low for sure. And then I ran. It wasn’t easy, sure, but I also thought about all the races my mom has been to – more than anyone. She’s been incredibly supportive and enthusiastic in that support. So in a way, I felt compelled to do it for her, in her honor. Yes, it was worth it to push myself to go straight from looking after her to Chicago and doing something to buoy me and bolster my strength to keep going.

October 2017. Been a doozy, because it wasn’t just a life event that jolted my body or derailed training or exhausted me emotionally. It was my home and my community and all of it. The North Bay wildfires happened and it was as if I suddenly understood the phrase ‘all hell broke loose.’ Not only did it hijack my body with being on edge and full of anxiety for weeks on end, but it made it impossible to train because of the smoke and toxic air. I was exhausted once I was no longer evacuated and could move back home, lucky enough to have my home still standing. But I couldn’t run – both because of my lungs and just all the trauma around us. I ran a few times – more like a shuffle – but it was a slow slog with painful lungs. But, I had Rock ’n’ Roll Savannah coming up. And I wanted to do it – it’s a lovely city to run in and my mom had signed up to come join in and cheer me on. Well, given her accident earlier in the year, we decided it wasn’t wise for her to go. So my biggest champion was missing and my whole operating system was very off – should I still go? I can’t lie – right up until the flight itself to take off to Savannah I considered ixnaying the whole trip. I couldn’t imagine being ‘okay’ enough to tackle it and do it to a way that I’d feel good. I was worried about a number of aspects of being able to do it at all. But I also knew I’d be bummed later if I hadn’t crossed that finish line. And so, I looked to Savannah and the race to help recalibrate and reset. And you know what? It did – with every day and every mile ran in the half marathon, I felt more me, felt like pieces of myself were coming together in a way that would create the foundation to build again. Do I wish it had been a few more weeks removed from the fires? Of course, a little more time to recover would’ve been lovely. But I had to make do. And again, it was worth it to trudge through the many flights to the East Coast and to get the hugs from fellow runners as I wore my #SonomaStrong tank top.

Whether the race weekend is situated conveniently in my schedule for whatever happens, or just comes up when it comes up, it doesn’t matter. Every time I’ve pushed myself to do a race when everyone and their mother would not only say ‘hey, it’s completely okay and understandable if you want to not go and not run” but actually would encourage me to not run, it has been far more pros than cons and the ultimate outcome has been positive – whether to reset, or help me realize my strength and resilience, or to help me move forward in some way. So, I run to heal these things that happen, that come up, that might initially stop me from running. And I run to have hope – hope for more, more life, more love.

PostHeaderIcon Leaving the smoke behind in Savannah

Have to laugh that as I’m about to post about Savannah, Facebook sent me a ‘memory’ of running in Savannah four years ago in 2013. It was race #27 I think, and rated it a very high race experience. That’s a lot of races and life that’s happened since. My affection for the city of Savannah has only grown.

2017: Feeling grateful for Savannah and the ability to still somewhat run. It’s taken a few days to really digest the experience, and what it means to me.

It was a race I couldn’t imagine doing, and I couldn’t imagine not doing. I struggled mightily with whether or not to fly all the way to Savannah. Considered not doing the race right up until the end of the first of three flights (meaning, I nearly walked back to a ticketing desk to fly right back home.) I didn’t want to leave Sonoma, my community, or the feeling of togetherness. And, I also knew that a few more days to be home and get rest and connect could be useful, and knew the race would be hard to do. I also knew that I would be having serious missing-out feelings during race weekend, in a city I’ve been wanting to go back to since I first visited to run four years ago. I also knew I would ultimately regret not running, not trying, not seeing what was possible. So I somehow packed (thankfully I have a race weekend pack list) and got myself to the airport – the driving of which I do not actually recall. Once in Savannah, it felt right, even if still daunting to try to run. In a way, it was good to be so far removed from everything and be so incredibly distracted by a city that begs you to be present and be fully there.

Thankfully before the race, I ran into friends like Joe and Yinka who immediately knew what a big deal it was for me to be there at all and who were glad I’d made the trip and was attempting to run. People asked about my #SonomaStrong shirt(s) and were impressed I’d made it out to run as well. Everyone seemed to agree in some way that the run could be healing, fun, a distraction, cathartic, inspiring. It felt good to start that way, even if I was still anxious about the actual running.

Experienced a few firsts in this course – the beginning started with the moon setting and then moving into the sun rising at the same time. I think it was either a full moon or close to it and it was a spectacular way to begin. It was a nice contract to the severe grimace I had on my face as I tried to take decent breaths with my run. It’s rarely easy but this time I could feel the strain in a different way. And I had no idea if I would be able to continue, if I would feel this the whole run, or adjust as I have so many times before to a pace and breath that only I seem to be able to make happen for me. And the first music station, oh, bagpipers – there’s something that gets my heartstrings every time upon hearing them, and it seemed fitting given the devastation to the area I live in, and also caused the first of many more tears to fall. Ok, I admit, I cried at the start line too, a mixture of fear, grief, and gratitude. That continued throughout.

Another first – one of the bands was covering Johnny Cash. My grimace turned into a grin, at least for a bit, as I’m a big JC fan and to hear someone pulling of a near flawless impression, well, that lifted us all. And along all this run – a lot of police presence, lots of protection for us all. Now, not all cops seem to enjoy this part of their job, whether looking bored or disinterested or hmmm, maybe even envious in some way. Every once in a while, whether buoyed by those who thank them or just plain enthusiasm, you will see them cheering runners. Well, I pass a female cop who’s solo on her position and she’s is clapping and hooting for everyone – it was truly awesome and so appreciated. Then another first – a medical tent completely engaged and cheering on all the runners enthusiastically – it was amazing. Usually they’re quiet or attending to something or even slightly bored looking, and frankly, I think a bored medical tent is a good sign. That said, for these folks to use their time on the course to cheer on the runners in such fashion, well, I’ll take it, it was pretty awesome.

My favorite first: well, I don’t know if it really is a first. I would imagine out of 62 races I’ve had to have passed a fire station before. But I happened to really notice this one along Oglethorpe Avenue, given recent events and the fact that the front of my tank said #SonomaStrong and the back said “The Love In The Air Is Thicker Than The Smoke” and I felt proud to be wearing it even if most people on the East Coast weren’t 100% aware of what it was about. And then I see the fire station right there. I took a few steps past it and then knew I couldn’t keep going so I stopped, turned around and went in. There was a group of them out there all day cheering runners along. And I HAD to stop to say thank you – they were not in fact a fire station that was deployed to the wildfires in CA. I don’t believe Georgia was one of the 17 states but I wasn’t sure so I wanted to stop regardless. To stop and say thank you, appreciate them for who they are and what they do. That was not simply sweat that ran down my face while I stood there with them.

And this happy little silly event – I’m lucky to have some very dear friends who live in Colorado that I don’t get to see often enough. But I know they all support my running. And there was a runner who I kept seeing along the course who had knee high socks on that had the famous Colorado ‘C’ along the top of them, right underneath the back of her knee. Now, I did not run this whole race at all. I walked a lot of it. I had no choice at times, and at other times, I made the choice to walk – to pause, to breathe, to look around and enjoy the moment. And throughout the race, I would continue to see this woman (I had no real pace, so how could this happen?) and her socks. Towards the end of the race, I began to think it was my Colorado friends saying hi, encouraging me to just keep running.

Speaking of just keep running, ever since I saw Finding Nemo (I think I was the last person on earth to see it), I’ve turned just keep swimming into just keep running. And right as I had rounded a corner in the last three miles and started up a small crest, I thought hmmm, how on earth will I do another three miles? And I look down and someone had written in chalk “just keep running” right where my feet were stepping and so I took yet another sign to enjoy this race, and, yes, just keep running.
I truly love Savannah and need another trip there soon to take more of it in. Never have I met so many people who live in an area strongly driven economically by tourism who really do love tourists and appreciate them and welcome them so warmly. All along the route, no matter the neighborhood, we were cheered along. And every store, bar, restaurant, tour and more I encountered the very definition of friendliness and kindness. And lots and lots of stories I could spend days listening to.

Thank you Savannah, for the reset and compass recalibration, and for the healing distraction, and for the realization I can get up – no matter what is going on – and just keep running. For a moment or two, I felt like myself again, even if painful or emotional at times. I found some strength and comfort in that. Thank you running, for giving me the motivation to try again.

PostHeaderIcon The race ‘before’…

It’s about time I record half marathon #61, when I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll half in San Jose. October 8. Seems like a lifetime ago. There was a perspective to it that I wanted to share, that was important at the time, that’s a bit lost to me now but I’m going to try my best.

In itself it was a tough race, it had been an incredibly long week. And by long I mean, on Monday I drove five hours to the middle of nowhere in California, worked an intense teaching day all day on Tuesday, then Wednesday drove another four hours to the San Jose airport, flew to Chicago to work another class on Thursday and that night I flew back to San Jose, crashed in an airport motel, worked Friday morning and headed to the Expo to grab my bib and everything, and then drove five hours home. Yes, five. Should’ve taken two. I think it was fleet week or something big going on, but it was endless traffic. By the time I got home, all I wanted to do was sleep for 24 hours straight.

Got to back up to Friday, at the Expo. Divine intervention happened in a very cool way. I had parked in the convention center parking lot and was retracing my steps from how I entered the convention center so I wouldn’t miss where my car was, and essentially was probably taking the long way to get back there. I’d been thinking about my friend Mankamal who’d I’d met two years previous at the morning of that year’s San Jose race. I knew I needed to let her know I was for sure and last-minute doing this race. But it’d been an insane week of travel and work and I was barely keeping my nose above water. As I’m walking towards the stairs to get to the parking lot, I see someone walking up them – it’s Mankamal. We exclaimed our delight and surprise to see each other – if she’d come up two minutes later or I’d left a minute or two earlier, we never would’ve run into each other. It was meant to be. And so we caught up for a few minutes, in the way that you do when you haven’t connected for a while and there’s just so many things to catch up on. She even invited me to stay are her place the night before so I’d have a shorter drive race morning, which was incredibly generous – I said thank you but I needed to get home and settle in for a night or two.

Really didn’t know how the race would go, to be honest. A LOT of time on my feet and in heels shortly before the race, plus the exhaustion of travel and especially all that driving. Busiest week ahead of a race I’ve had in a while and I didn’t know how my body and mind would connect with the race and how it would do. But I wanted to try. Plus I wanted to get my Cali Combo race in, and half #8 for the year! There was no turning back, just a bit of trepidation for how it might feel, how hard it might be and how long it might feel like it’s taking.

Thankfully I woke up okay, even thought it was a bit earlier than I normally do, because I had to make time for driving down. And thankfully it was cooler weather so I knew at least I’d be able to run – the heat Sonoma has had sometimes in the afternoon has made it tough to run for me. Hot air doesn’t exactly make lungs happy.

I decided I wanted to run this race “for Vegas” – the massacre tragedy has just occurred one week prior and it felt necessary and important to connect to that somehow, to run for those that no longer could, that I knew where it happened because it was the start line for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Vegas race last year. So I wrote on my left palm “Run 4 Vegas Strong” to remind me to do so, to run for them and to inspire me when I might feel down or lethargic to just keep running.

Not only did the cooler weather help, the missing mile markers did too – so you might see mile marker 4 and keep running waiting to see the “5” and you don’t see it and then see “6” and get actually excited that more than a mile passed. It might’ve been a mistake, but I got to admit I liked it.

Another piece I liked – the old guys playing in a band in their driveway. Not only were they good, they also had an amazing sign: “Greatest Driveway Band Ever!” Agree, gentlemen, agreed.

And then I tested again the idea of walking a bit along with running and seeing if that might help me pick up my current dragging-ass style of running. I tried it in Seattle in June (or rather it was mandated by my family) and I actually came in under two hours when I wouldn’t have thought that possible. And sure enough, despite my feet already sore and hurting, and my energy low and the rest of me feeling a bit off, I finished faster than I could’ve expected. Which was nice.

Finishing that race felt like a bit of a cleansing from the kind of week I’d had, something I needed and could prep me for the next week which included a big trip to Ottawa for my book (that didn’t end up happening of course.) Then I ran to get my phone so I could connect with Mankamal at the finish and sure enough, we were able to meet up and give each other congratulatory hugs and get our picture together like we do. I will admit San Jose isn’t necessarily my favorite course, but the perks of doing a local race which include seeing a friend like Mankamal make it 100% worth it.

Who knows, if I’d known how life would change so dramatically less than 24 hours later, maybe I would’ve done things different, I don’t know. I do know I’m grateful I had that race, with a sunset hike that night, to buoy me up for what was to come. Yet again, running brings peace, calm, and strength to my life.