What I’ve been doing

Where I’ve been:

church

What my conversations have been like:

Friend: So, what are you up to these days.

Me: Running.

Friend:

Friend: Anything else?

Me: Eating. Eating is super important to me.

healthy flavors meme

Friend:

waynes world meme

 

-or-

Me:….and I’m training for an ultramarathon

Friend: What’s an ultramarathon?

Me: It’s any race longer than the marathon distance of 26.2. Most of them start at 50K which is what I’m training for in November.

Friend: How long is 50K?

Me: 31.5 miles.

Friend: You’re crazy.

Me: I agree with you.

What I’ve got coming up:

Cedar Ridge 18K is this weekend. I’m using it as a training run but still taking it a little easier this week in a modified taper. A friend of mine (who is also a runner) and I were talking about how we don’t have to taper like we used to when we were first starting out and what a good feeling that is. Sometimes the signs of improvement are not in race times, they are in how your body feels, even at a greater level of activity.

One Thing Wednesday:

My one non-running related activity! I didn’t post about it last week but am still doing one thing a week to try and make the world a little brighter/healthier/happier.

This week I’ve been focusing on taking my lunch to work more. I’ve gotten in the bad habit of picking up lunch from somewhere around the office-which is always encased in plastic that just gets thrown away. Bringing lunch in reusable containers means I don’t add more non-biodegradeable trash into the environment. I was probably bringing my lunch with me about once a week and the goal is to increase that to 2-3 times a week. I feel better, I save some money and the world has a little less trash in it. :)

And on this front, I also talked to my friends Mark and Melanie-who are some of the most genuinely positive people I’ve ever met and also went a whole year without using plastic-about this little idea of mine. The thought to grow this project keeps popping up in my head and I wanted their opinion: could this project be interesting to other people? Was it interesting? How could I grow it?

Well they were super encouraging and supportive-to the point that they even posted about it on facebook and created a hashtag! We are still in the planning stages of how to get more involvement in One Thing Wednesday but if you are interested in doing one thing and want to share, you can #onethingwednesdays on facebook/IG/etc.

If you’d like to learn more about it, you can go here to see how I got started and what my motivations are.

And what about you guys? What are ya’ll up to? Is it a million degrees where you are?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trail runner’s life

So I got an idea to put together a little montage video of what my life looks like as I gear up for my first ultra marathon in November (hint: food and dirt basically).

I had so much fun putting together this video! Like more than I thought I would-and somehow or another, it make running more fun as well.

Hope you enjoy it!

A mid-packers guide to trail racing

I remember when I started trail racing and how intimidated I was -and there didn’t seem to be a lot of information/stories/anecdotes out there (at least that I’d found at that point) from and for mid-packers like me. Lots of the info I found were stories from the lead pack or advice for those that wanted to be part of the lead pack and realistically, that is info is not that relevant to me.

And now that I’ve had several trail races of varying lengths under my belt, I’d like to share what I’ve learned and found important for anyone who isn’t quite at this point and isn’t sure where to get started.

Some of the points are sure to change/evolve as I change/evolve in running, some of the points are things I have to remind myself of almost constantly. I assume the list will grow the more I do this because I want to always be learning and refining and discovering. And, of course, all points are my opinion based on my experiences and may not be relevant to you personally.

(blah, blah, blah let’s get started)

1. Prepare for what you can.

If I had to impart only one piece of advice to someone new to trail racing, this would be it. In other words, get to know your race as much as humanly possible. Most race websites will provide course maps, info on aid stations and a course profile, among other things. LEARN THEM.

Rough Creek course elevation profile

Rough Creek course elevation profile

If your race looks like this, it is in your best interest to run some freaking stairs. And maybe cry. But seriously, if you are a new trail runner or a road runner moving into trails, you will be experiencing a much different environment and it is probably steeper, more rocky, more technical and hotter than you are used to. Know what you are getting into and prepare accordingly.

You may also find it useful to know how often you are going to hit an aid station and what goodies they provide, what weather conditions are expected to be like and if there are bathrooms along the course (VERY important info IMO).

But no matter how much you prepare, there will be stuff you can’t prepare for which leads me to my next point:

2. Know what you can’t prepare for.

When we did a race in Arizona, I knew it would basically straight up a hill (and then straight back down) so I prepared for that as much as I could. What I couldn’t really prepare for was the difference in humidity between the swamp of north Texas where I live and the arid conditions of Arizona and I knew it. I think it can be just as important to know what you can’t prepare for because if you know, you can accept it, compensate for it if possible and most importantly, not stress about the unknown.

running meme

 

3. Read the pre race document.

One of the best ways to ensure points #1 and #2 is to read the pre-race document that the RD (race director) sends out, usually about a week before the race. I have never run a race (and so far, I’ve run them in 3 different states) where the doc wasn’t super detailed and helpful, not only for specific race info but also the ancillary stuff-parking details, bathroom availability, etc.

4. Carry plenty of water.

Unless you don’t live in the hottest place on earth, then this may not be relevant information. Or you are naturally camel like and can store water in pockets in your body. But a lot of times, races are held in very warm conditions and in my opinion,  the last thing you want to do is stress about running out of water between aid stations. It’s cliche but it’s true-it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Samantha Gash, youngest person to complete the Desert Series

Samantha Gash, youngest person to complete RacingThePlanet’s Four Desert Grand Slam. You probably won’t need as much water as she did.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

In my experience most trail runners and aid station workers (who are usually also trail runners) are friendly people who are more than happy to help you if you need it. And getting cramps/tired/hurt/disoriented is something most trail runners have had to deal with at some point in their life and will go out of their way to lend some support to someone else going through it.

6. Pay attention to your surroundings.

This isn’t some flat road race with police barriers and volunteers guiding you through turns. If you are running a trail race, you are probably in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and aid stations 3 miles apart and that’s it. Now I personally have never been on a course that I didn’t think was well marked with signs/orange tape/etc but you know, runner brain sometimes makes you a little less cognizant of these things and it’s not unheard of for someone to get off course. Just don’t let yourself zone out too much is my advice so you don’t end up 3 miles in the wrong direction and have to hoof it back.

7. Keep going.

You may have the most fun, upbeat races ever and never experience low points, painful points or dreary points. But if you do, my advice is just to keep going, even if it is at the slowest walking pace ever. Just don’t stop. Because unless it is a serious injury, my experience is that if you keep moving, the low points will turn themselves around.

Me having zero fun. Photo credit Movin Pictures.

Me having zero fun during a race. Photo credit Movin Pictures.

But even during the crappy points, don’t forget to…

7. Have Fun.

Photo credit: Moving pictures

Me having lots of fun. Photo credit Movin pictures

The most important point of all, of course. I find what works for me is to prepare as much as possible leading up to the race and then once I get to the start line, I don’t think about it anymore. Because at that point, you can’t change anything, you can’t get any more conditioned and worrying won’t get you to the first aid station any quicker. When you let go of expectation, you leave space for joy and isn’t that the point? So you might as well stop stressing and just take the experience as it comes because no matter what, it will teach you something about yourself and you’ll come away stronger and a better person for it.

So that’s my advice. Any experienced trail runners out there that have any to share? I’d love to hear it!

p.s. I didn’t forget One Thing Wednesday-I talked about it on IG if you are interested…

One thing wednesday

This little project of mine is getting more and more fun! I’m someone who needs to feel like I am making a direct impact on something, that is better at doing something and getting dirty than being the person who is in meetings determining policy. So ‘one thing wednesday’ is right up my alley.

And talk about having a direct impact-I get to see immediate improvement in my world:

before and after trash pick up

trash dip1

before and after trash pick up

I’ve been missing being involved in the community. Frankly, since I started running I haven’t done a ton of volunteering because my free time has been taken up with training. That’s no ones fault but my own and I still donate to causes that I care about but it’s not the same as DOING.

And with this project, I get to do just that and still train when it’s best for me. What else can I do? That’s the next thing for me. Like I was wondering if water fowl need certain habitats (like bird houses or something) and is that something I could make? Can I work with the park to have a more organized effort to keep it trash free. What are the policies around our state parks? And not just trash pick up and general upkeep of our natural spaces-what polices are in place for wildlife? How else can I help the animals (it always seems to come down to animals for me-what can I say, I’m a sucker)?

So many questions that need to be answered and I’m diving right in.

the case for an old habit

Guess what? I got published! Please check out my post on Elephant Journal all about getting gutted on the yoga mat-how yoga integrates our entire selves. You can check it out here.

head to knee

It was the same routine the other morning. Get up while it was still dark, drink some water, walk the dogs and then sit down on the floor in my kitchen.

I started my yoga routine the same way I’ve been starting it lately, my body easily moving into poses without much thought. I found my mind straying while in the poses and found myself a little bored-it was time to change it up a bit.

And that is when I realized that being bored with my yoga routine was an awesome thing to happen to me. The fact that I was bored and used to my routine means that I have firmly ingrained yoga into my daily life. I no longer have to think about it-it’s just a part of life now, not something I am ‘trying to do more of’ or ‘working on’ or ‘need to make time for.’

A good habit-whatever it is- that we are bored with is a new pathway in our brain, dug so firmly over the old one that our synapses no longer even stray into the other lanes. That is a very good thing. We have not just added a habit, we have changed our life. Literally we have created a new way of being. Isn’t that amazing?

I still spent some time refreshing my memory on poses and putting together a new routine for the next morning-gotta keep it interesting after all but I felt a lot better about getting a little bored.

One Thing Wednesday

Yes, I know it’s Thursday but my ‘one thing’ was done on Wednesday and I like the way ‘One thing Wednesday’ sounds.

For those just catching up, you can read my initial thoughts on this project here but basically I love nature and animals and want to do something for the environment because I feel like I get so much from being out in nature. I also believe that small actions can create big impact when done consistently over time and want to devote some time each week focusing one thing that I can do to make the world a little better.

And hey, if these posts start a dialogue on ways we can all do a little bit more around this world, all the better.

Anyway, during my lunch hour yesterday, I headed to Campion Way trail which skirts the Trinity River in Las Colinas to pick up some trash.

Trash on top, recyclables on the bottom.

Trash on top, recyclables on the bottom.

And honestly, I only traveled about 20 or 30 feet down the edge of the river and filled up two 5 gallon bags of this stuff-there was so much more I couldn’t get to because I had to get back to the office.

So what good does picking up trash do?

-Plastics can kill wildlife by causing internal organ failure or slow strangulation. source (think of the baby ducks dying people. BABY DUCKS)

-it’s important to have healthy waterfowl because they eat mosquitos (this is particular importance in my area where the west nile virus has been detected and several people have died from the disease). source

-Toxic materials can leech out of trash and get into the water and well, we have to get water from somewhere and that means it can affect our drinking water. source

-Waterborne illness (due to contaminated water thanks to trash/sewage) kills approximately 1.8 million people worldwide annually. source When you think about places that are most affected, you probably think developing countries that don’t have adequate ways to purify water but we in the US are not immune to waterborne disease. For example, in 1993, 400,000 people were affected  a Cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee. source From 1971 to 2002, over half a million people in the US were affected by a waterborne illness, 79 died. source And just in case you weren’t aware, even mild cases of waterborne illness usually means MAJOR BATHROOM ISSUES.

-This statistic increases in a way when you factor in the west nile virus which is carried by mosquitos which need bodies of water to breed and if you don’t have healthy waterfowl to eat them, you have more mosquitos. Over 1600 people have died from the disease since 1999. source 

This is a lot of different ways to say that garbage in our water is bad-bad for us and bad for the wildlife (seriously, the baby ducks) and that even if it’s only two bags of trash, that’s a few pounds less that end up in the river killing an animal or polluting someone’s drinking water.

And I got to do something that immediately makes the world look a little prettier. If you have never taken the time to pick up around your local park or waterway, I highly encourage it! There is something immediately satisfying about making an area cleaner-you are literally making that area better right that moment.

I’d like to make this project an every Wednesday thing (again, really like how that sounds) but that may change a little from week to week.

And I’m really open to any ideas of things I can do on these little weekly excursions so if you have ideas, I’m all ears.

 

An ode to the back of the pack

I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile, especially as the ultra race season gears up and there is a lot of focus on the expected winners on the myriad ultra/trail focused podcasts and websites that I stalk follow.

I am so inspired by the leaders in the sport of trail and ultra running. I read their blogs, I listen when they are interviewed on podcasts, I wonder what they eat, I take notes on how they train. But even with all the talk and focus on the leaders, my mind keeps going back to another race.

It was not an ultra, it was a 20K (12 miles) held at a local nature preserve last October. I’d just finished my first half marathon and was using this as a training run for a 30K in November that I’d signed up for (one that wouldn’t happen thanks to an injury).

us, prerace

us, pre-race

The day was muggy-the kind of heaviness in the air that made it feel like you were running through soup. October in Texas is still fairly warm so it was in the mid 80′s at start time and as I headed out, sweat already beading on my upper lip, I just wished it would rain already and give us a break from the humidity sitting on my chest.

I got my wish when I was about half way through when the rain started to come down steadily, bringing along with it a 20 degree drop in temperature. Now, a drop from 80-something to 60-something is hardly Arctic but such a sudden temperature drop plus the cold rain had my body chilled and aching within minutes.

I finished in just under 3 hours, crossing a nearly empty finish line. Not even the people who like to hang out and cheer people in were going to stick around in chilly, crappy weather with no cover, leaving just my husband and the race organizers to notice that I finished. The minute I stopped moving, my muscles stiffened, my body soaked and chilled, and I was just as ready to get into a warm car.

Why am I telling you this? Because a few days later when I checked the stats, I counted 18 people still on the course after I finished, the last one finishing in about 4 (or maybe 4.5) hours.

And as I was leaving the race, it was getting colder and the rain was coming down harder and the course got slicker and more muddy and still that last person trucked on until they got across that finish line to…nothing. No applause, no trophy, hardly an acknowledgement that they’d endured several long hours of a really crappy day to complete their goal.

That person who came in last, whoever they are, deserves a trophy and just as much acknowledgement as the person who came in first in my opinion. We celebrate first and best a lot (especially in the US it seems) and I’m not saying we shouldn’t. I just think that other attributes are just as worthy of acknowledgement and celebration.

It can be really hard to keep going when you don’t have a base of talent or years of practice under you. It can be really disheartening to be alone, to get passed by person after person. It can be an ugly fight to keep your brain from going to a dark place when you are hurting and every rational cell in you is saying it’s best to stop (a fight you don’t always win).

Not that the top finishers don’t have pain or bad times. But they also get seen-their efforts and sacrifice get rewarded and I think we are kidding ourselves if we don’t acknowledge how important being seen is in the human condition.

What a back of the packer goes through takes will and guts and courage and if that’s not something worthy of applauding and celebrating, I don’t know what is. Maybe the person who comes across last won’t get a plaque or cheering fans but I’m hoping if anyone who’s finished in the back of the pack reads this, they know that I wish I could meet them and say thank you. I think you did something great. You deserve to have your efforts acknowledged.

I see you and you inspire me to keep going.