The Perks of Taking Running Less Seriously

Although I’m not a particularly fast runner, I’ve always prided myself on being able to follow a training schedule and knockout a variety of workouts while training for a race. When not training for a race, I can be a sporadic runner, but usually with something on the calendar, I’m focused and dedicated.

But I’ve been struggling lately with my running mojo, and even having a race on the calendar in April isn’t really kicking me into gear. It’s really getting out the door that’s the tough part; once I’m running, I usually enjoy it just fine. But it’s been taking a lot of mental energy to get my shoes on lately, and I just didn’t have it in me this weekend. So instead of beating myself up about what it meant to be a real runner, we got on our bikes and rode to Sausalito.

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Now, my biking experience is pretty limited.  I bike at Burning Man, generally either in the blazing sun or white out dust storms. And I’ve gone on two epically long mountain bike rides with Alex’s Austrian family, neither of which I was prepared for – have you ever ridden fifty miles on a borrowed bike without bike shorts? I don’t recommend it, even if the view is beautiful. In the city, I biked two miles to the train station every day to commute to work for a year and a half, but that had been my only city biking experience.

While biking trails and biking in the desert have their own challenges, I decided this weekend that biking in San Francisco is a special kind of mindfulness meditation. Nowhere more so than on the Golden Gate Bridge, where you have a mix of tourists on rented bikes going slow and stopping to check out the view, and serious cyclists trying to speed by as fast as they can. It was slightly terrifying, but now I can say I’ve run, driven and biked the bridge!

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We got to Sausalito and the weather was beautiful and we got burgers and sweet potato fries and admired the homes on the waterfront and watched a dog play in the water. Eventually, we took the ferry back and got to watch Sausalito fade and enter the bustle of San Francisco once again.

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It was nice to take a break from my current mental gymnastics around running and move my body in a new and really fun way. I know a lot of people that run more than I do – I really can’t do more than three times a week – so it’s easy to get into the comparison game and feeling like my training isn’t good enough. And maybe it isn’t if I wanted to be super fast or do an ultramarathon or run something that’s crazy hilly. But today when I hopped on the treadmill, I felt strong and happy to be there, so I’m really happy I chose to take a break.

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On our bike ride over to Sausalito, we stopped at our favorite running store so I could pick up new kicks, which may be a motivating factor to hit the pavement more. Alex, awesome guy that he is, carried the shoes in the backpack for the rest of the ride! Here he is, lookin’ a little boxy: 

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I’ve been getting tons of blisters lately (I’ll spare you the photos), so I really wanted a wider shoe that would hopefully take care of the problem. Although I’ve gone to the same store for the last three years for running shoes, the sales guy sized me at a full size higher than my last pair, in wide width. I went from a 9.5 standard to a 10.5 wide, and when I ran today, it felt so much better! The only thing is, they’re REALLY pink…I like pink, but they’re just so….bright.

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I feel the same way about them as I feel about bright yellow running shirts which I’ve gotten at two races – why? Are they cheaper? That must be it. Anyway, I’m going to rock them because they are so comfortable that I didn’t want to wait and order another size! I ran in them today and loved them, so maybe I’ll post more thoughts in a few weeks when I’ve had time to break them in a bit. 

Have you ever blown off a long run for an adventure? What’s your favorite running shoe? 

On Donuts and Direwolves

I had this really amazing yoga practice on Saturday. It wasn’t that I mastered a new pose or even did every single vinyasa and felt super strong. Instead, I was just really in it. My movements were in sync with my breaths, my body moved easily, and I felt a lot of things during the class.

Part of the reason I had such a good practice, I think, was because I didn’t go to the farmers’ market in the morning. Let me explain. During the week, I get up pretty regularly between 5:00 and 5:15 am. On Saturdays, I’m usually up by 6:00 am, and out the door to the farmers’ market by 7:15. I’m a die hard. I admit to being stressed when I can’t go – I feel like I’ll miss out on ALL THE SEASONAL PRODUCE.

Saturday morning I was up even a bit earlier than normal, around 5 am, after going to bed early the night before. I did some reading for my physiology class, ate some breakfast, snuggled with Hippo, and debated getting up to gather all my bags and such for the market.

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Instead, I went upstairs, climbed back in bed, and dozed for an hour. Alex and I woke up a bit later, got some coffee and he walked with me to the grocery store. We were a little early, so we stood on the corner and watched a flock of pigeons fly in circles, land, fly in circles, land, making hilarious commentary to each other the whole time. We spent the rest of the day running errands, enjoying the day, and spent the night bowling with good friends in Game of Thrones costumes (I’m Ghost, Jon Snow’s direwolf.)

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I’m detailing this seemingly normal day because it felt ridiculously good to not rush out the door, fight for a parking spot, and navigate the crowds of people at my favorite farmers’ market.  I probably ended up paying a bit more for my produce than I normally do, but it was worth it.

Normally, the market is very energizing and fun for me, but on Saturday, I just wasn’t feeling it. Instead of trying to force myself to go and stick to a routine like I normally might, I honored what my body and mind were telling me. And I felt the positive results of that decision for the rest of the day.

Lately, I’ve been getting the message to slow down, as I’ve written about here. So often, I’ve gotten that message and I’ve straight ignored it, or even pushed harder. I’ll admit that sometimes it works. But often it doesn’t, and I’m left more tired and stressed than before.

The last week or two, I’ve been trying something different. I stayed in more, did more child’s pose during yoga practice, asked for more help, and took more deep breaths. I didn’t think as much about my nutrient intake, and instead thought about making warm, tasty food that would feel comforting. I let go of the need to run, and instead embraced burpees and the rowing machine. I ate an extra piece of chocolate.

All of that culminated into Saturday where I felt so joyous and light I felt like I was dancing down the street. I felt freer, less self-conscious, and less anxious.

Now, in order to avoid the whole, “people only presenting their best selves on social media” issue, let me tell you this feeling lasted until Sunday morning. I woke up later than planned, didn’t get workout in, I realized I forgot some things I needed at the store to make donuts from Ashley’s new book, Baked Donuts for Everyone. Finally got to the store and home, and proceeded to spend so long making donuts that we ended up eating them at noon for lunch. So, of course I ate four and then had a sugar stomachache. We then went on a wonderful walk to enjoy the day. I made it to the end, but then ended up essentially doubled over at the bus stop with menstrual cramps from hell. Once home, I sobbed through the Cory Monteith tribute of Glee and then took a nap. The rest of the night was kind of a wash, although I made a reasonably delicious and healthy dinner (followed by another donut).

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This morning has been somewhere between joyously productive and “I just want to sit on the couch and stare into space.” And so it goes. Now my job today is to listen to my mind and body telling me what they need to feel energized for the week and do those things.  And I’ll do it all again tomorrow.

Fall Adventures in Seattle

Alex and I went adventuring up to Seattle this weekend. If all goes according to plan, we’re actually going to be moving next fall so I can attend graduate school up there. I haven’t even applied yet, so there’s still the possibility that I don’t get in and we don’t move, but we’re using the power of positive thinking to propel us forward at the moment.

I’ve been to Seattle twice and it has either been raining or snowing, so I was excited to at least stay dry and maybe see some sun. I do believe the sun came out for a little bit on Friday, but we were in a pub enjoying some seasonal beer and missed it. Thankfully, the cloud cover was the perfect backdrop to the amazing fall colors.

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I literally couldn’t stop saying exclaiming out loud every time we saw another brightly colored tree or strolled through another pile of leaves. The weather was cold and crisp and everything felt very fresh. I was thrilled to come back to similar weather in San Francisco, after enjoying the sunny days for several weeks now.

Naturally, we also enjoyed some treats while we were there, only a few of which I took pictures of – Mighty-O Donuts and cakes from Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery. Next time I want to try the chocolate peanut butter version!

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There were amazing healthy meals too, at the Bastyr campus and Chaco Canyon, but of course I didn’t stop to snap a photo.

Spending time in nature combined with the weather shift and our potential impending move has put me in a reflective mood. When I’m not studying for midterms, I’m snuggling on the couch with the cats, a blanket and a cup of tea thinking about what’s happening now and what’s next. Bear with me if things are a little messy as I figure all this shit out!

What’s your favorite season? Does fall make you get quieter and introspective, too? 

On Being an Extremophile

We went to visit some friends on the central coast last weekend and had a lovely time going to the pumpkin patch and fall activities, enjoying the beautiful weather, hitting up the beach, and catching up.

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I even got to meet in person with one of my blog idols and friends, Carrie from Carrie on Vegan. If you haven’t checked out her blog, go now! You won’t want to miss out on the plethora of delicious, healthful recipes she shares on her blog.

In addition to all of this fun, Alex and I were intending to get a nice, easy run in since we didn’t go last week per my training schedule because I was tired on Friday morning and prioritized sleep and coffee instead. On Saturday morning when I went to grab our shoes, I realized I’d forgotten to pack them; I had flats, Alex had flip flops. A run wasn’t in the cards for us. I thought of my training plan and how I’d told myself I would only treat myself to a reward if I hit 100% of my workouts, and this was going to mess that all up. I half heartedly suggested we go to the gym after our 4 hour drive home, but unsurprisingly, this didn’t happen. I resolved to add another easy run to this week’s schedule.

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Then yesterday in biology, we learned about extremophiles, organisms that live in extreme environments, like extreme heat or super low pH. Scientists used to think that these organisms lived only in these environments but it turns out they can and do thrive anywhere.

A week or two ago, I posted this article about going to extremes in CrossFit and ending up in the hospital. Turns out, it happens to P90xers, too. Diane at The Everything Yoga Blog also posted this week about how yogis are not exempt from pushing themselves too far. They may not end up in the hospital, but injury happens on the mat just like it happens at the gym. Last night at yoga, the focus was about listening and respecting what you learn. Even the description of a Scandal episode we were watching the other night talked about characters “going to extremes” to protect themselves.

Why am I talking about biology and TV and random fitness articles on a food/exercise/healthy living/categories-are-meaningless blog? Because it seems like the notion of going to extremes has been popping up everywhere in my life, including in class, and when that happens I like to pay attention. Especially when the lesson is punctuated by a beautiful sunset.

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I can take a hint, universe.

All these clues made me think about my commitment to my workout schedule and training plan, and only rewarding myself and celebrating if I met 100% of the prescribed workouts. I thought about whether adding another easy run was necessary or would be helpful, or if perhaps it was my ego and not my body telling me I had to do it. And I wondered about my all or nothing approach to the idea of a reward. Perhaps some wiggle room would be helpful.

My workouts aren’t intense enough to cause rhabdomyolysis, and even on the yoga mat I’m relatively conservative when it comes to trying new things for fear of injury. I don’t do CrossFit specifically because I think I’d push myself too hard. But in the rest of my life, I’m constantly battling the urge to constantly push forward – add more challenges, have a cleaner house, play with the cats more, eat more superfoods, blog more, make the blog prettier, network more, relax more, keep up with pop culture, disconnect more, understand more foreign and economic policy, reflect more, help everyone more, be kind to myself more, make more money, want less money, more more more more.

Without even touching on the fact that many of these urges are contradictory, there is also something to be said for comfort and balance and being okay with dust on my shelves because I’d rather be having coffee with a friend than cleaning. Just as in yoga, one pose has to be counter balanced with another, and I’m still figuring out how to do that off the mat. I’m still figuring out where to fight and where to let things go. Some of this urge to be constantly doing is no doubt an internal drive – something in my emotional and mental history and make up that believes this is the best way. But there is also a sense of this in the external world – we should always be moving towards the next thing. The question is, I think, which things to move towards and which to let go.

Friends, how do you figure out when to push forward and when to pull back? Also, what fun fall activities are you up to this month?

Links Worth Sharing: 10/4/13

How Intense Study May Harm Our Workouts
“Tire your brain and your body may follow, a remarkable new study of mental fatigue finds. Strenuous mental exertion may lessen endurance and lead to shortened workouts, even if, in strict physiological terms, your body still has plenty of energy reserves.”

I’ve definitely noticed this in my workouts when I have a lot going on mentally or emotionally.

Vegan Chocolate Cake
“The recipe presents us with not one, but three “bet-you’d-never-guess-it-was-vegan” components. First is the moist, fluffy chocolate cake, which is every bit as easy to make as your current favorite. Promise. Next is the rich, decadent chocolate ganache, which is made better by creamy coconut milk.

This is on my list. Coconut chocolate ganache? Drooling. 

Avoiding My Practice
“I mean, there have certainly been times in my life when I’ve been enthused to get on the mat, easily making time in my day and schedule for home practice or class. But way more times than that, I’ve thought to myself: “Yoga today? Really? I’ve got dogs to feed, posts to write, people to email, friends to call, errands to run and – oh – I haven’t shined my shoes in awhile, have I?””

I’ve experienced this already, and I know it will only get more intense as I get more into my practice. 

What the Federal Government Shut Down Means for People that Eat and Grow Food

“In the bizarro world of 21st politics, some may argue that a government shutdown may be a good, sobering slap for Washington, but is most certainly a bad thing for our food.”

Great. Just great. 

What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

I know I haven’t been here in a while, but hey  I got married and then was traveling around with my new husband (weird!). I coulda/woulda/shoulda maybe blogged the whole process but the reality is…I just didn’t want to. I was focused on the big picture and the small details so the blog wasn’t a priority. But now I’m back, settled, and excited to share my life here again.

The wedding went better than I ever could have imagined. We felt so loved by all of our friends and family, and so cared for. Having (almost) everyone we love and care about in one spot celebrating us was overwhelming in the best way. I still tear up when I think about it. Thanks to our amazing photographer Travis Hoehne and his team from StudioTHP for all the photos.

Yes, we broke boards at our ceremony….

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And we vadered

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And we took some normal pictures too!

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Then we were home for a few days before we hopped on a plane to Australia for our honeymoon.  We were gone for too long for me to post a full recap; I don’t even want to scroll through three weeks of my own photos so I’ll spare you. I’ve included a few highlight photos below.

Sunrise over the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. IMG_0130 IMG_0151

 

The outback is a dusty but beautiful place.

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So, so sweaty.

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Awesome rock formations called the Bungle Bungles. IMG_0386

 

A dry, rocky riverbed.

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Beach hike!

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There’s a wallaby in there somewhere…

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Fiji!

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Nature! We love it.

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A little beach by our hotel.

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Me at the end of a rock waterslide! Scary, slightly painful, but awesome! IMG_0944

Being on vacation with Alex was awesome for a lot of reasons. We were both giddy and coming down off the high of an amazing wedding. We went on a ton of adventures – both planned and unexpected – and didn’t get stressed out or annoyed with each other.

I felt relaxed and open in a way that I haven’t in awhile, and I realized that it was because I was able to step back and really check out from being connected. Limited wifi meant no Facebook, Instagram, constant email, or news. I checked occasionally to make sure everyone was still okay and alive, and that nothing huge had happened in the US that we should know about. But mostly, I hung out with Alex, read a ton of books, admittedly played a lot of Candy Crush, slept, ate, and got outside. I was composing blog posts and short stories in my head. I had the mental and emotional space to think about the future and what I might want to do with my career. It was very freeing.

We were back for a week before we were back on the road and headed to Burning Man, for another week of disconnecting from the “default world.” Alex left early, and I had a lot of time to reflect by myself on where I’m at and connect one on one with people I don’t often see. Not to mention that the art at the event is out of this world; I couldn’t even imagine some of the things that people create. It’s a great place to be inspired.

Am I happy to be back home and reconnected? You bet. I missed catching up with my friends on g-chat and talking to my mom on the phone. I missed seeing the little things that make people’s days on Instagram. I missed being better informed on what’s happening in the world. But it was a great reminder that really creating space, physical and mental, is really important for me. Everyone needs different amounts – for some people 5 minutes a day is enough and others need more; I still have to figure out how much space I can make and take in the real world versus vacation world, but now it’s a priority to figure it out.

I also need to get back on the healthy eating train – it was derailed as soon as we landed in Sydney (who can resist crème brulee gelato, almond croissants, and copious amounts of avocado toast?!). Burning Man was slightly less indulgent, but the combination of the heat, no refrigeration, tons of biking and walking and a thin layer of dust covering everything makes for some interesting eating habits. Now the bulk of our travel is done (we have some weekend trips coming up) and I’m so ready to get back to normal. More on this in my next post!

Speaking (quickly, as this post is already out of control long) of my next post, I now have three hours per week scheduled into my calendar for writing, so I should be here with more frequency than the past 6 months!

San Francisco Marathon Race Recap

Well folks, I didn’t win a million dollars, but I did surpass my race goals by completing the San Francisco Marathon in 4 hours and 25 minutes. I set a PR by 37 minutes and felt really damn good at the end. I don’t feel so hot today but such is the trade off of running almost 30 miles for kicks. This race recap is long, so I thought I’d get the stats out of the way in the first paragraph in case that’s all anyone wants to know!

Let’s start off this race recap talking about the all-important days right before the marathon. I don’t know what most people do in these days before, but I imagine it involves a lot of focus and anxiety about the marathon, obsessing about what to eat, and checking and rechecking that all the race gear is ready to go. At least, that was what I did last time.

This time, we went up to Sonoma on Friday for the wedding of some of our close friends and stayed until around 8:15 Saturday night before we drove back to the city. Naturally, as weddings often do, we ate a bunch of delicious food, walked around the beautiful property and gorgeous downtown Sonoma, and spent a lot of time basking in the sun.

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All week, I had cut out caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. On Saturday morning, I had a latte as big as my head with bites of Alex’s almond croissant (which was clearly made for carb loading), along with the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever had at lunch.

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I did manage to avoid the beer and cocktails by drinking so many bottles of water that I had to stop three times in the first hour of the race to pee.

We woke up ready and raring to go on Sunday morning. The SF Marathon starts early, and we were supposed to be out of the gate at 6:12 with our wave. Public transit at that hour is limited, so we hopped in a cab and got down to the Embarcadero.

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I made Alex wait in line with me for 10 minutes for the single port o potty that I could find, only to find that they closed the wave gate at 6:00 and we’d missed our start. We hopped in with the next wave, which was no big deal but I was still annoyed that they’d never mentioned it in any of the materials. I’ve never done a wave start at a race, and I just assumed that a 6:12 start meant we could show up at 6:10 and hop into the group.

We started out pretty fast, which came in handy since I had to stop twice to pee. Then we settled into a good pace, which varied a bit depending on the hill (of which there were many of the up and down variety). We went up and over the Golden Gate, which wasn’t fogged in at all – a race day miracle. The views were fantastic and although the road was quite congested with runners, it was fun to get a lot of honks from the cars driving by!

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Around mile 11, my knee started to hurt a lot. It’s not the knee that usually gives me trouble, and I started to freak out. Thanks only to Alex, I did not spiral into a crying, hysterical mess. Instead, I stopped and stretched a few times, popped a few painkillers and continued on with the race. I told myself that I could stop at the half if I needed to, but I knew I wanted to try to keep going. Stopping to walk actually seemed to hurt a lot more than running, so I just kept on keeping on and eventually it turned into a dull ache rather than a sharp pain which was easier to ignore. Lots of ice and elevation today!

After the pain lessened, the rest of the race was fairly smooth. My dad, my sister, brother in law, niece, and nephew had come to cheer us on and seeing them at mile 21 was so encouraging! I was feeling strong and happy but starting to tire, and their cheering was just what I needed to push forward.

GettingHiFives 21miles

While there were plenty of spectators along the race course, there’s nothing like family and friends who go crazy when they see you. I was also incredibly motivated by all the thoughtful texts and Facebook notes I received from friends and family – so thank you for that.

At mile 21, Alex and I split up. We’d made an agreement at the beginning of training that we would run as much of the race together as we could, and then we’d split off if and when it made sense to do so. I was feeling like I could push it a little harder for the last 5 miles, so I told Alex I loved him and pulled ahead. It was a hard decision because we’d trained the whole time together, but I knew I would want him to do the same if he felt like he could finish strong and fast.

I spent the last 5 miles largely alone, even from other runners. I loved the course because it went through a lot of San Francisco – the Embarcadero, the Bridge, the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, the Richmond District, the Haight, the Mission, and finally Dog Patch. But the final stretch is mostly residential, and the course alternates between streets so they can let traffic through. I happened to be at the front of a pack of runners that was diverted, and so I ran several blocks mostly alone. I was really thankful for the spectator with the megaphone playing the rocky theme at the top of one of the hills. I threw up my arms and cheered for him as I went by.

I ate a gel at the last water stop, but resisted kicking it into super high gear until after I passed the mile 25 marker. I knew that I’d rather finish a little bit slower and feeling awesome than push it too hard and end up flagging at the very end. My family made it to the end to cheer, and I passed the finish line with tears in my eyes. I was emotional and grateful for the people that supported me (and Alex) along our training journey, to my body for keeping it together, and to myself for staying positive and upbeat throughout the race.

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Alex and I noted that so many marathon runners are SO serious; and there’s nothing wrong with that – 26.2 miles is no joke. But I also think it’s really important to have fun with it and I felt really great that I managed to stay goofy until the end.

Family Finishers

We spent the rest of the day eating pizza with my family and hanging out. Later in the evening, Alex and I got pie shakes for dinner, which confirmed that even running a marathon does not prevent one from feeling slightly ill after consuming all of that sugar. But it was worth it.

Even though my marathon in 2011 ended pretty badly, I knew I’d run another one because I wanted to finish strong. Now, I’m not sure if I’ll run another one (probably, but who knows) but I’d be happy to make this race my marathon legacy because I ended with a big fat smile on my face.