Day 3!

Just a few observations on little ‘ol Day 3 of my 100 day project:

  • Food-wise, I do NOT feel deprived.  Reaching for a sugary snack or treat is such a deeply ingrained habit for me.  But that’s really *all* it is – A HABIT.  My new habit is regaining an appreciation for all the wonderful yummy satisfying whole foods which are readily available to me and don’t make me feel like sh*t 2 minutes after I consume them.
  • Protein is not scary. I became a vegetarian at age 18 with long periods of veganism thrown in.  I had a healthy pregnancy, successful breastfeeding years, ran many a marathon and remained vegetarian, very happily, until Fall of 2013.  I believed I would never ever again consume animal muscle & that was perfectly fine with me.   I cook meat & fish for my son and am not bothered by other folks eating meat or fish around me.  It’s a personal choice.  Well, last year, after discovering that my iron & B12 were ridiculously off-the-charts low, I began supplementing like crazy, including B12 injections.  Liquid iron, iron pills, massive amounts of kale and eggs.  I began to ask myself if I would be “willing” to try eating meat.  I was scared.  Bigtime. Then I decided I would try.  After 25 years of not eating meat, I began with a very innocuous plain chicken breast.  (I am severely allergic to all fish and shellfish or I would have def started with salmon!)  The chicken was fine! No stomach upset, no emotional breakdowns (yes I was worried about that!).  After a few months of eating chicken 2-3 times per week, I tried a small bite of steak off my son’s plate around Christmas time.  OMG. Steak off the grill is delicious. (There, I said it :)) My long runs were stronger.  The end of a 4 hour run was not the exhaust/depletion-fest it used to be.  Problem was: I was still eating a ton of sugar.  SO! I am excited to report I believe I am enjoying the benefits of incorporating the kinds of protein my body was craving without the additional crap it doesn’t need.  This feels good.  Calm. Steady. (as an aside:  food is a very personal, even very touchy subject for many of us and i respect each person’s choice to decide what they put in their mouth. I am not advocating one way of eating over another, just sharing my experience here.) I continue to eat meat 2-3 times per week and my body thanks me.
  • So did I mention the calm???  Even though it’s only Day 3, I feel it.  My body is breathing a huge sigh of relief…”THANK YOU, ERIN!!!” ahhhhhhhhh,,,,,,,poor body was getting kind of pissed off from all those empty sugar calories.  My body prefers clean energy. Duh. I knew that. The greatest benefit, already reaped on Day #2, is calm.  I attribute this to not eating crap.  Also, the yoga.
  • Did I mention the yoga???! :)  Sneaking away into the “guest bedroomjunk room yoga room for just 30 minutes each evening is not that much to ask of oneself. And guess what?  It feels SO GOOD.  I have added on this core workout as well, and end with a headstand practice.  I know it sounds cornball, but this little routine helps me “reset” my attitude towards what I am putting into my body.  Running is a constant and I love my “training”…but this is very different.  It feels like a little gift to myself. A reminder to breathe. A reminder to pause.  A reminder to stay in the present and have that be okay.

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  • Lastly, a most wonderful note: my cute son is not only on board with my 100 days and watching me like a hawk….he is joining me! He is doing pushups every single night before bed & is basically kicking my butt in the strength department.  Mama needs to up her game.  I see an arm wrestle in my future…

100 to 100

I was so inspired by the young girl in this video, I decided to embark on my own “give it 100″, or commitment to doing something everyday, for 100 days.  (yes, I have more than 100 days until my 100-miler but I figured the “100 to 100″ visualization would be helpful for me mentally…a mile per day?  :))

SO! my “give it 100″ challenge to myself involves doing two things which are indirectly related to my training plan but aren’t specifically running (i’m already doing that!).

#1 = NO SUGAR/PROCESSED JUNK FOR 100 DAYS

Those who know me well know that I have a ridiculous sweet tooth.  However, I do believe it goes beyond the average person’s love of chocolate & has deeper roots with me. With the 100-day challenge I intend to begin to rid myself of that emotional/physiological reliance on fake energy and replace it with wholesome, nourishing foods which will support, rather than inhibit my growth.  I generally have a very healthy diet and I am fortunate enough to not have to rely on crap food to live.  I DO have choices.

My “sugar problem” also tends to exacerbate my mood swings and eczema.  Dry itchy skin and dramatic energetic high & lows are seriously not worth that delicious cupcake.

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(this is my favorite running motivation photo….love Ellie!)

#2 = BEGIN A DAILY YOGA PRACTICE

Now, with all the running and working and single-parenting and chores and kid-taxiing and lawn-mowing, where the hell am I going to find time to do yoga??? When I lived in Seattle, I used to sneak off to a 90 minute Bikram hot-yoga class in Ballard…that little slice of heaven helped me immeasurably on so many levels – physically, emotionally, spiritually.  I have tried over the years to integrate yoga into my “training plan” and whenever I do it, I am rewarded in spades.  Even just 15 minutes on my old yoga mat with my Bikram book or a video.  It is worth it and I can do it.  Not only will it help my flexibility and strength as a runner, but I also find yoga to be one of the best anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and body-awareness practices around.

My goal for yoga is at least 15 minutes a day, more if time allows.  Everyone has 15 minutes.

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So here I go! 100 days starts tomorrow.  I will check in here, periodically, as we all know that public accountability is a major motivator. :)

BUD

to new beginnings!

in my skin

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

- Mary Oliver

Writing has taken a backseat to the busyness of my life & I realize how much I miss the comfort and quiet I find by sharing my thoughts in this way. Spring is here and I am intent on welcoming the changes and opportunities for growth that this season, and this year, have to offer.

I will turn 44 this summer, a few weeks before I toe the line for my second attempt at the 100 mile distance.  The Cascade Crest 100 miler stole my heart (& my stomach!) last August and my acceptance into the race via lottery this year signaled to me that CCC100 is the 2014 goal race for me. (doubling up and doing Bryce100 as well didn’t jive with my bank account, parenting obligations and frankly, my training….out with Bryce, in with CCC!)

CC 100 Elevation Profile

Not a day goes by that I don’t visualize myself on those trails.  Doing so feels like ‘coming home.’ It has taken me a long long time to find my place in the outdoors, in nature, in the freedom of physical movement.  To let the “soft animal of my body love what it loves”.

What a gift.

There is precious irony in my relationship with running – especially running long distances in the mountains…in the dirt, mud, heat and rough terrain.  I have come to realize that one of the keys to success in ultrarunning is a certain toughness or “thick skin”. Grit. A willingness to gut it out and let yourself get banged up & rubbed raw.  I’ve only recently, in my 40′s, developed a thickness of skin which is beginning to serve me well in these endeavors.

I was always the sniffly wheezy girl with the asthma, allergies and angry rashes.  With eczema so bad my skin would bleed and ooze. Weepy sores, cracked cuts & itchy crusty scabs.  It seemed my skin was an outward representation of the anxious, worried, stress-ball nature of my inner world.  I longed for the carefree, loose, tan limbs of my friends….to run free in the hot sun – the hot sun that made me burn & itch….to swim in the salty water – the salty water that made me writhe in pain.  I wanted to feel that ease. That freedom.

My skin was thin.

As a young woman in my 20′s, my skin cleared somewhat as my body shrank.  Developing an eating disorder which would last nearly a decade only punctuated and amplified my desire to be “free” & my inability to do so.  Running was a rigid chore during those years – there’s nothing fun about punishing oneself physically for all the wrong reasons. (I once had a therapist tell me that “anorexia is like telling yourself you have to clean the grout between the tiles in your shower, with a Q-tip, all day, every day”…I found that metaphor frighteningly accurate.)

Now, I’m a mother.  My skin has waxed & waned.  I have the silvery stretchy lines to prove it. I bruise easily & wrinkle even more.  Sometimes I look down at my legs as I run and feel sadness – “if only I had been kinder to my body then…”  The truth is, when a woman’s body weight fluctuates to such extremes, the skin remembers.  Maybe that’s a good thing?

I’m getting tougher.

The stretch marks on my thighs, hips, butt, tummy, breasts….I might finally sit in peace with them. They aren’t pretty – (not gonna lie!!) – but goddammit I am done hiding.  Run free in just shorts and a running bra on dusty rugged single-track? Yes, please! Jump in that cool mountain lake?? Even better.

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Here’s to a Spring of throwing open the windows, airing out your heart & unearthing your dreams…it’s time to get out there.

beginning

No greater agony

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

One of the most interesting and delightful changes I’ve noticed as a single parent of a 13 year old boy (!!) is the subtle shift going on between the two of us regarding accountability and inspiration.  I now have a teenager who not only looks to me for guidance, answers, protection & comfort – but also as the most prominent role model in his life when it comes to goal-setting and commitment.  His goals are becoming more “real” and adult-like.  He is thinking beyond the immediate and looking towards the future.  He is beginning to understand that having a plan, putting in the work & gradually chipping away at the goal is kind of exciting.  He sees the rewards.

My job as his mom is not just to support and cheer him on.  That’s easy.  It’s the (gentle) pushing and nudging that can be uncomfortable.  I know it’s uncomfortable because he pushes me! This accountability thing is actually a 2-way street in our home.  He sees me declare my intention to attempt the 100 mile distance again this year, plunk down the registration fee for the Bryce 100, and commit to my training program.  Does he ask if I did my run or my workout on any given day?  You bet he does!  Does his commitment to come home from school & get his homework done in time for his practices which sometimes last until 9:00 PM inspire ME to get my butt out of bed at 5:00 AM for a run to avoid putting a big fat zero in my training log for that day? YES!!! What kind of parent would I be if I said one thing and modeled another?  OR, what kind of parent would I be if I said “Don’t bother trying anything hard or new or difficult….Just hang out there in your little comfort zone honey!” There has to be a balance.

I have, at times in my life, found that balance elusive.  I spent faaaaaar too many years in the world of black & white.  Extremes. Do it all or do nothing.  Either way, I was left exhausted & hollow.

It’s a humbling thing to create and announce big goals for yourself in your 40s.  Doing so can seem silly or selfish.  “I’m the mom now! It’s his turn to shine! I’ll just sit back and watch!” Thing is:  When I watch him, I am INSPIRED.  I am energized in a very profound way. In a way that does not detract from his accomplishments but actually binds us even closer together as a team, united.

I feel I would be letting my son down if I asked of myself the bare minimum.

I would most definitely be letting myself down.

This year promises to be another year of growth, as long as I keep beginning again.  I believe we all have “untold stories” inside us, yearning to be heard.  It is never too late to share your story….or edit the old tired one you have been carrying around in your back pocket.  Or, crumple up that sorry-ass excuse for a story and throw it in the fire.  Write a new one.  It’s YOUR story after all.

“If lines of disappointment crowd your brow and distant dreams seem hopelessly lost.  If you realize you are not who you hoped to be.  

If sadness rises from your gut, becomes a moan and threatens to escape your lips. If you begin to mourn something never even born.

Remember.

It is not too late.”

-Josh Irby

Sometimes you just do things.

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Having lived in a foreign country for most of my 20s, I sometimes look back and wonder why I made that choice.  Why I stayed in Japan so long, right out of college. The “plan” was to teach English for 2 years and then move back to the States and pursue a graduate degree.  Deviation from the The Plan had something to do with a boy and lots to do with my emotional immaturity at that time in my life.  I was a 20-something after all.

Now a single mom in my 40s, I can surmise that a huge part of the draw, for me, was the challenge.  Living in a rural Japanese town with very few foreigners provided me with daily built-in obstacles.  It was guaranteed that nearly every single day would present me with some crazy oddball problem or conundrum.  Whether it was trying to order my medicine from the pharmacy in Japanese, travel for work, deal with my broken-down bike in the humid dumping July rain, communicating with the local police about the creepy man who hides in the bushes and flashes me every other week on my morning runs, or simply trying to mail a package home or navigate an unfamiliar neighborhood with a map I can barely read.  Yes, some things got easier & more comfortable over time.  But my life in Japan was inherently ripe with endless opportunities for embarrassment, humiliation, confusion, exasperation.  All these equal GROWTH.  I couldn’t help but learn a ton about myself during and after my time in Japan.

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I look at my life now, and I see the relative ease and comfort of my existence.  I do not encounter many daily physical struggles.  I am, however, aware of the underlying messiness, complexity & uncertainty of my real-life personal and emotional difficulties.  These challenges are woven throughout our everyday lives….sometimes we barely notice them and other times they rumble incessantly – an annoying background static that we just can’t shake.

Problem is, very rarely are they simple. concrete. challenges.  They are not tasks I can pick up, complete, check off my list, dust off my hands. Be done, move on.  They are messy, oozy and complicated.  Real life goop.

Perhaps this is why I gravitate towards ultrarunning.  I don’t think I’m alone here.  The physical, sweaty, HARD work of training for and completing a long mountain trail ultra is challenging for sure.  But the simple concrete nature of it (“OK! start here! run up that mountain! run down! do it again! go over to that mountain! you have 32 hours! GO!”) is strangely comforting.  It’s a challenge in a relatively protected and controlled environment.  You are allowed the opportunity to do something really super freaking HARD (and perhaps fall on your face and fail in your attempt), and then go back to your own “real-life” mountains.

In Scott Jurek’s memoir “Eat and Run”, he repeats this mantra which his father often used: “Sometimes you just do things!”  It becomes part of his internal dialogue.

Yep, sometimes you just do things.  Like really reaaaaaaaally hard things.

Doing really really hard physical things is seemingly about 3000% easier for me than tackling my pesky inner challenges.  Why is that???  Telling me to go shovel snow or dig a trench is a million times more appealing than asking me to sit quietly and address my regret, self-doubt & insecurity; or contemplate my future, my relationships, my finances.  I would much rather mow the hill in my backyard than have that scary talk with my boss or close friend.

Running trails helps.  Somehow, I am slowly learning to combine the two…to recognize that these two types of HARD WORK are complementary.  The strength I build on the trail can empower and sustain me when I encounter more ambiguous and vague challenges in my personal life.

Power on.

CC 100 Elevation Profile

a thing i need to just do :)

letting go

“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.”  - William Stafford

It’s been an interesting summer. July & August particularly so.  A little like this:

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Moving into Fall, I almost have to shake my head and laugh at how the plans & goals that I made and set for myself have fallen apart.  I can gaze over the wreckage and clearly see that approximately 2% of what I had carefully counted on happening actually happened.

footOooops.

As I sit here with a massive boot on my leg due to a random Achilles strain (first real running injury ever), sustained during a “just for fun” marathon last weekend, i realize that despite my F’d up foot and the other 12 things that went sideways this summer, my personal trainwreck is honestly more like this:

toy train

And, I am okay.

Clinging to preconceived notions of how things *should* turn out, attaching oneself to specific outcomes – these are two of the best ways I know to guarantee disappointment.  And yet, it has taking me all these years to finally start “getting it”.  I’m 43 and just now nodding my head…”ahhhh, I get it….no attachment…..huh.” The old Erin believed that the MORE she worried and the MORE she ruminated, the less room there would be for screw-ups. Not only is that not at all accurate, it’s also not at all FUN.  In fact it’s miserable.

When asked “How are you doing?” by friends and family, it seems that deep down my most honest answer would be: “Overwhelmed.”  As much as I still tend to oh-so-carefully organize, list out, over-analyze and worry (my specialty), things tend to go off the rails. ALL. THE. TIME.

Such is the messiness of getting your hands dirty & truly living.

THORPE

CCC100 training

LIVING.  I like it. 

Can I *will* my injury better in 10 days in order to redeem myself at a 2nd 100 mile attempt, as I PLANNED – ? Maybe.

Will this be a tortuous drawn-out 3 month battle with a stubborn punk Achilles & will I watch my trail shoes begin to gather dust in the corner? god I hope not.

Fact is, I just don’t know.  I am getting much much better at shrugging my shoulders at life and saying, “Hmph. Good question there. I don’t know.”  Sometimes I need an extra deep breath, a pep-talk, a run, a moment of quiet meditation on the trail to get to that place of accepting pesky little MR. IDON’TKNOW.

The good news is I no longer need a bottle (or 2) of wine, an eating disorder, a dysfunctional relationship or some other form of numbing behavior in order to deal with the unknown.  YES, I get overwhelmed.  YES, I get grumpy and cranky and wimpy and weak and shout “WTF world?!”  And then I take it outside.

It’s exhausting to constantly live in a state of hyper-vigilance, believing that if you worry enough you will be protected from the messiness. I don’t love my DNF, my injury, my flooded kitchen, my difficult family issues … but that’s my freakin’ LIFE. I’ll take it.  If I never ever left room for a little trainwreck here and there, I do believe I would be missing out on a whole mess of beauty, love & unimaginable grace.

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Here’s to an Autumn of letting go.  Of opening your heart. Of living a life that leaves plenty of room for chance & unexpected joy.

Here’s to keeping it loose.

FOMO & the art of taking back my joy

“Comparison is the death of joy.”  - Mark Twain

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Social media, Facebook, running blogs, race reports, live runner tracking….the internet is ripe with endless material which one could obsessively pore over and use as a tool for comparison.  A gauge.  A measuring stick. Runners by nature tend to be competitive creatures.  I have found ultrarunners to be less outwardly competitive and more demanding of, and hard on, themselves.  It’s an interesting transformation when you find your own personal goals bumping up against the exciting, awesome, inspiring goals of those around you.

ELLIE

ok, I admit to having a photo of Ellie on my fridge.  a girl can dream. :)

Inspiration, I like.  Running inspiration ignites the flame within me that just needed a little fanning & a little ooomph…running inspiration connects me to a community of people following their own dreams and setting some damn fine examples of lives fully lived. Comparison, on the other hand, seems to stamp out my fire.  Deflates and diminishes my own aspirations. How to separate the two when we are constantly bombarded (by our own choosing of course — no one is forcing me to use the internet) with this or that blog, status update, photo, race result, etc?  When does inspiration dissolve into cheap comparison? When does soulful passionate desire to fulfill an inner dream for oneself turn into “Look what she’s doing/ I should do that too/ Why can’t I do that/ Ohmygodiamsojealous/ I suck, I should just forget even trying.”  It seems to be a fine line.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) brings up a Jr. High-type pang in my tummy….a 7th grade “I didn’t get invited to the roller skating party”-type left-out feeling.  It’s actually pretty ludicrous when I sit and think about it logically.  My running is no less meaningful because I missed that race, that amazing adventure, that superfun trail run.  My goals are no less important if they take 3 years to accomplish due to the plain fact that I am a single mama, work full-time and have a very busy teenage boy….Why even compare?  I guess it’s human nature to do so (and I do believe there is a particularly sticky brand of comparison that is woman-nature.)

As I look ahead, I wonder what the next few years will bring in terms of my running goals. More 100s?  More racing?  Or more self-styled adventures that don’t involve pinning on a bib and won’t be blabbered about on my FB page or posted on Ultrasignup…?  I don’t know.  I personally LOVE to read race reports & I often get goosebumps reading of other runners’ amazing achievements as well as their heart-wrenchingly difficult lessons learned out on the trail.

The wonder of the internet is that we have access to all this sharing.  I owe much of my introduction to and love of trail running to the folks I have met online and through running events that I have found through social media.  I think where I need to be careful is that place where I mistakenly slip into measuring my own experiences against the seemingly supershiny spectacular ones I see online.  When my own plan for a fun little weekend jaunt on the trails is somehow diminished by someone else’s post detailing a crazy epic adventure that I “missed out” on.

It’s all perspective.  It’s all about constructing my own gauge & my own definition of what brings ME joy.  A goal for the coming year: Maintain my abundant well of Erin-Joy while simultaneously allowing it to be sprinkled, splashed and nourished with healthy, happy drops of welcome inspiration.

RAIN