longevity!

I started running late in life.  Prior to running my first marathon at age 27, I rowed on the crew team in college and stayed fit in general by running a bit here & there and lifting weights.  I’ve never run on a team or really had any sort of formal training in “how to run”.  I mean, you just run right?

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Particularly with the kind of running I’ve been doing the past few years (long, slow, on trails, over mountains)…you really just need to run a ton and you’re good. Right?? Or not…

I’ve started to face the reality that as “a woman of a certain age”, I need to continually reassess my approach.  I want to be running for a long time.  Both my parents are in their 70s and remain extremely active – astoundingly so.  I wanna be like them!!

Nutrition-wise I’ve got my act together and I’m feeling great about my current path.  I’ve got a training plan, with my eyeballs on a 2015 speedy marathon, a ticket to Boston in 2016, and hopefully another shot at a 100 miler.  I’ve also committed myself to a daily core routine & threw in a 30-day squat challenge on top o’ that. Getting strong is fun.  I am currently so so SO weak in my core & upper body, so the improvements come quick and are super satisfying.

Next up: running drills & warming up!  WHAT? Warming up? Why? Who does that. Not me. Never!  I just start jogging and call that a warm up.  Well, today I stumbled across this video from Oiselle, featuring Lauren Fleshman & was immediately inspired.  DAMN! I need to start warming up! It actually looks fun. And some of these moves are basically agility-training in my book since I am a total running klutz.  Check the video out!

One thing I love about running trail ultras is the diversity in ages, skill levels, body types.  It really is a Come One Come All sport.  I’ve been passed (swiftly, confidently and repeatedly) in ultras by women and men 20-30 years my senior.  My heart leaps inside when that happens & I can’t help but smile.  I aspire to be out there running for many many years to come.

Time to go stretch… :)

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stories

Nothing motivates, moves & inspires me more than someone sharing their story.  I am endlessly fascinated by 1) the ability of the human spirit to endure and 2) the subsequent desire to tell about it.  Maybe this is why I share mine here.

I am equally impressed with our drive, as humans, to grow and change.  To tell our stories, to speak our truths, with the realization that our lives are fluid and our stories reflect that. To extract the essence of growth and learning from each experience or season of our lives and let it trickle over & nurture the present. Rather than drown under the weight of an old story that no longer rings true, we courageously face change while letting go of what no longer fits.

This is what I aspire to every day.  It’s not always easy.

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During a recent run, I happened upon this podcast on Trail Runner Nation about Sally McRae’s  experience at Western States 100 this year. Well worth the listen. She gives a blow-by-blow account of her race which culminated in a dramatic fight from mile 96 on for 10th place – which she achieved – securing for herself an automatic entry into next year’s race.  I almost stopped my workout I was so enthralled!  She is one tough cookie.

Many things she said stuck with me, but in particular this:  She described waking up in a sweat the morning of the race with this phrase echoing in her head: “You WILL finish. It WILL be painful.”

You WILL finish.  It WILL be painful.

Something about that resonated with me.  The confidence and the acceptance.  Her confidence in her own ability & her own strength.  Her acceptance of the reality that it will hurt.  The pain is not something to be feared.  It’s a given.

hard-things

Change hurts.  It can be painful to admit that a person, a pattern, a habit no longer belongs in your story. Letting go and moving forward can feel like a loss. Setting a new standard for oneself requires courage and an acceptance that it will be painful.

Last summer, I DNF’d at my first 100 mile attempt.  There were some very dark miles that night alone on the trail.  I doubted my abilities and asked myself alllll the questions. (“what were you thinking signing up for this??” “why did you even try?!” “who are you kidding thinking you could run 100 miles!!?”).  I was chasing a 3:00 AM cut-off at the mile 53 aid station.  If I didn’t make it I would be pulled off the course.  And I was last.  (yep, DEAD. LAST.)

I was pretty out of it by that point, but here is what I remember about those miles before the 3:00 AM cut-off: I was barely moving.  Nothing was staying down, not even water.  Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.  Every ultrarunner’s nightmare: not being able to eat.

I had my trusty “sweepers” behind me (a sweeper in an ultra is a runner who follows the last runner and picks up all the course markings and ensures the trail is left as it was pre-race).  My pride was out the window at that point.  I just needed to KEEP MOVING.  Down the rope section, sliding on my ass, clock ticking.  I remember looking at my watch and seeing “2:42″.  I remember thinking “There is NO FUCKING WAY I can run right now.”  Then I ran.  I ran and ran into the dark wet tunnel with my sweepers cheering me on. I was absorbing their energy.  I began to believe that my race wasn’t over after all.  My self-pity-filled negative self-talk changed.  “There is NO. WAY. I am missing that cut-off.”  

Nearing mid-tunnel we saw a pinpoint of light….”hey! look! the end of the tunnel!”  (Hint: it was dark….no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’- DUH!) We realized that pinpoint of light was a bobbing headlamp.  It was Lars, coming to pace me.  He told me later that he had expected to see me crumpled over in the dirt, sobbing – that’s how far off my time goal I was.

Lars was on a MISSION.  A mission to get me to that aid station before 3AM.  “Ok Erin. You need to RUN. You need to run HARD.”  I swear I was running an 8 minute pace after that.  2:54, 2:55, 2:56…. I don’t remember the pain.  I made it into Hyak at 2:59.  Last runner in before cut-off.  I had high hopes in my ability to keep pushing despite slogging those last 30 miles on zero calories.  Leaving the aid station, heading back out into the dark, the reality set in that I had given all I had.  I stumbled through the miles, begging Lars to “just let me lay down in the dirt please?  just for a minute?”

Soon after, I dropped from the race.

I still wonder if I could have pushed myself harder.  I still wonder if my story could have ended differently.  How was I able to run so hard one minute and have NOTHING LEFT the next?  This is a story I hold close to my heart, for so many reasons.  I look forward to weaving the lessons from this one into those I have not yet experienced and have yet to tell.  I take this story with me, tucked in my pocket.  I know it will aid me in meeting my shiny new goals.

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Sharing our stories connects us.  In a moment, I see myself in you & you in me, and the harsh judgmental gaze we often give ourselves, softens.

treats

“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi

I have become fairly adept over the years at depriving myself.  So adept, in fact, that I have had to unlearn this habit as I discovered the hard way that self-deprivation is a surefire recipe for self-pity, over-indulgence and finally, depression.  Depriving myself of joy, love, rest, food, laughter, silliness….not a fun way to live.  My struggle has been finding that sweet spot between “deprivation” and total, extreme, all-out gluttony & lack of any sort of off-switch.  (black & white thinking was my forte!)

These days, I accept that there is an ebb & flow to life.  I can live in that grey area.  I can also embrace the joy when it comes, rather than fear its potential brevity.  I can rest with sadness rather than numb the inevitable pain. I used to feel powerful and “strong” when I deprived myself of things….in reality I was weak and hollow, unable to embrace any sort of emotional intensity in my heart.

I love this passage from Gibran’s The Prophet:

“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. – Khalil Gibran
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One of my favorite philosophies with regards to this topic is very simple & to the point – It’s one I like to remind myself of often.  I will share it with you:

“Make it a treat!” – Sarah Silverman

There you have it! I love the simplicity and wisdom of M.I.A.T.  :)   (thank you Sarah!!!)  I find it universally applicable. It totally works for me.  I never used to make anything a treat! It was either strictly off limits or recklessly over-consumed.

Dates in the city with my love are treats because we are both single parents on tight budgets with limited free time.  Long runs in the mountains are treats as I rarely have a free Saturday or Sunday due to my son’s sports schedule.  Long vacations are treats due to work constraints.  If I did any of these all the time, they wouldn’t be treats!

With my current goal of eating a clean green diet free of sugar and processed crap, where do the “treats” fit in?  With my running goal of getting fast and qualifying for Boston, is there even room for “treats”? HELL YES.  It’s just plain not going to work without treats!!  There will be an occasional sugar indulgence, a Sunday sleeping in, a workout missed.

This is my practice: Discovering what works for me, doing it, allowing for treats. 

Running / nutrition update:

  • Slooooowly easing back into a regular running routine.  It is SO much easier for me when I have a plan! Love my plan so far.  Did my first “speed workout” at the track.  One word: HUMBLED.  I have a long way to go. (Massive inspiration taken from this gal who nailed a 3 hour marathon at Chicago yesterday….Seriously cannot even run that pace for 800s…SUPERSTAR!)
  • Nutritionally, I am so pleased! I am continuing with Purium and amazed every day with how much it has improved my life.  A total game-changer.  Sugar doesn’t appeal to me at all anymore – which was my primary goal re: starting Purium – but the list of bonus benefits is getting longer….. in addition to these improvements, there are more: NO headaches! (I used to get migraines at least once per month), continually improved sleep (no more waking up 3-4 times per night), the rough patches of skin on my arms and legs are GONE and the big one:  I used to come home from work and say to Liam: “Honey I just need to lie down for 15 minutes” … Especially days when i woke up at 5AM to run. I seriously would almost be in tears from exhaustion.  NOT ANYMORE!!! No more naps, no more excessive yawning, no more feeling like I am going to die if I don’t lie down.   My son has sports commitments until 9:00 pm some nights – that used to just kill me.  NOT ANYMORE! The steady all-day energy is HUGE.
  • I used my power shake on a easy trail run the other day & discovered it is a perfect running fuel as well.  BONUS.
  • Next I need to register for one of the following race distances which I historically HATE because you have to “run fast” (eek!): 5k, 10k or 1/2 marathon.  Gulp.  Can’t deny that racing makes you faster. Suck it up, Buttercup.  
  • Going to start this daily core workout up again.  IT JUST PLAIN WORKS.  Every day, dammit.

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pay attention. live fully. make it a treat!

risk

“The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.” – Cheryl Strayed

I probably love this quote so much because it’s a damn hard thing for me to do & one I have to remind myself of constantly: TACKLE. RISK. TAKE CHANCES. LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.

It’s so hard, in fact, that I purposely have to sort of stage situations for myself that promote risk-taking.  It’s easier for me to just throw myself into a scenario that ensures I will be uncomfortable than ease in methodically, one toe at a time.  It’s almost like I won’t notice my awkwardness, my fear, my self-consciousness if situation is inescapable.  Moving to Japan right out of college, not knowing a soul, not speaking the language, not knowing how to navigate my life there: PERFECT! Absolute built-in certainty that I would have to take risks on a daily basis.

After my son was born, I immediately made it a goal to run a marathon within his first year. Signing up for the race was a built-in mechanism that pushed me, without me really realizing it. I needed to get out of the comfort zone of thinking “oh well I will get back in running shape at some point…”, nail down a goal & stick to it.  I crossed that finish line and bee-lined it to the recovery area to nurse my baby. (sayonara comfort zone!)

After struggling with a serious eating disorder throughout my 20s, I went on to have a healthy pregnancy, healthy baby and have enjoyed renewed health and fitness – treasures I was told I would never have due to the damage I had inflicted on my body.  One of the ways I “tested” myself in the body-image & body-acceptance area was volunteering to model nude for a sculptor who needed to finish up her piece of a ballet dancer.  To this day, I cannot tell you what prompted me to answer that ad. Once again, it was planned risk. There I was, meeting for coffee with this artist who was seeking an athletic female to pose for her.  And then there I was, in her studio the first time, so incredibly nervous that I had to pause mid-session and go throw up! She needed to finish the lines of the dancer’s calf muscle, the curve of her neck, the arch of her foot. In the end, it was a monumentally nourishing, self-affirming process.  I gained so much appreciation for the gift of my healthy human body.

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This Fall, I have set some running and nutrition goals for myself that feel uncomfortable.  As they should! This is how I do! Without that discomfort – that edge – it is really not a goal to me. It’s not a reach.  Feeling the hum of nervous excitement is a good thing.

1.  Run a “fast” marathon.  Now, “fast” is relative, as I am not a naturally fast runner.  My marathon PR is nothing to write home about.  I would like for that to change. Qualifying for Boston, with a nice cushion, is a sweet out-of-comfort-zone running goal for 2015.

2.  Maintain my no-sugar, no-processed food, no-crap eating plan. Of course there will be times I will let this slide, as I don’t do well with strict deprivation, but the overall plan has improved my life SO MUCH that I am not willing to give it up.  The benefits have been huge.  I truly believe each body is different and we all have uniquely individual needs.  For me, life without sugar is similar to life without alcohol.  I relied for soooo many years on candy & coffee to get me through my days and give me those boosts of (fake) energy.  The steady, even, reliable fuel I am giving my body these days is so comforting. Not only that, I sleep like a baby, my skin has cleared up so much that I don’t use my prescription cortisone ointment for eczema anymore, and I have cut my anti-depressant medication in half.  Minor miracles.  I only expect these improvements to continue. (Oh – and I think I am a nicer, more patient mama. But you would have to verify with my 14 yr old ;) )

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 To bold risks! Planned or not, they set the stage for dramatic transformation. <3

choice

“The warrior who trusts his path doesn’t need to prove the other is wrong.” – Paulo Coelho

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I’ve been thinking a lot about choices.  Specifically, that what it all really boils down to is CHOICE.  We each make choices every. single. day. about how to do the next right thing.  For me, this is what it means to be a grown-up.  For a while there, in my “grown-up” years, I behaved like a child.  I did not consider choice or even accept the fact that I had one.  I let life happen to me and blamed external factors when everything went to shit.  I whined like a child and stomped my feet, demanding attention.  And then I was baffled and hurt when people treated me poorly.  I lacked any form of self-awareness.  To be fair, I believe that in those times, I was so engulfed in sadness, regret and fear that my eyes were not focused enough to see beyond the messes I had created.  To me, choice was a luxury buried in shame.

Thankfully, I now know that I have a choice.  Many choices, in fact! Every damn day.

At first, having choices is overwhelming.  It can be easier (in a sick kind of way) to passively say: “OH WELL – it is what it is – nuthin’ I can do about it!” and just let life pummel you and mold you into someone you hardly recognize anymore.

I used to operate on this theory: Making choices = chance of failure.  Failure = end of the world. Following that logic, it is safer to remain stagnant or remain a victim.

The other part of my genius theory was: Making a choice inevitably = making someone mad. Making someone mad = end of the world.

Again, following that way of thinking leads to immobility & never ever growing up.

When I think about my choices these days, I prefer to allow myself the freedom and autonomy of a healthy adult woman & ask myself: “What’s your truth, Erin?”  Sometimes it takes a loooooooooong time and a lot of hand-wringing (or running or writing or talking) to get to that truth.  Sometimes it takes a few tries.  Sometimes I bomb, drop the ball, screw up and make a mistake.

Is that the end of the world?  No.  Is everyone mad at me? Probably not.  They are too busy making their own damn choices! :)

Brave-Kind

-Glennon Melton

Why am I thinking so much about choices these days?  Perhaps it’s partially due to the 14 yr old I live with…watching my son grow up and explore his interests, expand his comfort zone, define himself…It is pretty mind-blowing.  Really – Sometimes I just sit in awe of him:  “How is he so dang comfortable in his own skin?”  Whose kid is that?? I was SO not like that at his age.  He is really inspiring to me. This is the magical aspect of parenting that I find so fascinating: LEARNING FROM OUR KIDS. Love that.

Also, it is partially due to a shift I feel in my attitude towards POSSIBILITIES.  What is possible, REALLY?  As I look around me, I see that a LOT is possible.  Even for 40-something single mamas like me who must work full-time, solo parent, juggle all the balls.  Yeah I have my limitations but I also have possibilities. What I choose to do with them is up to me.

Running-wise, I am tired of stagnation.  I have big goals in this department and in order to reach those buggers I need to start small.  (remember how I’m not good at moderation!? starting small is hard for me!) I need a plan.  I have a plan!

Here is what I have found works for me:

  • Plunking down $$ for a goal race. (still working on this choice!) Once my money is on something, it matters more.
  • Writing down my daily workouts, a week in advance.  Sticking to this AS MUCH AS I CAN. This plan MUST include speedwork. *not my strength*
  • Running some of my runs with friends.  I love the camaraderie and run talk-therapy is priceless.
  • Adding in 3x per week strength/yoga/core.  Helps my running exponentially.
  • Last & most importantly: nutrition.  Here’s the rub:  I know what my best “running weight” is and I am not at it.  Why?  I 100% attribute it to a lack of mindful eating.  As someone who has struggled with eating disorders in the past, I am not the biggest fan of diets, deprivation, counting calories, etc.  Those methods feel oppressive and tend to backfire. (they may work beautifully for others, but not me)  For many years I have managed to maintain a healthy weight by eating what I would say is a pretty crappy diet.  Really it was probably 75% fresh fruits, veggies, lean protein (all good) and 25% pure sugar & coffee. (notsogood)  This pattern has caught up with me and I am (finally) saying GOOD RIDDANCE.  I am using Purium products to kick my sugar habit to the curb and attempt to get my poor sluggish metabolism back on track.  The extra special bonus benefits of doing so have been amazing and keep me motivated.  (better sleep, even mood, clearing up of my life-long eczema, sharper focus).

Every single one of those 5 points up there are CHOICES! woo-hoo! Meaning: daily opportunities to DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING….or, daily opportunities to screw up, notice the screw up, note it, learn from it, and get the hell on with my day.

There is a freedom in establishing goals and making them known.  It can be scary to say them out loud while fully aware that what works for me may not work for you…and that’s OKAY. By sharing, I firmly believe we gain a greater appreciation for each other & for ourselves.  A recognition that we are each fantastically unique and at the same time basically not so different at all.

worry

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.” – Brene Brown

I tend to worry like it’s my job.  I remember my childhood as a permanent state of hyper-vigilance.  I guess I grew up thinking it was just safer and smarter to be this way.  I felt protected by my cozy blanket of pessimism.  “Nothing can hurt me because I am already prepared for the very worst.”

I think a good chunk of this approach to life simply has to do with my make-up.  I struggle with depression and anxiety. I am a realist and a pragmatist at heart.  I bring a heavy dose of skepticism to the table.

Recently, I have started questioning this part of myself; wondering if maybe I am missing out by approaching all situations with a furrowed brow and a checklist of hard questions.

I am engaged to a man who happens to be one of the most optimistic people I have ever known.  I sit in awe sometimes at his laissez-faire attitude; his lack of worry.  (and yes sometimes it drives me batty!) I used to wonder if it meant I need to double-up and worry enough for the both of us.  Thankfully, I am learning that, no, he is a big boy and doesn’t need my extra freakouts…

I’ve long thought it slightly irresponsible to be overly sunny and optimistic.  I mean, shouldn’t one of us be the Head Worrier?  Better to firmly plant myself in the low expectation realm of things and be utterly stunned when things go well, right?

I’m starting to find holes in this theory.  Like, it’s not very fun.  It’s actually draining and tiring to be on high-alert all the time.  Who put me in charge anyway?? Who made me Queen Worrywart? NO ONE.

The kicker recently has been the realization that the people I admire, look up to, gain inspiration from, are those who are approaching the world with an open heart, an energized and optimistic attitude, and an expectation that LIFE IS GOOD.  Sounds corny right?  Well, I’ve decided I like corny.

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I’m truly inspired to be my best self when I see others moving outside of their comfort zones and doing the hard work.  I’m inspired by women who, despite personal obstacles, continue to present themselves to others as an abundant source of positive energy and light.  I say we need more of this, not less.

One of my personal goals right now is to begin breaking down my wall of constant worry and allow myself to believe that good things will happen.  It might actually be kinda fun.   <3

gratitude

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Starting off the week with a heart full of thankfulness.  I know that even when I feel overwhelmed, tired, scared….I have CHOICES.

Not everyone does. I am grateful for the tedious, monotonous tasks of my everyday life.  (I get to go grocery shopping, I get to go to my job, I get to do laundry, I get to sit with my son and remind him to hurry & do his homework so he’s not late for practice…)

Far too many people do not have the luxury of these options.  I am lucky.  So so fortunate.

I also GET to choose what I eat and how hard I work to reach my goals.  How mindful I am.  How disciplined, patient, dedicated and self-aware I am.

I recognize these choices as gifts and hold them dear as I wholeheartedly rededicate myself to my goals. Join me?

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