What will we tell the children?

This morning I ran, like many other mornings, with the sky sobbed. Twinkling lights danced a waltz, coyotes howled and I thought, “What will we tell the children?”

How will we explain the hatred, the bigotry, the prejudice?

How will we rise up, be like the mountain I climb, strong and fortuitous yet peaceful and gentle?

Thirty minutes and 4 miles later I was left to think that we will. We will. We will tell the children what they need to hear, what they need to rise up, not to shelter them but to fill them with hope and promise, for they are the hope and promise we need. We will teach them that they are strong, SHE is strong, she can be anything, anyone, everyone. We will show them, with our legs, our spirits our actions that women are powerful.

Just as our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers did for us and theirs did for them, we will press on. We will raise them right, assuring they know that justice and freedom are worth fighting for and that we will not surrender.

The sky continued to cry. The coyote howled and back to the real world. We need saving.

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Post-race blues and a sick kid

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.”

It has been over a year since I have last posted here. For anyone still listening, thank you. If it’s just me, then I need this.

Time has flown by, kids have grown and life keeps on pressing. Also, I have been happy – like really, truly happy. I tend to write when I am not feeling so rosy, when my heart is ripping at the seems, red and blue seeping together and bleeding all over this messy life. Today, I find myself drippy. I need an outlet and my shins are begging for a day off.

I ran my 2nd 50K this past Saturday, just 4 days ago and I now find myself sitting here with the post-ultramarathon blues. It’s a thing. Google it, if you don’t believe me. Back in October of 2014 I first goggled “post-marathon blues” when I was stuck in this funk for days that my typically positive self just could not shake. So anyway, today I find myself on the couch at 10:10am snuggling a sick scrawny little 7-year old who had to miss her school walk-a-thon today due to the flu. In a 7-year old’s world, this is a big deal. She has the blues, too. Poor girl cried and cried all morning, trying to convince herself and her Mama that she was well enough to do it. I took her temperature and let her try. A mere 30 minutes after school drop-off and my phone rang with the news that “Your kid has a fever and isn’t feeling well.” So that is how we landed back here at 10am.

I am never sitting at 10am, never really sitting any time during the days anymore. If I’m not playing with crazy 3-year olds at preschool then I’m running in the mountains or to school pick-ups or gymnastics classes or Trader Joe’s to stock up on food to keep this family moving. But not today. Today, I sit here with my heart like grape gum on the ground (to borrow words from Jewel).

The 50K is done, all the months of mental and physical preparation are through and I only finished 4th. 4th place is a total bummer – just 1 step from the podium. I try to remind myself that this was only my 2nd ultra (classified as any race over the marathon distance), but that hardly helps. Then I research the names of the top 3 female runners on Strava, Facebook and other social media stalking sites with the time I should be using to study. I discover these women are beasts, serious top-caliber athletes from all over the west coast. They run professionally, coach ultra runners and have competed and won top championship races. They are legit.

I place my hand back over a 7-year old protruding shoulder, rub it deeply and sigh. A sip of coffee and life will be okay. Time to plan the next training cycle..

 

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All in a Run/Hard Day

Need a good laugh today? A reminder that life is tough for everyone and we all have bad days. Yep, no Supermom here. Keep on looking! I try my best, but somedays I’m still just covered in horse crap.

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Smiling, because sometimes that’s the best you can do.

It started on Tuesday. All three kids were at school for the morning and I needed a mental pick-me-up, a self-convincing that I was a distance runner. It may sound silly to you that I had doubts, but they creep in, those demons that tell you you’re not good enough, you’re not legit, you’re not …

It had been just over a month since I had completed a good solid long run, which to me equals 18 miles or more. I had one goal to accomplish Tuesday morning between 9am-12 noon — to run as many miles as I could. I covered about 20 in the mountains and felt great. Definitely tired, fatigued and in need of some extra coffee that afternoon to get me through homework and babysitting and dinner and cleaning and all the daily chores of a mother of three littles. Anyway, I still felt pretty good.

Then 9pm rolled around and I was toast. Just as I collapsed in bed, I heard strange noises. It was choking — a sound no one ever wants to hear, let alone a tired Mama. I tiptoed into the kid’s room to see which one it was (all three share a room so it’s tricky to detect who is making little sounds in the night). It was Cesia, my middle daughter, and she was covered in vomit.

That was only the beginning. For the next four hours, she alternated vomiting and running to the toilet for the other end while I alternated changing her sheets and clothes and bathing her in the middle of the night with soothing, calming and helping her get back to sleep.

Needless to say, Wednesday morning the sun rose and I was feeling pretty beat. I hardly slept at all and my body was in serious need of rest and recovery post-20 miler. Ah well, I’d get it eventually. Wednesday night went okay and all seemed just fine. Then Thursday all were back at school and I completed my speed workout for the week. I felt pretty shitty, my legs filling with lactic acid during the 2 mile warm-up (never a good sign!). Ah well, I completed it and right on pace and went on with my day, just waiting for bedtime. Then bedtime came and.. more choking, the crying and sobbing. Who could it be now?

I dashed to the kid’s room last night to find my littlest, my soon-to-be-three year old Isaac just completely covered head to toe in puddles of dinner, and lunch and everything else he had shoved into his little 30 lb body over the course of the day. Another night came and went with nary a wink. I slept cuddled up with him in our bed, quieting his shaking body and bathing him twice in the middle of the night.

Friday morning and gosh, I’m just ready to sleep. My body is off, my legs achy and tired, my stomach upset but I’m not sure whether it’s mental paranoia over getting this stomach bug myself or just a result of sheer exhaustion. Time will surely tell.

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Insert dogs driving me crazy. Littlest one is finally content on the couch for 1 second when dog jumps up to chew his blanket and bug him, driving him back to tears.

Dogs are driving me crazy, kids feisty despite their little sleep this week and I just need to run. It all takes so much effort sometimes. It’s ridiculous but somehow the loading and packing of snacks and kids and dogs and water and poop bags all to go for a quick 4 miler takes longer than the 4 miler itself! In fact it nearly always does. There’s no “quick-out-the-door” with kids, it always just takes freaking forever. I’m losing patience by the second and just want my feet to be gliding over dirt.

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Alas, we are all packed, buckled, tied on and ready to run! Things are good, life is good, I am slowly finding my happiness and peace underneath all the vomit and germs that are covering me. Then Clover (our older, supposed-to-be-better-behaved, dog), takes off down a steep single track and won’t come back. No listening to me, just complete and utter ignoring my commands and treats and pleads. I’m just about to lose it when I hear her collar jingling towards us. Ah, she’s back. Time to go home, I’m so tired and my annoyance level is increasing again. I grab her to find my hands instantly covered in.. ugh, gross, what is that? Horse-crap. More horse-crap. She rolled her entire body in horse poop and is now just freaking disgusting and I’m covered in horse crap and all I wanted was a nice relaxing run.

Oh well, we’ll try again another day. Just one of those days. Part of the game. I’m so freaking tired, and still all I want is to go out for a nice, peaceful quiet run. Tomorrow is Saturday, perhaps I’ll negotiate for some morning alone time before sunrise. Happy Friday all and hope you got a laugh out of this one! Somedays are just not so easy. Hoping tomorrow is…

And some glimpses of hope and beauty from our run this morning.. before the horse-crap.

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Speed Play

Happy Post-Thanksgiving! It was a wonderful holiday, memorable 3rd Annual Downtown LA Turkey Trot for our family and all around amazing day of thanks. A few of my absolute favorite moments from the day:

  1. Listening to my 2-year-old son say repeatedly in his cute little voice, “I sanksul sor my Mama, I sanksul sor my Daddy, I sanksul sor my . . . ” and really feeling like they GOT the message, understood the holiday and truly felt thanks for this wonderful life.
  2. Listening to my 4-year-old daughter shout, “Go, Daddy, Go!” repeatedly during the final half mile of the Turkey Trot where I joined them after finishing the race myself. (Daddy was a bit slower than Mama again this year as he took on the role of pushing the triple stroller so I could go run my heart out.. another thing for which I am thankful).
  3. Watching neighborhood kids play hide-and-seek into the dark on Thanksgiving night post-dinner while adults sat huddled together sipping on delicious adult beverages and sharing stories, memories and laughs.

And now onto running talk…

2015 was a year of transformation of sorts for me as a runner. It was the first year of my running career (which has spanned over 16 years now) where I transitioned to a true long distance runner, a marathoner. I ran just one full marathon in 2015 – the Mountains2Beach Marathon in Ojai back in May, in 3:12. I never imagined I could run that fast for 26.2 miles. I dreamt it, I fought for it, I trained my butt off for it, but still I didn’t know I had it within me. Running so “fast” (for me, it’s all relative, I know), was very empowering and built a lot of confidence within.

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Over the next few months I went on to win some trail races, run PR’s and really just have a blast playing in the mountains with my kids, my dogs and my own two legs. Running continues to be the ultimate expression of play for me. I seek it for calm, peace and strength. In fact, I have been running consistently more (hence leading to higher mileage, averaging 60/week) for many months more. Running makes me happy.

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With all the long distance running, however, I have definitely noticed that over the past several months or year perhaps, my speed was dwindling. I have always had a strong finishing kick, until this past Fall. Running XC with my team, the New Basin Blues, I just didn’t feel any true speed or fast muscle twitching going on. It was as if all this running had sapped the kick, the freshness out of my legs. They say “Hills are speed work in disguise” and man do I run a lot of hills, but still all this mountain running has left me feeling sluggish when it comes to that final kick.

Overall, my fitness is near it’s peak. On Thanksgiving I ran 21:33 over a 3.6 mile course with some decent hills thrown in it, which means my average pace was 6:00 flat/mile and my 5K time was between 18:30-18:40. That’s actually quite fast for me, so I can’t really say I feel slow. But I did lack a finishing kick.

In the next month and then new year ahead, one of my goals is to really work on my speed again, while training for the L.A. Marathon. How can I possibly squeeze in even more running amidst this busy life of child-raising and puppy training and everything else that consumes me? That is always the question running through my brain. How can I squeeze in more?

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Yesterday I took the kids up to the grassy field, a short hike from our house with an old run down playground and some dumped/recycled play houses neighbors put up there when their kids had outgrown them. My kids love it up there. It’s wild, it’s free and they can behave just the same — wild and free. As I stood there watching them happily play in their own imaginary world as 6, 4, and 2 year olds, I realized there was absolutely nothing they needed from me. Heck, really they just wanted space, freedom and quiet to carry out pretend play.

It was beautiful. I watched and listened for some time, then I ran. It occurred to me that I could do some 100 m uphill sprints while they played. They would be in my plain sight all the while and I could get something done. C’mon, I’m a busy Mama, I always need to be “getting something done!” And so for the next 30 minutes or so, I engaged in my own sort of play: 20 x 100m sprints, all-out, with jog/walk recoveries on the way down.

It was awesome! The kids played while I tried to chase my dwindling speed, pulling it out of my fibers, from deep down within, remembering what it felt like to be fast, to be young. As we walked back home from play-time yesterday morning, our hearts were all smiling. Play will do that to you. Kids will do that to you. Running will do that to you. For all three, I am so thankful.

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Girls on the Run Fundraiser!

In less than 12 weeks, I’ll be running my 3rd marathon and 1st LA Marathon. Running has saved my life in so many ways and has always been my greatest passion.
In order to make the experience more meaningful and to give back, share my passion and enable young girls to experience the same love and appreciation I have for the sport, I have decided to run this marathon as a fundraiser for Girls on the Run Los Angeles. My goal is to raise $750.
100% of your donation goes directly towards scholarships for girls to participate in Girls on the Run across LA county. Every amount counts, no matter how small and I would be forever grateful for your support. Thanks! (Please click link below to donate).

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https://www.raceplanner.com/donate/LA-Marathon-GOTR-Fundraiser

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Time Keeps Ticking

Alan is in China. A world away and seemingly further, I wanted someone beside me last night. I pulled my four year old out of bed and carried her to my own. She asked what I was doing. “Just come cuddle with me tonight,” I whispered. “Okay,” she moaned and fell fast asleep in my bed, beside me. A few hours later, she woke, begging, “Please, can I just go back to my own bed? Please, Mama?” She jumped up and ran away. I heard her bedroom door click shut.

Once, she slept on my chest. For six months, I was her only. She needed me. Now, only four and she wants her space.

Fall is here. The season is changing, kids are growing and I can not help but marvel at how time keeps on ticking. Yesterday, she was born, then her, then him. And it all seemed so trying, the days impossibly long, each second hovering like a feather in heavy air as I watched it slowly float to the ground, praying he would soon come home.

Now she is six and four and he is two. They all tell you, “It goes so fast..” You stop and smile politely, say “I know, thanks,” all the while questioning how you will ever manage to survive the next eight hours. You do and in a flash, it is gone. You have survived. They are gone.

I can see how it happens now — now that she is six, and four and he is two. Gosh, it just goes by so fast. I tell the mother with heavy eyelids and dirty sweats cradling her newborn, “It goes so fast..” and I pray she understands.

I scheme how I can stop the clock, how I can savor every single second. Can we skip school? Play hookie? Hold them back? No, I am too straight-laced and they are ready to soar. They are soaring. We must let them.

And so I take photos, lots and lots of photos. I write. I hug and kiss, a thousand times a day. I look at them, right in their eyes and try to remember their faces before they change come morning. I do anything in a feeble and desperate attempt to capture this very moment. I don’t want to forget how it felt, how her nose wrinkled up as she wrote her spelling words so carefully, how his eye twinkled when he scooted over to make space for me in bed tonight.

I hope I never forget. I savor. I savor every single second with them, no matter how trying, how difficult. I have stopped glancing at the clock in hopes that hours have flown by. I know that time moves too quickly. I appreciate my time alone with them.

Alan is in China this week and something quite different has happened this trip. Rather than being filled with fear over how I will spend the hours, the weeks and questioning whether I will survive, I have actually been looking forward to it. That may sound odd, and I do not mean to say I do not miss him, because I do in fact, every second he is gone. Instead, I am taking this time to appreciate my three magically and rapidly growing babies with every ounce of my being. When he is away it takes this pressure off getting them to bed, having dinner prepared at a certain hour, having everything perfectly in order. And still, somehow, a homemade healthy dinner is prepared and kids are put to bed (but sometimes now with a beer on the bookstand to sip between bedtime stories and a prolonged bath for the kids while I finish folding laundry).

Here they are, these magically and rapidly growing babies. Our day in photos:

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I love how she finds this place magical. A broken down playground, in the middle of a field of dead grass, browned and scratchy, with the scent of coyote piss and spilt beer, she is happy swinging for hours.
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Little boy finds time to nap on our afternoon run amidst a busy day or neighborhood play, birthday cupcakes for one of his own 2-yr old friends and busy big sister schedules.
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One of my very favorite sights: watching this girl draw and craft away as I glance out the kitchen window while cooking dinner. We call her the queen of “mixed-media.”
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Bedtime snuggles in “The Nest” as they appropriately termed my bed full of pillows and blankets and bodies tonight during bedtime stories.
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And this girl, and her books. She reads as well as Mama these days and in greater volumes. Adara reading bedtime stories to us.

And finally, I have to close with sharing this poem by Annie Flavin.. once again. I love it. It plays on repeat in my brain, in it’s brilliance. I have shared it here before, so skip it if you please, or read on and be amazed at her talent. This poem has been stuck in my head for days and I’m just fine with it. So much truth.

This is how it happens
as it does
when the weather turns,
when all of a sudden
the leaves have changed color.
Where did the green go?
Here comes the snow.

When all of a sudden
the sleeping on your shoulder
and the generosity of their words
have been replaced
by friend sleepovers
and one-word answers.

It changed
while you were staring
at the second hand
waiting for it
to reach bedtime.

The clock was moving after all.

Annie Flavin (www.annieflavin.com)

  • Cesia&Mom
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Fueling my running habit

A few weeks ago, we were baby-sitting a 7-year old friend after school. At about 3pm, I served up some snacks and helped myself to a full meal. About two hours later, 5:00 came around and I served up dinner. Once again, I ate another full meal. My kids thought nothing of my incessant eating, as they are used to it by now especially during high mileage running days. This little girl, however, looked completely perplexed and said politely, “Um, excuse me Caitlin, but I think you eat too much!”

She was right. Well, half-right. I do eat a lot, but probably not too much. I do not count calories or obsess over my fuel consumption, rather I listen to my body and eat healthy, homemade, plant-based foods.. and often. In fact, I spend most of my time away from the trails in my kitchen.  We are always cooking up something delicious to fuel my running habit (and three fast growing little kid’s bodies!). Plus, I have learned time and time again that when you cook with kids, they will eat it — it doesn’t matter what veggies are tucked in or how many lbs of spinach you have added, if their hands are the ones chopping, sautéing and layering, they will proudly munch it up!

Here are a few favorite recipes we have been cooking up and devouring lately! Enjoy and make them your own!

1. Watermelon Chia Seed Cooler

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Watermelon Chia Seed Cooler

I adapted this recipe from Julie Morris’ Superfood Kitchen recipe and have been sipping on it post-run all summer, especially on really hot days which have been plentiful this Summer AND Fall!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • 2.5 c watermelon flesh (cubed and seeded)
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • agave to taste (optional)

Place all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth! Place in refrigerator and sip cool, or pour over ice!

2. Quinoa cut-outs/patties/burgers/salad toppers!

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I love all things quinoa and rely on it as a perfect protein during periods of intense training especially. This is one of my favorite quinoa pattie recipes, largely due to the fact that they stick together and don’t crumble as many other recipes I’ve tried. I use this recipe loosely, adding lots of finely chopped veggies.. whatever I have on hand just goes in the food processor and then gets mixed in with the other ingredients (usually carrots, frozen chopped spinach (defrosted), onions).

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups/12 oz/340 g cooked quinoa, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup/.5 oz /15 g finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup/.5 oz/15 g freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup/3.5 oz /100 g whole grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed
  • Water, if needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or clarified butter
  1. Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, onion, cheese, and garlic. Add the bread crumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. At this point, you should have a mixture you can easily form into twelve 1-inch/2.5cm thick patties. I err on the very moist side because it makes for a not-overly-dry patty, but you can add more bread crumbs, a bit at a time, to firm up the mixture, if need be. Conversely, a bit more beaten egg or water can be used to moisten the mixture.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add 6 patties, if they’ll fit with some room between each, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms are deeply browned. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes and continue to cook until the patties are browned. Carefully flip the patties with a spatula and cook the second sides for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties. Alternatively, the quinoa mixture keeps nicely in the refrigerator for a few days; you can cook patties to order, if you prefer.

To cook the quinoa: Heat a saucepan over medium heat, when hot add a tsp or or so of olive oil, then add 2 c quinoa and stir it about 3-5 minutes until it begins to toast and turns light brown. Then add 4 c water and bring to a boil. Then cover and lower heat to a simmer for 12 minutes or until the grain separates from the outer layer of the quinoa and all water is absorbed.

3. Baked Eggplant-Veggie Gratin (from Vegetable Literacy Cookbook – one of my very favorites and most used)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb. eggplant
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 10 to 12 cups coarsely chopped chard, kale or spinach leaves (about 1 lb.)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Several large fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 or 2 large tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or parmesan shredded on top
  • Handful of small fruit-type tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Slice the eggplants about 1/2 inch thick. You should have 8 to 10 slices. Salt the slices and let stand for 30 minutes, then blot dry with paper towels.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, brush both sides of each eggplant slices with oil. When the pan is hot, add the slices and cook for about 10 minutes, moving around occasionally with spatula so they don’t stick or burn. Turn the slices over and cook on the second side the same way.

In a wide pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the chard (or other greens) and a few pinches of salt, cover and cook until it is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Place the cooked chard into a colander to drain, then press with the back of a spoon to remove some of the liquid.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a round or oval gratin dish large enough to hold 6 to 8 cups.

Place half of the eggplant slices in the dish and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the basil, then layer half of the tomato slices on top, followed by half of the mozzarella. Season again with salt and pepper. Place the chard over the cheese layer and season lightly with salt and pepper. Layer the remaining eggplant slices, followed by the remaining tomato slices and cheese. Tuck any small whole tomatoes here and there among the vegetables.

Toss the bread crumbs with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil to moisten and sprinkle them over the surface. Bake until the gratin is bubbly and the bread crumbs are browned, about 35 minutes. Let rest for about 10 minutes before serving then eat up!

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Choosing your own challenges

Patio lights twinkle as a cool wind whistles, the hum of a fast car sounds in the distance, neither breaking my focus nor warranting any additional thought. I am alone on my patio. My computer sits beside a bottle of Guinness which balances awkwardly atop of pile of the day’s art projects and half-finished crafts, the ones that await a child’s return with sunrise, to carefully attach an impossible amount of stickers, some extra glitter, more stuff. For me, I am full. No more stickers or glitter are needed in my day. I note that every day ends with a certain fullness and contentedness. That fact alone makes me smile.

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I could not say so much for the last couple of years of my life. They are now 6 and 4 and 2. Life is a bit easier, as they age, I think. Friends with older kids are quick to remind that the challenges change, battles shift and things don’t quite get “easier.” I disagree. Life is easier now. For one reason alone, perhaps, life is easier now: sleep. I get some of it. Yes, I still awake every single morning exhausted and drained, in some sort of zombie need-my-coffee-but-trying-to-kick-the-habit-mode, but yes, I do get some of it. Life is easier, these days. That makes me smile.

And I don’t smile because of the fact that life is easier, for I have never been one to necessarily go after “easy.” Quite the contrary, in fact. I have chosen much of my life to follow the challenge, seek out difficulty. The difference in my feelings tonight upon my patio, is where I now sit. My challenges are no longer thrown at me, covered in a day-old spit up rag. Now, I get to choose them. As Tom Robbins wrote in my all-time favorite book, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, “Difficulties illuminate existence, but they must be fresh and of high quality.” 

Much like the chef of the newest/hippest/locally organic vegan sustainable restaurant who frequents the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market each Monday to seek out the absolute freshest and high quality ingredients, I fill my days with challenges of the utmost quality. The ingredients must sustain me, move me, fill me. If they don’t, I let them fly right by. I seek out my own adventure and push myself to the limit for some purpose — some purpose that still can not be defined, but that can be felt. And man, can it be felt.

Sometimes it is felt in the look he gives me at night, as he carefully scoots his not-quite-30-pound-body to the corner of his crib to make space for me and looks up saying, “I need Mama. Mama sleep with me.” Sometimes it is felt in the saying or the not saying, the eye contact and the smiles she gives me as we pick her up from 1st grade each day. I felt it last week in our seven year old friend’s voice as she told me, “I wish everyday was Tuesday!” (which happens to be the 1 day each week we watch her all day, helping with homework and art projects and playing.. I don’t say babysit because it is so much more than that and she is becoming like a fourth child to me). Other times, and nearly daily, it is felt on the trails and it is why I run, why I chase after sometimes impossible seeming goals, why I am still training and pushing myself to the limit after 16 years and 3 kids.

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A glimpse that she feels it, too.

Last Thursday as I crested the top of a beautiful single track upon my favorite trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, I felt it. For 30 years, I have been waiting, looking forward to the next phase. I couldn’t wait to start high school, then college, which I rushed through to graduate a semester early to pursue a career in Neuroscience, then graduate school. At 19, I met Alan and couldn’t wait to get married and have kids. By 27, I had three. That morning, all three were in school. I ran to the mountains. Alone on the trail I was overcome by the feeling that this moment, this very second, might just be the best of my life. The air was crisp, no clouds to be seen and I was flying. I knew then it was time to start living. Around mile 15 I became very sentimental. Long runs will do that to you.

What moves you? Do you seek out your own challenges or take those handed to you? Are you pushing yourself to become the best you?

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My dog and me, mile 15. Santa Monica Mountains.
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Chasing Dreams (and a New Favorite Book)

I gifted Adara a new book this afternoon as a surprise upon coming home from school. She has been working hard, at both school and running. She has been tough, with little complaints and lots of smiles and enthusiasm for 1st grade and all it entails. She has her first test on Friday. It makes me nervous, she is calm. I have been saving a book in the cabinet for a special moment. This afternoon was it. As she opened the brown cardboard packaging and revealed a fresh new book, a smile spread across her face. She then opened up “Henry Hikes to Fitchburg” and read it aloud to little brother, sister and Mama (and a hot, tired dog at her feet).

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“Henry Hikes to Fitchburg” is my new favorite book, and Adara’s, too. Based on a short passage from Walden with the main character named, Henry, I could not help but fall for this book that touches on such heavy meaningful topics. If you’re in the market for a new children’s book, if you love the outdoors or if you are just tired of reading the same exact book for bedtime every single night for the last 3 weeks, then try this gem by D.B. Johnson. You won’t be disappointed.

The timing of our reading this book was quite interesting. As Henry hikes to Fitchburg and plays in the river and eats wild berries and hikes 30 miles, his friend stays home to work and earn enough money to then take the train to Fitchburg. I could not help but relate this to Alan and myself. In fact, at the exact moment we were reading this story, Alan was at a meeting with a potential investor. He was working, staying behind (or going ahead, however you look at it), in search of money. He was quite literally, chasing after money.

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Light Insoles product testing on the trails Monday night.

 

We are very different, the two of us, and thank goodness. I like to think we compliment each other and keep one another balanced. I tend to live with my head up in the clouds. “Things will work out, everything will be fine, don’t worry,” I attempt soothe his nerves as another month passes with zero income and bills need to be paid. “No, things don’t just work out. You have to make them work out, there has to be action,” he replies. And yes, I know this, too. I relate everything to running, as it is the perfect metaphor for life. In running, you get out of it what you put in. When it comes to racing, I know that I must train properly and sufficiently in order to perform the way I wish to, or to achieve a new personal best/record, Boston Marathon qualifying time, etc. But at the same time, I believe that if you put the work in, do your best and remain calm, everything will work out fine. Worrying is just wasted energy. He may disagree on this. I don’t know. We try our best and calm ourselves and stick together when that is what must be done.

Nevertheless, as the children and I sat around the table in dim afternoon light, with shades drawn in an attempt to further insulate on this hot August dog day of summer, I could not help but notice the irony of our conversation. It was one that touched many subjects, and most much deeper than I had anticipated between my 6, 4 and 2 year olds. Mainly, we talked of the pursuit of money vs. the pursuit of happiness. “The guy hiking had much more fun than the one working,” stated 4 year old Cesia. “Yes, but the one working was doing the right thing and not just out hiking all day,” said 6 year old Adara. I allowed them to continue, arguing back and forth a bit then about what was “right” and more “fun” and “faster” and “smarter” before chiming in. The wisdom in their words astonished me and made me smile. We then talked about Walden and Henry David Thoreau and his life and works and brilliance.

Perhaps the purpose in life is finding that balance between the pursuit for money vs. the pursuit for happiness and discovering a way to blend the two. Yes, Alan is chasing after money and investors to get his new company off the ground. But the bigger story is that Alan is wildly passionate about this new business, inventing and transforming the way custom orthotics are made and creating the perfect insole. It is not purely about the money, but in reality, money is needed to achieve this dream, to start Light Insoles. And me, well I am crazy about running and being outside and reading with my kids and teaching them about life and just trying to do it all. One day, we will strike the perfect balance. Until then, we will just keep on chasing our dreams, and running as much as possible. : )

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Kindergarten pick-up run. 100+ degrees. I chose not to check the thermometer and just run.
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My Speech to Young Runners

I just returned home from a 10 miler in the mountains. I ran alone. For 80 minutes, it was just me and my thoughts and a few rattlesnakes slithering in the distance. During the final five miles, I found myself reflecting on young runners, including myself in the past, when I was a young runner.

Most of my adult life, I have felt this urge to coach. It hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps one day, when my own kids grow a bit more and need me a bit less. In the past month, I have been interacting (mostly running!) with young runners more and more through my daughter’s introduction to youth running with the West Valley Eagles. I have been extremely impressed by the coaches and parents thus far and it has been nothing but positive.

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In addition, I have raced the past two weeks at a local cross country summer series. At these races, I have witnessed dozens of high school teams and hundreds of young runners. In my interactions and viewings, I have been astounded by the nerves of these young athletes. I witnessed so many jittery, terrified runners toeing the line at last week’s race. It breaks my heart every time. The amount of empathy I feel is unfathomable as I pass by the 16 year old crying in the grass, knees huddled to her chest post-race, or the 18 year old biting her nails and fixing her hair tighter with those lucky rubber bands in the bathroom mirror pre-race. I want to hug them, and tell them it will all be okay. I want to remind them that they are young, oh so young and this is supposed to be fun! I want to tell them how fast they truly are, how strong their bodies and minds and how capable they are and should feel. I want to tell them to stand up proudly, celebrate their race, be happy, smile!

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Truly happy post-race smiles with my babies!

More than that, I want to tell them they are amazing. I don’t, because they don’t know me. I am a stranger, I don’t wish to be a creep. So for now, I just write it and store it in my journal. But one day, one day, when I coach, this will be my pre-race speech to them. Here is my response to them and myself after many years a nervous, jittery young runner. Here goes:

 

No one knows who you are, nor me. They don’t know your name, nor mine and even if they do, they don’t know a thing about you. They don’t care how you race so stop giving any thought to their dreamt-up opinions of you. No one cares about your mile PR in 2013, and in 2050 no one is going to care what mile time or 3 mile time or whatever-distance-PR you ran in 2015. At the end of the day you have two people to settle things with: Yourself and the man up in the clouds. That’s it. As long as you two are happy with you, then all will be well.

The way you perform in a race has everything to do with the training and work you put into it. The only thing that will prevent you from showing off that work and performing your best is yourself. Your muscles have it in them, your legs know what to do. Let them do it and stop thinking so much.

I have been racing for 16 years, more than half my life. I love running, and racing even more. It is and always will be my greatest passion. Yet, in 16 years of competition do you know how many years I have been happy with my performances? Two. Not until two years ago did I finally quit psyching myself out and suffering from performance anxiety. Week after week showed poor performances followed by frustration and beating myself up post-race. I finally came to the point where I questioned my purpose of running.

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Why do you run? Why did/do I run? I run for the freedom, meditation, energy outlet, endorphin high, among other reasons. Winning races is not my primary reason for running, nor the reason I began running in the first place. It will not be the reason I continue running into old age, lacing up day after day, exploring in the mountains, pushing myself through greater challenges. I love the feeling I experience while running. I came to the realization that running is simply too hard to do it if you don’t love it. Luckily for me, I love it and so I will continue my running journey seeking joy, not medals. Of course medals are fun to chase after and keep the sport fresh, creating new challenges. However, they will never define the purpose in my running.

Find your purpose in running and do not let medals or glory define it. Each and every one of you here is self-disciplined, self-motivated. How do I know that? Because you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. We runners, as a breed, are tough minded individuals. Running is too hard of a sport to do it otherwise. You would have quit a long time ago. You haven’t, and so you have what it takes to conquer this race and any race. The first step in doing so is to conquer your fears and your nerves.

What are you afraid of? Do you fear how you are going to perform? That is wasted energy. No miracles occur in distance running. Every race performance is a direct result of the training you put it, the miles, the grit, the dirt. You have already done the work, now is the time to get out there and show it. Are you afraid of the pain? Ok, well I’ll give you that. As runners, we are students of pain, but just remember that you choose the pain, only you can put yourself in it and push yourself through it and back out of it. You are tough and you can deal with more pain than most, more pain than you yet know.

Are you afraid of what your mom, dad and coaches will think of your race? That is silly. We all wish the same thing for you and every other runner out there. We all just want you to be happy. No matter how your parents may express those feelings and wishes, I guarantee that is their only desire: to see you try your very best and be happy with your performance. If you can say with 100% certainty post-race that you tried your best then you have no reason but to be 100% happy.

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Finish-line photo with my Adara. This is happy.

Before one race in high school, my dad said to me, “Think about what everyone will think at school on Monday, think about returning to school and walking into the cafeteria after a great race.” Well, you know what followed? My very worst performance. I went out there trying to race outside of myself, trying to be someone more, faster, greater and when I couldn’t, I cowered back in fear and finished minutes behind my personal best. I carried the weight of the entire school and team on my shoulders, and I was only 16. And the silliest part of all, when I walked into school that Monday morning post-terrible-race, do you know what everyone thought? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because I was 16 and I was a cross country runner and no one gave a shit. In truth, no one probably even knew I raced.

Your running means more to you than anyone else, as it should. Be happy with yourself, love running, embrace pain, race your hardest, let your legs go and for heavens sake, just have some fun. If you do that, then I promise you, you will have succeeded. You will be in this sport for the long haul and you will be happy. And remember, if you and God are satisfied, then all will be well.

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Run Happy!
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