Inspired

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“The whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside your head that wants you to quit.”  –George Sheehan

I was never good at sports, mostly because I lack the killer instincts that drive players to push ahead of one another, to be at odds, to crave validation in being the best. (My mom always recalls a middle school basketball game in which I handed the ball over to a girl on the other team. Hilarious, and yet a perfect picture of how weirdly uncomfortable I am with competition.)

That’s not to say I don’t get excited about placing in my age group once in a blue moon – but it’s not what drives me. I’m an introverted loner who’s propelled by personal goal setting. That’s why running and racing suits me: I’m always up against the girl in the mirror, and drawing inspiration from the girl running beside (or ahead of) me. The competitors are my muses, not my rivals.

July 2 was the exact middle of 2014. I’d set a goal to run one race per month (check) and 700 miles for the year (errr…not-so-check). At 168 miles for the year so far, I think that second goal won’t be happening. But the point was to purposely shot for the moon hoping to catch a star. Maybe 500? Something to aim for at least.

I’ve been taking a laid-back approach to running this year which has worked out well, but I’m a little uneasy now about my fitness level for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco this October. I entered on a whim and didn’t really expect to get picked. Surprise – Happy 32nd birthday!

It’s time now, as Mr. Sheehan says, to get competitive with the voice inside my head telling me to sleep in, to take it easy, to doubt that I’m good enough to take on the hills of San Fran. I don’t have to PR on this one, I just have to make it to the finish! Alongside 25,000 other women who I think are also mostly there for the experience, the beauty, the camaraderie. There to be inspired.

I posted my 16-week training plan here if you want to check it out.

Run and inspire on, friends.

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40 days of vegan

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Some people asked me questions on going vegan for 40 days this past Lent so I’ve been meaning to write a post about it.

I think the #1 question is WHY?

It’s not the first time I’ve done this or written about it here. The bottom line: even though I can’t imagine a permanent existence without cheese, chocolate chip cookies or the occasional hamburger, I believe even one sliver of sustained plant-based eating is good for the planet and good for me.

I don’t mean good for me in the sense that I drop pounds, look better or maybe miraculously unclog some arteries. (Because the #2 question is DID YOU LOSE WEIGHT? And the answer to that, by the way, is no. But I did sustain the same number on the scale every single day when normally it would bounce around, and it’s not a number that makes me mad.)

No doubt the vegan diet helps me feel better physically. But I think a more important residual effect is that I indulge in a consciousness about food, a sadly dwindling practice as our world keeps stretching itself toward convenience-utopia.

There’s a delicious slowdown that happens when I go vegan. I find myself cooking more, exploring food possibilities and putting so much more thought into what I’m eating and how it’s prepared. I feel more connected to my meal because I’ve invested myself in it.

Savoring your meal is more than eating and tasting it – it’s dreaming it up, molding it, smelling it as it combines and simmers together and feeling proud of what you’ve created. That experience is shortchanged when you go to a restaurant, order pizza, throw something processed and frozen in the microwave or oven or make boxed macaroni and cheese for the umpteenth time this month because the kids are guaranteed to eat it. (I’m guilty as charged on all counts.)

That’s not to say these things can’t be achieved with any diet – and conversely, it’s possible to be a junk food vegan who sticks to only French fries and processed wannabe-meats and never cooks a thing. If you’re a foodie or someone who loves to cook then you don’t forget how enjoyable food consciousness and slowness can be no matter what you’re eating. What I’m saying is, for me, this particular diet is a touchstone that helps me remember.

It’s easy then to slip back into the quickness of life and forget again, especially with kids and a full-time job and time that makes itself a precious commodity where convenience is king, but I try not to let it happen. It’s a Lenten sacrifice that also gives back to me all year. Selfish, and yet exactly the way God intends.

May your meals be slow, your pace be swift and your cooking creativity less stifled by Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

The Glow

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In the early 90s, my Mom said goodbye to cigarettes and hello to running shoes.

I think she hoped running would stave off any resulting weight gain from kicking the habit. But when she’d come in from speeding through the neighborhood sweaty, spent, face tomato-red, you could see a glow about her that proved she got so much more out if it than that. I could sort of see glimpses of her as a kid in those moments — carefree, spunky, give-it-all-you’ve-got-ness.

Like clockwork, she’d run every other day in the wee morning hours. But never with a plan of how long she’d be gone or how fast she’d be running. She didn’t train for races. She didn’t monitor her stats on a fancy running watch. She ran by feeling.

I always wanted to be like her. But alas: I hate mornings, I’m not consistent, I go through running spurts and lulls, I obsess over numbers and pace and running goals (though I’m trying to get better). I always know where and how long and how fast I’m going to go.

From the outside looking in, you wouldn’t notice a whole lot of similarity between my mother and me, in running or in general.

But from the inside looking out, I know I am becoming more like her year after year. And I think it’s by purposeful design that by the time we reach the age of becoming our parents we’ve finally gained enough wisdom to truly appreciate them. That’s not to say we never did, just that it changes over time for the better. I used to admire her running consistency and compatibility with early mornings. Now I admire those things plus that she managed them while raising two teenage boys and a high maintenance little girl, cleaning up meticulously after slobs, going to school, and trying to keep up with what can only be described as swimming-pool-sized amounts of dirty laundry her family threw at her daily.

How did she do all of this and still find the energy and the passion for running?

I don’t know if I’ll ever train myself to be an early morning person or to ignore my time and pace, but I do know this: making time for that running glow somehow, some way, in spite of crazy days and curveballs and possible death by drowning in dirty laundry is worth it. That sentiment is one thing we do have in common.

Hopefully it’s not all.

Cheers to my running role model, my Mom, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms inspiring their kids every day without even knowing it.

Miles

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Sharing a personal truth + letter to my inner runner:

When in doubt, just add miles.

Having a bad day? Feeling rundown? Can’t catch a break? Add miles.

Been a while since your last run? Unsure of yourself? No matter. Add miles.

Working out a problem? Don’t know what to do? Yeah you do: add miles.

Worried about performance for an upcoming race? Who cares. Just go for a run.

Don’t think about pace or time or even how long you plan to go. Stop and walk if you need to. It could be a 12-min or an 8-min mile, a mile is a mile. Just add on. Put them in a pile and just keep topping it in heaping scoops. They represent victories, frustrations, answers, sweat, daydreams…moments in time, droplets of life.

Be present in your run. Feel your way through. Stop obsessing over the stats on your watch. In fact, take the thing off, put it in your zippered pocket and don’t look at it until you’re finished.

Don’t think about yesterday’s run you didn’t do or the one last week when you were feeling off-kilter or the long one scheduled for this weekend. Just worry about adding miles today.

If your thoughts drift toward if I just speed up now I can finish in x minutes stop yourself. Speed up if you feel like it, but not for a matter of stats. Do it for a matter of heart. These are arbitrary numbers no one cares about but you. Just care about adding miles.

It’s true of so many other things in life: don’t overthink. Just jump in confidently.

Don’t stop until you’ve hit your goal of 700 miles for the year. Except then keep going. Keep racing at least once per month with fun being the top priority, any personal records are just a happy serendipity.

How do you become a better runner? By running. Just keep running. Simple as that.

Have a nice run.

A Different Kind of Detox

2014Don’t you just love making personal goal lists for the New Year? No? Kinda nerdy, you say? Well, I kind of can’t help myself.

As far as 2013 goes, I’ll go ahead and deem it a successful year in running.

This is in spite of the list of resolutions I posted in January, which I didn’t quite master.

Let’s give them a once-over, shall we?

  • Don’t get injured. Nailed it.
  • Love mornings. I hate mornings. But the spirit of this goal was to get me waking up early to work out, which I did many times this year but not as consistently as I’d like. I give myself a B-.
  • Eat breakfast. I hate breakfast. Food just does not appeal to me before 10:30 most days. Actually, the only thing I love about mornings is coffee, and I should probably resolve to drink less of it. Luckily my body does agree with a quick chug of Shakeology in the early hours– I’m addicted to the stuff.
  • Bring my lunch. Rarely happened.
  • Drink less soda and alcohol. Dear Megan of 11 months ago: in what world did you think this would happen?
  • Be present. I’ve been much better on this front. I think getting older facilitates it. A-
  • Run more. Blog more. Good job on the first, not so much on the second. Continue reading

Don’t forget to smile

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For me, racing is fun until it’s not.

I think I get competition fatigue. Is that a thing? It’s self-induced, for sure. There’s a line in the sand I seem to always cross, from a friendly competition against my past times to a get better, get better, get EVEN BETTER mantra that starts siphoning out the joy from my runs.

For some people the competition is the joy. For me, the run is the joy and the competition is like that bossy friend from childhood – in small doses we can play nice, but too much time together and I get downright sick of her telling me how things are going to go. Playing isn’t fun anymore.

The fatigue has settled in, even though I TOLD myself this would happen if I didn’t *just relax* and have fun with monthly races this year and not get stuck on numbers. As if.

This past Sunday during my long run I was trying hard to shake off a brain and body fog for the first five miles, which I think had a lot to do with the competition fatigue sucking away my happiness like a Dementor from Harry Potter. But I decided to employ one of my favorite long run best practices: smile, wave, and say hello to every stranger you meet. The Cotton Belt Trail on a Sunday morning is actually a perfect scene for this: it’s populated with herds of cyclists, walkers, runners, dog lovers, sulky teenagers, and couples in their matching active-wear from lululemon.

I don’t care if you ignore me, I’m going to smile and say hello to you anyway. Yes, even to you, arrogant looking middle aged dude who is too cool to make eye contact. Even you, cyclist, zipping by too fast to acknowledge anyone on the trail. Even if you look at me weird, I’m going to send you smiles.

But I’ve found that majority of people just really appreciate a warm hello and happily return the gesture. Some are powering through their workout struggling physically, some seem to be working through a mental battle, and others are one-two punching both challenges simultaneously. Sending a simple vibe of love and encouragement might be just what someone needs – and it feeds you spiritually in return, I believe, becoming fuel for whatever you may be battling.

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Strangers can uplift you when you least expect it. A couple of weeks ago, I was out on the trail and happened to pass by two women runners.

“Great job! Keep it up!” one of them said to me.

“Thanks — you too!” I called back over my shoulder.

Then she said, “You are passing us going uphill with a hydration pack on. You are awesome. Remember that!”

And when runs feel hard, I do remember that.

It turns out I’m running a half marathon next week on the same day we’ll be working on moving into a new home. And right after turning thirty one, (not that it’s really relevant…but what if I wake up slower?) During that long run, though, I decided to take the pressure off of that race and the remaining training runs and just focus on the joy of running. I think this is important for my sanity right now. I tracked my run but didn’t look at numbers until afterward. I focused on the footfalls, the breathing, the smell of rain-doused trees and grass, and the positive energy I felt the need to share with every person I crossed paths with.

I’m on track to meet my goal of a sub 2 hour 13.1, but you know what? I think I’ll just go out to the race, have fun and not worry about it. I don’t need a stress-induced injury or sickness right now. I don’t need a PR, I just need joy.

And the next time you’re working through something hard, don’t forget to smile. It helps!

Moments

Yesterday my stepson and I drove to his middle school to walk his schedule for the upcoming year.

Summer went by too fast, we agreed.

But then maybe the school year will go by fast too, I said, trying to allay for him that feeling I remember all too well. That sad feeling of summer slipping through your fingers. Of being at the starting line of another marathon school year. The queasiness of unknowns.

But that will lead to another summer that speeds by, he said.

Yes, wise boy, that is true. Life is fast and beautiful. Hold on to the moments and enjoy living in each one.

Here are the moments of my summer:

That moment you realize how grateful you are for a running friend that pushes you.

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That moment you appreciate anyone who has ever survived taking a toddler to a wedding.

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That moment you know how much you love being a boy mom.

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That delicious moment of putting bare feet into sand next to an ocean.

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That moment of discovering something new. (Don’t barefoot run on the beach if you’re not used to it!)

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That moment of witnessing that moment of discovering something new.

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That moment of nothing but quiet.

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That moment of nothing but family.

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That moment of bravery.

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That moment you bust through a personal record.

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That unplanned moment an old and dear friend shows up right when you need her.

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That “I did it!” moment. (Thank you, Jamie Hipp, for getting me hooked on Shakeology and Insanity, for helping me improve running times and lose weight.)

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That moment your kids teach you to savor every moment, because life is fast and beautiful.

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Ego

Sometimes your Ego needs a bit of a boost. I don’t mean you need a healthy heap of happy-go-lucky confidence (a la Ryan Gosling telling you hey girl, you’re worthy) – I mean you need enhanced Ego, specifically.

You know her: Miss Ego is fierce, pushy, competitive, butt-kicking and self-serving. She’s hot stuff and knows it. She doesn’t try her best, she is the best.

She hinges on a delicate balance — nobody likes a jerk with a too-inflated sense of self worth. But there are times when Ego has taken a hit and needs bolstered, and we don’t like to cater to it for fear of feeling conceited or obnoxious or narcissistic. We may not even recognize that’s what we need.

Something in life might take a sizable bite out of my Ego and then the effects build on themselves to sink me down deep, the tide pulling me out progressively farther from feeling grounded if I let it. Depression and anxiety work through a similar mechanism. (Ego being the antagonistic mirror opposite twin to self doubt makes these things interconnected.) It can happen behind my back and right under my nose. Continue reading

Insane?

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I survived my first week of Insanity. It was tough, painful, and runner’s- high-inducing.

I’d been kicking around different options for cross training  — Pure barre? Cross fit? Hot yoga?  – in hope of toning up a little and bringing my fitness up a few notches. My head was spinning with indecision. I just needed to pick a program and commit to consistency.

Frankly, it’s five minutes to summer, and I don’t feel ready for skin-baring attire. A running-only program doesn’t make the cut for really improving my body shape (or improving my running, for that matter).

I landed on Insanity for two reasons: the convenience of living room workouts on my timetable, and cost. The program is expensive upfront, but it’s a one-time fee for a set of DVDs you can work with over and over.

In a nutshell, it’s a 60-day intense program filled with drills and intervals that make me feel like I’m at a Texas two-a-day football practice. Continue reading