simple

I stumbled onto this blog today & found this bit below about nutrition that really hit home:

“……the long and short of it is that my nutrition is focused on making my food work for me, instead of making me work for my food.  The food I eat has to give me good, dense nutrition, that my body can easily, readily and without added stress convert into energy…my food works for me.  A good majority of food that the general population consumes is the opposite – it makes the body work for it.  It takes so much energy from the body to digest and convert into actual useful nutrition that it is adding more stress than it is doing good.  I am stressing my body enough on the daily with running, never mind all the other stressors in life.  I need to put into it things that do not add to that stress.  I need to eat foods that help me recover quickly so that I can work harder.  Marathon training is as much about recovery as it is about the work.  Which means consuming foods that are not processed, do not take a ton of energy to convert into something useful and are not unrecognizable to my body.”

Simple, no?

Sometimes, as athletes, we can get quite passionate/riled up/defensive/annoying when discussing which nutrition strategy or food plan works best for our bodies and our training goals.

I certainly have had my fair share of food weirdness. Releasing labels, strong emotions and attachments from any certain eating style has been a wonderful side-effect of getting healthy. Not unlike my view of religion, I believe in respecting each person’s right to choose a nutritional path that works for them, as long as it’s not hurting anyone, including themselves.  Bottom line is that food is a personal choice. Folks are going to eat what they want to eat until faced with a desire to change – especially if their choices are not the healthiest.

I find it helpful to simplify.  I was a strict vegetarian for 20+ years and began eating meat a year ago as I was anemic, B12 deficient and tired all the time. The intensity of my running had increased and I needed to listen to my body.  I tried supplements, injections, etc etc and decided that eating meat a few times per week was just easier.  Does this mean I think everyone should eat meat?  NO! I simply made the choice based on what worked for me.

Simple.

This is a roundabout way of saying: Listen to your body, own your choices & share what works for you.  We are all an experiment of one.

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tools

For the past few years (maybe more), I’ve noticed that heading into the holidays I begin to feel flooded with a load of mixed emotions.  Not sure if it’s the heavy set of expectations we place on ourselves, the family stress, the financial stress, the pressure to attend holiday events and “be cheery”…It can be exhausting. Alternatively, I love my house smelling of pine, a twinkling tree, candles glowing, snuggling up by the fire with my boy who loves Christmas so much. (“Elf” viewing #43120 anyone?) I love the spirit of giving. I love crispy cold runs followed by hot coffee by the fire.  I love going to the sweet little tree farm and picking out the perfect little tree for our little house.

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As the year winds down and I consider my goals for next year, I am keeping my eye on some tools that I know will help minimize the potential for the holiday crazy…

  • The big bonus of the holiday season is the time I get to spend with my son…I’m working on using the tools of patience and presence to truly “be” with him. The years with him are numbered and I am keenly aware of how quickly time passes.
  • Helping others.  Nothing gets the focus off myself and clears out the grumps better than doing something kind for someone else, just because.
  • Letting go.  There’s a lot I don’t know & even more I have no control over.  Reminding myself to take my sticky fingers off the steering wheel & simply welcome the day as another opportunity to pay attention & be amazed. Aaaaaand, there ARE a few things I DO have control over….. and they are:
  • Running! I am not losing my laser focus over the holidays, simply because it’s the holidays dammit! One of the best tools I have is my training plan.  That, and keeping my eyes on my short & long term race goals. I revisit my goals daily as they keep me inspired.  I look to my running community as well, as there are some fantastically motivating folks around me and I do not take them for granted!
  • Nutrition! I was fortunate enough to have had Purium products fall into my lap earlier this year and I am not letting it go as my nutritional ally.  Here’s why: I have nearly kicked my sugar habit for good (a few ooopsies have occurred here & there), my skin has not been this clear of eczema in years, and my running has benefited hugely from the absence of sugar, alcohol, processed crap and refined grains.  Lastly, after 19 years of using prescription meds for my depression, I am now completely off my anti-depressants. They saved my life at one time but I am over the moon to bid them farewell. Purium is not a magic bullet but simply a tool that has aided me in making some huge changes.
  • Lastly, yoga! Yoga is my go-to relaxant these days.  I love it & will keep my yoga mat close this holiday season.

You Reading This, Be Ready

“Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life.

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?”

- William Stafford

speed

“You can’t flirt with the track, you must marry it.” – Bill Easton

This is my ideal running playground:

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me, training on the Cascade Crest 100 course

and when I train, I prefer gruntwork like this:

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 not me! Ellie Greenwood, killing it at Western States 100

For the rest of this year & early 2015, I’ve switched up my running goals a bit & I am gunning for a fast marathon. I am trying so hard to love (and someday marry?) speedwork.  Ahhhhhh, the track! This perfectly depicts my state after the most mild track workout:

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Speedwork on the track HURTS.  It also psychologically pushes some buttons that don’t get pushed during my normal runs.  Intervals on the track target all my running weaknesses in one nice, neat, painful package.

So why do it???

Three reasons!

  1. Get faster.
  2. Get stronger.
  3. Do what I suck at.  (in other words: train your weaknesses!)

It’s easy to fall into simply doing what comes easily to us.  Usually it’s what we love! I can lope along a fluffy trail for hours….that’s easy & fun.  Plop me on the track with a lung-busting workout in front of me and I feel like I’m back in middle school gym class; hitting the inhaler & desperately making up an excuse to sit this one out.

Part of my “practice” these days (in running and in life) is to seek out that which does not come easily to me. Let’s just say I’m looking for the Good Hurt.

Ann Trason quote-S

moments

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For much of my life I have chosen to hide.  I was completely unwilling to show up & be seen.  Vulnerability, to me, is a physical ache that is highly uncomfortable.  Thankfully, I am learning to breathe through these necessarily uncomfortable moments, one by one.

Earlier this year, I was contacted by Yitka Winn, Assistant Editor of Trail Runner magazine.  I met Yitka while pacing a mutual friend through the night of a very tough 100 miler.  She is one of those women whose eyes sparkle & shine with a huge enthusiasm for life.  I admire her guts and authenticity.  Yitka asked if I would be willing to be interviewed for an upcoming issue of the magazine – an issue centered on one female elite ultrarunner’s struggle with eating disorders.  Yitka had read my blog & knew of my bouts with anorexia, bulimia and depression.  I agreed.

Ashley Arnold contacted me by phone one summer evening after work.  She is a very accomplished runner with a thick resume of wins.  She wanted an “everyday runner” (non-elite, back-of-the-pack) included in her piece on the relationship between eating disorders and running, and more specifically ultrarunning.

Ashley was wonderful.  I was so so incredibly inspired by her honesty and willingness to share her story.  This is the main thing I have learned through my process of addressing my tendency towards addictions and the resulting shame that follows: Telling my story helps.  Not only does it help me – it helps others.

Still – I was a sweaty mess!! I was so nervous during that call.  I do so much better in the written form. Speaking out to a relative stranger about the deepest, darkest, most shameful aspects of my growing up…OUCH.  Vulnerability City.  I knew she was taking notes and would eventually write HER story.  The way she wove my words into her piece was not up to me.  (that right there is the sweet spot of vulnerability – the part where I needed to let go of the eventual outcome – HOLY. SHIT.)

I am so proud of Ashley and her courage in sharing her story and the stories of so many.  Mine is just one.  When I pulled the issue from my mailbox & opened it up to see my photo…my story…for all to see….in someone else’s words….I had what I would consider a mini panic attack.  The funny thing is, it was not at all how I expected to react!  I thought it would be just like my blog.  I pretty much lay it all out here in this blog, so what’s the difference?  The difference is that I was being written about.  A wise woman, with similar experiences, listened to my truths and shared them in her words.  The leap of faith I took when I answered her phone call was monumental for me.  Allowing her in was huge.  Allowing my “stuff” to appear in print: major YIKES.

I have no regrets.  If the article touches even just one person who is struggling with similar issues, I will be thrilled.

My years spent in the depths of depression, eating disordered behavior and alcoholism have all brought me to this moment.  Each one has taught me something I needed to learn.  I would not have gleaned anything from those experiences without the love, support & acceptance of friends and family.  It would be inauthentic of me to deny those parts of my life & the scars they left.

Last weekend I finally saw Richard Linklater’s film “Boyhood”.  In the final scene, Mason is sitting on a rock in the mountains with a girl he has just met during his first day at college.  The girl says to him:  “You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment?” she asks. “I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”

The moment is seizing me.

And I’m ok.

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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!