expectations

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau

After graduating college, I moved to Japan to teach English as a Second Language.  I was 22 and eager to get the hell out of my comfort zone and move somewhere completely new. As life goes, I met my now ex-husband during my second year in Japan and ended up living a total of 8 years there before we moved back to the U.S. together to start a family in Seattle.

Spending my 20s living in a foreign country, I learned a great deal about independence and the difficulty of carving out a little life for myself based on what was truly meaningful to me.  I struggled.  A lot.  But in between those tough times and hard lessons, I created moments that I will always hold dear to my heart. Despite my bumbling around, I was gifted with the opportunity to make whatever I wanted out of that life experience.

One of the strangest and most beautiful things for me was living year after year immersed in a culture with profoundly different traditions surrounding the holidays.  In Japan, Christmas is considered somewhat of a “Valentine’s Day”-type holiday. You go to work and school and then you go out on a date! With your boyfriend! And you eat “Christmas Cake”! (It’s like a birthday cake…???)  The spiritual & peaceful stuff happens during the New Year.  Everything shuts down for 3 days, you visit your family, go to the shrine, eat wonderful traditional New Year’s food.  No champagne or partying. It’s absolutely lovely.

For me, I would get very homesick around Christmas time.  A few years I flew home to Seattle, but mostly I stayed.  Being married to a Japanese man meant that we could share our traditions with each other.  I rode my bike all over Kochi (a very rural town on Shikoku Island where I lived), hunting down anything Christmasy. I scoured kitchen stores and found star-shaped cookie cutters.  I made frosted sugar cookies and fudge for my students, delivered on Christmas. I insisted we rent “Sleepless in Seattle” and watch it on Christmas Eve.  I would cry.  I expected very little and yet those small traditions were huge to me.

In turn, I enjoyed such beautiful Japanese traditions.  On one of my first holidays there I had flown to Bali for Christmas with a friend who was working in Tokyo.  I came back to Kochi late on New Years Eve night, just in time to hop on our bikes and ride to the local shrine by midnight.  The shrine’s enormous bell is rung 108 times (to symbolize ridding oneself of the 108 human desires).  Traditionally you eat long soba noodles and watch the first sunrise over the water.  These simple little rituals soon became comforting to me.

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A few years before I left Japan, I ran my first marathon.  Kana, the woman who saw me through my marathon training and became a close friend, started me on my New Year’s race tradition too!  I think it was a 5k we did every New Years Day, and I think she always won it! New & old traditions.

As a single mama to a teenage boy, I so hope to instill in him an appreciation for small joys.  I know the holidays can cause pressure, stress and eventually end with a sense of feeling letdown.  Personal stresses, financial stresses, worry.  I experience all of these.  As I put up the lights, trim the tree, roll out that favorite cookie dough, I am calling upon my younger self; the one who lived more readily in the moment, willing to accept things as they are, rather than hoping for more.

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<3 peace

Training: 12/8-12/14

I think my running theme song these days goes like this: “It’s all about that base, ’bout that base…”  

Consistency & building my base = key focus right now. And HILLS.  Every single run needs to involve climbing. I live on a hilly island, so no problem there. In about 2 months I will start adding in some track intervals for speed.  Right now I’m building and will be sneaking in some hill repeats and fartleks.  Oh and starting Day #1 today of Candice Burt’s killer 30-day 200/100 challenge. Ouchie.

Monday: off

Tuesday: 8mi + 5 x 10 sec hill sprints

Wednesday: 6mi tempo

Thursday: 10mi easy

Friday: 4mi easy

Saturday: 10mi  easy

Sunday: 13mi/hard on uphills. 200/100 challenge Day 1 (+ upper body workout in the form of sawing down a xmas tree and lugging it around (yes this counts!))

Total miles: 51

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stress + sugar = a little off course this week nutrition and sleep-wise….working on a loving attitude towards my slips.  xo

sharing

I love it when unexpected words fall into my lap at just the right moment.  I love receiving a message I need to hear. I love feeling inspired to examine something a little deeper when I might not otherwise do so. Change & growth hurt.  By nature, transformation is uncomfortable.  It is only in retrospect, after the hard hard work, that we get to look back and say: “wow….I can’t believe I used to live that way.”

This link appeared in my inbox the other day from a fellow runner/mama.  It resonated with me so much & it’s definitely worth repeating and sharing. And revisiting.  Maybe you will find it meaningful too…

I generally try to steer clear of quick little fluffy articles containing numbered lists promising this or that in 5 steps. Or warning you of such & such if you see these “7 signs”.

This one felt different: “8 Powerful Questions we Should Ask Ourselves Immediately”.  

Here you go:

1. Where do I want to be in five years time?

2. How did I want to feel on the inside in five years time? Where would I be emotionally, physically, mentally?

3. What bad habits do I need to stop?

4. What mistakes have I made today?

5. Who do I envy or admire? What qualities do these people have? In what way can I learn from them? What is it about them that inspires me?

6. What stories have I told myself?

7. Who do I love and who loves me?

8. If no one judged me, who would I be?

And the best part:

I started asking myself these questions on a daily basis.

Moving towards another new year, these questions deserve some reflection.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” – Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay

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raw

“She insists, however, that her goal is not redemption but self-acceptance, not a catalog of regrets but a clear view and welcoming embrace of experience in all its forms.”

 - A.O. Scott, NYTimes review of the movie adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild”

I think I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild in one sitting.  I generally gobble up memoirs, and most particularly, achingly honest memoirs written by women who genuinely allow the reader IN. No-holds-barred honesty. Pair that with a tale of self-discovery through the physical pain & suffering of a solo endurance adventure and I’m completely sold.

The other night I was talking with some mom friends at the curb while waiting to pick up our sweaty teenage boys from practice.  One mom loaned me Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis, the woman who broke the overall thru-hiking record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011.  Soon we started taking about Wild.  Another mom piped in:  “UGH!! I HATED that book! How could anyone make such STUPID choices??? I could hardly read it, I was so frustrated with how irresponsible she was!”

Huh?

I was kind of speechless. I actually took her comment personally! Why was that??? Everyone has their right to an opinion and it’s just a book right??

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Here’s what I think: I think many women (and men but I am a woman so…) tend to walk around with this fear…this fear of “What if?? What IF she/he/they REALLLLY knew me? WHAT IF I GET FOUND OUT?? What if all my shameful/dirty/ugly/horrid/embarrassing stories and secrets, fears and feelings, somehow showed themselves to the world…What then??”

Honestly when my friend made that comment about the book, my first reaction was to nervously giggle to myself.. “wow. ummm, if she knew half of the crazy ridiculous stupid choices I have made in MY life – her jaw would be stuck to the ground!”

In the end, that conversation wasn’t about me. Or my friend. There isn’t one cookie-cutter way to be or live in this world.  I can only say that my life has improved exponentially since I started telling the truth.  To myself and others.  I have been able to move beyond a lot of the shame and regret (still working on it) by simply not sugar-coating or hiding. It is a daily practice and I often screw up.

In a roundabout way, all this truth-telling brings us closer.  It can sting and be hiiiiighly awkward. It can bring up old icky feelings. It can make you want to run for the hills. Thankfully, it becomes easier with practice.

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Training Journal

I began this blog in January, 2013, with the primary goal of documenting and sharing my journey towards my first 100 mile ultramarathon finish.  Over the past 2 years, it’s evolved into a much more personal and therapeutic avenue for me to work through my thoughts & goals and hopefully encourage a few of you to dig a bit deeper into your own.

As 2014 winds down, I am at once extremely motivated to push on with my goals (in running and in life) and at the same time I’m feeling a bit slumpish. End of Year Blues? The Type-A in me likes to make lists, spreadsheets and more lists; I like to have something concrete to follow, track and look back on in order to better determine what to do, what I DID, and what I can do differently or better the next time around.

I’ve decided to add my weekly training log to my blog as a way to remain accountable to myself and to the 1 or 2 of you (hi Dad!) who follow me regularly.  If you are a runner, you may be able to appreciate the special OCD beauty of writing down every run, workout & race result.  If this blabber bores you to tears, I won’t be offended if you move along! And if there are any other mamas out there who work FT, parent FT and are still able to run to your full potential by squeezing in the hard training, CHIME IN! I love and need the fellowship & inspiration.

So! My primary running goals for 2015 are:

  • Consistency, Consistency, Consistency! In mileage, nutrition, strength training & injury prevention
  • Qualify for Boston
  • Complete my first 100 mile trail race (more specifically, hopefully get into Cascade Crest 100 again via lottery and redeem myself from my DNF there in 2013.)

Here we go! I will begin adding my weekly workouts at the end of each week beginning next week. I love a fresh start. :)

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happy trails! photo credit Glenn Tachiyama

habit

“We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle

I’m a big believer in the power of habitual action. Consistency is key.  Doing something day in & day out is the best way to remove choice from the equation.

Now, as a person who has struggled with eating disorders & addiction, the OCD part of my personality can run with this consistency thing and take it way way too far. (Hey if running every day is good, then missing a day must mean I am a terrible horrible no good person right?!)

Where is the balance?

When looking at my goals, addressing habits I would like to form and those I’d like to ditch – I need to be pretty damn hard on myself.  I need to take a stern & honest look at how I am doing.  I expect a lot and I always believe I am capable of doing more and doing better.  I also know that there are times I need to give myself a freaking break.

Despite all of my hard work, I still have some bad habits. (duh!) If I were to look back at an old journal (which I, in fact, recently did – from 1995!), I would find nearly the exact same worries and struggles. The exact same frustrations with myself. Pretty much the same goals too! In differing degrees of course, but the aspirations I had for my life back then remain true to this day.

As I get older, I am more keenly aware of the power of habit.  I am less afraid of the rigid nature of doing something [the positive, desirable thing] every single day.  Why is that?  I think it’s because I am stronger.  My motivation is solid and my goals less slippery.  I am less swayed by the opinions of others.  I’m aware of the incredible impact my habits have on my teenage son.  I am smarter now.  I understand the correlation between my daily actions and future results. I am less caught up in magical thinking.

Nineteenth century philosopher William James wrote at length on the topic of habit.  I simply love these three points!!

  1. “The acquisition of a new habit, or the leaving off of an old one, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible. Accumulate all the possible circumstances which shall reenforce the right motives; put yourself assiduously in conditions that encourage the new way; make engagements incompatible with the old; take a public pledge, if the case allows; in short, envelop your resolution with every aid you know. This will give your new beginning such a momentum that the temptation to break down will not occur as soon as it otherwise might; and every day during which a breakdown is postponed adds to the chances of it’s not occurring at all.”
  2. “Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Each lapse is like the letting fall of a ball of string which one is carefully winding up; a single slip undoes more than a great many turns will wind again. Continuity of training is the great means of making the nervous system act infallibly right … It is surprising how soon a desire will die of inanition if it be never fed.”
  3. “Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you
    aspire to gain. It is not in the moment of their forming, but in the moment of their producing motor effects, that resolves and aspirations communicate the new ‘set’ to
    the brain.”

I am highly motivated to “put myself assiduously in conditions that encourage the new way”….the temptations to slip and/or ease up on myself lose their appeal once momentum takes hold and the positive effects start to snowball.

Traditionally, resolutions (“commitments to new habits”) are made January 1.  It’s a clean slate, a new year, a fresh new page.  I like that idea, but I am inspired NOW.  Start now.  Choose now. Whatever the habit may be…waking up early every single day (which pairs nicely with going to bed at a reasonable hour…*raising my hand over here*), eating well, practicing a creative outlet on a daily basis, saving money, reaching out to loved ones more intentionally & frequently, keeping a tidy home, reducing waste, practicing forgiveness, working hard towards an athletic or career goal….there are so many possibilities.  I would love to hear yours. :)

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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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