Thursday, September 23, 2010

Living Like a Runner

Very tired the day after running 36 miles in the High Sierras

I feel like I am really living the life of a runner right now. I sleep a lot, I run, I eat a lot, I nap, I do core/gym work, I run some more I eat some more. Oh yeah and in between, I job search. Being unemployed has been interesting in a lot of ways, it has had its very low moments where I wonder how the heck I am going to be able to make ends meet on an unemployment check that is barely half of what I was making before. It also has its upside, mainly the space to dream about what I want to do and the pressure enough to go after it (pressure from needing a paycheck).

But really, it has shown me just how easily I could shape my days and life around the act of running. Getting ready for, recovering from, fueling for, or actually running takes up a lot of my energy these days. I am peaking training right now for Tussey and therefore blasting out high mileage, but I also know that the real work is just beginning. I say that because I am going to make a go at the marathon qualifying time for the olympic trials. Not just that, but I want to be well under it. I know that is going to take a lot of tough, hard work. Work that can't legitimately be done with a 40 hour work week. I like my lifestyle, even before being laid off, I worked from home and was able to balance my schedule to suit my life. I don't really think I will ever feel that comfortable in a 9-5 job. I may work well work 40 hours a week, but it will probably be through multiple things cobbled together. A friend of mine called me a professional "cobbler" the other day: I am a certified personal chef and cooking instructor  (which reminds me, anyone in the bay area want me to chef for them email me at devon (at) fastfoodiecooks.com), I do accounting, I am a librarian, a writer and a social media expert. Oh yes, and once upon a time I folded a mean towel too. That is just to say that I have a lot of skills, why not use them all to make my way?

At this point in my life, running pretty much is my biggest passion. It dictates a great deal in my life though it does not consume it. I also know that this will not always be the case, there are other things I want to do and accomplish.

I just find it interesting. I feel a lot less anxious about how I spend my days than I have in a long time. I have finally managed to get rid of a good deal of guilt. I sleep so soundly in my mid-day nap, it's incredible. Right now, I really really love being a runner and despite the fact that my goals and workout mentality have gotten more intense, I feel the most free and unstressed as I ever have about running. I have a healthy balance I think. I am enjoying where I am at in life, even if it is not the most ideal position. I think sometimes it is just about rolling with what comes your way, enjoying that time for what it is and knowing it will all change again.

Speaking of changes, my favorite season is upon us. Happy Fall! A few fall recipes to get you excited for the season!


Signs of Fall Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup roasted butternut squash ( I roasted an entire butternut squash after peeling & chopping it, tossed with peanut oil & salt at 400 degrees for 35 minutes)
1 cup kale chips (torn into large pieces then tossed on top of the butternut squash in the last 5 minutes of roasting)
few cups of mixed greens
sauerkraut
goat cheese
sprouted beans
udo's oil

Directions:
In a giant bowl, put your massive amount of greens on the bottom, toss with Udo's Oil and a little salt. Top greens with Sauerkraut, sprouted beans and goat cheese. Top that with butternut squash and kale chips. Toss all together and enjoy!


Risotto Stuffed Tomatoes with Arugula and Basil

I am not going to do a step by step on this but more of a narrative because really, it is easy and also because I didn't measure anything!

First things first. I took 4 tomatoes and hollowed them out. I used beefsteak tomatoes, very hearty ones that hold together well. Meanwhile, I cook 1/2 cup of risotto rice in 1 cup vegetable stock (bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for 25-30 minutes-no peeking!). While rice is cooking, roast carrots, zucchini, onion and whatever other vegetables need to be used from the fridge. When the rice is done, mix in grated goat cheese (I used goat gouda). Mix roast vegetables into rice mixture to incorporate. Fill hollowed tomatoes with vegetable/rice mixture, top with more cheese. Cook until heated through, then crank up the broiler until cheese is nice and brown. Plate roasted tomatoes on a bed of basil and arugula, lightly drizzle with good olive oil.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

High Sierra/ Yosemite Adventure

This past weekend, the Baker and I headed up to Yosemite for a weekend of running, camping and exploring. We got up to Yosemite very early Saturday morning, secured a campsite and set out for an epic run. We ended up running nearly 37 miles with 12,000 feet of climbing in about 9 hours. We did most of the run on the High Sierra Loop which takes you deep into some very beautiful backcountry. We ran through amazing meadows surrounded by 11,000 foot peaks, past beautiful lakes and over countless rocks and huge stone stairs. We saw Half Dome from the distance and peak after peak. It was a tough, fun run. Pictures tell the story best.











video


We finished up the run just before dark. After descending and descending for what seemed like forever on very sore knees (from all the downhill on technical terrain) we finished off with some super speedy miles as we could smell the barn! We cleaned up, got in our warm clothes and tucked into some grub at the campsite. Chili, rice and roast vegetables never tasted so good! We even took a walk out to Tuolumne Meadows with our mugs of wine to gaze at the brilliant night sky. Sunday we headed into the valley for a little hiking and checking out more of Yosemite.

I will say this trip has inspired me greatly to attempt a long trail FTK in the near future. I also really want to do some more fastpacking and long hikes. This feels like just the beginning. Looking forward to more adventures soon!



Monday, September 13, 2010

What would you do? Getting past carrots and sticks


Let's play a game. It is a game I have been playing with myself a lot since being laid off in July. It is a short game but potentially, if played at the right time, life changing.  Respond with the first thing that comes into your head. Don't think, just listen to your gut. It goes something like this: quickly, answer the following question:
"If money were no object, what would you do with your life?"

I usually think 5 seconds is enough to form an answer. Or sometimes its long enough to realize that you have cast your ship out in the ocean with absolutely no idea the direction you'd (generally) like to be sailing. 

This is a "game" I have been playing with myself as I wade into the waters of choosing another job, career or path. I have never been primarily motivated by career path, instead motivated by my passions instead (running, food, introspection). I have not really ever co-mingled the two. I started out on a super responsible path while I was speeding through college and grad school and didn't really stop to consider the above question until I was knee deep in student loans and the proud owner of a piece of paper that called me a Master. I am a master of a specific trade, I have lots and lots (and lots) of excellent skills and yet when I mull over the question of what I want my career to be, most of the answers are practical, sound nice, have good benefits or fit my skill set but excite me as much as watching paint dry. I know that sometimes (and probably at some point) practical trumps passion and excitement (like when the rent is due), I'm not arguing that. But I also have found myself dead ending with asking the too basic of a question: what do I want to do for work/ I can peruse craigslist all I want, I can "what color is my parachute" myself to death but what I truly seek is not contained there.

Hence, the game.

I figure that if I look at what my answer to that question is, I can find a direction I can point myself towards. I don't have to have a reasonable answer, I don't have to have a practical answer. I don't have to temper my answer based on my fear of failing or because I was traumatized at my high school graduation dinner by my family essentially telling me that my dreams were utterly ridiculous (from which I internalized, "don't dream, be practical"- though that whole event is a much longer story, but you get the point). Just play and answer.



I did. Many times. At first, there was nothing. No answer, nothing springing to mind. I was tempering my response based upon my own view of it being something I could tangibly reach or reasonably achieve. But that is not the point of the exercise. So I asked again.

And there is an answer, an answer which has been around for a while I think too. Purpose, mastery and self-direction are the great motivators (see below video) and that transcends the learned behaviour of "be practical", "follow through on your commitments", "take the safe path". Why not dream big? Why not take the idea of money out of the equation and direct from there?

You may not find a life changing answer, I sure didn't. A slam on the brakes, turn this car around, answer. Instead you may find a direction and from there you can begin and work backwards to begin to set a new course. That is what I feel like. I feel like my answer to the question chose a fork in the road that will lead me in the direction of the future I want. It does not mean I have a course charted, nor where the road may lead me. But it does make me feel like I am being true to my deepest desires, that I am continually learning about myself and being true to the life I would like to live.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Zen and the Art of Following Your Heart

This post brought to you by my new sponsor Udo's Oil, Oil the Machine!!!


I recently re-read one of my favorite books. It's called How to be an Adult. Bad title, great book. After a summer full of feeling emotionally and mentally exhausted, constantly pulled under by the next big wave crashing over my head, I was in need of a little inspiration. I was in need of some help with integration of all of the thoughts, beliefs and emotions going on in my head. One quick re-read of the book (it's about 85 pages long) and I was feeling empowered.

I was reminded that it is ok to say "Yes", "No" or "Maybe" and mean it. It is possible to change your mind, be assertive and not have to explain yourself. Being assertive is awesome. Listening to your own heart and mind, even when it appears to go against the grain, is, frankly, liberating.

Me and 1/2 of my fan club, Steve Stoyles

I have been all over the map this summer when it comes to my running. After being pulled out of WS, I struggled with where my running was going, why I was doing what I was doing (in choosing races) and if I was making the choices I was because it was really what I wanted to do. I've cried, roared, struggled, gone back and forth, gained clarity, failed to act on it and finally, found my truth.

Immediately after WS, I was keen to hasten into the next 100 mile effort. I felt like I had to prove that what happened at States was a fluke. But that feeling wore off. I didn't choose to step off the course, something outside of my control happened and it was the only option. And prove myself to whom? I have successfully run 100 miles (actually won), I am a great runner and don't need to prove that to anyone. I was really happy to realize that and I was glad to not head into another race for that horribly wrong reason. 

Deep down, I really only wanted to run long enough to get a Glenn photo.
Since he wasn't at Goat Peak, I had to continue. Thanks Glenn!

Instead, I decided that what I needed was some good old fashioned rest. Then I had one good run and I was back to training and training like a mad person. Yes, for another 100 miler. I had signed up for it way back in February and figured, what the heck, I love the race, the people, the place, maybe I can find motivation and indomitable will to get through it, even though I had realized that I really didn't want to focus on the 100 mile distance right now. I figured I could train my body and my mind would follow. The reality is, I should have listened to my own heart and head and kept on resting.

But I was still not saying "Yes" "No" or "Maybe" because I wanted to. I had let some perceptions and misconceptions of the running community infiltrate my mind and muddy the waters. I proceeded with the plan to run CC100 partially because following through on commitments is something that is hardwired into my DNA (and taught to me as a child) and partially because I let myself be talked out of my own truth.

As the race crept towards me and I tapered, my mind was able to refocus on my own truths. I fundamentally believe that rest days, recovery and off seasons are as valuable as the miles and workouts we do. They are not things to be feared, avoided at any cost or looked down upon. I believe that moderation is the key to life long sustainability and keeps you connected to the reasons you do the things you love. If you do something immoderately, perhaps you need to examine why you push yourself so hard, why you are doing what you are doing and why you simply cannot do what you love in a way that will let you do it forever. I am a very, very hard worker and I am not arguing that we should all only run 50 mile weeks, goodness knows I don't. I am saying that it is sane, rational and healthy to take days off and take an off season. It is okay to recover after a race and take your time coming back and its okay to celebrate your accomplishments before you rush off to do the next thing. Moderation and balance are my fundamental truths.

One thing I really am sort of ashamed to admit is that I really bought into the "superiority complex" that I perceive in ultrarunning. Just like in marathoning, where everyone asks you if you have run Boston, in ultrarunning, its the same about running WS's and 100s in general. 100 milers are not superior to any other distance. They are simply longer. They are different yes, better no. I think its perfectly okay to want to run 50k, 50 mile or 100k. Have we forgotten that those distances are incomprehensible in and of themselves? It is an accomplishment to be able to run. It is an accomplishment to be able to run ultras. If I don't decide to focus my life and running schedule around 100 mile races, that is ok.

The second part of this is the idea that trails are superior to roads. I seem to be one of the rarer ultrarunners who loves, yes loves, the road as much as I do the trails. But this year, I have bought into this as well and haven't done a single long road run. They are completely different animals. And I value both of them. I don't really get why road ultra accomplishments are looked at differently or looked down upon. Frankly I think its amazing that on the road the kind of pace and effort runners have to sustain. They are different, neither is better.

The third part of the "superiority complex" I bought into is that uphill running is superior. There is much more to racing than just uphill, yet in my years as an ultrarunner there have been numerous occasions where my uphill abilities have been, let's say, commented on. Which in and of itself is hilarious since I have won several races with gnarly elevation gain, as many as I have without. I bought into this one very early on in the year as I prepared for WS. I focused on getting better on the hills (which is good), but at the expense of my leg speed and downhilling strength. I have spent a good deal of the year being harder on myself (mentally) than I need to be because I bought into this. Consider for yourself you have looked at an elevation profile for a race and said it "only" had such and such elevation.

To realize all of this, is game changing to me. I derailed somewhere and bought into something other than my own truth. Thankfully for me, it never sat right with me and I was able to resurface, re-evaluated and be true to myself. About a week and a half before CC100, I found my way, my truth again and could see more clearly what I wanted and needed to do. I found the heart of why I do what I do. I dropped the lies and stopped caring about what I thought everyone else thought I should do. I got reinvigorated for the future. And I am happy I did. 


I did not however, walk away from Cascade Crest. I figured, what the heck, I am super well trained, I have a great plan, crew/pacers, plane tickets and t-shirts. I also figured that since my mind was free of illusions that I would be able to run the distance just to enjoy it and to just have fun. The race crept closer and I was very uncommitted. Running 100 miles is not something to be undertaken lightly or without complete certainty that you will do whatever it takes to get to the finish line. I lined up at the race with a fresh and healthy body, but a mind that was not certain I wanted to waste myself just because I said I would. Just because I didn't want to walk away from a commitment. My head was already on to my next race but I was hoping I would just have too much fun at CC to even think about it.

The reality is, I was just not that into it. With my body working well, my legs feeling strong, my fueling/hydrating plan on point, I was left simply clipping along, in my own head thinking: "you got it all clear, you figured it out, you know what you really want to do and yet, here you are". I knew I would pay a heavy physical price to finish the race and I wasn't really enjoying myself. I really didn't want to put 100 miles on my legs when I have other plans. I had 5 miles in the entire time where I actually thought "ok, now we are talking". I should have never even started. I knew that I did not have my heart into it. So I changed my mind. Yes, I changed my mind. 

Jumping for joy at changing my mind

I wasn't physically suffering in any way. I just had decided I didn't really want to do it (a long time before the race ever started) and I just took 34 miles of running to be strong enough, to muster up my strength to say "No, this is not what I want". I changed my mind, I quit. And really, no one cares. It was the final gesture in getting back to myself, my truths and following my heart. I am so happy with the decision and proud of myself for not carrying on for, literally, no reason.

Totally worthwhile stomachache. Baked goods at Macrina.


I walked away from the race with relief, joy and excitement. I enjoyed myself throughly in the decision and the rest of the weekend was spent goofing off (see above pics and below) on the run, playing, laughing, eating delicious food (gluten included), drinking coffee and generally letting myself just enjoy. I am not speeding onwards to training again this week. I am resting HARD in preparation for my next training block. I will have had 3 good down weeks by then. 


The seasons are changing again and I enter the fall feeling like I am more myself than I have been in a long time. I am excited and invigorated. I am also feeling quite liberated by all of this. Who knew being an adult could be so much fun?





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