Thursday, December 30, 2010

The year in review, a video collage

Last year, I did a very detailed rehash of the year. I had to almost in order to remember all the things I did and experience, all the place I went and people I met. This year has been a packed year, a full year, a year of memories, but instead of a list, I decided to create a video of the year full of pictures and a few video clips. Next year, I hope to have much more video and will regularly post videos as I make them with my fun new Sanyo.

It is a long video, but I am not trying to impress anyone with my editing skills, but instead creating a digital scrapbook for the future. Plus, its worth it to watch until the end because somewhere in there is a clip of me dancing, ha!

All in all, it has been a fantastic year. It has been rich and full, which encompasses both the good and the bad. There have been lessons and growth, shining moments and utter failures, its been a delicious journey. Good and bad, I love and accept it all. Cheers to a great year past and to a new year about to begin.

p.s. like most Youtube videos, let it load fully before watching it. Less buffering!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Doing things that scare you

I don't normal consider myself someone who has many fears. In fact, I cannot bring to mind anything that I truly fear. I like to challenge myself, I like to try new things, I am unafraid to fail.

Since last Summer and even more intensely in the last month or so, I have been doing something that is a little scary to me. Pushing my outer limits. Practically this means, I am working on getting faster, digging down into that place of "I don't know how good I can be" and seeing what I bring up. Marathon fast running, try and make the Olympics fast running.

I came to running after a career as a basketball player and don't have a long legacy of track running or even shorter distance road running. I came into the sport, ran a marathon, ran two more and then started ultrarunning. I never really tapped my potential as a marathoner and I really like marathons. Short, fast and sweet. But running a 2:49 marathon (my PR) 3 weeks after a road 100k World Championship is not pushing that limit. That is pretty safe. In ultrarunning, even though I could blow up, DNF, lose or have a bad day that doesn't scare me. Running 50 miles fast in 6:28, finishing with sub 7 min miles doesn't strike me as pushing my limits (in fact it feels down right comfortable). What scares me is the red line. In my running, I tend to not red line. I have talked about this before a bit, about learning to that "this is so hard I don't know if I can hold it" and holding it place. It is an uncomfortable place, but for where I want to go, I must go there.

For Houston and the prospect of making the Olympic Trials, I happily go there. It has not been easy. Tuesday mornings I wake up nervous about the days track workout. I run my warmup not knowing if I can hit my prescribed paces, wondering if my lungs and legs will sustain me lap after lap. At the track, I cannot hide from my own progress. I can't just run by feel like I often do for ultras, I have to run by watch and splits and miles. It is a totally different ball game. It's hard but in a good way. It is pushing me to go beyond myself. I am becoming a different athlete because of it.

Looking back, leading up to Western States, I felt like I was all in, like I was doing everything to make that race be great. Barring the kidney failure, I think I would have run a great race. But I realize now, I was just doing everything I wanted to. There is more I could have invested, I could have worked harder at the gym, been better about race specific work and had a more athletic diet. I was committed, but I wasn't all in. I am all in for Houston.

Yesterday at the track, I had a moment of transcendence. I was pushing hard in my final 800 meter repeat, getting blasted in the face on the back stretch with wind, tired, pushing and wondering if I would be able to hold the pace. I came around the final turn and hit the straight away and instead of holding on for dear life, I suddenly found something: the next gear. I powered through the final 100 meters in my fastest split of the repeat and finished the 800 also with my fastest split. Then I followed it up with a 75 second 400 meter repeat hitting my prescribed split right on the head and utilizing the next gear again. It felt amazing. I was so tired and happily exhausted, drained in a good way that I don't often feel. That next gear showed me that the red line is something I can manipulate, I can work very close to it for a while (like I have been at the track and in tempo workouts), feel like I am going to run face first into it and then bam, the red line retreats a few paces and keeps me hungry for its pursuit. It is hardwork, it is scary, I could fall on my face and do horribly. But ultimately, the work itself is the reward and the race is just the victory. The things I am learning about myself as a runner right now are amazing and inspire me daily to keep after it.

Photos by Nathan.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Brag, Just Fact

Finish line hugs at Miwok 100k. In 2011, the crew-runner positions will be flip flopped.

I am going to create a bumper sticker that says, "My sister is faster than your sister". I'd definitely slap one of those on my car with pride. You see, my sister is a kick ass runner in her own right and recently she has taken up ultrarunning and is already tearing it up. Over the weekend, she came in 2nd at Rodeo Beach 50k in only her second 50k race ever. In her first one, she was 1st!

I am not proud of her just because she is winning though. I would be proud of her if she never set foot on another race course ever, but I am glad she will be. In fact in 2011, she will be running her first 50 miler (Avalon 50) and her first 100k (Miwok 100k) and who knows, maybe even her first 100 miler! I am proud of her because she has found something she is really passionate about, something that she challenges herself with and expands her horizons.

I have always loved running with my sister. When we lived together (on a few separate occasions), I loved getting up super early (she's a teacher so make the extra super early) and going for ninja runs in the dark. We provide each other with a type of energy that is built on years of inside jokes, camaraderie, trials and tribulations. My sister and I may not always see eye to eye or agree, but we share an uncommon bond. 

So this is just to say, I am proud of my sister. She is a rockstar and butt kicking ninja! No brag, just fact. I look forward to watching her continue to grow and develop as a trail runner/ultrarunner and share many miles with her.

Windy, rainy 50k and still smiling. Go Sarah!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Someone's little workshop

Tis the season 

I certainly cannot believe that the year is almost over. It has been a good one, an journey for sure, both heavy and light with lessons and experience. But this is not about the bygone year. I would much rather celebrate the present and the season. It is a fun one after all.

This season we have been doing a making a bunch of DIY goodies that I am excited to share with friends and family. From Christmas cards to homemade chocolates, it is so satisfying to create something and share the success and goodies with others. There is something really empowering about creating things for yourself.

That feeling is something I have decided to harness for myself and my career. This fall, I have struggled with figuring out what direction I want to go with my career after my job ended in August. Over the past month (with all the luxurious time that comes from lower mileage, 80-90 miles a week ha!), I have been working on defining and creating for myself that direction. I decided somewhere along the way that I don't want to simply take a job I don't believe in to pass the time and pay the bills. I know myself, I burn out on that too quickly. I realized that I have lived my life afraid of truly going after what I want and creating my reality (especially when it comes to career). I mean, I went to culinary school but didn't take up cheffing. I immerse myself in food and nutrition, yet sit on the sidelines, afraid to true and carve out my piece of the pie. But I realize now, I want to pursue food as not just my passion, but as my career.

And let me tell you, I have been busy in my little workshop! I have been building up my personal chef client base and am actively pursuing new clients in the bay area. I have rebuilt and relaunched my personal chef/cooking website Fast Foodie. I am having my friend (and amazing designer Rick Gaston) design a new logo for me (sneak peek in the picture below!). I have launched a line of gluten free muffin and cookie mixes  that I am looking forward to developing into a line of muffins, granolas and bars!

I know where I want to go (cafe/bakery of our own!) and I would like to develop myself and my skills as the journey takes me forward to that eventuality. It is not an easy thing to undertake, nor is it all passion and inspiration, but it feels right. Many say, "but what about your running?" and I say, "what about my life?". Running is a huge part of my life, but it something I am not willing to defer every other aspect of my life for. I have done that and nearly imploded in the process. I find it surprisingly easy to balance and furthermore, I like the challenge. Food is a huge passion of mine and I feel as driven to create with this medium as I feel driven to run. It makes me excited. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Things They Carried

"Always do what you are afraid to do"- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once upon a time, I was a great basketball player. For a time in my life, everything was consumed by basketball. Everything was dictated by basketball. Everything was sacrificed for basketball. Then one day, I stopped playing. I walked away and never looked back.

The other day, I was trying to remember some moments from those days. Trying to pull the images to mind when everything hinged on a single shot, the clock ticking down, everything riding on the line. The game on the line. That all important thing dangling in that second. At that time, it always felt like life itself hung on that very moment.

It's funny now. I can't remember it at all. The memories blur together to form a bittersweet time of my life, a beautiful chapter, something I can only relive now by watching a documentary of those days that just happened to capture it.  It is experience I value, yes. But it is not any more weighted in mind or memory than say, the feeling of sleeping on the floor of my new apartment in Pittsburgh, standing on the Tube platform for the first time or walking around the townships in Cape Town with a 7 year old guide, maybe even less weighted.

It is funny to consider how something that once was so important can be all but forgotten. Instead, the things I carry with me are moments, experiences, feelings. And as I reflect on it, the things I carry with me are not at all what I thought I would. The moments that I often attribute the most weight, the most importance, rush past in a whirlwind of passion and emotion and then often leave as little as a whisper upon my mind. 

Instead I carry with me small moments, trivial oddities, profound revelations. Quiet moments on mountain tops. A taste, a few words of a song, a feeling of freedom. 

Yesterday, my sister recommend this blog about 75 Ways to Stay Unhappy Forever. And I had one of those perspective moments. The completely step outside of everything you are doing, thinking, feeling, fearing and stop moments. It was then that I tried to think about my life as a basketball player. My world revolved around basketball. Everything I thought I was, was related to basketball.

So why then did I try to think about it? Because I know now that who I am now and who I was then really have nothing to do with my success and failures as a basketball player. I defined myself by something I loved and ultimately ended up losing the thing I loved and my sense of self because of it. I look back on that time to check myself. I don't want any one thing in my life to ever again be able to rule every single thing I feel about myself. There will be success and failure. Joy and pain. Highs and lows.

The memory, or more the absence of a memory, reminds me the beauty and wonderment of life is not found in grand gestures, all important single defining moments or the sinking of a game winning free throw.

When it comes down to it, I'll take a life time of small beautiful things. There is no one defining moment in our lives. We cobble together the definition in the things we carry with us: a fading summer sky, a famous piece of stone, raw emotion, the sound of laughter, monk like musings at altitude, the feeling of the ocean on bare feet, an unexpected reminder, the relationships we build and cherish, simply being. Yep, that's what I'll carry.

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