31 December 2014

Let me sum up...

I am not going to do a big year-end wrap up....mostly because my work isn't done yet - I've got four races and just under four months of training to complete. 

I'll just give you a few quotes that sum up my thoughts thus far.....

....and most crucially, 

28 December 2014

Expectation vs reality

My running today did not quite go as planned....initially, was planning to meet up with Mosi & Crispin at Uwharrie and do a 12-15 mile run. Looked like this....

Instead, my stomach didn't cooperate and I had a pretty sleepless night, which ended up with me going to run this with Blanca G., for whose company I was grateful:

And because I still wasn't 100%, I ended up like this: 

Not once, not twice, but three times... 
Nonetheless, 9 1/2 miles done, three days of running in a row, mileage meter ticking upward. Still, ouch. 

They still met up, which was great - knocked out 12 tough miles.

27 December 2014

Gettin' my butt in gear

After the past few days of holiday merriment, I am definitely knackered (as my Brit friends say). I didn't even hear my alarm go off this morning nor do I remember turning it off. I finally awoke and it was 0940. That's like half my day gone. Holy crap.

I'm eating leftover holiday bread, drinking my coffee and making my to-do lists for the next few days. Primary among these is the completion of my essays for law school. I've filled out the online forms, received all but one LoR and have to now explain why the school really needs me among its student body.

On the running and fundraising front, the next race is late January, which gives me some lead time for press releases and raising awareness, as well as reaching out to potential sponsors for the final race (Marathon des Sables) in April.

I also have some time to really get my mileage built properly as well as re-focus on some strength training. I do lots of core stabilizing exercises to fire the ab muscles that do work (since my core strength is truly in absentia) as well as balance exercises to trigger lesser typically used muscles, which help me manage my core weakness. My biggest issues really center around my glutes, not atypical to distance runners, but for me, it's an area of central focus, since the glutes are the largest muscle on the body (outside of the abdomen). And since I lack the abdomen.....

Why yes, it does....
(Bought this in 2012 as an aspiration piece, thank you Colorado Running Company)
Turns out, the exercises I did in rehab were modifications to the strengthening exercises prescribed by Runner's World, Competitor, and a few others. A lot of body weight squats (60/90s anyone?), resistance band work and bridges. I've since added the single leg work, as I've become stronger, even though I am cautious about exercises which require that any explosive movements, i.e. box jumps.

My favorites? Other than the 60/90s, I like single leg deadlifts, side-squats with the resistance band, single leg bridges and the trusty side leg lifts and side clamshells. I also do a lot of post-run stretching, here's a link to some, serendipitously, courtesy of Blake Russell.

P.S. Stitches out on Monday!

1) Competitor.com: Four best strengthening exercises for runners
2) Runner's World: Glute strengthening workout

24 December 2014

Christmas, y'all

On Sunday, the kids and I met up with some other WRRC folks and caroled through the halls of a retirement home. The Bubbaloo pretty much hugged everyone we sang to and even climbed up on a couple of laps. The Pumpkin Noodle was the perfect echo chorus for Frosty and Rudolph. A bit of cheer for those who weren't able to be in the comforts of their own home.

After about a hour and a half of singing! 
The weather was eerily similar on Sunday and yesterday when I went for my runs. In an effort to be efficient, I ran the same loop both days, once in reverse.

The neighborhoods are festive, although down here, the lack of frozen precipitation can make for an odd juxtaposition of the notion of a white Christmas against the reality that it don't much snow here at the beach. 

Anyway, below are a few pics from my runs...hope y'all are with people you love and are enjoying all the best of the holiday.

Love the bridge decorations.
The carriage house is decorated the same way as the main house.
Christmas in the south, y'all, I'm still not used to this.. 

20 December 2014

The perils of joyful

I experienced my first holiday accident ever (no, really, ever) on Thursday, which accounts for the pause in my posts. What happened? As with what I imagine is the case with most household mishaps, I wasn't paying close enough attention and was probably using the wrong implement.

I was attempting to open one of those scented oil bottles, which have cork-like stoppers to prevent the oil from leaking out. I was using a paring knife to try and jimmy the cork out. Yes, again, I didn't say it was the best idea.

So, as I was applying said jimmying pressure, the knife slipped and went straight into my left hand, into that nice area between the thumb and forefinger.....about two inches into. I now know what the tendons and muscles of my hand look like, which is an oddly interesting and yet, creepy thing to see, having actually seen it. I grabbed a cloth towel, applied pressure and then sat on the stair landing to decide whether or not I might need stitches. (Duh....)

The card the Pumpkin Noodle made for me
I picked up my phone and called the one person who I knew would be able to take me to the hospital and handle me once I was there: K. (Thankfully, the munchkins were out on a walk with the sitter, so didn't see it.) I called the sitter to let her know what was going on, and she brought the munchkins home. I changed from the towel to an actual gauze bandage and she helped me tape it on, and I went upstairs to lie down and wait for K.

Long story short...despite all initial fears, I only needed several stitches and a dose of antibiotics (and a sedative and something else that pretty much knocked me out). The last thing I remember is them numbing my hand to sew it up. I woke up Friday morning with the Bubbaloo snuggling next to me, a sore hand and my alarm buzzing.  (Stitches will come out in 10 days, swelling is going down slowly. At least it wasn't my right hand and hey, I can still run!)

Day three......still swollen...
Irony for the day: not being able to actually retrieve your pain medicine because it's too painful trying to grip the bottle to open it.

The name of the scented oil? Joyful.

18 December 2014

What's your anschauung?

Some humor to start off today's post:
Copyright: Dustinland.com

Weltanschauung \ VELT-ahn-shou-oong \  , noun; German. 
1. A comprehensive view or personal philosophy of human life and the universe


1868, from German Weltanschauung, from welt "world" (see world ) +anschauung "perception" (related to English show ).

Weltanschauung  entered English in the 1860s from German meaning "world-view."



World-view: the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point of view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics. 

As a shameless logophile as well as an amateur etymologist, I receive the WOTD in my email. For the past 10 years, I've compiled quite a list and some stick out more than others. This one arrived in my Inbox on Sunday.  It struck me because it made me pause to consider my own perception of the world; my relation to all those things that make up this universe. In that construct, I am insignificant. 

However, in the more compressed, subjacent arena that I call my place in the world, I believe I have an obligation to make it better, both for me and for others, in particular.  (I recognize that this is an hubristic statement, based on the assumption that anything I intend or do is, in fact, a betterment; nonetheless, I persevere in my belief and thus, my efforts.)

That may seem like a do-gooder outlook but honestly, I discovered that when I am purely selfish in my pursuits, I am less happy.  Because when I achieved only for me, it was a, "Yeay for me," and then nothing additional transpired and it made the achievements feel hollow.  Yet, when I feel I have a positive impact on others, when I see someone else filled with joy or pass a milestone or accomplish a goal, I couldn't be more thrilled. I don't know what it is about seeing others achieve that makes me so darn delighted, but for some reason, it does. 

Does that mean I put myself secondary? On the contrary; in order to do my best for others, I must also do right by me - my health, my personal goals and responsibilities and fulfilling my role as a mother to the munchkins. It also means that I work to be the best version of me that I can be, which is why I take the time to run and swim, take the time to read and educate myself, take the time to be with friends and decompress from some of the everyday minutiae that can still irritate if not put in context. 

I know happiness comes from within; I am most happy when working toward raising others up. 

It is what drove me to select the Semper Fi Fund ("Support Through Sport") and MARSOC Foundation ("Helping those who have sacrificed the most"); it is what drives me to law school to study international law, human rights law, law of war and conflict resolution (no, I don't think we're all going to just "get along"....pragmatist, but hopeful).  It is why I wish to focus on children and the next generation of leaders in my post-graduate professional life.  It's that little girl in the back of the car squinting at the lights and believing in something more. 

The motto of my undergrad college: 
Non ministrari sed ministrare: "Not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

My family crest motto: 
Non mihi, sed tibi, gloria: "Glory to thee, not to me." 

My anschauung: 
"Today is an opportunity, tomorrow is another chance."

What's yours?

16 December 2014

Show me your shirt!


For all of you great supporters out there - if you've got a 12for12for1200 t-shirt, please take a photo of it and email me, please! 

If you don't yet have a shirt and want one, click here to purchase one. All proceeds go to support the work of the MARSOC Foundation and Semper Fi Fund. 

12for12for1200 logo on the front, Semper Fi Fund and MARSOC Foundation logo on the back. Shirts are athletic cut, wicking material and super soft.....
(I've run two 24-hour races, a 50-miler and long training runs in it!)

During the ATR 24-hr race..

15 December 2014

In the kitchen

When I was in grad school, I started making baskets....not like underwater weaving or anything, but gift baskets. I know, right? (All of a sudden, you see me wielding a thimble, an apron with Modge Podge and random ribbons stuck to it.) It became a thing for me when I came upon some reed baskets at an antique market while working out in western Massachusetts, and made mini-loaves of cinnamon swirl bread, bought some hand-dipped candles, combined it with vintage linen napkins and modern napkin rings and a glass-blown ornament and, boom, a custom-made gift.

Since then, I've done variations on the theme, with mini-tarts (apricot/almond, chocolate/cranberry, and pear/hazelnut), Finnish breakfast buns, chutneys (apple cranberry, persimmon and plum), homemade almond toffee and candied fruit peels. When the Pumpkin Noodle started school, we made cookies for her classmates and teachers; last year she and the Bubbaloo cut out the shapes and decorated with the icing they made. (For the record, two classrooms with 40 kids + teachers with three cookies apiece = a s#!t ton of prep and baking and required some help from Santa's elves after hours to complete the task.)

This year, I decided to go easier on myself and so, invited two of the Noodle's friends over, had the time set so adult beverages were appropriate and we made fudge. Three kinds of fudge: Chocolate Peppermint, Mexican Hot Cocoa and Gingerbread. Super easy to make and insanely tasty. I have included the recipes here and added the links to the originals (I tweaked the recipes a bit). Below are the finished products....did I mention how freakin' tasty these are???

 Peppermint Chocolate, Mexican Hot Cocoa & Gingerbread Fudge
Peppermint Chocolate Fudge

12 oz (1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 oz (1 bag) white chocolate chips
3 (14-oz) cans condensed milk
4 TB butter
pinch of salt
½ -1 tsp peppermint extract
½ -1 cup crushed candy canes
  1. Spray an 8x8 inch square dish with non-stick spray. 
  2. Place semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 can condensed milk, 2 TB butter, and salt into a heavy pan over medium-low heat and stir continuously until melted and well combined.
  3. Pour mixture into the dish, smoothing the top with an offset spatula or butter knife.  Let cool (I just let it sit on counter).
  4. Place white chocolate chips, 1 can condensed milk, 2 TB butter, peppermint extract and salt into a heavy pan over medium-low heat and stir continuously until melted and well combined.  
  5. Gently pour remaining fudge mixture on top of peppermint. Spread gently, so that there is a distinct layer of white on top.
  6. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top.
  7. Let fudge cool and then refrigerate until set. Cut into small pieces and store, tightly covered, in the fridge.

Mexican Hot Cocoa Fudge

3 cups milk chocolate chips
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 TBSP cocoa powder
2 TBSP butter
4 tsps vanilla extract
1-2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 -1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup marshmallow bits (the smaller, the better)

  1. Line a 9x9 inch pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. 
  2. Over medium low heat, add the sweetened condensed milk to a small saucepan. Whisk in the cocoa powder. the cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips and stir consistently until well-combined. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  4. Pour into the pan, and add the marshmallow bits, pressing them into the fudge. (You may not need all of them.)
  5. Refrigerate for at least four hours, covered, before removing the fudge from the pan by lifting the aluminum foil, peeling it off the fudge, and cutting the fudge to serve.
  6. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Gingerbread Fudge

3 1/4 cups white chocolate chips
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup condensed milk
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles, if desired (I used red/green/white)

  1. Spray an 8x8 inch square dish with non-stick spray. 
  2. Place white chocolate chips, brown sugar, molasses, evaporated milk, and all spices in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine, then place over medium-low heat. Stir almost continuously until melted and smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Top with sprinkles, if desired.
  3. Chill fudge to set. Cut and store, tightly covered in the fridge. 
  4. (Note: this fudge is a little softer than normal fudge, so it should be kept in the refrigerator until ready to serve.)

(Super easy to gift, you can use the tall cellophane bags with gift tag stickers or the candy boxes - both are sold at Michael's or any hobby store). 

14 December 2014

If you never did, you should.

Two Dr. Seuss quotes for this special day....

For me, today is about remembering all I have been given in life -- the easy days and the hardships, the joy and the pain and most of all, the amazing friendships, experiences and opportunities I have had... Thank you to all of you who have ever been a part of my life; if not for you, I wouldn't be me!

12 December 2014

FBF: Off balance

I've contemplated this post since Sunday, it first coming to mind on my flight home from the ECSCA. I have so far used my Flashback Fridays as a way to focus on positive memories, but today I want to speak about something that happened last week.

During my shake-out run last Saturday, there was a moment, a moment of jocularity and friendly ribbing that resulted in me losing my balance. In an instant, I was afraid, no, terrified. I became panicked, hyperventilating, tears streaming down my face, completely unable to control neither my emotional nor physiological response to the situation. I paced up and down the trail, stopping to bend over every few steps, struggling to regain myself. I don't recall how long it took, but at one point, I got angry and started running again, even as tears still flowed and my breathing was gasping and ragged; whatever the trigger, the only way I could think of to keep it from spiralling was to keep going. I was furious, furious that a deep-rooted, dark something that I couldn't immediately define was impeding upon the piece of joy that running is for me.

As we made our way down the rest of the run, I sought to analyze what the hell had just happened. The only thing I could come up with was in that moment of imbalance, I felt helpless, unsure of whether I would remain upright, whether my body could even keep me upright and that my psyche must have plummeted into the abyss of injury trauma. By the time we completed the run, I thought I had mentally recovered. I was wrong.

That night, I didn't, couldn't, sleep. Each time I drifted off, the White nightmare appeared; that's what I call it. There are three and each is one distinct color: White, Red or Black.  They've sometimes occurred during the day, but most often rear their ugliness at night. (Just so you know, I didn't really want to tell you about this, but if I didn't, I would not be being fair to you nor would I be helping me.)

Backstory: When I was injured, I was sedated but not comatose; I don't know if you'd call it semiconscious in that I heard and recognized people as they were in the hospital rooms and indicated that I did by using a Sharpie to write on paper held up by K. (I first tried using my finger, then he realized what I was doing and got the marker.) Through this medium, I asked what was happening to me, where our daughter was; I even asked what the odds of my surviving were and, at one point, following my fourth (?) resuscitation, I asked if I was still alive. Even as I was given "memory erasing" drugs, my mind was storing all the information. That is what comes back -- all the knowledge of my situation, that I was bleeding to death, that I might never again see my daughter, that they couldn't stop the bleeding, that they kept bringing me back from pulmonary failure....that I kept dying, that I might never again open my eyes...I heard and processed it all.

The White nightmare is the worst of the three. I had not had the White nightmare in some time, but whatever fear I had on the trail brought it back and so, I chose to stay awake after I experienced it again last Saturday. I have had trouble sleeping since then, but I know that telling this story is a step in the right direction. I don't need or want sympathies for what I am going through; this journey is not about that.  I lay this out so you understand me more and perhaps, may be able to help another.

Thank you for reading.

11 December 2014

Big dreams

So, there's this thing I learned when I was recovering from my injuries and it was reintroduced again last year, when I was recovering from all the additional craziness life had thrown at me. It's not a new concept, indeed, it's one of those acronyms that has received a lot of attention both in injury recovery, including mental trauma, and life coaching as well as in childhood development.

I have my original "GREAT DREAM" notes scribbled on a card, but I adjusted it slightly for the current state of my life. I did it to remind myself that I could and would overcome whatever difficulties, tangents, obstacles or black ice that sent me careening in the wrong direction and momentarily spun me out.

If you know me, you know I am not really one for touchy-feely, kumbaya sentiments. The reason I adapted these is because they are logical and practical, universally applicable and simply make sense as a way to approach life with all its unexpected twists and turns.

As the Marine Corps loves acronyms, even those that don't spell words, I took the liberty to add a letter, because, well, jarhead, devil dog, yut, yut, errrrr....

Here are my BIGG DREAMS:

(photo taken from my window seat on the way to Boston
for the Heartbreak Hill Half-Marathon this past June)

Here's a link to the 10 original keys.

09 December 2014

Across a foggy Gate: Straight up, mud on the side

Race day, Sunday, 7 Dec....Also the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, so if you didn't pause to remember those who lost their lives that day, with the consequence of the US being inexorably pulled into World War II, well, I got nothing for ya. 

My day started with a 0445 wake-up and a hilarious wake-up of my buddy Adrian, who, after I too cheerily popped into his room at 0450, promptly went back to sleep, only to have me act as a snooze button five minutes later (no, don't turn on the light...).  I made last additions to the race bag (extra socks, pants, bibs, and water) and donned my race gear, with a last minute debate on whether to go tank or t-shirt.  

Next was coffee, a banana and gingerbread (not my normal pre-race carb by pretty much my standard December breakfast fare) and a quick jaunt north past the Richmond refineries and west across 580, passing San Quentin and turning back south to the Larkspur Ferry terminal where we would catch the shuttle to the Golden Gate Recreation Area and the start. 

 I will let the pictures below tell the rest of the story. I had originally planned to try for a sub-1:50  when I selected this race but with the calf tear and the resultant ease-off of my training, I reset for a 2:30 goal and a mindset to run as a tourist and just take it all in. And I did....

Damp, muddy and still dark at the start/finish. 
Pre-race, bag checked, feeling a bit chilly (less than 10 minutes to the start). 
The elevation chart. Three major climbs of about a mile each,
with one lesser climb, still steep.
Just about halfway up the first climb.....
(thank you, race photos, I'm def buying these!)
Climb #2, looking down
Climb #2, looking up
Yes, we just kept climbing and climbing, this was #3
Pacific Ocean 
Part way down the last downhill, I was having a blast,
although I know it looks like I have my racing face on!
All done! We finished at almost the exact same time,
only 1.5 seconds pace per mile different...
Yes, there was still plenty of mud on the course!
Unlike my normal race demeanor, I was a chatty Cathy along the whole way (ok, save for a few of the climbs), and met some really nice people along the way --- a grad student studying education at Cal who would normally be surfing and who actually checked out the swell as we passed each ocean view, a guy who grew up riding horses on the trails, another who was a Bay Area returnee and chose the race to celebrate her return.

I did have some abdominal twinges on the second downhill, which was quite steep and I felt some trepidation creep in, but it abated and by the time I got to the base of the last downhill, I knew there was only a small climb and less than a mile to go.  The race was not a true half, they added .4 just for fun to make it 13.5....

At the end of the day, I crossed the finish line and relished in the accomplishment of conquering those inclines, ones I knew so well and which made my heart soar over the course of this race. 

07 December 2014

Shake it out

Just a preview for you of how gorgeous it has been here; this was yesterday's shake out run on the Strawberry Canyon fire trail.

Start at the top of Grizzly Peak Blvd,
into the eucalyptus groves
The view. Cal is at the V intersection, GG Bridge is upper left and
the Headlands (race location) are where the right side of the bridge hits land,
 just where the clouds touch the hills
Another section of the SC fire trail
Shoes a little muddy, a prelude to tomorrow....
Race recap coming tomorrow!

05 December 2014

Across a foggy Gate: Muscle memory

I made it to the Left Coast in the wee hours of Thursday morning, being on the receiving end of multiple flight cancellations, rerouting and delays. I arrived to a celebration; my friend and fellow Marine, Adrian Kinsella, had collected the family of his Afghan interpreter, Mohammad, from the airport earlier in the day after almost a year of working to get them out of Afghanistan.

Their arrival story is here, the backstory is here as well as on the LeaveNoOne Facebook page. It was truly a momentous occasion and the celebrating went on into the night, after I retired for the evening.
Mohammad and his mom at the airport. (photo: San Jose Mercury News)
The brothers, Mohammad & Adrian (photo: San Jose Mercury News)
As the morning light gave way to rolling taffy clouds, I made my pilgrimage to The Cheeseboard for a Chocolate Thing and a brioche and Peet's Coffee for a late morning breakfast and then wandered about, taking in the familiar and observing the new and listening to Adrian retelling of the family's reunion. Adrian says the fruition is almost surreal, and it hasn't quite settled in that the family is here and safe. 

Adrian trying to decide.....
Just a small inventory of all the cheeses...the chalkboard is almost comprehensive
As the afternoon waned, I took to the streets for a run, following a route that was well-trodden by me, a loop I'd run many times before when I lived here (albeit starting from the opposite side of campus). I didn't get to add any stadium steps as I normally would as there was an event, but was able to capture the moon rising over Strawberry Canyon. There was a lovely feeling of returning home during the run, even as many things have changed about the area. My stride remembered the pavement's rise and fall and the turns along the route were second nature, made without pause and nary a glance to the street signs. 

Sunset from the backside of the Cal Berkeley stadium
Witter Rugby Field and the road to the Strawberry Canyon pool and trails.
Moon is the orb of light on the right edge of the sign.
Easy route through my old neighborhoods
With some climbs......
The evening finished with a quick visit from Mohammad and one of his brothers capped off by wine and tapas at Cesar with Adrian and his roommate, Aram. 

Rahmatullah (one of Mohammad's brothers), Mohammad, me & Adrian
This morning saw me delightfully attending to law school admissions business and the day will close with a trip across the bay to grab the race packets and reunite with a couple of friends for dinner and drinks. Two days to the ECS and the Headlands!

02 December 2014

Across a foggy Gate: Elevation station

When I lived in the Bay Area, I made almost weekly forays to the Headlands to run the trails and used them extensively in my training for my first go-round at Marathon des Sables. So getting back to these known paths is reassuring except for one minor thing:

I have been living in coastal North Carolina since 2005. You may recall a post from earlier this summer, where I tracked the WRRC "hill" loop workout. Here's the elevation profile from that post: 

The max elevation is just over 50 ft....
I don't know the formula for overall elevation gain, and uh, 

not really sure that there is, in fact, an overall gain on this route. 
Here's the elevation profile for the TNF Endurance Challenge race:

Yes, that reads 906 ft for max elevation...I especially like that the minimum elevation is higher than my max elevation here in NC, 'cause, you know, starting at sea level and all. I'm going to comfort myself with the knowledge that the overall elevation gain is less than it was during my Yellowstone-Teton 50-miler from September, by around 85ft. And I'm going to ignore the 5-star difficulty rating 'cause, hey, I've run it before, right? Ha. At least I'll be distracted by all the scenery.  Here's the course map:

The big loop is exactly the loop I used to run for training. 
The path on the far right of the course is basically one big incline, 
which I used to run up, but which, gratefully, 
we are descending at the end. 
Golden Gate Bridge is in the bottom right corner, 
San Francisco is just below it. 
I'm truly elated to be running this race. I'm not running for time or to place, I am running to simply do it, to get back to those hills that were once a home for my feet and my heart. To prove that it's possible to do that thing that "they" say you'll never do again.