Thursday, June 21, 2018

Tolerance Does Not Equal Hospitality

I’m a restaurant manager of a fine dining establishment in Denver, Colorado. 

I stood at the expo corner in the foreground of our incredibly open kitchen as chef called off the entrees as “Seat one, seat two and seat three; table four”. Picking them up and following a server, he told me the gentlemen at this table had been ‘creepy’ to the young woman who was hosting, as she had shown them to their table. My eyes immediately flicked up and asked for details of the situation. As I carefully placed the dishes in front of the guests, one of them said “Let me see you smile.” I fought the immediate response the corners of my mouth had to rise up – because, still, the typical response to this kind of sexism is for women to give the reaction that men want in order for them to stop – to actually smile. I locked eyes with him and said “Do not tell me what to do with my own face.” The other two men raised their eyebrows and let out some “oooooo”s, clearly taking my words as ‘fighting words’. Because that’s how it is when you stand up to a man – you can’t just stand up for yourself, it has to be taken as a fight in their eyes. I asked if there was anything else I could bring for the table, and when I was met with darting eyes and silence, I replied with “Wonderful”, and continued on to find out the details of what I had just heard. 

I asked our host what happened with that table when she sat them, and she said they were creepy. They commented on her appearance, told her she was pretty, leaned in incredibly close to her face and told her they could see her freckles. When she sat them at the table, one of them took her hand and told her to sit down with them. This hadn’t happened to her before at work. She felt sick afterward, and like something was just not quite right; she said she felt ‘off’.
That’s what it’s like, at minimum, to be violated.

Months have come and gone since this encounter, and recalling this still makes my heart race with anger. 

She told me she didn’t know what to say, so she just smiled, made a joke and walked away. I informed her it is not okay for guests to act like that, and if she is ever, ever uncomfortable at work to please inform me, because that is not acceptable. Time ticked on and the restaurant slowed, and our host’s shift ended for the evening. The three men were still enjoying their time at the restaurant, and I stayed at the host stand for an hour to make sure I was at the door as they walked out. 

They strolled past me and I addressed them with “Gentlemen, do you have a moment?” and they all stopped to look at me. I continued on with “Your behavior tonight was completely unacceptable. Not only your comments to me during your time here, but specifically the way you treated my host when she was showing you to the table.” I was met with “Are you fucking kidding me?” and I replied with a sharp “No, I am not kidding. You made her uncomfortable, and those kinds of interactions with my staff are not tolerated.” The man who had instructed me to smile earlier started to raise his voice with “I need to speak with your manager.” I finally gave him that smile he was asking for, and said “I am the manager, and the owner is in the kitchen – I’d be more than happy to get her if you’d like to speak with her. If not, please show yourselves out,” with a gesture to the door.

“You’re a fucking cunt.”

It’s times like these that I wish I had the ability to raise just one eyebrow, but I don’t, so I raised both, as to say “…come again?” 

Louder, this time: “You are a fucking cunt.” I gave a close-lipped smile and locked eye contact with him as he backed out of the restaurant, staring at me. I made sure he was the one to break the eye contact, with a feeling of submission – a tactic I learned from training a dog. 

When they were out of sight I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I walked back into the office with shaky hands because, for some reason, no matter how many times I confront sexist pigs and tell them their behavior is not okay, my nerves get wracked. 

I’ve been in the host’s position before. I’ve been in that position as a server. I’ve dealt with it as a bartender. It happens everywhere, at every restaurant, at every job, though some places more than others. I have seldom felt supported by my own managers as an employee, and I never want my staff to feel like that. I always, 100% of the time want them to feel like I have their back. Because I do. Because I believe they should be comfortable at work and able to perform their job professionally and confidently. I also want them to come to me and tell me if a guest is saying something that is inappropriate, because I want to handle it. I want to tell these men that it is not okay they act the way that they do, because I have the confidence to. It is important to me. 

But here is the kicker: I’m alone in that. I am part of a very small management team – there are only 3 of us (outside the owner, who is female and stands with me), and the other two are male. I know that they would hesitate in that situation, or address it with the idea that “it’s not that bad”. I know that because this is what I was met with after that situation from a male counterpart: 

“Did you have the facts? You can’t say that to people. What did they actually say to her? Did anyone else see this happen? Did anyone else hear any of this?”

And responses like that are exactly why staff does not speak out against this behavior when it happens. This is why women are quiet. This is how it gets perpetuated. It is this idea that It’s not that bad. You’re in the hospitality industry. These are our guests. 

That’s right, goddammit, these are our guests. They are guests in our home, this restaurant that we work at. They don’t get to call the shots. They don’t get to be assholes and treat women however they want. They don’t get to be sexist pigs when we are professionals. You expect hospitality? I expect you to not be (for lack of a better term) a piece of shit. 

I write this piece for a lot of people. I write it for my staff, for them to know I always have their backs. I write it for male managers in the industry – I write it for the male managers I’ve had in the industry that didn’t stick up for me. I write it for the male managers in the industry that don’t address the issue because it’s ‘uncomfortable’ for them (motherfucker do you think I was comfortable being called a ‘fucking cunt’ in our restaurant (twice!)?). I write it for the female managers in the industry who have to deal with it. I write it for the female managers in the industry that are scared to deal with it. I write it for all restaurant/hospitality professionals to remind ourselves that taking care of people does not mean putting up with sexual harassment. It does not mean we cannot have the same standards for our guests as our staff. 

And lastly, I write it for the men who are going to comment with “But not all men are like that.” I write it for the men who are going to email me with “Just lighten up.” I write it for the men who are going to ask “Well were they drinking?” 

Thank you to my boss, Linda Hampsten Fox, for being a powerful female restaurant owner that does not tolerate this behavior in her restaurant, and encouraged me to act on the situation. This is how change happens.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

waters of unrest

Unrest is an awful area for the heart to be treading water in. It is, however, how you learn and how you grow and how you be a "better person" and how you get to that point in your life where you think back and realize you're not at that point where you used to be anymore.

For the second time in the past 48 hours I have felt the urge to chuck my computer through a huge glass window out onto Central street and watch it get smashed to pieces by a random car zooming in front of the Denver skyline. And then I'll lean through the glass window and holler to the person if they could kindly throw their car in reverse and run over it again? Thanks.
Sometimes urges are so real you can actually see your urges acting themselves out. Your eyelids shut and flip a channel to show you another version of your life. For a few seconds you get to see an alternate universe where you do throw your computer through a glass window; you do shatter the wine glass in your hand, you do tell that person to fuck off, you do run your car into the back of theirs. It is not always rage but mine usually is.


After racing Portland I couldn't get healthy enough to start another training regimen. It's safe to assume this was problematic for my soul, but I was able to throw myself into work because it turns out opening and keeping a restaurant together is difficult and there is constantly more things to do than minutes in the day. I would say 'seconds in the day' but I don't wish to be dramatic.

I took some time off from running, told people I needed a break for a bit. That wasn't true. Sometimes when you feel a wave of life coming on that you're not sure you can handle, you abandon what you really truly know. It's a sense of panic that seems to be low-key and last for what seems to be months, but turns out being an unfortunate but necessary life stage. The beginning is a dabble with your toes. The water is so cold, but if you leave your feet in long enough, your skin will get used to it. When you go in further, the new water line is shocking, yet becomes the new norm, and is regulated.

I got very sick. Twice.
I went home to Michigan. Twice.
I worked with sciatic pain.
I tried to run through sciatic pain.
I yelled at Zac, and experienced true regret.
I had a sinus infection.
I have allergies?
I tried to tell myself I'd just focus on climbing more.
I cried at work.
I almost quit my job after a full night's rest.
I stared in a mirror and told myself I was fat.
I cried myself to sleep.
It was rough weather outside the panes for so long.

I'm on the other side of that, now. My toes found some slimy mud and the shore came into sight. I gained some traction and treading circles became real steps. I relaxed my neck and brought my chin down as air was more accessible. I didn't have to hold my head up anymore. My shoulders were free, but the waves held onto the hips as the legs continue to fight the pull of the water. They are heavy steps and they are slow steps, but they are steps. Ribs almost burst through the skin as the lungs rapidly suck in the air. With a relentless walk, the feet finally made imprints on hardened soil. There are just a few strides and they are difficult because the quads are shaking and the calves are so tight. Few but strong, until the knees give completely and the body collapses into the hot, tiny sand. I stare out at the ocean with arms of bricks and a slouch that does the spine no favors. I blink away drops of water and some stay on the lashes. They are salty but they're not tears. It's a heavy sigh with a soft "Goddamn." as the gaze falls to tiny sand sticking to toes. Still.

My hair is so thick and heavy it slicks back instead of parting and falling around my shoulders. The sun will dry the whispy curls first, leaving the heavy chunks to hang and stay wet at the core. It won't look good but we can fix it later. Though the sun dries the water, the salt will remain. An invisible, gritty film to be licked off your lips before the first real drink of water.


I want life to be as easy and rhythmic as a comfortable running pace. I want to be able to count to three with steps and start over with a new breath. I want to be able to know when it will be over. To get stronger you do hard and fast repetitions. You run so hard you experience slight vision loss. Your muscles have to scream and your lungs have to want to work harder than they're capable. All of that is tolerable because there is a watch that tells you when it will be over. You can count your pain away. You will know that pain isn't pointless. It has a purpose and you have chosen to apply it for reasons rooted in logic and science.

All it really took was a new computer and a pretty nice four mile run. I probably write too much about running and how I think it is much like life, but it is often just too perfect it cannot be ignored. Maybe it is so perfect for me because life and running became so deeply intertwined that to separate them is not an option. If they were separated, I would have to do something else with my life.
Something else like swim.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Portland Marathon [training + racing]

I'm trying to make this not boring.

I had an incredible race for the Portland Marathon. I felt awesome, I was strong, and I ran so evenly. I worked hard for it, and on race day, it came easy.

As I stated in my blog post before, I drew from three strong women for my training plan. There were things I did religiously and things I slacked on.

I never got my mileage above 48 miles in one week. When I decided to train for a road marathon, I didn't want to do high mileage. I not only had no interest in returning to ultramarathons but I had no interest in dedicating my life to logging miles. I wanted to work hard, but I wanted to enjoy the life Zac and I have built together and the city in the summer. We went on camping trips and hiked mountains because we love to do that together, which for me is more important than logging a 15 mile mountain run by myself.

I worked on every run. I didn't go out for lazy runs or easy runs. When I first started running, a man named Joseph Trupp was one of my mentors and I will always remember him telling me "The hardest thing about getting faster is the reality that you just have to run faster. If you wanna get fast you gotta be fast." That was in 2011 and it still rings in my ears. I wanted to qualify for Boston at Portland, and in order for that my average mile time had to be at least 8:12. So I ran all of my miles faster than that while training. And guess what? It wasn't easy at first. But it got easier. 8:10 clipped down to 8:05 and that clipped down to 8:00 miles and for the last 8 weeks I was regularly running comfortably under 8 minute miles. There are several arguments for embracing the easy run, but I've been doing that for a long time and I was very over it. It felt good to work hard, and I saw results. I made myself believe I could run comfortably in that range and it happened. I didn't crush Portland because I live at 5,280 feet. In fact, altitude training is not really that reliable (look up Jack Daniels' talks on it, they'll help you understand) and Denver isn't even that high! I just had to address this because non-athletes kept saying "Oh, you'll be at sea level!" when it doesn't work like that. Portland went well because I worked really hard and was really dedicated. (end rant)

Tempo/Mid-week long run
I did two running workouts per week. The most important and valuable part of my training was my mid-week longish run with Zach Byers. If this guy's name rings a bell it's because he's no stranger to my blog, I gave him a shout-out in my sappy 'Goodbye TKD' post (which is now over a year old - crazy). Anyway, Byers is a fast runner. He's faster than me, and every Tuesday (or Wednesday sometimes) we would hit the pavement together for 10-12 miles and he held me steadily at a pace anywhere from 7:20s to 7:45s. Our slowest average time was 7:49s, and I ran these distances at this pace while having conversation with him. This not only helped me obviously get faster, but it boosted my confidence. If I could run this pace for this long and still talk and get the appropriate oxygen to my muscles, sub-8:12s in Portland shouldn't be a problem. If I couldn't talk much and was struggling, Byers held the conversation by himself and helped me pull through. This workout was also the only time I trained with anyone else. It's also important to note I did this workout every week, two to three days after my track workout.

My track workouts were 3.1 to 3.25 miles long, religiously done at North High's track. By myself (except for once when Byers joined me and crushed me). I took the workouts from Rocky Mountain Road Runners' website (thanks for posting them!) and I worked so hard every time. Most of the time I did them in 90 degree heat and the blistering Colorado sun. Alone. If I didn't hit sub-6 mile pace for repeats, I ran the next one harder and would be in the low 5:00 mile range. If I was tired, I caught myself saying "I should listen to my body..." and pushed it out of my mind, sucked it up, and ran harder. I pushed for more, always. And I got more.

I weight trained once a week. I broke this training up into three cycles over my four months of training. I built a base with medium/hard efforts with exercises for shoulders/back/biceps/triceps/hips/quads/glutes. It was about an hour workout every time. The second cycle was heavier weights with maximum effort, same exercises. The third cycle was plyometrics to keep the fast-twitch muscles awake and active as I moved my running training into lower mileage and into a taper.

I did a core workout of 400 reps of ab exercises 5 times a week, because every experienced runner knows your legs don't do all of the work.

 (non-runners: 'Taper' is the time, generally 2-3 weeks, before a big race where you back off your training and let your body completely heal and be as strong as possible before the big race.)

I pulled up injured over three weeks from the start of the Portland Marathon. I still am injured. One day I simply woke up and my left calf was screaming as soon as I got out of bed. I took it easy for a few days and ran only 3-4 miles and it didn't get better. It never felt okay. It hurt at work, it hurt at home, it was unmanageable pain up and down stairs, and never got better while running. I stretched, I iced, I rolled it out, but 3 weeks out from the marathon it was still hurting. One particular run I stopped at the top view of Cheesman Park, my absolute favorite spot in all of the city, and broke down. I sat on a bench and put my head in my hands and knew that I knew this pain. This was the same pain I had when I first was injured before ultimately wrecking myself 8 months later. My calf pain was coming from my weak hips and I knew, from experience, there isn't a quick fix and it wasn't going to feel better for Portland. I sat on that bench and cried pretty hard. I came home and looked at all of my training. I logged ALL of my training by hand on paper calendars that I hung on our fridge. Workouts, miles, average mile times, all of it. And I had totally, completely neglected hip strength. This is important for all runners, but I know this is specifically a weakness for me. And for months I just didn't really think about it.

I paced around the apartment and thought about not going to Portland, but I had worked too hard to not start. This injury had pushed me into a 3+ week taper, and I had to figure out how to deal with that mentally and physically, so I read A LOT. I read article after article from Olympic runners and collegiate cross country coaches and professional athletes around the world. I knew if I just 'tapered' normally with low mileage and easy runs I would feel like shit on race day. I had to keep my intensity up and my injury at bay, somehow. It was also important to me that I not gain weight and maintain my muscle so I wouldn't feel sluggish on race day. I *KNOW* that a big part of this for me is having my taper time at MAXIMUM of two weeks. So a three week taper was a HUGE wrench in my game plan.

So I went to spin classes! My climbing gym, Movement, has spin classes 6 days a week and I went to every single one. I got up at 5:30am during the week to make it to the 6:15 spin classes. For my birthday (early September) Zac got me the Suunto Ultra Sport HR watch. It is by far the nicest piece of equipment I have ever had in my life and I'm still figuring out all of the bells and whistles to it, but during injury what I relied on most was the chest heart rate monitor. I was so thankful for this. I had never worn a heart rate monitor regularly before, and although the wrist ones are kind of cool, nothing is more accurate than a chest strap. I wore it for a few runs and learned what my max heart rate was, and which zones I wanted to be in. This helped so much for spin class, because cycling is fucking hard and I'm not surprised that people dope so much in that community. Watching my heart rate on my watch made me add resistance to the bike when I was already dripping sweat and gasping, pushing me to my maximum for an hour while keeping it light on my calf. I truly believe I was actually gaining aerobic capacity in my last three weeks of training from this. After spinning, I hit the weights. I focused so much on my shoulders, upper back and triceps. I did heavy weights 5 times a week for these areas because I knew that if my injury really got in the way during the race, I would have to turn to my upper body to help carry me through the hard times, and I needed that muscle to be there. So I built it.

From July 12 to October 8th I was sober, with the exception of my birthday and when my sister came to visit. Sobriety is a big part of training for me for a few different reasons. First, alcohol isn't good for you. We all know the article that's been viral for two years now on how 'red wine is good for you', but we all (hopefully?) are aware that it's not true. When you choose to not put poison into your body, your body is able to work harder and better. I also slept better. Training hard has got to be matched with good sleep for recovery, and I NEVER sleep well after I drink. I also make awful dietary choices when I'm drunk, and if I'm hungover I don't run. So I just cut alcohol out, and it was awesome. It was also extremely difficult, because I was bartending at a job I hated where everyone else was drinking on the job (or blowing coke in the parking lot - but that's a different story). I once again stopped eating meat in May and gave up dairy as well while training. Dairy causes more phlegm and I'm already kind of disgusting when I run, so less snot rockets was really great. Again, it goes back to putting the right nutrients into my body so it could recover and have the ability to perform the way I knew it could and the way I knew I wanted it to. No alcohol and no dairy were difficult lifestyles to adopt at first, but once those 7:30 miles started to come easy, so did the lifestyle.

I had some pretty big failures in my training. I already mentioned I led myself into injury from ignoring hip strength workouts, but I also never made my long run goals. I took my long run schedule from Hal Higdon, with three 20 milers 2-3 weeks from each other, and I failed each one. They were all done in 92-96 degree heat, and by myself. My longest was 19 miles, with 1,000 feet of elevation gain in the first 9.5 miles. That is A LOT for a road run, and the total elevation gain of the Portland Marathon is about 400 spread over 26.2 miles, so it was good training. But I never hit 20 (and I truly don't think you have to). However, my average mile time for my slowest long run was 8:26. So that was good. As I mentioned in the blog post before, I used those long runs to work hard, not to run easy. I tried different strategies and fuels and learned lessons on each one.

I wanted to weight train twice a week and I really had no excuse not to, I just didn't get to the weights a second time per week. Ever. Not once.

Sometimes I put cheese on my tacos. Zac makes us incredible veggie tacos with the Morning Star crumbles, and sometimes I used cheese.

I should've gone to yin yoga more. I do not use yoga for exercise, but I practice yin to help break up connective tissue, deep breathing exercises, anxiety prevention and meditation. It's important and it should've been a weekly regimen while training so hard.

The morning we left for Portland Zac and I found out we had to move when we returned to Denver. It's a long story for another blog post, but it added A LOT of stress, and without Zac being a pillar of reason and comfort, I would've been a wreck. With Zac throughout all of this training I don't think I would've had such a great race. There were a few times he told me to "Remember you're doing this because it's fun" and it annoyed me so much but I knew he was right. I also don't think I've ever had a spectator at a race the way Zac was, and it makes my heart so happy. Anyway...

My first goal for Portland was to have a good race. I wanted to finish knowing that I had pushed and I had been smart. My second goal was to qualify for Boston, to average 8:12 miles and finish under 3:35:00. My third tier goal was to run closer to a 3:20, because I really thought I could.

Zac and I stayed at the host hotel, the Hilton, downtown. We went to the expo and he took my picture with my number in front of the Portland Marathon banner, and the whole building was buzzing with racing vibes. Several volunteers wished me a great race, and it felt truly genuine, and I was so grateful for those words. Because I wasn't there to run a marathon. I was there to race a marathon. And goddamn it has been a long time since I've said I'm at a race to race. It's been two years since I've actually trained to race, not just to finish. I was so nervous that I had an 8 oz glass of wine at the hotel bar that night. Sober through training but come the night before, I kicked back with an Oregon Pinot Noir. That night we walked around and settled on having ramen for dinner. I chose a not-spicy soup to help my stomach for the morning, and drank a lot of water. I should note that the whole week before the marathon I drank A LOT OF WATER.

The morning of the race I really wanted to eat oatmeal. Oatmeal is the best race breakfast and I generally always eat it before I run, but I couldn't do it. I was too nervous. I ate one huge banana and had two cups of coffee. I took 800mg of ibuprofen for my calf pain - I hadn't taken any pain medication at all my entire training, so I knew the 800mg were going to work well.

I was started in the first wave, which always makes me blush and feel humbled. It was so cold that morning, I didn't take my jacket off until about 30 seconds before the start. I generally get emotional at big race starts, because there are thousands of people who are there that all went through their own journeys and training, and running is so important to them for all kinds of reasons. That just always makes me tear up. However, when the air horn went off and I crossed the start line, I had no tears. I was too focused.

I'm not sure what else to say other than I had a great race. I had my watch dialed in to the face settings I wanted, and it vibrates after each mile. I looked down after the first mile, clocked at a comfortable 7:30, and knew I should back off. I ran easier and forced myself to run slower than I wanted to, which was difficult. The next time I checked my watch was at the 10k mark and knew I was in the clear by far. The Portland Marathon is a big out and back, but it's so beautiful. You run through the industrial park which isn't great but you have this incredible view of the St Johns Bridge which you get to run across! With the river, the bridge and the colors on the trees, I was just in awe. I wouldn't change Denver's beauty and view of the high Rockies, but this course was so fun and entertaining because I had not done it before, and had no idea what I was going to see. At mile 8 (I think?) is the climb up to the St Johns Bridge, and it's long and it's steep, but I destroyed it. I was SO HAPPY to be running uphill, my legs just fired away and I let loose a little bit. I caught a lot of people on this climb and never saw them again. Running over the bridge and through the neighborhoods on the other side was so fun. I struggle to find other words to describe it. At mile 14 was the turnaround, and I thought to myself "Alright cool, time to jog back to the city". It was also here that I noticed my watch was ahead by one quarter of a mile, which is a bummer. I hadn't calibrated it to Portland from Denver, which I should've done, but I still knew my times were quick enough that I was ahead of my first two goals.

I remember around mile 16 I started to work my arms and pick up my pace, and I had to tell myself no. I didn't want to push with 10 miles left. I didn't carry a water bottle or anything for the race, there's so much aid at road races that you don't have to. I did, however, force myself to take aid at every single aid station, which is almost one/mile. I started with two cups of water and one cup of Ultima (electrolyte mix), and I changed it up according to how I felt. If my legs started to feel tired, I took two Ultima and one water. If my stomach was starting to feel off, I took all water. This only happened twice. The only aid station I skipped was mile 25 (seemed ridiculous), and my hands were so cold that I dropped a few cups. I never slowed down or stopped to take cups. I was happy the entire time, taking in all the views, and the weather was perfect. Overcast with some drizzle, mid-50s with some sunshine for me the last three miles.

At mile 18 I started to press a bit. I never felt weak, but I knew it was coming, and I knew it should. At mile 21 I started to feel tired and kind of weak and took 5 cups of aid. My belly was full but I knew my body would use it soon. I focused on my breathing and thought about Kate and everything she had told me. "Allow yourself to be slower here. It will happen." Oddly enough my average mile time at 22 had dropped to 7:53. At mile 23.5 I was feeling rough. I engaged my shoulders and pumped my arms and took the effort off my legs, but I was tired. I thought about sleep a lot, and how nice it would be. My thoughts started to drift to "I can just take these miles easy, I'm tired, and I've worked hard. I'm happy with this." But I quickly thought back to myself "No. NO. I am NOT doing this. I didn't work so hard all summer to run an easy last two miles. I know how to push." I thought "I have two miles left. I've had harder two mile runs than this" which is true, because I had done a two-miler the day before, the morning we left Denver, and it was AWFUL. It was so hard. And I smiled when I remembered that. The 3:30 pace group was just a few seconds ahead of me, and I looked down at my toes and thought "Okay, time to catch them and give it everything" AND THEN A FUCKING AMTRAK TRAIN CUT ME OFF. I looked up and a police officer was stopping the race, and train track arms were going down. You can imagine the reaction from everyone. I stared in doubt, and stopped my watch out of sheer city running habit. The guy next to me told me I'd still qualify for Boston and I spat "Yeah I know that's not my worry!" Because I had something to give. I had more to push for. My legs still had juice! I was at mile 24 and I was able to say my legs felt good. The train was 42 seconds. I know this because Suunto tells me how long my watch is paused for when I pause it (a blessing and a curse).

I couldn't catch the 3:30:00 pace group, but I still pushed until the end. I saw Zac about 500 feet from the finish line and he was videoing, and I smiled and waved and shouted "I'll see you in a few minutes!" As soon as I crossed the finish line I stopped my watch, and it buzzed with a congratulations text from Byers. I teared up immediately and felt so proud of myself. I had a near perfect race, my splits were consistent and I had a happy mindset for three and a half hours. I had no pain in my left calf the entire race, but toward the end, my right calf was really hurting. I assume this was from not only running on pavement for 26 miles but my right calf was definitely compensating for my left. I couldn't feel the injury on my right, but it was there. Still is.

My official time was 3:31:19. Overall I placed 271 out of 2,948. I was the 54th woman out of 1,467, and 16th out of 306 in my age group (25-29).

I'm fully recovered and have been ready to get back to training since I finished. I'm going to start training to run a 1:30:00 half marathon. That's really fast, and I have no idea if I'll be able to do it, but it seems fun to try. I've fallen in love with running hard and getting faster. It's a much different style than I'm used to, but getting back to hard training has helped running shine into corners of my life that make me a better person. It took a long time for me to return to running the way I wanted to, but when I'm working hard with running, I'm a better person. I'm more driven as a human, I'm a better partner, I'm a better friend, and I'm happier. I hope I never lose it again.

My watch splits for the marathon (remember it was .23 miles ahead)


Monday, September 18, 2017

Pushing the falls

Well here I am and there you are and it's the beginning of the end of September which means it's been almost a year since I hit the road with the tale that I'd never be back until I ended up coming back to Denver and here we all are again, in my tiny space of the infinite internet. A few nights ago, after whiskey and wine and dinner, I laid in our bed and stared at the ceiling and said "Why do I always find a way to be broke in October?"
"Broketober" was Zac's response.

I've been running. I haven't really been sharing my running, partly because I have very little people to share it with and partly because if I share it then I might end up talking about what I've been training for and I might end up saying my expectations and then they're real. I've spent the summer on the city streets of Denver training for the Portland Marathon.

Recently, when I've told people I'm wrapping up my training for the ol' Portland 26.2, I get a response similar to "Oh, a marathon is nothing for you", based on the knowledge that I used to race ultramarathons and love it. But that love, and my body, broke. My hip healed, but my heart didn't. Not for the ultra distance. The thing about ultramarathons is you can feel like shit and bonk and dehydrate yourself and still come back for a win. If you screw up your race strategy, you can take two miles and walk. You can catch your breath, you can take time to eat, sometimes you can rinse your face in a mountain stream. If you screw up your race strategy in a marathon, you likely won't be coming back in that race. If you forget to eat, if you forget to drink, if you let your mind wander for too long, there isn't time to come back. If you get 14 miles in and you're bonking, the next 12 miles are going to be awful. You don't get 30 more miles to figure it out, you get two hours to hate yourself.

These reasons are why racing a marathon is terrifying to me, and I could ramble on about them for what will seem like forever for a reader. But I won't. Instead, I'll tell you what I did.

I went to the three strongest, fastest women I know.
First, my sister. She works with a coach and for awhile she was forwarding me her weekly workouts/training plans. I built my base with these and my knowledge of meeting easy runs with perfect form, and read over and over the importance of aerobic capacity and aerobic fitness, and kept my mileage around 30 miles/week. No matter what I start training for, I always accelerate my mileage way too fast and burn myself out. This was key for the first 6 weeks of my training.

Second, Kim Barnes. I know Kim from the horse world back in Michigan, and for the past few years she has been slaying road running. She readily forwarded me MONTHS of her training plans with her coach, and from these I took cross-training and mileage suggestions for my own training plan. Four weeks of body-weight exercises, four weeks of weight training, and three weeks of plyometrics.

Third, I reached out to Kate King. I ALWAYS reach out to Kate when it comes to running. Kate and her husband, Zach, live in Denver and have been here since I moved out to Flagstaff. They're both fast and fly humans. They ran in college, Zach has been crushing 100s for a few years now, and Kate ran a sub-24hr 100 mile debut in Leadville last summer, and then this spring ran a 3:05 marathon in Eugene. I told Kate ALL about my training plan. My track workouts, my times, mileage, etc. and she unleashed so much knowledge and mentorship. One thing I was dreading was long runs, because I don't have a training group in Denver, and that long, slow distance is a Saturday morning that made me feel sick on Friday nights. But Kate told me to use my long runs. Work hard on them. Figure out what my hydration will be like, if I need to eat during the marathon distance, and if so - what? Can I get away with just an electrolyte drink and water? Do I need to carry a gels? Shot blocks? At what mile do I start to falter? Figure it out.
I also needed her to tell me about mental game for a road marathon. We talked about a few things, but these are two that I am constantly thinking of:
1. Control. I will, I guarantee, like most runners, go out too hard in the beginning. It's a new place, it's a new course, it will be much cooler than my training temperatures, adrenaline and crowd support are going to naturally push my pace. But I have to control that until at least halfway. And if I feel good at mile 14, I can let go and see what my legs can do.
2. "Miles 18-22 will suck. They just will, they always do. Expect to be slower here. Be ready for it, and accept it." I think this is the best bit of information. I remember Matt Wittenberg, years ago, saying "The marathon starts at mile 18." It's true.

So that's what's been going on with my running. I'm now in this weird spot where I have only three weeks until the race. I'm fighting something that feels like it could turn into a serious calf injury, and I'm trying to not let it make me crazy. And I feel constantly scared and worried.

I'm also starting a new job soon. The skinny on it is it's a fantastic new, beautiful restaurant opening in Denver and Zac and I get to work together again (not in secrecy) with other people that I miss and love. Back to what I love, with people I love. But it's new, and it feels like a gamble, and it's cultivating at the exact same time as this race I've put all of my energy into training for.

So this morning I paced around our apartment with my hands on my head trying to split up my anxiety and dismantle the hold it has on my lungs and my stomach and my legs and my brain and my heart. So I thought about what I felt a year ago.

And that answer is something like what I feel now, right? Restless, anxious, excited, naive and scared. Terrified. I am terrified.

But last fall I learned that you have to be terrified sometimes. Partly because I get myself into these terrifying situations and there really isn't anything to do but roll with it, and try to figure it out, because you can't go back.

I do wonder what it is about this time of year. Maybe it's because I'm not an academic anymore. Fall signifies a new period of learning, twelve weeks to stretch your mind in new directions and learn about the world around you, and in turn, learn about yourself. Maybe, because I'm not a student anymore, I force myself to do this in other ways (I wish they were more fiscally responsible ways, but you can't have it all). In the fall, I take what I love and push it into a new direction. Take it and fold it and knead it and roll it out, and see what it becomes. It makes my stomach turn, and it presses my brain into certain irrationalities, and it is so close to impossible to remember the good of what came from it last time. But it's there, even if you can't find it all of the time. And you have to kind of find solace in those moments and hang on to it. Hold it close, and make a mantra to help you remember it in times when you need it.

The weather in Denver has seemingly turned to fall, with day temperatures in the mid-70s. I have to spend some time in the aspens while they're turning, to not only take in their beauty, but calm my heart(rate) and my soul. I think you should do the same, yeah?

The race is October 8th. My next post will be spurred by the tears I have crossing the finish line - whether they be from physical pain (guaranteed), disappointment, or an explosion of victory. I know what you're thinking - "It will be all three!" No, it won't. It can't. That's just not how this race will work.

Lastly, I leave you with the song that I've been blasting in my ears for nearly this entire post. Stranger, by Covey. It's on Spotify (probably iTunes Radio, too) so go listen to it.