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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Flight Anxiety and a Few Coping Strategies

I spent the last week in Arizona with my husband and girls visiting family for the holidays. I am happy to report that it was a wonderful week full of good moods, cute kids, tasty food, great quality time with loved ones, and much spoiling of the above-mentioned children. As an added bonus, the trip finished with a free first-class upgrade on Delta.

That last bit was a surprise, and I must admit that it made a potentially horrendous anxiety-provoking flight both comfortable and pleasant... and, I dare say, almost enjoyable.

Well over a decade ago, I suffered a full-blown panic attack on a flight somewhere a mile high between Arizona and Florida. I was traveling with a friend to Miami for a cruise to the Bahamas. We were seniors at the University of Arizona, both engaged, and we were heading to the aqua waters for a final (and, sadly, my first) "girl trip" before both of us walked down the aisle.

I'm not sure what triggered the racing heart, the ants crawling up my spine and the back of my neck, my chest squeezing with pain, and the horrible shaking that I tried to suppress as to not draw attention to myself, but once it started it seemed to open the floodgates for mid-flight anxiety attacks thereafter.

Logically, I am not afraid to fly. I know it's safe, and about half the time I can get through a flight with just a touch of nervous energy that eventually passes once I get used to being up in the air. Unfortunately, though, a very primitive-seeming part of my brain occasionally gets triggered for no apparent reason, and I suddenly feel trapped in a claustrophobic metal tube, victim to the bumping turbulence and weird pressure changes.

When I flew home from Arizona a couple weeks ago after the Tucson Half Marathon, I started feeling the anxiety creep up about ten minutes after takeoff. The flight was somewhat smooth, but I suddenly felt like I couldn't breathe. I swallowed my pride and did the one thing I knew could help: I looked at the cute, dark-eyed young guy next to me wearing a black cloth face mask and earbuds, cleared my throat, and asked, "Would you mind talking to me? I'm a bit of a nervous flier and it would really help distract me if you wouldn't mind chatting for a little while."

He took off his face mask, told me he didn't mind at all, and asked what bothered me about flying. More than three hours later full of chatter and laughter about music, running, my kids, and ice cream, I thanked him for humoring the weird stranger suffering from anxiety, and he thanked me for not being too terrified of the scary-looking face mask to initiate a conversation. I didn't ask his name, but people like him restore my faith in humanity just when I feel like I'm about to lose myself to a three-hour panic attack that I may or may not recover from gracefully. And to clarify about the face mask... he was a frequent flyer who found wearing the mask helped him stay healthy during his travels.

I have had many discussions with my therapist about how to cure my flight anxiety, and I'd like to share a list of things that usually help me cope because watching a movie, reading a good book, and listening to my favorite tunes don't always do the trick. They don't all work every time, and nothing seems to cure the terror when we hit a bout of particularly bad turbulence (except for maybe the last thing on the list), but this bag of tricks works quite well most of the time.

  1. Make your neighbor a flight buddy, even if they're wearing a face mask. Seriously, a good conversation with a stranger is an excellent distraction.
  2. Take a beta-blocker. While I do not take any medications on a regular basis, I do sometimes take a low-dose of Propranolol to keep my heart rate from getting out of control when I fly. Heart palpitations cause increased panic for me, so my doctor recommended that I pop a pill one hour before I fly. It does keep my heart rate from going crazy when I take it, and that helps me feel calm.
  3. Pull out a coloring book and colored pencils. Yeah, I know it sounds a little weird, and I definitely get a few curious glances from people when I whip out my Prismacolors, but it's quite soothing and meditative and can really ease anxiety.
  4. Pretend you do this all the time and that you're completely at ease with flying. When you hear a noise, explain to yourself with snobbish delight exactly what that sound is. Imagine yourself laughing with the pilots in the cockpit, completely at ease with being 30,000 feet above the ground. Turbulence doesn't bother you because you know it's just the aircraft responding to wind or the hot air rising from the desert. You are too busy reading your Runner's World magazine and drinking your coffee to be concerned about anything around you. If I'm having a really good flying day, I can fake it so well that I actually believe myself.
  5. Meditate. Not just during the flight, but regularly and definitely before the flight. Meditation decreases anxiety and is an extremely powerful method for replacing fear with peace. 
  6. Read "Soar - The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying" and practice the methods described. I'm only halfway through the book, but I wish I'd found it sooner. The Strengthening Exercise explained in the book really helps, and I only just began learning it. I feel cautiously optimistic that once I have the chance to practice the method in its entirety there is a possibility that my flight anxiety will become a rare occurrence.
  7. Upgrade to first class. I'm not a frequent first-class flyer. It's expensive, and let's be honest, I'd rather spend the money on INKnBURN and good food. However, in addition to the unexpected upgrade yesterday, I did upgrade one time earlier this year as I checked into my flight just after I had a root canal. My face was swollen and my ear was hurting, and I was so stinking miserable I wanted to cry when I realized I was about to spend three hours on a plane the next day. It didn't cost that much to upgrade, so I treated myself. It was so worth it. The seat was huge and comfortable, which kept the claustrophobia away, the food was actually good, and I probably went through an entire bottle of wine because the flight attendant just kept refilling my glass. I didn't have even a touch of anxiety, even during the few bumpy parts.
  8. When all else fails, drink wine. I know it's not recommended, but darn it, it works. I try not to use alcohol too often for this purpose, but it has the ability to turn a miserable several hours into something fun, especially if you're watching a comedy and squeezing your husband's hand so hard your fingers are turning white.
If you have any cures for flight anxiety I haven't mentioned, I'd love to hear them. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cure for a Ingrown Toenail

Fair warning, this is kind of a gross post. Feel free to judge me. Or skip it.

I have already mentioned that I have been dealing with a horribly painful, swollen area next to my big toenail, so today I am happy to report that... *drumroll*... it finally appears to be on the mend.

As a lifelong dancer and few year runner, I am no stranger to foot issues. I have arthritis in my big toe joints, a neuroma in my left foot between the third and fourth toes, and my feet haven't been ache or pain free on any given day due to these issues since my late 20s. It's okay, though. I've learned to work with it. Movement helps a lot, as do shoes with a wide toe box, soaking them in warm water with epsom salt, using an AcuBall, and using products such a Salonpaas and Arnica Gel.

However, there is one type of pain that so help me God I am not prepared to deal with, and that is the throbbing pain of an ingrown toenail. As luck would have it, I developed one on the inside part of my big toenail more than two weeks ago. I travelled with it, ran a half marathon with it, and then came home to continue my regular training. Regardless of epsom salt soaks and cleaning it with peroxide and smothering the area with Neosporin, the darn infection just kept getting worse.

At the end of last week, I was at the breaking point. It was throbbing so badly that my walk had been reduced to a hobble and I had to skip a couple of my regular runs because it was just too uncomfortable to even wear my running shoes.

Finally, I tried my last-resort home remedy option, which is one that my husband used ages ago. After dropping a guitar case on his big toe, which literally caused the most disgusting toenail I have ever seen, a doctor recommended soaking a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol, pulling small pieces of the cotton off, and shoving the cotton up under the ingrown part of the nail. Sounds gross, right? Believe me, it was, and I'm not really sure what's more surprising to me... the fact that I still dated him after seeing that unsightly mess in a pair of flip-flops (which were the only shoes he'd wear), or the fact that it took several years for his toenail to finally heal. Whatever the case, it was disgusting. So repulsive, in fact, he tells this hilarious story of the time that one of his college professors was lecturing in front of the class and stopped mid-sentence in front of James with a look of horror and screamed, "Oh my god! What happened to your toe?! You should see a doctor! That's what they're there for!" Yes, that's a true story.

Anyway, worried that I would develop a toenail that scares small children, I went about the painful process of soaking cotton in rubbing alcohol, balling up a small piece, and using a nail pick to carefully shove that tiny piece up under the corner of the nail. It was so excruciating that I nearly screamed, but I finally got it up under there. Within ten minutes, the throbbing dulled significantly. I kid you not. I slept on it, awoke to a still-swollen toe, sighed, dealt with the pain of removing and reapplying the cotton, and went about my life repeating the process through the weekend. The third time I did it, I also jammed a small bit of the cotton to the side of my toenail where the major part of the pain was originating.

The next day, the swelling and pain was reduced dramatically, and it was far easier to get much more cotton up under the nail. I've done that for five days now, and let me tell you, my nail stopped hurting completely by yesterday morning.

I'm still a little worried that the pain will come back because I can feel a minor amount of residual swelling when I press on it, so I'm going to keep adding that cotton to the area until my toenail appears completely back to normal. In the meantime, I'm just going to put this out there: don't wait until your ingrown toenail is so painful you can hardly walk. Just try this remedy from the get-go. It actually works. 

If you've gotten this far, kudos to you. That was a gross one, and you deserve a lifetime of zero ingrown toenails just for getting through it.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Running in the Frigid Temperatures

I have been living in the Seattle area for more than seven years, but the Arizona blood runs deep within my veins. I am a total weather wimp. If it's sunny, I'll be the one wearing a sweater in 70°F. If it's cloudy, I break out the long sleeves in anything under 78°F unless I'm being active.

Today, the weather is clear but brutal with a current temperature of 26°F and a daytime high prediction of not much better. While I realize that this is nowhere near as cold as other parts of the country, I am freezing and ready to hibernate in a warm cave near a toasty fire. On days like today, I'd much rather spend my exercise time in the hot yoga room, but it's not always possible.

Take last night, for instance. My 10-year-old daughter joins me at running group on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which really helps hold me accountable with my running schedule because I like setting a good example for her. It was cold and dark outside, but not too windy (thank goodness). I also couldn't complain too much because it wasn't snowing and we didn't run through too many icy patches.

I often talk to others about how easy it is to fall off the running wagon during the cold months, and I totally get it. I have found three tricks that keep me on track: 1) I sign up for races during the cold months that require training; 2) I often run with a group and bring my daughter with me, which is a double-motivator; and 3) I wear the appropriate gear. On days like these, it is easy to convince oneself to stay inside with a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea, but I am training for a hefty set of high-mileage races next year and cannot afford to allow myself to succumb to laziness. Instead, I dressed for the weather and found myself quite comfortable for the four miles during which I braved the cold.
Weather wimps be like, "35 Pounds Later!"
If you can't tell amidst the jumble of fluorescent pink, here's a breakdown of what I wore (minus my choice of underwear and sports bra... you're welcome):
  • Fleece-lined full-length running tights by Marc New York (found these at Costco)
  • Ultralight Smartwool long-sleeved base-layer top
  • Mid-weight long-sleeved pullover with thumbholes by INKnBURN
  • Windstopper jacket by Gore
  • Windstopper headband by Gore
  • Gloves by Head
  • Reflective vest by Amphipod
  • Headlamp by Black Diamond
  • Smartwool PhD running socks (not pictured)
If you tend to heat up quickly, I would suggest foregoing the Smartwool base-layer, or substitute it with a tech tank to keep your core warm. If I had been running in the same temperature in sunlight, or had I been doing a tempo run, I admit I would have been too warm. However, for a 9:30 pace in freezing temps with a slight breeze coming off of Lake Washington, I was comfortable and even found myself wishing I had brought a buff to cover my neck and mouth to help warm the frigid air before it hit my lungs for the first two miles.

I had my daughter dressed in lined leggings and a matching long-sleeved top, a short-sleeved tech shirt over the top, and a thin down vest. Of course, she had her dorky reflective gear on as well, and though I insisted that she wear a beanie on her noggin, she took it off at mile one and told me she was warm without it with a smirk on her face. 

Secretly, I'm a little worried her eyes might get permanently stuck facing the back of her head from all the times she rolls them at me. Whatever. At least she's warm, right? 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Living the INKnBURN Ambassador Life

About six weeks ago, I applied to become an Ambassador for my favorite activewear brand, INKnBURN. While working on the application, I realized that I likely was not going to be considered for the position as my social media following is not as impressive as many of the other Ambassador picks, nor my running abilities nearly as capable or elite as I wish they were. I completed the application as honestly and thoroughly as I could, though, and sent it off with my fingers crossed.

Two weeks ago amidst a tough few days, I awoke to an email congratulating me and extending the offer to be part of the Ambassador program. Thrilled and mildly shocked doesn't even begin to define how excited I was and still am to have been chosen.

If you haven't "liked" or followed their page on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., I highly recommend doing so. I have raved about their apparel since well before becoming an Ambassador because it really is the most beautiful, best constructed, long-lasting, and comfortable activewear I have found to date. Also, I am partial to supporting small businesses, especially those that make their products in the USA.

If you would like to see their apparel in motion, you can follow INKnBURN through the following links:
Oh, and if you want to follow my chaotic life on social media, you can find me through these links:
If you have questions about their clothing, please feel free to ask me anytime. As you have probably noticed, I have quite a few of their pieces and have plenty to say about all of them.

Monarch Pullover by INKnBURN

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Runner Problems: Edition - Toenails and the Mancold

Yesterday sucked.

As I frantically went about the day's happenings amidst my husband's mancold-turned-meningitis-scare that ended with him anxiously awaiting a lumbar puncture for hours in true emergency room fashion, I was plagued by a common runner's ailment that left me wincing in pain everywhere I went: the dreaded ingrown toenail.

I'll spare you a photo because... gross.

Of course, my better half's illness peaked on the same day as our daughters' school Christmas show. My day involved a therapy session followed by a hectic search for a sweater to match my 10-year-old's dress, holiday shopping for foster kids, picking the girls up from school, and carefully explaining that Dad was in the hospital but probably wasn't going to die. After gently dealing with the alligator tears, I sighed and gave up on healthy life choices and went through the psuedo-Mexican food drive-thru at Taco Time to appease the starving, teary-eyed minions in the backseat. After choking down a pathetic excuse of a bean burrito, I transformed into mom-the-stylist to curl and braid hair and help my kiddos into their dresses.

Yeah... about the sandals in freezing temps...
Luckily, a lumbar puncture was not necessary. James escaped having a needle stuck into his spine and instead returned home in time to watch the girls' show with a diagnosis of viral-related torticollis, a prescription for steroids to fight the inflammation in his shoulders and neck, and narcotics for the pain. 

The show went well, my older kiddo sang the harmony of her songs in her lovely bell-like voice beautifully, my younger peep smiled and showed off her dimples the entire time she was on stage, and my husband didn't croak.

My toenail, however, suffered being stepped on by kids while playing stylist, was jammed into a pair of tall boots to match last night's dress (which are roomy and normally one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes to wear with semi-formal wear), and angrily hissed at me while I soaked it in peroxide and smothered it in Neosporin before bed.

I woke up with it throbbing, and I didn't even go for my normal run last night. Darn this obnoxious toenail. 

I'd like to give up and go back to bed today, but I am determined to make it a better set of daylight hours than yesterday.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Running the Tucson Half Marathon in Style

Last Thursday I did something I had never done before: I flew to another state to run a half marathon.

My family lives in Tucson, Arizona, so I suppose it's not too running-obsessive to have chosen to visit for the race. In fact, it's safe to say that I took the three-hour flight out there more because I wanted to see my parents, sister, brother, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew, and that I just happened to choose that particular weekend because I thought the event would be a nice bonus. My dad was actually the one who wanted me to run that race with him, so I'll just blame him for the travel.

Wow. Just listen to me trying to justify the fact that I flew to Arizona to run a race. I can stop anytime I want. Really
Obligatory bib and packet pickup photo op in my
Kimono Tech Top by INKnBURN (obviously).
I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the event. After running most of my races in the Seattle area, I felt that the Tucson Half Marathon was very well organized. Additionally, it was far more challenging than I expected because the course is primarily downhill for the first several miles, saving the "rolling" (read: long stretches of incline) hills for midway and during the last several miles. To top it off, the course finished with a few intense and fairly steep inclines at mile 11. 

The views were gorgeous for the first several miles. We started the race at 7:00 a.m. before the sun was up, and the temps were downright cold for the first half hour. But then, the sun rose over the mountains, and the views of a pink and blue sky with the mountains near the border in the far distance were breathtaking. Either that, or I was out of breath because I started at an 8:45 min/mile pace and held it for miles, which was just downright stupid for someone who usually runs longer races a minute per mile slower. 

I slowed down at the halfway point and managed a finishing time of 2:04:29, which was a 9:30 average pace. This was a personal record for me (or a "PR" in runner's terms), but I'm not going to lie... it was tough, and I nearly lost it on the last hill around mile 12. Luckily, I found a sweet lady running at the same speed around mile 9 and asked if she minded if I pace with her. She had flown in from California to also visit family and run the race, and we kept a small amount of chatter going through the tough last few miles that helped me push through to the end. 

When I finally reached the finish line, I was awarded both my PR and one of my favorite medals to date, which deserves some serious recognition because it is evident that the designers took a lot of pride in creating it. My dad crossed the finish line about five minutes after I did and was equally excited about the bling's craftsmanship.
Tucson Half Marathon Finisher's Medal
Bling with Stained Glass
As I have mentioned before, I love to spend some time reflecting on what I have learned after running a race, so here's my post-13.1 list from this time around:

  1. The first six miles of the Tucson Half Marathon course is a LIE. Next time, I must start at a more reasonable pace to conserve my energy for those last painful several miles.
  2. Trying to keep up with the 2:00 pacer is, sadly, not a reasonable speed for me yet. Patience, young grasshopper.
  3. I need to focus on strengthening my hips. They both felt like they were tearing away from the sockets at mile 11. I think it was the stress on my muscles from all the downhill. 
  4. Bringing an emergency blanket to wear while standing in the 20-minute porta-potty line would have been a good idea. A 70-degree December daytime high in Tucson is commonly paired with a 38-degree nighttime low. 
  5. I need to train at higher elevations. I commonly run at or around sea level. This race started at about 3500 feet, and the nagging side aches I experienced for the first three miles probably could have been prevented had my body been used to the oxygen levels. 
  6. Eating Mexican food (oh, the glorious Tucson Mexican food... be still my heart) would have been a really bad idea the day before the race. I'm awarding myself a gold star for practicing self control.
  7. Running with an ingrown toenail sucks. Darn you, big toe. It sucks even more when I don't pack a pair of comfortable street shoes to wear after the race. But by all means, at least I had my fashionable ankle boots with a narrow toe box to wear with my skinny jeans. *Facepalm*
  8. Asking to pace with a random, pleasant-looking stranger running the same speed at mile 9 was a great idea. 
  9. Traveling to run a race is mildly insane but worth it. 
  10. My colorful INKnBURN Crane Pullover and Dragon's Gate Capris was my top-complimented and favorite race outfit to date. Seriously, this comfy pullover was a godsend in the chilly temps, and a huge shout-out to the company for ensuring it arrived at my parents' house in time for the race after I contacted them inquiring about shipping times. 
Cheesy 2016 Tucson Half Marathon Finisher!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Runner Problems - Edition: Laundry

Runners be like...

Left: workout load after a few days
Right: Other clothes worn in same amount of time

Oh Em Gee... which laundry takes priority?

If you work out regularly, I know you get it, too. Thanks for understanding. The struggle is real.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Running Advice from a 10-Year-Old

As I have mentioned before, it seems my teeny, long-legged oldest daughter was born to run. When I took her to running group with me for the first time about a year and a half ago, she was nine years old and ran two miles without stopping at about an 11:30 min/mile pace. Now I don't know about you, but that was FAR more than I was capable of doing without several weeks of training.

She runs like a girl. Try to keep up. 
I thought maybe her first running experience was a fluke, but she proved me wrong. Within a couple of weeks, she was running three miles at an even faster pace and went on to run her first 5K a few months later at a 9:30 min/mile pace. A year later, she ran that same race at a minute per mile faster.

She frequently wows the newbies at running group as she flies past them while keeping up with the quicker group of adults. Sometimes she has better running days than I do and stays a couple feet ahead of me, turning to tell me to hurry up with a smirk on her face. I can only wish that I had her natural-born talent.

Last week while she jabbered on about how much she enjoys running and how proud she is of how much she has improved while busting out four miles like it's nothing, I asked her what she has learned. Her response was so simple and organic that I've mulled it around in my head like a mantra for the last week, wondering why I allow my personal running goals to be so complicated at times.
"Just go do it,"
"Be your best."
With that, she shrugged her shoulders like it was nothing and kept racing ahead of me in the cold, dark evening.

As her parent, I can only hope she keeps that beautiful perspective as she continues to do what she loves.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Beat the Blerch Holiday "Fun" Run

If you have never heard of The Oatmeal, you really need to check it out. The artist behind the comic is both a local Seattleite and an ultra-marathon runner, so it's safe to say his comics really hit home for me and often leave me laughing stupidly. I'd be laugh-snorting if I were a snorter, but sadly I am not. I say "sadly" because I have a friend who snorts when she laughs and it's the best thing ever because it makes everyone around her laugh, which makes her laugh (and snort) even harder, and before you know it you've had a complete abdominal workout from all the hysterics. I need more snort-laughers in my life because they're flat-out amazing. True story.

So anyway, there's this awesome race in September by The Oatmeal called Beat the Blerch, which may be the most enjoyable half marathon I have done to date because, well... cake. And twisted humor everywhere. I convinced my husband and one of my closest friends, Kim, to run it with me this year.

Pre-race shenanigans. In case you're
wondering, I'm the goat's arse.

My husband and friends are kind of awesome.
After the 13.1 mile out-and-back trail race, we plopped onto the grass and did the only logical thing one would do after running that kind of distance:
Did I mention... cake?
With the Beat the Blerch Half Marathon being such a blast, it's only natural that Kim sent me information for the Holiday Run asking if I wanted to do the 10K with her. Well, twist my arm. Of course I wanted to do an easy fun run with one of my favorite people. Plus, it meant surprising her with obnoxious light-up necklaces and Christmas-light earrings so we could be twinsies for the Saturday evening race:

My tall, beautiful running buddy and my
awesome INKnBURN tights pre-race.
Unfortunately, even though I'm usually notoriously over-prepared, I was not at all prepared for how freaking cold this 10K was. In addition to the icy temps, it was painfully windy and included the added bonus of having to dodge a ton of 5K walkers taking up the entire width of the narrow Green Lake trail for the first mile. To be fair, I'm not knocking anyone for getting out there and walking, running, jogging, limping, crawling, whatever... I actually think it's wonderful that folks of all ages and abilities were out there and some brought their kiddos, and I would never discourage any kind of healthy physical activity... BUT it would have been swell if the slower peeps and those with strollers or who brought their dogs (despite it being against the rules) would have kindly stuck to the right of the walkway to allow the runners to safely pass on the left. You know, like that rule on the highway that the slow Seattle drivers freaking ignore because they want to piss off the people actually going the speed limit. As a result, Kim and I and other runners were stuck jumping over large puddles to the left of the paved pathway.

Did I mention it was cold? My toes, which had gone completely numb while walking over to the park in the parade of crazy holiday-adorned Blerch runners, were soaked with near-freezing water and felt like I was running on two blocks of ice in a matter of about three minutes. Kim and I were both grateful that we had brought extra running clothing and changed into something warmer than originally planned. We warmed up by the time we were about halfway through the first chilly lap of the lake, but the wind didn't show any plans of letting up. By about 20 minutes in, we had passed through the main bulk of the crowd and were able to run at a reasonable speed.

We finished fairly quickly despite the circumstances in about 54 minutes, laughing about how miserable we were with our ridiculous necklaces jingling and bouncing and our numb fingers and toes burning. Oh, and me saying, "Hey Kim... remember that time in September when we ran Beat the Blerch and you wanted to strangle me for setting a pace faster than planned? Yeah... about that..."

Don't let the smiles fool you.
We were freezing our butts off.
Once we completed the race and earned our awesome Blerch bling, we headed back to the store where we were promised cookies and hot chocolate only to find a giant line of flashing Christmas-lights-adorned Blerchers stretching around the block. So what happened next? A WHOLE LOT OF TAMRA WHINING ABOUT HOW COLD SHE WAS (how annoying) as we stood in the line from hell for over half an hour. Luckily, a couple of my friends happened to show up to the line at the same time we did, so at least the company was great as we stood there, huddled together, soaked in cold sweat under our thin tech wear and lightweight running jackets. The wind showed no mercy and the temps kept dropping as our teeth chattered.

After dying from hypothermia, we were brought back to life upon finally reaching a box full of blankets, which were being handed out to all the attendees by Blerchangels. And not just any blanket, but the most disgusting/awesome/hilarious blanket I have ever seen. Allow me to introduce my latest Blerch bling and new blanky:

Medal and... OMG WHAT IS THAT? 

Ladies and gents, THAT greasy thing is actually a blanket.
Shortly after wrapping the blanky around my shoulders, we made it indoors to the treats just before it started drizzling outside. Dairy and I aren't friends, so I sadly nibbled on an allergen-safe cookie while watching my friends sip hot chocolate *sad violin*. Finally, Kim and I were slightly warmed up and brave enough to run through the rain wearing giant pizzas to my car, which was conveniently parked about a quarter of a mile away. Minus ten points for crappy Seattle parking.

In a nutshell, Beat the Blerch Holiday Run was cold, miserable, and I almost lost a digit or ten due to near-frostbite, but the company and laughs and giant pizza blanket were worth it... I think. No promises that Kim and I will do it again next year, even if a giant pizza is involved.

The Beat the Blerch Half Marathon, though? Count me in for next year. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Silver Linings

This week has been tough for me, and today I am frustrated to admit that I am continuing to struggle with issues related to eating allergens.

Though the stomach pain has mostly subsided, I am still experiencing on-and-off tenderness in the upper left part of my abdomen, which is where I seem to always struggle with allergen-related inflammation. While running with my oldest daughter and husband at running group last night, I tried to smile through the quick, cold four miles even though I secretly felt like someone punched me in the gut. Sure, I could have just admitted it hurt and put my feet up, but I didn't want the pain to get the best of me. I am glad I went, though, because the activity and camaraderie of the other runners lifted my gloomy mood a bit.

Unfortunately, this morning I awoke to a bit of a rash on my cheeks and chest. Worse yet, a sore lump under my right armpit flared up for the second time in the last few weeks. Good old lymph nodes, reminding me that eating dairy and pecans is bad.

And then, to top it all off, I knocked a glass off the counter while making myself some stomach-friendly oatmeal with chia and cranberries this morning. On days like this I kind of want to just throw my hands up in the air and walk away.

When I'm having a tough time like today, I try to make a conscious decision to do things that I know are healthy for me. So the question I am asking myself right now is this: How am I going to turn this "bad day" into a good one?

I have a plan.

This afternoon, I am going to spend time with my girls choosing Christmas gifts for children in need. Tonight, two of my best friends will be coming over for some much-needed girl time and to enjoy an allergy-friendly home-cooked dinner. Tomorrow I will be running a fun, pressure-free 10K race. And this weekend, I will make a point to get enough sleep.

My life is a beautiful one, and I recognize that. Sometimes, I just need to remind myself, and that's okay.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Soaring With INKnBURN - An Honest Product Review

As I have mentioned many times, my favorite athletic wear is designed and made by a small company in California called INKnBURN. Why am I obsessed with their gear? It's simple, really... just look at this gorgeous butterfly tech shirt and tights!

The Soaring Tech Shirt and Tights set is the most recent duo released by the company that completely broke all my self control and left me screaming, "Shut up and take my money!" I think I ordered it the same day it was advertised because FOMO is a very real thing for me and there's absolutely no cure for it when I do miss out on a favorite design.
And streeeeeetch.... ahhhh.
Decent athletic clothing can be both difficult to find and a bit on the pricey side, so I will admit I was skeptical of branching out and trying the brand. None of their products are sold locally, so I had to trust their online size chart and customer reviews. Luckily, I also have some friends in town who had already purchased some of their clothing, and they assured me it was both worth the price and accurate sizing-wise.

I have already had the chance to wear this latest set multiple times, so I'd like to give you an honest opinion of the products. Why? As someone who has worked for small businesses for the majority of my professional life, I want to be supportive of companies who deserve a shout out. And trust me, INKnBURN is definitely deserving of a massive cheer and pat on the back. Heck, I'd throw them a huge party if I could because I cannot rave enough about their apparel.

Here's a breakdown of what I love about the Women's Soaring Tech Shirt and Women's Soaring Tights (and all of the other INKnBURN pieces that I own, for that matter):

  • The artwork on every piece they create is amazing, and the colors do not fade or bleed onto my skin or other clothing despite sweating enough to create a flood, excessive wearing, and constant washings. One of my favorite aspects of this design is that it is just as intricate on the back as it is on the front. I'm hoping that when I wear them for an upcoming race that the people running behind me will enjoy looking at my backside so much that they'll forget to pass me. 
Front view of the fabulous Soaring butterfly design

At least my roadkill gets to enjoy the bright colors on my behind?
  • The tech shirt fabric used is high quality, stretchy, moisture-wicking, extremely breathable, and silky soft against my skin. 
  • Sweat stains are invisible against the butterfly pattern, which is nothing short of a miracle for those of us particularly sweaty folks *cough*....
Yup. That happened. I should have
worn an INKnBURN shirt.
  • The seams are flat, mostly double-sewn for durability, and the stretchy thread used is soft and not scratchy. For someone with sensitive skin like me, this is a necessity. Additionally, the seam on the back of the neck is covered by a soft layer of smooth fabric in place of a tag. I find this far more comfortable than other popular tech shirt brands, many of which leave the seam on the back of the neck exposed. I took a close-up photo of my Soaring Tech Shirt to show the neck seam and the inside stitching vs. that of one of my other tech tops below. You should be able to click on the photo to enlarge it.

Soaring INKnBURN Shirt Stitching vs.
Bright Orange Brand-Not-Mentioned Tech Shirt Stitching
  • In comparison to the shirt, the tights are made of a thicker, very smooth fabric that feels like a second skin and breathes well. They have a snug fit, which I prefer because they don't creep down while I'm running, but they're not quite as tight as compression wear. Like the shirt, the seams are flat and smooth.
  • Like the INKnBURN capris, the full-length Soaring tights do not chafe me in the *ah hem* upper-most thigh area where the seams of the diamond crotch meet the seam of the upper thigh during long runs. I have had this problem with some of my other full-length tights made by other brands recently, so this is a HUGE plus for me. I shouldn't be surprised, though, because all of their gear is tested by ultra runners. In other words, crazy super-humans test out the tops and bottoms and other items by running distances of 50K to 100 miles at a time wearing these clothes before they are deemed worthy of selling to the public. 
  • Bonus feature: a camouflage pocket big enough to hold your phone on the thigh!
Soft, perfectly stitched seams and surprise! a pocket!
  • One of my favorite features is the wide waistband, which fits comfortably over my hips to about my belly button. After birthing two humans, this is exactly where I like my running and yoga pant waistbands to sit. If you prefer a lower rise, the waistband folds over to reveal more beautiful design work. 
  • Additional bonus feature: stretchy drawstring hidden in the waistband!
Confession: I haven't needed to use the drawstring yet.
While I have obviously found my activewear soulmate, no review would be honest without the inclusion of a wish list:
  • I would love to see the option of petite sizes in the future for all my teeny friends out there. These tights are quite long. If you are a petite peep and prefer not to fold or bunch the ankles, you may want to consider purchasing a pair of the INKnBURN capris instead of the full-length tights. For reference, I am a long-limbed 5'6" (though I'm going to sheepishly admit that sometimes I tell people I'm 5'7" because I thought I actually was that height until my husband measured me in recent years), and these fit me perfectly with plenty of wiggle room if I had even longer legs.
  • It would be great to see this print ending in a wider leg in addition to the tights-style leg. For those with extremely muscular calves, the compression may be a bit more than you like. Again, if this is the case, I do recommend the capris as I find them a little stretchier through the calf area, or you should check out a pair of their performance pants, which afford more room in the lower leg. 
Finally, I want to comment about the prices because I used to balk when purchasing a tech shirt that I didn't find on the clearance rack at Target, and now I am more than willing to throw my cash at INKnBURN like a lovestruck teenager screaming at a Justin Bieber concert. Here's the bottom line: you get what you pay for. The prices are better than what I've purchased from Lululemon, and comparable to other high-quality activewear. What I feel really sets INKnBURN apart from other companies is that all of their products are made here in the USA. I love supporting a small business with high integrity and good business practices, so it is no surprise that I was thrilled to also find that their clothing performs second to none. 

Happy Toe-Standing, INKnBURN-Wearing Yogi
If you love the Soaring print as much as I do, you can purchase them here and here. If they're sold out of your size, keep checking back. They will not get more in stock BUT they will certainly come out with a new must-have print soon.