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Monday, April 24, 2017

Triathlon Training with a Bum Shoulder

This weekend I took the first step toward triathlon training and participated in a 3-hour swimming workshop focusing on technique and drills that should be the cornerstone of how I am to prepare for a half-mile swim. To sum it up: I'm a decent freestyle swimmer, but my breaststroke is so bad that I look like I need a lifeguard to blow a whistle and tell me I'm cut off. Until I took this workshop, I thought I was proficient enough in all four strokes. Nope. Not even close.

Actual photo of me trying not to drown after three hours of
I have a shoulder injury that has been bugging me for nine years and counting, and I was relieved that the swimming neither bothered it nor did I feel any increased shoulder pain when I woke up this morning. My physical therapist friend took a look at it recently and confirmed it's in pretty bad shape, but unfortunately, there's not much I can do other than maintain flexibility and mobility until I'm ready to make peace with the idea of a surgeon cutting into one of the most important joints in my body. Surgery poses its own risks, though, so that is absolutely a last resort for me. For now, on the bad days I just live with chronic pain and take Ibuprofen when it flares up to the point where I can't sleep. On the good days, I barely notice it.

Extended Forearm Stand
Mother of Pearl Cami and Rockstar Shorts by INKnBURN
I'm sure it doesn't help that I spend a disproportionate amount of time practicing circus tricks like the pose above, but the yoga really helps keep my shoulder strong and flexible with careful, controlled movement. As long as my arm moves up toward my ear, I don't feel pain. I have to be careful with certain movements when opening my arm out wide and rotating it around from the joint. This might be part of the reason I find breaststroke particularly miserable. 

Two swimming sessions per week for the next few months was my coach's recommendation to be ready for my targeted triathlon. It's going to take some schedule-wrestling for me to work this into my weekly workout plan. Don't even get me started on the fact that I still have to 1) get a bike; and 2) actually ride it. 

The last time I rode a bike I was in Germany for the summer sometime in college. I may or may not have fallen off the bike in front of a ton of people while trying to navigate my way off a ferry, and there may have been more than one person laughing at me. This was before smart phones, thank goodness; otherwise, I'm fairly certain I would have ended up an internet meme sensation. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Humor: Don't Be This Yogi

I love Mondays because my favorite yoga instructor teaches a power vinyasa class in the late evenings. Every time I attend her class, I walk out of the hot room with my entire body feeling like putty. While I enjoy my quiet, at-home yoga practice (which is particularly great this time of year because the warmer temperatures mean I can do yoga in my backyard), nothing beats the dimly-lit 105° room filled with mirrors that prove I am capable of sweating enough to drown myself in the massive amount of sweat I produce in the span of one measly hour. Honestly, I think the amount of liquid pouring from my body during a good yoga session has the power to scare small children and grown adults alike.
Basic Side Angle Pose; Sarape Top and Skirt by INKnBURN
But that disgusting note aside, I had this comical set of thoughts rolling through my mind yesterday as I flew from Phoenix back to Seattle after a quick, whirlwind family reunion weekend. As a stupidly anxious flier (even though I *know* I'm safe), I usually have to pull out an entire bag of tricks to keep any looming anxiety attacks at bay. The flight was bumpy, and James got hit with what we think is a case of food poisoning just before boarding, so he was either busy accosting the single lavatory in the back of the small jet or writhing in agony in the window seat next to me. It was bad enough that I can't even make a joke about the dreaded MANCOLD.

In short, I had to occupy my hyperactive mind with a stupid movie that I won't bother naming, a glass of wine, and a list of my favorite yoga pet peeves, which I'd like to share:

  1. The vocal yogi. You know which one I'm talking about. It's the person who moans and groans during every move. I find the moaning particularly annoying. Look, it's tough. I get it. But if you must be vocal, limit the use of noise to a few per practice or find a yoga place not specifically advertised as a "silent" room.
  2. The I-am-so hot yogi. You know, the one checking themselves out in the mirror during every single pose. The occasional glance to check one's form is fine. The gawking is a little overboard, especially when duck face is involved. 
  3. The let-me-take-a-selfie to show off how awesome I am yogi. Oops... I might be this one *cough*. Just not during class. Does it make it a little more bearable if I can make fun of myself? #sorrynotsorry
  4. The smelly yogi. None of us smells particularly fresh during yoga practice in humid, triple-digit temperatures. That said, if I can smell your B.O. from six feet away, you need to pay more attention to your personal hygiene. We're supposed to be breathing through our noses during practice. Don't make this more difficult than it already is. Namaste. 
  5. The over-extender yogi. You know who I'm talking about... the person who can sloppily make their way into an extended pose while skipping the basic just to prove they can do it, then they look around to make sure everyone sees them doing it. I sheepishly admit that I have been this person, and trust me, it's way cooler and much better practice if you surrender the ego, slow down, and breathe into each part of the pose before taking it to the next level with control. It can be even more impressive if you skip the extended pose and focus on having a strong and properly-aligned basic. #liveandlearn
  6. The close-quarters yogi. I have personal space issues, so nothing annoys me more in the hot room than when someone lays their mat down too close to mine. I'm fine with having close neighbors during busy classes, but if there's plenty of room, there's no need to be bunkbed mates. I like to extend my arms without bumping into other people, and I have freakishly long arms. 
  7. The gawker non-yogi. I rarely see this happen (thank goodness), but I always find it irritating when I see someone in there checking out all of us in our yoga tights. Don't be the guy or gal who goes to yoga with the intention of finding a date. We're there to practice yoga, not to have our backside checked out by a creeper. 
  8. The farting yogi. Yup, I went there. One little slip is a forgivable offense, and I especially can't hate on postpartum moms because I know how rough it is having babies. If you let more than one rip, though, I hope you have the good sense to avoid eating chili, broccoli, and onions before going to your next class. If you feel a toot coming on, fake feeling spent and peacefully drop down into a relaxing tight-cheeked pose until the urge passes to let it blow.
  9. The sick yogi. Look, if you're suffering from a little sinus pressure or some sniffles, I totally understand how therapeutic and medicinal sweating through a hot yoga class can be. However, if a massive amount of snot is draining out of your face, you're coughing up a tuberculosis-infected lung, or you're running a fever, please stay home. Don't be that jerk who gets all of us sick. You never know which one of us is a teacher or new mom or has a compromised immune system or an elderly parent at home, and exposing us to your infectious disease is just flat-out irresponsible. Stay home, drink some hot soup, and call your doctor. Don't be the sick yogi in class. Just don't.
  10. The judgmental yogi. You know, that person who is supposed to be focusing on their practice, but they're secretly noticing the groaning, farting, body-odor and coughing peeps around them and plotting writing a blog post about it... #BUSTED 😂  
With all that said, my ego has calmed down extensively during the last few years of practicing yoga. While I used to always notice everyone around me, I rarely feel distracted by others these days. Instead, I really try to focus on the breath as I'm supposed to, and if I'm not feeling an extended pose, I stick to the basic one. It makes for a much more peaceful and rewarding practice.

Dancer Pose
Fire Rooster Top and Feather Capris by INKnBURN
Happy Monday! And if it's not a happy one, try adding some yoga to your day.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Break Outdoor Shenanigans

My girls had Spring Break last week, so I spent the last several days trying to keep them off the screens and out of the house as much as possible. It never ceases to amaze me how much their moods improve once I get them outside.

Trials = Happy Faces!
We live less than a ten-minute drive to some of the most beautiful mountain trails, so last week we braved the rain and mud and went for a few-mile hike paired with my daughters' first trail running experience. While they are no strangers to hiking, we have never actually taken them trail running before because for some reason I thought it'd be too much for them. I was wrong.

Yes... their shoes are almost as big as mine. 
The trail is steep, so we hiked to the topmost part then carefully ran through the slippery mud on the way back. My girls loved it and seemed to find it as fun and enjoyable as I do.

While I was raised hiking most weekends by my outdoorsy parents, I never tried trail running until I joined my high school cross country team. Of course, with an undiagnosed heart issue I was a terrible runner, and I found the trails particularly challenging but intriguing. A couple years ago when I joined a running group, though, one of the coaches took me out onto the very trail pictured above and talked me through how to survive running through the mountains. I've been hooked since.

Recently, someone asked for advice because she is considering trail running. I gave her my two cents, but after thinking about it, I have a lot more to add. Here's a short list of some valuable lessons I have learned:

  1. Start slowly. Don't worry about how long it takes to complete each mile. You might run an 8-minute road mile and a 14-minute trail mile, and that's okay. Give yourself permission to run slowly. If you feel great halfway through, then you can pick up the pace. 
  2. Be a little over-prepared. Sometimes that 7-mile run turns into an 11-mile run. Always bring extra water, some bandaids, and an energy gel or bar.
  3. Hike the uphills. There's no reason to torture yourself. Hiking up those hills can be faster than trying to run up them while preserving your energy and keeping your heart rate reasonable.
  4. Get a backpack-style or an around-the-hip hydration pack. I love my handheld water bottle, but having the water attached to my body is so much more comfortable when I'm on the trails. It also leaves my hands free for when I stumble or need to hold onto a branch for stability. 
  5. There's no shame in needing a buddy. Some people love solo mountain running. That's awesome. I am not that person. I'm a total scaredy-cat and feel much safer with other humans nearby, even if it's just my two daughters. I'm more afraid of people than anything the mountains have to offer, but I really believe there is no shame in recruiting a running buddy.
  6. Take smaller steps. This is a good running tip in general, but I find it to be critical when trail running. Keeping your feet under your body is especially helpful in maintaining balance on rocky, uneven ground.
  7. Know the trail before you go. Map out that trail before you venture into the woods. Save a photo of the map on your phone in case you get lost mid-run. It happens to the best of us.
  8. Tell a friend where you plan to run. Safety 101. Obviously. 
  9. Trail shoes aren't a necessity. Don't get me wrong, I love my trail running shoes; they're more rugged, have better grip, and handle mud well. However, it's okay to run trails in your normal running shoes, too. If I'm running a trail race or longer route, I wear my trail shoes. If I'm only running a few miles, I often opt for a pair of running shoes I'm about to retire. They're usually a little more supportive and cushy. 
  10. Wear wool socks. I've made the mistake of wearing regular running socks on trails multiple times, and I always want to kick myself when I do. When it's 30-something degrees and you step in a puddle of near-freezing mud and water, your numb feet will spend the remainder of the run screaming at you. When you plow through a small creek because there is no other alternative, those Smartwool socks will maintain their shape and keep your feet from blistering. Been there, done that, learned my lesson. Just trust me on this.
  11. Respect your comfort zone, but don't be afraid to challenge it. I find trails to be a unique opportunity to trust myself to go further and harder than I've ever considered going. There's a good chance that I'll sign up for a mountain marathon before doing a road one simply because I feel less afraid to challenge myself on trails than I do on the road. 
  12. Pause and enjoy the ride. Trail running is beautiful. I've ran through rainforests and deserts, and both are equally rewarding. When fatigue begins to settle in, I love to give myself a boost by slowing down, drinking some water, and taking in the beautiful surroundings. 
Me in my happy place.
Capris and Hoodie by INKnBURN

Monday, March 27, 2017

Training Pitfall: Overdoing It

A friend of mine dealing with a reoccurring injury recently reminded me of a common fitness and dietary pitfall that I have felt myself fall into on more than one occasion: overdoing it.

How often do we find ourselves becoming excited and feeling pumped about a new diet or exercise, begin it with a bang, and fall off the wagon a few days or weeks into our new trend due to injury or just the inability to continue doing something so drastically different than what we were doing before?

I have always prided myself on being the type of person who is dedicated enough to stick by a new "thing" I decide to adopt. When my friend dragged me to a hot yoga class for the first time, I did it with the understanding that if I found it to be a challenging yet positive experience, it was going to become part of my life. When the same friend convinced me to get off my lazy bum and start running to train for a half marathon, it took me a couple of weeks to commit because I knew that if I was going to run that race, I was also going to stick with running until my legs or my heart give out. Or, you know, until I get hit by a speeding bus... whichever happens first. The truth is, I always wanted to be a runner, but I was afraid of it after being such a weak teammate on my high school track and cross country teams. Learning that I have a minor heart issue, which limits my speed, was a frustrating diagnosis, but it also shed light on why I struggled with running so much when I was younger despite how hard I trained. It also lit a fire in me to press on in the face of adversity.

Yoga and running were both activities that, because I knew I was going to stick with them, I took the "slow and steady wins the race" approach. I started with a once per week beginning hot power yoga class. Even though I wanted to race to the top because it was something I felt my years of dance and background of martial arts made it possible for me to learn quickly, I forced myself to take my time. I didn't go daily. I let the next-day burn in my muscles simmer until I walked it off. I spent time trying to understand how each pose worked, how to modify as a beginner, and months later, I added a second hot yoga class each week. I added running to the mix a few months after I felt like I was getting the hang of yoga, and I started with a 3x/week walk/jog method that eventually turned into a slow run.
I wish I had a "before" photo for comparison. I have
come a long way in the three years I have been
practicing yoga.
Sakura Singlet and Mejiro Shorts by INKnBURN.
Despite knowing that this slow approach usually brings me to what I consider success in a new endeavor, I'd like to share two recent "I failed because I overdid it" examples: 1) I fell off the "Iron Strength for Runners" cliff (remember that post from months ago?); and 2) I didn't make it through my March core workout goal. Not even close. When both of these "oops, I fell off the wagon" examples happened, I felt more apathetic about my failures than I would expect. Considering how driven I normally feel when I set a goal for myself, I was kind of irritated by my own nonchalance. Especially because both goals were something I committed to as necessary cross-training for Ragnar and the potential triathlon I may do this year.

Delving deeper into this attitude, I realized something that seems rather obvious now: when I jump into a new activity full-force rather than taking my time, it is because my expectations are out of alignment with reality. I am expecting immediate results despite knowing that they are both rare and unsustainable without constant maintenance, and my practice is ego-driven rather than coming from a place of desiring true self-improvement. I want to look and feel the end result without committing to the good, bad, and ugly of the practice necessary to achieve the goal. When this is my mindset, I will inevitably fail.

True change takes time, commitment, character, and a letting go of the ego that often drives us. With this in mind, I realize now that the only way to become stronger is to start over. Rather than doing the full 60-minute Iron Strength workout or the daily core strengthening workout, I need to back off and start slow.

"When ego is lost, limit is lost. You become infinite, kind, beautiful."
                        - Yogi Bhajan
New goals:

  1. Iron Strength workout for 20 minutes once per week until it becomes habit, then slowly increase.
  2. Forget about adding a separate core workout for now. Cover that workout with yoga practice and Iron Strength instead.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Product Review: INKnBURN Long-Sleeved Pullovers

In celebration of SPRING(!!!) I have to give a shout-out to my favorite active wear company for making the perfect cold-weather top that has accompanied me on nearly every winter run I did during this last (very long) cold winter: INKnBURN Pullovers.

Wildflower, Lotus, Crane, and Monarch Pullovers
I don't like to be cold, but I've also learned my lesson when I dress too warmly and wind up miserable and feeling overheated when I run. This winter, I discovered that INKnBURN's Pullovers are the perfect balance of warm, breathable, moisture-wicking, and comfortable in addition to being gorgeous works of art.

Feeding my addiction to bright colors!
My first pullover was Crane, which I ordered after checking the weather for the Tucson Half Marathon and saw that it was going to be much colder than I had anticipated. At first glance, I thought the colors and design were a little patch-work-looking with just a touch of quirkiness, but the reviews were extremely positive, so I decided to give it a try. Spoiler: Even though you're not supposed to wear something new on race day, it was love at first wear and I ended up being ecstatic about the colors and artwork.
Happy "I PR'd" Dance!
After my Tucson Half Marathon PR, I was hooked. Soon after, Monarch and Lotus arrived.

And now I might need a support group, because last week Wildflower joined the party:

Good thing I didn't face plant. That would have hurt.
Confession: I may or may not have ordered another one during their moving sale last week because, you know, I clearly needed more. *cough*

Okay, so I realize I'm a little ridiculous with my Pullover Addiction, but here's why I can't seem to get enough of them besides the obvious of how beautiful and fun the colors and designs are:
  1. The material and craftsmanship is top-notch. The inside fabric is incredibly soft and very cozy-feeling against my sensitive skin, and it never leaves me with chafing. I'm one of those unfortunate people who ends up with rashes and chafing any time fabric touches me, so active wear clothing must be made with quality fabrics, and seams have to be flat and made with soft stitching for me to be comfortable. 
    Look at that perfect seam and soft fabric!
  2. They're amazingly versatile. I wear them for running, hiking, taking walks, as a skiing base layer, grocery shopping, as my shirt for the day regardless of activity, and for sitting on cold bleachers with a cup of coffee while watching my daughter compete in early morning gymnastics meets. 
  3. They have thumbholes! I am a huge fan of thumbholes because I like to have the backs of my hands covered in cool weather, and I appreciate that they keep the cold air from blowing up my arms while running in the wind. The sleeves are fitted enough that they slide under gloves without bunching and are stretchy enough that they fit over gloves if I prefer to wear them that way. Bonus: I can read my watch through the hole if I choose not to use the thumbholes. 

    I regularly check my distance this way.
  4. The arms are long enough for me. I am long-limbed, and I'm finicky about where sleeves hit on my wrists. Because of the thumbholes, these tops have ample arm length. 
  5. More than one size fits. I absolutely love this about INKnBURN - most people can wear more than one size in just about every piece they make. All of their clothing is stretchy, so you can almost always size up or down. I wear a small in their regular tops, but I like to size up to a medium in the pullovers because I frequently wear a base layer underneath. I love that even though the bigger size is roomy, it's cut so that it doesn't look bulky or awkward on me.
  6. They layer beautifully. Sometimes I wear these alone, other times I wear a Smartwool base layer or tank underneath. Unlike some running pullovers, I've never had an issue with these riding up or bunching awkwardly during motion. They also fit nicely under a running jacket and under hydration packs. The material is smooth and not bulky at all, so it doesn't catch on other fabrics worn over it. 
  7. The back is always just as beautiful and artistic as the front! I am always disappointed when tops have a pretty design on the front and a plain, boring color on the back. I never have that problem when I wear one of of my INKnBURN pullovers!
    Wildflower Rear View
  8. These tops wash incredibly well. Each of my pullovers gets worn for a workout at least once a week, and I wash them after every use. The fabric does not fade, and every one of them looks and feels like it did when it first arrived. Seriously, they look brand new. Considering I run double-digit miles through mountains in these tops, that's pretty amazing. Bonus: they wash clean and none have that funky armpit smell problem like some tech fabrics get after multiple washes. For the record, I use Nathan Sport-Wash for all my active wear. 
  9. They stay put. I get easily irritated when I have to tug on my clothing to keep it in place mid-run. Recently, I did a demo run in a long-sleeve top (in a brand that shall remain unnamed) that kept shifting around and left me readjusting it every few minutes. I was so annoyed. However, the experience left me that much more grateful when I wore one of my pullovers on my next run and I forgot that I was wearing it because it was so comfortable and stayed in place. 
  10. The fabric is moisture-wicking and breathes. Last week I went for a tempo run on a sunny day with temps in the mid-to-upper 50s, and I really should have been wearing a short-sleeve shirt because those temperatures feel downright warm with the sun beating down after a cold winter. Stubbornly, I wore my new Wildflower Pullover because it had just arrived. I warmed up quickly, but I could feel the cool breeze through my top and my body temperature stayed regulated. I was surprised by the end of my mileage that I wasn't very sweaty and that I'd felt comfortable even in the warmer weather. 
If you're wondering where you can get one of these amazing tops, check out the INKnBURN website. They make them for both women and men, and there are still some in stock in a couple of the patterns. If your size isn't available, keep checking back for new apparel. It is a small company and their products are not mass-produced so there is limited inventory, but they come out with new tops and bottoms all the time. If you happen to purchase one of their products, let them know I sent you. As I've mentioned before, I am an Ambassador for the company and I love getting the word out!
Happy yoga girl! It's finally warming up a little!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tips for Remaining Active in Gloomy and Rainy Weather

The Seattle area has a reputation for being notoriously gloomy and rainy, but I actually consider this a bit of a misconception. In the several years that I have lived here, I've learned that even though the forecast may call for rain, it's often for only part of the day, and frequently the clouds clear out to let some beautiful sunlight through. Our summers are sunny and gorgeous, and spring and fall are usually quite beautiful. Even during the winter months, I often find plenty of sunny or at least partially sunny days to soak up some Vitamin D.

That said, it has been a particularly gray and damp couple of winter months with average rainfall quite a bit higher than usual. Even though I'm a huge fan of the rain and don't mind the gloom for a few days in a row, I admit that this has been a tough winter and I am officially ready for some sunny skies.

Staying active is critical to keeping my mental health in check, and it's especially important with the dark and gloomy weather. So how exactly does one stay motivated to exercise when it makes more sense to hibernate with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book by the fireplace? I often talk to others about how difficult it can be to get yourself out the door with less-than-ideal weather conditions, and I feel like I have found some pretty good tricks for getting myself outside even in the worst of Seattle weather:
  1. Create an activity/workout schedule. Write it down on your phone calendar, and use reminders that annoyingly chime at you when it's time to get moving. Carve time out of your day and set it aside for working out. Knowing the activity is planned and seeing it on my schedule makes it very difficult for me to ignore, and having a set plan really helps me be successful in getting out the door even on the worst of days.
  2. Plan to meet a friend (or several). I cannot recommend finding a running group or a workout buddy enough. It's so much easier to get myself out the door when I know that my friends will be out there suffering in the pouring rain with me. Remember: misery loves company.
  3. Dress for the weather. I've mentioned this on more than one occasion because it can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE between a good run and a horrible one. Invest in a good running jacket specifically made to handle the wind and rain. Get yourself a good base layer for those cold days, find yourself a decent pair of tech running gloves, and buy that dorky buff and running beanie to protect your neck and head from the elements. Embrace the running gear and accept that you're going to look a little ridiculous and mismatched sometimes. It's worth it for the comfort.
  4. Sign up for a race (or several). In the middle of winter. Yes, just do it. Accept that it's going to be cold and likely a soaking wet set of miles, but having a goal gives meaning and purpose to those awful-weather training runs.
  5. Cross train the heck out of the winter. Give yourself a break from the cold and find a hot yoga class to try. Accept that it's going to hurt and applaud yourself for doing it anyway. If yoga isn't your thing, try something else: CrossFit, Zumba, barre classes, swimming, tennis, a pilates or aerobics video, heck - even a stairclimber. There are so many options for cross training, and you don't have to break the bank or even leave your house to sneak a quick cross training workout in. 
  6. Have a back-up workout plan. Running through a thunderstorm isn't a bright idea. Trust me, I've been that idiot. If severe weather hits during your planned workout, have an alternative plan ready to go. My backup is to either hit up a power yoga class or make it an impromptu ABS DAY. 
    My core was on fire, hence the constipated-looking strain
    on my face. Robot Capris and Crane Shirt by INKnBURN.
  7. Follow the 10-Minute Rule. I wish I could credit the original brain behind this idea, but alas, I cannot remember where I read it. One of my favorite tricks on the 'but I don't want to do this!' days is to tell myself, "Look, Self, give it ten minutes. You can handle ten minutes of near-freezing rain and wind in your face. After ten minutes of this heinous torture, you can turn around and tell me 'I told you so'." Honestly? I have never once stopped at that ten-minute mark. Ten minutes is enough time to get your body warmed up and past that initial full-body moaning and groaning, and it's also enough activity to get those endorphins fired up, which totally fake you into believing that the cold torrential downpour you're running through isn't so bad after all
  8. Give mud a chance. Don't be a hater. Everyone deserves a little love, even unattractive terrain. If you know it's going to be wet and gross outside, why not add a little mud to the equation? Find a trail, squeeze a pair of gators onto your ankles, and go splash through some muddy puddles. Consider it a right of passage and high-five your running buddy. Remember to take selfies. Bragging rights, y'all. 
    Obligatory trail-running selfie.
  9. Plan a date. My weekend running group meets for coffee and donuts after our morning long-distance run, and the thought of a coffee date on a runner's high is often enough of a motivator for me to get my rear end out the door even on a miserable cold and rainy morning. 
  10. Stalk your weather app. I'm a huge weather geek and always have one eye on my weather apps. Even though the prediction calls for rain, it often does not necessarily mean it will be raining all day. On most days I manage to find a mostly dry or light-rain spot predicted at some point. If you have a flexible schedule, have your running gear nearby and get outside when your app says there is a low chance of showers.
I'd love to hear your tips for getting outdoors when the weather is uncooperative. Some days I still struggle to get myself outdoors, so new motivation is always appreciated!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

(Hyper) Active Family

I am far from being a perfect mother, but one thing I feel I have done well is pass on my love of being active and eating healthy. My oldest daughter is a dancer and distance runner, my youngest is a dancer and competitive gymnast who busts out an occasional 5K like it's no big deal. Both took years of swimming lessons and are very strong swimmers, and we often take them hiking, on walks, or on bike rides.

It's a bird... it's a plane... nope, it's my gymnast kid!
Both James and I are a little... er... hyperactive, to put it lightly. Honestly, I'm not certain that my kids know that it's not the norm to always be running or doing yoga, dance, hockey, or going to CrossFit (those last two are James' weekly hobbies, not mine). In a world where it is so easy to sit on one's rump in front of screen, I am relieved that my girls are always excited to do something active.

As I continue to ponder the decision to do a triathlon this year, I continually remind myself that what I chose to do sets an example for my kids. If I face my fears of swimming in (cold) open waters and training for something I consider extremely challenging, they will see that I am neither afraid to push myself to the limits nor of trying something out of my comfort zone. I like that idea, so I'm just going to keep telling myself that I need to do it until I commit.

When I asked my little one below if she would do a triathlon if she were me, she narrowed her eyes and shrugged her shoulders and said, "Yeah, sure." You know, as if it were no big deal.

My little dimpled sunshine!
Healing Mandala shirt by INKnBURN

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pondering: Triathlon Training

A running buddy of mine is a triathlon coach and has asked me if I was serious when I mentioned last year that I might be interested in doing one this year.

When I think about jumping into a cold Washington lake and swimming, then biking, then running after swimming and biking, my reaction is something like this:

Just kill me already.
Last year I decided 2017 is going to be the year I do a triathlon, and it has finally occurred to me that WE ARE ALREADY IN THE MIDDLE OF MARCH 2017. If I'm going to do this, I have to commit and start training now.

I'm not a bad swimmer, but I have difficulty making time to do laps at the nearby pool, which is only open for lap swimming after 9:00 p.m. during the week. And to be completely transparent, I haven't been on a bike since college... so yeah, there's that minor detail.

As I mull the decision over in my head, I have this sneaky suspicion I'll end up taking the bait and doing it.

Have you ever trained for a triathlon? What tips and advice do you have for a potential runner considering doing one?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Happy International Women's Day!

I come from a very traditional family with the engineer dad and the stay-at-home mom. Both worked hard to raise their three kids, and both saw the value in saving money to send us to college. I am forever grateful to my parents for everything they did to ensure that my sister and I would have equal opportunities to those of our male counterparts in this world.

It is unfortunate that despite our education and experience levels, my sister and I have consistently fought through the professional world with less-than-equal pay, being called derogatory terms by men such as "sweetheart" on the job (true story), and dealt with a blind eye turned to our contributions while men tried to take credit for our work. 

I don't want that for my daughters, and I do everything I can to teach them by example to never accept anything less than equal respect and treatment. Although I do my best, there is always room for improvement. 

Happy International Women's Day to all the amazing women in my life.

I think I feed her too much spinach. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Constant Battle

Yesterday, I ran the Seattle Hot Chocolate 15K. Finally healed from a raging sinus infection, I was a little worried I would have some difficulty with this race, but I ended up finishing with a decent and consistent pace. Unfortunately, about four miles in I realized my old nemesis had crept into the race, which made the last several miles a bit of a mental fight for me.

Tachycardia is a pain to deal with. Recently, my resting pulse rate was so high that I scared my doctor until we had the "oh yeah... remember? This is normal for me..." conversation when my heart was pounding at a rate higher than 100 PBM just sitting on the exam table. A little white coat syndrome knocks my already-quick resting pulse to what some runners experience during a warm-up jog.

The cardiologist I met with years ago did a number of tests and monitoring then determined that while my pulse is indeed rather fast and that I do struggle with heart palpitations, my heart is healthy and activities such as running are safe as long as I don't overdo it. His recommendation was to ensure I am properly hydrated. Beyond my morning black coffee and a little wine on the weekend, I'm a water drinker. If I'm not gulping water, I'm sipping hot decaf tea. When I explained this to the cardiologist, he told me that water is simply not enough to keep me hydrated, and that I have to be drinking something with electrolytes. I've mentioned before that NUUN is my go-to electrolyte drink because it's the least sugary-tasting supplement I have found to date (sugary drinks gross me out - hence my hate for sodas - instead, give me all of the salt!!).

Well, despite prepping the day before by drinking NUUN, I realized about four miles into yesterday's race that my stomach was beginning to ache in that way that means my pulse is too high. Glancing at my watch, it was reading 180 BPM, which is high even for me. My legs felt great, my breathing was even, but dammit - my heart always gives out long before the rest of me feels tired.

I forced myself to walk through every aid station so I could gulp down two cups of NUUN and chase it with a cup of water. By the time I reached the 6-mile mark, the race had turned to downhill but my pulse was still much higher than it would normally be. After hydrating carefully at each aid station, though, the pain in my stomach went away and my chest no longer felt tight.

The mental struggle was tough. Because my legs and the rest of my body felt good, I wanted to speed up during the last half the way I normally do during a race. I couldn't because my pulse was having difficulty slowing down to my body's "safe zone".

Nevertheless, I felt proud of how I did yesterday. The Seattle race is extremely hilly and difficult, and I managed to keep my overall pace at a 9'43"/mile average (according to my GPS) despite everything going on. I felt pleased that I was able to push the ego aside and hold back on the speed even though my legs begged to run faster. I also learned a few things, which I'd like to share.

  1. I should probably follow up with a new cardiologist. It's been awhile and my overall physical condition has changed quite a bit since my last appointment. Collapsing mid-race would be stupid if it's avoidable.
  2. Running the long, intense uphills without stopping was something made possible by all the mountain-training runs I've been doing this year.
  3. My endurance is increasing, and I know this because the middle of the race, which was all uphill, felt better than the first few miles once I got my heart rate under control. 
  4. I still dislike running downhill; I find it more exhausting than uphill running, oddly.
  5. I need to measure the amount of liquids I am consuming the day before a long race from now on. Obviously, I didn't get enough the day before, and this could have been avoided.
  6. I looked awful during this race. Like, seriously stressed out. Usually, I'm smiling in all my photos, but the look on my face is pretty accurate to how I was feeling. Because I have no shame, I'm sharing one of my official race photos so you, too, can get a good laugh. You have to zoom in to see the bags under my eyes and the straining in my throat. 
See those folks in short sleeves behind me?
It was 37°F with a cold wind. They're nuts.
Also, my awesome Crane Tights are from
INKnBURN, naturally.

I didn't previously mention this because I chose to focus on my tachycardia today, but I also want to share that my daughter ran the 5K the hour before my race began, and she rocked it, of course. This was taken post-race, which is a little more flattering than my end-of-race photo.

Me and my awesome little runner kid!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Vacationing at Lake Louise

Last week my girls had mid-winter break, so we took the opportunity to vacation somewhere we have never been before.

Nope. Not Photoshopped... that's a real place!
If you have never visited Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada and you enjoy being outdoors, it's a Bucket List must. We stayed at a hotel next to Lake Louise and our week was full of snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating on the frozen lake, and hiking with crampons attached to our snow boots (I might be guilty of laughing at the name "crampons").

Lake Louise Frozen Over
As much as I love Seattle and generally like the weather (yes, even the rain... I love the rain), I was hoping to escape to someplace warm for the week. Hawaii is a direct flight from here, but the prices were outrageous this time of year and the hotels were mostly booked already. Instead of heading south for warmer weather, we made the decision to embrace the cold and head to Lake Louise, which is a little less than a 12-hour drive from us.

Despite my best intentions of keeping with my normal training, I fell off the wagon and didn't run at all on vacation. No treadmill. No yoga. Forget the normal workouts. Instead, I spent everyday outside trying new things.

Don't let the confident smiles fool you...
I'm not a real skier, but James isn't too bad at it.
I have only skied once before and the girls were brand new to the slopes, but we managed to have a wonderful time. Skiing has always scared me because I'm a giant chicken who is afraid of heights, speed, and losing control. I dislike being afraid and anxious, so I looked that fear right in the eye and told it to take a hike. And guess what? Not only did I survive and enjoy it, but I learned that I'm not too bad on a set of skis. All that yoga and dance balance work seemed to keep me on my feet and off my rump.

A family of adventure-seekers!
While skiing and other snow sports aren't really a big deal to a lot of people, I have to say that I feel very proud of myself for trying something new. It's easy for me to get lost in my regular routines of life, and stepping out of my comfort zone is always a wonderful reminder that opportunities are endless and worth seeking out.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Runner (Girl) Problems - Edition: Sports Bras

On Sunday morning I awoke with the beginnings of what felt like a sore throat, but it was minimal and I didn't notice it at all during my half marathon. Yesterday, though, my sinuses were jammed, my throat felt swollen, and I spent the day in a bit of a hazy mind fog as I navigated through the Valentine's festivities and emotions of seeing all my old photographs again.

By the time I got myself out the door for running group with my daughter, I was congratulating myself on remembering to put on my running shoes and for simply finding my keys. But shortly thereafter, I realized I forgot something pretty important. What exactly, you ask, did I forget?

I was about one quarter of a mile into my run, chatting with a friend, when I felt my bra strap sliding down toward my shoulder. Without thinking, I reached over and readjusted the strap when it dawned on me with complete horror that I was wearing a normal, everyday bra instead of a sports bra.

Yes, that's right. I forgot to wear a sports bra yesterday. Those of you fellow athletes with a C-cup or larger can probably understand just how ridiculous I felt upon this realization. I'm not a very big person, but I'm curvy enough that wearing a regular bra is nowhere near enough support to run comfortably. My saving grace were my two fitted layers plus a reflective vest that probably helped keep things somewhat in place, and the fact that I wasn't feeling well enough to run more than a 5K.

So, there I was running and doing my darnedest to keep my posture upright and my shoulders squared as I resisted the urge to constantly adjust the underwire that was miserably soaking in the sweat and rubbing uncomfortably on my ribcage. If my daughter and her friend weren't running directly behind me within earshot, I likely would have confessed the absurdity to my friend and then proceeded to laugh hard enough to get a side ache. Instead, our conversation went something like this:
Friend:   That house you rented for Hood to Coast looks amazing!
Me:        Holding shoulders rigid with constipated-looking anal-retentiveness. Oh I know! I was so stoked to find it. I think most teams are procrastinating on booking, so there were a ton of great places to choose from. [Thinking: Oh crap! There's another runner coming towards us. Are my boobs bouncing all over the place?]
Friend:   It's great that it has a hot tub. That'll be perfect for after the race.
Me:        Oh my gosh, I know. There were a couple other comparable places, but come on, the hot tub won me over. [Thinking: I feel sweat trickling down. Oh no! SPARE ME, PLEASE! Don't burn the chafed skin just under my boobs from the half marathon! OMG IT'S FREAKING BURNING! My own sweat hates me!]
Friend:  And it looks like there are plenty of beds for everyone, which is awesome.
Me:        [Thinking: Oh no... OH NO! It's slipping again! My boob is going to fall off! The burning... the burning won't stop. Someone just put me out of my misery.Trying to inconspicuously adjust my right bra strap. Yes, so much better than trying to sleep on some crappy pullout couch. [Thinking: How on Earth did I manage to forget to put on a sports bra? I'm an idiot.]
Anyway, you get the picture. The whole thing would have been hilarious had I not been feeling under the weather and miserably uncomfortable from this weekend's chafing, which brings me to my complaint of the day: Why oh why can't I find a comfortable, high-impact sports bra that doesn't chafe my ribcage during a half marathon? I've tried several different ones, but there's always a seam or something about the fabric that irritates my ridiculously sensitive skin. Forget anything involving exposed elastic, and I hate adjustable straps because they either involve those cheap plastic hooks that pop open mid-run and dig into my back, or because they adjust with velcro, which leaves a lump that always hits my collar bones in the wrong way. Anti-chafe cream helps, but it doesn't get rid of the problem entirely.

The Gap used to make a sports bra that I loved, but sadly, they stopped making them a few years ago. Now, those bras are so old that the thread on the seams leave raw skin after more than a few miles.
Did you really expect me to stick to boring underwear colors?
One of these days I fear I'm just going to have to design my own sports bra, but I'm fairly pathetic with a sewing machine and I'd prefer to not reinvent the wheel. If anyone has a favorite sports bra that they swear by, I'd love a few suggestions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Valentine

While I realize a lot of people scoff at Valentine's Day, it has always been a favorite holiday of mine because of its simplicity and positive message of love. When I was a child, I looked forward to exchanging Valentines with my classmates, each of whom I matched to what I felt was the appropriate picture drawn on the cards that I so carefully chose each year. In high school, I searched the Val-o-grams posted on the walls and snuck the heart on which my several-year crush's name was written into my backpack when no one was watching.

Now as an adult, I love surprising my girls and James with something simple but thoughtful. They always know I love them, but their extra excitement when finding a new pencil holder filled with chocolate and the handmade Valentines waiting for them fills me with that warm fuzzy feeling that just makes my day a beautiful one.

Today, though, James was the star of my show. In addition to a fancy new camera, he surprised me with the most amazing gift - he had all the photographs I had stored on both the hard drive and the backup drive that crashed restored. My memories that had fogged over during my postpartum illness were captured on camera but have been lost for several years, and I thought that I would never see them again.

First, he handed me an envelope with a stack of favorite memories printed, then he gave me the new hard drive with the thousands of restored photos. This is, without a doubt, the most meaningful gift I could have imagined.

2003 - Shortly after James proposed while
backpacking Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon
October 23, 2004
We were basically 12-year-olds.
2006 - Who knew this curly-haired munchkin would
turn into one heck of a runner a decade later?
And again... our chubby firstborn cherub!
Our second hairy baby one day after birth! Now that chubby
munchkin is a gymnast with an 8-pack!
Our second (huge) baby at a couple months old.
She still has wild hair and crazy dimples!
I hope your Valentine's Day is filled with love and friendship... and if it's not, I hope you treat yourself to some self-love and chocolate! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

My Better Half Marathon

In attempt to build my endurance, I have decided it is again time to attempt difficult and/or high mileage runs back-to-back. My first taste of this kind of training was preparing for Hood to Coast last year. While I ran that well and felt proud of my overall performance, I realized after the race that endurance is my weak point. Increasing my overall endurance is going to be even more important in 2017 as I prepare for Ragnar Trail Rainier and Hood to Coast Washington this summer, so my goal over the next several months is to focus my energy on becoming a stronger runner with decreased recovery time in between long runs.

This weekend I decided it was time to step up my game and actively focus on achieving this goal, so I started Saturday with a 9+ mile hilly trail run around Lake Youngs with a couple of friends, then I woke up at a comical hour and watched the sunrise over Lake Washington before running the My Better Half Marathon at Seward Park on Sunday.

Lake Washington at Sunrise
My Better Half Marathon ended up being five loops of the park, which would have included some hills except our stormy weather knocked over several trees last week, so the course had to be modified just before the event. Running the same loop over and over was a bit monotonous, but Mount Rainier made her majestic appearance, so at least the views were spectacular for the entire race.
My apologies for the poor quality in the photo...
iPhones cameras struggle in dim lighting.
Of course, in light of the theme, I ran with my better half even though I did spend part of my time glancing over my shoulder to make sure he was keeping up with me. He hasn't been training as much as he should due to all his recent travel (and because he has been spending more time playing ice hockey than in his running shoes... but we're letting that slide because I don't want to be a nag... *cough*).

Looking a little haggard, but whatever. No shame.
Despite my long, hilly run the day before and James' lack of preparedness, we ran a strong 13.1 miles and finished with a decent time. We weren't out to set any records with this particular race; it was more about spending time with each other and our friends. Nevertheless, I was proud of our strong finish.

Finishers say, "CHEESE!"

Yes, we wore matching INKnBURN shirts, and I realize just how painfully cheesy (or shall I say... ridiculously spectacular!) we look with our gooey-lovey-dovey hug and smiles, but whatever. We love each other and the whole event is meant to be pretty cheesy, so we fit right in. By the way, the shirts have a hidden unicorn... do you see it? 

INKnBURN Men's ISO Shirt
Anyway, I know you're dying to hear my list of What I Learned this time around. Here you go.
  1. Some of my friends are really grumpy in the morning (*cough* no names mentioned, but YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE)... approach with coffee and do not make eye contact next time. And here I thought I was the grumpy one. 
  2. I need to remember to use the foam roller on my calves and achilles after a trail run if I plan on running a PR the day after a long training run.
  3. The trick I learned from Golden Harper regarding thinking of swinging my arms back instead of pushing them forward really keeps my posture upright when the fatigue tries to sneak in.
  4. I learned from my last half marathon and didn't push the first few miles, which led to a strong pace even through mid-and-late race. 
  5. Steamy, salty vegetable lentil soup is my favorite post-race snack ever. Must find a good recipe and make some to have ready after next race.
  6. Not only is James not allowed to be the pacer, but he also runs into me and swipes me with his elbow if I allow him to get too close while running with him. Next time I'll just have to run with a taser and zap him with it if he gets too close.
  7. Stashing warm clothing in the drop bag was a really smart idea. Note to self: do this every time.
  8. Wearing matching shirts might be a little dorky, but it was actually really fun.
  9. Running a race for fun at a conversational speed is very rewarding, and I still ran faster than expected.
  10. I am a better runner and stronger than I think I am.
Side note... it is my Better Half's birthday today. Even though I give him a lot of heck about running into me when we're running a race together, he's still my favorite partner for just about everything in life (except for maybe a girl's night). 

Happy birthday, my sweetheart!
(Yeah... I know this is ultra mushy. Deal with it.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Playing in the Snow

I know that Sunday was the Super Bowl, but this photo sums up how I spent my day...

Just before my friend took that picture on Sunday morning, we went for an icy, somewhat miserable run that ended with running face-first into a mixture of rain and snow and increasingly colder wind for the last mile or so. By nightfall, my backyard looked something like this:

SNOWMAGEDDON: Seattle Edition 2017
Now you might be thinking, "Um, so what?"... to which this Arizona-born gal is going to respond, "HOLY SH** YOU GUYS! IT'S SNOWING!!!"

Though Seattle may have a reputation for rain and chilly weather, snow is relatively uncommon here. When white fluffy stuff does occasionally fall from the sky, it usually dusts the ground in a few patchy, half-melted areas and sticks around for less than a day.

With that being said, we have been covered in a layer of several inches of actual snow since Monday morning, and the entire Greater Seattle area has been a gorgeous winter wonderland that included my kids' first "snow days" from school. And, because James' flight arrived from India and his taxi couldn't make it up our neighborhood hill, I got to watch him trek his way through the snow lugging his suitcase while wearing pajama bottoms. I'm not going to lie... I thought this was pretty hilarious and proceeded to snap photos of him rather than help. Don't judge me. He was laughing, too.

Nothing to see here, folks. Keep moving along.
Due to the weather, we have had a mellow and fun couple of days off. While my girls enjoyed playing in the snow for several hours with their neighborhood friends, my close neighbor friend who coerced me into trying yoga and running (which, by the way, I am eternally grateful to her for this) came up with the great idea to drag a couch into my front yard so we could drink hot coffee and watch our kids have the time of their lives while lounging comfortably. It was a great couple of days, and I took the opportunity to play a little in the snow myself because no one ever told me that I have to act like an adult all the time.

Learn from me and wear gloves before trying this at home.
Lotus Pullover and Blue Cable Knit Capris by INKnBURN
Every once in awhile I have this realization that I am now the age that I once considered to be kind of "old." In my early twenties while working at a ballroom dance studio, a few of my friends were in their mid-thirties, and I always thought - wow, when I'm their age I hope I'm in as good of shape and as young-seeming as they are.

I think it's safe to say that at thirty-five, I'm not that old.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

An Unwanted but Necessary Rest Day

I hit the ground running my way through this week trying to stay on top of my girls' activities, work, entertaining my mom, and keeping my head above water while James has been working from India. While it has definitely been tough, I've managed to bust out a difficult 10.5 mile trail run through one of the nearby mountains, take my daughter to Tuesday night running group, and spend time in the hot room doing power vinyasa yoga twice this week.

Tonight, though, I couldn't keep up the (unintentional) Superwoman act. After an overwhelming day of helping out a friend, spending time with my mom, and hours of driving my girls back and forth through Seattle and its greater surrounding area, I made the decision to skip running group tonight. Though it was a sunny day, it was chilly with a heavy, bitter wind, and I was too exhausted to fight the voice telling me to just go home and rest for the evening.

Instead of sweating in the frosty wind while my arms and legs flailed through the dark for a good five miles or so, I came home and tossed a whole organic free-range chicken in the pressure cooker with some spices, herbs, and lemon juice over multi-colored potatoes and carrots and pressed the "start" button. While I normally would have been basking in the glory of the runner's high, I helped my oldest with her piano practice and let my mom pick my youngest up from gymnastics.

Sometimes, I feel like I have failed myself when I skip a run. Tonight, though, I realize that it was a much needed break.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Untold Story

I have the utmost respect for single parents. My husband is in India for work, and during his international travel I am always reminded of how much he does for our kids and how much support he provides for me mentally.

Several years ago when I was very ill, he took on the role of primary caretaker the instant he walked into the door after work. Some stay-at-home moms make it look easy. I was not that person. I may have appeared clean and put together on the outside, but I was a constant suicidal wreck behind closed doors. I was a dance teacher at the time, and my work day - or should I say, my second job - began in the evening when the rest of the professional world was sitting back in their favorite chair with their feet up. After I had spent the entire day caring for our young daughters, I'd drive to downtown Seattle and spend hours in a ballroom in a pair of suede-bottom heels on my sore feet before heading home sometime around midnight.

When I made the decision to focus on being healthy rather than continue to believe the cocktail of drugs and bizarre Freudian-based therapist I was seeing were going to clear the haze away from my view of reality, it became apparent that James was carrying far more than his fair share of the household and child-related responsibilities. He didn't complain, though. He never told me I was a bad parent or wife, and he continued to love me even though I was broken.

During my recovery, we were able to shift our responsibilities to the healthy balance that we have adopted. When he is away, I'm able to handle the duties of work and kids and life on my own without feeling too frazzled, but nothing fills the empty gap of his warm physical presence ready to give me a hug at the end of a long day.

This morning, a photograph popped up on my Facebook feed from five years ago:

We might be cheesy, but I'm just gonna own it.
I love this picture because we look so happy, but the untold story is that this was taken just weeks after I had weaned off all medication, when I was still struggling to get my feet on the ground after three years of traumatic mental health issues, and just after I retired from teaching dance and entered the world of law. This picture was taken before we moved out of our old house, before I met my good friend and neighbor who convinced me to take up yoga and dragged me out running for the first time, and back when I constantly struggled with fatigue, skin issues, and abdominal pain due to serious undiagnosed food allergies.

When I see this picture, I am reminded that we were on our way to a company party and that we saw a rock concert that night. It was the first time that I had been in a large crowd of people since going off medication, and I managed to escape the night without having a panic attack.

This morning as I am reminded of that evening five years ago, I find myself missing James but also feeling empowered that I am easily capable of taking care of myself and our two kids for ten days without having a mental breakdown.

Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to having my partner in crime home again. I will have plenty of company and help from my mom (who is flying in to spend some quality time with me and the girls), but it's going to be a very long extended week without my soulmate by my side.