Holiday Half Marathon Race Recap with ENERGY BITS!

Wow this race recap took a while for me!  Sometimes, life gets in the way…  I am still at home recovering, so I have some time to catch up.  The Holiday Half Marathon and 5k is a festive little event in North Portland near the Adidas campus that took place on December 16, 2012.  This was my second year running it, so I felt pretty confident I could beat my time from last year.  Last year, I ran it in 1:47:23.  My goal time going into the race was 1:45, and I felt that was a perfectly attainable goal.

My mistake with this race was not getting my things ready the night before…Hehe, I think it’s safe to say I was a bit over-confident.  “It’s going to be fine!” I thought to myself, no problem.  We sat around, had a nice dinner, and went to bed.  We woke up with plenty of time to eat some breakfast, but realized that we didn’t have any coffee.  I am not a coffee drinker, but it’s my tradition to have a small cup of coffee before a race to give me an extra kick in the pants.  Caffeine has certainly been shown to do that with running, so I was insistent that we get coffee somewhere.  So we decided we would hit the 7-11 before the race, which was the only thing open that early in the morning on a Sunday.  The absence of coffee in my pre-race routine must’ve been the thing that kicked off the chaos that ensued.

While I was pouting around the house about the missing coffee, I began putting my race clothes on.  I had this really silly ugly Christmas turtleneck from my Mrs. Claus costume from the Jingle Bell Run, so I decided to wear that to be “cute” and festive during the race.  I also donned my striped elf socks over my tights for a little extra flair.  My running jacket happens to be green, which was perfect for the theme so I put that on too with the intention of converting it to a vest during the race. Knowing that we needed to stop and get coffee, we hurried out the door with probably not enough time…

We got coffee and headed downtown.  About 2 minutes onto the interstate, I realized I’d forgotten my watch.  Now ordinarily, I really wouldn’t care that much because I’ve never been much for wearing the watch anyway, but today, I was going for a PR!  OH NO!!!  I would need to monitor my pace in order to get the time I wanted right?  PANIC!!  I was driving, so I obviously started beating the crap out of the steering wheel with my clueless husband sitting next to me with his mouth hanging open.  “I FORGOT MY WATCH!!”  We really didn’t have time to go home and get it, because parking down there is a complete nightmare.  As in there’s none right around Adidas, so you have to take a shuttle if you don’t get there early enough, which of course, we didn’t get a ticket for.  So we kept on heading downtown, and I was frantically coming up with ideas.  “Can’t you download a thing on my thing? You know what I’m saying??” I was practically shrieking.

My husband is wonderful, and knows how to translate.  “A GPS running app for your iPhone?” he said, trying not to laugh at me.  Of course he could laugh, he had his stupid GPS watch.  He got to work on my iPhone as I continued to curse myself for forgetting my watch and for wearing such a silly turtleneck.  I realized this was going to be a problem because it was pouring rain.  Now, a cute Christmas turtleneck from Goodwill is one thing if it’s nice, sunny, weather, but it’s a terrible idea if it’s down pouring.  Heavy cotton is the last thing you should be wearing in the pouring rain and wind.

When we pulled up to Adidas, we realized we were too late, because they’d already shut the roads down so we couldn’t get through to try to find a parking space.  We were directed down to the parking lot a couple miles away, so we would need to take the shuttle.  Which we didn’t have a ticket for.  We were screwed!  The guy mercifully let us onto the shuttle, so I plan to contact Foot Traffic to see if we can donate some money to them or a charity of their liking for letting the bandits on the bus, wearing an ugly Christmas turtleneck nonetheless.

On the bus, I tried to familiarize myself with my new running app on my iPhone thanks to my wonderful husband.  I also realized at this point I’d forgotten a hat, which would have been pretty crucial in the weather.  We pulled up to Adidas for the start with a few minutes to spare to check our bag and prepare to start.  The line for bag check was wrapped twice around the garage.  Wow!!  I think they underestimated the amount of people at this race!  Here we were, 20 minutes until the start with hundreds of people trying to check bags, and the line was immobile.  The porta potty situation was pretty poor too, forget about going to the bathroom before the race.  There must have been more people than last year!  Either that or our planning was terrible, I’m not sure which. Probably a bit of both.

In line, I adjusted my Injinji socks and my VFF See Yas, which were just starting to get a little hole in the pinky toe.  Wow, I’ve been putting some mileage on these!  I suppose I’ve had them since April now, that’s pretty good for such a thin sole. 3 or 3.5 mm if I remember correctly?  I feel almost sentimental towards those shoes!  I also counted out 40 Energy Bits and swallowed them with some water.  Here goes nothing!  First race with Energy Bits!  I’d been training with them, so I knew I could expect a wonderful surge of energy that would carry me through the race, despite a pretty low start to the morning.  No one to blame but myself for that though…

Because it took us so long to get our bags checked, we were stuck in the middle to the back of the crowd.  It was raining pretty hard at this point, and I realized that I had also forgotten to convert my jacket into a vest and check the sleeves.  I had no choice but to take the sleeves off and pack them into the back of my jacket, which makes me appear to have a giant booty bouncing around from far away.  I’m told it’s pretty entertaining!  You’re welcome, to the people running behind me 🙂  I had my iPhone in my front pocket of my jacket, which also felt big and bulky to say the least.  I started the iPhone as I crossed the timing mat, which was pretty awkward because I was juggling my phone and some red “throw away” gloves.

There were lots of turns during the first part of the race, so I was effectively blocked in by runners as we funneled through the narrow streets.  I was pretty antsy, so I scurried over to the sidewalk with a couple other runners who were doing the same in order to pass some of the others.  This seemed to work pretty well and I was trying to make up the time that I’d lost being blocked in earlier.  I finally fished out my phone to see how fast I was going, and I was holding a 6:30 min/mile pace at that point!  Ok, ok, that’s too fast!!  To get a time of 1:45, I would need to hold 8:00 min/miles, or slightly less.

I slowed down to about 7:30 min/miles, but I am incredibly stubborn and could not convince myself to go any slower than that.  I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with me sometimes.  I just feel SO GOOD during the first half of the race!! I can hold this, it’ll be great!  I fell into running with a group of ladies that looked very strong, a local running group.  I was feeling great, so I tried to talk to them a little, saying some encouraging things.  By this point, we were starting to see some of the leaders coming back, which is always inspiring to pick up the pace a bit.  The race is mostly out and back, but it’s a bit further out than it is back.  I said something like, “Wow, it’s great to see the really fast people coming back!  It gives me a little more energy!”  The ladies I was running with were not amused.  They apparently all knew each other and did not particularly want to associate with me.  Oh, I forgot to mention I was also wearing Christmas underwear over my pants.  Superhero style.  With the Muppets character, Animal on them.  So I guess wearing a soaked Christmas turtleneck and underwear is not quite as cool as their slick tech running club shirts! Oh well, that’s ok.

During the race, it began to monsoon.  That was some of the most killer rain and wind I’ve ever run in, much less raced in.  The rain and wind made things irritating.  My gloves became sopping wet, and I couldn’t work my phone with them on, so I decided to throw them out.  I then tried to shelter my freezing hands with my shirt, but it was also dripping cotton.  My jacket, which I was wearing as a vest, is supposed to be water resistant, but nothing could resist the pelting rain and wind. My vest offered no protection to my phone, which became totally soaked.  My fingers were so cold, that at about mile 9, I was totally incapable of working it.  I’m pretty sure my phone also just completely pooped out at that point and decided to quit.  The only real problem I have with this race course aside from the terrible weather that struck is the cant in the road.  The cant is quite severe on many parts of the course, and I felt like I should have been in a velodrome.  The road was so slanted, sometimes I found myself running from side to side because I couldn’t stay on a straight path!  Cant is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, but it could be because I’m a PT and notice things like that.  I even began to imagine at one point that I was developing hip pain from the awkward surface, but decided it was all in my head.  (It was.)  On the bright side, there are some nice neighborhoods that we ran through, as well as a pretty view of the river.

Along the road with the pretty view, the wind was threatening to blow us over.  My race number, poor thing, couldn’t hang.  Probably about the same time I lost the ability to use my fingers and my phone, my race number took flight.  I’d noticed that one of the four holes had ripped, so my race number was hanging by three safety pins and flapping provocatively in the wind.  I was trying to bow my head into the wind, which was coming from the right on the way back, when all of the sudden I saw a race number flying around.  “Oooh, that sucks, bummer for that person,” I thought, looking around for the idiot without a race number.  It took me about 5 seconds to realize that I was the idiot!  Oh no, my race number with my chip is flying around!!  I started chasing it around on the ground, but of course,  as soon as I came up to it, the bastard would fly away again.  Finally, the rain worked in my favor and held it to the ground long enough for me to get it.  Mind you, my fingers were still not functional so I sort of balled up the number and held it in my left hand.  I had to keep looking down to make sure I was still holding it!

My pace stayed at 7:30 until about mile 6 when I decided I really needed to slow down.  I slowed down to 7:45 or so until right after the turn around, when we started going uphill and into a headwind.  At that point, I looked down at my phone and I was going 8:30 min/miles!  Luckily, it was at that time that my lifeboat arrived.  I felt strong and the Energy Bits were working.  I kicked it up a notch, bowed my head into the wind and took off.  I checked my phone again and kept it steady at 7:45 min/mile throughout the rest of the race.  I think, anyway, but I’m not sure since I couldn’t look at my phone after mile 9.  But I must have, based on my finishing time.  I felt strong, and hammered through those last miles despite the conditions absence of the ability to use my fingers.  I couldn’t even stop at the last water stop because I was incapable of grabbing a cup!  Again, totally my fault.  I was figuring that I had maybe a mile left, when all of the sudden, I looked up and saw the mile 13 marker.  What?? I only have 0.1 mile left?  That set a fire under my Animal underwear, and I took off!  I tore for the finish, and was so happy!  My finishing time was 1:42:16, 5 minutes faster than last year, and a new PR for my half marathon.  Mike blew my mind with a finishing time of 1:27:33!!  That’s a pace of 6:41. He never ceases to amaze me.

What I want to really focus on, is how Energy Bits got me through this race.  One couldn’t ask for worse conditions and worse planning on my part.  A poor start to the morning was followed by pure energy, focus, and the ability to stay above the intrinsic and extrinsic barriers that I faced during the half marathon. I truly felt I could rise above the weather, the cold, and the idiotic wardrobe choices.  So have you heard of Energy Bits?

Let’s talk about them. I discovered Energy Bits when I became interested in using real food for fuel vs. the sugary gels that I’ve used in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I still use Clif gels for a kick in the pants, but prefer to use cleaner energy if possible.  Energy Bits have one ingredient.  One.  Spirulina, which is a form of algae, has been recognized as the most powerful, nutritionally dense food in the world.  And that happens to be the one ingredient in Energy Bits.  The minimum recommended “dose” is 30 bits, but more is obviously more beneficial to your performance.  I took 40 before the race and it really seemed to do the trick for me.  During training runs, I ate Energy Bits and had some of the fastest training runs I’ve ever had.  And I typically don’t train fast, which is a flaw of mine, but these things just facilitate a stronger, faster run.  Not to mention, a happy run!  It sounds silly, but I always feel really happy, or almost elevated, or dare I say high?  Keep in mind, Spirulina is NOT a drug, it’s just an amazing superfood!  While it may sound hard to believe, healthy, pure, nutritional food is the key to our health and therefore our performance in athletics.  We are unfortunately, a society that is run by pharmaceutical companies and gimmicks to put a band aid over our problems and provide temporary fixes, as well as temporarily boost our performance.  Overall health is about enriching our lives with the best foods on this earth, and increasing our longevity.  That’s what Energy Bits are about.  Health, performance, and longevity via the simplest route you can think of:  Find the most nutritious food on this planet and grow it organically for the most pure supplement and performance enhancer.  Did I go off on a tangent too much?  🙂  Don’t get me started on pharmaceutical companies…

Anyway, on the Energy Bits website,  they discuss the performance aspect of the bits for athletics:

“For any sport or workout, you need glucose and protein and for a really top performance, your muscles need rapid access to them. This is why nitric oxide is so important. It opens up blood vessels so key nutrients can quickly get where they need to go. Our algae tabs are the trifecta of nutrition because they provide your body with glucose, protein and even nitric oxide. All naturally too. Our algae tabs have the highest concentration of protein in the world (over 60%), all in amino acid form so it quickly converts to glucose. This gives you an energy boost and mental wake up without chemicals, sugar or caffeine  All for just one calorie per tab. We recommend our ENERGYbits® algae tabs (which are 100% spirulina)  for any athletic or high endurance activity.   Spirulina algae has been a favorite of Olympic athletes and trainers for decades. You’ll find out why the first time you try them.”

I am so impressed by this company, that I recently became a proud ambassador for them.  If you have any specific questions for me, please ask me as I’m happy to answer.  I should mention that the bits are going to be a powerful tool for me while I’m recovering from my medical emergency, as I’m slightly anemic due to blood loss.  I couldn’t tolerate an Iron supplement, so I’ve started taking the bits daily to see if this is beneficial for getting my hematocrit levels to rise.  Here is a little snapshot of some of the nutritional highlights of Energy Bits and spirulina, taken from the website:

Nutritional highlights of Spirulina:

  • Provides 12 times the amount of bio-available protein as steak
  • Is composed of 60%-64% protein compared to meat (27%) or soy (34%)
  • More beta carotene than any other whole food
  • 58 times more iron than raw spinach
  • 12 times more iron than beef liver
  • Richest source of antioxidants – necessary for health, and anti-aging
  • Richest source of vitamin A (which helps your eyesight)
  • Richest plant source of GLA to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure

Summary:

To summarize the half marathon, a poopy start to the race followed by even poopier weather and slanted roads ended up ending on a high note as I finished 5 minutes faster than my fastest half marathon, and 3 minutes faster than my goal time thanks to Energy Bits as fuel and my Animal Christmas underwear.

Interested in ENERGY BITS?  ASK ME QUESTIONS!!  INTERESTED IN A DISCOUNT?  USE the code BAREFOOT at checkout at EnergyBits.Com for 30% off!

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The Underside of the Tapestry

Sometimes when we think we’re at the top of our game, life gives us a good whack to bring us back down to earth.  I thought I was pretty invincible and ready to have the best start to 2013 with two big races and one epic fun run coming up.  The Mac Ass 25K with lots of elevation gain, followed running the entire Wildwood Trail (31 miles) in Forest Park, followed by the Hagg Lake Mud Run 50k.  I’ve been chomping at the bit, running up and down mountains, running at high altitude, running on snow, and cross training with skiing down double black diamonds in Jackson Hole, WY.  Invincible, right?

Wrong.  On Thursday evening and into Friday of last week, I experienced a medical emergency.  My illness was totally unrelated to running, but nevertheless, I ended up in the ER with my wonderful husband at my side.  Both of us pale faced and in disbelief, we finally accepted the fact that things would be different for a while.  We would need to recover emotionally and I would need to recover physically.  One at a time, doctors told me that I needed to rest including no work, no strenuous exercise, and definitely no running.

Crap.  Today, it is difficult for me to get up the stairs.  It is difficult for me to bend over and put on my socks and my shoes.  I was so tired after showering that I had to sit on the couch for half an hour before attempting my next move.  My point is, this is one of the most emotionally draining and humbling experiences of my life.  That being said, here’s what I’m thankful for:

  • My prior heath and fitness level to keep me strong during recovery
  • My beautiful partner in life, my husband Mike to hold my hand
  • My family who has been so supportive and knowledgeable in our time of need.  Thanks Jill, Mom, Dad, Claudia, Ken, and Lauren!
  • My friends who are my second family, they’re calling and texting and sending love.
  • My co-workers who are working overtime to see Mike and I’s patients when we cannot be there.  And my supervisors who are like family at this point and sending their love and compassion.
  • The future prospect of health, running and new life.

My friend, Emily, gave me a beautiful image to get through this difficult time.  She said that the underside of the tapestry is twisted in knots and tangles, and sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the endless web.  It takes some time, but eventually you will be able to see the top of the tapestry, which holds a beautiful, intricate design.  Without the knots and tangles holding it together, the design wouldn’t be as beautiful or well put together.  Thank you Emily, for that healing thought.

In the meantime, here are some pictures that we snapped before our setback:

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Goodbye Oregon, Hello California! Happy Trails…

Well, it’s official.  Mike and I gave notice to our wonderful director at work on Friday that we will be setting sail in February.  Since we both work for the same company, we decided it was only fair to give a 2 month notice in order to give them plenty of time to fill the positions.  It’s a scary thing, really, when you love a place and you’re comfortable there to find the courage to spread your wings. I was feeling that 12-21-12 was going to be the beginning of a new era, and so it is.  It just so happens to be exactly 2 months from when we are planning for our last day.

2.5 years ago, Oregon was supposed to be a temporary stop on our way to California.  This place is something special, I guess!  I said a long time ago, this city has soul, and I think it always will.  Mike and I have really grown here, both individually and as a couple.  I found a love for trail running, barefoot running, racing, and eatin’ greens.  Mike also found a love for trail running, triathloning (is that a word?) and snowboarding.  And all of the sudden, we have incredible friends and relationships that we didn’t think we’d find here.  All of the sudden, it feels like home.  And now, we’re leaving.  Why?  I’m glad you asked.

Ever since I met Mike, he’s been California dreamin’.  Mike is more at home in the water than most people, and definitely more so than anyone I’ve met.  He lives for the ocean, it gives him energy and then quiets him.  This is important, because otherwise, he has so much energy he bounces all over the house and he’s difficult to deal with.  And all this after he’s run for 10 miles, completed a Suffer Fest video on the bike trainer, and lifted weights.  I’m exhausted just watching him. The only thing that seems to wear him out is surfing, and so we’ve come to the conclusion that we need to live basically on the coast.  But, I will go crazy if I’m taken away from trails for running, so we found the seemingly perfect place: Ventura County, CA.

Ok, ok, so we haven’t been there yet.  We’ve been on a trip to Northern California and Southern California, but never anywhere Central.  In March, we are going to meet up with the family to check out Ventura County and of course, Santa Barbara for vacation.  There’s supposedly good surf there, and supposedly good trails nearby to explore.  I’ve also heard there’s mountain lions… I will crap my pants if I see a mountain lion.  Please, someone tell me they’re just a myth?  Like sharks, right?  Sharks are the main reason I don’t surf more!

So the world didn’t end Friday, but it did signify the beginning of a new era and a new adventure for us.  We can’t wait to live in a sunnier, drier place and begin to lay down some roots.  We’re looking forward to buying a house and becoming part of a new community.  That being said, we sure are going to miss Portland!  What an incredible place we chose to start our lives together.  Portland will always feel like home and I think our new friends are going to turn into old friends.  And I’m definitely going to leave my heart on the Wildwood Trail, where I found myself and my love of running.

Ventura, CA
Ventura, CA

Tears for Sandy Hook and Running in the Darkest Hour

I’ve spent the past few days fluctuating between sheer elation for the gift of life and utter despair for the premature loss of life and hope last Friday.  How can we move forward?  How do we keep our faith in humanity?  I honestly don’t know.

On Friday, my last patient of the day had a 5 year old and a 3 year old.  Two precious babies who were spared from knowing the gory details of the massacre, but who seemed somehow aware that all was not well in the world. My patient’s eyes were glassy as she held them close and tried to participate with therapy.  We both were in a different world though, as we watched her two healthy boys wriggle around, their little faces glowing with wonder.  How? Why?  Who could do this?

On Friday after work, I went for a run.  I didn’t know what else to do, and I was getting ready for the Holiday Half Marathon on Sunday.  I went for 4 miles in the darkness, and let the tears flow.  While I don’t have children of my own, I’ve felt the joys of holding little ones close as a babysitter and as a friend to mothers.  Their eyes, full of life and innocence, can never seem to open wide enough to take in all the world has to offer.  At times I felt numb, and other times so full of emotion that I had to stop, squat down and cry.  It was a healing cry, and a yearning to reach out, to do something.  A cry for help from the Earth to pick us up and put us back together.  Especially our friends in Newtown.

But it felt good to run.  It felt good to go fast and feel something so real that it was terrifying.  While everyone is dealing with this tragedy differently, I feel that it’s important to face the reality that it happened.  And it happened at an elementary school, the most horrible place I can think of for a massacre.

2012 has been a wild and crazy year for just about everyone I know.  A year of trials, a year of lessons, accidents, triumphs, and love to name a few.  On December 21st, 2012, some believe that the world will end, thanks to the Mayan calendar ending on this date.  While I’m not sure that will happen, I do think that we are entering a new era of sorts.  A time to reflect on the changes that need to be made and a time to realize what is really important to us.  So what is really important?  For me, it’s relationships.  Relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with our environment.

Running is the glue that brings all these relationships together.  Running strengthens us physically and ignites within us the inner glow we need to move forward.  Running with others captures the moments that are most raw, when we’re not afraid to be ourselves and seek help from our friends.  And running with the Earth beneath us provides the healing energy needed to keep our faith in humanity.  Running in the darkest hour, like I did on December 14, 2012, can provide us with an inner peace and courage to go towards the light.

While I hope that the world doesn’t end on December 21st, I do hope that we can all continue on our journey, one foot in front of the other. Hopefully, stumbling towards the light.

A QUESTION FOR YOU:  WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT IN YOUR LIFE GOING INTO 2013?

Sandy Hook Parents
Sandy Hook Parents

Final Thoughts on Vivobarefoot Achilles and a Sad Farewell

Well, my toes are officially abnormal.  I was so excited about the Vivobarefoot Achilles, but sadly I had to put them back in the cute little bag they came in and send them home.  Away from my crazy middle toe that cannot be tamed.  My overall impression was good other than my toe issue.  But unfortunately, because of my whacky anatomy, I really couldn’t run over a mile in these little cutie pies.  Take home message for these shoes: Try them on before you buy!

 

Pros: Ground feel, appearance, easy peasy strapping system (somewhat uncommon in running sandals!), zero drop, 3.5 mm stack height, high quality materials, 4.2 oz weight, vegan.  Love the furry friends!  Split toe design provides good stability, no slippage when running.

Cons: Split toe design is not for everyone.  Case in point, check out my misbehavin’ toe below.  Split toe design will take some getting used to for all you folks with a smaller space between big toe and middle toe and will require a period of breaking in.  Blisters could result during the break in time.

 

HAS ANYONE ELSE HAD TROUBLE WITH THE SPLIT TOE/CAGE DESIGN?  I’D LOVE TO HEAR!  PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WITH WHACKY FEET…

 

Bad toe!
Bad toe!

Holiday Half Marathon Preview and Energy Bits?

There comes a time in training for an event that you think to yourself, “Wow, I can never run that mileage that I’m supposed to run during training!”  Then, there’s that pivotal moment when you realize that not only have you done the training, but you’re faster and stronger than before.  That’s the beautiful thing about running.  You only get out of it what you put into it.  So when that moment comes that you realize you’re a BAMF, (I just learned what BAMF means) celebrate your strength and say, “Hey Jack! Hey, you’re gonna do this race boys.”  On a side note, I’ve been watching WAY too much “Duck Dynasty.”  Have y’all ever watched that show?  I think I’m slowly turning into Uncle Si.

This coming weekend, Mike and I are doing the Foot Traffic Holiday Half Marathon in downtown Portland.  I am still putting my costume together.  I’m thinking tacky Christmas underwear over my tights with a Christmas turtleneck.  At the very least, anyway. Now usually, I am content to have a goal of just finishing the race, but for some reason Mike and I both decided to actually go for a PR.  My goal time is 1:45 or around an 8:00 min/mile pace, and Mike’s is 1:30 which is about a 6:45 min/mile pace. Yes, he’s fast!

My husband was hit by a car in April of this year, and ever since then, he has had a zest for life that is difficult to keep up with.  Ok, I’m totally exhausted. He has always been athletic, but I’ve never seen someone so determined to recover from an injury.  He was obsessive about his rehab and has carried that over to his training for the Portland Triathlon in October, (hit by a car and 6 months later racing again) Run Like Hell 10K, and the upcoming Holiday Half Marathon on Dec. 16.  Needless to say, his energy is contagious and I decided to actually try to run faster too.

We found a half marathon training program that was labelled intermediate, but if you ask me, it’s harder than that.  I still have this ingrained fear of running more than 2 days in a row due to my history of injuries over the last 15 years give or take.  I now realize that I can run more than two days in a row, or even three or four, without getting injured due to my barefoot running and veggie fuel.  And I’m a BAMF.  So I’ve been running 30+ miles per week for the last several weeks, which is more mileage than I’ve ever logged during back to back weeks consistently.  That may not sound like much to some, but to me, it’s still not even real.

For fueling runs, I typically use Clif Shot Gels, which have never done me wrong.  But, they may not be as right as I’d like them to be. I’m getting picky now!  All gels in general are pretty sugary, and so even the ones without caffeine can leave me feeling a little jittery at times.  I’ve already known some about the benefits of adding super foods to the diet including spirulina and chlorella, two forms of algae, as I already use Catie’s Greens. Anyway, I was snooping around the Twitter, and I kept seeing posts about bits and Energy Bits and #PoweredByBits.  I was curious, so I checked out their website.  I will go into much greater detail on a later post, but the Energy Bits are basically pure, compacted spirulina. Obviously, an all natural, plant protein superfood magical tablet. Sold.  I talked with one of their ambassadors, Ray Jackson @RayRunsLong who is an ultra runner, and was convinced when he told me they could fuel his long runs.  So long story short, I ordered a bag and off I went.  I will officially review Energy Bits later when I’ve logged more miles with them, but these things are great so far.

So that pivotal moment, the one when I realized that I am going to meet my goal time this weekend, was last night when I ran 8 miles after eating 20 or so Energy Bits.  After skiing 3 hours in the morning. Man, I felt good! So I think I will use the Bits this weekend when I fuel up before the race vs. my usual Clif Gel.  It’s a little scary, but I’m going to take the risk based on how I’ve been feeling while using them.  Just a pure, happy energy during running.

In the meantime, a QUESTION FOR YOU!  WHAT DO YOU USE FOR FUEL, and WOULD YOU EVER TRY ENERGY BITS?

Jingle Bell Run Review and Portland Monsoon Season

This time of year in Portland, OR is infamous for forcing one to question their own sanity for choosing to live in this place.  This place where it rains ALL THE TIME.  When the interstates are flooded and cars are stalling out due to high water in a place like this, you KNOW it’s seriously pouring outside.  Apparently, the Pineapple Express from Hawaii is here, and it’s also wreaking havoc in Northern Cali.  The Pineapple Express might sound like a happy little train with pineapples and tropical joy, but it’s actually the monsoon that’s beating on my windows and convincing my two little dogs that they should stay inside instead of ducking their head into the wind and rain to go out and poop.

meh... too much rain señorita
meh… too much rain señorita
Mom, it's raining out
Mom, it’s raining out

Unfortunately, the ugly Pineapple also wreaked havoc on some big races in California over the weekend.  The California International Marathon in Sacramento looked like a scene from the movie 2012, and the North Face Endurance Challenge was cancelled on Sunday after Saturday’s 50 milers got pummeled by the storm. http://instagram.com/p/Sv_wFIl8oY/

Miraculously, on Sunday morning in Portland, the clouds lifted and the sun shined brightly on all of us Jingle Bell Runners.  It was predicted that we were going to be destroyed by heavy rains, but instead it was quite the opposite.  The big orange ball in the sky was nearly alien as it pushed its head through the clouds and we all stared at it bewildered and blinded as we tried to find our place in the lineup.  Dumb and blinking like crazy, I asked someone, “Where in the heck do the runners go?”

“Left!” he said, looking to the right.  Finally, I think we got lined up in the correct spot, where other runners were waiting for the gun.

The Jingle Bell Run is a nationwide event that benefits the Arthritis Foundation and is a wonderful fundraiser.  At our event, there was even a costume contest before the race which Mike and I of course, took very seriously.  I raided the thrift stores and found the perfect Mrs. Claus and Santa outfits.  Mike and I decided not to race this one, but instead run with friends, which made our costumes even more fun to parade around in.  We were also able to meet up with the Portland Barefoot Runners before the race, and they were hysterical as always.  The chapter president’s husband was wearing women’s red lingerie with jingle bells on his ta tas, making him the unofficial winner of the BEST costume at the entire event.

Also, our wonderful co-worker Becky was there with her husband Shane and their cute little elf, Bella.  Bella won the cutest elf award, that’s for sure.  Becky had on a killer christmas sweater, and Shane was Buddy the Elf.  I LOVE BUDDY THE ELF!  They are great runners, and Bella is surely going to be a runner herself!  She loves to be in the stroller in the fresh air, and apparently sings along as Shane and Becky run.  CUTE!

Mrs. Claus and Santa
Mrs. Claus and Santa

Our friends Ellen and Nate decided to run, and it was Ellen’s first race.  It was very exciting to be able to run with them for Ellen’s first 5K!  Nate and Ellen made it clear that they were not planning on running with Mike and I and that we could go on ahead, but we had other plans.  We decided to force them to run with us, even though we were embarrassing as Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Ellen’s goal was primarily to run the entire race and secondly to come in under 35 minutes, a great goal for her first race.  I had my Garmin watch and knew that if we kept at least an 11 minute/mi pace we would come in under 35 minutes.

Before the gun, I took off my Xero Shoes/huaraches and prepared for my very first totally barefoot race.  The ground was pretty cold, so I tried to dance around in place and ignore all the open mouthed stares.  Surely, they must have just been admiring my green and red painted toe nails.  They were sparkly.

Sparkly toenails
Sparkly toenails

The gun went off and slowly we started to ease forward toward the starting line where we got held for the second wave.  Finally, we crossed the timing mat and off we went through the streets of Portland, the alien sun pressing on our shoulders.  The streets of Portland are ROUGH!  It took me about a half a mile to really get used to the feeling of the chewed up asphalt streets.  We started out just a little slower than our goal pace, so after getting the ok from Ellen, we quickened our steps and quickly got down to 11 minutes.  The race was out and back, so it wasn’t too long before we started seeing the speedsters heading back towards the finish line.  It was really exhilarating to see everyone go by!  I got to see a couple of the barefooters flying by, light and nimble.

Finally, we started the ascent up the bridge to the turnaround spot.  Halfway already!! And Ellen was looking great with Nate by her side.  While the hill on the bridge didn’t bother me, the bridge surface was really rough!  That was the main area where I noticed my feet.  Ouch, my feet were a little tender at that point.  I found some relief however, when I began running on the white lines of the road.  We turned around and headed back down the bridge, breathing a sigh of relief that we were halfway done.  I was secretly hoping that Ellen wasn’t paying attention to the Negative Nancy next to us complaining about how we were only halfway and she’d never make it to the finish.  Our glasses were half full, whereas hers was apparently half empty.

On our way back to the finish line, we had the chance to see all the walkers who were more dressed up in costume than the runners.  They were so entertaining!  To top it all off, Mike was literally yelling “HO HO HO!!!” the entire way back with Mrs. Claus at his side cracking up, asking the childrens what they wanted for Christmas.  I had a lot of pointing and staring at my feet too!  All of the sudden, we rounded the corner onto the riverfront, and we were about a half a mile from the finish line.  As the finish line loomed into view, I saw Ellen put her head down and get ready to dig in for the finish.  She looked determined.

We all charged across the finish line at what turned out to be about 34:55, 5 seconds to spare for her 35 minute goal.  We were all so excited! I had such a good time running that race with Nate and Ellen, because I loved seeing the pure grit and strength from Ellen as she powered through the race.  Afterward, she looked like pure joy as she told the barefooters her time and that she was able to run the WHOLE RACE!  She was so proud, and it was delightful to see her glowing face after she crossed the finish for the first time.  Mike and I could have tried for a new PR, but I truly think we had a much better time seeing the results of Ellen’s hard work after completing the Couch to 5K program.  So while the costumes were fun, the highlight of the race was seeing a new runner spread her wings, so to speak.  So Ellen, welcome to health, welcome to your new-found strength, and welcome to your new status.  You’re a runner!

Mike, Leigh, Nate and Ellen
Mike, Leigh, Nate and Ellen

IMG_0629Running this race barefoot was also significant for me and my cause to promote barefoot running.  I was told in my early twenties that I had decreased space in my right hip as seen on XRAY, possibly indicating early onset osteoarthritis.  This, I was told, may lead to the need for a hip replacement at a young age.  Afterall, I had a leg length discrepancy, the right leg was just going to take more stress and that’s it and that’s all.  At the time, of course, I was trying to run in the most supportive shoes on the market, leading to higher impact on the ground with my right heel as my foot searched for the hard surface, leading to more hip pain and inflammation.  My light, low impact barefoot running style has eradicated any trace of hip pain, knee pain, etc.  Welcome to a stronger body and a peaceful mind, as the foot just barely kisses the ground while traveling forward.  Along with healthy, plant based eating, barefoot running may just be the key to maintaining a healthy weight and building lower extremity strength, thereby reducing stress on joints.  Reducing the stress will decrease inflammation and deterioration of the joint space, greatly reducing the number of osteoarthritis cases.  So for me, the Jingle Bell Run for the Arthritis Foundation was my chance to demonstrate to others that they have other options besides the most expensive shoes on the market and custom orthotics.  I know that if I had seen other folks running races barefoot back when I was arthritic, I would have done my homework sooner.  Luckily, we had a great turnout from the Portland Barefoot Runners, so there were several examples of healthy, barefoot runners.

Next race will be Portland Holiday Half Marathon!! Stay tuned for more holiday costume madness.  Hopefully the Portland Monsoon will take a hiatus again for the Holiday Half and our orange, spherical alien friend will come back to join us. For an hour or two anyway.

First Impression Vivobarefoot Achilles for Women

Yesterday I got my new Vivobarefoot Achilles in the mail, and I was so excited to run in them for the first time today.  I went skiing all day at Mt. Hood, so I knew I would only go a short distance, but couldn’t resist taking them out for a test drive.  By the way, Mt. Hood Meadows was off the hook!   Great new snow today, had a great time with Mike and Kyle.

The Achilles are a little odd looking 🙂  But that’s never stopped me before, so I took them out for a short 1 mile run because my legs were a little sore from skiing.  I think their appearance is already growing on me and I really like the strapping system. IMG_0613

I will do a full review on the Achilles after I put some more mileage, but here are my initial thoughts:  My left foot took issue with the plastic betwixt (I love the word betwixt and will use it at any opportunity) the toes, and I might have even developed a little blister on my left middle toe if I’d gone further.  This was an issue for some other reviewers as well.  I do think one could get used to this if devoted to running in them.  Other than that, my left foot was so happy and free in the Achilles!

My right foot had an entirely different issue.  My right foot has questionable anatomy, possibly even a little abnormal.  Yes, I will admit I’m abnormal.  I have an extremely large space between my big toe and my middle toe.  Seriously, I could fit another big toe in that space.  When I was in high school, my friend’s mom was convinced that I’d lost a toe, and she had to resort to slowly counting my toes to be sure that I had all my appendages.  Anyway, the result of this deformity is that my right middle toe was like a misbehaving child in my new Achilles.  My middle toe kept jumping out of its little plastic cage and trying to wander away.  This was really a problem, especially at the beginning of the run, but seemed to get better somehow. Time will tell if this is really a problem for me, my wild ass middle toe.  I wonder if it was because I had my foot crammed in a ski boot the entire day and the toe couldn’t be restrained any longer? Run free middle toe.  Other than this issue, I know that running in them would have been pure bliss.

Bad toe!
Bad toe!
abnormal toes
abnormal toes

 

The Bent Knee Concept + Jingle Bell Run Preview

I am currently reading Barefoot Ken Bob’s Book, Barefoot Running, Step by Step, and I highly recommend it.  Barefoot Ken Bob was one of the first people that I’d heard of as a barefoot runner, and that he was the master, the guru, THE MAN.  I’d checked out his website several times, and all I really remember from that was that every other line he was saying, “Bend your knees!”  I didn’t really appreciate this though, until I started reading his book.

Ken Bob has been running barefoot his entire life, mostly out of necessity, due to his sensitivities running in shoes.  Because he has been running for so long barefoot, and because he is THE MAN, he really has some of the best words of wisdom on barefoot running out there. If you haven’t checked out his website or his book, PLEASE do it.

This weekend, I went for a long run on the Wildwood Trail, my home away from home.  I went solo because Mike went surfing, and decided I would try some COLD barefoot trail running.  It was about 37 degrees when I started, so I knew I would have some cold feet if I didn’t warm up first.  I was wearing my VFF Spyridons for the first 9 miles, then took them off for the last 5+ miles for some sweet sole time on the trail.  During the time that I was wearing my Spyridons, I really tried to think about this bent knee deal.  I know that I always bend my knees when I land, but I get the feeling that it’s not ENOUGH.  So I really got into this, and even thought about the image that Ken Bob uses with his landing, which is this:  Your forefoot should swoop into the ground like an airplane coming in for landing.  What?  Yes, that’s right, turn your foot into an airplane.  The point is, if the knee is bent enough, this is quite easy to do.  Sure enough, I was really exaggerating this knee bend on landing, and I started feeling like an airplane.  And my legs started spinning underneath me like I was riding a bicycle.  It was nearly effortless!  It’s funny that I’m using all these other forms of transportation to describe how it felt to run, but honestly, it still shocks me that running can be this easy.  That it can be this rewarding and feel this good.

Going downhill, on level ground and slight uphill did actually feel effortless.  Going up steep hills on the other hand, I don’t think I’ve quite mastered the bent knee there.  Since I used to be a booty runner, I still have that tendency to bend at the waist when going uphill.  I’m constantly reminding myself to tuck my butt and lean my whole body into the hill, not just my upper half. Going downhills, I was FLYING.  I decided to relax into the downhill more than ever and really let the knees bend, giving into gravity instead of resisting it.  It was fantastic, and I felt more confident than I ever have.  I didn’t slip as much in the mud either, because I wasn’t resisting, I was just going with it.

I ran the last 5+ miles barefoot on the trail, which was wildly entertaining.  That is my longest barefoot trail run so far, and you can bet I’ll be doing a lot more of it.  There is simply no other feeling or connection like barefoot trail running.  The pine cones, sticks, leaves, and mud that come in contact with the feet is something that you never feel otherwise.  I never realized how much I was depriving myself by keeping my feet cast away in sloppy, soggy, wet shoes and socks before.

However, I forget that I am still very much the minority among runners and hikers, especially when I run into people like the Tracksuit Poodle Man. Tracksuit Poodle Man is a regular on WW Trail, but this was the first time I’ve seen him when I was totally barefoot. In case you’re wondering, TPM has two standard white poodles that he dresses head to toe in shiny track suits.  I’m laughing out loud just thinking about them!!  They’re always perfectly groomed little boogers, so they stick out quite a bit in the muddy wilderness with their prim and proper outfits.  He’s one of my favorite characters though, so as I was running towards him, I said my usual, “Hi, how are you?” while trying not to crack up.

He looked like he might be sick as he was staring at my bare feet.  “Looks like you forgot something at home,” he growled, still looking vomitous.  Well, I suppose not everyone is a fan of us barefooters.  But then again, when looking at me versus TPM, an outsider would probably say we are both a little odd.

What is up with the gravel though?  I suppose they’re trying to prevent erosion, so they lay down gravel along sections of the trail.  This does not help the barefooters’ image (we all know image is the most important thing right?) because as I was running past the fellow hikers on the trail, I would frequently get the question, “Barefoot eh?  How’s that?”

If it happened to be on a gravel section, which happened a few times, I would grit my teeth and say a little too loudly, “It’s GREAT!  BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!”  Under my breath, I was cursing the gravel.  I have to admit though, the gravel was serving a purpose other than supposedly preventing erosion.  It was preparing my feet for this weekend, The Jingle Bell Run in downtown Portland!!  In case you haven’t seen the roads in downtown Portland, they appear to be eaten, chewed up, spit out and pooped on.  Hopefully not pooped on.  But seriously, those are the roughest asphalt roads I have ever seen/felt in my life.  During the Portland Marathon, the rough roads taunted me when my mental strength started to waver.  And I was wearing my VFFs.  This weekend though, no sir, I’ll be barefoot!

This race benefits the Arthritis Foundation. I happen to firmly believe that my barefoot running prevents me from having early onset osteoarthritis, so I will definitely be barefoot.  I will also be Mrs. Claus and Mike will be Santa!  I did lots of thrift store shopping today, here is a sneak peek of my costume.  Full body Mrs. Claus shots to come, but only after the race.  She’s killer.  One thing’s for sure, this Mrs. Claus will be bent knee barefootin’ through the streets of Portland this weekend!

Pilates & Running Go Together Like PB & J

A few months ago, my sister innocently posted a link on my Facebook page that talked about sustainable living and an eco-village in Costa Rica where the kind folks live in tree houses.  With one click to that page, my sister had created a monster.  Mike has been talking about moving to Costa Rica ever since I met him, so one mention of this place, and he was in the other room packing.  Here is a link to the photo gallery of the original village we liked, called Finca Bella Vista.  How can you resist?  A sustainable eco-village where we can raise our kids off the land and have fresh fruits and vegetables year round?  A simpler, more fulfilling existence where we can tread lightly on the earth and possibly play with monkeys?  Yes please! 

Then, we found another village that seemed to be a bit closer to the ocean, which is necessary for Mike to be able to surf. This village was called Osa Mountain Village, and the entire property is a giant, living, growing salad.  Want a mango?  Walk out your door and eat it.   Just one problem:  After researching for a few weeks, I discovered that it would take up to four years to obtain a physical therapy license in Costa Rica, and maybe longer to obtain citizenship to work there.  Crap.  Then, I had another glimmer of hope when I saw that you can start a business at Osa Mountain Village, and they needed a Pilates studio.  Great! I’ve taken a handful of classes at my gym, I like Pilates!  I could just own a Pilates studio.  Again, unfortunately, Costa Rican law makes it nearly impossible to work as a foreigner in their country, so we reluctantly gave up our Costa Rican dream.

This ridiculous story does have a point.  As crazy as it sounds, this was the beginning of my journey to Pilates.  The Costa Rican dream made me realize that while I probably can’t and shouldn’t move to Costa Rica, perhaps I should do something for myself here in the ol’ US of A to enrich my life.  I began researching Pilates, and I found the STOTT method of  Pilates, which happens to have a rehab certification for physical therapists.  Of course, I live in Portland, which happens to be the home of Pacific NW Pilates, the Harvard of STOTT Pilates training.  I decided that before I embark upon the journey to rehab certification, I should probably start actually practicing Pilates.  I remembered driving by Poise Studio in Beaverton and began checking out the website.  Poise is a boutique studio located in a funky, old house in Beaverton where they have Pilates, yoga, belly dancing, and other special series.  I discovered they actually practiced the STOTT method there, and so I quickly signed up for my first “Intro” class the following week.

My “Intro” class was enlightening.  Jacki was my instructor, and I was actually the only person taking the class that day, which was to be followed by the regular evening Mat Pilates class.  What I immediately noticed was how small the classrooms are, creating an intimate and focused atmosphere.  Jacki and I got to talking and I found out that she is actually a physical therapy student at Pacific University, what are the chances?  I was excited to find out this information, because I realized that this person has a strong background in anatomy and the way the body moves.  The evening class followed with about 4 other people that night, and Jacki made sure that I was comfortable and she provided necessary tactile cues when I flopped awkwardly into different positions.  Jacki is a wonderful instructor, evidenced by the group of folks that show up to her evening classes religiously.  She is soft spoken, has a familiar order to her classes that make them seem homey, and yet she still manages to teach me something new each class I take with her.

And then, I met Alli Breen.  Alli can only be described as the most passionate and meticulous Pilates and fitness instructor I’ve ever come across.  In addition to teaching Pilates, she is also a Pilates Fusion instructor and wellness expert.  Her journey to health is an inspiring one, which can be seen on her new website, Today Is Your Tomorrow.  She also has a podcast which is super fun to listen to!   While I don’t know all the details, I know that she is a vegan and she has lost quite a bit of weight over the past couple of years.  Here is a picture I found on her website that gives one an idea of just how far she’s come. 

One of her star students, Jillian, said the other day during our advanced mat pilates course, “When people tell me Pilates is easy, I tell them they’re not doing it right and they’d better train with Alli.”  This is true, you will never have an “easy” class if Alli’s teaching it.  There are many a time when I have found myself zoning out and thinking about something else, only to be quickly snapped out of it by Alli’s wrath.

“LEIGH! FIX YOUR SHOULDERS!  What are you doing with your ribs?  Your knees!  YOU KNOW BETTER!”  Oops!  Haha, I just laugh and fix my form.  Afterall, I want to have near perfect form, if a long term goal of mine is to teach Pilates to my patients.  I’ve learned that form, awareness, activation of core musculature, and breathing is key to one’s success in Pilates.  Since balance is also a key concept in Pilates, it’s likely that you’ll fall on your face eventually if you make a habit of snoozing in class.  Because we don’t typically use weights in Pilates, it is important that movements are purposeful to effectively use your own body weight to develop strength and grace during transitions.   

In the 3 months that I’ve been taking Pilates at Poise, Alli and Jacki have really helped me with these concepts not only in class, but in life in general.  Thanks to the mental focus and increased core strength, I’ve been able to carry my new body awareness over to running.  One of my favorite things to do is take the 9:00 AM Pilates class with Alli and follow that with a long training run on a Saturday.  I have had some of my best runs after this, because my core muscles and lateral hips are already activated, providing the perfect foundation for my running posture.

A common misconception about running is that movement is only occurring in the sagittal plane or forward and backward, but mostly forward of course :).  However, running is truly a multidirectional movement, as the trunk must rotate as we jump from one leg to the other, and the pelvis needs to be stabilized to avoid too much rotation and lateral tilt.  For these reasons, it is vitally important that runners have a strengthening program that focuses on core strength to include the lateral muscles of the hips.

I have known this for most of my life thanks to my marathon mama, so I have been regularly going to a gym ever since the dreaded gray sweatpants day.  My gym routine has evolved greatly over the years however, going from using mostly machines, to free weights to mostly my own body weight.  I used the Bosu, the stability ball, a decline ab bench, maybe one set of dumbbells, and an exercise mat at the gym and had a fantastic routine if I may say so myself.  I was going to Bally’s in Beaverton, which had a giant core workout area, and I regularly had it to myself or shared it with the trainers.  It was HUGE!  Then, tragically, Bally’s was taken over by LA Fitness and they quickly closed our gym.  We were shuffled over to a pre-existing LA Fitness in Beaverton, which became overcrowded with both the original LA Fitness members plus the Bally’s folks.  The worst part about this new meat market, er, gym, aside from the excessive grunting, and talk of biceps and protein shakes was the “core” area.  The “core” area was a narrow corridor with way too much equipment that might make you claustrophobic with a meer glance.  As I walked up to the front desk on my first day there, I tried to ignore the stares and grunts from the meat gallery.  What is it about certain gyms??  They all have a different vibe.  Anyway, once at the front desk, I asked, “Is this your only area for core/body weight workouts?”

“What do you mean?  We have a great core area with stability balls, mats and mirrors!  And did you see all of our machines?  I can give you a tutorial if you’d like!”  While this guy was obviously enthusiastic about his job, he didn’t really get it.  The trainers on the other hand, shared my exasperation with the limited amount of space to do body weight exercises.  I heard them complain continuously about the space issue, which got worse as they put old equipment in the corridor, crowding it further.  Needless to say, after I began Pilates, I quit going to the gym.  I quit because I obviously was unhappy with the gym, but I wanted to do an experiment.  Could Pilates be enough?  Could I continue to run injury free with just Pilates?

The answer surprises me.  Not only am I continuing to run injury free, I’d venture to say that I’m running stronger than ever.  I’m practicing Pilates 2-3 times per week in addition to running and eating well, and my core and hips feel and look healthier than ever.  Another bonus was that I lost the pesky 3-4 pounds that I couldn’t seem to shed, no matter how I altered my gym routine.  I’m noticing the biggest difference in the way my legs look and feel.  They’re much lighter as I’m running, and I’m starting to appreciate the way they look!  I suppose we all have our trouble spots that we have a hard time accepting, but with Pilates and a new appreciation for the way my body moves, I have more confidence than I’ve ever had.  A positive body image is so important for overall health and wellbeing, and I believe I have achieved that after searching since my awkward teen years.  The body change is evident to me in the following photos.  The first image is from Eugene Marathon in April 2012, when I was at least 4 pounds heavier.  The second image is from Portland Marathon in October 2012, after I’d been practicing Pilates for a couple of months:

At least I was smiling!!

While running these days, I also notice my mental focus is unwavering.  Today, my husband and I decided to go on a 12 mile trail run in Forest Park.  It was a moody, Portland day, but markedly better weather than yesterday when it poured most of the day.  There is a giant, long hill in Forest Park that my homegirl, Christy, and I are not a fan of.  Mike, on the other hand, practically lusts after this hill.  There’s something wrong with him, he really enjoys sprinting up hills.  Ever since he was hit by a car in April, he has had this unbelievable zest for life and is on a quest to be a FAST runner and triathlete.  We are running the Holiday Half Marathon on December 16th, and he has a goal time of 1:30, which I’m pretty sure he will destroy.  It’s a beautiful thing, really.  Anyway, today when running up the dreaded hill, I honestly felt great.  Sometimes, I felt like I could even hear Alli, “Don’t you quit!”  My focus was on point, and my form was precise and purposeful as I took each switchback up the beast.  As I was applauding my mental stamina thanks to Pilates, I was simulataneously questioning my husband’s mental stability.  A few minutes before, at the bottom of the hill, Mike flew past me foaming at the mouth.

“I’LL SEE YOU AT THE TOP!!!” he shrieked with his head thrown back and a wild ass look in his eyes.  He was like a rabid dog being released from its cage, devouring the hill with a satisfaction of which no sane human would be capable.  I got to the top of the first switchback, and he was gone.  Already flying up beyond where I could see.  What the hell?  I got to the top of the hill, which was our designated meeting spot, and all I saw was Mike’s water bottle sitting on the picnic table.  I calmly waited, unsure if Mike was going to pop out of the trees.  Was he puking from sprinting up the hill?  Peeing?  Pooping?  Anything is possible.  Just when I was about to start searching, he tore up the fire lane where I was standing.  Oh.  Since he apparently didn’t get enough hill from tackling the beast, he decided to go run the firelane hill too, just for kicks.  “THAT WAS GREAT!!”  Oh good lord.

I truly do believe that Pilates and running go together like PB&J.  Pilates is the perfect strengthening routine for runners because of the emphasis on mental awareness/focus and activating the core via flexion, extension,lateral, and rotatory movements.  Poise Studio is a wonderful place that seems to embody the Pilates movement and teachings.  The fantastic instructors there really make a difference.  I would encourage others to seek out a Pilates studio with educated instructors who are certified in the STOTT method.  I promise, if you have a great instructor, Pilates definitely could never be easy.  And even if we never make it to Costa Rica, at least I found Pilates!  But I still want to live in a treehouse…