Monday, December 31, 2018

Reflecting on 2018


It was a year of ups and downs for me with my running this year.  I had the motivation and desire to run the races, but one injury after another prevented me from performing well.  This does not mean that I didn’t have fun or a good year, just that my finish times weren’t what I wanted. 

I finished the year out with a total of ten marathons and two 50K’s, each one in a different state.  Nine new states were completed and now I only have two states left to complete my 50 states marathon journey.

Running aside, we traveled to some pretty cool places this year too.  Our favorites were New York City, Iceland, and the Grand Canyon.  

I think the biggest thing that happened this year was the decision to build a new house and move next summer.  The wheels got set in motion and we designed our home and I’ve begun to pack up some of our belongings as we prepare to list our current house for sale.  

Our Valhalla

2019 will be here in a few hours.  It whole new year and a fresh start.  I have some goals, but only one resolution.  Just to keep it simple.  Stop overcomplicating things.  Get rid of the clutter.  Worry less.  Don’t feel that things need to be perfect.  Quit trying to get it all done.  Let less be more.  

**All my cute outfits are by Skirt Sports. My discount code is 857STIN for 15% off.  Click here --->

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Hawaiian Rules

     On vacation in Hawaii many years ago, I purchased a postcard that had the “Hawaiian Rules” on them.  It was a series of sayings that resonated with me.  I framed the postcard and it has been hanging on a wall in my house for nearly 20 years.  I’ll be headed to Hawaii soon to complete state 49 on my 50 states marathon quest.  Before I say aloha to another marathon I thought I’d share my thoughts on these rules as best I can relate them to running.  

Never judge a day by the weather.

      Just because the day isn’t all rainbows and unicorns when you get up doesn’t mean you can’t make the best of it.  So what if it’s raining cats and dogs, snowing, cold, or gale force winds.  I won’t let that stop me from doing my best at a race.  You can control most everything about your training.  You are in charge of the time, speed, and effort you put out.  The one thing that is totally out of your control is the weather.  If there’s a 99% chance of rain, there’s a 100% chance that I don’t give a crap what the weatherman is saying. Sometimes I swear there is a black cloud that follows me to races.  Friends used to ask me what events I planned on attending, then they would choose another race because they knew if I was going there would be bad weather.  I’ve just learned to embrace the suck.  The bonus is you do feel kind of badass when you finish an race in really nasty weather.  
100K on a rainy day, 38 degrees and 40 mph winds. 

The best things in life aren’t things.

     I’d rather have a life that is full of adventures instead of things.  In a few months I’ll have traveled to and run a marathon in every state in the U.S.  The experiences that I’ve had from running and travel are worth far more to me than any object.  I’d rather have stories to tell, not stuff to show.
I have lots of stories to tell after running every street in my town.

Tell the truth - there’s less to remember.

     Don’t lie to yourself and say you are not a “real” runner.  I hear that comment so often from people.  They belittle themselves because they don’t think they are as fast or can’t go as far as someone else.  There’s no need for comparison.  Simply put, if you run-you are a runner. 
     I also hear of people that cheat themselves out of their own victories.  If you took third place in your age group, that is a huge thing.  The rest of the world doesn’t care if there was only three people in your age group.  You don’t need to put an asterisk mark after your achievement.  
     It’s also ok if running doesn’t always make you feel good and that you struggle for motivation.  If we are honest about these things, we find that others likely feel the same way.
My award for overall 3rd place woman at a 12 hour race this month.

Speak softly and wear a loud shirt.

     Although running isn’t a fashion show it’s ok to be loud and proud.  Wear something out there, dye your hair, show off your tattoos.  I think everyone knows that I wear fun patterned skirts when I run.  I can’t even tell you how many times something I was wearing generated a conversation with a total stranger on a race course.  Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of guys dressed in kilts or firemen in full uniform at races.  Whether it is for fun or for a cause, it is certainly attracts attention.  One time I finished a race just a few minutes ahead of a guy dressed in a banana suit and another fellow wearing an Elvis costume.  In hindsight, I should have slowed down and ran the last mile of the marathon in with them, because that would have been one awesome finish photo.
Some of my loud clothes.

Goals are deceptive - the unaimed arrow never misses.

     Would you rather have guaranteed success at something easy or risk failure at something hard?  I’d rather fail epically at something challenging. It’s totally fine to have a big hairy audacious goal.  Maybe you’ll finish it or maybe you won’t.  But you never know unless you try it.  I had no idea if I’d finish a 100 mile trail race on foot the first time I set out to do it.  You know what?  I didn’t finish it the first time.  But it didn’t stop me from going after it another time and achieving that goal.  Think big, aim that arrow at something.  You might surprise yourself.
I hit the bullseye! Five marathons in five states in five days.  

He who dies with the most toys - still dies.

     Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy running shoes and that’s kind of the same thing.  Running is a fairly cheap sport, they say it is cheaper than therapy.  I’m starting to creep up on my 100th marathon and since race entries don’t grow on trees, I’m starting to think therapy would have been cheaper.  As far as running gear goes, no one is going to care if I have the nicest running shoes or best GPS watch in the cemetery, right?  

Age is relative - when you’re over the hill, you pick up speed.
     A lot of people don’t even start running until they are in their 40’s.  This is especially true for ultra marathons, at least most of the ones I’ve been to have a lot of entrants are in their 40’s and over.  I remember watching a video of Gunhild Swanson at age 70 finishing the 2015 Western States 100 miler with SIX seconds to spare before the cutoff time.  I met her the next year at Western States, she’s an amazing lady.  She’s currently 74 years of age and still running.  This past weekend, 70 year old Gene Dykes just broke the marathon world record for his age group in a time of 2:54 at the Jacksonville Marathon.   That is an hour faster than my fastest time, and I was 25 when I ran that.  That sure inspires me to try harder.
My first marathon, 1994.  Still my PR.

There are two ways to be rich - make more money or desire less.

     Some people may see the ultimate goal of running to have fast times.  I felt that way for awhile and I still do occasionally.  However, my times are not what they used to be.  Some of that is weight gain, age and injury related.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not getting anything out of running.  I’m just not currently viewing fast times as the “wealth” of running.  It’s ok to change your goals to suit your needs.   My times may not be what they were back when I started this journey, but my priorities also changed.  I’m satisfied with what I’m doing. Enjoy your running “wealth” however you find it.  Make the best of what you have now, sometimes that’s all you get anyway.  
Going for a run with Kirby and Zuzu, that's priceless. 

Beauty is internal - looks mean nothing.

      Never judge a book by it’s cover.  I used to compare myself to others at the starting line of a race, wondering if I might be faster or stronger than someone else.  I don’t do that any more, I’ve learned that although people many not look a certain way, it doesn’t mean they can’t finish before you in a race.  They may be stronger than you think and mentally tougher than you. 

No rain - no rainbows.  

     Your effort is the rain and achieving your goal is the rainbow.  Only you can control your training and your desire to finish.  Friends and family can be there to motivate and support you, but you have to get out there and train.  Sometimes there is struggle involved in success, this just makes it more worthwhile.

Aloha and mahalo my running ‘ohana!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Zen and the Art of DNF


I recently read a blog post at It was written by my friend Daniel.  To me, he is kind of a legend.  He has done some pretty amazing stuff. And by pretty amazing, I mean some FREAKING hardcore races.  This guy just finished a 200 mile footrace in the mountains.  He has done the Arrowhead 135, a 135 mile footrace in Minnesota in the dead of winter.  He’s done it several times. He has finished many 100 mile races and a bunch of other really hard stuff.  I feel like a baby ultra runner next to this guy.  Yet he treats me like a respected colleague. He is signed up for Iditarod 350.  That’s a 350 mile footrace across Alaska on the Iditarod trail, alone in the winter.  
In his blog post he wrote about a 100 mile footrace he recently attempted.  His race  did not go the way he had hoped.  He said (what I sometimes feel at races) “The negative thoughts were relentless.  I wanted to quit. The feeling of being a fraud and not belonging there overwhelmed me.  I was regressing and had no answers.  Frustration and disappointment continued to grow.”  
My first DNF-Mile 35 of a 50 miler

Part of his blogging project (like mine) was to be more open, sharing new thoughts and experiences.  I don’t know why it shocks me that other people have these same feelings.  I’ve had several DNF’s (Did Not Finish) at ultra distance events.  I’ve been out there struggling to not drop from a race.  I felt guilty for being so selfish and wasting everyones time.  It upsets me to think my husband took time off from work and my dogs are in the kennel when I could be home with them.  I’ve spent money on gas or plane tickets, hotels, race entry fees all for nothing.  I’ve told myself that maybe I’m not cut out for this or that I’m weak because I’ve quit a race.  I have felt like I would disappoint my friends and family by giving up. I also have felt like a fraud, that I wasn’t cut out for this stuff.  I have felt that the race distance was too big an obstacle for me to suffer through.  Yet, somedays after all that suffering, you can still push yourself back out there and suffer some more and still quit later.  I have even more than once wished I could just have an injury happen on the trail just so I could stop running and have a good reason to quit.  Who thinks like that?  I have when I was at my lowest point during a race.  I know times like those, I’m just depressed and not thinking rationally.   I’ve at times had a whole box of excuses specially wrapped up just so I could call it a day and be done with that race.  Sometimes I open that box and pull out an excuse, other times I leave it wrapped up and put it back up on the shelf.  

DNF'd this one too, around mile 50

A few weeks ago, I ran a race with my friend Sue.  In preparation we had been running trails weekly as part of her training for a trail 50K.  It wasn’t going to be her first 50K but it had been a long time since her last one.  We trained in rain, heat, more rain and more heat.  But come race day it was a deluge. It rained harder than I’ve seen in a long time.  We got to the half marathon distance and called it a day.  We both really wanted to get the 50K done but the weather was do bad that the trails became too unsafe to run on.  The steep drop offs on muddy, slick trails were just an injury (or worse) waiting to happen. The water runoff on the trail was so bad that it actually had a current.  The river even started to overflow its banks. It was difficult to make the decision to stop so early at a race, but we both knew the chance of an injury was likely to happen.  There is a fine line between toughness and stupidity.  The decision to stop was easier for me than for Sue.  She had more riding on it.  I knew she would feel the same way I felt after my first DNF.  But I knew she would later be happy knowing that she could live to run another day and not be dealing with a long term injury because of being stubborn and continuing to run.  

Sue and I - before the rain started
       What this all boils down to is what most people haven’t dealt with.  That when a runner gets a DNF or a time that is not what they want...most of the world does not care.  Their friends and family are happy that they made the “right decision” and did what was best.  They stopped their race because of lighting, rain, snow, downed power lines, flooding, wild animals, or just because they didn’t want to keep going.  I stopped at mile 50 of a 100 miler race once and my only reason was that I just wasn’t having fun.  I didn’t enjoy it that day.  My parents, brother, husband, dogs, are not nearly as upset about a DNF as I am.   They are as happy for my victories as I am.  But they also can understand why I stop and are glad that I have the sense to do that sometimes.  They never ask me why I didn’t try harder.  They know that I already gave it all I had that day.  Another day I may have more.  But that day, It was all I had.  And that was enough. I’ve realized that I never disappoint anyone but myself.  My husband will always be happy that I got as far as I did, that I was uninjured and he knows I’ll try it again some other time.  

And another DNF at a 100 miler

In the meantime, Daniel, Sue and I all continue to seek a way out of our own ruts.   I hope that Daniel will see that while sometimes he sees himself as a fraud, that others see him as a source of inspiration. That Sue will know that she was smart and did the right thing by stopping her race when she did. She will achieve all her goals, but it will have to wait for another day.  

If you are an ultra runner and you haven’t yet DNF’d, they you just haven’t run enough races, because sooner or later it  will happen. DNF’s are more typical in ultra running than in shorter races.  There is no guarantee you will make it to the finish.  I have regretted dropping out of some races and wished that I just sat down and took a break instead of turning in my bib. I’ve been through the wringer at races and quit based on my emotions before and I probably will again.  But I grow from it, I learn from it and I’m more at peace with it when I do. Sometimes the DNF even motivates me to try harder at the next event.  
Trying not to DNF this race

I am very thankful for all my race finishes.  I appreciate the 5K all the way up to the 100 mile finishes.  I've finished way more races than I've DNF'd.  But I have also had some pretty wonderful DNF’s.  I’ve DNF’d 50k’s, 50 miles, 100k’s, 100 miles, even 200 miles.  I’ve met some awesome people, seen some pretty cool parts of the country that I would never have otherwise seen, and ran some beautiful trails.  I’ve enjoyed almost all of it, even if it winds up with as a DNF.  My most spectacular DNF was at  mile 128.66 of that 200 mile race.   It was the most beautiful failure I have ever had.  Yes, I remember it all the way to the .66 of the mile.  I never round it up or down.  It was my beautiful DNF.  I gave everything I had until the point that I knew I was either going to be injured for a long time, or I would survive and live to run another day.   So I stopped there.  I love to say that I DNF’d a race at 128.66 miles because it makes no sense to most people.  But to me, it makes all the sense in the world. Sometimes, we just need to be stubborn in a smart way.  

My favorite DNF

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Letter To My Younger Self


Define yourself.  Worry less about what other people think.  Concern yourself with how you think.  You are your own worst critic anyway.  You will learn that you are stronger and far more capable than you ever thought you were.  

When asked to join the track team in high school, say yes.  You have no idea how deep your passion for running will be one day.  Some of your running achievements will be the best moments of your life. 

Don’t be afraid to enlist in the Army and serve your country.   Just because you don’t know how to work a washing machine yet doesn’t mean you can’t learn to become a heavy construction equipment operator. 

Go to college, and not just because mom said you had to.  Learn new things and grow.  You’ll later find you wouldn’t have gotten your job without this degree.  

Find a career that both excites and frightens you.  Something that keeps you on your toes every day.  Be thankful for your chance to serve your community. Work hard, it will pay off.  Keep the men and women in blue that served after you in your thoughts.  They put their lives on the line every day. 

You will kiss a lot of frogs, but one day you will find a prince.  The kind of guy that will buy a veteran lunch, hold open the door for ladies, and wave at dogs in the car next to you.  He will be the best thing that ever happened to you.  Remember this when you get mad.  

Love your animals with all your heart.  They aren’t always with us as long as we would hope, so cherish them every day.  Throw the ball, give them the extra cookie, let them sleep in bed, kiss and pet them every chance you get.  

Enjoy your friendships, but know that some may run their course.  You may lose touch with people you thought would be in your life forever.  Let go of toxic people, the ones that try to sabotage your life and your relationships. Don’t let them suck away your spirit.   There will be other people that will always be with you.  True friends that will go above and beyond any expectations.  Hold on to them as long as possible.  Those friendships are few and far between.

Embrace your body.  It will be thin and not so thin.  You will gain and lose weight many times over.   Your legs may be bigger than the next persons, but they will take you amazing places.  

Watch less TV and read more.  Although you didn’t like to read much when you were younger, it will be something you truly enjoy later in life.  

Save for the future but also live right now.  Don’t wait too long to travel and see the world.  Travel will add a whole new dimension on to your life. Fill your life with adventures and worry less about having things.  

Follow your heart.  You will need to make tough choices in life.If you know in your heart you are making the best decision, it will be the right one. 

Don’t be afraid to try new things.  You don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it.  Kayak in the ocean, jump out of an airplane, climb that mountain.  You’ll only regret the things you didn’t try.  It’s never too late to realize your dreams.

Spend more time outdoors.  Take the road less traveled, even if you get lost.  That is usually when we truly find ourselves.  

Laugh every chance you get, even if you are laughing at yourself.  Dance when your favorite song comes on.  Give hugs instead of handshakes.  Tell people you love them.  Remember that life is short.  Be happy and stop wasting your time on other things.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Be the Change: Blogging about Plogging


Last week my neighbor posted a video on Facebook.  It was about “Plogging.”  I’d never heard of the term but discovered it is a Swedish thing. It derived it’s name from “plocka upp” for picking up combined and the word jogging.   It started as a movement in 2016 and has spread to other countries.  I’m surprised it took this long for me to hear about it.  Apparently there is a similar movement in Tennessee called Trashercize.  
This post came at the perfect time for me because mother nature was kind enough to start melting off our snow and I was seeing nothing but litter along my running route. I run the same route often and I would think, “Why doesn’t they guy that lives here pick up this trash in front of his house?”  Well, maybe he doesn’t know it is there.  Or possibly it blew out of his neighbors trash bin.  But as I passed by on four out of following seven days last week, the trash remained in place. 
After a few days, I mentioned this to my husband.  He is used to my crazy ideas but he was actually quite happy about this one.  He was sick of seeing all the litter too.   I told him that for one week, I wanted to clean up as much litter as I could along my normal running and walking routes.  He thought it was a great idea and that he would help.  
Day 1: We took the dogs for a two mile walk along our normal route.  I took a kitchen sized trash bag with us.  I donned my rubber coated gardening gloves and he walked the two border collies while I “plocka upp” the neighborhood.  He would grab little things that didn’t look dirty as he wasn’t wearing gloves and I would pick up everything else.  I don’t think we were even two blocks from our house and the trash bag was already 1/4 full.  I picked up a ton of little alcohol and beer bottles along the path.  We live within a half mile of six stores that sell alcohol, it seems people feel they need to drink it and toss the bottle out the window along my street.  Thankfully, less of the packaging is glass these days. But we still see a fair share of broken bottles on the sidewalk, which I should mention is usually in front of the elementary school.  

Day 2: In the morning we headed out to walk the dogs.  I got to the end of my own driveway only to see a McDonald’s bag in the middle of my street.  Someone obviously tossed it out of their car window while driving by.  It was like a slap in the face, why would you possibly need to throw your fast food bag out on my street?  On our two mile walk,  I picked up more trash.  Apparently all the people in my area run out of cigarettes at the same time and toss their empty packages along my route.  And I’m not sure what all the tin foil is from either, hopefully it’s not drug related-but glad I’m wearing gloves to pick it up.  Later in the day I ran the dogs six miles.  I ran through a subdivision where the cheapest house is probably a million dollars.  I picked up an entire grocery store shopping bag of trash here.  I suppose they have have a crew of people that keep their property looking nice, but if so they aren’t doing a good job.  In the evening we went for another two mile walk with the dogs.  I filled up yet another kitchen sized garbage bag.  I found one syringe today, thankfully the cap was still on it.  I’ve also found a bunch of plastic bags on the side of my path filled with dog poop.  Honestly people.  Why bother putting it in a bag and leaving it?  You are actually making more litter by bagging it than if you left it alone.

Day 3: My glutes are pretty sore from all the squatting to pick up trash and my back is feeling the workout too.  But my dog Kirby needed a run to burn off some of her crazy.  On our five miles, we covered some of the same streets that I have previously cleaned up.  I was hoping it was starting to look clean, but three doors down from my house I found a water bottle on the sidewalk.  I took two plastic grocery store bags with me on this run.  I filled the first one on my way out and the second one on my way back.  I could have filled four more if I had them, but it gets hard to carry them and run.  I can manage two, but I probably look pretty silly running while I carry them running.  I stopped at home, dropped off the trash and traded Kirby for my other dog Zuzu.  We went out for two miles and I took two more bags with me.  I filled them up incredibly fast.  Nothing by energy drinks, beer cans, liquor bottles and such along this route.  There is no way this stuff is being dropped by accident or distributed by the wind from trash cans.  At one point I saw about 30 free newspapers left by a delivery person in front of a house that is for sale.  You’d think they’d get the hint that if they hadn’t picked up the last 20, you don’t need to keep leaving them.  I did not pick those up as I’d need an entire bag just for them.  By the way, if you’ve lost one glove in my area, its mate is in my trash can.  I think I’ve picked up a dozen single gloves.  

Day 4: My husband took the dogs out with us on a different two mile route.  I picked up an entire kitchen sized trash bag of the usual assortment of litter.  There again was an alarming amount of liquor bottles.  I also stopped at a vacant house that is close to mine and picked up all the newspapers and phone books (I can’t even believe they still print those things) that had accumulated in the past few months.  I’ve stuffed everything I’ve found so far into my own personal trash can and recycling bin.  I told my husband that the bin is so full that you couldn’t fit a fart in there.   

I have been thinking of a way to express how I feel about this project.  As I said my glutes are sore and it kind of was a pain in the butt to clean up after everyone else.  I won’t pick up trash on my runs every day in the future.  I will do my best to keep my neighborhood clean, while that effort may only be appreciated by my husband and myself. I’m not huge on quotes but I’ll toss this one out there.  Ghandi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  I just got fed up of running by the same trash every day.  I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t that guy pick it up?”  Well, if he wasn’t going to, I guess I had to be the change.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Why Do I Run?

Why Do I Run?

     If you ask why I run, I will ask you why you breathe. That sums it up for me, but sometimes people need more than that to really get it.

     I run to connect, with my friends and with my dogs and with random people I meet at races. 

     I also run for the solitude.  To be alone in my thoughts, or to not think.

     I run because I enjoy being outdoors.  I love the sun and the breeze, and at times the rain and snow.  But I don't really love the cold.  You lost me there.  

     I run for adventure.  To see new cities, states, back roads and forests all over the country.  And I also run because I like being a hamster on a wheel- running the streets near my home that I know like the back of my hand or the familiar six mile run around the lake at the metro park, that one time I ran 50 miles around.  

     I run to lose weight, but that never happens.  So, I run so I can enjoy pizza, burgers and beer.

     I run long distances because it is fun to do things I thought I could not do.  I run them again because I forgot how awful they were the first time.  There is magic in the misery.

     I run to burn the crazy off my border collies.  Wait, that isn’t possible.

     You want to know why I run?  I want to know why you don’t.  I won’t judge, acceptance is the key to happiness.  And I prefer to be delusionally optimistic that one day you will understand me.