I swam. I biked. I ran.

I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I needed to be. (Douglas Adams)

Triathlon? Me? Hah. No way. I don’t want to go there. I can’t go there.

Once I was all, “Runner? Me? Hah. No way. I don’t want to go there. I can’t go there.”

Once I was all, “Long distance relationships? Me? Hah. I’m done with that shit. It never ends well.”

Why not do something that scares you? Something you didn’t think you could do? Maybe it’ll end up being exactly what you were missing in your life. I can hardly imagine my life without running. I can’t imagine my life at all without Karl and the seven months of long-distance dating we went through before he moved down here. I may not have done the things I thought I would or taken the paths I imagined, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. How is it that facing your fears usually ends up being fun, empowering, amazing?

Resolutions. 2014.

In 2014 I will …

Turn 30.

Embrace 30.

Run a half marathon in two hours.

Hike on the Art Loeb Trail in North Carolina.

Make at least one recipe each week from one of my actual cookbooks.

Judge less. Look deeper. Understand more.

Glaze Lola.

Rediscover all the best things about Indianapolis with Karl, because he lives here now.

Go outside, even in the cold, because I own a First Ascent coat now.

Buy rain boots.

Camp.

Adventure.

Write.

Photograph.

Visit one place that I love and one place that I’ve never traveled to before.

Not shave my armpits.

Run long, run far on the weekends for fun.

I Ran a Marathon. My Body is a Miracle.

I’m a woman. I’ve stood in front of my mirror and looked at my naked body and criticized. I’ve been late to work because I spent 20 minutes standing in front of my open closet, changing outfits, each one making me feel fat, making my stomach bulge. I’ve weighed myself every few days, marked down the numbers, obsessed over one pound lost or gained. I’ve not bought perfectly cute pants because I refuse to buy a size 10. I’m a size 8 damn it. Once for a year or so I dropped a pant size and I rejoiced. I swore I’d get back there again some day. I’ve talked the skinny talk. “I’m going to loose 10 pounds before attending that wedding.” “I can’t have pizza tonight. It’s soo bad for you.” “Man, I wish my thighs didn’t touch.”

I’ve never once stopped eating or purged my body of food I’d just eaten because I felt inadequate about my body, but I have definitely disliked myself a whole lot because of how I looked, because I didn’t think I was skinny enough, because the way my stomach folded when I sat or bent forward made me really sad.

One day I started running. And then another day I kind of got addicted to running. That was hard. I read magazines, blogs, articles, all very helpful words, and looked at the accompanying pictures. Lady runners have flat stomachs. They don’t have a big chest. They have small thighs. My thighs only got bigger, stronger, the more I ran, the farther I asked them to carry me. My girls have to be squashed into a sizable bra before they kind of sort of don’t bounce. My stomach? Well maybe it got a little flatter, I’m sure it got stronger, but my love of cookies was strong, too.

At first I ran to combat that love of cookies. Today I run because I love my body, because it feels great after I run, because it’s capable of doing amazing things. It does amazing things looking mostly the same way it did when I stood in front of the mirror and felt sad.

A week and a half ago I finished my first marathon, the Monumental Marathon. My body killed it for me, as in “damn girl, you killed it! That was awesome!” It not only carried me 26.2 miles from start to finish line, it hauled me through months of training, long runs, early mornings, and mental breakdowns. Today there is no way in my right mind I could look at my body and think, “I wish you were different.” My body is a dang miracle, you guys, and I am so thankful for it. It got me to 13.1 miles in 2:07. It pushed me past my house and my cheering section twice.

It started to falter in the last six miles of the race, but somehow, by God’s grace or thanks to the energy stored perhaps in my toes from all the gels I had eaten, somehow that last mile I ran hard, I flew, and I crossed the finish line in this weird mix of emotions. Exhaustion. Joy. Ecstasy. Shock. Anger. (Yep, I wish I’d gone faster.) Pride.

Today I had this epiphany while I was watching this video.

Robyn Lawley says she loves her body. Is she nuts? She’s a woman. Women don’t love their bodies. And then I realized that I do. I love my body after all that time thinking it kinda sucked, that it could be better. I can say the same thing Robyn Lawley says. I love my body the way it is for appreciating when I fill it with pasta and pie and kale and homemade soup and cake. I love it for bending as much as it can when I try to twist it into bird of paradise. I love it for hiking up mountains and through deserts and up and down my street every day behind a silly black dog. I love it for letting me lace up my running shoes every week.

I love my body because it let me finish a marathon. What has your body done for you today? I bet something pretty damn spectacular.

The Elusive Runners High

I’ve been running for about five years. That’s like minuscule in the grand scheme of running. The group of older guys who run regularly with the Indy Runners group have been lacing up since before I was born. In my five years I’ve heard about this thing, the runners high, from fellow runners and in articles I’ve read online. You get this feeling supposedly of flying, of harmony, of each step coming easily. You’re in this other worldly zone.

I’ve never been in that zone. I’ve had highs on a horse, on top of a mountain, in yoga, but never while running. This sport HURTS. It does not make me feel naturally high.

So why in the world do I run? To chase that high, because I’ve had glimpses of it. And because on Sunday I was there, I felt that runners high, and it was glorious.

Training for a marathon can almost kill a person. It doesn’t start badly. Midweek runs of 4 to 6 miles, weekend runs of around 10. Then you’re suddenly pumping out at least 30 miles a week … trying to squeeze one 8 mile run into a weekday and out sweating and pushing yourself for multiple hours and nearing 20 miles on the weekends. This is time consuming. It requires planning. It makes you want to eat everything in sight. After running 17 miles on a weekend your body hates you for two days. Muscles hurt, knees ache and pop, shoulders are tight, and feet groan at walking.

But my God, there is very little as satisfying as collapsing at the end of 17 miles and thinking, “I did it. I just pushed my body and my mind past the point I thought possible. Fuck yeah, bitches!” And it makes those eight pieces of turkey bacon that I scarf down feel guiltless and the foot rubs from my boyfriend feel well earned.

And then last Sunday it happened. The runners high. I caught it and was all up in it. And it makes all the painful miles worth it. Around mile 13 of 17 I suddenly felt like putting one foot in front of the other wasn’t hard at all. In fact I barely felt my feet touching the ground. The soccer fields and trees and cars around me disappeared. I only saw the road in front of me and I wanted to fly toward it, take it on. It’s hard to describe I guess, but it’s basically the complete opposite of how I feel when I am certain I can’t take one more step forward, when I wonder why the heck I even run because it’s so hard.

Today I set out to do 18 miles by myself, no company. I was nervous, but I had motivation—to chase that runners high. I didn’t find it this time, but I’m pretty sure it’ll come again. After all I still have seven more weeks of marathon training and a lifetime of running left.

I Would Run 198 Miles Just to be the Cow Who Winds Up in Your Van. Ragnar.

Last weekend I was a cow.

Wait, wait. Let me be more specific. Last weekend I was one of 12 Dairy Queens. Not the place that sells Blizzards. The Ragnar team called the Dairy Queens. Dairy as in cows. We are 12 runners who have gotten together in Wisconsin the past two Junes to run from Madison to Chicago while making ridiculous cow jokes. It’s basically the coolest thing I’ve done as an adult since Green Cove.

So if you don’t know much about a Ragnar Relay, let me explain for a hot second. Ragnars are run between two towns, places, cities, whatever, and are around 200 miles. Teams are made up of 12 runners (or 6 if you’re extra crazy), each of whom run three legs over about 30 hours give or take over a Friday and Saturday. Your team runs straight through the night on Friday and into Saturday and is divided into two vans, six people per van.

Everyone in van 1 runs first.Then van 2 takes over. That goes on two more times.

This whole thing, this being jammed into a 15-passenger van with five other stinky, sweaty people who are running 15-25 miles on more or less no sleep, sounds fairly horrible. I swear to you though, it’s not. You cheer each other on. The support is beyond any other I’ve found in running. Typically runners are nice. They smile at each other on the street and give each other encouragement. My Dairy Queens though, they sped ahead of me to give me water, to pour it over my head if I needed it, to high five me, to moo and scream at me, to cross a street waving an orange flag. We stood in a swarm of mosquitoes to cheer each other on.

They let me use their toothbrushes, slept with me in sleeping bags on the grass by a parking lot, opened their lake house for me, and washed my cow print socks. They ran with me at 1:30 a.m. through winding Milwaukee roads and spotted a deer standing just six feet away. My fellow Ragnar runners who weren’t on my team cheered for me from their vans as they drove past me on hot country roads. They offered me water. They laughed when they read “Show Me Your Udders” written on the side of my mode of transportation. Ragnar is this weird community of runners who come together in a team for what is normally a fairly individualistic sport.

And the amazing thing is at the end of it all, you want to do another one. You have pounded your poor joints, you sleep either for only about three hours during the night or during times of the day when sleep seems ridiculous, and are then expected to wake up feeling like warm poop and run another dang leg. You smell. Your van smells, mostly like feet.  You get confused about which direction you are driving and which direction Lake Michigan is in relation to Chicago. You stare at said lake and forget which lake it is exactly, because you can’t think straight at 6:00 a.m. after only three hours of sleep.

And you’ve eaten like shit while attempting a decent amount of physical activity. But when we crossed the finish line on the beach by Lincoln Park in downtown Chicago as a team with our Cow 12, I felt nothing but joy.

Yeah sure, joy that the whole thing was over, but also joy as in I was proud of what we’d accomplished, proud that we’d pushed ourselves together, and happy that we’d bonded over stupid things like a spicy meat stick and a vomiting stick cow.

A few days later we’re already planning our next relay. I once heard that running is addictive. That’s a pretty true statement.

Shema. Hang Ups All Up in My Head.

I’ve got this hang up when I go to Friday night services at temple. I like closing my eyes during the shema. I feel closer to myself, closer to God maybe, when I sing those most sacred words in the privacy of my own head. But that meditative, personal moment is always interrupted when I start to worry. Is everyone else opening their eyes? When should I open mine? I can’t be the only one with my eyes shut! What if I miss the moment when everyone sits down? I’ll be standing up alone. This is what the inside of my head looks like. It’s filled with what do I look like to the outside world thoughts. In a moment when I want to get in my head for some peace and introspection, I end up deep in my head filled with hang ups.

I do this a lot. What will the other runners think if I show up to an Indy Runners run, don’t know anyone, and run all by myself? What will my Facebook friends think if I post one more picture of my freaking dinner? Will the lovely couple who owns Nicey Treats think I’m nuts if I show up to their truck one more time for a dreamy popsicle? Do I look like a complete amateur when when I pull out my fancy camera and attempt to take a picture?

Of course, no one is paying that much attention. Most people are just wrapped up in their own world, because that’s just how people are. Maybe human nature to pay attention to ourselves first?

Self consciousness. I’m overcoming it. Comfort and confidence in your own skin. I started to learn how it fit on me at camp as a kid. Not comparing or worrying about looks. Every time I get on my mat in yoga I leave that farther behind. It’s about what works for me. For you. Then I’m pretty sure somehow you’ll end up looking like the best version of yourself to everyone else without even trying, without any hang ups.

On Friday night I stood in temple and sang the shema, eyes closed.

Spring Salads, Songs, and Spirit Squads

Spring, I think you’re here. Finally. Why did you make us wait so long? You’re going to stick around for awhile to make it up to us, right? We’ll now be blessed with endless 70 degree days with light breezes and lots of sunshine.

Sweet relief from the cold means I’ve been celebrating in lots of ways. Running in shorts (miracle!) and with the Indy Runners group. I like having running companions to keep my mind of off the actual run some days. Yesterday I showed up for the Tuesday run at Hinkle Field House on Butler’s campus ready to do four, maybe five, miles. Thanks to the girl I ran with, I ended up going six miles!

 

May is Race Month in this fair city and the Mini-Marathon is the kick-off for a month of festivities leading up to the Indy 500. Biggest half marathon in the country, what what? I opted for the role of cheerleader this year instead of runner, which I thought would be very difficult. I’m a pretty competitive person, especially when it comes to races. But I remembered how much I appreciated the support of my friends along the race course last year, and I was excited to cheer extra loudly in the places where I remembered feeling the most tired. My friend Sam and I biked to around mile 9 and then maybe .25 mile before the finish line. Extra perk? En route we go to see the wheelchair racers and the insanely fast top finishers (can you imagine running 13.1 miles in just over an hour?!), a part of a race that I never get to see as a participant. The sheer athleticism of these men and women blew my mind.

 

Our posters (yes that’s Ryan Gosling and Bob Dylan) got plenty of head nods and smiles from random runners, but we cheered extra hard for our friend Marnie and her fiance Jannson and my two other friends that we happened to see run by. We even ran along the sidewalk for the last .25 miles with Marnie, screaming her name the whole way. I am beyond proud of these two!

Can we talk about driving with the windows open and music blaring? It’s one of my favorite warm weather pastimes. Right now I could listen to Patty Griffin’s new album American Kid all day. The first song feels like the perfect summertime folky anthem to me.

Back to running. It’s cool, it’ll lead to epic spring food. In starting to think about training for the marathon I’ve signed up for this fall, I’m considering my diet. I know that the more miles I log, the hungrier I’ll be, but I do not want to just stuff myself with tons of pasta, as amazingly appealing as that sounds. So I’m focusing on fueling with lots of fruits and veggies and healthful proteins like beans and lentils. To kick start this fresh new diet I did a really great three-day juice cleanse from Natural Born Juicers. If you live in Indianapolis I highly recommend checking them out. I’m now a few weeks out from having finished the cleanse and am back to my marathon fueling diet. I’m actually really missing my morning juices and how awake and strangely full they made me feel, so I’m thinking of going in on a juicer.

On top of that spring has brought the most magical produce to the farmers markets. Slowly at first, but surely. A few weeks ago radishes and pea sprouts started to show up, and so I rejoiced. This time of year is perfect for buying lettuce and any other awesome vegetables that catch your eye and making a huge salad.

I’d love to give you a recipe for this, but I feel like that would just be limiting, so here’s a basic guide.

Pile your plate with lettuce (mine, year round thanks to hydroponics in greenhouses, is almost always from Eden Farms). I like a mix of lettuces to give my salad a little more flavor and depth.

Chop up a variety of vegetables, whatever is pretty and bright and catches your eye at the store or market. I went with pretty pink and white radishes and sweet pea shoots from Harvestland Farms. Never had pea shoots? Me either until this salad! They taste like peas, not surprisingly, but before peas come around. Like a pea preview. Maybe add a squeeze of lemon over things now. Add some fresh herbs if you have them on hand.

Any good salad, or meal in my opinion, is topped with a soft yolk fried egg (my eggs always come from Schacht Farm, I love them, eggs and people, so much). Fry one up with a bit of salt and pepper, or poach it in olive oil like Oh Joy, which is what I tried out for this salad. I liked this cooking option, because it a nice amount of olive oil to drizzle over the salad as dressing.

Break open that egg and let the yolk get all cozy with the lettuce. Heck yes, spring!