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)

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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!

Race Recap: Jingle Bell Run 10K

One gray and rainy Saturday my friend Marnie and I met in a parking garage in downtown Indianapolis. Marnie had on her IU running shirt. I had on my candy cane striped knee-high socks.

We crossed the walkway from the parking garage into Banker’s Life Fieldhouse (home of the Pacers) and secured jingle bells to our shoes.

And we ran. We jingled through the streets of downtown.

Here’s the thing. I’m a huge slacker and this race happened last Saturday. As in over a week ago. But I’m still writing about it!

So this was the Jingle Bell Run, which raises money for arthritis. All participants were encouraged to wear festive holiday outfits, and everyone got two jingle bells to tie to their shoes. Marnie did the 5K, and I did the 10K.

The morning really was gray and wet, but not too cold. Thankfully for my phone, which I carry in my hand so I can obsessively check my time, the rain stopped right as we started. My goal was to finish the race in around 52:30 with an average pace of 8:30.

I have this problem of getting swept up in the moment of the start of a race and running my first mile fast, which only makes miles three and four kinda hard. I can pace myself no problem on just a regular run, so I know what my 8:30 pace should feel like. I just get swept up. Maybe I’ll start doing more interval training so that I can practice running all out and then coming back to my regular pace and holding it for a few miles.

Anyway…6.2 mile course was nice. It was different than all of the other races I’ve run downtown, which I appreciated. We wound around the Eli Lily buildings, on and around Mass Ave, around Monument Circle, and finished back up at the Fieldhouse. At around mile 4 or so we met up with the 5K runners.

I love the end of a race. The part where you see the finish line and runners kick it into high gear. I witnessed my favorite race moment as I approached this finish line. I was running alongside a dad and his son for a few seconds. The dad looked down at his 10-year-old and said, “There’s the finish line, buddy. Wanna leave me in the dust?” Of course the kid said yes, and took off. I can only assume the dad slowed down a bit so his son could kick his butt. The competitive runner in me thinks that’s about the sweetest thing. Taking a hit in your end of race sprint so your kid can leave you in the dust.

So how’d I finish? 52:20. That’s an 8:25 pace. RIGHT ON! The results seem to think I finished 10th in my age group. I find that somewhat hard to believe, but I’ll take it! And 175 overall out of 576 runners.

This was a fun race. It was very family oriented, but as a kid-less runner out to hit a time goal, I didn’t feel out of place. Hopefully Marnie and I can both do the 10K next year!

Race Recap: Wine at the Line 5 Mile

Fall is officially upon us here in Indianapolis. This is my favorite time of year. I never get tired of the crisp blue skies and the bright trees. Plus, fall makes for perfect running temperature. After what seems like months of summer, the relief of not sweating and feeling as though I may suffocate from heat and humidity is so welcome. This fall also marked the beginning of running for me again. I took the entire summer off due to a pretty badly sprained ankle, and set the beginning of August as my official start to run date.

I signed up for Wine at the Line, a 5 mile race just south of Indianapolis at Mallow Run Winery with four of my former co-workers. Michael and I did this race last year. It involves a scenic 5K or 5 mile run through some farms around the winery, and lots of free wine after the race. The whole afternoon is very relaxed, and the course really isn’t incredibly challenging.

So, now the question: how to get back into shape after taking three months off due to an injury? I didn’t want to rush back into running and just pound my poor ankle, but I wanted to be in good condition come October 6. Ashely who writes at (Neve)Homemaker, one of my favorite running/food blogs, had mentioned Hal Higdon’s training programs before, so that’s where I turned. I followed his intermediate 8K plan. Three days of the week I would run at a nice easy pace, one day I did a long run, and one day was a tempo run or interval training. Perfect to slowly bring me to racing shape.

When it comes down to it, coming back from an injury has really taught me to listen to my body. Taking a day off if my ankle hurts is OK, cutting back on mileage is OK, and so is pushing myself extra on a day I feel awesome.

So, Wine at the Line.

This is my friend Heather on the left. She is a beast. You don’t believe me, do you? It’s the crown, I know. Or the friendly smile.

This girl runs like a gazelle, and damn if she doesn’t make it look easy. We started the 5 miles together, and for a bit I ran ahead. Then Heather passed me, and then I lost sight of her crown. (We ran in our crowns.) But you know what? I crossed the finish line and she didn’t tell me her time. She didn’t ask my time. We congratulated each other and discussed running with crowns. We talked about work. I could take a lesson from Heather. I could be less competitive, not obsessively check my pace every half mile, and remember that I run because I love it, the rush of feeling like I’m cruising, the road passing under my feet.

By the way, the crowns, the cow get up? We’re two members of the Dairy Queens—only the best Chicago Ragnar team ever.

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Oh, and my results? 42.55, a new PR at this distance. Fourteenth in my age group. And I was right on my goal of 8:30 minute miles. I’m proud.

How I Survived My First Half Marathon

I almost bailed on my first half marathon.

In the last four months running has become a challenge. A pain, you may even say. Last fall, I signed up for the Indianapolis Mini Marathon, the biggest half marathon in the country. I even convinced Michael to do it with me. In January, we started our Mini training, which wasn’t really mini at all, but felt great. My first half marathon. I’m going to be a real, hardcore runner now.

In the meantime, the March time, we planned to go to Chicago for the 8K Shamrock Shuffle. I had plans to finish that race in 42 or 43 minutes, beating last year’s time of 43:59.

I’ve read around the internets that it’s a runner’s Murphy’s Law that as soon as you get into the groove of training for a big race, you injure yourself. One gorgeous Friday evening, we went out for a light jog. I took a wrong step and sprained my ankle. Guys, really. Do you know how torturous it is to watch your boyfriend take off for an 11 mile run and have to sit at home with your foot on ice? Guys, really. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d utter. “Do you know how torturous an 11 mile run sounds” would be more accurate. But no, once I started training, doing the longer distances, it felt right.

So, ankle barely heals for Shamrock Shuffle, which I finish in a respectable 45:53 without having run three weeks prior. Time to gear up for the Mini Marathon bitches!

I almost bailed on my first half marathon.

I couldn’t run for weeks on that damn sprained ankle after the Shuffle. I tried to swim, I biked a bit, even ran on the elliptical. What do you do to cross train? How do you stay in shape when you’re injured? I was at my wits end.

The week before the race Michael convinced me. Just do it, he said. Get your money’s worth, he said. Cross the finish line and get your medal, even if you have to do it walking, he said. Fine. I’m convinced. I’ll run 13.1 miles after not having run more than 7, and that only on an elliptical.

I am so glad I did. I don’t even care that I’m right back to limping around the office. This past Saturday I finished my first half marathon in 2:21:14. (Let’s not discuss my original goal finish time. It’s irrelevant.) I ran through the first hot and humid day of the year with 40,000 other runners and walkers, around the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and across the finish line. I earned my medal.

No run has ever been so hard. Nothing I have done physically in the last few years has pushed me as much. I honestly felt light-headed at a few points (at which I walked, because above all, you must listen to your body). This huge wall appeared out of nowhere at mile 10. It forced me to walk a lot right at the end. But nothing can compare to the feeling of running across that finish line, of having tucked 13.1 miles under my running shoes. A completely addicting high.

I want to do it again.

That’s what running is for me. It’s this really hard thing, this thing that I have to work at and that I push myself to improve on. But I love it. It feels so good. It hurts so good.

What is running for you? A stress reliever, the one thing that you can do easily and without thinking? Something you do for yourself, noncompetitively and at your own pace?

I finished my first half marathon. I’m so proud.

Next stop, the Chicago Ragnar! Go Team Dairy Queens!