“Much suffering, much unhappiness arises when you take each thought that comes into your head for the truth.”

Eckhart Tolle.

Well TGMIJAO! (thank god monday is just about over!)

On Saturday I ran a fun 5k race out in the East Bay. In this recap, I’ll reflect on 2 ways I went wrong followed by 3 things I did right.

Race: Dam Jingle Bell Dash – 5k race
When: Saturday December 14, 2013, 9:15am
Where: Orinda, CA
Number of Finishers: 253
Recorded Time: 25:24
Achievements: PR (:4 seconds); 2nd in my AG; Top 10 female finishers (#8). All good things. Yay!

ImageI made only a few mistakes, but they were “duh” moments that caused momentary undue stress and could have been easily avoided.

1) I arrived penniless.
This was a small local race and I wasn’t pre-registered, which means I should have had cash or check ready to pay for the bib. So I wasted 20 minutes driving my ass back up the hill to Safeway and worrying about whether I’d find another parking space in the rapidly filling lot.

2) I dressed inappropriately.
Steam rolled off the reservoir as I drove down to the San Pablo Reservoir Boat Launch.  The dashboard of the VW read 30º, but iPhone assured me that it would reach the low 40s by 9am. Alas, it was frigid up to the start of the race. I waited for the gun wearing an oversized sweatshirt and sweatpants over my planned race clothes: shorts and a lululemon run swiftly tee. Earlier that morning I’d contemplated adding my comfy long-sleeved finishers shirt from Portland. Why did I so immediately disregard this harmless idea? I ended up racing in my lululemon sweatpants (still over my shorts), t-shirt, and mittens. Not too terrible but this definitely could have been better executed.

Doy!  Luckily though, a few key moves set me up for a good race.

1) Even splits!
Mile 1 = 8’08 / Mile 2 = 8’09” / Mile 3 8’10” — Yes!

2) I left just a little bit in the tank…
I suck at digging deep in the final moments to sprint over the finish line. But I think that the combination of the consistent pacing coupled with a rare burst of energy (I can’t explain this) is how I achieved my new personal best. And by the skin of my teeth, too… a 4 second PR! Hey, I’ll take it. 🙂

3) When the going got tough, the tough kept running
For whatever reason, I wasn’t 100% focused that morning. It started with those dumb logistical snafus. Then, in the first couple minutes of the race, I had this overwhelming disinterest in what I was doing. I remember distinctly thinking, “I do not want to be racing.” Bummer. Who doesn’t love the usual punch of adrenaline that pushes you over the mat?

Early in the second mile, a stream of negative thoughts interrupted my flow. This kind of thing isn’t entirely unusual, and I’m learning to recognize it as a trick of the mind. They reverberate as loud and suddenly as sirens, false alerts rooted in the physical stress that comes from a hard effort.

I’m proud of the way I was able to work through these moments of annoying internal monologue, as they can quickly become anti-mantras if you choose to believe them. Another classic mistake? Forceful attempts to ignore or silence them. Like hungry children begging to be fed with attention, like ravenous zombies pounding on the windows of abandoned buildings — Inevitably, they will break through.

Notice your thoughts objectively. For a moment give them space. Recognize them, disagree with them if necessary, and move on. Continuing to run is non-negotiable, no matter what intrusiveness threatens to hold you back. I appreciate your opinion, Brain, but I’ve got this.

Truth be told, I was hoping to finish this 5k a bit faster. I am working towards a solid 8’00” pace. I’m not worried, it will happen. As for this race, there were some unanticipated challenges, if minor. The course was hillier than anticipated, my mind wasn’t completely centered, and I had to slow down twice for ICE ON THE ROAD (what??!!!). All in all I’m very happy to call this my last race of 2013, and am just about ready to kick off a new season of training!

Here’s to finishing strong in 2013!

“Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe deeply, move harmoniously.”

Jean-Pierre Barral.

This quote was tweeted earlier today by Danielle Omar.

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the problem with inversions.

Speaking of deep breathing and harmonious movement, last weekend I participated in a “detox yoga workshop” with Kimberly Hu at Yoga Mayu in the Mission. We began with breathing exercises, moved into flow sequences and standing postures, and finished with about 45 minutes of restorative work.  

It really was a lovely way to spend a few hours doing something just for me. But it confirmed a suspicion that I’ve had for a while: that I think I might be terrified of inversions. I was unsuccessful and both attempting a headstand from a wide-legged position and once again couldn’t manage to kick up into a handstand against the wall.

We’re instructed to remain gentle and patient with our yogic abilities and efforts and allow the poses come naturally. I believe that this is a crucial part of the practice. But how to balance determination with self-kindness? How to mindfully assess the root of our stumbling blocks while resisting the impulse to become too competitive or scold yourself or misinterpret a journey as a series failures?

What is it about going upside down that has me incapacitated?

I’ve selected a few classes on yogaglo.com that I’m hoping will help me move forward.  First, I’m concentrating on understanding the physical components of inversions, focusing on strength and good alignment.

Getting into Handstand with Stephanie Snyder

“The main obstacles to lifting and balancing in this pose are tight hamstrings and a loosy goosy core. …we will open the hamstrings and charge the core up while investigating the energetic alignment of the core architecture to give us the best chance of lifting up and balancing in this pose. Good luck and re-visit this practice over and over – eventually the pose will come through!”

Find your Inner Strength with Noah Mazé

“Accessing Inner Strength: What habits and patterns govern your practice and your life, and how do you find the strength to work beyond them? Through challenging arm balances and inversions, this class invites you to explore your reactions on the mat so you can take skillful action off the mat and into the world.”

Of no lesser importance, of course, is the mind.

Pranayama and Seated Meditation with Jason Crandell

“This practice will invoke deep relaxation and ground your nerves.”

Explore and Release Fear to Find your Greatness with Tiffany Cruikshank 

“Most of us don’t realize how much of an impact fear has on our daily lives, the power it has to limit us and our capacity for greatness…”

Like other breakthroughs in yoga (I’ve had a few…), sometimes they arrive as lightbulb moments that completely change your perspective and open up a new world.  Other things do just take time. Either way, sooner or later I’ll be standing on my hands.

Tonight, I’ll go with a brief and mellow flow to loosen up and calm some nerves, as  tomorrow I’ll be running my first 5k since July.  It’s also my first race since Portland!

Have a happy and healthy Friday!

“Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you / You must travel it for yourself.”

Walt Whitman.

While the rest of the world is putting chains on their cars, exhausting their furnaces, and thoroughly drying their hair so that it doesn’t freeze while walking to the subway, we in San Francisco are also lamenting our wintery weather.

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This is a big deal here! The fact that we are moving into the 30s at night has the whole city wrapped in scarves and calling in sick. Saturday’s high temp is going to be 46 degrees for heaven’s sake! 

Seriously. I’m very fortunate to live in one of the most runner-friendly cities in the world. For weather, all joking aside, we’re talking goldilocks: never too unreasonably hot or too cold. The scenery and terrain are unstoppable: from scenic paths through the Marina Green and Golden Gate Park, to the urban landscapes of Chinatown and South Beach, the killer hills of Bernal and Twin Peaks, the glorious flats of the Mission and Ocean Beach. You can train and race and enjoy your runs every month of the year, exploring endless new courses with postcard backdrops. Spectacular!

One of the biggest perks? Well, right now it’s December and I can still comfortably commute by run! While the short days make it somewhat less attractive, this remains a great pleasure of mine. I feel like I’m somehow beating the system – freedom from trudging home on sardine-can public transportation, or getting stuck in freeway gridlock. I often run against the stream of commuters heading towards the train. I’m a salmon in Asics! See ya, suckers!

There are a multitude of resources offering tips and tricks to make your run commute smooth and successful. Interestingly, most of them suggest (or at least assume) that you’re running to work in the morning, but I find a sprint home much more convenient and enjoyable. There are logistical benefits (I don’t have to lug a bunch of papers and clothes on my back, I’m not all sweaty upon arrival…), but most of all I like the way that it eases the transition out of work-mode. It’s an especially contemplative kind of run. Sometimes when I begin I’ll be mulling over some problem or mentally rehearsing for tomorrow. But as I get closer and closer to home, my thoughts inevitably turn more domestic and personal. Sometimes I try not to think about much at all. Make it a tempo run and concentrate on even breathing and relaxing my shoulders and hands, and practice running with a more meditative mind. When I get home I’m happy, relaxed, and ready to reward my long hard day with a hot shower and a satisfying dinner.

Those mornings, I fill a backpack full of gear for my evening commute.  

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In here you’ll find the following:

Running Shoes and Socks – duh.

Running clothes – double duh, but I will note that in the winter it’s important to wear something reflective and/or brightly colored. Safety, kids!

Flip belt – I love this thing. I’m a real minimalist when it comes to carting around accessories, and this magic strip of fabric makes me feel totally unencumbered while still getting me home with the essentials: keys, money, cards, and phone.

Inhaler – I’m asthmatic! Into the flip belt it goes.

GPS Watch (Optional – not pictured) – I have a Nike+ Sportwatch, but I rarely bother bringing it to work anymore. I just use the Nike app on my phone. I like having one less thing to think about when I pack up in the morning.

I leave my work clothes under my desk to take home the next day, and off I go!

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For more info and suggestions, try:

http://theruncommuter.com/

Runner’s World April 2013: “The Run Commute”

The Runner’s Kitchen: A How-To Guide to the Run Commute

Happy commuting!

“If some people get upset because they feel they have a hold on some things, I’m merely acting as a gentle reminder: here today, gone tomorrow, so don’t get attached to things…”

“…Now, with that in mind, I’m not against collecting stuff.”

Maude, Harold and Maude.

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Inspired by The Minimalists, I’m working towards simplifying my life by freeing myself of some of the things that I own. Starting with my clothes. God I had so many clothes, and it feels awesome to not worry about owning them anymore. Our tendency to assign meaning to objects can really slow us down. These associations can make giving or throwing things away difficult or even feel agonizing, but it also creates the lightness we experience when unburdened by their emotional weight.

What I appreciate about Joshua and Ryan, who write The Minimalists, is their holistic approach. Minimalism isn’t just cleaning out your closet and donating a bunch of garbage to Goodwill. They encourage eradicating materialism and exercising mindfulness in all areas of our lives – from personal relationships, to physical fitness, personal style, decision-making, money management, setting goals (or more specifically, why not to), to discovering your passion and purpose. 

Now, with that in mind, I’m not against cleaning out your closet and donating a bunch of garbage to Goodwill. 🙂 It feels good to start.

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