In the Spirit of Independence…

My longest race EVER is tomorrow morning at 8am in Santa Barbara! I registered for the Santa Barbara Semana Nautical 15K about three months ago hoping to find a midsummer race to keep me motivated through the season. It’s my last mini-race (and by mini I mean magnitude AND cost) until September…which is pretty much the month when everything will be splitting sideways and not stopping until after Thanksgiving, maybe even Christmas.

Independence Day has always been bittersweet for me. I’ve either spent it alone, coercing people into doing things with me, or being coerced into doing things. This year I’ll be spending it running! (I made plans well in advance to prevent the spending it alone, being coerced, or coercing others.) I’m looking forward to running my first 15K in beautiful Santa Barbara, a gorgeous college town I had not ventured into for almost a year now. There’s a few spots I would love to hit before I skip town since I’m doing a turnaround trip — The Blue Agave for dessert, maybe Pierre Lafonde Wine Bistro for breakfast, that cute little game shop on State Street where I found a pint-sized version of Family Business. For sure I want to spend some time near/on the water. Ideally I’d get some open water swimming but that might not be in my cards this time, unless I can rationalize an ocean swim as some sort of post-run shower!

I think that this run is going to be great — it’s so close to the ocean that I’m positive that I’ll be able to catch a glimpse of an ocean vista sometime during the 9.3 miles. This will be my longest race to date, but not quite my longest run. I’ve ran longer, but I’ve been in cross-training mode and have been tapering off my running so that I could add in more cycling and swimming. I miss running but I guess I’m cutting down so that I can balance my training out a bit. Missing my running time makes me tackle my cycling and swimming with more gusto.

In the spirit of Independence Day I hope everyone finds something to celebrate. I hope that somewhere, deep inside, we can all remain independent of the forces around us that we cannot control. I hope that we all find some sort of inner peace that we can rely on to guide us during hard times. Most of all, I hope that we all find motivation to do things that we *wish* we could do. Most of the things we seek are well within reach if we can recognize the willpower and desire within. For me it’s simultaneously tackling my marathon training with more serious dedication, while focusing and balancing my triathlon training. Why I do it is a completely different story, although freeing in of itself!

Q+A: "Why Do You Keep Running?"

I received a blog request from Elijah this week on my running habit —

“You should do a post on why you kept running after you started, even on those days that you didn’t want to.”

 

Lately, it’s been harder and harder for me to keep the momentum going.

I’ve been running between 4-6 days a week for 4 months now. I can’t actually remember the last time I was this diligent about something. But, then again, I can’t remember the last time I continuously did ONE THING that helped me in all aspects of my life.

In hindsight, running seemed to have been the silver bullet that fixed a lot of problems in my life. If I had a bad day, I’d go on a run. If I had a great day, I’d go on a run. If I got into a fight with someone, I’d go on a run. If I wanted some time alone, I’d go on a run. Heck, if I wanted to pig out that night, I’d go on a run.

So, why am I still running?

There’s a part of me that has made room for this in my life. I made the choice that I was no longer going to be held prisoner to my own mind and body. The extra weight, sluggishness, decreased productivity, and lack of mental focus was really just a manifestation of my unhappiness. That isn’t to say that being skinny is the key to happiness — it isn’t — but when there’s one less thing for you to worry about it frees up your mind to concentrate on the things that matter.

To be honest, I’m still running because I’ve found so much inspiration in a lot of other people…the NPO director who manages a thriving career with spinlates every week. The aspiring triathlete who decided to take baby steps with her training program. The coworker who decides to lace up his running shoes to join me for a few miles around town. The friend who decides to take charge of her life. The significant other who keeps trying to find ways to live a healthier lifestyle, no matter what obstacles life throws in his way. There are people out there who I know that try a thousand times harder than I do to be the best that they can be. If all I have to do is throw on some workout gear and run around town a bit to keep up with them, it seems well worth it. It makes me feel like I’m chasing their successes and supporting their aspirations too.

In addition to that, I think I’ve also been getting better at playing mind games with myself. By always dangling yet another carrot in front of me that is *just* out of reach for now, it makes me work harder to achieve those goals. For instance, I’ve registered my races as far in advance as 6 months. I know that I’ll always have something to work towards. My first 5K was in March, 10K in April, 15K in July, half marathon in September, sprint triathlon in September, and marathon in November.

Living life to the fullest is not about setting it on auto-pilot. It’s about challenging yourself to be the very best self you can be. That’s why, when I get comfortable doing one thing (like running), I try to switch it up a bit (like deciding to train for a triathlon). I had not even been on the saddle of a bike for almost five years before I got back on it again. It took me a few weeks to get comfortable riding around a block at a time. When I got comfortable, I decided to challenge myself to ride it to work about a mile away. When I got comfortable doing that for a bit, I decided to increase my mileage 200% and to get comfortable doing that. And, you can bet that when I am comfortable making that ride I will keep the momentum going.

When I get tired — as in, fatigued from my daily life, bicycling around town, or mentally taxed from an inundation of emails — I know when to lay off. Sometimes, though, my body tricks me into modes of conservation. It tells me when I’m tired when I’ve actually still got some gas left in the tank. What I’ve learned at races is when to hold back — such as in the cases of fatigue in training — and when to leave it all out on the road and to come home empty. At my two best races thus far, I’ve had complete strangers help pace me when I nearly wanted to throw in the towel. My first experience was actually in my first race — about halfway through I was exhausted and tired. I trained primarily on flat roads and this course was hilly. I wasn’t prepared at all and my body was screaming at me to start walking. However, the minute that I began to doubt my abilities, a much older man — probably in his sixties or so — came right up behind me and (literally) gave me the extra push and words of confidence that I needed to hear to keep on going. I still get chills thinking about that kind man’s gesture to this day.

Similarly at my last race in Santa Monica, I was so very close to the finish line that I could see it. I could hear the crowd cheering on runners as they crossed the timing mats. I could feel myself pretty darned tired from the course (uphill grade again), and pretty tired from the four weeks that┬ápreceded┬áthe race (I just wrapped the planning and execution of a 5K event the day before). He saw me about half a mile from the finish and he began pacing — and I tried to keep up with him. When he noticed what I was doing, he kept speeding up a bit, here and there, to see if I could keep up. I did, and we crossed the finish line together. Afterwards he beamed a huge smile and told me that I kept up a great pace and that he’d see me at the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon in the fall. (I wonder if I’ll be able to keep up with him then!)

Lastly, nothing — honestly, nothing — gives me more joy than knowing that I was able to help someone else reach their goals. (Beware that if you ever divulge some sort of secret hidden goal you have that I will probably try to concoct a way for you to achieve it…and I’ll probably pester you in some fashion as to why you are not yet actively trying to do it on your own.) Being able to cheer a friend on at the finish line or give my two cents on how they should approach a problem makes me happy. And, since running seems to be facilitating that conversation, I think I’ll just lace up my shoes and keep on running!

Long Weekends, Long Runs

Hope you all had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend! I spent my time off balancing pure relaxation and pushing my limits. All in all it was pretty fun!

 

I’ve found that double digit runs have been very intimidating for me personally, even though I’ve done a few of them already. There’s reticence on my end since I usually have to prep a bit for it. A 3, 4, 5, or 6 mile run requires nothing more than staying hydrated beforehand and then eating immediately afterwards…and usually sunscreen 20 minutes before I leave.

However, when a run goes into 10, 11, 12, 13+ mile range, I usually load up my hydration pack and a few portable snacks since I get hungry pretty easily. Then comes the lag. I take forever to get dressed. I walk circles around my apartment — even though it’s pretty small — and make excuses and procrastinate. I start flipping through magazines or organizing my desk, cleaning out the fridge, fix my hair…pretty much anything except get myself out of the door. The last bit of procrastination usually includes me laying down on my couch for a bit and visualizing my run. I never really know what gets me up off that couch and out the door but it does and I get on with it.

It’s not so much the dread of feeling tired, or getting sweaty, or whatever other excuse I can come up with, that gets in the way. For some strange reason I’m always paranoid that I won’t finish my run. It sounds ridiculous because all I have to do is choose to end it — I can cut it short, I can take a detour, I can stop and enjoy a park, or I can extend it — so really, “finishing” is relative. Finishing a run is not really the same as finishing school, finishing a project, or finishing the course of a relationship. Or perhaps it really is the same, since we are all in control of our choices, our happiness, and how we manage the things that effect us.

There’s almost an invisible amount of pressure on me that I’ve really just fabricated. Being enrolled in a marathon training class is a little pressure, but it’s really the good kind. I’ve enjoyed it thus far but what I’ve missed the most lately is running just for the sake of running — not to train for something, not to qualify for a race, not to check in or check out, but just for the sheer fun of it.

Today I decided to take a different mental approach and re-run a very difficult course with the mentality that I was just running for fun. (I of course checked in to it!) I focused on a few things: 1) keeping my composure, 2) smiling a bit more at strangers, 3) enjoying the scenery and 4) maintaining a consistent pace. I ran through Miracle Mile, Hancock Park, Sunset Blvd/The Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and back to Miracle Mile. With that attitude, my run was an absolute breeze!! I enjoyed a beautiful sunset along the Sunset Strip, and enjoyed magic hour in Beverly Hills. It was night by the time I made my way though WeHo and back towards my home and when I ran through the final streetlight, I didn’t feel a bit tired. My knees were a bit achy, but my breathing wasn’t labored and my energy wasn’t shot. Los Angeles is so beautiful, especially on the tail end of a long weekend that vacates the city. With the wind this weekend, the skies were clean and clear. For once I felt like I had the city all to myself…and I treasured every minute of it.

Now that I’ve taken this route a second time, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for some interesting photos. Next time I run this same route, I’ll create a photo album so that you guys get to see what I see! After this weekend I feel confident that I will be able to successfully take on the 15K in Santa Barbara on July 4th without a problem. I’m so excited to make my way back to Santa Barbara again…I am positive that the course will be absolutely stunning.

To end an otherwise great weekend, I received this nugget of genius in my email box just a few minutes ago…

Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself. -John Bingham

Recent Read: Born To Run

I started this book today waiting for the Metro to take me home from my just-completed 13 mile point-to-point run from my apartment to the ocean. It came highly recommended by a client who also happens to be a triathlete.

I’m about halfway through it so far and I’m impressed — it’s linear insomuch that it reconstructs the chronology of particular chance encounters but also spins off into sub-chapters explaining the characteristics that each of the ultrarunners bring to the game. I’ve excerpted a few of my favorite passages below.

(Update: I’ve finished the book and it was great! I loved the storytelling aspect as the writer follows many different runners on their journey. The only part I didn’t like was that there was one small portion where the author was hypocritical: he makes a mention of an unsaid runners code of ethics, but then manages to slam another professional runner a few pages later. I wonder why the editor let that one slide by!)

Pick it up! My rating: 8/10

* * *

“Lesson two….think easy, light, smooth, and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooth. You don’t have to worry about the last one — you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

* * *

Was Zatopek a great man who happen to run, or a great man because he ran? Vigil couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but his gut kept telling him that there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love running. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you got, being patient and forgiving and undemanding. Sex and speed — haven’t they been symbiotic for most of our existence, as intertwined as the strands of DNA? We wouldn’t be alive without love; we wouldn’t have survived without running; maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.”

* * *

That fall, a photo appeared in UltraRunning Magazine. It shows Jenn finishing a 30-mile race somewhere in the backwoods of Virginia. There’s nothing amazing about her performance (third place), or her getup (basic black shorts, basic black sports bra), or even the camera work (dimly let, crudely cropped). Jenn isn’t battling a rival to the bitter end, or striding across a mountaintop with the steel-jawed majesty of a Nike model, or gasping toward glory with a grimace of heartbreaking determination. All she’s doing is…running. Running, and smiling. But that smile is strangely stirring. You can tell she’s having an absolute blast, as if there’s nothing on earth she’d rather be doing and nowhere on earth she’d rather be doing it than here, on this lost trail in the middle of the Appalachian wilderness. Even though she’s just run four miles further than a marathon, she looks light-footed and carefree, her eyes twinkling, her ponytail swinging around her head like a shirt in the fist of a triumphant Brazilian soccer player. Her naked delight is unmistakable; it forces a smile to her lips that’s so honest and unguarded, you feel she’s lost in the grip of artistic inspiration.

* * *

Ann liked to tell her friends that running huge miles in the mountains was “very romantic.” But yeah, Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it.

Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget that you’re moving. And once you break through that soft, half-levitating flow, that’s when the moonlight and champagne show up.

* * *

 

When Your Company Is Bigger Than Life And You Can Still Acknowledge Your Fans…That's a Good Sign

You know what it shows me when someone uber-successful actually responds to an @mention?

It shows me that they don’t believe that their accomplishments are bigger than themselves.

I totally respect that. Techie startup LOVE! <3

I’d like to think that one day (when I reach a fraction of success that our contemporary tech entrepreneurs have achieved) I’ll never forget to look back on the supporters that made all of my achievements possible.

Twitter co-founder, Author of "140 Characters"