Thursday, August 31, 2017

Back outdoors.....

          So fear, injury and complacency has basically kept me indoors in the gym for the past 6-8 months. So much so that I began to fear every aspect of running outdoors. Okay, maybe not fear, but certainly I dreaded every aspect of running outdoors. The "what ifs" got in my way and soon it became super easy just to watch movies on my iPad as I completes 5, 8, or even 15 miles. 

       But then, last week, I got this one stiff leg incident, a mix of pain, panic and fear on the treadmill, reminding me of the long and painful injury on that part of my leg and how I do not want to get injured now. I attribute the injury to running a very singular way that one treadmills do for you. When running outdoors it becomes easy to adjust one's gait, something next to impossible on a treadmill. The fear of not being able to run at all forced me outdoors. So, the night before I set up my clothes, charged my flashlight, and made the kids' lunches. 

When running outdoors I wear reflective-wear, and carry a flashlight, mace, a water bottle with clear front pocket and handles and earphones. 

Coffee!! I need to set my alarm enough time to drink coffee in peace and quiet in the mornings. 

I forgot how much I love running in the mornings.....I am so hooked again. 

Only saw one other runner the whole time. Some areas are clear like this, while some other areas have overgrown bushes which do make me take out my earphones and become super aware. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Latino Tree cutters and endurance

                             This week, we employed 4 men to cut down two three-story trees from my backyard. I was not surprised when the crew arrived and they were all Latino, like me. They worked all day long, from 8:30am until 4pm and at the end of that one day, like a miracle, both mammoth trees were gone from our home, G.O.N.E, not a single trace left of them, not a branch, not a leaf. This was all in one day's work for these men and I could not even begin to imagine what their bodies probably felt like the next morning. I don't even think the effort of running an ultra would compare to the amount of work they did in that day. It absolutely blew my mind and humbled me into a million pieces to see these men working with such intensity. This was no ordinary "tough day" at the office, it was an enormous physical feat like nothing I've ever witnessed. I was so moved while watching them that for the past few days now I keep picturing the four of them carrying those large, heavy logs up a wet and slippery hill (my back yard) and loading them onto a truck in my driveway. One of them used the bare strength of his arms and legs, and the minimal help of a belt strap, to climb all the way up to the summit of each tree, oh, and while carrying an electric saw at the same time, I should add. Another worker was barely 18 years of age and only a few inches taller than my middle school son. At the end of the day they all looked like they had walked through a hurricane, they were completely covered in sawdust from head to toe and their faces were dirty with sweat and backyard debris. 

                             Afterwards, as my husband and I stood in my front yard, chatting with them in Spanish and thanking them for their labor, I felt an enormous sense of pride pour over me. These are my people. I come from a long line of people just like these four men. These are people that are not afraid of hard work, willing to do the work that's required of them to feed their families. We know fairly well that the type of work we do does not define us, but that the quality of effort and the type of work we produce does define us. I too come from this line of people who have fearlessly faced impossible obstacles to move themselves and their family forward. I know this first hand from having worked hard myself all my life. I have never been afraid of work, being financially independent and being able to provide for my needs and those of my family have always been first thing on the agenda. 

                        Before college, for example, I refused to go to school that fall without money. That summer I did all sorts of jobs, from house cleaning, to retail, gardening, babysitting. I worked like a dog, with a good attitude and a smile on my face; I did beautiful work. I saved up thousands that summer before college began and went to college with money in my pocket. 

              My mom has also been an amazing example of endurance. She has worked hard all her life, working as a housekeeper for over 30 years. I know it's not as physically demanding as tree cutting, but not an easy job either. In fact, I don't remember her ever taking a vacation while we were growing up. Most first generation Latinos, like my mom, hardly give themselves the luxury of vacation. Vacation to us is a night's gathering for birthdays or anniversaries over a delicious home-cooked meal, sprinkled with lots of laughter and jokes. But that is a far cry from what Americans consider a "vacation". Vacation was just not what we ever did as a family, not in our DNA. Even now, I have family members who continue to work in grueling environments, full of daily safety hazards, no vacations in sight, and in most cases, with zero insurance to boot. We Latinos know endurance very well. So, it's no secret I am drawn to this sport of endurance. Not only that, looking back at my heritage I know this is my sport. 

                       In reflecting for this post I was reminded of staying up late nights in the summers as a young teen, to help my mom at her job as a housekeeper, and even at that young age, knowing that even though I was only a child I could not go to bed until the guests have left, the post-party clean-up work was completed, the dishes were in the washer and the diner tables were cleared. I need to come back often to this post every time I doubt whether or not I belong in this sport or whenever I doubt myself as a 'runner'. I will be reminded then that 'Yes', this is my sport, I am fully connected to it, not only in spirit but physically too. My body knows hard work, it's not scary to sweat for hours on end. Sacrifice, endurance, good attitude, excellent work ethics and a relentless striving towards a goal is deep in my DNA. Those are all my cultural gifts and I am so thankful for them. My hope now is that all those gifts I just listed will one day be instrumental in helping me cross that 50-mile mark of my first real ultra. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Powerful beyond measure

                            On a newly minted 2017-2018 paper calendar, I penciled in all my required training miles for both my fall marathons and the ultra in March of next year. After completing the task, which took an hour or more, frankly, I am not sure about this. The back, to back, to back long runs are quite daunting to the mind and I am afraid of getting to those later months and feeling completely overwhelmed and not accomplishing the task I set out to do. But, after having lived this process in training for past marathons, I know that is only fear speaking, and sometimes fear is way too cautious, for fear can literally choke the life out of you. 

                             In trying to come up with ways to tackle this feeling of enormity and overwhelming sense of dread, I know, deep inside that all I need to do, on any given day, is attack that day, accomplish those day miles and continue to put my 'nose to the grind each and every day. The minute I add up the weekly miles in my head or think about the actual distance of a, say,  a 30 miler and a 15 back-to-back, I shudder. But that keeps me focused is that I want this! I want this so much. Deep inside I know that what will make this possible for me (or not) will be the way I think about it. In running long races, more than any other activity I know of, one needs to be really aware of the consequences, if you may, ones' thoughts. Yes, training is important, it's half the preparation. Yet, where my mind is at is JUST as important. My thinking could make this happen, or could make it unravel faster than I can run a mile. I know now that within me, and within the contents of my thoughts, lie all the strength I need to make this race happen. Like the famous Marianne Williamson quote says, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."  

                            I AM powerful beyond measure. But it's not just me that is powerful, everyone I meet is powerful beyond measure. It saddens me when I meet someone and the first thing they tell me when they know I run far is, "I could never do that". Words are so incredibly powerful, that in that statement alone they instantly strip away their own power. In that instant they are totally right, they could never do that. But not because they can't, but because they believe they can't. Beliefs are powerful things. They can tie us down or liberate us. They can cause great suffering or heal. I know a woman who is in an abusive marriage for almost two decades now. Kids have grown and gone, she has a good job to be able to financially support herself, but still, she remains, tied to this horrible man. To all of us looking at her life from the outside we can clearly see that she could leave at any moment, but to her, she is solidly bound to this jerk and sees no way out. 

                          Clearly, I have a lot of work to do. Getting my mind to believe that this is possible is what I am working on right now. To get myself there I am reading lots of testimonials from first time 50 mile runners, listening to ultra running podcasts, and getting as much sleep, relaxation and rest as I can when I am not running. Once the miles begin piling up and I get stronger I will feel even more confident. In the meantime, one run at a time. 


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Getting mentally ready.....just as important

                     It took me talking about my 50-miler with another runner to make me realize that I am scared shit-less about it and that I do not yet have my thoughts in the right place when it comes to this race. The minute it was brought up in conversation I noticed my breath become shorter and more stiff and I needed to suck in extra air so as to breathe. But scared shit-less does not mean you tuck your tail between your legs and run, it never means that, in fact, it's a call to do JUST the opposite, a call to action, a call to face your deepest, darkest fears valiantly or die doing it. Okay, okay, I don't want to die doing it, but I am approaching this as if it were an offshoot of Odysseus's journey. To me it's an epic adventure in which at the end I find something amazing. 

                     So what would it take to feel it in my bones that yes,  I could do this? In the marathon it took me doing one or two 20-milers to get my mind thinking that maybe, just maybe I can complete this 26.2 mile distance and not, say, die or faint from the pain. For a 50 miler, obviously, I'd have to complete a 30 or even a 35-miler in order to in my heart know that it is possible. But in this case I feel that I would also need something more, something from my heart. The more I read about completing a 50-miler from various online sources, the more I learn that it's not whether things will go wrong, but that when things DO go downhill (because things WILL go downhill) that I will have the wherewithal to keep myself moving forward. 

                     When I completed my first ever long race, the 50K race back in 2013 I did fall apart. A wonderful man, The man the race hired to be the "sweeper" in fact, and whose name I regrettably forgot, helped me mentally cross the finish line. He encouraged me to keep going when I no longer thought I could and distracted me with his friendly company for at least the last 6 miles for the race. Had it not been for him I would have surely not finished and certainly not within the cut-off. In a similar situation, at the last marathon I ran, the Marine Corps Marathon, I helped another runner in quite the same way and now we are close buddies on social media. I think the fear of this race stems from worrying about my mental state at the last 10, 12 miles and wondering if I will perhaps need the help of another 'guardian angel'. I can take care of being physically ready for the race for sure. I will show up on race day and be ready with my many miles under my belt. But seeing as I cannot fathom where my mind will be many miles and hours later I will just have to trust that my heart resolve is strong enough to get me through, and if not, I will also trust that the Universe will provide what I need at that time, whether that is a buddy or a helping hand, or maybe even ice cold soda! 

              We all know how we prepare our bodies to run a long race, but how do YOU prepare mentally for a race? Please comment below. Thanks!!


Saturday, August 12, 2017


I opened up my Facebook and THIS is what I see. I guess it's more and more official as the days roll in. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Show me love - Keep your words

         You can't always get what you want in the way you want it.....Once understood, this understanding could bring so much peace and happiness....yes, happiness. 

       As human beings, we greatly fear and work hard to avoid things not going our way. We spend a lot of time and energy planning ways to manipulate situations, emotions and even work hard as to avoid the huge uncertainty that is disappointment.  This way of thinking is very laborious, yet, one in which most of us fail to see how much we really take part in daily. Most people I come across on a daily basis try very hard to make things go their way, yet, it's a useless and worthless endeavor that can only bring more suffering. When we complain, when we get defensive at the way someone behaves, when something unplanned happens that cause us stress, what do most people do? They start calculating ways to make things go differently. Let me explain. 

      I am not sure when I stopped trying to change people, but I firmly believe, for some time now, that people don't change unless they want to change...PERIOD. I myself am a perfect example of this. My mom use to lecture me (and my sister) for hours and hours and I went on to make all my own personal brand of mistakes, I am talking about massively dumb and stupid mistakes, ones that could have easily gotten me killed or maimed.  None of which I'd like to share here, ever! Of course, as most believe, I could have just avoided all this pain and suffering in my early life by simply following her words of wisdom, yet, as I stated at the beginning, humans never change unless they want to and I only wanted to change years later, on my own terms, in my own time. I finally changed when I read books from people I admired, I changed when I met or read about people who've inspired me in the way they lived and the things they did. I changed when I needed words of wisdom in my life and I sought out to find the right ways of thinking. But, most importantly, I changed when I wanted to change. 

         The biggest take-away here is that it's a total waste of time to fight what is, it's a total waste of time to stick your hands in anyone's life thinking you have the magic key to their happiness, or the right words to bring about nirvana(, not to mention a bit egoistic as well). We, individually, don't hold the key to everyone's problems, in fact, only the individual knows what will help them get out of their own personal hell, or karma. When people behave unpredictably, most people, viscerally, make an effort to try to change this behavior. We do this in many ways, sometimes in such subtle ways, we might not even know we are doing it, sometimes, not so subtle. I have found myself doing that in my own marriage by either pouting, or becoming silent and cold when my husband behaves a way I in which I disagree. 

        Recently, more and more I have felt the need to affect others less and less. My inaction when things don't go my way does not mean I don't care, it just means that I know the nature of humanity and I trust that the person involved will, on their own terms, find their way, without my personalized brand of wisdom getting in the way. To try and change another's mind is futile and wasteful. So now, when things don't go as I wish I say my peace, then simply sit in love. Nothing leaves me but love, not contempt, not passive aggressiveness, not defensiveness. At age 44 I know that the act of love is allowing others to be themselves at their most basic, common denominator level self they cold be and not fighting it, at all. The act of love is called "allow"

          But I have found there IS a way to more effectively ring about change in others without ever opening your mouth, and that is through action. I have learned this lesson from none other than my husband who has taught me so much about true friendship, and without ever uttering a single words about the subject mind you. His actions as an equal partner and member of our family says love daily. Also, my grandmother, who lived her 98 years of life true to her deep convictions and who treated all people she came across with respect, kindness and hospitality, no matter how they behaved towards her. Actions, as you see, are more pure than words ever could be, for they require you yourself to live your convictions and as the quote says, "Actions speak louder than words.

          I believe running has helped me see the simplicity and the beauty of actions (versus mere words). For example, one can talk about running all they want, but it's the action of running that makes you a runner. Same goes for love, you can say you love 'unconditionally' all you want, but it's the act of loving unconditionally that makes that statement true. Loving unconditionally does not say, "I love you IF", it says, "I love you regardless of.....". Perhaps, that is why ultimately I have never been a big fan of overly flowery compliments or gushy accolades. In fact, to be totally honest, they have always made me a bit uneasy....okay, very uneasy. Flowery compliments and gushy language just clouds things rather than clarify, they make things more complex and less simple. Besides, once love is professed, does one really need to renew one's love vows so often? And if yes? Why? what does that say about the quality of that love? In a marriage, for example, I feel the partnership, the camaraderie of the relationship and  the friendship alone fills me with so much love; need we continually fan some flame with flowery words? 


Monday, August 7, 2017

TO SHARE OR NOT TO SHARE - a reflection on social media

        I have not been posting my runs on Facebook as much as used to. In fact, I have not been posting very much of anything on Facebook lately or any other social media forum. If you know me well, you know this is a new thing for me, for I generally post many times a day. But more and more I have not felt the need to share anything, no matter how magical, no matter how special, not on social media or anywhere else. I have found that no matter how special something is one cannot possibly convey this level of "special" with a photo or a quote or both. Second, I also found that sharing any special experience on social media, to a ton of people whom I hardly ever see or connect with personally, cheapens the totality of the experience. 

       Interestingly, I believe this change to be a bigger sign of something greatly positive in my life.  All of the sudden, I don't have this voracious need to see my life reflected back to me via someone else's comments or reflections. All of the sudden, my experience of any given special moment is sufficient enough to fulfill me. That sunrise I experienced is mine, just mine, just as the success of completing that grueling treadmill 14-miler this morning was also all mine, no one else could possibly say anything to make me feel prouder. I did not care, crave or want for others' verbal high-fives. 

       So what does all this mean in the bigger picture? To me, this means I have surely reached a new level of independence in the way I view and value my own personal voice and experience.  As someone who began her life journey as someone who constantly made way, bent-over backwards and accommodated, making way for others' perspectives first and foremost, this change is quite revolutionary. In fact, my first 30 years of life were spent constantly wrought with trying to correctly read, then appease the wrong people. Perhaps there is an invisible common thread here with this issue I brought up earlier, having to do with taking up space and valuing one's own discomfort barometer. Part of showing oneself self-respect is paying attention to one's inner barometer and vocalizing loud and clear when things are not fun, comfortable or pleasant. As a dear friend once excellently pointed out to me, "Normal people have no issues with you setting boundaries." It's only the bullies that push their weight around, pout and punish you for speaking out when not comfortable. 

        So back to Facebook. Suddenly, I don't need or care to share. It's not a bad thing, it's not a good thing. It just is the way it is. Suddenly, only my voice, my perspective, my experience of any given event matters. Not needing external validation for my own thoughts, opinions and feelings is so incredibly liberating, probably because now there is just one voice up there, calling the shots, making decisions. I don't think I will take myself out of Facebook altogether, but I do know something in me has changed and I get very little out of sharing my runs, my thoughts, my special moments with the world. Again, not a bad thing, not a good thing.....just the way things are. 


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Longer and Longer to make it easier

                   You know training is going well when you begin thinking of a 4 or a 6-miler as "easy". Yesterday I did a 7-miler and my body adjusted beautifully, no stiffness, no pain, not even the day after. Also, I have been doing my best to stretch after every run and it has been helping to keep me pain free and flexible. What has been getting tough is making the runs mentally interesting. Because not all runs could be in a beautiful forest, which would be ideal, I often need to come up with ways to entertain myself over the 1-3 hours I am out there. Below are some ways I have found help. 

1. Audio books downloaded from your local library via your Overdrive app on your phone
2. Music
3. Podcasts. My favorite podcasts are Marathon Training Academy with trevor and Angie and The Ultrarunner Podcast. Either will always have interesting, almost hour-long shows. 
4. If in a forest or a trail, I don't need anything....Just the sounds of nature is enough to make the run fun. Plus, you need your ears to stay alert and not slip and fall and most likely you will run into turtles, bizarre birds and many other creature. Huge bonus. 
5. Music- New music based on a "radio" from a song you already have. On Spotify you can turn any song into a "radio" and the program selects music similar to this song. Great way to find great music you are likely to love. 
6. When really suffering I count, 1-20, then back again, 1-20. At the end of every 20 I fold down a finger and when I get to 100 I start again. This works best when in lots of discomfort from heat, or exertion but I know there's more in the tank. Helps to keep your mind from convincing you to stop.
7. A new route of any kind does the trick! This works best for really long runs. Find a beautiful, never explored route and explore it. Time will go by really fast. 
8. Some people find it easier to run with others. Not my thing. Long story. This is a tough one for slower runners like me....most often we get left behind and run on our own anyway, so its best to start alone anyway. Less confusion and less broken expectations. 
9. Run in the elements. Nothing makes you feel more like a badass than running in the elements. Whether it's in the rain, wind or in the snow, running in weather other than good weather can be quite entertaining. Especially, if you have the right gear. It would be no use running in 3 inches of snow if you did not have those nifty snow claws to wear over your shoes, same as it would be useless to run in the rain without a plastic bag in which to store your phone. 

               I have a 14-miler this Sunday and I am starting to think of where I could explore in Nassau County, Long Island, where I am for another week and a half.