December 24, 2015

How long it takes to run 100 miles

From sun up to sun down, that's how long it took me to run Lookout Mountain 50 this weekend. During the race I kept my family updated with pictures like this.

And this. 

These pics said something like, hey family, I'm alive enough to use my fingers to operate a camera and mentally aware enough to switch my phone into airplane mode between aid stations to save battery juice and still crazy enough to be smiling even though my pinky toenail is slowly detaching itself from my left foot with each painful step. 

I was sending texts from stops along the route because I never expected my family to try and meet me at aid stations or follow me around the course. Mostly because they had things to do, like watch Star Wars and swim at the hotel pool. Plus, I want my family to still love my running, and forcing them to stand around and wait three hours by an aid station in the woods to see me for ten seconds isn't the best way to inspire run love. 

But even without being in the middle of the trail action that day, my kidlets took notice of what went down. 

1. That their mom ran so much that she needed all hands on deck for feet and back massages (as long as they did not touch the toenails!). 

2. And that running 50 miles takes All. Day. Long. 

In the spirit of observing things, my son Creed used all of the wisdom he gleaned from Lookout Mountain 50 to calculate how long it's going to take me to run Vermont 100 this summer. 

The accuracy. The emphatic hand. The addition. This kid is my hero. 

December 18, 2015

Lookout Mtn 50 is tomorrow!

Our trail runner book club is reading Into Thin Air this month. First, how have I not read this before now?!! Second, whaaaat? I'm not a climber and have no desire to become one (although a trusted source swears that you can have a fear of heights AND be a climber), but man, this story hit me so hard. Even though I finished it weeks ago, I can't get the people and events out of my mind, and they'll be with me tomorrow as I take on Lookout Mountain 50, here in Chattanooga. 

One of the messages from the book: never stop dreaming.

(see he CAN smile in pictures) Those pins represent some of my top dreams too.

Another favorite part of the book: the descriptions of how it felt on top of Everest. To be there striving for greatness but up against decreasing oxygen, incredible fatigue, and crushing elements. 

No, it's not even close to Everest, but ultras have this element of nothingness at some point. It started out as a great idea, a fun adventure, a spike in adrenaline. But at some point, your body is just on a mission to survive, and you lose the ability to find joy or sorrow. You are just tired. And why do we put ourselves in these situations that push us to that nothingness? I'm not sure, but knowing that you can push through joy, pain, joy, pain, nothingness, and beyond is something. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable -- that is the challenge, tomorrow and in life.

But don't worry, the nothingness isn't all of it. There will be a lot of happy moments tomorrow. And if they don't come to me, I will go out and find them (as long as they are within arm's reach of that trail, and I don't have to move very quickly to get to them).

My drop bags are packed with a variety of things that might appeal to me in the moment:
Honey Stingers
Sport Beans
Hammer Gel -- Apple Cinnamon, the best flavor of all time!
Pocket Fuels
Huma Gel
Tailwind (which will be the base fuel!)
Justin's Nut Butter

And practical stuff like:
Dry socks
Extra buff
Portable phone charger

We did our shakeout walk through downtown Chattanooga.

And my flat trail runner is all laid out.

High of 45 tomorrow and no rain predicted. So basically, it will be a perfect day for running!

Text me if you are bored tomorrow! Your text will probably be the thing that helps me run another mile.

November 16, 2015

[Fill in the blank] is not stirred

The last week or so has been the week(s) of the crappiest things. Terrorism and policy changes and whole-family stomach viruses. 

The only upside to any of those is that a stomach virus, turns out, is a highly successful diet plan. 

The Virus Diet protocol: 

1. Send your child to any school or public setting, especially Chuck E. Cheese's.

2. Child bites fingernails or picks food up off of the ground to eat it. Also probably forgot to eat breakfast, and mom did not verify.

3. Virus starts as an upset stomach that you promise them is just because they need to poop. 

4. Receive call from school nurse that child has vomited at school and probably told nurse that you made them to go to school even though they previously mentioned an upset stomach. Or told them that you watch Dance Moms

5. You start to feel sick right as you have finished volunteering to hand water cups to everyone at a 2K-person race. (not an actual event, but a fake scenario that will now haunt all of my future trips through a race water stop)

6. Even though you declare you are sick first, your spouse acts sicker. And potentially fakes a second vomit to not have to be the first one to get up when the next kid blows chunks. 

Bam, no one eats for three days. 

Guaranteed to lose at least five pounds on this plan. If you are looking for more, you could try the Flu Followed by Virus a Week Later plan. 

Once my mom told me that she was trying the Concentration Camp Diet, and she was not trying to be funny. She heard about it on TV. Probably making Benjamin Franklin regret finding electricity. 

With all of these sad thoughts crowding the week, I decided it was time to make family cards to send out. 

I couldn't decide whether to go with this deceivingly depressing (or depressingly deceiving) quote about happiness from Henry David Thoreau: 

Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder. 

Trying to be happy is so 2014. Like Diesel Jettas and the ice bucket challenge. 

Or should the card stick with the mood at the start of this post:

I am usually a very peaceful person but this is making me very warlike at this time. I will step on every one of your heads using your skulls as stepping stones to the river that is the street. And then I will take hot tea and take a sip of it spit it into each and every one of your mouths. Sure, it'll burn me. But it'll burn you twice. Burn me once with tea, shame on me. Burn you twice in your own mouth, shame on everyone involved! (Candace, Portlandia)

And in the interest of all things that didn't make the Christmas card cut, I present the Enoch is Not Stirred series. Similar to Enoch is Not Impressed, but that was taken. Plus, Enoch is Not Stirred is way more Downton Abbey than "not impressed."

Sharing because it makes the least sense of all the things.

Sure as the middle child, Enoch possesses the physical ability to smile for family pictures. 

Proof it can happen.

But why smile, if you can use family photos as a platform for your disappointment in any given activity?

Family reunion, 2010, the original Enoch is Not Stirred. Breaking your arm on a zipline is a pretty good excuse.

This year's family vacation provided the rest of my night's entertainment, as Enoch was not stirred over and over again, rendering almost 90% of group pictures too weird for the Christmas card. 

Here Enoch looks thrilled to see some of the largest trees on the entire planet. 

Space Needle, face needle. Both sound awful. Who needs it?

Doing whatever I want for a whole afternoon in a groomed park, ugh, why?

Going with the obvious choice in a whole family photo, frown city. 

This was a full-out photo rebellion because his siblings (and a million other tourists who were waiting to take their picture right outside of this photo's frame, while I yelled at my child 100 times to stop whining and have fun already) stole his idea to "hold up" the rock. 

His mom's college campus and where his parents fell in love. Big nope.

Still not stirred. 

Rainbow art installations. Meh. 

And it was cold outside. 

Arches National Park. Got nothing for ya.

Stay tuned for the final version of the card that is probably less stirring than this post but also includes a quote. 

And just once this week, be not stirred in a group picture in honor of Enoch. If we can't preserve any other kind of human decency this week, let's go ahead and take the reins on the right to express our true feelings in group pictures. 

October 26, 2015

How to boost your self esteem in five easy steps

Ever had one of those weeks where you are like, bwahhhh why, earth?! Or more like, bwahhh why, humans? Well I have been working on the secret recipe for boosting you up when you feel low, and with this completely flawless formula, you too can feel like a man or woman of steel. 

Just five easy steps, y'all. Anyone can do five things, right? 

Unless those five things include making it all the way to the bottom of laundry baskets or listening to the Whip/Nae Nae song without doing the moves. Some things are impossible, and we must learn to accept that (<<<also, that is Step 6 for when you master the first five). 

Warning: most of these items are run related (refer to the blog name at the top of this page). 

Step 1: Go for a run with friends. 

They can't be just any friends. They have to be friends who don't care if you talk about peeing your pants during a run, or don't care if you step up your game and actually pee your pants during a run. And that is one of the first tests you can give a runner friend. Just start peeing your pants (on a run or not) and watch their reaction. If you don't see a flinch or glimmer of disgust in their eyes, keep them for eternity! 

So to clarify: go for a run with friends who don't give a flip. And who will do things like pose for a handstand YOLO picture in the middle of an early morning long run. First, you get the benefits of inversions (namaste, y'all), and second, you learn that you are making correct friend choices. 

YOLO (photo cred to All in Stride)

Step 2: Combine Step 1 with supporting worthwhile causes.  

This weekend, my 5K training group completed their eight weeks of training and went out and kicked running butt on the Blazer Bolt 5K course. 

From the race site: this race was created entirely to support those who are battling brain cancer. All proceeds will directly benefit the University of Alabama Birmingham Division of Neuro Oncology for research of adult and pediatric brain cancer as well as patient support services. 

A lot of the runners and supporters have a personal connection to this cause, which makes race day more than just another set of splits and personal records. Shout out to my friend (who inspired me to even start this post!) who was running in memory of her son. Again, this is not just a race; it's a community. 

And my race day was made perfect by one of our trainees letting me pace her to her goal time. Or way faster than her goal time! She was shooting for sub-30 after a previous 36-minute 5K, and she came in at 26:58. I knew we were going out too fast for the 30-minute goal, but I also knew that she had it in her spirit to fly fast that day. And she sure did! 

Running is so often (or always) motivated by life. And when we see sadness and hurt and disappointment, we gain determination and grit and toughness to take to battle (aka race day). 

Step 3: Celebrate a holiday full force. 

Pick the closest holiday and smash it with dress-ups and food and whimsical-I-don't-care-ness and parties. Attend all the parties. 

Our neighbor (Scooby Doo), my son holding the most gorgeous one year old on the planet, and Shaggy. 

Wanted to save that toilet paper in a plastic sack and put it in the kids' bathroom to use.
But didn't. Willpower.

Some minds are darker than others. 

Professionally trained scarers are worth it.

The face of the shortest minion. Not impressed. 

Step 4: Put a sweater on it. 

It's the human equivalent of "put a bird on it." Go out and buy yourself the coolest, most covering-est sweater you can find. Then when you go out feeling like a loser because you're still in your pajamas or have a stain on your shirt, PUT A SWEATER ON IT! 

No one needs to know that underneath the most amazing sweater that you own is the same shirt you wore yesterday. That has not been washed. And neither have you. Whatever.  

Note: this only works in cold weather, therefore fall and winter are officially the best seasons. 

Step 5: Hang out with kids.

Kids have a way of not taking for granted the little (and big) things. Like how you walked past a one year old, and they thought, whoa look how that adult is just walking so effortlessly, and I'm over here bumbling all over the place. Because that's how one year olds think.

I recently got invited to Grand Pals Day for one of the kids in my Sunday school class and Cub Scout troop. Yes, Grand Pals Day is usually for grandparents, but if yours are not nearby, you get to invite another adult (and then some people ask if you are that 9 year old's grandma, and you kind of want to say "yes" just to weird them out). 

Ideally for Step 5, you get invited to an event like Grand Pals because as part of this event, the kids are asked to make a poster for their pal. And that poster says all the good things they know about their pal. Who doesn't want a poster of all their good things?! 

Sister Boher=me (in church talk).

If you don't have a Grand Pals Day near you, I recommend hiring a child to do this. 


What would you add to the list? How do you give yourself a boost when you're feeling low? 

And tell us about your favorite sweater. Because I know you have one! Mine is pictured above, from the clearance rack at Mountain High Outfitters. Yay for 70% off.

What is your must-do Halloween celebratory event? Because if we haven't tried it yet, we want to! This is the first year my older kids have done haunted houses, and I'm impressed with their ability to not be scared of the dark when we get home.

September 3, 2015

Summarize your running life

So I'll be pacing the 2-hour-half folks at the 4 Bridges Half (will you be there?!), and the organizers ask pacers to write a quick summary of their running life. For some reason, these paragraphs can be the best worst things of all time to try and summarize. Best because none of us would be here right now if we didn't love running (except Great Aunt Gretchen, who feels obligated to read this). And worst because should I include the time I missed qualifying for Boston by literally two seconds so I locked myself in a room and cried into a pillow at the post-marathon party while friends and family celebrated that I ran a freaking marathon at all? Ugh, my past self is annoying my current self. Should I mention that time I got my first pedicure of my life at age 37, and they had to get a crane out to dig the remnants of years of lost-to-the-running-gods toenails out of my big toes? Both partially true stories.

But there wasn't enough room or interest in that, so I wrote something like this:

Running is my medicine! For years, I played soccer and group sports, and when my friend invited me to run a half marathon six years ago, I said yes. Because I'm a yes person. And because how hard could it be? Famous last words! Turns out that training alone (my friend lived in another state) in the Alabama humid summer was not fun at all. Up until the day of the race, I swore that I still hated running. But as soon as I crossed the finish line of that first race, I was seriously hooked. Maybe it was the runner's high, the snacks at the finish, the funny signs held up by family and friends and strangers along the way, the flashy medal, or the rockin' live bands along the course. Or the magical combination of all those things at one event. Whatever it was, I knew as soon as I crossed that finish, that this was not a one-time, checked-it-off-my-list event, this was my new thing. Since then, I have gone on to qualify for Boston (a hard-fought dream come true!) and run ultra marathons. My third 50 miler will be this December at Lookout Mountain. I am also the overall female winner of the Southeastern Trail Series for the past two years and currently competing for year three. The most important part of running for me now is the community of friends and neighbors I have found who not only love the runner's high and snacks as much as I do, but who also are actively working to make our community stronger and healthier through promoting active lifestyles and giving (charity fundraising) through running. But, really, also the snacks!

And a picture from that first half marathon. (Next week would have been that little guy's 9th birthday.)

So how would you summarize your running life in a few sentences? If they only gave me three words, I would have said, tired ---- friends ----- snacks.

August 30, 2015

Run hack: make your run route your phone's wallpaper

There are about a million trillion things I've had to say about running and life and running again, but BUT but life happens on the regular in these parts. There is zero-ish time for writing, and I miss it like gin misses juice (laid back, with my mind on my money and my money on my mind). Side note: that song was on the 90's rap playlist that Amory made for me for my road trip, and yes, it is nearly the perfect song to roll you into Los Angeles.

After almost an entire month of no running (but lots of hiking) on our month-long road trip this summer (see my instagram @yomommaruns for pics), I am back to training, with the goal of my third 50 miler looming in December. It's only ominously looming because a year and a half ago was that time I almost died trying to run 50 miles, so I'm a little hesitant. Heat and dehydration played a huge role in my near-death running experience, so I'm hoping that a December race will cut back on the possibilities of losing too many electrolytes and fluids to my crazy intense sweating.

The worst (clarity, not subjects, of course) picture on earth, but it proves we were there.

My brother and Scott (who hit 1200 miles on this run!) headlong into the sunrise.

So in the spirit of getting back to running, here is my most recent running hack to share.

The problem: you want to see directions on your phone, but after 10 miles in the Alabama humidity, there is not a single dry thing to wipe off your phone's touch screen so that you can swipe it and look at directions.

Enter the solution...

Make your run route your phone's wallpaper. Temporarily of course, because you need the picture of you five cats back there ASAP.

Here's what my phone's lock screen looked like this weekend. 

For the wallpaper-changing-up challenged iPhone users, here's a step by step. 

1. Take a screen shot of the directions (press Power and Home button at the same time to take a screen shot). 

2. Go to Settings, go to Wallpaper. 

3. Select the Choose a New Wallpaper option. 

4. Go to Camera Roll and select the picture of your directions. 

5. Set the picture, and choose Set Lock Screen option. 

Tada, you are now awesome. And all of your friends will admire your ability to only press one button on your phone and know all of the directions. 

Also, for the love, use the Lifeproof case for your phone if you are a runner. I have the exact one linked in the previous sentence and am old school by refusing to upgrade to the iPhone 6. This case has protected my phone from approximately 8 million gallons of sweat, and my phone still works like a champ. Plus, Lifeproof has replaced this case twice when I had some issues with it. Granted, it needed to be replaced twice (the clear front cover became detached from the rim, in both cases), but they still win with awesome customer service. And no, I am in no way affiliated with this company, but you gotta show some love to the people still giving good service out there. Because it seems to be happening less and less. That or I am getting older and grumpier by the second. Most likely a double super combo of both. 

Thank you and amen (because it's Sunday). 

July 8, 2015

Sequoia National Park: where trees dwarf humans

The best part of traveling is that in a new place you see everything with fresh eyes. You see the beauty that someone who sees it daily might start to gloss over and take for granted. Just like you runnerds out there take for granted your running health until you get an injury. (raise your hand if you are guilty) And then when you head back to your own place in the world, you see it with those same fresh eyes that you cultivated while you were away.

But then there are places that it seems impossible to ever stop be amazed by. Sequoia National Park is one of those places, where the trees and mountains dwarf you. 

And here are just a few of the reasons you should go to there. 

General Sherman is a must-see, but honestly, when I was in Redwood Canyon (scroll down), I thought that so many of the trees seemed equal to The General but just with no line in front to take your picture in front of it. Yes, there was a significant picture-taking line.

Walking through a tree.

The hugest!

The biggest trees produce the tiniest cones.

They decided to start a cone collection and have a sale. But supply and demand was off.

The panorama view. Because giant sequoias don't fit in a pic any other way.

Fitting our family into a burned-out tree.

Moro Rock was not the overall group favorite. My nine year old was so not into it. The sobbing and clinging to the rock was the first clue.

One of the six year olds was into it.

The other was this.

But he went to the top and acted like he never even cared at all on the way back down, like he was so brave all along.

P.S. I am also really afraid of heights. 

But with practice, you can overcome some fears. Like by sitting slightly close to a ledge.

Or by jumping three inches off the ground in a rock stairwell.

Sometimes a tiny jump is bigger in your heart.

So yes, go to Moro Rock. Be prepared to be scared if that kind of thing scares you, but it is totally doable, even for scaredy-cats like me.

Redwood Canyon was something I almost skipped. We had a full morning of sightseeing with a lot of bathroom and snack breaks along the way, and the idea of a run was slipping further into the background. But Amory really pushed me to do it and agreed to drop me off and pick me up while he took a back-dirt-road adventure of his own (he loves to try and get stuck in awkward places in the car). 

Once I got out there, I'm not sure if I got much running done because I had to keep stopping to stare all around me. 

Between that and my (not so) irrational fear of a bear attack, this was a very distracted run.

If a giant sequoia falls in the woods but nobody is around, guess what. It still makes a noise. And then 100 years later, someone sits on it and takes a selfie.

Even the poops on the trail are huge. Ten points for anyone who can identify this dung. I had convinced myself it was bear poop, but I could be persuaded to believe otherwise.

Just stop, Redwood Canyon. You are magic. That is all.

This is where I waited for my ride home. Part of it was because, hey, let me use this giant tree as a bench. But the other part was because I thought it might give me an advantage on all the approaching bears. I mean, no, I didn't see one, but I knew that at any moment I could. 

Again, the pano says a little more. Blurry but more.

And then back to camp to refuel!

Until the next stop, enjoy where you are right now. Because you might not be there again soon, or because where you are is already pretty darn good.