Category Archives: Archive

Older written works from the archives. All writing is my own.

archive: Life in the Middle of the Pack

Have you ever had a brush with greatness? That one, weightless, gleaming moment where suddenly everything lines up, the momentum seems right, where you hold your breath and watch in slow-motion as events unfold?

The natural desire is for glory as life regains normal speed, as we come to reality and see yes, we have achieved that which we were after. However, it would hardly be realistic to say that this is the norm. Sometimes the closest thing we have to glory is that one gleaming moment, where we waited with baited breath, enveloped in the pure idea of hope laced with desire. Sometimes all we are left with when life regains full speed is another reminder that, yet again, glory is out of hand’s reach.

Welcome to life in the middle of the pack.

In many ways, one could argue that of course I am unique. A 30 year old newlywed on mission to run a ridiculous number of races, triggered by a grandfather who made it to age 103. A woman who didn’t know she had scoliosis till a life changing car accident at 22, an eating disorder survivor, a bipolar disorder diagnosed statistic. In many ways laid out on paper one might argue my “one in a million” genuine nature, yet the truth is in many other respects, I’m just another person. We all have a story to tell. Everyone has facets that make them exemplary. Anyone can take to the internet, to blogs and social media to create a persona, a personal brand. The nature of the beast creates competition whether or not it was intended: of contests, of follower counts and viral-ability.

Like running, there are hundreds upon thousands who participate at a variety of levels. There are only a few elite, a few who always lead the pack, and always a few who are winning by simply beating the sweep. The extremes are large. And then, of course, there those of us who feel glory’s warmth — from the heels of someone else basking in it.

It makes me laugh that for whatever reason at work I have a reputation as “runner girl,” always training for something. I am surrounded by athletes, women in their prime who can out run, out lift, out endure. How is it that they think so highly of me? Am I delusional, or do I really project what feels like a lie? How could I have this reputation if I never, ever win?

When asked my times the reactions are usually good, yet all I can think of is how I did against my peer group. Joining the women’s 30-34 age group was hardly the best time to decide to try to become competitive, against women who have honed their craft their entire lives. It wasn’t till scarcely a year ago I identified truly as a runner. I have yet to figure out “my” distance, am only just now learning to incorporate speed work and better, focused cross training.

When I look outside of my teeny tiny world, I am hardly accomplished. Suddenly all the things that I could say make my personal story and wins pale. I am not the strongest, the fastest, not at all the events with all the constant network connections. In many ways, participating in the online run community can be both inviting and reassuring as it welcomes all kinds, but can also be a reminder of how mediocre one’s best may be versus someone else.

Ah comparison and jealousy, you devils.

Originally, I set out to write about how I took two weeks off and survived, how it wasn’t the end of the world and how it actually helped me refocus myself. However, had I taken my original approach, I would be omitting how I spent at least one of those weeks both resting and moping, eating too many Oreos and generally feeling sorry for myself because I was allowing myself to become jealous. Opportunities and sponsorships that friends and acquaintances have received were making me upset that week – normally I would help celebrate them, be happy for them, but this week I was all negative. Why not me?

Opportunities don’t wait. Part of me will forever wonder what would have happened had I gone to that model casting call at 19. A woman in San Francisco literally ran after me in a crowded area to give me her card and tell me to go the next day. She said some incredibly flattering things about me. I didn’t go. Instead I will always wonder.

The truth is, that week of allowing myself to wear grumpy pants pushed me to think past it. I had tried to say I wouldn’t play the comparison game or be jealous and instead I became the most internally competitive jealous person I could have been, fighting people who didn’t even know I was fighting them.

The truth is I was fighting myself – and that is who I needed to be fighting all along.

Life in the middle of the pack isn’t glamorous. You’re often forgotten, sometimes trampled, but you are never, ever alone. There is always someone to chase and someone to encourage to catch up. Spending so much time in the middle of the pack with my head down, I had forgotten how to look up and how to look ahead.

After training and being ultimately defeated by heat at the Disneyland Half Marathon, I had scraped a PR but in my heart it wasn’t by a great enough margin. I watched friends place, win, achieve after injury, and I allowed myself to become discouraged during my secret marathon training. Ultimately yes, I am happy with my Oakland Marathon performance, but know I am capable of so much more. If this is what I can do with some training, what could I do if I could truly throw my all at it? And what is stopping me from doing so but me?

Now, I embrace the middle of the pack. I want to nip at the heels of the front. I will chase them, but I will be fighting myself ever step of the way, pushing myself to my own greatness, my personal glory, whatever that may be. I know that I may not ever touch a podium, but if I never touch one knowing I did all could, gave all I had, I will be happy the day I finally hang up my shoes.

But with 85 races to go, a grandfather who made it to 103 (and a 97 year old grandmother,) that won’t be for a very long time. Tell the front of the pack to watch out. The middle’s coming for you.

Originally posted on 4.19.2014 on a since-retired blog. All writing is my own.

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archive: a Moment of Thanks

The future holds a new mission for me, one which I undoubtedly never would have stumbled upon had I kept my sanity and not declared a desire to run 103 races. As I prepare to embark on this new mission, a sudden moment of pause fell over me.

Life can in many ways play out like the board game, the spin of a wheel holding our destiny, that which feels like chance is ultimately probability. No ride can ever be completely smooth, as dictated by the cobbled sidewalk that burst my chin skateboarding as a child. However, these moments of struggle, of turbulence, are in truth wherein character is built.

Whoever ‘they’ are, they were certainly right about that.

We get caught in the comparison trap. We catch ourselves wanting. We find ourselves desiring. Thankfully, I found myself asking: who am I to complain?

There is so much in my life which I am sure I seemingly take for granted, things in actuality I am truly grateful for.

Today marks the first time my now-husband and I went out nine years ago. We were able to celebrate with a wonderful day out, a beautiful meal, dessert and more. Through the years I have only grown crazier about him, and knowing I was running to him at the finish of my first marathon really did help push me through. We have two loving adopted dogs, three cats, a home where we planted a garden. Apple, olive, avocado, lemon and orange trees were placed into the earth by our hands.

I am healthy. I come from a large, loving family. There is a job I can call my own which I truly enjoy doing, and I am able to get there and back in my own beloved little used Prius, As I type this, there is a warm little pup face pressed into the small of my back. Our home is warm. Truly, I sit here and I feel blessed.

 

Enough with comparisons. With longing. With perceived need.

Instead, I issue this thanks – a thank you from me to the universe – for this little slice of existence I get to call my own.

Originally posted on 4.05.2014 on a since-retired blog. All writing is my own.

Marathon Virgin No More: Oakland Marathon

On Halloween, I secretly and quietly clicked “Register” online. Last Sunday, in Oakland with hundreds of friends and strangers, I lost my marathon virginity.

Born and raised in the South Bay and now a resident of Richmond by way of East Oakland, El Sobrante and San Pablo – tour de East Bay, if you will) I knew that the 5th year of the Oakland Running Festival was bound to be a good place to run my first full marathon. I fell in love with an Oakland man, and in many ways when I married him, I married the Town. Personally, I was very pleased overall with this event. Packet pick-up was a little confusing but once inside was super fast; digital race handbooks seemed only fitting for a Bay Area race. The quarter-zip longsleeve shirt the marathoners received was heavily embroidered but still wearable. The excitement was building – bib in hand, shit was a little too real!

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SF Diva Half: the near DNS and Maleficent’s 3rd race

Carrie and Elyse of Sparkle AthleticFirst, I would like to give a shout out to the folks who helped make this race happen: the ever sweet Elyse who helped me out come packet pick-up pickle, and Jen, whose smiling face was just the steadying pick-me-up I needed after my rocky start.

Yes, there was a very rocky start to this race. Half marathon number five almost wasn’t!

There were a few hiccups, but in the end, thanks Maleficent did manage to run through the finish.

 

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Dumbo Double Dare Part 2: the Disneyland Half Marathon

Read my recap on the inaugural Dumbo Double Dare Part 1: the Disneyland 10k here. Now, for the second installment!

Before we knew it, the Disneyland 10k was in the books.

Obligatory pre-race photo at the Disneyland 10k

A 10k novice, my friend Kari (dressed as Alice) and I both had a great time. We even managed to meet up with a couple of friends who had made some great run costumes. They had the best Tweedle collars I saw all weekend, and they made their own sparkle skirts. Freaking cute!

Kari and I stayed up probably a little later than we should have making sure everything was ready. When we had arrived Friday, I had sized her apron – a modified cloth napkin with trim and elastic – to fit for running. She had made a great iron on for her Will Robinson outfit for the half marathon, which she applied in the hotel room. We were hydrated. We had our ‘flat runner’ outfits laid out.

Flat me Maleficent! Spoiler alert: I ditched the tank top, but wearing my competition brief proved a stellar decision.

Now all that was left was to sleep and RUN THE RACE!

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Dumbo Double Dare Part 1: the Disneyland 10k

PHEW! It took me far too long to get to this recap, but at least I have the excuse that I hit a race streak (two double-up weekends) and then promptly got the plague for about two weeks prior to a fifth race. The good news is I’m back in action, feeling right healthy and am ready to talk about how I celebrated being in a new, stupid fast age-group: I was one of the lucky ~5,300 to participate in the inaugural Dumbo Double Dare at Disneyland.

A ‘mini’ version – if there is such a thing – of the already infamous Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World, the Dumbo Double was a far cry from going Dopey, but for many of us it felt as daunting! Let’s start with a HUGE shout out to this sparkly blue Alice who you may have seen in the runDisney video that came out after the race. Observe: a very pink Cheshire Cat’d me, just after the finish where I found my lost (to be explained!) girl Kari. Friends since freshman year in college brought us together, she had run the Neverland 5k when I ran my first half marathon. She laid her eyes on my new bling, said “I WANT ONE,” and signed up at the expo for Dumbo with only half a lash batted. 19.3 miles? NO PROBLEM!

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Moments later, we were interviewed. Pretty freaking cool.

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archive: the Phoenix with the Blistered Toes Part 2 – Learning to Live Again

Please note: as I explore these thoughts, feelings and share my past, these entries may contain writing that is potentially triggering to anyone who is or has been affected by bipolar disorder, eating disorders, body dysmorphia and the like. It is my goal to share my own experience in an open and honest manner, but wish no one harm in the process.

To read part I, click here.

 

If made to choose one experience in recovery I was least prepared for, it was learning how to live again.

Television commercials, while conveying a good message, make light of this process: you can learn to ___ without a cigarette; quit smoking. It shows the new former-smoker getting into the backseat of the car, then the passenger side before finally making it to the proper driver’s seat and pulling away. One might laugh and say, “Oh how dumb is that? It’s not like you’re learning to drive without an arm, it’s just without a cigarette. Get over it.”

Well, I can certainly say that as I learned to move throughout my daily life without the rigid rules and restrictions of my disorder, I very well was the driver sitting in the center of the back seat of the car, confused and whispering, “But I just wanted to go for a drive; why is this so hard?” I may as well have been trying to re-learn things without a limb. When so much of your time has been consumed for so long, when an obsession has grown to proportions such that it has taken on a life of it’s own with you as the vehicle, seemingly simple tasks such as getting up and getting dressed can take on epic proportions. Figuring out which pair of jeans makes you feel the least disgusting could take five to ten different try-ons of the exact same pair of pants, followed by another fifteen to twenty minutes of trying on top after top, switching out the underlayer on top for another one, no, the over layer on the top, no back to the other one, only to find oneself crumpled in a ready-to-cry heap that matches the pile of rejected clothing on the floor. Then it’s the dance downstairs in the kitchen, trying to figure out how to make it look as though you took some snacks and food for yourself but knowing you’ll never eat them; you’ll hide them, give them away, pick at them, forget them and ultimately thrown them away.

Recently, a friend asked me what mania is like. The onslaught of mania brought on by bipolar disorder for me is much like the constant whirr of being consumed by eating disorder. The battle may be outwardly shown as though it is against the scale, the mirror, the numeric label on the inside of one’s jeans, but truly the battle is completely and totally within. For me, eating disorder slowly and steadily consumed me: social me, the me in a relationship, the me who was a supportive friend and sister, the me who was her own person, her own self. As disorder consumed me, I had no time for anything outside my obsessing. Little by little, as I slid into the grips of anorexia, all other parts of me were consumed. My illness progressed; I began to identify as EDNOS, or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, the kind way of saying “not black and white anorectic or bulimic.” I sank deeper and deeper into obsessive thoughts and behaviors, letting it consume every waking minute of my days. This progressed till the day I finally had enough and outed myself. But till then, every single day was a grind.

Wake up, grab at hip bones. Feel anything new? Anything puffy? Not enough ribs to hook your fingers into? Yes, the shadow cast by your underwear, suspended over your hipbones was definitely more prevalent yesterday. Go to the bathroom. Weigh self. Weigh self at least two more times. Unhappy with it? Weigh self again. Stare angrily into the mirror and decide if it’s a good day or a bad day, a healthy breakfast day or a binge-purge day, based on this number and what your reflection screams at you. Do the unhappy clothing dance. Do the facade of feeding dance. Imagine it is now seven am and you have just arrived at work completely exhausted from this tireless routine, fueled only by obsessive, dizzying thoughts and the tiny splash of non-dairy milk you allowed yourself in your coffee for “being good” and not eating breakfast. Imagine you have to do this obsessive dance, with more and more required steps, every day while maintaining the exhausting facade that you are fine, that everything is fine, that losing handfuls of hair in the shower and passing out when standing up too quickly is fine. And this all happens daily before nine AM, the remaining hours no easier.

Then one day the routines are playing out without you, completely against your will. Suddenly you are trapped within yourself, fueled by a whirring motor that will not relent, watching as your hands destroy, as your body decays in the mirror. Helpless. As though standing outside yourself, watching as you slowly but surely begin to drain the very life out of your being. Screaming in silence, thrashing and writhing within your own skin, seemingly unable to summon help to rescue you from your own hands. You can see your cracked and yellowing skin, the sickly sunken look in your eyes, how your skin hangs like crepe paper stretched over your xylophone ribs, yet you think you don’t look the part yet, you’re not walking dead, so clearly, of course you don’t have a real problem, you couldn’t have a real problem; you’re but a wannabe. Not yet good enough. Not yet disordered enough to be believable.

Now image suddenly – *poof* – that constant television white noise of obsession in your head is turned down, the roaring din fading slowly and slowly till suddenly where there was once a chaotic noisy battle of fifteen headstrong voices berating at once, there is now nothing. Near silence. Somewhere in the catacombs of the dark, emptied mind, a brave little voice wavers as it calls out, “Today should be a good day, right?”

That tiny little voice was the warrior woman within me. She had never truly left me; had she not been there, I never would have been able to fight. The fight to live, to win against my own demons, against the moldings of society and brainwashing I’d been subjected to – it was in my all along, untapped, laying in wait. As I regained strength – relearned how to feel hunger and how to snack, learned to fear mirrors not, that I didn’t need validation from the scale – the warrior woman within me grew stronger too. Slowly I held myself taller. Laughed more. Learned how to be playful with my then fiancee, now husband. To be in the moment, to enjoy, to live life and not be a prisoner of my own head. Every day has it’s own challenges but I am now a strong enough sailor to weather these seas.

Here, eighteen months down the line, the hiccups are fewer. The bad days and moments when The Thoughts seem to be creeping back in are lesser. All the time formerly occupied with keeping myself ill may have been filled my seemingly mundane things – laundry, workouts, cooking with my husband, playing with our dogs – but these things are in truth huge, things four-years-ago me could not and would not have approached the same way. Just this Saturday, I was at a workshop at my gym about “Good Practices,” and as soon as a woman raised her hand and began to speak about a “diet” I felt my heart rate raise. My palms began to sweat. Her words were triggering, unknowingly ignorant – they made me want to burst out in a scolding tone, “Just stop right there. No one should diet. Diets are dangerous. I went from thinking I would diet down a bit to lose excess weight to being a full-blown, out of control bulimic! 1200 isn’t a magic number! You have to eat to lose!” My rant was stifled by a trainer, who I could tell had also tensed up. Thankfully he calmed me as well as he managed to keep his tone level and calm, stating the good facts: that the ‘diet’ she had described was for her friend, not for her. That every body is different. That no change should be measured, be it boot camp or intake change, until at last 90 days had passed. And most importantly that we should not be seeking out diets: if anything, we should be seeking out lasting lifestyle changes.

I know I was likely sitting in a very different position than most other attendees on Saturday, not needing to learn how to eat healthy to remove weight or break plateaus. However, I do hope that the reassurance I took away from it helped someone else, helped someone on the brink of obsessive disorder.

Truly, while I love my family, have incredible love for my husband, great hope for our future and our life together, in the end when I chose to recover, I had to do it for myself. Re-learning how to live again, how to grow and thrive, has proven a difficult and worthwhile process that I would not give up for the world – and I hope that in sharing my story, I can in turn help someone else find the fight within themselves to choose to thrive, and to win.

Fight the good fight. You’re not alone. Together, we will win.

 

Originally posted on 3.25.2013 on a since-retired blog. All writing is my own.