Category Archives: Inspiration

Head Up, Wings Out: It’s About More Than Running

Please note, these thoughts and opinions are my own, and are reflective of my personal experience as part of this team. This post is in no way endorsed by Oiselle.

Months ago, I started this post about being a part of the Oiselle Volée team. The draft was originally entitled “Why The Flock Is About More Than Running.” The title may have changed, but this sentiment remains true.

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Taken the day I received my singlet, just in time for my first postpartum race. (Hence, the tiny sparkle skirt.)

Since I first joined, after at least two years of hoping to one day ‘being good enough’ to finally be a part of it, the flock as a whole has grown immensely to hundreds, perhaps thousands of birds and “bro birds.” It has gone through many growing pains, as any growing team will, and now as it comes time for current members to decide whether to keep flying with the flock or to spread their wings, I find myself in a place where I refuse to look down.

I am looking only up, at the sky, and to where we can fly, together.

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fit mama round up

This post was inspired in part by the NY Times article “For Pregnant Marathoners, Two Endurance Tests” and the photo (below) from Elise’s recent super bad-ass, wetsuit-free triathlon — in her third trimester. Rock on, ALL you fit mamas out there!

It is no secret that I am a fan of women’s running brand Oiselle. It’s not just that I have a work relationship with them, that their clothes fit well on built-like-a-ruler me: I am a fan both in terms of what their brand message is and in terms of who they support as athletes. Oiselle put real athletes in their athletic clothes on the runway at NYFW in 2013 and changed the game for the whole industry, as noted in 2014. This year hammer thrower Britney Henry, absolute powerhouse athlete, hit the runway and I can guarantee NYFW had never seen the likes of that sort of POWER before.

Oiselle’s elite team includes:
Lauren Fleshman, now perhaps best known on the viral internet for her “keeping it real” Runner’s World campaign, refused to dope in order to achieve her Olympics dreams. Her “super advanced” son was only months old when she hit the runway in 2013.
Kara Goucher, who left track and field giant Nike and was able to sign with Oiselle and Skechers for sponsorship, something basically unheard of in the world of sports sponsorship. She’s preparing to crush NYCM this weekend with her 4 year old son Colt at the finish.
Stephanie Bruce (Rothstein) is a coach, a celiac (which has not stopped her, despite what so many people may believe,) co-creator of Picky Bars, newly signed Oiselle elite flock member and new mom.

It’s not even just the professionals on their elite squad that I find inspiring: Sarah “Mac” Robinson is also a new mom. Dr. Lesko is a family doctor, a masters speedster. Sally Bergesen, owner and founder.

So you’re probably wondering: why am I talking about these women?

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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.

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.

archive: One Hundred and Three to Go

It is quiet, dark and cool currently in the house.  As I sit here, the tile is cold under my battered feet, barely healing blisters on the tops of my toes from soccer aching.  Weary, tired eyes watch the cats wander about. The dog is pretending to snooze on the couch as she watches them glide by.

As it does from time to time, my mind began to wander.

In all certainty, any member of my family can attest to the fact that I am not always one to follow suit, that down to perhaps choosing my own birthday, there are times when I simply prefer to do things differently. We all mourn and remember in different ways and to this affect, I am no exception.

Today at work there were many hugs, many worried eyebrows approaching me in pairs, a lot of genuine caring and love.  Few tears were shed, when I smiled it felt genuine.  It became very apparent quite quickly just how much I really talked about my love for my giant family, where I had come from and of the amazing age and wisdom of my not-so-average grandpa.  While I did share what I had written with some of them, every single person landed in the same set of thoughts: what an incredible life he must of lead. Yes of course I should celebrate this with my family.  How blessed I’ve been.  How he clearly touched many lives.

It was like a time lapse scene from a movie, watching the life of my grandfather play in fast forward, flowing into the life of my father, flowing into my own.  Epiphanies, like Pop Rocks on a ready tongue, each explosive realization just as expected and surprising as the last.

Clearly, my cousin was on to something when he chose the online moniker of “IgnacioPride.” I like to think it is something I carry in me.  Ever strong and enduring yet able to bend and flex.  An unspoken drive, an air of humility, a firm handshake, a steady smile that reaches through the eyes.  It is my roots that have never forgotten their lineage, genus and species, in soil now called home.  Crooked is my notched bamboo spine but it is steady, it holds me tall.  It is mine and ours alone.  And it is not to be wasted.

What I deem to be that which I have overcome pales in comparison to what the roots of this young sapling knows.  Regardless of how big or small, public or private my battles my have been, are or will be, somehow and somewhere along the line it was ingrained in me as though through bloodlines that if it did not kill me, it could only make me stronger. To not back down. To leave it all out there.

Yes, I’m the sort of girl who would be more upset at a win I did not work for than a loss I fought tooth and nail against.  As I was trying to explain to my husband the other day before our indoor soccer game, there is simply no ‘sort of’ when it comes to me and things of passion: it is always all.  The game I just played was not a great game unless I deem it so.

There is a time I recall once from high school, perhaps something I only dreamt as it seems so far away.  My dear father, shaking his head and clapping a heavy and firm, warm and comforting hand on my shoulder, telling me I was too hard on myself.  Maybe I am sometimes, but in some ways I feel like I should be.  Looking at that time lapse in my head, wow – I have it so good. What do I have to complain about?

This brings me back to that which is often tied to complaint: running.

What I don’t tell people about when I run is who I talk to in my head when I do it, and in some respects, who I have ‘running with me’ when I am out there alone. Do not call the psych ward; even if I were a system, we seem to be getting along fine.  When I run, I run without music, so it is me, my feet on the ground and breath in the air, the thoughts in my head, the memories in my heart.

When I run up hills – because I have begun choosing my enemy for the day and tackling it – I can hear my dad.  On the sidelines of my soccer games, he never, ever yelled my name. No. Neutral. The bass in his voice is in my ears.  He’s yelling my number.  I hustle harder; her ponytail is in my face.  Breathe; this hill doesn’t own you.  In, two three four, out, two three four.  He claps.  Good hustle number 2, good D.  This is the same tone I hear in my head in TRX class when I think I cannot hold the plank any longer, when I am ready to drop the dumbbell before the count is done.  This is the same tone I hear as I get close enough to see a finish line, as I prepare for a deep breath and to push it out.  To leave it all out there.  There we are in the garage; I am a gangly tween referring to a checklist he has made me.  I am doing hamstring curls on the bench and for the final set, I do the same weight as before instead of it being lighter; he is pushing me because he knows I can do it and I need to prove to myself I can do it.  This is where my need to stay strong through and through must come from.  He says it has always been about what is in me.

Thanks Dad. Thanks 12 year old me.  You set a good path.

When my endurance is running out, when I cannot make it further, or when I look down and see I’ve traveled barely far enough to call it any distance at all, there is my grandpa.  Papa is over a century old, I would tell myself. The dude gardened for other people into his 90s for fun. You’re punking out now? You can do this.  A few miles is nothing.  Somehow, I push it out, as though carried by spirits of loved ones passed, by pure adrenaline, by sheer will.  Because if Papa can garden into his late 90s and make jokes at my expense at over 100 years old, I can certainly push out one more mile. Because he lead by example, because he instilled this in my father. Because it is ingrained in me.

Thanks Papa for the path you paved. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa, for the groundwork you laid. Thanks, to my history, for helping me break the mold.

When it comes to paying tribute to my grandpa, I wanted to carry something with me this Sunday at the race, to have him with me in a tangible way. A pin with his image or age, a passed-down bauble, just a little something, and it hit me: 103.

I will complete 103 races.

Starting this Sunday being number one, with no determined end date,  5ks, 10ks, trail runs, relay races, I will run.  One hundred and three races, one to honor ever single year of his amazing, epic life. Because that is when I feel closest to him, to my roots, to what keeps me strong.

To date, I have six races under my belt.  Let’s call that the warm up.

Here’s to the first of my 103.

Originally posted on 9.10.2012 on a since-retired blog. All writing is my own.

archive: Refuel and Reflect

Just the other morning, I got into a conversation with a coworker about the company challenge for the year – Tough Mudder – and in turn, motivation. This is no ordinary gal I was talking to – the ‘rfm’ tattoo on her arm stands for ‘relentless forward motion’ and her idea of a good time is participating in a 100 mile foot race. Regardless of our very different paths to this point and very different breaking points – one person’s five mile huff’n puff is another person’s sweat-breaking mini-warm-up – the fact remains that mind over matter can carry us through adversity. Through life.

It made me think.

Last year I lost my mind and did something that has impacted me more than I had anticipated: as a member of a team of 12, I ran the Ragnar Relay Napa. It’s not just any road race: it was a 24-hour, 187 mile (those liars, it was definitely further) relay race.

And it was, in a non-Merriam-Webster word, AMAZEBALLS.

It sparked something in me: a drive that had long been dormant, a belief that I am capable, a need to conquer. A need to thrive. Prior to the race I had never run more than six or so miles, and that was during the training period. Come race time, I dug deep, I used my team cheering me as my fuel and I pushed through blisters and the feeling of toenails falling off inside my shoes to run those miles at a pace a minute faster than I had anticipated. I surprised myself. Those moments when I thought I couldn’t push through another mile, hell, another hundred yards over that hill, I held tight in my mind’s eye the things that move me and soldiered on.

As I embark on a new journey – one to complete my first half marathon, where I hear I will battle it out with the last 1.1 miles – I seek to refuel and reflect.

Running is, in some ways (many ways?) masochistic. Sadistic. Sick, in general. In many ways I still see it as punishment from my days of playing soccer when conditioning was something we simply had to do because we were told to. Truly, if you had told sixteen year old me that years in the future, I would be running pick-ups in the park by myself, of my own free will, I’d have probably looked at you and asked where you got that second nose from.

However, reflecting on the life that I can call my own, I see now, I have every *good* reason to run for my life.

Sure, I run for the usual reasons: my health and fitness, as a stress-relieving mind-emptier, because my place of work compels me to.

But I run for other reasons too.

Because, though they started later in life, my parents run. Because they go on vacation in Kauai and their idea of fun is boogie boarding all day every day and participating in a 5k while there. Sixty-something years young, my high school sweetheart parents run together. While my father had been a body builder as a hobby, my mother didn’t start going for a daily walk till I was in junior high school. To know that the third annual Bay Area T9k is approaching and we will run it together – yet again – is pretty wonderful. Last year, she had been ill heading into the race and went against the wishes of her doctor and ran with me. One can only try to imagine their grown mother on a doctor’s crinkling table, pleading like a child – “But you don’t understand; I have to run with my daughter this weekend!” She walked only when I made her and surprised me by taking off and finishing strong in the last 100 yards. Go Mom!

I run because of this little lovey boo, my first pup, my little girl who spent far too many months waiting oh-so patiently for love in a clean but still small kennel at the shelter. Juno loves broccoli and running fast and while she’s not much of a road runner, she’ll go for days on the trail. We deemed Thanksgiving as her calendar birthday and you had best believe I will bake her a cake in November when she turns two. Her little grunty, sighing snuggly body pressed up against mine in bed is a reminder that it’s better to be part of a pack. A loving pack that sleeps in a perfectly (un)comfortable pile.

My pack grew not too long ago. After seven years, many addresses, three cats and a dog together, we became husband and wife in the eyes of the law, something we had perhaps already been for some time in our own hearts. It was a beautiful celebration, a joining and growing of families. What was most amazing was that I was able to have my grandfather there.

Yes, at 103 years young, my grandfather was apparently insistent that there was no way he was going to miss it. Later my aunt said that leading up to the event, he ate only when reminded that if he didn’t, he could not keep his strength up to attend. It moved me to tears. The drive from Palo Alto to Berkeley left him cranky, but rightly so; such age comes with all the leeway in the world.

Not only was he there, he was there because he wanted to be. Ever sharp as a tack, he told us he wouldn’t have missed it for the world. As I posed for these pictures with my teeny 95 year old grandmother’s vice grip on my waist, I was reminded that nothing lasts forever, and nothing should be taken for granted.

with my parents, father’s parents, husband and sister

father and son

Little did any of us know that less than two months after that day, just weeks after his 103rd birthday party where he would make two short speeches, make jokes at our expense, drink beer, eat cake and fall asleep promptly in a recliner, our beloved Papa pass.

Admittedly, it makes me smile inside that Grandma apparently said he went too soon.  A very full and memorable century plus three years, recorded via oral, audio, video and written history by his family; immigration, tales of war, tales of amazing lifelong dedication. After children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, his wit was in tact till the end.  My dear sweet grandmother says it was still too soon.

And while I knew nothing could last forever, while we had many years to come to terms with the inevitable, when it comes, you’re never quite as prepared as you think you will be.  The loss aches to the bones while the memories warm and heal, a balance not even enough to make it invisible, no – just painful enough to know it is real.  Like the soreness that sets in after those last few miles, after digging deep down in to every fiber of your being to push each step out, never looking past the next and simply knowing that if this step comes the next will surely follow, this is the deep breath.  It really happened, it cannot be undone and the ache is a reminder of the good.  Of the ebb and flow of the world, the beauty in the downs and the ugly in the ups, that which has helped you grow, shaped you, helped to make you.  With time this ache will fade, with proper care, with recognition and time, the stride will grow strong again and carry on to that next point of one step at a time.

We all love and miss you dearly. My cousin Tim put it best when he said they simply don’t make ’em like that anymore. Thank you for bringing our giant clan together so closely, for every Thanksgiving grace, for every time you ever held one arm tightly around my waist and one around my sister’s – a grip that never changed- and reminded us of our worth and to never settle for anything. We will always be “[your] girls.” To say my grandpa was an incredible role model is an understatement. Know you will live forever strong in all of us and I am proud to be an Ignacio.

And so I will be thankful for what I have, for what I have been given, for the fight in me to push through, to overcome with a relentless fervor, to not be defeated, to thrive. To tap into what has always been inside me. What was put there years and years ago. And so, I run on.

One step at a time.