Musings from the Pacific Coast Highway


I don’t understand when people tell me they are comforted by the ocean. Or by nature in general. “Comfort” isn’t a word that captures what I feel when I’m running the mountains, or standing by the ocean. It’s not peace either. The quiet of the places is often peaceful, but the essential places themselves do not make me feel restful and calm.

Nature, to me, is very much like space. It’s vast, changeable, and it doesn’t hate us. Nor does it love us. More terrifying than both of those possibilities, it gives absolutely no fucks about us. Our living and suffering and dying doesn’t register at all on that scale. Despite how harsh that sounds, it’s not a negative feeling to me. It’s almost akin to a…respect? An excitement?

The feelings I get in nature are the same as those I get from reading an excellent piece of writing that turns my chest inside out. Or listening to music that makes my “self” -everything that makes me, ME – disappear. It’s a feeling that makes me think about connection back through the whole of humanity, a connection to everyone who has ever connected with stories or music or to the overwhelming power of the world that has surrounded us for the entire duration of our history.

But to me, none of those feelings are described in the word “comfort.” I feel adrenaline, an aching hunger in my soul, a feeling that a sense of a cosmic completion is just out of reach.

Language is necessarily imprecise. We use it as shorthand, to hopefully convey the essence of things that we are thinking and feeling and doing. But it falls so short, and we fall so short in our use of it.

Take “I love you.” The words that make your heart beat faster when the person you’re hoping feels the same as you do says them. The words you say to a mother or father or sibling at the end of a phone call. The words that you say to a friend when they hand you a coffee after a long morning at work.

We use those same three words to mean so many things – I desire you sexually. I desire you romantically. I feel a deep connection with you. You are family. You are important to me. I would die for you. I would die without you. I’m grateful for you.

We assume that the listener understands what we mean from context clues, and from past experience. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But it’s rare that we stop and acknowledge that what we say doesn’t always communicate exactly what we mean.

I’m thinking about all this because I just drove up the coast to Malibu. I’m working at the annual 7th grade retreat for the next few days. When we got there, the staff asked the teachers to join the introductions, telling the kids where we were from and what our deepest fear is.

I said tsunamis, because I’d just driven up the coast, and because the ocean always has an edge of malevolent possibility in mind. It’s not true that it’s my deepest fear, although it lurks somewhere in my Generalized Anxiety Disorder pantheon. I don’t know if I know what my deepest fear is. Or, to be accurate in my language, I’m not sure I want to think hard enough to find out.

I’m not sure why I’m so obsessed with the meanings within and behind words. Sometimes I wonder if I’m bored by the everyday routine of my life and I get wrapped up in ways to complicate and analyze the hell out of it. Maybe it’s because I often feel like spoken words fall short of what I’m actually trying to get across. Or maybe I just read too many books.

Team NutriBullet Long Run #2 and Strength Training

Although Long Run #2 started almost an hour later than Long Run #1, there was a noticeable lack of zest as everyone filtered in to our meeting place. Maybe other people were feeling like I did…that 20 weeks suddenly felt like a very very long time to show up and see the same people and run longer and longer every week. I did remember what Chandra said the first week though, that this whole experience is about the journey, not the destination. That thought helped get me a little more excited to get out and run again.

However, we weren’t going to hit the road until we…drumroll please…learned how to tie our shoes! That’s right, a bunch of runners had to sit down, take their shoes off, and actually think about how we were lacing up our kicks.

This came from a story about legendary coach John Wooden, who used to sit his basketball players down at the first practice of the year and show them the correct way to put on their socks and tie their shoes, as a way of practically demonstrating that the little things matter a great deal in the big picture.

Now, I trust Coach Jimmy with my life, but I have to admit, as we started lacing up our shoes, I rolled my eyes a bit inwardly and thought “I’ll just put them back my original way when we’re done.” Obviously I’d been running with them laced just fine, because it had been working out ok, so why should I have to change?

Spoiler alert, not all change is bad. And putting aside your own stubbornness and pride can be a really good thing sometimes. The new lacing system works great, keeps the tops of my feet from being sore, and works way better than my old system.

After that, we headed out on our run. I ran with Lisa again, and it was nice to see that we improved just a little bit on our splits from last week, while still staying nice and aerobic (and even though the weather was nice and warm).

When we got back to the meeting spot, it was blast time! This week’s blast included cinnamon, which I’m not the biggest fan of (in my world, it gets mixed with sugar and put on buttered toast, and that’s about the only time I use it), but in the spirit of getting out of my own way and trying things, I drank the whole thing. I still wasn’t a huge fan of cinnamon when I finished, but hey, I got those anti-inflammatory benefits anyway!

After a quick clinic about different types of running shoes and socks, we were done with long run #2. I headed home to shower, put on different running clothes, and then went to Disneyland to spend 9 hours in 100 degree heat. Just getting in some heat training and time on feet in the happiest place on earth, which by the end of the day had me feeling pretty wrecked.

After a day of recovery, it was on to strength training with Coach Nicole on Monday. It was a quick, action-packed 30 minutes, and it was so much fun. I haven’t been able to really open it up on a run in a long time, either because I was focused on not aggravating injuries, or now, trying to be smart and build into intense effort. But I miss the single-minded focus that comes with taking a really big step into the pain cave, and a group strength workout offers a small taste of that experience. I think I smiled through the whole class, and I can’t wait to go again next week.

Next up: a run on my own today, and a group run tomorrow!

Team NutriBullet Long Run #1

The first long run of the LA Marathon training cycle is in the bag.

And I’m sore.

Which is a little disheartening, given that the run was only 40 minutes. A quick out-and-back through the VA, or what is lovingly referred to as “the wall” of the LA Marathon. Honestly, when I ran LA in 2012, I don’t remember the VA being all that bad, but the long march down San Vicente felt like it was 26.2 miles in itself.

I realize though, that I’m only disheartened by my soreness because I’m trying to compare myself to the me I was 3 years ago, when I could knock out a double-digit run on a weekend easily, and follow it with several single-digit runs during the week without any issues.

Before the run started on Saturday, our head coach Jimmy had a great message for the assembled runners about how we didn’t need to compare ourselves to our past self, or to our future self, we just needed to try and do a little better than our self that we are today. That the commitment is what is important, not how we feel at any given moment.

I carried that with me out on the run, and had a great 40 minutes running with Lisa, who I know from the Coyotes. We ran, walked, and chatted, and came back hot and sweaty to enjoy our first blast every from the new NutriBullet food truck. I also had time to chat with some of my other teammates, and can’t wait to get to know more of them.

And while it’s harder to remember not to compare myself with past me when I’m not surrounded by incredible coaches, trainers, mentors, and teammates, it is definitely something I’m going to be working on over the next 5 months. I’m super excited to have such a wonderful group of people – from the CEO of NutriBullet all the way down through each individual teammate – working towards the same goal.

Today is about the commitment. A blast this morning, followed by hydrating, stretching, and good nutrition. One day at a time towards February 14.

All 10 Targets

Photo of a woman wearing running clothes, a mylar blanket, and an LA Marathon medal
LA Marathon 2012…3 years later, I’m coming for you again!

During the summer, my husband and I often end up watching one really ridiculous reality show. And when I say watching, I mean marathoning. All of the shows that I schedule in my tv watching app (yes, I have a tv watching app) are on hiatus for the season, I have a lot of free time, and I often want to watch an episode or two of something while I do the dishes or knit.

This summer, we happened upon History’s Top Shot. Despite the name, it has nothing really to do with history, and is a show where marksmen (and the token women invited by the show…grr) compete to see who can shoot the weirdest weapons and challenges the show throws at them. It’s refreshingly low in reality show drama, and high in a skillset I haven’t practiced, which means it’s perfect.

During one particular challenge, competitors were required to throw increasing numbers of clay discs into the air, and hit as many as they could on the way down. Leo noticed that when the competitors went to throw 10 at a time in the air, if they started shooting with the goal of hitting all 10 targets, they often missed one, and then panicked and started shooting wildly since their goal was blown. However, a competitor who started off just trying to do their best would not be as thrown by a miss, and would often hit 6 or 7 of the targets.

Which led to my newest habit paradigm. I’m incredibly guilty of always trying to hit all 10 targets. The moment I miss – by eating poorly, skipping a workout, going to bed too late – I panic and the rest of the week (or training plan) goes downhill from there. I tend to project far into the future and imagine the consequences of my (tiny, insignificant) action, instead of recognizing that one slip or one miss won’t determine the entire course of the future (despite the plotline of every dystopic novel telling me it will – maybe I read too much?)

In the weeks leading up to the first Nutribullet practice, I’ve worked hard to not aim for all 10 targets. I’ve tried to run consistently, and when life or poor nutrition choices have made running too difficult or seemed like it might lead to injury, I’ve gone on a walk instead, or taken my runs very very slowly. I’ve aimed for practicing good nutrition, but not freaked out over the days I forgot to bring lunch to work. And most of all, I’ve resisted the temptation to try and immediately be back to my 20-30 mile/week days of 2 years ago (which would lead to injury) and instead decided to enjoy the challenge of training up slowly, consistently and responsibly from my current base.

Practices start tomorrow…I can’t wait!


Emotions that ran through my mind when I got the acceptance email from Nutribullet for their 2016 LA Marathon training team:

  1. Excitement: I made it! I’m going to run another marathon! All my hard work on the applications paid off!
  2. Relief: I can finally stop checking my email every two minutes to see if I made the team.
  3. Terror: Holy crap, I’m going to run another marathon. What if I can’t train well enough? What if I get injured?

I’d like to thank my anxiety disorder for ripping me through all three of those in quick succession, but I’m trying to focus on the positivity of the first two and reassure myself that I have A LOT OF training days left until the marathon, and that I don’t have to run a marathon RIGHT NOW.

Although it sounds easy, applying to the team was a big step. Several things have happened in the past few years that have been a huge drag on my emotional and physical energy, and my running has suffered. Everything from nutrition to sleep went downhill, and I was just trying to make it from one day to the next. Applying for this team was not only a huge leap of faith that my circumstances have changed, but it was also an affirmation to myself that I want my circumstances to stay changed. I want to be working towards exciting goals again, and I want to be living a life that is balanced (whatever that looks like), well fueled, and healthy.

We’ll see how it goes! Our first workout is September 19…I’m going to try and keep training smart and not panic and increase my mileage beyond what I can do at this point. I’m really looking forward to the next 6 months.

2013 in the Rearview Mirror

Back in January, when the “Year in Review” posts pop up all over the internet, I started thinking about last year. It had felt like an off year. My running was generally iffy. Although I had a strong finish in the Griffith Park Trail Marathon, I DNF’d the Leona Divide 50k. I ran a 5k in June, but beyond that, hadn’t run a single race. I had attempted to train for 2 or 3, but every training plan ended up half-written, and my runs tapered off to 1 or 2 per week. When I went out for long runs, I usually cut them short by 4 or 5 miles and turned around early. Weight workouts went undone.

Riddle me this. Say you have a best friend, whose father died early in the year. Say that she started feeling disinterested in running after that, not completing workouts, didn’t feel like training for anything. Would you say:

“That sounds like it really sucks. You know, it sounds like maybe you just need to be kind to yourself and take a little time off. Want to go get coffee and chat?”


“Shut up and suck it up. God, you’re such a whiner.”

To be clear, I am both the friend and the responder in this little scenario. And I did not choose the nice response. I spent a year beating myself up for not feeling more “into” running and fitness, and never really thought that maybe my response to a traumatic experience wasn’t going to be “go run a 100 miler” but instead would be “take a little time to chill out and see what happens.”

My dad died in late February of last year. Three weeks after he died, I spoke at his memorial service. Then the next weekend, I ran a marathon. Two weeks after that, I DNF’d my first 50k attempt. I thought my response the rest of the year meant I was just a failure, but I think it meant that I am just a human.

I’ve spent enough time around runners now, both in “real life” and on their blogs, to realize that everyone’s running is affected by their life. Sometimes it means you have a really good year. Sometimes it means that you have a year where you need to take a little down time and gear up for the next one. But the best runners, the ones who truly enjoy the sport and seem to have longevity in it, seem to be the ones who can recognize which type of year they’re in and roll with the punches. They have patience.
It’s shaping up to be a better year. I feel like running again. I feel like getting into the gym. I’m training for a 50k in October. But most of all, I feel like I can more clearly see that sometimes you can’t muscle through and pull off an incredible year. Sometimes you need to let the year be what it wants to be, and set yourself up for the next one.


There’s a saying I’ve seen (attributed to anonymous) that goes, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.” I’ve always known that being strong was my only choice, but I mistakenly thought that strong meant keeping everyone out, and pretending that everyone was ok. I’m slowly starting to realize that letting people in actually makes you stronger, and that trusting those around you can actually keep you standing, even when everything else falls apart.

When I was younger, I didn’t trust anyone.

A lethal combination of religion, shyness, isolation, and family issues gave me a screwed up interior, and a perfect exterior. I was always quiet, polite, Bible study finished and English paper finished. I could converse with adults, said “Yes ma’am” and “No sir,” and sat quietly in church and during adult meetings. I knew how to do things right, and I knew what was expected. What I didn’t know, was how to get help when I needed it.

When I was 15 years old, I got my driving permit. I did everything I was supposed to: took a lesson with a far too chatty professional, did my parentally supervised hours, and took a note with me when driving my sisters to swim practice. I drove myself to morning practices, and to school on the days I had classes.

And when I turned 16, I didn’t get my license. In fact, I stopped driving everyone except myself, and I tried hard not to do that. Because every time I got in a car, a very calm and quiet corner of my brain wondered what it would be like to floor the gas pedal, and run the car into the nearest immovable object.

I know now, that my experience is what’s known as suicidal ideation. That it’s common. That it’s a symptom of depression.

Then, all I knew was that something was terribly wrong. Although I had done a lot of reading, I assumed that “wanting to commit suicide” was accompanied by actions straight out of a movie. Purchasing a gun, obtaining alcohol and pills, climbing to the top of a tall building and bidding the world below goodbye – these were things that signaled to me “suicide” and “depression.” I tried to tell myself this calm internal voice couldn’t be anything so dire. It must just be an overactive imagination, or something else as yet unexplainable.

But somehow, I knew. I refused to drive my sisters anywhere, knowing that I absolutely couldn’t live with myself if something happened to them. I still drove myself places, pretending that I was ok, arriving at my destinations with clenched shoulder muscles and cramping hands, with the volume on the stereo turned up as high as it would go, in the hopes of drowning out my own mind. And I tried to ignore every adult who told me I was lazy, and making my parents’ lives harder by refusing to drive my sisters around.

I’ve struggled with depression since I was 13. I didn’t realize that until I was 20. I didn’t realize that I had thought about committing suicide for most of my life until I was 23. And I didn’t start to unpick all the reasons behind it until I was 25. I went through 4 rounds of therapy with different doctors, always answering the suicide question wrong, because I had never held a gun to my head or a knife to my wrists, so obviously I didn’t think I was in a place that deserved help. Their questions brought forth more perfect answers, and I would leave after my allotted number of sessions still feeling like I was trapped screaming inside an airless glass room.

I made progress towards more stable mental footing without knowing that it was what I was searching for. I started eating better. I bounced ideas off my then boyfriend, now husband, who always encouraged me to keep thinking about the ways I was feeling, and who has been an invaluable pillar of support. I started running, an activity which I think has done more to center my thoughts and encourage self-care than any other physical challenge I’ve taken on. I had a real conversation with a therapist, without trying to sound like a perfect human being who had everything together.

But most importantly, and most recently, I’ve started trusting myself. And because of that, I’ve started trusting others, and I’ve started being vulnerable with the people who I know will respond well. I told a good friend recently that when I meet someone, I know whether they’re someone I can truly trust relatively quickly. It’s an instinct, grown out of necessity, but one that I’d never taken advantage of. Until one night, after a small group diversity session which is meant to break down barriers and bring up emotions, I turned to a colleague, a friend, and said “I’m not ok.” And he sat down and spent the next hour of his night listening to me, talking through emotions and questions, and although it provided no answers (and I’m starting to think there really aren’t any), it provided clarity. And a measure of peace that never came when I tried to tackle the problems inside my own head.

Another person, an incredible runner who figured out I was having a rough time, took the time to reach out over Facebook and to offer words of comfort and a shoulder for support when I admitted that I was feeling overwhelmed.

I started thinking about all of this over the past few weeks, because I just ran the Leona Divide 50k. Well, I DNF’d (Did Not Finish) the Leona Divide 50k when I stopped at mile 24. I’ve heard varying estimates of the temperature that day, but most of them fall within 95-104 degrees. The course is almost entirely exposed, with very little shade. I was well trained for the distance, but not for the heat. I started to feel it at mile 16, and everything came crashing down around mile 17, as I climbed a 4 mile hill just as the heat started to peak. I got overheated. I stopped eating, since my stomach was upset. My bloodsugar crashed as my temperature rose, and by the time I death marched into the mile 20 aid station, I was a mess. I sat down on a cooler, put a cold rag on the back of my neck, and started to cry. I was terrified of having to get up and head back down the hill (which was necessary for dropping out of the race). And I realized, as I sat there, that this was how I used to feel all the time. Terrified. Alone. Like my emotions were dropping into a black hole somewhere inside me.

The aid station volunteers (almost all of them trail runners themselves) fed me, cooled me down, and talked me through my tears (and fears). When I finally got up the nerve to leave, they cheered for me like I was about to take first place, instead of having spent 45 minutes sitting in a camping chair.

I realized, after I had dropped out of the race and was waiting at the finish line, that I had come so far. That the feeling I’d artificially induced during the race, through heat and sugar crash and fear, was so close to the feeling that I’d spent 13 years of my life living with. That now, I could recognize it, name it, and reach out for help. That I didn’t have to spend my life holding on with my fingertips anymore. I hope that the next time it’s bad (because I have no illusions about being “cured” or “better,” and because I still struggle with the effects, even though right now they are at a more manageable level) I can realize it before it becomes my entire world. It’s terrifying to admit that I wanted to kill myself. It’s terrifying to admit that I became a shell of myself, and that I spent so many years so frightened and alone. But it feels so much better to say it out loud than to try and keep going by myself, and I’m incredibly lucky that when I did say it I had my husband and my friends there to listen.

I questioned for awhile why I wanted to put this on the internet. I wrote it out fully, knowing that I could just save it in some folder on my desktop, never for any eyes besides my own. But I read posts like THIS ( from Allie, and THIS ( from Heather, and THIS ( darkness-runnings.html) from Jimmy, and THIS ( from Susan, and I see myself in them. And I see the comments, where other people who have felt the same things know that they are not alone. And I realize that when we talk about removing the stigma from mental illness, we’re not only talking about those who are not mentally ill coming to understand.

We’re also talking about removing the stigma from ourselves, and allowing those who are walking through hell to name their pain and reach out for help. I know that I needed more stories of honesty and vulnerability when I was there, more people who didn’t want to offer fake solutions and instead wanted to just listen. Maybe this can serve as a lifeline, or even just the beginning of understanding for someone else.