The Organized Circus

The “organized circus” is a phrase I recently used with a friend inquiring about how things were going.  This means  that there are many moving parts of the collective adventures in being a mother, writer, runner, wife, and employee right now that are loosely planned. Last Thursday night, in a very late night and organized fashion, I packed up the car t for a weekend in Tahoe with my kids while my husband was out of town. This was an ambitious adventure in its own right but, the plan also included spending Friday at my office with kids and puppy in tow on our way to the mountains.

There is no denying this was highly ambitious  but, it seemed worth a try.  We had also just spent the week packing up of our entire house so it could be painted.  It was probably the lack of sleep that lead to my inevitable tears of defeat a few short hours after attempting to manage at an office that is also an organized circus of dogs and business.

Once I had recovered from my sob fest and the realization that the only thing my kids had to eat this morning were day-old donuts and a CLIF BAR, I accepted defeat and hightailed it to our happy place.

As my organized circus pulled out of town my thought was it is all a part of the family adventure and, it is all training for something.


Three Principles to Rethinking the Workout to Get It Done

I have four full-time jobs.  I am mom to two beautiful boys, I am in a committed relationship, and I have a career in nutrition. Each one of these things requires my full attention. How on earth do I have time to train for trail races in the mountains?

This isn’t a question of why I feel compelled to add one more “thing to do” into the mix of overwhelm that sometimes spins around me. It is about prioritizing  self-care, soul care, to diffuse the overwhelm so I can properly prioritize my attentions.

Adventures in the mountains, kicking up dirt on the trails, breathing in that low-oxygen air, and moving in whatever silly ways my legs will take me feeds me so that I am able to show up to “work” each day.

I must train and prepare to adventure out in the wilds. How do I possibly squeeze it in? I re-think my workouts, which also brings a little urban adventure into my day!

Three key principles to rethinking a workout:

  1. Get creative. For example, I run commute with work-gear in a pack sometimes! It adds weight and builds strength right?! Yes, some days run with a laptop, fruit, and wallet on my back.
  2. Choose quality over quantity. For example, I skip ineffective junk miles when I am feeling overtired and, instead get good rest so I can run hard the next day.
  3. Be adaptable.  Sometimes I need to opt for bringing my kiddos along on run in order to get it in.  So, I adapt the workout to make it fun for all. For example, I will take the to the track and race them down the straight-aways while they count laps. Another good one is giving them the stop watch to do timed sprints while they follow along on their bikes.


Not only do these three principles help me get in the training, they also make it a whole lot more adventurous (fun).

Here is a photo of me run-commuting the hills of San Francisco back to the train after a meeting, with my lap top and lunch in my pack. This is how I get er’ done!



Women’s Relationship with Running Through the Ages

I have been a runner myself since I was in the 5th grade.  Running is like a long-term relationship and watching running evolve for women over time is exciting. It’s just as exciting to see a high school cross-country team nervous before a big meet as it is a woman in her 70s in the midst of an epic mountain run. But no matter how old you are, good nutrition, recovery and overall wellness remains important in going the distance.

Challenges and advantages for women running in their teens?
Teenage runners have a lot of advantages, namely their young and flexible muscles, joints and tendons! They also have intention and drive towards their sport which carries them far.  Learning about the role of daily nutrition and sports specific nutrition will help them carry on strong into the next decade.
That said, most teenagers have no clue about nutrition and how it effects their performance unless they are lucky enough to have a nutritionally knowledgeable coach, or even better a sports dietitian in their life. I personally began running competitively as a teenager, and didn’t know much except that carbohydrate-rich foods energized my muscles. I decided since I didn’t really like other foods like chicken, beef or milk, I would just cut them out. It took less than a year for this practice to catch up to me and result in low iron. At that point a doctor suggested I see a dietitian to help me learn about performance nutrition. Not only did this impact my performance enough to get me a college scholarship, it also laid the foundation for my career choice.

Another challenge as a female teenager is adjusting to your changing body. A women’s body changes a lot between the ages of 14-19. Seeking support from someone you trust like mom, coach, can help understand these changes. Just because you get boobs and hips doesn’t mean you have to slow down your running, in fact, adapting with the changes can make you a stronger runner in your 30’s and 40’s. I wished someone had told me that in way a 16-year-old could understand.
2. Challenges and advantages or women running in their 20s?
Women’s nutrition challenges here can stem from unresolved issues in their teens. Women in this age group tend to be at risk of the Female Athlete Triad. This Triad is a result of low energy intake that results in disruption of a normal menstrual cycle and declining bone heath. Running can be quite competitive at this age and some woman will purposefully consume low calories in an effort to be as lean as possible while other may simply/innocently under-eat because they have trouble keeping up with the demands of training.
Here is agreat resource on the topic put out by the Australian Institute of Sport and written by Dr. Melinda Manore whose research at OSU focuses on the female athlete.

This is also a critical age for bone health and maternal health to ensure 1) women are eating enough calories to still have their period and 2) that their daily intake of calcium, vitamin D, folate, iron and B12 is adequate.
3. Challenges and advantages for women running in their 30s?
After working through the challenges with in the earlier decades, women are primed to feel stronger and fitter than ever in their 30’s and 40’s.  Experience with how good nutrition can benefit them—both in their daily diet as well as during longer runs—plus stronger muscles today than the days of our underdeveloped teen muscles. On the flip side, the biggest challenge for women of this age is implementing good recovery plans that include plenty of sleep, down time, and hydration. Women often take on the role of care-giving in the household whether for aging parents or young children. With so many demands it is important for these women to set boundaries that help them also care for themselves as a woman and an athlete.
4. Challenges and advantages for women running in their 40s?
I hear people say “The day I turned 40 my body started falling apart”. I suppose it is possible you are more prone to injury at this age, proper training and stretching can be great prevention tools to slow down the process. Putting good nutrition and proper recovery practices in place can help women in the 40’s begin pushing the distance in longer races such as 10ks’ to half’s or half’s to fulls. I can think of countless examples of women turning 40 and signing up for their first half marathon, and then getting hooked on the longer distances and regular running regimens.
5. Challenges and advantages for women running in their 50s? 
Nutritionally the biggest challenge for women in their 50’s is bone health. It is hard to tell a twenty-something that if she focuses on building strong bones she is going to make things a whole lot easier on herself when she is 50, but it’s true! Folate and iron become less of a requirement after menopause which creeps in around this age. They are still important nutrients but you need lower amounts. 
I recently read an article that said running keeps you younger, particularly your muscles, than walking. So eating to maintain muscle strength and stamina is always important, but women of this age should focus on eating nutritious combinations of foods throughout the day to help deliver energy to the muscles. Great examples are fruit, nut butters, CLIF BARs, yogurt, carrots and hummus.
6. Challenges and advantages) for women running in their 60s and beyond?
With menopause behind you, the body’s hormones are now stabilizing a bit. Nutritionally, the need for folate and iron is less. Making sure vitamin D levels are good and getting a blood test to determine if supplements are needed is a good idea (even in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s). Focusing on eating to maintain the good health you achieved in the earlier decades, along with ensuring proper recovery (through recovery nutrition and appropriate down time) can keep your running for a long time. You don’t have to be running ultras, but I know many lifelong runners in their 70’s still setting goals for themselves, like running the Grand Canyon and other mountain runs.  Retirement affords more time for training for longer distances and more adventurous type ultra-runs they may not have considered before when training time was tight.

Take Me to Church

Most Sunday mornings my “church” is running a trail, eating pancakes with my family, or cruising slopes in the mountains. Sometimes however, I do find myself in the sanctuary of a building that holds a proverbial steeple.  Growing up I argued to my Mom that I was closer to God on the mountain. Back then I meant I was higher in the sky to where God lives. Today that takes on such larger meaning.
Many ask why I would drag two boys (make that three) to church on the only day of the week we have no where to be. The sermon I heard on this day articulated it so well for me,  “it is a place where we experience the world as it should be.” I am drawn to church to experience hope that the world can be a place of  calm, peace, and forgiveness. When I feel low I can count on  these sanctuaries – nature, church, community  – to lift me up and remind me there is something beyond what we can see and touch in this world.

Every time I am in church I cry. Until recently I couldn’t give this feeling words.  One Sunday morning the sermon hit on the topic of being touched by Jesus and God. Perhaps it is my unexpressed feelings weighted in my tight shoulders, tensed brow, and gritted teeth loosening and relaxing under the “touch” of something I can not explain but only feel that causes a letting go that allows the tears to fall.

The pastor went on to point out we are ultimately all on the same path. Somewhere along the path we are given the opportunity to feel something greater than ourselves or as how he describes it we are touched by Jesus.  For some, our paths  may be interrupted by something so great, so much bigger than ourselves that we can’t  help but be made aware that there is something greater at work here to believe in.  For others it could be more subtle. Whether it be Jesus and God,  or something, or someone else who moves us, shows kindness or love, we can’t let our world get so crazy that we miss what is to the right and left of our paths.   

It is not religion or obligation that has me longing for the sanctuary of a church.  My Mom took us to church for a “moment of peace” as she likes to say and to hear and sing beautiful music. The sanctuary calls her in hopes of peace (which might have gotten when I wasn’t fighting my little brother).

I am not a religious person but, I am a spiritual person. Noah and Eric were baptized as a right of passage that introduces them to core beliefs of faith, hope, peace, kindness, and love.  I want them to know how to find their own sanctuaries for these things. I want them know about church and how its stories came to be, like what Christmas is, really.  I also want them to know that they can come to the church to experience the world as it should be. I found sanctuaries in running, on the mat, in the mountains and in the special moments. As they grow, my hope for them is they find safe places to go and feel that which the can not see.

Both running and experiencing the world as a parent are constant reminders that no matter how big the challenges I face are there is something larger at work to have faith in. My daily practice is to do what I can to extend the grace I  experience in sanctuary beyond the walls, mat, or trail and carry it with me through the chaotic world.