Racing is Life

When I started to run trails 10 years ago, I never once thought about racing. I ran (and still do) to keep my sanity and to get the wiggles out plain and simple. But my running buddies encouraged me to train for a race and I’m really glad they did. Because now I love it.

Racing gives me so many opportunities to build confidence, learn to trust myself and my training, practice awareness and presence, and build life skills.

This year I’ve chosen races to support my goal to get stronger and faster. Those races are the Uwharrie Mountain Run 20 Miler, Ridge to Rails Half Marathon, and Grand-Further Mountain Run, a 25k. 

Uwharrie was in February and while I didn’t meet my A goal of finishing in 4:30, I did beat my B goal of finishing under 5 hours at 4:47 and 17 minutes ahead of my 2020 time!

I finished my 2nd race in early June. The new Ridge to Rails Half Marathon is a 2700’ net loss trail run with over 1600’ of climbing. This race connects MTB lovers Kitsuma Trail to Copper Ridge Trail to the newer, Old Fort Gateway Trail System for some quad-burning downhill madness.

Race Weekend

Race weekend is always an adventure: Pack the gear and food! (especially if you have food sensitivities or allergies and you don’t tend to eat at aid stations) Get to the destination! Solve all the challenges! Oh, and race!

Challenge Number 1 came early in the weekend. I was beginning to prepare my now traditional pre-race dinner: salmon and white rice (shout out to my run coach Rachel Bell Kelly for the suggestion) with Trader Joe’s Furikaki seasoning for flavor, when I realized I’d be cooking on an induction stove. I’d rather cook on a camp stove any day instead of an induction stovetop.

Look, I’m a professional cook who has experience with lots of different equipment and who has been in situations where I just had to make it work. But damn, this induction stove was uncooperative. When the classic unplug/replug didn’t work, I reached for the user’s guide that I had to find online. It told me the error message I was getting was due to either using a wrong-sized pan or one that wasn’t induction friendly. Ahh, but the pan did fit the eye and it was induction friendly.

After a failed phone call to the cabin owners, I said fuck it and Googled how to cook rice in the microwave. Now the microwave is a piece of cooking equipment I have little experience using. So I was super pleased to learn that it makes EXCELLENT rice. And, the salmon turned out great too. 3 minutes on high for those who want to know.

Dancing Waters, the beautiful, tiny cabin I rented.

Challenge Number 2 occurred the morning of the race. While I ran my warm-up, I found a tree had come down across the road during the night. As I eyed it, I decided that I couldn’t drive my Subaru Outback over it because its dead branches had somehow turned into tire-popping spikes.

So I began to toggle the trunk to see if I could move it myself, trying to be mindful to not hurt my back as I had a race to get to. It didn’t want to budge but after some wiggling, I was able to move it off the road saying thanks that I didn’t have to deal with this as I was heading to catch the race shuttle.

The Race

I raced well, had a blast, executed my plan, and nailed my intrinsic goals but I was not as fast as I had hoped. The only recovery time was on the downhills and since this was a net-loss race, my quads got hammered.  The “flats” which I wanted to use to recover, were never really flat. They all tended to have an elevation grade. But I did meet my goal of finishing in less than 3 hours with a 2:47 finish and only missed my goal of placing top 3 Females in the 50-59 age group by 8 seconds!

Here are a few Happy Race Highlights:

  • Met a new friend during Sacred Shuttle Time on the way to the start
  • Peed alongside the trail with all the ladies who were not waiting for the porta potty
  • Whooped and laughed on the Kitsuma downhills with a group of us who tackled it together
  • Took care of myself by getting water and stopping to tie my shoes when I needed

New friend Jennifer Davenport – photo by Jen Davenport

While I was tired at the finish and my quads were stiffening with every second, I wonder if I could have pushed harder. My hips and legs fatigue easily on rolling hills which are a hallmark of mountain biking trails. Regardless, I’ve decided that I still have a lot to learn about being comfortable with the uncomfortable. And I came away thinking it’s not so much about pushing harder but more about not resisting the pain. 

Post-race face! Also, keeping it real because not every picture has to be “flattering.” – photo by Tanawa Adventures

I’m currently listening to Brad Stulberg’s The Practice of Groundedness. In the middle of uncomfortable moments, he recommends saying to ourselves, “This is what is happening right now. I am doing the best I can.” I used this during my race but in hindsight not so much at the end when my quads were making me whimper. If I had remembered to say it those last two miles, would I have finished faster? Eight seconds faster perhaps?

I don’t know and I’m not going to dwell on that. But I am going to practice this compassionate mantra during this training block. Particularly during my hill and threshold workouts when the pain pressure builds. My hope is when I face the ascents and descents at Grand-Further in August, not only will my quads have the power, but my mind will too.

#sweatoften #nurtureyourself #stressless #8pillarsofanutritiouslife #trailrun #wevegotyou 

affirmation words

Mid-Year Shifts to My Annual Word Practice

There’s been a shift in my thinking about this year’s annual word, BALANCE. 

The first pic shows my sticky notes from January when I came up with words/ideas that support my annual theme.

The second pic is this July. As I’ve let this word have its way with me, you can see I’ve begun to think about it in differently.

As a runner, as a nutrition coach, and as a 51 yo spiritual person, here are some thoughts about what these words are currently saying to me half way through 2022.

🐝 Can I shift my self-doubt to BELIEF? Believe in my ability to make good decisions. Believe that showing up every day to train will benefit me at the start line on race day. Believe in myself – that I am capable of handling challenges that come my way (and yes, that may mean asking for help!) Believe that the Universe and I are on the same team.

🐝 Can I move with EASE instead of striving? Hat tip to @stevemagness for planting this one in my brain. I pride myself on being a hard worker, whether that is in my training sessions or my jobs. But what if my posture and attitude were relaxed while working hard? It is not my nature to go easy on myself or others but it’s a concept I welcome because it feels better.⁠

🐝 Can I take discomfort and EXPLORE what it is teaching me? I resist uncomfortableness – most of us do – whether that’s my feelings, awkward exchanges, or 2 min hill repeats at rpe 9! But what if I didn’t resist? What if I explored the discomfort? Some people call this “embracing the suck.” Others call it “entering the pain cave” I’m looking at you @courtneydauwalter

Or, what if I saw discomfort as transformational? 

Pema Chodron writes about the concept of tonglen (breathing in pain, and breathing out relief for ourselves and others) in her book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. She writes, “We all experience pain and pleasure. We all gravitate towards what’s comfortable and have an aversion to what is not…[As we practice tonglen] We come to see pain as something that can transform us, not something to escape at any cost.”⁠

That last one is a doozy I know! But it’s the one that is speaking loudest to me right now. And I am listening.

You may wonder why I do this? Why do I give my brain and heart more work? Doesn’t life give me enough of that already? 

Well, I thrive on living life intentionally and this practice helps me do just that. I also think it helps me become more me. And isn’t that our life’s purpose? To become more of our truest selves? Oprah thinks so. 

In a speech I recently saw online, she says our one goal in life is to “Fulfill the highest and most truthful expression of yourself as a human being.” 

This quote resonated with me deeply. So I think I’ll keep doing all the things that help me become more me, including this little practice of meditating on annual and supporting words. 

Maybe you have an intentional practice in your life? Keep it up! Maybe you want to start one? It is worth it!




#youtrition #nutritioncoaching #wevegotYOU #affirmations #rituals #mindfulness #believe #ease #explore #🐝 #trueself #8pillarsofanutritiouslife #nurtureyourself #liveconsciously #wearewhatweeat #NLCertified #livinganutritiouslife⁠

Stress Less

This is the last blog in a series delving into the Eight Pillars of a Nutritious Life, the support system I incorporate into my nutrition coaching because good nutrition includes more than just what we eat. More blogs on more nutrition topics coming soon!

All of us experience stress in our lives. A job change, a move, or an illness are a few common examples. The effects it has on our bodies is a huge topic and one I’ll write more about in future blogs. But for now, I want to emphasize why it is an important Pillar of a Nutritious Life.

Stress increases the hormone cortisol which tells our body to store fat. While stress can lead to overeating (or under eating), you don’t even have to eat more to gain weight, the increased cortisol alone can do it. 

It’s important to differentiate between stress and chronic stress. Our bodies are created to handle short term stress – like getting out of dangerous situations or studying for a test. We are not made to tolerate constant or chronic stress – like a high stakes job, poverty, or a pandemic. Chronic stress can lead to diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and heart disease. 

If being healthy is a priority, we want to be aware of the role stress plays in our lives and do what we can to manage it.

Sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re stressed. It could be because we haven’t developed awareness. Or, maybe our stress levels have been so high for so long, it’s hard to notice that we’re experiencing chronic stress (this is something I recently realized about myself!)

Stress can manifest in our bodies both physically and mentally. Physically we may have a hard time sleeping, have chest pains, grind our teeth, or clench our jaws. Mentally we may feel anxious, have negative or worrisome thoughts that won’t slow down or go away. We may experience depression, irritability, or have panic attacks. 

Being aware of our stress levels and how we individually experience it takes practice. But it is worth the work if we want to be healthy and feel good. It also helps to know some ways to handle it. So here are some ideas you can preemptively practice or use when the shit hits the fan! 

Belly breathing

Breathe deeply and slowly into your belly (as opposed to your chest,) letting it inflate like a balloon. Imagine the breath going down and the belly filling up. Then imagine the breath doing a somersault and swimming back up and out of your mouth or nose as your belly deflates. This type of breathing encourages your nervous system to calm down.

Move slowly

If at all possible, physically slow your movements. Stress typically winds us up and has us move fast – recall fight or flight. Slowing down acts as a counterweight. Combining slow movements with slow breathing has even better results! This helps me the most. I pretend I’m moving in slow-mo.

Be gentle and compassionate with yourself

Everybody experiences stress. You are not alone! Be compassionate with yourself and know the emotions will pass; especially if you acknowledge them. Thank them for what they are telling you and then let them go.

And I have to mention one more. Exercise.

You will hear a LOT from me in this blog about moving because it is good for our brains and bodies. Exercise is a great way to blow off steam. So punch that bag, run that hill, breathe into that pose. Whatever you love to do that feels good, is right for you. 

Nurture Thyself

This is the seventh blog in a series delving into the Eight Pillars of a Nutritious Life, the support system I incorporate into my nutrition coaching because good nutrition includes more than just what we eat.

Nurturing ourselves in ways that uplift our spirits is good for our health and wellbeing which is why it is one of the Eight Pillars of a Nutritious Life.

“…Nurturing yourself can set the stage for better health, relationships, and general well-being. Self-compassion yields a number of benefits, including lower levels of anxiety and depression,” according to a recent Harvard Healthbeat article.

How can we nurture ourselves? Think of the classics: bubble baths, hammock time, deep breathing, tinkering in your workshop. It doesn’t need to be anything big or expensive, but it is important to make time everyday so you experience the ROI in yourself!

Recently, I bought my first deck of affirmation cards, Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein. I was inspired by my Nutritious Life colleagues’ favorite decks and their habit of pulling cards for inspiration and encouragement.

Affirmations really help me pivot out of a bad mood, suspend limiting beliefs, or hault spiraling out of control behavior, so it’s something I’ve started doing for myself. I pulled this card first thing in the morning:

Then I proceeded to have an absolute hissy fit because I couldn’t get my bike trainer to work. At some point, I stopped and remembered the day’s affirmation. Then I pivoted and did yoga.

I think if I hadn’t pulled the card, I’d still be fighting with that goddamn bike trainer! And definitely not in a peaceful state.

It amazes me that a choice to practice affirmations can generate enough momentum to help us behave in ways that nurture, not hinder us. And boy, over time that pays off!

How do you nurture yourself? What keeps you from nurturing yourself? Let’s share and learn together!