musings on running, life, and everything in between

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When you fall out of love

With running


The usual

It’s been a long hiatus. And to be honest, I’m not sure how often I’ll keep this updated either. It’s tenuous lately. My resurgence of interest in running and such. And the school year is starting, which for some parents is glorious, but for me means the startup of my regular work calendar again. So…here’s a stab.

The last couple of months have been rough. I’ve been pretty straightforward about my ongoing struggle with depression, but it reached a pretty bad low point a few months ago. I think what further compounded it was the fact that I felt like I was doing every possible thing I could to deal with it, but it wasn’t enough. It feels unfair that I have to be doing so much more to stay afloat or feel “normal” (whatever that is) than the average person. Is it a chemical imbalance, family trauma, psychic wounds, blah blah blah? I don’t know. But I cringe every time someone asks me if I exercise or sleep enough or whatever, because I want to scream, “All of it, I do all of it!”

And actually, the last couple of months, even the running has fallen by the wayside. Yes, I’ve been trying to get myself to grind out at least a run or two a week. I had been hating even that minimal amount, though, and was mostly doing it to stave off the creeping weight. I eat ALOT, and mostly run to eat. When you’re not marathon training, it begins to catch up with you. And while it really is probably just 3-5 pounds, it was enough to make me feel worse physically and emotionally. And I realize that nothing was giving me pleasure. I wasn’t interested in anything. Maybe sleep. More B horror movies. Escape. Not life, not my kids, not my writing. Definitely not my running. Nothing that required me to engage.

So I’m trying some new meds and starting to feel better. I’ve even begun ramping back up my running. I’m actually watching the Olympics track and field events. Hitting double digit long runs. Thinking about races. But it’s still a struggle. The new meds make me tired, so early runs have been difficult. I’ve had to play around with dosage and timing to figure out what doesn’t make me feel like I need a 3 hour nap at 10:30 am or that I’m treading mud at 3 pm. Which means running alone and in the awful heat and humidity. I’ll say that running while playing Pokemon Go has helped motivate and distract me (and give me excuses for stopping).

I’m not 100% sure if I’ll stick with these meds or need to get back on that merry-go-round, but for the first time, I’m being pretty open about my struggles with folks. Even the fact that I know a couple of my students read this blog, and I’m talking about this is something. My less-than-perfect behavior has probably been most indicative of my struggles. I’ve had alot of impatience, crankiness, and general snarl near and far. My ability to have any emotional reserve in response to life has been about nil. I’m sane and grounded enough to know (mostly) when I need to make amends for that behavior, but it’s still not fun. It would be better if I just didn’t do it to begin with. And I’m still leaning towards isolation. My general belief of, “If I don’t interact with people, then I won’t have to act out and apologize later” isn’t really a great one.

On the road back from this cycle of depression, I’d realized that I had slowly been socially isolating myself. Other than kid-oriented activities or running with friends, I was engaging in almost no social activities. A friend took me out for dinner in the city, and I realized it had been literal years since I had done that. Years. How did that happen?

So I’m not saying I’m cured, but I felt the impulse to write today. So that’s something. But one could say it’s something for any of us to show up in life today and engage. To do what you can. To try your best. Even watching the Olympics, I thought about all the athletes at the back of the pack. The ones with no chance to win a medal. How do they motivate themselves? How do they push to keep going? How do any of us? But we do. Onwards and upwards friends.

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Spending time on self care

Women can be bad at self care (yes, I know it’s an overgeneralization). Moms are even worse. Running moms the worst. One way I know this is even the targeted health advertisements I see for women to get mammograms or other screenings, and the advertisement is spun as a “You take care of everyone else, but you also need to take care of yourself in order to do that.” As a mom, you put your own needs and sometimes health behind others (ask any mom what happens when they are “sick”). As runners, we’re even more prone to ignore aches and pains until it’s too late. I get the extra awesomeness of being Korean and having grown up with self-employed parents–read: having minimal insurance/access to doctors–so I don’t go to the doctor when I’m sick or for much in general. Just to give you an idea, my dad slipped/fractured a disk in his neck and ended up having major surgery, wearing a halo brace, and being out of work for a year. And he didn’t go to the hospital, in fact SLEPT on the injury, until the next day.

So yeah, learning to ignore pain and what my body wants or needs runs pretty deep. Recently, Craig (my myofascial guy) gave me a long lecture about how I really needed to work on self care to keep myself injury-free. I couldn’t just ignore stretching, etc. And he may have muttered a thing or two about aging…

And the fact of the matter is that I’m not 25 and gutting out my first marathon through excruciating pain and thinking it’ll all go back the way it’s supposed to in the morning…or in 3-4 months since I refused to run for awhile after that first marathon.

Whereas before, I used to not understand what people meant by this “warming up” before running they would do, and I had no idea what a foam roller was until my second marathon. Oh, and I started training for my first marathon in cotton. A lot has changed. I still don’t warm up, but I do sometimes stick my legs (meaning I use “the stick” or “tiger tail” to massage my legs a bit) and do some dynamic pre-emptive stretching before a run. I wear compression religiously to ward off “something” much like garlic for vampires. I spend more intimate time with my foam roller than I do with my husband. And I’ve always been good at stretching afterwards, but it was only for at most 5 minutes. Craig was talking about spending some serious time getting into the tightness, maybe backing off the mileage, and doing more yoga and other activities.

The brat in me wants to stomp my foot and go, “REALLY?! You want me to do MORE STUFF to be able to keep doing the stuff I’ve always been doing?” Um, yes. As much as I hate to admit it, my body has changed. And my threshold for discomfort has lowered. Don’t get me wrong, I can take pain like no one’s business (hello, two natural child births), but I’ve begun to realize more and more that I don’t HAVE to. And maybe I SHOULDN’T (yes, this post is all about caps). Maybe that’s wisdom. Or just being an adult.  

14 miles in 2 degrees. i can take pain.

I see this in other areas of my life. The other night, I crashed hard at 7:30. After a brutally cold 14 miles starting at 6:15 am, my body was done for the day early. I demanded a lot from it, and it wanted a lot in return. I actually debated forcing myself to stay up. Watch bad shows. Read. Putz on the interwebs. As if some “cool patrol” was watching me and assessing my dork factor for going to bed on a Saturday night so early. But no one was watching. I was the only one who had to face the consequences of my actions. So I went to bed. I slept a solid 11 hours.

I have begun to realize more and more that if I don’t take care of myself, I will be one miserable runner, mom, wife, and educator. And I will make the lives of those around me miserable. And that doesn’t have to happen.

So I go to bed early. I call people when I’m struggling with my depression. I go to yoga. And… I drop down running plans. Boom.

Yup, I decided to move from the 5 day/week running plan to the 4 day/week. My body isn’t happy with what I’m doing or have been doing. Something needs to change. And for some insane reason, it freaks me out to admit it to myself and change the plan, and admit it to others. Even though no one is judging me for it, and most of my running friends would encourage me to be healthy and do what my body needs. But there’s a sick little devil on my shoulder that tells me that I’m not a REAL runner if I’m not cranking out 50+ miles a week. If I’m not running 5-6 days a week. If I’m not running a sub 8:00/mile on the daily. If I don’t make the top X percent. So you push and “dig deep” until your well is empty and you are spiritually or physically broken.

No thanks.

I’ve been there and done that. And I don’t need to go back.

But that’s taken me a long long time to learn. And it’s definitely progress, not perfection. It’s the long view. Boston was once a bucket list for me. And now that it’s on the horizon, I want to make sure that I can actually run it. I don’t know if I’ll run it more than once, so I want to make sure all my crazy work the last two years actually means something. I take it back, it DOES mean something whether I get to run Boston or not (as of right now, btw, there’s nothing to stop me but myself). That I can work hard, attain my goals, and bust my guts doing it. And regardless of what happens at Boston, I’ll know I did good and I’ll be with friends. *cue soaring, inspirational music* But that only happens if I’m healthy and strong enough to get to the starting line. And that only happens if I listen to my body and take care of myself.

Even the elite runners do this. Deanna Kastor pulled out of the Olympic Trials pretty last minute, and Kara Goucher said she “left it all out there,” but it wasn’t enough to make the Olympic Team (although since she was 4th, she’ll be the official alternate). Even Desi Linden, who pulled an amazing second half of the marathon, said she had to trust her plan and not punch it in the first half to keep up with Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan (and that plan is what got her to pass Shalane just within the last mile or so and nab second). Amazing. So even the elites have to listen to what their bodies and spirits need.

Sorry if this post was all over the place, but I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to figure out what I need and how to keep myself healthy on lots of fronts. I didn’t have a great foundation for those things growing up, so it’s new terrain. Anyhow, hope you all had a great run this weekend, whatever your plan was.



Happy new year!

Happy new year, friends! There is no day so full of hope and promise as New Year’s Day (unless you’re nursing a hangover, in which case, I’m sorry). I generally don’t “do” New Year’s resolutions, but I do like the contemplative aspect of the global turning of the calendar page. 2015 was an interesting one, filled with the amazing reaching of some goals (hello, BQ, and running 2015 miles with a friend) and the ongoing battle with some struggles (balance, depression).

The ending of 2015 was filled with friends and family.

And also some snowy running in Wisconsin.

I really love the quiet of running in Door County. The woods always evoke lines of Robert Frost poetry.

I also got a chance to catch up on some podcasts in those runs, which included Another Mother Runner interview with Suzy Favor Hamilton–celebrated middle distance runner who gained notoriety when the Smoking Gun divulged she was working as a high end escort in Vegas (while married and a mom in Wisconsin). It turns out that her behavior was fueled by untreated bipolar disorder, an illness which took the life of her older brother. She explores her experiences in the book Fast Girl: Running from Madness.

The interview was such a teaser for her book that I promptly downloaded it when I finished my run. It’s intense and scandalous and powerful. I have friends who have been diagnosed as bipolar, but I hadn’t understood how intense and out of control the mania could be for some. One of the main points Suzy underscores in the book is her hope to destigmatize the illness and her desire to heal and help others.

This book intersected with an article I recently came across about a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania runner who killed herself last winter. The article I read (a different one is linked here) seemed particularly fixated on how her Instagram account was so highly curated to only show her life as fun and happy. No one had any idea she was struggling. Down to a post of twinkling holiday lights right before she killed herself. It is always heartbreaking to hear of someone so young and promising taking their lives.

These two stories remind me of why I talk about depression on this blog. I run and eat relatively healthy (I had to bite my tongue recently when someone suggested I exercise to help my mood), connect with others, take medication, and do a host of other things that should make me ebullient. But I’m not. I still struggle periodically with depression, and it’s ok. Many people struggle with it. And the more we talk and support one another, the healthier and happier we can all be.

So my best wishes for all of you. For a healthy, happy, and hopeful new year. May 2016 bring peace and love for all.


Playing catch up, the solstice, and trying new things (including signing up for my first ultra)

Well, it’s been some time since the last post. And I still owe you a race recap of the Hateya Trail race. Sigh. I have to confess, though, that between the depression and the holidays, it’s been rough. I had assigned a ton of symbolic meaning to the winter solstice and my deep need for the light to return. I can’t recall the last time the solstice was so close to Christmas either. I had even planned a tiny solstice party with friends, which was to include my first attempt at an pineapple upside down cake. Both attempts were botched. The depression was at its zenith those few days, and I couldn’t get myself to rally the effort. This was what made me decide to change some things around medication, including quitting the birth control I had been on the last two months. I’ve had depressive reactions to the pill before, and while I was depressed before starting the pill, it did seem to get worse after starting. Considering I had started the pill to help stabilize hormones and emotions, it didn’t seem like it was doing its job.

The change up in meds has started to help make a difference.  Finally.

It’s interesting, I was out to dinner with some old friends and we talked about depression. My friend’s wife asked me what depression looked like for me, because she imagined it as someone who could not get out of bed or face the world. And here I was laughing and out with friends. There have been times years ago where my depression did look more like that, but with two small children, it’s virtually impossible to hide in bed. For me, it’s been a sense of irritation and frustration, as if I have no ability to deal with even the smallest difficulty or trouble. I go straight to anger. There is no emotional reserve to deal. It also feels as if everything takes a Herculean effort. I have to rally every bit of myself to get dressed, go to work (and stay there), make meals. Every ounce wants to scream, “I can’t.” I am unable to focus on anything. There is a deep sense of both restlessness and inertia. I can’t focus. It all feels too much. And all that has begun to lift. Speaking, writing, and being proactive about actions to address the inertia have all been helpful. So I encourage everyone dealing with anxiety and depression to try things to address it, and get help. Interestingly, a lot of the women I run with deal with anxiety more than depressing but that’s another post…

I HAVE been running through all this, although unable to follow the training plan we had selected. This far out, it’s all just base mileage so I’m just working on keeping my weekly mileage up. The idea of doing speed work and such when I feel so heavy emotionally is unbearable. Here I am pretending to be in thei holiday spirit.

My lovely ladies did a morning before Christmas Day run. I met up with Patty and Emily to run some miles before and it was great. We even had time for coffee after. It was so perfect to get some good face time with the awesome, strong women before the chaos of Christmas. I really do love my running group.

We found it amusing that all of us wore black and then such bright shoes. So here’s my first obligatory shoefie. I will admit it was not my idea.

I also got another chance to get out to Palos and run the Bullfrog loop. Sadly, I was the one leading the group…which meant there was some map reading and general orienteering. It also didn’t help that they had updated the trail map, so I was running with a map that didn’t even have some of the colors on there–like the purple trail wasn’t on the version for the map I had. Sigh.  So lesson learned. Make sure you have the most recent map before getting out there.

The ladies I ran with were awesome about it, though, and just enjoyed being out there. They were good sports about stopping and checking maps and gps phones. It was Corinna and Jen’s first time out there, and Amy had run the Palos 50k this fall but didn’t remember all the parts either. It was muddy and fun, and Corinna’s longest run in a while so she appreciated all the stopping.

Amy is also the one that has gotten me to sign up for my first ultra, the Ice Age 50k in Wisconsin in May. I figure 4 months after Boston is good training overlap. We will see 🙂

Anyhow friends, I hope you are running and staying sane. It just snowed like crazy last night so I might get to try out those micro spikes from Christmas after all!

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Catch up

It’s the end of semester, so it’s been hectic. And I’m behind on everything. Almost to the end, though…just a few more days.

Last week was all about hills and trails. To stave off the growing gloom (or “The Nothing” a la Neverending Story as I’ve been calling it), I tried to get out into more natural sunlight. That meant some running on Waterfall Glen and the Salt Creek Trail. The Waterfall Glen Run was gorgeous, perfectly clear sky, warm (50’s!), and quiet. I couldn’t help but play tourist and snap a bunch of pics.  

There were surprising bits of bright green. I think nature is confused by the spring-like weather.

  It’s funny how things can look different with small changes. I usually run the loop counter-clockwise, which admittedly, is the “easier” way to handle the hills. This time, I decided to try something different and run it clockwise. Wow, big difference. For one, it felt like I was going up hill quite a bit more. According to the GPS, looks like it was! (I ran an out and back so that’s why the elevation map takes a big dip in the middle and is mirrored after that).

The scenery also looked new to me and I paused at some of the forks in the route, confused. It felt new to me to run it differently. Sometimes it’s good to mix things up 🙂  Gets you out of your normal rut!

I’ve been trying to enjoy the smaller things more as well. The other week was the most gorgeous sunset I’ve seen. I felt a bit silly, but I actually stopped and pulled over to take a picture of it (safety first, friends). It was funny because a cyclist headed in the other direction also stopped, walked across the street to the park, and took a picture. I grinned, and he responded, “How can you not?!”

I had a trail race Saturday (my first! but race review will be another post) so I decided to do my long run Friday. I didn’t feel like running the neighborhood blocks so did it out at Salt Creek Trail. And look! I found a section of real trail! I realized I usually don’t run that far out (or I haven’t lately) so I’ve missed the sign previously. Turns out it’s only 1.1 miles, but it was still fun to see unpaved bits out there.

It’s no Waterfall Glen, but the Salt Creek has its own tiny hills…

Finally, I did my first trail race, the Hateya Trail Race in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was very funny, if a bit bloody. But you’ll have to hang around next post for the race recap.

Between that (there was an optional river crossing, which I took) and the very rainy cookie run my running group did, I spent much of this weekend with wet running gear and shoes on. I think it might be time to break in a new pair of shoes. I did a bit of research and bought a pair of Altra Superior 2 trail shoes. I might start breaking them in today. They’re my first Altra’s so I’ll let you know how that goes!

Anyhow, friends. I hope you’re hanging in there. It’s a tough time of year, but my runs have been saving me. So get out there!

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Trails, Tuesdays, and Heartbreak 

It’s a tough time of year. In the last week, two friends have lost people in their lives to suicide. Between the forced merriment of various holidays, the quickly darkening and dreary days (seriously, I’m more concerned about the countdown to the winter solstice than Christmas at this point), and the seemingly endless supply of horror in the news lately, it’s hard. So let’s start there. It. Is. Hard. But it’s not hopeless. One thing I started thinking about was how rarely we hear how appreciated we are–both from those close to us and those we barely know. The outpouring of love, support, and kind words for these two individuals is overwhelming. But I also remember hearing a story about someone who wanted a funeral for themselves while they were still alive, because then they could hear it. It is of little use to us when we’ve passed this mortal coil. Granted, it helps those left behind, but maybe it could help all of us.

I recently saw a comic, which I can’t place right now. Maybe The Oatmeal? Or Yeti? Anyhow, it was a boy and his dad discussing superpowers, specifically how the boy wondered if anyone really had superpowers. The dad said, “Yeah. See that guy over there with the ugly hat?” (Said guy is a sad sack-looking fellow). And then the dad turns to him and says, “Your hat is awesome. You are doing a great job wearing it.” The sad man straightens up and smiles, and the dad turns towards the son and says, “See, you have the power to change someone’s day.” I’m sorry if I’m butchering it, and if anyone can help me place the comic, that would be better. But, it ultimately got me thinking about how changing someone else’s day can also change ours. In our modern age, we are so disconnected from the humanity of others and ourselves. Ironically, the more plugged in we are and the more crowded we live, it seems we pull back into ourselves even further. I don’t have to reach far for pieces from the news that illustrate this.

My friend recently sent me a link to another blog that gets at this idea of connecting, of trying to feel hope in a world that seems awful. The post is titled “Fifteen Things for When the World Is Shitty and Terrifying.” I loved it because some of the things were about being gentle with yourself, and others were about reaching out to help others and express gratitude.

Through my job, I help provide gifts to a child–both their “wants” and “needs” lists. However, I selfishly don’t feel all that excited about it, because I don’t feel connected to the giving. I don’t have firsthand experience with the organization that we work with. I haven’t been there to deliver or distribute the gifts. I didn’t seek out this way of giving (it’s just something my workplace has been doing for a long time). In this manner, I don’t feel personally connected. In contrast to this experience, though, is the homeless person that approached our car the other day (coming back from a trail run. I swear I’ll get to the running part of this blog, ha). I have never given roadside solicitors money, mostly because I don’t know what they’ll “do” with it (I have friends in recovery who were homeless because of substance abuse, and I don’t feel comfortable helping prop that situation up). HOWEVER, I also don’t regularly find ways to help the homeless either. So, in some ways, I continue to ignore a large problem and am potentially dehumanizing them and their situation. At the end of the day, I’m assuming they’ll use the money for dubious things and I’m not helping them better their lot in even a small way.

I’ve been thinking about this alot. One thing I saw last winter was a local mom and her daughter creating homeless hygiene kits and distributing them to people. While I find the idea of roving the countryside looking for potentially homeless-looking people to give your kits uncomfortable, I have long thought about creating kits to give to roadside solicitors when they approach my car. In that manner, I’m acknowledging them (versus furiously looking at my phone) and I’m doing something to possibly help them. These kits are ziploc bags that contain some food and water, gloves or hats, socks (a much-needed yet oft-neglected item with this population), soap, hand sanitizer, travel shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant, lotion, baby wipes, feminine products, and transit cards. I’m stopping by Target later to pick up some things for the house, and plan on picking up a few of these items as well.

As promised, there is actual running on this blog. Last week was pretty good, and Saturday I got to do a REAL trail run. Single-track, muddy, through the woods, skipping roots and rocks. And I didn’t fall. MAGIC. It was hard. I swear I thought I was going faster than the 10:30’ish pace my watch told me at the end. We did the Bullfrog Lake loop down in Palos. About 9 miles total.

It was super foggy that morning as the weather was changing a bit. Bianca and I got there early and ran a mile before hooking up with the group (we were doing the run with the Flatland Ultrarunners). It was a good-sized group that included folks who did 50 milers and 100 milers. Crazy! I was glad to run with other people as the single-track loop breaks up a few times to other loops and I would have gotten lost or spent alot of time on my phone debating which fork to take. Especially since everything looked the same out there. Brown and grey. Bare. There were a couple times that made me nervous barreling down a hill, but it was awesome overall. I don’t think I can make the time commitment to do it every week (it’s a 30 minute car ride each way), but I definitely want to regularly work in the trail runs into the mix.
One thing I realized is that everyone was wearing trail shoes. One woman, who runs 100 miler’s, said she used microspikes in the winter, which is exactly what they sound like. Similar to Yak Trax, they strap under your regular running shoes but they have spikes instead of the coiled wires of the Trax. She said she has no problem running on straight ice with them because they grip really well, and they don’t change your stride. I know what I’m asking for Christmas 🙂

While it wasn’t muddy enough for my shoes to feel super-challenged (I was wearing my regular Kinvaras), it was muddy enough to make things a big mess afterwards! I swear I had mud in my socks too. I’m beginning to see why people wear gaiters when they run now. Bianca, the seasoned trail runner, had another pair of shoes in the car to drive home in. I just scraped as much of it off as possible before getting in the car. 

I’m hoping to get in another trail run later today by my work. We’ll see if time allows. It’s end of semester, which means there’s a ton of grading. Sigh.

Anyhow, lovely people. I hope you are kinder to yourselves and to others. Tell someone something nice today and what you appreciate about them. Even if it’s a stranger. Perhaps it’s even better if it’s a stranger (if you’re a man, though, God help you if you try to tell a woman to smile!).

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Heart Breaking and World-Building

There is so much in the news today that breaks my heart, enrages me, and sucks all the air out of the room. To write about doing fartleks, intervals, and running shoes seems supercilious. Inane even. But, I also realize that running helps me to process and make sense of some of this. I’ve had Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp a Buttterfly on heavy rotation the last week. One line from his song “Alright” has been used at several Black Lives Matter protests since this summer. Seeing Black youth march chanting “we gon’ be alright” in response to all the violence is poignant to say the least. There is a refrain, of sorts, that echoes throughout the whole album, that connects with me on a number of levels–even running.

Abusing my power, full of resentment. Resentment that turned into a deep depression. I found myself screaming in the hotel room. I didn’t want to self-destruct. The evils of Lucy was all around me, so I went running.

I’m not gonna lie, if you don’t listen to hip-hop, this album probably is not an easy-listening album to tiptoe your way in to it. Try some Macklemore for that (no disrespect to him, ha). To Pimp a Butterfly is an intense, heavily political, personal, and emotional album. There were moments I winced listening to it because it is so raw. I also think it’s a brilliant peephole into one aspect of the Black experience today.

So, this weekend, I’m getting in a long run, look for a protest or march (there are so many issues, not even sure where to start) to go to, and also looking to shine some light into the darkness. If you need a soundtrack for that work, here’s “Alright.”