The Quarantine Question

It’s really basic, what are you going to do?

A lot of us are freed up during this time, as many of us make the switch from Winter to Spring and the warmer temps have us itching for more miles and more adventures, but wait, we are under a stay at home order.

So what does this mean? Well, they can’t force you to stay home, but they can limit to what you can go to, such as state/county/national parks as the government tries to put policies in place to keep us safe. Read that again, this is not a punishment. Quick rant, I am not willing to get the virus for a trivial reason and potentially sacrifice my lungs or life for pretty much anything. I encourage everyone to think about that, what is getting the virus worth to you? Because some people don’t care if they are at risk of getting it, or spreading it to others. And it’s your right to go out and risk your health to do so. But overall it’s considered irresponsible to us trying to do our best to stop the spread as a human population. This virus is much more than your “freedom”, it’s a world-wide pandemic and affects the world, and not just your small 6-foot bubble. As a people, we should take responsibility for our fellow human to try and do what we can. Do what you can is what I ask…what that looks like is up to you.

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I may have collected too much cheese. Nonsense, never too much cheese.

For me, I have stopped venturing out. I go to the grocery store maaaaybe once a week. I eat and cook at home, supporting my local restaurants once a week (I want them back after this is all done with!), I go running from my house 90% of the time, only driving about 5 miles max out to one open park when less people are there. My views are rather limited. I carry hand sanitizer everywhere I go, using it before getting in my car, using it when I’m back in my car, and then washing my hands when I get home. I haven’t gotten gas, even with my somewhat gas guzzling Jeep, since early March. I wear a mask everywhere I go where I would encounter other people. I drink more water, I eat better. I focus on what I can do.

If you’d rather not read about my personal life, please skip down to “What can you do” header below. Otherwise, enjoy the ride.

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And all of you who know me or follow this blog, know I go back to Virginia about this time every year for a few weeks, because I run Mountains. I go home. I see my family. I was unable to do that this year. I was signed up for the Blue Ridge Half Marathon with my sister, training to do it with her as her first half marathon. I was so excited to share the experience, as the BRM was my first marathon, and I even did the double marathon last year. I simply cannot get enough of that course. It never bores me and always finds a way to surprise me every year. I ended up getting depressed, I was not raised in Wisconsin, and the lack of Spring in the air (not counting my horrific allergies from an apparent “mold season” before “pollen season” here), and as of this writing April 24th, there are no buds on trees, no popping flowers, no 50-60 degree days… doom and gloom to me. I try to convince myself this is just a delayed Spring here, and it will come, but when you see everywhere else with seasonal proliferation, it makes me sad.

93941934_265858847790778_6932531275391565824_nBlah blah blah, my issues. We decided to have my sister do the actual course (since she lives there) and I would do my best to get the amount of elevation gain as her course in flatter Wisconsin using a singular 130 foot hill (15% grade, which is actually pretty amazing here considering). Every time I would “summit” I would claim those 130 points, like a video game level up. We called each other at least every mile on video chat. I then decided to dodge a storm (hail, lightening, and all that jazz — the wind had been blowing all day and continued to do so). Earth Day seemed so appropriate. I ended up finishing 16 miles by the time she finished and headed home to do the rest of the miles there in case more storms came (and they did). With the sun now out, I decided to go plogging for the first time (where you run and pick up trash you see along your run — wear gloves!). I plodded along slower, and when coming back to my house to do hill repeats to try and get more gain, I saw the dark clouds approaching again. I finished up with some quicker miles and a bonus mile to squeak in a cheap man’s ultra for my monthly ultra streak, which is becoming harder and harder to do…

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So this brings me to the present day, and my present debacle. We’ve all held out so much hope that “our” event won’t be affected, but truth be told, it is almost best to assume the worst right now. We didn’t plan for this, and we didn’t think it would happen back in the day (March). But here we are and what can we do now? We do not have all the information, and the experts (the researchers and CDC) are doing their best to get us back on track before we self-implode over not getting our hair cut for a month or two. You will survive, I promise.

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What Can You do?

As a coach, I have been losing clients for all sorts of reasons, the main driver being the virus cancelling events people were motivated to train for. So the virus essentially puts me out of work. I don’t get to see people grow, I don’t get to help in goal making. And the same goes for people not being coached…everyone is at a loss, and a loss we haven’t had to face as a population or community before. Motivation is at an all time low. But it doesn’t have to be.

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Drawing

What can you do? Plenty. You aren’t restricted in how much you run, those balcony, hallway, and backyard marathoners are proving nothing can stop a person from completing something (and possibly something stupid, I do not recommend short little run-arounds to get in large mileage, nor do I think our trackers are accurate enough to even record the “laps” in our living spaces — think about it, we lose large mileage even on tight turns of single track out in the wild, do you think your GPS tracker can accurately record loops around your house without dropping distance? Just a thought train here). When I say “plenty”, I mean you can do all sorts of creative things:

  • Slow down, and stop caring about pace. Do things you wouldn’t normally do because you are too pace focused. Adventure a little. Challenge yourself and see how fast you can WALK. Stop every mile or half mile to complete a challenge like burpees or squats/lunges, throw a rock into a field as far as you can, try and find shapes in objects to keep your mind occupied or as something to post each run, and don’t stop running until you find that shape.
  • Make a singular challenge. How much elevation can you get in one run? Can you run backwards for a mile? Run 2-3 miles every few hours (there was/is a Yeti challenge just for this!). 93899001_647585832758354_5694403675535966208_n Clean up one area of your house. Throw out things you haven’t used in years. Donate your old pots/pans or clothes you haven’t worn in 2 years…you can buy more. Catch up with someone in your community. Giving yourself daily challenges will keep time moving forward. I used to use post-it notes and write down things I had to do in college and put them up on a wall. This gave me a visual clue as what I HAVE done and what I can still do. I didn’t have to do them, but taking down those sticky notes was pretty satisfying and served as a reminder what I could be doing. Lastly, look for a virtual race to support your Race directors whose events are cancelled. Yeti, Aravaipa running, Becoming Ultra, and Ten Junk Miles Racing are all offering up registrations, and Ornery Mule Racing has a wellness site for everyone.
  • Make a weekly challenge. Challenge yourself, for one week, do the same thing every day and hold yourself accountable. One goal I wanted to do was to run a half marathon every day for a week. 93998401_290503168621302_4310844681991749632_n I’ve never had time to try it, but now I can. No excuses. Sun is out longer now (wear sunscreen). Don’t make weather an excuse…every event will have weather, use this as a time to practice that mindset. Even if that challenge is making dinner every day for a week, find new recipes, ask friends about things they like to make and if they would recommend something. Keep it social. Include others even when we are apart.
  • Make a monthly challenge (if this is not too daunting, for me personally, this is very difficult). I am currently doing one ultra per month to keep me busy and thinking about how I will accomplish it safely and to keep having fun with it. Out of the 7 months I have been at this, only 3 have been actual events. 91912888_523304055044169_4973663134830034944_n Some of my friends are making monthly mileage goals. Some people are doing monthly hours of workout goals. Maybe your monthly challenge is to try and change a habit you have been trying to make like stretching, yoga, or strength. You can still get strength at home. Your body is a weight. So are soup cans. So are water bottles.
  • Speed up. If you’re used to running long and slow, make a new speed goal and use this time to get faster. It’s hard to focus on both speed and distance. It’s hard to work on either if you’re a fan of just one of those camps. Speed work doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Spend some time researching how to better yourself as a person. Do you need to adjust your cadence? Do you hit the ground too hard? Posture? Things to think about and learn. Video yourself from the side and from the back and front.
  • Take a rest. It’s ok to be unmotivated to the point that you have to take a break. Or maybe you’ve been burning the candle on both ends for too long now. 92789852_532885800996425_3486006095514697728_n Recovery is so very very important to our lives. We have no events for the upcoming months. Let your body heal. It is OKAY to not be out there killing the miles. It is OKAY to take a step back and resume when there is a clear goal. Eat a cookie, you will be ok, it’s just a cookie.

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    Making my own birthday cake and eating it too.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a cheer squad! Ask a friend, a group, or make a post. Be proud of what you accomplish. Write (like I am now even, get your thoughts out there), draw, pick up a hobby, make a hundred hearts to stick on your window. Send snail mail to family and friends. Everyone loves getting a good hand written letter, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love the surprise. Stay connected. 93883160_709340033137087_8599529106557632512_n

All our goals look different. For some of us, we need that community, that group run, or event to push us to get out for our runs. And that’s perfectly ok. There are people who never even go to events who just run to run. That is also ok. What is not ok is patronizing others for not “seeing things” your way. Let people vent, let people complain, and let people work this out on their own as long as they are not hurting others. As someone who is not positive all the time and tends to look at the world from a perspective of “the glass may be half full, but the water is frozen and therefore useless” or rather I’d prefer not to get my hopes up in case insert worst case scenario here, this isn’t hitting me mentally as hard as others. I live with probably the most positive and upbeat person there is. It certainly is a balance!

Waaaaah my events T_T

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Look forward to the future of things. If your event has been postponed, celebrate, even if it ends up getting cancelled in the long run. Our race directors are working hard and I am sure things are very complicated right now. Send a thanks to them. From that perspective, there is no use being mad if your event is cancelled and throwing shade at the RDs (and if you look closely you probably signed off on a waiver that says you surrender your registration should the race be cancelled, so any race that manages to reschedule is probably doing so on their own dime). They probably had their permits revoked by higher ups and not allowed to re-permit. They are not trying to take or steal your money.

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A lot of costs upfront go into creating these events and that money you registered with was probably used already. So please, be kind. If your race was cancelled and you are not offered a refund, think of it as a way to keep the race alive and hope there is a next time. The Blue Ridge Marathon for instance, is a non-profit. They had to cancel, and made three options available even though they did not have to! Run the race virtually, and your swag will get mailed to you; transfer to the following year; or do nothing and have your registration be a donation. Even if they are for-profit, realize they have already bought shirts and medals and purchased land permits and probably medical and various goods they had planned on using at aid stations. If you want events to happen again, don’t get mad. They are going to do what they need to to survive this.

Keep planning on your future events to happen. I’m not saying hold out on false hope, rather, keep it in the back of your mind. Keep moving if you want to. I do think that future events will have more restrictions in place when we can host them. For insight into this, I was planning on volunteering at the Hellbender 100 (now moved to November), which was scheduled for early April. North Carolina pulled the permits the week of the race basically. But before that, they had set forth a set of guidelines that gives us a window into what might be in our future.

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With social distancing a high priority, the start line would be staggered. Only a few people would start at a time. Because of this, they moved the overall cut off for the event with the exception of one aid station cut off (because it was state enforced that no one could be in that area after dark, pandemic or not). This lessen the “competitive feel” for the event, but does allow for spacing on the course. And for anyone who hasn’t run a 100 miler, even after starting with a huge group, you are likely not going to see anyone for hours after a few miles in. Moving the cut off time also included the extra time at aid stations. Gloves for all volunteers, and no pre-cut items. Everything would go back to being disposable, or one-use items like cups (as a lot of races were moving towards less waste and that meant being cupless – bring your own cup). One person would be able to refill your water, one person at a time. You can see if there were multiple people at an aid station, this could get congested and time consuming. Hand sanitizer would be offered at every aid station.

For Georgia Death Race, they were going to change the finish and packet pickup. No hugs, no hand touching. A very dead feeling at the finish line (no pun intended). No finish line party or hang out. No in-person pre-race meeting, would be over the internet only. A lot of races were prepared to do this just to hold their event, even if it took away some of the feeling or meaning that year. GDR is now rescheduled for early November.

I do not have insight on the world major marathons, as I have never done one, nor do I qualify for any of them. Though I think I saw they were offering some options to their participants. The world majors are some of the largest races in the world people-wise, volunteers, participants, and crowds cheering. I think we will begin to see what they have in store for future events and will help make standard procedures moving forward.

Ironman has already announced what they plan to do “indefinitely”.

“Safe Event Experience
In order to provide the safest experience for our athletes, we are instituting the following at our races, effective March 19.

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Reinforcing Social Distancing in all elements of the event

  • The hours of on-site event registration will be expanded.
  • Athletes will be allowed to pick up their athlete race kit/race bib and immediately exit expo area.
  • Athlete density will be decreased by increasing individual race space staging, corrals, etc.
  • No-handshake behavior will be encouraged for the duration of the event.
  • Athlete briefing information will be available digitally only.
  • Non-core, high-contact services (e.g. wetsuit peeling) will be suspended.

Hygiene First

  • Staff and volunteers who are interacting with participants pre-race, on race day and post-race will be provided gloves.
  • Hand-washing stations and sanitation stations around the venue for athletes, volunteers and spectators will be increased
  • No-touch waste disposal stations and receptacles will be rolled out as available.
  • Frequently touched surfaces at race venue locations such as workstations, product distribution areas, tables and electronic devices will be cleaned regularly.
  • When possible, on-course food and fluid supplies will be single use/single serving closed packaging
  • Athletes planning to return home by airplane or rail are encouraged to avoid travel post-event for 24 hours allowing their immune system time to recover post-race.
  • No onsite interviews or press conference with professional athletes.
  • No handshake/contact on the race podium.
  • Printed document distribution will be eliminated.”

The future IS uncertain. How you handle it and what you do IS up to you. Will you be proud of yourself that you did your best? Did you support your fellow human? You can not offer too much compassion or kindness during this time. And if you need to vent, write a comment below or reach out. It IS frustrating. It IS okay to be angry, and not have anything in particular to direct your anger at. But I ask, make this most of this time. Summer is on its way, and you bet you are going to see my smiling face sitting in the sun, soaking up every nanometer of that precious stars’ lightwaves (though wear sunscreen). Yes, nanometer is a word, WordPress/PC/internet.

91982323_2619666838248911_104317046153543680_n¬†Wear sunscreen, brush your teeth, sleep when you must, eat healthy, binge shows if you must. Order seeds online and plant life. Order paper and crafts. Love your pets (or plants or spouse creatures or you). Don’t look at the scale. Enjoy your morning coffee. Smell your fresh laundry and wrap yourself in that post-drier warmth for 5 minutes. Be well. Be kind. We are one community.

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Women in Trail Running

Please enjoy my mixed smattering bag of womenly goodies on this little writing odyssey. I just kind of went with the flow…not that monthly flow, but yeah, you get it.
Now I may not speak for every female out there, but let’s get something straight…

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Or get muddy, but that’s everyone. Between the toes, under the nails, cuticles. So much for that pedi!

You will chafe. Somewhere, maybe somewhere you didn’t know you could. You’ll feel temperatures differently. You’re hot, she’s cold. It’s 50 degrees.

Maybe you leak a little in places. Maybe you get weird blisters just thinking about running. Maybe you run intervals. Maybe your heart is in a different place than your friend’s. Your hands swell. You get boob sweat in winter. Maybe you lack boobs and wear push up bras for running? I know I did for a long time. But don’t tell anyone.

Ladies come in all sizes, all shapes, and every ability. The ladies who are out there giving it what they have, have courage. Race day isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. No, a lot of training gets put in. And if a lot of training wasn’t put in (I admit I’m sometimes one of those), we put forth all of our experience on the course in front of us. That experience, however, comes from miles and miles of training under all sorts of conditions. Rain, snow, wind, more snow, heat of the sun midday, creepy lonely nights…those birds, will they attack? It’s just a robin.

Nope, that’s definitely a red winged black bird…time to run like heck. Que impromptu speed session. Wait, what’s that rustling over in the bushes? Ack! Chipmunk. But something deep in the back of our mind keeps us on our toes at every little change in environment, or sound that isn’t expected…

Our heads sometimes go straight to flight or fight, and being totally self aware that things are out to get us. That something could be men. No, not all men are dangerous, but there are some that are, and they wish for less than good things to happen to us. For what reason? Who knows. But we don’t deserve it.

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We are out there giving it our all, to work hard for ourselves. We oftentimes think about when we should run, or who we can run with, to give us that peace of mind, of protection against our society and world. We want to feel strong. So we make ourselves strong. And that can come in a variety of ways.

We go to the gym, putting on clothes that hope do not draw attention, especially in such an enclosed area. We head out to do our speed workout on the track, keeping covered afraid wearing just a sports bra even though it’s hot as the devil’s oven out just to not attract unwanted gazes, or worse, have others judge our rolls and scars. Out on the streets we run with a swivel to our head, keeping an eye out for followers, and trying to avoid cat calls. Driving to a running spot so people can’t track where we live, or how often we run a certain path…

We try so often to be safe and feel confident. Now I know I cannot help you all be more confident, it’s just the society we are in. But we have trails. Running freely and judgement free among the trees and tricky roots and rocks that line our path, making it a harder earned run. And when you get done, you can bask in the glory of what you accomplished. Running trails, you can leave your pace behind you. It will be what it will be.

I write this as my own blog post, just reaching out to other women out there, saying it’s ok to be experiencing these things. No it is not ok for society to treat us this way, but the winds of change are slow. Now I would like to talk about what we do out there.

Buzzing participants surround you, manly men, cocky men…oh neat there are some ladies here. You go to talk to them. They are just doing the 10k option, while you feel a little embarrassed you are running the 50k and will be in for the long haul, kind of wishing one of them was joining you in your day of labor.

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And don’t get me wrong, everyone who goes out there is a champion in my book, and I’m not meaning to say just a 10k, but I am reaching out to those of us who want to go that extra mile (or 20), who have drank from the sacred kool-aid we call ultra running. We sometimes feel very lonely, sometimes like we are the only ones there, and the few other women may look very intimidating; classic ultra long distance runner, long blonde hair, carrying just a handheld, lean and tall, and seemingly ignoring everything going on around them. You are there with your hydration pack, packed full of supplies for your long haul with blister kit, extra gels, salt tabs, body glide, chapstick, and bladder weighing in at 5 pounds no less.

But there is a smile under that trucker hat, as your focus soon shifts to the starting line as the sun begins to peak out revealing the trail before you. You start to focus in on the inner you, why you are here. Why are you there? You should be there for yourself, and it’s ok to be selfish! Enjoy your day.

I know it’s hard to be one of the few females out on course though. And sometimes it may seem that others aren’t experiencing the raging hot spot you are getting from higher than expected humidity under your bra, or wait, did that bee just sting me? The NERVE of that bee…no it was a wasp. Die wasp. Missed. Guess I’ll keep chugging along.

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It’s hard to be huffing and puffing on a hill — and yes you trained for that hill and you knew it was coming — and being passed by men who seem to be taking it in stride. Remember to take the time and bring the focus back on yourself and what YOU can do for yourself at any given moment. Each moment you earn for yourself. Each step you take forward (and sometimes a few lost steps that may add to your day, shake those off and accept the bonus miles and brag later). Each breath you are able to enjoy.

Close your eyes and take in what you have managed to accomplish. Sometimes it’s so hard when you compare yourself to others. And inevitably it will happen. To every one of us…big or small, faster or slower. Running generally is a solo sport. Don’t expect to run with others, everyone has different skills, and bless the trail angel when they come along and are by your side.

Let’s take a step back. You are there for the 10k, this is your first trail race, and you have worked so hard for so long to get to this point. You are nervous, but maybe you have some new and old friends by your side. Who quickly disperse once the run starts. You are alone with yourself. You are trying to convince yourself not to give into walking. Walking is so easy!

No, you did not get this far to give up on your arduous efforts leading up to this! You might feel so overwhelmed you don’t deserve to be there. Well, let me tell you the news.

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Breaking news really. You paid to be there (whether that’s paying for the shoes on your feet, or an event or whatnot), you worked hard to be there, and you have every right as every other person has to be there right in that moment, and all your future steps leading you forward. But your mind is a powerful thing, it can empower you and take it right away from you at the same time. Mental toughness, the willingness to refuse to quit. Build it up like a monument so no one can take it down. Come at each step that seems darker and darker with curiosity instead of anxiety or negativity. Ask what you may feel like in 5 minutes, or 90 seconds. Create a mantra…you can do anything for 1 minute. Negativity is temporary, I promise you that. But if you give up, you keep part of that darkness, and will only wonder what could have been if you’d taken the next step.

What is your limit? Can you actually find out? Is there one? You might find you have a temporary limit…work to remove it. Come back, try again and again. Seek joy and pleasure in your journey and soak every moment in, because one day you may not be able to later in life.

It’s rather interesting to see the stats on events, especially as they get longer. I see a lot of participation, women outweighing men, in shorter events. I see women get at it, every pace, every shape. These miles are nothing! But as the miles drag on, those of the female variety tend to lessen in participation. Are we scared of trying? I know from psych research that women are more cautious than men, not as likely to take risks. So it may come down to personality as well. Going the distance is definitely a risk, and an ever increasing risk of failure. We dislike failure. It may be that women are expected to raise kids. I don’t see a lack in participation from the male variety. Shouldn’t raising kids be a joint effort? Another societal expectation? I have no right to say since I do not have these experiences, but I know others who might be going through this. And maybe that’s completely ok with them, that’s their relationship and family.

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But I at least want to say: try. It becomes rather addicting to try, and to see new places, experience new things. Oh how I call the mountains’ name so often (they don’t answer back echoing the sounds of my empty wallet). Prove to yourself you can do hard things, and it’s ok that they are hard, even harder than you expected. And maybe you need a break. That’s ok too. In life there is ebb and flow. Up and down. Positivity and negativity.

Ultimately, you are going to be upset with yourself. You’re going to be angry at things. That’s normal. Go for a run, you’ll feel better, even if it’s delayed after a day or two. You don’t have to sit there and be supportive and positive all the time. We are women and our mood swings can be dangerous…to others. And sometimes ourselves. Find something you can do to chill. Take a salt bath. Drink some tea listening to classical music for 10 minutes. Yoga? I’m not a yoga person, but deep breathing is the shizzle I hear. Close your eyes and imagine your happy place. Do you hear the sound of the leaves crinkling before you on the ground? The smell of fresh pine. Can you hear muffling of the virgin snowfall? Or feel the radiant sunrays on your back, with the crickets singing off in the distance?

This has been quite an adventure in itself. Being a woman running can be lonely even in a crowded room. Hold your shoulders back, chin up, as cliche as that sounds, and march forward in your endeavors. YOUR endeavors. YOUR journey. Each step is so important, if just for you. Don’t be afraid to question, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. No one on Earth is perfect, no man, no woman. It’s hard not being afraid, but sometimes the greatest reward is overcoming that fear and just being you.