Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thank you, Marine Corps, and the "Consequences of Same-Sex Marriage"

First, thank you to the Marine Corps for being the gift that keeps on giving. Sure, back in the day, the Corps gave me discipline and confidence and the chance to be a bad-ass and look good doing it. But the Marine Corps also gave me the greatest friends a man could ever have. And that gift keeps on giving.

Exhibit A:

Today on Facebook, my friend, Eric, posted this photo and included this commentary:

It's funny, but I already know the three consequences. Two dudes fall in love, less dudes competing for the available chicks out there. Two chicks fall in love, more dream hook-up fodder for every dude out there. Gay couple moves in next door to me, my wife and I have trusted neighbors who understand the importance of love and we either have two dudes who can decorate the shit out of my house or two chicks who can hunt. Hey... this is Oregon. Thanks for the letter- fuckers

See how cool my friends are? And I have the Marine Corps to thank for bringing them into my lives. Semper Fi, indeed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dec 01 - Question of the Day

This is such a great first question to start my month of QODs. My 45th birthday is next month, and there was a time in the not so distant past where I would say that I was already feeling like a guy in my 60's. I spent my days sitting around, content to let life pass me by.

These days, though, my life is completely different. If I didn't know my calendar age, I would say I was a nutty kid in my 20's having a blast. In the last year alone, I've run adventure and obstacle races, traveled with friends to fitness events, and turned my weekends into excuses to be active and participating in life.

If there is such a thing as a fountain of youth, I've found it. And now that I have it, I'm never looking back. Whether I'm 45 or 65, I'm approaching each day like a kid. I'm asking, "what fun is waiting for me today?"

So, what about you? How old would YOU be if you didn't know how old you are?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December Questions of the Day

I found a list of great questions here at My Random Stuff. I'm going to take the time in December to ask and answer each of them myself.

Friday, November 25, 2011

2012 - Running My Crazy Feet Off

It looks like 2012 will be my running-est year ever. I've already locked down most of the big events I want to do, but I still have a few choices to make.

  1. 12/31/11 - New Years Eve Half Marathon (Dallas, TX)

  2. 01/01/12 - New Year Day Half Marathon (Dallas, TX)

  3. 01/15/12 - 13.1 Los Angeles Half Marathon

  4. 01/22/12 - Carlsbad Half Marathon

  5. 02/11/12 - Tour de Palm Springs Bike Ride

  6. 02/12/12 - Palm Springs Half Marathon

  7. 03/11/12 - San Diego Half Marathon

  8. 04/01/12 - Carlsbad 5000 (All Day 25K)

  9. 04/07/12 - Hollywood Half Marathon

  10. 04/29/12 - La Jolla Half Marathon

  11. 05/06/12 - The OC Half Marathon (Orange County)

  12. 06/08/12 - Rag Bag Reunion Half Marathon (Las Vegas, NV)

  13. 07/14/12 - Dana Point Half Marathon TENTATIVE

  14. 08/19/12 - AFC Half Marathon

  15. 09/08/12 - Heartbreak Ridge Half Marathon (Camp Pendleton) TENTATIVE

  16. 10/21/12 - Temecula Half Marathon TENTATIVE

  17. 11/11/12 - Silver Strand Half Marathon (Coronado)

I need to decide if I am running each of the half marathons listed as TENTATIVE. I may find other half marathons instead... or I may just push myself and add a full marathon or two. And I need to find something in December, too.

Here's to a fast and fit 2012!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Running The Marine Corps Marathon, Part II

Twelve minutes after the starting cannon shot, my running buddy and I made our way across the timing mat. We were on the go and starting our marathon.

After standing around for the better part of an hour, we were anxious to move. And we all know how easy it is to over-run at the beginning. Running in a tight pack kept us from going out too fast, though. Our plan was to stay somewhere around 11:00 minutes per mile. That's slower than my 10K pace of 9:30, but we both felt it was a pace we could maintain for the whole marathon.

The first mile was pretty flat. It was cold and shady, but I was all adrenaline at that point. It was so exciting to actually be running after months of preparation that the distance really flew by. But once we reached mile one, we hit the big incline. It was a long, sloping climb and it was my first, "oh, damn," moment. It's when the enormity of what I had signed up to do hit me full on.

Fortunately, everywhere we ran (and I do mean everywhere) there were cheering crowds of spectators lining the streets. Sometimes small groups, other times packed several people deep, but always... always... cheers and encouragement from the most amazing people I've ever seen at an event.

The hill continued until we hit the 2.5 mile mark. There, it was a nice steady downhill until mile 4. The course was beautiful, almost a back country run through intense autumn foliage of reds and browns. I'm from San Diego, so it was an extra benefit to be somewhere in the fall with so much scenery to enjoy.

At this point in the race, I was thinking about great advice someone had given me. They said, "don't get so caught up in the stress and worry that you forget to enjoy the event itself." I kept that in mind, and running through the beautiful countryside kept me more than distracted from the miles I was putting in.

Just after mile 4, we crossed over a bridge. I made sure to keep my head up and look both ways as I ran over it. It was still cold, but the sun was shining and the view was breathtaking. I was the only runner who called out, "hey, everyone, enjoy the view!"

The next five miles were an out and back along Canal Road through the Palisades, an upscale neighborhood adjacent to The Mall. Even though it was completely residential, we still had crowds out to cheer us on. Entire families were along the course, holding signs and waving pom-poms and clanging cowbells. (Seriously, what was with all the cowbells?!)

My best memory of these miles was the Navy sailor, running alone, carrying a flag, and singing "Take On Me" by a-ha. Yep, he even reached for the crazy high notes of "Take on me... take on me... taaaake meeeeee oooooooonnn... I'll beeeeee goooooooooonnnne, in a day or twoooooooooooooooo!"

He was just one of many memorable characters I "met" along the course. There were so many people with powerful stories, told through photos and names and descriptions included on their t-shirts and sweatshirts and pinned on signs.

Medal of Honor winners. Trauma survivors. Brave men and women who served and sacrificed in all branches of the service. Children with cancer and beloved family members. There were so many stories that touched my heart... and yes, there were some tears along the way. I'm not ashamed to admit that. I felt honored to share the miles with all of them.

Near mile 10, I thought we would be making our way to The Mall. But no. We ran by it, but we veered off to run along the river. It wasn't until mile 16 that we came back to the business district, and just before mile 17, I made a quick stop to discard my running pants. I was warm enough to run in shorts, despite having what seemed to be the whitest legs of any competitor out there.

To this point, I felt great. We were steady on our pace and feeling strong. And we had trained up to a long run of 20 miles, so this was nothing new for us. And hitting mile 17 meant we were almost at The MCM Gauntlet.

What is The Gauntlet? The Marine Corps Marathon requires an average pace of no less than 14 minutes per mile. In addition to that, there are two checkpoints you have to meet. The first is the Gauntlet, located at the start of the section of course along The Mall. The crowds were thick in this area, and the cheers and screams were so motivating. I felt so energized, like I could run all day long if I had to. And running by the Capital Building and past the Washington Monument? Absolutely incredible.

Finishing the lap around The Mall meant heading to the second checkpoint. Called "Beat The Bridge," it is located at mile 20. If you don't beat it, you get swept onto the follow bus. For me, hitting the bridge was my moment. It's when I realized that I was actually going to finish the marathon, that I could complete the run in the time left even if I had to crawl. And yep, I made Jerry stop for a water break and a quick photo while we were in the middle of the bridge.

Up to this point, I was doing great. But we had never trained past 20 miles, so we were on all new ground. I had no idea how tough it was going to get from here.

Miles 22, 23 and 24 were an out and back through Crystal City. The crowds were super supportive, but my body was starting to push back. Since I ran the Tough Mudder last May, my right hip has been my weak spot on long, long runs. The marathon was no exception. More than once, I had to make a quick stop to stretch and twist and try to loosen up my muscles.

At this point, I had two things going for me. One, I knew that I was not going to quit no matter what. Two, my friend, Jerry. He simply refused to let me stop. By the time we hit mile 25, we knew that we could finish in less than 5 hours. But that meant that we had to keep moving.

I had never seen anything as beautiful as the mile marker for mile 26, nor had I seen anything as terrible as the hill that we had to climb to the finish line. It felt straight up, and the crowds were pushing in so tight from either side that it felt like we could reach out and touch the spectators on either side of the course.

We dug in and kept running. I could barely lift my feet high enough off the ground to match the incline of the road, but my eyes were on the prize. And finally, with less than 40 seconds to spare, we crossed the finish line.

Yes, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 4:59:20. And I am proud of myself, grateful to my friend, and honored to have been part of "The People's Marathon."

(And for more photos of the course, check out another runner's blog:www.andherlittledogtoo.c

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Running The Marine Corps Marathon, Part I

Is it odd that I find writing a blog entry about my marathon experience is proving tougher than running the marathon, itself?

There is SO much I want to say, to explain, to share, that I hardly know where to start. Writing chronologically seems the best approach, though it means I am chomping at the bit to get to the great stuff.

My marathon weekend started with an uneventful plane flight out on Thursday, Oct 27th, from San Diego to Washington, DC. My husband and I came in mid-day, then headed back to the airport at midnight to pick up my running buddy, Jerry. On Friday morning, hopped on The Metro and headed into DC.

After a quick trip, we split up, the husband playing tourist on The Mall and me and Jerry going to the Fitness Expo at the DC Armory. Wow, what an experience. The packet pickup was quick and easy, so we were in great spirits to wander around and check out every vendor inside. We tasted beans and gels and blocks and chomps, tried on clothes and oogled high-tech gear. We shopped, browsed, and of course, bought cool Marine Corps Marathon jackets. Sure, the jacket was a bit pricey, but I decided that it was my once-in-a-lifetime experience and souvenir, and it was worth every penny. We walked out of there a couple hours later with swag bags filled to overflowing. (Thanks, Marine Corps Marathon and Semper Fi Fund for all the great goodies!)

After that, we headed back to the Mall to meet up with Ric. After a bit of outdoor sightseeing, we went inside and toured the National Museum of American History. It was a welcome break from the quickly-falling temperatures outside. (And yes, the weather will be a big part of my story still to come.)

Then it was Saturday, and we needed an indoor activity that wouldn't wear us out. We decided to visit the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, and it was an amazing day. I could spend forever in there, surrounded by the amazing stories and histories of the bravest fighting men and women this nation has ever seen. And it seemed right to be there, given that we were running the Marine Corps Marathon the next day.

Soon enough, it was time to return to my friend's apartment, prepare for the marathon, and get a good night's sleep. Fat chance of that. As soon as we walked out of the museum, we knew we were in for a crazy running experience. The rain was coming down hard, the temperature was still dropping, and snow was on its way.

Snow. Seriously. The day before the marathon. So much for "expected race day high of 55 degrees," right? We got back to the apartment and my friend started digging around for warm clothes we could borrow. We found sweatshirts, long sleeve shirts, and running pants. Whew!

Sunday morning. After a night of very little sleep (nerves? excitement? fear of the cold?!), we were up early and ready to go. We walked the mile and a half from my friend's place to the Pentagon, and there we hurried and scurried around, anything to keep warm. With wind chill, the pre-dawn temperature was 25 degrees. And Jerry kept glaring at me, saying, "oh, it will be warm... perfect running weather... you'll love it!" Thank goodness we have been friends for so long that he will forgive me anything, right?

Soon enough, we changed out of our comfy top layers of clothes and dropped them off with gear check. We then walked the quarter mile or so to the highway and got in our corral. At this point, the event became real for me. I knew that soon enough, I was going to hear the cannon fire, start moving, cross the line, and be running my very first full marathon.

There was an amazing spirit and energy before the run began. People were laughing and dancing around (to stay warm, I think), and there was a great "we're all in this together" vibe. There weren't strangers, just running buddies that we hadn't met, yet. And mostly, those around us that had already run a full marathon were supportive and encouraging. They said all the right things to let us know that we were going to be just fine. They really helped put my nervous mind at ease before we started.

And then we were off. It took a full twelve minutes to get from our corral to the start line. By then, we were ready to move and shake off the cold morning. The 26.2 mile journey had begun.

To Be Continued...

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Different Approach For Christmas

I've received this a few different times already via email, and I think it's worth posting here, too.
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods – merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor.

This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans.

There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamins on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip.

And how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theater.  Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.

THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.

Forward this to everyone on your mailing list — post it to discussion groups — throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city — send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments.

This is a revolution of caring about each other — and isn’t that what Christmas is about?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Competing Against The Pros

I've been thinking a lot about the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon. Some of it has been expected (nervous, excited, worried) and some of it has been unexpected ("how quickly can I go to the bathroom and will it ruin my time?").

Amongst all that crazy talk, though, was a very cool thought about running in half and full marathons. And while that thought was half-forming in my head, I stumbled across a great blog entry that had already expressed everything that I wanted to say on the subject.

It's a blog entry called Why I Love Marathons, and this is my favorite part:
That’s why I love marathons (and triathlons). They’re open to any old body on any old given day. If you’ve got the gumption, put in the training hours and pay the registration fee, you can race alongside (okay, mostly behind but still in the same race with) world-class, record-holding champions.

It's from a fun blog called "Why I Suck At Running," and I invited you to check it out. I love that she was able to articulate my own thoughts. I get to compete at the same time, on the same course, and through the same Start and Finish lines with world class athletes. No other sport lets me do that.

And with that, I'm even  more motivated to running this marathon.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Struggling? As If.

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog about the problems I've been having keeping focused and on track during my last few weeks of marathon training. I described it as struggling, even.

What a schmuck. Struggling? Really? My problem is that I have too much to eat and I can choose to sit around instead of working out. Only in a world of privilege would too much food and too much free time be a problem, right?

Want to know what a real problem looks like? A real struggle? Here's one. Stacie Crimm was pregnant and found out she had cancer. She had to decide between her own life and that of her child. And she made the ultimate sacrifice to give that child life.

Stacie Crimm, Mom With Cancer, Refuses Chemotherapy And Dies To Save Unborn Daughter

It's stories like this that remind me that I live an extraordinary life filled with more good things than I can count. And in the moments when I am down, I need to keep perspective. In the big scheme of things, I have nothing to complain about.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Struggling With The Unknown

On Sunday, October 30th, I will attempt the toughest physical challenge of my life, the Marine Corps Marathon. I will run 26.2 miles through the streets of Washington, past monuments dedicated to greatness and memorials honoring service and sacrifice.

I will be joined by thousands of men and women, each running for their own reasons. I will be accompanied by two friends who have each known me for more than half of my life. And we will start and finish together, even if we have to carry each other through our most grueling moments.

I have prepared for this. I have completed long runs from eight to twenty miles. I have trained through muscle cramps and blisters. I have discovered hip flexors and hamstrings. I have run treadmills and coast roads, park trails and city streets. I have run before the first light of day, in the heat of the scorching afternoon sun, and in the dark of night.

I have considered myself a newbie and been treated like an expert. I have felt confident and defeated, empowered and embarrassed. I have set records and missed milestones. I have been dedicated and determined, on-track and off my game.

I have been all of these things, because training for a marathon is an experience unlike any other. It offers countless hours of alone time, time spent mentally churning over every little thing. Running mile after mile means having all the time in the world to think about myself, my life, my choices and my actions. Ironically, all that running makes it impossible to run from myself any longer.

And that is my struggle. In the quiet that comes from hours alone, I have discovered that I am not happy with the person I am. I am not happy with some aspects of my life. I am not happy with many of my choices and I am ashamed of many of my actions.

This realization is unsettling. I have long considered myself a strong personality, a friendly force of nature capable of anything. I have walked confidently and with purpose. I am the man who can talk to anyone and do so comfortably and easily. I am the man who says yes. Yes, I'll run the Tough Mudder. Yes, I'll run the Super Spartan. Yes, I can do that job. Yes, I can stand up and give that speech. Yes, I can and yes, I will. And yes... I have.

So why the doubts now? Why has introspection and a long gaze inward caused such discomfort? Why am I falling apart emotionally?

I can't explain why I have become so frozen in place that I have spent the last week not training at all. My last run was ten days ago. And I have blown off tracking my food and am existing on junk food and crappy meals. At the time that I should be most dedicated to my training, I am in freefall.

Normally at this point in my writing, I am ready with all the answers. The words come easy to me, and I provide my own solution to my dilemma. Not this time.

The basics are there, of course. I need to track my food and be mindful of the fuel I am putting in my body. Over the next two weeks, every bite matters. The right choices will mean a healthier body, and the wrong choices will mean a weakened body struggling through every mile. I also need to lace up my shoes and hit the streets. I am in taper mode, but the miles are still important. Training now means a body stronger, leaner and fully capable of meeting the demands of a marathon. Not training means a more grueling physical experience and potential failure.

So the physical turn-around is easy enough. Starting today, I will get back on track and follow my plan. But what of the mental and emotional? How do I work through all of the garbage flying around in my head?

When in doubt, go with what works. In order to get through the next two weeks and the twenty-six miles, I am going to rely on a coping mechanism that has worked for me nearly all of my life. I'm going to just ignore it all.

I know that what I'm doing isn't truly helpful. And I realize that long-term avoidance is a bad idea. But right now, this moment, I don't feel I have the luxury of time to attend to my own drama.

This is about the run. This is about a physical and mental challenge that I am determined to meet. And afterwards, I'll need to take a long hard look at myself and sort out what is going on inside.

For now, I'm only seeing one thing, the finish line at the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Marine Corps Sgt Dakota Meyers Awarded the Medal of Honor

Dakota Meyer on Thursday will become the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War for his actions in saving three dozen fellow warriors in Afghanistan. Meyer will receive the coveted military award in an afternoon ceremony at the White House. In media appearances, Meyer has said that the recognition was tough, coming as a result of “the worst day of your life.”

The citation for his award reads:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the repeated risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a member of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009. When the forward element of his combat team began to be hit by intense fire from roughly 50 Taliban insurgents dug-in and concealed on the slopes above Ganjgal village, Corporal Meyer mounted a gun-truck, enlisted a fellow Marine to drive, and raced to attack the ambushers and aid the trapped Marines and Afghan soldiers. During a six hour fire fight, Corporal Meyer single-handedly turned the tide of the battle, saved 36 Marines and soldiers and recovered the bodies of his fallen brothers. Four separate times he fought the kilometer up into the heart of a deadly U-shaped ambush. During the fight he killed at least eight Taliban, personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded, and provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe. On his first foray his lone vehicle drew machine gun, mortar, rocket grenade and small arms fire while he rescued five wounded soldiers. His second attack disrupted the enemy’s ambush and he evacuated four more wounded Marines. Switching to another gun-truck because his was too damaged they again sped in for a third time, and as turret gunner killed several Taliban attackers at point blank range and suppressed enemy fire so 24 Marines and soldiers could break-out. Despite being wounded, he made a fourth attack with three others to search for missing team members. Nearly surrounded and under heavy fire he dismounted the vehicle and searched house to house to recover the bodies of his fallen team members. By his extraordinary heroism, presence of mind amidst chaos and death, and unselfish devotion to his comrades in the face of great danger, Corporal Meyer reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On Worrying

Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you've survived,
But what torments of grief you've endured,
From evils which never arrived."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I absolutely love this. It's a great reminder to me that I need only deal with what is right in front of me. Worrying about things that may never happen does nothing to make my life better and, in fact, only increases my stress and anxiety levels.

Focus on the here and now. Concentrate on those things that I can impact and affect. And then get on with the business of living.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Working my way back...

Felt really off balance all last week. Skipped workouts, ate somewhat healthy but not great, and let the stress of the week affect my sleep. 

But these things happen, you know? What matters is how I respond to this sort of stumble. And I'm choosing to rally back strong. I've been eating great this week, I'm back at the gym, and I'm hitting my stride again. 

Speed bumps are not roadblocks. Stumbles are not falls. And setbacks are not failures. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Everything is terrible. I feel so defeated."

I ran across a Panic! message board post earlier this morning, and the pain and sadness were so strong. This new member is just getting started but feels like she has already lost. I replied in the message thread, but I also wanted to blog about this. I think we all have these sort of moments and it's important that we know we are not powerless, we are not victims, and all is not lost. 
Here's the message and my reply: 

"I was ready to start, motivated, and excited. I ate a healthy breakfast and made good choices today. Upon coming home this evening, I discovered that my pet died, my dad's cancer came back, and I failed a required class in school. I feel so defeated." 

I'm sorry you had that kind of day. Sounds horrible. Believe it or not, there is a different way to look at this. Instead of thinking, "I would have started except all this bad stuff happened," change your perspective. Try this: 

"Thank goodness I am starting to take better care of myself physically, because I am going to have a lot more to deal with emotionally and mentally. The healthier I eat, and the more active I remain, the stronger I will be to deal with whatever else comes my way." 

Yes, you had bad things happen. But why let yourself become one more bad thing to stress over? Why not let YOU be the one good, strong and healthy thing in your life while you deal with everything else? 

You can do this. Hang in there!

I share all of this because I know how it feels. Right now, I'm dealing with the grief of losing a good friend, being laid-off from my job, another friend's nearly successful attempt at taking his own life, and more family stress than I can list. It's a lot to handle. Honestly, it feels like more than I can handle sometimes. It's as if the bad news isn't just pouring on me, it's drowning me. 

But I have a secret weapon. Me. I may not be able to control all that is going on around me, but I can most certainly control my own actions. I decide to fuel my body with healthy, nutritious foods instead of junk. I decide to spike my body with endorphins by working out every day instead of sitting like a lump on the couch. 

And it isn't just food and exercise. I decide to reach out to friends who make me happy instead of people who will tear me down with negativity. I choose to find the best I can in each moment. I choose to BE the best I can in each moment. 

It's not that I am living in denial. I know our financial situation is going to be tough until I go back to work. I know my friend is in a lot of pain and has a long way to go before he is himself again. And my family woes will likely never end. 

But I am not defined by the bad things going on around me. I am defined by how I choose to repond to them. And today, my response is to eat right, workout, and be happy for all the great things in my life. 

Happiness is a choice that I've made. 


P.S.: GIAFLAIR is the new Spark member who posted the original message. If you would like to give her a little encouragement, you can find her here:

(Originally posted on

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Moments of Doubt at Barter Hill

I went off to the gym this morning, confident I would work out but not really sure exactly what I was going to do. I'm on day 12 of my 31 day exercise challenge, and I'm mixing it up with biking, walking, and running. 

Anyway, I was heading to the gym and I decided I would run. When I hit the treadmill, I thought, "I can do a 10k this morning, no problem." 

And then I started running. I stepped off at 6.4mph with the plan of kicking it up .1 each half mile. Everything was going great until I hit Barter Hill. 

What is Barter Hill? It's not an actual hill, of course. It's that moment on a run when I start negotiating in my head to try to get out of my original plan. It goes something like this: 

"I was going to run 6 miles, but I should just run 3, instead, and then do 30 minutes on the bike. Same cardio, but easier on my shins." 

"Why run a 10k? I should just do 30 minutes of cardio and then switch to strength training." 

"This is too much. Your shins hurt, don't they? Probably best if we just run the 5k and then you can go for a long walk this afternoon. Yeah, that's a great idea. You'll get another full hour of cardio." 

Like I said, Barter Hill. And sometimes, it's too much for me and I cave. But not today. I skipped ahead in my music until I found a song that was faster and louder, cranked it up, and started running even harder. 

My plan today was a 10k. I did it. I ran 6.2 miles in 55:40, then I walked another .22 as a cool down to complete my hour. 

Suck it, Barter Hill. Today, I owned you! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

I'm Not Destination Happy. I'm Journey Happy.

I recently watched "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition," and I heard a woman make this comment. She said, "I'm not destination happy. I'm journey happy." 

She went on to explain that she had learned that her life, her happiness, was all going on right now, in the moment. She realized that it was silly to put off her happiness until she lost the right amount of weight, or had the right job, or met the right person. Her happiness was right there for her in every single moment. 

I have thought about this for a while now, and I really understand what she is saying. Happiness is not something handed to you upon arrival somewhere. Happiness is the gift you bring wherever you go. 

I have goals. I want to lose more weight, get stronger, run faster, find a more rewarding career, finish writing my play, run my marathon, and build a stronger relationship with my husband. But completing any and all of those things won't make me happy. I think it's the opposite, really. When I am happy with myself, with who I am and what I am doing, it's easier for me to attain my goals. I have more confidence in who I am, more energy to do the work required, and more satisfaction each step of the way. 

I am journey happy. Right here, right now. And that makes the destination that much more enjoyable. 


Edited to add: I posted this pic on Facebook right after my workout, and I captioned it, "Captain Crazy Hair." A friend of mine replied, "with great cuteness comes great responsibility." I LOVE IT! 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Make Your Life An Adventure.

It's more than just words. It's a Spark People Mantra. Instead of just passing one day into the next, make your life an adventure. 

"Sounds great, but I can't," you say. "I have bills and kids and work and too much to do," you say. "Adventure is great for other people, but not me," you say. 

Why not? Why not YOU? 

It starts with a simple decision. Choose to make it so. Decide that your life can be an adventure, and it can start right now. Today. Believe that it's worth the effort, the time, the work it will take. Make the choice and it can happen. 

Don't know what I'm talking about? Let me explain by asking a question. What did you do last Saturday? Do you know? Can you even remember a week ago? Or was your Saturday just another day of chores, tasks, responsibilities and to-do items? Did you do ANYTHING at all for yourself? 

I know what I did last week. I ran a 3.75 mile adventure race at Quantico Marine Base, Virginia. I joined two Marine buddies and we ran, walked, crawled, slogged, climbed, splashed, laughed and loved our Run Amuck adventure. 

Was it an adventure? Absolutely! I ran with two people I hadn't seen in more than twenty years, and we enjoyed an experience that we will remember the rest of our lives. THAT is what matters, what makes it an adventure. It is significant and important and meaningful enough to be a lifelong memory. 

Adventure. It's out there waiting for you. So why aren't you reaching for it? Are you afraid? Worried that it's too much for you? Worried you'll try something new and fail? So what? Life is worth the risk. And the rewards are so amazing, so affirming, so powerful. Take the first step and see that I am telling you the truth. 

I know. You're wondering, "so, I made the choice, now what?" Here's the cool part. Your adventure is completely up to you. It may be something grand and outrageous. (Bungie jumping from a bridge?) Or it may be something simple and personal. (Walking your first 5k?) It doesn't matter how your adventure begins, just that it does. 

In the past few months, I have done things I never thought I would do: 

Super Spartan 

Safari Park Half Marathon 

Ragnar Relay 

Bay to Breakers 

Tough Mudder 

Rock and Roll Half Marathon 

I have made memories worth keeping, written stories worth telling, and lived moments worth remembering. And all because not too long ago, I said, "yes."

Decide right now that YOU are going to live a life worth living. Decide that you are going to find one activity, one goal, one challenge... one thing worth doing and bragging about later. It may be a walk around the block or a run across the country. What it is doesn't matter. All that matters is that it is an adventure for YOU! 

Do something now that you will remember next week. Make your life an adventure. 

P.S. And you can LIKE this blog, or forward it on to other people, or copy parts of it, or use it as inspiration and write your own version. Whatever you choose to do, you do so with my blessing. I am SO grateful to Spark People for helping me turn my life around, I am more than happy to do anything that helps "Spark" someone else! 

P.P.S. Heck, I even inspired myself. I just now signed up for the Camp Pendleton Heartbreak Ridge Half Marathon in September. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another Look at the Tough Mudder

Here's a quick recap of the Tough Mudder, courtesy of the amazing Ryan Southwell Films. My former Ragnar Relay buddies (Ryan and Mark) are featured, along with the uber-cool Kelly Southwell. Enjoy!

[vimeo w=400&h=300]

Tough Mudder - Snow Valley 2011 from Ryan Southwell on Vimeo.

Tough Mudder SoCal - My Insane Adventure

Monday, May 30, 2011

(This recap is going to be in two parts. The first, here, is the objective description of the Tough Mudder. The second, still to come, is the way I felt before, during and after running the event.)Saturday, May 28th, I ran the SoCal Tough Mudder. Without a doubt, this was the single most intense, demanding, and inspiring athletic event I have ever done. It was ten miles of rugged terrain, an elevation ascent equivalent to climbing a 300 story building, and a lack of oxygen that comes from running at nearly 8,000 feet altitude.

In other words, the Tough Mudder was exactly what they promised me: Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet. And this is the official description: Tough Mudder is not your average lame-ass mud run or spirit-crushing ‘endurance’ road race. It’s Ironman meets Burning Man, and it is coming to a location near you. Our 10-12 mile obstacle courses are designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. Forget finish times. Simply completing a Tough Mudder is a badge of honor.

And this is the Tough Mudder pledge that every Mudder swears before the start:

As a Tough Mudder I pledge that…
* I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
* I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.
* I do not whine – kids whine.
* I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
* I overcome all fears.

Here is a link to the video I made during the event using a helmet-cam. The times on the obstacles below correspond to their appearance in the video, in case you want to fast forward to a specific obstacle.

And here is a breakdown of the obstacles, and nearly every one of them was done while we were being sprayed with ice cold water:

(06:00) Braveheart Charge – The start of the event, with a wave of 500 people cheering and yelling and charging downhill

(09:00) Boa Constrictor – Crawl through small pipes with sand, mud and grit

(13:00) Kiss Of Mud – Crawl on your belly through mud under low wire 8” off the ground

Platform Cross – Up and over a slick wooden platform

(14:30) Mile of Mud – Run through a mud pit

(15:00) Jocks on the Rocks - Jump into a pit of mud and ice

(17:45) Log Bog Jog – Leap over fallen logs

(21:30) Funky Monkey - Swing across monkey bars over cold, muddy water

(23:00) BBQ Pit – Low crawl through a pit, underneath hot coals and ash

(25:00) Hold Your Wood - Pick up and run up a steep hill with a heavy log

(27:30) Underwater Tunnels - Swim underneath barrels held on the surface of the water

(31:10) Ball Shrinker - Traverse ropes stretched across a pond

(34:15) Walk the Plank - Jump off planks into a super cold pond and swim across

(39:00) Dirt Hill – Climb up soft sand and a lot of it

(39:55) Box Trot – Leap from box to box… or fall like the rest of us and slog through the mud

(41:00) Bottleneck – Single file through a tight trail, then rock climbing to get up and out

(41:50) Devil's Beard – Crazy cargo netting

(43:15) Death March - Steep climb up one of the ski slopes

(43:35) Primal Scream – Near the top, let the world hear your call

(46:55) Evil Knievel – Race up the greased half-pipe, reach out, and hang on

(49:15) Cliff Hanger – Climb straight up the mountain

(52:58) Greased Lightning - Slide down a steep hill into the cold water and swim back out

(55:08) Kentucky Derby – A crazy mix of logs to navigate over

Gauntlet - Up and down a steep ski slope while being sprayed by high-pressure hose

Berlin Walls - Climb over 12’ walls made of wooden planks

Platform Crawl – Crawl through a low passage drenched in mud and packed with hay

Electroshock Therapy - Run through live electric wires (seriously, live wires)

And of course, the glory that came with finishing!