12 Things That Keep This Runner Happy and Sane

I’m sorry my blog has been silent for so long. I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been off on some far-flung adventure, but the truth is I’ve been in a funk. I don’t want to get political, but the madness that has enveloped our country has left me frustrated beyond belief and struggling to weave together sentences I’ve felt worthy of sharing, knowing what readers want most is to be inspired.

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While my head and heart still continue to wrestle with a tangle of emotions, the one thing that consistently unravels all the BS and brings me back to my usual happy center is my fitness.

I’m sure you know what I mean when I say pure joy washes over me in the simple act of moving my body, breathing hard and sweating it out. It’s the perfect reminder that no matter what’s going on in the world, there will always be remarkable moments of aaaaaaaah that fill me with gratitude and remind me that life is freaking great.

Here’s what else is keeping me happy and sane….

1) Breathing in crisp, fresh air and reveling in the beauty around me, and exhaling all traces of the day’s latest toxic news. Being a speck in the universe always has a way of keeping things in perspective.

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2) Setting goals–especially ones that make me stretch beyond my perceived boundaries. One in particular has me fired up right now–trying to qualify for Boston, and I’m happy to report I’ve got Matthew Tague in my corner again coaching me for a late spring marathon. My gut tells me this is the year to finally make this Boston thing happen, and I’m happily working my butt off to get my feet moving faster again after a year of Ironman endurance training. I think I can. I think I can. Bring. It. On.

3) Celebrating tiny victories like choosing a healthy kale, raspberry smoothie with protein over a vanilla latte, or a platter full of veggies during the Super Bowl instead of a pizza; or dumping Facebook off my phone to distance yourself from the craziness; or getting in bed early to immerse myself in a phenomenal book instead of watching mind-numbing television, knowing I’ll be far more inspired and also sleep better.

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4) Coaching young runners and being surrounded by unrelenting joy and pint-size goodness. Kids always have a way of showing you how to be in the moment and enjoy what you’re doing while you’re doing it. There’s no overthink anything. There’s just unbridled energy and enthusiasm as they take on new challenges, and a huge sense of accomplishment afterward when they realize they can do hard things.

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5) Acting like my shoe size, having a blast running in the pouring rain and reconnecting with my Oregon roots.

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My poor dog wasn’t born with webbed feet like me, so although he’s a good sport, he still usually gives me “the look” on days like this.

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6) Racing! While I always know it’s going to be a sufferfest, racing gives me a chance to push it hard, see where I’m at with my fitness and also celebrate our running community. There’s no happier place to be than the end of a race when everyone is flooded with endorphins and reveling in camaraderie while celebrating a sense of accomplishment, knowing they’ve started the day off in all the best ways.

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7) Surrounding myself with a multitude of badass athletes in our local running community and being inspired by their energy and unstoppable attitudes. There’s no better way to keep you focused on being the best version of yourself than Continue reading

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Ironman Race Week: Wrapping it Up with a Bow

It seems fitting that my last week of training in Santa Barbara ends on a beautiful note, a final gift that wraps up this entire journey with a dazzling bow. I did my last run on Tuesday just as the sun was setting so I could practice running in the dark again. This is what I was given. Life is definitely good, my friends.

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Yesterday, after meeting with Matt for a final powwow to go over my race plan and talk logistics and mental strategies, I did a short ride…a quick little spin to get my legs moving…stopping at Butterfly Beach to savor the end of this epic year of training. Aaaah, what a gift this has all been. I don’t take it for granted for a second.

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Then is was home to try to jam all this stuff into my transition bag. This just makes me laugh. And believe it or not, it all fit!

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Getting pumped along the way…writing few notes to myself on my water bottles to remind me to be in the moment and enjoy it all. My family wrote on all my others, which makes them extra special.

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Since this blog is part part sharing with you, and partly a journal for me, I continue to jot down all the details so I remember it.

Here’s what this week’s schedule looks like as #533 zips off to Arizona:

Monday: Swim 2250 y
Tuesday: Run 4 miles
Wednesday: Bike 45 minutes
Thursday: Drive to Tempe
Friday: Bike 45 minutes
Saturday: Practice swim in the lake, Bike 30-45 minutes with surges, Run 10-15 minutes with surges
Sunday: Race Day!!!

I’ve received so many wonderful emails and encouraging blog and FB comments, I’m truly blown away. This is one of my favorites notes I received in the mail–awesome art and words of encouragement from one of my former running club kids. So incredibly sweet. Thank you Theo! It means a lot.
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And a gift left on my doorstep from my BFF, Kimberly. Yep, I was welling, especially when I read the inscription. xo
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Thanks again for all your support, encouragement, advice and love everyone. It has fueled me all year and it will fuel me to the end.

Now it’s time to get this show on the road and do this thing!!!

xo B

Parting thought….

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Week 45 of Ironman Training: Visions of BadAss-ness

During this crazy week of political and emotional upheaval, I’ve tried to stay focused on all things positive and keep my eye on the Ironman prize, but man, oh man, it has been tough. I’ve definitely shed a few tears and simmered in some dark moments as I’ve contemplated the state of our nation, but thankfully, exercise always brings me back around.

The other thing that has soothed my soul is pouring my energy into creating a vision board–a simple, empowering reminder of how I’m going to make this BadAss Iron(Wo)man dream come true. No. Matter. What.

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Being a visual person, it’s helpful for me to write down my goals and remind myself of my race plan and how I’ll handle the challenges of the day.

The background of my vision board is a portion of artwork created by my daughter with geometrical rainbow-colored fish that look like arrows pointing forward–the direction we all hope to be going. Every time I look at my board, I think of her and remind myself that I’m still one of the most important role models in her life, which makes her the number one reason I will never give up.

GRIT is what it will take to get to the finish line, a word I will not forget for a minute during IMAZ, especially as it also reminds me of my husband, my rock and north star, who is the epitome of grit. I will be carrying his love and support with me all along the way, as well as his grit, just as I have all throughout this journey.

The word COURAGE on my board reminds me of my friends, the Reeder-Riechels, as that little scrap of paper is something I tore from a card at their home during the holidays last  year. It simply said, “Take something you will need in the new year.” I have leaned on that word more times than I can count this year, and I will certainly be leaning on it heavily on race day. Did I mention these awesome friends are also flying out to the race to cheer me on? Unbelievable.

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One week from now I will be on the Ironman Arizona course (holy freaking craziness!!), taking each challenge as it comes.

My main goal is to try to enjoy and appreciate every single moment as I finally get to live out my Ironman dream–something I’ve carried with me since I was a teenager.

The race itself is truly a victory lap, a celebration of all the hard work that’s gone into this year, and a big “BOOYAH!” that I made it to the starting line in one piece–no small feat for this injury-prone runner.

I have Matthew Tague to thank for that. His outstanding coaching and his wise counsel have kept me moving forward, even when things got bumpy on occasion. I feel incredibly lucky to have had him in my corner during this journey.

As  I get prepared to head to Arizona next week, here’s what my final full week of training looked like during this taper phase:

Monday: Swim 3500y, Run 1 hr 15 minutes on a flat/rolling course
Tuesday: Bike 3 hours with 2×20 min hard efforts
Wednesday: Rest (beach walk)
Thursday: Run 30 minutes
Friday: Ocean swim
Saturday: Brick–Bike 60 minutes, Run 5 miles
Sunday: Rest (optional bike or swim)

Here are a few snaps from the week…

I usually run in the morning, but it took me all day to get out the door on Monday, so I had the joys of an evening jaunt. I opted to run loops around Sheffield Reservoir, which is mostly flat with a few small rollers.

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I was handed this lovely gift of color during my run…another opportunity to revel in gratitude…
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Tuesday was election day AT LAST. Halle-freaking-lujah! I wasn’t quite sporting a white pantsuit, but I did wear my white tri suit in honor of this historic occasion. I saw countless women wearing white on their morning runs, too, which made me smile.
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My 3-hour ride went by in the blink of an eye and ended at the rainbow sculpture along Cabrillo Blvd. It’s funny how 3 hours on the bike once felt like two days.
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Wednesday was a scheduled rest day, and I was thankful because, like many of my friends, I was exhausted from the election and trying to keep it together while struggling to explain it all to my daughter. A beach walk with my husband brought a tiny bit of solace.

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Thursday I did a short morning run with my big brown doodle, then another sweet evening run solo…this time around the Rose Garden and trails next to it, where the sky showered us with magic once again. When life feels insane, the best thing I can do is sweat, breathe deeply, and remind myself about the larger universe.
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Friday morning I had the joy of doing an ocean swim with my friend, Whitney Bruice. She has been super supportive all year long and has made a big difference in helping me get stronger in the water. It was especially awesome of Whitney to do this at 7:00am on her day off. Rock star status!
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I was thrilled to discover the new wetsuit Jeffrey bought me as another sweet show of support, fit perfectly and was more comfortable and buoyant than any I’ve ever worn. Yay! It may not make me faster during the race (or maybe it WILL!!), but it will definitely make me more comfortable.
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Saturday I did my final brick workout, a short 1-hour ride and 45-minute run. Zip. Zip. and Done. I got to try out my new team wind jacket and arm warmers to make sure they’d be comfortable on race day, along with some new socks. This was cutting it a little close for trying out new things, but it all went well.
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I am ready to roll. Let’s do this thing!
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As I sign off for the week, I can hardly put into words how much I appreciate all of you who have cheered me on, given me advice, hugs (virtual and in person), pushed me to be stronger, showered with me love and support and come along on this epic journey. It’s humbling, to say the least. My heart is full.

Next time you hear from me, I will be heading to Arizona to get ready to do my victory lap. I’ll be arriving Thursday evening and spending a couple days getting dialed in for the race on Sunday. My swim wave will start around 7 am and I’ll have until midnight to cross the finish line.

If any of you are interested, you can track me during the race via the Ironman website. My race bib number is #533. And don’t forget, I will be taking every single one of you with me, so fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a wild ride!

xo B
PS: This is your FINAL CALL if you’d like to donate to my Smile Train fundraising. Several of you have mentioned that you’d like to support my effort. Today is the day to do it. So far we have funded 36 kids for life-changing cleft surgery. How exciting is that?!

For my SB friends, as my final push to Arizona, I’m raffling off a $50 gift certificate to JANE restaurant and a bottle of wine to raise more funds for Smile Train. Each ticket costs just $5. All you have to do is go to my fundraising page (click link HERE) and make a donation and you’ll automatically be entered into the drawing. The deadline to enter is 5 pm TONIGHT. The winner will be announced TOMORROW, November 14th.

For those of you who don’t live in Santa Barbara, I’m raffling off a $100 gift card to Amazon for anybody who donates $250 or more and a $25 gift card for those who donate $100–$249. I’m just about four smiles away from reaching the $10,000 mark, which would be mind-blowing if we could reach that. That would mean 40 kiddos would have their lives changed FOREVER when I cross the finish line…because of YOU!

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PSS: As always, if you missed any of my previous posts about Ironman training, you can click on the links below:

Kicking off My Journey to Ironman Arizona
Week One of Ironman Training: Believe
Week Two of Ironman Training: The Power of Friends
Week Three of Ironman Training: I Think I Can
Week Four of Ironman Training: Progress
Week Five of Ironman Training: Wind at my Back (and Front) and Peeps by My Side
Week Six of Ironman Training: Baking a Cake
Week Seven of Ironman Training: Courage
Week Eight of Ironman Training: It’s All About the Base
OMG, You did WHAT?! (AKA Sleep Deprivation + Training = Embarrassing Moments)
Week Nine of Ironman Training: Growing Pains
Week Ten of Ironman Training: Trust
Week 11 of Ironman Training: Speedbumps and Breakthroughs
Week 12 of Ironman Training: A Bundle of Sticks Can’t Be Broken
Week 13 of Ironman Training: Spring!

Week 14 of Ironman Training: Rollercoaster
Week 15 and 16 of Ironman Training: Staying Happy and Healthy

Week 17 and 18 Ironman Training: Inspiration and Purple Rain
Weeks 19 through 21 of Ironman Training: Transitions

Week 22 and 23 of Ironman Training: Holy Epicness…Julie Moss
Week 24 of Ironman Training: Consistency is the Key
Week 25 of Ironman Training: Embracing New Challenges
Week 26 of Ironman Training: Hills, They’re What’s for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Week 27 of Ironman Training: Taking This Show on the Road (Tri-cation!)
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Tri-cation
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Fun Continues
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Rocky Mountain High
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Finishing Aspen Strong
Week 29 and 30 of Ironman Training: Rollercoasters, Crazies, and Comebacks
Week 31 of Ironman Training: New Heights
Week 32 of Ironman Training: 100 Days to Go
Week 33 of Ironman Training: The Art of Recovery and Balance
Week 34 of Ironman Training: The Magic of Firsts
Week 35 of Ironman Training:Chasing the M-Dot with Toughness Training
Week 36 of Ironman Training: Miles of Opportunities
Week 37 of Ironman Training: IMAZ Training Camp and Tempe Tri Race Report
Week 38 of Ironman Training: Much to Celebrate and Carpinteria Race Report
Week 39 of Ironman Training: Why I Tri and Try
Week 40 and 41 of Ironman Training: Think Like a Dog and Train Like a Mouse
Week 41 of Ironman Training: Mind over Muscle
Week 42 of Ironman Training: #533 is Savoring the Last 23 Days Until IMAZ
Week 43 of Ironman Training: The Joys of Joy and Peak Week
Week 44 of Ironman Training: Holy Freaking Craziness

The Magic Ingredient for a Happy Long Run

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Today was one of those “magic” long run training days–when the weather, pace, scenery and effort all swirled together to make it seem like the day was meant just for me.

Lord knows I’ve had my share of challenging long runs just like everybody else, when every step feels like a struggle, so when days like this come along, I have to take a few extra minutes to breathe deeply and appreciate it. Aaaah…perfection.

Music pushed my pace this morning, making 12 miles zoom by in the blink of an eye. Hills along the way didn’t even faze me–for the first time in long time. As I glided along a mix of grass, dirt, and pavement, I watched a slew of happy surfers riding huge waves, saw dolphins playing, and butterflies flitting from flowers bursting with color. It was the quintessential Santa Barbara run (sorry all you East Coast friends–don’t hate me).

After my run, I kept wondering, What made this run feel so right? The overriding word that popped into my head was “flexibility.”

Before I’d started, I’d made a preplanned route, then promptly veered from it, not only altering my course slightly, but the distance. Simply turning left instead of right added a whole new jolt of inspiration, and prompted me to add an extra mile because I was having so much fun.

Flexibility has never been my strong suit as a runner, and it has often gotten me into trouble with injuries. I’m always one to stick to the plan instead of listening to my body, even if that plan is pure nonsense for where my body is at on that particular day. I’m working on shaking things up a little with my training and trying to roll with things during my workouts, especially in the midst of life’s messy schedule.

Today’s run was the perfect reward for flexibility last weekend. My family and I had driven to Palm Springs for a few days to visit my in-laws. Thirteen miles was slated on my marathon training schedule, and lo and behold, there happened to be a half marathon taking place while we were there. Perfect, I thought, even though I knew my body wasn’t ready to “race” that distance. My Type A runner’s mentality pressed hard against my reason, but thankfully, I came to my senses at the last minute and opted for the 5K.

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the race, but I won my age group, and more importantly, I didn’t suffer from having to sit in the car for 3 1/2 hours right after the race as we headed back home.

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Spending time with my family and traveling also threw in a couple forced rest days, which usually make me nuts. Knowing that certain miles are being neglected leaves me fretting about getting “sooooo behind on my training.” This time I was too busy enjoying myself and being in the moment to think twice about it. It was what it was. Period.

Not only am I trying to work on my mental flexibility, but my physical flexibility, which has been rapidly declining in the last couple years. My hammies are perpetually tight, as are my calves and rigid feet. Don’t even get me started about my back, which is stiffer than a 90-year old’s. It’s pathetic, BUT not impossible to remedy.

gumby_twistedYep, this creaky chiquita is finally starting to drag herself to yoga-pilates every Monday. And she’s loving it. The best part is that today’s run showed me that it’s starting to help. Small steps. Who knows, maybe now I’ll be inspired to add a Wednesday yoga class to see if that helps even more. My hope is that by adding a little “Gumby-ness” to my life, every run will feel like today’s.

Here’s to staying flexible and keeping it happy!

xo

The Magic and Mayhem of Numbers

Most runners I know are obsessive, myself included. And the thing we obsess about most? Numbers, of course. After all, that’s how we quantify many of our goals, challenges and accomplishments.

  • NumbersThe number of miles we run per week.
  • The number of races we participate in each year.
  • The numbers we need to hit to qualify for Boston.
  • The numbers on our Garmins or Fitbits.
  • The numbers on our scale.
  • The numbers on the treadmill.
  • The numbers we want to add to our long runs.
  • The numbers we want to chisel away during a race.

Numbers can be just the motivation we need to keep us fired up about reaching our ongoing and ever-changing running goals. If you’re like me, you love them, but maybe sometimes a bit too much.

I began thinking about all of this number business when I saw the “Run 2015 miles in 2015” challenge floating around Facebook. My first instinct was to say, “Hell yeah!” even though I knew this was a bad idea all the way around for me.

As much as I love the idea of a challenge like this, by focusing purely on numbers instead of being smart about recovery days and listening to my body, I know I’d be setting myself up for a litany of injuries.

So instead of zeroing in on mileage this year I have decided I want to focus on celebrating numbers in a different way. I want to say “Booyah!” to things like…

  • JesusitaTrail12515The number of times I try new things—new trails, new groups, new races.
  • The number of times I stay in the moment during a run, listening to my body, knowing I’m pushing myself at exactly the right pace and distance for where I’m at on that particular day.
  • The number of big sweaty hugs I give.
  • The number of times my heart explodes with admiration when I see 80+-year olds still running, always looking happy and always sporting a warm smile.
  • The number of times I get a newbie excited about running or convince her that she soooooo can run that first race.
  • The number of times utter waves of joy wash over me as I coach my kids running teams, seeing that little spark ignite in them.
  • The number of times I laugh so hard I cry with friends who share their lives with me on a run, knowing that what’s shared on the road always stays on the road.
  • The number of times a challenging day becomes an “Abso-freaking-lutely YES” kind of day after a run.
  • The number of times I’m filled with gratitude because I can run.
  • EllwoodTrail_JenM_12715The number of times I push myself outside my comfort zone.
  • The number of times I return home from a run feeling happy, exhausted and invincible.
  • The number of times I say, “Good morning!” to another runner on the road and mean it heart and soul/sole (after all it is a ‘good morning’ when we get to run).
  • The number of times I make a smart food choice because I know it will make me a better runner and a healthier person.
  • The number of times I work on strength, core, and cross-training in order to support my running goals, and more importantly, my running longevity. After all, I want to be one of those 80+-year old runners who inspires all those young farts!

Continue reading

Fueling Setbacks with Gratitude

NiteMovesJune2514It has been a SERIOUSLY fun year of running for me—pushing myself out my comfort zone, competing, playing, connecting with new people, doing new events.

Each week I’ve gotten stronger, faster and more confident as I’ve worked at getting back into shape.

By late August, I had logged well over a dozen races—many of which I’d run slightly faster than the one before. It was exhilarating.

But then I hit a speed bump.

Ventura Half Marathon MedalAfter running the Ventura Half Marathon in early September and then the She is Beautiful 5K a couple weeks later, with 18 and 20-mile runs in between, along with some tempo runs and track workouts, my body let me know that not only had I taken it too far, I had taken it for granted by ignoring its subtle, yet persistent warning signals.

Becky Aaronson 2014 She is BeautifulThe aches, “which every runner feels,” I told myself, were never “that bad.” But then those aches suddenly turned into ones that were that bad. With just six weeks to go until my target race—the Santa Barbara Veteran’s Day Marathon—I was forced to put on the brakes as I pushed my foot and back beyond their tipping points.

Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn.

Long story short (because I don’t want to bore you with a litany of injury details), the Santa Barbara Marathon did not happen for me. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe my frustration.

YOU IDIOT! I scolded myself, YOU KNOW BETTER! WHEN WILL YOU EVER LEARN?

After beating myself up, then administering several generous doses of chocolate and wine, I finally pulled myself together. I was determined to salvage this marathon, no matter what.

Thus began my 6-week “mega taper,” which involved a whole lot of rest, pool running, cryotherapy and compression sessions, nothing but uber healthy food, extra cushy Hoka shoes, then slowly easing back into short, easy runs on grass with Coach Nash’s guidance.

Cryotherapy at The LabNormaTec Compression PantsRun Be Run Green Smoothie
Hoka Huaka shoes

I tried to convince myself that by not stressing about it and embracing this “mega taper,” I’d at least get myself to the starting line. Eventually though, it became painfully obvious that attempting a full marathon would be stupid in my marginally healed state, and my marginally maintained fitness level. I might have been able to do it (ever so slooowwwly), but I didn’t want to just run another marathon; I wanted to race it.

But here’s the good news (the cup is half full, right?): although I didn’t run the full marathon, I did manage to salvage race day by at least participating in the half marathon. It was not fast (about 8-10 minutes off my goal time) or pretty, but I did get through it, on a very hot day no less, and did cross the finish line with a smile on my face.

Becky Aaronson Santa Barbara Half MarathonBecky Aaronson 2014 SB Half Marathon

That was three weeks ago. I know Continue reading