You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2015.

This morning: the Carlsbad 5000. One of my favorite races of the year, and one of two races by which I measure my progress each spring. If the Hot Chocolate 15K measures endurance over a hilly course (about 5 rolling mi worth, plus the other 4.3), then the Carlsbad 5000 measures speed. They are a week apart: one test, and then another.

I like tests. I get a thrill at having to lay it all on the line. The pressure is refining. Right before races like this my mind goes into binary schizo mode: I LOVE racing. I HATE racing. I LOVE racing. Why am I doing this? Why work hard every day to shave off handfuls of seconds? It would be masochistic if it weren’t for the daily benefits of training hard, and for the out-of-this-world endorphins that occur when seizing a long-worked-for PR.

This is living life in full color. In a culture that often celebrates getting big rewards for doing as little work as possible (I have heard people speak of that as if it is some kind of coup…or just look at some of our pop culture icons, famous for posting their butts on Twitter or contrived “reality” shows), I work for a life that more authentically links achievement with what we’re willing to put in. If I ran the world, there would be no reward without having to lay it all down: bleed, sweat, cry, feel the pressure, head for the biggest goals your time and life can afford to pursue in balance with other responsibilities. Life is not, for me, about scooting by. I want to throw myself at it, and one day, perish on the spikes.

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“Don’t waste your time/Or time will waste you/No one’s gonna take me alive/The time has come to make things right/You and I must fight for our rights/You and I must fight to survive.”

MUSE, “Knights of Cydonia”

Although I no longer train or race with music, nonetheless music is a HUGE part of my mental prep the week before a race. This week, I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Muse. They have released a couple of songs off their  upcoming album Drones (cannot wait!), but I fell back also on songs from Black Holes and Revelations and The Resistance. I’ve been trying to make Bill a fan; not sure where’s he’s at with Muse! I used to run with Muse on my playlists, so I am reminded of my journey a bit.

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I also prepped by trying not to get caught up in nerves yesterday and just enjoying the spring, and the farmer’s market, with my babies. I bought some sunflowers and kept my mind on beautiful things. Last year I felt the same way: after Hot Chocolate my adrenaline, spent, didn’t flare high until the morning of Carlsbad. I intentionally tried to keep my adrenaline at bay until this morning, when I could focus on turning it into excitement. Coach-husband reminded me before the race that feeling that adrenaline is exactly what needs to happen and just to go with it; we need the adrenaline to race well. It’s unpleasant, but learning how to manage appropriate adrenaline has contributed to an overall decline of anxiety in other realms of my life.

My sleep was ehn. I try to sleep well two nights out, and then I don’t stress about the night before. Good thing. At around midnight, a gentle tap on my shoulder sprung me bolt upright in bed; Katie had had a nightmare and needed cuddles. Well, mama life is always more important than runner life when we have really to choose, so I cuddled her and struggled to return to sleep. When I finally did sleep, I had super CRAZY dreams about the race. Nightmares of my own, really, such as accidentally repeating a section of the course and blowing my time to heck and having part of the race turn into an obstacle course where I had to jump a wall, thereby blowing my time to heck. Silly…and reminiscent of academic “test” and “paper writing” dreams. (I still have horrible “paper writing” dreams, in which I have procrastinated due to motherhood duties and have to write a lengthy English or history paper overnight).

Food prep: vegetarian all week. I am mostly vegetarian as it is, but I tried to eat very well. My go-to dish lately in prep for these races has been a bowl of jasmine rice, piled high with mixed greens, a soft boiled egg from one of our girls, and sriracha. Scores of pickled beets. Almond milk. Bananas and PB2 with honey. Greek yogurt. Acai and homemade granola. Chia bars. Hummus, hummus, hummus. Nuts and seeds. Green tea.

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So, how did it go?

Official time: 19:11, 35 second personal record. 7th in my division F 35-39 out of 214, 17th woman out of 628, 94th overall out of 1281 men and women 30-39.

Last year my official time was 19:52 for 3.1 miles (I often misreport this as 19:56, because that was what I saw on my Garmin and it has stuck in my head—Bill is forever reminding me). Last year, I was the 18th woman to finish in my division out of 266, the 35th out of 755 for my gender, and overall in my wave 135/1511.

My actual 5K PR that I broke today was en route to 10K at the Disneyland race this past August.

So, improvement. Not quite what I was hoping for today, honestly, but that was one second faster than Bill’s data tables predicted. I did not have the level of fitness I wished for today, but I had the level of fitness I trained to have. Looking at my Garmin data, though, I see that very large portions of the race had spurts of sub-6:00 pace. I couldn’t do that last year, and now I can. It’s there; I will spend the whole next year trying to unlock it.

My race was fairly paced, and coming in, I kicked it up as much as I could but didn’t have much left. That’s good, because with a bunch left I always wonder if I could have expended it more evenly across the race. 5K is not my best distance; it feels like a sprint from the outset, and I usually carve out placement achievements using my endurance. However, it was a fun course and I tried to go into with the mindset of “This is so short, whatever pain you have to bring on, it will be short-lived!”

By far the most interesting moment happened shortly after Mile 1 as we approached Tamarack Beach and got within view of the lighthouse. Several semi-pro (and by that I mean endorsed and funded) teams were there racing, some even from out of state. Still through the first mile, there were people not quite spread out yet. However, I had plenty of room and was just in front of, but off to the side a bit of this woman who was a bit behind her team. We were definitely not crowded, and there wasn’t much course management to worry about at that point, just a straightaway that would eventually lead to a hairpin turn. But that was yards away, and she would have had the advantageous position anyway. We were no where in danger of knocking elbows or anything like that. But we were poised to duke it out, similarly paced. I don’t think she liked that.

Never in my life (well, in the couple years I’ve been running/racing!) has a fellow runner in a race ever uttered anything but encouragement, either before passing or being passed. Runners are, in my experience, a courteous and respectful bunch. Most of us know the race is with ourselves, primarily. Yeah, we pick people off…but usually that is a respectful process. Most of us like watching others excel, because we know EXACTLY what that takes.

Anyway, this woman (who, don’t get me wrong, was very capable) actually trash-talked me…and not in a funny way. The gist of her words were that I’d better go faster and get more ahead of her, or “move out of my way!”

Now. I went through all stages of myself I’ve ever had. Shocked, I wavered a minute, and she sidled on past and gained the lead. As she went past, I went into the mode I’ve always had, that mode of not wanting to be a bother, not wanting to intrude on someone else, not wanting to cause a problem, wanting to shrink myself, take up no loud space on this Earth. That mode where I have no right. That mode where I really don’t belong here. “Oh,” I faltered sincerely, “I’m sorry!”

I’m sorry. For what? And everything I’ve learned in the past couple of years about being alive and having a right and working to be my best and belonging here and getting to live my truth without apology or fear of judgment came surging up from my gut. My legs churned it up. My lungs sucked in the truth of it. I’m not sorry. I will never be sorry ever again for having a space of my own, for not agreeing with you, for thinking I must get along at all costs, even those costs at great detriment to myself.

And I made up my mind to take her.

We rounded the corner near the beach. I saw the lighthouse in the distance. It was the very space where my kiddos and I had watched the sunset after the Legoland field trip a couple of weeks ago. My children, and what I hope to be for them in their memories of me: an inner roar louder than the loudest criticism.
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I waited, like a lion stalking its prey. In the past two years, I have found this lion. I could have taken her near the corner. But when you race to pick someone off? Timing is crucial. If I am going to pick someone off, I want to finish the job. I don’t want to jockey. Jockeying happens sometimes, sure, but this particular pick-off had to be decisive and sure.

So I waited, deliberately, until we started up a small incline toward the Mile 2 marker. (Carlsbad is known for being flat, but there are some gentle inclines). Inclines are a psychological burden, or they can be. I train on nothing but hills in Temecula, real hills. So, for me, instead of dreading inclines I try to turn them into a positive in my mind: places on the course where I can unleash. I try to convince myself that I have the advantage on a hill. I may not, but I tell myself I do…and that’s everything. So I let her start to experience the energy drain on the incline and to get midway through it, the absolute worst place to be when someone passes you. And then I surged.

It was decisive and, as intended, absolutely final. She never regained the lead on me.

Those racing teams sometimes intimidate me, or used to, especially when I have seen members of them refer to people like me as “hobby joggers.” I may be relatively new to the sport, but I’ve got fight in there, too. I will not be getting out of the way.

The rest of the race was fast. It barely begins, and then it ends. I remember thinking several times, “Wow, it’s warm. Can I breathe? Yes, I can breathe. Wow, it’s warm. How warm it is right now. You train in Temecula, you’ve got warm. My, it’s warm.”  I tended my Garmin pacer. I heard some waves. I heard my husband calling to me above the crowd. I hope he knows always how his voice sustains me when I run. I can always hear him. His voice gives me the boost I need.

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Obligatory racing shot near 2.5 miles. I never look pretty when I run. My husband described my face as looking “panicked that you were running so fast” here. I am not sure I would say “panicked.” I was having a great time with it, actually. But running is hard. The struggle is real indeed, and my face always represents the truth of that. At this pace here, taking off a chunks of seconds every mile gets to be a razor-like process. It was far easier for me to drop from 12 min/mile to a first half-marathon race at a 7:46 pace after a single year of training than it is now to keep breaking and carving my body toward the 6:00 minute and, I hope one day, sub-6:00 range. At this point, the forging takes years of work. It’s like dipping myself into fire repeatedly even to gain just a little bit. But I am willing and eager to try. Hard work? I can do hard work.

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Bounding in.

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Nervous as heck in the corral. I had to remind myself repeatedly not to be intimidated by some of the athletes I saw striding alongside me for warm ups. This is a race against yourself. This is a race against what you were. Race for the PR, try to pick off who you can. Don’t betray yourself by going out too fast from hubris. This is a race against yourself. 

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Pre-line up. After a jog and then some strides. Focus, focus, focus. Steady the mind. Don’t be a fool going out; don’t be a wimp coming in.

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Another struggle that is real? Pinning on racing bibs in a straight fashion. Oh, the consternation on my brow.

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Real Life for Runners: your contact is irritating your eye an hour before your race and the extra box you thought you had in your backpack turns out to be a pack of gum that is the same size, color, and shape as your contact box. This was a tense moment for me, especially when the contact got wedged in the upper part of my eye and I thought I lost it for a moment. I never did solve it completely but got it on. Good thing running doesn’t require perfect vision or comfortable eyeballs.

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That time in life when my body was almost entirely muscle… Sure wasn’t that way a few years ago! Here, I am loosening my arms. I have come to understand how important arms can be. Swimming has helped enormously. I plan to ramp up arm work in this coming year.

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My dad PR’d at 27:23, and I am proud of him as ever. The greatest gift he ever gave a child was to get himself into fit condition. I took up running because he had taken it up, pure and simple. He proved to me that we are never stuck, even if we think we are. Running has saved my life and given it new depth and authenticity, and I have my dad to thank for that. He was the first to push me into longer distances, as well, and believed in me even when I didn’t yet believe in myself. I hope to give my children even half of what he has given me by living his life the way he has.

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A highlight of my day: watching the women’s elite race. Deena Kastor, whom I admire very much, is all in pink here. She ran for the women’s master’s AR. Although she missed it today, I celebrate her amazing fitness and dedication to our sport. She is 40-years-old, and a mother of a young child, and trains far more than I do and has several records to her name. I often read her interviews and words for inspiration before racing. After she came in, I got to talk with her for just a moment. Made my day. Genzebe Dibaba, going for the WR today (missed by a couple of seconds) is standing just behind the blue line. Her spring amazes me. Her fitness is gorgeous to behold. These women are like rock stars to me. The men’s elites were equally inspiring. Beautiful legs in motion.

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With my big seven-year-old. I got a different medal for placing in the top 250 finishers. It has an engraving of Meseret Defar, who has won Carlsbad for the women several times and who has several Olympic medals to her name.

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Back in Mama Mode!

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Back home in Temecula, I did a 6 mi shake-out run, for a total (including warm-up) of just over 10 mi today for Long Run Sunday. It is my practice to run shake-out on Carlsbad race day, more as a message to mind and body that there is more work to be done. Yes, I met a goal. But I cannot linger there, or rest on laurels. Did you know that I don’t actually display my medals and, in fact, barely look at them? I keep them in a bowl on my bookshelves in my room. I don’t think too much pride gets a person anywhere. A bit of discontentment is good. Yes, the medals (almost all of which are actual placement medals in division or in the whole race, or both) are representations of achievements, but those achievements are just one moment in time. What was the course? Who showed up? There are always better runners who COULD HAVE come to race, but maybe didn’t show up that day. You know what I mean? The race is only ever against myself, really. The medals show a general trend, and over time, the data of my placements in large enough fields show something, too. But honestly? While those placement medals are nice memories, they don’t capture anything about where I hope to go next with my sport. I linger on them only long enough to give me momentum into pursuing my next goal. My mid-distance run today is a commitment to the mindset of continued work and improvement. One race might have turned out well in terms of goal-meeting; however, I already have other goals in mind, and one race won’t get me there.

Only work will yield results.

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Running is my passion, my first love in terms of sport. What’s next? I have a bucket list of dreams for my life as an athlete, but right now this pair of races has reminded me that running must subsume every other athletic pursuit, because I truly love it with every fiber of my being. I do swim—and a decent amount of mileage for only three sessions a week—but this must be to strengthen my arms and enlarge my lungs. Whatever I do, I want it to contribute to the further whittling of my race pace. I have further to go. I want to race, really be the best I can be at racing. I don’t think I’ve maxed out on the running yet, in terms of pacing limits. I want to get good, really good. More competitive, even in a race like this one. I think of myself as a woodcarver, slowly but surely whittling and carving away, shaping myself into new fitness…slowly, but surely, year after year. I’m not ready to take time away from this whittling to pursue other events at the moment.

Perhaps one day…but the thing is, Carlsbad is just one year away, and I have a new PR to try to go get!

Run with joy,
Sarah

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“The journey I’m taking is inside me. Just like blood travels down veins, what I’m seeing is my inner self and what seems threatening is just the echo of the fear in my heart.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

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Two and a-little-over-a-half years ago, up to my neck and near drowning in an unhealthy lifestyle and wondering where in the darkness of anxiety my goals and spark had gone, I stood at a fork in the road and decided to fight for myself. To fight, all in. To claim true happiness over comfort and immediate pleasure. To pry every scrap of vitality from my one life before my time came up. To send a message loud and clear to my children: I am going to have to be ripped from this Earth before I leave you prematurely. To look fear in the eyes and stare it down. To break myself and rebuild anew…

I’ll never forget those first steps. Like a baby testing out, over-shooting, falling short and wobbly. I put on my faded blue yoga pants—some of the only pants that still fit—and a roomy golden yellow 20th anniversary Golden Bear t-shirt from my high school campus. Old shoes. Socks that pulled down under my heel as I went (who had heard of running socks back then?). Barely half a mile. At a pace that might barely be measurable. Lungs and heart burst with the slightest of effort. Legs shuffled. I will never forget, ever, how difficult it was. The next day: same outfit, do it again. I saw a neighbor. I felt embarrassed at how plodding I felt. Those steps… so unfamiliar. So excruciating. So much a reminder at how unfit I felt, and was. So much a reminder of not being good at something, and how I’d trapped myself.

Those steps: the first to my freedom. That’s how I see them now. They may have been, of all the steps I’ve ever taken, the most important footfalls of my life. Those were the steps by which I found myself on a new path, in a life abundantly full of challenge and joy and a happiness built not on immediate comfort or avoidance…but a happiness founded sheerly on how hard I am willing to work and what is real.

I was on Mile 5 this morning during the San Diego Hot Chocolate 15K when I let myself remember and feel those steps in my memory. I looked out at the coastal sky, felt my arms slice through the wind, counted the beat of my breath with the churning of my legs…and remembered what it felt like not to have this freedom of flying through the daylight, along the roads, at the top of the world.

Never give up on yourself. Never. NEVER. Wherever you happen to be, whomever you happen to be, your inner spark is worth fighting for. You deserve your freedom.

The power of mirth glowed from right inside of my core and chills spread out over my arms, buffering the discomfort in my legs for a few moments. From those first steps a few years ago, the journey has been intense and wild and even I could not have foreseen just how deeply forged my identity is now in that of a distance runner.

Today’s race was a sweet victory for me, over myself, which is what this running gig is all about. Last year I ran a 1:04:56 on this course, 5th woman in overall. That day in the car on the way home, I told my husband (who had recently taken over my coaching for me) that I wanted to come back and do better in 2015. I would do whatever it took. We made plans. The woman who had won last year won it in 1:02:33. I wanted to match that, if I could.

So I have worked for a year. Had a goal for a YEAR. This, and Carlsbad, are litmus races for me a bit. I had several sub-goals this year, but my two biggest goals involved this pair of March races. In fact, I started getting really serious about training right after these races last year, adding weekly and now twice-weekly interval session, double-day runs, and swimming. Goals? It’s on. It’s a wild feeling to wake up on those cold wintry mornings we had in October and November and not want at all to get out of bed and plunge into the 4:30 AM dark cold, or lay base of 5 miles knowing speedwork would come on miles 8,9,10 that afternoon. Or to have to arrange plans (skipping things like Disneyland days here and there, moving other activities, etc) around interval Thursdays. Or to run on Christmas morning before the kiddos get up. To plan a road trip around opportunities to train in various cities. The training has been a way of life, and the goals have been motivating. There’s no sacrifice, but there are trades.

For me, though: you do the necessary work. All in. No fiddle-faddling around. No “I meant to train more, but I didn’t and if I had, I could have done x, y, or z.” No hypothetical forecasting. No. ALL IN. You only have what you do. Give it everything all year. Lay all the cards down. Be open about what you mean to do. And when the day comes, risk it. Risk the not-meeting-it. Risk the everyone-will-know. Risk the self-disappointment. Risk it ALL. Lay it on the line, every time. I’ve had some great highs this year, and PRs and goals met. I went backward at the Holiday Half. Oh well. Only by risking it all, I believe, do we get to touch on life’s essential vitality. We didn’t hide. We didn’t play games. It wasn’t halfway done. We put it out there with our whole minds, bodies, hearts…ready for the consequences. To me, that is living. To me, that is the power of being a runner.

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Today I ran this 9.3 mile course in 1:01:38, and I was the 4th woman in out of 4653 women. I placed 1st in my division (35-39) out of 824. I was the 23rd person in out of 6313 people. I had a PR drop of 3:18.

I would have loved a spot on that podium this year, but it was not to be. You cannot help who shows up at a road race, and this year three women showed up who absolutely smoked it at 55-something, 58-something, and 59-something. My level of fitness cannot run a 9.3 in under an hour yet, and they were just better. But I can do 9 miles flat in just under an hour (the 0.3 I did in 1:47 today), and I will take that! Because a few years ago? The thought of my running 9 miles/hour would have been UNTHINKABLE.

My goal today was a 1:02, and I beat myself. I’ll take it. Had I run my 1:01:38 in last year’s field, I would have felt that podium. I still have hopes for it next year. You know why I love my sport? I love distance running because it completely rewards consistent discipline and hard work. I know I can keep whittling at my time, if I continue to follow my process and work ethic. There’s so much more to add, so much more I can do. I average between 40 and 50 mile weeks—there’s the potential to add more at some point. I can cross train my arms more rigorously. Ramp up intervals. Continue to build base miles. Race more. There’s work to do, if I am willing to do it. (I am).

The race entry fee, our stay in a suite at the Horton Grand Hotel, and this whole weekend was a 35th birthday gift from my generous husband (and coach) this past December. Definitely a treat…and also a very serious message about how much he believes in me and supports me in trying to be my best and to conquer my personal goals.

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So… Expo shenanigans! Let’s do this thing!

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Picking up the bib!

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Walking in the Gaslamp

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Bill in front of our hotel
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Katie and Eric watch the sunset from the hotel

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I could not ask for a better husband, coach, and friend. With you, I can fly.

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Katie, during check in
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On the way to dinner

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My traveling buddies!

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Laying out gear the night before

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5 AM this morning. A restless night preceded this. Jolts of adrenaline kept shooting me awake. I would soothe my nerves by going through my visualization process again and again and channeling the nerves into excitement. It’s a big thing, though, to be at the point of knowing that you have to prove your year’s worth of work to yourself. I kept worrying I would disappoint my William (which he found to be a ridiculous concern, because he is never disappointed in me), but I realized I was most worried about disappointing myself. That’s the risk of laying it all down, of training all the way. If I fail, I cannot say that it was because I didn’t train; I did. For a recovering perfectionist, running is the ultimate in therapy, ha ha! Every race, I face failure and have to tell myself that I will be okay with it. At times, when I have fallen short of a PR or goal, I’ve had to walk the talk. Good practice. It’s not the end of the world not to meet a goal the first time; it IS the end of the world not to try absolutely all the way in the first place. What do we have if we don’t have our best effort?

I was worried all week about how to “hook in” mentally with this race. The goal was not enough. For each race, I cast it in a larger narrative—hey, that works for me, however weird it sounds. There’s always some sort of “thing” I tap into when I am running. Something to make the chills go. Something that helps keep the suffering away from the discomfort. Something to draw on mentally when the tanks are getting low, that buffers energy. Motivation. Races for which I have had this hook have tended to go really well. The narrative about “this is my second chance, I can come back and do better” was too time-oriented and not compelling enough to me. Last year, my hook was “I am the mysterious dark horse that no one knows, so let’s see what I can do” and that was my black outfit and black fingernail polish phase as a runner. This time had to be different.

Katie and I shared a bed, and I spent all night holding her hand and feeling the comfort of her breath. And I finally really tapped into it. Feel the joy that is running, Kara Goucher has advised. Yes. Feel the joy. It hit me. What is my inner gift? What do I have that has always been part of me? My capacity to feel joy, real joy. My optimism. My feeling that the universe is full of good and beauty. Yes. That’s what I should run on. Run on the joy of it all. Run by believing I can do it. Run by remembering that it is possible to change one’s life. Just run, and feel the freedom. Look at the day. Remember what a good morning it is for a run. Have fun with it. That’s who I am inside. So I promised myself that when I crossed that starting line today, no matter what else, I would run with the joy of it pounding in my heart. Let the legs work, don’t overthink it, have trust that I have trained enough. Run for the love of running.

It worked. It worked, because it was authentic. When the three leading women settled into their pace, I knew I could not catch them for they were clearly at a different place of fitness. But I could go from 5th to 4th woman, and I could pick off some men. So I did…and then for a little while, I had some stretch of road where I wasn’t up front, and I wasn’t in the next wave. I was just…kind of alone…doing my thing. Every once in awhile in the middle section, some one would come and we’d jockey a bit. The real jockeying came in the last 5K. I duked it out with some men. Some I went past, and some went past me. Once finished in the chute, some of them gave me their respect, and I always love earning that.

This was a very evenly paced race for me, my 5K, 10K, and finishing splits all coming in with one second of each other. My overall pace was 6:37 for the whole thing. During the last mile or so I kicked it up a notch, going 5:16 for quite a stretch according to my two Garmins. I raced it in literally chanting out loud the words of the great Pre, over and over: “DO NOT LET FATIGUE MAKE A COWARD OUT OF YOU!” Darn straight. I am still working on racing with his kind of guts. I am not there yet, still have some conservative instincts that I need to try to override.

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My solo walk this morning in the Gaslamp district to Petco Park. I never tire of walking in the heart of a city.

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I’m in the blue, with my arms crossed. All business, baby, all business. Game face. At one point the announcer was talking about me, right in front of me, and hypothesizing that I might be one of the front runners….and I didn’t even hear or notice him at first. In the ZONE. That was flattering and all, but then…

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…then literally the most exciting thing ever in a race happened to me. There’s this professional runner, Ariana, who just moved to San Diego from Minnesota. Folks, she’s like a rock star. I first learned of her at the Holiday Half. I saw her in the corral back then and just knew. She did go on to win that race. She has a blog, which I read, and she has Olympic trial times. I really admire her. Like me, she came later in life to running, and she is just AMAZING. Anyway, there I was, arms crossed in my corral when I saw her finishing warm ups just ahead of the corral. I looked at Bill and we texted, “Is that Ariana??” No way!

So then she comes to get into our officially seeded, qualifying-time corral. At first the announcer says no, you can’t really squish in here. Then a volunteer and I start speaking up (the volunteer knows his runners—that particular volunteer had just helped to organize the L.A. Marathon). We’re like, “No no no…this is Ariana H—— She belongs up here!” With her there, the whole field will be fast. In my mind, this is a great thing…because even though I cannot run at her level of fitness, a faster field means all of us might get swept along to do a little better than we otherwise might.

Anyway, the announcer tried to say something (because he didn’t know who she was) along the lines of Sarah and Ariana duking it out, and I was quick to say, “Uh, no no…Ariana is much better!” But, people, I felt so excited just to be standing next to her for a few moments before the gun. We talked a bit about the course, and she asked what I was going for… I shared that, and then I wished her a great run. She smoked it. She won the women, and only a few guys even beat her. To see someone there who is an inspiration to me was so meaningful. Definitely a boost right before the race, I felt.

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Bowl of chocolate! (Shared with my kiddos).

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My dad raced, also. I never forget that it started with him…watching him change his life and finish his first half marathon inspired me to want to be that kind of role model for MY children.

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After a late brunch, we took one more selfie in our cutie-pie hotel, and Hot Chocolate 15K 2015 was on the books.

Carlsbad 5000 next Sunday… I am looking to have fun with that flat course. The Big Sur Marathon Relay comes in April, with a team. I’m racing Bay to Breakers in May, and maaaaaaaaybe the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half (on the bucket list at some point) in late May. July will be Butte to Butte in Eugene. So, two out of three March races are done. They are going well. Trying to be smart the rest of the season here, with training and tapering at the right times.

And if I were smarter, I would go to bed right now. Early morning shake-it-off swim for 100 laps (or more) tomorrow morning!

Run with joy,

Sarah

This day has this Ben Howard song as its soundtrack in my head:
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“Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags,
I’ve come to know that memories
Were the best things you ever had.
The summer shone beat down on bony backs.
So far from home where the ocean stood
Down dust and pine cone tracks.

We stood
Steady as the stars in the woods
So happy-hearted
And the warmth rang true inside these bones
As the old pine fell we sang
Just to bless the morning.”

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San Jacinto Wilderness State Park, Long Valley. Once at the top station of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, my dad, Katie, and Eric and I took the Desert Trail to explore all five lookout notches. Taking in the alpine zone juxtaposed with the lower desert zones, we inhaled that crisp and essential mountain air, 8400 feet above sea level. All day we crunched in snow and goat-footed ourselves over rocky outcroppings (we went off trail several times—shhh!). Much more snow remained this year, and the ranger at the Ranger Station cautioned one group of would-be hikers that the snow was so deep in parts (3 to 4 FEET) that they would not be issuing permits for certain trails today. Those fallen pines and juts of granite and snow make a kind of magical beauty that I could get myself lost in for life, writing, sketching, wandering, thinking. I found myself wanting to hike every day forever.

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Billions of years of passing time—everything that ever was, compressed in the memories of rocks. From deep within the Earth and now amidst the buttery vanilla scent of Jeffrey Pines, these rocks of violence begat their limitless beauty. Orangey red, green, and black lichen are Nature’s paints on the rock faces. Ever notice how very much the folds of green lichen evoke the twisty and folded matter of the brain?

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This enormous fallen pine from the other direction evoked to me a rather large insect on all of its legs. It is perhaps difficult to see scale, but we are somewhat high up in this picture, and it took some climbing to get here. Katie-girl made me proud with her bravery. Heaven is a seat on a pine tree, here and now, as the pine begins its long process of turning back into earth, to nourish new life. I used to climb trees all the time as a child. It’s been difficult to find climbing trees in my adult life, but perhaps it just means I need better eyes and places to search… If we’re lucky, we become what we were.

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Eric fancied these limbs as his “spaceship” and from there spun out an elaborate narrative of planetary exploration that endured throughout the rest of our hike. He was fearless and had to be reigned in a bit—I think there were moments where he would have hiked right over several edges and down into the untouched snow, or searched out the highest rocks and looked for the homes of the bobcats. We had to keep calling him back, and I don’t like to do that—I want my kiddos to have a wide berth, get into and out of adventures on their own, wander and feel the contours of their range. However, I draw the line at safety. This person here is lured by beauty and just-around-the-bend and freedom in the landscape: he has my genetic imprint in this regard, no doubt. Thankfully, he is nimble and sure on his feet.

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What a treat to have my dad along this year, although we missed my mom, too. (She accompanied us last year). Dad, with his biology background, knows quite a bit about everything he sees in the natural world. He has a curious mind that engages the kiddos, too. We loved our time with him.

Last year we went off trail and found a special crop of boulders that made a sort of shelter and hid us away: no one could see us, and we could see no one. We really got away from it all. At the time, we had lunch there and played house with my mom there. The kiddos had designated rooms in this rock structure, and we all collected items and made a sort of play kitchen there, pretending to make a stew. How often we have thought of this place over the last year, we cannot say. We often retell the story when we have bedtime stories (“The Grand Adventures of Katie and Eric”). We wondered if we could find it again today, and we did—in fact, they remembered the off-trail spot perfectly.

We went up there, had a snack, and then I was just going to lay on my back under the pines for a moment…the sound of the kiddos’ voices nearby playing, my dad helping to keep an eye on them. Suddenly and without intention, I was aware of something deeper even than sleep overtaking my body. I could still partly hear them all, but was partly asleep, partly adrift on the sound of the wind. At any rate, it was the most supreme rest and refreshment I have had for many weeks. I’d start to stir then would feel the sky on me like a blanket, as though my mind were floating on the day while my body lay on nothing but dirt and pine needles. It was the most comfortable of beds, despite the small rocks and needles; it was almost as if I could feel my body become part of that earth right there, no division between the two…and that while my body rested, my mind was still hearing and sensing and free. I still am not sure how much time passed there, moments of complete refreshment and oneness with the vast nature around me.

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One of Katie’s pursuits today involved earning another Junior Ranger badge, as she did at Crater Lake. We spent time writing down some facts and answering questions. After all of our hiking, we turned in her booklet (Eric’s, too), and then we had coffee and hot chocolate at the Pines Cafe up at the top of the mountain center.

Today began with a waning-gibbous-moon 4:30 AM base mile run (“base miles” for me mean between 4 and 5 mi at a comfortable pace), followed by 2500 yards in the pool. Home again by 6:55 AM, I had mostly dressed for hiking in the locker room following my swim, but I still had to get the kiddos up and ready. My dad was over by 7:30 AM, and we were in Palm Springs by 9:15 or so. We hiked for many hours, then came home… I then ran to the track, did a series of 660s at a solid sub-6:00 minute pace (5:47 or so average) to finish trashing my legs thoroughly (5K run at race pace on Saturday, 10 miles semi-speedy on raced-out legs on Sunday, rest Monday, speedwork today) one more time before taper starts next week for the 15K that’s coming up. What gets trashed, builds back up stronger, right? That’s been the game plan this year. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the speedwork today after hiking on uneven and snowy terrain at altitude all day, but I’ve been pretty stubborn/tenacious about not missing, even scheduling life around those speedwork days the past couple of months especially. Hope the effort bears fruit! Regardless, I was reflecting today on how just 2.5 years ago, I could have made it through exactly none of these various exercise activities today, let alone all of them. I am grateful today for my health, for getting to explore around with my children and to play and to feel the wind in my hair when I run…to know how it feels to glide through water and breathe deeply…to feel that I can generate my own store of energy, so that I can pour that energy into savoring the world around me, trying to understand its many beauties and wonders. I am thankful to feel the vitality of the pine trees, to feel attached to the earth beneath my feet, to know that my cells will one day dissipate and become part of something else, a flow of energy and matter much more vast than I am.

I would like to capture the feeling in the Foo Fighter’s “I Am a River” here in a quote. Unfortunately, when I try to quote it, the emotion doesn’t quite render in the words. You have to hear it in Grohl’s voice and in the drums and bass: so here is a link to it on YouTube. It is about many themes, but I connect most to the subtextual idea of an eternally flowing river, like the flow of energy and space. This song has been on repeat for me lately. I usually listen to it on the way to or from swimming, as well as at times like right now, when I should be in bed sleeping. Music that connects to the essence, though, can sometimes be more restorative and refreshing than sleep, I find.

Nighty night!

“There are places I remember all my life/Though some have changed/Some forever, not for better/Some have gone and some remain/All these places have their moments/With lovers and friends I still can recall/Some are dead and some are living/In my life I’ve loved them all…”

The Class of 1998 at TVHS chose this song as our graduation song, and it always reminds me of Bridget, our class president, who was responsible for bringing The Beatles so much into my world at the time. Shortly after our vote and the song was announced, I went after school one afternoon in spring that year to the local Warehouse music store and purchased my first compilation of Beatles music. I still have that red album and use it often in the car when my Katie and Eric and I are driving around town.

Even now, listening to “In My Life” as I write the introduction to this blog post, my throat grows lumpy. We had just thrown our mortarboards up to the sky standing and cheering on the TVHS field, the world forever open to us…but only for so long. In the seventeen years since I left campus that first time—not yet knowing I would be back to teach there for five years—I have only come to realize more how life is reinvention and cycle, how bound up we all are in each other’s narratives, how the most important stories are the ones we choose to tell again and again, like the great Norse gods at the hall. Life is the epic interpretation of a world that would otherwise be soundless and colorless (music and color not existing in-the-world, strictly speaking, but as a psychological state) were it not for our brains parsing all of the oscillations and wavelengths that come at us into an order and coherency—that is the true miracle. The very music and vibrancy of our lives depend upon our presence in the moment, our commitment to our interpretative faculty.

Every time I set foot on TVHS, the old is new to me. I turn over in my mind all the layers of time and story that exist there, for me. My friends, my own students, my teachers, my colleagues…all the connections in time both big and small. Thousands of lives criss-crossing through space and time. TVHS will always feel like a piece of home to me.

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(Early this morning, 7 AM, an hour before the event: TVHS will always be so lovely to my sight)

With three races planned for this month, today’s 5K was the first of the post-winter season. Put on by the  TVEA (union) and organized by the beautiful Dawn Sibby (an alum herself who had just returned to teach there when I was in 10th or 11th grade), this 5K was open to the community and celebrated fitness. On the way over there in the car, Bill and I wondered how marked and race-like this event would be, as one never knows, and we weren’t certain who was responsible for the course set-up. Well, it was impeccable. Both Dawn and her husband Ed (also one of my teachers once) are runners (Ed is doing the LA Marathon next weekend), and they know how to make a good course with ample markings and true to distance. My Garmin clocked 3.10 EXACTLY. This was a far more put together race in many ways than either of the races I’ve done in the local wineries. ROTC students helped to guide, and those students did their job with alertness and a sense of responsibility. As the course leader, I often did not know in advance where precisely I would be going; every time I needed it, a student volunteer was right on the ball, or there was a well-placed arrow. Amazing job, you guys!

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(Listening to instructions from Dawn before the race lined up)

Coach-husband Bill and I talked about strategy for this race. We both agreed (we are so often on the same wavelength about everything, including training and race plans) that I needed to look at this run as an entry into race season, a way to get my head back into game/race mode after a season of training. I was not to allow it to “take the edge off” my adrenaline (more on that in a minute), but rather to allow it to hone the adrenaline and practice getting into and out of “race mind.” I often practice interpreting my adrenaline as excitement, versus nerves; Deena Kastor does the same thing, and recently discussed it in this article. I agree wholeheartedly with her that one of the keys to racing well is to know how to interpret energy into positive energy. I have a tendency to feel nerves, and I actually train to feel the nerves as other forms of emotion, just as I train very consciously to let myself feel pain but not the suffering. The physical training all year is incredibly important, and I do that as a given; what many people may not know is how much mental training this racing gig requires, as well. I’ve come to believe that, for an athlete who has met all of her training obligations and made sure her body is ready, the most important factor on race day is her state of mind and what she’s done mentally to prepare for it.

I lost sight of that a bit in December, when I went into the Holiday Half with a bit of what I call a “floppy mind.” I wrote that race up at the time, and it is in my archives. There were significant physical factors, too, that contributed to that race not being my best; however, what bothered me about that race was the feeling beforehand that I wasn’t “getting my mind around it” in the proper way. I guess the best I can say is that neither my body nor mind was in alignment for that race, and that happens; combined, though, with what felt like a difficult winter training schedule (lots of pitch dark, cold, 4:30 AM runs to lay base at tempos that at times felt like I was going backwards in my training), I have been worried not only that my body would come back online for racing but also that my mind would be where it needs to be.

So for this race, at my old stomping grounds, I decided to take my body’s readiness on trust in the process….and to focus this week on getting my mind into the right place. This week I had only one session of speedwork (in addition to taper week types of mileage), and Bill designed it to help my mind. After some 100s, I had to see what I could do on a quarter (400 m). He wanted 80 seconds; I gave us 77.4 seconds. I felt the bear on the last 100 of that quarter mile, not something I feel even in my most stressed anaerobic states most of the time. Before I can start to conquer the bear, I have to feel him. After racing season is over, I have some new goals. The bear and I are going to have smackdowns on the track. But, back to this race…

I knew that today I would center my running in my heart and head, and just let my body do its own work. TVHS is so significant and special a place to me. I spent time all this week remembering specific people in specific places on that campus. I knew that, whatever the course, I would have memories along it. I remembered standing with the seniors of ’98 on the field during our special breakfast, arms linked and smiling, a big line of us. Mrs. Cutler kissing a pig on the field. Football nights and confetti in our pockets. Watching my brother graduate. The senior float during Homecoming. Trying to get up that XC hill during 9th grade P.E. with Mrs. Martin. Steve and I playing tennis. The very place where I dropped my binder and was worried about being late for class. A million other memories with hundreds of other people. I felt deeply that this would be a sentimental and symbolic race for me, and it was. That energy was so overwhelmingly positive that I found myself excited for this race without even trying not to have nerves.

I wanted to run with all the conviction in my body, mind, and heart to lay down a new layer of meaning and narrative on an old place. When I was a student there, and a teacher, I was known for academics—not athletics, not in the least. Here was a chance to merge a new phase of my life with the older phases, to try hard at something in a place where it has always meant the world to me to try hard to do, and be, my best. I’ve experienced failure there, and triumph, tears and laughter, uncertainty and confidence, love, anger, self-discovery, the making of best friendships, everything. It was a place—and with my students—that I found purpose and solace after my miscarriage. Many of the most important mentors of my life originated there. I’ve watched a generation of colleagues be my age now, and then grow and evolve into their current ages and states of being. Twenty years is a long time to know people. I think of the first time I met Beth, or Donna, or Kathy… And in the second phase: of meeting friends like Sandy. I could see the shadows of friends and my former selves all over the campus, and it really felt like past-present-future time were all happening at once, in a rightness together. Difficult to explain…

Last night I thought about the symbolism of it all, and then I spent time listening to Foo Fighters and just immersing myself in their music. I watched some interviews with Dave Grohl, checked when the Sonic Highways documentary would be available on Amazon. Foo Fighters are one of my go-to pre-race bands. They get me in the right mood.
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(1st place in the race, and Councilman Chuck Washington was there to give out medals)

So how it turned out: I was the first person in, male or female. Yeah, I won the thing…and that was cool! Now, had the track team been there? Or GOHS’ track team? Well, I would have eaten it in the wake of the Wolfpack, which is one of the best teams in the NATION. Thankfully, most the top of the track teams were at meets today, so that helped. Any high school track member who has trained should be able to do that course in about 18:00. I clocked in at 20:06. Hey, though, I will take it. We did that killer XC hill on our campus—freakin’ TWICE, man. I had a 6:29 per mile pace despite that hill, and my Garmin, which gives elevation and pace data throughout the run showed on our debriefing tonight that most of the race (other than my two hill bouts) was at a 6:00/mile or better, with a significant portion nicely under 6:00. The hill—steep like a beast and filled with ruts and hairpin turns on the downslide—was so killer that at times the Garmin showed my pace slipping way down. But you know what? When I was in 9th grade, I could barely run the darn thing…so, forward progress!  I am far fitter now than I ever was in high school. Also: based on this level of fitness on this challenging course, I am looking now more hopefully than ever at a substantial Carlsbad 5000 course record in a few weeks. I think I could have a big drop from last year. We’ll see. I’m stoked to try, I know that much! This was hills…Carlsbad is flaaaaaaaaaaaaaat, so flat, and I have my own personal course record to beat. I can run a dozen different courses and get different times; the meaningful PRs are those done on a repeat course, in my opinion. How else can we measure the growth? Not by comparing one course to a different course…too many variables.

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(With Mr. Brown, my AP Euro teacher)

So what I loved? Running into teachers before the race! Mr. Brown, Mr. Kingsberg…some of these teachers had transferred to other sites by the time I got back from college and had my own classroom, so they are still more like ” former teachers” to me than colleagues, you know what I mean? And some I hadn’t seen in years! Too exciting!

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Before the race, in mama mode. I loved that today, and always. There is a balance between self-fulfillment and my own personal goals and then being able to live for, and give to, these two precious people.

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On your marks…

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Heading toward the dreaded TVHS hill, the second time…

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First back in the gate on the track for the last bit of the race. The next person in was almost two minutes later. I could feel no one on me, but I still pretended there was (mentally) and tried my best to kick it all the way in. Practice what we want to do on every race, right?

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Finishing the race with one of my 9th grade teachers on the left of the picture, and one of my 12th grade teachers on the right. I am 35-years-old, my friends, so how wild is that? I love being part of this school and this hometown.

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My favorite coach-husband-best friend-teacher-guy

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No matter the race, or what I win or don’t, or the pace, or whatever….I am a mama first. Although my sports have become for me a way to know myself and to fulfill myself and experience life more robustly and vibrantly, I never forget that my husband and children were the motivating factors to get started on this journey. Two and a half years ago, I decided to become healthy for them, and for me. I want to live as long as I can with them. Joy is here, on this Earth, right now. THIS is what we have. I decided that I will fight kicking and clawing to stay here as long as I can, and that when it is my time, my children will know that I had to be ripped away.

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After the 5K, the kiddos go to do field events: dashes, tosses, soccer kicks. Very well done, TVEA! I think Eric has some sprinter genes like Daddy…

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And that Katie will have endurance like Mommy…

I will try to post some more pictures of the kiddos’ field events on Facebook tomorrow, I think, since it is getting late and we lose an hour tonight. Coach has scheduled a 10 miler tomorrow (which is what I was hoping for, actually). But legs, what sore race legs? Ha ha. It might be a sloooow 10 miler, people, if you happen to be out and about in Temecula tomorrow morning! Throw me some Clif Bloks around mile 7 if you see me, okay? I’m gonna need them!

Rainy, grey, lush, and lovely. This is my kind of weekend, my kind of weather. A cup of warmth, owl string lights in the playroom window where my computer sits, a night of cuddles and staying up past bedtime with my children to watch the new episode of Once Upon a Time (“Could one of your problems be a hell-bat with beady little eyes?” LOL!), and staying up even later to finish the last two chapters of Stuart Little with my littles.

“Document the world inside your skin/The tenor of your shins/The timbre of your limbs/Now commence to kick each brick apart/To center on your heart/Starting with your heart (bright heart)/….If I am waiting, should I be waiting?/If I am hoping, should I be hoping?/And all around me/It’s sunlight, it’s shadow/It’s the quiet, it’s the word/It’s the beating heart…”

-The Decemberists

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Saturday, mid-afternoon. Sitting in the garage, pondering projects and possibilities while K and E frolicked in the rain and played in Eric’s workshop. We pull the car out often, since we’ve made a bit of a pop-up art studio in the garage proper. The walls are adorned with their artwork, and we have an easel we pull into the middle. Art is everywhere in our garage. Our old hutch creates a bit of a division between the main part and the back half of Eric’s workshop/lab, and it holds some art supplies and fire logs and some odds and ends. We play music (this weekend, the new album from The Decemberists and Sonic Highways from one of my favorite bands, The Foo Fighters.

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I tried to get tickets for The Foo Fighters in Anaheim or Inglewood this coming fall, but as of now the concerts are sold out. Someday! Sonic Highways might be my favorite Foo album, altogether. Extraordinary. Hard to say, though: I am obsessed with the way they made Wasting Light. There’s a documentary online: all of it was done in Grohl’s garage, and of course with guest musician Krist Novoselic on Should Have Known. Good things happen in garages, and one day I want to write about the power of that free space and its influence on both the music and computer science industries. Perhaps that is why we spend so much time in ours. Anyway, though: one of my favorite songs, Let it Die, is on Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace.

Speaking of which, I have been scouring everywhere for piano sheet music to Let it Die. I can find guitar tabs, but that’s about it. Have you seen this performance? It is my dream to perform this. The pianist in this piece has recreated Let it Die on piano just by ear. So far as I can ascertain, there is no piano sheet music to be had for this song yet. I might have to extrapolate, but I need greater experience first. I am still a newbie.

In the meantime, I am working on Nirvana’s Come As You Are and a Taylor Swift song, as well, in addition to fiddling around with many of our Music Together songs. I play lullabies for the kiddos, and sometimes substitute our own lyrics. Piano is going well, and I certainly enjoy making music almost daily. I have to be careful, though: I can sit down to practice “just a bit” and suddenly find a whole hour passed.
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“Heart of gold/But it lost its pride/Beautiful veins and bloodshot eyes/I’ve seen your face in another light/Why you’d have to go and let it die?/…In too deep and out of time/…Why you’d have to go and let it die?/Heart’s gone cold and hands are tied…”

I feel Grohl’s grief keenly in this song, having lost someone I love too soon, also, to death by alcoholism. The anger at the futility of it and being able to do nothing about it, plus the profound sadness of missing someone you love, reverberates in Grohl’s vocals at the end of this song.

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After publishing my book list on Saturday morning, I deviated from my plan of reading the new Edge.org essay collection for the time being, and picked this out of my bookshelf instead. I bought this right before having Katie, and it is time to absorb it seven years later. Excellent so far, with science interwoven.

On Friday we went to California Adventure with the Matics-Lambert-Horne-Booth families, and these are two of my favorite pictures:

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Eric and his Uncle David on Mickey’s Fun Wheel

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Katie’s first time on Tower of Terror! She LOVED it!!! She got nervous right before we got on, but then was asking to go on it again immediately following! We’re the fam in the front (me, Katie, Uncle Brad, David). The three of them were all quiet as clams and I was quite vocal (I managed not to cuss this time, though!!!), so what’s up with that? However, this was my second time and I can report that it was not nearly as terrifying for me as the first time. I think that was partly due to knowing what to expect, but even more due to having to remain partly in “mama bear” mode. I couldn’t let myself get all the way scared this time, in case Katie needed me. I could feel my mind holding part of myself back so I could be present for her. It’s so weird to find the ways in which that Mama Bear Mode manifests.

We left early and headed home so that I could be home for Steve to come over in advance of his Atlas race the following day (Saturday). I got stuck in traffic, despite having the FASTrack, all the way on the 91 AND the 15. It was crazy.

But when we got home, Steve arrived, and we had time for him to teach us Magic: the Gathering.

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He has some sweet decks. I tried out his mono-red deck and his blue deck. He played a green deck and then a black and white deck. Steve is such a great, clear teacher. I had watched some online tutorials, but Steve had a way of contextualizing the steps of play and creating a narrative around it. All I want to do is to play Magic right now. It’s so fun! I cannot believe I didn’t play in high school! I sat with our cards a bit the next day and started trying to put together a deck for Katie and a deck for myself. I find myself endlessly pondering combinations, though, and I think the thing to do is just to make a trial deck without too much overthinking, play it, and start tweaking…instead of trying to make an optimal deck to begin with, lacking data points from trial and error. There’s an art and creativity and strategy to this game, though, which I find incredibly appealing. I’d like to work up to a white-blue control deck, but I might start with red and black, actually. Maybe give Katie mono-green, or even a green and white. Not sure.

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Oh, and I should also mention that it was Steve to the rescue for our tumbled quartz lab (part of our rock unit). We were in the midst of a triboluminescence lab, and for the life of us, we could not manage to strike the quartz well enough to get the sparks going. I tried, the kids tried, Bill tried…off and on all day on Thursday. I thought we would have to write up the lab as a failed attempt. But then Steve got the internal electrons to charge brilliantly. After he got it started, we each managed to do it, too.

Today, we tried again, though…and nothing! Perhaps Steve is magical??? Anyway, this picture here will be going into our lab notebooks!

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When it rains, a warm cuppa in a new Dumbo mug. I have too many Disney mugs, but I do actually rotate and use them all, many times a day. Why yes, I did sit against the feather pillow intentionally while taking a picture of my Dumbo mug. I felt there was a certain continuity there!

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Rain or shine, baby! Long Run Sunday is a way of life, no matter the weather. 10.68 miles (too wet to do my usual Type A move of running to the nearest whole number, 11) in soak-me-to-the-bone rain this morning. At 7:15 AM, on this stretch of long road, it was just the moo cows and I out for our morning air. Both shoes and socks were soaked and I was running with a squishy sound, trying to dodge other puddles. Can’t say it was my best long run, but I got the job done. The first 6 miles, in fact, I felt enthusiastic to be out in the purifying rain (Oh, look at the rain! I love the rain! It smells so good! This is so neat!). At about 8.5, I was starting to get mentally done…I have to admit. I felt so clear and at peace the rest of the day, though, so it was worth it. Nothing like a long run to mellow out the system.

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This afternoon we went back into our garage and did an art project with oil pastels. I gave it a go myself this time. I am intrigued by surrealist and modern landscapes and art right now, kind of an echo of where my mind has been immersed in my reading and other thought-life. We put on music, looked out at the rain, and just created…
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Pastels are a favorite medium for me, and I don’t experiment with them nearly enough. I might try to pursue some learning in that area this year, see what I can come up with, maybe push myself to become more artful and expressive.

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Finally, meet Kiki, the witch from Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service. We’re making our way through Miyazaki’s work. Amazingly beautiful animation. I am so taken with the Japanese mindset and artistic (literary, too) perspective right now. We watched My Neighbor Totoro this weekend, as well. So many connections with Murakami’s work… Really exploring some new intellectual passions right now, and I am excited about that. I think an evolving thought-life is one of the keys to happiness in this life. Keep studying, keep learning, keep exploring the Self and all its many forms of expression. It’s really not possible ever to be bored in this life. It’s weird to me when people say that. Really? There are not enough hours in the day to do/see/be/feel/give/experience/create/study everything I wish I could! Even as I celebrate what does happen each day, I always get to the end of my day and say to myself, “I wish I had also done this…this…and this…today!”

Rainy weekends are my favorite!