balance

Challenge of Balance

 Photo by Sherry LaVars

Looking back on this awesome article from a few weeks ago, I kind of chuckle to myself and long to be that busy. What I mean by that, is that day was leisurely and relaxed comparative to the days since. 

I knew that the SF Marathon would be the kick off to a very busy time in my life. Not only did it commence another training/racing season, it also was the start of wedding season (for me and many close friends/family), the busiest part of opening our cafe MH Bread and Butter, moving to Marin and still running my own business at the same time. It is a lot to manage and I tried to prepare myself for the big life changes.

Managing the day to day stresses has been a great learning experience. I have found myself to be able to handle a lot more than I ever thought I could and also buckled into a giant heap on the floor (before picking myself up and carrying on, of course) more times than I can count. 

 Photo by Sherry LaVars

One of the hardest things for me has been redefining myself as a runner. For the better part of the last two years, my running goals have been the primary motivator for how I schedule and navigate my life. While I am not and have never been a professional runner, running was my priority from how I ran my own business to how I structured my days. 

Now my days are much more demanding between the cafe and personal cheffing. Our cafe is becoming a reality (thanks in part to all of my awesome friends, family and supporters through our Kickstarter campaign) and the new onslaught of activities surrounding that endeavor get squeezed into every nook and cranny of my day (Nathan and I have had more productive "meetings" on runs than I can count). I am still working full time as a personal chef and have focused intently on maintaining awesome service for my clients, even as I am building another business.

I am still running and training hard. I have an insane racing schedule through the rest of the year which includes a marathon every month (Kauai, Chicago, NYC) until December, when I will be racing the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler. I want to do more than just participate in these races, I want to do big things. But the new paradigm of my life also means that I have been forced to redefine what I am capable of.

It is a hard thing to reprioritize.  Part of my struggle is that I am still doing the workouts and putting in miles, I am just not able to lead a running lead lifestyle anymore. Having different priorities means gone are the strategically timed meals, the luxurious naps, bi-weekly personal training sessions and weekly massage appointments. My energy is also eroded away (or should I say, otherwise utilized) so often times I am unable to get in a desired second run. My weekly mileage is less than it was, even though I cling to the idea of squeezing in a 100 mile week, somehow. 

Photo by Sherry LaVars

All of this has reminded me of what I can and can't do. I can shoulder a lot and have multiple chain saws in the air all at once. I can't drive myself into such exhaustion that I spontaneously fall asleep at my computer at 2 o'clock in the afternoon (not that that ever happened today). I can't expect too much of myself and I can't ignore my limits. I can remember to be kind and supportive of myself. I can remember that falling into pieces doesn't mean I've failed, it means I just needed to release a bit of the stress. It is a challenge to find the balance of all of these things.

I know for many people, I am just preaching to the choir about managing stress and balancing everything we have going on in life. It is a challenge, but I truly believe that I will find a way to fit everything I need to onto my plate. I know I will get through all of the challenges ahead. I know I will not navigate it perfectly. But I also know that everything we are undertaking is so important and worthwhile to us that there is nothing that will stand in our way from achieving our dreams.

I am worthy


I woke up this morning with a hangover. No, not the booze induced kind. The emotional kind. The I let myself get flipped, turn upside down, which was is up kind. The feeling of going from confident and empowered to weak, confused, self-doubting and self-deprecating. This morning on my run, I had to dig deep to work my way out of the tailspin and get back on firm ground.


I am someone who is a lifelong believer in self-work. I search myself for the root of things, look in the mirror face on and continually try to be the best person I can be. I want to be the best me I can be, the most genuine, the most real. For myself and for others.

In my life, one of the things that I have had to work hardest at is not externalizing my self-worth, not depending on others to validate me or tell me I am good enough. I have learn the lesson the hard way, hurtful ways, time and time again. But as a person dedicated to self work, I have gradually learned the lesson. I have learned that the price you pay for that external validation is often too high.


Two weekends ago at the Trials, when the gun went off, I was not brimming with confidence. I didn't necessarily feel like I belonged. For the first two miles of the race, I focused on a single mantra, repeating it over and over again to chase away the self-doubt. "I am strong. I am fast. I am important." By the time we reached the 2 mile marker, the self-doubt had melted away and I was ready to just run my butt off. I knew I belonged. I believed that I was worthy. I found the validation within myself.

Since the Trials, I had not relinquished that self-empowerment. I felt excited, empowered and enthusiastic about the possibilities moving forward this year. Over the past year, I feel like I truly came into my own as a runner and with that, my understanding of myself as a runner. I was feeling self-directed and that I was training and racing the way that brought pure joy and happiness to my life. I felt free of expectations and the need for external validation. It is such an amazing feeling to wake up passionate every day about the life you are living.


But self-work is constant work and old habits can die hard. When you think you are safe, it is often the time to be most vigilant. And yesterday, I relinquished my feelings of self-worth and let others dictate how I felt about myself. By the end of yesterday, I was no longer riding the high brought on by my empowering run at the Trials, I was, instead, my own worst enemy. By externalizing my feelings of self-worth and validation, I simply moved farther and farther away from actually feeling that way. Every attempt to regain it externally pushed me farther down the rabbit hole. I could not talk myself out of it.

So when I woke up this morning, the feeling of being emotional steamrolled lingered. As Nathan and I took off on a run, I immediately started negative self-talk and self-depreciation. I beat myself up.


But as we ran, I pulled myself up short. I stopped punishing myself and being my own worst enemy. I forgave myself for relinquishing my power and my self-worth externally. I simply stopped. I realized that, despite a perception of the world being turned upside down, the world was still exactly where I left it. Nothing had actually changed except my perception of it and my perception of myself in it. Just because I was now telling myself I was unworthy, the world was no different than when I believed I was. It may seem like a very simple thing, but the way we talk to ourselves has infinite power to shape our perception of the world.

People say self-deprecating things about themselves to me all the time. They tell me they are not as good a runner, they can't go that fast, they can't do xyz and it always bothers me. I always tell people that what they are doing is amazing and it is not a matter of comparison. If 3 miles is your 50 miles, then you should feel amazingly empowered by that. To say to yourself, "I am worthy" creates an energy and power inside yourself that makes you feel like you could take on the world. Yesterday, I was reminded that whatever it takes, I need to keep the mantra replaying over in my head. We all do. Our worth is our own. And we should protect it vigilantly.

I am strong. I am important. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am worthy. 


Party like an ultrarunner

Krissy and I after her 30th birthday run

A few years ago, right after I met Krissy when I moved to Seattle, she celebrated her 30th birthday. For her birthday, she decided to get together a bunch of her friends and do 30 miles to celebrate the day. It was a blast- we had a roving aid station and I think Krissy and I cemented our life long friendship when I agreed to run around the parking lot after we came off the mountain until her watch said exactly 30. After the run, we celebrated over delicious food made by her awesome Ma!

Since that run, the birthday run has been my top priority when conceptualizing how I want to spend my birthday. Two years ago (2009), my birthday fell immediately after the WC100k, so I was unable to run 27 on my 27th. Instead, having just moved back to San Francisco, I invited some new friends out for a nice 15 mile loop: Brett, Larissa, Nathan, Will and Caitlin.

I carried a watermelon. 
27th birthday run. Present from Nathan.

I was completely fried on that run from the 100k and insisted that the others go on ahead of me (brett and larissa had to turn back early to get to work, leaving just Nathan, Caitlin and Will) and just wait for me at the top. In a sign of things to come, Nathan, whom I had just met in person for the first time the day before at Tartine, came back for me while running up Marincello. And if I wasn't swooning enough, he presented me with a watermelon after the run as my birthday present. It was cute and thoughtful and also hilarious since I then had to run home carrying a watermelon like a football under my arm. I can easily say, I've loved the Baker since I met him.

Last year, my birthday enjoyment was compromised by my running at WS100. Tapering for a 100 miler is no way to spend your birthday and ultimately it was not the most fun I've ever had on my birthday.

This year, I was bound and determined to spend as much time with friends and family, celebrate for days on end and gosh darn it, I was getting in a 29 mile run for my 29th birthday. It is not even my birthday yet (as I write this) and I can easily say, I've had the best birthday in a long time.

Bestest everest Jonathan and I at SD 100. Photo by Brett.

Two weekends ago, Nathan and I headed down to San Diego for pacing duties and to join a huge gaggle of our friends from all over while they participated in SD100 in various capacities. It was such a blast to be a part of. Nathan was pacing for Topher and I was returning to pace Jonathan once more in San Diego. Several ninjas and seattle friends were racing and my sister and Steven were down to help crew for Jonathan. Simply put, it was an event that struck serious FOMO (fear of missing out) into the hearts of those unable to attend.

I really love my sister. Photo by Brett.

We cheered, we laughed, we paced. I saw friends cross the finish line and friends make tough decisions. Jonathan had to pull out of the race due to a medical issue, so he handed me off to Larissa who I paced for a good few hours in the night. I am so proud of Larissa's finish and all of my friends who rocked it-Krissy, Topher, Rod, Yassine, Walter, Roch and everyone else I am forgetting since it felt like I knew half the field. It was like one big pre-birthday party!

Dinner at Local 360 with Krissy, Steven, Jason, Sarah and JB!

No sooner had I unpacked my bags on Monday, I was repacking them for a trip up to Seattle to visit my family and hang out with Jonathan (who was also up visiting), Krissy and Jason. On Friday night, the whole gang joined me for dinner at Local 360 which totally knocked my socks off. I loved everything I tasted and really enjoyed the thoughtful, hyper-local, organic fare.

Clearly, I REALLY enjoyed the Peanut Butter Bon Bons.

I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with family, having another fantastic birthday dinner at 50 North and running a bunch. On Sunday my sister and I headed up to Tiger Mountain to attempt the 12 summits run which is about 34-ish miles with a ton of climbing. The June gloom was doing nothing for our motivation, healing my cold or making my sister's hurt leg feel any better, so we changed our route, got lost and ended up with a nice 22 mile run.



Sarah is freezing in June, not awesome.

I went out and ran 9 more miles that evening en route to my mom's house where I enjoyed homemade pot roast, mashed potatoes and salad with my mom, sister, steven, cousin Erika, Ananda and Maya. It was great to be able to get so much good time in with my family. My life is pretty hectic and it can be hard to always feel as in touch as I would really like. I love my family intensely and am happy that I decided to come up for a visit and see them. I returned home on Monday morning, tired and with a cold but bound and determined to have a fantastic birthday week.

I had decided that since I had Wednesday off from work that I would run 29 miles for my 29th birthday. I figured that no one would be available on a Wednesday to run with me, but with Western States this weekend, I knew I would not have another opportunity. Western States is to my adult life, what the end of the school year was to my young life- totally getting in the way of my birthday!



Nonetheless, this morning, I headed out to Mountain Home Inn with Nathan and we did one of my favorite loops around the North side of Tam. It was beautiful and sunny and warm. We ran above the fog that pretty much hugged every elevation below us. It was a swift 12 miles and felt good. Originally, I had planned to grab my pack out of the car and just run all the way home through the Headlands, across the bridge. My calculations had that at a 33-34 mile run which I was fine with, but upon arriving back at the car, the temperature was about 10 degrees cooler than on our picturesque loop and the fog and wind were blowing sideways. I felt like I would be descending into a cold miserable slog instead of continuing the fun we'd been having together. So I decided, "it's my party and I'll do what I want to" and went home with Nathan, ate some food and took a nap. It was a fantastic decision and it made it easy for me to rally in the afternoon and run an additional 17 miles to get in a full 29 miles. Tomorrow, my actual birthday, I will get to run with my ninjas and continue the celebration the best way I know how: running (and then eating good food, of course)!

Today, as I ran those final 17 miles on the road, I felt completely connected to why I run. I was not running 29 miles to log miles or burn calories. It didn't fit into my training schedule or have a specific purpose, instead it was just about the act itself. I ran fast, despite the headwind, and felt free, unencumbered. That is ultimately what I love about a birthday run- it is purely about the act itself. To me, celebrating birthdays are not about gifts or attention or parties, it is about celebrating life and the journey we are lucky enough to be on.

Work/Run/Life Balance

Shirt by me (available here). Photo by Rick Gaston.

The memory of my crazy racing schedule this spring is starting to fade. The fatigue is gone, the legs rested and I am back to running. My next "A" race is not until September, so while I am doing some very hard specific work (like Wednesday tempo or hill workouts with the fast boys), I am also taking the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time on the trails, go on adventures and pace friends and family as they pursue their race goals. Sure I have a training schedule, yes I am working quite hard but something is different. Back when I was training for Houston and LA, I went to a place in my training I had never been before, pushed in a way I wasn't sure I was capable of and achieved a hard fought for goal. It was an amazing experience. But I realized one thing about myself:

I cannot exist on a day to day basis that way. I cannot be single minded about a running goal. Moreover, I will not. That is just not how I roll. 

What I mean is, during that time period I spent a lot of time contemplating whether or not I wanted to really make a go at being the best marathoner I can be. I definitely made the move in the right direction and look forward to continuing to make strides and get faster. I fully plan on showing up at the trials ready to rock. But I am not all in, not right now. To be that person, that runner, I would have to give up too much. Or at least more than I am willing to.

I have come full circle on my thought process about the runner I want to be. When I decided to run my first ultra back in 2006, it was because I did not want to center my running and life around the pursuit of an (ultimately) arbitrary goal of a specific marathon time. In the grand scheme of life, it doesn't matter at all. Not even a little bit. I didn't want to make something like that my focus. So I started ultrarunning and connected to a deeper, more essential part of my running. Sure, I have goals for ultras. Yes, I like to be the best that I can be. But ultimately in ultrarunning, there is no single quantitative measure of things like there is in road marathoning.

Photo by Pedro Martinez

Ultrarunning, with the occasional road marathon splashed in there for a challenge, is ONE part of my life, it is not the only part. When I look at elite level marathoners, I see a single-mindedness that is a central theme. By necessity, their lives are centered around their running. I have entertained the thought many a time of having this kind of life but when it comes right down to it: it is not for me. That is not who I want to be.

Who I want to be is a healthy, happy, well rounded individual. I want to be a rockstar business owner that makes peoples lives better through healthy food. I want to be a good girlfriend, sister, daughter, friend, cousin, and mentor.  I want to be an adventurer, a speed demon, a downhill bomber, a ninja, a unflappable pacer and CR breaker. I want to get lost in the woods and test myself with crazy track repeats. I want to laugh with friends over an amazing meals and grow, learn and be balanced. Balanced. That is who I want to be. I have always balked at defining myself or labeling myself, but this is one label I would happily take on. As I get older, I realize that self-definition for me is no longer a way to seek out who I am like it was when I was younger, it is a way to express who I am.

Balanced. Life is too short and to precious to be anything but.