oiselle

The Physics of Vulnerability

Laughably what the actual fuck

Laughably what the actual fuck

If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability. Fortune may favor the bold, but so does failure. Once we fall in the service of being brave, we can never go back

Apparently, the blogs of the month of March are my Brene Brown inspired ones. Last year, after what I thought was a super terrible March, I pulled out my copy of Rising Strong and reminded myself that I was brave and strong enough to bounce back from the things that that went on during that month. Last night, I went back to the shelf and pulled out Rising Strong once more. After an intense weekend, that ended badly for me both physically and emotionally, followed by the continuation of an unrelenting stomach super villain, a heartbreaking email in which someone reflected to me that they actually thought the things that are my very worst fears that people think of me, and then my car getting towed, I knew it was time. In fact, it was laughable clear. As we stood outside the car tow place, waiting for my car, I joked, "I better not stand outside too long or a bird will probably fly along and poop on my head". Let's just say, if the message hadn't already been clear after months of struggling intensely with some things, it was definitely clear now: I'm face down in the arena.

But this year feels different. I am not struggling against it, resisting the space I am occupying currently. While I often feel despair,  I am not despairing. Because for once, I actually and genuinely believe in my own ability to survive, to return to thriving. There was a moment on Sunday where things had devolved for me to the point that I was sitting on the floor of a shitty casino trying to charge my phone so that I might be able to find a ride back to Vegas back from Parump, Nevada where I had spent the previous evening in the ER. I was wearing the previous days clothes which were covered in the stench of the results of my food poisoning, blind because I had to take my contacts out and had none of my belongings with me. I was sitting there, feeling physically terrible, emotionally wrecked that I had let my team down and then casino security walked up and yelled at me to move on and that there was no sitting on the floor of the casino. In that moment, feeling raw, hurt, and full of shame, I just started laughing. Laughing hard, thinking, "this is some shit isn't it". The situation made me feel sad and angry, but it did not make me feel defeated.

Photo by  @enduroTwerd  crew zen master and Parump savior.

Photo by @enduroTwerd crew zen master and Parump savior.

I didn't come into this past weekend's adventure with the Speed Project and Oiselle's Bird Strike team as my best self. I was already worn thin by the past few months of personal struggles. I worried that I would have the emotional bandwidth to stay strong for my team, I was unsure of what weight I would be able to bear. I knew that things would get hard and ugly at some point, I just hoped that, perhaps I would not be nominated as tribute. I also knew that teams are my jam and I love being a part of a team, I am motivated by it, I want to do everything I can to lift my team up. Unfortunately for me, my name was called in the reaping. First, my foot and ankle both decide in implode in a way I had not yet seen in my months of injury and then, I was struck down by food poisoning, severe dehydration, and eventually a trip to the ER. I was able to run through the first half of the race, knocking out 24 miles. I was 6th runner in our rotation, which meant, given our strategy, my miles were backloaded towards the end of the race. I had to tap out and burden my teammates with more miles. I felt terrible emotionally for that, gutted actually and I still do. Initially was going to go whole hog into crewing and motivating, but was reduced to not being able to even sit up. I was fully unable to be present in the experience in any way and that really makes me sad. Its not just about putting more miles on other people, for me it was about not being able to support them at all while they were doing something so incredible and so tough. 

Photo by  @enduroTwerd

Photo by @enduroTwerd

Fast forward to yesterday, standing in the car town lot, face down in the arena. I could feel sorry for myself, have a pity party about life's suckage levels, wallow, resist, refuse to continue. But instead, my mind wandered back to the weekend and to my BirdStrike team. The second half of the race was a brutal crawl across Death Valley and into Vegas. It was hot, it was flat, the miles were adding up, everyone was tired and there were like a billion miles left no matter how many turns the runners took. It would have been easy to feel like it was all too much. But that is not what they did. Instead, each of them, Sarah B, Sarah O, Cathleen, Collier and Nora, with the crew by their side, got out there and did as much as they could when they could. Time after time, they got off the RV and did another mile, another two miles. They did, whatever they could, little by little, to continue to advance towards the finish line. It was inspiring to see, even if I couldn't even raise my head (without barfing) to tell them so or cheer them through it. And I return to that idea now, to help remind me, that even though I feel an impossible distance from where I want to be, I simply have to keep moving forward even if it is just a few steps. They were unrelenting and so can I be. They did not give up, nor will I. They were not alone, and neither am I. 

Brene Brown

Brene Brown

In my own life, I am out there like my team was in Death Valley. Out there, somewhere in the middle, where it is too far in to turn around and not yet close enough to the end to see the light. This is a messy space. An in progress space. A ripped raw and exposed space. A vulnerable, often times ugly space. It is also a space, despite not knowing how to fix some things, despite having no idea what things can be saved and what things will be lost, that I know I have the endurance to survive. I am grateful for my teammates for their display of grit, unrelenting perseverance and steadfast refusal to give in. I take that now with me as I rumble and as I hopefully rise.  

 

First Pancake- Caumsett 50km National Road Championship

"Beyond the mountains there are more mountains"- Haitian proverb

"Beyond the mountains there are more mountains"- Haitian proverb

I've written a lot of blog post beginnings over the last 3 months time since my last post. But they have never really resonated with me enough, or my feelings have changed the next moment, or my perspective has shifted. 5 months of my life has past with this still never diagnosed definitively, hard to understand, persistent foot/ankle injury. I spent 10 weeks not running and then the remaining trying to rebuild. But even in that rebuild, things were never straight forward, it was never easy. I had to wake up every day and figure out "what am I capable of today". For every three steps forward there were 17 steps back, left, right like some sort of sadistic samba that I was perpetually out of beat to. It was like a game of whack-a-mole that just would not end. The highs and lows and spaces in between meant, eventually, that I had to really focus on my perspective. I had to relinquish the "return to run" idea for the "return to health and able-bodied functioning". I had to let goal of races and goals and plans and be humbled. I had to face my own running mortality. That may sound to some very somber to some, but I see it instead as a very positive mental shift. I stopped seeing my injury as some plot point on a heroes journey that would inevitably bring me to some triumphant return and be wrapped up in a neat little perfect package. I started seeing my injury as simply the obstacle that I was currently tasked with working through. Sure it hurts and sucks, but life is indeed a series of obstacles, large and small. Obstacles are not only to be expected but embraced.

"The things that hurt-instruct"- Benjamin Franklin

"The things that hurt-instruct"- Benjamin Franklin

I had to change my perspective and my thinking. I had to turn around my injury and find some benefit, turn it into fuel. I had to stop giving lip service to honoring where you are, and really BE, in the moment, in whatever capacity I was capable of. I had to stop thinking about what I wasn't capable of and start finding out different ways of moving forward. Mostly, I had to stop beating myself up over what I wasn't capable of and start celebrating and executing the things I was capable of. Instead of being paralyzed by sadness every time I had a setback, I had to find a way to feel the grief all while "working the problem". I focused on my mental game and owning my own power and control over the situation. Over time, I felt like even though the samba didn't stop, I was starting to learn the steps and tricks to keep time. 

There was never a distinct moment in time when I went from injured to not injured. Even now, I classify myself as "returning from injury" and every day I wake up I have to make an assessment of how I feel. It wasn't until the last week in January that I even felt like I was on a very loose "return to run plan" and that plan included running flat mileage, with minimal climbing, no trails, no speed or workouts. Plus about 950 PT exercises every day, group fitness classes at Fuelhouse in Seattle and grinding hours on the stairclimber. Even as the mileage accumulated, I still felt like I was returning to health, not returning to running. I didn't see the obstacle as overcome and behind me, and so I carefully and methodically, just did what I could. And celebrated each step back.

First long run since October and an icy dip in Lake Washington to boot. With Cathleen.

First long run since October and an icy dip in Lake Washington to boot. With Cathleen.

In all of this, I had races and adventures looming, big goals that I hadn't wiped from my slate but that I was able to also hold lightly, knowing I was not in charge of this process. During the second week of February, I did my first real long run of substance since October. I ran 17 miles with my #birdstrike teammate Cathleen, as we tried to build our mileage for this week's Speed Project 3.0. I felt great, I had no pain. The next week we ran 20 miles pain free, even after having a few bad days in between with pain. Over the course of February, I had to change my perspective on what it meant to feel fit, to tell myself I was fit. I again stopped looking at what I wasn't doing and instead focused on what I was doing: miles, strength, yoga, mobility, PT, radical self-care, nutrition, sleep. I was on point, building myself back up without a whole lot of glamour or big sparkly wins. I was just grinding, working. And I found joy in that. I saw progress in that. 

After a fall and winter of having races on the calendars and then missing them, it was with some trepidation that I kept Caumsett 50km, the USATF road national championship, on my calendar. As it loomed closer, I made an important decision: I was going to run it. I felt that despite the fact that my training was not yet what I wanted, hell I didn't even do my first workout until the week of Caumsett and my longest long run was a week before the race (as well as 11 miles shorter than the race itself), that it was important for me to get back on a start line. I didn't want to make my transition back to racing a huge pressure situation or an A goal race, I wanted it to be something for me, a symbolic moment of transition, of liberation from this obstacle. A week before Caumsett, I said to a friend about her own race, "you have nothing to lose and nothing to prove" and as I journeyed to New York to race, I realized that this was not just true for her, but for me as well. Win, lose, fast, slow, it didn't matter- I had made it to a race and for that I was just grateful and filled with joy. I was free of expectations because I was able to be real about my fitness and speed (or lack there of). I suffered no nerves and instead just lined up curious to what the day would reveal.

First pancakes are still delicious.

First pancakes are still delicious.

Before the race, I started calling this my first pancake race. I feel like I want to refrain from explaining this because if you don't understand it, you just need to make more pancakes. The gist: you gotta start somewhere. And a lot can happen. So I showed up in New York and let it shake out.

Post-race glow plus a side of freezing my ass off.

Post-race glow plus a side of freezing my ass off.

Caumsett was indeed a tasty pancake. We were treated to an unexpected cold burst, with temperatures in the mid-teens BEFORE accounting for the wind, when it had been 60 degrees the week before. I nearly didn't pack any cold weather clothes at all since when I had looked at the weather report the week before the low was going to be about 40. Running in that kind of cold was actually a benefit to me since it further encouraged me not to run outside of myself since that kind of brutal cold affects performance by a good 3-5% (according to the internet). I bundled up, got on the line and bang, off we went. The course is a 5km loop, repeated 10 times. I was quickly left in the dust by last year's winner Caroline Boller and this year's eventual winner, as I got moving around 7 min pace. I just wanted to find a pace that felt good and maintainable. I wanted to see where the end of my endurance was at a quick but not suicidal pace.

It was very cold, but I settled in to a rhythm and cranked along in 3rd place, happy to be feeling good and pain free. And like I had been for the past few months, I just kept grinding. Loops passed, my body held. Around lap 4 or 5, my mind tried some games on me, but for the first time, instead of indulging the thoughts or getting emotional, I just said, no thanks, reframed and kept myself in control. I choose positive or neutral. I said, yep, these middle loops are boring but we are not going to occupy this space with problems that don't exist. Let's just stay present and keep chopping, keep working. I practiced some of the mindfulness techniques that I've been utilizing while using the Headspace app over the last many months, but instead of counting breathes, I counted laps and they dwindled and dwindled. I simply was able to fly free. With two laps to go, I was informed that unfortunately Caroline had to drop and I had moved into second place. While in other circumstances, I might have been enticed to try and chase down first (who I had no idea how far ahead she was), I took it as an opportunity to just keep grinding, or like Dori in Finding Nemo, "just keep swimming, swimming, swimming". My pace stayed strong, my energy held despite taking only 4 gels in the whole race and I allowed the experience of each step to fill me with pride. I split the marathon in 3:10 and didn't back down from there, despite the fact that the wind had intensified. I ran my 10th lap with joy, with gratitude. I ran that 10th lap for myself and everything that I overcame to get there. I crossed the line as the clock dared to touch 3:46 (3:45:56 or some such business). 2nd place in the national championship. My first pancake showed me that yes, I am going in the right direction. Yes, I am healing. Yes, I can run without pain. No, I will not return to where I was, I will in fact arrive somewhere else as someone else completely. 

This race was not a perfect ending to my injury story. It didn't neatly tie it all up and cue the music and credits. It was a step, it was progress. It was moving the line. It was a celebration. If there is any great take away that I have from this injury and this part of my life's journey, it is this: be deeply connected to the process, not the prize. As Ryan Holiday says in the "Obstacle is the Way:: "Process is about doing the right things, right now. Not worrying about what might happen later, or the results, or the whole picture."

Cultivating Badassery

Mile 25.8- Head up, Wings out. Photo by Andrea Duke

Mile 25.8- Head up, Wings out. Photo by Andrea Duke

Badassery: 1. (noun) the practice of knowing one’s own accomplishments and gifts, accepting one’s own accomplishments and gifts and celebrating one’s own accomplishments and gifts; 2. (noun) the practice of living life with swagger : SWAGGER (noun or verb) a state of being that involves loving oneself, waking up “like this” and not giving a crap what anyone else thinks about you. Term first coined by William Shakespeare.
— Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

On the way to Houston, I started listening to Shonda Rhimes' book "Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person" which is narrated by the author herself. Listening to Shonda's journey in rumbling and rising strong was incredibly inspiring and confirming. I would have yelled "YES!" outloud numerous times if not for the embarrassment and confusion that might have caused in a crowded airplane or airport. Her work was yet another in a long line of books that have been helping my clarify, hone and amplify my vision of what I want to accomplish this year and who I am working to become. When the above quote wafted up through my headphones, it was a stop the presses moment. I listened to it over and over and over again. "Yes" I thought, "Yes to this. This is it". I immediately hit pause and pulled out my journal to revisit my 2016 goals. In big bold letters I wrote at the top of the entry "Cultivate Badassery". Those words captured everything I had been trying to describe below them. Those words are my fight song.

But the words also mean more to me than just that. "Cultivating Badassery" is also about the challenges I pursue, the way I face adversity, how I rumble with my feelings, how I rise strong. It is about pushing myself to my limits and putting myself out there. It celebrating where I am as well as putting energy and movement into where I want to be.

On Sunday, I ran the Houston marathon and didn’t run the time I set as my goal, but I was smiling until the end. I went in to run the Olympic Trials standard of 2:45, even though I had already decided not to run the Trials and instead focus on trying to qualify for Western States 100 at Sean O'Brien 100km on February 6th. I had let go of the Olympic Trials as an "A" goal when I decided to run Javelina 100mile. I knew that running 100 miles was incongruous to running a fast marathon, but I am also cheeky and decided to make a try for it 10 weeks post-100 mile anyways, 10 weeks that included 3 weeks of major sickness and the holidays which are the most incredibly hard time of the year at the bakery. But I lined up anyways, open heart, open mind. Curious to see where I am right now as I kick off the year. 

Smiling, waving and a Michael Jordan tongue wag for happiness. Rolling with the 2:45 pace group. Photo by Andrea Duke.

Smiling, waving and a Michael Jordan tongue wag for happiness. Rolling with the 2:45 pace group. Photo by Andrea Duke.

I made it 20 miles on pace, then my hamstrings decided to stop working. I cannot really be suprised by this as there is no opportunity to run on that amount of flat in the Bay Area. I wouldn't expect myself to be able to run up and down big hills in a race if I didn't train on them, so I can't expect my body to sustain a repetitive use of a single muscle group either!  But I was happy. Just to absorb the day, be there. I saw where I was and instead of beating myself up for what I wasn’t, I celebrated what I was. In progress, imperfect. A little bit extra, a little bit not enough but always actually just right for now. It is liberating to say “today was just my day to be on the road, the journey”. There is no defeat, no failure- just information, just lessons. How fascinating to live a life through the lens of curiosity instead of grasping to outcomes! Letting the experience roll over me like waves and through my fingers like water. I lifted my face to the sun even as my body failed me and smiled. The sun, the wind, the capability of a body. That moment. Not a victory, not perfect but wholly enough. Filled with badassery. I chose my framing of an imperfect experience, I chose happiness- that is badassery.

Don't get me wrong I fought like hell to run faster, to hold pace. I said YES, MORE, GO when my legs resisted. I fought and fought, until I knew it was not my mind’s willingness, just my body’s lack of adaptation to flat. I accepted it. I embraced my experience and smiled on. I passed many women in those last 6 miles and as I did, I noticed the looks on their faces- sad, disappointed, angry. I encouraged them, invited them to run with me. Seeing their faces, their pain and disappointed just confirmed to me that on this day, I would choose joy. I've been in their shoes, I struggled with my running for 2.5 years while getting the bakery going, never satisfied with where I was, always wanting to be somewhere else. It is a terrible way to live and this year, I chose acceptance. Of myself, of where I am.

Smile! Photo by Jorge Maravilla

Smile! Photo by Jorge Maravilla

Accepting where I am doesn’t mean I am not excited to continue to move towards where I want to be. Better, fitter, faster, wholehearted, contented, full. But I can relish the steps I take in life and realize that I didn’t need to get somewhere to be myself. Feeling like a badass doesn’t mean I am perfected, it means I can lean into my flaws and say, yep, I have wrinkles and that’s ok. It means saying, I don’t know where to start or where to go. And that’s ok. It’s enough to be ok. OK is still whole, not broken, not incomplete.

A work in progress that is showing amazing potential. Lament not what is left to do, improve, become, embrace, face or walk, it is all steps on the journey. And the journey is imperfect and that is enough. We are enough, we are badasses just as we are, wherever we are in our own journey. 

Birds of a feather, fly together.

I have had nightmares (some real, some imagined) my whole life about spending extending amounts of time with large groups of women. It was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I set out for Oiselle's annual bird camp this past Friday-Tuesday to be held in Leavenworth, WA. I was excited to meet and spend time with many of the Nest, Haute Volee and Volee, the majority of whom I have either never met or have only known through social media. But let's be real, I was nervous. Would they like me? Would they accept me? Will I fit in?

Colchuck Lake. Photo credit Oiselle!.

Colchuck Lake. Photo credit Oiselle!.

I kind of chuckle to myself now that I was even nervous because I wouldn't be on this team or a part of this "run family", as Sally calls it, if it wasn't made up of accepting, sweet, strong, beautiful, interesting, badass women who many of the same fundamental principals (all beautifully summed up in the Oiselle Team Manifesto). In fact, the experience didn't just exceed my expectations, it was problem the most satisfying four days in a row I've spent doing anything for a long time. 

It's all fun and trail games until you bust a hole in the side wall of your tire. Lauren Fleshman is one tough chick!

It's all fun and trail games until you bust a hole in the side wall of your tire. Lauren Fleshman is one tough chick!

And these days were not magical because of some over the top production or bought experience. It was the people, the experiences we shared together and the community we got to build and deepen. We got to run with different ladies from all over in extraordinarily beautiful setting, we ate amazing food at our retreat location Sleeping Lady, we enjoyed smart, funny and insightful talks, we got to sit down together as a Haute Volee TEAM and discuss how we continue to grow and support each other across disciplines. I loved being able to spend time with women who inspire me deeply and are my "sister-heros" and connect with women of all abilities, backgrounds and experience. 

Colchuck Lake.

Colchuck Lake.

I walked away from these few days absolutely inspired and happy, having learned a great deal from each and every person I had the pleasure of spending time with. 

This is what I believe. Oiselle makes the most amazing clothing for female runners. Watching nearly 100 women walking around in every stitch the brand makes all weekend really brought this home. We looked fierce, all of us different shapes and sizes, and put together and ready to run, hike, bike, chill or take on the world. We witnessed some design ideas that were so excited I think our minds were all blown. Oiselle's product game is on point. But as a brand, they are much much much more than that. They are trailblazing towards a new paradigm in women's running. They are changemakers, who want to see the sport evolve, grown, deepen and include. They want to build a community that accepts us all, from short to tall, from 100m to 100 miles (or less or more!) to throwing heavy objects or jumping over things, that supports us, that drives this sport in the right direction with passion and love. 

My twin from another mother and soul sister, Dr Dre. Photo Andrea Duke.

My twin from another mother and soul sister, Dr Dre. Photo Andrea Duke.

I don't just believe this, I witnessed this in action this weekend. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of #birdcamp15 and to be a part of the Oiselle run family. I cannot wait to see the heights to which we can soar together.

2015: Finding my wings


Sometime in December, will working on my daily late night baking shift at MHBB, I was listening to Ultrarunner Podcast's Year in Review to fill up the quiet space that fills the bakery. I was catching up on the year in ultrarunning in part because of my inability to participate in ultrarunning and competitive racing in general  during 2014 because of work. I was listening, laughing to myself, saying a few "finally!"s out loud and getting excited about getting back on the scene in 2015.

At one point, host Eric Schranz pondered as he discussed the new sponsors entering the MUT world, "I wonder when we will see our first Oiselle sponsored ultrarunner?" There in the dark, I yelled, "let it be me!!!" And today, I am happy to announce, it is. I have joined the Oiselle family and am stoked to be a part of such an amazing stable of athletes. I look forward to the opportunity to introduce the ultrarunning world more throughly to not only their amazing products, but their approach to supporting the sport of running.

I have been a fan of Oiselle for years, watching the grow, develop their products and build an amazing community around the sport. Witnessing how they have built a culture around their athletes and running has made me want to be a part of the brand. Yes they make great clothing, but I wanted to be a part of the inspiring work all around they are doing in running. I have been following many Oiselle athletes such as Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher and hands down I find the way they are telling their story, participating in the running world and fostering a "F' yeah"fan girl feeling about running is absolutely inspiring. Oiselle's approach makes me excited about participating in the running community, it makes me inspired to want to foster that same spirit within the MUT world of which I have been a part of now for 9 years. They have inspired me; I stand at the startline now with Oiselle mantras in my head "Head up, wings out. Go FAST, take chances" and they are there in my head because it resonates with me, it moves me. As I step back into competitive racing, there is no one else I want standing behind me, supporting me and helping me find my wings. I am very excited to see what we can do together, I am so thrilled to be a part of it.

Also in 2015, I will be joining the Julbo team. My pale eyes require almost constant sun protection and Julbos are an absolutely essential part of my running. I am excited to join such a fierce group of mountain athletes!

Sponsorship is just one part of the puzzle for an amazing 2015. Since starting our bakery in 2013, I have both patiently and impatiently waiting for things to settle down and stabilize so that Nathan and I would be able to compete again. I have held back my running goals and dreams and run what I could and tried to compete where I could. I waited, my passion and excitement for races building and building. I am hungry to compete again, I am hungry to discover how good I can be. I look forward to the opportunity to push myself and stretch my limits. 2015 will be a year to challenge myself at the highest level against the best competition. So without further ado; my 2015 schedule.


  • Surf City Marathon-February 1
  • Napa Valley Marathon-March 1
  • Crewing:Gorge 100k-March 28th (Nathan)
  • Two Oceans- April 4
  • Pittsburgh Marathon-May 1 (potential training race)
  • Comrades- May 31
  • White River- July 25th
  • Altitude training CO- mid July- Leadville
  • Leadville 100m- August 22nd
  • Fall 50- October 24

My two big focus races are Comrades and Leadville, all of the other races are secondary and subject to change. Like my much faster, tinnier twin, these two races have absolutely grabbed and inspired me. I am going to do everything in my power to be on those startlines in the best shape of my life. I look forward to the work and the challenge ahead.

The year ahead is exciting. I can't wait to emerge from my little cave where I have been working and toiling away. I am inspired and passionate about my plans, my sponsors and my running. I cannot wait to see what I can do.