Tuesday, August 30, 2016


There is something simple and yet profound about life and movement. Having witnessed several births I see the very thing we need to do to be born. We need to extend and stretch. After spending 9 months in a fetal position we have to take a risk and move the exact opposite direction. There have been various articles posted about the benefits of vaginal birth from a bacterial perspective, but I am also curious about the nervous system. How does a vaginal birth trigger our nervous system? Potentially stimulate future movement patterns? As a doula I understand that c-sections have a time and place, but what if we aren’t addressing something that could prevent them.

I am going to jump around a bit and I don’t yet have the information or research to say if my thoughts are correct, but this is worth looking into. There have been more and more articles coming out that sitting is the new smoking. Sitting is bad for our backs, probably our brains too, basically it’s not good. As a Pilates instructor I understand why. We hunch, we take on a fetal position again and extension, let alone standing upright, becomes nearly impossible. Our spines need to move for the health of everything from our brain to our pelvic floor. So let’s say for a second that you’re newly pregnant and that you sit in front of a computer 5 days per week. What impact does this have on the baby inside you? Again I’m not condoning people who sit, shoot I do! But is it possible that a mother’s posture could impact their baby’s posture? I work with midwives who refuse to let a mother sit during labor. If they need to rest they can lay on their sides, squat, or come to their hands and knees. What if this was taken more seriously during the 9 months preceding labor, would labors be shorter, less likely to involve posterior positions of the baby? Or maybe it would just allow mom to feel more confident and empowered by being stronger, more upright, etc.

Kids can easily whip themselves into a backbend, but most elderly individuals can barely keep their shoulders over their hips. You could blame gravity, but you can also blame posture, chairs, cars, and inactivity. It also seems like we grow complacent, we stop extending and stretching. Clearly our brain triggers this response in utero and maybe we need to keep triggering that response in the world. Is this why doing a backbend on a daily or weekly basis makes people feel more creative, inspired, and alive? Is this why kids easily do them randomly throughout the day?

I am a bit of a postural geek. It’s my job. In an effort to experiment I have decided to give up sitting in a chair for a minimum of a week. Unfortunately I will still be sitting in a car from time to time. But I will squat, stand, and maybe do a few backbends to see what this does to my posture and nervous system. And no I am not pregnant, but I am very curious of the impact movement patterns have on our kin.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Thank you, Mom

It’s been a week with two births. As a doula I have seen a wide range of labor experiences. I see differences in empathy. I have seen the mental overcoming the clinical, doubtful, and even the impossible. Unfortunately I have also been witness to harsh comments, unnecessary hostility, and negative thoughts and environments. Birth can be empowering or traumatic. Either way the moment of birth lives with a mother. You can forget pain, you can foster strength and resilience, but that moment is there for a lifetime.

I became a doula when I helped deliver my nephew in my sister’s bathroom while the midwife talked me through the steps via telephone. That moment changed me. I saw my sister, my nephew, birth, life, and challenges in a whole new light. For the first time in my life everything stopped and I knew what I needed to do, support my sister. I wasn’t thinking about anything else in those minutes. That bond to little Griffin, to my sister and brother-in-law, is a depth I cannot put to words. As I said it changed me.

Since that time I have been part of births that either make me compelled to be a mother one day or scared shitless. As much as one can say it’s beautiful, unfortunately no, no it is not. It’s real. It’s messy, it’s tough, it’s intense. It will forever change a mother’s body and life. It’s the most authentic, selfless, and rawest event I see. And for those reasons one may call it beautiful. Regardless of the terms that describe labor, being witness to it makes me appreciate and love my own mother even more. Bringing life into this world is no small task.

To my mother, and to all mothers, thank you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

World 50K Championships

I learned a lot on Friday.

At first I kept thinking only if I hadn’t stopped at the aide station so frequently, only if I would have ate more, slept more, stayed focused more, only if... then my race would have manifested differently. But the reality is that it’s always easier to say that on the opposite side of the finish line.  Bodies are fickle and it’s impossible to know if anything would have turned out any differently on Friday. It was an experience, it was memorable, and for that I have nothing but gratitude.

Doha, Qatar was a long way from home. It was my first time traveling really far for a race. I had a 16 hour flight to Dubai. In Dubai I used the gym where I got a short run and shower before having a short flight to Doha. I was purely exhausted by the time I arrived, early Tuesday morning (I left Sunday afternoon from SFO) and nearly broke down in tears by my overwhelming lack of sleep and realization that I was really far from home. I felt this urge to turn around and go straight home, but instead I tried my best to accept the uncomfortableness.

I quickly found that I wasn’t adapting to the 11 hour time difference and started to just stay up at night and do my best to sleep during the day. I got shake-outs in around 5am while hearing morning prayer, than grabbing a bite, and trying my best to sleep and getting up around 4pm to repeat again. In my six days in Qatar I only saw the sun on two days for a brief stint. It was a weird life style, but I just rolled with it. The biggest problem was that in those nighttime hours I only snacked and didn’t get a good quality meal. I tried my best to eat more at dinner, my breakfast, but it’s really odd to have tacos or pasta first thing in the morning. And then at breakfast, my dinner, I got a lighter meal of eggs, potatoes, and fruit. In the end I thought I would be okay, but in retrospect I should have forced more calories down even if my appetite said differently.

That was one very valuable lesson. First and foremost, never skimp on calories before a race, ever! Even if you’re jet lagged and don’t have an appetite, eat!!! I learned the hard way what happens when you don’t get enough food the days before a race, you fade and you fade hard. Trying to get more calories 25K into a 50K in a race just won’t cut it. By the time I realized my energy was zapped it was too late and I had to slowly accept my mistake. It was painful, but inevitable. Note taken.

The teams stayed at the Torch, which is a 5 star hotel with crazy lights and heavy air conditioning. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I imagine it’s kind of like that without the alcohol and gambling. It was great given that the race started and finished directly in front of the hotel. I didn’t sleep particularly well the night of the race or better said the day of the race, but I was eager to get going. The race started and I went out comfortably in ~6:20 pace. This felt reasonable and I imagined I would be able to sustain it for the 50K. I kind of fell into no man’s zone being about 30 seconds behind Camille Herron (eventually winner by a landslide) and a few minutes in front of the chase pack, but I just tried to stay focused and in my zone. It worked for about 5 laps and then I got hot, like really hot. I told the wonderful folks at our aide station that I needed more calories, ice, and salt. Starting on the 6th lap, I pushed a huge bag of ice into my sports bra, took an extra SaltStick, and extra calories in my bottle. That worked for a lap and then I needed them to pour water down my back and give me coke for some extra energy. In my heart I knew I f’d up. I knew that chase pack was going to eat me up. No matter what I did in those final laps there was no fix, I fought, but suffered those final laps.

On the final 5k loop, I really didn’t know if I would make it. I could tell I was slowing significantly. I made it, but when I crossed the finish line I couldn’t stand on my own and I instantly got sharp shooting pain into my neck. I was kindly aided to the medical tent where I spent the next hour, unable to lift my head. They gave me fluids and checked my neck, which they said was being caused by dehydration. That was a first, but given that it resolved 48 hours later I do believe that it was just pure lack of fluids. It also took me over 5 hours to pee, so I am guessing the heat also played a part in how things unfolded during the race. After more fluids and a hot shower I rallied to spend time with the US team at the Shake Shack, enjoying French fries and milkshakes. And then some of us followed that up with a mock tail (really expensive drinks without alcohol).

There was no doubt I was disappointed with my performance, but I’ve been around the block enough to know that you’ve got to except what came to be, learn from it, and move on. At the end of the day, I raced in the very first IAU 50K world championships, my very first world championship, met amazing people, raced my fastest 50k, and I had an experience that will last a lifetime. It was glorious experience that taught me more about myself, this sport, and life in general. I actually learned that I like 5K circles. I don’t mind running on tiles (although I do prefer trails). I really love being part of a team. I know some amazingly talented runners and people (team USA you're amazing!). I hope to come back next year and do it again (although I said the exact opposite when I first finished).

I want to send a huge thank you out to Susan Dun and Craig Field for taking such amazing care of me and the team before, during, and after the race. They were critical to the USA team and without them I think I might have just turned around and caught a flight home. I also want to thank Craig’s daughter, Alicia, for reminding me what this sport is all about. It was truly an honor running a 5K the morning after with her. When she asked me about my race she said, “I know you were in 2nd, but 6th is amazing too.” Thanks Alicia.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tamalpa Headlands US 50k Trail Championships

“Take care of your body it’s the only place to live.” – Jim Rohn

Things in life and running are hardly ever linear. If they were they would be boring, but predictable. There have been many times over the past two years where I questioned what I was doing in running. I was putting in the work to see such small results if any. There were many months where I wasn’t running like myself. Last year at the Mountain Champs I could barely run and then the following weekend I was a mess. My legs weren’t my own and I grew anxious that with every workout or race I would continue to feel the same way, incapable. It’s not a fun place to be, but I just kept telling myself things would come together, patience, patience.

There were clearly multiple factors, low iron, maybe overtraining, mindset, general fatigue, focus, but something started clicking this year. I finally feel like myself again. Of course I am human and I still have days that are difficult and thank goodness for my training partners and heart for giving me the confidence to persevere on these days. But overall I have been feeling pretty darn good. I am extremely grateful for the momentum and confidence it’s been worth the wait and the tears and frustration.

Some of this momentum has grown from throwing my anxiety out the window and doing what I know how to do, run. Last week before the US 50K trail champs I grew nervous and even wondered if I should race. I realized I was getting ahead of myself and worrying about the potential outcomes. As the race approached I focused on trusting my training, my strengths, and my love of the headlands.   

I had a plan in the back of my mind race day, but the biggest thing was to stay focused and in the moment. I knew the race might go out fast and I was willing to sit back and run my own race. Megan Roche took it out and Emily Harrison and Tracie Akerhielm followed her up the first climb at Muir Beach. Before the climb I was running with them but decided to back it off a few notches as 7,300 feet was still ahead. I had many scenarios in my mind for how the race may go, but none of them had me taking the lead at mile 8. I felt really solid for the first 17/18 miles and then the climb up Cardiac hurt and then the climb up Steep Ravine kicked my arse even more. I guess having not run a 50K in over 17 months came into play and maybe I needed to up the calories a bit too. It’s the first race where I got cramps in my calves with a few miles to go. I stopped and tried to walk, but that made it worse, so I just kept running. It wasn’t until I saw the finish that I realized I was going to win my first Trail National Championship! 

It was a powerful moment. I felt such gratitude and hopefulness. That win was more than a win. To be honest I can’t even express the emotions that I felt crossing the finish line. All the hard work had carried me to that moment and now I can continue to move forward.

In life and running nothing is linear, but the chaos is well worth the moments like these. For anyone struggling through something remind yourself to be patient, this world and sport require it.

A huge thank you to Sam Robinson for being there for me in my frustration and joy.

Photo credit of John Medinger.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Be Creative Folks

Part of the reason I run is the conversation, the creativity. I have learned the hard way that you can run the fun out and find nothing more to say. Or you can change up the route, the workout, the moment, and be inspired. I've spent a fair amount of time training when I felt crummy, wasn't all that motivated, but my tenacity kept me putting the miles in. Most of these runs were so-so, I didn't feel any better or worse after them, but I definitely didn't feel inspired either. On the other hand by running with people and carrying on certain social interactions (even if they're just in my own head) I've noticed runs soar by as if I had never really been running. I've found the simple act of acting like an artist during a run allows me to be creative with routes and workouts and more connected to what I am doing.

I can be bit of a science nut when I want to be and there is clearly a mind-body connection here. Yes I teach yoga, pilates, and work as a doula, so I do have my hippy vibe too, but don't be too fooled as I am quite grounded in what makes all of these work. Stay with me. Cortisol is a stress hormone while small amounts are good for performance too much can wreak havoc. It's what are body produces when we get anxious and overwhelmed. I see it most readily at births. If a mother can stay calm and focused she'll be less likely to have spikes of cortisol and less likely to feel the need for drugs and interventions. You know what else cortisol does? It crushes creativity. It literally shuts down the right side of your brain. Your brain and body goes into survival mode. There is no doubt that running can trigger over production of cortisol. It probably has the potential to give one that extra drive to win a race or set a PR. Unfortunately it can also potentially inhibit these as well. Ever go out for a race and lock up in the first few miles? Ever go out to the track with a split in mind and get frustrated when you can't seem to hit it? Do you feel better when you start focusing on your breath? Do you feel more at peace when running on a new trail? That's hormones!

A few days ago Outside Magazine came out with the article Running on Empty. It's definitely worth a read and a big issue for the endurance runner especially those pushing the envelope. Towards the end of the article they've quoted Mike Wolfe in regards to overtraining, "I believe in the mind-body connection... I've often wondered myself and others having worked so hard for so long at some point the mind quits before the body and just says, 'Enough.'" Anna Frost a few years ago speaks about getting to a very low point and how she was running without the love of it in this beautiful video by Salomon. She says, "it took a long time before I got out a pair of shoes again to go and do what I love and not just go and run." To me this is exactly the missing link, when running loses it's sense of creativity we are running on empty. We aren't inspired and we're hurt, tired, drained, and just plain exhausted.

By focusing too much on the outcome we lose our creative spirit. How many times have you been out on a run and so focused on a future race that you've missed the experience of the run you're on? I can say I have been there. The problem is that getting fixated on an outcome is more likely to heighten anxiety and stress. The best runs and races in my life have been the ones where I am present. It's probably asking too much to make all runs inspirational, but I have made an intention of this in 2015. This morning I had a foggy run with my friend Linn in Redwood Park. We took a very typical out and back route, but what we shared in that 60 minutes left me inspired. She told me about a friend of hers who said, "much of our suffering comes from wanting things to be other than they are." I would take it one step further to say that suffering is a loss of creativity, of being playful, and in the moment. When we can be open to a process regardless of the end result we can open up a whole other side of our brain. We can move without fear and explore our true potential. Be creative folks.