About Sarah OUaL

Just a normal girl with an abnormal blog about life, running, and all the trainwrecks along the way. An uprooted small town Ohioan living the good life in SoCal where everyone is faster, blonder, and richer than me. Sadistic marathoner, skin cancer survivor, baseball lover, [good] beer drinker. Married to an Ohio boy who loves #3 and #4 even more than I do.

Gary Jordan 10k, an Homage to Cocky Competitive Sarah

How to PR a race without training:

Have a shitty “best” time that’s easy to beat.

The 10k is a race I haven’t spent much time with. It’s just never been real appealing to me. It’s too long to be FAST and too short to warrant a day of indulgent eats/drinks like I look forward to after halves and fulls. I’ve run the 6.2 mile distance five times in five years, and only once as an actual race effort. (where I royally shit the bed after a night of no sleep and traveling, running :01s/mi faster than the half I ran a month earlier.)


10k pain faces from last year’s Cleveland Marathon

But, when you’re visiting the homeland and mom offers to pay your registration because she just loves running and wants to spend a Saturday morning ‘together’, you suck it up and run the dang stupid not-short/not-long race.

But also, when you’re visiting the homeland and other friends are in town from out of state and there’s a wine tasting and dear friends you haven’t seen in ages at the tavern up town… you suck it up and suck a few beverages down, too.

10k is going to suck either way, what’s a little (worthwhile) hangover on top of it?

After almost bailing on account of “rain” (slash dehydration) mom and I rolled out to the start where I bumped into every single person a small town could throw at you : former babysitters, employers, Junior High basketball coaches, my senior Government teacher who dated my good friend before he got the job (awkward), the cross-town softball rival he’s now married to, old drinking buddies, old crushes, old foes. All of whom still refer to me solely by my former last name.

That “everybody knows everybody knows everybody’s business” I hated ten years ago is so heartwarmingly quaint now.

Probably because I’m not doing shit I don’t want people to find out about anymore. Troublemaking teenage Sarah did not love “heartwarmingly quaint.”

Anyway, after catching up with people in the fieldhouse bathroom line, trash talking with the football coach, and shoveling half a granola bar down my throat we jogged over to the old decrepit middle school for the start. My uncle was on the megaphone trying to give last-minute instructions to the chatty crowd. My 8th grade math teacher lined up next to us, who is still as crush-worthy as he was when we were giddy preteens. Mom half-laughed when I said I was gonna go take a nap in the gym and would just see her at the finish. A couple hundred people collectively fiddled with headphones and watches, and with the blow of an airhorn we were off.

gary jordan 5k 10k road race fb

syke this is from two years ago stolen from the race’s FB page

Other than my brain feeling like it was sloshing around in my scull and permanent dry mouth, I felt ok. It was lightly misting and the air was perfectly chilled thanks to the overnight rain. There was still a good size pack when we went through the first mile marker, where my best friend’s brother-in-law (who we went to senior prom with as a group dates) called out mile splits.

7:28, 7:29, 7:30…

I distracted myself before my brain could do anything crazy with that information and freak out. I chose to run watch-less again after the 4th of July 5K worked out well without one, and didn’t care to know how fast or slow I was going. After a few too many Dortmunders the night before I’d committed to just slogging through these miles for exercise, not for competition.

But isn’t that always when someone comes up on your shoulder and eases just a few steps ahead of you? Taunting you, just asking to be chased?

Before the sloshy brain could object, my feet started hitting pavement a little quicker. The faster cadence was a welcomed change and my breathing was still controlled. After a few minutes playing shadow I made a move to pass, right at the second mile marker. She looked super fit, a “worth opponent” – home brings out the old cocky competitor in me – and slightly familiar as I gave her a nod and took a turn in front. Without music I could tell she was still just a few steps behind me and not losing any ground. I spent the next two miles thinking about nothing other than not letting her pass me.

We made the out-and-back loop and on the way back I smiled and said “good job, keep it up!” to literally every single person that ran past. Except that government teacher, who decided to walk just as I approached and got a ruthlessly taunting earful.

I was feeling better and better with each mile, and managed to make some space on the “opponent” behind me. We headed back into town and I set my sights on a blonde ponytail in front of me. I spent the next mile slowly trying to close the gap, still feeling pretty good, and when the 5 mile marker came into sight I finally decided to race. I crept up within a few feet of her, and realized it was Mojo Jess. She was cruising so smooth and looked like she was out for an easy run. I finally came up beside her, really starting to feel the effort now but brainwashed by the competition. I said hi, ready to push hard for the last half mile, and after a “hey” and “wait, what the fuck?!” after she realized it was me, she went with me.

I was really starting to hurt but couldn’t get dropped after working so hard to pick her up. Plus I didn’t want to look like a wuss. We ran side-by-side, her pushing me faster than I wanted/thought I could, and when the track came into sight I made one last push, determined to finish strong in front of my hometown crowd.

I forgot we had almost a full lap on the track.

Hahahahahahah it was ugly.

It was worth it though, I crossed in 46:16, a new PR by 90 seconds and 3rd overall female. Credit has been issued equally to visor girl from the early miles (who I later learned was the younger sister of a girl I played sports against all growing up), Mojo Jess for pushing me when it started to hurt, and the Dortmunders from the night before that somehow turned to magic potion fuel in my body.

Ohio, you’re so good to me.

gary jordan 10k winners

young OUaL caused a little chaos in those bleachers once upon a time

gary jordan 10k trophy

The simple strategy of running an “honest” race – controlled at the beginning and pushing with whatever’s left at the end – has worked really well this month. I’m very proud of the effort I gave at this 10k and the July 4th 5k, and hope the “hang tough” mentality I’ve found sticks around. I’ll get another chance to test it this weekend in Eugene, which I expect over the course of 13.1 miles will be more about hanging on for survival than anything else.

Hopefully Oregon has a magic potion beer of its own I can fuel up on.

ahem, Emily?

Sarah OUaL

The First Race “Back”

On July 4th I crossed a finish line wearing a bib for the first time since… December? November? Whenever it was, it was too damn long ago.

hb finish with mom

momma oual, too! sub 25, a PR, and 2nd AG for that cool lady that made me

What kept me away from racing so long? Well, the nagging hip tendinosis, for one. As I cautiously progressed (and regressed, and progressed again) through the pains of “recovery”* – I was determined not to rush back. I wanted to feel 100% better and put this injury crap behind me before moving forward.

*new doc/treatment in the works

But mostly? When I finally sat down and honestly asked why I was dragging it out so long?

I was scared to be tested.

It was so easy to use the psuedo injury as a scapegoat every time someone asked what I was training for, or if I wanted to go for a run, or why I was still carrying those five extra “zero miles” pounds.

“Oh, I’ve still got this hip thing… trying to be smart, you know!”

“You guys go ahead, I’m just running slow… out of shape from the recovery, you know!”

smith rock fleshman jasyoga

telling LF and jasyoga to seriously please for the love of oxygen depletion go on without my recovering/outofshape ass a few weeks ago at Smith Rock

I wasn’t ready to have something validate just how far away I’d slipped from my old self, and in turn, how much work was in store if I wanted to get back there.

Coming back is tough. You have to accept that the you of old is now a far off goal, that those easy runs you used to breeze through are now going to feel like long runs. Paces you used to run will seem unattainable. And just when you start gaining some momentum and feeling good, an evil little voice in your head will say, “yeah, but remember when you used to run that fast twice as far??”

You always hear that a person should never compare themselves to someone else, only to their own best self.

Well fuck if you think that’s going to help me at all right now.

Going into the 5k – not only my first race in more than half a year but also my first hard-effort run in nearly that long – I had to figure out a way to motivate myself without setting myself up for failure. So many times our we stack up races against past performance, with our obsession of PRs taking the holy grail of success.

So what do you do when that unrelenting neon clock is so eager to quantify your out of shape, on the mend self vs. that Best Self you’re told to/not to compare yourself to?

Well, I don’t have an answer, because I was still pondering it and grasping at secondary goal straws standing in the corral that morning. When the gun went off I said “fuck it” and just ran.

And actually, I ran pretty well. You know, for Current Self.

hb thumbnail

*mental note to replace with full download once they send it <source>

I didn’t wear a watch. Well I mean I did, because security blanket much?, but I didn’t use it. The first mile has a slight decline, and when I saw the split time I let it roll over my head without processing.


(it actually said 7:22 but I was :14 behind gun time and thank god because I’m pretty sure seeing a 708 would’ve made me poop my pants)

The course is out-and-back and the leaders started coming through… I busied myself studying every single one – who looked smooth, who was grimacing, who looked hungry – until lead female passed and I gave her a “GO GIRL!” We made the hairpin turn and I gave myself a gold star for getting to the second half with some life in my legs, air in my lungs, and a few smiles to toss at mom and Tiffany when they ran by. We hit the mile two marker (missed the clock) just as that nice decline from earlier turned into a final mile gradual climb. It’s probably only 40 or 50 feet of climbing, but when it’s stretched out in a straight shot in front of you and your out of shape body has suddenly hit red line, it hurts.

I chugged and chugged and chugged, every time my brain thought “this hurts” I made it think about how my arms were swinging or my footfall. I told myself this is the beauty of the short races – digging deep and gutting out the final stretch when your body’s screaming NO FUCKING MORE YOU LUNATIC! I might have slowed down, but without a watch barking paces at me all I had to judge on was how hard it felt like I was pushing.

It felt pretty damn hard.

Mile three came into view and I realized that this was the win of the race. I was wrung out and completely at my ceiling. I eeked out a “GRANDMA!” between wheezes, made the turn, and begged my legs for one last gear through finish.

They didn’t have it. And actually, that’s fine. Great, even.

HB Surf City Run 5k

HB finish

HB results

Because even though I didn’t run near my fastest time, I know that I ran as fast as I could that day. And maybe that’s the secret. Not comparing yourself to your Best-Ever Self, but your Best-Current Self.

“Just because I’m not in the place I want to be doesn’t mean I can’t race like the champion I am inside… I felt a weight lift off my heart that gave me one more gear. This is who I am. Winning or not.”

-Lauren Fleshman, Peachtree 10k Recap

Yeah, I’d like to get back to PR form and feel like the fit “real runner” I used to claim to be. I don’t know how long it will take to get there, but it makes the mountain seem much more surmountable knowing there’s room to claim a few summit flags up along the way.

hb summit

… ok the analogy has gone a little too far I think. <source>

So, in the spirit of theoretical mountain summiting and literal running, I’ll be running a 10k in Ohio this weekend. One more step in the right direction.

And then the half in Eugene on the 27th.

^^^ damnit, Eugene, I can’t quit you!!!

Sarah OUaL

Carpe Something

Blog posts I’ve written in my head and never got around to pulling to fruition:

  • Why I’m not Racing During Injury Recovery
  • Update on Said Recovery
  • How to Grow Out Your Pixie Cut
  • Good Run Leads to Race Registration Binge, Despite “No Racing” Rule
  • … Not Training for Said Binged Races
  • Day Date Trip to San Francisco (not running related)
  • Shit, All Those Races are Right Around the Corner
  • Day in the Life of a Traveling Sales Rep (not technically running related)
  • Suddenly Remembering How to Long Run!
  • Random Adventures with Three Generations of Conklin Girls (mom + gram in town) ((partly running related))
  • Surf City Run 5K Race Report

Shelf life: EXPIRED.

Maybe I’ll circle back around and touch on them someday – at least a mention of the 5k and some shameless bragging about the long run – but other than that, the desire to share, share, SHARE has been waning. I’m less compelled to grab my phone and live-tweet adventures, update the blog with run progress (or lack thereof), and just generally have found a lot more satisfaction in relishing moments on my own or sharing them with people I’m with-with.

Am I outgrowing the internet? Or just too lazy to write?

san fran pop up beer garden

but where would you show off drinking-under-the-freeway-in-san-fran pics if not for the ‘net, oual??

Oddly, during this digital identity crisis I had two run ins with blog readers at very non-blog’y places: out with girlfriends at a dive bar down the street from my house and at the bar I work at. I was caught off guard having the internet show up in my “safe places” (not that I didn’t enjoy meeting you, Janelle and guy-who’s-name-the-tequila-made-me-forget-sorry!) and blabbed awkwardly about OUaL’s vacillating status as if we were discussing the merits of buying vs leasing a car.

Just let it die or sit your butt down and bang the keyboard till something comes out, doofus.


When I saw this tweet from Sally, it was like finally finding a word that’d been stuck on the tip of your tongue for ages. I turned 28 last month, which in some circles feels OMG ANCIENT (working at a bar, living in Botoxtown, USA), some circles super naively young (dear friends with mortgages and babies), and in the case of my small Midwest hometown, 10 years behind the curve (see a combination of the above).

… and doesn’t necessarily apply to the aforementioned life/death of this blog, but I couldn’t come up with a transition so just roll with me, ok?

I don’t want to call it a quarter-life crisis – yes I optimistically plan to live to 112 – and I don’t want to wane on anymore about leaving Corporate America for patchwork part-time work. But it’s hard not to feel a little unsettled during this time, which I think (/hope!) is normal for your late-20’s. As per Sally’s timeline, I’m running out of ground in the ‘Finding Yourself’ portion of the life race, with ‘Knowing Yourself’ peaking its head over the distant horizon. “What do you want to be when you grow up??” suddenly has URGENT! TIME SENSITIVE! stamps on it after laying harmlessly in the wings for so many years and it’s freaking me the fuck out.

surf city run 5k

I don’t know what I want to be but one more finish line seems metaphorically good enough for now

I’m about 99.2% certain the answer to this is not on the internet (ugh, finally something I can’t Google,) which is maybe why I’ve been spending less and less time there. No offense. You’re all still super special little rays of sunshine in my world, you figments of my internet imagination world.

But with each baby announcement, dire health diagnosis, eulogy of someone gone too soon, engagement/divorce, happy anniversary, another holiday away from home… the magnitude of Life (excuse my dramatics) weighs down. We only get one, you know! Life, that is, not all those other things. Although, hopefully, some apply as well. And while my single small little being is very unlikely to have any substantial meaning to the world, my only job is to make the most of it – however I wish to do so.

I don’t HAVE to qualify for Boston, or have a baby, or move back to Ohio to be near family and friends who get older every day just like I am. I don’t HAVE to seek out an alternative career path, race the local 5K till I puke, or go to the dentist for bi-annual cleanings like they say to. And I don’t HAVE to write about any of it to share with the WWW if I don’t want to. These are all choices I get to make, and all I hope is that I keep making the ones that set me up best for the “Knowing Yourself” and “Being Yourself” phases Sally’s talking about to be supremely kick ass.

And after all that, OUaL’s blog status is even less clear as it was before.

Alright, forget everything I just said and pretend this was just a check in to say hey.

Hey, internet. Carpe fucking diem.


Sarah OUaL