Takeaways from Oiselle “Bird Camp”

aka The Things I Brought Back to Real Life With Me (in my brain, not my bag)

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photo credit

About a year ago, Oiselle Team Manager KMet sent an email about a “summer camp” for their current ambassadors (the “Volee.”) They promised beautiful scenery, lots of miles, and more nuggets of intel from smart active people than you could possibly fit in your skull. For the price of an all-inclusive, unlimited umbrella drinks and gorge-worthy buffets tropical vacation, you could spend five days in the Oregon wilderness running until your legs fall off with a bunch of people you kind of know ‘from the internet.’

So… obviously I was in.

I joked all year when people would ask what I was training for, that Bird Camp was my “A-Race.” (even though at the time there wasn’t actually a race involved.) Having August 13th circled in bright red marker kept me going through the dark days of half-injured hell, knowing that I wanted to be as healthy and fit as possible so I could take full advantage of all the activities the Ois crew had in store for us.

July was the test, with a 5k, 10k, and half marathon all on the schedule after not racing at all since November. They went pretty well, (Eugene Half recap coming, maybe) and I was encouraged by the life I felt in my legs again. Even though my weekly mileage was barely breaking 20, I hadn’t done a speed or hill workout all year, and the five extra injury pounds were still hanging around, I boarded the plane to Bend, OR with more excitement than concern. Mileage budget, get the eff outta here! Let’s have some fun!

* In an effort to keep five days of recapping somewhat legible and not mind-numbingly tedious, I’m going to section out each activity with a brief synopsis and takeaway (and photos, duh.) If I can’t share my runner’s high and heart-bursting joy from the trip with you I will at least share what I learned. Decent consolation prize?

Oiselle Bird Camp

original photo cred fitnessfatale

Travel/Arrival

Coordinating flight plans with Nicole was an A+ move. We’d met before but hadn’t spent a lot of time together, and chatting with her about camp expectations, running, and life in general was a great way for my mostly introverted self to ease into the full-on social deluge waiting for us in Bend. Plus I had someone to drink and share tots with on our layover. (plus Robyn who joined later)

bird camp welcome

cred Nicole, Katie

Takeaway: Just like running, big scary social events can benefit from a little warm-up

Guest Speaker: Linsey Corbin,

After a very gracious welcome from Sally and the Oiselle team, we got our first dose of celebricizing with Ironman Champ Linsey Corbin. Nothing could’ve set the tone for camp better than hearing from a badass American Record holder about dreaming big and not selling yourself short. She talked about moving back home to Bend, where a new coach and top notch support crew pushed her to (and past!) the “dreamy” career goals she never really thought were possible. In June at IM Austria she not only set a new American and course record, but PR’d in all disciplines including her first sub-3 Ironman marathon. That’s a 2:57 marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112. Yeah, that got a big awe-stricken round of applause from a room full of runners. Chatting with her was a big highlight for me – she’s so down to earth but the pride in her accomplishments is evident (and well-deserved!) I think over-humility is somewhat of a pandemic in the endurance world – like, own that shit, people! You earned it! – so it was refreshing to hear her talk about her success with esteem.

(p.s. She has some pretty rad videos on her YouTube channel)

linsey corbin lauren fleshman

Takeaway: Anything is possible if you put in the work and aren’t scared to lay it all out there

Meditation with Jasyoga

Yeah, I know, kind of hooky-sounding. I never have, nor have I really had a desire to meditate, but just like their approach to yoga, Erin and her Jasyoga crew have it figured out. Laying in a comfortable spot for five minutes, breathing deeply to “realize allllll the capacity you have for your work”, and setting an intention for the day instead of just being a “walking reaction to your surroundings” put a whole new outlook on what was ahead. Not hooky at all.

meditation

Takeaway: A few quiet minutes of conscious thought about who/what you want to be/do sets a great tone for the day. (Omm and crazy folded pretzel poses not required)

Activation Exercises/Dynamic Warm-up with Little Wing

If Lauren Fleshman told me to spin in 10 counterclockwise circles and howl like a monkey before every run to increase performance, there’s an 85% chance I’d do it. I’ve heard how much of a game-changer a proper warm up can be, and I was looking forward to seeing first-hand and with guidance just how to do them. Lucky for you (and me because I already forgot them and needed a refresher,) Oiselle posted the whole routine on the blog:

Little Wing Dynamic Warm Up

little wing dynamic warm up bird camp

bottom pic cred Sally

Takeaway: Investing five minutes before a run will pay mucho dividends to how you feel AND perform

“Optional Running”

All the itinerary slots for “optional second run” made me chuckle at first – I am NOT the type to jump at every chance for a few extra miles, and with my lacking fitness I figured those would be “chat/blog in your room” times. But the energy was contagious and the Deschutes River Trail was just steps from our resort (Seventh Mountain, if you’re curious), so I went out for short 20-30 minute runs every chance they came up. Unsure whether credit is due to the power of peer pressure or trail pressure more…

deschutes river trail bird camp

Takeaway: When people and soft, beautiful dirt paths call, freaking answer

“PT for Runners” with Jay Dicharry of Rebound Physio

Jay is the man responsible for keeping all the Bend pros (seriously look at this list) healthy and at the top of their game. He gave a great presentation on how the moving body works best, what happens when we get all bound and jacked up, how to “un-bind” it and keep it that way. The analogy of bound muscles reacting to static stretching like tugging on the straps of a straight jacket was an “a-ha” moment to the true benefit of foam rolling, and convinced me to go back in for more body work to get this hip crap sorted out. He talked a lot about the importance of posture while running (and the strong core required to maintain it), and made us do these toe exercises that I’m getting charlie horses now just thinking about. I’m guilty of stupidly overlooking the feet as an important component of running, just like I’m probably half a year late on rotating the tires on my car. *timeout to schedule appointment* The other real eye-opening point he made was about turnover==>speed. The 180 steps/min guideline for “ideal” cadence is generic and not an end-all rule – however you can apply the most force to the ground, with the least amount of contact time, is how you’ll run most economically and therefore successfully.

jay dicharry

Jay’s book that I just ordered for myself, and a sketch I made that I’ll probably let him use for his next cover if he asks nicely

Takeaway: For guaranteed running improvement, strength train 1x/week! High intensity, mid-weight, explosive exercises (2-5 reps, 2-5 sets) will build fast-twitch muscle fibers, creating more power, which will convert to speed. High rep/low weight builds muscle endurance, which is what running does, therefor a little redundant. Build power for improvement.

“Nutrition for Runners” with Stephanie Howe (Western States 100 Champ, Exercise Physio PhD candidate)

I had a volleyball coach in high school who was a top-notch student of the game, but self-admittedly could not perform any of the drills or tasks she asked of us. While I respected her as a coach, I always found it easier to take guidance from someone who really “got it.” Stephanie is that person. Not only is she crazy smart with published studies and papers and a lot of letters after her name, girlfriend WON a 100 mile race by practicing what she preaches. She talked about calculating metabolism, the “ideal” breakdown of Carbs/Fat/Protein for endurance athletes (depending on off-season/in-season: 45-60%/25-30/10-35), and the importance of nutrient timing for exercise.

Other “hot topics” touched on: diet fads (eat whole foods instead), importance of fat (helps body absorb vitamins, tastes good!), protein complementing for vegetarians (because non-heim plant-source iron not absorbed as easily/fully on its own as animal protein), fueling early and consistently during exercise (simple sugar every 20min keeps blood sugar stable), and, because it was a room full of women, the risk of amenorrhea in athletes and how to manage it (not caused by exercise in itself, low body weight not always a factor).

 stephanie howe luis escobar

(I sat too far away for a good pic – so this one from WS100 by Luis Escobar will have to do)

Endurance by Stephanie /// Western States Recap

Takeaway: Eat healthy, eat normal. Take in calories within 30 minutes of hard exercise – even if you don’t feel like it! – to start recovery process

“Goal-Setting” with Lauren Fleshman

As someone who unsuccessfully chased a time goal and let it completely debilitate my spirit for the sport, Lauren’s talk hit home HARD. She explained the difference between “obvious goals” (run a marathon, BQ – adopted from others or generalized standards) versus meaningful goals that matter to YOU. If your only answer for “Why do you want to accomplish that?” is “…because everyone else is doing it” then your goal is garbage. Spend time deciding why an “obvious goal” matters to you, or throw it away and find a new, more meaningful one.

Lauren told her story from the 2012 Trials, where an injury and limited training kept her from showing up at her best with a real shot of making the Olympics. Instead of not running because “what’s the point if I’m not going to make the team?” she redefined her version of success. Maybe she won’t make top three, but she could gut through the prelims and at least try to make the final. The race played in her favor and she ended up taking the last qualifying spot, advancing to the finals and achieving her amended A-goal. Even though she ended up coming in dead last in the final, she said it was one of the races she’s most proud of in her career. If you haven’t seen the post-race interview, watch it now:

2012 Olympic Trials – Lauren Fleshman 5000m (Flotrack)

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worksheets from the new! 2014 Believe Training Journal (presale info)

Takeaway: Set your own definition of success! When adversity hits, recalibrate, share your new goal, get people on board with you

Deschutes Twilight 5k

Oh baby, I don’t think this race really knew what was about to hit them. 100 Oiselle singlets STORMED downtown Bend for the Thursday night Twilight 5k hosted by Deschutes and Footzone, and it was freaking awesome. Just over 550 people ran, so you can imagine what a herd our bright blue singlets looked like in the crowd. Riding the bus from our resort I felt like I was back in high school on the way to an away ball game – surrounded by teammates, the intoxicating blend of nerves and adrenaline filling the air as we all chattered away about goals, pace plans, and the beer waiting at the finish.

 Deschutes Twilight pre-race

cred (clockwise): localelite, hollytris, oiselle

As with my other races this year and per the lessons learned in LF’s seminar, my only goals were to run a race I was proud of, and finish ‘on empty.’ Ditching the GPS has forced me to run solely on effort instead of herky-jerking my way through according to what the numbers on my wrist say, and I’ve come to love the newfound data-freedom. For longer races I get the need to stay reigned in and on plan, but for short gut-wrenchers I think going on feel wins. Personally my head can’t see a pace and not freak out over 1) gahh must go faster! or 2) gahh how will you ever hold on to this?! Jasyoga told us to stop being a walking running reaction, which I’m sure they meant in regard to life as well as to GPS watches.

During mile one I wanted to run comfortably fast, where I could eek out a short full sentence if needed. Mile two pick it up a little, so breathing was fast but still controlled. Mile three just build, build, build with whatever was left, wringing every last bit of energy out so there was hardly anything left for a finishing kick. This is what I envisioned during cat/cow at pre-race yoga – ‘breath in (cow)… wring it out (cat)…’ – and it totally worked!

Running the whole time surrounded by Oiselle singlets, and hearing the cheers of the fasties (we had seven women in the top ten!) through the chute just capped off an already terrific race.

Deschutes Twilight 5k start kburnsgallagher

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Deschutes Twilight 5K race

(all cred Kelly who was top-notch race photog for the whole team)

5k pace plan from lauren fleshman

Lauren’s suggested 5k pace plan I jotted down earlier in the day

Takeaway: There’s a lot more to ‘team’ than the matching jerseys. Also 5Ks are my favorite kind of hurt and the GPS can go to hell for anything shorter than a half marathon.

Hiking Smith Rock

The last time I was in Bend we went out to Smith Rock after the trail half I hastily signed up for was cancelled, and I thought running “just seven miles” there would be a lucky reprieve from a race I wasn’t really ready for. Unfortunately the Burma Road climb (one mile and 1000 ft elevation gain) nearly killed me and I couldn’t walk right for five days afterwards. I think I still have a little PTSD from that run.

THIS TIME, I was looking forward to soaking in the gorgeous views without worrying I was also sucking in my last few breaths of life. Not that “Misery Ridge Trail” was totally reassuring, especially with a long run scheduled for the next day, but what the hell. When in Bend!

Fleshman went over our three route options – the hardcore 7+ mile Burma Road run, 4 mile Misery Ridge hike, and a flat out-and-back along the lower canyon – we broke off into groups and were off!

Smith Rock Trail Guide

smith rock

smith rock1

(cred oiselle)

smith rock2

smith rock misery ridge top

(cred barijoy)

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Takeaway: Revisit something that’s burned you in the past with a new approach and open mind – you might surprise yourself. Also, Oregon is fucking beautiful.

Jasyoga for Runners

Erin and her crew were on site all week for morning meditation and restorative yoga sessions. I truthfully don’t think I could’ve gotten through camp feeling as great as I did without them. Their approach to yoga is different from traditional, as it focuses on sport-specific mobility, not just stretching and bending as far and awkwardly as you can. I always leave my gym yoga classes sore and worn out – Jasyoga had me feeling refreshed and limber after every session. Lots of calf pumps, IT band “unsticking”, hip and chest openers, and a strong focus on maximizing your breath, which they call our “most powerful and accessible tool.” I wish every runner could have a live-in Jas Yogi. Gamechanger, for sure!

Yoga for Runners on the Oiselle Blog

jasyoga bird camp

(cred jasyoga, sarahchan)

Form Drills and “The Dozen”

Like dynamic warm ups, form drills are something I’ve heard everyone “should” be doing, but never got a good grasp on what exactly they are. I watched a flotrack video of Galen Rupp doing them once but that weightless little freak of nature made it look too impossibly easy I didn’t even want to try. Lauren and Kate weren’t any less super-human, but at least with them talking through each step and a bunch of other newbies around I didn’t feel so silly “pawing the ground” on B-skips or giggling through bounds. I’m pretty sure they said to do them a couple times a week – which I’ll be doing before late night runs until I don’t look quite so awkward and uncoordinated.

(some of the drills we did are shown nicely in this vid by Fleet Feet Columbus)

The “Dirty Dozen” is a set of exercises that Dr Lesko swears by for runner ‘bullet-proofing.’ One round of 10-15 reps each, 2-3x/week, will target all those important and oft neglected stabilizer muscles we runners need to stay healthy and fast! They will also leave you panting face down on the ground after. Ok maybe just me.

The Dozen

form dirty dozen

Brennan busted me taking a back bridge break, FastK8 with the prettiest stride in the universe (cred longrunergy)

Social Media Chat

Social media is a big part of Oiselle’s brand and creates a very unique two-way communication stream to their customers and fans that’s important to them. While not all online activity will stem into signing Lauren Fleshmans or teaming up with Christy Turlington, we group-chatted about how we as the Volee should be utilizing it for meet ups, connecting with the new Flock members in our areas, sharing feedback on products, etc (these new capris are my JAM!, the new birds tank fits a little more snug than last season’s – anyone else?, how badly does the charcola show sweat?, etc)

And, because it is the internet, we discussed how to handle stumbling over negativity. I made a clumsy analogy about garbage on the side of the road, which Sally smoothed over nicely with a story from Adam Goucher and Tim Catalono about “feeding the right wolf”… Good save, Sal.

Takeaway: Haters gon’ hate

just kidding

REAL Takaway: Good begets good, evil begets evil. Surround yourself with positivity and bookmark this for backup.

Elite Q&A Panel

The only bummer about camp was that Kara Goucher wasn’t there. I’ve been working really hard at my celeb-paralysis, and was looking forward to seeing if I could string together two or three sensible words in front of her without embarrassing myself. But, thanks to technology (yay, internet!) we were able to Skype her in for a Q&A along with Lauren, Kate, and Stephanie. It was real cool to hear them all talk candidly about everything from diet, to recovery, to stopping to poop during a race, to race-eve sex. Girl talk on a whole ‘nother level, folks.

elite qa panel oiselle bird camp

Takeaway: Unanimous agreement that glass of wine or beer a few nights a week has a nice place in training schedules

Fall 14 “Looksie” + Design Process with Sally

The method behind the madness of anything is fascinating to me, but hearing Sally talk about not only the inspirations of her designs (a public library turns into running tights, how?!?) but also the processes all those drawings and dreams go through to become something with a price tag on it… Gives a whole new respect for what goes into each piece I saturate in bodily fluids every day (or so.) Everything from fabric dyeing to factory selections to wear-testing had the room’s full attention. Afterwards the new Fall line was on display for people to touch, feel, try on, and ask questions about, and a few hints were dropped about cool products in the works. Even as a rep who has spent more than my fair share with the line – and has now moved on to next season’s line – it was fun to “ooh” and “ahh” with the group. Like going shopping with 100 girlfriends!

fall14 vfreile

cred victoria

Takeaway: Start saving your allowances, and clear a lot of space on your holiday wish list

Long Trail Run

As a notorious long run hater (yes, I still claim that presidency) I was least excited about this agenda item. Unsure of my fitness, without a plan, and with a newfound “bubbly gut” problem (-were we not advised to drink the tap water?-) I showed up Saturday morning like, whatever man, I’ll just follow the group. The trail is an out-and-back, so if all else fails I’ll just bail early or walk back if needed.

The majority of camp – probably 50 or 60 women – casually headed towards the river trail, chatting away. I got a little sense of panic, like there should be a corral system or pace flags or what the hell am I getting myself into?! Did I even ask any of these people around me how fast or far they’re going?

I looked around the little group we’d formed, which I admittedly ended up in out of comfort (Nicole, Robyn, and Holly were somewhat of a social security blanket for me all trip.) I made a conscious effort going into camp that I wanted to venture out of my little circle and get to know as many new people as possible. As a closet introvert this was a high task, especially in the overwhelmingly huge group settings.

But here in this little pack of ten that seemed to fall effortlessly in sync together, out on the quiet trail? Jackpot.

We stopped a few times – ratio of 3:1 pics:pee – and by the time we hit the aid station around mile four I felt like a new person. The trails were gorgeous, my legs felt light, the conversations were easy, and I was no longer bothered by not having a plan. As we sipped our Nuun a few other groups joined us, and we took advantage of the coolers for a self timer app group selfie:

LR bird camp

lr group shot

(trail action shot cred Paulette)

The groups whittled down further, and I stuck with Catherine, Emily, Cindi, and Kimmie. We turned around at five, somehow all coming to an agreement we’d be happy with 10 for the day. It hurt and was tough – the trails definitely more technical and challenging than my pavement feet are used to – but I get why people dig being off the grid. Even if every time I looked up to enjoy the scenery I nearly faceplanted over a rock.

We finished tired, spent, and banking on the rumored healing benefits of a post-run Deschutes dip. I swear I’d resign LR Hater presidency if every weekend run was like that.

LR group

LR river bath hankorange

(cred hankorange)

Takeaway: Move to Bend, retire from LR Haterz

Camp Finale Celebration

Some things that happen at camp, deserve to stay at camp. There was beer, tacos, dancing, and a million laughs. The perfect sign off to five days with new and old friends.

Takeaway: Lauren’s husband Jesse may have more fangirls than she does, and Dr Lesko is a topnotch party starter

* * * * *

Overall, Bird Camp was a rejuvenation. I left feeling full of joy for running, fiery inspiration, and extreme gratitude at being able to not only participate in this retreat but being a part of the Oiselle family. The care and thoughtfulness that went into planning every single minute of our trip exceeded every expectation ten-fold, and the camaraderie amongst the team was infallible.

I want to give my sincerest thanks to Lesko and her team for pouring so much of their hearts and time into turning this dream into an incomparable reality. To Fleshman and the Little Wing girls for so proudly showcasing your home to us. To Jasyoga for keeping us refreshed, focused, and moving freely. To all the speakers and panelists – Linsey Corbin, Jay Dicharry, Stephanie Howe, Kara Goucher – for taking time out of your busy schedules to share your expertise with us. To the sponsors who kept us fed and beveraged – Wild Friends, Krave, Picky Bars, Nuun, Brew Dr, and Deschutes.

And finally, to Oiselle, for instilling this everlasting spirit of running love into the world. Whether fighting to rebuild a broken governing system or creating the perfect running short, you’ve proven that with enough scrappiness and desire, all things are possible.

Already counting down ‘til next year…

Sarah OUaL

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.)

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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.

7:08

(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