Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Running a segment of my race, in Oregon on one of our family camping getaways.

Get your kicks on Route 66! This was such a fun virtual race to participate in. I know many of our race plans have been derailed since covid has taken over our lives, but virtual runs have their perks. I’ve been racing with Yes.Fit lately, and have really enjoyed what it has to offer. I just downloaded the app and connected to my Strava. It syncs and counts my runs each day toward the race of your choosing. They have loads to choose from–my last one was The Rocky Mountain National Park 115 miler, Route 66 is my second race with them. It is pretty cool; they have a map that follows each of your daily runs. It gives ‘viewpoints’ on the map of where you ended that day. Along with the viewpoints, there are little historical or interesting tidbits to learn along the way. You kind of feel like you are actually on the course they provide, except you can wake up whenever you want, run when you can, and run as far as suits you in a day. The only person you are racing against is yourself. I have enjoyed setting time-frames to try to complete it, ones that will challenge me. While I do run every day, this has helped motivate me to run longer distances each day, sometimes doubling up on my runs in a day. I even got my non-runner husband to join and participate.

A viewpoint of Route 66.
A little over half-way!
An example of how Yes.Fit shows information about the route.
This race took me 8 days to complete!
Not bad views from various trail segments of my race.

They provide great swag, by the way. I have kind loved the last two medals I have received. It makes it feel more official, but they are also pretty cool. I absolutely loved the shirt I received with this race, as well. It is athletic material that is great for running.

Honestly, it has been nice to get a little extra kick to run. It’s been rather inspiring seeing how people around the world are solving the roadblocks that the virus has set in our paths. While it is motivating, I do miss real races. In the meantime, you can find me on Yes.Fit.

5 Tips for Long-Distance Running Muscle Care

Water.

Drink a lot of it. That’s it. Consider this a friendly reminder about a topic you surely already know. It may seem obvious, but is often overlooked or forgotten.

Electrolytes.

When you run, you sweat. In that sweat are important minerals like sodium, magnesium, and potassium. They keep your body functioning like it should, and your muscles are no exception. I take an electrolyte tablet after each run, but considering the long distances I do each day, I also supplement additional magnesium and potassium.

*magnesium is best taken before bed as it will also help you sleep. It relaxes your muscles, which aid in sleep. If you have ever had restless leg syndrome, it will likely knock that out pretty quickly, too.

Foam roller.

Hit up that IT band as it gets tight from all that running. No doubt muscle unbalances can occur when one does the same sport over and ver; the IT band gets its fair share of use in running. You can buy your own foam roller or make your own. I will do a separate post about how I made mine, and various adjustments that can be made to suit what you prefer. Foam rollers can be used for much, much more than IT band tightness. I’ve used it on my calves, back, butt. It works wonders. You want to hit those trigger points and rest on them. It kind of hurts, in a good way. Like running.

Massage gun.

I just learned about massage guns a few months ago. I absolutely love the one I purchased. They are spendy, though. Be prepared to spend no less than $130. Some are much more expensive. But, these things work. Mine comes with all these different bits that you can change out depending on what you are massaging. You can adjust the intensity, building up to deeper tissue levels. It works great on tight, hard to get muscles in your neck, or the fascia in your foot. I hit the knots in my calves on the daily. It freaking hurts, but it’s worth it.

Massage Therapy.

If you have access to massage therapy, it helps loads when you find the right masseuse. It can take some trial and error to find the one that works for you, and that can get expensive, but if you have the money, patience, and time to fine someone that knows and listens to you, it can make a world of difference. When we lived in Thailand I would go twice a week. When we lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina I would go every other week. Currently, I employ my husband.

Those are my tips that I live by in my running life. Let me know what you do to keep your muscles working in top shape!

Frost 2 Flowers Virtual Half Marathon

A few months ago, while Covid cases were lower and few new cases were arising, I signed up for the Frost 2 Flowers spring race. It had been scheduled for the actual spring, but then was rescheduled and pushed back for July 18th. I was pretty excited to sign up for a real-live race with other humans and all that. But, alas, Idaho opened everything back up and large spikes in the virus started on the daily. The race directors had to do the responsible thing and make it a virtual race. While slightly disappointed, it wasn’t unexpected and if we have learned anything from Covid, we have learned that whatever plans you may have made are not guaranteed and you personally have little control over what your community, country, or world choose to do that may impact your plans.

There are perks to running a half marathon virtually. You can choose whatever day you want to run it. You can sleep in. You can drink your coffee and finish said coffee whenever you feel like it. You can run a familiar course. You can get it done early, you can get it done late. That’s another thing Covid has taught us; we DO have control over our schedules. That’s a bit liberating.

There are also a few downsides to running your own half marathon. I will never set a personal record if I’m not immersed in a crowd of competition. In fact, I may have run my own personal worst, excluding that time I ran a half marathon 9 months pregnant.

About that sleeping in and drinking coffee until you feel like putting on your Altras. That did mean that I got a late start today. Actually, it was start that I wasn’t even sure I was going to do today. I was really unsure if I felt like doing the half today, or maybe tomorrow. I hadn’t really decided, but I half-heartedly made the decision to run 21 kilometers today. With all that hemming and hawing, coffee drinking, a few chores around the house, and extra sleep, it was about 10:00 am by the time I got myself out the door. That means the sun was beating down like a bloody torch that was out to destroy me. Within the first 8 kilometers I knew I was going to have a hard time. I started mapping out park bathrooms that would have running water. There weren’t many. Plus, Covid. Ugh.

I knew I was going to do a turn around, so at 10.5 km, that is what I did. Around that time, I found a park that had running water. I doused myself in lukewarm water, took a couple drinks, and got on with it. By kilometer 15, I was wilting. I was running way slower than I’m used to as the sun drained my energy levels. The temps were reaching over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but I swear it felt hotter on black pavement.

I stopped by the Boise River to cool down.

I stopped again at drinking fountain.

I kept running.

I found as much shade as possible on the greenbelt.

And, I made it home. I truly almost bonked and without a doubt had some heatstroke. Will I never learn that to do these virtual races, I need to wear my hydration pack? I promise I will on the next one. Which, will likely be tomorrow if I can finish my coffee early enough.

I did have to take an hour rest in a heavily air conditioned house. I drank my body weight in ice water. Took a few extra electrolyte tablets and called it good. See below, I was feeling somewhat better.

Back to real life. While my husband goes live with his YouTube channel, I chased down vaccination records, registered my son for his new school, and visited the campus so he could start to feel comfortable with the idea that this will be our world that we will be exploring for the next year. It’s highly likely that he will also be going to virtual schooling. I have to admit, it’s pretty cool to see how we manage in this new world.

Tomorrow I will pick up my race shirt and medal via a drive through race packet pick-up.

Happy virtual running, my friends. Stay safe and healthy out there.

Virtual Rocky Mountain National Park 115 Miles

Sawtooth Wilderness. A photo from one of my segments during the virtual race.

Covid-19 has taken its toll on the race world, too. Most races have been canceled or postponed, so runners are flocking to virtual races. I organized a fun, informal social distance half marathon back in April that involved friends from around the world. Beyond that, I had not participated in a virtual race. Before Covid, I had heard of a few here and there, but they have gained massive popularity this spring. I was hunting around for one and low and behold, Facebook suggested Yes.Fit. They had loads to choose from, but I wanted one that had sweet swag, a cool map to follow along with, and a larger distance that would provide a challenge. I found the Rocky Mountain National Park 115 mile virtual race and it met all the mentioned criteria.

June 15th I started it and finished it June 28th. Fourteen days to complete it wasn’t the worst, but I had planned on doing it in a shorter time frame. I ended up needing to have a surgery and was told I absolutely could not run for two days (he said three but I negotiated it to two).

The set up was pretty cool. Each day I ran, Yes.Fit synched with my Strava. It would map the distance I ran on a GPX of the race.

They also had these little information stations that I could learn about important parts of the National Park, like its history and starting locations for trailheads. It made me want to visit, and when I do I will definitely refer back to the map Yes.Fit provided.

Each day I would excitedly check where I ran to on the course. A 360 view of the day’s location was viewable. Some days it was in the mountains, some days trail, some days it was on road or nearby cabins.

I ran a half marathon two days after that annoying minor surgery.

Pros:

-The race motivated me to run longer distances, run twice some days, and skip rest days. It was a personal race; no one keeping tabs on you but you.

-The biggest takeaway is that this was a form of play, or role playing in a sense. The use of imagination was at play. Each time I was out running, I imagined the course I was racing. It was fun. We all want to have fun, right? It helps us stay young and involved with life in a way that doesn’t drain our being.

Cons:

-Do I really need a race to run? Well, no. Even the on-site races aren’t entirely necessary, but I find satisfaction in competing against myself. It was a epitome of a solo race.

-I didn’t love waiting for the medal. I do attribute the long wait in part to Covid. But, I suppose there might be some wisdom in all good things are worth waiting for. Whoever said that first probably wasn’t talking about race swag….

You could choose to let any other activity sync to the race. I chose to sync my hikes. Here is a photo from one of those hikes.
And race completed!

Would I do another virtual race through Yes.Fit? Definitely. I already have a couple in mind. Get Your Kicks on Route 66? The Pacific Crest Highway? Yeti in Nepal?

Which one should I choose?

And here is a video of some dudes singing a badass song in the mountains. You’re welcome.

“Thought we said never again?

Ooh my love, can’t believe,

The headline crawls across the screen.

I couldn’t fall asleep,

And it’s raining on both ends of the phone.

You’re in the lobby and I’m on my way home,

But there’s no shelter without you there.

Some things are so simple,

They’re impossible to explain.”

Happy trails, my friends. Stay rad.

Solidarity in a Time of Solitude

My little unit of solidarity.

If you had asked me a few months ago how I thought societies would react to something like a pandemic, well I wouldn’t have painted nearly such a nice picture. Broadly speaking, I am rather skeptical of humans and our nature. When we are under stress, or adversity, they say our true character is revealed. From my personal experiences and observations, that rarely reveals positive character. My predictions would have been a great push away from loved ones, from friends, and from humanity, as people looked out for themselves. Harsh words spoken under duress, a defensive nature that categorized “us vs. them.”

I cannot adequately express the overwhelming feelings I have in being so wholly incorrect in this. I love being wrong here. I am still in disbelief at times the kindness I have seen. This careful treading of our fragility that others walking through our life seem to be hyper cognizant of. This sort of delicate handling of a horrendous situation we all find ourselves in. When no one can comprehend the surreal reality we are in, nor where this future leads, there is a quiet understanding that is passing through our communities. It shows up in people’s eyes, in the ample space people make when passing each other on a trail but maintaining a friendly smile or wave, the masks, the hand-wipes, the quarantining, the dropping off of groceries for those that shouldn’t venture out, the companies that are making their resources free until we get through this, the retooling of our factories to make ventilators, the nurses, doctors, *ah-em* teachers, musicians, grocery store clerks, scientists. People are giving up their social lives and a little bit of their sanity to keep other people, people they often don’t even know, safe in the name of flattening the curve. This all in hopes our medical systems won’t collapse. People are accepting an economic collapse over unnecessary deaths. This is bigger than economics, which has been at the forefront of nearly everything for so long. Money has taken precedent over people for years. Even governments are surprising me.

I know it’s a strange time to find hope, but man, I can’t seem to shake this one. I have seen more kindness in the last month than I have in years. I feel legitimate hope, not that one should forsake reason and knowledge in the wake of hope. Often, it does feel like you have to choose one or the other; hope or facts. After considering this for a beat, I think the act or feeling of hope has value in-of-itself, so long as one does not sacrifice their actions for delusions of happy endings.

There is certainly a big part of me that sees some pretty dire outcomes here. I start going down a dark rabbit hole of “what ifs.” What if the economy never recovers? What if we fail so bad at containing this another country sees an opportunity? What if we don’t have jobs? What if people end up liking this hermitage and it becomes the new normal? What if my kids keep having nightmares about an unseen enemy? What if they can’t make a vaccine? Or the virus keeps mutating? Or the trajectory of this is much farther off than we think?

But, in the here and now, since this was declared a pandemic, the amount of people that have gone out of their way to contact and connect with people that matter to them, just to check in, it’s beyond heartening. The vast majority have been doing good and wanting good things for others, not letting their insecurities do harm. The messages, video calls, the emails—everyone is making sure that we are all staying afloat in such uncertain and solitary times; I know it has made me feel less alone in such a lonely time. To maintaining this outpouring of love and understanding that has permeated our fears.

Half Marathon Social Distance Run

Many of us have signed up and trained for races that have now been canceled due to COVID-19. Because of this, I decided to host a virtual half marathon 21k Social Distance Run. It will take place April 19th at 9:00 am your local time, wherever you may be in the world. We will all run separately, but at (relatively) the same time. It can be a route outside (just keep your physical distance from anyone) or indoor on a treadmill. Let’s find solidarity in a time of physical space. Upon the completion of your half marathon, post your map and race results via whichever tracking app you may use to my Facebook’s Tara Runs the World.

Please feel free to invite anyone that might be interested!

On Goodbyes

Trebević views.

We sat on the unknown, and still are. I talked with so many people around the world in similar situations as us. I weighed the pros and cons. Ultimately, who knows what the right decision is? We could have rode it out in Sarajevo and been fine. We could also ride it out in Idaho and be fine. So, at the very least I am considering this as some time back ‘home,’ in our house that we don’t get enough time in as it stands. Find some time on trails that make me feel more grounded than any other place on earth. Be in the Rockies. There are too many reasons to discuss in what became our decision, but here we are, headed back to Boise.

For the sake of clarity and for anyone curious, we are still doing our distance teaching, just with a few more kilometers between us and our students. We will return to Sarajevo to finish out the year if/when our school opens. We wouldn’t miss the opportunity to be there for our students. Let’s hope this COVID-19 gets itself kicked sooner than later so we can all regain the peace of mind that we took oh-so-for granted before this happened. Consider that for a moment. All those problems we though were problems, pale in comparison now. 2020. You win.

In the end, we left. Really, we had a day. I went back and forth so much on the decision that when I did make the decision, I had a day to pack. In that time our flight was canceled and rescheduled. I had half the house packed, half left on the street for Romas to take, all with a canceled flight. Not ideal. I dug deep to find the humor in the situation and accept what I couldn’t change. It worked out, at least this far. I am currently flying over the Atlantic from Istanbul to San Francisco as I type this. Last I heard San Francisco is in a little dilemma, shelter-in-place…sounds a little like lockdown. Interestingly, I’m sitting here next to some American Bosnians on the plane, commiserating the last few days. They have gone through the exact same situation of surprise leavings and canceled flights, extended layovers, all trying to get back to the same location, Boise. What are the odds?

The hardest part of this is not knowing if we are coming back. Like I said, we will if our school opens but looking at the possible trajectory of all this, I think it’s safe to say, no one knows. While I did manage to say some pretty substantial and meaningful goodbyes to a few, there are a vast many that I missed out on. I can say, without a doubt, some of the most important relationships have been made here for us, and it hurts deeply to not express that to all those people; students, friends, colleagues—our heart hurts to leave with the possibility of not returning. If we do, this is all a moot point. We will do it right if the world sorts itself out. Regardless, we feel cheated with time. We already had little left here and wanted to make the most of every last bit of it. It isn’t supposed to be like this.

I have to say, the last few weeks have been exceptionally amazing. Between trail races, parties with my favorites, barbecues at our house, gorgeous weather, long hikes in the mountains, the kids having ample activities with their friends, and some rather (albeit few) meaningful goodbyes, it’s been a high note to leave on. I will hold out on official goodbyes until we know more. I will admit I have certainly had something in my eyes the last few hours. If you know me at all, you know tears are hard-earned. Sarajevo, it goes without saying but I will anyway, you put in the work and love to make me miss you.

So, while we continue to sit on some uncertain futures, it’s okay. Ride it out. Roll the tide. Continue to appreciate the moment. Look around and find all that beauty (and bs). Life keeps on keeping on. We will keep being there for the ones that want and need us.

Traveling Home in a Pandemic

As most of you know, we decided to leave Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina until it is deemed safe to return. We only have 3 months left of school, so we don’t know if that will happen or not, but of course we are hoping it does. It was a tough decision, as one cannot predict the future, but only make educated decisions for one’s own situation. We had many reasons to ultimately fly back to America, and I am content in our decision to do so.

It was a lot of back and forth, but the day I decided to purchase the tickets was Wednesday. The flight was for the next night. Within a few hours of purchasing the tickets that had us going from Sarajevo–>Istanbul–>San Francisco—>Boise, the SJJ to IST was canceled. I tried calling Turkish Airlines but every automated response had me redirected to the suggestion I call the booking agent. So, I call Orbitz, but after finally getting someone on the phone, they would hang up on me, “transfer” me to a response that said their systems were down, promise me they would call me back and not, or the person would say their computer wasn’t working. Finally, with this last person that was saying the same thing about her system update and nothing working, it was pretty obvious she just didn’t want to deal with the umpteenth customer trying to get their canceled flights sorted. It sounded like chaos in the background and she sounded rather defeated in a broad, “I’ve given up on this whole thing, but it’s my job so I’m going to sit on the phone and listen to people suffer,” kind of way. I ended up begging. Full-on begging. I said, my house is half packed, I have two kids, I need to get home. There may have been some borderline tears fighting themselves to the surface. She paused for a long time. I thought she hung up. Then she was like, “Uh, just a minute.” Then another long pause, maybe a minute or more, where I thought she had hung up again. This kind of went on for a while. She ended up saying that she could get me on a morning flight but it would put us in Istanbul for 22 hours. Without hesitating, I took it.

I kept packing. Frantically going through my things, my son’s things, my daughter’s things. I didn’t stop moving until around 11pm and had gotten rid of literally half of our things and packed what I could. I left some things that have meaning, like Christmas ornaments and children’s books that I have read hundreds of times to the kids. Toys, clothes, shoes. But, I filled eight bags, got the important documents that we needed, and our passports. Good enough. We may be coming back, we may not be. No matter. It wasn’t worth thinking too much about, to be honest. Stuff is stuff.

News was coming through of all the airlines canceling and suspending flights. More borders closing. More bans. More regulations. It was constant. But, we got ourselves to the Sarajevo Airport. There were maybe 50 people there to travel. I met a bunch of American basketball players flying out. I hung out with a family from the team. They had a little girl the same age as our daughter and they were insta-friends. We just kept telling them to stop touching the ground, to take their fingers out of their mouths, and shared enormous amounts of antibacterial hand wipes. So, I guess you could say the parents bonded, too. We boarded. More hand wipes for the trays. It felt pretty good to know that we were moving in the right direction once the plane took off. One leg of the journey was down.

When we landed in Istanbul, we saw this. All that yellow are canceled flights. Every time we looked, it was like this. Our flight remained on time. People were wearing masks, gloves, keeping their distance. We saw people crying, breaking down that they were stuck for an indefinite time in Istanbul. My husband went and asked the desk at least three times if our flight was still scheduled. They assured us it was, as long as our president didn’t change any laws overnight, which was a distinct possibility as we had already seen the 30-day ban enacted overnight that week.

Getting his math test done from the Istanbul airport hotel.
This girl is obsessed with washing her hands now.
Getting the next days assignments ready for class.

We found Yotel, Istanbul Airport’s hotel that is inside the airport. What a lifesaver that was. Showers, beds, wifi to do our online teaching. It was also far safer to stay away from others. All that distancing is real, you guys. After checking in, we got to work setting up assignments, correcting tests, and my husband live-streamed with his students. A friend of mine that I have been in contact about various concerns about getting home and flight options, asked what our flight number was for Istanbul to San Francisco. He had a great idea to track it and saw that it was en route to Istanbul so it was all moving along as it should. That helped for peace-of-mind. We got a full nights sleep; woke rested and nothing had changed with our flights.

They had sectioned off a space for people that were elderly or otherwise high risk for COVID-19. They wanted the rest of us to crowd in pretty tightly together in another section, so we set up camp on the side, far from others. We read and tried to get ourselves into a different world for a bit. I’m not going to lie, I considered putting some running shoes on and to take a lap or two around the airport. I decided to make this my rest day, instead.

Then, they moved us to another section. A few extra precautions were taken, but nothing major. We sat and waited, like you do in airports. We talked with some people–an American missionary coming home early from Russia, an elderly couple that weren’t taking any chances, a group of Indian women getting back to the US. They herded us all onto a bus, cramped and full of little kids with constant reminders from the nervous adults around them to take their fingers out of their mouth and that, no they couldn’t eat the snack they dropped on the floor. The bus stopped in front of the plane and then just didn’t open the doors for a long time. They left us on that bus for a painfully long time, everyone was looking at each other like, uh, do they know about the coronavirus?

We boarded and buckled up for a thirteen hour flight. We ended up being seated next to this early 20-something kid and his intoxicated father. Turns out they were cutting their trip to visit family in Bosnia short because of this whole thing. They had been through the exact same cancellations as we had and they were flying all the way to Boise with us. They were quite the comical pair. The kid was full of energy and awe, the dad equally energetic but with less surprise about what life was dishing out.

I got my tea and book. The kids got their much anticipated multiple movie showing. It kind of felt like every other flight we had been on but with more hand washing. We were going to make it to the US, without too much hassle at that.

We landed in SFO, rechecked our bags, heard people around us getting news of canceled domestic flights, and then got this notification:

It felt like we were just making it into the US by the skin of our teeth. Which, I suppose we were.

Not only this message, but news was coming in about stricter shelter-in-place requirements happening in San Francisco. Then there was the greater lock-down of all of California. Our flight to Boise was still on. It is kind of hard to explain the relief we felt that somehow we had been spared too many cancellations.

We flew over the now so familiar Boise landscape. We landed with a “Welcome to Boise. Please remember to get your luggage from the overhead bin.” And just like that, we were home.

Valter Trail 16km

Looking around at the other people that also thought this was a good
way to spend a Saturday. Kindred spirits.

The organization that puts this on, Skakavac Trail, is what makes these races among my all-time favorites. Before the race, while I was messaging for some details in English like how to pay, where to get my packet, and where it starts, they were genuinely happy to hear that I was doing the race. Over last three years, I have done all their races and will be one of the biggest things I will miss doing in Sarajevo. They make every race feel like a party.

This was the first time they had put on the Valter Trail 16km. It fell on the day before Women’s Day, which is a big celebration in most countries. They dedicated this race to Kathrine Switzer, the American woman that ran Boston in 1967 as a numbered participant. By 1972 women could run Boston, in large part due to her. You may have seen the famous photo of a male race official trying to rip her official bib off of her while she ran.

The day before was sunny and beautiful. Around midnight it started raining, and kept raining well through the next day. On the morning of, driving up to the red cross in middle of nowhere Balkans, the thought crept into my head that I could have stayed snuggled in my bed with a cuppa and good book. But then, I was like nah. Let’s do this. I wandered to the start where others runners were huddled under an overhang, putting off getting soaked until they started running. While this was the first time they had done this exact race, I knew the trails and the elevation is no joke. When that kind of elevation gets soggy, it gets muddy and slippery. I knew I needed a hiking stick, so instead of buying $300 high-end titanium ones, I have resoundingly decided I will only and always use whatever I can find in the woods. Call it the minimalist in me. I found the perfect stick right before the race started. I held onto it until the last few kilometers at the end, and then chucked it, which is part of the reason I have decided to choose this kind over manufactured ones. It’s disposable and compostable.

Note, I was enjoying this far more than I probably should have.

With my pockets full of gels and a few electrolyte tablets, I felt prepared enough. The race was only 16 kilometers, but it was 700 meters gain, which is a fair bit. It was basically straight up, and straight down. As we were running, the first kilometer was a nice incline, nothing extreme but it was definitely uphill and was rather instantly covered in mud. The next two kilometers is where it got even more fun. I ended up hiking and running uphill through a river of melted snow runoff, sometimes up to my mid-calf. As we passed through this, the next five kilometers had me climbing to the highest point in the area, Motka. I just ran when I could, power-hiked when it got too steep to run, but mostly I focused on enjoying the view. Most of it was just stunning, crisp, peaceful. At Motka, there was an aid station that informed me I was second female. The funny thing is, most races I have no idea what place I’m in until an aid station tells me. It’s always very motivating to kick it up when you know that you have a chance at placing. Until then, I had been taking pictures and just kind of kicking around. After hearing how I was doing, I was like, oh…I’m going to definitely maintain this place and pushed harder than I would have otherwise.

Snow! To be expected in these mountains.

After the mid-way aid station, I ran into a snowstorm. It was snowy and foggy enough that it was a bit hard to see at times. Otherwise, as long as I was running I was warm, despite passing through multiple streams of cold water.

After the snow, it cleared back into a muddy mess of a trail, but it had also stopped raining. The day’s temperatures rose slightly and I was still sort of in my euphoric state of mind. The downhill was rocky, with roots and many trippable (surely that is not a word) opportunities. For whatever reason, my mind was keyed on to every step and I bombed down at a fast clip. I was running a 4:00 kilometer pace for most of the downhill bits. I ended up running with a few different men. We were all encouraging each other and helping each other out from the occasional branch in the face or loose rock. At one point there was someone sawing a tree and throwing them down from way up on a steep hill. The person clearly did not know there was a race going on as their sawed logs were landing on the trail we were running. As one came flying down, I caught myself just in time before being hit by it. I kept going, and nearly got hit by another flying log when a man pulled me back (kind of looked like the 2020 version of Kathrine Switzer, but instead of trying to hinder, he was helping–social progress).

I had one kilometer left and knew I had second place in the bag. Then I heard a man that was behind me but I had been running with for a while inform me there was another woman coming up behind me. She passed me pretty quickly, and I thought, well, there goes second. Then I was like, I’ll give it everything I have left and see what happens. Turns out it was just enough. I passed her, while she remained on my heels for most of that kilometer. I literally slipped my way through to the finish line and she came in around 40 seconds behind me. We both sincerely congratulated each other. It made for an exciting finish!

Back to the race organizers; after so many years racing here, they all knew who I was and my name. They cheered me on through the finish line, and I don’t think I have the words for how that felt. While my husband and kids are always amazingly at all my races, I don’t have other family or friends that show up to these events. To know that I have become part of a community, one that I’m leaving, is beyond bittersweet.

Women of the trail.

Now the good part–the after party. These race organizers always have great music, free flowing beer and hot wine, and a perfect post meal of ćevapi. Feeling accomplished and deserving, I hung around with my family and enjoyed the unique experience of being at a Bosnian party in the mountains. There is no better way that I could imagine spending a day.

Happily muddy and soaked–ready for beer, music, and cevapi.

Thanks for reading. Stay rad, my friends.

Running in Covid-19 Times

Running toward the Sarajevo sunrise.

Is this the end times? It feels like we have been mentally preparing for a while. Anyone with a pulse has noticed climate change, pollution at atrocious levels, corruption, politics, on and on it goes. People have been desperately clinging to zero waste and shouting into their social media about how the government isn’t doing anything. I’m one of those people, so there is no judgement. If as a species we could just get ourselves together and do what we know needs to be done, we wouldn’t be here. Anxiety has been high, it has felt like animals before a storm. We all know it’s happening, but no one knows exactly what that is.

And then coronavirus starts. I don’t think people were exactly surprised, but clearly, we have proven ourselves to be woefully unprepared for a virus that realistically isn’t nearly as bad as it could be. People are scared, and rightfully so as governments close boarders, travel bans are enacted, large and lucrative gatherings are canceled, social distancing is encouraged, and schools are closing their doors to go to distance learning. This all seems like an extreme drill for when the real plague hits. China dropped the ball by trying to cover up the virus for a solid month before they were forced to admit and acknowledge this was a thing that was going to explode. Lesson learned there, I hope. Medical facilities around the world are not equally capable. Testing for the virus has shown to be a problem on many, many levels. Vaccines take a long ass time to make. I would highly recommend you listen to Sam Harris’ Early Thoughts on a Pandemic. It made me put it in perspective, but also was quite enlightening in just what should make us worry.

https://samharris.org/podcasts/191-early-thoughts-pandemic/

Preemptive measures are key to stop things like this from even getting the chance to spread, like testing anyone with flu-like symptoms to identify unusual strands. Ultimately, the panic is what we should be most concerned about, as we watch people quarantined, not able to work, mortgages froze, stock market in free fall. Those are problems that potentially could hurt more people than the virus itself. Uncertainty and insecurity make people act in damaging ways. Everyone can see that no one knows what to do. No one has the answer, so judge sparingly.

So, with that all said. Here I am. In Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s okay. Go look at the map and come back. We are dead center in the Balkans. It was hit hard with the collapse of Yugoslavia, then the war in the 90s. It’s one of the poorer countries in Europe because of this. It’s medical care is behind and has left us nervous when a pandemic is making its way here. There are currently 11 confirmed cases, but we all know its higher than that. Testing for the virus isn’t something that is going to be prevalent here. The day that COVID-19 was declared a pandemic was the same day the school we teach at closed. The next day Trump’s 30 day ban for Europeans traveling to America was announced. It’s true that Americans could/can still enter through certain airports, but it’s also true that most flights were canceled. It became extremely difficult to leave. Needless to say, with trying to figure out how to teach online and maintain a level of rigor that is arguably impossible to do with online learning for 2nd graders, and feeling like my family and I might be trapped in a country that is not only not ours, it is also a country that is even less prepared than neighboring countries, like Italy, that have been turmoil over outbreaks. That was a lot to digest in a short amount of time. Stress levels were astronomical. Did I mention that I was also watching our stocks crash to the point where we lost a solid 20% of our investments because of this virus. If that all doesn’t scream for concern, then you are delusional.

What do I do when I’m stressed? I run. Run and run and run. I’ve over doubled my average distance as I try to process and work out exactly what is happening around me. I have been trying to clear my head, shake out this anxiety that keeps creeping its way back into me. Every time it starts, I put my Altras on and head for the hills, pavement, trails, anywhere that can consume my stress for me. I’m always amazed how much perspective I gain for my little world when I’m out there. By the time I get back home to the people that need me the most, I’ve worked some shit out. I’m ready for their worries and concerns, and I can better help them. Many people outside of my family have tried to make me feel like my running is selfish, and it might be to a degree, but it makes me a better mom, better teacher, better wife and friend. So when I get home, I scoop up those little ones and instead of being terrified of what life is offering us right now, I can help them feel and see what we still have, which is a lot.

An example of an average day recently. Some days I’m hitting 30 kilometers.

With all those kilometers I’ve been banging out, my stress and anxiety has subsided. While we may be here for this pandemic, it can’t last forever. The bigger picture is what will happen next time in the future when the real virus, the one that is going to do even more damage hits. Where do we want to be, when will we pull the cord to get back to where we want to be? It’s all quite fascinating to try and learn from.

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