I got a little lost for a while. I was taking every hit. I was considering the rules and authority. I felt punished for being me. It’s not possible to keep the peace or pace anymore. I’m done. My weaknesses are real and tangible, but so are yours. There are cracks, but like Leonard Cohen says, it’s how the light gets in. It’s okay to be scared of your broken pieces. I just don’t want to walk so carefully over the shatters anymore. There are the ones that hold your hand over it, and there are ones that let go and let you get hurt. Somehow, I made the soundest decision back in my early 20s. I married one that will always be there, under any and all circumstances. I’m grateful for the ones in my life that made space for me, went out on a limb–let me in. I hope to return that to the world.
I am choosing to focus on the people that consistently show up. They show up for life, for others, for themselves. They engage with life in a way that leaves no stone unturned or unexamined. My people. Take it in, give it everything you have, every day. They are my people because they appreciate all the beauty and ugliness that comes their way and then ask for more. They are the wild ones, the untamed and unharnessed. I love the people that laugh too much, overshare, ask uncomfortable questions, act and make decisions, unparalyzed, make off-color jokes, and don’t apologize for it. Surround me with those people.
There is a certain mentality from runners that fit this. They hit it hard, are okay with it hurting and the struggle, because it’s part of the ride. They endure. They don’t pause when it gets hard. They may pause to catch a beautiful view, and I like that metaphor.
Oh, hey there. You thought I forgot about you, didn’t you? I took a hiatus. Not from running, just writing about running. 2019 kicked my ass in so many ways. Running in its purest form, and how it does it all so beautifully, got me through it. I hit over 4,000 kilometers on my feet, running around the world, working out all the messiness that is sitting in one’s head. So, as a reunion to my bloggity blog, I have some running ruminations that sort of gets to the nitty gritty of some of my running psychology.
Running strips you bare. It takes away all that superficial bullshit that we hide behind. You put on worn out shoes, clothes that have been washed more times than you can count, hair pulled back, and you are left with yourself. Scrubbed down to the least simple parts; the character that you are made of. What you can battle and fight against. You figure out how strong you are when it gets hard. There is a depth to the amount a human being can take and it is surprisingly massive. You find tiny little recesses of your mind and body that you hadn’t tapped into before or forgot about, then you face them with all the honesty you possess. It isn’t about winning, it isn’t about glory, it isn’t about posting it to social media for people to congratulate you. It is about escaping with yourself and digging deep into painful parts of yourself, emotionally and physically. Facing it and pushing back until you win it with yourself. It’s raw. It’s ugly. It’s so effing beautiful. Enjoy those moments of sadistic pain that lead you into yourself. If you want, celebrate the pride you feel at the end, but don’t forget what got you there.
Long distance running is a confrontation with yourself.
It can pull you out of the dark recesses of your mind.
You against you.
You can learn who you are when you are in a relentless forward pain.
Find your strength.
Find strength in the mountains, on the trails, in the dirt.
I earned my first DNF. I have been trying to figure out exactly why since it happened. I made it 45km before I had to have my family pick me up. I started to experience nausea around 15km. I quickly realized it was going to be much harder race than I had planned with this added challenge. I tried to change the course, knowing that it would most likely be a fruitless effort, by taking extra electrolytes, slowing my pace, taking in a little extra fluids. It didn’t relent, but only worsened as I continued to complete 45km, 8 km shy of finishing.
Each time I drank water or consumed food, it wouldn’t stay down, meaning I had no fuel in my body. It was awful. I have heard of this happening to runners, but I have mostly avoided this in my running life. It did happen once before but the race was only 25km and I was able to push through. This, well, this was a different beast. I pushed much farther than I should have, I know that. But, I am rather okay with myself that I was able to make it the distance I did instead of when I originally thought I would have to drop out at 20 something kilometer. I kept going, found strength, lost strength, and could not regain it again. When accepting that I wouldn’t finish, I broke down and cried, thinking I was failing in the face of adversity when in reality, there are some things that one can’t fight based on mental fortitude alone. I know many well-intentioned people expected me to feel like a failure, and I did at first, but looking back on it, I ran 45km on nearly no calories or water in the hot, hot sun. How the ef did I do that? I have no idea.
This is how I looked, which is to say pale and sick:
Like I mentioned earlier, I been spending the last few days trying to figure out exactly what went wrong, because I NEVER want to go through that again.
So, here are my thoughts:
I failed to fuel properly. I have been working so much and not getting home until late, I did not have time to prepare the logistics of this properly. I didn’t walk through the steps, like I usually do, before a race. I ate in the morning, got on the bus for an hour and a half, and did not eat again until I had run my usual first 8 or so kilometers. Normally, I bring a banana and eat 20 minutes before the start. I didn’t have time to buy bananas and because I wasn’t in the right head space I didn’t have a back up plan, or maybe enough of a plan at all. At any rate, that ended up being a while between eating and may have thrown of my fueling from the get go. However, I am pretty resilient to things like this, so for my body that seems a little unlikely to have been the culprit.
I had a stomach bug. I had been horrendously sick the week prior and did not rest properly by any means. I did have moments of feeling sick prior to the race, but thought it was related to stress. After the race, the same level of nausea continued the next day and slowly improved until it was gone four days later. I don’t know if this runners’ stomach issue lasts that long, so it leads me to believe that either a virus or a bacterial issue is most likely the cause, meaning I don’t need to worry too much about it happening again. It would mean it was something I could not have controlled.
It was a beautiful course that went along the Dalmatian Coast—rocky with lots of elevation gain. At 45km I had completed 2,250 meters of elevation. I feel like I have the lay of the land now. So, while I am disappointed to not have gotten a medal that symbolizes finishing, I will try again next year, with my health in tact.
Happy running, stay rad, and be strong in whichever way you define strength.
What have I done to train for my upcoming 53k race?
-I ran 70-80km a week.
-I did a 34.5km trail race with quite a bit of elevation gain recently.
-I will carb load today. There are ample Bosnian bakeries around to accomplish this.
That’s about it. I am relying on years and years of running long distances to get me through.
I truly never know how I will do until I am in a race. I have these vague ideas of how it might turn out, but really I don’t know what my pace or finish time will be. I am yet to take a DNF (knock on wood). Luckily for my family, the race is providing a live tracker so they know when to be at the finish line.
So, this is how I will kick off my fall break–spending time in one one of the prettiest places in the world. I will run the Dinaric Alps along the Dalmatian Coast, for hours, finding strength in mountains.
Then, I will spend the rest of my break lounging around on the pebbled beaches with my family.
Many women continue to reflect on personal safety when leaving their homes and participating in something that shouldn’t be enshrouded in fear.
For most women, we don’t have the luxury of a completely carefree run.
Personally, I have been doing long runs outside in the early hours of the morning for many, many years. I don’t let fear stop me from running–be persistent in what you want. However, there are some things that I do as added precautions against dangers, some are just good practice regardless of your gender.
Precautions and Tips:
Use knuckle lights or a headlamp, making you more visible.
Stay in lit areas by choosing routes that have street lamps. Often these routes are also popular and have more people.
Mix up the route. While I do often run the same routes, I try to keep the day unpredictable.
Tell someone where you are going. I try to always tell my husband which route I plan on taking before heading out. I grew up always telling my parents the same information by leaving a sticky note in view.
Carry pepper spray. This is also good for stray dogs, which has been a huge problem in the countries I have lived in outside of the US. I used to rely on this as protection against any creepers too, but I recently made a new purchase. See next tip.
Try wearing Go Guarded, which can’t be knocked out of your hand. I have been wearing it for the last month and I feel like it offers more protection than pepper spray.
Ghost a certain radius around your start/stop location when using something like Strava.
Use one headphone or no headphones.
Don’t wear a ponytail. Seems a bit weird, but I have watched a lot of those self-defense videos and they always say men try to grab you by the hair. So, try a bun or a hat.
Speaking of self-defense, take some classes. Be ready to fight.
Trust your instinct. As women, we have spent our lives considering if the guy that just walked by us is going to hurt us or not. If you get a weird feeling, cross the street, take out your phone, prep your pepper spray, duck into a convenience store. Stop feeling insecure about your instincts.
My previous experience running Skakavac Trail is in contrast to this year. Last year, there was a blizzard on the morning of race day in what was an unfamiliar country and terrain, along with my first experience with winter in seven years. I had just arrived from Thailand. To the mountains. In the snow. In Europe. No beaches or 100 degree weather, which is a different kind of combat. It was rough. The markings were either blown away or covered in snow, and again, I did not know these mountains well enough to navigate. My phone had 3% left when I called my husband to tell him I was lost. Search and rescue was getting ready to look for me when I found the next aid station myself. When the trail lost elevation, the snow had melted, leaving behind runoff that resulted in a muddy, slippery, steep mountain to get down.
It did make me feel a little better to hear that local Bosnians also got terribly lost–that it wasn’t just a confused foreigner in a strange land, but in fact the extreme, unexpected conditions.
I finished in 7.5 hours.
I don’t have any pictures of the actual snow storm portion, nor did I bother to take pictures while sliding down the muddy hillside, for obvious reasons. There were a few clear moments where I could stop to catch my breath and capture some of the beauty.
How it went better this year:
In the months since we first arrived, we have hiked many of the popular trails around Sarajevo. Geographically, I was able to figure out where I was nearly the entire race. They provided a GPX file this year, which made me feel better prepared. I carried a backup charger in case my phone battery died due to the cold. Luckily, the weather was not nearly as severe. They moved the race up two weeks to mitigate surprise snow storms. However, there had been snow in the mountains just a few days prior to the race, so really, the mountains are simply unpredictable here. The organizers made huge improvements with the markings by using wooden signs that were hammered into the ground, making the trail much easier to follow.
Logistically, it was a bit more difficult this year. My husband left on an overnight trip with the secondary students, so I organized our babysitter to take care of the kids. Then, a friend drove me up the mountain to the start. While I ran the race, my husband returned from his trip, so he was able to meet me at the finish. I texted him selfies (see below) as the run progressed.
All’s well that ends well.
Progression of selfies
People have asked me how I felt after I finished or what was the best part. My son bombarding me with a hug and “MOOOOooom!!!” You did it!!!” was without a doubt, the best part. This is me seeing his face and incoming hug.
I was shattered and rebuilt in the 5 hours, 17 minutes it took me to finish.
Which is the reason why I run.
The only races that disappoint me are ones where I didn’t cross the finish line a little better than when I started.
It is an unforgiving, brutal, and beautiful course. See you in 2019 Skakavac Trail.
I have been MIA on TaraRunsTheWorld for the last month. I have told people that inquired I am tired, or bored, or various other excuses because explaining the real reasons seem a bit too long-winded. Here is the space to explain the real reasons. The real reason for a blogging cut back? Time is a limited resource and I found it consuming far too much of it to take photos, write about it, and share it around. I also found it made me focus too much on myself, which in balance is important, but I didn’t like the way it was making me feel when I have many other people, hobbies, and outlets to put my limited energy. Last but not least, it made me like running less. I haven’t felt like that. Ever. I found documenting all my thoughts about running sucked some of the joy out of it for me. I can’t have that.
With all that in mind, I figured I could do it more sparingly and still find the good—so many people wrote me to say they had started running after reading some of my posts. That makes me super stoked. The reflection process has also been a positive side-effect to my running.
Sooo, I’m baaack.
You know, a little bit.
I have done a few races since I last blogged, the Sarajevo Half Marathon being one that I had had on the docket for quite some time. I did this one last year, meaning I knew to expect a few hills and higher temps due to a later start than one would consider normal for a half marathon.
It was exciting to see so many people from our little expat community with laced-up running kicks. There were quite a few parents and a couple of other teachers running the half marathon. There were also lots of students running the 4 km with their parents– my son, daughter, and husband included. For me, it is a fairly rare occurrence to be among like-minded runner types. It was nice to not have to explain what I was doing getting ready to run 21 km. They knew.
I have put some work into getting some personal records in the recent past, so for this race, I just ran for enjoyment. I did put effort into it, but I had no plans of anything beyond running and having fun at the event. Which I did.
Europe has some seriously good runners. Many were at this race. I watched them in awe fly by me in their sponsored racing kits. Speaking of awesome runners, this was the day in history that Eliud Kipchoge broke the marathon’s world record at the Berlin Marathon at 2:01:39. Sort of made my half marathon time of 1:47 minutes feel pretty wimpy, but I know, I know, we only compete against ourselves. Even Kipchoge?
There were thousands downtown Sarajevo–both to cheer on the runners and those that were participating in either the 4 km, the relay half marathon, or the half marathon. They closed down the streets, most of the town came out to watch and support the runners, and it was a really well-organized race going through the most beautiful parts of Sarajevo.
After, we laid around the park and drank our complimentary electrolyte beverages for a while until the kids got restless.
Then we moved on to the after party barbecue downtown at Kutcha . If you haven’t already, check it out. It has an artsy vibe, fantastic burgers, craft beer, green space to kick back, and good music. Lady H celebrated with her signature dance moves.
Sunday: I absolutely love running out here at Vrelo Bosna. It is beautiful no matter the season. Today it was foggy and damp, making it look like the fall in August. There are always lots of runners making their way on the paths. It is a bit of a drive so we make a morning out of it. The kids run and bike while I get my run in, then we have coffee, pizza, and pasta post run for a family brunch.
Monday: I am back to making Monday my day off. I know most people say if you miss Monday, your running week is shot, but it works for me. With it being the first day of the school work week, I always like to sleep in a little after getting that luxury over the weekend.
Tuesday: Two runs today. My normal morning run and the first practice for the cross country team. They did awesome! 4.5km. We even did hills and they rocked it.
Wednesday: Early at it this morning. I am still getting used to this. It always wakes me up to get my morning run done though.
Thursday: I am sort of failing on the photo front, but it was a beautiful, foggy morning. Fall is starting. Effort wise–I think I need to start doing some speed work to get ready for a few races coming up.
Friday: I was getting a little bored of my usual running spots, so I went around some new streets today. Hopefully this weekend I can get work on my pace. I have five races coming up soon!
Saturday: Croatia consistently impressed me. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have seen. Old ruins, mountains that bump up against the Mediterranean Sea, and trails for days. That last 1.5 km up to our place offered plenty of challenge for my hill work I have been needing.
Maintaining my running schedule and returning to work, like:
But, I am doing it and that counts for something.
Sunday: And just like that, we are back in Sarajevo. It feels good to be back and running!
Monday: I slept exactly zero hours last night but got myself out running, busted out and broke in a new pair of Hokas, and watched the sunrise over the bridge Franz Ferdinand was on when he was assassinated.
Tuesday: Finally got some sleep so that helped me make through the run.
Wednesday: I woke up by dragging myself out of bed. I am still fighting jet lag with the added challenge of rising early for a run and then work. Got it done though! Heck yes.
Thursday: It was the first day of school with the kids today so I needed a little extra sleep. That means rest day in terms of running.
Friday: Early wake ups to catch the sunrise and get my run in before work.
Saturday: It’s the weekend! That means I got to sleep in, drink coffee and read for as long as I wanted, and read to my son. Then I was a powerhouse up the some serious hills. I earned lunch in Old Town and the chocolate chip cookies I just made for family and friends.