Reflections on a Marathon

There are plenty of things I thought I might never do. Running a marathon was one of them.

For at least ten years I’ve put “run a marathon” on my bucket list, or my one-year list, or any other goal-oriented list I made. I can recount my goals for 24, 25, and 26, and all include running a marathon.

I finally got around to it.

The thing about running a marathon is this: if you want to do it, you can. Not to put off the years of hard work and effort that elite runners put into it—I’m speaking to the first timers, the wannabe’s, and the slightly interested.

If you want to run a marathon, just do it.

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On my 26th birthday I registered for my first marathon. I was tired of putting it off until the next year, because eventually I would be 80 and wishing I had done this thing I had spent so many years wishing I had done. There’s a quote I rely on, etched into my journal, that reads, “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.” I realized, on the celebration of my 26th year on earth, that I’d spent a lot of days (9,490 to be exact) waiting to do something, to be somebody, to finally cross things off my bucket list.

26 would be the year I stopped wanting and started becoming.

As I sat in a coffee shop with a good friend of mine, I found a marathon, I registered, I downloaded a training plan, and I set my mind to it.

It really was as easy as that.

For ten weeks or so I ran four days a week. In that time, I traveled to Mexico, had a fluke knee accident, came down with a cold that left me in bed for four days, and never ran farther than 10 miles.

I don’t recommend it.

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If you’re going to run a marathon, train for it. Give yourself enough time to develop your athletic base, endurance, and most importantly, your mental fortitude. Fortunately for me, climbing strengthened my mental muscles and, it turns out, I’m mentally stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.

Leading up to the marathon, when I felt I hadn’t had enough training due to circumstance, I told my friends my mental game would get me through. After all, nearly everything is 90% mental, 10% physical, right? For a marathon, however, I’d cut it down to 60/40.

I leaned on examples of extraordinary individuals. Like the young women who runs half-marathons despite frequent seizures. Or the man with no limbs who climbs mountains. Or any other individual who disregards the resounding “you can’t,” and shows them they can.

We drove up to the start line around 6:30am. I finished off a cup of water, went to the bathroom, and did a few jumping jacks to warm up. My husband and brother-in-law were running together, and I was prepared, and excited to run the race solo.

I headed to the start with my running vest equipped with some extra GU’s, a bottle of water, my phone, and headphones.

When the gun went off, I was elated.

Part of me never expected to make it to the start line.

Even a week before the event I thought about calling in and switching my registration to the half-marathon. I’d only run 10 miles. I didn’t want to disappoint myself. I didn’t want to disappoint my husband. I didn’t want to fail, and have to tell people I hadn’t met my goal. Before I started that marathon, I still believed that having not tried might be better than failing.

I started out slowly, treating the first mile as a warm-up. I began near the back of the group, with maybe ten people behind me. But it felt comfortable. I didn’t need to go out with guns-ablazing. My number one goal was to run the entire race. My number two was finishing with an average 12 minute mile (5:24:00).

Running had never felt so good.

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Before I knew it I was coming up on mile 8.

Then mile 9.

When I passed mile 10, I was in unchartered territory. From then on, every mile was a new record, the official furthest I’d ever run.

Mentally, I was prepared. I knew I could get to mile 20, because I knew I could run 10 miles. Once I got to 20 I knew I could run 6 miles. That was my mental game plan.

It worked.

 

The miles kept passing, and I kept running. Until mile 22, I never felt the need to distract myself.

Those last four miles, though. Damn.

It took a lot to run the last four miles. My legs were aching, knees wanted to buckle, and my hips were so stiff. But I’d run so far, I couldn’t quit.

When I passed the mile 26 marker, I kicked it into high gear.

My last mile was my fastest.

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I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes. The volunteer handing out finisher shirts and metals asked if I was alright. I replied, “I’m just so happy!”

I don’t know what else competes for that moment. Never had I felt so accomplished, so tired, and so elated at one time. It was euphoric.

Running a marathon redefined my limits, and what’s possible for me to achieve. I’m no longer sure of the validity of “I can’t,” because can’t is a misnomer. It confuses what’s possible for you now, for what’s possible for you in the future.

You can, it just might take some time.

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Review: Scarpa Boostic

My first pair of climbing shoes were Scarpa’s, and after my La Sportiva Solutions took their last route, I decided to go back to my climbing roots.

When I tried on the Boostic’s, Scarpa’s “premier weapon for everything past the vertical,”  they reminded me of the La Sportiva Miura’s I had a few years back. The fit is similar, maybe a bit wider, with about the same downturn in the toe, giving it the aggressive feel for steeper routes.

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And true to Scarpa’s claims, the Boostic’s are a powerhouse. I’ve climbed nearly every type of route in them. Sandstone, granite, limestone, multi-pitch, traditional, sport, and bouldering. Disclaimers: I would not recommend these shoes on sandstone, multi-pitch, or trad! At the time I didn’t have another pair of shoes that would fit the bill.

The Boostic is a stiff shoe. I’ve been climbing in these since last November and they still have barely any give. This is my main issue with the shoe. After climbing in the Solutions and getting used to a softer rubber, using a stiff shoe feels uncomfortable and unstable to me.

Honestly, I’ve been waiting for these to blow out so I can go back to the Solutions or the Miura’s. This is also because for me and my feet, La Sportiva’s provide the best fit.

With that being said, I do enjoy wearing these shoes indoors. They are true to size, and when I’m climbing in the gym, I can usually keep them on for multiple routes before I need to give my feet a breather. Because they’re not as downturned as other aggressive shoes like the Instinct, or 5.10’s Hiangle, it’s much easier to smear in these shoes. However, I wouldn’t trust them too much. I tested them out on granite and it didn’t go very well.

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If you’re looking for a stiffer shoe with a good edge, the Boostic is a great shoe. I’d definitely recommend these shoes to someone who’s looking for their first aggressive shoe. It’s the perfect amount of downturn to feel like you’re one with the rock.

Retail for $180, but you can find them on sale for around $110.

A Beginner’s Guide to Indoor Climbing

Disclaimer: I am not a professional climber or a professional instructor. However, I taught introductory rock climbing classes for a year and a half and have six years of climbing experience.

 

Have you ever been on a hike and glanced up to find someone scaling the cliffs surrounding you? If you’re anything like me seven years ago, you probably thought, “Those people are crazy!” And you’re not too far off. Climber’s are a breed I have come to know and love through their eccentricities, boldness, and passion.

If you’re crazy too, your next thought might have been, “I kind of want to try that…”

You’re not alone! I would guess that the majority of people who started climbing had that exact thought before they dove head in to the sport. In the word’s of Alice in Wonderland, “We’re all mad here.”

So how do you go from dirt to granite? Fortunately climbing access has been made infinitely easier in the last few years with the rise and expansion of climbing gyms across America and the world. Rock and Ice has an indoor climbing gym directory. You just plug in your state and go from there.

Once you find the gym closest to you, I suggest you wrangle in one of your closest, or most curious friends, and ask them to tag along. While climbing is unique and wonderful in that you can boulder on your own, I’m under the school of thought that everything is better with friends.

Before you set out to the world of indoor plastic, take a quick look on Groupon to see if the gym you’re interested in is peddling offers on climbing sessions or classes. The gym in Spokane where I began climbing, Wild Walls, regularly offered discounted multi-day passes through Groupon.

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Okay. So you’ve got your friend, you’ve looked for some sweet deals, and you’re in the car feeling stoked. Once you rock up to the front desk, the staff will ask you to sign a waiver, and if you need to rent gear.

There are three types of climbing you can do in a gym: bouldering, top-roping, or lead climbing. Most people progress through each discipline in that order.

Bouldering is the best route for beginners. In the gym, you only need a pair of shoes to start. It’s a great introduction to the muscle groups, style, and overall feel of working your way up foreign plastic holds. And with most boulder walls topping out around 15 feet, it’s easy to bail if the height makes you dizzy.

Top-roping and lead climbing require more technical skills like how to belay. If a climbing gym has ropes and walls that are 30+ feet high, they probably offer belay classes. Typically these classes last anywhere from 1-2 hours and you learn the basics of rope management. If you decide climbing is something you’d like to stick with, I definitely recommend learning how to belay and testing your endurance on longer routes.

Lead-climbing requires more in-depth knowledge and skills, and requires more detail than this intro post offers.

Once you’ve signed the waiver, and rented the shoes, the next logical step is to climb!

Here are a few techniques that helped me when I learned to climb, and helped a lot of my students when they were learning.

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Focus on your toes

Remember that Spongebob episode where he stuck his big toe out of his shoe to depress the gas pedal? I like to think about that. One of the most common ways to begin climbing is to place the middle of your foot on the foot hold. I highly, highly, highly, recommend NOT doing this. Think about how we walk. Think about how we climb ladders. We walk with our toes forward, not the middle of our feet! Climbing is no different. Try to get as much surface area near the front of your shoes on the hold as possible.

Use your legs

Would you rather do 100 squats or 100 pull-ups? Down the road of climbing and training, there is a time and place for using only your arms, but now’s not the time! Our legs are our powerhouses and carry our entire body weight every day. Our arms? Not so much. Try to do a handstand push-up and you’ll see. Think about how you can use your legs to your advantage. Sometimes moving your foot an inch higher is the difference in being able to grab the next hold, or peeling off the route.

Don’t get crazy

Oftentimes in the gym I see people working on these really hard problems and routes and they make it look so easy. So easy in fact, that it tricks me into believing that I too can climb that hard. I jump on, all eager and full of belief, only to get shut down on the third move. It’s good to push yourself in climbing, otherwise your progression and strength will move at a snails pace (which is okay too, if that’s what you’re after). But going from a V0 climber to a V6 climber won’t happen overnight. It takes time and dedication, but trust me. It more than pays off.

Climbing can be rewarding, fun, and a great way to be part of a like-minded community. If you’ve been on the fence, or itching to try, I say go for it. All you have to lose is space in your closet where your future gear will have to go.

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Questions? Let me know in the comments below!

Weekly Round-Up #6

Ever get bored with your gym routine? I know I do. That, or I have no idea where to even begin. Outside Online has some inspiration for you: the kettleball. In this article, Karen Smith, a master kettlebell instructor explains, “A single kettlebell can be used to develop max strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular capacity and power.” Included are four effective and tough kettleball exercises.

This New York Times article is fascinating. It focuses on a new start-up, Unsettled, which organizes retreats in a handful of countries. The retreats are unique in that they’re geared towards working professionals that don’t fit the 9-5 mold. You’re co-living and collaborating. Attending workshops and goals sessions. Exploring the local culture. And creating something meaningful. If it weren’t for the budget-stretching price-tag, I’d be about ten seconds away from booking it myself.

Want to move from processed foods to more home cooking? A few months ago I made my first batch of homemade vegan burgers and they turned out deliciously. This article is a compilation of 35 vegan burger patties that look amazing. Also includes some tips and tricks for getting the patties to stay together. So go ahead, bust out the BBQ!

To be digital, or not to be digital: that is the question. Adventure Journal came out with an article this week detailing some of the best apps to download for the outdoors, from trail finders to mushrooms identifiers. And while I’m becoming more and more accepting (and moving towards embracing) the role technology plays in the outdoors, I’m still a diehard lover of the paper version. Even if that means a few extra pounds in my pack. It’s weight training, after all, right?

The Chasm Between Social Media and Real Life

A few years ago, NPR aired a story about the rise of our discontentment as it relates to the rise of social media. My generation isn’t numb to these effects, in fact, we are arguably the most affected by it.

The rise of social media outlets and our obsession with, and dedication to them, has shown us just how much is possible for our lives. We’re well past the days where word of first ascents came a month later in the American Alpine Journal.

If you’re a woman who wants to be a CEO or a man who wants to be a homemaker, you can find at least one other person who’s done what you’re setting out to do, and find comfort in knowing you aren’t alone.

Literally, anything is possible.

For this, I am so thankful for Facebook, Instagram, Google, and other sites like them. I can figure out who came before me and what they did to get there. I can hop on Instagram, search a hashtag, and find a burst of inspiration to get my butt in the gym.

Along with the good, however, comes the bad.

Like how many times I feel shitty about myself because I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. I have a job and other things I love to do and I’m not out climbing or skiing or running everyday. And the problem with Instagram is it makes it seem like everybody else is.

So many accounts, my own included, display an ongoing stream of outdoor photos, and it’s time to confess: that’s not my whole life.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish it was, and I hope someday it will be. I hope someday I can make enough to set out with my husband and our future dog in tow. But until then, I think it’s important to be honest.

So I decided that going forward I’m going to be real.

For example:

I binge watch The Great British Baking Show.

I scroll through Facebook until my eyeballs hurt.

I rarely read a novel through the first time.

Sometimes I literally groan as I enter the gym.

I get scared when I’m lead climbing.

I get even more scared on multi-pitches.

I love to cook.

Sometimes I take four hour naps on sunny days.

I’m still overcoming my irrational fear of bears.

Some days I feel sad and overwhelmed by my dreams.

I often feel lost.

I consistently question my ability to write or climb or ski.

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops.

I am the definition of a work in progress.

What I’m trying to say is this, before you put yourself up against everyone else on Instagram and Facebook, give yourself some credit for being human, and then some more for all that you’re doing already.

It’s weird and beautiful to be human, and it’s important to recognize that in ourselves and everyone around us.

 

El Potrero Chico: A Sport Climber’s Paradise

For years, Potrero has been at the top of my list. It’s home to the second longest sport route in North America, Time Wave Zero, and the notorious El Sendero Luminoso that Alex Honnold free soloed in January of 2014. It’s the sport climber’s Yosemite, with more multi-pitch sport routes than a climb-cation could ever have time for.

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Thankfully, if you want to make the most of your climbing time at EPC, it’s easy and doable to climb in the morning and in the evening at different crags. We were there in April, which is not the best time to go, so we were continuously battling the heat of the day. That meant 6am alarms, mid-afternoon naps, and evening climbing sessions. With the pool at La Posada’s Campground, I couldn’t complain about downtime and lounging in the hammock above the pool. It. Was. Glorious.

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Getting to and from EPC is fairly easy. My husband and I flew to San Antonio, and hailed a greyhound from there to Monterrey. Since the ride went through the night, and there weren’t a lot of people on board, we were able to sleep pretty well. Once at the station in Monterrey there were taxis outside, and with a little bit of google translate help, we were soon on our way. Friends of ours flew into Monterrey International Airport, and the drivers there immediately knew where to take them. The ride is about 500 pesos, or $26.

I can’t speak about the other campgrounds, but there are quite a few you can stay at. We chose La Posada because everywhere else was pretty slow due to the off season. The staff were friendly and hard workers, and the pool was amazing. We were there two weekends and it picked up with quite a few locals coming to camp. We found the ideal camping spot for our two tents and three hammocks. Their website is a bit confusing about pricing, we ended up paying 130 pesos/night ($7) which included everything from showers to pool use.

While my eyes were set on climbing Time Wave Zero, I quickly realized it was out of reach for me right now. My husband and I spent a day climbing Space Boyz (5.10d) on the Jungle wall. This eleven-pitch, 1100-foot climb, demanded every ounce of courage and strength I could muster. It didn’t help that my shoes were half a size too small, either. I grunted my way up, and wasn’t able to carry my own weight. Coby ended up leading most of the pitches, and being the best sport about it. The top-out was the most I’ve felt accomplished in a long time.

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A few days later we went up a six pitch 5.10b, Dope Ninja, which included the coolest 5.6 traverse I’ve ever led in my life! I’d highly recommend this route to anyone headed down to Potrero. It’s also a great introduction to the type of climbing in the area.

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In terms of food, the market, La Mexicana, is a 45-minute walk from the campgrounds. The food (and alcohol) is super cheap. We bought a bottle of tequila for five dollars. We also bought 17 avocados for about six dollars. Each time we went down to the market we were either picked up by a passerby without trying, or stuck out our thumbs far enough to hitch a ride. The locals are incredibly friendly, often honking their horns and waving as they drove by. There is a restaurant at La Posada with a variety of Mexican food and dollar beer and tequila shots.

You can also check out (I highly recommend it) the Tuesday market. Someone described it as a “WalMart on wheels,” because there are so many things for sale. From milky fruity drinks, to usb chargers, to shoes, to produce, you can find nearly anything you’re looking for here. We had the opportunity to meet Raul Reyes who had us come behind his tables and take copious amounts of photos holding deep frier spoons, tostadas, and spices. Raul sold some of the best hot sauce I’ve ever tasted.

There’s definitely enough in Potrero to keep you occupied for a lifetime; in our two weeks we barely touched the surface. It left us wanting badly enough that we’re already planning a return trip for next year.

Weekly Round-Up #5

It appears I have quite a problem posting consistent midweek round-ups, so we’re gonna shoot for the vague “Weekly Round-Up” and see if my consistency can be, well, consistent.

I’ve come across so much good content in the last few weeks! We live in an incredible time where information is accessed so quickly and easily.

Millennial Tastes are Driving Marketers Crazy, but it’s Doing the Food Industry Good, an article published by Upworthy, highlights how millennials are driving positive change in general consumption, and in particular, the food industry. There’s been a lot of negative press about millennials in the past year. We’ve been misunderstood, and also ignored. This article is proof of both. But it’s also proof that corporations are starting to take notice, and it’s good for everybody.

I love anything that highlights women taking a stand throughout history. I love it even more when it involves the natural world. The NCPA published this article documenting six national parks that wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for the women that championed them.

“In the past 18 months, over 50 bills attacking federal management of our public lands have been introduced to Congress,” begins this interesting and helpful article about five simple ways we can protect our public lands from Climbing Magazine. It’s a hard time to be a human and lover of the natural world, but we can’t remain overwhelmed. It’s time to take a stand for what’s most important. From volunteering, to signing up for newsletters, this short and comprehensive how-to can make you feel a little less overwhelmed and a little more proactive.

And a funny goat video.

Enjoy your weekend, friends!