Running in Palau

Picture of a sweaty woman with a track in the background
79F degrees, 94% humidity, 100% sweaty
For as hot and humid as it is in Palau, there is a strong running and walking community that exists here. Each morning starting at 4:30 am, the “Track and Field” is the most happening place to be in Koror. There are people from all around the globe getting their walking and running on. There is the middle-aged Palauan man who walks the curves and sprints the straights in flip-flops and jeans. There is the 30 something Chinese woman with the largest visor I’ve ever seen and a blouse that I would love to have for a night of dancing. And of course, there is the distractingly handsome shirtless guy showcasing the buff-est pectoralis majors that I’ve seen on the island so far. Two dozen other folks - Americans, Koreans, Japanese, Filipinos, Bengalis, Palauans and me, all of us striving for our individual health related goals.

After a mile of people watching while running, I am drenched with sweat and ready to quit for the day. Just the day before, I had seriously considered doing the Palau 1/2 Marathon taking place on September 3rd; the thought of running 12.1 additional miles in this humidity sounds like a terrible idea. With a little over a month to go, I will have to make my decision soon.

Every Runner Has a Pooping Story, or Two...

Every runner has a pooping story and while the narratives are all different, they always end with a shower. It’s a simple fact - the more you run, the more you poop. One’s ability to access a bathroom can be the difference between their best or worst race ever. Access to “the can” can turn a comfortable ten mile run into an exasperating sprint to your car.
 
Number two rarely comes up in polite conversation and therefore new runners are often left to learn on their own. Today, I will take one for the team and share two stories to help normalize pooping and running. Rather than serving as a source of personal embarrassment, hopefully this post will promote dialogue and understanding. 

Pooping Story #1 - the fastest way to friendship

There is an old saying, “The fastest way to friendship is disclosing that you really need to poop.”. Never did this ring more true than during one of my first runs with Cindy, my funny co-worker from down the hall. It was an extremely rainy Saturday and by mile four, we were drenched. With three miles to go, we were having a great time, venting about work and about my non-existent love life, when I felt this rumble in my belly. I ignored it at first hoping it would go away, but soon the urge seemed to travel lower into my intestinal region. I needed a bathroom and I needed one soon. We chatted a while longer when I finally blurted out, “Cindy, I really need to poop!” She probably saw  the urgency in my eyes and knew that our new goal was to find a restroom. Above us, the sky seemed to turn more gray and the distant thunder seemed to coincide with the growling in my gut. We ran a few more blocks and came upon a restaurant. I realized walking in that I must have looked like a drowned cat, but there was no time to hesitate. In a few minutes excrement would be exiting my body, toilet be damned. Luckily, the kind server took pity and allowed me to use the facilities. Ten minutes later and three pounds lighter, I was outside apologizing to Cindy, embarrassed, but feeling so much better. A more experienced runner, she explained to me that pooping was a part of the running experience. She showed so much understanding that I knew we’d be friends for a long time and I was right.

Pooping Story #2 - another reason to bring TP

I jumped out of bed, threw my clothes on, and brushed my teeth. I heard the doorbell ring and rushed to the door. My hair was still a mess as I let my friend, Mel, in the house. “Sorry Mel, I just woke up”. She was gracious and let me finish up. After walking my dog an hour earlier, I had attempted to get ten more minutes of sleep, but ten minutes had turned into an hour and now I was holding up our weekly run. 

Mel and I were out the door by 9:15 am. I ran knowing that one important part of my morning ritual had been left out, but I hoped it would be okay - I was wrong. At mile seven, I really had to poop. Just as the prairie doggin began (look it up in urban dictionary), we came upon a bathroom. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I approached the door of the public toilet cautiously. In the Northwest, you never quite know when spring will officially start and Mother Nature will turn Her key to unlock public restrooms everywhere. Luckily, the door opened with ease. I raced to the toilet, pulled down my capris and began to hover. The relief was almost immediate and a smile came to my sweaty face. In preparation, I reached up to gather some tissue - there was nothing on the roll. My relief turning to fear, I looked around for napkins, seat covers, paper towels, anything... but there was nothing in this eco-friendly facility. I did the only thing I could do and pulled up my pants. As I walked out of the restroom I felt shame. I felt dirty. I blurted out to my friend Mel, “There was no toilet paper! I don’t feel very clean.” She laughed and assured me that it would be alright. I laughed too.

In the end, it was alright. I felt five pounds lighter now that the tots and pizza weren't swimming around in my body. Though, as a precaution and courtesy, I was sure to run downwind from Mel. We completed our last three miles not a moment too soon. Instead of heading for the fridge, I headed for the shower.

Every runner has a pooping story and while the narratives are all different, they always end with a shower. What is your running while pooping story? Share your stories below or on Facebook.

If You Run, You are a Runner and Runners Need Running Shoes

As I approached the bronze Ilchee Statue on the Vancouver waterfront trail, we both set our gaze upon the Columbia River that stood before us just as the sun finished setting. It had been a hard three mile run and the swift rise and fall of my chest proved it. There is something about running in the dark that always makes me run faster. In part, it is the unfortunate fear that comes with being a woman running alone.
Ghost 7s: at 500 miles and 6 months, I need new shoes
There is another part of me that loves the anonymity and freedom of running my fastest and my hardest without care of what I might look like, how much I jiggle, how much sweat is dripping down my back, or who is watching. What should have been an easy, three mile training run was also hindered by the pink and yellow Ghost 7s that had seen their best days. I had logged over 500 miles and over six months in these babies. As most experienced runners know, my shoes had reached their expiration date.

The next day, my friend Bianca and I headed to Fleet Feet, a running store that had just bought out an old favorite, Fit Right NW. We walked into the store and in true Portlandia fashion, there were 20-30 runners drinking microbrews and having an awesome time. Looking around the store, there was neon and dayglow clothing draped from ceiling to floor.
Left to Right: Bola, Bianca
Photo Credit: Matt, staff at Fleet Feet

Along the mini indoor track, high tech socks for your left and right feet were on display next to the marathon-worthy water belts and bottles. On the back wall were bright colored shoes with familiar names like Nike, Adidas, Brooks, and Asics; not so familiar names like Saucony, Mizuno and Hoka. With all the runners in the store, I wasn’t sure if we were going to get any service. 

Bianca and I bee-lined to the Brooks section of the wall. I drooled over the new blue and purple Ghost 8s, the same brand and model I’ve worn for the past two years. I had my heart set on these beauties and I knew I was going to walk out with them (after paying for them, of course). It only took a few moments for a staff member, we’ll call him Matt, to approach Bianca and me. I told him that I was in the market for some shoes and that Bianca was curious about what shoes would work best for her. For the next hour, Matt would examine our gait and the lift of our arches. He would measure our feet and try on seven pairs of shoes between the two of us. He would convince us of choosing running shoes for function and performance versus how they looked with our outfits. If I'm being real, my feet were probably a little sweaty and a little smelly, but Matt didn’t let on. It was past 7pm, closing time, but he stuck with us.
Bianca's new kicks, Nike Air Zoom Odyssey
Despite my three marathons, 15 half marathons, countless 5 and 10ks, and the dozens of running shoes I’ve purchased throughout the years, my experience at Fleet Feet was probably the most extensive education I have received when it comes to choosing the best shoes for running. I went in thinking I was going to purchase the same old shoes that I had worn forever. If I’m being honest, I also came in believing that shoe selection had a lot to do with how much weight one carried. While weight may be a factor, what I actually learned was that choosing the right shoe has more to do with the mechanics of how I run. Matt was able to help me find the amount of structure I needed in a shoe by taking the time to examine the way I walked around in the store. I re-learned the importance of shoes fitting correctly and that I needed to make sure I have enough room to wiggle. I was also reminded that when it comes to shoes, we get what we pay for. For a good running shoe, it is not uncommon to pay $110 - $180 dollars.

Beyond finding the right shoe, it is also important to find the right store. It was refreshing to experience quality customer service focused on meeting our different needs. I think it can be tempting, at times, to go to big box stores or to buy shoes online, but seriously, when was the last time Amazon or Dick’s volunteered to come anywhere near your feet or to tie your shoes?
http://www.brooksrunning.com/en_us/adrenaline-gts-16-womens-running-shoes/120203.html
Bola's new kicks, Adrenaline GTS 16

In the end, Bianca and I both walked out of Fleet Feet each with a brand new pair of shoes. To my surprise, I ended up going with the Brooks Adrenaline, a new shoe for me with more support than my past favorite. Bianca went with a pair of Nike Air Zoom Odysseys that looked and felt amazing.

I know many big girls, including myself, have felt like running impostors - not fast enough, not slim enough. We have felt like, perhaps, we don’t belong in a fancy running store with neon clothing and high tech socks. The thing is, if you run, you are a runner AND runners need running shoes. Claim your space at your favorite running store and take the time to find the shoe that works for you. If you’re lucky, you might find a Matt-like staff member too!

Essential Runs: Wildwood Trail, Lower McCleay Trailhead to Pittock Mansion, Portland OR

Distance: 5 Miles round trip
Intensity: medium to challenging

Photo by: Rich Chamberlin
 
Minutes outside the uppity-ness of uptown, Lower McCleay Park's unassuming secret is that it is the front yard to a wood fairy’s wonderland. Moss covered trees entangle in all directions as intermittent sunlight and rain filters through the green and brown canopy above. Breathe in the smell of the fresh temperate forest mixed in with the occasional waft of marijuana coming from the bros up ahead. The first mile of the path runs along a creek often filled with kids and happy dogs no matter the season. The path is dirt, but well kept - just rocky enough to provide traction on Oregon’s mostly muddy days. Wildwood Trail soon turns away and up and so begins a steep incline that won’t end until you get to the top.  Be prepared to walk at some point during this 5 mile round trip journey for two reasons: first, because your legs and lungs may start yelling at you in protest. Secondly, because it’s sunny and sunshine is the Northwest’s Bat Signal that lets everyone know to either head to the trails or the patio of a local restaurant. Yes, this trail gets crowded - go early if you can. 

Wildwood definitely provides some choose your own adventure experiences, but your best bet will be to follow it all the way up to Pittock Mansion where you will see, arguably, the best view of downtown Portland, not to mention a historic Victorian-style mansion. Once you’ve had your fill of the scenery and are tired of judging the people who drove to the viewpoint, turn around and experience this amazing hike in the other direction. More info: Lower McCleay to Pittock Mansion, Forest Park Hike

The Life Cycle of Running on the Treadmill

The sun has gone down and it is 30 degrees outside; the treadmill is my only choice. I prefer to run outdoors. It’s just who I am. There’s the beauty of Forrest Park at the Lief Errickson trail head, the criss-crossing bridges along the Portland water front, and the challenge of overcoming Terwilliger Hill. But today, it’s just me and the machine - the dreadmill, the hamster wheel of death.

Minutes 0-1: 5 miles/hour. The first few steps feel good, especially with Pitbull blaring in the sound system. One, two, three, four, uno, dos, tres, quatro. I’m confident that the 30 minutes will go fast and wondering how I can take a selfie without falling. I don’t have my earbuds, but if I’m lucky, the hip hop will hold.

Minutes 1:01-5: And then Aerosmith begins to play. I could stay awake, just to hear you breathing. This is not good. So bored. Uh oh… I’m feeling a little gassy. Hold it, hold it.

Minutes 5:01-19:15: Still running at 5 miles/hour. Madonna is playing. Like a Virgin...hey! Not my preference for running music, but it’s better than Aerosmith. I’m really getting my flow now and I have taken it upon myself to count each car that is traveling north on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard below. At 12 minutes, I counted 50 cars. At 19:15 - 100 cars. Woohoo! I haven’t been bored for a good while. I wonder how long I can keep this going? I’m so awesome. I’m less gassy.

Minutes: 19:16-19:59: They are playing the same Pitbull song that they played earlier. Maybe I should just start walking. Other people are walking. It seems like forever.


Minutes: 20:00-21:59: 6 miles/hour now. Definitely the fastest runner in the row of seven treadmills. Two women, four guys, and I am definitely the fastest. Okay, wow. This is starting to hurt. Is my belly showing? What is my butt doing? Jiggling, I bet. Are the weight-lifting guys watching my butt jiggle? Ugh, I am sweating so much. Can the guys lifting weights see how much I am sweating? The sweat is dripping on to the machine. Ew…

Minutes: 22:00-24:59: Running at 5.5 miles/hour. I feel so much better. 6 miles/hour is definitely too fast. I just need a good song to come on. I can’t take much more of this. Okay, try to think positive. If I can just make it to 25 minutes, maybe I’ll start walking.

Minutes: 25:00-27:00: 6 miles/hour. Oh lord, Taylor Swift is crying about bad blood and mad love. Speaking of bad blood, is the woman next to me trying to race me? I can't walk unless she walks first.

Minutes: 27:01-29:45: 5 miles/hour. So glad that woman got off her machine. Now I can go back to my comfortable pace. I. am. so. bored.

Minutes: 29:46-30:00: 6 miles/hour. Is that Missy Elliot’s new song? That's how they do where you from. Finally! This is my jam. The beat is adding wind to my legs - I could do this forever. Oh, wait, what? I'm done.

Dare Mighty Things in 2016

Happy New Year! Bonne AnnĂ©e! Omedetou! Hooray! I adore the start of the new year and I love new year’s resolutions. What could be wrong with using a firework-filled, ball-dropping holiday as an excuse to set goals and start anew? Fear or past memories of failure sometimes inhibit us from attempting our dreams, but as one of my favorite quotes says:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much..." -Theodore Roosevelt
Surely, much of my own running journey has been checkered by failure. There was the Foot Traffic Half Flat where upon finishing, I had to be under medical observation for half an hour because of dehydration. I suppose I should have trained for that one. There was the Every Girl’s Half Marathon where I got toe cramps at mile 12. With only 1.1 miles to go, I had to walk like a tin man to the finish line. Clearly, I hadn’t learned about Salt Stick tablets or pickle juice yet. And of course, there are the countless times when, despite my own advice, I forgot to put Body Shield on before running. Of course, chaffing ensued, always, and I have the scars to prove it. Without these supposed #fails, I would not be the runner I am today. 
Join me in 2016 as we dare mighty things! My goals include:
  • Run at least three times per week, including a long run on Saturdays!
  • Add two days of cross training (for me, swimming and weight training)
  • Run 60 miles a month (15 miles a week)
  • Limit total sugar intake 
  • Commit to eating only one dinner (LOL! Just keeping it real)
Happy new year and happy running!

The bad date that changed everything - Wonder Runner, episode 1

“You’re a runner?” This, the only question that he had asked Wonder over the course of their date. The critical and doubtful way Ralph quizzed her touched a nerve. Wonder could feel her already elevated temperature rise to new heights. He brazenly scanned her body with a smirk of disbelief. Her face flushed as she maintained enough self-control not to throw her half empty beer in his lap.

Instead, Wonder began to drink faster to move things along. She had done her best to find things in common, to ask him questions, to make him laugh. Clearly, he was uninterested. Most of her dates had been fails, but this was the first time she was getting vibes that bordered disrespect and indifference. Most men were at least polite. Ralph was just plain rude. Worst of all, he was questioning her body's capability and her integrity. Was he disappointed in the contrast of the woman who sat before him versus the online version of the woman he imagined? Was he just a jerk?

“Can we get the check?” Wonder said to the server as he brushed by. The server nodded; the couple sat in silence. When the check came, Wonder quickly laid seven dollars on the receipt and waited for her date to cover his portion. They both got up and walked to the exit. The eyes of diners and drinkers followed them as they regarded the unlikely pair who clearly weren’t a match. As they stepped outside, drops of water fell from the evening sky.

Wonder reached into her purse for an umbrella and suddenly felt a rush of pain as her arm was pulled and then overextended in the direction of a shadow that was running away with her blue handbag in tow.

"Wait! Stop! My purse!" The mugger looked back and then kept running. Wonder looked around, frantic. She looked at her date - he was frozen in surprise and violation.

“Do you want me to call the police?” he stuttered, finally joining her in consciousness.

“No!!!!!!!!!!!”

The sound of her yell was guttural, passionate, frustrated. The heat in her body was boiling over and her mind was racing. It was enough that she had just wasted an hour of her life with an unkind, uncaring man, not to mention the multiple wasted email exchanges over the past week. Furthermore, she had wasted 250 calories on a $7 beer and now, someone had stolen her handbag. It was just too much.
At that moment, she lost control of her body and its actions. Despite her three inch wedges, she began running toward the thief who had just sent her over the edge. As she ran, she could feel a deep, unfamiliar heat being generated from the friction of her thighs rubbing together. Her pace quickened and soon she could see her blue bag and its thief in the distance. Despite the friction, Wonder noticed she was running faster than she had ever run. Like a speed demon, she breezed by silhouettes of homes and cars with ease and agility. Whether it was the anger, adrenaline or both, she wasn’t sure.

The thief looked back for the second time and his face turned white. He was stunned and frightened at Wonder’s rapid pace and soon began to stumble and finally skidded across the wet pavement. Wonder stopped a few cautious feet in front of him. “Give me my purse!” she yelled with uncharacteristic authority and confidence.

The thief fumbled in his pocket, pulled out a gun, and pointed it at Wonder. Her eyes grew big with fear, but at that point she once again lost control of her body. She could feel the heat from her thighs travel down her legs. Involuntarily, her left leg raised and a laser beam shot from her big toe, hitting the gun, and knocking it from the mugger’s hand. Understanding that he had met his match, the bandit dropped her bag and fled the scene. Wonder stood there, incredulously. She was trembling and there was smoke coming from her left shoe. She walked over to pick up her purse. The strap was broken, but its contents were all there. She heard footsteps approaching in the opposite direction. It was Ralph.

“Wow, you are a runner! Are you okay? That was… you’re so fast… How did you scare off the that guy? How did you get your purse?"

She realized that Ralph had not seen everything that had taken place, which was probably for the best. He had a genuine look of interest in her for the first time that evening.

Wonder looked at him and then she looked passed him; she turned and ran to her car.

Yes, she was a runner - Wonder Runner.

****Check out the Wonder Runner Introduction story.