#Runcation Reflection: Bend, Oregon (August 2014)

I was feeling a bit inspired by Oiselle to share some of my memories of last year’s runcation with two of my favorite women, Margot and Jess. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since we took this trip. While the past 10 months have been full of pretty much the entire emotional spectrum for me, I found these photos and it brought back a wave of awesome reflection. Our runcations are always just exactly what I need. With friends, a pair of running shoes, and time to relax, I can find my center and feel grounded again. We took a trip this spring to Las Vegas, again staying in an Air BnB, with a bigger contingent of MegaTough ladies (including Christy, Leiah, and Leslie). Truthfully, I need another one of these trips, like yesterday.

A bit of backstory:

Last summer, I was able to pigeon a superfun, megatough reunion with these two awesome ladies between a week-long conference in New Hampshire and the Oiselle Birdcamp in Bend, Oregon. Margot and Jess met me in Bend, and we stayed in a lovely Air BnB house in Bend near Old Mill for a few nights. Now that we are spread out across the country (Margot is in CA, Jess is in MI, and I’m in MO for now), It was a blast being able to hang out and spend quality girl time with these wonderful women, and because they bring me such joy, I thought I’d share that joy with you.

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Lovely day on the Deschutes

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Jess and I enjoying some mountain sun before heading to the airport to pick up Margot.

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Wine, beer, and cheese. And wonderful friends.

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Margot found a local trail marathon, so decided to jump in and race. I love her mantra.

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Margot ended up cruising to the win! This is her in the beginning.

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A local #STL runner friend of mine, Amy, was also there visiting her family, and I cheered her on.

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Jess and I cruised around the trails to cheer on Margot and get some single track therapy.

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I love trails, too.

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Winner! And she got her long run in! Double bonus.

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After the race, we enjoyed a beer at Crux. This is probably one of my favorite place #inbend

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These women. Best.

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We also took a walk up Lava Butte to watch the sunset.

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The last morning that Jess and Margot were in Bend, we went for one final mountain run up the Green Lakes Trail.


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The view at the top of the Green Lakes trail was quite literally awesome.

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The Deschutes is so crystal clear, cool, and refreshing for a post-run ice bath.

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New Girls’ Club #oiselleteam

One of the first things my boyfriend (now husband) bought me was a shirt that said: “A woman’s place is on top.” While some girls may take this the wrong way, and find this a chauvinistic, sexist, or insulting maneuver from a dude they just started dating, I found it admirable. You see, the shirt was referencing the author of the book Breaking Trail, Arlene Blum, who is a mountaineer and trailblazer in more ways than just finding her way to the tops of 14,000 footers. This book was a farewell gift from my roommate and running buddy, Katie, when I left Montana. And, this book has been an inspiration to me, especially during the first few years of my PhD (and as I started training and racing marathons)- and to this day. It really drives home to me the fulfillment, the strength, and the power that comes with choosing your own route, breaking your own trail, leading your own life.

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Some big news came a few weeks ago in the world of Track and Field when Kara Goucher announced she would be joining the flock and recently signed with Oiselle. As a member of the flock, I was obviously excited, and admittedly somewhat surprised. But hearing Kara’s story, her rationale to set flight with Oiselle and leave Nike’s support of over a decade, made total and utter sense. And when Sally (Bergesen, CEO of Oiselle) dropped this one, I couldn’t stop nodding:

“We wanted to make room for powerful women on the start line of our company. After all, while we hate to admit, we’re familiar with the stereotypes…i.e., that things get messy when you have too many strong B’s at the top. And that women often tear each other down, right when we should be building each other up. One reason we find it hard to deal with the old boys’ club is that we aren’t very good at putting together the new girls’ club. I’d like to prove that theory wrong. I want to continue building the new girls’ club – where strong yet different personalities can complement rather than compete.” – Sally Bergesen, Oiselle.com

You see, whether its business, or racing, or academia, this stereotype- that women compete and tear each other down- persists. And perhaps its more than a stereotype, as hypercompetitiveness and “catty” behavior is a contended evolutionary trait. But why? I don’t have the resources to answer that question, but I do know that- anecdotally- I’ve experienced this. I’ve been a victim on numerous occasions. But what is worse: I’ve been the assailant. Oh, how I’d love to be able to say that I’ve never felt jealous of other women in similar positions, that I’ve never said something condescending about what another woman was wearing (albeit not to their face…), or performed a side-by-side comparison of another woman’s measurable accomplishments with my own (whether it were race results, papers published, or acclaim from mentors). And why? For what benefit? To make me feel better? If anything, this behavior has made me feel worse. Whatever metrics I utilized sometimes summed to me “on top”- but often, I’d find out that the other woman (or man) was better, however measurable, or stronger, or faster. And the downward spiral would progress until I felt resentment and discomfort in my own skin. And that’s ridiculous.

Fortunately, my approach in assessing myself (and others), and my accomplishments (and the accomplishments of others), has dramatically improved when I don’t pull up a side-by-side comparison. True, it’s incredibly hard to NOT pull this trick. And many aspects of life are evaluated in list-form side-by-side comparisons. Say four people are being interviewed for a single tenure-track position. Each of their strengths and weaknesses are being assessed by a committee. Or, perhaps a hundred grants are being reviewed by a committee and there’s only enough money to fund five, maybe six. This weekend, twenty elite women are toeing the line at a 5K and only one woman can win the $1,000 prize purse. Does that mean that those “losers,” the ones who won’t get that single tenure track job at this one university or win the grant or win the race are worse candidates than the others? Absolutely not. They made it there. They toed the line. Their grant was reviewed. Maybe they just missed the cut off score for funding. Maybe they came in dead last in the race. Whatever the case may be, they were there. They put themselves out there to be judged and to be assessed. By knowing humility and confidence (and when to use it), they show strength and perseverance. And it doesn’t matter what race you’re running or field you study, those there are great traits.

And lastly: It’s ok to be competitive. Competitiveness is a trait in many of us that motivates, inspiring us to do better and be better. Interestingly, comparing our own accomplishments to that of others is incredibly easy. It’s lists and side-by-side comparisons that show A is better than B. 2 is greater than 1. But guess what? Every list is always incomplete. The committee hiring for a tenure track faculty doesn’t care what your 5K PR time is. The granting agency doesn’t care how many friends you have on Facebook. Your competitors in the race this weekend give two shits if you have to prepare for upcoming job interviews*. So maybe… maybe it’s not fair to compare side-by-side. Assume your list isn’t complete; assume “their” list isn’t, either.

*unless your competitors are your friends. Then, they probably care.

Virtual long run – One – #longrun

A very good friend of mine has maintained a rolling blog series that she calls “Sunday afternoon virtual coffee date,” where she recaps her exciting news as if she were chatting with me (one of her many beloved readers) in real life. Jenn and I used to hang out at Rockford Coffee, or The Daily, when we were both in graduate school at Montana State. We’d talk for hours, plan our next adventure, or just study together and randomly interject with crazy twenty-something gossip. Then, very abruptly (or at least, it felt that way), we graduated and moved away from Montana. Since then, over six years has passed, and we continue to keep in touch through random visits, email, and of course- our blogs. Her coffee date posts have been a fun way for me to touch base and stay in tune with her life happenings over this past year, even if we don’t email or chat on the phone for months. And it’s been a godsend, given her crazy travel schedule over the last nine months (interviewing, moving back to Montana, traveling, adventuring, etc.).

For some reason, it has taken me nearly as long to realize that this type of blog post is something I should jump in with, too. But instead of coffee dates, as I rarely find myself hanging out at coffee shops these days, I think it will take the form as a virtual long run. This rendition was also inspired by a recent Tumblr post from haute volee Oiselle runner Fast Kate on “Notes from a long run”- so here it goes.  Lace up your shoes, let’s give it a try.

If we were on a long run, I’d tell you about the wonderful food I’ve been eating as of late. It’s necessary to get back into the long runs because of all the oil, fat, and butter that goes into the meals I eat. Given Adam’s new purchase of Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home,” our dinners have transformed into some elegant comfort foods that are simple yet something I’ve never had before. He is really enjoying the pursuit of new adventures in the kitchen, and obviously I am supportive. His cooking style is evolving, and he’s really into learning new techniques and styles of cooking, and even in presentation too (we have special plates and bowls that make the meals look just about as good as they taste). Did I mention it’s really nice living with my husband? After being apart for over two years, I know that my life is just that much better when he’s around.

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If we were on a long run today, I’d groan a little about my decision to teach and do research this semester. Oh, and apply for faculty jobs. Teaching has been a lot of work, and one of the main reasons I haven’t been out on many long runs this fall. Teaching a new class, or a class for the first time, has a steep learning curve, but I feel like I am finally at the plateau where things in everyday teaching-life are more routine. I can predict questions and answer them effectively in class and out of class, compared to when the semester first started, when I didn’t know what the students didn’t know. And we can always improve, get better, do more. Teaching is rewarding, and demanding, and humbling, but I like it. I still prefer research primarily, but I think teaching provides a medium to connect with a younger generation and see if what you’re working towards in your career strikes a chord with them. Plus, it helps with articulating what you are trying to say, which is never a bad thing to practice in a scientist’s life.

If we were on a long run today, I’d ask you what you think of the GoldieBlox campaign for girls’ toys targeting design and engineering. The campaign on Kickstarter is incredible. There is a Rube Goldberg machine, little girls in safety glasses singing the Beastie Boys’ “Girls,” and it’s just straight-up girl power coming from 6 year olds. On the other hand, here’s a toy that is still clinging to the pink-is-for-girls stereotype. When will there be gender neutrality? And when can we stop thinking of kids as little girls and little boys and start thinking of them as aspiring engineers? A friend of mine posted a thought-provoking commentary on this. But there’s also a big gap with where we are and where we want to be as far as gender neutrality goes. And maybe it’s ok that some girls like pink things, and only play with pink toys, and aren’t interested in LEGOs, just like it’s ok that some boys want to play with dolls and kitchen things. And maybe not every kid is going to grow up and be an engineer. Whatever. If it gets the toy, made to encourage spatial visualization and design and mechanics, into the hands of a little girl because her parents only buy her pink toys or she only likes pink toys, well- that’s one step in the right direction.

If we were on a long run today, I’d ask you what good books you’ve read lately. I’ve been engrossed in the Wheel of Time novels, and because I am a slow reader, I am only on Book 6, of 14. It’s gonna be a while. So I want to know what books to get on Audible, or your cliff notes of the next best autobiography. I have a terrible habit of starting books and not finishing them, especially when I feel like I have got everything out of them that I can.

If we were on a long run today, I’d want to start planning a run-cation for next year. Where to go? What to see? I hope to be traveling a bit in the spring for interviews, but I also want to go to a few conferences, and if a race lines up with a “work” trip, that would be cool. Part of me wants to race a marathon again, just to see where I am at endurance-wise and how I can do, but the majority of myself wants to just get fast. So, I think I’ll put off the marathon for a few more years, maybe until I put together a quick, solid half marathon. Plus, I want to jump on the track for some collegiate 5K races per my coach’s recommendation (why not?). I think it would be rad to break 19, so I might as well race a few 5Ks to increase my chances. Working with a coach has been a lot of fun and very educational, and it’s a topic that could take up a huge part of our long run discussion.

Since I haven’t been on a long run in a while, I’m going to stop here, stretch, and get ready for a feast. Happy Thanksgiving!

What I’ve been doing for 10 days away from Blogland

I admit it. It’s been a while. It’s been a whirlwind, ridiculous, awesome (and busy) ten days. There’ve been weddings, races, weekends, and wine.

The craziness began with an 11hour drive and a wedding downstate. Baberaham stood up in his great friend’s wedding. We were able to enjoy some time with his family and some drives in his dad’s 1954 TF MG.

The wedding was outdoors at a camp/resort near Fenton, Michigan. The weather was perfect, the bride looked beautiful, and the bride and groom came out to some Dio (Holy Diver to be exact). B looked absolutely handsome in his tuxedo. The only downside was that I accidentally turned off the fuel pump off while trying to turn on the heat (stinkin’ unlabeled toggle switches under the dash!).

After the wedding, B and I headed up north. He dropped me off in Marquette for our girls’ getaway at the Blueberry Ridge Bed and Breakfast. With Marg’s upcoming wedding and ever-piling-stress, the gals from Team Mega Tough thought it would be a good idea to haul her away for a few nights of wine and cheese and chick time. We had delicious breakfasts, awesome runs, and excellent chats. We even did some blueberry picking and took a trip to Grand Island for a long run.

After the girls’ getaway, it was back to Houghton for some work (me) and some wedding preparations.

With bridal showers and barbecues, I was a little less than ready for the 10mile race I do every July- the Hancock Canal Run. My training hasn’t been stellar as of late, and I have been sore, slow, and unhappy. I wasn’t planning on any specific pace, holding onto the hope for a 7:15 (which I was second-guessing and self-doubting all the way up to the morning of). Luckily, Jess was there and stuck it out with me, and we cruised through the first 8 miles at a super-steady 6:50 pace. Sweeeet. I finished in the low 1:09’s, with Jess just a few seconds in front of me, and I was ecstatic to have hit a Canal Run personal record and to not just squeak under the 70min mark. I definitely wasn’t expecting a PR, but I was happy to grab it. I ended up third in my AG with Jess taking 2nd.

After the race, we showered and got our awards, and then headed up to the Jam Pot for some sweets. It was soon time to head to the park for Marg’s wedding, and I was the family photography organizer. Being the bossy gal that I am, we got through the photos without a hitch and started the ceremony on time! Woot.

With TMT in full effect, we rocked out the night with some great food, great friends, and great dancing. I couldn’t have asked for a better week, and I saw so many people and got to catch up with some amazing friends that I haven’t seen in a while (and some that I have). It’s amazing to me how flawless reunions can be, and we’re already planning our next one.