One Year

Today marks one year that my beautiful friend and roommate, Kate, passed away.

There are some days that I still can’t believe she is gone. I’m quickly reminded because of the void I, and all that knew her feel on a constant basis.

On this forum and in life I’ve talked a lot about who she was; a confident free spirit who let her heart and intuition guide her. She was one of the most self-serving people I’ve ever known, and she was who she was respectively, honestly, and responsibly. She did only things that served her happiness, purpose, and truth. And she did that while simultaneously volunteering and mentoring, passionately pouring herself into her book, running, practicing yoga, traveling the world, going camping, etc.

What makes me sad the most is that there are people in this world who will never know her. There are so many who need her, who could have benefited from her bright light and they never will.

Kate was fearless. She was human, she made mistakes. But she lived knowing who she was, and if you had a problem with that it didn’t affect her much. I’m pretty much the opposite; I’ve always had a hard time with needing validation from others. As a result I’ve let the fear of judgment from others influence my decisions and feelings. But this year I’ve challenged myself to embody the Kate mantra; to do what makes me happy and live my truth. All I, or any of us, can hope for is that while we are trying to do our best, to live the best version of our happiest lives, we have the support and kindness from those we love most. And if we don’t receive that, recognize it might just not be our problem to fix.

Kate has given me inspiration, taught me lessons, given me strength and courage every day. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her, miss her, or wish she was still living in our apartment. I know that’s how you can verify the impact of someone on your life when they are gone; when they continue to be a great life teacher after they’ve passed.

Kate has also given me the gift of new friends. Before Kate’s passing, I didn’t hang out with the Wisconsin Crew much but that changed after our shared tragedy. Now this scrappy group of Badger alum are an integral part of my life.  I can’t thank them enough for their support, love, and friendship this past year.

With the anniversary of Kate’s death comes some good news. The book Kate was working on publishing, Fly With Maya, will soon be available for purchase. You can read more on the website, but in short it’s the amazing story of a girl who travels around the world, meeting engineers along the way on a hot air balloon. It’s a beautiful story of teaching a little girl that she can be anything she wants, even a typically male dominated profession like an engineer.

In memory of Kate, I encourage you to sign up to volunteer, cook a healthy meal from a cookbook you’ve never used, go for a run, arrange a gathering with family or friends, plan your next big vacation, or call a friend you’ve lost touch with. She did all of these things in a single day. If we could all be more like Kate, this world would be a much more wonderful place.

I try, everyday, to be more like Kate.

With love,

Brittny

Global Running Day

I love Global Running Day. I get sentimental on this day ever year, as it’s a time for me to reflect every year on my running journey, where I’ve come and where I started. I also hope it encourages at least one person who thinks they can’t run or running isn’t for them to give it a try. Because that used to be me, in a big way.

Running is such a big part of my life, and probably more than I realize. I obsess over, prepare, practice, train, and think about running every single day. When I’m not running, I’ve made the conscious decision not to run because my body needs recovery.

I get emotional when I think about running because I never thought I would be a runner. I’ve been running for 7 years, and up until last year I wasn’t comfortable labeling myself as a runner. I always thought running was something outside my wheelhouse; something that only people with a certain body type, who are naturally fast, confident, or gifted could do and do well.

Running is hard- there is no question about that. It hurts. It’s uncomfortable. It’s frustrating. But it’s accepting uncomfortableness that has been one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from running. I can’t knock seconds, or even minutes, off my race times without pushing myself to new heights. I have to be vulnerable and take a leap of faith to achieve higher goals. If I want to run faster splits or run farther distances, I have train faster and run more miles. I have to trust the process. Which is another valuable life lesson; as someone who likes being in control it’s scary to put your heart, soul, time and energy into something when you can’t be 100% certain of the outcome. We’re at risk of injury, sickness, bad weather, etc. We’re human after all. At the end of the day, when it comes to running the only thing you can control is the effort you put in. Even if numbers don’t prove it, when I train harder I gain so much; I have more discipline. I am stronger. I am healthier. I feel more like me.

I love geeking out over stats, the feeling when I know I’m going to PR, but most of all talking and bonding over running. Admittedly I prefer to run by myself; I can’t really talk when I run so it just suits me better to run independently. But I never regret it when I run with friends or attend a running meet up. I love hearing about other people’s accomplishments with running; to me, running isn’t competitive. We’re all just trying to beat ourselves; to be better than we used to be. Shoutout to my ladies Peggy and Kate, for the shared encouragement, understanding, love and support with running 🙂

More than any thing I’ve ever done, running has taught me so much about myself. Running has taught me discipline. It has taught me tenacity. Perseverance. Confidence. To be brave, proud of myself and my accomplishments. Running has made me stronger, both physically and mentally. It has guided me through some of the darkest moments of my life. Running has made me a better person.

So that’s why, after I swore I was “one and done” with the marathon, I’m running the Chicago Marathon this fall. My training officially kicked off this week, and I’m all sorts of nervous and excited. I’m also partnering again with Team in Training, which benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you’d like to donate to my training page, please do so here.

And if not, that’s okay too. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your support and encouragement. It means the world to me 🙂

 

Japanese Salad Bowls

Since completing Whole30 and getting back from Southeast Asia I’ve been craving simple, nutritious meals that don’t skimp out on flavor. I’m also in the beginning of training season (I have two half marathons at the end of the Summer and am currently debating signing up for the Chicago Marathon) so it’s important to have a balance of carbs, protein, and fats. I’ve also been on a bit of an unintentional vegetarian/vegan kick, as I just haven’t really been in the mood to cook lots of meat lately.

I love Cookie+Kate and Minimalist Baker as sources of inspiration for vegetarian meals that are fun and flavorful. I made this Japanese Salad bowl as a combination of Minimalist Baker’s Buddha Bowl and Cookie+Kate’s Vegetarian Sushi Bowl, and it turned out so well I had it back to back nights for dinner this week. Here’s the recipe:

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Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cooke Time: 20 minutes (45 minutes if cooking sweet potato)

Makes 1 serving:

Salad:

1 1/2-2 cups kale, stems discarded

1 Japanese sweet potato

1/3 C frozen edamame

1 green onion thinly sliced, stems discarded

1/2 bell pepper, cut into slices

1/4 avocado

2 tblsp olive oil

Sprinkle of sesame seeds

Dressing:

1 tblsp sesame oil

1 1/2 tblsp tahini paste

1 tblsp soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos

1 teaspoon sweetner (honey, maple syrup, agave)

1 tblsp water (to thin)

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400* and bake your sweet potato for about 45 minutes (you can always meal prep your sweet potatoes in bulk on Sundays and heat one up quickly in the microwave). I like to wash it, pat it dry then wrap it in foil and simply put it on a baking sheet.

Slice the bell pepper into strips and throw into a cast-iron skillet with a dash of high heat oil (I love avocado oil). Sauté for about ~10 minutes, depending on how much you like to cook your bell pepper (you can always have it raw). Heat a pot of water and boil the edamame for about ~7 minutes. While these both cook, slice the green onions and your avocado. Massage the kale with olive oil and a dash of salt (this will help take the bitterness out of the kale and trust me it makes the world of difference).

Once your sweet potato is done heating wait a few moments to let it cool and slice it into rounds. Using the kale as your base add the edamame, green onions, bell pepper, sweet potato. To make the dressing, simply add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the salad, and you’re done!

You can always double the recipe, add your choice of meat or fish, add sliced cucumber, carrots, etc. The possibilities are endless! Enjoy!

With love,

Brittny

Life, Lately

I’ve taken the last couple of weeks to resume normal life after Whole30. I’ve been adding back in foods and ingredients that I wasn’t eating (dairy, gluten, legumes, alcohol etc.) and have been adjusting pretty well. I did have ice cream a couple nights last week and woke up in the morning to find my hands were super.swollen. So weird, but that’s the only major difference I’ve noticed.

For the next couple weeks I’m laying low and gearing up for a trip to Thailand and Vietnam in Mid-March. It’s a small group of us from the Machu Picchu trek I did in 2015, and I’m SO FREAKING EXCITED. My friend Peggy should seriously quit her job and become a travel agent, as she has planned this entire trip for us and I couldn’t be more grateful. So I’m finally going to buy a real camera and download podcasts/books (recommendations are welcome!)

I recently discovered Fresh Air and I have to say I love Terry Gross. She has such a calm yet inquisitive interview candor that I feel makes the interview interesting and the interviewee comfortable. My favorite so far is an interview she did with Barry Jenkins and Tarrell McCranney (the director and playwright of Moonlight, respectively). I saw Moonlight a couple weeks ago and I’ve thought about it every day since; it’s left an impression on me that I can’t seem to shake. The film tells the story of Chiron, and his life in three different stages; all stories have profound layers of both pain and beauty, and themes and revelations about Chiron that all fold together so methodically at the end. If you have time, go see it before the Oscars- I think it will get a few surprise wins. That and Manchester by the Sea. While the circumstances and settings of both movies are starkly different, they are so very similar in telling stories of incomprehensible trauma and how we cope.

I realized earlier this week that I’ve seen 5 of the 9 Oscar nominated films for Best Picture: La La Land, Arrival, Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea. Hey, I had to do SOMETHING while I was on Whole30! Anyway, now I’ve made it my mission to see all 9 films before the Oscars on February 26th. I’m seeing Lion tomorrow, and will fit in the rest somehow this weekend/next week. Once I see all the movies, then I’ll give my predictions for wins 🙂

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These are some cookies I made from Shalane Flanagan’s Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook. Majority of the recipes are gluten free and vegan, and these cookies were AMAZING.

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I finally ran that half marathon I’ve been talking about repeatedly, and unexpectedly PR’d 🙂 My chip time was 1:55:49 and I’m really happy about it! The race started off a little slow (weaving in and out of crowds, deciding how hard I could push myself, etc.) but I found my bearings shortly after mile 2. Around mile 7 I realized I could PR, and miles 8-12 were on the great highway, so relatively flat and boring but I took advantage of the flat road. I PR’d by 2 minutes and was also really happy to see I had negative splits the whole race. Since I only trained for about 6 weeks, I’m going to contribute this Half’s success to Whole30

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Enjoying a Mango IPA at Barrelhouse in SLO. I’m not one of those girls who “doesn’t drink beer” but I really have not been feeling it lately. But this Mango IPA is by far my favorite beer out there; it’s slightly sweet, light, and extremely tasty. If you’re ever taking a drive through the central coast I really recommend stopping for one.

Whole30 Graduate

For the month of January I did Whole30. I gave you a week 1 recap and then didn’t give you a week 2 or 3 recap. My bad. But! I’m happy to report that I stuck with it for 30 days straight; I haven’t had grains*, gluten, soy, dairy, alcohol, added sugar or legumes. 95% of the meals I ate in the month of January I cooked. That’s right; to ensure I was compliant with Whole30 I cooked almost all of my  meals at home, and if I did go out to eat it was to grab a salad, or the like. Needless to say it was by far the healthiest month of my life.

So, was it hard? Ab-so-freaking-lutely.

Would I do it again? Probably.

So why exactly did I do this?

Well I’ve mentioned here before that after the marathon, running took a back burner in the fall. Combine that with going out quite a bit on weekends and eating all.of.the.things, come December my body was in desperate need of a break and reset. I was feeling extremely puffy and bloated, and it started to affect my mood and my self image and confidence. Unfortunately, it got to the point where I was the unhappiest with my body than I’ve been in years.

Emily brought up the idea of doing Whole30 for the month of January and I told her she was crazy. But, due to the aforementioned feelings above, I knew I needed a hard reset and to do something I’d never done before. I had been putting off my health for months, letting vacations or fun events be an excuse. But in January all my weekends were free and the excuses had run out. It was time for me to focus on making myself healthier and happier. So while Whole30 was a bit of an extreme way to set out to accomplish this goal, desperate times call for extreme measures.

What did I learn, exactly? Well, over the last 30 days I’ve gained a lot of perspective. I think a lot of people share this mentality when it comes to treats: that a bite won’t kill you. But for me, a bite turns into 2 or 3 bites, and I regret all of them later. “Treats” weren’t special anymore and I wasn’t saving them for what they are; a special food to celebrate a birthday or a really shitty day. Not to celebrate that I got of bed that morning and was a functioning human. Before Whole30 I was taking the “treat yoself” mentality a little too liberally. I was saying “yes!” to everything out of fear of feeling FOMO or looking silly (I don’t know about you, but when something is in front of me I have a really hard time saying no). Yes, I’m that girl who enjoys the half of a cupcake for a few minutes and then is on the bus home after work regretting it. But what I realized was underneath that was disappointment in myself that I didn’t have control or that I let FOMO get the best of me.

I had to learn to get comfortable saying no. Instead of giving in I remembered my goal and why I was doing this in the first place; why I was on this restrictive diet and reset. I would remind myself “You’ve had a cookie before. What you haven’t done before is said no to indulgences that you’ll regret later.” So with that, I politely said no more times than I ever had before and explained I was doing Whole30. And you know what? Everyone supported me. And I began to be okay with “missing out.” I put myself and this dedication to my body and mind first. I’m really proud of that. Perhaps the most important learning and accomplishment of Whole30 is that I have more willpower and determination than I’ve ever given myself credit.

Taking the time to mindfully think about the foods I was putting into my body was also a welcome perspective. I’ve circled back on the realization that my food is my fuel. You already know running and my performance is important to me. So, yes, while I did PR the morning after a day of day drinking last fall, I’ve also been able to wake up every day for 30 days without the excuse of a hangover to skip my morning workout. I’m also someone who gets MAJOR anxiety after they drink, so that anxiety relief has been amazing as well.

So did I lose weight? Yep. About 6 pounds. And while I’m thrilled, I’m more grateful for the loss of anxiety, learning to put myself first, and getting comfortable with saying no. It feels great to accomplish something so big for me personally to start off the year.

I bet you’re wondering if I’m eating a donut as I’m writing this reflection post. Not exactly. I’m following the Whole30 reintroduction and will start to slowly add back in the foods I haven’t been eating. So instead of a donut I’m eating homemade granola. And it is GLORIOUS! On Friday I’m going out for sushi and am adding back in legumes, and after my race on Sunday I’ll have my first drink since January 1st.

Cheers to 2017 already off to a healthy and accomplished start : )

*Disclaimer: I was eating quinoa for a few days there. As I’m training for a half my body needed some type of grain carb.

President Trump

*Warning: Semi-liberal post. If you’re offended by these opinions, I advise you don’t read this post*

I’ve been interested in politics since I was a little girl. I can’t remember how, or what exactly sparked my interest, but I remember writing a history paper in 7th grade about JFK. I did TONS of research on the young president who came from a family of wealth and privilege. Even then, I wasn’t ignorant to his extra marital affairs but instead focused on his legacy; how a young, Catholic senator from Massachusetts captivated our nation.

This history/political science interest continued on to high school, where I had a history teacher named Ms. Feinberg. Whether she knows this or not, she had an incredible impact on how and why I think the way I do. She graduated from Columbia undergrad and Stanford graduate school. She wasn’t married, had frizzy hair, and didn’t dress all that well. And she was the first female role model I had who’d put her education first. Above getting married, her looks, etc. And while I don’t think this was ever her intention, her liberal rhetoric poured over into the way she taught. I thought she was incredibly smart, and I challenged myself to be more like her.

I went on to be a Political Science minor in college, and was fortunate enough to be going to school in Colorado in 2008; a swing state that has a caucus nomination process. The night I went to caucus was one of the most important and rewarding experiences of my life as an American citizen. I went to the local elementary school where I sat in a classroom with about 35 other voters. When the facilitator asked us to raise our hands for who we were nominating for the Democratic party, about 12 people raised their for Hillary Clinton, and 23 or so raised their hands for Barack Obama.

I raised my hand for Barack Obama.

A couple of weeks earlier, Obama held a rally at the University of Denver on a weekday morning. A classmate and I left at 6:30 am, made our way down to Denver, and arrived at 7:30 am to see 20,000 people lined up outside the DU Hockey Arena. 20,000 people. The arena could only hold 9,000. Some people left, but we heard muffling of people going onto the soccer field where he would address those who wouldn’t be able to get in. We beelined for the soccer field, and were some of the first ones on the field.

He came out with Caroline Kennedy by his side, and I felt a moment where life had come full circle. From that braces and pimpley preteen who was infatuated with this woman’s father to then, a woman in college attending a political rally.

He spoke about change. He spoke about hope. He was charismatic, kind, warm, and smart. It felt like everything he was saying I was looking for. My vote was a no brainer.

Flash forward 8 years, to Election Day 2016.

Maybe I’ll blame the fact that I chose to write my first history paper on a democrat, or maybe I’ll blame Ms. Feinberg. Or the fact that I was born and raised in the most liberal city in the country. I even have republican parents! But I can’t help it. I am what you would classify as a liberal. I believe in women’s rights. I believe in equal pay. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe in gay marriage. I believe in civil rights. I believe in social welfare programs. I believe in universal healthcare. I believe that global warming is real. I want to protect our national parks. I am willing to pay my fair share of taxes and sacrifice part of my paycheck to protect and advance these initiatives. Because I believe we are all in this together. But I also want to say, that I support our troops, our veterans, and those who fight for our country. I think you can be “Republican” on some issues and “Democrat” on others. I’m not sure there isn’t anyone in this country who doesn’t think we need to make veteran affairs a top priority. So if that makes me by definition a liberal, then so be it.

I’m here to say, and I guess the point of this post, is that I am sad today. Sure, I am sad my party “lost.” I am sad that Congress is made up of a Republican Majority. I’m afraid these leaders will take away some of the rights I believe should be non-negotiable. But with that, I understand there are transitions of power. I know that “my party” isn’t always going to be in power.

What I am sad about most is there is a man in power, the leader of the free world, my, our, YOUR POTUS- a man who degrades women. Who mocks the disabled. I am sad we are transitioning from a dignified, respectable, and graceful president to a man who has shown little to no empathy or tolerance for those of different religions, cultures, and circumstances than his own.

About a month before the election I heard an interview with a republican couple from North Carolina. They were swing voters who were leaning towards Trump because of their religious values. What was making them swing and doubt their vote was Trump himself. The husband worked for an international company and did a lot of business overseas. He was embarrassed by Trump and was afraid of losing business if Trump became president. They spoke about the bible, and how God loves all of his children, no matter their immigration status. I’m sure they ended up voting for Trump, but for those reasons I can understand. They voted for him because the values they hold dear he supported. But they did not support his demeanor and candor.

I know that there are people who don’t agree with me on what I value. But then again, I don’t know them personally. I live in my liberal bubble. I only travel to the coasts, to big cities. I am amongst people who would fight for my right to be paid equally. I am amongst people who would fight for my right to get birth control. I don’t know people who are sick and tired of our government. Who feel like this isn’t their America. The people I know thought our government was working just fine under President Obama. Sure, they may not have been happy all the time, but I don’t know anyone who is happy about the man we are going to have in office for four years.

I know there are disgruntled Americans. I know they are out there. Because they have made their voices heard. I just want to know if they are proud of our new president’s demeanor? Of his temper? Of his Tweets?

Because I believe you can still respect a leader in power who you don’t see eye to eye with. You can still respect someone you don’t agree with. You can still be kind. You can still be graceful.

I’m hopeful. Because if we lose sight of hope, we have no dreams to hold on to.

My best friend sent me this quote, and it encapsulates everything I’m feeling today: “Loyalist to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”- Mark Twain.

2016 Running Recap

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 was to run one race a month. I’m happy to say that with the exception of August I stuck to my resolution! These races were a combination of painful slow running, sensational fast running, frustration, weaving between crowds, cold and hot weather, etc. Some were unexpectedly easier than others, while some were annoyingly harder. I considered sleeping in and ditching a lot of these races, but I held myself accountable, which is another unexpected accomplishment from this resolution. Here’s my list of races for 2016:

January: Hot chocolate 5K

  Foster City 5K

February: Chinese New Year 10K (3rd year in a row!)

March: Get Lucky 5K*: 25:13/top 2 women!

April: Guardsmen 10K

May: Girls on the Run 5K

June: San Diego Rock n Roll Half Marathon*: 1:56:22 (first time breaking sub 2hours!)

July: San Francisco Marathon

August: No race, still miserable from the marathon and was seriously debating if I ever wanted to run again

September: Giants 10K*: 53:37

October: Run 10 Feed 10

November: Oceanside Turkey Trot 10K

December: Timed 5K on December 31: 26:02

*PR!

As I admitted above, a lot of these races weren’t exactly pretty. In particular, the half marathon in June was the toughest; not from a physical aspect, but because I was in a really emotional headspace. I was going through a lot of change that left me in a sensitive state of fragility and self conscious with uncertainty. I also added on the pressure that if I wanted to do well in my first marathon in July, I had to run this half easily. The combination of my vulnerable state of mind and PR stress resulted in me using the race as a way to hold on to the part of my identity that I was most proud of, while simultaneously fighting feelings of nervousness and doubt. Every race I repeat to myself not to give up, but this race that voice quickly turned into nagging and reminding myself that in 7 weeks I had to run double the mileage. The internal competition within myself reached an extreme point. I was pushing myself so hard. In most of my other races, it’s typically my mind that gives me the extra push when my body feels exhausted. But this race it was my mind that was trying to keep up with my body. Giving up wasn’t an option, and my body was stronger than my mind. It was a time where I was truly appreciative of all of the training I’d ever done that had lead me to that point.

The best and most surprising race of the year was the Giants 10K. To be honest I was pretty hungover, as the day before I was celebrating Erik Davis’ birthday playing some good old fashioned sloshball (aka keg kickball aka drinking lots of beer while playing kickball) in Golden Gate Park. Considering it was my first race since the marathon, I had no expectations for this race (quite the alternative since June). Maybe it was all of the carbs from the beer or the fact I was running a familiar route, but I quickly found my stride after mile one, and continued to feel better with each mile. I didn’t wear my Garmin for this race (that’s how much I was winging it), so when I looked up my race results and saw that I PR’d by a full minute, I was pretty stoked.

These two races ended in PR’s and were so obviously different. It just proves that at the end of the day not every PR, accomplishment or success was traveled on a yellow brick road to get there. I guess that’s a metaphor for life too, right?

Admittedly, running has taken a back burner the last few months. To put it simply, I just haven’t been into it. I’ve felt and seen changes in my body as a result, and feel sluggish and slow. Quite the contrast from this past Summer when I was in maybe the best shape of my life. But it’s not all about how I look physically. As a creature of habit I feel so much more stable when I have a routine. It feels SO good every time I cross off another interval, fartlek, track, tempo, or long run. Training for a race and goal, and knowing what I need to do to get there gives me a sense of security and accomplishment.

I’ve made it no secret here that 2016 was a tough year, for many reasons. So in an effort to make 2017 better, a couple weeks ago I decided I would start training for the Kaiser Half Marathon on February 5th. I look forward to sharing with you all a bit of my training progress in the new year!

Here’s to more miles, happiness, and health in 2017 🙂

29, Tomorrow

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Tomorrow is my 29th birthday.

This is the first year I’m a little freaked out about my birthday. I know, I know. You’re rolling your eyes, thinking “Get over yourself, Yuloo. You’re still SO young.” I get it. But this is the first year where I can feel myself getting older. Both physically and mentally. And where I can’t help but wonder how, exactly, I arrived at where I am now.

Everyone has dreams and ideas about the future or how their life will look at a certain age, right? We set these expectations for ourselves based on how our parents lives unfolded, societal pressure, or maybe even something we saw in a movie. I had grand visions for how I thought my life would look at this age, and it isn’t exactly what I had envisioned. I don’t want you to think I don’t recognize how pretty damn good it is; I’m healthy, have a roof over my head, and people who love and support me. But life has taken a few turns off the path I dreamed up, and I’m learning to be okay with that. I’ve had to shift my perspective, and it’s been one of life’s biggest lessons.

There were a lot of curve balls in my 28th year; quite simply a lot of life happened. Tons of change, uncertainty, heartache, and uncomfortable moments. Whether or not I wanted it, life decided it needed to happen. And for whatever reason, all at once (or so it felt and seemed).

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this past year has been that you can’t control what happens to you. We are vulnerable humans, susceptible to pain. As much as you have the need or want to control everything, you can’t. You can’t anticipate life happening. Things happen for unknown reasons. And at what point do we let go of expectations and just let God, fate, or whatever it is you believe in take it’s course?

One of the toughest, and perhaps saddest realizations I’ve had this year is that at some point, everyone in your life is going to hurt you. Your parents, your best friend, your partner. And not because they are trying to hurt you, but because we’re all just navigating through life, trying to do just that: live. Hopefully by putting our best foot forward. But the expectations we place on others are only going to come back around and bite us when they don’t live up to those expectations. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have standards for people, because you should. You should never allow anyone to bring you down in ways you won’t or can’t tolerate. But at the end of the day, you have to choose the people around you who you are willing to accept disappointment from. Once you realize that everyone at some point is going to disappoint you, it will be easier to cope when they do. That is one choice we have; who we choose to share this beautiful life with.

My goal for 29 is to continue to let go of the need to control all aspects of my life, and just let whatever will be, be. To let things happen without my influence. And to embrace it all. The good, the bad, the ugly. To trust the process. Because what you do have control over is your attitude. And how you react. We can challenge ourselves to find meaning when heartache reaches us, and try our hardest to overcome adversity with grace. And in turn, relishing in those beautiful moments when life seems to be quite perfect. That when we feel joy and happiness, when we laugh until we cry, smile until our cheeks hurt, we are reminded of how sweet it all really is. Something as simple as feeling sunshine on your face, serving as a reminder that you are alive. And hanging onto those moments for as long as possible.

I’m a much stronger person than I was a year ago. Mentally I am kinder to myself, and more forgiving. I’m not there yet, because I’m a work in progress. For knowing that, I am thankful. Knowing that it’s okay not to be perfect, or to be disappointed when things aren’t how you want them and to embrace the alternative. And physically because I am a faster runner than I’ve ever been before. For that, I am proud. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone this year with running, and it paid off.

So here’s to a new year, and a new outlook. To getting older, and letting go of expectations. Expectations suck. Unless you expect everyone to be kind. That’s okay.

Music, Lately

Everyone loves music, right? I love the way it connects and bonds even the most contrastive people. Admittedly, my taste in music is eclectic and ranges anywhere from moody John Mayer, to poppy Taylor Swift, Chance the Rapper and country hip thruster Luke Bryan. No matter the kind of music (maybe aside from death metal), one of my favorite things on earth is being outside, listening to live music with friends and a cold beer.

Maybe it’s because I’m a sensitive soul, was an English major or just a sucker for finding sentiment in anything, but I appreciate music for the way it allows artists to express themselves; I love listening to lyrics and analyzing what they mean. I love dancing like a fool and feeling the rush when your favorite song comes on. That feeling of pure excitement has little comparison, and reminds me almost of childhood; how the smallest joys can instantly change your mood.

Here are a few songs I’m into at the moment, if you’re looking for some new jams:

If you’re in the mood for a mellow love song: Upsidedown by Goldford. The lyrics are incredibly sweet, and this song will resonate with anyone whose feeling vulnerable in love lately. I mean, with lyrics like “Sometimes I need a light when the moon is low Sometimes I need some loving when my feelings show” and “I lean into your kiss for my sanity, So give me all your lovin for my vanity.” I can just imagine listening on a porch somewhere with a glass of wine as the sun goes down. Ahhh…

If you want to throw it back to ten years ago: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Mayer. This past week was the 10 year anniversary of John Mayer’s 3rd album Continuum. John Mayer is one of, if not my favorite, artists of all time. I know he receives a lot of criticism for his personality and questionable interviews, but his extraordinary guitar playing and, of course, lyrics make him undoubtedly talented. Here is what John had to say while reflecting on the 10 year anniversary of Continuum:

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Continuum turns 10 today… here I am a decade later in the same jacket I wore in the cover shot. I remember so much about this record. I remember cutting “I Don’t Trust Myself” and “Bold As Love” in NYC. I remember the Trio tour that divided the NY and LA portions of recording. I remember coming up with “Gravity” in the shower at the Four Seasons in LA and not looking up for a day while I wrote it. It was finished the next night. I remember telling Chad as I was writing a song that it sounded like two people “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.” I remember the innocence, the discovery, and I remember the feeling of playing these songs night after night on tour and realizing they could hold up as both pop songs and guitar explorations. Lucky to have it and lucky to have you all as fans. More to come very soon. X JM

A fun, upbeat, party song: Kings of Summer by ayokay, Quinn XCII

Closer by the Chainsmokers, Halsey. I know what you’re thinking, and no I don’t like this song just because they reference Boulder in it, but I will admit when my friend told me I was excited 🙂 This song is another fun and upbeat party song that I can see myself singing along to with my besties down the freeway.

Fade Away by Rebelution. Earlier this Summer I went to two concerts at the Greek theatre… in one week. I went to Alabama Shakes on Saturday and Rebelution and The Green with my friend Tamara and her husband Daniel on Tuesday. I’ve been listening to Rebelution since college, and it’s always fun when artists try something new and deviate from their original sound. Granted it doesn’t always work, but this song has been on repeat since I heard it at the concert. As a Reggae Rock Band this song is more mellow than anything they’ve done in the past, but Rebelution nailed this one.

I hope you enjoy some of what I’ve been listening to lately, and have an awesome rest of your week! xo

The SF Marathon Recap

It’s been just over a month since I ran the San Francisco Marathon, and I’m happy to report that I have fully recovered! I’ve used this time to rest, reflect, and allow myself to feel proud of this accomplishment. I’ve just started to get back into my regular workout routine, and I feel strong. The other day I ran my fastest 5K, ever! While I definitely do not have the dream of running another marathon in my near future, if this is the only marathon I run in my life, I will be 100% okay with that. Because this experience was overwhelmingly special, unique, and hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever been part of. Here’s why:

As you probably already know, this was my first marathon. For years I swore to myself I would never run a marathon. Partly because I never wanted to put myself through the grueling training, not to mention the race itself. But I was also intimidated, and holding myself back; I was afraid of failure. But in typical “runner” fashion, that changed last year as I was crossing the finish line of the first half of the SF Marathon. I thought to myself “I could totally do that (run another half marathon) one more time.” For months I thought about it, and built myself up. My justification was “I’ve run the second half twice, the first half once; I know the course practically by heart.” So in March of this year, I mustered up the courage to sign up.

I trained for the marathon for 18 weeks, and the training was not easy. I knew it wouldn’t be; how could training to run a 26.2 mile race be easy? But the real reason I wasn’t happy with my training performance is because I missed a couple of key training runs. Unfortunately, the marathon coincided with a really rough period of my life; I was laid off from my job, a really important and significant relationship in my life left me heartbroken, and we lost Kate. All of these events were unexpected and devastating in their own right. They all had their emotional and physical toll, where I quite literally could not get out of bed some days.

So how did I complete the marathon not feeling 100% confident in my training? Well, admittedly, one of the qualities I like most about myself is my determination. When I set myself out to do something, quite simply, I do it. I try my hardest to follow through on everything I set myself out to do, and I have a lot of pride in that. When I wish for something, the first thing I ask myself is “is this a realistic goal?” And if it is, I come up with my plan for achievement. On the other side of that coin, having a strong-willed and determined personality makes coping with failure especially difficult to accept. So while there were a lot of moments these last few months where it seemed like the whole world was against me, and I doubted if I could complete the marathon, not running wasn’t an option.

If you ready my earlier blog post, you know that I had the privilege of running with 21 other people, and we called ourselves #TeamSlattery. 21 people, made up of seasoned runners and people who run here and there, ran with me to complete the marathon for Kate. It was the most special thing I’ve ever been part of. You’ve already read about how I got the crazy idea to run the SF marathon, and here’s how it went down for Kate:

Kate came home one day in April after work, marched into the kitchen and said “Hey. So, I was talking to my coworker today about running, and he was SHOCKED I haven’t run a marathon before.” Boo boo #1, mystery coworker man. NEVER make Kate Slattery feel inadequate. Clearly, he had definitely gotten under her skin. Kate ran the Berkeley half just a few months earlier, and crushed it. She loved running hills, and would often wake up after a long night out and run until she felt content. She was also always setting new goals for herself. Whatever it was that day, he definitely gave her a push and sparked her competitive side. Ten minutes later, we were both signed up for the marathon. She immediately printed out the course map and hung it in our kitchen; it’s still there.

A few days after Kate died, we came up with the goal that her bib would still make it across the finish line. We started discussing how this would happen and came up with the idea that multiple people could run a few miles here and there and exchange the big along the course. When this idea started to float around, a lot of people expressed interest in being part of the race. Kate touched so many lives, and they wanted to honor her.

When it came down to who was interested in running on Kate’s behalf, we had 21 people who were interested. Jeff Inhofer, one of Kate’s oldest friends from UW Madison, assigned one runner to every mile, and Jeff biked to every mile to facilitate the penny exchange (Kate’s bib was pinned on a bright pink penny). Yep, he biked 26.2 miles that day, and also ran 5 miles with me (more on that later). The plan was that whoever was running with me would leave me at about .2 miles before the next mile marker and speed up to Jeff, where he would be waiting with the new runner. They would exchange the penny, and the new runner would run onto the course to meet me.

We created a Google spreadsheet, ordered custom tank tops, and had an awesome dinner the night before. The enthusiasm that everyone had leading up to the race was nothing short of thrilling. I typically get so nervous before a race and am filled with anxiety. But knowing that I would have all of these people next to me (literally) gave me so much confidence.

I started the race with Gabe, which meant the world to me. Gabe is so much more than just my roommate; he is a brother to me. In the year and a half that I’ve known him, we’ve had a lot of highs (like quite literally hiking the Salkantay trail in Peru) and a lot of lows (saying goodbye to Jenny when she moved home to Atlanta, and losing Kate). Quite simply, Gabe is my rock, and he was for Kate, too. Starting the race with him was one of the most special moments of my life.

At mile 2 we met Shaudee, Gabe’s girlfriend. Shaudee is beautiful, smart, kind, and overall one of the loveliest people I know. Gabe and Shaudee are quite literally #relationshipgoals.

Miles 3-5 I ran with Tom Rohlf, Mandy Motl, and Dan Cleary. The exchange between Rohlf and Mandy was the first time I got emotional that day. It was the first time it hit me that all of these amazing people were running with me and encouraging me to do my best. And that we were all rallying behind Kate.

At mile 6 I met Erik Davis and we ran the first half of the bridge. Running with Davis was so much fun. Davis is the “dad” of the group, and has such an energetic and bright personality. He kept me smiling through the mist and thick fog as we looked for Mark Zuckerberg, who was running the first half. We then met Jeff at the end of the bridge at the Fort Point turnaround. Jeff ran miles 6-11 with me. I felt grateful having both Davis and Jeff with me at these miles because mile 6 was lead up to the Golden Gate Bridge (the second of four big hills), and mile 10 was the hill getting up to Seacliff. Jeff and I have gone on runs together before on vacations in Wisconsin and up at Gabe’s lake house, so it was comforting running with him.

Miles 12-14 I ran with Briand Scadden “Scadden”, Emily Pocrinhich, and Laura Koenigs. I had met Emily and Laura the night before at our pre-marathon dinner, and was already looking forward to seeing them. You know those people you meet and instantly want to get to know better? That was definitely the case with these girls, and they both were so infectiously positive, telling me I was doing great and exuding positive energy. I was really thankful for their encouragement at this point in the race.

Up until this point, I felt amazing, and my times were faster than necessary but I felt great. That changed at Mile 15 and onward. I was a mess. My legs started hurting. Bad. They had never felt so heavy in my life, and I was really starting to slow down. I ran these miles with Kate’s coworkers: Emily Kofsky, Scott Lowery, Travis Wilson, and Tim Tasabia. At mile 19 Steve Clark ran with me, and I didn’t know him before the race, but he was my favorite person that day. He ran the marathon a couple years prior, and was giving me great tips to end the race strong. He was also just genuinely enthusiastic and stoked on life. I am so thankful for all of these people, their excitement and new energy that helped me so much in these extremely hard miles.

At mile 20 Mandy Stevermer met me, followed by Felipe Quintana, Dominic Pitera, and Alan Browning for miles 21, 22, and 23. These miles are, admittedly, a blur. We were winding through Potrero Hill and down through the Dogpatch, where we curved around the ball park. At this point I was SO ready to be done with the race. Travis Wilson, who met me at mile 18, was still with me at this point, and didn’t leave until Mile 25. He was a rockstar, and I was thankful to have a constant runner with me.

At Mile 24 Alex Newell was waiting and I finally started to feel better physically. I told Alex that I had never been more excited to see his roommate, Rolf, in my entire life than at mile 25. Halfway into mile 25, Tommy Slattery (Kate’s brother) was there on the Embarcadero and we finished the race together. As I was finishing the race, finishing with Tommy was completely and utterly amazing. I wanted to collapse after the finish line, but he quite literally was holding me up and encouraging me to walk it off. Crossing the finish line #TeamSlattery was waiting off to the right, and seeing all of their faces was one of the proudest moments of my life.

All in all, the marathon was just as demanding, both physically and mentally as I thought it would be. A lot of the time when I’m running and start to get tired, it’s my brain that’s psyching me out. I can often silence that voice telling me to slow down, because my legs still feel strong. On marathon day, I felt endless gratitude for the people running with me who silenced that doubt in my head for me, because my legs were ready to give out at any moment. Running this marathon was one of the best experiences of my life, and I know that if I ever do muster up the courage to run another one, nothing will ever compare to this experience.

I know I sound like a broken record, but the amount of love and support I’ve received has been overwhelming. In a time where it’s hard to see light in this world, you all have helped me shine my light just a little brighter. So thank you. I am eternally grateful, and I know the Slattery family is too.

IMG_6194Getting my bib at the expo!

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Most of the runners, and Kate’s parents #TeamSlattery

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Two of my best friends from home, Mei-lin and Skai, who I’ve known since 3rd and 4th grade, respectively. Both of them have come to so many of my races and having them at the end of the marathon meant so much. Thank you for always believing in me.