Monday, April 30, 2018

4 Epic and Hilarious Fails I've Had While Running

Just because I've never (Yet! There is always time for that in the future! Yay!) DNF'd (Did Not Finish could also be Did Not Fart) in a race, does not mean I haven't had plenty of embarrassingly annoying stumbles throughout my last few years of running. I came to the sport as a very green newbie in 2009, and that gave me plenty of time to have some major wardrobe, bodily and other fails. I guess if you do anything long enough you're bound to encounter odd situations. Or, maybe it's just me. Whatever the case, below are a few of my fabulous fumbles. Go ahead and laugh AT me. I don't care.

1. Did not lock porta potty door - In preparation for the Boston Marathon in 2011, I bought the cutest little turquoise Athleta skirt. I wanted to look and feel like a queen that day! Fast forward to the start line. The minute I started running I realized I had worn underwear. I NEVER wear underwear when I run. Consequently the skirt (which I had never worn before - punch me in the face) was messing with my underwear in that the waistband kept causing the underwear to slide down to my mid-crack. It was so annoying.

Boston Marathon - mile 6ish - underwear is creeping down

I HATE running when there is anything bothering me - a pebble in my shoe, an ear bud that keeps falling out - because I just get fixated on that. I decided the only thing to do was to hop into a porta potty, remove the skirt and throw out the underwear. It was probably about mile 12 when I found a potty without a line. I hopped in there Shalane Flanagan-style, pulled off my skirt completely, took off the underwear and tossed it in the deep dark potty hole. Just then, with me standing there naked from the waist down, the door opens and some guy starts to walk in. I screamed, he slammed the door. What he must have thought!!! Moral of the story - always remember to the lock the door. And leave the underwear at home.

2. Got onto a treadmill when it was ON - Trust me, once you have done this ONE time, you will never do it again. This was early in my running "career" (<hahahahaha, like it would ever be a career). I was at a small gym that I has just joined and about to start my workout. Unbeknownst to me, someone had left the treadmill on. Asshole. Yes, the perfect idea for an episode of Punk'd if I were a celebrity. So, little me is pumping myself up for my run. I gingerly step on the treadmill. I cannot recall what speed it was on, but let's just say it wasn't a "I'm going out for a Sunday stroll" type of speed. I was immediately catapulted off of the treadmill and onto the floor of the gym. It hurt like an m'effer. The world stopped and time stood still as the entire population of the gym fixated on my body flailing on the floor. But, you know how it is when you fall in front of people. You act like it's no big deal and give the impression of "haha, maybe I meant to do that." Fortunately my ego was far more bruised than my body. Just some gym-floor-burns on my knees.

3. Did not wear socks - I have absolutely no excuse for this one. It was my second half Ironman distance race. I had done several triathlons prior. For some reason, I decided I didn't want to take the extra half second to put on socks during my transition from the 56 mile bike ride to the 13.1 mile run. Once I started running, I quickly knew this was going to be  a disaster. My feet were on fire, blisters forming by the second. I knew I would not finish the race unless I had socks. I had to problem solve - and FAST! At the next aid station there was a teenage boy, Tom, handing out water. I begged him to let me have his gross, sweaty, black athletic socks. He hesitated. I then ordered him to give me socks as if I were his mother (and I was definitely old enough to be his mother). Okay, I wasn't mean about it, but I tearfully and firmly asked him. AND HE GAVE THEM TO ME! I told him I loved him. I quickly put on those suckers and promptly finished the race. And threw away the socks at the end. I love you Tom.

Scratch 'n sniff if you want. PS: my thumb looks double jointed.

4. Pinned GUs all over my body - I ran my first marathon on January 18, 2009 (Rock 'n Roll Phoenix). It was my first long distance race. I had no clue what to wear, had no GPS watch and had no idea that there were fancy things to hold one's GUs, etc. I wore shorts without pockets so I figured the most practical thing to do was to safety-pin a half dozen gels to my running singlet. I have no idea in hell how I came up with this idea as it's not something you see anyone doing. I thought I was clever. Not so much. On top of the fact that I looked like a dork with six GUs pinned all over my shirt, I did not do a great job of pinning them so they all swayed and moved and were generally annoying. Another fantastic thing was that trying to run and unpin the pins was harder than running the marathon itself.

Wow, those shorts 

These are just the tip of the iceberg in term of my many blunders over the years. I've got more (mostly involving poop). But we'll save those for a rainy day. You're welcome.

What was one of your newbie mistakes or best running fails?

Ever fall off a treadmill?

Do you wear underwear when you run?


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Stop Being a Pussy! The Art of Suffering and Why It's Good For Runners

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of discomfort lately. Somewhere along the line, most of us got it into our heads that it is wrong to be uncomfortable.

I see it in kids these days - how being tired or sick or stressed or hungry or full or constipated or bloated sends them into a tailspin of bitchiness, complaining and victim-hood. Whatever happened to grittiness and sucking it up? What ever happened to experiencing forms of suffering and not falling apart into a puddle of despair and it's-the-end-of-the-worldness? I mean I walked naked 45 miles to school everyday as a child and never once complained.

Then I take a hard look at myself and I do the same thing as those damn kids. I don't like to be uncomfortable. This being the case, why the hell have I chosen to be a runner? As we know, running is highly torturous at times what with all of the sweating, cramping, heavy breathing, fatigue and shitting of one's pants. No, not every run is like this - some are amazingly uneventful and smooth, but as a general rule - to run is to suffer to some extent.

Watching Desi push through horrendous conditions to win Boston on Monday (after she thought of dropping out at mile 6!), really hit home. She accepted the conditions and never looked back, literally. How can I get some of that grit? Truth is, while most of us will never ever run as fast as Desi, we possess the drive and determination if we just tap into it. Or, I'm gonna keep telling myself that.

Image result for des linden
You can just SEE the determination on her face. The will to get it done despite fatigue, cold, wind and pain.
Or, how about Katherine Beiers, an 85 year old who ran Monday's Boston Marathon in 7:50? She never gave up despite the horrendous conditions. Just as much grit as Desi. Story HERE.

Boston Marathon

I used to be better at embracing the suck. I could power through without stopping to walk or get myself together. In fact, during the first marathon I ran in 2009, I did not walk even one step. I've changed a lot from then. Maybe it's age, maybe I am more apathetic. But, I think it's a mentality that I've adopted - it's as if when I get really uncomfortable (I'm talking tired or achy - not injury stuff) a warning sign goes off that something is wrong. It's not, in fact, wrong. It's just discomfort.

Before I did my first Ironman a few years ago, my PT gave me the BEST advice. He said that there would be many times during the race that I'd be suffering or when something would go wrong (like a flat tire, throwing up, whatever). He told me, "Do not assume it will get worse. Just keep moving forward."

I pushed through a choppy ocean swim, a penalty on the bike and illness during the run.
For 12 hours and 50 minutes I found my GRIT

I love that bit of advice. Because in life, not just in running, there are many times when something happens and we panic, assuming the worst. Your child gets a cold and you assume it will turn into the flu. You feel a niggle in your foot while running and assume you're injured. You start a half marathon and are already tired at mile 1 and assume you'll never make it to the finish.

Indeed while the worst case scenario is sometimes true, usually it's not. Often what we worry about never comes to fruition (it's the shit that we don't worry about that catches us off guard and slaps us in the face - like how a tree fell on my house yesterday. I hadn't worried a moment about that and it happened anyway!).

When we get uncomfortable while running, we shouldn't panic. Aches, pains, fatigue, bad moods come and go, much like those wonderful euphoric experiences we have while running come and go. Really, the trick is to accept the discomfort and stop dwelling on it. Chances are it will improve and not get worse. I know this because my PT told me and he was right. I think it's important to remember that the discomfort is temporary and each step forward is one closer to the finish. Research has even shown that pain is often purely in your head and not an accurate signal of physical distress (injuries aside). Keeping this in mind will enable you to push through the discomfort so you can run faster and longer (

Bottom line: Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it's a small price to pay for living a dream - Peter McWilliams


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Chasing the Fast Girl - My Interview with Suzy Favor Hamilton

Back in 2015, like lots of you, I picked up the book Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton. I didn't know about Suzy's running history much except that she was an Olympian, but I was intrigued by the scandal she puts forth in the book about her "secret" life as a high end Las Vegas Escort.


It's a book you can't put down, purely for the fact that here's a three time Olympian middle distance runner who has a five year old child with her husband Mark (by then they had been married for 13  years) and becomes a high class hooker (you can say "escort" but we all know what that really means). Her clientele were rich, famous and powerful men.

All the while, her husband knew what she was doing and felt powerless to stop her, although he remained in the marriage. Suzy's Vegas persona was Kelly Lundy, a beautiful and seductive woman who was hyper-sexualized, fueled by drugs and alcohol. Yet, she remained "Suzy" to her thousands of fans and sponsors (Clairol, Reebok and Pert Shampoo to name a few) and continued to make appearances at the Rock 'n Roll Marathons and other running events/venues. It's like a troubled Lifetime movie, only better.

Image result for suzy favor hamilton

Finally, the Smoking Gun outed her big time. Kelly Lundy "died" and Suzy returned home in a deep depression and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition that her brother struggled with that eventually led him to kill himself in 1999. Suzy had been diagnosed previously with depression and was on the medication Zoloft. She contends that the drug made her even more manic and for years she went improperly diagnosed leading to her spiral into the edgy and dangerous life in Vegas.

Fast Girl is a memoir that Suzy wrote detailing (and I mean DETAILING) all that went on during that year (2011) as she took a dive head first into a life of madness and mania.

Memoirs are my favorite genre to read (almost as much as I love made for TV movies), and Fast Girl caught my attention. When I finished reading it, however, I didn't come away liking Suzy all that much and my initial response was that she was incredibly selfish for what she had done to her family. Even with the bipolar diagnosis, I believed she still was aware of what she was doing and made the choices she did even so. I was baffled by what appeared to be outright narcissism.

Later this month, Suzy will be speaking at the Northern Colorado Functional Health and Wellness Summit, something she does at events all over the Untied States these days. Her mission is to bring awareness to the fact that so many people are mentally ill, but are too ashamed to talk about it and to ask for help. She is trying to lessen and perhaps even remove that stigma.

Image result for suzy favor hamilton

I had a chance to question Suzy at length yesterday.  As I interviewed her by phone, she sat on a beach in California, listening to someone playing the trumpet nearby. She commented on how the "land of fruit and nuts," the beach and the sunshine have healed her soul. She's also gotten wildly into yoga and has continued to heal and meet others who "get" her. After talking to Suzy, my presumptions and thoughts shifted a bit. Yours might too.

When your book came out in 2015 it soared to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List. What do you think made it so popular so quickly?

My story was so unique. After the story broke on 20/20 (see episode HERE), people were so interested.

What kind of criticism did you get for the choices you made? 

I had people calling me a whore and a slut constantly. I also had someone tell me that I should just kill myself like my brother did. But, I also have had hundreds of people reach out to me who could relate. You'd be amazed how many people could relate. People are living with so much shame. There is such a stigma around people using sex, drugs and alcohol. to manage the chaos in the their lives.

Why did Mark stay with you? It seems most men would have left...

Mark is a great man. We've had our ups and downs. We had one REALLY bad year out of 20 years and we won't give up our marriage because of that one bad year. I know he is my soul mate. Mark wasn't focused on the fact I had sex with so many men. Instead he learned about the illness (bipolar) and how to bet deal with it. He didn't want to desert me and he is really the hero of this story. We are real and not the Brady Bunch. This journey changed us.

How's your marriage now?

Again we have ups and downs. Mark knows he has to be patient when the bipolar acts up. He backs away and knows I need to take time for myself and be left alone. 

How did our daughter, Kylie, now 12, react when she learned the details? Does she get a hard time from her peers?

She knows everything about what happened in Vegas. We talk really openly about sex and other things. I want her to feel she can come to me. Her peers haven't really given her a hard time. But she tells me that if anyone ever said anything to her, she would tell them, "My mom is a great person and I love her so much. End of story."

In a recent blog post you talk about breaking up with shame. How did you leave shame behind and forgive yourself?

After Vegas, I just thought to myself, "You suck. You are a disgrace to the human form." I've been so fortunate to have the love of people in my life. Mark and Kylie were never ashamed of me. Mark was the one to hold me up and to be proud. You need to distance yourself from people who tell you that you are a disgrace. I had to do that with some people in my family. Now I'm among people who don't judge me. You need to confront the shame to move forward.

Is there anything you miss about the lifestyle you had while you were an escort?

Initially I missed that rush. I didn't miss the sex, the risky behaviors or being an escort. I liked having control over powerful people and that they would surrender to me. For my entire life I had been coached and had done what others said. I liked being the one in control. The more powerful someone was, the more it seemed they wanted to surrender. But now I get that kind of zen high from yoga. I recently had a moment of euphoria while running that felt like what it felt like in Vegas.

I've heard rumors Fast Girl will become a movie. Any truth to this? 

Yes. Just recently I've had over 20 producers approach me. I just want to make sure I am at the healthiest point possible before moving forward with the movie. My main priority is that whoever plays Mark portrays him as he deserves to be portrayed. As for me, whoever plays me just really needs to get to know me first.

What kind of therapy/help led to your diagnosis and to your "recovery". Are you stable now?

After Vegas, I went into therapy. It took awhile to find a good match with a therapist, but I did. I got some great advice. The therapist helped me understand that some people would never get it and that they were not capable because they never learned the skills. I had to forgive them. I was ill and the disease drew me to drugs, alcohol and sex. My therapist also told me, "I'm not going to tell you what to do" She never said you can't do certain things with your life. I had always been told what to do, so this message helped. She let me know that drugs and alcohol weren't good for the bipolar and I wanted to be healthy. I had to learn to make health choices for myself. I learned to recognize and eliminate my triggers and replace with with healthy coping skills like yoga and running. I also take the medication Lamictal now, and that works well for me.

What would your message be to someone struggling with mental illness right now who has no hope and nowhere to turn?

I would tell them to take a deep breath. I would let them know that I've been there. I want them to know that they are loved and there is hope. They have me that "gets" them if no one else does and I answer all of my emails. They need to find someone to support them. They need to reach out for help. If I can climb this ladder, they can too.

I'm curious, if you've read the book, what are your thoughts and impressions?