Monday, August 29, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 5

This was my last intense week of training before the half-marathon on Sept. 5 and the super-sprint triathlon on Sept. 10. I can't believe how quickly these races are coming up!


Monday: Pool swim

I find myself looking forward to Monday evenings now! I really enjoy swimming, even though I'm still not great at it. This past Monday was rough, as it seemed like I'd forgotten everything I learned in the pool the previous week, but I improved throughout the swim. One of my roommates, who is a former competitive swimmer, came along and gave me some great pointers. I finally know what I'm supposed to do while swimming, so now I just need to practice, practice, practice!

Tuesday: 3-mile run + strength training

I used this short run to test out my new triathlon outfit! Tri clothes are specially designed to be worn throughout the entire race, so you should be able to swim, bike and run comfortably in them. I'm really glad I gave these clothes a trial run because I found that the shorts were awesome, but the top was awful. It kept riding up — a lot — as I ran, and I actually turned back just a few minutes into the run to change into a different shirt! The top was either too big or just the wrong style, which is a shame because I thought it was so darn cute. Yes, I am such a girl.

I saw progress when I hit the gym for strength training, as I was able to use 12.5- and 15-pound free weights for moves I haven't been able to go so heavy on in the past. My lifting strategy is to use heavier weights and do a lower number of reps (8-12) for each move, which I've read yields better results than doing a ton of reps with light weights. Seems like it's working!

Wednesday: 5-mile run — speed intervals

On Tuesday, I hit a local track with my friend Carly to do speed intervals. (I swear we actually ran on the track, but obviously my GPS watch was a tad bit off on our location.) We warmed up for one mile, then did fast 400 m (1 lap) repeats with 400 m of recovery in between. At one point, we did a fast 800 m followed by 800 m of recovery (whew!) We finished up with a nice cooldown during a beautiful sunset.

Our fast laps were done in the 7:00-7:30/mi pace range, which was challenging but manageable. Speed intervals really helped me get faster while I trained for my first half-marathon, so I'm glad I've been able to fit in a few speed workouts this time around.

Thursday: 3-mile run + strength training

I read in Runner's World that 70% of your weekly mileage should be easy running. Wha?!? I've totally been doing it wrong. I don't go all-out on all my runs, but I do try to challenge myself. I made an effort to slow down on this 3-miler, especially since I combined it with a trip to to gym. I think this 70% rule will help keep my legs happy as I get into higher mileage throughout marathon training.

The lovely bathroom photo above shows what my "guns" (gun?) look like after five weeks of consistent strength training. Are you intimidated yet? No? I'll check back in a few weeks.

Friday: Rest

Glorious rest! This day was so needed. I treated myself to Chipotle for lunch, then later headed home to Woodinville to spend the night at my mom's house in preparation for Saturday morning's run...

Saturday: 11-mile run

I don't want to get too dramatic and call this the "Run of Death" or "The Hottest, Sweatiest, Are-You-F'ing-Kidding-Me Run Ever," but let's just say it was warm and sunny. Toasty, if you will.

I ran 11 miles along the Sammamish River Trail in Woodinville, where the half-marathon will take place. I like to get a sense of the terrain before I race. In this case, I discovered that the terrain is shadeless, and that the shine shone mercilessly onto my face in the very direction and during the same time of day we'll be running (9 to 11 a.m.).

This was the first run I've done that actually made me fear for my safety because of the heat, and I was very careful to stay hydrated and take little breaks in the shade. Luckily I was covered in SPF 50. I saw some lobster-hued folks who were not so prepared. Get on the Banana Boat, people!

Mental notes for the race: Take advantage of every water stop. Find a lightweight visor to wear if it's sunny. PRAY FOR CLOUDS.

Sunday: 15-mile bike ride + lake swim

I capped off this week of training by first going for a nice ride along the Sammamish River Trail. Yeah, it was the same trail I ran on the previous day, and also the same type of weather. But cycling is infinitely easier than running! I don't know if I would appreciate cycling so much if I weren't a runner, but my God, it was such a nice change of pace to fly through these miles on wheels rather than shuffle along on tired feet under the scorching sun.

Sorry, I'm still being dramatic about that run.

Later, I jumped into Cottage Lake (where the tri will be held) for my first open-water training swim. Fact: Cottage Lake is murky and terrifying underneath the surface! I got over my initial panic by staying in a shallow area of the lake so I could stop swimming and stand up at any time if I needed to. I also decided to ignore the creepy seaweed and just power through it.

I think a lot of the challenge I'll face in the swim leg of the triathlon will be mental. I'll need to avoid freaking out, try to go slowly and, most of all, remember to breathe. Breathing is good! Drowning is not so good.


Miles run: 22
Miles biked: 15
Swims: 2
Strength-training sessions: 2
Rest days: 1
Amount of lake water swallowed: Too much
Amount of Chipotle swallowed: Not enough


Miles run: 87.5
Miles biked: 58.5
Swims: 4
Strength-training sessions: 9

This week, I'll back off a bit from training to prepare for the half-marathon, which is a week from today! The triathlon is just four days after that.

I'm getting excited to RACE!


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Friday, August 26, 2011

New York State of Mind

On March 31, 2005, I was accepted to New York University.

Not only that, but I was awarded scholarships that covered more than half of the $40,000+ yearly tab.

It was the last notification from the six schools I applied to, only one of which rejected me. (It's OK, Columbia, I forgive you.)

I wrote in my journal that day, "UW is my last last last last choice. That is if I absolutely cannot afford to go anywhere else, and that might very well be the case. I will be so sad if that happens. I mean, effing NYU!!! I want it, I need it."

Aren't 18-year-olds cute?

Of course, six years later, I'm a proud Class of 2009 graduate of the University of Washington — my last-choice school. UW, of course, is a fantastic school, and I now realize how incredibly lucky I was to not only gain admittance, but to be able to attend with the help of a very generous four-year endowed scholarship.

But in 2005, I had big dreams and an even bigger poster of New York City plastered on my bedroom wall. I had a severe case of anywhere-but-here-itis, and what could be more different from my small, West Coast hometown than the Big Apple?

I had never even been to New York, let alone visited NYU, but I just knew I wanted to go there. Maybe it was the hours I spent watching Sex and the City or the fact that my childhood idols, the Olsen twins, went to school there (for a hot minute). Maybe it was because I lived in a wealthy suburb, where the mentality was, "Why wouldn't you go to the best school possible?" Maybe it was my idea that, despite my family's financial hardship, anything was possible if I worked hard enough.

UW, on the other hand, was my last choice because it was the safe option. It was close to home, and I knew it'd be crawling with people I knew from high school. Also, I was automatically accepted, since I was an in-state applicant and my GPA and SAT scores exceeded certain requirements. There was no challenge, no danger and no excitement in choosing to attend UW.

Thank goodness my very smart mom swooped in and gave me the facts: Even with the scholarships I'd earned, NYU would still cost more than $80,000 over four years. That doesn't even include cross-country flights or anything more than basic tuition, housing and books.

My dream, unfortunately, was not worth it.

I delayed sending my rejection notice to NYU for as long as possible. I may or may not have listened to Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" on repeat while sobbing. It was extremely tough to give up on something I'd worked very hard for in favor of something else that lacked all the sparkle I'd sought.

But it was probably the best decision I've ever made in my life. (Not that it was entirely my decision to make — my parents would've cosigned those fat student loans on a cold day in hell.)

Now, I have a journalism degree from a top-notch school and a great job to boot. What I don't have is student-loan debt. I'm really glad I didn't pay that extra $80,000+ for a slightly more attractive piece of paper.

After all this time, I still haven't been to New York City. That's about to change. One of my goals for this year was to visit, and I'll fulfill that goal over a four-day weekend in late September.

I plan to run in Central Park, indulge in some carb-tastic NYC foods (pizza, bagels) and wander around like a goofy tourist with my big camera. Perhaps, around one corner or another, I'll catch a glimpse of the life I would have had if I'd gone to NYU in 2005 and lived my dream.

Part of me thinks about the fact that I packed away this sparkly dream and forgot about it for six years. Maybe, once I retrieve it, I'll find that it's not the same as it was before — that most of the glitter has fallen off.

On the other hand, instead of chasing what I could have had, maybe I'll find something new. In 2005, I would have gone to New York already a slave to the student loans I would rack up over the next few years. In 2011, I'm going on my terms, paying my way with money I've saved for this exact purpose — to explore, to wander, to wonder. Unworried and unhurried.

I'd never go back in time and choose NYU over UW if I could. I'm too content with the experiences I had, the people I met and where I landed after college to hope for anything different. But it's important for me to look back at my 18-year-old thought process and realize that I learned so many things by having to "settle" for my last-choice school:

  • It doesn't matter where you go. What matters is the opportunities you seize — or, better yet, create for yourself — wherever you are.
  • There's nothing wrong with having an independent streak, but when you wind up in the hospital with pneumonia and dehydration during the first quarter of freshman year, you realize just how nice it is to have your family nearby.
  • No piece of paper is worth $80,000, except for an $80,000 bill.
  • Some things are worth waiting for.


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Monday, August 22, 2011

Marathon Training: 4 Weeks In!

I can't believe I've completed four weeks of marathon training! I didn't even realize it until I saw the evidence (click for larger version):

The blue cells are workouts I've completed, and the crossed-out red parts indicate where I've deviated from the original plan. Although I'm ultimately training for my first marathon in December, you'll notice that my next half-marathon is coming up in two weeks, and my first triathlon is just a few days after that! I'm feeling in pretty good shape for both.

I started my other blog, Dev on Running, because I wanted a place to document my running progress without making Answering Oliver too running-centric. Running is a HUGE part of my life, so it's great for me to have a place to nerd out about things like pace and running gear. Also, members of the Tumblr running community are very active (in real life, obviously, and online) and supportive of each other.

That being said, I thought it'd be fun to do weekly recaps of my marathon training on Answering Oliver. I only became a runner last year and I'm already gunning for 26.2, so if I can do it, anyone can! Here's how I've been training so far.


Monday: 3-mile run
Tuesday: Strength training (free weights)
Wednesday: 3-mile run
Thursday: 3-mile run + strength training
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 7-mile run
Sunday: Rest

I kicked off Week 1 with a few easy 3-milers (including the Do Life 5K at Green Lake) and strength training at my gym, which is really important to me during this training cycle. I want to be strong all over, not just in my legs! This was my first time hanging out with the sweaty, muscular guys in the free-weights section of the gym, and I was happy to discover that I can hold my own.

The 7-mile long run was tough for me (see: me on the floor), and my running buddy/BFF Carly helped me realize I need to eat more — and, specifically, eat more protein. My body needs more fuel to keep me going now! I happily obliged, and have not felt weak like that since.

I also bought a lovely road bike during Week 1, plus all the fun bike accessories that I needed, like comfy butt-pad shorts. I have a triathlon to train for, too!

Miles run: 16
Strength-training sessions: 2
Rest days: 2
Minutes spent on the floor after long run: 30
Amount of money spent on bike stuff: Holy crap


Monday: 8-mile bike ride
Tuesday: 3-mile run + strength training
Wednesday: 3-mile run
Thursday: 1.5-mile run + strength training
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Rest (traveled to Vancouver, B.C.)
Sunday: 8-mile run

I kicked off Week 2 by taking my new bike out for a (very slow) spin. It quickly became clear that it was a HUGE step up from the little mountain bike I had been using, and that cycling would now be much more enjoyable!

I meant to do my 8-mile long run on Friday after work, since I'd be traveling by bus to Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, but I found myself exhausted and called it a rest day. I'm so glad I did, since I squeezed it in on a beautiful Canadian Sunday morning instead! The route I ran around Stanley Park was absolutely stunning, with incredible views of the water, mountains, bridges and the city itself. I was so happy to be able to sightsee and check off another long run all at once.

I failed to stretch after that run, though, and tried to "catch up" on stretching later in a Vancouver park. It doesn't really work like that, as you can see...

Miles run: 15.5
Miles biked: 8
Strength-training sessions: 2
Rest days: 2
Borders crossed: 1
Number of excessive tips given due to inability to count foreign money: Numerous


Monday: Rest (traveled home)
Wednesday: 4-mile run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 6-mile run

The first big milestone of  Week 3 was that I ran my first sub-8:00 mile (7:43)! My gym is almost exactly a mile away from my house, so I usually run a quick mile there, do my strength training, and then run an even speedier mile back. On Tuesday night, I flew home. It felt amazing.

On Wednesday, I still had some speed in my legs and set a nice PR for 4 miles (34:41). The next day, I took my new Brooks Ghost 4 shoes out for their first run to start gradually breaking them in. By the time December rolls around, my current Ghost 3 shoes will be too worn out to actually run the marathon, so I thought I'd try to transition gracefully over the next few months of training.

Sunday was a big day! I learned how to clip into my new clipless bike pedals and went on my first real ride with Aaron and his mom. I didn't fall, which was my biggest fear, but there were tears of frustration at one point when I couldn't clip in while going down a scary hill. I also hit the pool that same day for my first stab at swimming. The great thing about preparing for a triathlon during marathon training is that it's forcing me to do (very beneficial) cross-training, which I would normally be too lazy to do!

Miles run: 15
Miles biked: 13.5
Swims: 1
Strength-training sessions: 2
Rest days: 2
Number of times I thought I was gonna die on my bike: Numerous
Shape of my head in a swim cap: Egg, definitely


Tuesday: Rest
Thursday: 2-mile run + strength training
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 10-mile run

I kicked off Week 4 with a very sweaty 3-mile run (it's getting hot in Seattle), followed by laps at a community pool with a friend I met via The Interwebs, Vicki! She is an experienced swimmer and gave me tons of great pointers. I felt myself improving, but I definitely learned that running fitness does not necessarily equal swimming fitness! That's my fancy way of saying that swimming is hard.

Tuesday was an uplanned rest day — I was exhausted and felt the beginnings of a sore throat. I'm proud of myself for being flexible with my training plan and doing what was best for my body. I took it easy and my throat felt fine the next day.

Wednesday's run was the first time I programmed my Garmin Forerunner 305 for speed intervals (here's a great how-to). The watch was ever-so-helpful with its beeps signaling when to begin and end each interval. The workout went by quickly, and I hope it'll help me achieve my sub-two-hour half-marathon goal in two weeks!

Saturday's long run was a great 10-miler at nearly half-marathon race pace. Carly and I will just have to push a little harder on race day to break two hours for 13.1 miles. Sunday was my first solo bike ride, and I did 22 miles along the Burke-Gilman Trail. This was huge for building my confidence on the bike and for preparing for the 9-mile bike portion of my triathlon.

And last, but not least, I took my own advice and bought a hammock! I found a great 14-foot one, complete with hammock stand, for $40 on Craigslist (they retail for $150+ brand-new). I relaxed and snoozed in it after the 10-mile run. It was nothing short of glorious.

Miles run: 19
Miles biked: 22
Swims: 1
Strength-training sessions: 1
Rest days: 2
Number of hammock naps: 1
Number of hammock naps to come: Countless


Miles run: 65.5
Miles biked: 43.5
Swims: 2
Strength-training sessions: 7
Exhaustion I feel after looking at everything I've done: Moderate
Excitement I feel after thinking about everything I'm about to do: Infinite

I'll be posting weekly recaps of my training each Monday, so stay tuned for more updates and what I hope will be new levels of badassery!


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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Advice For Myself

Get up when the first alarm rings. We both know the second alarm is a lost cause.

Say "good morning" and "thank you" to everyone.

Make a decision. Any decision. Don't second-guess.

Take more photos. Especially of people and animals. They make you the happiest.

Forgive yourself early and often.

Go to the library. Wander around and pluck about five interesting-looking books off the shelves. Read them. Remember how happy this used to make you when you did it all the time.

Buy a hammock. Set it up in the sun. Nap.

Be gracious when responding to a compliment. Don't undercut the gesture by pointing out something negative.

Make funny faces at babies. It's hilarious, every time.

Keep going to the pool. Bring the fire to the slow lane.

Create a Facebook fan page. Don't be afraid that no one will "Like" it (or like it). Nobody can like it either way if it's not there.


Enjoy a good beer once a week. Make sure it's really cold.

Compile and print all the nice emails, comments and tweets you've received. Refer to them when you feel like what you have to say doesn't matter.

Don't be afraid to ask.

The emergency bag of chocolate chips you have in the pantry is an excellent idea. Keep that going.

Print, frame and hang your favorite photos. It's long overdue, and they deserve it.


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Monday, August 15, 2011

It's Never Too Late to Start Doing

The Internet is a magical thing. We can use it to connect with people we already know, but we can also use it to form bonds with people we've never met.

Sometimes, we can actually meet those people and become real-life friends. That's not weird at all, right?

OK, so "weird" is relative.

I've mentioned Ben Davis a few times here before — I posted his 120-pound weight loss video, wrote about his visit to Seattle in March and recently mentioned his inspiring take on what the word "can't" really means.

He's also demonstrated sub-par Catch Phrase skills at my house, but let's not hold that against him.

Anyway, Aaron and I met up with Ben and his girlfriend Brooke while we were in Vancouver. Ben just moved there from Arkansas, and they invited us out for poutine and drinks on a lovely Canadian evening.

Well, hello, delicious treat of all that is good in the world.

Ben just completed an Iron-distance triathlon right after finishing a two-month tour of the country, during which he, along with his Pa, held unofficial, non-competitive 5K runs for anyone who wanted to "Do Life."

It's been a busy summer.

But the next year will be even busier. Ben and Pa plan to run 52 marathons and 52 5Ks in 52 weeks — that's two events per week for the entire year.

They'll run the marathons at a manageable pace so that anyone who wants to join in can, and the 5Ks will be non-competitive and casual. It's not about racing, or even about running — it's about getting out to do something that you might not normally do because you'll be surrounded by supportive people who believe you can do it.

Regardless of their pace, even if Ben and Pa don't do any running on top of that, they'll still cover more than 1,500 miles in 2012. That's quite a feat for someone who, not long ago, weighed 360 pounds and had only a world ranking in Mario Kart to be proud of — that was Ben. Not to mention for someone who was once deep in the throes of addiction and would-be drug smuggling — that was Pa.

On top of the runs and meet-ups and countless folks they'll inspire to get moving, Ben and Pa are determined to do some good by raising money for one charity or cause each week. Nominations for these beneficiaries are open at Ben Does Life.

It's amazing how people can overcome some of the darkest, most depressing life circumstances and not only find health and happiness, but also go on to inspire countless others to do the same.

What I like most, I think, about Ben's "Do Life" movement is that it's an unmistakable call to action — a reminder that you can't just sit around and wait for someone or something else to come along and improve your life.

I remember waiting for something exciting to happen to my life when I felt like this in early 2010:

"I was always tired. I didn't see my friends very much. I had no hobbies. I didn't exercise. I didn't really watch what I ate. None of these individual elements was particularly alarming to me, but the combination left me in a sort of quiet desperation. For lack of a better way to describe the feeling, I was just kinda bummed about life."

I bet that description is alarming to anyone who's read a few posts on this blog, and that's because I'm not that person anymore. What changed? Well, I stopped waiting and started doing.

I identified the things that I thought would make me happy in life and I did them. I went skydiving. I started running races. I took up photography. I got rid of soul-crushing debt.

Doing is simple. Delaying, whining, making excuses — that's the hard part. Trust me, I know! That stuff requires creativity and a deep commitment to staying rooted in place.

It's never too late to take the first step and start doing. Whether you're in your twenties, like Ben, or in your fifties, like Pa, the only thing that's required is the will to start. Forward motion, once begun, becomes effortless, enjoyable, scenic. And what you want to do in life is only impossible if you never believe in yourself enough to try.

I'll just go ahead and throw out the fact that I want to become an Ironman. There, I said it! And I said it because I believe I can do it.

OK, so I can't become an Ironman tomorrow — I don't currently have the endurance or skills to complete a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in succession — but I'm going to do something about all that and make it happen.

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

I dedicated this blog to answering Mary Oliver's question because, like Ben's mission, it demands action. Ben has committed the entire next year to action, and I've just committed in writing to doing one of the most demanding endurance events out there. (Eek!)

So, tell me, even if it scares you — especially if it scares you: Big or small, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party

Aaron completed another epic bike ride this past weekend — the 2011 RSVP, or Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party!

He rode 106 miles from Seattle to Bellingham, Wash., on Saturday, then trekked the final 82 miles to Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday.

I was conveniently waiting for him in Vancouver, ready to participate in the "party" portion of the event.

The two-day ride sounded like it would be a breeze compared to the one-day, 204-mile STP, but apparently the hilly, windy first day of RSVP was worse than the entire STP.

Still, Aaron killed it, and was the first rider to arrive at a rest stop 80 miles in. He was among the first to arrive in Bellingham, and at least in the top 15 of the first riders to show up the next day in Vancouver.

He's kinda crazy, in an awesome way.

I took a bus to Vancouver on Saturday and had plenty of time to unhurriedly wander around and take in the gorgeous city.

I meandered through a Brazilian festival, which featured some pretty intense Capoeira.

I walked along the waterfront and enjoyed the scenic trail — a nicely developed green oasis that almost makes you forget about the mirrored skyscrapers that loom nearby.

On Sunday morning, I went for an 8-mile run on that trail, which runs all along the seawall around Stanley Park. The cool, salty breeze off the water kept me comfortable under the hot sun, and every step brought a more stunning view! Running + sightseeing = true love.

I also loved the funky little details I noticed along the city's streets.

OK, so this one's a big detail. I called it the Lego Whale!

It's actually called Digital Orca, but it'll always be Lego Whale to me.

More adventures from Vancouver to come. What a fabulous city!


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Friday, August 5, 2011

The Only Thing You Need to Run

I have plenty of co-workers who are interested in my running and periodically ask how my training for this or that is going. (Side note: I realized today that I'm currently training for a marathon, a half-marathon and a triathlon. I'm insane.)

I'm happy to chat about running with anyone, but I notice many times that the person I'm talking with will say something like, "I'd love to be a runner, but I can't because..."

It doesn't really matter what they say; I just smile and nod and say, "Yeah, I once thought that, too."

I'm not a born athlete. I never played sports growing up. I dreaded running the mile in P.E. class. I "ran" track in junior high, but I did sprints (poorly) and the high jump (semi-adequately). I eventually quit because there was — get this — too much running involved.

In college, I once attempted to run from my freshman dorm to Gas Works Park. I burned out halfway there and had to turn around.

"Halfway there" was about half a mile. I was so discouraged by this incident that I never made a second attempt.

So why am I, of all people, now able to run while others think they can't?

My friend Ben Davis recently posted this statement on his blog:

Not everyone has to run. If you don't want to run, don't run!

But if you want to run and think you can't, I can tell you right now that you only need one thing to run... or bike... or swim... or do whatever it is that you think you can't do — and it's this:

The only thing you need is the will to walk out of your front door and do it.

OK, so you technically need a pair of sneakers, but hey, some people run barefoot! The point is that there are a million excuses for why someone can't do something. The one thing that sets those who can apart from those who can't is that they do it.

To be a runner, you don't have to be fast. You don't have to race. You don't have to run a marathon. A lot of people let these all-or-nothing excuses get in the way of simply starting.

It's called paralyzed perfectionism, and it's my middle name (disguised for paperwork as "Alexandra"). I almost didn't graduate high school because of it.

Paralyzed perfectionism goes really well with those "can't" excuses. Here's a great example:

"Obviously I can never do a triathlon. My swimming form is terrible."

Hey — I'm signed up for a triathlon that's about a month away. I haven't been swimming since this photo was taken! My "form" is exactly the same (underwater robot?). I also don't have access to a pool, don't have a one-piece swimsuit to train in, don't have goggles, don't have a swim cap, and don't really know where to get started on this swimming thing. I won't be able to do it perfectly.

But I can do it, and I will, because I care enough to try.

There's so much equipment that goes hand-in-hand with sports, and people get so caught up with it as being integral to their success. I don't really need all that swimming stuff I just mentioned; I could just fling myself into the nearest body of water and get to work.

A suit, goggles and swim cap won't help me learn how to swim. Flinging myself into the water will.

I have all the stuff that every serious runner has: great shoes, a GPS watch, a fuel belt, special running clothes and more. But none of that stuff actually gets me out of my front door. Only I can do that.

There are still lots of things I subconsciously tell myself I "can't" do, but really just haven't cared enough to try:

  • I "can't" wake up earlier so I can be less rushed each morning.
  • I "can't" find the time to cook complete, healthy meals instead of just grabbing whatever is easiest.
  • I "can't" keep my room clean and my clothes put away.
  • I "can't" start regularly posting on this blog three times per week.

These are all things that frustrate me, and it's great to realize that I can change each of them if I really try. I won't be able to start magically doing all these things perfectly, but, as much as I can, I just have to jump out of bed... plan out those meals... put away crap as I go... and write, dammit!

I remember that day in college when I struggled to run a half-mile and I see how far I've come... literally. I've run more than 300 miles so far this year, and I'll add another 400+ before the year is out.

The reason 24-year-old me can do what 18-year-old me couldn't even fathom is simply because I now care enough to do it, and I don't worry about "failing" as a runner. And if this running thing is any indication, I can do a whole lot better at a whole lot of other things.

Time to fling myself into the water.


What have you avoided doing because you've feared you would fail? What do you want to start caring more about today?


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The 7 Links of Answering Oliver

There have been a few improvements around here that I'd like to let y'all know about!

  • You can now subscribe to Answering Oliver via RSS — just do the Subscribe thingy in the right sidebar (directly under my big head). I'm a few years behind, um, everyone else and just started using Google Reader to subscribe to RSS feeds and keep track of some of my favorite blogs. It's amazing!

  • You can also sign up to receive new posts right in your email inbox just do the Follow By Email thingy in the right sidebar (directly under Subscribe and my big head). Since I don't post on a regular basis (sorry — I really want to change that!), you'll be notified when I put up a new post. That means you don't have to hang out on my blog hitting "refresh" over and over in anticipation! OK, so no one does that. Regardless, feel free to sign up to receive my posts via email — I swear I won't send you anything else, and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

My 7 Links

Meg over at Mega Musings tagged me to participate in posting seven links that fall under interesting categories. Most of my favorite bloggers have done this already and I've loved going back and reading the posts they've chosen! It gives new readers a chance to dig into stuff that's now collecting dust in the archives.

Here we go!


I wrote this post to celebrate how incredibly far my boyfriend had come in one year since he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. His extensive injuries, including a completely destroyed knee, sidelined him and demoralized him for months, and yet he came back with an intense desire to live life to its fullest and never let that accident impact his goals. I cried writing it. I cried reading it. I think his story, and his spirit, are beautiful.

An unhurried life

This post is the most popular by the number of comments and emails I received in response, and that meant so much to me. I think it was popular because Leo Babauta tweeted it to his 70,000-something Twitter followers, but I'd like to believe it was because it's awesome. : D

I wrote this about a life realization I had at the World Domination Summit in June, one that I happened to be able to share with Leo first. I have never, ever experienced anything like what happened to me on that walk through Portland; I suspect it's rare. I'm glad I have it down in words and photos.

Fremont Solstice Parade 2011

OK, I don't really have any controversial posts! Nothing has sparked a vigorous debate in the comments or spurred an angry email in my direction (so far).

I chose my post about the semi-naked bike ride for this because you would not believe how many people visit my blog because they're searching for naked photos from the Fremont Solstice Parade. In fact, it's actually my most popular post by far in terms of traffic. You mean people... search the Internet... for naked pictures? Scandalous!

I imagine that once people see my pictures and realize Aaron and I weren't naked, they're pretty disappointed. Sorry, guys! That's as controversial as it gets.


Last summer, after I became debt-free, I wrote this series of three posts full of tips to help people get started with paying off their debt. I outlined exactly how I got organized and created my first budget; how I badgered Citi into lowering the interest rate on my credit card from 19.99% to 9.99%; and how I successfully used cash to curb my spending and stick to my budget.

When I first started paying attention to my finances, I knew nothing! I think these posts are very helpful for anyone who's looking for their first steps.

(The more fun and interesting runner-up for Most Helpful Post is Hawaii video & what to do on Oahu.)

Halloween 2010: The lobster costume

I guess I shouldn't be surprised; this costume was awesome. I guess I'm more surprised by how many people share my desire to dress like a crustacean!

I was the talk of the Halloween party in this homemade costume — I was even able to play beer pong with my claws on! — and I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to top it this year...

The Value of Financial Struggle

This was actually a guest post that I wrote for Pocket Changed that got one very nice comment, and I'm proud of what I wrote.

Patience, passion and a plan were the three keys that helped me pay off my debt, and I still rely on those elements to achieve every goal I set for myself. Financial struggle definitely sucks, but I learned some very important things from it, and I wouldn't go back and change my financial journey for the world.

2010: The year in review

This was a tough post to write because I admitted several things that happened in 2010 that I was ashamed of. I'm proud that I was able to write this from a vastly different and better place, knowing that I was no longer that person who drank too much, didn't exercise at all and was deeply unhappy with her life.

I was finally able to say, "I am happy every day. I'm not necessarily happy all day, and sometimes not even most of the day, but I am happy. Every. Day."


That was fun! I'm tagging these five bloggers to post their seven links as well:

- Jacob Sokol of Sensophy
- Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads (EDIT: Jodi's wonderful links are already here)
- Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness
- Jenny Blake of Life After College
- Joel Runyon of Blog of Impossible Things

Can't wait to read 'em, ladies and gentlemen!


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Monday, August 1, 2011

Training for the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas MARATHON!

This time last year, I would've laughed if you told me I'd run a marathon.

Actually, I would've also laughed if you told me I'd run a half-marathon, and I've already done that. In fact, here's a video I made about my Rock 'n' Roll Seattle experience:

My First Half Marathon: Rock 'n' Roll Seattle from Devon Mills on Vimeo.

(Here's a tidbit I forgot to include in the video: Thanks to help of family, friends, co-workers and blog-readers, I raised $2,200 for the American Cancer Society while training for the half-marathon! Woo-hoo!!!)

To be specific, this time last year, I hadn't even run my first 5K — that wasn't until September 26. I was strictly a treadmill runner, going one to three miles per workout with walking breaks. I was terrified for my first race.

After crossing the finish line, I was inspired.

I've crossed 10 finish lines total, and the one I'm working toward now will be the most difficult by far. The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon on December 4 will be my first trip to Vegas, my longest run ever and an accomplishment I never thought I'd achieve (or even want to achieve) in my life.

Why put myself through hell for 26.2 miles? For a medal? For a bumper sticker on my car?

Nah. I'm going to do it because I once thought I couldn't. Because I think it's pretty badass. And, most of all, because once I conquer the distance, there will be one less thing in this world that I'm afraid of.

But first I have to respect the distance and put in the months of hard work it'll take to run it to the best of my ability. Here's where this plan comes in (click to make it larger):

This is my 19-week marathon training plan. Today marks the beginning of Week 2!

I love having a plan when it comes to tackling big goals, and this is exactly what I need to stay on top of my training. Life will inevitably creep in between the pretty lines of this Excel spreadsheet and interfere with the plan, so I'm going to be flexible and open to switching things around. But at least I can make sure I don't get too off track by checking in with this plan each day. I'm thrilled to have completed Week 1 and look forward to feeling so much stronger and more fit as the weeks pass by.

(My college roommate who remembers watching me lie in bed eating canned frosting while watching Oprah just went, "Huh?")

I based this training plan on Hal Higdon's Novice 1 plan. I switched the weekday runs around so I won't be running three days in a row (my legs can't take it), and I added two days of strength training as well. Since I've focused only on running up to this point, I have strong leg muscles but a weak upper body. I need overall strength to be the best runner I can be, so I'm hitting the free weights at my gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I specified cross-training on Sundays to either be biking or yoga, but I might have to change that to biking or swimming... since I might sign up for a triathlon that's in September!

My excuses for not doing a triathlon so far have been that I don't really know how to swim (the correct techniques and all), and I don't have a road bike. Well...

...I'm quickly running out of excuses! This is my lovely new bike, which I bought this weekend to replace my seriously outgrown pre-teen mountain bike. I'm all grown up now!

Remember: If you don't want to do something, you'll find any excuse not to do it. If you want to do something, you won't let any excuse get in your way.

I'll still need to work on the swimming, though... check out the caption I gave this photo back in March!!

You'll also notice that I'm running another half-marathon on September 5! The race is the Labor Day Half, formerly known as the Super Jock 'n' Jill Half, and it starts and ends at the Redhook Brewery in my hometown, Woodinville. How could I pass up a race on my home turf that could give me the opportunity to run a sub two-hour half?

I'll be busy for the next several months — running, biking, swimming and freaking out about the idea of running 26.2 miles. But if I learned anything from my half-marathon, it's that no matter how nervous I feel in the days leading up to a race (uhhh, did you watch that video?), once I reach the start line, I'll feel happy, excited and incredibly lucky to be able to do what I'm about to do.

I'll look forward to that moment every single day until December 4.

Viva Las Vegas.


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