Bend 'til it breaks

I will never forget my very first view of Mount Hood from the ground. My boss and I were on our way out of Portland in our rented Nissan Xterra--for driving through the mountains, of course.

I could not keep my jaw out of my lap.

A REAL MOUNTAIN. It was beautiful.

"Is this real life?" I thought. Do regular people get to just live life with a view of a big, beautiful mountain outside their window?

But then we drove up, over and through the Cascade Mountains on our way to Bend, and my mind became unhinged. I could not believe the beauty. Now, I'm a pretty sheltered individual, and my travel experience is not vast by any means, but I'd never experienced anything so beautiful in my life. I have the hundreds of photos to prove it, mostly from me hanging out of the car window to snap a perfect shot, or asking my boss to pull over so I could jump out and take it all in.

I spent that week working out of our office in Bend, and I've never really recovered. I just can't put into words, no matter how hard I try, what I felt while I was there. The mountain views. The sunshine. The fresh air. The kind people. The quirky downtown. The great outdoors. The possibilities.

I got to know my colleagues in Bend, who are a wonderful bunch. I bonded so heavily with my boss, who's taken me under her wing and has had so much faith in me since day one. We sat outside the ski lodge on Mount Bachelor to take in the views and enjoy a local brew on a Thursday afternoon because that's just what people do. They sit among the mountains. I drove into the office each morning with a breathtaking view of the Three Sisters mountains just hanging out in the background like, "Yeah, we're here, too. Don't mind us."

I felt sad when we left. Like, reverse homesickness. I didn't understand how a place so beautiful could have existed this whole time, and I never knew.

Six months later, I got to go back. On my own. And I knew that place was meant to be mine. Before and after work, I explored every nook and cranny I could find. Mountain lakes, high atop a butte, Cliff Rock State Park. I got lost on an 18-mile run through a national forest and found an incredible rapids on the Deschutes River. I woke up early each morning for a run before heading into the office and thought, "How is this real life?"

But it was real life. Sitting outside, breathing in the Juniper air, talking to my mom on the phone while I looked at mountains in the distance. Central Oregon is perfect.

Well, now I have the opportunity to make it real life.

If I choose to, I can join my colleagues in Bend and serve as the west coast connection of our corporate communications team next summer.

If I choose to.

That choice. It's my choice. I discovered the most beautiful place I've ever seen because of a job I found when I wasn't even looking, and now I have the opportunity to move across the entire country. This is literally a Choose Your Own Adventure Book come to life.


I've never in 33 years of life lived more than a couple hours away from my parents. For a reason. I am sort of attached to them. I've also never done anything so monumental, like move across the country, for reasons like: fear, fear, and never having had the opportunity. But the fear goes back to reason No. 1: never having lived far from family.

How do people do it?

I feel like this is my chance to take a big, scary leap the way brave people often take big, scary leaps, but I've mostly avoided them because of the big and scary part. But why? What is the actual worst that can happen? I last a year, then come running home?

My job will always be based here. My family will (for now) always be here. Here will always be home. You can always go home again. Right?

I love the idea of being brave and exploring a new adventure and stepping 100 percent outside of my safe zone for me. For the 100 percent selfish reason of I want to.

I want to try living in a brand new place. I want to find my footing. I want to say "I live on the west coast," and actually realize, holy shit, I live on the west coast. I want to be brave and I want friends and family to visit and fall in love the way I did.

I want to move to Bend, Oregon.

But do I?

Counting down

Lakefront Marathon is in 24 days. 

Not that I'm counting. 

This one crept up on me. Not so much the actual race, but my feelings about it. My last marathon was Boston. The time before that was qualifying for Boston. And before that I ran a 17-minute personal best that began the entire adventure. 

It's been such a fulfilling adventure, and I desperately don't want it to end just yet. 

...because I’m still coming back for you, Boston.

As more and more time passes since the Boston Marathon, I feel more and more motivated to go back in 2017. I want another shot so badly. Each training cycle is different -- for better, for worse -- but each training cycle teaches me something. This time around, I don't know if I necessarily feel faster, but I feel much stronger. I've been taking care of my body in ways I've never done before, and it's making an incredible difference. I know what I'm capable of, but I also know all the ways it can be derailed. 

So can we please just not with the derailment? 

The more time that passes since Boston, and the closer Lakefront gets, the heavier the burden I place on myself. This isn't the last shot I'll have at qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon, but if I do it this time, I get to coast through the next year without a single care about race pace or time goals. I want that. Boy, do I want that.

But let's not confuse this with forced pressure or stress.

I love running right now. I feel so energized and powerful. Having this goal brings running to life for me. Every time I set out, I know what I'm working toward. Sure, sometimes I plain don't want to run, but I've never been happier to have the capabilities I've been lucky to find.

However, I'm ready for a new goal. Not a better goal, but a different goal. Once this goal is achieved, I'm excited to move on to a new chapter of miles upon miles for a worthy cause. Long runs with good friends. Easy miles to help blow away beautiful Saturday mornings--just the way I like it.

I am so very, incredibly ready for that. But not a moment too soon, because I'm still coming back for you, Boston.

2015 Boston Marathon

2015 Boston Marathon


I was in high school the last -- and only -- time I ran with just a sports bra to protect my midsection from the eyes of onlookers. 

What was I, 16, maybe? Actually half my lifetime ago.

I ran a relay with my track teammates in a state tournament that summer. We wore matching sports bras, of course. Neon yellow and black. I remember feeling self conscious, eyeing the stomachs of my teammates, wishing mine curved this way or that, or had definition of any kind. 

My pride survived the day, and I was sure to never be seen running without coverage again. 

My stomach's always been one of the first things I'd say when asked the question, "If you could change one thing about yourself..."

Well, first I'd complain that I could only change one. Then I'd rank it. First, my stomach. But then my nose. What about my hair? Can I also have different toes? Is there a three-for-one deal? Why am I answering this question?

For me, my stomach was too flat, but wide. Shapeless. There's no hourglass. Certainly no defined abs. Puffy. Misshapen. Not enough curve to my lower back and not enough curve to my hips. Just... a stump.

Naturally, like any girl who's literally ever grown up, I spent too much time looking at the cover of Cosmopolitan. Look at those bodies. I compared myself to my more curvy friends, with their taut tummies and ability to breeze through a room without wondering whether anyone noticed the puff of flesh that couldn't squeeze itself into the waistband of their jeans properly.

A picture exists of my sister, friends and I at a birthday party when we were maybe 9 years old. We're all in our swimsuits, water balloons carefully placed in our childish bikini tops, giggling. I realize now it's total pedophile bait, but in 1991, it was adorable. But I remember looking at that photo and comparing my 9-YEAR-OLD body to that of my best friend. Even at 9 years old, she had a better body than me. Still, to this day, I have that thought when I look at the picture. 

I mean, let's be real, though. Still, to this day, I look at her and have that thought. I've got gorgeous friends, man.

But let's fast-forward to today. My 33-year-old body is significantly different than my 9-year-old body (OK barely, but who's counting?). This body runs and this body eats and this body curls up on the couch and this body snuggles with animals and this body does all kinds of things that are pretty incredible. 

Until last weekend, this body did not run in just a sports bra. Oh no. In fact, when I'd see others doing just that, I'd mask my jealousy with snark.

"Put a shirt on, geez," my inner-9-year-old would bark in my mind. 

All I wanted, though, was to do the same. To be comfortable doing the same. To have the confidence to do the same. To not feel exposed and vulnerable and pale and jiggly and insecure.

Funny, though, what happens when you have to run in the blazing sun on the country roads while the heat index melts your face off at 101 degrees. All that insecurity goes right out the window. Along with your shirt. 

As happened at the Ragnar Great River Relay last weekend. A quarter mile into my first run I stopped in my tracks, paused my Garmin (come on, of course I did), and tore off my already-soaked tank top. 

It felt... freeing as shit. 

I felt good. I felt cooler. I felt free. I just didn't care. It didn't matter. 

Until I happened upon the race photographer. 

Running without a shirt is one thing. Being photographed while running without a shirt is horrifying. Things happen to your body while running. They move and distort. Do I really need photographic evidence of this phenomenon? 

Too late.

But it stopped mattering. I ran a total of 20 miles out there last weekend in the stifling heat. I declared a new rule: If at any time I have to run, and the heat index is more than 90 degrees, there will be no shirt. And that will just have to be okay. 

So that's the first thing I did on Sunday when I had to run a few easy miles to shake out my legs. I felt a little like an awkward bird, at first. Worried the neighbors were staring, or all the taut-tummied girls were hiding in the bushes snickering at the gall I had to run so imperfectly exposed. 

But then I decided, fuck it. 

I will be self conscious at the beach. I will be self conscious in a dress. I will be self conscious when I'm feeling bloated at work and I just want to unbutton my pants. 

But I refuse to be self conscious when I'm out there running. Out there kicking ass and fighting for a goal and pushing my limits and doing something. Or, as lady hero Ronda Rousey phrased so eloquently, out there not being a "do nothing bitch."

So, free your damn selves. Maybe that doesn't mean running shirtless. Maybe your free is different than mine. But do it. You probably earned it. Even if you didn't, won't it feel good to be a little less scared?