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October 22, 2013

Through the Fire

Through the FireSky Fire

“What is to give light must endure burning.”
~ Viktor Frankl


There is an old saying in the world of fitness:

No pain, no gain.

There is an old joke in medicine that goes like this:

Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” said the patient.
Well, then don’t do that,” said the doctor.

Like an angel and a devil sitting on each shoulder, I often hear both voices at the same time. Yesterday I was at CrossFit™ and our workout had one exercise that just hurt. The weight was too high, the movement too awkward, the feeling was wrong even when I slowed it down. The one voice in my head says It’s just 4 rounds – do it…and then the other voice says that’s 80 reps you crazy woman you will not be able to walk tomorrow.

In the end, the desire to do the workout despite the pain won. It took me longer than almost everyone else, it hurt, and I finished it. But I know the risks. I have had enough injury to know that pushing too hard can do real damage. I have also done enough exercise to know that often, my greatest gains come from finding that edgy space right between pushing hard and pushing too hard and working right there.

Pain, in theory, has a protective element to it. The doctor joke is only half a joke…pain is partly a signal to stop doing the thing that hurts. That said, we can condition ourselves to override some of that. We can raise our pain threshold so that it takes more and more stimulus to get to that place of “stop.” We can convince ourselves that pain is good.

And sometimes it that is fine. Continue reading…

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August 12, 2013

Balanced on the Edge

Balanced on the Edge

You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge.

~ Danielle LaPorte

I have never been excellent with boundaries. Maybe as a child no one told me no often enough, or I somehow missed the lesson that there were things I couldn’t at least try if not achieve. I have always figured that this somewhat contributed to my success in life – I have not been afraid to try things, to push forward, to test boundaries (mine and others). I have been lucky. I have continued to find my way down a successful path – one that has allowed me to have a comfortable life, personal success and more than I really ever asked for.

I have often approached life like a fitness pursuit. Always looking for the next level of my personal ability like a runner looks for better times or a weightlifter a new PR (personal record)

The two are not that different really – you work hard and continue to put new challenges in front of yourself to see if you can do better. If you run you can always run a little farther, tackle a hill, pick up your pace. CrossFit is built for this – there is always a heavier weight, a harder technique, another rep to add. Life is basically the same if you think about it. Continue reading…

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March 1, 2013

Can You Learn to Fly?

Can You Learn to Fly?

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying. 

~Friedrich Nietzsche

IMG_1377On the short list of reasons why I chose to take up running was a growing fascination I had with runner’s high. Try this experiment at home: poll runners – ones you know, random ones you encounter – about why they run. Almost all of them will describe some version of runner’s high for you.  Watch them carefully when they do. See the dreamy smile they get, the sort of glossy look in their eyes. For a moment, they might seem like they have wandered off to some alternate reality that is much better than wherever they might actually be with you.

When I first started to run, I expected that runner’s high would be one of the more immediate perks – one of the things I would get as a benefit if you will to keep me going. I ran. I waited. I ran. I waited. Maybe I was missing it??? I asked some more experienced runners and was assured that I would definitely not miss runner’s high.

Continue reading…

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June 29, 2012



It is necessary to try to surpass one’s self always: this occupation ought to last as long as life.
~ Queen Christina of Sweden

Technically, I am turning 43 today. But here, I am going to celebrate turning One.

One year ago today I laced up my very first pair of running shoes and I committed to a new course. I decided to start running but, more than that, I decided to run for a year.

Here I am. I have arrived.

When I started this journey, a year sounded like infinity and a half a mile in running shoes felt like a marathon. Today, I sit here hoping to recover from a herniated (ok 3) disc in my back and I finding myself wondering if I could manage to train for a half marathon in the fall if all goes well.

In-between, I have put a lot of miles under my feet and I have learned a whole lot about who I am.

Isn’t that funny? When you are a kid, you think of grown ups sort of like fully cooked humans. They are “done” and you are growing. Adults tell you that all the time don’t they? When you are grown up, you’ll see… But the special secret of grownuphood is that – if you pay attention – there is always more growing up to do.

One thing I learn more and more as I keep growing up is that we can be more or less conscious in this process. I am not saying that we can always choose the lessons or the training grounds, but we can choose how actively we participate in the process. On the surface, I chose running because I got to age 42 and realized that I needed to make a hard commitment to taking better care of my body because it was not getting any younger. (You can read about where I started here.) And I could have just left the decision at that. Lots of people make commitments to exercise right? And they quietly stop them 2 weeks or 2 months later and life goes on.

I chose to run for an entire year because I was looking for something more. Continue reading…

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May 28, 2012

Of Titles and Name Calling

Of Titles and Name Calling

Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title.
~ Thomas Paine

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names
~ Chinese Proverb

On Mother’s Day this year  my mom gave me a gift certificate for my favorite running store. The card said “For your new-found passion.” As I was contemplating the cute new running skirt I had just seen in their mailer, I had this thought: My mom thinks of me as a runner.

Almost 43 years ago, and perhaps without even intending to, my mom gave me my first title: Daughter. I still hold that title along with mother, ex-wife, doctor, friend, boss and others. Mostly, I am comfortable with all of them.

Since I started running in June of last year, I have occasionally had someone call me a runner – sometimes seriously, sometimes as a joke. Mostly it has felt awkward and uncomfortable – like a thing I am trying on and I am not sure I am comfortable enough to wear it out in public.

I had a recent conversation about this with another friend who is a doctor. She didn’t understand why I was not comfortable being called a runner after nearly a year. It went like this: Continue reading…

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March 6, 2012

On Being and Becoming

On Being and Becoming

It is a puzzling thing.  The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. 

~Robert M. Pirsig

The transitions in life are sometimes hard to see.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. There are obvious transitions – birth, death, marriage, a new job, a new house. But there are others that – even if profound – sort of sneak up on you and may only be visible in hindsight.

Isn’t that funny? We think the things in front of us should be easiest to see right – the thing right in front of your face, right in front of your eyes…but no, like the mom with eyes in the back of her head we can really see what’s behind us better than anything.

Today I realized that I went running because I wanted to.

Mostly, for the better part of 8 months I have been running as a sort of commitment/experimental challenge. It’s been hard, it’s been painful – but it gets results and that s what I have been looking for. Convenience and results. I have not asked for more. Ok, I have asked for a little bit more. I have been hoping – secretly, and sometimes out loud – that I might find the magical thing that makes people fall in love with running.

Love of anything is always a bit secretive isn’t it? Sometimes we find out the thing we thought we loved is not even a thing we like…and sometimes the thing we never expected shows up and finds a way into our hearts. Continue reading…

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February 25, 2012

Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader

We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.
~ Malcolm Gladwell, Blink

Ok – I wrote a very brief post yesterday about running in the cold.

What I did not write about was that I also went running with a friend. When I travel – which I do often for work – I am usually at medical conferences and it’s not easy to do anything alone. I knew if I went to the gym on in the hotel, I would probably not even get to run because it was likely there would be too many people there who wanted to talk.

Turns out, running outside, even in Utah, even in the winter, was going to involve company.

I have tried hard not to run with other people. I have not been doing this for very long and, as a self-conscious perfectionist, just thinking about running with someone else is daunting. Lately, the more people who know that I run, the more offers I get, so I suppose this was an inevitable progression.

In the end, it only took me a couple of minutes for me to get out of my own way.

The friend I ran with was a really experienced runner. He’s been running since his teens, and I think when anyone has done something for more than half their life they often have that kind of expertise that only comes with experience. It’s effortless in a way. Natural, some might say.

Before I started running, I knew nothing at all about running. Frankly, I have not spent any time at all learning about technique – mostly, I have done a lot of “research” on why runners run – and at that, primarily by talking to runners. I don’t know why it never crossed my mind that running with a runner would have extraordinary value.

Learning by experience and example is one of the most valuable ways that we as humans gain knowledge. We do this from birth. We model our parents, teachers, siblings, coaches. Later, perhaps, we seek out those with skills or expertise that we desire, and become smarter and more focused in how we acquire these skills. Right now, for example, I am at the Minimally Invasive Surgery Symposium in Salt Lake City Utah – every year at this meeting surgeons from all over North America gather here to learn through lecture, debate, skill labs, and personal interaction about the most cutting edge research and techniques in their field. Most anyone in medicine can tell you that the model has always been “see one, do one, teach one” – a simply stated recognition that simple verbal instruction does not impart expertise.

We start with follow the leader in childhood and we end up in a fellowship. It’s sort of all the same model. Continue reading…

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February 21, 2012

Feels Like…

Feels Like…

A lot of people have asked my why I would chose a year – that’s a long time to commit to something that you have never done and you might not like. It was not arbitrary.

I did a lot of research before I started running – not about gear or technique – I wanted to know why runners run. What calls them to do it, why they keep doing it, what pushes them forward, gets them to run and run and run.

Talk to enough runners and you realize that most of them are fanatical about running. Many, I am pretty sure would give up sex before they would give up running if forced to make a choice. When you ask them why they run, you get all kinds of answers that make little sense to non-runners. You especially get various descriptions of “runner’s high” and the dreamy looks that accompany the descriptions always speak louder than words. It’s like talking to someone who just fell in love.

Continue reading…

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February 2, 2012

The Limits of Imagination

The Limits of Imagination

Everything you can imagine is real.  ~Pablo Picasso

I have noticed something interesting over the past few weeks. Suddenly – unprovoked – I have had several people suggest LONG runs to me…a 10K, a half-marathon, a full marathon (ultra…anyone?)

I have no idea why.

Maybe I crossed some invisible line after running for 7 months where suddenly the real runners I know are starting to look at me a bit more like I am one of them rather than someone who is going to casually dabble in running before moving on to the next best thing. It’s true – I am taking this pretty seriously – so perhaps that is what they sense?

To myself, however, I still feel a bit like a tourist making a long stay in a foreign country. I can sort of speak enough of the language to get by now, but I am definitely not full immersed in the cultures and ways of the locals. Still, I definitely fit in more now than before…and kind of I like it here in the world of runners for right now and I am not planning on moving on any time soon.

But when they start suggesting things like running farther than twice the distance I have ever run, well, I start to think about getting this first bus out of town. Continue reading…

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January 29, 2012

Where Are You Going?

Where Are You Going?

Where are you going?
Where do you go?
Are you looking for answers
To questions under the stars?
~ Dave Matthews Band

Transitions are always interesting.

One of the things I love about living at the ocean is that it is the transition from land to sea – even though I see it nearly every day, I still get that feeling of awe like I am standing not just at the edge of the beach, but like I am standing at the edge of the world.

The coast is an obvious transition – waves crashing on sand, liquid against solid – it all clearly says “this is where things change.”

Transitions in our lives are not always so obvious. Sure, there are the big moments – a birth, a death, a move, a new job, a new relationship – but sometimes the most subtle changes are the most meaningful and we may only sense them as they pass by or in hindsight days, months or years later.

It is late January and I have been running for 7 months now. I have been trying to be acutely aware of if or how this experience is altering me – physically, mentally, emotionally. This new movement is not just about moving my body, it’s about moving things in my life, but in the beginning, that was not easy to see.

One thing I have not really known since I started to run is if I would simply wake up one day and not do it again – maybe it would hurt too much or just feel too hard. Maybe I would really hate it or just be bored. But that has not happened. In fact, I have run more than I ever thought I would.

The transition is subtle, but it has gone like this: I intend to run -> I am starting to run ->I am running.

I thought about this today (as I was running) and and asked what would be next?

Continue reading…

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