I’ve returned! And I’m retiring.

Great SNAKES! I haven’t posted to this exercise in self-aggrandizement blog of mine in quite some time!

"Sam, as your social-media-guru, it pains me to say this, but, you're fired"

“Sam, as your social-media-guru, it pains me to say this, but, you’re fired”

I’m so very sorry that I’ve been a blogger in absentia for the past week. I don’t have any excuses for my paucity of prose.

I'm lying...I have SO many excuses.

I’m lying…I’m FULL of excuses.

Life lately has been atypically hectic, in both the best and worst ways. In the span of a week I celebrated a birthday, had a manuscript rejected, and took a mini-vacation to visit my parents in Colorado.

Pictured: my awesome parents and my terribly behaved dog at Gross Reservoir.

Pictured: my awesome parents and my terribly behaved dog at Gross Reservoir.

The trip to Colorado was phenomenal. I love living in Seattle, but my heart has always and will always belong to the Rocky Mountains.

This is the view from the back deck of the house I grew up in

This is the view from the back deck of the house I grew up in.

I grew up in the mountains a half hour west of Boulder, Colorado. I spent most of my recent short trip hanging out around my parents’ house and our big backyard, but my dad and I did make one brave trip into big-city Boulder to do some recycling.

Boulder: we even recycle our Yoga mats

Boulder: we even recycle our Yoga mats

My parents and I only had four days together, but we made the most of it.

We even cracked open a GREAT Bordeaux!

We cracked open a GREAT Bordeaux!

We walked our dog, Obie, every day.

Obie is named for Oberon, the king of the fairies in 'Midsummer Night's Dream'

Obie is named for Oberon, the king of the fairies in ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’

We took a short hike down to Gross Reservoir to catch some fall color.

Don't go chasing waterfalls

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

Stick to the lakes you're used to...

Stick to the lakes you’re used to…

My dad, our neighbors and I took a delightful bike ride up to Golden Gate State Park.

My neighbors are SERIOUS bikers...they might have been embarrassed to be seen with me.

OK guys, wheres the coffee?

We thought about attempting some coffeeneuring to a cafe without walls, but the logistics of bringing the necessary espresso accoutrements on our outing proved to be an insurmountable challenge. We almost didn’t make it out the door in the first place: I was riding a borrowed bicycle. Unfortunately, I was under the VERY mistaken impression that my LOOK cleats were, in fact, SPDs.

These....

These….

Are not these.

Are not these.

Luckily I was able to borrow a pair from Cross Propz world headquarters (which happens to be my neighbor Paul’s garage). If you are into cyclocross, you HAVE to check out Cross Propz. My neighbor, Paul, started the company out of his garage to produce lightweight, portable cyclocross barriers that are super-easy to put up and take down: perfect for the insane endurance athlete on the go!

These cyclocross  guys are 1) crazy & 2) awesome

These cyclocross guys are 1) crazy & 2) awesome

Luckily my serious-cycle-head neighbors are also seriously nice people, and they still let me borrow a SERIOUSLY NICE bicycle despite my totally incompetent shoe-SNAFU.

SO MANY GEARS!

SO MANY GEARS!

We rode together up to Panorama Point.

The name is certainly accurate.

Yup…pretty panoramic.

I went running a few times at my parents’ house, the altitude TOTALLY kicked my ass.

8,000 feet is...not a joke

8,000 feet is…not a joke

I only spent four days in Colorado, but I spent some time thinking things over while I was out there.

Yes...I even gave myself a reading.

Yes…I even gave myself a reading.

I realized that part of the reason this vacation was so relaxing, even if it was only four days long (four days during which I got 11 emails, three texts, and two phone calls from my boss), is that I consciously made an effort to be mindful and present while I was there. IMG_5689

For four whole days I was too busy living my life to be blogging about it, and I have to admit that unplugging from the social mediums felt pretty fantastic.

What is this black magic?

What is this black magic?

Blogging lately has felt like a burden. I’m under no illusions about my total lack of influence in the grand scheme of the internet. This blog has always been more of a forum for me to sort out my own thoughts through writing, whether it be about climate change, marathon training, meditationrunning races, recipes, or just random shit that I like. I’m gobsmacked, humbled, and totally appreciative that anyone EVER has come by to read my random ramblings and excessively alliterative prose.

Seriously...what is it with the alliteration?

Seriously…what is it with the alliteration?

However, I think that the time has come to put my blogging hat on the back-burner.

Let's be real...this is my EVERYTHING hat

Let’s be real…this is my EVERYTHING hat

I love the opportunities for connection with other awesome bloggers afforded by the internet. I love following the lives of inspiring individuals as they eat marathons for breakfast or hit the trails harder than the Loma Prieta quake. I have nothing but admiration for bloggers who are able to share their fascinating trials, travails, and triumphs while holding down nine-to-five jobs, family commitments, and a modicum of sanity.

Not a whole lot of sanity around these parts.

Not a whole lot of sanity around these parts.

I have come to realize, however, that blogging about my moment-to-moment existence inhibits my efforts to LIVE in the moment.

If a blogger quits in the forest, does anybody give a shit?

If a blogger quits in the forest, does anybody give a shit?

I’m not ready to burn my metaphorical blogging bridges by dismantling my domain name just yet. Writing and running are two of my favorite things. I eat, breathe, and live science.  I get REALLY pissed off when our legislators act asinine about climate change. I’d like to continue ruminating on these topics occasionally. However, at present, and for the foreseeable future, the Liability Limited Corporation marathonsam.com is ending its bid for a hostile takeover of the hearts and minds of  Earth,  The State of Washington, Seattle, The Three Block Radius immediately surrounding my house,

A fish?

A fish?

Thank you everybody! To all of my readers (there are DOZENS of you…DOZENS!): stay classy, stay true to yourselves, stay strong, stay weird, stay gentle.

Above all, stay fruity

PEACE, LOVE, OATMEAL.

20140728-155854-57534024.jpg

 elvis oatmeal

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Marathon Monday

Hujambo human beings! How is your Monday going so far? I’m spending my day trying to dig through 5 million reads of next-generation sequencing data while I wait to hear back from some editors about whether or not my manuscript is going to get published.

I love you miSeq! I also fear you.

I love you miSeq! I also fear you.

Computing on a command line should make me feel like Neo from The Matrix, but I suspect that I might be more accurately acting like Derek Zoolander.

The files are IN THE COMPUTER

The files are IN THE COMPUTER

In other words, I’m both over a barrel and out of my depths.

I am DROWNING in data.

I am DROWNING in data.

To keep myself motivated I’m distracting myself by reminiscing about my fun-filled weekend of trail racing, pumpkin carving and coffeeneuring.

Can I go back here please? I'd rather be exhausted and glycogen depleted than staring at a screen.

Can I go back here please? I’d rather be exhausted and glycogen depleted than staring at a screen.

Did anybody else run a race this past weekend? My twitter feed was chock-full of updates from awesome athletes from Kona to Chicago and everywhere in between. Autumn is marathon season, with more races happening this month than any other.

The leaves are turning, it's time to run.

The leaves are turning, it’s time to run.

This past weekend in particular plays host to the most simultaneous marathons out of the whole entire year. Congratulations to all of the excellent endurance junkies everywhere who got out there and gave it their all. Anybody’s efforts, at any distance, deserve recognition, but I thought that I’d devote some digital shout-outs in this post to the amazing athletes at the Chicago Marathon. I need some motivation to dive back into the depths of deep sequencing data and these high-performance humans are definitely inspiring individuals.

The Kenyans dominated the running race at Chicago, with Eliud Kipchoge posting a fast 2:04:11 and Rita Jeptoo continuing her reign as the queen of Chicago, finishing strong in 2:24:35. Kipchoge was 26 seconds off of the course record (set by the fastest-marathoner-in-the-world, Dennis Kimetto in 2013) and 6 seconds away from his own personal best time. He posted a massive negative split, running the final 7 kilometers faster than anyone has ever finished on that particular course. The top American male was Bobby Curtis, coming in 9th overall with a PR time of 2:11:20. Amy Hastings was the first American female, finished fifth in 2:27:03 (which happens to be a tie for her PR). I think it’s awesome that our top athletes both pushed their limits and ran these personal record setting times.

In the wheelchair race, the Americans were UNSTOPPABLE. My absolute favorite athlete Tatyana McFadden won her fourth Chicago Marathon! This woman is an endurance ANIMAL, an olympic silver medalist (for cross country skiing), and the only human being EVER to win four major marathons in a row. Her fellow University of Illinois alumnus, Joshua George, won the men’s wheelchair race. Both of these athletes are fearsome competitors on the road, and ferocious advocates for empowerment in their daily lives.

The athletes in Chicago inspire me as a runner and as an American.

These colors run A LOT

These colors run A LOT

Their astronomical achievements give me something to aspire towards. I know that I will never be as fast as a Kenyan, but I can still try my hardest to excel in all of my endeavors.

Did YOU race this weekend?

Who are your favorite athletes? 

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Weekend wrap up: a trail race, pumpkin carving, coffeeneuring

Happy Sunday superheroes!

You're all supermen and superwomen in my book!

You’re all supermen and superwomen in my book!

Have you had a restful weekend? Are you ready to take on the week ahead like tigers and tigresses? Or does your Monday docket have you feeling like a frightened pussycat?

Ummmm. Does anyone remember how TOTALLY misogynistic these old "Josie and the Pussycats" comics were?

Ummmm. Does anyone remember how TOTALLY misogynistic these old “Josie and the Pussycats” comics were?

It’s been an eventful weekend here in marathonsam-land. On Saturday I made a trip to Kenmore for The Saint Edwards Harvest 10k Trail Race.

Acting like a card-carrying, compression-wearing, freakazoid on wheels...it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Acting like a card-carrying, compression-wearing, freakazoid on wheels…it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

When I arrived at the check in, I realized that this event also offered a half marathon distance.

The course looks nice, why not run it twice?

The course looks nice, why not run it twice?

I spent approximately 38 seconds of agonizing soul-searching and painstakingly weighing the pros and cons, then decided to upgrade my registration to the ½ and hit the trails hard. I’ll write up a full recap in the coming week. For now suffice to say that the fine folks at NW Trail Runs puts on an EXCELLENT event (you can read my recap of their Cedar River Trail Half Marathon here), there were fig newtons at the finish line, and I had a total blast (even though I managed to run my slowest half marathon EVER).

I was thinking about this fig newton for approximately 2000 vertical feet.

I was thinking about this fig newton for approximately 2000 vertical feet.

Saturday afternoon was spent having some seasonally appropriate fun with sharp knives and squashes. Alli and I had a few fine folks over to our house to carve up some Curcubita pepo. 

Sorry Porter, I know you want to carve a pumpkin, but I think you'll have trouble holding a knife in your paws.

Sorry Porter, I know you want to carve a pumpkin, but I think you’ll have trouble holding a knife in your paws.

I had not carved a pumpkin since I started graduate school, it was a total blast to get up to my elbows in pumpkin guts.

So slimy.

So slimy.

Gatsby LOVES carving pumpkins!

Gatsby LOVES carving pumpkins!

We also, of course, roasted up all of the seeds and I’ve been munching on them non-stop. I made one indian-flavored batch by tossing the seeds with safflower oil, curry powder, cumin, and sea salt. The remainder got stirred with sesame oil and soy sauce. At the end of the day our house was full of snacks and spoooooky Jack ‘o’ Lanterns; I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.

Dia de los Muertos Pumpkin and Roaming Gnome Pumpkin.

Dia de los Muertos Pumpkin and Roaming Gnome Pumpkin.

I woke up on Sunday and took myself out for a nine-mile run to shake out my complaining quadriceps. After scarfing down a big bowl of carbohydrates I mounted my trusty steed Velox on an expedition to calm my muscles with yoga, then caffeinate my brain with Coffeeneuring.

I am on a mission for asana and an Americano. I WILL NOT BE DISTRACTED!

I am on a mission for asana and an Americano. I WILL NOT BE DISTRACTED!

As I explained in my previous post, coffeneuring was invented by the blogger behind chasingmailboxes.com. The rules are pretty simple. Every weekend you bike to a different coffee shop, drink your beverage of choice, then share your experience on the social mediums.

"I look into my crystal ball and I see tweets about coffee"

“I look into my crystal ball and I see tweets about coffee”

For this weekend’s coffeeneuring excursion I opted to patronize Bauhaus Coffee’s Greenlake outpost.

Strong coffee. These merry modernists don't mess around.

Strong coffee. This bodes well.

The Ride to Bauhaus from my house is just about 2.5 miles. One of these days I’ll have to get more ambitious in my coffeeneuring distances, but for now short little shake-out rides with a coffee treat at the end have been just my style.Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 4.10.21 PMThe ride through my neighborhood is pleasant. I spotted a house decorated with vintage carousel horses along the way.

Can I catch the brass ring?

Can I catch the brass ring?

The most appealing portion of pedaling was along the shore of Green Lake, where I spotted some beautiful fall foliage.

I love the fiery red hues!

I love the fiery red hues!

Bauhaus Coffee is a comfortable coffeehouse. The decor is, of course, mid-century modern. They have shelves upon shelves of classic books for patrons to peruse.

I feel smarter just being inside this place.

I feel smarter just being inside this place.

I love these lamps.

Java by lamplight.

I wasn’t hungry when I arrived, but I eyed the bakery case and was impressed by the selection of exquisite looking pastries.

Those look fancy!

Those look fancy!

I thought it was pretty amusing that if high-brow confections aren’t your style, you can opt for a hostess treat at the register.

These do NOT look fancy. I've never ever eaten a ding dong. Is that weird? Are they good?

These do NOT look fancy. I’ve never ever eaten a ding dong. Is that weird? Are they good?

I ordered my Americano, then took it outside with me to enjoy al fresco so that I could keep an eye on my bike

Hi Velox!

Hi Velox!

The coffee at Bauhaus is freaking delicious. Full stop. My Americano had BEAUTIFUL creme on top. The drink was smooth, rich, and had undertones of toast and vanilla.

Come to papa.

Come to papa.

While I was enjoying my espresso, a server came by to offer me a sample of fresh pear tart. This was also very tasty, and a perfect small-sized treat before lunch.

Yum.

Yum.

Overall my second coffeenuering outing was a smashing success. I feel like this challenge is making me more thoughtful about an activity that I do almost every day, namely: riding my bike to go drink coffee. It’s fun to turn something ordinary into an outstanding special treat.

Pictured: a happy blogger.

Pictured: a happy blogger.

All in all it has been a fantastic weekend. I’m winding down my Sunday evening sore and satisfied. I hope everyone out there in internet land is having an awesome October, so far. Thanks for stopping by!

What did YOU do this weekend?

Do you carve pumpkins for Halloween?

I always get Americanos…I love them, but I feel like I’m boring. What’s your go-to coffee drink?

 

 

 

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Tuesday track workout

Hello friends and neighbors. I hope that your Tuesday tasks aren’t hellaciously hairy.

My mornings are usually pretty hairy.

My mornings are usually pretty hairy.

My Tuesday has been anything but typical. As part of my action plan to pick up my pace I tried a new track workout AND some new fuel for my morning run. My track workout consisted of: a two mile warm up, three sets of 4x400m at 5K pace with 200m recovery jog between intervals. I rested with 2 minutes of walking between sets, then ran home.

Touchdown!

Touchdown!

The new fuel that I tried was a teeny-tiny power pill made out of blue-green algae.

What are THESE mysterious green capsules?

What are THESE mysterious green capsules?

I was sent a free sample of a cool product called Energy Bits, encouraged to try them out and share my opinions with you, my gentle readers.

Thanks!

Thanks!

Energy Bits are concentrated capsules containing a blend of the blue-green algae Spirulina species. Each bit clocks in at one calorie and boasts an impressive array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

I like these nutrition stats.

I like these nutrition stats.

It might seem strange to pop thirty green pills directly before a workout.

Normally if I'm taking green pills, I am NOT about to go work out.

I’m certainly not opposed to taking lots of strange pills, but normally this doesn’t happen before a workout.

However, when you really think about it, tiny tabs of compressed algae aren’t any weirder than the space-age packets of complex carbohydrates that we runners slurp down mid-race on a regular basis.

Runners put some STRANGE stuff into their bodies.

Runners put some STRANGE stuff into their bodies.

I must admit that I felt pretty dreadful at the end of my track workout this morning.

Not so stoked...

That was HARD

I’m also aware, as a scientist, that changing  two variables at once is a TERRIBLE approach to conducting an experiment. My workout AND my nutrition were both new-to-me. How can I tell if a particular perturbation is responsible for an observed effect if I haven’t kept all of my other conditions constant?

All of those qPCR plates? Controls...controls...controls...90% of what I do is controls. Controls get you conclusions.

All of those qPCR plates? Controls…controls…controls…90% of what I do is controls. Controls get you conclusions.

This is why I am reserving judgement, for the time being, on the new fuel that I fed my face with this morning. I like that EnergyBits are an all natural fuel-source, and I like the idea of eating algae, so I intend to keep experimenting with these little plant-based nutrition pills.  I will write up a full review, with my thoughts on the science behind the subject, in a later post.

I made a squiggly little Spirulina!

I made a squiggly little Spirulina!

For now I thought I would share tips and tricks on track etiquette. Speed workouts all involve running a specified distance at a prescribed pace. That’s fine, in theory, but the twisty-turny-stoplight-and-hill-filled reality of the road can make it tricky to actually achieve your intended 3 x mile repeats at 10K pace. Hitting the oval is a great resource for speed development: you don’t need a fancy GPS, or a heart rate monitor, or a hyperbaric chamber. All you need is a positive attitude, a watch, and the ability to multiply by four.

I have ALL of those things! I also have an apple.

I have ALL of those things! I also have an apple.

The track is flat and even. There’s no possible way to get lost while you run laps. I find the combination of repetition and all-out effort makes facilitates quieting my mind’s default mode network to find a flow state. However, it can be intimidating to sneak onto your local high school’s football field for the first time.

Wiper Field, Home of the Rough Riders...Clearly the fine folks who named the field at  Roosevelt High School have never MET a high-school-aged boy

“Wiper Field, Home of the Rough Riders”…Clearly the fine folks who named the field at Roosevelt High School have never MET a high-school-aged boy

To maximize the effects of your exercise (and avoid pissing off your fellow runners) here are a few rules of the road for track workouts.

1) Have a plan. Write out your intended intervals and recovery periods before you get to the track. Otherwise you’ll wind up running in circles.

2) Stick to the outer lanes if you are running slow.

3) Call out “track” if you want to pass someone.

4) Run counter-clockwise.

5) Be aware of other runners. If you hear someone approaching, let them pass.

5) Be predictable: don’t suddenly switch lanes, switch directions, come to a dead stop, or bust out into a Carmen Miranda musical interlude.

I'm the runner with the Tutti-Fruity Track workout!

I’m the runner with the Tutti-Fruity Track workout!

Thanks for dropping by! Now let’s discuss:

Track workouts: Love ‘em or hate ‘em? What are your favorites?

Algae as runner-fuel: Too weird, or too cool?

I used to take a blue-green algae supplement for a hangover cure while I was in college. I had never considered the possibility of getting calories from Cyanobacteria.

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Weekend Wanderings: new shoes, a long run, and coffeneuring

Happy Sunday sophisticated specimens.

Sonication is the most sophisticated way to fragment chromatin

Sonication is the most sophisticated way to fragment chromatin.

How is your weekend going? Have you gotten outside to enjoy this awesome autumn? It has been partly cloudy in Seattle thanks to a dirty ridge of high pressure keeping the clouds stuck between the mountains and Puget Sound.

"Dirty ridge" is and official meteorological term, don't believe me? Ask Cliff Mass

“Dirty ridge” is and official meteorological term, don’t believe me? Ask Cliff Mass.

Vaguely pornographic precipitation patterns notwithstanding, I have had a splendid Saturday and Sunday. I started my weekend bright and early with a lovely long run. IMG_5410

 

I haven’t gone out for anything over 15 miles since the Tacoma Marathon in May. I was a little nervous before heading out to hit the road Saturday: I’ve been feeling flat in my training lately, and Thursday’s catastrophic crash shook my confidence.

Ugh. Gnarly. I'm sorry.

Ugh. Gnarly. I’m sorry.

Fortunately I had a fantastic run, start-to-finish. I found flow and felt great the entire sixteen miles. Even though I am a total space cadet and forgot to bring any fuel with me, I felt phenomenal. I needed a good run to clear my head, and my meditative miles were the perfect prescription. After my run I chose to recover with my favorite rewards:

16 miles means chocolate oatmeal for breakfast

16 miles means chocolate oatmeal for breakfast

I love gentle yoga after a long run.

I love gentle yoga after a long run.

Poppa's got a brand new pair of shoes!

Poppa’s got a brand new pair of shoes!

Yes, I confess. I indulged in some retail therapy and got myself a nice new pair of trail running shoes. I opted for the Brooks Cascadia 9. My autumn resolution is to run more trails, how can I POSSIBLY achieve my goal without a shiny new pair of shoes?

My social media specialist and accountant agrees with me.

My social media specialist and accountant told me that these were within my budget.

Sunday morning I woke up and took my fancy footwear out for a test run. I managed 6 sloooooooow miles.IMG_5436I attempted to put my top-of-the-line trail shoes to the test with a lap through Ravenna Park, but I forgot to account for diminished daylight. My powerful headlamp absolutely failed to penetrate the deep darkness.

This is what my run through the park looked like. Can you see anything? Me neither.

This is what my run through the park looked like. Can you see anything? Me neither.

I precariously picked my way through the woods for a mile before deciding to abort my efforts and return to the well-lit roads. Until my super-night-vision powers develop, I think I either need to figure out a new lighting system or start waking up later to run trails.

For Truth, Justice, Carbohydrates, and the American Way

For Truth, Justice, Carbohydrates, and the American Way

Carrots are good for night vision, right?

Carrots are good for night vision, right?

Even though I only spent a single miles on trails before the darkness defeated me, these new shoes are highly satisfactory. They feel grippy and responsive. I can’t wait to properly put them through their paces on some longer off-road runs.

Like this one.

Like this one.

After my run I mounted my trusty steed and pedaled over to yoga.

When in doubt, pose it out.

When in doubt, pose it out.

I opted for pedal powered posing because the next item on my agenda was Coffeeneuring!

Cycling and caffeine...the best things in life.

Cycling and caffeine…the best things in life.

The brains behind Washington D.C.-based biking blog Chasing Mailboxes invented Coffeeneuring as a re-imagination of Randonneuring.  Instead of riding a single long-distance course with several predetermined checkpoints, Coffeeneurs ride to seven different coffeeshops over the course of a seven-week time-frame and document their experience. My first foray into coffeeneuring took me to my old neighborhood for a delicious Americano, courtesy of Zoka Coffee Roasters.

This is a clean, well-lighted place.

This is a clean, well-lighted place.

Zoka Coffee specializes in fairly-sourced, single origin beans, roasted right on the premises. My beverage was beautifully balanced: sipping an Americano in a comfy couch was the perfect way to spend Sunday afternoon. IMG_5448I didn’t bike very far for this initial excursion: I ended up covering six miles round trip, which happens to be the same distance as my daily commute.

Notice the markers for stretching and food.

Notice the markers for stretching and food.

I love the Coffeeneuring concept and I am looking forward to biking my narrow behind to several more of Seattle’s excellent coffeeshops over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for updates; if anyone else wants to play along I’d love to read about your experiences and see some photos. Chasing Mailboxes has a great collection of posts from previous years’ coffeeneuring challenges.  Not that I needed more encouragement to hop on my bike and drink coffee, but I love that this challenge specifies that participants must visit a different coffeeshop each week. I can’t wait to discover some new bike-accessible bohemes around Seattle.

Biking is the BEST

Biking is the BEST. Coffee is the BEST, too. 

I’m signing off for now. I hope everyone has a splendid Sunday, and feels well rested for the week ahead!

Who wants to bike for coffee with us?

My headlamp is pretty bright…is there anything else on the market that could help me light my way for dark morning trail runs?

Who else runs in Brooks? 

 

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Thrashed Thursday

Howdy doody dudes and dudettes. How has your workweek been going? Have you had to pull some strings to get stuff done?

The beginning of my day was a brush with disaster. I’ve recently been feeling flat, and stuck in a rut with my typical running routes. I attempted to map out an exciting new loop to mix things up and keep things fresh.

This is where I thought I was going

This is where I thought I was going

This is where I went.

This is where I went.

Unfortunately I got a little lost in North Seattle, and this route had me slogging uphill through a strip mall rather than running happily like a gazelle on the serengeti.

Pictured: a gazelle Not pictured: this blogger

Pictured: a gazelle
Not pictured: this blogger

To make matters worse, at the end of my run I got sent sprawling by a crack in the sidewalk.

How do you know you're a blogger? The first thing you do after taking a gnarly spill is whip out your smartphone and snap a selfie

How do you know you’re a blogger? The first thing you do after taking a gnarly spill is whip out your smartphone and snap a selfie

After unleashing a few choice expletives I picked myself up and walked the rest of the way home, repeating the mantra:

Ride fast, fall hard, pain is temporary, chicks dig scars”

Oh yeah...I'm a real chick-magnet

Oh yeah…I’m a real chick-magnet

Luckily the damage appears to be mostly cosmetic, but I think that I need a mental reset with my training. I’m happy with my mileage (and looking forward to ramping up for October), but my pace seems stuck at a plateau.Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 9.46.25 AM I’ve been reading a few articles on active.com, competitor.com and running times about how to break out a running rut. I’ve come away with the conclusion that variety is the spice of life: repeatedly returning to the same workouts and race distances is no way to reach a breakthrough…in fact it’s a one-way ticket to boredom-city.

My coach is sick of hearing me whine

My coach is sick of hearing me whine

I like running half marathons. I like doing hill repeats, Yasso 800s, and tempo runs (LIKE may be a strong word when it comes to hill repeats). However, I would also like to shave 10 minutes off of my marathon time, and right now I am not on course towards achieving that goal. Luckily I’ve still got two months ahead of me before the Seattle Marathon, which is the perfect opportunity for me to take a step back and shake things up. My plan of attack involves four prongs:

Three prongs and a teak lizard

Four prongs and a teak lizard

1) Sprinkle in some speed-work. 

Mario Fraoili suggests his mixed interval workout: four sets of 600m-400m-200m at 5K pace with one minute of jogging between intervals, and two minutes rest between sets.

Greg McMillan recommends four sets of four 400m intervals with 200m recovery jog, each run at a progressively faster pace.

2) Hit the trails.

My neighborhood is nice, but I want to run through more exciting environments.

We did get a GREAT sunrise this morning

We did get a GREAT sunrise this morning

Trail running is strength training in disguise; I can’t seem to make myself hit the gym on a regular basis, so I might as well benefit both my body AND my brain with some scrambling through the woods.

3) Race shorter.

My last 5K was in July of 2013. I haven’t run a 10K in over two years. I honestly don’t know what my real 5K and 10K paces are. Seattle is awesome because there are running events almost every weekend all autumn long. I’ll hit up Gametiime.com and find a few fun smaller races.

4) Figure out my fueling. 

This is a complicated topic that warrants its own post. Suffice to say for now that my long runs lately leave me feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. I suspect that something is out of balance, and I’m going to be investigating a few different avenues. Carbohydrates are usually the solution to all of life’s problems, but I wonder if I can optimize my consumption.

I DO love oatmeal...always and forever.

The best things in life. 

I’m not going to let a little stumble set me back. I’m glad that I took a tumble this morning, it forced me to think about what my goals are with running and write a plan of attack to achieve them. The Liability Limited Corporation: Marathonsam Incorporated will continue on its mission of global domination and good vibrations.

Pictured: Coach Porter, Social Media Guru Gatsby, and Marathonsam

Pictured: Coach Porter, Social Media Guru Gatsby, and Marathonsam

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut? How do you break out of it?

Can you believe how strange and racist children’s television was in the 1950s?

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Topical Tuesday: The UN Climate Summit

Happy Tuesday Transylvanians! The onset of autumn is delightful for so many reasons: crisp cool temperatures, fantastic fall foliage, pumpkin spice-flavored everything. However, the diminished hours of daylight as our plucky planet starts to tilt its axis away from the sun have me feeling downright Dracula-esque.

One mile repeat, Two

One mile repeat, two mile repeats, THREE mile repeats

I used my headlamp to light the way during this morning’s tempo run, but still managed to stumble a little bit over a hidden crack in the sidewalk.

Autumn means time for arm-warmers!

Autumn means time for arm-warmers!

I shouldn’t complain: fall is my favorite season. April showers may bring May flowers, but a frigid fall welcomes a wonderful winter.

Frost on my rosebushes!

Frost on my rosebushes!

198501_868408136038_2708817_n

Have I told you about my cabin? A.K.A. the site of the most scenic outhouse in the continental United States

It’s only october and I’m already salivating for ski-season. As I was wasting time on Instagram perusing some mountain porn, I stumbled upon the feed for Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization that combines two of my favorite activities: activism and athletics.

//instagram.com/p/tV-4yuJaOM/embed/

POW’s website reminded me about last week’s UN global summit on climate change in New York City. President Obama gave a great address calling for action by the US and our partners around the globe to address this urgent issue.

Climate change is a real, undeniable fact. I’ve ranted about this several times. Humankind has altered the course of the planet and now it is up to us to address the consequences. It is unfortunate that so much rhetoric is spent debating (and debasing) the scientific merit of the phenomenon when that energy could be far better spent in search of a solution.  Climate change is complex and scary; any plan of action will have to take into account multiple factors, weighing the costs and benefits of each. I will admit that sometimes we in the scientific community do ourselves a disservice by adopting extremist positions that distract from the real issues at hand and discredit our arguments. For example: up here in the Pacific Northwest one group claims that the recent warming we observe is attributable to natural variations in climate cycles, another claims that the increased temperatures stem from human activity. The local weather guru, Cliff Mass, dissects each paper on his blog and comes to the conclusion that humanity likely isn’t to blame for the weirdness happening up here around Seattle.

The WEATHER weirdness, that is

The WEATHER weirdness, that is

On the other hand, a colloquium of 13 different research groups has concluded that the Australian heat-waves during the summer of 2013 were definitively caused by humans. In other words: some of the strange weather we see is really just due to inherent oddities of the Earth, and some of the freakiness is completely our fault. Pundits and politicians use this inconsistency as an excuse for inaction, which is inexcusable.

Who needs evidence when you've got LOUD OPINIONS!?

Who needs evidence when you’ve got LOUD OPINIONS!?

Just because EVERYTHING isn’t caused by climate change, these blowhards argue that we ought to do NOTHING. The BCR-ABL chromosomal transversion doesn’t cause EVERY type of cancer, that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to develop the next Gleevec! The fact of the matter is that some areas will be more impacted than others, but humanity as a whole has a responsibility to act. The coldest cold years will be hotter than today’s toastiest temperatures by 2047.

Source: Mora et al., Nature, 2013

Source: Mora et al., Nature, 2013

The Socialist Republic of Seattle will likely remain relatively temperate, becoming a  climate haven; yet we can’t write off the regions that will be hard-hit by rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, and increased extreme weather events.

Even if we REALLY want to write off some spots

Even if we REALLY want to write off some spots

We’re staring down a grim future, make no mistake. However, the magnitude or difficulty of a task should never be used as a reason to do nothing. Humanity as a whole is creative, adaptable, and inventive. We may have totally screwed up with our fossil fuel fixation, but I am optimistic that we can face the challenge head-on and innovate our way out of this mess. Surely the species that is capable of creating deep-fried beer on a stick can figure out perovskite solar cells and a renewable future?

Yes this exists...click through the picture to find out how to do it at home

Yes this exists…click through the picture to find out how to do it at home

I’d like to leave this post off with a link to some hope. The New York Times asked a collection of world leaders, scientists, artists and authors to share their thoughts about the issue of climate change. From the Dalai Llama to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, each one offers profound insight, but I think Margaret Atwood says it best:

What gives me hope is that more and more people are aware of the dangers we face, and many smart people are at work on solutions. Our smart brains got us into this. Let’s see if they can get us out.

I think a Dahlia fits pretty well right about here.

I think a Dahlia fits pretty well right about here.

What makes you hopeful? It doesn’t have to be about climate change, lets share some positivity in general! 

 

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Falling flat and frolicking around

Greetings and salutations, gentle readers! I’m feeling particularly penitent for not posting since Sunday evening! I hope that everybody out there on the world wide web has been coping without a copious stream of pictures of Porter, Gatsby, and selfies in running gear.

Two out of three!

Two out of three!

I honestly have been feeling a little bit lackadaisical lately concerning my creation. Marathonsam.com started out as a forum for begging my friends and family for money fundraising for the Seattle Humane Society. Somewhere along the way, this domain-name matured into a melting pot of recipes, ramblings, rants, and race-recaps. Recently, however, the process of blogging has felt more and more like an overwhelming obligation.

An albatross around my neck? Or maybe a snake.

An albatross around my neck? Or maybe a snake.

I realize as I am typing this that these feelings stem from a swollen sense of self-importance. I am one little-bitty blogger awash in an ocean of online social-media influencers with far larger followings than me. However, I am eternally grateful for every single pair of eyeballs that lands on this little corner of the internet; I feel like I owe it to everybody who happens to drop by to produce quality content!

Ironically, this is a pretty low quality post...but aren't these dahlias just TO DIE?

Ironically, this is a pretty low quality post…but aren’t these dahlias just TO DIE?

I don’t have a thesis in mind for this post, I just thought that I’d be honest and admit that the first part of fall has me feeling a little flat. The weather this week might have something to do with it: I’ve officially begun busting out a head-lamp and waterproof shell for my morning mileage.

My runs have been dark, stormy, and sluggish.

My runs have been dark, stormy, and sluggish.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been doing some exciting things lately. Tuesday morning I snuck onto the local high school’s track at five in the morning to crank out one of my favorite workouts: Yasso-800s.

Sunrise over Roosevelt High School

Sunrise over Roosevelt High School

Our lab is also interviewing a candidate for a Post-Doctoral fellowship. He gave a fantastic talk about his PhD work on a piece of DNA called a plasmid that bacteria use to swap around around antibiotic resistance genes. My undergraduate research was all about plasmids (in fact, I just wrote a review about how these cool little genetic elements get passed on from cell to cell) so I was pleased as punch during his presentation.

Nothing says excitement like plasmid partitioning!

Nothing says excitement like plasmid partitioning!

After the scientific session was concluded we had an opportunity to show our potential PostDoc around Seattle. I love playing tour guide in the emerald city.

Wait....wrong emerald city.

Wait….wrong emerald city.

Much better. Our yellow-brick road leads right to a five-way intersection and a Starbucks

Much better. Our yellow-brick road leads right to a five-way intersection and a Starbucks.

We, of course, visited Pike Place market to feast our eyes on the dazzling displays of seafood.

Oh man...would that my stipend allowed me to afford these on a regular basis.

Oh man…would that my stipend allowed me to afford these on a regular basis.

We also visited the Experience Music Project at Seattle Center.

Are you experienced?

Are you experienced?

The EMP has a new exhibit called “Spectacle,” which is an in-depth exploration of the art of the music video. They had some amazing artifacts on display, including the paint splattered jumpsuits that OK Go wore in my favorite music video of all time.

Watch that video. I dare you NOT to be enthralled.

Watch that video. I dare you NOT to be enthralled.

The EMP also showed some local love and gave us an opportunity to imagine ourselves in Mackelmore’s “Thrift Shop”

These three faces are the future of scientific inquiry in America...the future looks bright!

These three faces are the future of scientific inquiry in America…the future looks bright!

I think we were able to convincingly sell the merits of our city. Luckily our interviewee left before the weather turned dismal. Here’s hoping the sensational sunsets overshadow any anxiety he has about the long, wet winters.

I love you Seattle sunsets.

Man, Seattle is a NICE place when it wants to be. 

Thanks, as always, for reading! I hope that my bout with blogger ennui hasn’t left you feeling drab and dreary. Can I leave you with a little photo of something sparkly to brighten up your day?

Gatsby, meet Sparkle Dash. Sparkle Dash, meet Gatsby.

Gatsby, meet Sparkle Dash. Sparkle Dash, meet Gatsby.

Has anybody else felt a little flat lately? 

Have a ROCKING week!

 

 

Posted in adventures, blogging, Seattle | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Introducing Gatsby

Bonjour beautiful people! I hope that you are having a chic and sophisticated Saturday.

Comment allez vous? Clearly I am the very PICTURE of sophistication

Comment allez vous? Clearly I am the very PICTURE of sophistication

My saturday started with six pleasant miles before the sunrise.IMG_5231

Right now I’m staring down two-dozen DNA-immunoprecipitations and feeling guilty because I haven’t written a single blog post since my recap of last weekend’s trail-running adventure! IMG_5234Luckily the experiments that I’m slogging through this Saturday allow me an hour’s down-time while my DNA pulls down.

This is what I do.

This is what I do.

My short break from biochemistry is the perfect opportunity to introduce you, my gentle readers, to the newest employee of Marathonsam Incorporated! I invite everyone to join me in giving a warm welcome to my new Executive Director of Social Marketing and Brand Communications: Gatsby.

Gatsby briefly studied at Trinity College in oxford, but left his degree program to pursue more profitable endeavors

Gatsby briefly studied at Trinity College in oxford, but left his degree program to pursue more profitable endeavors

In case you are wondering, this brings the total number of employees working at the Liability Limited Corporate Conspiracy behind marathonsam.com to three. I, the Chief Executive Overlord of Recipes, Running, and Ruminations, would be completely lost without the support of my training coach and social secretary, Porter.

"Sam, you have an 8 miler on your schedule for tomorrow, and you have to throw the incoming microbiology graduate students a welcome dinner next Friday"

“Sam, you have an 8 miler on your schedule for tomorrow, and you have to throw the incoming microbiology graduate students a welcome dinner next Friday”

Gatsby and Porter have been introduced to each other. These co-workers get along as well as any two employees of a major, high-profile corporation: they vaguely aware of and largely indifferent to each others’ existence.

Gatsby, meet Porter. Porter, meet Gatsby. Gastby and Porter, meet my running shoes. You all will be seeing a lot of each other

Gatsby, meet Porter. Porter, meet Gatsby. Gastby and Porter, meet my running shoes. Y’all will be seeing a lot of each other.

Gatsby is adjusting to his new position admirably. We sat down for a dinner discussion of the company’s directions and he offered up some truly exciting ideas for promoting synergy across all platforms.

He's got great taste in restaurants

He’s got great taste in restaurants

His table manners do leave a little bit to be desired.

His table manners do leave a little bit to be desired.

Have a wonderful weekend everybody!

Did you read The Great Gatsby for high school? I re-read it last year and was blown away at how much beauty and humor I missed the first time I encountered the text. 

 

 

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NW Trail Runs Cedar River Trail Half Marathon recap

Hello friends, have you had an EPIC weekend?

I saw these at REI...they make energy bars out of meat now. These look epically disgusting

I saw these at REI…they make energy bars out of meat now. These look epically disgusting

Yesterday I had the totally new-to-me experience of running a trail race. The event was put on by Northwest Trail Runs, a group that organizes several series of off-road races throughout Washington state. Everyone I interacted with at the event was SO friendly, I’m definitely considering adding a few more of their runs to my schedule. This was the first year for this particular race; even though there were a few minor hiccups, I cannot say enough nice things about the people behind the event and the experience overall. I was nervous heading into this race, as I have never really done ANY trail running at all, but I finished the day with a huge smile on my face, a little bit of blood on my knees, and a powerful hankering to add more trails to my running repertoire.

I LIKED that!

I LIKED that!

I got hit with a powerful case of pre-race jitters Friday evening around seven pm. I wasn’t too terrified of the terrain or the distance: the event website went out of its way to emphasize that the course’s most significant elevation gain amounted to a mere 150 vertical feet. Nevertheless, I was apprehensive about the prospect of picking my way over roots and rocks for 13.1 miles. I love hiking and exploring the woods, but I have never done any trail running at all. Ever.  I’m not sure why I drew such a sharp distinction in my brain, but I always strictly thought of  beautiful natural areas as “places for hiking” and urban environments as “places for running”.

You hike to here

You hike to here

You run around here

You run around here

After yesterday’s race I realize that I need to squash that supercilious separation between these activities that I enjoy. Running around on pavement is a blast. Running around in a verdant northwestern forest is my personal nirvana. It’s strange how new experiences can make us so nervous before they begin. I find that whether I’m developing a new protocol at work, or trying to learn hip-hop dance, new things always seem totally overwhelming and dreadful until you actually start; once you are doing something, it if often delightful.

OK...delightful might be pushing it when we're talking about developing a protocol at work

OK…delightful might be pushing it when we’re talking about developing a protocol at work

I decided to lay out all of my gear and put myself to bed early Friday night. I realized that reading a million articles about the dos and do NOTs of trail racing would just make me feel woefully inadequate, and worried about the fact that I don’t own any of the “must-have” hydration packs, ultra-maximally cushioned shoes, or high-caliber bear repellent that the internet recommends.

Experience trail-runners opt to carry a crossbow

Experience trail-runners opt to carry a crossbow

I woke up at 6:00 am Saturday morning, which is late for me. Normally I like to get out the door and on my weekly long run by 5:30. However the race was scheduled for 9:30, so I had ample time to eat my oatmeal.

Nuun for hydration, Elvis for  luck, peanut butter for protein....and because I REALLY like peanut butter

Nuun for hydration, Elvis for luck, peanut butter for protein….and because I REALLY like peanut butter

I arrived at the starting line 20 minutes before official check in. Which was a full hour before the race itself  was scheduled to begin. Did I mention that I had been feeling a little anxious about this event?

I was the first guy there!

Hi guys! Will you entertain me for the next hour and a half?

Luckily a friendly race official gave me my bib number, and pointed me in the direction of a convenient place to grab a cup of coffee near the trailhead.

Hobart market and video has a WONDERFUL port-a-potty

Hobart market and video has a WONDERFUL port-a-potty

Hobart Market and Video sells some truly ATROCIOUS coffee

Hobart Market and Video sells some truly ATROCIOUS coffee

After consuming my coffee and saying hello to the honey bucket, I drove back to the starting line and decided to use the extra time afforded to me for 10 minutes of mantra meditation. I’m still going strong with my September meditation challenge. Sitting in stillness for 10 minutes was just what I needed to quiet my overactive mind and find focus before the race.IMG_5116

By this time other runners had started showing up to the starting line. I went through my dynamic stretching warm-up, then we started to cluster around the starting line in preparation for the event to begin.  IMG_5124

Fifteen minutes before the start of the race, our friendly event-director made an unfortunate announcement. Apparently some local hooligans had been messing with the course markings: ripping out the signs and flagging that were supposed to guide us along our merry way. He assured us that they were working on re-marking the course, but the start would have to be delayed. I took the opportunity to wander around and take some photos of the Cedar River.

The Cedar River

The Cedar River

Living with large wood...it's a problem we all face

Living with large wood…it’s truly an unappreciated tragedy

OK- I will try not to fall IN the river

OK- I will try not to fall IN the river

While I was wandering around waiting for the race to start I had a super-surreal moment of deja vu. I realized that I had been to The Cedar River before. During my first year of graduate school I went on a sampling mission to try and isolate an ammonia-oxidizing Archaea named Nitrosopumilus maritimus from river rocks at this very site.

we didn't find any Nitrosopumilis

we didn’t find any Nitrosopumilis that time. Maybe we should have gone running instead?

N. maritimus is a really LITTLE microorganism (from Koenke et al. 2005...I know those guys)

N. maritimus is a really LITTLE microorganism (from Koenke et al. 2005…I know those guys)

After 20 minutes we finally got the word from the race director that the course seemed to be in order. IMG_5127

We all gathered together, gave a “three, two, one” countdown, and we were off into the woods!

Let's do it!

Let’s do it!

The race started off on a wide, flat, gravel trail. I appreciated the even surface: running on a flat gravel path isn’t much different than the roads I am used to. It was a warm and sunny day, and there wasn’t much shade along this path. I started to warm up pretty quickly. Luckily the course quickly diverted and we began winding our way through the woods. Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 11.26.06 AM

I had SO much fun running on the trails. The forest was lush, green, and verdant. The pacific northwest is absolutely beautiful, and this trail was no exception. I loved seeing all the giant ferns and mosses: I felt like I was running through Narnia, or The Land Before Time.

This photo is from a few weeks ago at Cougar Mountain,  but the effect is similar

This photo is from a few weeks ago at Cougar Mountain, but the effect is similar

I also loved the mental aspect of racing on the trail. The uneven surfaces, roots, and rocks made me think about where I set my foot with every step. I always think that running a race is a mental game, but I loved the additional aspect of calculation that the challenge of the trail provided. Running is a sensual meditation: you have to check in with your entire body and determine how you are feeling, should you go faster, should you change your stride? Running hard requires absolute focus: all of the superfluous, self-limiting thoughts bouncing around your brain’s default mode network slide away.

This part of your brain is a total d-bag

This part of your brain is a total d-bag

It’s easy to find this flow state when you are pushing yourself to the absolute limit: when you are sprinting like your eyes will bleed you cant find mental energy to start doubting yourself. Your only thoughts are an amalgam of: “push, push, PUSH, GO, RUN, GO.”However, most races aren’t run at eyeball-rupturing pace from beginning to end. There’s always a section in every race, after the initial adrenaline-fueled mania of the start fades, but before it’s time to kick it up for the end, where my mind starts to wander as I endeavor to maintain my effort. Normally negative thoughts bubble up to the surface: I have to remind myself to run the mile I am at, to silence the self-talk, and to keep a positive attitude at a challenging pace.

R'n'R Sea 2K14. Do I look stoked?

R’n’R Sea 2K14. Do I look stoked?

I din’t have a single doubtful moment while I ran yesterday. This is not to say that I wasn’t working hard the entire time.My quadriceps testify to that fact today. I was a sweaty mess at the end of the race and, while I didn’t score a PR out on the trails, I did end up finishing with a respectable time. The reason that I never found room for self doubt is BECAUSE the entire race was such a challenge. I was so busy trying to figure out where to put my feet to avoid tripping and trying to follow the trail markers that I couldn’t spend any mental energy at all doubting myself. I found a glorious flow. The miles flew by, I was at the first aid station before I knew it.

The aid stations had a HILARIOUS smorgasbord of food

The aid stations had a HILARIOUS smorgasbord of food

I had heard the rumors about the crazy caloric fueling strategies employed by trail runners, and this race did NOT disappoint. There were four aid stations along the course. Each stop offered: electrolytes, water, energy gels, salt tablets, pieces of cliff bars, oranges, bananas, pringles, coca-cola, gummy-bears, candy corn, Doritos, fig newtons, and swedish fish. I opted to skip the refreshments at the first stop because I was still in a delirious trail-induced time-warp AND because I was thinking about the old maxim “never try anything new on race day.” By the second station I was craving calories. I also realized that, because I had never done a trail race before EVERYTHING about this race day was new. I opted to eat a fig newton and slam some gatorade.

That was the best effing fig newton I have ever had in my entire life

That was the best effing fig newton I have ever had in my entire life

I had a few brushes with disaster out in the wilderness. I manage to trip and fall twice. During my second face plant I donated some platelets to the gods of the trail.

Ride fast, fall hard, pain is temporary, chicks dig scars

Ride fast, fall hard, pain is temporary, chicks dig scars

More alarmingly, the trail-vandalizing hoodlums had  apparently been incredibly active after the race began. Myself and two other runners managed to take a wrong turn due to a lack of flagging. Luckily a volunteer on a mountain bike spotted us heading off into parts unknown and got us back on the right track. We ran alongside the courageous volunteer for a few hundred yards as he re-marked the correct course for the benefit of those behind us.

If it weren't for this dude I'd probably still be running around the Cedar River Wilderness.

If it weren’t for this dude I’d probably still be running around the Cedar River Wilderness.

When everything was said and done, I finished in 1:47:47, and got fourth place overall. The top three finishers were rewarded with growlers of local beer.

I know that this screenshot says I got third. That is definitely an administrative mix-up, I finished right behind #51

I know that this screenshot says I got third. That is definitely an administrative mix-up, I finished right behind #51

After the event, the fine folks at NW Trail Runs put out a highly impressive spread of food, and held a raffle. IMG_5137I scarfed down some watermelon chunks, a banana, and a PB&J. I also won a coupon for free vegan grain-based alternative meat products, courtesy of field roastIMG_5138

I loved absolutely everything about my first trail racing experience. Every person at the event was incredibly friendly. I loved the camaraderie of the small race. The scenery was beautiful. I adored the mental aspect of running on trails. I’m starting to train for the Seattle Marathon in November, but I hope to incorporate some more trail running (and maybe a few more trail events) into my routine. I’ll always be out pounding the pavement, running around Seattle. I’m so grateful that I was able to learn that hitting the trails is another fun way to run!

Have y’all ever run a trail race?

What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever gone running?

Should I have eaten the gummy bears?

 

.

 

 

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