Rising from the Dead

I really must apologize for my serious lack of posting over the last month or so. I had to take my own advice and let one of the juggling balls fall while I kept others in the air. As some of you know, I’m a full-time attorney by day and an ultrarunner by night (and day). I’m also the program director for the Homeless Youth Legal Clinic here in Utah. I sneak in writing when I can (I was hoping to publish another novel this year, but that doesn’t look like it will happen). Oh, and I’m a mom of two amazing sons and now a third little one is coming in May 2018!

Needless to say, between being pregnant and everything else, sleep became more necessary than writing my weekly blog posts. But the first trimester is behind us and the energy is supposed to come back soon…zzzzzz

Here is another confession. I chose not to run after I was five weeks pregnant. I’ve been hating on the elliptical and the stair master for the past eight weeks. However, I will be starting back running now that the first trimester is complete.

Running during pregnancy is a personal choice for each mother and child. And subsequent pregnancies can be treated very differently. It is completely possible for a healthy pregnant woman to run throughout her pregnancy. However, running is not a sport a woman should take up during pregnancy. Other, non-impact, activities are totally fine and should be pursued by pregnant women.

Here is why I chose to back off my running during the first trimester. The first trimester is the time with the highest risk of miscarriage. My chances of miscarriage started at 20% and slowly decreased during the first trimester. There is some research out there that says running can increase the chances of miscarriage during the first trimester.

A research study done with 90,000 pregnant women in Denmark, which found women who exercise more than seven hours a week during the first trimester increase their chances of miscarriage four times. And women who participate in running or ball sports during their first trimester increase their chances of miscarriage by four times.

I don’t think this study says women shouldn’t run during their first trimester. I think it says be smart and know your limits and know your body. I wasn’t willing to increase my risk of miscarriage since it was already higher than average because I’m over 35.

After the first trimester the risk of miscarriage is below 2% and all of the baby’s major systems are established and the placenta is fully functioning. Miscarriages happen for many reasons and most of them are out of the control of the mother-to-be.

Reverting to less impact forms of exercise for the eight weeks after we found out I was pregnant was a sacrifice I was willing to make to increase our chances of a healthy full-term pregnancy. Plus, I’ve come back from low impact training to full running many times and know it’s not as hard as grieving after a miscarriage and wondering if it could have been prevented.

Looking forward to running this new adventure!

Opposition

 

Not all runners have a wonderful support system who understands when they take off for hours at a time to get long runs in on the weekends or spend hundreds of dollars on one race. Those of us who do, count our lucky stars.

Having supportive friends and or family is important. Why? Because running can be hard. There will be times when you lose your motivation. There will be times when you want to celebrate and you should be celebrating.

Supportive family and friends offer you the chance to improve even when they don’t really know anything about running because they give you a sounding board. They may be able to give you new ideas because they see it from outside the running box. If they do know about running or are runners themselves, they probably like to talk about running stuff: new gear, new shoes, upcoming races, training strategies and so on.

You can build and adjust what you are doing based on their experiences about training, particular/similar races, injuries, fueling, and preparing (other than running) for a race.

How do you handle the lack of support? If you’re support system is just indifferent to you, it’s much easier than if they actively oppose your running hobby.

If they’re indifferent and don’t show up to your races, don’t take any interest in your accomplishments, or just project an attitude of we don’t care, find people who do care and who are supportive. Get involved with the running community more. You don’t have to abandon your family or friends who just don’t get it, but you do need to find a support system that does for all the reasons stated above.

If they actively oppose you, seek understanding first. Friends are unlikely to actively oppose your running. They may give you a hard time about it once in a while. Active opposition comes from family and significant others.

Find out what it is about your running that they don’t like: the time commitment, concerns for your health, the cost, or feeling like an outsider.

Provide information to address their concerns.

I can’t count how many times people have told me running as much as I do is not healthy. I send them the research that says it is and I explain what it does for me personally regarding physical and mental health.

Running can be expensive, especially, if you are running multiple 100 mile races at about $300 a pop just for registration. Then there is gear, food, travel costs, and shoes, just to name a few things. This one is obviously going to be a potential issue with significant others who share financial resources. You’re going to have to compromise and explain why running is so important to you. Encourage your other half to engage in a hobby. Make sure you are not using all the extra spending money for your running. Help them feel like they are a part of your running experience and team.

If they are “jealous” because they feel like an outsider around your running friends or when you talk about running (because you do and you use running metaphors to teach life lessons), get them involved. Include them with planning races and choosing races. Pick places they want to see. Try not to use inside jokes around them, unless you’re ready to explain.  Help them learn the terminology.

The big one is the time commitment. This one can become a sore spot for the runner too when they have conflicting desires. It’s always a balance. Try to choose times when your family is engaged in another activity where you can’t really be such as working, school, or asleep. This works well when you have young children. Help the other person understand the benefit running has on you and how that impacts your relationships. Everyone needs time for themselves to recharge and breathe. If you don’t take care of your own needs, then you cannot be fully present for others. Be willing to adjust things for important events the other person has. Get them involved with your running. They could meet you along your run for refueling or lunch. They could run a portion of the route with you. Both of these work even on training runs. Make sure you are contributing to family chores and other “unpleasant but necessary” activities as much as the others. Try scheduling a down season and commit to spending more time with the family. Make sure you are taking your rest week every fourth week and make an effort to spend quality time with those you love.

How Young is too Young?

kids-racing

Is there a minimum age limit for running marathons? Many races require runners to be eighteen years or older. If they don’t, they require their parents to sign a liability waiver. I have to admit, I’ve had some reservations about having kids out on the course for that distance because their bones are still growing.

There is a bit of a debate about this issue. In 2001, the International Marathon Medical Directors Association said, “It is in the overall best interests of children to make participation in a full marathon an adult activity, reserved only for those 18 years old and older.”

Their position is based on concerns for overuse injuries, psychological burn out, increased eating disorders in young athletes, and their lower tolerance for heat stress.  Here is the thing with that endurance running, like what you find in a marathon, is no more damaging to a child than the intense training adolescent athletes go through for basketball, baseball, American football, football (aka Soccer), and every other high school sport.

Some things to keep in mind when deciding if you child should run a marathon or even participate in intense athletics at a young age:

  1. Kid’s bodies don’t do as well in hot or cold weather as adults do. They also don’t notice when they are not doing so great because of the temperature.
  2. Their bones are growing faster than their muscles and tendons, which means they can get soft tissue injuries easier than an adult.
  3. Due to their shorter stride, kids hit the ground more often when they run, which can increase the risk of stress fractures.

You don’t want them to get injured when they are young and have that injury follow them through the rest of their lives. This happens with many people who played competitive sports in high school and even in college.

Don’t get me wrong, I think sports programs are wonderful for children, adolescents and young adults. There are so many benefits to the child such as social skills, healthy life style, following rules, being a leader, adapting to a changing environment, quickly assessing situations, and here is the big one working hard for what you want.

For children and young adults it’s very important to make sure you and their coaches follow the golden rules of run training: first, never increase miles by more than 10% a week; and second, every fourth week decrease miles by 20% to allow time to rebuild. It’s critical that they learn to listen to their own body and rest it when it needs rest. If they learn this skill early in their running or sports, it will benefit them throughout their active lives.

If you are going to allow your child to participate in marathons make sure it is their choice and that they can stop when they are no longer interested in running that distance. This one is always a balance because you don’t want them to walk away from a commitment just because it’s not fun anymore. Make sure they have all the information and know what training will look like and what the race will look like.

Thank You

thanks

It is easy to think of things that are not going right in our lives. It’s easy to lash out when we feel like we don’t get what we deserve. It’s easy to be angry and hurtful when we feel unheard. It’s during these times, when we have to remember all the simple good things in our lives, because so many people don’t have these things.

I’m thankful my body is strong enough for me to push my limits of endurance and strength.

I’m thankful for the ultrarunning community, who shares their experiences and lessons with one another.

I’m thankful for my friends who stand out in the wind and rain waiting for me to come into aid stations.

I’m thankful for my family who is supportive of all the goals I set.

I’m thankful for all my readers and supporters in the community.

I’m thankful for my education, which has given me a chance to give back to the vulnerable.

I’m thankful for healthy strong children.

I’m thankful I have a job that provides enough for my family to have their basic needs of food and shelter met.

I’m thankful my family has access to medical care and clean water.

I’m thankful I live in a country where I can express my opinions and build a future for my family.

thankful-happy

 

Book Released Today!

book cover

I am so excited. After four and a half years, my memoir is being released today! This is the story that has given me the strength, passion, and ambition to become all that I am today, including an ultrarunner. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook check it out here.

Here is an overview of the book

Nikki’s story is terrifying and heart wrenching, but most of all it’s full of hope.  Readers will move between Nikki’s life on the streets and her life in the courtroom representing the state in a trial to terminate the parental rights of a mother stuck in a cyclone of drug use, violence, and life on the street so similar to her own.

 

Nikki’s trials began at the age of thirteen when she decided drinking alcohol, sloughing school and having sex were her new path in life. She attempted suicide and began running away from home soon after. By fourteen, she had created a new identity within an alternate reality full of vampires, werewolves, elves and magic. She joined a vampire coven running the streets in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

She was raped shortly after her fourteenth birthday by a rival coven member and in order to gain a sense of security and protection Nikki began a relationship with a man who was ten years her senior. He became controlling, intimidating and violent.

 

She latched on to hippy boy who freed her from the violent relationship by stealing a car and fleeing to California. They hitchhiked up the western coast selling drugs, using acid, and following the Grateful Dead. Sometime after her 15th birthday, she returned to Utah only to run again within two weeks taking her older brother along. She continued using, selling, and believing she was destined to change the world in some remarkable way.

 

Shortly after her seventeenth birthday, she realized she was pregnant. The tiny fingers and blue eyes of her son brought her back to reality and propelled her on the journey to becoming an assistant attorney general for the state of Utah, author, and ultrarunner.

Involve the Family

family

Family and Friends want to be a part of your life and join in the experiences that you love as much as they can. They want to share your joy and success. There are many ways that they can join in and support you in your running. Races are always in need of volunteers.

Operating an aid station for a race gives you a real appreciation for the accomplishment of running. You watch runners struggle and keep going. Most runners are very courteous and grateful to volunteers. Races would not happen without the volunteer support.

Many races give their volunteers race swag such as t-shirts, coupons, and samples of sponsor’s products, similar to what the runners get. Most importantly volunteering allows them to see you, their runner, out there on the course, which can be difficult for trail running courses. Volunteering may also motivate them to give running a try or not.

Family can be at the starting line to see you off, meet you along the course to cheer and hold up signs, and then chant your name as you cross the finish line. This is easier to do on a longer course where there isn’t the chance of missing you coming into the finish because they don’t get back in time. If it is a short course, which loops around itself it can be done as well.

Many race websites post the course and the best places for family and friends to see their runners. Crowding into an aid station is not a good place to be. Some runners stop at aid stations to get their water, Gatorade, or gels. Many runners slow down as they pass through the aid stations. Family and friends will only add to the congestion. It is better for them to be at another place on the course, particularly for races with a large number of participants.

Runners are packed together for the first few miles of a marathon or half marathon, which makes catching their runner’s eye or giving a high five more difficult. After the halfway point, runners spread out and seeing a familiar face is all the encouragement a runner needs to keep going to the end.

As a runner knowing that I have someone at the finish line cheering for me, encourages me the whole race. I want to come across that finish line looking and feeling strong. When I am at a down point or want to walk, knowing that I have people waiting for me gives me just one more reason to keep going.

As soon as the finish line is in sight, runners are looking for their personal fans, pulling their shoulders back, and picking up their pace as much as they can. You know that once you cross the finish line your loved ones will help you get a chair, ice, water, a banana or just take off your shoes.

But I have kids…

overwhelmed parent

Most people have children and children require you to change and adjust your life around them, especially young children. It makes keeping a running schedule a little more difficult. If you’re a single parent, it makes it a lot more complex.

Parents have to be flexible when it comes to getting their daily run in, just like they need to do with other things in their life. As a parent, your life bends and twists around your children. Once your children are older and more independent, it’s much easier to keep a consistent schedule of things you want to accomplish.

Sometimes when you have children, goals have to take a back burner for a while. The needs of our children become our priority, and our desire to finish that marathon or even sleep for eight hours straight through are sidelined.

It is possible to maintain a consistent running schedule when you have children. A supportive partner makes a huge difference, but even if you are a single parent you can get your run in. Here are some ideas on how to do it…

First look at your goals and think about the time it will take to train for a particular race distance. This will depend on the pace you run since faster runners are going to spend less time training. Now look at your schedule and see what you can throw out or where you can squeeze your training in. If you can’t fit in a four hour long run in on weekends once in awhile then you should probably back off your goals.

If your goal is to run 5k’s, 10k’s, or even a half marathon, training during lunch or in the morning before kids get up is doable. I know you’re not a morning person, but give it three solid weeks and you may find that you prefer starting your day by accomplishing something.

A lunch run can be great to break up the day. It also puts you out in the sunshine rather than the dark. Lunch runs can be difficult to maintain on a consistent basis if you frequently have lunch meetings or go out to lunch with friends. Try to find a running group that runs during the lunch hour, either in your office or at a nearby gym or park. Having others to run with, will get you out there on days you have an offer to do something else.

For single parents, a lunch run may be easier than leaving the children during the morning unless they are old enough to not panic when (not if) they wake up and you are not there. When my children were elementary school age, I would make sure my oldest son knew I was running the next morning and what time I would be back. I would write it on a white board with my phone number (just in case he forgot it). If they woke up while I was gone, they called me. I didn’t just go home when they called, it depended on what they needed and how long I had left.

The long run on the weekend will take a little more planning. If you have a partner who is willing to care for the children during your long run that makes things pretty easy. However, make sure you do the same for your partner to have their time away from the children. If you are a single parent, you have to get creative. You can find another parent in the neighborhood who is a runner and single parent one of you could watch the kids while the other runs and switch off weekend days. One of you run Saturday and the other Sunday. This is also useful if both parents run.

Another strategy for single parents is to get up with enough time to finish your run before the children get up. I know this means getting up at like 3:00 am, I’ve done it many times. Keep your run close to your home in case you need to get back quickly and then follow the same procedure as above. Leave a note and your phone number. Have the kids call as soon as they wake up and then decide if you can finish the run or need to go straight home.

Running in circles around your neighborhood for twenty miles is not always a fun run, but it’s better than not running at least in my book. There are things you can do to make it more fun such as listening to an audio book or music. There are great running apps that make running like a game. You can also find a friend to go with you.

Running when you have children can be difficult and you may have to adjust your goals depending on your children’s age and the support system you have. But don’t just give up running, seriously look at your options and get creative. There are so many benefits to your physical and mental health from running to just let it walk out of your life.

Fountain of Youth

running kids

My oldest son, Jazz, turned eighteen on Friday July 10. Everyone says “time flies” and we all know that it does especially when we are having fun. And, all in all, watching my son grow into a man has been fun. Yes, he still acts and thinks like a teenager and he will for four or five more years, but he has successfully launched.

When our children reach another milestone along the journey of life, we ask ourselves, “What was I doing when I reached that point in my life?”

At the age of eighteen, I had a child of my own. I was trying to finish my high school diploma while taking care my son. Jazz and I were going through boxes a week or two ago and came upon a picture of him and me. He was 18 months and I was 19 years old. He said, “You look younger now than you did then.”

I have to admit I get a kick out of every time I am mistaken for his sister or one of his friends. He laughs about it now but he didn’t when if first started happening. People have made the mistake of thinking I’m about fifteen years younger than I am, even when my son is not around.

Some people just age well, I suppose, but running keeps you young. It is the fountain of youth. I’ve met many runners who look much younger than they really are. Running keeps you relaxed in other areas of your life and it helps you deal with stress when you are stuck in frustrating situations. Stress can add years to your appearance.

Running also keeps the bones and joints healthy. I know a lot of people (non-runners) say that running is not good for bones and joints, but all the science proves otherwise. Runner’s bones are more dense than people who are not active. This protects them from factures as you age and the bones become more brittle. Joints stay healthy when they are used, keeping the blood flowing to them.

Running also helps keep the extra weight off. Carrying extra weight causes joints to break down more quickly and hinders cardiovascular and respiratory functioning. If you take your running seriously, meaning you run three to four times a week and seek to improve your performance, you food choices tend to be on the healthier side such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

I’m convinced running keeps you young not only in physical appearance but in the heart too.

Be young, enjoy life, and run.

 

Run for Home

Race for Home

Together with the Volunteers of America, I organized a 5k and 10k race, which was on June 13, 2015. Organizing this event was a lot more work than I had anticipated.

The race was a huge success. We had 240 runners!

As a first time race director and this being our inaugural event, I anticipated being in the negative funds wise, but we weren’t. The cost of organizing the race was approximately $5,000.00. The money raised from the race will support the first overnight homeless youth shelter in Utah. There will be many onsite services including education, mental health, and substance abuse for the youth.

Run for Home 6.13.15 003

We didn’t want to just bring a race to the community surrounding where the shelter will be built, but to bring the community together to support the youth in need. To do this we included a breakfast and raffle in our event. Every runner was given a raffle ticket and more tickets could be purchased. All the prizes were donations from various vendors within the city.

Of course, we had minor complications and last minute arrangements to scramble to get into place, but it was all worth it as I stood at the finish line watching runners come across knowing I had helped make it happen.

Run for Home 6.13.15 005

The homeless youth shelter is a project I am passionate about because I was a homeless youth in Utah from the ages of 13-16. I struggled with the same issues the youth who are out there now. Access to services will provide them with opportunities I never had.

When you are living on the streets it’s easy to fall into a hopeless cycle of self-destruction as you meet road block after road block trying to fit the pieces of your life back together into some semblance of a whole picture.

All of the finishers received a medal, which was a dog tag with the VOA symbol on one side and the name of the race and date on the other side.

Run 4 home medal 001

I chose the dog tag as the medal because one of the first things you lose as a homeless youth is your identity, who you are. You become nameless and faceless in the eyes of others and yourself. For the youth on the streets, the most important rediscovery is that identity of self, and their singular importance in this world.

For a soldier, a dog tag is the last piece of home and their final identifier. It makes them different and an individual among their brothers who is next to them with the same haircut and same uniform moving in unison. The dog tag is a reminder that each of these kids is not nameless and is not faceless, but a person who has lost their self and their way.

I know we are all busy and not everyone can donate their time to those in need, but even just looking these kids in the face when you speak to them or acknowledging their presence as you pass them on the sidewalk identifies them as another human being and it only takes a second or two.

 

Girls on the Run

GOTR

Logo is property of Girls on the Run.

“It’s time to wake up Sky,” I said while rubbing his back.

“MMMM,” he moaned from under the blanket.

“Come on it’ll be fun.”

“MMMM.”

“We can stop and get hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll.”

At that, he began kicking the blankets off.

“What are we going to have to do?” he asked once we were on the road happily munching on a cinnamon roll.

“Fill water cups, cheer, ring cow bells, and hand out granola bars.”

He rolled his eyes. “Cow bells?”

“Yes, you can’t have a finish line without cow bells.”

We arrived at the Girls on the Run 5k at 7 in the morning to help set up our aid station filling cups of water and setting out thousands of granola bars on the table.

“How many runners are there?” I asked another volunteer named Lisa.

“1500,” said Lisa.

I smiled. This was going to be an amazing morning.

Girls on the run is a non-profit program for girls ages eight though thirteen and Sky and I were volunteering at their annual 5k event. The goal of the program is to “unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.”

Learn Live Dream Run

Everyone who ran the 5k was assigned the number 1 on their bib, because each of the girls is number one. The theme of the race was be your own superhero, the girls (and boys if they wanted to run a mostly girls race) wore florescent green capes as they ran. They had face painting and colored hair spray the girls could use to become a superhero before the race began.

The aid station Sky and I were assigned to was actually a pre and post-race station. When we arrived there and I realized we were on the wrong side of the finish line, I was a little bummed because I wanted to see the girls race past with the green capes streaming out behind them, but I smiled and handed out water asking them what their super powers were.

I was really impressed with the number of parents who were running with the little girls both mothers and fathers were out there with their hair and faces painted too.

The race began at 9:00 in the morning with the firing of a blank out of a gun. It’s a beautiful sound when the sun is rising over the mountains into a cloudless sky and you have 1500 superhero’s lined up at a starting line arch.

After they all run beneath the arch, it was empty in the pre-race festival area. Crickets chirped inside my head as I looked around at the green and pink balloons dancing alone in the morning breeze.

The program manager came up to us and asked us to hand out medals to the girls as they crossed the finish line. I was overjoyed. Handing out medals at the finish line is the most rewarding part of a race.

Slipping the medals over the heads of the red-faced sweaty girls as they came across the finish line was more amazing than I could have hoped. They laughed, they cried, and they won, every last one of them.

we believe