and i failed


our cute little hut for the week


sunrise, the morning of the race

South Africa was amazing, but the reality about the marathon was that I was undertrained and unprepared for just how difficult the course was going to be.


before the race

Even had I not rolled my ankle multiple times and fallen twice, I would have been picked up by one of the cars because I wouldn’t have made the first cutoff. I felt better having tripped and fallen. Kind of sad, but true.



In any case, even with the fall at around mile 10, and another one only about a quarter of a mile later, I still managed to complete half and got a medal for it.


anne and me with our half-marathon medals

The trip was still amazing. Now I just have to figure out when to go back so I can conquer that beast. In addition to the amazing game drives and attempting that race, we also went down to Cape Town after where I got to go diving and see more of the country.

No regrets. And now I’ll know better in terms of how to prepare for next time. Yay me.


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failure is a possibility

“You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try – you don’t take the risk.”
-Rosalynn Carter

I’ve been posting all kinds of stuff on my instagram feed about this upcoming marathon I’m running in South Africa. While running a half marathon in Burma last November, I overheard a number of people talking about it and that it was super hard. I’m not sure why I didn’t actually look at the elevation graphic before agreeing to run this thing. Or, you know, before three weeks ago. But I didn’t. I wasn’t overly worried about it either because, I thought, “I know I’m not fast, but I have endurance and strength on my side.” Well, endurance and strength are great things…but when there’s a time limit, they may not be enough.

big_5_elevationOver the past three weeks, since discovering both the difficulty and the time limit, I’ve seriously contemplated just running the half marathon. And please let me be clear when I use the term “just” accompanied by the words “half marathon.” I realize that a half marathon is still a long distance and I am both blessed and amazed that my body (a body that I often dislike, sometimes loathe, and is between 60 and 80 lbs overweight, depending on the chart you consult) can complete a half marathon. In fact, during the Tokyo Marathon, the body carried me, running, the entire first half without a single walking break. But, the point is, I signed up for a marathon. I set out to run this marathon. So, it would feel like a “just” to me.

But here’s the thing. I do not like to fail. Well, nobody likes to fail. I suppose that’s not news. But I rarely do. And you want to know why? (That’s rhetorical. I don’t actually care if you want to know. I’m going to tell you.) Because I rarely (and I mean, I can probably count on one hand the number of times) try to do anything if I’m not 95% confident that I will be successful.

I was much better about trying things when I was younger, not because I wasn’t afraid to fail, but because I had a mother who would say, in response to my fear, “Well, if you don’t try, you definitely won’t make it (in reference to cheer tryouts, choir auditions, etc), so why not try. Worst case? The outcome is the same as if you hadn’t have tried. Best case? You make it.” This little thought got me to audition for one of my college choirs and I’m so glad I did (incidentally, I almost failed…I have serious audition anxiety), because I made it. But it hasn’t always worked that way. And while my mother was absolutely right, there is pain in failure. More pain, sometimes, than not trying. There’s embarrassment. There’s shame. There’s disappointment. It is not fun.

And the risk, with this marathon, if I can’t finish under the time limit, is that I will not be a “Finisher” of anything. Doesn’t matter that I will have completed at least the half marathon in the process. There’s no medal at the end. And there will be massive amounts of disappointment. So, you can see why the half marathon is tempting. It still is.

In an effort to prepare in what little time we have left before this race, my friend, Anne, and I took to the mountains outside of Tokyo to do some hiking. (For a minute, we thought about “running”…and then we started up the mountain…and laughed heartily at the thought.) It took us 6 hours to go 10 miles. To be fair, we were not racing and we made three longish pitstops. But still. 6 hours. I have 7 to complete 26.2 in Africa. At elevation. With almost a mile long hill (a full mile!) at a 22.3% grade. And before we got up that hill, we have to come down it, which, while easier on the heart, is killer on the knees, ankles, quads, and toes. If you aren’t sure what 22.3% means, to put it in context, most gym treadmills max out at 15%. This is not minor.

Am I building the case for why I should probably opt for the half marathon? Yep. Am I crafting my defense in case of the very real possibility that I don’t finish? You better believe it.

But I am determined to try. I might fail. I really and truly might. And I do not like failing. And I’m actually pretty scared. Everyone I know (basically), knows that I’m going to Africa to run a marathon because I’m completely addicted to social media (I like to justify that it’s how I stay connected to America and my former life, which is true, but I was pretty addicted before I moved to Japan) and have posted a gazillion things about bit. (I’m sorry to those of you who are not at all interested.) And as a slow runner, it’s really hard to know that there are people I know (not talking elite athletes, but people from my normal life whose job is not running) who can finish a marathon in HALF that time, and that I might not make it in 7 hours. Never mind that I’ve not once worried that I couldn’t finish the distance without stopping (which is pretty incredible). The point is, I have a choice.

As I said in an email to my running buddy for this race (race against the clock, that is) in an email last week:

“I’m trying to not be too stressed about this marathon, but I’ve realized that what I decide is really a commentary on the person I want to be…and I want to be the person that’s willing to take the risk when there’s a possibility of failure vs. playing it safe and always wondering. So I’m planning to go for it with this marathon.”

Here’s hoping. Well, more than hoping. In my fear, I’ve created a pretty solid race strategy and, if I can follow it (which is a big “if”), I think I might make it. But if I don’t, I can always try again.

unnamedWill it suck if I don’t finish in time? Yes. But not as much as wondering if I could have finished in time.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
-T.S. Eliot

i want to tear down the walls that hold me inside

race gear

When I first started distance running, it was with the end goal of losing weight. Let’s be honest, 99% of anything I did that was exercise related had always been with weight loss in mind. From the day I got my first gym membership at the way-too-young age of 15 through to when I started training for my first marathon, exercise was about weight loss/control. And, while I’ve gotten much, much better about reframing, it’s still really hard for me to not hate the idea of exercise because I hate when I start to obsess about my weight and then I start to loathe exercising because it will never be disconnected from the years I’ve spent feeling ugly/fat/insecure/etc.

IMGP0042Even today, even though I’ve become much more comfortable in my own skin, every time I get ready to exercise, there’s still that moment when I think, “I shouldn’t have to do this.” It doesn’t matter that at my age, everyone should be doing “this”. And I like to exercise. I like how I feel when I’m doing it. I like how I feel when I’m done. I’m a happier person overall when I do it. But that little voice is still there telling me that the main reason I’m doing it is to try and be pretty/thin/secure enough.

1450828_10153410280635389_546822729_nWhat distance running did for me was to show me just how much my body could do. I’ve written a number of posts about this, in fact. So, even though I hadn’t done any distance running (and almost no running at all, for that matter) since moving to Japan, when my friend, Brittany, asked me if I’d like to join her in running a half-marathon in Burma (aka Myanmar, and yes, I did have to look it up and the only reason I actually recognized the that this was the name of a country was because I’d had two friends go their this past summer), I agreed on the spot, knowing this would force me to do something in the running department.

IMGP0058There are so many things about my trip to Burma that I could talk about (and maybe I will someday if I ever get around to it), but the reason we went there was to run this half-marathon through the temples, so that’s what I want to capture here.

IMGP0025Leading up to the half, I tried to get on the training bandwagon, but the reality was I was super busy. Between the craziness of my job, the responsibility I’ve been given at church, and my inability to say “no” to any invitation and/or to not have a dinner party on any given Sunday, I just wasn’t getting around to running. Before heading to Burma, I got in exactly two runs. One was four miles, the other six. And the latter involved quite a bit of walking. Side note: one of the things I hate about not running for so long is that while mentally, my brain knows that my body is physically capable of doing it, I also know that my body won’t be able to do it right away. And that hurts.

IMGP0046 IMGP0050 IMGP0051 IMGP0052So, by the time we arrived at the starting line Saturday morning, I knew I had no hope of anything but my worst half-marathon time even. And while it shouldn’t be about the time, I’m still always trying to prove something, so it was still about the time. And I hated that I was going to be so slow. Never mind the fact that I never questioned whether I’d be able to finish even though I had basically not trained. Never mind that the terrain and scenery on this route would make it near impossible to not get my slowest time even if I had been trained. I wanted to be able to run faster than my slowest time. I wanted to pace with Brittany who had been training and actually done a 10 mile run prior to the actual race. (Perhaps my boss was right to tell me last week that I might need to start lowering my expectations of myself…)

IMGP0062 IMGP0069But then something amazing happened. The gun went off and I started running and suddenly, I remembered. I remembered how amazing this body is that I’ve been given. That I can run 13.1 miles (or wog, whatever) and not ever question whether I’ll finish. Even in 90F+ weather and humidity. Even though I hadn’t trained. Even if I was going to be slower than I’d ever been. The emotions that evoked combined with the incredible opportunity I had been given to run in this amazing country, in the same race as some of Burma’s top runners, and the sheer beauty of the world in that moment was almost more than I could handle and, had it not been for the fact that I was running, and therefore using my full lung capacity to support that process, I probably would have started bawling right there on the spot.

IMGP0071 IMGP0080 IMGP0081 IMGP0085 IMGP0087While I wasn’t able to kick the feelings of disappointment in myself until almost the end of the race, knowing I wouldn’t PR, I was able to enjoy the scenery around me, stop and take a few photos here and there, and appreciate the experience perhaps more than I’ve appreciated any other race I’ve run.

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Added to the normal feelings of gratitude I have for my body and my health anytime I run any race 10 miles or more, there was the gratitude I had for the sweet Burmese villagers who came out to cheer us on. These people who have almost nothing spent their morning sitting by the side of the road, cheering on foreigners (for the most part) who had paid more to get to their villages and run in this race than they likely make in a year. Talk about a generous culture. This almost brought be to tears for the second time during the race.

Much earlier in the morning during breakfast at the ridiculous hour of 4:30am, I’d been chatting with a woman who was going to run the full marathon. I’d mentioned that I hadn’t trained almost at all and was going to get my slowest time ever. And then, near the end of the race, after Brittany had already finished and I still had about two miles to go, I passed her. She’d ended up switching to the half at the split point because her body wasn’t cooperating in the heat and humidity.

While I had made those comments in defense of myself and what really was going to be my slowest time, in the moment I passed her, I’d wished more than anything that I could have eaten those words instead of the toast I’d had at breakfast. And I wanted more than anything for this woman to flat out beat me. And suddenly, I forgot about my disappointment in myself, and was left with only gratitude. That said, I didn’t hang back and let the woman beat me because she would have known it was intentional and no one enjoys being pitied. But I was able to completely let go and enjoy those last two miles in a different way than the previous 11.



When I finally crossed the finish line, I’d completely let go of time. I was focused on how amazing it was that I was able to be in Burma, running through thousands of temples that had been there for thousands of year and do so with only one blister to show for it. And I was focused on the beautiful medal hanging around my neck indicating that I was a finisher.

three days in taiwan

Yeah. Totally abandoned the gratitude posts. Just know that I’m grateful for everything I post about. 🙂

Japan has a number of three day weekends throughout the fall (between 3 and 4 depending on the year) and it is fantastic. Last year I went to Korea and Okinawa. This year, Taiwan and Burma (although I added a couple of days for Burma).

Honestly, I’m not sure I would have ever been inclined to go to Taiwan if I wasn’t living so close to it, but as it’s just a short flight across the sea (and I have a dear friend whose husband is Taiwanese and talks about how great it is), I thought, “Why not?”

Such a good decision!

Since my friend, Sungti, talks about how amazing Taiwanese food is, I decided I really wanted to take a cooking class, so that was the only thing I had actually planned. Thankfully, Brittany had done some research, so we were not without any plans. And the trip ended up being completely amazing. I think with whom you travel is as important in many ways as to where you travel, and I had awesome travel buddies. So fun. So easy going. And so easily entertained. My favorite kinds of people.

On Brittany’s list was the hot springs, a few temples, and a restaurant. Through facebook, I got a couple of recommendations, as well. So, with very loose plans, we were off.

Highlights of the trip:

  1. Cooking class
  2. Purchasing a Hello Kitty speedo because I forgot a bathing suit
  3. Taipei 101 (third tallest building in the world)
  4. karaoke cab
  5. Ice Monster (most amazing shaved ice ever!)
  6. Modern Toilet
  7. Temples (both Korean and the LDS one)
  8. Night markets

And here are the photos (I still need to upload my iphone photos, so these are just the ones from my real camera)–not necessarily in order because, as you can see from my sporadic posting, I have no time to worry about such things.

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elephants and cooking class

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I left for Thailand and I’m only half way through documenting the trip. Chiang Mai (after the very long train ride from Bangkok) was amazing! I loved it. Minus all of the mosquito bites I got. And here are the photos.


The elephant experience was amazing. I did a bit of research before heading to Thailand because I wanted to have more of an experience than just sitting on an elephant, so I found a place that actually does a lot in terms of elephant conservation. It was still a little crazy and there were moments it definitely felt a bit exploitative, but I would do it again.


And the mahout and guides were so great. One took my iPhone and just snapped tons of photos. So happy to have the photos.



Getting in the water with them was maybe a little questionable. I mean, the river itself was a little questionable…mostly because we’d been “white water” rafting (it was dry season…it was more like low water scraping) up the river earlier and there were so many people just hanging out in the river, eating, doing who knows what else…




After the river rafting and elephants, we went to this tribal village which was a little crazy. Kind of like a reservation back in the U.S., only these are Burmese tribes. And also a bit like a zoo, in that you go there to basically stare at these people. Kind of weird, but interesting, too.



And that night, after such a long crazy day, we got ice cream and it was awesome. I also got to go for a swim in a nice, clean chlorinated pool.


And the next day was our cooking class. One of the guys at work recommended this place and I have to say, it was awesome. This was probably my second favorite thing from the trip after scuba diving. No ambivalence here. Just awesome cooking. And some really interesting people. The inside jokes Maria and I now have from this day. Amazing. But I also have some great new recipes in my repertoire. I’m just sad now, looking at these photos, that I didn’t try and buy (or steal) the dishes. Talk about gorgeous.











So, in my original itinerary, I had planned on us taking the night train back to Bangkok and then hopping on a plane to Cambodia. But, after the one night and the unpredictable timing of arrivals and that we couldn’t get a private car, I asked Maria if she’d mind if we just stayed another night in Chiang Mai and flew to Bangkok and then connected to Cambodia. She was down with that, so we ended up staying another night and getting what was possibly the best foot massage I’ve ever had in my life. Amazing!


And then we were off. And I was covered in mosquito bites.