Music and Miles

This week is the 5th annual Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE – my favorite music festival and one I’ve managed to get to for the past four years – and I’m missing it. I won’t be as dramatic as to say I’m heartbroken, but I’m really super bummed. I love music. I sound like a overanxious camel when I sing and I haven’t played an instrument since I was in high school, but man can I jam to some Bob Segar and Meatloaf. I love music. And not just the hipster underground alt rock and hip hop music that I’m supposed to love. I love that crappy 90s rap and twangy country. I love the bouncy pop and knock-off punk. I love a song you can dance to, cry to, run to.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the connection between music and running. For most, myself included, music makes the miles go by so much faster. There comes a point in any race where I need to pop my headphones in and go. Even here, I listen to my audiobook until I can’t stand the view of the treadmill or the sand anymore. Then I go to my favorite playlist, close my eyes, and go somewhere else. I don’t focus on the strain of my lungs or the ache in my feet. I focus on the poetry in the lyrics or the passion in a beat.

Music is a drug, a safe and legal one, and when mixed with running it’s potent – in the very best ways. It’s a sound track to my high. Music has a way of punching me in the gut. It has the ability to accompany a mood, amplify it, calm it or even overcome it. Sometimes all at once.  Just like running. Our whole lives have a soundtrack. And when a song from that soundtrack comes on midway through a run, that mile is dedicated to that memory. Because running takes so little brainpower, it’s hardwired in our bodies, you can devote your entire mind and spirit to that memory. You can reflect on it, relive it, and safely tuck it back into your memory. Music transports me to that first bus ride in Italy, to a long country road, to my front porch dancing, to that last 10 miles on the mountain.  More than that, it gives me back my emotions. I don’t simply feel joy when I hear a song from a joyful occasion – I feel the same joy - with all its specific nuances and context. Amazing grace doesn’t just remind me of the sadness I feel at the death of a loved one, it uncovers the exact sadness and love I feel hearing my mother hum it.

Music and miles are portals, free of space and time, a break to the past, the future, and the true present. Running strips us down to the core, the very basics of the human body. One foot in front of the other. Breathe in and out. Drink water. Eat calories. Move forward. When that simplicity is coupled with the complexity of music, something magical happens. All of it can come rushing in, you lose yourself and find yourself all at once.  It’s overwhelming to be sure, but what beauty you’ll find there. The capacity of the human spirt to feel all of those things, experience all those things, process all those things. The ability of the human body to cover those miles, to move that fast, to endure that suffering. To me this is the most terrifying and humbling experience. It’s how I feel when I stand on the bow of a ship. Like there is this incredibly complex, vast, and interconnected thing right in front of you that you know so little about.  And the deeper you go the more you realize just how much you don’t know, can’t know. All you can do is appreciate what you don’t understand and wonder at the beauty of it all. Turn your music up, put one foot down, then the other. Be humbled. Be overcome. Be grateful.

"I ran to be free. I ran to avoid pain. I ran to fee pain. I ran out of love and hate and anger and joy." -Dagny Scott Barrios



The Utility of Pain


The first time someone called me a masochist I thought they were crazy. Of course I didn’t like pain. Who likes pain? Hell forget pain, I didn’t even like discomfort. I was a hedonist by most accounts. I was certainly NOT a masochist. Still it’s hard to claim this when I continually signed up for increasingly painful endurance events. So I began to argue that I didn’t do these events for the pain, I did them for the lessons and the absolute joy I got from them. I said all of these while pretending that the pain was perhaps corollary to joy and learning, but not casual. Somewhere in the last week, maybe during a midday run in 100+ Middle Eastern heat, I realized that the lessons and the joy are not parallel to pain, but rather the direct result. A sunrise is never more spiritual than after a long lonely night. Sleep has never been more exquisitely well earned than after 100 miles. Part of it is simply appreciating things, providing the contrast of pain to pleasure. I firmly believe that the greatest pains in life are equally matched, or even dwarfed by, their counterparts – the greatest joys.

Think of the greatest joys in your life? Did a single one of them come without pain? A marathon? Childbirth? A great love? A inspirational friendship? A reunion with loved ones? Yoga? Dance? Art? The only joys I can think of that don’t come with pain are books and drinks with friends on a beach. And that last one often comes with pain the next day. Pain is a part of life, every day. Every stubbed toe or stiff back. Every ignored text or goodbye. The memories of loved ones far away or even gone completely.

So why seek out pain? I remember hiking with a man a year or so ago. I’m not sure I even knew his name at the time but somewhere lost in the desert waiting for the sun to rise we ended up sharing some of our biggest scars – his life in particular had seemed full of pain. I remember thinking, why is this guy lost on a mountain with 100lbs in his pack? If he wants to suffer he should just go home and live his life. Why seek out pain when there’s seemingly an abundance of it in the world?

Because, just like anything, you need to practice pain. Willingly exposing yourself to pain allows you to practice it, allows you to control it, to cope with it. I’m not just talking physical pain. There’s some true emotional and spiritual pain associated with endurance events as well. This is the most important pain of all to practice. There’s no other way to practice but to just feel it. You can’t fight it or numb it, at least not permanently. You can only settle into the pain, understand that with every step it may get worse. It may then all of the sudden get better. The physical pain may cause the emotional pain, or vice versa. It may cause joy. It may be the first of many painful episodes, a fresh hurt destined to be by your side for years to come. It may be the final scarring of an old wound. The ways you cope with pain over the miles, the mountains, and the mud are the same ways you cope in everyday life. Settle in and start listening to what the pain is trying to teach you – about your body, your spirit, and the world you inhabit.

These lessons you learn through pain are often the ones that stick with you. A burnt hand is a visceral memory that teaches you to be cautious around fire. Serious chafing reminds you to stock up on body glide. The pain of rejection or a broken friendship reminds you to be kind with your words. The loss of a loved one makes you appreciate those you have. When someone hurts you, you learn your capacity for forgiveness and compassion – and the strength it takes to exhibit both. The lessons you learn through pain and suffering are some of the cornerstones of your character.

One of my favorite lessons is that when forced to suffer, its best tosuffer with and for others. The pain you are willing to withstand for and by yourself - for money, ego, achievement, vanity - is a fraction of the pain you are willing to suffer with and for others.  There is no nobler cause than the one you take up for others. This is the idea behind Hero WODS, this is why Hero WODs are so exquisitely excruciating and why they are so often done in groups. I'm in no way equating the pain of an hour (or more) workout to the pain of losing someone, but I'm saying it's a way to practice it. It's a way to suffer and bond with others but like the bond - unbroken by death - a hero feels with his or her unit, squad, or family. It's a way to honor the sacrifice of men and women by sacrificing our time, our bodies, and most of all our comfort. Willingly withstanding pain is our small way of showing commitment and respect to a higher cause. In this case the cause is honoring the service, sacrifice, and legacy of others. It's a way to focus on the joy of knowing someone like the namesakes of these workouts. It's a way for us all to reflect on the lessons we can learn from them, ourselves, and our collective pain."

So this memorial day, if you’re so inclined, I urge you to practice a little pain. Go for a little longer run, (safely) do an extra set or extra rep. Feel the pain associated with a visit to a cemetery or a call to a Gold star family. Learn a lesson from this pain. Then be joyful. Cherish your lesson, your pain, and your joy. Know that while the pain for so many never goes away, it can and will subside. And in its place is peace and joy. So for the moment, settle into the pain.


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Just Because You Don't See It

I've been staying up north the past couple weeks in preparation for the upcoming deployment. As such, I've driven the California coastline (or sat in traffic) more than a few times. Each time I look along the coast, I can't help but to remember the miles and the lessons I learned on that 161 mile run. Except for the times I've driven the route in the dark. In dark I don't see the blue sea or the green hills. I don't get that instant feeling of joy, accomplishment, sobriety, that I got during those 161 miles. Why? Because it's dark? Because I don't see the waves? The trails? The lessons? Well, yes. Since I've been a child I've hated the dark, been scared of it. I can remember coming home from college the first time and driving up in to the yard because my Mom forgot to leave the outside light on. Or the time I bribed my fire watch partner at OCS to stay with me as we patrolled the parking lot in the dark Quantico night. I hate the dark. It scares me. It hides all the beauty of the world.

Fast forward to ultra running. There is something about when the sun sets during a run that just crushes my soul. It's how the kids at Hogwarts feel when the dementors show up - like I'll never feel happiness again. I mean I know the sun is going to rise again (or more scientifically accurate the earth will rotate into the light again). But there is this small fear that maybe today will be different. Maybe today the sun won't come up, it'll all be over, and all those beautiful views will be gone - forever.

But would they? I mean just because we don't see something, does it mean it's not there? Are the seven wonders crumbling if we don't look at them? Is the sea any less majestic at night? Are those breathtaking views, the ones that make you believe there must be a God. Are they only sacred if you experience them?

Of course not, we cannot be that arrogant or self-centered. We cannot believe that things only exist as we experience them. We can't possibly believe that perception really is reality. Those trails, those hills, those lessons are there. Just waiting. The mountains are there in the dark. The miles are there in the future. The pain and its lessons are there in our past. They are all there, whether we see them or not.

The same goes for people, for friendships, for memories. Just because they aren't there right now or because we can't touch them, or even speak to them; it doesn't mean they aren't there. There's this theory of time, Kurt Vonnegut among others, writes about it, saying that everything that has happened is still happening - in that moment. So your favorite hug, reunion, kiss, birth, memory, is still happening, and will happen forever in that moment. Sure you can't see it now. But that doesn't mean it's gone. A mile in the dark is still a mile. A mountain, still a mountain. This is a comforting thought.

It's a thought that allows us to keep pushing on in the dark. It's one that allows us to leave the places, and the people we love. It's what allows us to look towards the next race, the next sunrise. It's what allows us to smile and wave goodbye. Because we don't need to be scared of the dark. We don't need to be scared that we'll forget what we can't see. We don't need to be scared that it's not there anymore. It's still there. In that moment. And moments are permanent.

"All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I said before, bugs in amber." - K.V.

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Silkies Drink Pairing List

What to drink when it feels like you're wearing nothing at all....Orange Rum Light or dark.

Orange is light and fun, so is rum. So is your mom when drinking rum. Orange was also my high school’s colors and I drank more rum than 40 drunken pirates. Also I had a thing for pirates in high school.

Garnet Port

Maybe because port is a deep garnet, maybe because I call these silkies maroon and I think of getting marooned on an island and being forced to drink port because let’s be honest, it’s the emergency alcohol.

Graphite Grey Goose Vodka.

Yeah it’s a little obvious, but silkies weren’t meant to meant to be subtle.

Gunmetal Bourbon.

Guns. Metal. Bourbon. America.

Black Scotch

Because scotch is what I drink when I feel like my soul is black. Or maybe scotch is what makes my soul black.

Navy Brandy

Because….Brandy you’re a fine girl, what a good wife you would be, but my life my love and my lady is the sea. And it’s what I imagine Admirals in the Navy drink.


Here’s your free for all. Because royal is a serious sounding name for a very unserious color. Royal is the color of the sea, international waters, and anything goes - except for amaretto sours. Those should never be allowed.

Green Whiskey

The original silkies, the original drink. Neither of those points may be true but nothing goes better with war-worn silkies (yes they can get thinner) than whiskey. It’s the first post-deployment drink. It’s the drink of NJPs and holiday duties. It’s the the drink of Marines kicked out of birthday balls across the globe. It burns, it’s abusive, and you keep coming back to it. Just like the Marine Corps.

Sand Tequila

Because sand reminds me of the time I drank too much tequila and ended up walking naked back to my Mexican hotel. Side fact: Mexico uses its prisoners to rake the beaches in the middle of the night.

Now these are merely suggestions, because the only real rule with silkies is if they fit, go 2 sizes smaller. #silkiesneversaydie



Surround Yourself with People who Challenge You: Or How California Changed Me

We, especially in the fitness world, have all heard some form of this advice before - to surround yourself with people that challenge you. My favorite mantra is "If you're the fittest person in the gym, find a new gym." I love that idea. I love the idea that you pick your people, your running partners, your lift mates, based on them pushing you to be better, stronger, faster. You run with people that go just a little faster than your comfort pace. Life with people that make you throw another 10 plate on the bar. Yoga with people that have mastered crow or handstands while your favorite position is still corpse pose. You work out with people that are better than you, because that challenges you.

But that's not what this post is about. This is about picking people in every day life, not just fitness, who challenge you. Because challenges ALWAYS make you better. This is both incredibly difficult and incredibly simple - especially for us who have strong opinions and values. It's hard for us to be around those that feel, vote, or think differently. Just like it's hard to learn a new movement, or feel like we're struggling to keep up on a run. We either think they are less educated, less compassionate, less intelligent, or just plain wrong. We either find no common ground or we do nothing but fight on that ground. We either avoid these disagreeable subjects or come to them ready for battle. We begin "discussions" armed with our own arguments, our points and counterpoints, our facts and research. But I'm not just talking about political, religious, or social issues. I'm talking about how we live our lives every day. Here is why surrounding yourself with people who challenge you is so incredibly simple - because you don't need to find someone smarter, more fit, or more experienced than you. You just need to find someone different, someone who thinks about things differently, approaches things differently, finds happiness and joy and passion in different things. This might be the easiest task in the world.

When I moved to California I hated it. I thought the people were shallow and unambitious, the weather was  too sunny and picture perfect, and the radio stations were awful. Overall, I thought the pace was too slow and lazy. I thought the happy hours lacked depth and significance. People talked about yoga, not international politics. People met, spent hours together and never once asked "what do you do?" People spent whole days lounging at the beach, napping, brunching. It drove me crazy. I thought, do you know how many emails could you answer in that time? How many miles could you run? How many meals could you prep? I thought the girls that spent their evenings trying to "find a man" were frivolous and hurting my feminist cause. I thought it was ridiculous to spend more money on make-up than race fees. I thought these people were a little behind me, that if I just explained, ok preached, to them the values of work ethic, social justice, and overpacked schedules, that they too would give up their lazy lives and become overstressed, anxious, go getters. I had assumed that I had figured out how to live and they just hadn't yet.

I was wrong. I'm not saying I'm giving up my ambitions of saving the world or my weekends of 14 appointments. Or that'll put makeup on this week. I'm saying that people challenge you in the most surprising ways. I'm saying that it's ok to slow down, let a little sunshine in, and pour a cocktail at noon. I'm saying it's ok if others are more or less ambitious that you are. I'm saying that different goals are less or more. Moreover, that the goal of being happy is a valid and admirable goal. I'm saying that we all have things to work on. But mostly, I'm saying that challenging yourself can't just be in the gym, or the classroom, or the debate hall. Truly challenging yourself has to be about every day life. Try it. Talk to someone that looks at things completely differently. If you like to throw weights around while listening to Rob Zombie, try yoga. If you're a ultra marathoner that mocks those super fast 5k guys, sign up for a road race. If you're someone that has been focused on your hair color more than activism, talk to an activist. If you're someone that hasn't put makeup on in 2 months, grab fresh manicure or shade of lipstick. You'll probably change a few things about how you live your day to day life, and maybe you won't. Maybe your views will change drastically, maybe you'll just strengthen your original ideas. Surround yourself with people that challenge you, not because they are better, but because they are different. Do this and you'll surely connect with a few more people and learn more about yourself and the world. Most importantly, you'll surely learn a little more empathy. And empathy is half of the secret to peace, happiness, and progress. But more on that later....



Things I Learned...31 Miles for 31 Heroes

Originally posted August 2015 after a 31 Mile ruck run (with 31#) in honor of the 31 Heroes killed in Afghanistan 6 August 2011.

Over the past two weekends I've been honored to run and work out for causes. Specifically men and women that have died in the cause that is the United States of America. Here's what I learned.

Don't invite infantry Marines to endurance events. If you've ever doubted the physical capabilities of these assholes, let me cure that. They are stubborn. They are competitive. They are the very reason I joined the Marine Corps. I respect and admire how they've forced me into humility. They are beasts. You deserve the very best in leaders.

Working out for a cause, whether it's a WOD, a marathon, a 160 mile run, or a 31 mile hike, is the most humbling and amazing experience. I've often wondered why we do these things in honor of people. Some is it is to honor the fallen, the heroes. Some of it is to remind the families that their heroes are alive and well I others' hearts. The joy and the closeness at a mile marker is enough. But even more than that is the bond we formed through shared hardship. I would never say that running or rucking a mile is equal to the pain of losing a loved one's life. There is no physical pain that can equate to that. What we do in their honor will never bring them back. It'll never cure the pain. In fact it's actually quite selfish. We do it for ourselves. The bonds we bond in physical suffering connect us. They create communities. And that's the crux of human existence.

We all want to be connected to people. It's why communities form. It's why countries exist.

Powerful things shake us. They are phenomenal. We want those things. We at the very least want to be connected to those things. Those people. Those communities.

Confessions, I struggle with inadequacies. I don't like people telling me I'm not good enough. I don't know, blame my dad. Credit my dad. Shit credit my mom. But today and every day I start to realize that we can overcome our inadequacies by being better. Trying harder. Sacrificing more.

Strength and calm. Strength is calm. And vice versa. What an incredible lesson.

I rucked, shit ran, 31 miles with a group of people that had never ran that before. Yeah they did it for the 31 heroes that lost their lives, but they also did it for the guy or girl next to them. The built a community with honor today and for that I could not be more humbled or proud. I've done some incredible physical endeavors, with some amazing people. Never have I've ever been so in awe of the men and women beside me. Military and civilians. Passionate endeavors fueled by passionate ideas. This wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done, I never hit my low, I was never desperate, but it, combined with the memories of my lows and desperation, might have taught me the most about my purpose in life. For that, I'm eternally grateful.

This video captures my thoughts. All of these things made me who I am. I'm no where near perfect. But I love who I am. And I'm so thankful for everyone that pushes me to me better. I have no haters. Everyone in my life seems to support and love me, and they make me who I am. And there aren't enough to words in any language that describe that. Come up with new words.

Keep learning. Keep growing. Be humble. Be humbled.



Things I Learned...Valor Run 161

Originally written 1 March 2016 after a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers.

I knew 161 miles would teach me a few things, and as always the miles came through. Here’s what I learned this weekend trotting along the coast with the some of most incredible and badass people I know…

Becca is a much better logistician than I am. Probably also a better RV driver, but tell that to the tree.

Michelle continues to be a far superior athlete than I, but I’m ok with that. Or at least I should be after I repeated it in my head for 20 or so miles each day. I’m ok with that because she’s a genuine humble soul and deserves every bit of praise I can awkwardly heap on her. Girl crush for life.

Samantha is also a superior athlete to me, and I’m ok with that too, because she’s worked for every single success and accomplishment in her life.

When you request to do a run like this, it’s not about you. It’s easy to think it is when so many people come out to support – virtually or in person. It’s easy to think so when you’re suffering or hungry or exhausted, but it’s really not about you. It’s not about your pace or your pain, in fact you’re the least important person there. It’s about what you can do for others. Running is a very selfish endeavor in a lot of ways, maybe that’s why I like it. But something like this just can’t be about you, it’s about alot of things – honoring and remembering, cherishing our loved ones, our bodies, strength and grit, inspiring others, community, love, and support but it’s not about you. I’m grateful that everyone on the road this weekend had that exact outlook.

Young Marines like Assi and Lindsey re some of the toughest, grittiest, most determined people on the planet. They’re also incredibly humbling to serve with.

Silkies: I get bigger, they stay the same size.

I don’t have causes, I have communities. And this weekend was a beautiful merging of communities – the Ainsley’s Angels and Team Hoyt Families came out with some of my running/crossfit community to support along with Team RWB. Support came in through my #TruSD Truman community, my very first community back home, my family, my Va Beach crazies and my local peeps. I even borrowed the stroller warriors community. I’m grateful for my communities.

I’m am in love with the sea and everything about it. There really isn’t anything that can’t be cured by salt water.

Corey can rock a crop top better than anyone I’ve ever met – and I live in Southern California.

Running long distances with friends makes you very intimate very quickly. We share water bottles, passcodes, and even underwear. It’s weird and I love it.

Running long distances also regresses you to your childhood. Someone watches traffic for you, monitors your urine output and BMs, makes you sandwiches. You get potato chips and cola for breakfast. And you have lots of trouble with the stairs.

Sometimes you gotta let a stallion run.

The trick to covering lots of miles with few or no injuries is all about honesty -with yourself. Are you injured? Or are you in pain? Are you looking for a reason to quit? Or are you pushing past your limits out of pride or arrogance? Is this pain the normal pain? The SNIFLS (Situation Normal I Feel like S!@#) You can lie to everyone else and say you’re perfect (and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s helpful), but you can’t lie to yourself. The more times you force yourself to be honest, the better you are at it – both with running and in life.

No one cares what you’re like when you’re fresh. They say this at the Go Ruck events, and it’s so true. It’s important when you get to those dark places to be able to push through and get the job done, but more important is that you push through and be a good person. Rule #1 is not lifted just because it hurts. And Rule #1 is “Don’t be a D-Bag.”

Show up. Don’t quit. Be flexible. Ok I learned this from a friend’s recent article, but I learned firsthand how helpful this approach is to anything this weekend.

Mental toughness isn’t a thing you achieve. I learned about dams recently, specifically those built on water soluble gypsum. Those dams, while strong enough to hold back millions of gallons of water, generate electricity, and control majority water sources also require constant maintenance. And it’s the same with mental toughness. The human mind is a marvel. It can force the body to perform amazing feats and endure great pain. But the smallest thought can erode the foundation so much that it all breaks. It requires constant maintenance to identify and address those eroding thoughts, those small breaks. You don’t ever achieve mental toughness. You simply grout the voids and hope it doesn’t all break.

Thank you again. To everyone that supported whether financially, in person, virtually, or just sent good vibes. Thank you to those painfully clarifying miles. Thank you to those women and their families that paid the ultimate sacrifice.




Inspiration Isn't Yours to Keep

Originally written the night before day 1 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers. I had big plans on a really great pre-run blog post, but the thoughts are jumbled in my head, and the emotions are even more amok. Fittingly enough, the only way to clear my mind and my heart is mile after sweet clarifying mile. So I'll leave you with the one thought that keeps coming to the front of my mind - Inspiration. I've heard some variation of "you're an inspiration" quite a few times over the past week or so, and I have to say it's my favorite compliment. But if I've inspired anyone with this or any other endeavor it's only because I've been lucky to BE inspired by so many. By a hippie that ran across America for veterans and communities, by a son who inspired his father to start a movement, another father that carried that message across the country, the family that stands by me - even when they know the stuff that doesn't go on facebook, the Marines that travel hours to put on a uniform and stand guard at a funeral of a man they never met, but called a brother, the mothers and fathers that wake up and go to sleep with their children every day, the women and men that leave their families to fight for a nation, the mothers and fathers that come to this nation for a new life for their families, for the girls that face bombs and attacks just to go to school, the Gold Star families that take deep breaths and keep walking every day, the friends that support me through every imaginable means, the woman that leaves the chance for wealth to serve her fellow humans, the woman who tackles every challenge with a fierce independence, and the woman who follows her faith despite how ridiculous it may be to someone else. 

And especially this week, by the little girl that has inspired so many, without ever speaking a word.

Inspiration isn't ours to keep. You get it for a while, you cherish it, then you pass it on.

Cherish your inspiration.



Day 4 Dedication: Veterans

Originally written 28 Feb 2016, at the start of day 4 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers. Day 4 is dedicated to the vets, particularly the ones continuing to fight their personal battles every day. This run has been about honoring and remembering the fallen, but we must not forget the women and men that returned. The ones we see every day. The ones we can still support. Fox News asked me what I thought was the best way to support veterans, and I wasn't happy with my answer. So here's my redo.

Get involved. Pick a veteran's organization that you feel passionate about - I'd suggest Team RWB. If you're a civilian this is a great way to connect and understand veterans a little better; if you're a vet yourself, it's a great way to get that sense of community and camaraderie back. Maybe you can build ramps, maybe you can teach job skills, maybe you can run and guide hand cyclists, maybe you can donate some therapy time at the local veterans village. Maybe you can just spend some time with some amazing people.

Thank a Vietnam vet. This one is a big one to me. I can't count how many times someone has thanked me for my service this weekend--pretty much every time I mention that I'm active duty, I get a thank you. And--I'll only admit this here--it means a lot to me. I often don't know how to respond because I haven't been asked to do or sacrifice nearly as much as my sisters and brothers. I love my job and it really is an honor to be in charge of, and work with, the incredible people I have. But I like it. It feels like people support us. I always remember the Marine Corps Birthday ball in Chicago, I couldn't buy myself a drink. Now, this is Chicago, the dark blue liberal pocket of the Midwest. About 90% of those people said "I don't support this war, but I support you." Contrast that the experiences of my uncles when they returned from Vietnam. While those stories are theirs to tell, they aren't positive. I firmly believe that it is our nation's collective guilt on how we treated these servicemembers that has led to such a supporting nation today. They paid for this. And they are still around. So make sure you extend a handshake and thank them.

Offer a military perk. Hear me out on this one guys, it sounds superficial and people who know me know how I've felt about this. My feelings changed around mile 100 yesterday as I heard the stroller warriors talking about weekend trips. They were sharing locations and tips to make affordable adventures for the family. I started to think, man these women should have a military perks website or something. Then I realized that this was necessary. Military members (especially enlisted) don't get paid CEO salaries--I think that's pretty well known. To top it off, usually one spouse has to, or chooses to, give up a career to parent and run the house. It's incredibly difficult to find a high paying, fulfilling career that allows you the daily flexibility of supporting a military family, let alone one that allows you to move every three years. For these reasons, military families often rely on military discounts, free admission to parks, and other perks. Will some exploit this, come to expect it? Yes, and we as military members must do better. I still believe we are in service and therefore entitled to exactly what we signed up to do. And veterans please don't take this as my condoning the public shaming of businesses that don't offer military perks. You aren't entitled to it. But it is a nice kindness.

Get smart about veterans issues. Grassroots efforts, meeting veterans and interacting with them will be fulfilling for everyone, but policy change is what makes the big moves. Get smart on things like veterans homelessness, the VA, our mental health system. Then advocate for improvements.

Get smart about international security. The best way to support vets is to keep them alive and whole. Vonnegut once said war is bad for children and other living things. He was right. It's not the greatest of evils, nor is it inherently unjust. But war is a terrible thing and we should avoid it when possible. Get smart on how the international system works so you can understand it. This also just makes you a good citizen.

Reach out to vets. There are all sorts of articles out there that give you advice on how to talk to a vet, and while they give some good guidance they are not hard and fast rules. Everyone is different. There are no rules, except maybe one, be genuine and empathetic. You may say the wrong thing, but that's ok. I say the wrong things to people all the time.

Don't stare, include. This goes for everyone that is different. Inclusion is the name of the game folks.

Expect something out of us. Eric Grietens, in his book Resilience explains how his organization The Mission Continues, focuses on integrating servicemembers by asking them to continue to serve their communities. The rationale behind this is that we are happier and healthier when we are serving others - and I wholehearted believe it. We feel our best when we are contributing, when something is expected of us. Veterans aren't all broken souls that needed coddling. In fact I'd argue that most hate that. So expect something of us.

Pay your taxes. Because that pays our salaries.



Day 3 Dedication: Gold Star Families

Originally written 27 Feb 2016, at the start of day 3 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers. Today's second dedication goes to the gold star families. When we do these memorial runs, we are honoring and remembering the lives lost in service of our country, but we're also honoring those families that feel the pain of a missing sibling, husband, daughter, wife, mother, or father. We run to tell them that their loved ones are not forgotten, that we are full of eternal gratitude for their service.

I wrote on support on day 1, and so much of that sentiment applies to today's dedication as well. Thank you.

When veterans or servicemembers lose someone close, it hits us pretty hard. These fallen heroes are our brothers and sisters, our new family. These losses are hard because of the loss, but also because the represent the culmination of sacrifices, the ultimate sacrifice. They remind us of the gravity of war and the sanctity of live.

Because they are our sisters and brothers in arms, we tend to see them through our military lense. But the gold star families, they know our heroes through all the other lenses. They don't know the fallen as "Capt" or "LCpl," they know them as "Chica" or "Tiny." They are the ones that changed diapers, played tag, or exchanged wedding vows. And often they are the ones we servicemembers forget to keep in touch with. For Gold Star families whose only links to the military were the fallen, this can be hard. So today, I'm talking to you vets, if you lost someone, reach out to their families. Tell the families that you still honor and remember - the fallen and the loved ones left behind.

And today we will run for 43 women and their gold star families. We will run for all the gold star families, for anyone that's heard the knock on the door, received a crisp folded flag, or felt a 21 gun salute. Thank you, for your service.



Day 2 Dedication: Partner Women

Originally written 25 Feb 2016, at the start of day 2 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers.

Day one is in the books and by the time you’re reading this, we’ll be moving through the next 43 miles and thinking about the next 43 names – their families, their stories, and their sacrifices. As we did yesterday, today has a secondary dedication.

Today was dedicated to 43 fallen servicemembers, their names will be posted tonight. But today’s secondary dedication was a request of a former student, deployed intel officer, and fellow female Marine. She wrote me a couple months ago and asked if I could dedicate something to the women currently fighting ISIS – specifically those in the YPG. So today’s 43 miles are dedicated to all the women of our coalition partners. From the British allies who made me run a half marathon dressed as wonder woman to Israeli defense forces to the Iraqi and Syrian women resisting violent extremism to the mothers fighting Boko Haram . History has shown that women often pay a high price when conflict comes to a nation – and the current fight is no different. Women face rape, abuse, and captivity. Many face these dangerous with a resolution, strength, and calm that I cannot fathom.

When I think of the price women pay in war, I think back to an article I read in Runner’s World years ago. There was an organization that organized a 5k for women in a war-torn country someone across the globe. While unfortunately I can’t remember the details on the state or the non-profit working in the area. I remember the picture of a smiling woman with a missing leg, cheering on the runners. She was interviewed and told her horrific story of rebels attacking her house and among other atrocities, amputating her leg. Here she was smiling and cheering those that could do what she, at that moment, could not. She was excited because the organization was raising funds to purchase a prosthetic for her. She was planning on running the 5k the next year. This story has stuck with me for a number of reasons but the biggest is that this women, who has withstood so much was so joyful in the prospects of running. Now I understand the joys of running, but usually I take them for granted. I also take for granted the security afforded to me by virtue of living in the United States. I take for granted that I wake up every morning healthy and happy. This story also sticks with me as a prime example of the power and strength of women and our ability to simply endure. To find joy after suffering, during suffering, despite suffering, or perhaps even because of it.

So this day I think of the women around the world putting themselves in danger every day for a better world for everyone – women, men, children. The Mahalas and other young women that fight extremism by simply walking to school.The Kurdish women that leave their homes to form battalions to fight ISIS in their homes.The women that protect their children as they flee into the bush. The women that are so grateful and joyful to receive shoes so they too can run a 5k.

There are stories like these around the world and those stories along with the 43 women will carry us through the next 43 miles.



Day 1: Dedication to Supporters

Originally written 25 Feb 2016, at the start of day 1 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers

One of main missions of this run is to highlight the role women have and continue to play in our nation’s defense. It is to show that women have not been simply supporting operations from the safety of an office or a home base. By the very nature of these wars, “supporting” combat operations often means engaging in combat – a role many don’t think women are capable or willing to play. While a lot of my posts have been focused on women in those roles, my intention has not be to downplay the role of those women and men that support in so many other ways – the husband that packs the house alone, the wife that home-schools the children, the aunt that sends care packages, the siblings that call utility companies, the friends that send you boxed wine, the parents that drive across the country to smile and wave goodbye time after time. So today’s second dedication goes to the supporters.

Over the past couple months, and especially the past couple weeks, I have been overwhelmed and humbled beyond adequate words by the support I’ve received, from strangers, family, and friends. Coming from a small town I’ve always enjoyed the support that comes from being a part of close knit community even before I could recognize it. Being out in the big scary world, I’ve realized how important the support that comes from communities is. So the past week I’ve really thought about why? Why do I, we, seek out support? Why do we feel so lost without it? Why do we surround ourselves with those that support and encourage? Why is it necessary for success or progress? Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Support validates our mission. As much as we may believe in our personal mission, it’s nice to have others believe in it too. When this run started getting a little more press, I was nervous that people wouldn’t understand what the run was trying to do, or why I felt it was important. I thought maybe people wouldn’t be interested. But the support from complete strangers let me know that the mission was important, that it mattered, and that our hard work now and during the event was for a purpose that others recognized. And let’s face it, we all need a little validation.

Support gives us confidence. Support from our loved ones reminds us that others believe in us and think that we can do little bit more than we think we can ourselves. You hear a lot of people, often through cheesy instagramquotes, say that they’re motivated by the haters – by the people that say “no you can’t.” I understand that. But maybe because that happens so rarely in my life, I find myself motivated most often by those that say “yes you can.” When others believe in you, you can believe in yourself.

Support gives us safety and love. Maslov’s hierarchy of needs puts personal safety as one of the very basic of needs, without which no other needs or desires become apparent or fulfilled. While Maslovwas talking about physical safety, I think the principle can be applied to the safety of the soul. The mental and emotional safety provided by support is critical to being a happy human. And love–well, call me a romantic–but, love is the most amazing capability of the human soul. Love has been described in everything imaginable way. It’s discussed,dissected, defined, described, lamented about, cried over, laughed over. It’s started wars, families, and some of the greatest stories of all time. It’s the most sought after and yet abundant phenomena. It’s what keeps the spouses and family together despite the distance. It’s what enables a soldier to lay down her life for her fellow soldiers. It’s what solidifies friendships and bonds across time and distance. It’s what gets four girls in an RV to run (or drive) 161 miles down the coast. Support gives us safety and shows us we’re loved. And in plain English, safety and love just feel good. We all seek love and, as adventurous as my heart may be, sometimes I just want to be safe. There’s a comfort there, and for a small town girl that lived on the same dirt road for 18 years, that comfort is a need deeply rooted in my soul.

Support helps prevent failure. Michelle brought this up last week, and I wholeheartedly agree. Support helps us fight off failure. When people support you, they believe in you and they so often are counting on you – to achieve the mission, to spread the message, to reach the potential they believe you have. This can often feel like pressure and sometimes even too much pressure; but, mostly, that support keeps you going. Because of all that support gives you, you feel you owe it to people to perform, to succeed. You don’t want to disappoint your supporters. You don’t want to prove them wrong. You want to be worthy of their support – so you try a little harder, push a little farther, and achieve a little more. When you don’t think you can do something, that you’re not good enough and doing it for yourself just doesn’t get you one more step – doing it for someone else sometimes works. Support holds you accountable to your goals and helps you stave off failure for just a little bit longer.

But here’s the big one, at least to me. Although support helps you stave off failure, ironically enough, support is the one thing that allows us to risk failure. And risking failure, or rather the fear of failure, is so often the thing holding us back from really big things. From our really big dreams. When our dreams are only dreams, they’re safe. They allow us to escape from whatever. They allow us to think, maybe one day, one day I’ll be great. But they are safe from the realities of life–you can visit them often without real work or risk. But the moment you move those dreams from dreams to goals and start planning, the insecurities start creeping in. The fear starts creeping in. You start to wonder if you can really do it. You start fearing failure. And once you fail, I mean really fail spectacularly and publicly, it’s really hard to start again, to dream that, or any dream, again. Unless you have support. Eric Grietens talks about this in his book Resilience. He critiques the “everyone gets a trophy” culture that’s arguably pervading our society. He argues that children should be exposed to, and experience failure because failure breeds resilience; BUT, he argues that this approach only works if the child (or adult for that matter) has a loving support structure to fall back on. I can honestly say I’ve never failed at anything in my life that I haven’t have my support structure to take me shopping, pick me up, buy me a drink, feed me dinner, bail me out, or otherwise just be there. Without that safety net, that support, I don’t think I would have dared any number of things. I don’t think I would have bounced back, or rather, moved through my multitude of failures. I don’t think I would have ever taken a dream and thought, “Yes, let’s do that.”

I firmly believe that no one gets to where they are or who they are by themselves. I see the support each of ushave for each other, and I see the support we have from our respective communities. And I think I speak for all of us when I say Thank You. Thank you for your support on this run and all our ridiculous endeavors.Thank you to the over 100 friendsfor sharing our story and making a donation. Thank you to donating your RV, you time, your legs. Thank you for give us air time and print space.Thank you for the late night phone calls, the security blankets, the road trips, the financial support, the emotional support, the “yes you can”s and “yes youwill”s. The “I love you”s and “Let’s try again”s. The “I’m behindyou”s and “what can I do to help?”s. The “you inspire me”s and “we’re so proud”s.

And on behalf of the military community, thank you for your support. Thank you for stopping on the street to tell us you appreciate us. Thank you for paying your taxes. Thank you for the girl scout cookies and baby wipes and Christmas cards. Thank you for volunteering, for the USOs, for free checked bags, for veterans organizations and fundraising. Thank you for setting aside differences and politics and reaching out to strangers. Thank you for the flags, the honor guards, the donations, the patriot guards, the VFW drinks and American Legion meals. Thank you for playing the so often thankless support roles. Thank you for your sacrifice, your lonely nights, your rescheduled Christmases and missed birthdays. Thank you for the fuzzy skype calls and homemade caramel brownies. Thank you for feeding the kids, moving every three years, and playing nursemaid. Thank you for your patience, your love, and your support. Thank you for the “do your best”sand most importantly“I’ll be here when you’re done”s. Thank you.



Things I Learned...Mojave Death Race and Rock-n-Roll San Diego

Originally post Memorial Day Weekend 2015

The desert doesn't cleanse you. It burns you. Your hubris, arrogance, false exterior away. Much like running doesn't fix you. It simply strips away the external. It highlights your problems, your mistakes, your past. It tells you what you need to change, deal with. Keep coming back and it'll give you clues, but it's not the solution. I'm a Midwest girl at heart and always will be but the desert speaks to my soul.

When you're struggling or looking for something, spend some time with your friends. They know you. They'll make you laugh.

I miss running as a duo.

America's favorite marathoner has a hero. It's his Dad.

Things never go exactly as planned. Sometimes (more often than not for me) you overbook. Sometimes you need others to execute your precisely timed plans. Sometimes you don't communicate. When things don't go as you like, remember that you are not the center of the universe and anger and frustration should be fleeting emotions. Take what time you can get from the people and things you love the most. Take as much as you can from all of this.

Sometimes life is just fun. Go with it. Don't overthink it.



Things I Learned...Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim

What I learned working off my seven Thanksgiving plates running/hiking 46-54 (depending on if you ask the Internet or my GPS) miles, and climbing ~10k ft through the Grand Canyon...

There was a sign on the first descent "Going down is optional, coming up is mandatory." I thought about this not so much as I trotting down the gentle slopes, but very much as I stumbled up the final 4.5 miles, heaving and trying to keep from crying and my heart to stop beating like a hyperactive college kid on adderall. I said no less than 5 times, "I can't do it, I'm just go to stop." Then I'd realize that wasn't a really an option. Well I could stop but that most likely meant I'd a) face hypothermia, b) a bobcat eating my face, c) or an embarrassing and expensive rescue from a park ranger only a few miles from the rim. Morale of the story is that it's easy to get into something - a bad relationship, addiction, unhealthy lifestyles, financial issues, legal problems, a canyon - but is a lot more work to get out of it. Still coming up is mandatory, one foot in front of the other and if telling yourself you CAN do it doesn't work, remind yourself that you HAVE to do it.

Microspikes are the s. h. i. t. Especially for clumsy, graceless folks.

I've never been worried about being alone in most areas of life....except these types of adventures. After the first seven miles or so with Linda, and a few miles with my old CG's niece (small world) I completed the majority of the distance alone. I knew this going into it and almost cancelled the whole trip, but I figured it was time to learn how to be alone - to learn how to pull myself out of dark places, to be the only one responsible for me. I wasn't entertained by anyone or (gasp) the center of anyone else's entertainment. I didn't like it. I would have given my next paycheck to have just one of my friends or family with me, to share my misery. But being alone has its utility - and I learned a lot about myself in the 15 hours I spent wandering through the wilderness. You cannot and should not go through life alone, but you absolutely need to know how to be wholly self-reliant and comfortable with just yourself.

Finally, probably my favorite realization, you can accomplish anything as long as you're willing to sacrifice time and comfort.



Things I Learned...MCM 2014

Originally written after October 2014 Marine Corps Marathon/Wicked 10k Weekend

About 6 years ago my friend bet me I couldn't run a marathon, specifically the Marine Corps Marathon. And 3 years ago I showed up to run my first Team Hoyt race.

Countless races and dozens of marathons later I can't think of a better way to spend my anniversary weekend than doing what I love with the people I love. All because  decades ago Rick and Dick Hoyt lined up at the MCM to qualify for Boston.Things I learned...

I fill out a male sailor's  uniform better than any female Marine uniform.

The world is small and random and the connections you make, the friendships you cultivate have infinite power over where you end up, what you do, who you become.

Some of those people you connect with are just plain amazing. When you meet these people, you just want to be in their presence. You don't need to speak or do anything, you just want to be with them.

Mashed potatoes, red wine, and 15yr scotch seem to be the right combo for a pre-race meal.

Whirlwind weekends are stressful, but when conquered, and you collapse into a bed or bath or floor, you just feel amazing. Like you're the luckiest person in the world to have the problem of too many people to see in a world of too many things to do. Like procrastination, I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm always going to over book. I'm going to be on a tight schedule, and generally going to be stressed...at least I'm not bored.

Sometimes things just line up. Metros come on time, people are efficient, things go as planned. We never hear about these times. I've got to be better at noticing these times, and appreciating them.

Jenny Rainey is one of my favorite running partners. The girl just gets me. We're motivated by the same things, know each other's paces and looks and dark places.  We make each other better. We didn't even touch the iPods.

Running at it's core is selfish. And that's ok. Runners at mile 25 are so inside their own heads, fighting their own battles, concerned about their own finishing that they often fail to see or hear what's going on around them....to include chicks with a hot pink racing chair screaming "WHEELS." And that's ok, running puts you inside yourself and you gotta go there sometimes. You need to know yourself before you can ever  expect to find a place in the world. And when you get good at this running thing you effortlessly toggle between your own battle and those of others. It's a good thing I didn't need my iPod because I would have missed the countless words of encouragement or moments of assistance from runners on their own personal journey. Running may be selfish, but the runners today were anything but.

Hokas are amazing shoes. Goofy as hell, but amazing.

MCM has the weird effect of making you smile like a madwoman while holding back tears for 26.2 miles...if this is what a race does to me, I'll be a wreck whenever I get pregnant.

The shorter the shorts, the less the chafing. It's just science.

Teamhoyt running chairs are just awesome. Plain ole, wonderfully, PR-setting awesome.

If the day ever comes where I get married, I'm sure I'll love and celebrate my anniversary, but just between us, never as much I do this one.



Things I Learned...Javelina 100 Miler

javelina 100
javelina 100

Originally posted November 2014 after Javelina Jundred in Arizona. Southwest gives you a free drink on Halloween, but won't bring you two, even if you offer to pay for one.

Someone apparently releases cows into the AZ desert at night. Freaky.

Hallucinations suck, and they make me never want to try LSD.

Scott Jurek is a beautiful and inspirational writer and if you're looking for a new running book, grab his.

I can officially go 75 miles with no iPod, providing I have solid, albeit vulgar, company to entertain me. While we most likely mildly to grossly offended everyone else on the course, we were at least funny.

I went into this race with no specific preparation or plan and the complete willingness to call it quits, and somehow finished.  None of this is to say I'm an amazing athlete or anything. I truly don't know how I did it. I also ran with Gordy Ansleigh, the man that decided so many years ago to run a 100 mile horse race with no horse. He refused to accept convention or external limits on what the human body could accomplish. Others saw this and thought "if he can do it, so can I." I saw them and thought "if they can do it, so can I." And more importantly so can anyone. While I don't expect everyone to want to do it, I truly believe anyone can. Moreover, it makes me think about what else is out there that we don't even know we can do...

A sunrise at mile 2 may be beautiful in a conventional sense, but a sunrise at mile 87, regardless of it's lack of brilliant oranges and fiery reds, is damn near holy.

I'm pretty good about not freaking out on spiders, bugs, mice etc...but I do not do tarantulas nor rattlesnakes.

Endurance events are mostly about withstanding an increasing level of suffering, but more than that they're about control. They teach you that you have so much more control than you think. When the miles just tear you down and the dark takes you to a place you didn't know was there, you can control how you look at it, how you treat others in that same place, and you can control your pain. Endurance events allow you to tell the relenting miles that sure you're willing to suffer, but it's going to because you're flying down a mountain at mile 90 vice limping through it. If it's going to hurt, it's at least going to be fun, and it's going to be your way.

Pacers are amazing, wonderful people.

Whoever designed the brooks "Run happy" campaign never ran 100 miles. You can garner only so much strength from happiness. Other alternatives are pride, anger, hurt, and a friend constantly challenging you to toughen up and keep moving.

"Not technical" trails become very technical at night.

Running 100 miles really hurts, like a deep in your core desperate searing but also a dull ache hurt. I'm sure I already knew this, but I had clearly forgotten this nugget. I'm not sure how.

There is not enough lube in the world to fully prevent chafing over 100 miles. Trust me, if you apply on one area, it'll happen in a different, more unspeakable area.

I don't like to run behind someone. I like to feel in the lead. I've always like doing things on my own terms.

Desert night is dark. Miles 50-75 are darker. Sure you can get through it alone but it's nice to have hand on your back, guiding you out of the ditches, pulling you back when you fall asleep walking, and assuring you that your headlamp light is not a giant ball of white rice. Life, and all it's troubles and joys, is better shared.

A lot of people ask what we're running from, or running through, and some of us are doing just that. By and large people running 100 miles aren't perfectly adjusted normal people, and for a long time I loosely fell into this group. Bad breakup? Go for a run. Fight with the parents? Longer run. Failed at something? Work it out on the trail. And while all these things all still happen, more and more I get this sense that I'm heading towards somewhere or something and running is going to help me get there...literally or figuratively. Just not sure what or where or who that is, and at this point I'm really hoping 10ks provide me the same clues as 100 milers.