Adventuring with Alia

Chronicles of a distance runner


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BOULDER!

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time moves once racing season is fully underway. My absence from this little blog is only one small caveat in which my lack of free time has shown.

My last post kicked off one of the busiest month’s I’ve had in awhile. It included PRs in three distances (1500m, 5k, 10k), a 10 mile road race, and a decision to move…to Boulder, CO!

All of the above has left me ridiculously ecstatic, exhausted, giddy and overwhelmed by the generosity that I’ve experienced.

There is SO much that I want to write about, but for now I’m going to stick to my current focus.

B-B-B-BOULDER!

I’m kind of excited, if you hadn’t gathered that already. “Where is this coming from?” you may ask. You probably haven’t asked, but you’re going to hear it anyway. After all, you’re the one who decided to read this garbled blog post.

ANYWHO, long story short is this: I had actually strongly considered moving to Boulder a year ago, when I was about to graduate from Chico State. In a wonderful flurry of events, I flaked on the immediate move, and spent the year trying out a variety of different ventures (start from my first post on this shindig for the extended cliff notes version…I’ve been busy, to say the least).

Then, in what I’m going to go ahead and call fate, my college training partner/amazing incredibly missed friend Kara called me up and told me that a room in her apartment opened up.

She offered it to me. I jumped.

Spaghetti+Kara

How could I say no? What can I say, this girl gets me.

The move out there accomplishes many things including but not limited to:

  • Training with a group! I cannot fully describe how much I’m looking forward to this. I’ve learned a ton about myself as an athlete during this past year or so of largely solitary training, but I’m ready to be around some like-minded people again.
  • A new adventure. After I grew out of my sulky teenage years, I realized that Sonoma County isn’t all that bad…that I actually might like it. However, I’m in a restless time of my life, and feel the need to experience something different and a little outside of my comfort zone.
  • Trail and mountain heaven. If you need more help with this explanation, I can’t talk to you anymore. Sorry.

Details, details, details…

I’m still smoothing everything out, in a an “as I go” fashion, which I’m pretty sure is completely frying my mother’s nerves. I’m lucky enough to have Kara and her amazingly generous family to help piece together some of the important aspects of the move, like, oh finding a bed to sleep on. Thanks all!

I’m not taking a car (I’m afraid the good ol 96’ Corolla wouldn’t survive weather in Colorado…let alone the drive out there) , so I’m trying to get a little creative in maneuvering my belongings. I’ve already managed to send one suitcase with Kara when she was in California for the Payton Jordan invitational.

Suitcase in new room

I think it’s settling in nicely. I’ll be there on June 3rd to unpack!

More to come…

There is still a ton I want to write about. Training, races, upcoming training, work…you know, life.

For now, I’ll leave you with this: the past couple months have made me feel incredibly fortunate to have the people in my life that I call my support system. I’m at an interesting position where I simultaneously recognize how far this ex-soccer player has come, and also feel as if I’m just beginning to tap into something totally new.

There are so many upcoming ventures that I’m so excited about, and I get to share them with some incredible people.

Lucky me.

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Uptight Laid-Back

A friend once told me that I was the most uptight laid-back person she had ever met.

For better or worse, the seeming oxymoron of a description of a person seems to fit me all too well. It also seems to describe my current situation.

I went from feeling suffocated by the strict scheduling of my work/training/life juggling act in San Francisco, to not knowing what the fuck to do with myself in this floater phase that I’ve found myself back in.

I don’t have a regular job, but I don’t necessarily feel relaxed.

For now, I’m trying to strike a balance between allowing myself to be present (aka, chilling out), allowing myself to enjoy the perks of being in-between work, and keeping my eyes on the future.

On taking advice

I’m in a space of life where I’m receiving a lot of advice. And here’s the thing: I truly want to talk to everyone and explore the plethora of options that life has to offer. But, I have to say, the responses have been kind of all over the place.

Why don’t you just get a full running sponsorship? (Ha!)

You should look into a career in computer programming.

Isn’t journalism dead anyway?

You should pull on your spandex, walk into a gym, and demand a job as a personal trainer just based of athleticism.

You’re batshit crazy for even thinking about leaving San Francisco.

You’re batshit crazy for even thinking about living in San Francisco in the first place.

You’re just batshit crazy. Period.

Through all of this, I’ve drawn one conclusion: I am the only one who is to make my life decisions.

SHOCKING, I know. Is this what growing up is?

Studying for class, I mean life…

Lately, I’ve found myself gravitating toward literature and film/video relating to living life, for lack of a better description.

Here’s what I’ve intellectually consumed within the past couple months, for anyone who wants to follow the made-up class that I’ve haphazardly constructed for myself.

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler
  • Happiness (a documentary)
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferris (in progress)

I’m not running to the self-help section of the bookstore and sobbing in a hernia-inducing manner or anything. I’m merely insatiably fascinated by the different ways that people have found to live, the different ways that people find fulfillment on a regular basis.

I’m confident that I’m exactly where I need to be right now, and I’m determined to explore the different ways people make the jigsaw puzzle of life work.

*Disclaimer: For anyone who hasn’t read Bossypants, you may actually be putting yourself at risk for a hernia from laughing too hard.

Right meow

I’m back in Santa Rosa, soaking up the absurdly beautiful February weather, the red-dirt trails of Annadel State Park, and trying to prove my worth as a daughter by doing dishes and dropping my mom off at work in the morning.

That should do it, right?

My first real race of the season will be Gate River on March 9 in Jacksonville, FL for the USA 15k Championships (I admit, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a USA 15k Championship before this…but why the hell not?!). As the date creeps closer, it is becoming apparent that the volunteer elite coordinator Richard Fannin does a hell of a job pulling in athletes. The field is going to be ridiculous, and I can’t wait to be in that atmosphere, surrounded by badasses. AND three other ladies that run for SRA will be there, making a team score possible.

In the meantime, I’m working on getting work, and picking up freelance jobs on the side. My hope is to find some type of part-time work that will allow me to continue pursuing my freelance and running bum ambitions simultaneously.

Why not?

Yip!


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Adjustments

I began my internship in the beginning of November in San Francisco. I dove headfirst into a move, full-time job, and full-time training.

Since then, my mind has been like some sort of real-life rigged pinball machine, seizure-inducing flashing lights, obnoxious noises and all. I really, really wish that there was someway to record my complete stream of consciousness.

…on second thought, maybe not.

Anywho, the past three months have been a rollercoaster. I’ve had a lot of really amazing experiences, and they haven’t come without their fair share of difficulties. I could sit here and write out endless cliché phrases about finding your way in life and all that good shit, but when I was feeling particularly low, my mom threw out this one that stuck with me.

“You are in a transition. Embrace the bumps, they make you ask the important life questions.” 

Well said, momma.

With some writing, ocean air, a healthy dose of honesty, and the help of some red wine, I’m proud to say that I’ve done a lot of growing up in the span of three months. This is a quick post to catch y’all up on where I’m positioning myself next (mentally positioning, at least).

Plight of the working runner

Growing up, I’d always looked to San Francisco as a place that I wanted to live, at least for a bit as a young adult. It was close enough for my family to come in occasionally for a “city day,” or, (when I got my driver’s license) to drive in with a friend for concerts.

In case you’re wondering, yeah, I felt pretty damn cool driving into “the city” for concerts as a high schooler. Even cooler because they were concerts for bands like Something Corporate (try not to laugh too hard).

San Francisco has definitely not disappointed in the way of something new and exciting. I’ve never lived in a city as urbanized as this before, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot just in my day to day operations.

A handful of my adjustments/learnings/observations to life in San Francisco have been some of the following:

  • Nocturnal running is necessary with full-time work, in the morning when the moon is still bright and at night after hours (when the hell is daylight savings?!?)
  • Stretching on my bus ride into work is a good use of time, as tempting as it is to sit the whole time
  • The anger and cursing that follows chasing a missed bus and can be almost completely cured by a cup of coffee while waiting for the next one
  • Avoiding hills is impossible. Impossible.
  • Moving a month before the peak in a training cycle is doable, but not the way I would choose to make a move again
  • Colorful buildings are fun to look at.
  • Colorful people are also fun to look at.

What now?

To keep saying that “I’ve learned a lot,” seems to be putting the description of this entire experience to a disservice.

This internship has been great for me for a multitude of reasons, but ultimately I have simply felt stretched too thin, trying to accomplish too many things at once. The way that an agency operates doesn’t generally accommodate a variety of schedules. Not a bad thing, but possibly just a cue that it’s not the best fit for me.

Running is obviously an important part of my life, and also happens to be incredibly time-bound. I’m feeling such a strong pull toward training, and I really believe that there is a way to pursue the elite lifestyle without completely screwing my career outside of running. Time to get creative!

Haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I’m getting there.

This being said, I’ve decided to take a step back from the city, to figure out a way to make this life and this dream work. I’m still searching for that work/training/life sweetspot, and I’m excited and ready to try something new.

Open door?

Despite the challenging circumstances, the decision to leave the city has not been an easy one. I really do love San Francisco. It’s a socially, intellectually and culturally stimulating place to breathe in. There is always something to do! And it really is a beautiful area to live in…no wonder why it’s so damn expensive.

But, with the price tag of living here being so exorbitant, the work schedule required to pay rent can be quite the juggling act to figure out. And it most certainly doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room for someone in-between jobs.

I’m not necessarily saying a final goodbye to San Francisco. I’m simply finishing up my internship this Wednesday, and taking a step back, evaluating my options, and, most importantly…

breathing.


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The Times They Are a Changin’


Literally.

It’s the eve of yet another year, and somehow, I’m right back where I was about a year ago, dumbstruck, and wondering where in the hell all that time went.

All right, that’s a little bit of a lie. I have a pretty good idea of where all that time went.

Quick and Dirty

This past year has been one hell of a ride, to put it simply. When I really contemplate all that it happened, I can’t believe my good fortune to have had so many opportunities, experiences and encounters with amazing people.

I’m one lucky gal.

The quick and dirty summary of my year goes something like the following.

  • Kicked off the year with a roadtrip up to Portland (one of many places I’ve toyed with in my quest to find a place to live)
  • Ran several PRs on the track for a really special senior season, and received my fourth collegiate All-American to cap it off at nationals in Colorado

Final NCAA with Kara

  • Graduated from college (though didn’t officially walk across the stage…I had a more ‘casual’ graduation. Hanging out in Colorado before nationals sounded like more fun.)

Graduation (kind of)

  • Found out my name was stamped on an international plane ticket leaving for London, only three weeks before the departure date
  • Loved every second of my five week adventure in Europe

Burano Houses

  • Made it back alive from traveling solo (a serious accomplishment, considering my (lack of) directional skillz)
  • Saw my cousin get married in Delaware (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding style…kind of. BIG family)

Wedding

  • Joined the Sacramento Running Association for my first move in post-collegiate running

Ancil Hoffman XC

  • Started a full-time internship at TriplePoint PR
  • Moved to San Francisco
  • Ran my first marathon

…well played, 2012.

Gearing up for Spring

My fall session of training was an enormous learning curve in itself. Competing after college is a whole different game, but the change has been a bit liberating, and exhilarating the whole way through. I’m already itching to be back on a workout schedule. “Easing” back into running has taken some restraint, as I often find myself so immersed in thought that I end up running at a clip I have no business holding in my first couple weeks back on the trails.

With all the mud and fresh air out there, can you really blame me?!

As nice (and necessary) as a break from a long bout of training can be, returning to the grind is pretty awesome too. It’s my outlet, and I always return feeling more balanced, happy and sweaty. (Ha.)

The excitement definitely isn’t lacking as it’s time to start looking at a brand spakin’ new racing schedule. I’m still working out the details with my coach, but just talking about my options for the spring has got me rearing to get back at it.

Taking Deep Breaths

It’s difficult to not come off a year like that and think, “what’s next?” I’m lucky that I’m at an age and in an area of my life to keep dreaming, keep fine-tuning, keep striving to find what really makes me tick.

It definitely hasn’t been my easiest year, but it’s been my fullest.

I’ve never felt so alive.

If I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s to not be afraid to grab life by the cajónes and give whatever crazy notion currently resides in your head a shot. Or to do it anyway, especially if it scares you.

I’ve got a couple resolution-type ideas swirling around in this brain of mine.

How about you? 

Ready…

Set….


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Love Me Some Mountains

As my life continues to zoom about, so does my attention span. I’ve, yet again, managed to squeeze in an inordinate amount of action and miles on my odometer in a relatively short amount of time. Hang with me here, it’s a long read, but packed with good bits.

Mountains! Fast people! Running! Hippie cafés! Professional strides!

Have I got ya hooked?

Mammoth

I’ve been meaning to visit this distance-running fairytale of a location for well over a year now. Since I’m in a non-location specific part of life right now, I figured it was a good time to actually go.

Mammoth came on my radar awhile ago, as several older Chico State cross country alum now call it home, specifically for training reasons. Other badasses/elites call it home for training too, as the Mammoth Track Club tears it up on a regular basis (Chico State’s Scott Bauhs being one of these guys).

With a fresh wad of cash from a one-night catering gig in Chico, I filled my gas tank (by the way, the recent hike in gas prices isn’t exactly conducive to my hobo lifestyle) and set off to meet Mr. Jimmy Elam in Rocklin for a cup of coffee before following him caravan-style through the drive to the mountains.

I arrived to an at least a 20-degree drop and walked into a condo scattered with running shoes, marking a classic runners’ household. This one belonged to Alan, Jimmy and their Jordanian roommate, Mo.

After some small talk, we set off on an aerobic run around Lake Mary for my first taste of Mammoth-trail-crack. Surrounded by snow-dusted mountain-tops, and a fox sighting, I was almost distracted from the lack of available oxygen until Alan proudly tapped a road-sign as we cruised by our third mile or so.

Elevation: 8910 ft.

My poor sea-level coddled lungs.

I spent the rest of my short trip being treated to several of the guys’ favorite spots to eat, enjoying a 14-mile long run Sunday morning with Lindsay Tollefson (yet another Chico State alum), a gorgeous hike, and some beer with true personality at Mammoth Brewing Company.

I think I’m in love with the town.

Inspiration

I departed Monday morning, but not before an aerobic run with marathon icon and American record-holder Deena Kastor.

Can awesomeness rub off? I can only hope so as my debut in the marathon creeps closer (CIM, December 2nd! Gah!).

Being in Mammoth in general helped simultaneously calm me down, and pump me up, if that’s possible. I feel like I have so much unfinished business with the sport, and am welcoming the overwhelming calm in knowing that I want to continue, knowing that I want to find a way to make this work in my life.

I suppose I’m using the word “calm” synonymously with “certainty” or “assuredness.” Whatever the word, these feelings seem difficult to come by of late.

Lucky me.

Departing

I left feeling gratitude toward so many areas of life. Gratitude toward the gracious hospitality I’ve continued to receive, gratitude to my ability to explore, gratitude to my health and my continuation with training, and gratitude to everyone who’s helped and supported me along the way.

I took Tioga pass back, enveloping me in more breathtaking wilderness and leading me through a section of Yosemite. It also cut off cell service for a good portion of the drive.

Just me and the road. Ah, confused hobo relaxation.

Mountain Sage

In my more obscure route home, I stumbled across possibly one of the coolest little cafés I have ever had the pleasure of stumbling across.

Side note: for those of you who don’t know, I’m slightly obsessed with cafés. The ones with good-vibes. When I was in high school, I told everyone that I wanted to grow up and own a café that displayed work by local artists. As I got older, that idea evolved to also include a beer and wine bar. Who knows, maybe this is still in my future. But mostly, I think the idea stems from my notion of a place that I want to exist to hang out in. 

ANYWAY, this place was situated in the heart of Groveland, an area with a bustling population of 601, according to the ever-accurate Wikipedia. Essentially, one of those teeny-tiny-itty-bitty towns that can be driven through in a matter of minutes.

But, knowing the length of the drive ahead of me, the boldly carved wooden sign bearing the beautiful word ‘coffee’ lured me in.

Turns out, this place is a café, photo gallery, and herb garden, all in one. You walk into an actual house, follow the signs past a cozy living room situated with a furnace and comfy chairs and couches for lounging to the coffee house in the back.

Oh, and there’s a tree randomly growing in the living room. Of course I loved it.

The coffee bar itself was in a cute outdoor setting, surrounded by the herb garden. The coffee dude wore a “Pre Lives” shirt, a distance runner dead give-away (clearly a sign that I was meant to stop here). We chatted running for a couple minutes, and I assured him that marathon training wouldn’t be a gateway addiction to ultra-running.

I downed my Americano, strolled around the photo gallery for a couple minutes, and was back on my way.

Little Miss Professional

I returned from Mammoth late Monday night, chased daylight for about five minutes of my second run before succumbing to a street-light lit concrete shake-out.

Though I could have remained in the mountains for a many more days, weeks, months, etc., I needed to get myself back to the bay area prepare for some late-week professional ventures in San Francisco.

That’s right, it’s time for this lady to put the yoga pants and hoodie aside for a day and flex her college-degree-journalistic-public-relations muscles.

New adventure?

Random Wrap-Ups

For anyone trying to keep track, here’s the quick and dirty version of my physical/mind location:

  1. Still flitting about location-wise, but can mainly be found between Santa Rosa and Chico
  2. Running for the Sacramento Running Association (*this marks the only real commitment I’ve made recently)
  3. In training for my first marathon
  4. Job searching in San Francisco for PR and journalism related work
  5. Remaining a little too stoked (really, watch the video)

Until next time…


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Hobo Problems

As I continue to perpetuate the now over five months of constant movement, I’ve come up against two issues that a self-proclaimed hobo, like myself, should have mastered by now.

I’m not sure if it’s plain stupidity and/or stubbornness, but I have failed to actually address these until semi-recently.

So, without further ado, here’s my first attempt…

Goodbye-ing

Ah, goodbyes. I am god-awful at them.

I also realize that the style that I’m living in calls for an inordinate amount of goodbyes. It requires me to essentially be doing as much goodbye-ing as hello-ing. Which is why sometimes I just don’t do it. I survey the goodbye scene, and decide just to bow out before many really notice that I’ve gone.

Maybe it’s because I have somehow inherited a similar view to legitimate goodbyes as Peter Pan…?

“Never say goodbye, because goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.” – Mr. Pan

I’m adopting a loose interpretation of that quote, to help me explain my sentiments. I also find it slightly amusing that I’m finding great meaning in a quote from a character who refuses to grow up.

The truth is, every person in my life owns a certain amount of me. They’ve shaped a certain part of me that will never be undone, and I could never express that in a simple “goodbye.”

However, I’ve given this some thought. Though my lifestyle perpetuates an ordinate dose of ‘goodbye,’ by default, it also gives me just as much ‘hello.’ So, I’m trying to choose hello, to my best ability. It’s difficult for me to really wrap my head around a legitimate goodbye. In my head, we’re going to meet up in the future sometime.

Goodbyes have changed in meaning for me, perhaps merely as a coping mechanism. They’re best made with a hug, and a knowing smile. They’re more like a strategic or necessary pause than a complete severing of lives.

However, some people don’t make it easy on me.

Yes, that’s my leg that she’s holding on to. Sure makes it a lot more difficult to put my peacefully philosophical “goodbye” to practice.

Selfish bitch.

Kidding…kind of.

Packing

This topic is quite a bit lighter, but in all seriousness, packing is my kryptonite. I avoid it at all costs.

Part of it is because I have this constant fear that whatever I bring will never be quite enough. I usually end up throwing as much as I can into my car in the limited time I’ve left myself.

Example: I need to be leaving to Folsom (my first post-collegiate race is tomorrow morning-yip! More on that later…) in less than two hours. And here I am, writing a blog post. Yep.

Self-sabotage? Naw. This has got to be pure mental and physical laziness.

I’d love to prolong my ramblings, but I should probably go pack now…or take a powernap.

More wanderings brewing, and some recent past to share still. Stay tuned!


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23-year-old Youngin’

For anyone that read my last post and didn’t conclude that I don’t exactly want to be living at my parents house, well…I don’t want to be living at my parents house.

I spent a good amount of high school lusting after my college years, my association with freedom at that point. So, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that I’m not completely stoked to have come back to the nest after I thought I had fled for good.

But, my current life and financial situation necessitates it, for at least a short while. And I’m finally accepting that. That doesn’t mean that acceptance hasn’t come with my “adult” version of a temper tantrum, kicking and screaming the whole way. That’s definitely a part of why I’ve been so overly zealous of seizing every and any opportunity to move my physical location lately.

Past Hobo Attempts

Anywho, a strangely parallel situation from my youth has actually popped into my mind of late, running alongside the temper tantrum theme.

As many children threaten to do at some point, in my 7 years of wisdom and severe identity crisis from associating with Shirly Temple because of my hair (kidding), I democratically informed my parents one night that I was running away from home.

Mom and Dad, I’ve come to the conclusion that your ice cream rationing is bullshit. I refuse to live in this dessert dictatorship any longer. I’m leaving to find frozen-sugar-and-dairy freedom on my own. Screw you guys. I’m out.

Apparently I started cursing at a young age.

The point is, for whatever forgotten reason, I decided that finding alternate living accommodations would be the best solution to my exorbitant life problems. I was a complex kid, what can I say.

However, as I began gathering my most precious belongs for the big move, I started to realize that while freedom of ice cream consumption was extremely important to me, I had failed to consider the small detail of where else to actually go. Other issues arose as well. Who was going to pack me a sack lunch for school in the morning? Clearly my plan had some slight shortcomings.

So, I revised my previous statement, went to my parents and asked if I was allowed to run away to my playhouse in the backyard.

Way to stand your ground, kid.

For those of you a little slow on the uptake, ice cream is code for way of life, philosophical bullshit, blah, blah-de-blah, blah, etc. (For the record, I still hold my past sentiments about the aforementioned issue pertaining to ice cream.)

What my long-winded-point is, in all this temper tantrum business, I’ve failed to recognize that home ain’t all that bad. That I want to be an adult, and I have confidence that I’m getting there, but there are still these small adulthood things to sift out, like rent, car insurance, health insurance and money for food (ice cream).

To point out the obvious, I’m not quite there yet.

Clearly, independence has held a certain allure for me from an early age. And clearly, I still haven’t quite broken the habit of sometimes wanting to jump a little prematurely.

It’s more than a little chaotic at times, but the only thing that scares me more than my personal fears  is the fear that I’ll let them consume me in such a way that I forget to actually live and enjoy the beautiful life I’ve built for myself.

So, I’ve been running with scissors, so to speak. And I’m going to keep sprinting with those motherfuckers.

I couldn’t be happier.

Rediscovering Home

In the meantime, I’ve discovered that there are worse places to bide some time than Sonoma County. I’m lucky enough to practically have Annadel State Park as my backyard. In fact, I rarely have to drive to trailheads for my runs, as I’m able to hit dirt in just over a mile from my front door.

Late afternoon on the red dirt trails of Annadel. 

A semi-view of the lake I spent four summers lifeguarding. Holds a special place in my heart, and it’s generous pay checks definitely made these last four months of travel possible. 

And there’s been a slightly endearing nature to rediscovering my family’s quirks, like my mother’s habit of jumbling her words and wishing me “goodnight” every morning that she leaves for work.

…they’re adjusting to me being back as well. I already discovered two precious sleeves of thin mints hidden in the back of the freezer and Ghirardelli chocolate chips in the crevice of a cabinet.

Nice try folks. Time to step up your game.