Adventuring with Alia

Chronicles of a distance runner


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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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Holy wow, it’s been awhile!

The last time I posted, I was scrambling to get my wandering ass back from the mountains of Mammoth and into San Francisco for an interview, the longest distance I had raced to date was a mere 10k, and I had access to a sun-spotted, but well-functioning car.

…now, I’m five weeks into a full-time internship at a PR agency in the Financial District of San Francisco, in my first week of down-time post-marathon, and simultaneously holding my breath and pleading with a finicky car battery each time I attempt to start my ’96 Toyota Camry.

My, how quickly life can change!

Never a dull moment, that is for damn sure.

Life in San Francisco

My experience in the city so far has definitely been an adventure in itself.

I’ve been interning for the tech/gaming/consumer electronics public relations gurus over at TriplePoint PR. No, I don’t know a damn thing about gaming, but I am getting a crash course in tech PR.

Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming, knowledgeable, kick-ass group of professionals to be surrounded by while I get my own professional feet wet.

I’m definitely still settling in, enjoying the colorful scenery/people that the city has to offer, and getting used to an exorbitantly different paced life than I was living. Between work and training, I haven’t been left with a hell of a lot of free time to fully explore, but I’m looking forward to having a little more time to play with.

StreetArt

A bit of random street art on my commute into work via Muni. 

So far, I think one of my favorite parts of San Francisco has been living in what has to be a people-watching hotspot and discovering its widely distributed oddities, like the sign I pass on almost every run from my apartment, pointing me in the way of ‘nipple justice.’

I’m not exactly sure what nipple justice is, but I’m pretty sure that I want it.

Marathon Business

Ah, the marathon: a distance that even those who know next to nothing about distance running regard with devout respect.

The 26.2 mile race obviously calls on endurance-based athletes for the challenge. Almost immediately after I began running, it became evident that my strength in the sport lies within, well, my strength.

During my brief years of high school running, my two mile mark was far superior to my mile. My collegiate years didn’t prove to be too much different, generally yielding superior 10k marks than my 5k attempts.

In other words, I’m about as endurance-geared as they come. The transition to the distance was definitely a long-anticipated one for me.

I managed my first semblance of a season outside of collegiate athletics this fall. In fact, I managed it pretty damn well, and got myself into arguably the best shape I’ve ever enjoyed. As an athlete, you really can’t ask for much more than that in terms of growth.

I ran some low-key cross country races and a strong half-marathon mid-November, but kept my eyes on December 2, when the gun would go off for the California International Marathon.

Now, here’s the thing. December is a known winter month. I have personally come to associate December with the holidays, long coats, scarves, hats, heated blankets, peppermint lattes, and about 23 separate renditions of “Santa Claus is comin’ to town.”

Christmas music aside, to me, December=Cold.

Simple enough, right?

Here’s the thing. Predicting weather in Northern California has proven to be tricky and/or impossible. Sometimes the winter months are rainy/windy/cold, and sometimes they feel like the first day of autumn.

December 2, 2012 was both. Unfortunately the latter of the two weather varietals didn’t come until about a half hour after the race was done.

This year’s event will be remembered as one of “the storm” years of CIM, with flooding and 30 mph winds to hammer through. Some of the buses didn’t make it to the start line in time because of accidents caused due to flooding, and apparently part of the race was re-routed at a certain point because of a down power line.

Despite the less than perfect conditions, I managed a 9th place 2:44.22 debut, and enough excitement to have me dreaming about what kind of marks I can get after in better conditions and with gained experience.

Marathon

Photo Credit: Gary Towne

I left the race with a severe fear of stairs for the next several days, a purple toe nail, and an ear-to-ear grin that sure as hell is carrying me over into my next round of training.

Mimosa+Michaela

Enjoying a mimosa post-race…because I’m classy like that. And lucky enough to have my high school friend Michaela brave the conditions and make it to greet me at the finish line!

Transitions

I’ve experienced huge shifts in life within the past half year, kicking it all off by bidding the student lifestyle adieu and jumping into a wonderful stint of travel and non-location specific living. Then (slightly unexpectedly), I got my foot in the door professionally, interviewed, accepted a position, and started the 40 hour-a-week life within less than a three week span.

I wish I could say that I’ve effortlessly jumped into my new life in San Francisco.

I wish I could say that I’ve instantly perfected the balance of full-time work and intensive training.

I wish I could say that I’ve mastered the art of time-travel, managed to live out several lives in the span of one normal one, and have been nominated for a Nobel prize.

…I could go on for awhile.

Pure and simple, the change has been a lot to take in, and has definitely been the most drastic life shift I’ve experienced in awhile. More than ever, I’ve been forced to evaluate my priorities, what makes and keeps me happy, and ultimately take responsibility for them.

You know what? Life could be a hell of a lot worse.

Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it isn’t good. To say that I’m “learning a lot” seems a gross understatement of the concept. And isn’t that what life is all about-learning?

A little cliché, but clichés stand for a reason, right?