It’s all part of your narrative

I’m not one to fangirl over celebrities or professional athletes. I don’t know what kind of conversation I would have if I ever had the chance to meet Taylor Swift, for example.

I did however have the pleasure of meeting my very first Olympian last week and it was such a blast.

Kate Grace not only kicked major butt on the track in the 800 meter event, she also technically is my teammate via the Oiselle team. She is also super smart, nice and funny! (She has a very comic story of getting locked in a bathroom before her semis heat in Rio!)

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Kate Grace and Oiselle CEO Sally Bergesen

Oiselle hosted a Q&A event at its Seattle flagship store where Kate shared her recent experiences in Rio. Afterwards, we were able to meet with Kate individually if we wanted to. I didn’t really know what I wanted to say to her. What stuck with me the most during her talk to the group was that everything we go through as a runner is an essential part of our own narrative. This includes getting injured, she said.

These words spoke volumes to me. And, can also be applied to life in general.

So, I thanked her for that. And, because she is so humble and caring, she even asked me details about my injury and wished me a speedy recovery.

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As a runner who is currently sidelined with a stress fracture — my first “real” injury, mind you — it was very inspiring to hear Kate’s experiences first hand from such a hard-working and kind runner. Not many even knew who she was going into Rio yet she competed in the 800M finals of the Olympics! (Also, did you know she PR’d in her semis heat of the Olympics and then got another PR on top of that post-Olympics?!)

I may be injured now, but I won’t be forever.

And, reflecting more now, I’m coming to real terms that this moment in my “running career” is just one small portion of it. I will be stronger because of it. I will have time for other things because of it.

I’m obviously no Olympian or even an elite athlete or even a Boston marathoner, but everything holds true for all runners. Everything is just part of your story, your narrative.

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Thank you, Kate for reminding me of these things. You are an inspiration to so many runners and I’m excited to see you crush more races and take more names in the near future!

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Gotta run / Not running / Gotta run

When I left work this morning, I knew I would be doing my run (3-4 miles) around our neighborhood with Joanna after work.

When I was waiting for the bus after work in the pouring rain, I started having doubts.

“Why is it always crummy weather when we decide to run after work?,” I texted Joanna as I waited for the now 15-minute delayed bus.

“Ugh I know … it’s horrible out,” she texted back.

Well, she wasn’t making any indication that she wanted to back out of the run.

As the minutes ticked by, I kept telling myself that we were going to run, and that it would not be horrible.

The bus ride took forever.

Seattle traffic is no one’s friend and everyone’s enemy. Why we can’t drive in the rain, I will never understand. Because it rains all the time!

By the time I arrived home it was nearly 6:30 p.m. (If my bus hadn’t been late and the traffic normal, I should’ve arrived home just a few minutes after 6!) The rain continued to pour down.

“Are you going to run,” Joanna asked me?

She was now leaning towards not running.

I was torn.

A large part of me did not want to go back outside. A small part of me wanted to run just to stick to my schedule since I am training for my first ultra and all.

The more I lingered on my answer, the more Joanna was leaning toward not running tonight. Besides, she has a soccer game at 10 p.m. (I know! So late!) so I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to run.

I ate a quick snack and changed into my running clothes. I wore my reflective jacket and put my cap and headlamp on to face the elements.

It turned out to be a short but good run. I only did 3 miles. I added on two laps on a paved loop in a nearby park. At first I was a little “scared” to run in the park since it was dark but once I started on the path, I felt at ease and calm. It was nice to not be directly next to loud cars. I shortened my stride and picked up the pace. (I did look over my shoulder a few time). The loop is just short of 800 meters.

For as much running as I do, I don’t always feel like a runner. But, running on that pathway tonight, I felt like a strong runner. I didn’t even care about avoiding puddles. Also, it had stopped raining!

The main reason I went out to run? Yes, the fact that I have my first ultra next month played a part. But, also the fact that I know my Oiselle teammates are out there working their butts off. The fact that my coworker was run-communting home tonight. The fact that a Twitter-friend posted about going for a run even though it was raining.

I pulled from everyone else’s energy to get out there and run.

You all inspire me so much.

4:23:29

I used to be the runner who would skip out and just not run when I am too tired.

There have been times where I’ve changed into running clothes and taken a nap in lieu of pounding the pavement. B and I once skipped a long run and went to see leopard cubs at the Point Defiance Zoo instead.

Usually I don’t beat myself up about these things.

Today, however, I didn’t skip out. Yes, I did change my hill workout to a track workout. And then, instead of doing track, I took a little nap. I woke up at 5:20 p.m. with groggy eyes and got my butt out the door in time to run in the last bits of daylight. I clocked in a nice 4-ish mile run. It wasn’t a speed workout, but it was something.

What got me out this time that didn’t in times past?

4:23:29

That is the time I need to break. That is the cursed time I have always felt I could not beat. In two months I will be running my fourth marathon. And, I have high hopes to be faster and stronger than 4 hours 23 minutes and 29 seconds.

No one PRs by taking naps and seeing cute animals at the zoo.

The grass is always worse on the other side

If we’re into this whole “stay positive” bit, I need to think that the grass is not greener on the other side, right?

Why do we always think it’s greener on the other side of the fence?

I went to sleep early last night since I had to wake up at 5:30 this morning to finish a story before having to be at one of the high schools at 7:45 for another story. It has to do with this particular school’s restructure plan because they have failed state standardized testing for multiple years in a row. I was sitting in on an advising-type class and a senior was giving her culminating senior project presentation to a group of sophomores. She explained her “high school timeline” and what things she excelled in and what she had to work hard at. She dropped in “and then I had a child sophomore year” and went into her goal of becoming a chef and owning her own restaurant. She made it sound like having a baby while in high school was no big deal. She said it so casually. I almost thought I misheard her.

After her presentation, I got the correct spelling of her name, age and all the usual stuff a reporter should ask of the people they use in stories. I also asked her if she ever thought about dropping out or taking time off of school when she found out she was pregnant.

“No,” she said.

Everyday inspiration, every day. That’s one thing I’ve got going: Inspiring strangers.

Everyday inspiration every day

“But don’t you ever want to break* your fast?”

“No, we just think about all the people who are hungry and can’t afford to eat on a regular basis,” he replied.

I immediately thought about how full I was because not only did I pack a pretty decent-sized lunch that I devoured, but I snacked on a bag of Swedish fish on the drive to this man’s house for the interview for my Ramadan story.

*I almost changed this to “brake” because “break” made me think of breakfast and what I should eat in the morning.

I can’t imagine not being able to eat from sunrise to sunset especially in the summer when there is more daylight opposed to the winter months. Because Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, every year the holiday gets pushed back 10-11 days so eventually it cycles through all the months. But for these people, no problem. They are disciplined.

I also can’t imagine being in prison and wanting to “do my part” to help others. But, I met that guy last week for an interview for another story as well.

This man is incarcerated for shooting another human in the mid-90s. He has 10 years left to serve, but he is staying positive. He said he’s learned from his mistakes and regrets everything he has done in the past. He wants to be able to help troubled youth who may be lost so they don’t make the same mistakes he did as a teen. He’s written letters from prison. He’s taking classes to earn his third vocational certificate. He’s working on what may become a book on his life experiences and lessons. Before he was in prison, he said he probably had never completely read one book. Now the list of books he has read is in the 100s.

And then this morning.

This morning I met a couple who take care of their 8-year-old daughter who not only has autism but other ailments that makes her completely dependent on the two of them. She will never be able to live a “normal” life. She cannot read, she cannot be potty-trained, she cannot dress herself. They are trying to raise money to train a dog they recently adopted to become a full service dog for her. She has difficulty adapting to change — even one different turn during a routine drive can leave her screaming and crying. They hope having a companion with her that is always a constant will help her as she grows up.

These are people who inspire me. And maybe, just maybe, someone else will read about their stories and be inspired as well.

Since the economy/job market isn’t getting any better, I’m trying this new thing where I don’t think talk or write about how I dislike my job. It worked, right?

He won’t take no for an answer

The last time I was in Japan was September of 2009. This was the last time I saw my maternal grandfather. He was very smart. Back when my mom was a kid, he spent a while working at Duke University in North Carolina researching different cancer cures. Before that, the family also spent a year in Denver while he did research there as well.

That September visit, I had just graduated from college not knowing what exactly my “next step in life” would be. He told me I should go back to school and become a professor or doctor. He also insisted I bring back to Seattle this huge Webster’s dictionary that was very outdated. I told him that I didn’t need it since I can just look words up on the internet. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, in my backpack I carried with me this extremely heavy, extremely old dictionary that probably doesn’t even have the word “internet” in it. (Ok, maybe it does, I never checked.)

My grandfather, Ryotaro, passed away last fall. Although he was never a smoker, he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a type of lung disease.  He had been in retirement for some years, but up until he was very sick and home-ridden, he would still wake up early and take the train to either tutor students, or do some other type of volunteer work. The other day my mom received a letter from an old friend who they met while in Denver. I have inserted a portion of it below:

The news of Ryo’s death has brought great sadness to my heart. Ryo and I were together at the start of the cancer virus field. This is now history. The field has grown, and it has shaped current thinking about cancer. Ryo was a pioneer who should have received much more public recognition. He also was a trusted friend, always cheerful and always encouraging. The last time I saw him in Tokyo was several years ago, for the opening of an exhibition of my paintings. We had a little party afterwards, and Ryo was quite animated and enjoyed the occasion.

Maybe I will go to graduate school some day. Maybe we will find a cure for cancer some day. Actually, for the latter, I’m sure we will. Ryotaro won’t take no for an answer.

ありがとう, おじいちゃん!