Author Archives: Heather

Uprooted & Updated (URL)

It’s been almost five years since my words made a new home in this space! As a brand new dietitian (circa 2009), I eagerly put fingers-to-keyboard and found a voice through which to relate to you, eat with you, train with you, and move all around life with you. In fact, I’ve “lived” here longer than any house, or city, since my teenage years! Whoa.

That said, a little freshening up was in order. All of the miles, recipes, and life updates are packed up and ready to go! Soon you’ll see them all comfortably settled into the new digs – same name, different URL.

NEW SITE: ! See ya over there!

And more importantly, Thanks for being along for the ride…

Bixby Bridge Highway 1_DOTR


Filed under about me

Backpacking Zion National Park: Trans-Zion Trek

We got ourselves to southern Utah with two missions: 1) run the Canyonlands Half-Marathon in Moab, and 2) explore as much of Zion National Park as our legs could handle in four days. Luckily this only took a little bit of pre-planning, which was done entirely by him while I was in another country. Going into the second part of our desert crawl, the only thing I knew is that my backpack was stuffed with some new gear and he had an ambitious adventure laid out.

The Trans-Zion Trek  (named such because there isn’t one single trail that covers the park north to south or east to west, but rather a group of connecting trails) is approximately 50 miles. Since we would need one day to snatch our backcountry permits (which allow you to set up camp), we had three days to tackle this. Per my request, the trip was modified to an abbreviated version, about 40 miles, skipping the East Rim trail and ending at The Grotto (i.e. bottom of Angel’s Landing) instead. According to our new BFFs at Zion Adventures*, this is dubbed “one of the most spectacular hikes in the world”, and I have no argument.

Trans Zion Trek Elevation Chart_Zion Adventures

48 miles – 20,400 ft elevation change – credit:

*The ZA crew provided a lot of great information, last-minute gear needs (batteries, an extra pair of socks, etc.) and an early morning shuttle to the start of our trek. They also allow you to park your car in their Springdale lot while you’re off adventuring. Win, win!


If you want the short version of this very lengthy recap:

  • Day 1: 9 miles: Lee Pass Trail (La Verkin Creek) + Kolob Arch + a detour to our allotted campsite on the Willis Creek Trail (#13).
  • Day 2: ~17 miles: Hop Valley Trail to Kolob Terrace Road, Connector Trail to Wildcat Canyon, ending at the West Rim Trailhead (camping in Wildcat Canyon).
  • Day 3: ~15.5 miles: West Rim Trail (detour on Telephone Canyon Trail for a slightly shorter option) to Angel’s Landing (0.8 mi roundtrip detour, but must-do!), finishing at The Grotto Shuttle Stop.


Lee Pass Trailhead_Zion_DOTR

Monday (Day 1), 6:30 am: Shuttle departure from Zion Adventures.

7:20 am – Lee Pass Trailhead drop-off, the hiking begins! It wasn’t light out quite yet, but once we hit some sun, it was cause for a vitamin-D soak-up stop. Nothing feels better than this…

Lee Pass Kolob Canyon Sun_DOTR Lee Pass Trail_Zion_DOTR

Lee Pass Trail takes you from Kolob Canyon to Hop Valley. Our camping permit was for site #13, which meant we had to trek about 2 extra miles out, on Willis Creek Trail, and backtrack the next day. Even with the extra miles, Monday was short; we took our time. We stopped for breakfast about an hour in, took a ton of photos, and got to the Hop Valley junction by noon. There’s an easy 1/2-mile side-trek up to see Kolob Arch (considered the second-largest in the world). We had lunch up there, with a view (and a ton of flies).

 Lee Pass Trail_Zion H

Kolob Arch_Zion

Day 1, 1:00 pm: Kolob Arch box checked, we started along the Willis Creek Trail to find our home for the evening. We picked #13 on this trail instead of campsite A or B on Hop Valley, which would have taken us in the right direction of our goal, because of the creek access. Crucial! As you’ll soon read, water accessibility is a luxury here in Zion. If you start on Lee Pass, you’ll see and cross this creek many times and be all like “Omg WHY doesn’t this trail just stay on ONE SIDE?!”, but appreciate that fresh water, friends. It won’t come again easily.

Hop Valley Junction Sign_Zion_DOTR

Willis Creek hopping_Zion_DOTR

By around 2:30 pm we had found our campsite and started to set-up, relax, put our feet up and enjoy the fact that our little spot in the canyon actually had great sunlight for a few hours.

Willis Creek Campsite 13_H M Willis Creek_Zion break M

Day 1: ~9 miles.

Tuesday (Day 2) 5:30am: We set the alarm earlier than the sunrise because not only did we have to backtrack 2 miles, but we also had another 15 miles planned to tackle. We started with headlamps on, passed a lot of campers sleeping at sites 11 & 12, and finally saw some sunlight in the canyon by about 7:45am.

Willis Creek Trail_zion day2

Hop Valley Trail_Zion_DOTR

As soon as you start on the Hop Valley Trail (HVT) from La Verkin Creek, you begin to climb. You’ll go up, and then pretty far down, and then back up again. The miles through the Valley are beautiful and quiet; but the water is muddy and impotable. If you need to fill up, do it BEFORE you leave the Creek.

Other things to know about Hop Valley Trail:

  • There are 2 designated camping areas (neither of which have a nearby water source, but if you fill up before you hit them you’re good!).
  • There are wild turkeys.
  • The trail will cross a “creek” multiple times, but it’s very shallow, sticky and muddy. If the bottom of your boots happen to start coming loose, this may explain it (you’ll see…).
  • The views on BOTH sides are breathtaking. Don’t forget to look back a few times.
  • Some trail sections include deep dry sand – be ready to take a few boot-emptying stops.

Somewhere in the middle of this, my left boot decided it had had enough. Here’s where I remind you not to trust gear that’s 10 years old; and to bring a lot of duct-tape. We’ll get back to that.

Hop Valley_Zion_DOTR 1
That rare moment when you remember to stop and look back, the views from both sides are stunning.

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Hop Valley Trail Trees_Zion_M

The HVT is about 6.5 miles – we stopped around 9:30am for a snack break and had only seen one other hiker on the move (and a handful up having breakfast at camp). Once you climb back out of Hop Valley, you’ll connect with Kolob Terrace Road…and….(wait for it)…A TRAILHEAD!

What do you typically find at a trailhead? Bathrooms & trashcans, yo. This is gold.

Day 2, 12pm: ~8.5 miles in (~17 total) – Kolob Terrace Road
We stopped for lunch, an actual bathroom break, a change into shorts (me) and to drop off the trash we had accumulated thus far (adios!). I was THIS excited to have a toilet, after just one day.

Kolob Terrace Road bathroom_zion_DOTR

Moving on…

Kolob Terrace Road – Connector Trail
From the trailhead bathroom stop, you’ll have a short dirt trail before hitting Kolob Terrace Road. Across the road is a sign for the “Connector Trail” (which you’re following); don’t assume that means it’s up the road, as we did. Assume that means it’s up the rock and follow the cairn, as we initially did not. Either way, know the trail is there and you’ll find it eventually.

Once you find it, it’s okay to stop and take a pic. Because look at that.

The Connector Trail leads from Kolob Terrace Road to Wildcat Canyon, and is about 4 miles long. Note: there are a few water options here, but they’re few and far between, and they are not your average spring or creek.

Somewhere in between these rocks we found water and spent about 30 min filtering it. Much needed!

Connector Trail View_zion_Day2

This trail has limited shade and, as noted, water, but man is it beautiful. You hike towards a few big structures and then they’re gone.  If it’s not summer yet, you’ll definitely see a few snow patches.

At the end, you hit the Wildcat Canyon Trail.

We had camping permits for Wildcat Canyon, and would soon find out that most of this trail is carved into the side of a plateau and, obviously, through a canyon. There is only one water source (a spring) and limited flat space. Knowing that we had to finish this adventure by Wednesday afternoon, I was pretty stubborn about hitting the West Rim Trailhead before stopping for the day. He obliged. We carried on…

There’s a sign for the spring water, emphasizing the need to purify, as I’m sure you can gather. We were pretty close to dry bottles, so we spent a while here gathering and filtering. Another couple caught up to us and joined the party – our first, and only, conversations with “outsiders” of the day!

This would also be our last fill-up before dinner and have to keep us hydrated through the morning. Tricky, tricky. We left with fully-hydrated bottles and packs and hoped our systems + cooking would hold up.

One thing that didn’t hold up: the other boot! If you’re keeping up, I now have two broken boots kept together by tent rope and duct tape. Winning.

By around 6:00pm on Tuesday night, we finally hit the West Rim trailhead and called it a night. There were a few camping-ish options nearby, so we choose the one that seemed flat and rain-friendly (the skies weren’t looking light). The Jetboil worked its magic, we fueled up and then crawled into bed.

Day 2: 17 miles, ~26 total.


Wednesday (Day 3) – 5:15am Alarm

We started under the stars, with warm coffee but a cold breakfast (saves a little water for drinking). Headlamps on, packs packed and energy high – we had to finish this thing up!

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Sawmill Spring is about one mile up and a short detour (down to campsite #9 on West Rim trail), but of course worth it. Because, WATER. At this point, you stop when you see water and there’s no dispute about it.

Carrying on…

West Rim Trail Sunrise_Zion_DOTR

This is why you start early; bliss.

The West Rim Trail will deceive you by starting off nice n’ flat, on the top of a plateau. We made great progress for about 3 hours, thinking the rest of the day would be a breeze. Or maybe that was just me, but it was a nice thought for the morning…

West Rim Trail_Zion_Morning M West Rim Trail_Zion_Morning H

The trail eventually splits into Telephone Canyon or (you stay on) West Rim. The former option was about half the distance and 1/10th of the views, so given our time-constraints of the day we went with that. (If you’re not on a time limit, definitely stay on the West Rim for the photo ops and trail porn.) Telephone Canyon Trail is only ~1.6 miles, but of switchbacks and muddy, snow-melting, trail. So fun.

And then you come to another junction, before you scale down the side of this canyon. Had I known those switch-backs were coming, I may have stayed in bed on Wednesday morning.

But first, let’s fix these boots for the 18th time.

West Rim Trail_boot fix_M
West Rim Trail_Canyon Switchback_Zion

Day 3 – 11:00 am – As we started on this section I had a minor panic – is this trail for real?! Who did this? Where’s the railing? Why am I still walking down? When does it end?! Why are my boots so crappy?! How deep is the canyon?

I hugged the inner side of this trail like my life depended on it, which it did. He didn’t seem so bothered.

 Not even sure how my sweaty palms held onto the camera long enough to capture this.

He noted at some point that he was a little worried as to how I would manage to get up Angel’s Landing if this was getting to me. And I had no idea what he meant – it’s just a trail, right? I’ll be fine. Stay tuned.

After a LOT of down and then a LOT of up – a quick outfit change before my legs died in the fleece-lined pants I had on – and a few deep breaths, we made it to the bottom of Angel’s Landing. This felt like a HUGE milestone, because from here we have the optional climb up (0.4 mi to the top), and then only 2.5 miles until we were done! We also had finally started seeing hikers, eventually getting to the point of the trail that’s totally crowded and totally threw off our lone-hiker world that we’d been in for two days.

We stopped for lunch and were not only surrounded by at least 75 people doing the same, as we all stared ahead at Angel’s Landing and thought WHY?!, but there were also bathrooms. I didn’t even have to use it, but it’s just nice that it’s there, ya know?

Angel's Landing Trailhead_Zion_M

Are you kidding me?

I spent most of our 20 minute lunch break debating what my mind would settle for. We now knew why this short 0.4 mile trail (0.8 mile roundtrip) took anywhere from 1.5-2 hours, which we had never anticipated. There are tons of people, most of the time the trail can only function with one-way traffic, and OMG THE TRAIL. I had one of two options: 1) comfortably and safely wait around while Mike did it, and spend at least 90 minutes frustrated that my fear took a victory, or 2) spend 90 minutes 100% terrified and climb it anyway.

Obviously I went with #2.  Roundtrip, it did take us about 90 minutes and I spent at least half of that utterly terrified. I quietly cried a little bit, but kept moving. I held onto the built-in chain for dear life, and found solace in the other hikers who seemed equally unhinged. Eventually, I realized why everyone does this, fear or no fear:

Angel's Landing View_Zion_DOTR 2

Angel's Landing View_Zion_DOTR Angel's Landing Peak_zion_H M

Angel’s Landing: named because the initial Zion explorers said that “no one but angels could land here”. That’s no longer true, but once you’re there you can certainly appreciate their perception.

Angel's Landing Trailhead_Zion_H M

Thank sweet baby Jesus that’s over.

Box checked, fear faced, heart happy and feet fatigued, we finally began our final stretch. A long 2.5 miles of downhill switchbacks, stopping at least another 5 times to fix my boots (which have totally thrown in the towel at this point) and chatting away with people who asked where we had camped, and politely made no comment as to our state of affairs.

We picked up the Zion Park Shuttle at The Grotto, back to the Visitor’s Center (if you’re doing the full trek, you continue on the East Rim Trail) . Our journey was over; and we had four-wheels to give our two feet a break. (Then you can take a free shuttle outside of the park (near the theater) to Zion Adventures. This only runs in-season, though, so check on the dates.)

Day 3: 15+ miles

(Abbreviated) Trans- Zion Trek DONE – 41 miles total

Zion National Park Map_DOTR_ZA

Our camping sites noted with the *, and ending point at the star.

HIking boots toss_Zion_DOTR


Any experienced backpacker will probably tell you that each hike is its own form of bliss, but this being my first real foray into the world of Trans-Trekking, I feel especially high. Nothing about this was easy, save for a few flat miles, but everything about it was enjoyable. We didn’t have a bad day, much less a bad hour. We only had a few scares of water availability, but otherwise everything went smoothly. We took this adventure as it came to us, not knowing if it would happen until the 11th hour, and we soaked up every minute of it.

We’re coming back for you, Zion – there are still corners, trails and subways to explore! In the meantime, we thank you for your hospitality. And your proximity to restaurants that serve up a perfect post-hike feast!

Oscars Zion Meal_DOTR




Filed under hiking, travel

Travel Running: After all the Mediterranean Meals!

My trip to Israel for the 2015 Jerusalem Marathon was sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. All options listed below are my own.

If you have any hesitations about traveling to any part of Israel, or probably anywhere on the Mediterranean Sea, let the following words and pictures reassure you it’s worth the trek if only to spoil your appetite for good. Our 6-day agenda was packed with historic sites, running and various other experiences, but at the end of the day we probably spent about half of our time eating.

Israel Museum Lunch

The majority of our trip was spent in the city of Jerusalem, but we ended on a high note in Tel Aviv. Our days often looked like this:


Prima Kings Hotel Buffet – this was no continental breakfast. The buffet had entire sections dedicated to salads, fruit, various egg options (hard-boiled, scrambled, salad, mini-quiche, etc), granola + mixed nut station, fresh breads and pastries, and all the beverages. You could also order cappuccino or lattes if preferred.

One morning we headed over to the Mamilla Hotel for breakfast, and their buffet options also included fresh juices, such as apple celery and mint + a beet variation. No skimping on the fruits or vegetables here!

On our last day in the country, we enjoyed a night and morning in Tel Aviv via the 5-star Carlton Hotel. This breakfast spread trumped the others – maybe because the restaurant sat beautifully on the water or maybe because most of us had run that morning (or were recovering from 26.2 hilly miles) and were ready to put it down – and this was just the first round:

Carlton Hotel Tel Aviv Breakfast

We were never under-fueled to start the day.


The midday meal is often the largest here, and that took a little stomach-adjusting for most of us. The first picture above is an example of what most tables were already armed with when we sat down – just a little starter next to a basket of fresh pita bread and usually dipping oil. What would follow: anywhere from 3 – 10 more courses! I wasn’t counting, but I’m not sure we could’ve kept up anyway. Sometimes we would order our preference for the “main course”, which usually caught us off-guard because we would have already indulged in the 8 courses before that. Everything was served tapas-style and would just keep coming.

On Thursday I opted to have the “grilled fish” as my “entree” and I learned a very important lesson: ask questions first. An example may be: has the fish been beheaded? Just wondering…

Adom Jerusalem Lunch

I had to put a napkin over the head to have any chance of keeping this down.

The shock of my week: I didn’t have falafel until Sunday afternoon! During our last day, we toured and explored the city of Jaffa, which is on the edge of Tel Aviv. Our guide finally let us indulge in the Americans’ must-have and took us to a famous Jaffa bakery’s sister restaurant. We couldn’t have been happier to stuff our stomachs with more carbs:

Jaffa Mediterranean coast Jaffa falafel lunch

These hearty lunches were always followed by small desserts – just enough to stuff you and keep the stomach happy until…


We dined at top-rated restaurants such as Eucalyptus and J’oy Meat In while in Jerusalem; we were seated at one of the only eateries open after sun-down on Friday evening, with a delicious Lebanese spread; we enjoyed tapas and paella at Vicky Cristina’s in Tel Aviv, complimented with sparkling Rose and Champagne for the table.

J'oy Meat In Dinner Jerusalem

We did not go to bed hungry or thirsty, I assure you.

Tel Aviv Dinner

Every meal was full of variety and catered to any type of dietary preference; a few times we had to mention that that were a few vegetarian + Kosher diners in the group, and everyone was gracious and generous with accommodations.


We were all sure we’d leave the country 5lbs heavier, but I don’t feel any different than when I arrived. The only thing I know now is that with three full and balanced meals, you don’t need snacks in between. And when you spend the day touring and exploring vs. sitting and working, you burn right through that energy! I also know that Israel knows how to eat well, and I’d go back for the food and drink alone.

I can’t speak for everyone, but all the fuel seemed to translate to hill-power during the run, and sufficiently spoiled me. By the time I was served breakfast on the airplane I wondered where my soy latte, fresh omelet and fruit bar had disappeared to.


Filed under food, travel

Travel Running: Jerusalem (1/2) Marathon 2015

At the beginning of February I received an invitation from the Israel Ministry of Tourism to run the Jerusalem Marathon with a Press group. Attached at the bottom of this e-mail was a full itinerary outlining all of the places you would want to see in the country, crammed into six days. I would leave two days after the wedding, with his full support. Yep, I’m in!

Our “North American” press group was about 15 people, give or take as we had some come and go throughout the week, and we mostly arrived on Tuesday. This allowed plenty of time to adjust to the time change (+9 hours for us west coasters) and also to tour the city of Jerusalem before we ran all around it! Our itinerary covered most of the highlights before we stepped up to the starting line, which meant some of the kilometers (no mile markers here!) actually looked familiar.


A little bit about the Jerusalem Marathon…

25,000 runners registered – four distances offered ranging from 5 – 42.2k!
2,500 runners represented over 60 countries!
The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Bakat, ran the half-marathon.
This is only the 5th year of the race & it’s growing quickly!
It is one of the best organized and designed races I’ve run to-date!


Since we were part of the Press, we got our own tent to camp out in before the race started! This also meant we had some extra snacks, a place to store our gear and a first look at the Finishing line area.

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A few of us opted to run the half-marathon – there’s no way I could have been 26.2-ready in 5 weeks, and I thought it’d be nice to have walking capabilities for the remainder of the trip. Both before and after the race I was happy with this decision; as it turns out, Jerusalem is no friend to flat running! Scanning the course elevation chart for a flat section is like  looking for a stretch of low altitude while climbing a Colorado 14-er. Not gonna happen. We received multiple friendly warnings from the PR crew, veteran runners and the city itself as we toured around in the days prior. This course is not for the faint of quads!

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Sharon, Kim, Lorraine & I gearing up for 13.1 miles!

Thinking about a half-marathon as 21 kilometers instead of 13 miles was the first thing that distracted my mind. I ran without music but with my camera at-the-ready to take many pics! While the endless hills will challenge you in every way, you’ll soon find yourself too distracted to care much. With every up comes a stunning view, with every down comes the glorious feeling of flight. It all balances out.

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My mind found entertainment and awe at every angle: meeting a pair of runners there from San Francisco (oh, hey!), running through now-familiar stretches of the city, passing our hotel, stopping through neighborhoods that bare local shops and restaurants, and looking left and right at views like this (see above). We ran through the Old City on historic cobblestone, up to the Promenade for a breathtaking 360* outlook, through multiple neighborhoods, along a running path and up, down, up and then down again. At one point I saw a sign pointing to “Bethlehem”, which almost tempted me to veer off course.

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We had perfect race-day conditions – sunny with a high of 60* – and the course was well-supported with aid stations, music, cheerers and free food! (We hear the marathoners had a hummus station!) I miraculously remembered to pack my handheld water-bottle, and was lucky enough to snatch up some Sport Beans from Sharon. I wasn’t sure how the “Isotonic” electrolyte race-drink would settle, so I got sodium and sugar from jelly beans instead.

I had every intention of taking it “easy” throughout the race so I could enjoy the views, the culture, the city and the fact that WHOA-I’m-running-an-international-race! But, I assure you, there is no taking it easy here. You’ll be in awe through every kilometer, but your cardio system will not be relaxed. It’s okay. Roll with it. Use the downhills and don’t you try to walk on the ups!

Twice I started to take a little break to ease up on the legs, and twice I was immediately encouraged by racers around me to “Keep going!” After which, I took a look around and realized something very noteworthy of the Jerusalem running community: nobody walks. My pace/corral/what-have-you was full of people who were all like these hills got nothin’ on me. Tough crowd, yo.

After one loooooong lovely incline, we were finally close to the end. The finish line was in sight! I hit a pothole and went down (that’s a first!), popped right back up and crossed the 21.1 KM mark. With a water bottle & medal in-hand, I went straight for “Medical” to get things cleaned up. That’s another first.  Once I was bandaged, I stepped out of the tent and faced what can only be described as a Finisher’s PARTY.

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With most of the Expo vendors back for more, this zone was ablaze with energy, gear on sale, food, tons of music and a great crowd.

2015-03-13 01.01.39 At the end of the kilometers, I was exhausted, a little bloody and completely elated to have just run through an incredible city. I would recommend this to any and all looking to add to their traveling + running adventures, no doubt. It was extremely well 0rganized and it’s an amazing way to see this city on foot!

2015 Jerusalem 1/2 Marathon
1:56 – AG: 46 / 347    Overall W: 78/795


Check out my travel buddies + bloggers for the full marathon report!

Beth – Shut Up & Run
Teresa – Eat Drink & Be Skinny
Adam – Run Haven
Dax –  Dirty Running

Full disclosure: My trip to Israel and Jerusalem Marathon registration were paid for by the Israel Ministry of Tourism but all opinions and race experiences reported above are my own!


Coming up: Our post-race trip to the Dead Sea & Tel Aviv, some of the best food in the Mediterranean and the best people to travel with!


Filed under Races, running, travel

Building (Run) Fatigue: the good way to feel exhausted

you fail

One way I reduce decision fatigue is by working with my Coach (cannot begin to put a $ to how much I value not having to think about my training plans). But what does she do in return? Fatigue the crap out of me.

I read this quote yesterday just before I strapped on the Heart-rate monitor for the second run of the day. I  immediately thought about all the times we build a BIG thick cushion for ourselves to land on, before we even know from how high we’ll start to fall. All the times I’ve had a goal for a race, only to so very quickly come up with “Plan B”. The times I’ve been in the middle of a run and thought this is too hard, I’m done – when the marathoner in me, a few layers down, actually thinks do you REMEMBER mile 26?! You are. not. done.  All the times I’ve excitedly thought of a big lofty (to-me) goal, only to almost immediately protected myself from thinking it’s possible, because what if it isn’t. {Lands on cushion.}

But what if it is?

As a Coach, I’ve learned to recognize what Katie’s doing to me when she’s doing it. I don’t always know ALL the reasons or the science or her magic logic, but a glance of the schedule du jour is always telling. Right now? Fatigue. She’s laying it on thick! She’s saying to me, Keep running even though you’re tired. And I’m saying to my legs, you’ll survive.

Sometimes my mind jumps ahead to the WHY – the goal race, the next couple of months of building this fatigue for good reason. Sometimes those thoughts dump adrenaline into my muscles and act like jet-POWER! Other times, they add cushioning for the fall, layering up failure protection. I.e. They doubt. This quote brings it back to reality.

I failed during those 26.2 miles at Marine Corps, and guess what? Life went on. I didn’t fail the two times I ran those exact same 26.2 miles before, and life went on. The difference was in an attitude. It can be just as  fatiguing to build that soft mental landing to protect yourself as it is to build your mind and muscles to risk failure, discover your true potential, and believe you’ll succeed.

Which fatigue are you building?


Filed under running, training