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Racing Thoughts

Another winter weekend, another race.

What’s that?  “Stale?!”  That wasn’t very nice.

Yes, I accept your apology.  But only because I saw someone do likewise at the race you will now very gratefully read about.  Or rather, heard someone do likewise.

You see, this is no ordinary race wrap-up (so I’ll thank you to shut your surly mouth before you know whereof you speak).  Although it was the first time ever in my entire life running this distance- training or otherwise- race #5 was somewhat a non-event.  Worst performance on race day to date, in fact.  Therefore, since there was nothing very interesting going on in the *me* department this time around, I’ve decided to write about what I did find interesting that day.

Unlike most of my previous races, I decided to run sans headphones this time around, and I’m very glad I did.  What a feast of sound and sentiment I would have missed if I’d closed myself off from my fellow racers.  In fact, I made a determined effort to eavesdrop on every nearby conversation my ears could reach.  I will now share with you the most notable comments, mantras, and self-censures I over(and under)heard during the race, in all their bizarre, inspirational, and touching glory.

“Define, ‘underheard?'”  With pleasure.  Simply put, it’s what was running through my head or spoken under my breath as I ran and listened.  (Of course I’ve TM’d it!  It’s up on the bloglossary right now!).  My racing thoughts, as it were (if you’re not a little impressed right now, I suggest you go back and reread that sentence).

[Underheard racing thoughts will be demarcated by blue text.]

Mile One

This exchange was just a little, well, weird.  It started out behind me, one young woman telling another some outrageous turn of events-type story involving a dog, a mailbox, and specific mention of which car she was driving at the time although this had no bearing on the story whatsoever.  I was only mildly interested until the purpose of this elaborate tale surfaced:

In hindsight, should I have contacted you? Yes, I should have. That was my mistake, and I apologize for not letting you know.  But I believe that…(something I couldn’t quite make out for her heavy breathing.)

What?  What do you believe that’s going to make this wrong you’ve done, right?

My imagination was off and running.  But before I could properly reconstruct the subtext of what I’d heard the other woman answered back:

I accept your apology.  And I- (interrupted by first woman).

Seriously?  She’s good enough to run this race with you after you carelessly did her wrong and swallow your bullshit story of multitudinous excuses and you’re interrupting her acceptance of that sorry apology (again, if not impressed, reread last phrase)???  Did that entire exchange just actually take place during the race?  Weird.

Shortly thereafter I came upon The Wheezer, a big guy who looked in decent shape but, as you might have surmised, was wheezing like anything less than a mile in.  I passed him easily but felt bad about it.  I wondered about his story, and why he was there.  Then we hit a series of hills, and my mind went into plan mode.  Considering I’d never run this distance before, I knew it was going to be important for me to have a mantra, so I let one come to me.

I’ve often read that it’s important with running to set small benchmarks, to tell yourself you only need to get to that lamp post, around this bend, and then see if you’re capable of more (and you almost always are).  One step at a time.  It was this thought that led me to Race Mantra #1, which occupied my ears for the next half mile:

One step, and one step, aaaand one step, and one step, aaaand…

Until I heard a different tall guy behind me observe, I believe to no one particular:

A lot different from the treadmill!


One step, and one step, aaaand… I’m gonna crush this guy who’s got no real-world outdoor running experience.

This was an assumption, of course, but still, I felt badass, ’cause the only time I’ve ever run on a treadmill was during physical therapy after breaking my kneecap five years ago.

Mile Two

We hit the biggest hill in the course.  I’m very familiar with the roads on which we raced, so I knew what was coming.  The minor burst of nerves I experienced at the realization threw off my rhythm, and I needed to get it back under control.  I reminded myself, as I often do while running, that hills are nothing I haven’t done before, on a regular basis, in fact, so like every other time this was no big deal.  Enter Race Mantra #2, courtesy of the Star Wars saga:

Be just like Beggar’s Canyon back home…

If you’re unfamiliar with the context, all you need to know is this is Luke Skywalker’s self-sure response to the challenge set before him as he attempts to knock out the Death Star.  I think you can see how completely apropos it was.

On the other side of the big hill, I found myself trading places with two other men, one skinny, nondescript guy, and Heavy Breather Guy, who was making things personal.  Couldn’t stand for me to get ahead of him.  I drew pride from the fact that he could not call me Heavy Breather Girl, because my breathing was steady and under control.  Eventually Breather Guy and I closed in on two women, one older, one younger.  I set my sights on the younger, a blonde in emerald green.  Now this was a double race day, with a separate, longer version of the race for the marathoner folks, which ran some of the same course, but in the opposite direction, so we had two-way runner traffic going at this point.  A group of fit men from the marathon passed us, one a head taller than the others.  Suddenly he pointed to the green girl and yelled:

Keep it up, babe, you’re doing great!

That is so sweet!!  He must have been looking for her the whole race…crap, another hill…’Just like Beggar’s Canyon back home…’

I watched the blonde for a minute, thinking about what I’d just witnessed.  I was a little jealous.

Then I passed the blonde, the older lady, and Breather Guy on my way to the next hill.

*To be continued, since I accidentally hit publish before finishing this post…Lightweight.


Branching Out

I’m convinced the ancient Greeks got the whole Medusa thing wrong. Those aren’t snakes coiled about her head. They’re bookworms.

Someone recently pointed out to me that I have been less than egalitarian in my focus with this blog.  It seemed to her that I’d been posting heavily on my passion for running, at the expense of my love for writing.  (I can only assume my critical friend felt ranting had been given its full due.)

Not being one to fear an honest assessment of my work, I took the matter into consideration (but not before reminding the assessor to be a little less free with her opinions when addressing her elders to avoid being thought impertinent).  She was not entirely wrong.  In fact, she was a lot right.

Standing at this crossroads, I faced two options.  Stuff this flourishing blog back into the confines it had clearly outgrown, or give it room to grow naturally and hold on for the ride.  My writer friends out there know this was an easy choice to make.

So I’m branching out.  Today I launched Ramshackle and Brambly, a blog devoted purely to my literary work.  Now those of you who prefer to read about running can do that here without too much interruption, and those who’d rather read than speed will have a place to do so freely and without that seed of guilt in the pit of your gut over the frequently sedentary requirements of the writer/reader lifestyle.

But far be it from me to break up the party.  If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve experienced here, there’s a good chance you will continue to do so, even if you’re not into the fitness thing.  I encourage you to stick around.  Likewise, if you live for the thrill of the race and the wind in your face, and you just can’t do without the glory and pain and other melodramatics we runners love to boast about in memeform (damn right I’m trademarking that one), you just might enjoy the excitement a good story told well can offer~ and may even be game enough to take a detour through the poetry wing every now and then and add a little variety to your online routine.  You don’t train for that marathon on the same route every day, do you?  Why should exercising your brain be any different?

Growth is change.  No way around that.  I’ll be shaking things up a little around here in the next few weeks, but don’t worry.  The upheaval will be minor.  Meanwhile, please feel free to head over to the new site and explore my new roost.  Maybe click the follow button and stay awhile.  Hopefully you’ll feel it was time well spent.  I’m trying out a new moniker over there, as well; drop me a comment and let me know if you think I should make the switch official or hold onto Runoffwriter just a little while longer.

As always, thanks for reading, running, and ranting with me.  And here’s to writing the next chapter.

One Tough Mother: My Interview with Wendy Flynn

Recently I celebrated my first substantial blogging milestone with a contest.  I promised my 1,000th visitor an interview, and was truly delighted when I discovered that the lucky prizewinner turned out to be One Tough Mother Runner, Wendy Flynn!

Despite my highly entertaining propensity for witty nicknaming, I can’t take credit for this one.  It’s all Wendy, in every way.  Intrigued?  Good.  That means I’ve done my job.  Without further ado, let me make the introductions. 

(FYI: All red parentheticals, for those of you who get confused by tangents- in which case, I question why you are reading this blog- are my own little interspersed thoughts on what Wendy had to say.  Shout out to the T-Rex Runner, whose excellent blog interviews inspired my own formatting.)

Meet Wendy (and Her Blog)

If you head over to Wendy’s blog– and you should!- you’ll find a wild, winged heart tattooed beside a punchy little slogan draped across her title banner: “Tough runs don’t last.  Tough mothers do.”


It makes quite the first impression.  So naturally I began with the beginning…

Love the slogan: “Tough runs don’t last.  Tough mothers do.”  Tell us about the moment it came together.

I love it, too.  I knew that I wanted to create a great running blog, and I’m a huge fan of motivational quotes and pictures.  There’s one quote that inspired me through difficult times in my life: ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.’ As I was thinking about my blog, this quote came to mind, and I adapted it for my blog.  A dear friend designed my blog site, and she did a wonderful job encouraging me and helping the vision become a reality.  {Clearly I need to make Wendy’s dear friend my dear friend, as well.}

See Wendy Run

Tell us about your first run (as a grown-up, now, no cheating).

I’ve never been a runner until now.  I was more into drama and my social life when I was in school.  My husband trained with USAFit to run a marathon and has been actively running since that time.  He always encouraged me, but I was resistant.  Luckily for me, one of my close friends sent me a message to tell me that she was going to join a running group (coincidentally, USAFit) and she wanted me to join her.  I’m so thankful that she did that.  I would not have done it were it not for her encouragement.


Wendy and her friend who invited her to run a half-marathon

My first run? Oh, I was a hot mess – literally! I didn’t have any appropriate running clothes.  I was very overweight and out of shape. I wore a cotton t-shirt, a pair of capri sweatpants, and the best athletic shoes I had at the time (which had a hole in the big toe!).  {Say what, now??}  It was June 23 in Texas – hot and humid, even though we were running at 6:30 am.  I made it through with a new friend I met through the group and with one of the running coaches.  We walked and ran.  This was a huge surprise to me, by the way, because I thought it was required that you run the entire time. 

I made it through, and I was thrilled that I completed the two-mile run.

The group meeting coincided with the opening of the new running store in our town.  So, we all got coupons to go into the store and shop with a considerable discount.  I went in and talked to one of the young, fit salespeople. I asked him, ‘What do you think is the most important thing for me to buy?  I’m on a very limited budget.’  He looked down at my big toe showing through my shoe, and said, ‘Well, the first thing you need to get is new shoes.’  {Fair assessment.}  I came back the next week with a new pair of shoes and moisture-wicking shirt and capris.  I’ve been running ever since!

How about your favorite race experience?

“My first 5K has to be my favorite race experience.  We had a very sad incident in our community where a widely-known and well-respected constable was shot in the line of duty.  The gunman shot several other bystanders as well.  Our community banded together and put together the ‘OneRun 5K’ to support the families of those who were killed or injured.  So, the cause was a great one to support. {Hear, hear!}  My running group met at the race, and we ran together.  I’m the slowest in the group, and so gradually, the rest of the group went ahead.  My husband was keeping the kids busy somewhere else so I could focus on my race.  What I did not know is that he purchased markers and posterboard to make signs for me.  And they made adorable signs for me.

I did not expect them, but they were standing at the bottom of the last hill of the 5K with their signs cheering for me.  My youngest two ran up the hill to greet me and they all ran the end of the race with me.  My coach also came back for me and ran into the finish with me.  It was a wonderful feeling to have such wonderful support and enthusiasm.


Wendy, with her beautifully supportive family

Me, after hearing that story

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made with your running, and what did you learn from the experience?

I’ve made a few big mistakes in my running. In every case, I’ve learned that I should listen to the conventional wisdom of the running world.

The biggest mistake I ever made was wearing new shoes in my first half-marathon. The new shoes caused my plantar fasciitis to act up, and I had to walk the last 7 miles of the half-marathon.  It was discouraging, but I am happy that I finished the race. 

At another 5K, I did a training run prior to the 5K because our running group was scheduled to run 9 miles on that day.  So I met a running friend at 5:00 am and we ran our 6 miles prior to the 5K.  While running the 6 miles, I started to get sick.  The night before I’d had a rare opportunity for a date with my husband (and no kids!). We went to a favorite Italian restaurant and had a little too much wine and fried appetizers.  I was dreadfully ill but determined to make it through the 6 miles.  I barely made it back to the race to start.  The 5K was even worse, and I hoped to just quietly cross the finish line.  I did not realize, however, that this was a race where your name was called – loudly, over a speaker – when you cross the finish line.  So, there was no quiet finish for me on that day.  {I hope you won’t mind that I chuckled at that, Wendy…Yeah, okay.  I outright laughed.  But I did NOT guffaw.  There are some lines I don’t cross.  (See what I did there??)}  The two lessons from this experience were 1) don’t eat anything different the night before a race and 2) don’t do a training run on race day.

Meet Wendy’s Kiddos

Your children have clearly been inspired by your running, but what do they think of your blog?

Oh my goodness, they love the blog.  They are constantly saying things that they think are funny, and then look at me and say, ‘Mom! Put that on your blog! I’m hilarious!’ {I say the same thing to myself all the time.}  I enjoy including them and showing them how an entrepreneurial small enterprise can work.  It has rubbed off on them as well.  My 11-year-old (who I refer to as the Fashion Queen on the blog) started a very successful gift wrapping business just before Christmas (Rappamania – Rapidly Rapping), and my 9-year-old (aka Miss Sassy Pants) has formed her own running club at her school (they call themselves the “Quicksters”).  {Awesome club name.}  My 6-year-old son is currently trying to create a business for himself.  I suggested “Lego Consultant” but he’s still mulling it over. 

Wendy joins her daughter for a school Turkey Trot

Wendy joins her daughter for a school Turkey Trot

See Wendy Kick It with Samuel L.

Favorite Samuel L. Jackson movie and/or quote? {What do you mean, “random question?”  Check out Wendy’s blog and you’ll understand why I asked.}

I loved his character in Pulp Fiction, which is really unusual because I stay away from graphic and violent movies.  I cringe a little as I say this, but I love how he recited the Bible verse (Ezekiel 25:17)  just before he shot people in that movie.

I don’t usually care for “the ‘B’ word,” but I can’t help it. This cracked me up.

See Wendy Dash My Hopes to the Ground

Can you use your influence to get me onto the Tough Chik 2013 team?

I love Tough Chik – it’s a great group.  It was put together by a woman who is a graduate of Texas A&M (my alma mater).  It’s closed for 2013, but I’m sure you can join for 2014.  {Drat!}  I’m also an Ambassador for Sweat Pink and Girls Gone Sporty.  I like all three because they are like-minded people coming together for a common purpose.   {FYI, friends, Sweat Pink has re-opened to ambassador applications…!}

Where She’s Been and Where She’s Going

Tell us about your freelance work and where we can find it.

I have a few interesting projects on the horizon. 

Let me give a little background here.  I became a stay-at-home mom in March 2012 in a somewhat unexpected turn of events.  My youngest son was experiencing some difficulties and our doctors recommended that the best action would be take him out of preschool and keep him at home with me.  When your family needs you, there is no question that you’ll do what is needed. 

From March through August, my attention was focused solely on taking care of my children and our home.  Once my son started Kindergarten, he only attended half-days.  So, while it was good to have time alone to work on professional projects, it really was not enough time to accomplish a lot. He is now attending full days and is doing much better.  However, returning to work full time is not an option for me at this point due to his needs after school and during the summer. 

Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom, I worked for 24 years in higher education, admissions specifically.  For the last 15 years, I directed the admissions office of the MBA Program at Texas A&M. 

So, I’m going to be launching two ventures in the coming month.  One is a freelance writing business.  The other is an MBA Admissions Consulting business.  I’ve done both informally for friends, and now it is time to formalize these and move them forward.  The success I’ve had with my running blog has really pumped me up for these two future ventures.

If your twenty-year-old self could see you now…

Twenty-year-old Wendy would be totally amazed at where I am today.  At 20, I was on a very different path.  Today, I’ve made my own path and I’m thrilled with where I am!

The family that races in costume together...stays together...

The family that races in costume together…stays together…

I want to thank Wendy for taking the time to submit to her fate as my first interviewee.  I enjoyed getting to know more about her and I hope you, did, too.  You can currently find Wendy hosting her January “Planks A Lot” challenge and creating Ryan Gosling bra memes (now those made me guffaw!) on her blog, One Tough Mother Runner.

The Eyes

I went for a run and came back with an experience.

Eventually I’ll write about it. It’ll be everything a philosophical moment should be. But what I want you to take away from that day at this moment, is an introduction.

IMG_0049You may recall my recent encounters with a proverbial breed of bird: the jive turkey. It seems merely popping into and out of my line of sight is no longer enough for one particularly eager member of this infamous posse. He’s decided to follow me around for awhile. He made himself all cute-like so as I wouldn’t mind him milling about. Read more…

Mystery Runner, Will You Be My Friend?

I went for an easy run in the cold yesterday, and plan to talk about it in (minor) detail at some point, but felt this little somethin’ special deserved its own mention.  Like right away.  (Yes, I know it happened yesterday.  I’m a writer.  I don’t miss irony.  I exploit it.)

I got out of my car, and what to my wondering eyes did appear but a hot mess of a car parked beside mine.  Gas cap hanging free from a cap door slightly ajar.  Impressive dent in front of the rear passenger wheel.  But I missed all that at first.

I was too busy admiring the perfectly placed pink half-marathon sticker lovingly applied to the rear window.

Instant friendship waiting to happen.

Alas, when I returned from my run the car was gone. *sigh*

Fortunately I’d snapped a pic before I set out, and I was so inspired by the juxtaposition of glory and chaos in my friend-in-waiting’s car that I put this little beauty together for all you runners out there…

half disciplineAnd mystery runner, if you’re out there, give me a shout.

Saving Face

Finally, finally, snow has arrived in my neck of the woods, though it came hours before my second race of the winter and hit again the night before my third.  Timing.  But I’ll be honest, it feels much more like an achievement born of dedication to tell people you fought your way through legit wintry race conditions than to say you ran on a cloudy day with temps in the mid-40’s.  So I’ll take it.  And I’ll feel all proud of myself whilst I share the story with you…

New fallen snow on race day #2

New-fallen snow on race day #2


There was some question as to whether or not I’d be able to run this race.  I’d been nursing a sore back for a few weeks and knew I had another, longer race coming within days of this one, and that the conditions could be dicey.  Wes had been wanting to spend a snowy day on a nearby 11 mile hike and this would have been a good day for it.  In the end, though, he told me to go ahead and run.  Then spent the rest of the day crabby.  But that’s another post… Read more…

Short ‘n Sweet

© Dirk Wuestenhagen Imagery

Today was race day…and ugly.

It was cold, barely beyond drizzling, and a wicked wind pushed its way through every high-tech inch of clothing I wore.  But it made me feel really tough.

About a week ago I set up my racing schedule for the winter.  Seven races in all, two within two days of each other.  This also makes me feel really tough.  And I like feeling tough. Read more…

The Finish Line (or Something Like it) and Playing Chicken

A commercial meat chicken production house in ...

It’s the last day of November.  Time to reflect on my accomplishments over the past 30 days.  No doubt about it, this was an expensive, intense, break-neck speed a big month around here, so let’s just see where we are… Read more…

Run it Off On Facebook

Run it Off On Facebook

Good news, friends!  Now you can keep up with all things Run it Off on my Facebook page, currently featuring spectacular artwork by myself (see below).  Please Like and spread the word!  Thanks so much!

I'm actually pretty quiet when I run.  This is more thematic than factual.

I’m actually pretty quiet when I run. This is more thematic than factual.

The First Step from Impossible

Every once in a while youtube offers the world something truly worth watching.  This video just made my week.  It tells the story of Arthur Goorman, a disabled Gulf War paratrooper who decided to draw his own conclusions about what was and was not possible.  If you can watch this footage and not be moved, I suggest you spend a few moments alone and examine yourself to make sure you do, in fact, have a soul.

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