Sunday, March 20, 2016

RUNNING DOWN A ... HMMM

This January I sat down to make my goals for the year, but in the area of running I kept coming up with nothing. I had just qualified for the Olympic Trials. Realistically, for a runner of my ability, wasn't that the top?

Five weeks ago I walked away from the Marathon Trials in LA fired up after a unsatisfying race, but without aim. I needed to take time off and recover. I took two weeks off (except for one burn-it-down-5-mile sanity run) and have started back slowly under Steph's coaching. It's very much felt like the off-season. Wine, staying up late (watching TV) and all the loafing around one can muster with a huge life transition and a toddler.  

Whiskey and theater, our one night out
This weekend capped off my interest in the true off-season mentality. Always important to get it out of the system. I'm ready to start training. My first goal is to get solid. To deal with nagging little pains and imbalances. To get a solid base to push off from. But the next big scary goal? I haven't sharpened the focus on one yet. 

Stroller running, feel the burn
PJ and I are making the pilgrimage to visit Steph in Flagstaff this Saturday. I'll be seeing her body work guy for treatment, assessment and to build a (much needed) strength plan. And I imagine we'll sit down and discuss what's next.

I can't wait to see what this Flagstaff life is all about and hang with Steph and her boys. Ben will be off racing, so it's just us and the tots...#flagstaffsisterwives! Hashtag needs refining. I have a feeling Riley just might be PJ's spirit animal. Tune in to all social media channels for the unavoidable cuteness/insanity overload that only three kids under two can bring. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

HERE'S TO THE UNKNOWN

Monday, February 22nd, was my first day in over five and a half years that I didn’t walk into Oiselle HQ. I woke up and scrolled through IG like every morning. I had to stop myself from taking a screen shot of a fashion post that gave me an idea for a campaign. I took the screen shot anyway, saved it for myself.

My mother was in town, by luck of the draw. She was going to be in town anyway. Owen was traveling for work and thought I’d want the help. Our basement room is cold in the winter, so she stayed a few miles away at a hotel. It was the perfect transitional week. My mother allowed me to create a mix of being alone with PJ but also swooped in to give me breaks to hustle. 



Hustle. This is a word I use a lot now. You might call it ‘non-billable’ hours. But I prefer hustle. It’s the networking, the who-knows-who who might need copy or strategy, the LinkedIn and personal site building, the coffee with smart people time. It’s the hustle. And I’m remembering quickly the hustle a lot of the freelancer’s day.

I started work with one client that first week. And have added a couple since. It's feels good to have my feet under me already. The unknown does weigh more with PJ in the picture. 


I have worked for myself before. I actually started a t-shirt brand. Way back in 2005, back when Threadless was starting and I considered them our only competition. Back in the days when cool graphic shirts ruled the land and American Apparel wasn't porny or bankrupt, I started The Zoo with two good friends and rad designers. I started The Zoo to learn everything I could about marketing. 


And it worked. I learned a lot. We had three years in the market and two years in the black. My designer friends graduated and wanted to work steadier jobs. I moved to Seattle. But I love those years. Those are some of the best.



If you are 23, be poor (or not) and chase your dreams. I worked four jobs to support myself during The Zoo. I made pizza dough at 2am, unloaded a million pounds of Performance Fleece at 4:30am at Old Navy, served sandwiches and beer, and delivered pizza three nights a week. And in between, I drank a lot of coffee and grew The Zoo. And it taught me that if you love what you do, it’s not work.

It also taught me that you can’t live on minimum wage and run a start-up tee shirt company. So when I moved to Seattle I got adult jobs like 'accountant' and 'content strategist', 'digital marketing specialist', 'marketing manager' … and then I worked for myself again until I met Sally and fell hard for Oiselle. Oiselle was The Zoo in a way, but all grown up. And I loved every single day there, until it was time to close that chapter.



So here I am 10 years later, and 10 years wiser (more like 25, because we at 'The Nest' have decided Oiselle years count triple) working for myself. I texted my friend, Paul, designer at The Zoo and now an artist living the dream in Denver* about my recent career move and asked if he had advice. He texted back, “Welcome to the chaos! May your crippling self doubt and insecurity guide you... just kidding. You’ll love it. Believe in yourself and enjoy the unknown.”


So here’s to the unknown! And to crippling self doubt!

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* Paul's work is very much some of my favorite. Check out Mountains Versus Plains now!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

OLYMPIC TRIALS MARATHON PART 2: AFTER THE STARTING LINE

It’s book two of the little-acclaimed series, Mac Runs the Olympic Trials 2016! To read book one “Before the Starting Line” click here.

**** 

Our Uber driver got as close to the start as she could. Caitlin and I got out and headed for the elite holding area. The entrance was mobbed! It was wild. The crowds were parted just enough for runners to get in and out of the fence entrance. As we showed our numbers to get in, the crowd was pulsing and craning their necks to see if we were “anybody”.  I heard a few people yell out, "Mac!". It was the closest to rock star status as I will ever be.

Once in the holding area we found folding chairs and sat. I tried to stay out of the sun, but it was impossible. I dug around in my bag for my headphones, but I’d forgotten them. So I zoned and listened to conversation flit in and out. Oiselle teammates began to filter in. They chatted to see when people were warming up and this and that. I saw Galen Rupp waiting for a porta-potty. Stars, they’re just like us.

Okay actually … I had to make a phone call to Sprinkles to reroute some cupcakes for my friend Meghan’s birthday. I’d sent them to her Airbnb but she had to abandon that reservation because of a cockroach problem! I got the reroute paid up and then I zoned.  Pretty sure I was the only runner dealing with cupcake delivery minutes before the Olympic Trials, but I do NOT f*ck around with cake or my favorite people’s birthdays. Priorities.

I warmed up alone. I squeezed out of the crowd tunnel to the open street. The air was hazy and everything felt magnified, larger than life. I started jogging toward the giant Owen Wilson mural that Shal and were laughing about the day before. Saying how much we'd hate his smug mug by the fourth lap. Inaccurate BTW. My legs felt heavy, which doesn’t really mean anything so I pushed that out of my head. I heard a few shouts “go Mac!” and “go Oiselle!” as I jogged out and back. 

  It was warm. I knew I didn’t need to shake out very long. I found some shade back by the start and started my drills… right next to Shalane and Amy. I was like play it cool. Play it cool. I don’t have a warm up routine. I usually dink around doing this and that, whatever feels right. They were like machines. I took a sneaky Snapchat before hustling back to the holding area to take my inhaler and change my shoes. 

Photo credit: @kevmofoto

I dumped water all over myself, soaking and resoaking my hat and hair as the coordinator ushered us into the start staging area. We stood there, shaking out our legs and sipping water, nervous excitement charged the air. The coordinator announced that the water sponges we were promised had been bought with soap in them and they were trying to figure out an alternative, but that at the very least the first lap would have no sponges. There was nervous laughter. 


Right before we were brought to the start we got the update that they had found an alternative sponge solution and even the first lap miiiight have sponges. More nervous laughter.

We were corralled to the start. It felt so informal. I was just rows back from the women who will go the Olympics. I think there was a countdown and then some kind of horn. We were off. 

  I started in the back. I could see a pack of Oiselle gals ahead. I was with Shal and Trisha. My plan was to go out in 6:20s and assess how much the heat was affecting me at the 10k. My Garmin was spazing, so I settled in and waited for the mile marker to clock a split. 6:24.

Photo credit: @kevmofoto
After the first loop we came back through the start finish and it was crazy! People were screaming and cheering. I couldn’t hide the huge smile on my face! I guess Shal and Trisha couldn’t help theirs either because the announcer yelled out, “There’s Oiselle having a great time out here!” And we were! We had just run two shady miles and life was great!

We turned right and the crowds kept coming. We were starting our first of four six mile loops. The Oiselle crowd appeared on our left and they were insane! I looked over and laughed … and may have yelled out “Holy Shit!!” I couldn’t believe I was there. 

The road stretched hot and hazy ahead, a slight uphill slant. The crowds thinned. We ran under a double overpass, the only shade we would see, and headed to the campus where we twisted and turned through the campus and past the Olympic Stadium then spit down onto the straight-away back to LA.

  I felt good, and was cautiously optimistic. I thought maybe I will surprise some people. The heat wasn’t doing much damage, and I was taking sips from my bottles and tossing them aside. Spoiler alert: I would regret that.

I passed my family cheer crowd and was so excited to see them! My dad was further up, and had climbed up the base of a street light pole to yell. He’s a rogue cheerer. During high school cross country that man would bust out of the woods in the most unexpected places yelling like a warrior. 

Because of the loop, which was mostly and an out and back, there was lots of support. My family was in a clutch spot, right where things got lonely. It carried me when things took a turn later, knowing I would see them there. Oiselle was in the thick of things and right by a sponge (or t-shirt scrap) stop and then my friends Dave, Allie and Josh were on the far side of the start/finish by the hairpin turn. I had people carrying my spirit. I can’t tell you how essential they were. 


Perry and my brother - casual cowbell crew
Team MAC
O, Trent and Bree - 253 represent
 I was feeling great at mile 8. People were coming back to me. I was passing people. I felt smooth and relaxed. My miles were ticking by 6:15, 6:17, 6:13… faster than race plan, but I felt good. The men’s press truck came up behind me when I was winding through the campus the second time. It was thrilling. Every time I saw my teammates ahead of me across the street I cheered. When I saw Kara I crossed to get closer to cheer. I wanted her to be there. God, I had such a good feeling about her race. 

Photo credit: Jeff Strand
I felt great, until I didn’t. Suddenly, around mile 16 my stomach muscles began to cramp without warning. It wasn’t like anything I’d experienced. It wasn’t really my gut, it was more the armor of my core. It just locked down with burning pain. I couldn’t breath and Gatorade started coming up. I swallowed it down. I told myself to relax, that this could change again in a second … or a minute… or a mile. But it got worse. 


My stomach was cramping and I was so thirsty. I was humiliated remembering the earlier bottles I had just taken small sips of and thrown to the side. I was so sure I wasn’t being cocky, that I was respecting the heat, but I wasn’t. I started drinking whatever water I could get from the t-shirt rags. I remember running past a woman sitting in the shade drinking a 1.5 liter Aquafina. I was shaking just thinking of how badly I wanted a sip. 

PJ enjoying a nearly full bottle I tossed near my family. Face. Palm.
It got worse and I started to have a panic attack. I wasn’t sure my body was going to let me finish this race. I needed to finish this race. I felt like I was breathing through a straw. My stomach muscles were locked down, my legs were cramping, my feet were cramping.  I was so thirsty. I felt so foolish, so embarrassed.

I could see the water stop ahead, I was running away from the city, and my table was 20. It felt like an entire lifetime to get from table 1 to table 20. I told myself the unthinkable, I could walk when I got my bottle.  Then right before my table there was my dad, up another phone poll or something. And he yelled out, “better people are having worse days.” I took my bottle and walked. I almost cried, but didn’t, and I yelled out to my dad that I was sorry. But he was alongside me on the curb. Talking me off the cliff… “Do not give up. Better people are having worse days, pup.” 

Just in case you thought I smiled all 26.2 miles. Pain cave. | Photo credit: @kevmofoto
It woke me up. And I drank my bottle down. I took the neutral water bottle,  conveniently (read the sarcasm), one table down from my bottle table and dumped it over my head. And whispered the word “calm”. And started running. Or jogging. It didn’t matter. I was going to finish this. And I was going to do it the only way I knew how … with gratitude.

I made a deal with myself. If I could make it to that 4th lap, it would be a victory lap. No matter how hard, I would make it a run, jog, walk, or crawl of gratitude. I would stop and say hi to my baby, I would high five the entire Oiselle crowd, and my friends who had flown and traveled from near and far to cheer me on. I would send silent thank you’s to all the believers in my life. And I would try my hardest not to run embarrassed, but to run with a big thankful heart. 


I crawled through the campus, I passed my family again and my dad as I headed back to the city. I saw Kara as she headed out for her final lap and I felt so raw for her, for this frying pan day that I could only scream out, “I LOVE YOU KARA!!” in this completely deranged voice. And I did. I f*cking loved her! I passed Oiselle, then Dave and Ali and Josh, the start and finish and out for the 4th lap. It felt like a battlefield, people dropping out, walking. I was passing men. 


That last lap was the longest six miles of my life. Every step was hard earned. I was working harder than I ever had before … 7:00, 7:19, 6:58, 7:07…I stopped looking. I had to. I fought my panic and embarrassment over and over. 

I noticed my teammate Heather next to me, on the same sufferbus. And I just looked at her and said something poignant like, "fuuuuuck". And we laughed, we had to. It was this awful feeling of being in such great shape, my breathing so easy and even my mind slightly alert, but my body grinding to a halt. Like the tinman without oil. A girl near us was running, walking, running, walking around me. Buzz, buzz, buzz. We were praying for water stops. Heather would be next to me, then behind, then ahead. I was in a dark tunnel. Waiting to turn back to the city, to know I could make it.

Finally on the stretch home, LA ahead, the haze dropping like a curtain. I knew my family would be there on my right. I saw them and I focused on PJ. I focused on her in the heat, in her tutu, out there for hours. My heart was full of her. I slowed in front of her and told her I loved her so much. And she recognized me for the first time that race and said mama. I left her to fight my final miles before I melted into tears.



I ran to Oiselle and thanked them, crying, and high fived every hand I could reach. I saw Dave and Josh and Allie and thanked them. As I turned right to the finish area I put my hands in prayer for the huge crowd that had carried me through each lap. 






I turned left and there was the finish. To my right the top three women stood, being announced as our Olympic Team and the finish area was hushed. All eyes on them. And my heart hurt that it wasn’t Kara up there. I found one hand in the crowd to high five and I threw my hands above my head as I crossed the line. Alone in the quiet. At 2:54.

My body was hot with pain, my back in spasms as usual. I hobbled to the Powerade table and tried not to open mouth kiss the woman who handed me as many as I wanted. I stood and drank and drank and drank.

Suddenly my dad was there. He’d taken my one athlete support badge I’d left at their place. I was so glad he was the one who took and who was there. He was the only one that would understand me at that moment. At most moments, but that one especially. We didn’t need to talk, and he didn’t ask me questions. He just helped me pack myself in ice and got my bag while I lay on the ground. And he handed me much needed Advil for my back.

I couldn’t find my trainers and finally a volunteer confessed she threw them away because they looked so beat up. I just laughed. Absurd. I walked out of the elite area barefoot and without fanfare. That was that. It was over. I felt grey melancholy settle on me.

But then I saw PJ! And Owen! My mom, sister and brother, Dave and Trent and Bree, Josh and Allie. Everyone who loved me was around me and the melancholy lifted. I picked PJ up, her tired little diaper drooping under her red tutu. She gave me a tight hug around my neck and wouldn’t let go. I buried my face in her little neck and drank her in. It was over and it was good. And it was time to change my kid’s diaper and kiss my husband and get a burger with my friends. 


Glad her plaything is done running.
(almost) the whole crew - the best!

THANK YOU TO
My family who believed in me since my first lap around the track in 3rd grade. Who have cheered me on in life and running no matter what. Who made me mix tapes after knee surgeries and drove me to countless PT appointments. Who felt my highs and lows like you were me. I did it for you.

My friends who bought their plane tickets to LA barely hours after I crossed the line at CIM. Who sent their love, support, wonderful and hilarious photos from every corner of the country. And who put me up in the diva suite on race eve. I love you!



Oiselle for supporting women runners. For flying us out, and putting us up the most amazing digs in LA, and making every Oiselle runner feel like a celebrated star. For the best post race celebration a runner could ask for (as usual). And for the sisterhood. You turned it out.



Kristin Metcalf for being the ultimate team leader. For being there for every question and celebrating every runner. And for being a true friend. 

My teammates for inspiring me. 

Cowbell corner block thank you! Thank you for cheering all those hot hours, you never lost steam! And especially thank you to the people cheering who raced the next day. I don't know how you did it!
Photo credit: Kevmofoto

Steph Bruce for dreaming with me. Asking why not you? For being an amazing coach and friend.  

Kara Goucher for showing me what it looks like to love the sport and open your heart to it no matter the outcome. For being raw and real and beautiful straight through. 

Stance Socks for the only socks I'll ever race in.

Nuun for the bottles and hydration love. 

The blazing hot city of LA! Every volunteer out there. Thanks for supporting the event and getting swept up in the sport. 

The USATF.

And most of all to PJ and Owen for being my team. I couldn't have done it without you. I hope I made you proud.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

OLYMPIC TRIALS MARATHON PART 1: BEFORE THE STARTING LINE

The Olympic Trials Marathon is drifting into the past. I feel like that wedding guest that totally didn’t bring a gift. My friend Dave has always told me you have a year to send a gift. I don’t want to know what Martha Stewart would have to say on the matter. If you have a year to give a wedding gift, how long do you have to write a race recap? That no one registered for.

Okay all that intro solved was that you shouldn’t invite me to your wedding (unless you need that one person that will get the dance party started) AND that a race recap one year later would be the worst wedding gift ever. It also illustrated that I’m even worse than Carrie Bradshaw at word play.

Let’s talk LA!
First, there has been criticism of the USATF for the poor organization and promotion of the race. I have been ruminating on those posts and articles for weeks, and my thoughts require a separate blog. Initially I was embarrassed by how incredibly starry eyed I’d been. I hadn’t seen behind the curtain, and I’m usually the first person trying to look. I felt shame sweep over me for the amount of time and money my family and I put in to getting there (literally and figuratively) when the USATF didn’t even meet us half way.

Even I as I write that, my face is hot with embarrassment. But I’m reminding myself that my experience was built by my friends and family. That they love me and I love them and that I’m thankful. And that I'm proud that I qualified and raced. There are improvements to be made in this sport I love. In the promotion and organization of events and in the treatment of athletes. My thankful heart doesn’t erase that. They live together, both true.

What's outright inexcusable was the medical support. My teammate Andi's story makes me so angry. She was in serious need of medical help and it's shameful how long it took and how inadequate it was. 

The broad strokes don’t erase the individuals in the organization that jumped to help me at any chance, whether my password wasn’t working on the site or I had a question about fluid bottles. Or the volunteers who worked so hard all day. Even the one that threw my trainers away (more on that later).

STEPPED OFF THE PLANE AT LAX … or BUR


Owen, PJ and I walked off the plane. Down the stairs, rockstar style. Into the blazing heat. I looked at my phone, it said 73 degrees, but lord did it feel hot to this moldy Seattleite. That was the first time I thought okay, they are serious. Race day could be hot.

I checked PJ and Owen into the AirBnB I rented for them, my parents and my brother to stay in. Our Uber driver had to tell us not to take a left on one particular street. They were only 2 blocks from Skid Row. Oomph. But glad he said something.

I attempted to nap unsuccessfully. Refreshing my phone and worrying about this or that. I kissed PJ and Owen goodbye and grabbed an Uber to the LA Athletic Club where I would be staying with my Oiselle teammates. Threw my stuff into my room and then met Steph for a shakeout.

Man it was a dry heat! I had a long sleeve and shorts, halfway committed to heat acclimation.  We talked race strategy and attempted to string more than two blocks together without being stopped by lights and traffic. She told me to go out in 6:20s and assess at the 10k how much the heat was affecting me. She said 2:29 would make the team (it did) and she told me 2:47 would crack top 50 (2:46:59 was 51st). I left her with top 50 ringing in my ears. Was that really possible? Anything was possible.
On my way up to change, I ran into some Oiselle gals in the lobby, we pondered whether we’d go to the dinner that night. I wasn’t feeling great, but also want to soak up the whole experience knowing this most likely be my only time at the Trials.

I decided I’d get my uniform approved and then come back and change before dinner. I ran into Trisha in the lobby and jumped in her car. It took 30 minutes to drive less than a mile. LA, good lord. There’d be no time to go back and change before the banquet. So yeah I rocked a pretty solid look… Stussy pencil skirt, Oiselle Tee and Converse kicks borrowed from Shal because I was wearing Birkinstocks.

Uniform approval was interesting. Typical hotel conference room set up. Folding tables, some water, and officials. We had to check every single thing in to get logo approval. I didn’t know to bring my socks, but the guy let me by. They put black duct tape over the logo on the back of our warm up jackets because it was too big. Then they had us write our names on an index card and sign it. They lined everything up, laid the card on top and took a photo.
Trisha and I signed the big #roadtorio poster, grabbed our little swag bags and that was that.
I road the bus over to the welcome banquet with Shal. When we arrived the event wasn’t ready. So we waited outside in a line. Suddenly there were sparkly leotards shimmying towards us. Two dancers and a little drum band. I mean they were dressed to the nines and I’m standing there is tennis shoes with a bunch of nervous, sober marathoners as they move their hips in ways mine don’t work. The line watching was so quiet and so awkward. And then boom they were singling me out, taking my hand to dance on that lonely pavement stage. I did my best ‘don’t die of embarrassment dance’ and slinked away.



Luckily they were ready for us shortly after my public display of awkwardness and we all filed into the event. Shal and I didn’t stay long, we grabbed food and took a selfie with Meb (as you do) and headed for our beds. Or Shal headed to get her foot worked on and I headed to the hotel to order a room service burger and watch the Mindy Project. I’m superstitious about eating beef two nights out and I couldn’t afford the steak. The burger arrived so late, I was sleep eating and crashed.
Even better (Sorry Meb) we ran into Deena sipping champagne at the Marriot
I don’t know how, but I was on my feet nearly all day Friday. Running over to the drugstore for bottle labels, running to the race hotel for an interview with the NYTimes, Whole Foods for lunch with Owen and my brother Daniel, moving rooms before the team photo, dropping my elite bottles off, then team photo, technical meeting and number pick up. I didn’t rest near to what I usually do before a marathon. But that’s what everyone seemed to be doing. And certainly what the pros do! Interview after interview… I don’t know how they do it.
I moved rooms because my friend Dave set me up with my own king sized bed in a private room on race eve. Spoiled. That’s all I knew. I hauled all my bags over to the new room and opened the door. The entire room was covered in good luck photos and posters from my friends and family. I couldn’t stop crying. I was completely overwhelmed by the love. Turns out many of them had chipped in for the room too.

After a good ugly cry session, I showered and hurried over to the Oiselle team photo. The day had been rushing, but it slowed down here. I felt like I could absorb the moment, that I was present. I was with my team, in the kit I’d dreamed of. And damn…we looked fierce. The room had a quiet energy despite the nerves. I felt like I was with my pack, in a little conference room cave, calm before the hunt.
A photo posted by Sarah Mac Robinson (@thatsarahmac) on

After the photos we had some time to kill before the technical meeting. I posted up in the Marriot lobby to stargaze. Shalane passed by. I tried to subtly lurk on the other runners, and they subtly lurked on me. It felt like Almost Famous when William meets Penny Lane at the Hyatt. All the stars were there. I could feel them. And I tried play it cool like Penny, not crazy like the Zeppelin-obsessed kid.
The technical meeting was interesting. I was looking forward to it. It’s actually only the second technical meeting I’ve ever been required to go to. And this was particularly interesting for obvious reasons. But everyone who took the podium apologized, sorry, you don’t want to hear from me… I’ll make this quick… yada, yada. I wanted to stand up and say don’t apologize and don’t make it quick. We all worked very hard to be here and are interested in what you have to say. This is a big deal to me. And to everyone else there (I think).
<
After the technical details were relayed, we got in line to get our bibs. I stood behind Kara getting her bib. I was buzzing with the crazy reality that I was going to race the Olympic Trials Marathon the next day!
Bib pick up
MacKay Robinson
With my number in hand I Ubered to have pasta with my family. Then back to my room where I attempted to do light yoga and have my ice bath. My tub drain was broken, but I didn’t notice and kept adding ice and water then going back to stretch. It was this huge flail. I ended up taking the ice bath super late and being ice cold freezing in bed all night. I finally was asleep when the couple next door drunkenly thought my room was theirs and keep banging on the handle at 1am. It was the typical rough night before the race. Night sweats and insomnia.

The morning was a blur, I got gluten free oats and a huge coffee at Whole Foods. I put on my kit. I obsessively organized my little clear bag. Then suddenly was in an Uber to the start with Caitlin.



Read Part 2: After the Starting Line here! Seriously, two part race recaps? I'm not sure who I am anymore.