Real Runners Don’t Cheat

Congratulations! If you run then you are a winner in my book! Until you cheat, and then you slowly chip away at my belief that those who run are more likely to be people who possess greater integrity.

week27spirit-01

Cheaters never win, and (real) winners never cheat. It might be my naivete, my slowly-crippled faith in the goodness of people, that keeps me surprised every time I learn of a scandal rocking my sport: running. It’s always been my opinion that those who dedicate themselves to endurance sports are made of tougher stuff. In my mind, that toughness comes from an inner spirit born out of hardships and suffering, which lends itself to honesty, discipline, hard work, and an understanding of the true meaning of life.

It makes sense, true runners do it for the love of running. There’s either no or very little money or fame involved in long distance running. The reward is the satisfaction that comes from setting and achieving personal goals. The feeling of fatigue at the end of a long run is the coveted prize. Pushing yourself beyond your limits and reaching new heights is the ultimate accomplishment.

My idols arerunning is beautiful the best and the most humble in the field: Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor, Bill Rodgers, Scott Jurek, Steve Prefontaine. They are all humble and hard working individuals. I don’t know them personally, but a person’s reputation says a lot about them and theirs could not be better. It is because of individuals like them, and books such as The Perfect Mile, that I believe runners are exemplars of character. John Landy, Roger Bannister, and Wes Santee didn’t race to break the 4 min. mile barrier because of the fame, they did it because they each wanted to give their own personal best. Anyone who’s seen The Spirit of the Marathon knows that runners run because it makes them better people.

Scott Jurek is known for finishing 100 mile races and then sitting by the finish line to cheer all the other participants on. Steve Prefontaine has famously been quoted as saying, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” When I fell and busted my knee during a 50k trail run a few years ago, runners around me were quick to offer ibuprofen and a couple walked with me to the nearest aid station a couple of miles away. (I returned the favor and gave them my complimentary finisher’s  750mL craft beer when they later drove me to get stitches after the finish!)

Runners are a different breed. We run long distances for no other reason than the satisfaction that it brings us. But for some reason, we still can’t shake the cheaters out of a sport that takes character. Recently, Rita Jeptoo (arguably the fastest woman on the planet as of late) who won the most recent Boston and Chicago marathons was caught doping. A blood test from September tested positive, and it’s been revealed that she has been using EPO since 2011 😦 I was shocked. Using EPO in endurance sports isn’t uncommon, but from a Kenyan athlete? I know this might be a huge stereotype, but I had believed that athletes from that country were of a different caliber. They grew up facing hardship and I believed that was what motivated them to put in the hard work. I never would have guessed they would succumb to cheating. But I am being harsh. I know this, I can’t imagine the struggles they face in Kenya…and faced with a potential pay day of several tens of thousands of dollars frfree banana t shirtom winning major races…I also cannot rule out the cultural barrier. I don’t know yet if Rita fully understood that she was using an banned substance to artificially assist her training. But if she did understand, and she still chose to cheat, shame on her. That is my position. Lance Armstrong was the last athlete I tried to defend, and I can’t believe how that ended up.

Last Saturday at the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon the winning woman, Tabatha Hamilton supposedly ran the second half of the marathon in 55 minutes, which is three minutes faster than the world record for the half marathon. The first half took Tabatha 2 hours. Her last marathons, one run in over four hours in 2009 and one in over six hours last year, definitely don’t provide evidence for Tabatha’s case!

Why? Why cheat as a recreational runner? I know from experience that even if you win a marathon, unless it’s a major one, very few people  outside of the running world care. I won the Portland Marathon, there was no money involved and I still had to go to school the next day. There was no fanfare, I just did my best and knowing that I gave 100% was what made me happy.

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Snapshot: How I Ate and Exercised Today Oct. 22 (Wed.)

WIAW 7 morning stretch

Good Morning! Today was literally  a run, eat, sleep, repeat type of day. I woke up at 5:30 am to the seemingly ceaseless sound of rain falling. It was still pitch black outside, which didn’t make waking up any more inviting! But I rolled out of bed anyway and went for an easy 4 mile run at an 8 min./mi. pace. I nixed showering (I didn’t sweat, but I got rained on, and I had no time) and changed into whatever was warm and comfortable. I spent the next 45 minutes stretching, eating peaches and watching YouTube videos in the semi-darkness until I had to catch the bus at 7:45 am for my 8:15 am Epidemiology class. I have a break between classes from 10 am- 10:15 am when I also ate 1 large Honeycrisp apple and 1 tiny sweet Tango apple.

WIAW 8 peachesBreakfast: FRUIT!

  • 3 peaches (610g) = 238 calories
  • 1 large + 1 small apple (322g) = 167 calories

Total: 405 cal.

I also brewed myself plenty of coffee to take with me! One thing I have learned as a student is to never buy coffee or fruit (or really any food) on campus! Before, I could easily have spent $5 on coffee and an apple or banana (of which the quality is always suspect) and that adds up over the week. It’s not hard to slice apples at home to take with you, and bring your own coffee in a thermos. It saves me money and I help the environment!

I’m done with classes by 11:30 am, so I caught the bus home and made it back by noon, just in time for lunch! My greedy glucose- glugging brain uses up a lot of my fuel (20% of the average person’s calories are burned by the brain) and I was pretty hungry. I was also really tired. I haven’t been able to sleep well lately, I’ve been going to bed by 10 pm at the latest but I’ve been tossing until midnight or later 😦 So I felt like a nap after lunch would be necessary.

WIAW 8 lunch

Lunch: VEGGIES! POTATOES & SOUP!

  • Baby carrots (not pictured) (200g) = 70 calories
  • Snap peas (85g) = 40 cal.
  • 1 medium zucchini = 33 cal.
  • 1 cup vegan butternut squash soup = 90 calories
  • Freeze dried corn (24g) = 85 cal.
  • Steamed Japanese sweet potatoes (322g) =  290 calories

Total: 608 calories

And I was right! After a warming and filling lunch I attempted to do some homework for an hour, but I was ready to sleep. I had to run at least another 5 miles later that evening, and I would never make it the way I was feeling. My eyes were itchy and my brain was tingly and foggy. My high carb potato- coma and the gloomy rain all convinced me to go to bed. I napped from 2:30pm to 5pm and woke up feeling much better. It was still drizzling rain and getting dark so I donned my brightest rain jacket and laced up my running shoes again.

WIAW and exercise 8I ended up running 1.3 miles to my coach’s running store, then ran 4.3 miles at an easy easy pace with my coach, and then ran 1.3 miles back home for a total of 10.9 miles for the day…but they were all easy miles. Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am my track buddy, Em and I have the first of many early morning hard tempo workouts and so I was happy taking it easy.

By the time I got home, it was dark, I was cold and definitely hungry! I foam rolled and stretched again, and bundled up for the night. I steamed some more potatoes and ate them with 2 large heads of fresh Romaine lettuce!

Dinner: POTATOES!

  • Steamed Japanese sweet potatoes (764g) = 687 cal.
  • 2.5 large heads Romaine lettuce = 266 cal.

Total: 953 calories

Macro nutrient Breakdown:  

Total calories: 1968

Fat: 12.1g (5.2% total calories)

Protein: 57.5g (8% total cal.) Where do vegans get their protein 🙂

Carbohydrates: 446g (86.8% total calories)

That was my day! Lots of running and sleeping, school and food. I was not exaggerating about the amount of rainfall!

record-rain-2

Source: KOIN 6 blog, “Rainfall breaks records in Portland, Vancouver” Oct. 22, 2014.

Post-Marathon: Many Recovery Runs

recovery eCard

I’m knee deep in my recovery week post-Portland Marathon. Resting and recovering always sounds fun until you actually have to do it. Running slower than a turtle through (all-natural) peanut butter doesn’t seem as appealing when it’s not a choice! Also, my post-marathon hunger cravings have taken me for a ride this week…and I’m still not sure if they’re over yet! So how am I dealing with the achy muscles, fatigue, moodiness and comfort eating that accompany a marathon break-up? Read on!

running hangover eCardSo far (if you’ve been following along) you know that I crashed hard after the marathon. I was fine till about 3pm (I finished running at 10am) when I developed a head-pounding-makes-you-throw-up-and-cry type of migraine. I used to get terrible migraines like this when I was a kid (luckily I grew out of them), so I knew that I wouldn’t feel better until I slept it off. I chugged some electrolytes, took a few aspirin, and then slept with a frozen bag of corn pressed against my forehead until 9pm. I woke up, still had a headache and felt pretty sick, but I ate what I could stomach and went back to sleep until the next morning.

Monday morning I skipped my 8am class…no way I was going to make it…instead I stumbled out for my first recovery run, a mere 2.6mi run at a glacial 9:16 pace! I did feel somewhat dizzy that morning. When I turned my head it seemed to take a moment for my eyes to focus and catch up with what I was trying to look at. I’ve had this happen before, so I wasn’t too worried…

Unfortunately I had to go to my 10am class (I took the bus, no cycling for me thanks!) and for a project I spent 1.5 hours walking around downtown in the afternoon for a ‘neighborhood observation report’. After walking on shaky legs with my group, my body was pulled into a nearby Whole Foods and subsequently hijacked by hunger! I read about how elite runners indulge after a major race, and no offense but I’m always skeptical…for example I recently read about how Shalane Flanagan took some time off running and  indulged in pastries while in Europe after her recent marathon in Berlin. Really? Hmmm… But all that aside, I could not stop thinking about and craving avocados! I exercised my right to indulge that day by raiding Whole Foods’ avocado salad roll and avocado sushi selection. (I spent way to much money on food that day!)

This-Is-How-I-Roll-GirlTuesday, the next day, I got a 30 minutes massage. My quads were the most beat up part of my body, but my hamstrings always give me some trouble! I ran an easy 4 miles in the morning.

Wednesday, I jogged an easy 3.1mi in the morning, cycled to class and home, and ran 1.3 to my favorite running store. I ran 3.3mi with a fellow runner (as part of the store’s amazing running and walking group) and then I jogged 1.3 home. In total I put in 9 miles, but they were all very easy!

Thursday (today), I put in an easy 5.5 miles at an 8:00 pace.

I plan to continue taking it easy for at least another 5 days, until about mid-next week. I am extremely wary of becoming injured by pushing things too fast too soon. After I ran the Newport Marathon in May I suffered my hamstring injury exactly one week later. I would not like to repeat that experience! I am focused on dynamically warming up and doing a brief pass over the foam roller before every run. After each run I am stretching thoroughly and foam rolling more intensely at the end of each day.

Sleep is my friend this week! I’ve made it a priority because I know that it’s essential for recovery. No matter how much homework I have to do, or blogging I want to do, neither is more important to me than my recovery. Nutrition and hydration are the other key pieces to coming back stronger than before. As I’ve written, I’m attuned to my cravings and I am honoring them! The first few days post-marathon I put special emphasis on chugging back the water! I stopped being dizzy in less than a day, it was most likely due to a combo of dehydration and my headache, as well as the all-out effort of the marathon.

rest day what to do

I’ll just have to deal with being passed by snails for another few days! My quads are still feeling sore from the long downhill at mile 23 of the Portland Marathon. My left hamstring has also been protesting as usual, and I am hyper aware of the need to give it some extra TLC. My main focus right now is preventing injury and giving my muscles all the resources they need to make a full recovery. When I start my winter training cycle in a week I want to be 100% healthy and chomping at the bit to begin!

I’m ready to get:

Harder_Better_Faster_Stronger_by_abhijitdara

No-Track Thursday: 10/02 Marathon Taper Time!

tapering ecard

I’m not positive, but that eCard girl might be in her socks….that’s a definite no-no on race day 🙂

I’m in the homestretch, the last 100m before the actual 26.2 miles! The Portland Marathon is Sunday at 7:00 am, though I will definitely triple-check that on Saturday night! I’ve been tapering for the marathon this week, so there have been no tempo runs and no track session this morning. Honestly though, I don’t feel like I am suffering from any ‘tapering madness’ or ‘taper crazies’. But I live by myself, so if I have been weirder than normal this week no one would know!

I’m not sure if this is consistent among all runners, but I have a little secret: I’m lazy! There’s a little part of me deep down that enjoys being able to kick back and dial down the training. My coach and my mind have told my body, Okay this is it! You’ve done the work and now you need to rest! Rest! REST! (No one has actually said that, that’s just my interpretation.) My body hasn’t had any problem following orders. Our brain’s main function is to preserve energy through efficiency, and so finally my brain gets a chance to do it’s job…I’m sure it doesn’t understand why I fight it on a daily basis by running when there’s nothing chasing me!

It helps that this week, while my legs may be resting, the rest of me is still as busy as the squirrels are! I’m maintaining my general routine in an effort to trick my body and maintain sanity (it works!) by running every morning, eating the same, and going about my regular day. My morning runs have been short and sweet: Sunday I recovered from Saturday’s 10k with an easy 3 miles and the rest of the week has been 4-5 miles easy. Today after my run I did 4x 100-150m strides to shake out my legs.

I'm listening!

I’m listening!

I’m also not changing anything about my diet. It’s given me the energy to complete all my workouts until now, so why mess it up? I’m not concerned with continuing to eat the same amount though I am exercising less because my focus is on recovering and refueling, not maintaining a certain weight. I don’t use tapering as an excuse to inhale every bit of food that comes my way! As long as I continue to eat the same, I will perform as I have been. I’ve been really happy with my workouts, so I’m happy with my diet!

The rest of me has been concerned with the beginning of Fall Term classes at Portland State University. I don’t have ample time to fret over every little marathon detail and worry myself sick because I have a long list of homework to do! I have kept my legs churning by cycling to class and home 3x this week (50 minutes round-trip) it’s not too arduous a trip, and I think it is beneficial to stay moderately active throughout the day. A body at rest stays at rest! Saturday however, I will be relaxing (after a quick morning jog)!

There are a few fine details I need to work out before race day, and I will be following up with a post about that, so check in! One of my main worries has been the weather…suddenly it has gotten really cold! There’s also no bag check at the marathon (I actually read the newsletter the race organizers emailed out!) so I need to go to Goodwill for some donate-able/disposable warm-up clothes! I’ll get to that later!

I’m taking it one day at a time, and staying surprisingly sane (ish)!

Photo credit: Tri-ing to Be Athletic Blog "Is It Reefer Madness?? No, It's TAPER Madness!!"

Photo credit: Tri-ing to Be Athletic Blog “Is It Reefer Madness?? No, It’s TAPER Madness!!”

*A note about my inner lazy person: I can only really be content with complacency for about a week, after that my inner drive kicks in again and I have to go! That’s what makes me a runner 🙂

Track Thursday: 09/25/2014 Last Workout!

karnazes quote
Happy Autumn everyone! Today is the epitome of a perfect autumn day in Portland. The rain from the last couple of days has stopped and left a chill in the air. The yellow sun is casting it’s tentative light highlighting the leaves that have suddenly turned golden and are fluttering to the ground before my very eyes.

My breath came out in a white cloud this morning for the first time as I jogged an easy mile to the track.

track thursday 09-25Today’s track session is my last hard workout before the Portland Marathon next Sunday. I have a race-pace effort 10k this Saturday and then there’s nothing left to do but taper

These last several speed workouts have really flipped my feelings toward the track. A lot of the improvement comes from having a reliable track buddy to workout with. To have someone else there to take on half the work allows me to concentrate on running hard and focusing, rather than stressing about time and splits.

We’re also pretty chatty 🙂 We attempt to fill each other in on the week’s details during our 200m recovery jogs, which is pretty difficult to do! But she definitely lightens the mood, and now I don’t view track workouts as do-or-die efforts. I always put too much pressure on myself during solo workouts which caused me to go flat several times in the past. And the nagging little voice in my head, whispering at me to quit isn’t as loud anymore.

There’s no option to quit when you and a partner are equally depending on one another.

I’m going to miss the track….I won’t be returning to it for awhile. My plans after Portland include immediate recovery and then base-building during the winter months. I used to believe that I needed to do speed work all year long to maintain my fitness, but now I understand that it is futile to attempt to stay in peak racing condition year-round. It’s impossible…you’ll either get completely burned out, injured, or at best log mediocre race times all year. By taking a break I can work on increasing my mileage without getting injured and return to the track feeling fresh. Absence makes the heart grow fonder…

Today’s workout:

12 x 400m with a 200m recovery jog

8 x 1000m no recovery

There was a twist! My coach has consistently been trying to get me to ‘feel’ my pace and I’ve been resisting. I rely a lot on my watch, that’s the type of person I am: I have to know! I am a detail oriented, time-conscious Type A personality. But today we were not allowed to look at our watches after the first 400m. My partner felt liberated, she actually took off her watch and tossed it aside. I was a wreck….her liberation was my chaos! Okay, that’s a little hyperbole. Even though I couldn’t look at my watch during the lap I still started it and checked the time after each 400m. Surprisingly, the results weren’t as terrible as I expected…mostly because my track buddy has a great feel for pace. She actually told me during one lap that I was running an 86 second lap (which was too fast) and she was right!

Results: 90, 90, 87, 90, 87, 88, 86, 89, 86, 86, 86, 86

The first four were supposed to be 90 seconds, the next four were supposed to be 88, and the last four were supposed to be 86.

We jogged a lap before the 100m sprints, which always hurt more than the actual workout. As per usual, I attempted to lift my driving knee higher and kick my trailing leg higher. And as usual, I felt like a marionette puppet with the strings cut.

It was a good workout 🙂

Thoughts:

There’s something pleasurable about pushing yourself farther than you are comfortable with. It satiates a deep desire within us. I believe that I would not be the same driven, determined person that I am if I didn’t run. Millions of other runners feel the same need, that’s why we congregate at starting lines of marathon and ultramarathon distances. We have to push ourselves.

Dean Karnazes is a perfect example of this, he is a “self-styled ultramarathon man” who didn’t start running ultras until he was in his 30’s. On either his 30th or 35th (I can’t remember exactly) birthday he had a moment of realization that he didn’t feel fulfilled as he celebrated in a bar with his friends. He had a wonderful family and was conventionally “successful” but he felt like he was missing something. That night he left the bar and started running (running 30 or 35 miles in his party attire). Since then, he has thrived on challenging himself to greater and greater feats. (Source: Dean Karnaze’s autobiography, Ultramarathon Man)

Set goals, achieve them and set bigger goals.

Set goals, fail, learn, try again.

 

Running: Quick Tips for a Successful Marathon

1.  Have a plan.

have a plan

Set several goals for race day! Have “dream” goal that you can achieve if everything goes perfectly (weather and stomach cooperation). Have a back-up goal that will still make you happy, and have a goal that you know you can achieve no matter what.

Plan check-ins along the way where you will assess yourself periodically. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for things to go accordingly from the start, the first several miles are always a little chaotic. Just remember not to start too fast!

2. Practice race day nutrition and hydration.

turtle goo

Yes, I realize the irony of captioning a turtle in a running meme 🙂 Sometimes I feel like a turtle!

For the Portland Marathon I will be carrying 3 gels with me to avoid bonking like I did in Newport (where I ran on fumes, no pre-race fuel and no fuel along the way). I haven’t figured out how I will pass through an aid station, grab a cup of water, and attempt to down a gel in one smooth move. So on my 14 miler this morning I attempted to simulate this and I ended up ripping the gel open with my teeth, and trying to smash all the liquid into my mouth at once while gulping water from a bottle in my other hand. I ended up like the turtle. It worked, and I didn’t suffer any stomach distress…but it definitely wasn’t optimal!

So practice, practice, practice people! I’m not very good about heeding my own advice here.

3. Dress-rehearse your race day outfit.

running shoes

For your last several long runs, it is useful to wear EXACTLY what you plan to race in, even down to your underwear. This way you can identify any potential wardrobe malfunctions that might pop up (ahem…chafing). If your shoes are wearing out, I recommend replacing them at least 2 weeks before your race. It’s most important to do a dress rehearsal a week or two before your race, and run at the same time of day as your race so you can simulate the weather conditions and plan accordingly. If you are travelling to a race in a completely different climate, this can be tricky. But I’ve learned from experience to at least give yourself 3 days to acclimate!

4. Grease up!

Any runner knows, chafing is no joke! Prevention is key here, better to be safe than sorry!

5. Set two alarm clocks.

lets run a marathon excited

Two alarms, and a wake up call! Even if you are really good about not oversleeping, set multiple alarms just in case. If nothing else, it helps ease your anxiety about the upcoming race. At least you know you’ll wake up on time.

If you can’t sleep the night before, don’t worry. It’s actually the sleep you get several days before that counts. Even if you don’t sleep a wink (which you will, don’t worry) at least you will be resting your legs in bed. So relax, and don’t try to go to bed ridiculously early….it doesn’t work!

6. Keep moving forward in the direction of the finish line.

This is my number one tip to guarantee that you will cross the finish line. No matter how slowly you go, as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other you will finish. It may not be pretty, but at least you will have succeeded! In the grand scheme of things, you still will have just ran 26 miles! That’s a huge accomplishment! You’re awesome 🙂

7. Enjoy the ride.

26.2 miles is a long way to go, don’t make it harder than it needs to be!

forrest gump meme

*I went a little meme crazy here…I generated all these based on my thoughts and running experience! I hope they’re a little funny!

“I just felt like running.” -Forrest Gump (My favorite movie!)

Track Thursday: 09/18/2014 Track Therapy

Track thursday 09-18

It was hard to wake up this morning. It’s a struggle most runners are familiar with: I was warm and cozy, it was dark, and drizzly rain was pattering outside my window. But the knowledge that I had to meet my coach and my running buddy at the track by 7:30a.m. urged me out of bed. In the half dark I sipped some water and chewed a little snack of dried bananas about an hour before I laced my shoes and headed out the door.

This whole week has been a mental and emotional struggle, and I welcomed the soothing drizzle of rain, just warm enough to feel like a caress and not a punishment. I looked forward to pushing my body hard and physically venting my emotions through my workout (but I am cognizant of not punishing myself, I do have a modicum of self-control). My speed workouts really have transformed into weekly episodes that I look forward to, I actually depend on them to fulfill some part of me. I still don’t think that  will ever get to the point where speed work is my favorite  thing, that place will always be held by a good, long, solo run, but I will miss the track this winter. (Updates to come for my winter training plan after Portland, in 2 weeks!)

Workout Today:

12 x 400m repeats with 200m jog recovery

SURPRISE! 4 extra 400m- Thanks coach 🙂

8 x 100m sprints on the grass, no recovery: work on form

Em (track comrade, running buddy, sometimes therapist, good friend) and I caught a break from 1000m repeats today, it was nice to change things up…but, we also got a little surprise. Our coach laid out the plan, 10-12 4oom repeats beginning with 90 seconds for the first few (6:00pace/mile). My thoughts: no problem, we have spent the last several weeks running 1000’s at that pace!

And so we began, one after another after another, rotating who paced while the other hung on. I love these types of repetitive workouts. When I am worried or stressed, I can just put my brain on autopilot. When my thoughts start straying and I catch myself thinking about later today or yesterday, I shut those worries down. All I need to focus on is this 400m and I don’t worry about the next one. When I hit the starting line, I just start my watch and go. When I finish, I jog, get to the starting line, and begin again. No thoughts, no worries, no quitting. Running is the closest I can come to truly being in the moment. Living second by second and tuning into how I really feel.

running in the rain

Photo: The Diabeater Blog, “Find Your Rain”, June 6, 2014.

Today felt perfect. The rain fit my mood. I felt strong and fast.

I guess Em and I looked too fresh after the 12th lap, and I’ll admit, we talk a little too much (good cardio, right?) so we got a little surprise and our coach had us run 4 more. Our times had looked something like this: 91, 90, 90, 88, 87, 87, 88, 87, 86, 87, 86, 85. We definitely didn’t expect to be doing any more! But I still felt good and after we realized our coach wasn’t joking, we got back into the zone and we knocked out 4 more: 87, 86, 86, 82. Bam. We jogged a lap and then took to the grass to run some 100’s. I’ve quit timing these, because the point is for me to tweak my form. It usually dawns on me that I am actually tired at this point.

*I highly recommend you do some strides after a workout, concentrating on lifting the leading knee and kicking the trailing foot higher with each stride. I usually feel the burn in my quads and abs. Now I understand why sprinters have 8-pack abs!

As always, I never regret a morning that I woke up to run. I get a natural high from waking up early and pushing myself out the door. It’s not as simple as feeling happy, it’s bigger and deeper than that. I feel sustained. Satisfied. Completed and content, a carnal part of my meek vegan self has been appeased. I will be at ease, until tomorrow morning when I am compelled to feed my inner savage again.

See you on the road. Maybe the sun will come out…

Michael Johnson Track at Nike World Headquarters

*A side note, I can’t believe how beautiful this track is! At least once in my life I need to run here….bucket list ❤