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Old-School Icing Techniques for my Running Injury

I’m using this summer to get my legs ready to train for the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon – Arizona in January. Training will start in mid-September and I want to be comfortably running 18 miles a week by then.

A few weeks ago I did an easy 4-mile run. I felt good, until about 8 hours later when I felt a searing pain in my left post-tibialis (inner calf). It was the strangest thing. I figured I pushed a little too hard (even though it didn’t feel like I did) and I rested it for a few days – but the pain didn’t go away. I emailed my physical therapist who suggested ice and stretching. It was kind of hard to get my gel pack to mold to this part of my leg so I decided to go old school for this.

(My gymnastics family knows I much prefer the suck-it-up-ibuprofen-and-tape approach to injuries and if I’m icing something, it must really hurt. And in this case, I’m thinking about the long game. I’ll take care of myself now to be able to have the race I want in January.)

Ripped Cup

Ripped Cup

I opted to go back to using ice cups instead of gel packs. I learned about ice cups when I was a gymnast. It’s what my club used for the communal ice needs – mostly by the team kids who were there the most and got the most injuries. Ice cups are fairly simple to make – fill a disposable cup (styrofoam or high-quality paper) with water and freeze. My drug store only had styrofoam cups so I went with those. Their smallest package had 51 cups.

Double Cup

Double Cup

I ran into a small a problem right off the bat – the ice ripped through the bottom. I think what happened was the top (not being insulated by the cup) froze first and when the ice at bottom froze and expanded, had nowhere to go but down and out. Paper cups are less insulated by nature and may not have this problem as much – and probably freeze faster.

The solution: add a second cup before using.

Using an ice cup is simple: tear off the top edge of the cup and apply to the injured area is a smooth motion. It’s essentially a big ice cube and the cup protects your hand from getting cold and wet. It’s best to do this outside or with a thick towel folded several times beneath the area you’re icing because it drips a lot. As the ice melts, tear off more of the cup as needed.

Icing my Leg

Icing my Leg

My physical therapist friend reminded me to only do this for 5-7 minutes at a time to prevent frostbite. I’ve frostbitten myself several times over the years (I usually call it an ice burn) and those things hurt like hell.

I can usually get 2-3 ice jobs out of each ice cup so I’m going through about one a day. This makes me wonder how often my club had to make these when people were icing every day.  I’m on the road to recover and hope to be back pounding pavement in the next week.

Going old school with my injury treatment has supplied a nice trip down memory lane. In gymnastics, somebody is always hurt so it was a regular sight to see a team kid sitting the sidelines, moving an ice cup against their skin, with a paper towel soaking up the drips and little pile of styrofoam pieces next to them. Ah . . . fun times.

Official Return to Racing – The Night Run 2014

It’s official – I’m back to racing.

After being sidelined for over a year with shin splints and plantar fasciitis, enduring painful ASTYM courtesy of Endurance Rehab, and learning a brand new running posture, I ran The Night Run 10K in Scottsdale over the weekend. I can say for certain that I’m back and I’m loving it.

I was so giddy and nervous to run again. Would I remember my new running posture? How will my pace compare to my last race? I love the energy of race expos – everyone’s friendly, helpful, and bubbling with anticipation for the race. I’d never done The Night Run before and didn’t know what to expect. I was definitely surprised by the number of people. A friend said he’d heard that there were 1800-1900 signed up for the race.

My Medal from The Night Run - It Glows in the Dark

My Medal from The Night Run – It Glows in the Dark

The race started after sunset at 7:30 p.m.  We got glow bracelets in our goody bags but that was more being seen than being able to see. I was grateful for the police cars that blocked traffic with their lights flashing and the volunteers who waved multicolored light saber-esque sticks to guide us along the route.

The Night Run was a 5K and a 10K – one loop through the course for the 5K, two loops for the 10K. The first lap was super crowded. I weaved through the herd of people, fighting for a position where I could maintain my pace.  The second lap was much more relaxed since there were only 705 people who opted to do the 10K.

My new running form felt great. I was more thoughtful about what my feet were doing when I started getting tired. That helped keep up my pace. I’ve been running 3-4 days a week for the last few months, but I’d only done one 6-mile run, and this was my first time really pushing myself for speed.

I love the playful competitiveness on the course. There were a handful of people around me and we went back and forth on who was the leader. I amused myself by staying right with a guy who was trying to pass me. I got the vibe that he didn’t want to be beaten by a girl. We switched places a few times during the race, and around Mile 4.5 he really seemed to want to get ahead of me. I kept up and egged him on by kicking up my speed so he’d have to run that much faster to hold his position.

Part of the race hand a strong head wind. It probably started around Mile 2/Mile 5. It was so windy it dried all the sweat on my face into a salty crust. My lips felt so chapped. And since this race was two loops, I got to experience this twice.

Somewhere around Mile 5.5, I almost started crying. I had the thought that my coach and mentor who died last year would have been really proud to see that I was back out running and happy after going through three months of physical therapy and the frustration of learning a new running form.

My goal was to finish the race in under an hour. I was ecstatic to see that I finished in 52:31.

  • Overall: 119/707
  • Gender: 33/422
  • Division: 7/81

I try not to care about where I place. Ultimately, running is about me competing against myself. I could to a personal best and finish last or have the worst race of my life and finish first. The real winning is with me – being prepared, running a solid race, pushing myself to leave everything I have on the course.

Somewhere along the race I asked myself if running was what I was supposed to be doing, and I think it is. There is something very satisfying about getting out and pounding pavement, and I genuinely enjoy the race experience.

So what’s next? I’m not exactly sure but the plan for now is to do the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in January 2015. Historically, they have a special on National Running Day in June so I’ll wait ‘til then to register. Training for the race will start in early September.  I might do another 10K or half marathon between now and then if I find the right opportunity, but we’ll see.

It just feels good to be back.

Running and Head Games

My friend asked me to write about the head games when it comes to running, in particular how do I keep going when it comes to training for a race, not quit, and accomplish a goal. For me, once I’ve paid the race registration, not doing the race is not an option. The only exception has been the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Phoenix when I was in a car accident three weeks before race day.

Running by Tomas Fano from Flickr

Running by Tomas Fano from Flickr

I don’t train for 5Ks. I rarely ever do 5K races because I think it’s wrong that I will spend more time getting ready for the race and driving to the starting line than I will actually spend doing the race. But on the rare occasion I do one, my performance may be completely pathetic if I haven’t been training because I forget that 3.1 miles will be painful if I haven’t been running.

For long races like half marathons, I lock in to a training program very easily. I like Hal Higdon’s half marathon training program for novices. Even though I’ve done the half marathon four times, I stick with this program because it gets me ready for the race without causing too much leg pain for my ex-gymnast body.

I’m really strict about sticking to the training program. I put it on my calendar and not doing a run is not an option. It doesn’t have to be pretty; it doesn’t have to be fun; but it does have to get done.  It’s just one foot in front of the other. I plan out my route in advance so I know where my turns are and I just crank it out. There are almost no excuses for not doing a run.

  • I’m tired: Suck it up. The faster you run, the sooner you get home.
  • It’s dark: Wear a reflective belt so cars can see you and a headlamp so you can see where you’re going.
  • It’s cold: Bundle up.
  • It’s below freezing and there’s ice on the sidewalk: Wait until the ice melts but you’re still going.
  • It’s hot: Run before sunrise and put on some sunblock.
  • It’s raining: Leave your iPod at home.
  • I’m traveling: Pack your sneakers.
  • I’m sick: Would walking your miles interfere with you getting better?
  • I’m sore: Stretch more.
  • I’m hurt: Take it easy or walk.
  • I’m injured: Stay home and get better.
  • I’m busy: Make it work. If something’s important to you, you make the time.

One tactic that works well for me is running first thing in morning. I lay out all my clothes and gear the night before so I can get up and out the door before I fully realize that I’m awake. Once I’m on the road, I’m fine, but getting out the door sometimes the hardest part.

And I take comfort in knowing that running isn’t always fun even for the die-hard runners. I was at Runner’s Den getting new shoes last year and it was comforting to hear a clerk say that the first two miles are always painful for him. That’s me too, especially on the longer runs. It takes 10-20 minutes for my body to get used to pounding the pavement and find a rhythm for that day’s run.

So how does this translate to setting and achieving goals the real world that require a long term commitment?

  • Have a plan of action that makes sense for who you are and your goal.
  • Commit to following the plan. No, really commit to the plan.
  • Set yourself up to succeed.
  • Confront your excuses.
  • Adjust your plan when sticking to it will likely keep you from achieving the ultimate goal.

Goals should be hard to achieve. That’s part of what makes them worth pursuing. Accept that it’s not always going to be a fun time and take comfort that everyone who’s working towards a goal isn’t happy all the time along the way.

Recap of the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Another race, another personal record – I finished the 2013 Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in 1:52:04, 28 seconds faster than last year’s time. Given that pain has been an issue for most of my training for this race, I was only hoping to finish in less than 2 hours. I was ecstatic when I saw that I did so well.

2013 half marathon pre raceI went into this race thinking that this would be my last half marathon. I was grumpy on the light rail as I headed downtown to the expo to pick up my race packet. As I approached the convention center, I started to feel antsy and by the time I was riding the escalator to the room where the expo was being held, I was completely giddy. There’s something about the running community and the camaraderie of doing a big race that makes me excited.

I planned to get my packet, get professionally taped at the KT Tape booth, grab a sample of 5-hour energy and take off, but I ended up spending over an hour there chatting with people. The physical therapist at the KT Tape booth sent me over the to The Stick booth where one of the guys worked on me and I ended up buying my own The Stick after experiencing how well it increased muscle circulation.

2013 Post RaceThe race day was awesome. I met up with my uncle and cousin in the “warm zone” before the race. Brand X Custom made me an awesome custom race shirt for the race that said “Masochist” across the chest and “Run Bitch” across the back. I learned last year that the back of your shirt entertains and motivates the people running behind you so the “Run Bitch” was as much for myself as my fellow runners.

I don’t wear a watch when I run so I don’t know what my pace is except to note the official race time at each mile marker. Instead, I’d find someone ahead of me that I thought was going slower than me and try to catch them.  There was a bald sweaty man that I ran with most of the race. I nicknamed him “Friend.”  If Friend got in front of me, I’d make it a priority to catch up to him. Friend kept me motivated. Around mile 10, I kicked it into high gear and I didn’t see him again until the finish line. He finished about a minute behind me. I thanked him when I saw him in the post-race area.

Photo by Jeff Moriarty, used with permission

Photo by Jeff Moriarty, used with permission

The best signs I saw along the route were “Chuck Norris never did a half marathon” and “Running is mental – and you’re all insane.” I hope the crowd knew how much their cheering and signs were appreciated. It makes the race much more bearable. My friend Jeff lives near the marathon route and he kept those runners entertained with a variety of snarky signs. According to him, a lot of people thanked him for being out there.

When I first finished the race and I saw how well I did, I thought about not giving up half marathons . . . until the ibuprofen and caffeine I took before the race started to wear off. My legs held up well during the race, but they were sore the next day. My amazing masseur had his work cut out for him. I’m not going to run for at least 2 weeks and let my legs recuperate.  I think I want to stay in 10K shape, meaning I want to be fit enough that a friend could ask me on a Wednesday to do a 10K race the following Saturday and I could say, “Yes” without worrying about embarrassing myself.

Special kudos to the race organizers and all the volunteers who helped make this race happen. You guys did a fantastic job.

And for those who care, here’s how my race results compared to the field:

  • 1853rd overall (top 14%)
  • 544th for my gender (top 7%)
  • 121st in my division (top 10%)

If you want to see my results and my goofy race photos, you can look me up here. My race number was 4040.

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Will 2013 Be My Last Half Marathon?

I’m starting to give serious consideration to hanging up my running shoes after the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This will be my 4th time doing the race and it seems like every time I train for a half marathon, I run a personal best, but I also go into the race more injured than the previous race. Here’s the breakdown of all my half marathons to date.

Photo by Crystal O’Hara

2010:  No major injuries during training (Race time: 2:09)
2011: Shin splints – left leg (2:06)
2012: Shin splints – left leg, Left foot pain (1:52)
2013: Expect to run with pain in both shins and feet

For the 2011 race, I was barely able to train because of my shin pain. That was my most painful race ever. I started hurting during mile 2 and it got worse the more I ran. By the end of the race, you couldn’t hug me because everything hurt – including my internal organs hurt. I started using KT Tape when I was training for the 2012 race. I spent the last month of training with my leg taped up. By race day, I needed tape jobs on my leg and foot. This year I practically started training with my leg taped up and I added a foot tape job last week. I pulled back on the intensity of my training to let my legs rest a bit. My left leg did fine with last weekend’s 6-mile run/walk but now my right leg and foot are starting to hurt too. It makes me wonder if it’s time for new sport.

Before getting into running, I was a gymnast for 17 years. I love being athletic. I was a competitive gymnast for 8 years and I had a plethora of injuries – shin splints, knee problems, back problems, and chronic foot problems. When I retired from competition, I was recovering from a stress fractured lower back. My doctor suggested I take up yoga. I joined a regular gym and I tried it. I found weight lifting to be boring and yoga was challenging, but it gave me no sense of accomplishment. I missed the pounding of my hands and feet against the ground and doing flips. I haven’t found a suitable substitute for gymnastics – there’s nothing like it.

I’ve tried a few other sports but nothing’s clicked for me. I fenced for 1.5 years in college and that was pretty fun. On the advice of my coaches, I took swimming as a PE class when I was in college. I really tried to like it but it did nothing for me. I really didn’t like that I couldn’t tell when I was sweating. When I moved to Phoenix, I got into hiking because I didn’t think running was an option given my history with injuries. I enjoy getting out on the mountain trails, but it doesn’t give the sense of satisfaction I want.

I openly admit that I don’t like running – I like being a size 4. I’ve learned that I won’t work out unless I’m training for something. With running, there’s always a race I could sign up for. I appreciate that training for a half marathon puts me on a 12-week structured training program so I have to work out 6 day a week. But now I’m wondering if it’s worth it to do it again after this race. If I give up running, I’ll need to replace it with something…and I have no idea what that would be.

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Lessons from the 2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Photo by Crystal O'Hara

I completed my third half marathon this past weekend. My goal was to finish the race is less than 2 hours. I destroyed that goal & finished in 1:52 – 14 minutes faster than my previous personal record.

1. The Race Will Accept An Altered Liability Waiver.
I alter every liability waiver before I sign it. The race organizers wanted to avoid all liability, no matter what. I have no problem accepting responsibility if I trip over my own feet, but if they run me into oncoming traffic or a pit full of tigers, I want to sue them. This year, I wrote in a provision that stated that the altered agreement superseded all previous agreements. I’d never written in a provision & I was pleased when the race accepted it.

2.  KT Tape Is A Godsend.
I had issues with shin pain during training. I wore KT tape on my leg almost every day between mid-December & the race. It made it possible for me to finish my training with minimal discomfort. At the pre-race expo, KT Tape had a booth where they provided free tape jobs. I had them give me a fresh tape job on my shin & one on my left foot that had started feeling sore. I felt no pain in my foot or leg for the entire race.

3.  Stay In Front Of Your Pacer.
The organizers provided runners who maintained a particular pace for the race. Each one held a stick with a sign on it indicating what pace they were keeping. In my starting corral, there was a runner with a “2:00” stick. I knew I had to cross the finish line before him to accomplish my goal.

My friend’s dad suggested that I get at least a quarter mile in front of my pacer. My pacer was supposed to run 9:10-minute miles, but pacers aren’t human treadmills. They’re faster some miles & slower others. It’s best to get in front of them & stay there. Once I got in front of my pacer, I was afraid he’d overtake me. It kept me motivated to keep my speed up.

4.  The Back Of Your Shirt Matters.
In the past, I started the race with my friends who are faster runner than me, & as a result, I was passed more than I passed others. This year I had the opposite experience. I learned that the back of your shirt provides entertainment for the people running behind you.

Photo by Tyler Hurst

5.  Having A Cheering Section Makes A Huge Difference.
I saw my friends & family at miles 8, 11, & 12. Seeing the familiar faces & hearing their voices boosted my spirits. I remember being at mile 4 & thinking, “Only 4 more miles ‘til I see my friends.” After I saw my friends, thinking about them kept me motivated until I saw my next cheering section at mile 11. My friends humored my masochistic side by yelling things like, “Move your ass, Bitch!” In aggregate, I saw my friends & family less than a minute of the race, but having them there made a huge difference.

I also need to give a huge hat tip to the supporters who made multiple appearances along the route. They would be at the sideline to see their runner to go by, jump in the car, drive to another part of the race route, & be there again. That takes some serious planning & dedication. Even though they weren’t there for me, I appreciated their support in general.

6. Put One Foot In Front Of The Other & Believe.
I knew I was running faster than the pace I needed to finish the race in under 2 hours. The race clock at every mile marker helped me estimate my pace. Everyone around me was running so fast, & I had serious doubts that I could keep up my pace for the entire race. I took a risk & believed that it was possible to have such a strong finish. I nearly started crying at mile 12 when I saw that it would take a disaster to not finish in under 2 hours.

I was beyond pleased when I saw that I finished in 1:52 – average pace: 8:36. It still blows me away that I did so well. It’s a reminder that amazing things can happen if you give yourself permission to give it your all.

Please Insult Me During the Half Marathon

I have long accepted that I am a bit of a masochist. Looking back over my life, there is a pattern of events and activities where I have paid people to hurt me or to give me the opportunity to hurt myself: competitive gymnastics, body piercings, tattoos, deep tissue massages, paintball, law school, and now running.

Adam Almaraz & I Smiling before the 2010 Half Marathon

This Sunday, January 15th, I will be running the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon for the third year in a row. I have two rules for running the race.

  1. Don’t stop running.
  2. Don’t die.

My goal this year is to break the 2-hour mark. I finished the race in 2:09 my first year and 2:06 last year. It will be a tall order, but it’s doable. I’ve always appreciated the support of the crowd cheering all of us on. I didn’t understand how beneficial it is to hear people cheering and to see all the signs until I ran the race. It makes a huge difference, especially when you’re tired and your body hurts.

Most of the signs I see during the race say “Go ________” or “__ Miles to Beer.” The best sign I’ve seen at a race was “Hurry up. We’re Hungry.” I’m happy to see every signs along the route, but I wish there were more signs that insulted me. I want to see signs that say things like

  • “Hahaha…You’re Running,”
  • “You Paid Money for this Torture,” and
  • “I Have Warm Coffee and You Don’t.”

If you’re in the Phoenix area Sunday morning, please come out and support the runners. The half marathon route goes through Tempe and Scottsdale. Apparently, I’ll be running right by the fabulous Echo Coffee in Scottsdale. If you’re along my route, please make a sign that makes fun of me, especially the fact that paid money to get up early on a Sunday and run the cold.

And in case you were wondering, yes, I’m altering my release and waiver of liability agreement again this year. I will never let the organizers avoid all liability, especially things like gross negligence. If I trip over my own feet, that’s on me; but if I fall because of something they did, I want to have the option to sue them. This year I’m writing in a statement that says the hard copy agreement supersedes any previous agreements, in case I had to electronically agree to the waiver in order to sign up for the race.

I’m hoping to have another fun race this year. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m super excited that two of my cousins are running it with me – their first time doing the race. If you are a lawyer, law student, or friend of the legal community and running the race on Sunday, I created an event for us on Facebook so we can connect and network before the race.

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Half Marathon Recap 2011

On January 16, 2011, I ran in the P.F. Chang’s Rock n Roll Half Marathon, my second half marathon.  I had a personal best of 2:06:18, nearly 3 minutes faster than my time last year.  This was, hands down, the most painful race I have ever participated in.

I started my training back in October.  I was pretty diligent about getting in my miles every week until mid-November.  By then, my school work had picked up and I had the decision to either go running or get enough sleep.  Not wanting to destroy my immune system, I often opted to sleep.  After finals, I went to my parents’ house in Northern California.  I packed all my warm running clothes so I could get back on track, but I soon learned that, “It’s cold,” was a viable excuse not to go running.  When I got back to Phoenix, I was determined to get back to running, but unfortunately my overzealousness caused shin splints.  In all of my training for this race, I did not run more than 5 consecutive miles.  Originally my goal was to finish the race in under 2 hours, but I changed that to finishing the race without stopping or walking.

I was careful to pace myself at the start of the race.  Even before I reached mile marker 1, my body was starting to hurt.  I did what you’re not supposed to do, and took 600mg of ibuprofen right before the race, and it didn’t keep the pain at bay.  My toes, knees, hip, back, and feet all hurt during the race.  When one body part would start to hurt, I thought, “Hang in there.  In a mile, something else will hurt.”

You-Can_Do-It
Image by Katchooo via Flickr

The best part of running the half marathon is the people watching.  I enjoy watching the people, reading their signs, and seeing the funny outfits the various cheerleading squads are wearing.  Every time I saw a familiar face or something amusing, it lifted my spirits.  I don’t think most spectators realize how much it means to the runners that they are there.

In case you were wondering, these are some of the thoughts that went through my head during the race:

  • You can do it… You can do it…. You can do it….You can do it…
  • Hang in there.  You’re doing great.
  • You’re almost there.
  • It’s only hard.

Around mile 10, I kicked it up a notch and started running faster.  I saw on the race clock that I was close to my pace from the previous year.  I wanted to try for a personal best.  I ran as hard as I could and I gave myself permission to collapse the second I crossed the finish line.

When I finished the race, I was in pain.  My joints hurt; my muscles hurt; even my internal organs hurt.  I went home and went to bed.  My friend came over to congratulate me after the race, and he could barely hug me because it hurt so much.

I’m pleased with my performance overall, but I definitely learned the hard way about the repercussions of being under prepared for a race.  Next year, I hope I can train more effectively and break the 2-hour mark.

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Undeniable Recap of 2010

2010 was an eventful year for me.  As I was driving from Phoenix to my parents’ place in Sonoma, CA, I started reflecting on the highlights of the year.

  1. My Sister’s Wedding. This was hands-down the best day of the year.  I consider myself to be my sister’s little sister and her big brother so watching her get married to such a wonderful man was a very big deal.  I watched Morena marry the love of her life, Rick,  in a wedding that the two of them designed with hand-selected music and readings.  My sister, who is also a law student (super smart, editor of her law review), was stunning.  It was wonderful to meet her in-laws (who are awesome!) and reconnect with friends.  It was everything a wedding is supposed to be.
  2. Sponsor A Law Kid. I am often a person who has creative ideas but who is too afraid to put them into action.  I have to thank Kade Dworkin and Meet My Followers to inspiring this idea and the social media community for encouraging me in this endeavor.  When I posted the first #SALK blog, I thought, “I’m either a genius or crazy.”  I also thought about the advice I received from Sam Glover who said to think about the worst thing that could happen.  For #SALK, the worst thing that could happen was nothing.  To date, #SALK has sold 28 days and funded over $1000 of next semester’s education.

    Photo by Jeff Moriarty

  3. Jester’Z Improv Acting Class. I am a person who thrives in structure.  Most of my flashmobs and pranks are fairly planned out in advance.  This class put my classmates and I had no idea what was going to happen on stage or what scenario we would be asked to play out.  Taking this acting class pushed me think faster on my feet and to enjoy the simplicity of play.  It also gave me a reprieve from reality for three hours every week.  My friend, Jeff Moriarty, shot a snippet of my final showcase.  Per the audience’s suggestion, my classmate Linzi and I were supposed to be “pumped lawyers.”  Most of the audience did not know that I was in law school.  I love how happy I look in this video.
  4. Rock n Roll Half Marathon. I ran my first half marathon in 2010.  It was 2 hours and 9 minutes of masochistic fun.  It was hard, but I’m glad I did it, and I’m doing it again next year.
  5. Finding My Legal Niche. I solidified my decision to specialize in intellectual property and internet law this last year.  I’ve enjoyed so many of my classes in this area: Intellectual Property, Cyberspace Law, High Tech Licensing, Copyright, Trademark Law, and Privacy.  I’m looking forward to working with entrepreneurs through ASU’s Innovation Advancement Program next semester.

I had many firsts in 2010:

  • First internship at a big law firm
  • First internship with an in-house legal department
  • First half marathon
  • First trip to Ohio
  • First California roll (eww)
  • First guest appearance on a podcast
  • First painted toenails
  • First paintball game
  • First talk on a legal topic at a conference
  • First trip to the Firefly Room in the Phoenix Art Museum

I am excited for what’s to come in 2011.

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Americans = People Who Don’t Move

I have a huge pet peeve about Americans – we have become a society of people who don’t move!   I’m talking about people who are perpetually sedentary.  It really bothers me to see people getting winded from walking across a parking lot.

Everything that's wrong with America
Image by msmail via Flickr

As a country, we have huge obesity problem.  It’s one thing to have a medical condition or to be on medication that result in weight gain, but another situation when people are eating way more than they need and then never moving to the point where they become incapable of doing it.

I get really sad when I see this in children.  My cousin took dance classes since she was little and I used to go to the big  recital in the spring that featured every level from the toddlers to the advanced teens.  One year I saw a four year-old who could barely skip because she was so chubby.  You could see every hop for her was an effort.  I wanted to find her parents and ask, “What are you doing to your child?”

We didn’t used to be this way.  I think a big part of this problem is the fact that modern conveniences have allowed too many of us to adopt a lifestyle where we never need to leave the couch.  Instead of washing, chopping, and cooking food, we have microwave meals or order in.  Instead of sweeping or vacuuming the floor, we have the Roomba do it for us.  Instead of playing outside, our kids play video games.  We used to have to at least walk through the mall to go shopping, but now we can buy everything we want online.

I remember as a kid, our Saturday morning family tradition was walking to the park to play.  It was simple and fun.  I think a lot of people have forgotten how much fun these simple things are.

Without having to go more than five blocks from my house, I can buy groceries, go to the pharmacy, get fast food, eat at a real restaurant, bank, mail something, have my clothes dry cleaned, rent a movie, buy running shoes, and visit a park.  It’s a little eerie when I walk to do my errands and I hardly see anyone else on the sidewalks.  This summer, I’ve made a commitment to myself that if I have to go to any of these places, unless I need the cargo space of my car, I’m walking or skating there.

My end-of-the semester gift to myself is going to be a bike.  My hope is to ride to anywhere that I want to go within five miles of my house, if not seven miles, and where it’s ok to arrive sweaty.  Did I mention that I live in Arizona?  I plan to carry a fresh t-shirt and a stick of deodorant in my Camelbak.  Please feel free to send me sunscreen because I hate having tan lines.

This proved to me that no one who lives near me uses the sidewalks.  I live near the Arizona Canal – one of the man-made waterways that bring water from the Colorado River to sustain central and southern Arizona.  Many ducks live along the canal and there’s a wonderful path for running and cycling that’s separate from the roadways.  There are tons of places for ducks to make their nests, yet the other day I found a pair of ducks nesting under a fallen construction sign that was only six feet away from the sidewalk and major Phoenix street.  I figured the volume of foot traffic was so low that it seemed like a safe place to start their family.

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