Sometimes Getting Better Isn’t Getting Faster

Today, I ran the Surf City Half Marathon and completed my fourth Beach Cities challenge.

My time was a 2:07:52 with a 9:46/ mi pace.  This was about 45 seconds slower than last year, and a little over 2 minutes slower than my best time on this course.

I am notoriously bad at appreciating my races when I don’t improve my times, but today, something different happened…well, many different things happened, and I wanted to reflect on and remember them because they show that I’m making progress on my new year’s resolution to “do less, but be more intentional.”

Today’s time was slower, yes, but I felt great during and after the race and I ran negative/ even splits throughout the whole race.  My slowest two miles were at the start and my mile splits ranged from 9:19 (at mile 13!) to 9:52.

This is remarkable for me because I have previously started my races with a goal of getting a sub-2-hour time which means that I generally start at a sub-9 minute pace (which I can usually keep for about 5-7 miles) then crash really hard. While my times are slightly faster when I race this way, I end up in a lot of pain post-race and I feel super exhausted.

I also was really happy with the race itself. In the past, if someone were to ask me my time and I had gotten the time I got today, I would have said it reluctantly with the caveat that it wasn’t a PR and that I had been sick during training.

But today, I felt really proud of myself and what I ran.  I went out and ran my race.  I listened to an awesome K-pop mix (with a sprinkling of Lizzo, Moana & Soy Yo for good measure) while I was running and I felt joyful to be running in a cool marine layer for the entire race, walking to drink water and take energy gels and looking out for teammates.

After the race, I dropped my friend that I had carpooled with off at her car, picked my son up from Chinese school, went to lunch with my family, then went to put flowers at the gravesite of my mom, grandma and aunt, three of the strongest women I have ever known.  I walked up the hill without any physical pain. I got to start my week honoring my mom, spending a moment near her.

Tonight, continuing our recent Sunday evening tradition, we had a living room dance party.  And I was able to dance with my son and daughter.

All of this, I guess, to say that sometimes, it’s not about the result, the destination, the time, how fast you can go, how successful you are by a numeric measure (this makes me smile because it’s actually the message of my upcoming TEDx talk too 😉 ). Instead, perhaps it’s really about the beauty in the most human of moments, in the journey, in the connections — in being able to be present because you didn’t overextend yourself.

I’m not sure, but I do know that today was a good day and I’m feeling surprisingly good for having run 13+ miles this morning 🙂

Blessings on My Day 1 (of Teaching)

The last of the police cars in front of my house yesterday. Hint: They weren’t there for me

Yesterday was my first day of teaching for the fall semester, my second day of Chinese class, and my third day of running (of my 11th week of training for the Long Beach Half Marathon).

I had trouble sleeping, woke up early and read some discussion board posts before taking off on my run.  After 4-miles and about 4o minutes, I was crossing the railroad tracks near my home when I realized that there were three police cars, an ambulance and a fire truck outside my front door.  I stopped to talk with an onlooking dog walker who told me that 15-20 minutes before a man had apparently randomly attacked two men on the street, punched a car window and tried to get into the passenger door of another car window before trying to enter a neighbor’s condo and being tackled in the bushes next to our front gate where he was held until the authorities could arrive.  I missed the whole thing on the 40-minutes between the time I stepped out my front door and the time I returned from my run.

Feeling fortunate to have missed that particular adventure, I went about my day, heading to Chinese class with my homework complete but confronted by the fact that I still struggle to remember tones and characters when writing.  It’s definitely still an ongoing process.

Finally, at 3:50 exactly, I was able to enter my classroom for my first (teaching) class of the semester.  I was nervous about this for a couple of reasons: 1) I wasn’t in the active learning classroom and since much of my pedagogy has been adapted to writeable surfaces, multiple whiteboards around the room (that students have easy access to) and multiple usable screens in the classroom, I was nervous about the activities in the space; 2) I was starting the semester with a new activity around compassion and mindfulness.

But, as students began to file in, I appreciated their energy, excitement (many clearly knew one another), and engagement.  We did partner interviews & introductions, explored literacy and then came to our activity around mindfulness and compassion.  I asked students to define mindfulness & compassion then asked them how they could be mindful and compassionate to others in the space and how we could be mindful and compassionate towards them.  We then did a snowball (anonymous) discussion, unpacked our mostly convergent definitions of mindfulness & compassion and then ways in which we could show compassion and mindfulness to one another in the classroom space.  Students then engaged in a conversation about why it might be important to start class in this way.  It was inspiring.

Our debrief board from the compassion & mindfulness activity

This was a good first week. It was balanced and full of community and collaborative learning.  It was a first week during which I was present to the many blessings of this work and life. I am grateful to do work that I love, work that centers compassion and mindfulness in teaching, work that broadens notions of the importance of language and literacy, work to humanize pedagogy and teacher education.

Hope the end of this week brings peace and presence to all of my (educator) friends.


I miss running.

I haven’t been able to run in 19 days.

I really shouldn’t have run for a few weeks before that, but I was training for the Surf City Half Marathon, and despite some nagging hip pain, I figured I could just push through it and finish the race, then rest a couple of weeks and get back to it, since I have another race scheduled at the end of March and then again at the beginning of May.

And then I ran injured, and pretty much felt like I was manually lifting my left leg from the hip joint through searing pain with every stride for the last 2 miles.  I still managed to finish just a couple minutes behind my time from last year for the race, but about 8 minutes off my time from Long Beach in October and with the clear realization that I wasn’t going to be running again for awhile.

I was limping badly for at least 10 days after the race.

The last 9 days, with support up stairs and with weight bearing, I’ve been able to walk almost normally.  I feel the difference in my gait and my husband sees it, but most people who don’t know me can’t really tell that there’s still pain occasionally.

But, I can’t run.  I tried jogging down my hallway yesterday, and there was pain.  I even instinctively ran after my husband (as the garage door was closing) when he forgot his coffee on the stairs. Pain. I can’t even really walk quickly and going up and down stairs is still hit and miss.


I hate being sidelined. I hate breaking my routine.  I really only like resting when I sleep or go on vacation. Not running has made me more irritable, exhausted, and scattered.  I’m sad, and I miss it. It is especially hard (ironically) when I have so many other things going on in my life because running is my time to not think, but just be.  It is the time where I am in motion, but not in deep thought.  I am just being.  And I need that space to be.

I’m finally going to see my doctor today. I’m hoping that she’ll refer me to a specialist that can help me get back on the road again sometime soon.  I imagine it’s just more a waiting game.

For now, it is an opportunity to develop my patience game, more patience with myself, more patience with my body, acceptance of what is, even if I don’t like it and can’t do anything about it.  It is an opportunity to really work on being without doing, even without running.



I have historically been very poor at resting and allowing myself time to recover when I am ill, injured, or just not at my best.

Yesterday, I ran the Surf City Half Marathon.

I started the race injured.  I had some nagging quad soreness that would not go away, and had trained through it (instead of resting it) because I was so close to race day.  I finally took most of last week off because I knew I couldn’t start the race in that much pain.

When I got to the line, I didn’t feel great, but I felt okay…ish…or, at least, I told myself I did (Did you see the Beach City Challenges medal though?! I mean, I had to run for the whale!).

The back half of the race was a surreal experience. Before I learned to fuel during races, the back half was HORRIBLE for me. I would hit a wall of exhaustion at mile 11 and struggle to make it through the finish line.

Yesterday, I didn’t feel tired (in terms of breathing or energy) but my legs felt tight, leaden and in deep pain, for the last 4 miles of the race.  It wasn’t under training. It was overtraining, for sure.  I pushed myself through the finish with a time that was a couple minutes slower than the year before (the first time I haven’t at least course PR’ed since I began running) and 8-minutes slower (on a flatter course with pretty ideal running conditions) than the time I ran in October.

I was bummed.

I’m still in pain.

I am physically burnt out.

It takes critical and acute pain for me to take the time to rest and allow for contribution.

Which seems to be a theme lately.

If you’ve been following my blog for the last week, it’s been a challenging one.  I’ve been through worse, but this week hasn’t been easy for our family. The generosity and encouragement of our community has been not only our saving grace, but also our hope for the future.

Last night, after a long day and a longer 72 hours, I talked with my daughter, Asha.  It was like talking to a different person than the daughter I spoke to on Friday afternoon. The weight lifted off of her shoulders from the support we’ve been given and the love she’s been shown has been incredible.  The ability to take a breath and focus on her health after numerous small setbacks and managing a chronic condition is like a new lease on life.  We were able to talk as we haven’t been able to in months, with her letting me know the details of her situation that she had kept from me so that I wouldn’t worry or be upset at those around her, upset at things that I could not control.  Thankfully, she’s working with a primary care doctor (another woman of color) who listens to and supports her, as well as doing the work to figure out her condition.  She is, for the most part, stable (which I hadn’t been sure of–was no news good news or “I don’t want you to worry, mom” news?), although this last series of setbacks had left her incredibly discouraged. I don’t think we could have connected in this way without the love and support of our community.

In my pain, I am being made more whole. Usually on February 3, I go to my mother’s gravesite to lay flowers for her, my grandmother and my aunt, to honor who these amazing women have been in my life.  Yesterday, I couldn’t do so because of the rain.  Instead, as I lay in bed after the race–icing, resting, elevating, and foam rolling, I realized that the best way to honor my mother (and my maternal line who helped raise me), who sacrificed so much for me to be who I am today, was to be the best mother I could be, to take the time needed to rest and recover, to help my daughter know that she also deserved just a little space to breathe, that people saw and acknowledged her struggle, our struggle, and were here for her, for us, for me.

Sometimes growing is acutely painful.  But, if we hold on to and support one another, I believe in the promise of restoration.


Mile 11

A picture of me, before the start of the last Long Beach Half Marathon wondering what I had gotten myself into…again.

Most people who know me (in real life) know that I am a runner.  Three years ago, about 8 months after my daughter was born, I began training for my first half marathon.  In October, I finished my 9th half marathon and my first under 2 hours.

While I haven’t been running for the past few weeks because I’ve been sick, this morning I felt a strange and familiar form of tired that only comes on rare occasions:

I felt Mile 11 tired.

My typical half marathon runs are all about the first half of the race.  If I can finish Mile 6 as close to 50 minutes as possible, then it’s just about holding on until the finish line.  At mile 8, I begin to feel tired but still feel strong.  At miles 9 & 10, I feel less strong and more tired, but still feel like, maybe I can break 2 hours.

Then I hit Mile 11.  And generally at Mile 11, I hit a wall.

Mile 11 is the point on the course at which I have exceeded my long run distance (my team generally trains up to a 10-mile long run) and I can no longer deny how tired I feel.  As much as I try to convince myself that there’s only about 20 more minutes to the finish line, I just feel like I’m done.  I try to pep talk myself into remembering what it feels like at the finish. I try to focus on the funny signs and people on the course.  I try to make sure to take water (and now glucose based gels).

But there is no denying that I am tired.

And usually, all there is to do, is to keep going.  To just put one foot in front of the other.  To push through.

It is that point in the semester.  It is week 14, mile 11.  Two more weeks until the finish, several more assignments to assess, multiple meetings to chair and attend, classes to design and revise, holidays to prepare for, Christmas performances to attend, charity events to support, looming deadlines for conference proposals, research and writing I’ve put off all semester. Despite being sick, I’m coming into a tough final stretch having prepared well for a strong finish.

But there is no denying that I am tired.

So, as I round the corner to finish this week, to finish the semester, to finish the year, I greet you, my fellow runners (both real and metaphorical) with love and compassion.  We are almost there.  We will get there, and we’ll get there farther and faster together.  Hang in there.  The finish is around the corner, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get shinies and treats at the end.

New Semester Resolutions

Photo by Lukas Becker on Unsplash

Yes, it’s the end of January, but my life seems to be driven more by the academic calendar than the calendar year, so it seems like this resolutions post comes just in time.

In writing this post (and making sure that I hadn’t already written a New Year’s Resolution post because it’s 3 weeks into the new year and that seems like something I’d do…), I reread all of my posts this month. I saw a pretty clear theme. This month has been about finding calm in the storm, taking time to appreciate the beauty of moments, and taking a breath.

And that’s what I want this semester to be.

Here are my resolutions for this semester:

  1. Cook more. Eat out less.
  2. Spend more time with my family. Limit weekend and nightly commitments to what is REALLY important to me.
  3. Check in with an accountability partner before taking on ANY new commitments.
  4. Get 7+ hours of sleep per night.
  5. Run a half marathon in under 2 hours.
  6. Take a moment out of every day to reflect (and breathe).
  7. Write (something besides e-mail) everyday.
  8. Use my voice to advocate, in some way, everyday.

Any (academic) friends want to share their resolutions with me for this spring semester (or winter/ spring quarter)? Or anyone want to check-in with me to make sure these resolutions stick?  Growth is about accountability and this semester, I’m committed to growing in peace and community.

Running the Race…

I am a runner.

2 years ago if someone had told me that I would ever utter the statement, “I am a runner,” I would have laughed at them.  I would have said, “Well, I used to run, in a past laugh, in high school, but I haven’t really run in years.”

Through a friend, I began training with Team World Vision to provide clean water to children and families around the world (primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa).  I ran my first half marathon in May 2016, and since then have run 3 more, with 2 more scheduled before the end of this year.

Running has changed my life and sense of self in many ways, but it’s also a reflection of many parts of myself that are mirrored in my professional life.  Here are some things I’ve learned from running:

I’ll probably never be the fastest or be the best

Running is not really designed to be a competitive sport, which is one of the reasons I like it.  When you’re running a large race and you’re not an elite runner, you’ll probably end up in the middle of the pack.  You might finish a little further up with more training and a little further back with less training, but it’s generally somewhere in the middle.

I understand this, but I also have some very fast friends.  I love them and I appreciate that they slow down to train with me at conferences 🙂 I also have “fast friends” in the academic world–people who I may have started my academic journey with who I feel are far ahead of me in their academic trajectory.  I love them to and I appreciate their willingness always to offer collaboration and ideas.

But I have to remind myself that I need to….

Run the race that is set before me

When I hit the start line, my race starts.  When I cross the finish line, my race ends.  My experience between those two points is a result of my training, my attitude, race conditions, etc.  Some things are within my control and others are beyond my control.  It’s critical that I run my race and try not to look to the side and who is passing me by.

It’s like that with my career too.  I am doing the work that I love, that is important to me and that matters to me at the end of the day.  I’m doing the work I am called to do, so I don’t need to look to the side at who is getting published in a top tier journal next to me, unless it’s to give the runner’s nod and say, “Good job.”

It’s easier to progress as a team

After my first half marathon, I decided to do a second to complete a race series.  Aside from the general craziness of this, I didn’t train for my second half marathon with a team, which meant I didn’t train.  And, I barely made it to the finish line.  It was the longest 3 hours ever.

It’s like that sometimes with research, writing, serving, teaching.  So many things in this academic journey are easier when done collaboratively and collectively.  Time flies when you’re with great people.

Train when no one is watching you

Personal accountability is key though, in moments when you are alone.  I’m most productive in my running and professional life when I set up a schedule and stick to it.  I’m also happiest when I’m running and being productive academically.  So, I’ve just got to stick to what I know.

Finish strong

My last race, I didn’t think I was going to make my goal time, until I saw the pacer with the time that I was aiming for about to pass me.  I know, I know.  It’s not a race, except goals are key too.  I found a final burst of energy and it carried me across the finish line.  That seems to happen every semester too.

Take breaks

After I finish a race, I take some time off, a week completely off and then minimal training for the rest of the month unless I have another race within a few weeks.  I need to be better about this in my academic life as well.  When breaks come, after semesters that are typically packed, I could really use a period of full academic rest followed by less rigorous work for a time.

And now, it’s time for rest.  Gotta recover from a run this morning, and be ready for a long run on Saturday….