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How to use brain chemicals to improve running and reduce anxiety


Running a half marathon is an exhilarating experience that challenges both the mind and body. While physical training and endurance play crucial roles in completing this feat, another critical factor often goes overlooked: neuroscience. The intricate network of neurotransmitters in our brain greatly influences our performance during long-distance running and helps reduce anxiety. Let’s explore the impact of neurotransmitters on running a half marathon and shed light on how understanding their functions can enhance our training and race-day experiences.

1) Endorphins – Our Natural Performance Enhancer:


Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and mood boosters, released during intense exercise such as running. These neurotransmitters not only reduce pain perception but also create a state of euphoria, commonly referred to as “runner’s high.” Increased endorphin levels have been associated with improved endurance, decreased fatigue, heightened motivation, and increased tolerance for discomfort.

2) Dopamine – Fueling Motivation:


Dopamine is known as the “reward” neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation. During a half marathon run, dopamine helps maintain focus by rewarding small achievements along the way. By setting smaller goals throughout the race (such as reaching each mile marker), runners can trigger dopamine release to stay motivated mentally.

3) Serotonin – Regulating Mood & Confidence:


Serotonin plays an essential role in maintaining mood balance within our brain. As physical exertion increases during a half marathon, serotonin production is boosted significantly. My physical exertion was particularly high while pushing a double stroller in Vacation Race’s Grand Teton half marathon, but that race was the most rewarding to date. Higher serotonin levels contribute to elevated mood states that improve mental resilience against stress and fatigue while fostering self-confidence.

4) GABA – Reducing Anxiety & Stress:


Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for calming neural activity within our brains. During long-distance running events like marathons or half marathons, GABA helps reduce anxiety and stress levels, enabling runners to achieve a more relaxed and focused state of mind. This neurotransmitter aids in warding off negative thoughts or self-doubt, thus improving overall performance.

5) Norepinephrine – Boosting Alertness & Concentration:


Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter associated with focus, attention, and alertness. During a half marathon run, norepinephrine is released in response to the physical exertion, heightening mental clarity and focus. This heightened concentration reduces stress by allowing runners to make split-second decisions necessary for maintaining pace and navigating the racecourse effectively.

Understanding how neurotransmitters affect running performance can significantly enhance our approach to training for a half marathon. By tapping into the power of endorphins to boost endurance or utilizing dopamine as motivation fuel, athletes can optimize their mental state during training sessions and reduce anxiety on race day. Additionally, balancing serotonin levels helps maintain positive moods throughout the journey while GABA mitigates anxiety-inducing thoughts.

To succeed in running long-distance events like a half marathon requires not only physical strength but also mental fortitude. Harnessing the power of neurotransmitters through proper training techniques can help runners conquer challenges that may arise during races. As we deepen our understanding of how these brain chemicals influence our performance, we unlock new avenues for personal growth both within sports and beyond.

Next stop, Too cold to hold half marathon in Austin, TX!

we run the states

How Meditation takes the Pain out of hard running

This blog post took me a long time to write, more than two months actually. From the start I knew exactly what I wanted to say- how important meditation is for running- but I couldn’t find the words. Like most Americans, meditative practice does not come easy for me. I wasn’t raised to routinely get out of bed, brush my teeth and meditate. It takes practice. And I think that’s why this post was so hard for me to write. As much practice and repetition as running has taken me to get a personal record, and as much practice meditation takes to quiet my mind; Writing for a blog takes a lot of practice too. So here’s my attempt. 🙂

I think we’ve all hit that running pain threshold before. You’re out on a long run, with a set distance in mind. Half way through your run, you start to endure pain. For me in particular, it’s a sheering pain on the lateral (outside) aspect of my right knee. Ouch! This knee pain happens every run over 8 miles for me, and I’ve come to expect the pain, even after ten years of running! I know it’s not an injury because the pain passes shortly after finishing my run. But meditation has taught me to shift my focus and lessen the pain. Let’s start with how to practice meditation.

group yoga and meditation in Bali

Learning how to meditate

I set myself up for meditation like a newborn novice always imagined this practice would go. By sitting in a still-water hot tub, with my thumb touching pointer finger, Legs crossed in a pretzel and gently close my eyes. I start the meditative practice with a humble “Oooooommmm” – long on the exhale- and chuckle. “I must look like a real hippy,” I think, “hopefully I don’t get caught. That would be embarrassing.”

Although slightly embarassed, I continue meditating because I strongly desire the benefits meditation has promised for running improvements.

I then start on breath work. Slow inhale, counting in my head to One. Slow exhale, sighing with my mouth slightly open. count to Two. Again, One…. two. It’s now that I finally notice how uncomfortable I am. My shoulders are slouched. This puts a twinge of pain between my shoulder blades. There’s a bead of sweat on my forehead from the heat. “Maybe this serene hot tub was not as ideal as I had imagined“, I think.

Our newborn goats are bleating in the background and I wish they would be quieter. ‘Can’t they see I’m trying to meditate here?’ I peek one eye open, making the movement sly, as if I’m cheating in Jr. high science by glancing around the propped up folder. There’s nobody around to catch me, I’m only cheating my own practice. With a side glance, one eye open, I look at the clock. It’s been two minutes. A measly two minutes and my mind has already wandered. I feel like I’m failing at mediation entirely, and that I’ll never get it right.

meditating in Bali

Meditation snaps us out of autopilot and into awareness.

I need more meditative practice, I think. Let’s try again. I close my eyes once more and start a slow, steady breath in. It’s very intimate to feel all of your senses. The goats continue to wail in the background, but I’m able to dim them. I hear the echoing of the black-capped chickadee bird whistling three syllables, which has an uncanny consistency sounding like “cheese-bur-ger”. The wind has a very soft rustle through the fir trees close to me that carries a breeze to caress my cheek and cool me down. This gently pushes that bead of sweat from my brow to my raised cheekbone.

During meditative practice, this uncomfortable perspiration is no longer irritating, rather comforting.

sweat is my body’s automatic protective measure to keep me cool. I am grateful for that salt-filled bead of sweat and resist the urge to wipe it away. I’ve always been dependent on sight as my primary sense. But during this meditation, my other senses flourish. The smell of fresh cut grass fills my brain, and although I know the grass was recently mowed, with this sense of smell I can now “see it”. The fragrance is clean, almost moist and reminds me summer is ending and Fall is drawing nearer. “Don’t forget to plant your winter squash”, my mind reminds me.

The chatter from my mind has wandered back into my meditative practice. I smile, acknowledge the thought and push it right back to the background. This is normal, and my todo list can wait.

I focus on breath work through the body. What is the purpose of breath work and it’s profound presence in the meditative practice? Slow, long inhale in, through slightly flared nostrils. The air is slightly chilled as the morning fog is clearing. I am deeply grateful for the hot tub water that warms me now. Inhale, One. My abdomen billows with air and my diaphragm expands my rib cage and my shoulders, that are no longer slouched. There is still a twinge of pain between my shoulder blades. The pain is neither good nor bad- simply present- like the rest of my body.

meditation for running
Meditation takes the pain out of running

Recognizing the pain in endurance running

During endurance running we anticipate pain. Whether you are pushing your pace for a faster personal record, or pushing for a further distance, pain ensures. Meditation allows us to snap out of running in autopilot and zoom out our perception of that pain. This gives us a ‘birds eye’ awareness into what you are actually experiencing. You are able to objectively tell yourself, ‘There is pain here right now’. This is the raw data that also assures you, ‘this pain will not last forever’.

During both meditative practice and endurance running, a strategy to lessen your pain will be to use the acronym,

R.A.I.N.

Recognize the emotion.

Running is hard, recognize that you are doing hard things! Pain is part of the living process. And It’s a normal process, to warn our bodies something may be causing harm. Recognizing you have pain allows you to tell yourself, “yes, you have knee pain, and this too shall pass”.

Allow life to be, just as it is.

After acknowledging that your pain is present during the run, accept this emotion is how you feel right now. Even if that feeling is unwelcome. Allowing your emotion towards pain gives you the space to create power over, and freedom from the pain.

Investigate with self compassion.

What does that running pain feel like? Narrow your focus. For me, my right knee generally begins to hurt after mile 8. This pain is on the outside portion of my right knee and has a dull ache. It will slowly radiate to my right hip and I am keenly aware how I could spend more time focusing on stretching my hips and foam rolling my IT band after my run. Thankfully this knee pain is not a prolonged injury.

Non-identification.

This is where your meditative practice is able to take the pain out of running. Pain is part of the living process, suffering does not have to be. When you’re able to view the pain in running as a passing event and temporary, it softly dissipates. My knee aches while running a half marathon, but all the other participants of the same race are also enduring pain as well. Perhaps in different locations in their body, but this pain is not fixed within you, and this pain shall pass.

(*Knee disclaimer* I feel it’s very important to emphasize running does not cause ‘bad knees’ with age. This is a very common misconception. I have knee pain because I neglect other aspects of running that are so important, mainly stretching my hips. In fact, running actually strengthens the knees and prevents osteoarthritis. By regularly running, the weight bearing exercise brings more fluid to the joints to keep them lubricated. This benefits your joints and overall health. This post is a reminder to myself to incorporate yoga into my running practice.)

Using RAIN during endurance runs has helped my mindset tremendously. My thought process has shifted from, “this hurts, I can’t finish” to an appreciation of how strong my body has become through training for half marathons. I hope you’re able to use this tool to improve your running performance.

we run the states

Well, after two months I’ve posted! Let me know any way I can improve the way I presented meditation, running endurance or my writing!

Decade of glorious Running: How to travel each state racing Half Marathons

Neural bias is the concept that, most people have a skewed idea of their accomplishments over time. If I ask you, How much do you expect to change in the next 10 years? Likely many will answer, ‘probably not much’. However if I reflect the same question, How much have you changed over the past 10 years? your answer will likely be, A LOT. In my case, 10 years from now, I still anticipate to be on a journey to travel each state racing half marathons, practicing as a nurse practitioner, and raising my kids; I don’t expect much to change. I originally read a decade of running from Runningtotravel. And what perfect timing it is to review, as I ran my first race exactly ten years ago…

2012 San Francisco, CA

I had zero experience running. The furthest I had ever run was the one-mile that was enforced in high school as part of the P.E. program. Even that one mile, (way back in 2004, may I add) was a slow jog walk. Still to this day, I don’t know what enticed me to run my first half marathon. My best friend was interested in the idea of running a race, and generally you tend to follow characteristics of those closest to you. So we both thought, why not?

If other people could run a half marathon, we could too.

So we signed up for Diva’s San Francisco half marathon. I don’t remember much else about that first race except, I never had any intention of signing up for another race ever again. That one run was supposed to be a one-time deal. Accomplish the goal, and then move on. Well we finished that race with a high five across the finish line! and the running itch began to travel each state.

2013 Humboldt Redwoods, CA & Puerto Rico

So what do you do when you feel on top of the world accomplishing your first half marathon? You got it, sign up for something bigger and better. Avenue of the Giants Marathon. This time we actually had intention of training properly for our endevour. This was before we had kids- or many responsibilities- so most of our time was centered around running. We trained up to 20 consecutive miles in Lake Tahoe elevation and felt pretty darn prepared to rock our first full marathon.

Let’s put it this way, this was my first and Only Full marathon. The mind grows weary after that many miles. After mile 23 my body and mind were both exhausted and I stopped pushing. I did finish the race, coming in over 5 hours. But this full marathon taught me to travel each state for half marathon’s as they are more more my vibe.

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Avenue of the Giants Marathon

I haven’t written much about running Diva’s Puerto Rico half marathon, but it was definitely worth the adventure. I was 11 weeks pregnant with my first child and had a shirt made for the announcement. Unfortunately, my luggage didn’t make the connection flight and I was left running in somebody else’s clothing and shoes. Add some pregnancy nausea, vomiting every mile along the course, and a downpour of rain; needless to say this was not my favorite run. I ended up sleeping 36 hours straight after the race, only waking long enough to take a sip of water and vomit. Running a half marathon pregnant was a lot harder than I expected.

2014 Las Vegas, NV Running the strip at night

Running the Las Vegas strip at night is an experience like no other. It really is magical to feel like the center of attention in one of the most iconic cities in America.

This happens to be one of my worst running experiences to date. I was definitely not used to running at night, and being sleep deprived as a new 5-month postpartum mom, I did not prepare accordingly. I had expected a hot desert night so I wore shorts and a tank. And to my surprise, the night started spitting out snow! I also had expected food options at the venue and there were none once you entered the gates. So I started this run after 12 hours fasting. I crossed the finish line nearly crying in pain and cold, and my husband had to carry me back to our hotel. There was no celebrating on the Vegas strip for us that night.

2015 Sisters, OR

Sisters, OR is absolutely stunning and I can’t wait to go back and visit. I believe that is one of the most amazing parts of this We Run the States journey, to discover all the beauty America has to offer. Jenn and I made a road trip up to Oregon, belting 2000’s hits with the radio the entire way, of course.

This was a trail run entirely downhill. I pushed my pace a little too hard in the beginning, hoping to break the under 2 hour mark that I had not trained for. The last mile was grueling and I planned to frown across the finish line.

The announcer read my name, “Laura Orange…. Orange you glad you came to Sisters?” The innocence of the joke made me laugh and the photographer caught me smiling across the finish.

2016 no travel to a new state

Do you ever wish you could jump in the dolorian time machine from back to the future and do something over? I did not run a half marathon in 2016. (insert sad face here). I am quite disappointed this is the only year I did not run a half marathon over the past decade, (In 2021 I ran FOUR different states.) But this year also taught me a HUGE lesson, that running all 50 states is a JOURNEY. Reflecting back, it actually makes sense I chose not to run this year. I was pregnant, with a busy two year old, while also working as a labor and delivery nurse and finishing my graduate program as a Nurse practitioner. To say my hands were full was an understatement. Throughout this journey I have learned to give myself some grace.

The next half of the decade in review coming shortly!

we run the states

What to eat during a Marathon for a Strong Finish

Avoiding the “bonk” during your marathon

To set the scene, we’ve just run 23.1 out of 26.2 miles in the beautiful Avenue of the giants, redwoods of California, Marathon. We’ve trained for this day, and now our performance will reflect all our hard work. All that was left was 3.1 miles to finish. A 5K, (Which in marathon training) I was confident I could complete in my sleep.

Throughout the course we’ve stopped at each aid station for a quick sip of water and even sampled an energy gummy pack at the aid station. Energy gummy’s that other ‘more experienced runners’ had raved about. But our fueling for this marathon was ill-prepared. We did not pack any water, electrolytes or energy supplements for the run. I “hit a wall” at mile marker twenty-three and had to walk the last three miles of my race. I did not yet know what to eat during a marathon for peak performance.

Although I was extremely grateful to finish the race, I was disappointed in my performance. I had not anticipated that on average,

Runner’s burn through about 100 calories per mile.

That’s about 2,600 calories consumed in a marathon, and greater than the average daily recommended caloric intake! Although I thought we had prepared appropriately (with a carb loaded spaghetti and garlic bread dinner the night before) we needed much more fuel to sustain energy before, during and after our marathon for a strong finish.

What to eat before marathon (1-2 hours before run)

Half and Full marathons generally start at sunrise to beat the mid-morning heat. With an anticipated 7 am start time, you should be waking no later than 5 am to begin your fueling. Anticipate 1-2 hours before your run starts and focus on simple carbohydrates.

Carbs are the easiest source of energy for the body to convert to glucose

Glucose is needed to fuel your brain and muscles. Along with carbohydrates, add in a source of caffeine. Limit your intake of caffeine to what your body is used to before race day; but having caffeine enhances your mental focus for the race ahead.

Most importantly before the race, focus on hydration! Say it with me now: most importantly, before your run focus on hydration! Maintaining hydration is imperative for performance, as it helps regulate our temperature, and enable our bodies to endure our peak performance.

what to eat during marathon

Pre-Fuel Guidelines

  • Carbohydrates: Focus on simple carbs, low fiber
  • Protein and Fat: small amounts of protein for stability- main source of energy will be drawn from carbs
  • Caffeine- enhance mental focus and preparedness
  • HYDRATION: urine should be pale yellow

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!

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What to eat during your Race

After completing our first full Marathon, my entire focus was on how I failed at the end of the race. I wistfully hobbled across the finish line at a mere five hour finish time. How did that finish time become so slow? We had trained for this. Our longest training run was 20 miles long, so it must have been the last three miles that ruined my goal time. Nearly a decade later I can assure you, I didn’t lose my goal time in the last three miles of my race.

I lost my race within the first 15 minutes it began

Hydration starts early. Within the first 15 minutes of your run you should be taking 2-3 gulps of fluids, and continue hydration every 15 minutes. Along with fluids, bring at least 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour of endurance activity. Consuming those energy gummies in my marathon was game-changing, but put into perspective, I should have brought at least five packets to sufficiently sustain me. Continue to adjust your hydration and carbohydrates based on your environment- (is it a hot day? are you running at altitude?)

During your Run

  • Sustain energy levels. Avoid the “BONK”!
  • Aim for at least 30g of carbohydrates per hour for endurance
  • Hydration starts EARLY! Within the first 15 minutes of a run you should be taking 2-3 gulps of fluids.
what to eat during marathon

What to eat in Recovery

Immediately after the marathon my body appropriately scarfed down a ton of food. Giving in to all of my cravings, I proudly consumed a sushi roll, a chocolate milkshake, chicken fajitas and a cheeseburger all while lying in bed! The key to recovery nutrition is to replenish all the nutrients and electrolytes you have lost during your endurance activity. Aim for at least 20-30 grams of protein for muscle repair.

what to eat during marathon

Recovery Run fuel (15-60 mins after)

  • Replenish the Nutrients and electrolytes you’ve lost
  • Protein: Eat at least 20-30g of protein for muscle tissue repair and protein synthesis
  • REST

we run the states

Mountain Living has a powerful presence on the human soul

Mountain living was a passion I couldn’t explain, but had to follow. We are hard wired to affiliate with the natural world.

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Cities in comparison are wonderful places full of excitement and energy. Today’s culture values busyness and productivity, yet it leads us to overwhelm and anxiety. Chatter in our mind from a constant list of ‘to-do’s’.

Consider, we are not ‘human thinkings’, rather ‘human beings’.

And yet there is no medication we can take to just be still.

Experiencing the grandiosity of nature let’s you live in awe. This puts back into perspective how small we are and thus how small our chattering mind is. Nature lets us be a part of a greater purpose.

So go outside, travel in nature and live in awe. Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing!

With the covid vaccine readily available, travel has become a part of our daily lives again. This summer our family traveled to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, which reignited our passion for nature and exploring. This sparked a spur of the moment trip to Zion National park in September for a half marathon through the night. I had never really had Zion on my list of places I wanted to see, but after seeing it’s beauty, I Highly recommend the adventure. Waking up at 3 am to run through the night jumping over boulders gave a definite runner’s high!

we run the states

Running with bibrave by the warm beach of South Carolina

I’ve never written about a run within a week of completing it out of fear of not giving the race enough justice. I ponder and ponder about how I can describe the event and the state in words. That’s why I’ve also begun making videos of each race, to bring you along with me. Ideally, you can run each state for yourself to experience the magic. Until then, I will try to recollect my words to give the warm beach of South Carolina due justice.

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Disclaimer: I received a free race entry to review this run as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

This was my first in person half marathon as a bibrave pro. I have been anxiously awaiting live races and meeting fellow bibrave ambassadors, (as all of us have). My goal was to try for an under 2 hour half marathon. However, I did not plan or train as I should have. During the months leading up to the race I actually completed my RRCA coaching certificate and now have so much more knowledge to apply to training.

The Run

The race started at 8 am at Jarvis park, which was a pleasant time of day. Many races start so darn early. There are not many uber drivers on the island, so be sure to schedule your ride for the morning the night before. Our Uber driver was filled with knowledge about the island, including Hilton Head has been named best destination island by Conde Nest for 5 years running! I met up with fellow bibrave runner’s from across the country and we toed the start line with 1500 other people. There was not a wave start so the beginning was shuffling and slow like cattle. I was aiming for negative splits so we started at a comfortable 9:45 pace. The first time I looked at my watch we were already past mile 2 and felt strong.

We corralled through Jarvis park and hit the highway, literally. Running along the highway that was partially closed for the event and over a bridge. (Which was the only elevation gain along the whole race). About 6 miles in, we switched back to park trail running with beautiful canopy trees above us. The race had felt so smooth, and Jenn and I were surprised with how easy it felt. Mile 8 came and my right knee started bugging me as always. Luckily my beta endorphins kicked in by mile 9 and dimmed down the pain a bit. By mile 10 I knew there was no chance at an under two hour half marathon for me. So I decided just to enjoy the run with my best friend. The finish line was back in Jarvis park and the crowds cheers were so inspiring to hear. Especially after a two year hiatus of running during covid.

The After party

The park playground was filled with laughing kids enjoying the outdoors. There was grab-and-go pizza and free beer at the finish line, which is always a bonus. We enjoyed our grub watching the alligators swim along slowly. Yup, that’s right, Alligators! Overall, Hilton Head Island was a beautiful course and location. I would recommend wave starts though if I really sought out to accomplish my goal time.

Next up, New Orleans, Louisiana! Where is your next event, (let me know in the comments) I’d love to cheer you on!

Check out your next Race VacationClean Eating recipes and Running tips!

Zion half marathon at night guaranteed to give you an uplifting runner’s high

Is running Zion half marathon at night on your bucket list? It should be. Zion, Utah was a last minute add on for me and Jenn. We had just completed Vacation Race’s Yellowstone half marathon that was epic, and we were so thrilled by our runner’s high we immediately sought out another Vacation Race. Zion half marathon was only three months away and we considered ourselves trained enough to sign up. However the only catch was, we had to run Zion half marathon at night. We had never run a half marathon at night before, so we added it as yet another challenge on our journey to run the states.

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Zion Half Marathon at Night- The Run

Vacation Race’s has been, by far, my favorite series of races. Extraordinarily organized, and very conscientious of the environment; Vacation race’s is also very attentive to social distancing in our current covid prominent world. So for the Zion half marathon at night, you choose a time slot from 7pm to 7am with a wave start every 30 minutes. This allowed smaller waves to maintain social distancing. You had the option to run with the sunset. Through the deepest dark of the night through the desert. Or as we chose, rising with the morning sun.

I had anticipated a very cold start, however the weather forecasted mid 50’s so we dared to run in shorts and a tank top. There was a breeze, but it felt genuinely amazing the whole run. After mile 6 we left the safer dirt trails for what felt like rock climb running through the night. Pink reflective flags helped guide us through the course. There’s something about running and jumping on rocks, with the stars sparkling above for 13.1 miles that gives such a runner’s high.

Jenn and I were actually surprised by how giddy we were. Extraordinarily appreciating the life and day god had given us. Again, we hadn’t even planned on this Zion half marathon at night until a few months before, so we felt beyond blessed. We finished with the sunrise, and although with some very tight calve muscles, we got our jumping high five finish as always.

Zion Half Marathon at night

Zion half marathon
Zion half marathon
Zion half marathon
Zion half marathon

Things to Do

Zion is a rock climber’s dream, with sandstone cliffs ever changing, mostly from flash floods. If you’re lucky you can spot a bighorn sheep, or catch a sunset over the blood red mountains. Zion landmarks can be experienced only by shuttle or walking quite a far distance. Although the shuttle’s stop every 4 minutes, it did take nearly an hour of walking to get to the ‘start line’ as parking was very impacted. (Even during off season).

Plan on a full couple of days exploring. The first day we were able to drive the upper canyon towards Bryce canyon and venture off a bit on our own. The second day we were limited by time in order to make our flights home, so we only got to experience one of the landmarks. If we could repeat our trip, I wish we had been a bit more prepared for sight-seeing, as we missed the opportunity to hike Angel’s Landing.

Emerald pools trail is absolutely stunning 3 mile hike that features a waterfall and leads to three tiers of natural ponds. One tip is Pack your lunch. Jenn and I inevitably got hungry after all our hiking and there is only one concession stand throughout Zion canyon. This tiny cafe took nearly 35 minutes to hand us an already pre-cooked slice of pizza due to the long line of others who forgot to pack their lunches also.

Zion Canyon

Zion half marathon
Zion half marathon
Zion half marathon
Zion half marathon
Zion half marathon

The Food

There aren’t many stops along Zion for food, so again, pack a lunch! But Balcony One was a gem along the way. The tranquil atmospheric ambience was such a relaxing end to our Very long day. You could tell a lot of thought went into the design of the restaurant, and we even had the opportunity to meet the hospitable owner.

Zion Half marathon at night was absolutely epic, and really encouraged our love for running each state. Another run by Vacation Race’s is the Grand Teton half marathon, be sure to check it out. Up next we have Hilton Head island half marathon, South Carolina.

Conquering Grand Teton half marathon pushing a double stroller

OH Wyoming, you’re quite a story! If you’re one of those jump-to-the-cliff-hanger type of readers, I’ll give you the quick and easy. I ran the Vacation Races Grand Teton half marathon at 6395 ft elevation, uphill, pushing a DOUBLE stroller with two big kids! Every other person passing me, (because there were many passing me) called me “badass” or “you’re a beast”, or “you go mama!” which felt really encouraging. But it wasn’t until I started writing this that I discovered, damn! I AM a BADASS! Check out how amazing the Tetons were!

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Grand Teton Half Marathon, The Run

This was my first run with Vacation Races, and I was expecting a great race based on previous reviews. But this run far exceeded all of my expectations. I’ll say it multiple times during this post, if you get the opportunity, Run a race with Vacation races.

The course is primarily paved on a bike trail, with some dirt tracks near the finish line. I had expected to become weary with a 583 ft elevation gain at max 6,383 ft. What I had not anticipated, was my husband having an emergency and being left with our two kids. I, like most situations in life, had two choices. To choose defeat and get my first ‘did not start’ (DNS), or find a way to run. Sometimes life throws us changes that we can’t control. It probably would have been easiest to accept this race was out. But I thought, WHY NOT TRY? So I found an online service that rents baby gear and rented a Bob double stroller and we started.

Two and a half hours later, we were still running. There had only been one 3-year-old melt down, (because Cheetos had fallen on his seat) but we could see the finish line. So again I considered, WHY NOT TRY?

Sadie and Pierce’s first half marathon

We decided to try, and made one of the most fulfilling personal records of my running career. Sadie and Pierce’s first half marathon! The scenery was absolutely mesmerizing, so much so, that it kept my kids entertained for 13.1 miles. For the cherry on top, The finish line had a picturesque photo drop of the Grand Tetons. A carousel of buses transported us back to the start line. But be cautious, if you have a double stroller you may have to wait quite a while for a bus that can fit the stroller too.

Grand Teton half marathon scenery

Things to do

I’ve heard of the wonders of Jackson, WY for over a decade. My husband worked on a wildfire hot shot crew in his twenties, and was captured when the helicopter flew over the Grand Tetons. He’s been pressing on returning since then. I didn’t get the same aerial view that he did, but even from the ground you can enjoy the sheer magnitude of the Tetons. First and foremost, download the gypsy guide. It’s 100% worth the commentary that is informative and entertaining. It’s like having a personal tour guide in your car; then you’re ready to explore this beautiful national park.

Jenny Lake

There is a trifecta of highlights to visit, all of which we were able to do in one busy day. Start at the explorer center for a wilderness badge for the kids and a few souvenirs as well. Then head on over to Jenny Lake. You can either choose to hike the round trip of 7.5 miles or pay $18 for a roundtrip on the boat. On this trail you’ll visit hidden falls and inspiration point. One tip, don’t wait too long to get back to the boat if you don’t plan on hiking home. The boat ride closes at four and we ended up waiting an hour in line. Many people were forced to hike.

Next up on our journey around the Grand Tetons was mormon row. This is known for its photogenic barns that belonged to some of the earliest settlers in Jackson hole. Then to snake river outlook, made famous by Ansel Adam’s 1942 portrait attracting visitors to the Grand Teton national park. There are several other features of the park you can follow with your gypsy app if you have more time available.

Snow King Mountain

We’re always looking for fun family friendly activities while we travel. Snow King mountain definitely filled that role. There’s a scenic chair lift to the top of the mountain, where kids can enjoy a treetop adventure. Then choose to either slide down or ride the cowboy coaster. There’s also a bungee trampoline, mini golf and bike rentals. Check it out in the video above, we liked it so much we went twice!

Jackson Village

Probably the most enjoyable part of our trip was visiting Jackson village. This quaint town had a variety of stores, including the biggest toy store to reward my kids for “patiently running/being pushed for 2.5 hours in a stroller” for their first half marathon. I enjoyed sampling at spirits and spices and the whole family loved eating at Pizzeria Caldera.

Where to stay

Originally I had searched for a camping experience, with showers for after the sweaty run. But If you take one tip from this post, it’s Book early! I made reservations in January for our June half marathon, and nearly everything near Jackson village was already booked! We luckily booked the absolute best Fireside resort, minutes away from the start line. These luxurious rustic cabins are ideal for family and friend settings, perfectly equipped with a kitchenette to make some home cooked meals to enjoy by your own fire. I hope you enjoy Wyoming as much as we did!

How to Become a Mindful Runner

Ironically, to become a mindful runner, you don’t have to be focused on your thoughts while running at all. The development of strong mental health begins off the track, or trail, and in your day-to-day life. There are three easy ways to enhance your mental strength and become a mindful runner for performance improvements. (I say easy in italics because when you read them, you’ll think- ‘I can do those no problem’, but I’ll forewarn you, they can be quite challenging!)

Let’s start with my own self-realization that I needed to improve my mental health in order to see running performance gains. I never actually recognized that I was overweight- as noted in the picture below from last year; that was not my driving factor to improve my health. I actually felt pretty darn physically fit. I had run at least one half marathon every year since 2012,  staying active most of the year and had improved my nutrition to the point of completing a whole 30 days with no sugar, grains, alcohol, or dairy. Yet I was still constantly ‘tired and heavy’. I had the usual medical workup, checking my thyroid and for anemia- all (thankfully) normal. But something was still missing. It wasn’t until I took the time to focus on my mental health that I started to see rapid improvement.

June 2020 and June 2021

2020 brought many challenges with covid. Being in healthcare, I didn’t have much of an option but to enter the hospital with those infected daily. Although I can’t say I was ever scared to go to work, I couldn’t quite get over the fact that I felt forced to be ok with exposing myself to covid daily when I went to round on patient’s in the ICU setting. In retrospect, (and it’s only been a few months since vaccinations have become readily available) my mind was searching for some rest and recovery. 

2021 has brought a profound journey to improve my mental health, and only good things have followed. Here are three easy steps to become a mindful runner, and subsequently improve your running abilities.

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Step One: Make Changes

For my family, we made a BIG change. Justifiably, we had been talking about this change for over a decade. But it still seemed surreal when we moved from our home, our stable jobs and city life as we knew it, to a rural community in the mountains of California. Of course I’m not suggesting to improve your mental health you have to move across states, haha. What I am suggesting, is to really focus on what you need to change in your life? Hint: The first thing that just came to your mind is probably what you need to change. Although it may not be easy, there’s no better time than now. 

“It is never too late to be what you might have been”.

The mental clarity I’ve developed sitting on my porch with my family watching the horses and chickens graze, as well as the reward I feel when watching my garden grow slow and in abundance has given me the rest I was desperately seeking. 

Another, more subtle change, I made this year was addressing my mental addiction to soda. More specifically, Dr. Pepper. Those who truly know me, know I have been dependent on Dr. Pepper my whole life. And although there have been brief times I’ve given up soda to be ‘more healthy’, it wasn’t until I got to the root derivative of my mental addiction that I was able to quit.

If it makes you feel better to know; it’s not your fault (or mine) to be addicted to Dr. Pepper, (or donuts, ice cream, candy, whatever your vice is,…..sugar). Your brain actually releases the neurotransmitter dopamine when you consume this treat and sends a pleasurable reward between neurons in the brain. Imagine taking that soda away by choice, you’ve just taken the dopamine reward pathway away as well. Once I comprehended that Dr. Pepper served no health benefits to my body- with the excessive amount of sugar contributing to my overall inflammation and peak lows after a few hours of drinking soda, I was able to make the conscious choice to quit. 

I choose daily to NOT drink Dr. Pepper, and it’s hard.

But I’ve passed that mental barrier and I reap the benefits of a no-sugar-added diet. 

How has quitting sugar and moving to a new state affected my ability to become a mindful runner? I’ve learned to embrace change. I’ve learned that each of my decisions while running is a conscious choice. When I’m struggling to push faster during my run to get closer to my goal pace, I am choosing to push through the pain. Unsurprisingly, my body is fully capable of this push of pace- all along it’s been my mind telling me I couldn’t do it. 

Step two: Meditate

Ok. Before you skip right over this section, hear me out. I prescribe meditation to my patient’s daily. It may sound ‘too hippy’, but most of the world (besides American’s) meditate routinely for their health.

Here is a quick list of the benefits of meditation and how they can make you become a mindful runner:

Meditation actually changes the structures of your brain. It increases cortical thickness in the hippocampus improving your self-awareness and focus. It physically decreases brain cell volume in the amygdala that subsequently decreases anxiety, depression, chronic pain and offers a coping mechanism for traumatic events. Meditation can lower your blood pressure and help decrease cravings of addiction. With daily meditation- even if just for a few minutes- you’ll become more patient with your spouse, children and those around you. You’ll sleep better. You’ll get rid of facial wrinkles and enhance your sex life. Meditation helps you learn to be present and more comfortable with just sitting still.

There’s just one catch; you have to actually meditate for it to work.

How did meditation lead me to become a mindful runner? Well, did you read the paragraph above? Lol

How you can start meditation: Just sit down and close your eyes. Turn your phone on do not disturb and set a timer. 3 minutes at first is plenty. Focus on your breath, inhale….exhale. Count your breath if it helps. Once you find your mind wandering, (Did I pull the chicken out of the freezer for dinner? How many patient charts do I have to complete from work today? What time should I wake up in the morning to exercise?)

Bring yourself back to meditation, and breathe. That’s a great start.

Step Three: Ask for help

This was a hard one. As a Nurse Practitioner, I recommend health improvements to others on a daily basis. For me it took an outside prospective- my best friend from high school- to open my eyes. She called me, distraught about hardships every mother endures, including child temper tantrums and testing her own patience daily. However she kept saying, ‘I shouldn’t have to feel this bad everyday’. This was a different level of hard. She didn’t feel like the ‘perfect mom’ expectation she had imagined becoming. She told me she planned to talk to her provider about starting an antidepressant medication and asking me, her best friend, if she should feel bad for ‘needing a medication to control the chaotic world of life that she loved being a part of- family, work, health journey, etc.’

Immediately I validated all of her emotions and thanked her for being so brave for talking about it. But because she’s my best friend, our discussion really hit home. 

Depression is something that you have, not something that you are.

I had all the same emotions. Yet I would never talk about them to anybody in fear of ‘not being good enough’. There in front of me, represented the stigma of not feeling good enough if I talked about my feelings. And I spend my whole day at work recognizing the feelings of others! What the heck! 

Her bravery supported me to talk to my own healthcare provider. Many times that’s all we need, a healthy outlet to discuss that our feelings are valid and that there’s many ways to improve the process- journaling, meditation, medication, deep breathing techniques, praying to god, counseling, massage. 

We just have to take the first scary step, and ask for help.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to write about mental health. The key factor I’m sure, is there is still such a strong stigma around mental health in America. So much so, that about 50% of American’s do not seek treatment in fear of being discriminated against. The fact of the matter is, your mindset has just as many physical symptoms as any other illness. (insert the tired and heaviness I described before). Yet any other illnesses such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol is more ‘socially acceptable’ and ‘manageable’.

Making these conscious changes to focus on my mental health has improved my overall well-being more than I could have ever imagined. I also was able to set goals and achieve many of them already within six months, including losing 18 lbs and becoming a stronger, faster and more consistent runner. I hope these steps encourage you to do the same and encourage you to become a mindful runner.

If you notice in the picture from last year to today, the first thing I noticed was significant cellulite in my arms. Cellulite is actually just stored energy used by the liver to produce glucose for energy during long exercise! (I’m kind of an underlying anatomy and physiology nerd geek, haha). Key point is- We CAN get RID of this cellulite! – In one years time! I have many, many things to improve my running performance on still, but this was definitely a good start.

No promotion or sponsorships, I just really like writing and sharing 🙂

As always- Run strong, Travel and Eat. Real. Food. -We Run the States

We’re at work for you, please stay home for us

Jeramie Lu Photography | Available for travel Worldwide | www.JeramieLu.com

Perspective from your Healthcare Provider and Police Officers during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

You’ve heard this phrase commonly lately, “we’re at work for you, please stay home for us”. Every single person plays an active role during this outbreak, even though staying home may not feel very proactive. As a Public service worker, many of us will get COVID-19. We are not immune to circumstance. Although precautions are heightened, our exposure makes it inevitable. This pandemic will claim us too.

To be completely honest, just last week with COVID-19 on the rise, my family and I talked about ‘Getting the Hell out of Dodge’ so to speak. I am a Nurse Practitioner in Gynecology Oncology and practice in all three local hospitals; my husband is a Police officer working Patrol to protect your neighborhood. Needless to say, we are unable to Shelter in place. The idea of retreating to a smaller town to protect our immediate family with isolation and refuge was tempting.

There is a constant plethora of emotion surrounding COVID-19.

I was envious of the families that get to stay home with their kids and play together; as I wish I had several weeks to make silly memories at home. However, I am grateful for being a healthcare provider to have the capacity to care for others during a time of need.

Jeramie Lu Photography | Available for travel Worldwide | www.JeramieLu.com

Our careers require commitment to our Community, and we are proud to serve with America to fight this pandemic. I would, however, like to share a Healthcare provider and Police officer’s perspective.

Venturing out daily into a world that has grown closer together, yet further apart during COVID-19.

We continue our morning routine as normal as possible, biding each other with “Have a good day at work babe”. This otherwise caring phrase is now underlined with an ominous “Be safe out there” feeling. My day is started by entering a place where the sick dwell and those infected with coronavirus seek refuge, a hospital. I am screened with a series of questions, showing my badge and then having my temperature taken. I understand this is precautionary measure to protect us all; but it still feels like an episode of Contagion. There are patient’s who need care, and unfortunately cancer does not halt for a virus.

We are given one N95 mask for our personal protection, ONE. A disposable mask developed for a one time use is now the sole personal protection equipment I have available. I am only able to get a new N95 mask from the hospital if my current has been saturated in bodily secretions or blood; and even then we must give our personal identity to be sure the resources are not being abused. I care for patient’s undergoing chemotherapy daily. Their immune system is already compromised, yet I am being asked to “wash my disposable gloves between each patient”, as opposed to disposing them as they were intended.

This COVID-19 seems Surreal. Our resources are strained but we can still overcome this pandemic. These circumstances are temporary and I will continue to do my part to slow the curve.

Psalm 138:3 When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.

Our Police Officers are working hard. They are not able to limit their exposure. If there is a 911 call, they will go. My husband constantly reminds me; he made an oath to protect and serve. I admire his Integrity. Although I cannot speak for him, I can share with you what I know. I know that there is protective segregation within the department. They understandably anticipate the first wave of patrol police officers to fall, and have isolated them in a separate building as to not infect the others. Once they go down… (once My Husband “goes down”) they plan to replace him with another. It’s methodical. It’s brilliant. And truly admirable of the officers who continue to serve. But that doesn’t make it any less scary having the anticipation of bringing COVID-19 home.

Jeramie Lu Photography | Available for travel Worldwide | www.JeramieLu.com

Police Officers are not seeking Recognition, rather acting as member’s of a society that we believe in. Please help us stay safe by staying at home to protect yourself and others.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Healthcare providers and Police Officers are a few of the MANY workers keeping us going. THANK YOU to the many many other under-recognized courier services, grocery store clerks, childcare workers for keeping my family and our community safe while I take care of you.

The biggest perspective I would like to share is that your healthcare providers are your neighbors. Your Police Officers are normal people that comes home to our families every night. My mom not only continues to work full time from home (as many of you are too), but does so while watching her two grandkids so that we can continue to care for YOU. If we are exposed to coronavirus at work, then so are our kids at home. And an even higher risk and susceptible to become more vulnerable, my mom.

Jeramie Lu Photography | Available for travel Worldwide | www.JeramieLu.com

So THANK YOU for staying home.

Many of you are continuing to work from home and we appreciate your diligence. Thank you to all the teachers printing curriculum and grading online so that our children can continue to learn. To all you Fitness gurus showing us how to stay sane and workout from home. To all the recipe makers inspiring nutrition while isolated. Thank you to all the many many many American’s who are struggling without work, but still staying home to slow the curve. COVID-19 will pass and we will look back to see how strong we’ve grown together while apart.

Philipians 4:6  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

To our Healthcare Providers: The more information we share the better equipped we become. Here is helpful information written by a front line physician with extensive COVID-19 experience

Keeping Corona Virus from infecting HCW  by Atual Gawande  (Being Mortal , Complications) 

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From Dr. Callister 

Every one of my colleagues and I have now seen several hundred Covid 19 patients and this is what I think I know.

Clinical course is predictable

2-11 days after exposure (day 5 on average) flu like symptoms start. Common are fever, headache, dry cough, myalgias(back pain), nausea without vomiting, abdominal discomfort with some diarrhea, loss of smell, anorexia, fatigue.

Day 5 of symptoms- increased SOB, and bilateral viral pneumonia from direct viral damage to lung parenchyma.

Day 10- Cytokine storm leading to acute ARDS and multiorgan failure. You can literally watch it happen in a matter of hours.

81% mild symptoms, 14% severe symptoms requiring hospitalization, 5% critical.

Patient presentation is varied. Patients are coming in hypoxic (even 75%) without dyspnea. I have seen Covid patients present with encephalopathy, renal failure from dehydration, DKA. I have seen the bilateral interstitial pneumonia on the xray of the asymptomatic shoulder dislocation or on the CT’s of the (respiratory) asymptomatic polytrauma patient. Essentially if they are in my ER, they have it. Seen three positive flu swabs in 2 weeks and all three had Covid 19 as well. Somehow this ***** has told all other disease processes to get out of town.

China reported 15% cardiac involvement. I have seen covid 19 patients present with myocarditis, pericarditis, new onset CHF and new onset atrial fibrillation. I still order a troponin, but no cardiologist will treat no matter what the number in a suspected Covid 19 patient. Even our non covid 19 STEMIs at all of our facilities are getting TPA in the ED and rescue PCI at 60 minutes only if TPA fails.

Diagnostic

CXR- bilateral interstitial pneumonia (anecdotally starts most often in the RLL so bilateral on CXR is not required). The hypoxia does not correlate with the CXR findings. Their lungs do not sound bad. Keep your stethoscope in your pocket and evaluate with your eyes and pulse ox.

Labs- WBC low, Lymphocytes low, platelets lower then their normal, Procalcitonin normal in 95%

CRP and Ferritin elevated most often. CPK, D-Dimer, LDH, Alk Phos/AST/ALT commonly elevated.

Notice D-Dimer- I would be very careful about CT PE these patients for their hypoxia. The patients receiving IV contrast are going into renal failure and on the vent sooner.

Basically, if you have a bilateral pneumonia with normal to low WBC, lymphopenia, normal procalcitonin, elevated CRP and ferritin- you have covid-19 and do not need a nasal swab to tell you that.

A ratio of absolute neutrophil count to absolute lymphocyte count greater than 3.5 may be the highest predictor of poor outcome. the UK is automatically intubating these patients for expected outcomes regardless of their clinical presentation.

An elevated Interleukin-6 (IL6) is an indicator of their cytokine storm. If this is elevated watch these patients closely with both eyes.

Other factors that appear to be predictive of poor outcomes are thrombocytopenia and LFTs 5x upper limit of normal.

Disposition

I had never discharged multifocal pneumonia before. Now I personally do it 12-15 times a shift. 2 weeks ago we were admitting anyone who needed supplemental oxygen. Now we are discharging with oxygen if the patient is comfortable and oxygenating above 92% on nasal cannula. We have contracted with a company that sends a paramedic to their home twice daily to check on them and record a pulse ox. We know many of these patients will bounce back but if it saves a bed for a day we have accomplished something. Obviously we are fearful some won’t make it back.

We are a small community hospital. Our 22 bed ICU and now a 4 bed Endoscopy suite are all Covid 19. All of these patients are intubated except one. 75% of our floor beds have been cohorted into covid 19 wards and are full. We are averaging 4 rescue intubations a day on the floor. We now have 9 vented patients in our ER transferred down from the floor after intubation.

Luckily we are part of a larger hospital group. Our main teaching hospital repurposed space to open 50 new Covid 19 ICU beds this past Sunday so these numbers are with significant decompression. Today those 50 beds are full. They are opening 30 more by Friday. But even with the “lockdown”, our AI models are expecting a 200-400% increase in covid 19 patients by 4/4/2020.

Treatment Supportive

worldwide 86% of covid 19 patients that go on a vent die. Seattle reporting 70%. Our hospital has had 5 deaths and one patient who was extubated. Extubation happens on day 10 per the Chinese and day 11 per Seattle.

Plaquenil which has weak ACE2 blockade doesn’t appear to be a savior of any kind in our patient population. Theoretically, it may have some prophylactic properties but so far it is difficult to see the benefit to our hospitalized patients, but we are using it and the studies will tell. With Plaquenil’s potential QT prolongation and liver toxic effects (both particularly problematic in covid 19 patients), I am not longer selectively prescribing this medication as I stated on a previous post.

We are also using Azithromycin, but are intermittently running out of IV.

Do not give these patient’s standard sepsis fluid resuscitation. Be very judicious with the fluids as it hastens their respiratory decompensation. Outside the DKA and renal failure dehydration, leave them dry.

Proning vented patients significantly helps oxygenation. Even self proning the ones on nasal cannula helps.

Outcomes

One of my colleagues who is a 31 yo old female who graduated residency last may with no health problems and normal BMI is out with the symptoms and an SaO2 of 92%. She will be the first of many.

I do wear a MaxAir PAPR the entire shift and I do not take it off to eat or drink during the shift. I undress in the garage and go straight to the shower. My wife and kids fled to her parents outside Hattiesburg. The stress and exposure at work coupled with the isolation at home is trying. But everyone is going through something right now. Everyone is scared; patients and employees. But we are the leaders of that emergency room. Be nice to your nurses and staff. Show by example how to tackle this crisis head on. Good luck to us all.

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