One Year Since Barcelona

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It’s funny that Mustapha would suggest anniversary posts for I’ve been meaning to write this all month. It’s been exactly a year since I was taking selfies in Plaça Reial with friends who were visiting me during my 3 months in Barcelona.

When I was there, it felt like I was moving forward: it was enriching because it was all discovery and I don’t just mean the gastronomic hunts I planned every weekend. You’re not supposed to get a thrill out of doing laundry and making coca-cola-chicken-for-one on a Friday night but after 27 years, I was finally becoming an adult and I loved it.

TRUTH: I had wanted to leave Beirut after getting my Graphic Design degree but I had landed a job at Leo Burnett before graduation. With the job market being a disaster compounded with my dream of wanting to work for the big shots of advertising, I wasn’t going to be a hard-headed child just because I wanted out. “Give it a few years,” I said.

Four years and countless internal battles after that decision and I’m still here.

When I came back from Barcelona, hopping aboard the family empire cruise-ship was not the plan. I wanted the move again…out and away for a Masters. But the expansion of Wesley’s lured me into a shift in my professional plans instead of an expensive relocation for pricey higher education.

Back in Beirut, working, living, and breathing for the family, I feel I have taken steps back. I’m burned out every 75 days, shifting from extreme edginess to needing complete isolation. I cling to business trips or any excuse to escape yet feel like an ungrateful ass for ultimately feeling unfulfilled when it comes to my own development. This is not a problem considering what life can throw at you and there is no one to blame for this otherwise fortunate situation except myself; I made the decision to stay here every time I had the chance to leave.

But with every upcoming temporary departure, I write a post like this, or this, or this, praying that things will change while/as a result of being gone – be it a week or a couple of months. Upon arrival, I write another post like this, or this, or this, saying things are just as I had left them. I wasn’t fudging when I said this blog is a track record of where my head is at and I can see that a pattern has emerged.

Or maybe it’s a cycle that needs to be broken.

I’m going to New York tomorrow and I don’t want to keep writing these identical departure/arrival posts. When I was 8, I moved on from Chuck E. Cheez and became a frequent visitor of the Discovery Zone. I used to beeline to the plastic covered mountain that you had to climb – in socks – with only a rope as assistance. In elementary, I took after-school algebra. In middle school, I begged to be placed in advanced math classes and chose French class over art.  In IB, I chose the tough higher level courses even though I had no clue what university major I was hoping for. I endured 3 years of pre-med. Although I regret the French choice, I was never one to walk away from a challenge and I used to take pride in the fact that I was a dual-national who repeatedly decided to stay and fight the good fight.

I’m not proud anymore. The time has come to take advantage of my other navy passport and fight for myself instead.

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BambiRunsBey42K: Shifting to 21K

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This is the 5th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Weak Sauce Weeks
Pre-diagnosis of puffy femur, I was already stressing about trying to get my pace down. Post-injury break, getting back into my stride and finding my old pace has been making me feel like Taco Bell weak sauce: you got the heat but it’s sub-optimal and you barely feel a burn. Allowing yourself time to gradually heal is necessary but SUPER annoying.

After being sidelined for 2 weeks, not being able to do the full distances upon return, and falling behind in the climb up the long-distance ladder on Sundays, I’m feeling frustrated that I am forced to take it slower than I already naturally am. However, I’ve got to remember: I can’t throw in the towel with 8 weeks to go until race day.

One Week at a Time
I did 3/5 runs the first week back, skipping the hills and long distance sessions. I made it to a max of 6K before feeling a little wobbly. The stiff leg combined with mental fear had been holding me back from pushing too hard too soon. My teammates were reassuring me that there is time to recover and improve before November but I couldn’t help feeling weighed down by my dumb, sensitive femur. And then I thought, “cancel the pity party, be grateful, and get out there.”

By week 2 of being back, I upped by mileage run by run reaching a max of 14K while pack42 was conquering 33K as a long distance. I had faced the hard truth and shifted to pack21; it is better give the half-marathon a real shot instead of cracking a hip going for the full. Poo. I’ll admit that removing the looming pressure of a full marathon has been a relief (until next year) and now I can focus on getting better for/at a distance I’ve already covered.

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Sunday NRC crew joined by the Defeet runners

Despite my downgrade, I’m going to keep the name of the series just for the sake of continuity and archiving but it’s official: Bambi is now running Bey21K.

Bambi Stats & Mini Victories
By the end of the last two weeks, I have managed to get back to my average 5K time so recovery is underway but the longer distances (10K and beyond) still need fine-tuning. I’ll be slowly increasing distances so that I can then tapper (go back down in distances pre-race) safely. This is the unsettling part about sitting out for a couple weeks: working your way back to where you were at pre-break. For me, it’s the main reason I avoid skipping runs; you immediately feel your body getting lazy again and sacrifice hard-earned progress.


Just for Kicks

In an effort to find motivation, I put Shantaram aside and started reading Run the World by Becky Wade, a 5’0″ 27-year-old marathoner from Texas. Becky’s talks about her year of country-hopping that opened her eyes to running cultures across the globe. For example, Becky (and Georgie, a temporary NRC Beirut runner visiting from the UK) talks about ParkRuns in London, weekly 5Ks done in the public parks open to all and tracked via chips so there’s friendly neighborhood competitin. She discusses about ugali in Kenya as running fuel. It’s an overall easy read that I recommend if you’re a runner.

Next up:  Shoe Dog, the memoir by Nike creator Phil Knight.

For Visual Motivation 

And in case reading and inspirational videos weren’t enough, leave it to Yeezus to release a video that makes you feel like a human jigglypuff who needs to flashdance the pounds away instead of crying into a pizza pie. “Imma let you finish but did you say you weren’t going to the gym??” Ah hell nah.

Bambi is Going to NYC…Again
Of course, in the middle of this comeback, I have a flight to catch. I’ll be gone as of next week and will need to get in at least 3 runs around the Big Apple. If not for the training, then at least for the ribs that I’m most definitely ingesting, diet be damned.

Hillstone, we have a date.

20 Blogger Confessions – Bambi Edition

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Courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo

This post was brought on by Joe’s Box latest.

  1. I write blog topics on small scraps of paper, Evernote, and my Apple notes app whenever a thought gnaws at me. Sometimes I’ll go back, read a note, and think “what was that supposed to be about?” I will either not remember what the heck I was thinking or read something indecipherable that I dictated to Siri in traffic. I have so many brain farts saved that make no sense but I keep them just in case the full thought resurfaces. I’m still waiting.
  2. The most difficult part about pumping out blogposts is sitting down to write them. Starting a post means you’ve already gotten over the hardest hurdle but I’ve found collecting your content and jotting down notes over a few days helps streamline the final outcome.
  3. I wish I blogged more often but if I’m not inspired to sit down to write them like I said above, the post will stay in the drafts and end up in the trash bin. You are only as good as your last blogpost. Quality versus quantity. I am my own rainbow. Slay.
  4. I hate stock photography or using photos that I did not take myself but it happens. This may be because I’m a creative who enjoys dabbling with the camera sometimes so I feel like everything on my platform should be my own.
  5. I spend a lot of time editing and re-editing blogpost drafts, especially when they’re about topics that I feel a sense of responsibility to do justice to. I worry about what I publish and put out into the world even if the only reader for the day is my dad who’s subscribed by email.
  6. I’m not a cheerleader for brands I don’t believe in. Freebies and/or money be damned, my credibility matters.
  7. Lebanon tends to be my main muse but I’ve been getting a lot of side-action when I travel. Seeing what the world has to offer has also made me see my Lebanon in a new and increasingly depressing light every time I return.
  8. My topics feel repetitive sometimes but I like to reread old posts and see how some thoughts have changed and how much hasn’t. It’s like a journal only less emo. Sometimes.
  9. When Nasri Atallah shared this post, I had the highest organic spike in blog views that resulted from one person’s share. The most viewed post to date is this one.
  10. Nowadays, they say you should have a niche or category to cater to when you blog. I had no idea what I wanted this to be when I started and my first posts show that. Almost 5 years later and I still feel like this is me rambling most of the time but hey, I called it “Soapbox” for a reason.
  11. Every time I hyperlink a word in a post, I feel guilty for taxing your mental processes and I’m comforted that tangible books will never do that to people when they read.
  12. I can’t write a blogpost from my phone. I like the feeling of the keyboard keys under my fingertips.
  13. I’ve admitted certain things on this blog that I had labeled to-the-grave secrets out of embarrassment/being too personal. However, when you throw them out into the abyss of the internet, it stops mattering as much. I appreciate raw honesty because of its rarity so practice what you preach?
  14. Although I occasionally boost posts and share across my social media channels, I don’t care about my analytics or views as much as I care about my content.
  15. I’m writing this while my mom does the dishes and every time a fork clanks onto the bottom of the sink, I want to scream. I don’t want to do the dishes though so I’ll slowly stew until I can go run off my edginess.
  16. My post on 10 Architectural Wonders in Singapore still gets A LOT of views even though it’s over 3 years old.
  17. The thesaurus is a blogger’s best friend but Google is a blogger’s best lover.
  18. Sometimes, when I’m reading my own old posts I think, “holy crap, how did you write that?” in good and bad ways.
  19. I HATE calling myself a blogger. Thinking of it as a job title makes me cringe. “I’m a blogger” makes me think of an excessively hairy dude who lives in his parents’ basement angrily publishing celebrity sleaze while selling collectible Happy Meal figurines on ebay. And he has a plumber’s butt and a pet turtle named Raphael.
  20. My posts tend to get the TLDR reaction but that’s okay. People who are waiting at airport gates/doctor’s offices/an empty table of 12 know what’s up.

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BambiRunsBey42K: Benched for Two Weeks

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Photo Credit: Jean Awad


This is the 4th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Down Days with Runner’s Blues
I’ve been in a rut for the past few weeks. I chalked it up to usual life frustration but then I came across an article about runner’s blues. As a sport, we all know that you need to account for physical rest but, it turns out, you need to let your brain take a break periodically too. You can’t let setbacks, black toenails, or off-days get you down. Run with it. Yoga has helped for me because it teaches you how to separate external stresses and thoughts from your present state of mind. And I end up getting a good nap at the end because my brain just shuts down if it’s not incessantly ticking. But then…

Injury & Mixed Emotions
Remember my thigh acting up? So apparently, bone, like most of our body tissues, gets stronger and adapts when it’s subjected to stress. BUT, unlike muscles and tendons, which which do so in a matter of days or weeks, bones take months to get stronger after increased stress. They first become weaker as they undergo remodeling, tearing down old osteoclasts’ walls and forming new ones. This is usually why stress fractures occur with runners who are upping their training regimen over several weeks to several months. Bio lesson over. Luckily, my recovering-from-stress-fracture teammates (Leila and NRC Pacer Nour G!) convinced me to go get my thigh checked out early. I went to a sports medicine doc who looks like a calmer, scruffier version of Cesar from OITNB because I figured a regular white-coat would just tell me to stop running.

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Dr. Cesar ordered an MRI and while trying my hardest not to fidget in that pod, I kept thinking that if I was injured, I’d be off the hook and I wouldn’t have to do the marathon; it wouldn’t be that I quit or wasn’t made for this rigorous training. But the moment the technician said that my scans weren’t 100%, my heart sunk. You’re going to take away running? But I’m trying so hard. Running is what I do. If I lose myself, I lose it all…Farrah? Is that you? 

Running had become a huge part of my daily routine that, once taken away temporarily, left me with a void. In that moment, it was clear that I didn’t want a way out but I did need a physical and emotional pause to recharge. Two weeks and I’ve missed moving, I’ve missed my team, and I’ve missed the sense of accomplishment. I feel stronger now but I’ve also been reminded of why I’m doing this: not for anyone else. I want to prove to myself that I can. I’m just doing it.

The MRI indicated slight edema in my femur. In English: Before a fracture occurs, athletes can suffer from stress reaction, the swelling phase just before bones crack from prolonged pressure on the already inflamed area of the bone. I was benched for two weeks meaning low-impact cardio (swimming or biking) until I can slowly return to running. Normal people would be happy to sleep in on a couple Sundays but I was experiencing major FOMO when the team shared photos of their high-20s long distance runs. Today is my first day back with this adorable team:

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Sidenote: DJs should get MRIs for inspiration. I felt like I was in a Daft Punk jam session. It was difficult not bobbing my head in there. 

Diets & Recovery
Everyone wants to swim like Michael Phelps but I just want to eat like Michael Phelps. Not because I’ve been craving grilled cheese sandwiches at 1 in the morning or anything. Anyway, Shalane Flanagan’s cook book has recipes that help athletes stay fueled and healthy. They’re also split according to injuries or deficiencies.

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Oregon Summer Salad…with pecans instead of blueberries

Shalane is an American long distance runner, holds the American record times in the 3000 m, 5000 m, 10K and 15K road race, and ranked 6th in this year’s Olympic marathon. Mostly, she’s also the author of the below tweet so I feel like I can trust her.

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Your diet can keep bones strong: eat lots of kale (high in vit K), sweet potatoes (high in potassium), and other foods high in magnesium, silicon, omega-3s, and vit A, C, D. More tips here and here.

There Will Be Others
Based on how the recovery goes, I may pull back to a half-marathon to avoid further injury and stay safe which is what Dr. Cesar suggests. It absolutely sucks but I’d rather not push to the extreme and end up on crutches for 3 months. There’s always next year and there will be other marathons. There is no need to risk injuries that will leave you with no choice but to stay on the sidelines.

I’ve been looking into destination races too. For example, the DisneyWorld marathon has a generous 13-min mile cut off time. Our Beirut full marathon has a max of 6 hours to complete, otherwise you don’t get a certificate. That’s Disney for you, always letting you live your dreams. I’m still waiting on my own genie and real-life Prince Eric but I digress. This all begs the question: if you run a 42K but your name doesn’t come up on the timesheet because you slow AF, did you really run a marathon? Existentialism at its best. Regardless, I can’t wait to be back with my running peeps. I mean, planning a trip around a running event? Whatever happened to obscure diners and Broadway shows? I don’t know who I am anymore. Oh wait, yes I do. I’m a runner.

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