Tag Archives: applied behavior analysis

Finding X

Running brings many gifts. Three of my favorites are:

  1. Access and exposure to people you may not otherwise have the grace and good fortune to know.
  2. Running makes you a more informed and enlightened tourist/traveller.
  3. It can bring strengths and weaknesses to the surface, many you may not expect to be related to running, and some that aren’t reality.

Here is one (long) example of this last gift.

As is socially embraced by math-phobics and math-vangelists alike, I often make self-deprecating cracks about my lack of math fluency. One of my most tired lines being, “You figure it out, there’s a reason I decided to be a psychologist, I failed algebra three times”.

If memory serves me right, I actually failed algebra once, in high school, but then I dropped out half-way through re-taking it. By dropped out I mean; simply stopped going to school, got my GED, and moved on with my life (I really, REALLY hated school). Of course, moving on with my life meant having to take “college algebra”, and while I didn’t fail it, I did re-take it to bring up my grade.

This means that I took algebra 3.5 times. (See? I CAN do math!) After which, I should be a freaking Algebra wiz! And you know what. I think I kind of am. Actually, I am more like the Picasso of Algebra.

Seriously. Most specifically I relate to; “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child” – Pablo Picasso.

You see, the reason I struggled in school generally. and specifically with math, is perhaps the same reason I ended up in a professional area of expertise that ends with the words “ANALYSIS” and “ANALYST” (NOT as ironic as you may think, stick with me here). I have a hard time doing things in a prescribed order because that order seems to rarely make sense to me. I vividly remember being in math classes, arriving at the “correct answer”, showing my work, and getting marked down (and made to feel foolish) because I didn’t perform the operations and whatever in the right order. That order being, whatever the text book said, or the teacher preferred.

When I really started struggling at school, academically and socially when I was 15, a very unimaginative psychiatrist diagnosed me with ADHD, prescribed TWO meds, and told me I was lucky to have made it that long with becoming hooked on narcotics, getting pregnant, or getting arrested,  I was almost hilariously far from any of those things so I told my parents he was a moron and never went back (I have REALLY GOOD parents).

In graduate school,  while studying Applied Behavior Analysis, the only two classes I struggled with were two that subjected me to the exact same experience (narrowly defined “correctness” not insults and unnecessary psychotropics), except instead of math operations, it was treatment design.

I’ve found in adulthood, and  in my career as a scientist-practitioner these last five years, that we actually have this amazing freedom to do things in WHATEVER ORDER YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE. This drive to do things in an order that seems functional rather than what the book says, helps me to be creative and actually solve problems more efficiently and effectively (and in a way that might maintain) than if I bang my head against the dogmatic protocols.

Wow, that was vague. Cut me some slack, I’m in the middle of some serious self-actualization right now. 

Perhaps the really major flaw in how we teach both algebra and treatment selection, is that we assume only a specific set of tools is available for reaching the conclusion, and that no other tools could ever lead to the same result. When in reality, you could be solving for the same “X” with a wide variety of tools available at different times and in different contexts.

Runners and coaches take hits to their confidence and performance because of this same fallacy. Just because a plan worked before, or this workout meant this or that THEN, doesn’t mean it will work NOW. We treat data that are fairly arbitrary as law (I’ll digress abruptly now, because this is a whole new 1,000 words waiting to happen).

Here’s my point: I was led to believe for 30 plus years that I suck at math. Then, while running the other day, and having to do a bunch of “X” finding to make sure I didn’t run too far or end up late for work, I realized that there are MANY circumstances where I’m actually pretty darn slick with the math skills, here’s a sampling:

  • calculating the tip on a restaurant bill (20%, dudes, 20%)
  • figuring out when to turn around during a run when I’ve altered course multiple times (as above)
  • re-arranging a training plan (where “X” is always shifting, and so are all the other variables)
  • Orienteering with a paper map and a compass (old school!). At least I assume I could still do this…also, this is totally math. Right?
  • Deciding which quantity of a product is cheaper, even though retailers and manufacturers are seemingly HELL BENT on discouraging you from doing so by never using the same unit of measurement for different packagings of the SAME PRODUCT. Sigh. I work in social services. In Illinois, I’ll always be on budget, this is a crucial skill.

The thing about how math (and problem solving) is taught in general education and how we use it in real life, is that the “X”we’re trying to solve for is often a moving target. Moreover, there are often multiple correct answers, potentially high-stakes (positive AND negative), and sometimes the part where you show your work, is truly the only part that matters. NOT because you used the “right” tools, but because you used the tools you had mastery over, you fostered progress, and so, even if you don’t arrive at the “correct” answer for “X”, you win.

What is the terminal outcome for my career, marathon running, and anything else? I’m not sure, and that’s what keeps me trying to solve for X, making the most of what I have, and chasing Unicorns.


Sunday: A Runner off her Routine, and Purpose.

I hope you’re having a great weekend. Every day I read something and think “Wow, I wish I’d written this!” Yesterday my friend/running idol/Shoe Fairy, Marron, shared a Rose-Runner blog post with me,  it had me laughing and saying “Amen, sister!” so here, add this to your Sunday musings.

Another great read is this Huffington Post article about the work of Melissa Carroll. I was on a swim team (Go Raiders!) with Melissa for many years as a kid. I haven’t seen her in at least 12 years, if memory serves me right, but I’ve spent hours in emotional chaos and 100% enraptured by her artwork and other posts via social media as she has lived with recurring bone cancer. She had a show the other night, and from my internet stalking it appears to have been a wild success. Salman Rushdie was there! This woman, well, I don’t know where to start, so visit her blog here.

There is so much symbolism here that I cried, then laughed, then cried and laughed.

There is so much symbolism here that I cried, then laughed, then cried and laughed. (Also, I swiped this picture from Facebook, sadly, I’m in Chicago, not NYC, or I’d have been at that show!)

There isn’t a lot of variation in how my weekends go, I am either traveling to a race or they look like this:

Saturday: Up at 6ish to meet up with some run-buddies, either at the lake front or to drive out to the suburbs for a long run. By the time that’s done, and I’ve daily-miled, showered, eaten and so on, it’s usually close to noon, and the rush for serial Netflix-ing, dog snuggling, dished doing, laundering (clothes, duh), blog reading, run-studying, and usually an hour or two of work-related activities begins.

Sunday: Looks exactly like saturday, except the long run is replaced by 6-10 easy miles, and I try to go to yoga at 3:30pm (I succeed about every 3rd week).

On Thursday evening this week, although I was having a hard time keeping awake while navigating the Dan Ryan traffic on the way home from work, I had a great run:

Thursday 8/22/13 Daily Mile entry.

Thursday 8/22/13 Daily Mile entry.

Then, on Friday morning I went out for my planned 8 mile recovery run and ended up posting this:

“So there I was, a half mile into my recovery run, feeling tired but good, and thinking about how I hadn’t fallen down in over 3 weeks, and woohoo! And then, BAM! I was body surfing the sidewalk on Wellington Ave. Again, I was wearing the Flow 2’s (I’ve actually lost count of my falls at this point). I’m done with them until a new edition comes out, or I’ll size down…why are they so long?!

Both knee’s and one hand were short some skin and looking bloody, and it hurt just enough that I sat down for a couple minutes. Then carried on.

At mile 2.5 the discomfort wasn’t shaking off so I turned back, things disintegrated from there, I did a lot of walking. After each bout of walking my right knee hurt more, until in the last .25 I couldn’t run at all.

I’m trying not to catastrophize, hopefully it’s just a temporary response to the insult…but we’ll see won’t we?”

I’ve been looking forward to this week’s long run for ages! A challenging 16-mile progression run with one of my training partners who’s paces a near-perfectly matched with my own. (As it happens, I owe him one, he encouraged me to turn back when my gait changed to accommodate the knee discomfort, ok fine, pain).

So my training week ended like this:

stupid knee

And so my Saturday looked a lot like me and the Shi-Tzu’s laying on the bed, watching an entire season of a Netflix series, and several episode’s of Dr. Who…yup, totally a productive use of my time.

I have noticed a pattern in my falls however, so that explains why my right knee is so inflamed.

In my hours of trying not to panic, I've tallied 6 falls that probably looked like this, since May 1st.

In my hours of trying not to panic, I’ve tallied 6 falls that probably looked like this, since May 1st.

Here we are, Sunday in full swing, I’m in my PJ’s still, no running because my right knee is stiff, which is exactly how it felt before my run attempt yesterday.

I am running my first of 3 marathons in 3 months in exactly ONE WEEK. I’m sure my knee will be 100% fine by then,  I’m basically just getting an extreme taper that I wasn’t planning on.

This week has been exhausting because a lot of great things have developed, and then that momentum came to an abrupt halt when I hit the ground on Friday morning. Sounds silly, I know, but, that’s the nature of such self-indulgent pursuits like marathon running and training. I’ve wallowed for nearly 48hrs and now it’s time to remember that something else happened this week: I’ve received over $800 in donations for Garden Center Services!

My training and racing this fall is in dedication to the people I work to support. Please visit my Go Fund Me page to learn a bit more. This may not sound like the most politically correct message, but part of what drives me professionally is that when I was in graduate school, it seemed like everyone wanted to work with children with autism, and do parent training and in-home therapy. While all this is a good and needed service, those cute kids are going to grow up into adults who still need a lot of support.

The challenge I see, is that children’s programs pull at heart-strings, and get lots of fundraising, awareness, and research attention. But when they grow up, and the disabilities and other challenges are still there, they join the ranks of an under-funded, often neglected, vulnerable,  and largely silent population, and that has to stop.

Thank you!


Love is the Mt. Washington Road Race

This is a flipping hard race!

See a neato slideshow here.

Click on the image to see a neato slideshow.

Not even a half mile in people were vocalizing their regret, both in the flowery local vernacular, as well as through extremely labored breath and heart-felt grunts. That said, it wasn’t nearly has hard as I’d imagined it would be, and it was multiple times more enjoyable. I was literally jumping for joy when I crossed the finish and saw my friend Shannon waiting there (you can ask him to verify that, I’m sure it was annoying).

I took pathetically few photos...I love my friends and should document their every move...

I took pathetically few photos…I love my friends and should document their every move…

Basically, what I’m saying is that I had a break-through run. I’ve been seriously contemplating not running anymore lately, and now I’m back to head-over-heels infatuation, even though I went into this out of shape and exhausted. Anyway, all this plus how awesome this race is means this post might reach what some call a “great american novel” length. So if you just want the stats hereyago:


The hardest part was actually when trying to put on a long-sleeved short amidst 55mph winds while still making forward progress and without sending myself back down the mountain, ass-over-teakettle. (I’m guessing here, I think the forecast was for 30-45mph, but it felt stronger, and Chicagoans have experience with wind). The windchill was probably around 34 degree’s (again, guessing, but I’m usually pretty good at this game) and if I’d known how close I was to the finish I wouldn’t have bothered with the shirt.

That sentiment right there was a large part of what made this event so excellent for me, even though I’ve climbed Mt. Washington 6 or 7 times (I’ve been trying, and have failed, to figure out the exact number), I’d never been up the auto-road before, so I didn’t really know how far along I was once we were above the treeline…and I either missed the mile 7 marker, or it had been blown over/away. (I went down the auto-road once, but it was too foggy to see anything.) Since I didn’t know what to expect mile by mile and I didn’t wear my Garmin and didn’t have a strategy other than to run by feel, and enjoy it all, I was forced to make performance decision by the step, and it was totally awesome.

Which brings me to my next point, in all those hikes when I was still living in New Hampshire, not once was I up there on such a clear day. Usually my view at the top was something like this:

This is a grey box. It represents fog. Which represents a not very great view from the top of a mountain.

This is a grey box. It represents fog. Which represents a not very great view from the top of a mountain.

But on Saturday the view was like this:

Actually, technically this isn't a view from the summit, but rather about 2 mi back down the auto road...forgive me.

Actually, technically this isn’t a view from the summit, but rather about 2 mi back down the auto road…forgive me.

This is just a few feet blow the official summit (we were getting into the car to descend) Meredith was a little cold. That's Wildcat Mountain in the backgroud. When you ski Wildcat you can see Tuckerman's Ravine, and when you ski Tuckerman's you can see Wildcat...kinda cool, I guess.

This is just a few feet below the official summit (we were getting into the car to descend) Meredith was a little cold. That’s Wildcat Mountain in the background. When you ski Wildcat you can see Tuckerman’s Ravine, and when you ski Tuckerman’s you can see Wildcat…kinda cool, I guess.

Alright, I’ve gotten carried away already, let me back way up here.

My family is from Maine, but my brother and I were raised, for the most part, in New Hampshire, I also went to college there. Here’s a house I lived in during the college years, because I know you want to know everything that is even remotely related to Saturday’s race:

Good old Plymouth State University

Good old Plymouth State University

And, without diving into too much self-disclosure and boring young adult woe-is-me-syndrome stories, My high school and college years weren’t my most well-adjusted, and when my folks moved down south in 2006, I wasn’t exactly heart-broken that I wouldn’t now have an obligation to visit New England, I was relieved, actually. But then last summer I went to Maine to visit family, and was totally blown away by how exactly opposite it was from my memory. You might remember this gem:


On our meandering path back to my friend’s house post race on Saturday, we stopped several times to give Meredith a nickel tour of the revenue generating part of our state (parks, trees, ski resorts, leaves that will later be differently colored, mountains, a face-less Old Man Of The Mountain). And I was reminded of how I spent probably 1/3 of most of my time from age 8 to age 24.

...and here you'll see to your left, the mountain where, a age 15, I broke my arm trying to force myself to get better a skiing moguls. Clearly, I still sucked at it.

…and here you’ll see to your left, the mountain where, at age 15, I broke my arm trying to force myself to get better at skiing moguls. Clearly, I still sucked at it.

My friends that grew up in Chicago often say “What did you DO in New Hampshire, weren’t you bored?”

Nope. It’s actually a little terrifying now to think about how much freedom I had as a kid. Here’s an example of how I spent most days after school, weekends, and summer vacations:


So, how did this race happen, for me, specifically? I remember when I first found out this event existed, it was 1998 and I ran my first 10k with a hiking buddy (I was 17), and afterwards, as we shared a pitcher of beer at the post-race party (relax, it’s NH, remember?) he told me about the Mt. Washington Road Race. I’d never heard of it before, and wanted to do it immediately. Apparently, “immediately” in this case meant 15 years later.

Auto Road Sign

This year my friend/run buddy Meredith set her primary running goal as basically getting her racing mojo back by doing novelty and bucket-list races, so I suggested we both enter the lottery for Mt. Washington. We both were selected (I suppose you’ve figured that out at this point), and it turned out to be perfect because my own running mojo as been at an all time low since April 15th.

Yes, this is a lottery race. Reportedly over 2,000 people enter the lottery every year, but only 1,300 are accepted, actually that’s a new field size, prior to 2013 the field was limited to 1,000. There is a way around the lottery. If you win, you get a free entry. I am going to resist the temptation to spew a lot of race history at you (you’re welcome), but here are some links if you’re interested:

Basic Race History from the MWRR site
MWRR records (including streakers who’ve run this race every year for over 30 years!)
Wikipedia (for some quickie stats)
An article full of trivia about the auto road

Ok, just give me your attention for one piece of trivia for the running geeks reading: did you know that BOTH John (J) Kelley and Jackie Gareau won BOTH the Boston Marathon AND the Mt. Washington Road Race? Well, now you do.

A line of cars descending the very large and meandering switchbacks down to the post-race lunch (droool).

A line of cars descending the very large and meandering switchbacks down to the post-race lunch (droool).

Exactly one month after Boston, we (Meredith and I) found out we were both in for the race which would be run exactly two month after Boston. And so we found ourselves, at noon last Friday, drinking whiskey doubles in the Cleveland airport (I’ll let you fill in the details here. Yes, I still live in Chicago).

Hi there.

Hi there.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed for the last few months so planning this trip wasn’t something that got much attention. Fortunately, I have a couple of amazing friends from college who offered to basically take care of everything for us, which included: a place to stay, transport to and from the airport, a ride to the race, a ride back down from the summit, gluten-free dining options researched, tour guided scenery (yah, I’m losing my vocabulary), and a killer-amazing toddler to play with:

We have similar tastes in literature.

We have similar tastes in literature.

We landed at dinner time, and were up early Saturday morning to head to the mountain, which is well over an hour from where we were staying. We made a few quick stops, and cut it way too close to the start of the race. The race began at 9am and I think we got to the base of the mountain just shy of 8:30, which meant in order for Shannon to get up the auto-road ahead of us (so he could watch the finish and drive us back down) he needed to basically turn back time.

auto road warning

We knew that our bibs, once we collected them, would have auto road passes attached to them, but we also didn’t have time for Shannon to make the cut off for access to the road, and an email had been sent that had a document attached indicating it should be printed and displayed in cars going to the summit (it literally said “to the summit” on it). So we figured it was an exercise in redundancy and parted ways.

Turns out we were wrong, and in a series of brave and power-struggle laden acts, we managed to get our two bib-auto-road-passes to Shannon and he was the very last car to head up the road to the summit. That is, after he argued with race personnel who said that to transport TWO runners down the auto road post-race he would need THREE passes…which if correct I really don’t understand, are we runners meant to arm-wrestle other runners and the winner gets the losers auto-road pass?

And, what was the print-out for if not to serve as the drivers pass. (typically to use the auto road you pay $20 per person in the vehicle or something like that)

So the car thing was really stressful, is what I’m trying to say. But we made it to the start on time. Dave McGillivray, who is the race director for The Boston Marathon as well as the MWRR, gave a tear-jerking short speech and led a moment of silence to mark the 2 months passed since the bombing at Boston, and to remember that we’re all family, as runners, and we’re free to run, well, free.

Let's go! Have I forgotten to mention that the air smelled so good I could taste it?

Let’s go! Have I forgotten to mention that the air smelled so good I could taste it?

In a very clever move, the start is actually downhill. Hilarious.

Running an unconventional race like this is a lot like being diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disease (or two, as is my lucky case), everyone wants to give you unsolicited advice on how you should manage it. But as one runner put it: “There may only be one hill, but…there will be 1,300 paths taken to get there.”

As I mentioned above, I had no strategy for actually trying to get from start to finish a lot of people had run/walk ratio’s planned, where you run for a set number of steps of duration of time and then walk that same interval, and repeat. I totally see the logic to this strategy, and Meredith adopted a 20/20 (seconds) method and it worked out great for her!

Meredith, AB (me), and Erica warming up at the top! Click on this image to read Erica's awesome race recap!

Chicago Ladies! Meredith, AB (me), and Erica warming up at the top! Click on this image to read Erica’s awesome race recap!

This strategy would have been a poor fit for me, I really wanted to soak up my surroundings, both the mountain itself and my fellow racers. Also, 1) a method like that could become really aversive (read: annoying) after 30 minutes or so because 2) switching gears when running on flat roads is hard enough (don’t forget, I was running UP A DANG MOUNTAIN) and seems to use a lot more energy than plugging away at a steady pace. Also, 3) I had NO IDEA how this run was going to pan out, both in terms of the course and also how my body would react, and 4) slow and steady wins the race! Duh!

Yes, I really thought about all of these things in the 5 minutes before the official start of the race.

Within a few hundred yards after hitting the incline (the first mile seemed to be one of the steepest sections of the course), I thought how very similar to a stepmill it seemed. So I thought back to a few years ago, when I spent many hours every week on a stepmill at the gym where I was working while going to school for my masters degree. So I settled into a pace that felt like what I would do if I was going to spend an hour studying on a stepmill (I got really good at reading and using flashcards without falling off the ‘mill…with a few mishaps along the way).

This is a Stepmill. FYI.

Super scientific, I know. Yes, I will totally coach you for money.

Then, as the miles wore on, and the mountain didn’t relent, I just slowed down, or shortened my steps anytime my heart-rate or breathing moved to an uncomfortable intensity. In fact, I’m pretty sure my heart-rate and breathing stayed right around where they would for a run-of-the-mill long run.

I’m a behavior analyst, I make data-based decisions as a general rule, and observing your own physiology whilst attempting to run upwards nearly 5,000 feet across 7.6 miles, is data.

It worked for me, To prove it, I finally have race photos wherein I don’t look like I’m miserable! I was smiling! (trust me, that is a smile)

This is what it looks like when AB gets her running mojo back.

This is what it looks like when AB gets her running mojo back.

There was a clock at the halfway point, which for some reason I wasn’t expecting. Shoot, I was impressed (and grateful) there were mile markers even! It read something like 47 minutes when I got to it, which was exciting, as I’d assumed I would be closer to an hour at that point. I walked for the first time shortly after that, less out of fatigue and more out of curiosity. I knew that the terrain was more variable in terms of the grade of the road once we got above the tree-line, so walking at some point was inevitable and I wanted to be prepared for how difficult the run to walk to run transitions would be.

I walked about 10 times for, I think, no more than 15 – 30 seconds each time in the second half of the race. One of the fun parts of the race was actually that you’re constantly leap-frogging with other runners. Before I started taking walk breaks it took 3 – 5 walk/run cycles (the other runner) for me to pass a runner officially, so you sort of got to know people.

Finishing 221 out of 1086 runners, was a WAY better ranking than I expected. My quasi-arbitrary goal now is to break the top 100.

Finishing 221 out of 1086 runners, was a WAY better ranking than I expected. My quasi-arbitrary goal now is to break the top 100.

So I had a blast, and I consider this experience to be a sweeping romantic gesture from running to me (yes, I’m a narcissist), and it totally worked. I went from contemplating bailing on my summer and fall races to beginning to train for them on Monday.

But no….this post still isn’t over.

Since it would be fairly unsafe to send a  long stream of cars down the auto road while runners are still going up it, we spent a good hour or two at the summit. I ate some Chili that I am 75% sure had gluten in it. Shannon and Meredith are 100% sure it did, because they nearly died of asphyxiation in the car. Sorry guys.

It had to happen. I panic when I'm hungry. Next time I'll send snacks to the top.

It had to happen. I panic when I’m hungry. Next time I’ll send snacks to the top.

The ride back down the mountain just further confirmed how freaking cool this event is.

descend 2

And then!

There was a post-race feast!



You may not know this about me, but the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite meal. And look what happened!

carving the turkey

In case I’m not being clear here. The post-race lunch was a full, made from scratch, Thanksgiving dinner! (from Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant) Runners can buy extra meal tickets for friends and family, since I (as you may have picked up on) didn’t read much about this race before diving in, I didn’t realize the food would be so awesome and therefore didn’t buy an extra ticket. People seemed to be taking heaping portions, so I did too, and grabbed the gluten-y stuff to share with our “race-crew”. Next time I will definitely buy the extra meal ticket(s).


As I already mentioned we took our time getting home. We had an awesome dinner (mmmm Haddock) and a wine tragedy occurred.

comman man wine

If you’ve read this whole post, and you haven’t ever run a marathon, or run up a mountain, you may as well, because you clearly have the endurance.

This race was a huge insight into how I should probably train for the culmination of my fall marathon season (I’m running 3 in 3 months): The Catalina Eco Marathon in November. I’ll read a bunch of books while using a stepmill. Because the course looks like this:

Catalina elevation

One more thing, it was motorcycle weekend in NH, which made being there even better. They were everywhere, and I love them. Just like I love running. And running up mountains, apparently.

watch out for motorcycles


Why we do what we do

I was just working on a post similar to last week’s containing links to articles and other things that have helped me stay on track with my marathon training this week.

But then I got pinged that my boss had just forwarded an email to me with the subject line “Why We Do What We Do”.

I’m stopped in my tracks. It had perfect timing because I’ve had a few challenging experiences recently that left me feeling like the harder I try to do the right thing, the more resistance I get. After reading this article and watching the 12 minute video, none of that matters.

It also addresses the question of not only why I work at my chosen profession, but why I run: because I am uncontrollably compelled to, and to not pursue it, would be to not lead the life think is most meaningful.

Read the article here.

And, if you can’t get the video to load you can view it here as well. (it’s the one called “Wright’s Law”.)

Please follow the links and watch the video I don’t have the extra $60 to pay so that I can embed video onto my blog, I promise, it’ll be worth the 12 minutes of your life.

With tremendous love,


I don’t only run. I also swim in oily water, eat cookies, and laminate stuff.

If you read the title, you really don’t have to take the time to read this post. It’s like high-gloss, big-budget, blockbuster movie preview: you just got all the good bits.

But if you enjoy the minutia of my life, please continue.

I was filled with self-satisfaction for the first half of today because I got my lazy butt out of bed and down to Ohio Street Beach this morning. The last few weeks I’ve had a hard time getting up in the morning to run, or do anything, for that matter. Which has meant a lot of evening runs, and a few missed ones.

Last time I had a running related injury, swimming (more specifically, kicking, I reckon), really helped the recovery process, so up I got.

I still score about a 7 on the lame-o-meter for driving rather than riding my bike. Sunrise is creeping later into the morning now, and I do not have any lights on my bike.

Don’t worry, I started a shopping list.

My friends are more punctual and quicker to wake than I, and so when I arrived at the lockers at 6:06am they were already in the water.

Here’s the proof I was really there, sucking up diesel and whatever else was glistening in the sunrise in that silky surface skim….


Sorry about the crazed eye expression there. I’ve never been a morning person.

Typically, if I am in the water, be it pool, lake, ocean, or bathtub I am fairly content. I am not very graceful by land, and everything feels less effortful in the water. This morning the lake was really calm, so the swim was nice. I wish could have swum longer, I covered a mile, but have no idea how long it took. All I know is I got back home at about 7:05.

The water was really warm, I wondered if I was swimming in pee.

I probably was.

At any rate, it’s a good way to start a day.

The finish to my day will be far less idyllic.

I just got home from work and for the second day in a row wonder if I’m occupying some alternate universe because A.) it again only took 45 mins from office to home (usually it take a minimum of 90),

My nephew’s dream in life is to work for JPL (who you may have heard of in the last few days), and design a mass-market flying car. I sure wish he’d hurry up on that. I mean, he is 5 already…what’s the hold up?

B.) I am craving junk food uncontrollably and don’t think I’ve had a vegetable in a week, and C.) I have little to no desire to work out.

This is the first week in 10 that I haven’t weight trained, so as I eat these Oreo’s, and drink sugary tea, I shall reflect on that success.

I am also going to laminate a bunch of matching and sorting materials for work…doesn’t behavior analysis sound inspiring?!

Tomorrow morning I am going to head to the track to test out my weirdo achy shin.

Have you ever found yourself in a training rut and been so confident that it’ll pass that you don’t really put any effort into getting back into the groove?

Does that even make sense?

I guess it means that I’ve been here before, and I know at some point I’ll look back, mid-routine and think, huh….when did it get easy again?

Relapse is part of growth.


List making is not always self-managing: A tip.

I have been at my new job just long enough now that each day, the more I get done, the more items I have to add to my To-Do List. It’s as if each accomplished task generates two additional tasks. To be frank, if I am doing my job right, this is the way things should go.

The problems with this phenomena are as follows:

Sometimes things arise that take neccessary priority and so the list isn’t touched for hours, or the whole day.

Sometimes, the list is so long, that many things get completed and crossed off, while other, equally important things are obscured, and forgotten.

Sometimes, just having the list gives the impression that things have been completed, and distractibility rises as production drops off.

And often, even though things are being crossed off the To-Do list, it keeps growing and so the list goes from one sheet, to two, to three, to four…and then just the sight of it becomes so aversive that it’s overwhelming and it gets hard to know where to begin!

I was at this point on Thursday when a co-worker came into my office, and caught site of my 4 sheets long To-Do list. She gave me a tip that has already proved very useful, and effective.

At the end of the day take the items you did not finish and move them to the end of the list with a star next to them. That way things that are done are out of sight, the list is shorter, and you know which items have been carried over (or put off).

Each time an item gets moved it gets an additional star next to it.

If an item has three stars, then it’s likely you have been avoiding it. So just get it done!

I immediately tested out this technique and it colsolidated my list that day from four sheets to two! I snapped out of my overwhelmed stupor and got a few more things ticked off by the end of the day.

It’s true that by the end of Friday my list had grown up to 3 sheets, but now I felt a much higher level of control over it, and I will continue to use this method.

I am not sure who coined this strategy (said co-worked learned it at a seminar or workshop of which I don’t know the name), but I have to say, paired with a count-down timer and some salient reinforcers, it’s a behavior analyst’s dream!

Go do more!


Hogwash about Habits


Sometimes, very often, actually, I think that the real key to success and to achieving your goals is to be nice to yourself. To just step back from all the self-analysis and goal setting, and just be nice. Reward yourself for just being awesome, even if you have regressed a bit.

There is all sorts of advice out there about how many days, weeks, months, or repetitions it takes to build a habit. None of them are true. Not unfailingly. A lot of people say “it takes 21 days to build a habit”. This notion does come from research (and I use that term loosely here), but there are many, many, elements important to success, learning, and goal setting that are not taken into account.

For example, if you absolutely hate playing the piano, but somehow force yourself to practice everyday for 21 days, it is highly unlikely that you will then continue to play everyday out of “habit”. Yes, at that point one could argue that piano-playing had become “part of your routine”. However, if you dislike it, and are not receiving some other reinforcement for practicing, at the end of those 21 days you’ll likely happily replace that bit of your routine with something else.

Now, say you love jazz music, and every Tuesday a virtuoso-jazz-piano-playing-easy-on-the-eyes-friend, who you also have a crush on, comes over to practice with you. There is a good chance you will start to enjoy playing and practicing the piano. You might even start playing everyday or every Tuesday, and that “habit” might form after only one, or three sessions.

If something is rewarding or rewarded, in a way that you value, you are very likely to repeat that thing, maybe even after it has happened only once or twice.

Or, an equally useful bit of behavioral knowledge, when we have to work harder (or longer) for a reward, we value it more. And therefore are likely to repeat those behaviors again.

As I go into this last week of January – first week of February, I will be thining about how I am rewarded for your efforts, or how those efforts are rewarding me.

Join me! Let me know what you learn!

If you are trying to achieve a weight loss, exercise, professional, spiritual, social/family, or academic (any goal, really), and you are thinking “I just have to do this!”, or “I should be able to just stick to this!” stop and breathe. Then, next time you try something that advances you toward your goal, reward yourself, say to yourself  “self, you just did an amazing job focusing on what your kids were saying!”

Instead of silently, grindingly, and punishingly, slogging through your workouts alone, go to a class that seems a little goofy, allow yourself to count roughhousing and running around with your kids as exercise for now.

We don’t give it a second thought to make important things fun for children so that they will develop habits like brushing their teeth, eating healthy foods, and other generally important habits. There is no good reason that same tactic can’t be applied to adults, or yourself.

Have a mindful Monday,


Why being nice is generally the way to go.

I was explaining (not so successfully at first) to someone the other day, that generally punitive measures will not result in positive behavior change because the link between the undesired behaviors and the “punishment” will likely be really murky to the person you are trying to influence, and they’ll just think you’re being mean.

For example (and I am making this up), you are watching a friend’s 5 year old  kid, and they are being super whiny and in general not listening to directions, thereby really driving you nuts. You have to run some errands and you take the snotty ankle-biter along with you.

As you stand in line at the bank, one of the bankers hands the kiddo a lollipop and the brat’s face lights up with glee. You are still urked at the stress you’ve been caused so you take away the lollipop and say “No way, kid! You’ve been bad all morning, you don’t get candy now!”

Whoops. Now you are really screwed. Enter: tantrum.

Take a different scenario: you woke up in a shittastic mood, your hot water was out, you broke a coffee mug, saw that gas prices had gone up, and then spilled red jelly on your shirt (again, making this up…if anything I go for Boston Creme Donuts), and you’re generally snippy at everyone. Then, as you are standing in line to get lunch (at Panera, maybe? mmmm) you bump into a colleague you haven’t seen in ages and she/he says something like “Wow, you look great! I hear you’ve been (insert super awesome idea you launched). Man, you are such an inspiration!”

Suddenly you feel less stressed, you are able to pull the trigger on the delicious salad you really wanted in the first place, you remember what you were supposed to email a friend about, and the rest of your day goes by far easier.

Monday's are Panera Bread day...this week I had this. It was excellent. I took a picture.

Sometimes, when something good happens, and it is unexpected, it can turn around not only a persons mood, but their behavior as well (technically speaking, mood IS a behavior…but I will let that slide for now).

Now for the opposite, a case study:

I’ve had a rough few days when it comes to not being too hard on myself, taking care of my digestive health, and remaining mindful and accepting of life’s little speedbumps. This morning, with some coaching from my sister-in-law, I started fresh, I got up in time, coffee was brewing (so I can be all peppy for my spinners, hehe), I  made myself a healthy breakfast smoothie for post-spin, packed a colon-friendly lunch, and was on my way…

Kale, Spinach, Frozen Berries, Orange Juice, and a Banana...it was really good!

Everything was great, until I stopped at Starbucks on my way to commute to the office,  and locked my keys in my truck, engine running. Oh, boy, not only my mood, but my tone of voice, my posture, and my attitude about the day ahead did a 180.

I got to work 90 minutes late, grumpy (again), and $80 poorer (I haggled the locksmith down from $185, can you believe that!)

I had missed leaving with a co-worker for a full day of on-site visits, and really couldn’t figure out what I should then work on (there is plenty, but I was still so frustrated!).

I have taken some breathes, cleaned my desk up, and decided to spend the day catching up on some research I have been meaning to do in order to finish up some transitional tasks (I am moving on to a new job over the holidays).

In the end, though, it’s pouring out and I would certainly rather go snuggle with my girls:

This is probably exactly what they look like right now. I would put money on it (if I hadn't given it all to the locksmith).



6 weeks down, 21 to go.

Some heros/experts on learning. (because this week I got schooled) Also, FYI, Ogden Lindsley is my "chart great-grandparent"

Everything seemed unpredictable this week, my workouts, my performance, my energy level, my mood, my food choices (booo!)), my tummy, everything. I am really looking forward to doing better next week.

It’s a good time for it too. This marks the end of my “base building” period of training for Boston, and tomorrow will begin the “strength building” period for the next 6 weeks. The goal during this time is 4 strength sessions a week. I will consider the following as strength work: cross training on the stepmill, plyometrics or kettlebell sessions, interval workouts on the bike, traditional weight lifting and calistenics sessions lasting more than 15 minutes.

The long list is an effort to set myself up for success, I am really struggling to fit in workouts beyond early morning runs right now. This first week should be easier to manage since there are only 3 workdays because of Thanksgiving.

My long run this week (yesterday morning) felt really good, and I did a great job being mindful and staying focused during the run. Which is probably why I was able to keep my splits just about on track:

Avg Pace
Summary 1:33:48.9 12.01 7:48.5
1 7:59.9 1.00 8:00.0
2 7:47.3 1.00 7:47.4
3 8:01.4 1.00 8:01.5
4 7:50.6 1.00 7:50.7
5 8:18.5 1.00 8:18.6
6 7:38.6 1.00 7:38.7
7 7:50.5 1.00 7:50.6
8 7:52.7 1.00 7:52.8
9 7:36.9 1.00 7:37.0
10 7:35.3 1.00 7:35.3
11 7:27.8 1.00 7:27.8
12 7:42.5 1.00 7:42.6
13 :6.5 0.02 6:30.2

…except for mile 5, which was where I took a wrong turn, got stuck in a marina enclave thingy, and could not for the frustrated life of me, figure out how to get back onto the bike path.

Week 7 of marathon training is where I seriously injured my foot last year in my Boston Marathon attempt. Lots of things are different this time around. I vow to never again copy training plans from books or magazines (get idea’s, but of course!), but rather,  to make them 100% customized for myself, my own strengths and weaknesses, and my schedule/non-running responsibilities.

Also different, and perhaps this is the key feature, is that week seven was nearly half-way into the entire training plan last time, and this time it is only a quarter of the way through.

One could argue that this plan isn’t marathon specific training until week 16, where the mileage buildup really takes off. I’d say that’s fair, except that the key to a good plan is that it takes into account anything that might preclude success. (gasp! Is that a tenet of ABA that I just snuck in there?!?!) If I don’t have an outcome specific plan in place, I KNOW that I wouldn’t be prepared for the training volume necessary even during week one of a 16 week plan.

I have already complained about the fact that I had some rather childish/regressive moments this week, so did one of my dogs. Penelope has been throwing up. When she was a teeny puppy she would face-plant into her bowl  every time she ate. Last night she refused to eat unless I sat on the floor, and then she did this:

Like an 8 week old.

She then tried to drink water whilst laying down, not as successful. Then, she snuggled up with me all night, which was nice.

That was random, apologies if you are still reading.

On to the obligatory weekly training recap:

Monday: 8hrs sleep, 4mi run, back/chest/core weight lifting

Tuesday: 7hrs sleep, 7mi run

Wednesday: 6hrs sleep, Spin class, 3mi run

Thursday: 7hrs sleep, impromptu rest day

Friday: 6.5hrs sleep, 6mi run

Saturday: 9hrs sleep, 12mi run

Sunday: 8hrs sleep, 2 spin classes, body blast class

Total mileage:32

I was feeling pretty good about myself yesterday because my legs felt really good after my long run. But today, after 2 hard spin classes (I subbed the one before my regular class) and body blast all in a row, I’d like to stay seated for a while.

Finally, time for graphs:

It's getting pretty!

This one is less pretty, but I am proud of the self-control I am exercising in so gradually building weekly mileage:

So much more to come!

I am certain you have many more interesting and enjoyable things to do this Sunday afternoon, go enjoy, thanks for playing along!


Slumps happen. Digression does as well.

I have gotten in all my training runs so far this week, but it feels like I have accomplished zero else. And yet, I am exhausted. I was really frustrated last night, and in one of my less proud moments, I broke my kitchen garbage bin by being too rough with it.

I then went and laid down. It’s funny, because typically when you become suddenly and completely overwhelmed, there are tears. Or words. Nope. None.

I was feeling resentful of the resistance we (crisis team members) constantly get from the people we try to help (I don’t mean the individuals with DD/MI, I mean the people who work with them, and help make decisions for them). I was also feeling disappointed with myself for not getting more done each day at work, for eating lots of crappy snacks, and for not getting my weight lifting sesisons in, I was also sulking because I was looking forward to getting to at least one yoga class this week, and it just wasn’t working out.

In a near perfect illustration of why Jorge (my boyfriend extraodinaire) is so great: after I had been curled up with the dogs for a while, he came in, laid down, and said “You had a meltdown, that’s ok, let’s eat dinner” I think I said something like “I am overwhelmed, that garbage can sucks.” To which he replied “we’ll get one with a foot lever this weekend.” He could totally join the crisis team. De-escalated? Check. Re-directed? Check.

So we ate some dinner and I went to bed soon after. I struggled to get up this morning (5am), I felt genuinely hung-over nearly all day today! I really wonder if my little event last night was a bizarre type of panic attack. But, get up I did, and I ran 6 miles before the sun came up. Six. SLOW. Miles. I focused on accepting the slow pace the entire time. I also entertained myself by concocting totally fictional scenarios wherein I delivered well-timed, metered, intelligent, and undeniably RIGHT speeches to various ignorant, arrogant, and otherwise belligerently misguided folks I have encountered in the last year. I wish I could say it was a stress-relieving exercise in mindfullness. It was actually rather stress inducing.

I guess I am not in the healthiest place right now.

Hopefully it will pass, quickly.

Also, strangely, I had a really hard time putting together an outfit this morning. But, eh, if people can wear jeans and hoodies to work on Fridays, then I can dress like a third grader if I want to.


You might also notice that I forgot to brush my hair today, had 3 cups of coffee, have completely given up on makeup, and have a very organized and calm work cube. (Also, I just noticed that there is a hole in that dress. Awesome)

The good news is that I get to play with my Garmin for a whole 12 miles tomorrow morning.

Right now, I would love to down an entire pizza, my saving grace is that Jorge is a super-clean eater.

Boo-Hoo-Buckets. Waah.