Here is a transcription of the interview:
Sarah: Welcome back to the podcast, Deena.
Deena: Thank you. It's so great to be visiting with you today.
Sarah: Good, good, so I can't believe it's been almost four years since you joined us on the show. The last time, your daughter, Piper, was a preschooler, and now she's what? Going into second grade maybe?
Deena: She's going into the second grade this week. It's so crazy. We've just been camping, as a last hurrah of summer with her, so I'm fresh in... I shouldn't say the word. I use the word fresh very lightly, fresh in from camping for the past five or six days.
Sarah: Wow, but it's close to home camping, isn't it?
Deena: It is. It's a mile and a half, which means we now need an entire U-Haul trailer to bring our stuff back to the house.
Sarah: Well, it was fun to see snippets of it. You took over our Instagram account, so thank you for doing that. It was great photos, and so pretty.
Deena: Yes, and I'll have to give a shout out to T-Mobile, because I have never had reception at the Lakes Basin, which is so close to our house, but for some reason, this summer, I get beautiful reception up there, so I was able to post photos from our campsite, as well as when we had to run into town for our job, the running club, and training with our team.
Sarah: Nice, nice, nice.
Tish: It looked like a whole lot of fun.
Deena: It always is. Tish, you've been out this way, exploring in the back country, and to be on the John Muir and Pacific Crest trails. We have so many people passing through, and our campground neighbors were this family from Burgundy, France.
Deena: I wish, if they knew they were going to meet me, maybe they would've brought me some wine, but they didn't know. I took her on a run through the Lakes Basin and on all the hidden trails this morning, and she just had a blast. It was really... French are tough. She wasn't a runner. I actually saw her smoking an E-cigarette, but she has the innate toughness in her, and so we ran along the back of some of our most beautiful lakes here, so it was a fun morning, to be able to share that with someone from so far away.
Sarah: Wait, so did she know who she got to run with this morning?
Deena: She does not. I was just a jogger, who was eager to show her the ropes of Mammoth.
Sarah: Oh, mon dieu. I wish she knew.
Tish: Just some hobby jogger.
Deena: Yes, if she asked I probably would have told her I was like a soap maker or a preschool teacher or something. Something out of thin air.
Tish: Deena, Sarah was mentioning that air quality up in Portland has been bad because of forest fires and I was curious if that's effecting you down there.
Deena: It is the same. We have the Yosemite Fire going and our mammoth actually backs up into Yosemite County and so the air quality has been very sporadic for the past two months since June 11 when we had a fire that was threatening our nation monument, Devil's Coast Isle National Monument here. And they put it out a month after it started and then it reignited from winds kicking up in the valleys. So between the Yosemite Fire and the Lion's fire very nearby we've had quite a bit of smoke this summer.
Sarah: So are you changing then your workout plans because of it?
Deena: Yeah we basically just have to find the time of day or a location. It seems like when we go up to the Lake's Basin, maybe because it's the higher elevation that the air is clear, we're kind of above the smoke and there was one day that we went from working out down at the track to having to work down...or work out up at the Lake's Basin. So instead of 7000 feet, we were working out at 9000 feet which is a whole nother story.
Sarah: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Wow.
Deena: Sarah, is the air quality still bad up there?
Sarah: It is. So I went on a walk run with my best running friend this morning and she's an avid listener of the local news and she said that they were saying that yesterday Portland had the eighth worst air quality of anyplace in the world.
Deena: Oh no.
Sarah: Yeah but I mean it's not like the haze is at eye level or something. You can't smell it and I wasn't coughing or something. I've been in Salt Lake City when there was an inversion and I remember I went running for outdoor retailer and was just hacking the whole rest of the day.
Sarah: So no I mean, I'm not having to clear my throat a bunch or I don't have black eye boogers or anything like that.
Deena: Oh those black eye boogers. I've had a couple of those this summer from the [crosstalk 00:04:42]
Deena: Trashy air.
Sarah: You know what I'm talking about.
Deena: You're like, "Ew, did that just come from me?"
Sarah: That's right. It's why my kids actually work. Just yesterday they said something around, our dog's name is Oggy and they're like, "Oggy has black eye boogers." And the time I was like, "What's me or the dog?" And now that we say it I'm like, "That's why he had black eye boogers." Yes.
Deena: Yes because he was lounging outside.
Sarah: Right, right, right.
Deena: Yeah and it's not just effecting our running because there were days that ash was actually coming from the sky and everybody was talking about evacuations and we were very far from evacuating here but the ash was falling from the sky and of course it happens to be the day that I decide to paint our kitchen cabinet's black. So I had all of the doors of our kitchen cabinets on tables in the backyard later to have this ash coming down. I looked like a crazy lady trying to fan away the ash as it was drying and then when it was dry it was fine but I must have looked so psychotic in the yard fanning over my kitchen arts.
Sarah: Oh my gosh. Of course the stars had to align. You had to be doing that task on the day the ash decided to fall.
Deena: Yes and talking about stars aligning, we had the privilege last night to have Alastair and Amy Crag at our campsite for dinner.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Deena: And she's in town training for the Chicago marathon and we had them at our campsite for dinner and I made my signature campsite meal, beef bourguignon, which comes out so good over the campfire.
Deena: But Alastair had an app on his phone that tracked the sky and as the sun was going down, the bats come out so we're looking up at the sky. But at the same time we saw Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury in the sky. It was so cool. I was in heaven. I couldn't believe that we could see all of these planets in the sky before any of the stars spilled into it. It was the right planets that were all in line across the sky. It was so cool.
Sarah: Oh my goodness. Wow, wow. And were the skies clear enough for you to see the meteor shower that took place for several nights in a row?
Deena: Yes, we slept without our rain fly on which keeps us a little warmer but we slept without it on just so we could see the shooting stars and I counted seven before I fell asleep because I'm so tired, but Piper stayed up and she said she got to 20 before she fell asleep. And you know my husband who's down comforter's only a mile and a half away, he puts the flyer out and leaves us at the campsite and comes back in the morning and lights us a fire and makes coffee.
Sarah: Wait, because he doesn't like sleeping outdoors?
Deena: He said if he was in the back country and he had no other option he would do it but because he knows his cozy bed is only a mile and a half away, he drives home and sleeps here.
Sarah: I gotta say, I'm right there with Andrew. I am not a sleeper in the outdoors person. (laughs) And also it's not just the bed but it's the indoor plumbing. So the indoor plumbing at two or three AM. Just...I don't know.
Deena: That would definitely, I mean I would hate to unzip the tent and get out of it, but I sleep so hard through the night I feel very fortunate I don't have to get up. I have to go immediately when I wake up in the morning but I sleep hard through the night so to get out in the middle of the night when the bears are rummaging through the campsite.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Deena: The ideal for a pee break, no.
Sarah: Well and the ax murderers that are always lurking nearby, I mean come on!
Deena: They're always there. Always.
Tish: It's really good that you guys can accommodate each others preferences. You get to be in the tent and he gets to be at home and everybody's happy.
Deena: Yes and he lights the great fires which always just completely astounds me every time. He just lights one match and we got this gorgeous fire and it sometimes takes me well into the night to get any little spark.
Tish: So good he's useful too.
Deena: Yes, yes.
Tish: So Deena, we're talking about your family here and I'm really curious so we'll get on the topic of running about how your running life changed once you became a mother runner.
Deena: Yeah, you know it was so challenging and in my plan when I ran right after having Piper, maybe two weeks after having her and I first got in that little jog that made my whole body tingle with joy. I said, "Oh yeah, I still got this. This is still really important to me. It still feels really good despite being severely out of shape." So I got back into it and it was maybe 20 minutes one day. By the time I finally had a watch on and saw the pace that I was running it was mortifying to consider myself a professional at that point, but I kept going and finally my coach at the time, Terrance Mahon, said, "You know the Olympic Trials are right around the corner. You should give it a shot."
Deena: And I thought, "Yeah, I'm gonna do this and plenty of people do this!" They're moms, they're business women and they raise families. So I started doing it and I felt so...I think challenged by the separation of focus that my whole life had been so focused on profession and even with my husband being so supportive we were all in this together and to want to be a gold medal mom and also a gold medal runner, I found a really hard time balancing that and I remember days leaving the house with Piper crying to get to practice and it didn't practice really fast and while the rest of my team stretched and chitchatted and went to the gym, I just buzzed home to feed Piper and sometimes I got in second runs and sometimes I didn't because we were playing or she was sleeping in my arms and I was loving the fact that I had both things in my life but I had a really hard time with the drive to be good at both of them.
Deena: Knowing that what it took to be good before was a narrow focus on one thing and I remember after the Olympic trials thinking, I got sixth place in the top three go, but I remember when the break was made in the race...I don't know if it wasn't the determination or the fitness to go with anybody. I just thought, "I don't know what I'm fighting for. Why is this important to me right now?" I had all these reasons to throw in the towel during the time of the race that I should have been dropping the hammer and I crossed the finish line thinking that I failed as an athlete and as a mom and it was so discouraging. I remember that weight feeling so heavy like, "How do I do this?" I just spent the past 6 months focusing on this and I failed at everything and it was such a hard burden to take, but we went on a camping trip off the coast of California and I knew I would figure it out eventually. But I just thought, "You know, I'm not trying to reinvent something here. So many people do this successfully."
Deena: So I just decided to set priorities which is what everybody tells you to do and that family and health would come first and running and my job would come second and sometimes those lines blur. They actually most often blur because sometimes going out for a run makes me better at being a mom or better providing for my family so it just gave me the justification to make the choices I wanted to and the time, but really being 100% focused on what I was doing with the hat I was wearing in that moment and that's what it came to to me. That it wasn't 100% focus all the time on something that when I was home with Piper, I was just in it. We were having fun staging little photo shoots, going for a walk, going on a scavenger hunt. Just doing fun things together and when it was time to put on those running shoes I really took advantage of that time and that it was going to be a very quality couple of hours in my running shoes because I knew once I got home I had to be back at being a wife and a mom.
Deena: And that seemed to work and also at this point I think, "My gosh, how lucky am I to have my calendar packed with things that I really enjoy to do?" The fact that I could just camp with my family, but come down for our youth track practice and be on the track with my teammates yesterday and to come down for this phone call so that we can chat this afternoon about all things moms and running that it just feels like a privilege to be able to fill my days with things that I enjoy so much.
Tish: And it is. I think listening to you talk about it, one the thing's that's interesting about it, especially when...so is Piper now 7?
Deena: Yes, yes.
Tish: So how much it changes right with each age and stage so it's a different kind of thing when they're infants and toddlers and preschoolers and you kind of get it figured out and then it changes up on you again.
Deena: Of course. It really keeps you on your toes. Definitely and I actually thought that eye roll thing didn't come until they were teenagers, but apparently it's now 7 that they roll their eyes. I'm like, "Oh my God, I thought I was the center of your universe until you were a teenager." But I had that wrong the whole time.
Tish: And of course now you had Piper when you were 38 so our math skills will then tell us that you're now a master's runner and I'm curious about what kind of changes you had to make or you have made with your training. Now that you're a masters runner so in terms of rehab and recovering and nutrition. What sort of changes did you make after you hit 40?
Deena: I think nutrition has always been a very big focus but to me as long as I'm getting quality nutrition and quality sleep with quality running that seems to be a magic circle for me. I don't get in a lot of the rehabilitation that I might have two decades ago because I rather go on a walk with Piper or go exploring or do crafts with her at the kitchen table. I feel like as long as my nutrition and my sleep patterns are good then I can stay on top of injury prevention in that way. But really being a masters runner while your child is in school is very different from being a masters runner when your child is out of school and summer vacation.
Deena: On our easy days, I take the day completely off and then on our hard days when we're meeting at the track or at the park for a hard effort an uphill tempo or a long run, then I'm getting in those days but on the days that are easy we just don't want Piper sitting around track practice again so my teammates run easy together without me on easy days and then on the hard days I show up to help push them.
Sarah: That's interesting. So when she's back in school, how much would you say your mileage bumps up or [crosstalk 00:16:23]
Deena: It will more than double once she's in school in a week's time then I'll be able to show up to practice every single day. That to me when I can get into that routine I feel like I can get in shape very quickly.
Sarah: Wow, that's amazing.
Deena: Yeah because I want her to have memorable summers also. I don't want them to be about sitting at my parent's track practice again. So we try to make it fun for her when she does join us but we don't feel like she should have to burden the boredom of sitting around while everybody runs.
Sarah: Yeah, that's very considerate. So you have had just a remarkable success as a masters runner over the age of 40 that I was amazed to see that five years ago almost to the day you ran a 236 in the world championship marathon in Moscow and you said at the time that it might be your last high level marathon or according to your Wikipedia page that's what it says.
Sarah: Yet two plus years later you shaved almost 9 minutes off that Moscow time running 227 at the Chicago marathon. So how much of this long term success as a runner do you attribute to the physical and how much the mental?
Deena: Yeah, I think it's 100% of both of physical and mental. You know when I ran 236 in Moscow I wouldn't even have known my time without you saying it because in my mind it was just one big suffer fest. I just remembered thinking, "I don't ever want to hurt that badly ever again in my life." And I remember giving myself little finish lines throughout the race, like just get to the next water bottle station and then you can drop out and then I was like, "Well no, Red Square's actually the furthest point away from the finish where I need to end up. So I don't want to drop out here so just get back to the other side closer to the stadium and then you can drop out."
Deena: So I get there but then I saw my manager, Ray Lin, and I'm like, "Oh, I can't drop out in front of Ray." And so I went back to the other water bottle station next to Red Square and said, "You know what? I'm sure they have a bus that can bring me back so you could just stop at Red Square, it's fine." And I got there and my water bottle tasted so cold and delicious, it kind of invigorated me because at one water bottle station they were refrigerating our drinks and at the other one our drinks were about room temperature 85 degrees. So it tasted so good and invigorating I thought, "Oh I can at least get a little closer back to the stadium now." And then a pack of girls, I know there was a Japanese runner in this pack and I think the girl from Mexico and I thought, "Oh just stick with these girls. They were passing. Just stick with them and try to like ride their momentum."
Deena: And I stuck with them for a little bit but then faded off and then there was a girl from the UK behind me. Every time we got to 183 degree turn this girl from the UK was behind me and she was gaining on me but my coach, Terrance, had just left to train runners in the UK and I told him this afterwards, "I'll be damned if I let one of his newer athletes beat me." So she kept me engaged for the rest of the race to be able to finish and I think I ended up in 10th which in the end I was proud of so continuing to fight for it is always worth it. It ended up being a race I was proud of but it hurt from about 6 miles in and usually you prepare for the last 6 miles to hurt but it hurt from 6 miles in so it was a pep talk the entire way and it just exhausted me.
Deena: When I got to the stadium I went after going through the mixed media zone. I went outside the stadium and there was this little grass patch in the shade of a tree and I laid down in my skimpy little uniform and napped for 20 minutes. I was that exhausted. So I consider that very separate from the buildup to Chicago where I was going for the masters record in the marathon and just had a terrible buildup. Smoke from California fires again, impeding workout, I had terrible allergies in the fall ever since having my daughter for some reason just changed the chemistry of my body. Then Piper came home with the flu one day from school and so I took a few days off of running so I could take care of her but then I got the flu. Mine lasted for a week so I was out for another week so a total of 10 days.
Deena: And I was finally getting back into running and you feel a little sluggish after the flu and I just said to Andrew, "I'm not gonna go for it. This is ridiculous. I had too many things lined up against me in this buildup." And he turned to me and said, "Man I'm so surprised to hear you say that. You're always so positive because I've seen you put in your longest long runs in a decade. Your longest tempo runs of your entire career and you're still hitting sub five minute miles on repeats. Like I'll say you're ready despite these excuses you're talking about." And I thought to myself, "I'll be darned." Both of these things are my reality but relying on one of these stories is gonna help me break this record so I completely dismissed the excuses and held on to all of these reasons I should succeed and even in the race as things went wrong. I missed my first water bottle, the guy stepped on the back of my foot who was drafting off of me, gave me a flat tire.
Deena: I don't know if it was the same guy or a different one who later was tucked in behind me and kicked my foot and it created this phantom hitch in my stride that I had to like increase the pace to kind of break that rhythm and then I felt great at 20 miles, terrible at 21, I tried to get through one mile at a time and it seemed unbearable and then one light post at a time, it seemed unbearable and then just one step at a time and I got to the finish line and ended up breaking the record by almost a minute and I thought, "My gosh! Isn't this what my entire career has been about? About being positive and how that's powered every stride and that in any instance we have the great power and the single choice to be able to just step into that story we want to create for ourselves."
Deena: And at any one of those moments I could have chosen the defeatist attitude and fall in short of that goal and it just amazed me that the persistence of keep choosing properly got me to it so it was a fascinating and probably the run even though I was sixth or seventh maybe eighth place in the race, it was probably the run that I'm most proud of because it was really an accumulation of everything that I have trained for in my career.
Tish: It's so interesting to hear you talk about that both of those races and I think a lot of women and runners in general can relate to that feeling of the suffer fest, right? Whether it comes up on the sixth mile mark or the last 10k and dealing with the mental struggle and it can be a short run, it doesn't have to be a marathon, but it certainly does come up in the marathon doesn't it? But the constantly having to refrain and refrain and saying, "Okay, that sucked but it's not gonna ruin the whole race." But what's really curious to me is that you can still admit to talking to those things in your head even after this career of thriving on the power of positivity and writing a book about the power of positivity.
Deena: Yeah and I think what surprises me is not that it works, that like being positive and optimistic works because it gives you a surge of energy. It releases different hormones in your body that actually serves you properly as opposed to cortisol that leaves you tense and stressed out. That it works, but that it works all the time and that it's really just our job if we're pursuing something to just try to find the tool that's gonna work and not the same tool works everyday. Sometimes it's a mantra, song lyric, restating your purpose and your drive whether it's for your children or for a cause that it's always just rolling through this Rolodex of tools that you built up over the years and I think what I've learned so much is that maybe the race doesn't matter. You're in that race and you can get to a point that you give up on the goal of breaking four hours or winning your age group because really, how important is this in the scope of the world?
Deena: You could say it's just a race on a given weekend and it's really not that important or you could say, "You know what? I'm defining my character by every choice I make out here and that is really, really, important." And that's what I make it about when I start to give up on myself through a race is that I'm creating mental habits out here and this isn't about the race. It's about defining who I am and so in that moment that I could be giving I make it a really serious moment where sometimes I kind of kill the moment with some humor to get through it, like an intense moment with some humor. But when I get to that really critical state where I know that I'm starting to get a little weaker mentally, that I make it really important to define myself in that moment and then it becomes more powerful.
Deena: I guess my choices become more powerful and critical and I really feel that all of us as runners have the privilege of adding that own to our running, that we push the limits and challenge ourselves and try to overcome fatigue and hurdles no matter what they are. Whether it's an injury or just feeling tired and overwhelmed. With mileage that we can add this to our running and find the tools to overcome it so that when we find that challenge in our lives we have what it takes to get through it and there aren't many sports or pastimes that give you that power.
Sarah: And I'm listening to you say that and about making the choices and the race and really allowing those choices to help define who you are. You can be present in that moment but then also after the race how much do you look back and it sounds like you take knowledge and wisdom in the moment but then how much do you spend reflecting back and learning more things and gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and what happened in those moments after the race?
Sarah: How much reflection is there?
Deena: Yeah I think reflection is critical but dwelling is bad. So to reflect and learn from maybe the entire buildup and the race itself or the workout itself and to reflect and see what goes wrong but not in a judgemental way but in a way to grow from so use it as a springboard and then pat yourself on the back for the things you did right and if you are taking these micro decisions that we make throughout time and you're making the best of them then you have a lot to be proud of even if you don't reach your goal and I've often used this when I'm talking to kids. I talk about a student striving to be valedictorian of their class and they sit in the front row and they ask questions when they don't understand. As soon as they become smarter than their parents, they get tutors to help them with their homework and they get their homework done before meeting their friends at the movie theater and they're acing all their tests and on the final exam they miss a question and get beat to that valedictorian chair.
Deena: But having that goal made them a far better student and its decisions they made along the way made them a far better student even if they didn't reach the goal so I like to encourage people to put some things slightly unobtainable out there to strive for because that's what makes you make those little decisions to recover and rest and sleep and eat well and optimize your training and recovery in a way that you wouldn't if your goal was really weak and easily obtainable.
Tish: Okay so here's a different kind of goal which is riding your memoir, "Let your Mind run." And I know that took a few years of work and now I'm curious about what made you want to approach your memoir from the angle of the power of a positive mind?
Deena: Yeah, great question Tish. Writing my memoir was the hardest finish line I've ever gotten to. I had a wonderful co-author in Michelle Hamilton who you had the privilege of working with for many years and I think it just solidified how important teamwork is and that nothing is done in a bubble by yourself because she pushed me to a lot of creator self understanding than I would have gotten to if I was writing by myself so very grateful for that teamwork and it was hard on both of us. I remember days where I was having meltdowns and crying into Skype and I'm an ugly crier and she had to sit in front of Skype and see me cry.
Deena: And she would always be there in her strongest day helping me through that moment, asking the question in different ways and finally getting the answer she needed for us to write a beautiful chapter and then there was days where she was like, "Maybe I'm not the right person for this job. I just can't see this chapter. This is an important chapter and I just can't see it." And I'm like, "No, we're in this together. We're gonna get it and let's do it." So I feel like we are really good at working together in synchronicity and then being there when the other was having a harder moment and it was a hard three years and the last year in particular logging more than 500 Skype hours with her because she's on the East Coast and I'm on the West Coast so we can get some critical details fleshed out and I remember one day, of course I was going through a house remodel at the time also so I was in a condo. An unfurnished condo with two mastiffs, two fish tanks, a six year old and my husband.
Deena: And I'm on deadline so it was a crazy summer last year, but I remember getting to the point where we spent about five or six hours trying to get an opening paragraph right to a chapter and I thought, "You know, we're at a good place." She was getting frustrated and I said, "This is amazing! We're no longer trying to like develop a story or create chapters. We're just fussing over a paragraph that's opening this up and we're gonna get it." We were just trying to find the powerful words. You know when one single word is incorrect? It throws the tone of the entire paragraph off and Michelle was so good at seeing that and I was like, "No, it's fine!" And she's like, "No, no! Something's wrong here. I don't know if this is right."
Deena: So it was a struggle to write it and the reason that I wrote it was Michelle came out for the opening of the track that my husband and I put in here in Mammoth and we were sitting at the dining room table and Andrew and her were discussing my career and how different my way of thinking is from a lot of people and Andrew said, "You know, everybody says Deena should write a book about her career." And I thought, "I don't come from a war torn country, I don't have struggle, I've been supported my whole life and have great coaches." And it just came to the point that we realized that through this great coaching that I've had I've learned so many universal truths that are important for sports but also in life in general and be able to share that was very important and I remember Coach Vehell, my first meeting with him, he asked what my philosophy was and over the years I ended up creating it.
Deena: If you have it share it because he taught me that whatever we obtain and posses in our lives whether its time or knowledge or money or food increases in value the moment it's shared and so I thought, "Man I've been given so much great information from the books that I've read and the people that have mentored me. If I can share it in a concise way it would be a very good gift to pass on and so Michelle helped me get that point across beautifully so I thank her immensely for making me sound so eloquent in this book but also drawing a lot of truths out of me that were kind of underdeveloped and some of them misunderstood at times.
Tish: So Deena, I just have to say, your hard work with Michelle really, really shows through in your book. It's such a good book and it does this old editor's heart, it just makes me so grateful because it's so well written and it hangs together so well and she's right. Every word does matter and there is not a single off word in the whole thing so good job to both of you!
Deena: Thank you and maybe you even saw the difference in both because Tish, you read our first draft I think which might have been a little messy. It's like embarrassing now that we are proud of that when we passed it off to you. But when I was down in Los Angeles doing the recording of the book, I remember it was the first time that I have read the book fully aloud. Michelle and I did it where we back and forth read to each other. In our last reading of it we would take turns because when you read it to yourself you skip over some of the errors that had been there since the very beginning and I found an error which drove me crazy. That I'm talking about Andrea meet Lawrence, the two time gold medalist in the downhill skiing. She was the first ever to do it and I'm talking about her and her book of practice of mountains and how she's getting rid of perspective in her peripheral vision and just narrowing her focus and she pointed her skies down the slope before she fell.
Deena: I said to the producer in the studio, "Does that skies in your version?" And he said, "Yes it does." And I'm like, "Darn it!" After how many reads of this book she's pointing her skies down the road instead of her ski's? It killed me!
Sarah: It's those things that the spell check. It's like, of course skies, that's spelled properly but you mean skis!
Deena: Oh no...
Tish: We kind of talked about this a little bit with earlier marathons but I'm always curious to hear about how you sustained positivity when things go wrong.
Deena: Right. Sustaining positivity is a constant challenge and practicing positivity is a lifelong commitment because the world is happening around us and I think when we pay attention to the good happening around us, that's the power of gratitude when we're looking at things to be grateful for that there's also some junk happening in our lives but that tends to reside into the background when our focus is on gratitude and the more positive aspects of our lives, but things get hard whether it's in running or in life which make the decisions that we make throughout the day so important because we need to create a habit of positivity and it doesn't mean that we can't be frustrated or feel defeated or be disappointed. Those are natural emotions but to honor those emotions and then see how we can either redefine these emotions to help us or to learn from them so we could grow and so positivity isn't just ignoring some of the harder emotions we have to encounter or some of the bad days.
Deena: It's about using them to either uplift us or to learn from to grow from or to redefine. I remember my very first national championship in cross country as a professional. I went to the line feeling true confidence for the first time. The race goes off and I get my doors blown off and I remember thinking at the finish line, "How could I go from confident to crushes in such a short amount of time?" And I was so disappointed and my parents were telling me, "Oh, you shouldn't be disappointed. You did so great! You tried so hard out there." And I was trying to not feel disappointed. It just wasn't working and then coach Vehell said, "You know, I'm glad you're disappointed. I'd be worry if you didn't care about the outcome of this race, but disappointment means that you're invested and you care and you want more out of yourself. You expect more out of yourself. So let's get your trainers on on Monday and get back to work. Rome wasn't built in a a day."
Deena: And I thought, "Man, that's so brilliant that some negative emotion could actually have a positive definition to it." And I have used that in so many points in my life dealing with grief or frustration to not just let it hijack me but to try to learn from it and redefine it.
Sarah: While you're talking, I'm thinking about perhaps your most well known, what I would assume is a disappointment, your broken foot in the Beijing Olympic Marathon. Could you talk a little bit about what were the thoughts going on in your mind and then how that negative experience turned into a positive perhaps.
Deena: Right, it's like right when my foot broke, I come from four years after winning a bronze medal. I'm thinking, "I'm running for gold in Beijing." And feeling really great about my fitness and buildup and the race went out very slow and it was at mile three that my foot out of the blue just broke. My third venectasia just snapped in half and it sounded like a Popsicle stick breaking and feathering. The sound still nauseates me when I think about it so thanks for that. So I'm crying in pain but then also in sharing that crying in pain but the shock of just being sideswiped by this and thinking, "How on earth did this happen?" And I'm feeling sorry for myself. A lot of self pity and crying into this towel in the sweet vehicle.
Deena: And then it dawned on me that, "Okay, I'm crying and this is disappointing but disappointment isn't gonna change the outcome of sitting in this bus so let's figure out how this happened," and I'm thinking about it like I have no idea. But just switching to that motive thinking of trying to figure out a reason why got me into a different focus and as soon as I got off that bus and found out it was broken and talking to my doctor back home, we ended up figuring it out because I was determined I don't believe that as athletes we push our limits and we break sometimes. I believe our bodies are capable. If they're healthy, they're capable of accomplishing great things.
Deena: So I was really serious about getting to the bottom of it and figuring it out and it ended up being a mixture of a vitamin D deficiency which was very new at the time. Now I think it's more well known but a vitamin D deficiency mixed with diardia that I had caught earlier in the summer and just didn't get the vitamin D to get the calcium back into my skeletal system. My entire skeleton was on set of osteopetrosis and I was young at the time so that's not acceptable to me. So just strictly through nutrition I was able to get my Vitamin D stores up with egg yolks from farm fresh eggs which are really rich in Vitamin D and have the cholesterol in them that helps your skin convert sunshine into Vitamin D and herring and wild salmon and leafy green vegetables that have more bio availability of calcium and vitamin D so just really making a focus of Vitamin D fortified orange juice and milk products and I was able to get my Vitamin D stirs up in the next 6 months to a very healthy level so feel proud of that focus but that was the focus it gave me.
Deena: Running for so many years with a focus of obtaining goals allowed me to focus on the goal of building myself healthy again and so I had that focus even though I was debilitated and in a cast and crutches. I was able to focus on building myself stronger and that focus really helped me so running the drive that it takes and the goal setting and the discipline it takes for running and the positivity it takes to get through these harder moments really do transfer over into life if you're continuing to practice them.
Sarah: That's amazing. So you talking about the food choices, I mean it's obvious in listening to you talk that you know a lot about food and nutrition and having sampled the wonderful cookies that you baked for Demi and me when we got to hang with you at Mammoth Lake in 2010, so I can personally attest that you work wonders in the kitchen and Aubrine, a mother runner in Chicago, asked on Twitter. She wants to know when are you ever coming out with a cookbook?
Deena: Oh my gosh, those famous questions. You know I started maybe a decade ago writing down how I was cooking so I have all my notes in my computer very well filed so the makings of a cookbook are there and I remember Michelle as we were going through this process she's like, "How come you don't remember your splits and your time but you remember the meal you had the night before and who you ate with and what you had for breakfast the next morning?"
Deena: I'm like, "I don't know why my mind works that way." So she has a file of a lot of the food stories saved for if we venture into a cookbook together someday. But you know in doing a cookbook the first question I was asked, because I was going into writing a cookbook before my memoir, the first question I was asked is, "What diet does this follow?" And I thought, "Oh, well it doesn't follow a diet." I focus on quality and nothing in my life is carb free or fat free or salt free or whatever other thing is going on out there. I just believe in starting with really good quality ingredients and then throwing them together, mixing them together into a delicious meal. Even having a sweet tooth, I love cakes and pastries and cookies but I don't necessarily buy a package of store bought cookies. I like to either go to a nice bakery to get those things or to make them here at the house. So I love just quality foods and I feel like this year it was more of an emphasis in my life that everything was going to be quality.
Deena: I was going to spend quality time with friends and eat quality foods and do quality runs and spend quality time with the family. So that's kind of been my word for 2018 so when I look back on an overwhelming schedule I know it was quality time spent all day and all night. Quality sleep.
Tish: I think that's your next book. The Quality Book.
Deena: Yeah. Quality Kitchen, can we call it [crosstalk 00:45:14]
Tish: Quality Kitchen that's pretty good. There's your diet.
Deena: You heard it here first, folks.
Tish: Because my magazine editor had, I can't resist shaping everything. So speaking of which can you give us a few pieces of practical advice for putting positive thinking into action?
Deena: Yeah I think when we talk about mindfulness and positivity whether it sounds cliché to someone or it sounds intimidating, it's really the art of paying attention and I think that's where I started is paying attention to how a thought made me feel or a decision made me feel and realizing I could do better for myself and so it's just paying attention. If something isn't resonating right and making you feel tense and anxious or uneasy or more defeated or slower in a run, then just try to shape it a little bit better and be kind to yourself.
Deena: I remember once I was working on my thinking that I was like, "Oh wow." That was meant to be encouraging but my tone was way off and it sounded really condescending so we got to work on the tone now. Now we're working on tone. So I think it's a never ending process but it's always worth it because it always brings you into place where you either reach a goal or you're closer to your goal or you can give yourself a pat on the back because you knew you were good to yourself and made good choices along the way so it's really just paying attention to how we think through our day and I feel like recently I used it sitting in traffic and I could see my white knuckles on the steering wheel like, "Okay, how's that working for you, Deena? How are those white knuckles?"
Deena: I go, "Okay, let's put on some less intense music." I had some beats going on and I put on some classical music and I rolled the windows down to get fresher air and then my hands relaxed and it was like the intention of doing these things to relax that allowed me to do so.
Sarah: Awesome. Well it's always such a joy to talk with you, Deena. Thank you so much for sharing of yourself and your experiences with us. This is important stuff you're talking about and writing about it in your wonderful book.
Deena: Thank you, Sarah. Did you say it was four years since we last chatted on [crosstalk 00:47:40]
Sarah: It was. I looked it up, I googled and I'm like, "Oh my gosh." It was four years ago November I think it was.
Deena: Yeah, let's not let that much time pass again.
Sarah: I agree. We're going to talk about the cookbook that you're going write. Quality Cooking.
Deena: I mean luckily we get to see each other more often than we podcast together so [crosstalk 00:48:03]
Sarah: Exactly. Well thank you so much and enjoy these final few days of summer with Piper and Andrew.
Deena: Thanks you guys. Thank you so much.
Sarah: Bye bye.
Sarah: Oh my