Cultivating Certainty

Have you ever had a goal that just nags at you? A target that you try to reach, but it always seems to be just a hair out of your grasp?

I’ve had this goal that has been nagging at me for months. One that I have repeatedly attempted, with unsuccessful results. 

Now, as I have previously explained, I am not a “real” runner. I don’t have long running legs. I’m not lean or gazelle-like. I’m more like a densely packed, muscular mule. I run as slow as molasses. But if you know anything about me by now after reading my blog posts, you know I’m a goal-oriented person. Last April, when I completed my usual, hilly, 3.5 mile loop, my unexpected 10:17/mile pace astounded me. For me, this was a pretty swift time. This was pretty gazelle-like. I immediately felt the adrenaline rush of achievement. 

Holy shit! I thought, when I finished. So close to a 10-min mile. With all these hills, that’s fantastic.

See where I am going with this? Goal-setting time.  

Beat a 10-min mile pace on this route now Shannon. Get it done. I told myself.

And so, I tried. 

My next attempt clocked a 10:55/mile. Hmmm…not the direction I need to be going.

Try again. 


Ok – time for a different approach

I purchased a weighted vest. Only six pounds. I thought if I trained wearing weights, then ran without, my time would miraculously drop. 

My pace slowed to a sluggish 12:10 wearing the vest for the first time, ultimately settling in the high 11’s after some time adjusting to it.

Every once in a while, I would try the run without the vest. My pace was disappointingly in the low 11’s. What the heck? What am I not doing right?

Undeterred from my mission, I began sprinting drills and interval training. I wanted to increase my VO2 max, which would theoretically translate to improved speed on my loop. 

Something started to click and I got as close as 10:02. But despite repeated attempts over the next several months, I could not break the 10:00/mile mark. 

One morning, I went out of the gates with everything I had. I felt the fire in my legs pushing me up the hills. My heart rate was over 180 on the last ascent home. Bile rose in my throat as I sprinted the final corner to my house. I collapsed in my driveway with exhaustion, eager to see my pace, certain that I had finally done it. 

The ugly numbers 10:10 glared at me from my watch. 

I felt utterly defeated.  

There was nothing more I could do. 

Other than…keep trying. 

And so, I continued. 

I ran fasted, I ran full. I ran after eating protein, I ran after eating carbs. I ran with the vest, I ran without the vest. I continued my sprinting workouts. I ran endless hill repeats. I ran long runs. I completed a half marathon for goodness’ sakes. I worked out faithfully in the gym. I lost about 18 pounds in the process. Yet my times were all over the place. 







Then it happened. 

The first time I broke the 10 min/mile pace was a brisk fall morning. I stretched briefly in my driveway to get the blood flowing in my muscles and felt energized despite the cold.

My intention was for an easy, no pressure run, as a warm-up to my gym workout. I started out loose and relaxed and enjoying the feel of autumn around me.

As I continued, I slowly gained confidence and pushed harder. I felt my legs boldly striking the ground beneath me. I knew every inch of the trail. I knew when to anticipate the intensity up the hills and when to relish the recovery in the declines. I kept telling myself not to panic. I breathed deeply in through my nose and out through my mouth. I was centered. I was focused. I was confident. I had a “knowing” that I carried with me the entire time.

My tennis coach speaks often about “cultivating confidence”. He repeats that I know how to hit a forehand or an overhead, I just have to move out of my own way, stop over thinking and shift from uncertainty to confidence. 

That’s what I had on my run. Confidence. 

I got out of my own way. I stopped thinking. I stopped panicking when it got hard. I started trusting in my body, my mind, my ability. I believed in myself. 

When I returned into my driveway, I just knew that I had done it. 

Sure enough, 9:56. 


After trying for almost 8 months, I finally beat my goal by 4 seconds. 

Elation! Excitement! Accomplishment! 

But there is more. Some would say the lesson of this story is “never give up”. To keep striving to reach your goals and by putting in the effort and work, eventually you will achieve them.  


But funny enough, the next time I ran the same exact route the following week, my time was 9:36. After months of fighting for just a few seconds, I decreased my time by almost 20 seconds in just 7 days. 

How is that possible? I didn’t magically increase my fitness ability in one week. I didn’t learn a new running technique. I didn’t become lighter, leaner, and faster overnight. 

What happened in one week?

There was only one thing that changed. One difference. And it had nothing to do with my physical abilities. 


I now possessed a “knowing” that I was capable and a complete trust in myself that I could do it again. 

There was no uncertainty. There was nothing holding me back. I was free. 

Every time I have run that route since, I have easily been under 10. Even when I’m not feeling well. Even when I’m tired. Even when I feel slow. 

The question I’ve been asking myself now is, how many times do I get in my own way?  How many times does my subconscious doubt handicap my abilities? How many times do I unintentionally let myself down by not believing in my very own potential? 

Whether it is on the tennis courts, the running trails, trying a new recipe, playing a new piece of music, doing an unassisted pull up, writing this blog, working through personal or interpersonal conflict, trying something new, making a new friend, starting a new volunteer opportunity, or eventually when I cross the finish line of my 50-mile race – whenever something is hard – I’m going to try to intentionally shift my perception – from doubt to trust. From disbelief to belief. From fear to conviction. 

I’m going to follow my coach’s advice: cultivate certainty. I already feel the excitement of possibility. 

Don’t Give Up on Yourself…

I did it. I got in my 8-miler last week, which was surprisingly easy! Today I tackled the 10. I finished it, but based on how good I felt last week, I anticipated this 10 to be a walk in the park. It wasn’t. It was drudgery. Every last step. I wanted to give up multiple times. 

First, I thought I would try a new trail that would give me an opportunity for a nice, flat (easy) out-and-back. Explore 5 miles one way, then turn around, and less than two hours later, I would be dusting off my shoes, eating a snack, going to the gym and moving on with my day – grocery shopping, picking up the kids and shuttling them to their activities. Normal Life. This fantasy did not materialize as I sit on the couch in my pajamas writing this and looking like the angel of death may claim me in the next 30 minutes. 

Mistake #1 – Leg workout the day before long run day

I should not have done an intense lower body workout in the gym yesterday. When I got out of bed this morning, I felt every single muscle from my calves through my lower back screaming at me. Normally this pain would be good news, a sign that muscle is repairing itself and getting stronger. Today however, this exhaustion in my legs was a bad sign. 

Mistake #2 – Not looking up a new trail

I should have checked that the trail would go 5 miles in one direction. I entered O’Neil park, walked down the steep hill to the bottom where the campgrounds are located, and started my Garmin watch. I thought the trail eventually connected to the bike path in Lake Forest, near Saddleback Church. The run started off well – albeit slow, because of the aforementioned leg situation. The path was beautiful and heavily shaded with large oak trees and several quaint stream crossings. I passed a beautiful and heavily pregnant runner (no less than 7 months along) rocking a fast pace wearing nothing but a sports bra and her running shorts. It was one of the most inspiring sights I have ever seen.  It made me tuck my irritation about my sore legs way down deep and push a little harder. About 2 miles in, the trail became very uneven, heavily laden with rocks and stones. And just stopped. It just came to a dead end. 

Shit. My 10-mile out and back just got reduced to 4. What do I do? The only thing I could do. Turn around. 

Not a minute later I stumble on a rock. One of those great big rocks that any normal person would avoid and go AROUND, not try to be cute and go OVER. And I twist my ankle. The one that shattered last year. 

Now what do I do? Say screw this? Claim my exhaustion only 25 minutes in and walk back to the car? 

I walked a couple of paces. I stretched. I rotated my ankle clockwise a few times, then counter-clockwise. No swelling. I checked in with my pain level and determined it wasn’t bad, maybe a 2 out of a 10. 

Assessment – soldier on. 

Ugh. That is literally what I said to myself as I made the decision to push forward. 

So now what? Remember the big hill I walked down? I purposefully didn’t start my watch until I was at the bottom of the big hill because I didn’t want to include it in my distance today. I run this hill often. I do hill repeats on this hill. I love this hill. But not today. Today, I did NOT want to run this hill.  

But now, if I wanted to continue to get the mileage, I had no choice. Today this hill was my nemesis to be conquered. And conquer it, I did (insert evil laugh here). 

Once I reached the top of the hill, I had to make a choice. My car was right on the other side of the gate. I could see it. A gleaming white beacon of refreshment. I knew there was a bottle of water sitting in the cup holder, still cold. There was a banana and a delicious protein bar. There was air conditioning. There was a place to sit and rest my aching legs. 

But the momentary comfort would not provide me with a lasting sense of pride or accomplishment. As tantalizing as my car was, I knew I could not return to it for another hour or more. 

Instead of turning right, out the gate and into the car, I turned left, and trudged the next 2 miles uphill through O’Neil park. In my mind I said, I’m at 4 miles, I’ll do 2 miles out of O’Neil, another mile added on when I get out of the park, and the last 3 miles back to the car will be relatively downhill. Awesome. 

Mistake #3 – Putting hope in a plan that has not been thoroughly vetted

I ran the miles out O’Neil park. But…the two miles I had anticipated, were based on a different starting point from previous runs. By the time I ran out of trail I had added only 1.5 miles. Any long-distance runner knows that those smaller distances – quarter mile, half mile, mile, – they matter in the whole. I still needed to add another 1.5 before I could turn around. Now I was getting annoyed at myself. Irritated at my lack of planning. Questioning if I should just turn around now and call it a day at what would be maybe 6ish. 

Ugh. Again. I said it louder this time. Ugh. 

Soldier on. 

Keep going. 

One foot in front of the other. 

So, I just kept moving. And singing. I started singing to my music, out loud, even when I was passing other people on the sidewalk. The singing got me out of my own head. I focused on something other than my pain, and it also kept my heart rate even. If I could sing, I wasn’t out of breath and I knew I could make it the last 4.5 miles. 

Now that I was out of the nature park, I was on the city street. Every stop light became a decision. Right, left, straight? I just kept going. And going and going. 

Mistake #4 – Adding too much distance because you’re a poor planner

There was a point when I was at 8 miles and I thought it was only about a mile back to my car. I could just go to the car. If I went about 9, I was already going further than I had gone last week. 

Or….I could stop making excuses and add the distance to make SURE I would complete 10.  I took a detour and did a quick lap (well, let me rephrase that…a slow, laborious lap) around the reservoir in our community then popped back out onto the street for the home stretch. 

I hit the 10-mile mark. I did it. I could barely move when I stopped my watch, at exactly 10 miles. The run was a completely different beast than I had expected. All mistakes that I could have personally avoided. But I persevered through the discomfort, through the pain, through the disappointment. I didn’t give up on myself. I continued to put one foot in front of the other. Step after step. I didn’t give myself an easy way out. 

That bottle of water was still waiting for me. My stomach was rumbling with hunger because I had been running for almost 2 hours. I was eager for my banana, which had probably now turned brown sitting in the heat of my car for that length of time. No matter, it was going to be delicious. I could taste it.  

I was almost there. 

I just had to walk the last mile to the car. 


Hello everyone!!! It has been a while since my last post! The world has been crazy for the last few months. It has been difficult to justify writing about running, with all that has been going on. But I decided I just have to get this blog going again. For my own sanity. The writing is an outlet for me that nourishes my soul. The longer I wait after such a long break, the harder it gets. I have to get this post out and free myself to write.

So here it goes! Enjoy and see you back here more often (I hope!)  


Although my miles have been consistent, I have not started increasing my distances past my typical 5-6 mile long-run range. This is definitely behind schedule for my, now virtual, half marathon scheduled in October. I need to start picking up the mileage, and fast. For my planning, I need to get in an 8 and 10 miler before the big day on October 5th. Definitely doable. I just need to get it done. It will take focus and discipline and I will need to push through some discomfort – but I will do it. Procrastination is my own worst enemy. 

So what have I been doing, if not running? And without the running, I haven’t been writing. Is this a runner’s slump? A writer’s block? What’s going on? The keys feel unwieldy under my fingertips. The tapping and click clacking seem empty and arbitrary. How can I write about running when everything else going on in the world seems so…so…incredibly heavy?

Whether it is the pandemic, the political arena, Black Lives Matter movement, or a barrage of other socio-economic issues – everything is emotional, triggered, sensitive, debated, contested, argued, and rallied for or against. 

I have strong opinions and try my best to openly listen and understand others’ perspectives, yet everything feels polarized. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. 

It is exhausting. It is overwhelming. It is, at times, paralyzing. 

Despite the broader global issues, we all still have individual lives to live. Regardless of what is happening outside the walls of my house, inside, the daily minutia continues. I still have four kids to manage, three of whom are scattered about the downstairs with various schooling stations complete with laptops, printers, cell phones, headphones, charging stations that rival the circuitry at NASA space center, stacks of 3-ring binders, post-it notes, about 10,000 pens, empty water bottles, snack containers, crumpled papers, and dirty socks layered in piles next to their workstations. One of our 10-lb Shih-Tzus is recovering from her second back surgery of the summer and is now curiously shaped like a crescent moon. My husband is still working from home with no plans to return to the office, and my house is a revolving door for service people coming to deliver or fix things. It is endless. 

With the complexity of our individual lives colliding with the uncertainty of the global environment, how do we claim our own individuality? How do we keep it all straight? Where do we find our own center? 

That’s where I have to have the self-awareness and self-discipline, to return to my running. Something happens to my energy when I put on my visor and headphones, tie my shoes and head out the door. When my shoes are crunching along the trail, all the chaos slips away. 

It is just me, my breath, my music, the burn in my legs, the dirt under my feet, and the will inside my soul. 

When I am running, I can let go of all the negativity of the outside world. I can release the “to do’s” piling up inside the house. I can be alone with myself. I can pray, I can think, I can not think. Those minutes on the trail are the most empowering of my day, because they are mine. Some days I push hard, repeating a steep hill over and over again until my lungs are on fire and my limbs are jelly. Some days I strap on my weighted vest and try to increase my heart rate on a routine path. Some days, I add distance because I don’t want the run to end. The opportunities are diverse. With so much that is out of my control, it feels so good to have something within my power to create. Like the words on this page. These are mine. 

Even when we pour our lives into the people and causes around us, we all need outlets. In finding the balance of our physical, emotional, and creative outlets, we will have the energy to dive deeply into the world around us. 

I’ve decided, there is no shame in running, writing, or writing about running. No matter what is going on in the world. I’m going to write about my next half marathon. I’m going to write about my weight loss (yes! It’s been amazing). I’m going to write about the days I want to stay on the couch, but somehow put one foot in front of the other and make it happen.

We can all relate to these human experiences. Struggles, goals, triumphs.

I feel much better. I’m back. And to share how I feel with you in music, I invite you to listen to “Glorious” by Macklemore.

“Glorious” – Macklemore

You know I’m back, like I never left

Another sprint, another step

Another day, another breath

Been chasing dreams, but I never slept 


I feel glorious, glorious

Got a chance to start again

I was born for this, born for this, 

It’s who I am, how could I forget? 

I made it through the darkest part of the night

And now I see the sunrise

Now I feel glorious, glorious

I feel glorious, glorious 

Beyond The Finish Line

As I held the last puzzle piece in my hand, the final 1,000th, I expected to feel triumphant. I had spent hours in COVID-19 quarantine, concentrating and sorting with my neck bent over the Sweet Paris Bakeshop. The perplexing plethora of polka dots, swirls of pink frosting and countless fluffs of merengue, had dominated my mind and kitchen counter over the last week. But where was my sense of accomplishment? My exuberance of completion? Unceremoniously, I added the piece, completed the scene, and moved on with my day.

This is not a new sensation for me. The expectation of elation or pride when a goal has been accomplished, followed by a hollowness – an overwhelming sense of ordinary.  

My first half marathon after my injury I was anticipating a dramatic emotional finish. I had exceeded the expectations of my doctor and physical therapist. I was running a race that nobody thought would be possible one year before. I had committed to months of training. I pushed through the pain and discomfort in my right ankle. I gritted through the throbbing ache that was now a constant companion in my left hip, a result of subconsciously compensating for my injury.

My four kids and husband waited for me at the finish line. I imagined their smiling faces and supportive cheers energizing my final strides. But at mile 4, I was caught off-guard with intense emotion. I was overcome with happiness and gratitude that I was able to run again and reclaim my pre-injury lifestyle. The metal plates and hardware in my ankle were not going to limit me. A sense of pride swelled inside me that I was showing my kids what it means to persevere. I wanted them to know that if they put their hearts and minds to something, they too could accomplish the unexpected. I choked back the tears and told myself to just make it to the end. I gave myself permission to fall apart when the race was done. When the goal was completed. When I had finished.

So, I soldiered on. Through the ebbs and flows of any long-distance race. Some miles feel like they pass in a blink and others feel like every step is agony. Miles 8-10 were my best. My feet were light and airy. I was energized and confident. I felt like I could run forever. 

Then mile 11 turned into mile 12 and doubt crept in. My legs turned heavy and I felt like I was moving through jello. I didn’t know how I was going to make it. I walked a few yards, then restarted. I walked a few more yards. And restarted. I proceeded in this disjointed fashion for about a half mile. As I got closer and closer to the finish I thought of my family. I wanted to make them proud. I found a way to focus, to pick up my legs and start moving again. When they saw me, I didn’t want to be walking, I wanted to be running. 

The crowd lining the streets cheering the runners became more concentrated, and the runners’ path narrowed.  The energy from the crowd was invigorating. Finally, I heard my name and saw my family. Their enthusiastic shouts were exactly as I had imagined. I waved and gave them a thumbs up as I pushed through to the finish line, willing myself to finish strong. 

I made it. I completed the race. I powered through to the end. My ankle did not fail me. I did it.  As I accepted my medal, I anticipated a tightening in my chest and tears to well up in my eyes. 

But, surprisingly, nothing. 

As I continued walking through the post-race mayhem, I was doing everything in my power to conjure up the passioned response I had suppressed at mile 4. Here is your chance, Shannon. Let it flow. 

Nope. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. 

I met up with my family and received their congratulatory hugs and words of praise. I was exhausted and happy, but overall, the moment was pretty, I don’t know, what’s the word I’m looking for?  Uh, ordinary. 

Then we walked to the car and took my daughter to her soccer practice. 

Pretty anticlimactic.   

It begs the question in my mind, how important is the finish line? 

Prior to my race my therapist was congratulating me on my training effort and said “Shannon, you’ve already won by just showing up. Whatever happens after you make it to the start line is a bonus.” I looked at him as if he grew a third eyeball in the middle of his head. 

“Uh, no” I scoffed. “Absolutely not. If I don’t finish, it’s like I didn’t race. I have a goal, and if I don’t meet my goal, I have failed.”

“But you’ve put in all the work. You’ve done the training. That is what matters. You show up, you’ve already won.” he challenged.

Incredulous and unwavering in my position, I redirected the conversation to another topic. I would not be deterred. I had a job to do. Period. I had decided I would run this race, and that meant finishing the race.

When running or hiking hills, I have always promised myself the reward of looking at the view when I get to the top. I push through, blinders on, until I reach the peak. Only then, do I allow myself a moment to stop and take in what is around me.  

My world, my entire existence, has been centered on the goal. On the finish line. On getting to the peak. On that moment. 

But lately I have begun to ask myself, what have I missed on the journey to get there?

I have a friend who recently celebrated one year of sobriety. After some heartbreaking moments with her family over the years as she struggled to get her addiction under control, this anniversary was an amazing accomplishment fueled by love for her family and her desire to reclaim herself.  But when I asked her how she felt on that significant milestone, she said “it was just like any ordinary day.”

Ordinary. The months and days leading up to that anniversary were certainly not ordinary. They were filled with struggle, and longing, and celebration, and anger, and loss, and relief. The day might have been ordinary, but the journey was monumental. 

Begrudgingly, I may have to acknowledge the wisdom of my therapist. It’s not about the finish line. The finish line is merely a catalyst to the experience.

The moment of completion is just any other moment. It is here, then it is gone. It comes, then it goes. These moments are certainly important, celebratory, and oftentimes defining. But I’m learning that the millions of moments that lead up to that point are just as significant. The 999 pieces lay the foundation for the 1,000th. Transformation occurs through 364 days of sacrifice and bargaining and ultimately triumph to achieve 1 year of sobriety. Strength and stamina is built through the hundreds of thousands of pounding steps taken to prepare for the finish line. The emotions at mile 4 are no less powerful than what they may be at mile 13. 

For fun, a friend and I have decided to walk to San Clemente pier this weekend. That is about 20 miles. Will we make it? I certainly hope so! But more importantly, I am super excited for the journey itself and how much fun we are going to have along the way. 

Fun in the Sun

As my mileage increases, I continue to spend more hours outside. A nagging question dances around in my head. How do I best protect my skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun? I have dealt with a variety of basal cell carcinomas over the years. My skin checks are now every 6 months because it seems like something new is always popping up. Most recently, I had a basal cell on my forehead hairline removed. I had to have a special procedure done, called Moh’s, to preserve as much of my hair as possible during removal. My biggest concern during the whole process was having a potential bald spot in the middle of my forehead, not the skin cancer itself. Vanity. Yes. And that is what is the foremost driver of my sun protection question. When I run my 50-mile race before I turn 50, I really, really would prefer to not also look 50. Or worse! Older than 50, because I was irresponsible and lazy with my skin care and let my skin be weathered and damaged by the sun.

When not under quarantine, I also play tennis several days a week. While I wear a visor and makeup with SPF35 sunscreen, I rarely apply additional sunscreen to my face. I would also say it is a 50/50 chance that I apply sunscreen to my arms and chest, unless it is an especially hot and sunny day. This is bad. Very bad. I already see signs of aging that I know could have been prevented. Nevermind the pockmarked scars from the basal cell removals. I need an overhaul. I need some professional help.

Thank goodness my friend, and fellow runner, Dr. Jyoti Mundi with the Dermatology Center of Ladera Ranch, is here to offer me some guidance and support.

Hi Dr. Mundi! Thank you so much for participating in this blog post and offering your advice.

First, can you tell us a little about yourself as a runner. How long have you been running? What is it you enjoy about the sport? Do you have any races or goals coming up?

Thank you for inviting me to participate. 

I would most certainly classify myself as a beginner in the sport. I could not run a mile when I was a teenager, but I have completed two half marathons in the last year. I completed my first half marathon in honor of my father-in-law who succumbed to multiple myeloma (a type of cancer) last year. His memory motivated my first training, and now, running is more to me than just exercise. It is a part of my life now; a chance to put on my headphones and listen to Bollywood beats, a chance to be free and with my own thoughts and feelings, a solitary retreat. I was looking forward to experiencing a race in Europe later this year, but the spread of coronavirus thwarted those plans.

You have the most gorgeous skin. But I’ve heard running can be bad for your skin. What are your thoughts? 

Thank you. Running, and regular exercise in general, has both beneficial and harmful effects on the skin. The weight loss alone can result in a loss of volume on the face and a more hollowed appearance.  Our bodies make free radicals when they are under stress. These free radicals break down collagen and elastin and this leads to more wrinkles and sagging skin. In addition to an increased risk of skin cancer, chronic, repetitive sun exposure results in brown spots, discoloration to the face and neck, thickened skin, and wrinkles.  

It is not all bad. Exercise is also really good for your skin.  Regular exercise brings more blood to your skin. Blood carries oxygen to your skin and helps remove free radical waste from the your skin.  Stress also affects the amount of oil produced by our skin. Since exercise can decrease overall stress, it may help reduce acne. 

So, it is really important to exercise in moderation and maintain a healthy skin care routine. 

What do you do to protect your skin while running? Is there a pre-run and post-run skin-care routine you have?

I try to run early in the mornings or in the late afternoon/evenings to avoid peak sun hours. 

Before a run, I always wash my face with a gentle cleanser (Simply Clean by Skinceuticals). Then I moisturize with a light moisturizer such as Cetaphil daily hydrating lotion or Neutrogena hydroboost gel cream. 

I cannot emphasize the next step enough. I always apply sunscreen, even on a cloudy day, to my face, lips, my ears, front/sides/back of my neck, and my upper chest. It is important to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading out and to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, at least. And, don’t forget runner’s sunglasses to protect your eyes. 

I have combination acne prone skin so I prefer Elta MD’s UV Clear sunscreen. If I am planning on going for a longer run, I will take my Colorscience powder brush on sunscreen in my fanny pack so I can reapply. My lip balm has an SPF of 30 (Aquaphor lip protectant and sunscreen). 

What if sunscreens burn when they get into my eyes or irritate my skin?

Sometimes the chemicals in sunscreens leak into the eyes due to sweat. If you experience this, it is best to use sunscreens that are mineral-based with active ingredients such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Formulations of sunscreen for babies are generally well suited for people with sensitive skin, such as Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby sunscreen, Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, and Aveeno Kids Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen. Stick formulas, such as Cerave Sunscreen Stick with SPF 50, also tend to be free of irritating ingredients. 

In addition, barrier protection is a reliable way to protect one’s skin.

I have a baseball cap that has UPF built into it and a pair of runner’s sunglasses. Skin cancers in and around the eye are rare, but they happen. Additionally, I always wear a long sleeves tee with a UPF of 50+, and I generally wear leggings to protect the skin on my arms and legs. Keep in mind that washing your sun-protective clothing can reduce the UPF over time, but there are products like SunGuard that you can add to your wash to help with that. 

You can find performance sun-protective clothing through several retailers including REI, Solbari, and Coolibar, amongst others. 

What about your post run skin care routine?

It is so important to wash your skin after a run. Sweat mixed with dirt and makeup can clog your pores and cause acne or inflamed hair follicles on your face and body.

I try to shower within 30 minutes of completing a run. I cleanse my face again with my Simply Clean cleanser by SkinCeuticals. I am acne prone, so I wash my chest and back with Panoxyl foaming wash after a run. 

After cleansing my skin, I apply SkinCeuticals Vitamin CE Ferulic serum to my face. This helps protect the skin against damage caused by free radicals. Then I apply Alastin’s Restorative Skin Complex cream (which stimulates collagen and elastin production) mixed with SkinMedica’s HA5  for extra hydration, and finally I apply sunscreen again (Elta MD UV Clear) if I have the rest of the day ahead of me, even if I plan on staying indoors. 

Once sun damage has occurred, what are some of the best ways to remedy the damage? 

I think a good routine that incorporates a sunscreen, a hydrating moisturizer, products that help repair damage such as a Vitamin C and E serum as well as restorative cosmeceutical grade products such as Alastin’s Restorative Skin Complexcream or SkinMedica’s TNS Essentials serum are crucial to repair damage. 

Intense Pulse Light therapy (aka IPL) can be very helpful to treat uneven skin pigmentation that results from chronic sun exposure. 

If you find yourself squinting or frowning while you run, stay ahead of those wrinkles with Botox.

And, please take the time to get a full body skin check to screen for skin cancer by a board certified Dermatologist.

How important is hydration for healthy skin?

Hydration is very important for healthy skin. Of course drinking water is important to maintain healthy blood flow and this in turn helps bring oxygen and nutrients to your skin and helps flush out toxins. However, drinking a lot of water is not enough to hydrate your skin.

It is important to hydrate the skin topically, directly.  You can do this by using a gentle cleanser, keeping your showers short, and using hydrating moisturizers, with hyaluronic acid for example, especially to the face and neck (I use SkinMedica’s HA5 moisturizer daily) and creamy or oil-based emollients to the rest of the body.  

Do you have any other recommendations for skin care in general – especially during this time of COVID-19 when people are washing hands more frequently, and wearing masks and gloves? What should we be doing during this time to protect our skin? 

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of hand washing throughout the day. However, frequent hand washing can leave your skin dry and cracked. This can then lead to a higher chance of picking up germs. It is really important to moisturize the skin of your hands after every hand washing, on damp skin. If you are using hand sanitizer, be sure to rub it on the skin of your hands well, let it dry, then apply moisturizer. I personally really like Aveeno’s Eczema Therapy Itch Relief Balm, but Vanicream Moisturizing Ointment is also a really nice fragrance free and dye free emollient. 

Face masks, when worn properly, are supposed to create a pressurized seal so air does not come through. While this is imperative to minimize the spread of the virus, it can lead to problems in the skin around the nose and mouth. Heat and sweat can cause irritation and flare-ups of rosacea and acne. Some people get bruises and skin discoloration.  

To try and minimize mask related skin problems, always wear a clean mask on clean, well-hydrated skin. Please wash your hands first!  You may want to avoid heavy make-up because this might clog your pores, especially under your mask. I would recommend removing the mask as soon as you can when you return home, and again, Please wash your hands first! Then clean the skin with a gentle cleanser and apply a hydrating moisturizer. Cool compresses may help reduce swelling and irritation. And if someone is prone to bruising, topical arnica cream may help.

This also may be an opportunity for people to experiment with some in-home skin care routines. Any fun make-at-home masks or skin products you recommend?

I would like to share my mom’s signature mask recipe. This is great for acne prone skin and to help reverse the signs of aging and sun-damage. Please consult with your dermatologist before trying this at home, especially if you have more sensitive skin.


Turmeric powder (1/4 teaspoon)

Gram flour (2 teaspoons)

Tomato (1/4 to ½ of tomato pulp, as required to make a paste)

Lemon juice (1/4 teaspoon)

Use a gentle cleanser to clean your skin first. Mix and make a paste and massage it gently with clean fingers onto damp skin. Leave the mask on the skin for 5-10 minutes. When you start to feel the mask dry, rinse it off with cold water. Pat-dry your skin gently with a towel. Then apply your normal moisturizer and sunscreen. 

Thank you so much for this valuable information Dr. Mundi! This definitely gives me some direction on how to better protect my skin during runs. I look forward to seeing you out on the trails – and in the office for my next skin check soon!

You can contact Dr. Mundi at:

The Dermatology Center at Ladera

600 Corporate Drive Suite 240
Ladera Ranch, CA 92694
Fax: (949) 364-8511
Tel: (949) 364-8411

Product Links:

Finding the Extraordinary

My family, like all families, is struggling to adapt to life under self-quarantine. It has been tricky because “normal” is redefined every day. California is now on state-wide lock down, and everything changes so quickly. 

I’ve asked the kids to journal every day. “This is history in the making!” I eagerly tell them. “Record it now, so in the future you can see what you were thinking, feeling, experiencing during this unprecedented time.” Groans, moans, refusals. 

I have to approach self-quarantine with four kids like running a marathon. In a long-distance race, if I think about all the miles that lay in front of me, I begin to panic. Self-doubt creeps in, how will I ever make it to the finish line? Fear, uncertainty, anxiety, dread. 

If I think about the weeks (dear god, months!) that lay in front of me, quarantined with these kids, my heart begins to race, my palms get sweaty, and I want to throw up. How are we going to get through this? How are we going to stay sane and make the best of every day? Fear, uncertainty, anxiety, dread. 

So, I can’t focus on all that lays before me. I can’t dwell on what I can’t see. I can’t spin infinite possibilities of scenarios that I can’t control. I can’t fixate on the unknown. 

I can only concentrate on what is in front of me now. One mile at a time. One day at a time. One step at a time. One moment at a time. 

If I am focusing on the moment, how does my awareness change? If I let go of the fear of what “will be” or what “might be”, how do I embrace the immediacy of this current experience? 

In our “classroom” at home, all is blissfully quiet for a brief moment. Kids have headphones in, laptops open, and they are engaged in their first lesson of the day. Pretty ordinary. 

Until you look closer.  

I sit. I observe. I notice. 

A furrowed brow, forehead lines creased – confusion. And then microscopically, the face muscles relax, open up – a dawn of understanding. 

Corners of a mouth upturned as a virtual classmate types something silly. Smile breaks wide open and eyes twinkle with mischief. 

Lips pursed together in concentration as chin dips toward the chest, eyes focused and non-blinking while striving for new level in Typing Pals. 

There is a simple beauty in these moments. The ache of love spreads through my chest as I silently observe my children. This ordinary, is actually extraordinary. 

My sisters and I have a new “quarantine challenge”. It’s been super fun to share our experiences with each other over text message every day. Now we are going to take and share pictures of ordinary objects that you might not normally consider, but are actually quite beautiful if you take a moment to pay attention. 

On my run yesterday, I probably looked as though I had gone Corona-loca with the number of times I stopped to take random pics of scenery around me. 

I have run this trail probably 100 times, maybe more, over the years. And yet, I have never fully been mindful of the beauty around me. 

The thousands of tiny purple flowers sprouting from wild rosemary lining the trail. 

The delicate green moss dusting miles of bright white fence.

Mottled birch trees, a vibrant juxtaposition of colors as tender layers of bark peel back to expose raw vulnerability. 

Light cascading through tendrils of dainty leaves, gently illuminating individual stamens.

We are surrounded, in every moment, by beauty. If we sit still. If we pay attention. If we notice. If we let go of the panic, anxiety and fear. If we focus on what is in front of us.

There is extraordinary in the everyday ordinary. All around us. In everything. Even in the uncertainty, the chaos, the unknown. 

Where can you find yours? 

All About That Base…

I recently finished a delicious novel delving into the world of perfume making. While it was a work of fiction, I learned a tremendous amount about the art of creating scents. 

Fragrances are complex orchestras of individual smells. Layers of aromatic notes – top, middle and base notes – that work together to create a unique harmony.

Top notes spring forward first, fade the quickest, and are most often light and airy. Lemon, mandarin, lavender, anis, lemongrass are examples.  

Middle notes, or heart notes, take over after the top notes disappear and can last 3-4 hours. These are a little denser, a little more complex. Cinnamon, jasmine, rose, lilac, grass, pear, and peach, are a few.

Base notes are the anchor. They ground the other notes and add complexity and depth to the scent. Cedar, moss, vanilla, balsam. These sink into your skin and can last up to 24 hours.  

Sometimes perfumers add a molecule called indole to a fragrance. It tends to add a “wow” factor to a perfume, giving it a sexy, full, or intimate quality. 

Indole is found in feces. Quite literally, it is the smell of shit.

I began turning this over in my head on one of my runs. This concept of top and middle and base notes. It struck me similar to the piano, with the bass clef and treble clef.

The bass notes add richness and depth to a piece, and act as the foundation to the music. The higher notes in the treble clef are usually the melody, they tell the story. Without the high and the low working together, there would be a hollowness to the music. A story without an ending, a sadness without hope. 

It is through the dichotomy of the high and low, the bass and treble, the top notes and the base notes, that we have a rich texture to life. 

In our personal relationships, it is working through conflict and misunderstanding, that builds a deeper sense of trust and intimacy. It is through the hard times that our bond strengthens. Love grows deeper when we come together during a struggle, fight alongside each other, through the heartache and pain. 

It is through the physical discomfort on my worst runs, that my body grows stronger. It is through the throbbing and aching that I build muscle, resilience, strength. It is continuing to put one foot in front of the other during the mental exhaustion that builds in me a certainty, a knowing, that I can do it. I cannot have a best run, without first going through the pain of my worst run. My best day is only possible because I have had my worst day. 

Sometimes, my best run and my worst run are the same. Sometimes it is the perseverance through the most challenging, difficult, exhausting, and painful experience that leads to the elation, joy, humility, and peace of the most amazing experience. 

We have to have the indole – the shit. We have to have the base notes. We have to have the low times. We have to have the struggle. 

For, it is through struggle that we have joy. It is through the pain that we have strength. It is through the “indole” that we can experience the true depth of beauty.


A link to the book “The Scent Keeper” by Erica Bauermeister

A Better Version of Me

This morning I was grumpy. 

An unattractive, toxic self-pity that repels human contact.  

It was wet outside. Cold. 

Irritable. Irritated. Whiny. Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy!

I did, but I didn’t, want to go for a run. Go, not go. Ugh. An emotional tug of war inside me. 

Finally, sigh. FINE…I’ll go! (Imagine all the drama of a middle schooler stomping their foot and rolling their eyes when agreeing to do something they absolutely do not want to do– yes, that was me this morning.)  

So I put my shoes on, added an extra long-sleeve layer, grabbed my headphones and went out the backdoor. My family, meanwhile, was at the kitchen table, irritatingly happy, enjoying a perfectly quintessential family activity of boardgames on a rainy weekend day. They have plans to bake later. A family baking activity. On a rainy day. Yes, quintessentially perfect.

I stepped outside into the cool air and fumbled longer than necessary with my music. It took me to the end of the street to increase my pace faster than a slow meandering walk. 

I am blessed with an incredible amount of running opportunities right outside my house. Trails and nature parks abound in every direction. I could run a different route every day for a month without getting bored. There are a lot of hills, which I enjoy, and I can easily vary the distance depending on the day. It is really fantastic. 

Since it had rained that morning, I decided to forgo the trails and stick to pavement. The fortunate thing about turning left onto the sidewalk out of my house, is there is a steep downhill for about 1/4 mile. Turn right at the stop sign and there is another downhill, a little more gradual, but enough to kickstart a little momentum in my legs. 

It doesn’t take long for the energy inside of me to begin to shift. I intentionally pulled the headphones out of my ears and mindfully took in the experience. The air was refreshingly crisp and invigorating. The damp earth smelled fragrant and fresh. Water droplets dripped from branches overhead, a light playful sprinkle. 

I inhaled the air deep into my lungs. I felt the power of my legs beneath me propelling me forward. I experienced a profound sense of gratitude for the experience – this time last year I was unable to walk. 

I transformed over that 5-mile loop.  

As I finished my run and sprinted the last 200 meters into my driveway, my family was pulling out in the car. 

They were off to the grocery store for baking supplies. Excited voices bubbled up from the car. 

“How far did you go mom?”

“Are you tired?”

“Good job!”

A high five from my husband. 

Love explodes in my heart. 


This is everything. 

This is why I run. 

Not because it is easy. Not because I always want to. 

But for the person I become after putting in the work and taking all of those steps. 

A better version of myself. 


*For a little Middle School attitude humor, click here. This is how I felt before my run today.

This is my life with 4 Middle Schoolers. EVERY DAY.

The Beginnings of a Plan

Ok – Now that I have decided I am actually going to do this, the next step is to put a plan together. 

What do I need to do to accomplish this impossible goal? 

I think if I put my shoes on right now and began seriously training from this exact moment, it would take me at least 2 years to get in the physical condition required to accomplish this distance. Given what you already know about me from my previous post, I am a procrastinating non-runner, so I will add 2 more years to this training schedule. 

4 years to reach my 50-mile goal. 

I will be 45. Waaaayyyyy before I turn 50! Yes! That leaves 5 more years to accomplish other “50” goals before I turn 50 (visit 50 countries, run 50 individual races, visit all 50 states…the possibilities just go on and on. Big smile here! Although my husband probably just had a mini-stroke reading those words. What the hell else is she going to put me through, he is thinking!). 

The scary thought is my oldest kids will almost be finished with high school by the time I run this race. Yikes! 

I have started browsing 50-mile training plans. Immediately, I want to throw up. I have to be running 40-50 miles per week consistently for a long time on these plans. Most of these plans start from a 20-mile run base. That seems impossible. I’m lucky to run 15 miles spread out over one week now. 

Ok Shannon, don’t get overwhelmed with the impossibilities, I tell myself. Start with what you can do now. You can run a half marathon. Start with that. 

Step 1 – Register and train for the Long Beach Half Marathon, October 2020

After that, train and run a marathon. 

Step 2 – Register and train for the Big Sur Marathon, April 2021

That’s it. 

That’s all you have to do for now. 



One foot in front of the other. 

Put down your second cup of coffee, drink some water, get dressed and go for a run. 

That’s all you have to do. 

We’re taking this one (literal) step at a time. 



My fingers are shaking a bit as I type out these first few words. Am I really going to do this? Am I really going to set this random – almost bizarre – personal goal and put it out there for the world to witness?  Am I ready to commit to the possibility of this journey? Am I ready for the physical, mental, and emotional strength and pain it is going to take to get me there?  

I am a 40- year old mother of four pre-teens (yes, you read that right. A grand total of FOUR hormonal adolescents.) A wife, sister, daughter, friend and aunt. I am a decent cook (my husband is better) and not so decent tennis player (my husband is lightyears better). I host great dinners and parties. I volunteer passionately at my kids’ school. I am a workout enthusiast. I am a traveler. I am a book lover and an avid Audible listener. I am a Pinterest-worthy cheese platter creator. I am a 4+ cups of coffee a day drinker and red wine lover. I am an overindulgent cookie and chocolate eater. 

I am all these things. And more. Lots more.

I am NOT a runner. 

I really am not. 

Even though I have completed over 15 half marathons, one full marathon, a handful of mud runs and a Spartan race. I do not consider myself a runner. 

First of all, I am slow as molasses. I do not have a runner’s body (opposite of long and lean) and I run flat footed with a heavy, lumbering gait. I have also never enjoyed a run while I am doing it. Running is hard. I get out of breath quickly. My face turns a glowing bright cherry red that I often worry draws concern from passerbys.  After long runs (anything over 8 miles) my stomach revolts inside me and wages a war that keeps me close to a restroom for hours. 

I procrastinate and find excuses not to run. I just ate, it’s too windy, it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s too early, I’ll do it later. Oops, it is later and funny enough there is another excuse. 

But every single time I finish a run, I am filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride in myself. I am filled with a sense of calm and strength. My stress has diminished. I have found my way back to center. I feel free.

I just completed my first half marathon after my injury last year (more about that in a future post). The day before my race, I was asked by a friend, “Have you ever run a full marathon? “

“Yes! In my 20’s. It was the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done and will never do another one. One and done. Check that box. Never again.”

“Well,” I said, offhandedly, “maybe when I turn 50 I’ll run another marathon.”

And then something sparked inside of me. “Wait”… I said, holding up a finger to pause the conversation. “Maybe when I turn 50, I will run a 50-mile race. That would really be something.” Then we both Iaughed, said I was crazy, and moved on. 

But that thought stuck with me. That thought has now taken root and begun to grow inside me. It has swirled and turned in my mind, inside out and upside down. It will not leave me. 

Could I? 

Would that even be possible? 

Could me, a non-runner, injured, wine drinking, cookie eating full-time mom actually do that? 

What if? 

What if I tried? 

What if, for the first time in my life, I set out on this journey for the sake of the process, not the end result? 

What if I set this crazy goal and just see what happens? 

What will happen to me along the way? 

What will happen to my body as I train? 

What will happen to my mind during grueling hours of solitude? 

What will happen to my spirit as I push, cajole, and mentally will myself to keep going? 

What will this teach my kids about trying? Getting out of your comfort zone? Redefining yourself? Resetting what you think your own personal limits are? 

Can I do this? 

I don’t know. 

I don’t know if my body will hold up. I have a lot of metal in my ankle that literally might not be able to go the distance. 

I don’t know if I will have the mental toughness to make it through to the end. Will I make an excuse to give up? 

I don’t know if some other life crisis will happen that will derail my plan. Never know what the future holds. 

But I do know that I can’t not try. 

And heck! I have a decade to get it done. (although my gut tells me it won’t take that long!) 

This is the beginning. I invite you on my journey. I am excited to share it with you.