Breathing Room, August Edition

“Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating an emotional clearing to allow ourselves to feel, think, dream and question.” ~Brene Brown

August is ending on a high note, on a simple note. As I’ve stripped away layers of clutter, I’m sitting in the messy, real, simple core of life. Love. Yes, it is still messy. Yes, it is still hard. The difference between this mess and the clutter of life is that this matters. Love matters. It’s not filler. It’s not a bandaid. It’s not numbing. This is life, and I feel like I’m learning how to live my own version.

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ECSC 5k – Race Recap

“Light tomorrow with today.” ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This morning I lined up for a 5k knowing I’m not in racing condition, knowing that I’ve struggled all summer to find space in my runs, and knowing that 3 miles now feels like a long run. I know all of this, yet I was excited. The timing of this race just felt right. I was ready to test my new running philosophy: accept where I am at today.

But old habits die hard. I did my best not to speculate about finish times, to analyze the few runs I have worn my garmin on this summer to predict my outcome, or to stress that a PR wasn’t a possibility (24:50 for those of you who are curious, 7:59 pace). I only let my brain wander as far as setting a few loose goals for the race outside of enjoying myself and pushing myself on the course.

A perfect day – 27:xx, 8:59 pace (I am well aware that I ran this pace for 10 miles in April. Another true test of my new running philosophy. Could my ego let go?)

A solid run – Low 9s

Crap that sucked – anything over 9:20

I lined up next to a few friends and told them that who ever was having a solid day running was required to run.

Laura and I stuck together for Mile 1. I had previously told her my plan was to hit a 9 minute mile. At some point she kindly told me that if a 9 minute mile was my pace, I was running way too fast. We slowed down, chatted, and had some fun.

Mile 1 – 8:28

In mile 2 I encouraged Laura to go ahead. My stomach was telling me to slow down, but I knew I was in a good spot if I could just hang on. Panicking mid-race has been my weakness this year. When I saw 8:28 on my watch and my stomach started to rumble, I felt panic taking over. My focus quickly become to sit in a pocket that felt comfortable. Don’t panic. Relax. Don’t panic. Relax.

Mile 2 – 9:35 (I may have got a little too comfortable this mile)

Mile 3 was about hanging on. My hip flexors are tight lately. I like to lead with my pelvis when I run. Instead of focusing on the miles or the finish line, I focused on my body. I did my best to keep my hips under me. I did my best to keep my upper body relax.

Mile 3 – 9:16

In the final stretch I found a familiar face. Teresa, the overall female winner today, came back to run me in. She helped squeeze out the last bit of energy I had left in my legs. She reminded me to lift my knees and to use my arms. She took over my thinking since my brain had shut off.

Final stretch – 6:58 pace

Official Finish time: 28:00, 9:02 pace

Finish line fun with some great friends

Finish line fun with some great friends

Am I happy with this run? You bet!

It’s no secret my ego has been attached to my running ability for some time. It’s so easy to get caught up in the race to run further or to run faster. I got stuck in a place that let the pace on a race clock determine my level of success. Today that ego didn’t show up. I hope it’s squashed for good. I ran each mile as best I could. I have happily accepted exactly where I am at right now, not last year, not last month, but today! Coming to terms with this has been hard. My ego put up a good fight. But man, it feels good to kick that ego to the curb. It feels good to enjoy the run!

Today’s run was perfect! It makes me really excited about the fall races I have coming up!

Cheers to a very happy start!

Cheers to a very happy start!

You can’t Fake the Core

“If there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.” ~ Cheryl Strayed

All year I’ve been peeling away the layers. I’ve been seeking out breathing room in nearly every aspect of my life. After a period of my life that felt nearly suffocating, I needed to breathe again. I changed jobs. Our house is being decluttered. I simplified our family life. I took a step back in nearly every aspect of my life. This is what I need. I know it deep inside my core.

I’m meant to live a simple life. I’m meant to live a life full of love. It’s impossible to accomplish this when your life is full of clutter – both physical and emotional.

And yet my running has struggled. I’ve struggled with my relationship with running all year. Injury. Emotional baggage. Mental weakness. I just can’t get over the hump. With my fall race season approaching, I started to panic. I need a training plan. I need to get faster. I need support. My running continued to spiral downward. I don’t want to give up on running. I love running. Should I even be racing at all? I can’t function without running. I’m working on redefining my relationship with my running shoes. Isn’t that enough? Spiraling spiraling downward. And then I bounced back up.

What I need is breathing room!

I already know exactly what I need. My body has been telling me for months (years?).

I need to trust myself. I know how to run. I know how train. Creating my own plan, trusting myself to get me to the finish line, is exactly what I need. I need to empower myself. I need to put my faith back in my own ability. I don’t need a time goal. I just want to do my best.  And I need to listen to my body.

While I was so busy trying to control the outcome of every race, I was ignoring the screams that were coming from my body. I’ve run my body into the ground based on it’s current fitness level. My hips have been rebelling. I feel weaker every time I put on my running shoes.  My body was screaming at me that something needed to change. It was reminding me what I always forget: my running legs aren’t like everyone else’s running legs. They were broken at one point. My femur, my tibia, and my foot broke. They are pieced back together by titanium rods and screws. My hip and knees have been dislocated. I have scar tissue. I have to take care of them. I have to support them. I need to get stronger if I’m going to keep running.

So my training plan is blank minus the few races I’m running this fall. I’ve left space each week for two easy runs, one speed work out, and a long run. I’ve left space for strength workouts. I’ve left space for yoga. How I fill in the space each week will be based on my life – family and work. The blank spaces make me feel alive. The blank space feels like a vote of confidence in myself. I’m smart enough to know how to build mileage. I have run enough speed workouts to select ones that challenge me. I am now smart enough to recognize that my focus has to be on strength and yoga. The running will fall into place.

I’m excited about this new plan. I’m excited to find a balance that works for me. I’m excited to listen to my body in a truly authentic way. It feels amazing to let go of trying to control the outcome. Instead I’m focusing on today, right now, and exactly what my body needs. I have a feeling I’m building the foundation for a very happy running relationship.

I hear you body! I am finally listening!

I finally feel like I am breathing!

 

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Running and life: always a reflection of each other

Breathing Room, July Edition

Priorities. Smart choices. Balance. Knowing that I don’t function well when my world feels noisy and chaotic, this month I made intentional choices to use my time to fill my life with things that make me happy. At the end of every day, I have very little free time to give. My energy is given to my family and my work, so I am making sure I don’t fill up every second of our free time. Weekends have been filled with lazy days on the beach. Summer nights have been spent catching fireflies and taking evening runs to the park.

A two-week break from running this month also brought a lot of clarity to my relationship with running. Happy miles are my driving force right now. I’ve done more easy runs with Chet in the stroller than speed work outs with friends. I’ve run more slow miles on trails than speedier long runs on the road.I’ve let go of the structure of a training plan (for right now), and I’m filling my weekly runs with sunrises, friends, and stroller runs. It’s working. I’m feeling renewed.

This month has been a great reminder that I know myself best. I am at my best when I’m trusting my body and my heart.

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Read my other updates too:

June

May

April

March

February

January

This is a joint project with Heidi Calma Photography that was created when we were wondering how we could stay more focused on our words for the year and celebrate them along the way. Check out her posts, too!

Breathing Room, June Edition

Let’s keep it real. June has been a tough month for me emotionally. I’ve felt a little fragile this month. I’ve lost sight of my objective for the year. I think I forgot to breath. The whirlwind of the changes that came have settled nicely into place, and I just forgot to breath. I’ve been a little too guarded, a little too aware of myself, and a little too detached emotionally from the things that I love. Life knocked me out of balance for the month.

This is why setting intentions is good. This is why revisiting these intentions is good. This is why it is important to state out loud exactly what you want. It brings you back. When life sends me spinning or sends me into hiding, my intentions, my words, bring me back.

June has brought with it the end of the school year for Cole and the start of the school journey for Chet. It has been a reminder of how much I value my relationship with Christian. He spent nearly two weeks on the couch thanks to back problems. It has hand delivered some wonderful new friendships, and magnified the friendships I already have in place. I got to watch two of my favorite people say “I do”. I got to run miles with friends who just understand me. I’ve got to see Cole grow into a pretty cool preteen while at the same time Chet has blossomed into quite a kid.

In reality June has been really awesome, I’ve just been emotionally afraid. I’ve been afraid of the vulnerability that comes from allowing myself to be seen. I’ve been afraid of failing on so many levels.

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~Pema Chadron

My running coach Ryan sent me my training plan last week with a note attached to it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Perhaps that is what this month has shown me most. I have a fear of failing at relationships, at love, at friendships, at mothering, at running, and finding success in my life. I fear failing, but the only thing that is holding me back from my own success story is that of fear. It is always me that gets in my own way.

“Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all answers in advance, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s time to face July face-first and with full-speed. I do not need to fear failing.

breathing room june

Breathing Room, May Edition

May was a whirlwind. It was the closing of one chapter of life, and the beginning of a new chapter. It was a fresh start. May was a month of validation on so many levels.

The month began with a weekend getaway to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I ran a race and didn’t come anywhere near my goal time.

Validation: I love running even when it goes bad. Life is happy even when a races takes a wrong turn. Not achieving a goal doesn’t make it a success or a failure. It is in the stumbles along the way that strengthen commitment and motivation.

I started a new job with a company that is so closely aligned with my own personal values.

Validation: What I do matters. What I believe matters. Happiness in a job matters. This job has brought so much life back to my world.

Through all the changes, our home life didn’t falter. Dinners weren’t missed. Quality time with the boys wasn’t forgotten.

Validation: I don’t have to sacrifice myself to be a good mother. In fact, I’d argue I’ve been a more engaged mother since I became more engaged at work.

May reinforced that change and chaos aren’t something to be afraid of. They are meant to be embraced. Making the best of every situation is what matters.

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Open

Round and round we ran: 800 repeats on Tuesday evening. It was my first speed workout in a month. My legs weren’t used to the request to go faster. My hips held on tight. Speed work felt foreign. The mental stubbornness to not give in didn’t come naturally. It was an exercise at quieting my brain instead of pushing my body.

This run would have never been a success if I was running solo. My brain’s natural response to pushing my limits on a hot summer night with humidity hanging in the air is to quit. My brain would have won if I wasn’t surrounded by friends who silenced my head. My support system held on for me. I chased them. Stay with them. Stay with them. Hold on.

It was during the fourth 800 that my friend Bridgette said to me, “Open up.” She was offering words of encouragement to help pull me forward. Her words were simple yet they spotlighted my struggle for the season. I had reverted back to old habits. I wasn’t trusting my body. I wasn’t opening my stride. I was timid. I was ridged. I was closed in and guarded. The tightness in my hips was a reflection of my lack of trust in my body. They are a reflection of my lack of trust in myself.

Timidness. Lack of trust. My protective barrier. It creeps in whenever I lose my awareness of myself.

The last month has been full of change. It’s capitulated me out of my comfort zone in the most amazing way.  Yet I’ve apprehensively approached the shift in my daily schedule with fear that it would negatively impact it my family. It hasn’t. I’ve worried that my boys would feel my absences in the one hour I’m now missing in the evening while losing sight that they gained that hour in the morning hours. My new job is stretching me. It’s allowing me to expand into my potential. This is what my boys will feel. At the end of the day, I am full. This is what I want my boys to witness. This is what I want them to learn.

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” ~Jane Austen

I know exactly what I need. Open Heart. Open Stride. These were the words that carried me through 26.2 miles last November. These are the words that carried through a hugely emotional time of my life. Those are the words I’m going to hold on to right now.

I’m bringing my awareness back to myself. I’m trusting the vulnerable spaces of new, the spaces of the unknown, the spaces out of my comfort zone. I’m opening back up. My heart, those tiny whispers I’ve learned to hear, know exactly where I belong. It’s running that allows me to hear them. It’s running that gives me the gift of knowing who I am. Now I have to learn to trust it and to grow into it.

Elizabeth River Run