The Magic of Retrospection

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~Lao Tzu

As a spectator at this years Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, I was in awe of every runner who lined up at the start line. The race lived up to its reputation with brutal heat and humidity. This race is never an easy race.

How did I do? How did I run this race three years in a row?

The summer of 2010 was a typical summer for me. I never ran more than five miles. I only ran when I felt like it. I never trained. I had decided to ignore my race entry. I was going to let the race go because my body wasn’t ready. A few days before race day, I got a call from my aunt. She had breast cancer. I had to run. I lined up with runners not know what to expected. I’d do my best. I had to. I cried through many of those miles, and yet I finished in a respectable time. Somehow I ran that race. I felt weak. I felt unprepared. It felt hard.

I returned to this race in 2011. I was six months pregnant with Chet. As I trudged along on the race course, I struggled. It felt hard. I felt weak.

In 2012, when Chet was a newborn, I trained hard. I ran every Saturday morning. Some nights I only had two hours of sleep, but I always showed up to run. Race day came, and I ran through all the same feelings. It was hard. I felt slow. I struggled.

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The common thread between all these races was my perception: I always felt like I was struggling to make it work. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life and running. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life, motherhood and marriage. I’ve always felt like I’m struggling to stay afloat.

But something magical happens when I cross the finish line. It was all worth it. Today when I look back, I am in awe of myself. I’m in awe of what I was able to juggle. I’m in awe of the balance I maintained. Looking back, I feel like I was a superwoman.

How did I do all of that? How did I balance it all? How did I make it work? Because right now I feel like I’m fighting for that balance. Right now I feel like I’m fighting for that strength. How did I do it then?

While I watched the Rock n Roll half marathon from the sidelines this year, I saw something in those runners. I saw love. I saw passion. I saw sacrifice. I saw so many people who were doing it, and I realized I’ve been doing it all along. It’s the fight for balance and it’s the fight for strength that fuel that love and passion in my life. How I feel today is no different from how I felt two years ago.

I’m doing it today just like I was doing it then. I don’t need to wait two years to be in awe of what I’m accomplishing today. I can appreciate myself now. I can be grateful for what I have right now. I don’t want to find my happiness through retrospection. It’s waiting for me right now. The only difference between today and two years ago is that I’ve already crossed the finish line for the events in my past. I haven’t crossed today’s finish line yet. I haven’t felt the magic of today’s finish line.

When I look back, nothing in my life was lacking. This message applies to today too. The magic isn’t really at the finish line. The magic is in the process of getting there. I doubt the finish line would feel like such an accomplishment if it was easy to get there.

Sunrise on Race Day

Sunrise on Race Day

 

 

 

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

Whole Hearted.

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” — Lisa Bu

Over coffee last week, my running coach and I redefined my relationship with running. We chose a new lense for my view of my training plan. I want to run. I need to run. I love to run. But every time I have put on my running shoes lately, I wonder if my run will be a success. I cross my fingers and hope that it turns out to be a good run. Every time I put on my running shoes lately, I feel a little broken.

For the past two years, I have used running to repair the broken things in my life. After having Chet, I used running as a way to reclaim my identity. After I went back to a job I didn’t love, I used running as a way to fix a long work day. After my father-in-law and my aunt passed away, I used running to heal my broken heart. When marriage hits a rough spot, I use running to heal my frustration. When the boys become too much, I use running to fix my sanity. Running has always fixed my broken spots.

As my life heals itself, running has become the broken piece. It’s time to heal my relationship with running.

The only way to heal what is broken is to highlight and enhance all the aspects that I love.

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Last Thursday, my first run back after my stitches were removed, I joined two friends near and dear to my heart for an evening boardwalk run. We ran our favorite route – over the Rudee Inlet bridge straight into the crowd of tourists on the boardwalk. When our feet hit the boardwalk, it felt like the start of summer. We haven’t done this in two years! Three miles into the run, we made a happy hour pit stop for orange crushes and lots of girl talk. The run back to the car was filled with laughter and happiness.

On Sunday, I headed out for my long run. I headed to my favorite running route. I left my garmin at home. I just ran. I ran the Cape Henry Trail into our State Park to some of my favorite back trails. It’s been a while since my running shoes had real trails underneath them. I ran up and down sand downs. I ran alongside water. I skipped over tree roots. I don’t know how far I ran or how fast, but when my feet finally hit pavement again I felt like I was flying.

As I ran down the trails, trails that have held so many of my tears and so much of my laughter, I felt myself picking up all the pieces I had left scattered over the years. I ran these trails, the day the world said goodbye to my aunt. In the middle of a winter storm advisor, I found my refuge in the tree-lined path. On these trails, I spent an entire summer running with my friend Heidi as we both tried to figure out how to be new moms again. Every time I ran with a broken heart down these trails, I left some of myself behind. Every time I ran filled with hope, I left some of myself behind.

Sunday’s run was a declaration. Sunday’s run put an end to broken running. Sunday’s run reclaimed my favorite place.

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There was no stop button to hit when I got back to my car so the run continued. My heart was filled to the brim, and it followed me home.

Last week’s run and all my runs going forward need to be a reflection of my life right now. I’m bring my heart, my whole heart, back to my running. Life is constantly changing. There will be more phases of heart ache, but right now, my whole heart needs a chance to shine. My whole heart needs a chance to run.

rooted

 

 

Defining Quiet

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” ~Zen Proverb

It happens often. I feel the spaces around me growing quiet. The noise from the outside world becomes mute. These are my favorite moments. These are the moments when I hear my heart the loudest. These are the moments when I know I’m doing exactly what I am meant to do. My world has been quiet lately.

I used to wait for the quiet moments to find me. I used to crave them and beg for their return. I would long for the calm after the storm. After moments of intense happiness or whirlwinds of sadness, the quiet has always been a welcome surrender. Instead of waiting for the quiet moments to appear, I’ve been intentionally creating the quiet lately. I’ve removed facebook from phone. I’ve left the garmin behind on my runs. I’ve removed myself from chatter that doesn’t have meaning. None of it matters, but yet I can get caught up in the noise. I can find validation in a few new likes on my facebook page. I can feel success when my garmin shows a run that was faster than yesterday. I can feel validation when I feel like I’m accepted by everyone around me. None of this matter. There is a shallowness in all of this, and lately it has become too noisy.

I always struggle when life gets too noisy. Maybe it’s my introverted heart that causes me to crave solitude. I know it’s my heart that causes me to crave meaning in all my relationships. So this is my focus right now. Quiet spaces and meaningful relationships with everything I love: my family, work, real friends old and new, running and yoga.

Inside this new quiet space, I’ve gained awareness. It has brought me so much perspective. (I think the unexpected two week break from running has helped too.)

My running has been a struggle since the Richmond Marathon. I’ve dissected the pieces every way possible. What was I missing? What had I forgot? In many ways, I had a lot of success on the road, but I also had a lot of heart ache. Every run has felt like a gamble. Would today’s run feel like a success or would I come up short? With more quiet, more space to absorb my own life, I can clearly see the picture now. In the past two years, running has become my coping mechanism. I used it to heal my heart while grieving. I used it to find my identity after the fog of having a new baby. I used running to heal everything. Every single time I put on my running shoes, I asked it to heal me. I showed up feeling hurt, sad, lonely, and broken. I left all this energy in my running shoes. I would walk away from each run refreshed, but my shoes still held the puddle of my broken self. And my broken self still lives there. I am no longer broken, but the energy is still in my shoes. I still show up to every run looking for a problem. My heart and head search (or create) broken pieces. Every time I wonder if the run will be a success, I’ve mentally given myself permission to fail.

It’s time to redefine this relationship. I have to fill my running shoes with a new vibration, a new energy. I have to transform my runner heart. As observed by one of the meaningful friends in my life, can you imagine what my running can become when I’m coming to it with a light heart? Can you imagine what it can become when my shoes are filled with the magic of running again?

My relationship with running is no different from any other relationship in my life. What I bring to the relationship, what I leave behind, is exactly what the relationship becomes. It is okay to move through all these emotions. Every single one of them is normal. What isn’t normal is residing in these places. I have to learn to pass through them without getting stuck. This is what these new quiet spaces are showing me.

I’m letting the quiet guide me. I’m letting my heart pull me into these spaces. I’m intentionally seeking quiet spaces in my heart, in my head and in my life. I am creating meaning instead of seeking validation. It’s taking me down a path I didn’t imagine but one that feels like home.

Life is a constant balance. I hope by falling off the radar in some aspects of life, I create space for my heart in many other directions. I hope that by ditching false forms of validation, I recognize the real value in the quiet places. I am transforming my own energy.

It’s the quiet, the depth of life, that makes my heart come to life. This is the place I’m residing.

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Fear.

Fear. Google it and you will find many different definitions. It’s a noun. It’s a verb. Pick one that works for you.

I’ve been taught by the world that fear is a bad thing. Fear is something to avoid. When I’m feeling afraid, I tend to ignore it. In all honesty, I usually don’t identify the emotion until it has spilled over into another aspect of my life. In my body fear translates itself into anxiety. It manifests itself into stress. It hides behind the illusion of depression. I feel the anxiety, the stress, and the depression long before I’ve identified my fear. This is my reality.

When a spot on my back wouldn’t go away, I decided it was time to visit a dermatologist. It had been months. I no longer believed it was just a hot spot caused by the rubbing of my sports bra. It wasn’t healing. It was getting bigger. And it was starting to make me nervous. The biopsy results confirmed that it wasn’t a hot spot. It was basal cell carcinoma.

Carcinoma. Google it and you will find one definition. It’s a noun. Cancer. This definition doesn’t work for me.

I’ve been taught by the world that cancer is a bad thing. The logical part of my brain knows that basal cell carcinoma is common. The logical part of my brain knows that basal cell carcinoma doesn’t spread to other organs. I know it is not life threatening. I know it’s really not that big of deal so I made my appointment with the plastic surgeon to have it removed. No big deal.

Except the word cancer feels like a really big deal. While the logical part of me knows the only inconvenience of having this spot on my back removed is two weeks of no running or yoga while the area heals, my heart is afraid. Fear has creeped it the space left by the cancer on my body. I’ve seen cancer in action. It’s taken two people I hold close to my heart. My heart has led my brain down the dangerous road of what if. What if this is indication of future health problems? What if this means my body welcomes cancerous cells? I wish this spot had a different name.

This morning I set out for a sunrise run knowing I wouldn’t get to run tonight (but not knowing it would really be two more weeks). Mile repeats were on my schedule. When the miles got tough, the fear I’ve been feeling took over. The miles were harder than they needed to be. My fear of cancer became suffocating during the run. That’s the thing about fear. It creeps in. It doesn’t care what the source is. It doesn’t care if it belongs or not. It takes advantage of the empty spaces, and it fills them up. The same is true for cancer. It can consume every aspect of your life.

Today when I walked into the plastic surgeon’s office to have the spot removed, I didn’t choose the easy route for removal. I decided to be aggressive. I didn’t want to tip-toe around the spot on my back just to avoid cosmetic scarring. I wanted it all gone. I wanted to rid my body of the fear I was feeling from this cancerous spot.  I didn’t want to wonder if it was coming back. Once my back was numb, I had a few minutes to myself to wait for it all to sink it. My lip trembled from fear and tears that wanted to spill out.  I know logically I have nothing to fear, but fear isn’t logical. Fear is emotional.

While the world has taught me that fear is a bad thing, that it is something to avoid, I no longer agree. Fear is a good thing. It is a good emotion. It is the fear of cancer that allows me to choose the aggressive route of ridding my body of the basal cell carcinoma. It is fear that gives me the courage to stand tall knowing the timid route isn’t right for me. It is fear that propels me forward instead of hiding in the shadows of the unknown.

When fear takes over whether it is logical or not, I have to remember it is a chance for me to rise to the occasion. It is a chance to propel myself forward. It’s an opportunity to grow. Fear is just an indicator that something amazing is waiting for me around the corner.  Fear isn’t something to fear. Fear is something to be embraced.

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

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

On Thursday afternoon I sat in a room with all of my coworkers and Shawn Achor. Shawn Achor was just on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday for two weekends in a row. He has one of the most viewed Ted Talks. There is a reason for all of this. What he has to share with world needs to be heard. He is a happiness researcher. His words echoed into my heart, and I’ve been trying to hold on to them.

Happiness is our choice. We choose which lense we use to view life. Why not train our brain to find patterns of happiness instead of patterns of stress, depression or pessimism? During the two hours he spoke with us, he repeated this phrase several times, and I quickly reached for my pen to write it down.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

I took these words to heart. I interpreted them to fit my life. If I focus on my now, if I take the time to pay attention to my inhales and exhales, this allows me to view life through a lense of happiness. If I take the time to move beyond living life on the surface, this allows me to view life through a lense of happiness. If I do things that give meaning to my life, this allows me to view life through a lense of happiness.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Today I headed to the CHKD 8k Run/Walk. My intention was to carry these words with me. I was running on Operation Smile’s Team World Care. We were running to say thank you to the children’s hospital for taking such amazing care of our world care patients. Running is a privilege I don’t take for granted.

The race took off, and I fell into a comfortable pace (except it was too fast). I had no goal for this race except I wanted to remember why I was running. I wasn’t running for a race clock. I was running to say thank you. I forgot all of this in the third mile when things got hot. I forgot all of this when I started to hold the tension in my hips. I forgot all of this when I started to think I wasn’t capable. My brain shut down. My body gave up with it. I got irritated with myself. The negative self talk took over.

Just past the fourth mile marker a girl ran by filled with optimism. She was cheering for everyone. It was the reality check I needed to get my head in check. It was the reality check that got me to the finish line pushing instead of giving in.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Not too long after my finish, I was joined by more coworkers. We were joined by our world care patient from Haiti. We walked the 1 mile fun walk together and celebrated the importance of life. This young lady that joined me on the race course has spent her entire life hiding behind a four pound tumor that had grown on her face. Thanks to some really amazing people and this amazing Children’s Hospital, she will see another birthday. The tumor has been removed forever. I ran one bad mile. Life was put back in perspective.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

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During Shawn Achor’s talk he reminded us that choosing happiness isn’t about being naïve. It isn’t about turning our backs on the real sadness and heart ache in our world. It’s about looking for patterns in our life, patterns of gratitude and appreciation for what we do have. I am lucky enough to live in a culture that encourages me to chase my dreams. I am lucky enough to have the chance to grow as a person. Every single day I get to work on fine tuning my well-being because I live with a healthy body.

I have work I want to do. It’s not work that I have to do. It’s a privilege. I want to learn to be strong in the middle of my race. I want to learn to hang on when things get tough. I want to learn to fight for my potential. I’ve got work to do. This is my privilege.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Grow into it.

(Today I forgot)

Race Results:

8k – 46:23

Garmin: 5.04 in 46:25, 8:34, 9:02, 8:53, 11:05, 8:45, 5:37 across the finish line (talk about potential!)

When I crossed the finish line today, I viewed my race as a failure. I was done racing for a while. The one mile walk with our world care patient changed that. I was using the wrong lense to view my run. Today’s run wasn’t a failure. It was a chance to see where my weaknesses exist. It was chance to see where I have the potential to grow. This is how I want to view my life. This is the lense I’m choosing.

Gorgeous Finish Line View

Gorgeous Finish Line View