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!

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.

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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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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

 

The End of Another Chapter

“I see my life as an unfolding set of opportunities to awaken.” ~Ram Dass

Today I loaded up all my personal belongs, and I walked out the front doors of a place that has been a home to me for five and a half year. It was my last day at work. This is something I’ve wanted for a while now. I could never fully invest myself in this job. I was never attached. Perhaps it was the work, perhaps is was the environment, perhaps it was so many other things. While I was never invested at work, my life became rooted over the five and a half years I worked here.

I moved in with Christian. We got engaged. I ran my first race ever. We got married. I graduated from grad school. I got pregnant. I had Chet. I pumped for a year on every one of my breaks.

This job was never meant to be a life long job but it gave me a life. It provided a backdrop for my world to bloom.

Before I left my job for good today, I knew I had one thing left to do. I ran one last lunch break run around the Municipal Center. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve run this circle: slow runs, pregnant runs, post baby runs, speed workouts. This two mile loop plus a favorite trail have been my go to running route. I put on my running clothes for one last time today, and I ran my favorite route. I’ve officially said goodbye.

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It was surreal walking out the front doors today. I said goodbye to some very special friends who have been a huge part of my life. I said goodbye to my favorite lunch date.

Monday is waiting for me. I can’t ignore my heart whispers any more. Its time to invest myself into something I love. It’s time for a new chapter.

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Like the sun she shines

I arrived at our coffee date at the exact same time as Heidi. We ordered and sat down. Before I could take a bite of my bagel, she instructed me to stop. She shoved a bag in my face. She exclaimed “happy early birthday!”. What was inside the bag made me cry. It was a hand painted canvas of the quote I hold near and dear to my heart.

“With brave wings she flies”

And she added to it. She add five words that made it even more perfect for me. Like the sun she shines.

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On a Monday morning in January, I sat in my car with tears streaming down my face. It was the eve of the anniversary of my aunt’s death. The sadness clung to me. In the sadness, I felt all the empty spaces that the year had left wide open. I felt the wounds. I felt every inch of my life that I had guard myself from experiencing. I missed my aunt. And in the very next breath, I missed my friend.

Last year was a tough year for Heidi and I’s friendship. It was one of the empty spaces in my life. For whatever reasons, different goals, different directions, different insecurities, our friendship fell flat. As I cried tears for my aunt, I reached out to my friend. I told her I missed her. Throughout the year we supported each other. We cheered each other on. We had coffee. But something had changed. We both became guarded. We were protecting ourselves. The moment I reached out, the moment I finally acknowledge the direction our friendship was headed, my heart healed.

We needed, I needed, that moment of vulnerability to help me remove the armor I had used to protect myself.

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“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~Albert Einstein

The return of her friendship has also felt like the return of me. If I had guarded myself from one of my dearest friends, I knew I had guarded my heart from the world. I knew I had lost sight of some of the very small details in life that are authentically me.

Since that day in January, I keep returning to the lesson hidden in the folds of last year and that Monday morning. Am I being authentic to who I am as a person? Am I honoring myself, the people I adore, and the life that I have created? Or am I guarding myself?

In these self reflections the word ego keeps ringing in my ears. The books I’m reading keep returning to this subject. My daily interactions keep shining light on this one word.

A genuine relationship is one that is not dominated by the ego with its image-making and self-seeking. In a genuine relationship, there is an outward flow of open, alert attention toward the other person in which there is no wanting whatsoever.~Eckhart Tolle

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On Friday I will celebrate my 34th birthday. My birthday week has always been a time for me to focus on goals and life direction. It’s a time of celebration and a time of investing into my life.

As a sat across from Heidi today with the early birthday gift in my hands, my heart felt full. I knew what giving this gift meant to her. I knew she stepped outside of herself, she let down her guard, she gave up on the idea of perfect, and she created something for me that is a true reflection of who I am. This is what we were missing last year. This is what I was missing last year. I was consumed by my grief, my marathons, and my life that I got caught up in the my.

“In normal everyday usage, ‘I’ embodies the primordial error, a misperception of who you are, an illusory sense of self is what Albert Einstein, who had deep insights not only into the reality of space and time but also human nature, referred to as ‘an optical illusion of consciousness.’ That illusory self then becomes the basis for all further interpretations, or rather misinterpretations of reality, all thought processes, interactions, and relationships. Your reality becomes a reflection of the original illusion.” ~Eckhart Tolle

This year, the year I celebrate 34 years of life, I’m focusing on letting life be. I’m focusing not on myself but on my spirit. I’m focusing on what gift I can give to the world. I’m focusing on how I contribute to a world that is much larger than me.

This year, it’s going to be a great year.

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Healing a Bruise

When Chet turned two, I decided I was ready to start exploring what I want to be when I grow up. We are done having children, and I’m currently withering away at my current job. With Chet turning two, I am ready to put him in preschool so he can interact with other kids. I’m also ready to dust off my degrees and return to the work I’m proud of on my resume. There is only one catch, I’m not willing to change jobs just for a change. I want to be invested in my career. I need work that is fulfilling and rewarding.

At almost thirty four years of age, after earning a bachelors and a masters degree, after a divorce, after being a single parent, and after my own version of happily ever after, I know a few things about myself. I have a lot of passion to give. When I love something, I love big. There is no containing the things that make my heart sing. If something is lucky enough to make it on to my list of loves, I give all of myself to it.

When I set up a job interview at Operation Smile, I knew I was all in. It’s already a company I feel passionately about. The mission of the organization falls perfectly into place with my own life mission. I knew that the only way for me to approach the interview process was to allow myself to fall in love with the job. Through the entire process (and it was two long months), I let myself be vulnerable. I allowed myself to envision how perfect this job was for me and for my family. I didn’t hold back. I gave all of myself to the process.

Today I found out I didn’t get the job. They hired an internal candidate.

Disappointing news is never easy. Sad doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about not getting the job. My brain had gone back and forth from the cheesy optimistic “it will be okay” responses to tiptoeing down the path of unhealthy “I suck” self-talk.

Neither one of those thoughts feel productive right now. Of course I know everything works out in the end. I have a loving husband and two awesome kids. I don’t need more than that. I also know I don’t suck. They hired someone internal, and I can’t compete with that.

This leaves me somewhere in the middle of wanting to cry and wanting to pour all of myself into another project. It also leaves me wondering so many questions. If things always works out exactly how they are supposed to, and I firmly believe “nos” happen because a even better yes is waiting for me, then exactly what do I need to learn from this process.

Is my whole hearted approach appropriate for a professional environment?

When I interview for another position, I plan to tackle it the same way. My whole hearted approach is nonnegotiable for me. If if doesn’t fit the company, then the company isn’t right for me.

Do I place too much value on career choice?

This is probably the hardest question to answer. I’m not sure I’ll ever have an answer. I firmly believe a job should not define your life. I also believe that your life passion should become your career. Both contradict each other.

Why isn’t motherhood enough for me?

This is probably where I am the hardest on myself. Why isn’t raising two amazing boys enough? Why can’t I be satisfied collecting a paycheck and watching my children grow up. Why do I need to leave a bigger impression on our planet? I don’t know why. I have so many amazing mom friends in my life. I admire them all. I see what they do every single day, and I know they all are contributing amazing things to our world. I wish I knew why I needed to do something more.

The no I got from Operation Smile today hurts, but I think it hurts more not knowing exactly where I’m supposed to go from here. This job was perfect. It put a check next to every box. Now I’m left to wonder more about what to do with my unused passion.

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a featherbed.” ~Terence McKenna

There is one thing I won’t let today’s no stop me from doing. I refuse to stop dreaming. I know, without a doubt, that I will leave my finger print on our world. Maybe I’ll never see it. Maybe I’ll never have that dream job that reaches into the forgotten corners of our planet. Maybe I’ll never get the chance to nurture someone back to health. But maybe I will. Just maybe I will.

I can be a mother and a wife. I can be a dreamer. I refuse to give up on either one of them. I know without a doubt that I am meant to help heal the bruises on our planet. If my boys are watching, if they ever read this one day, I hope my unwillingness to give up on my dreams gives them the courage to tackle their own. After all, my children are the finger print I will leave on the world.

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