Blossom

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

A month ago I sat down in a tattoo studio. 

The story of the tattoo is simple: strawberry blossoms and cherry blossoms for my two boys. 

Cole was born during strawberry season. Picking strawberries was our first adventure out of the house, and it brought back a flood of childhood memories. I remembered walking along the wooden planks that seperated my grandma’s lawn from her strawberry patch. I remembered the pinwheels I’d get from the grocery store to place in her garden. Having my own baby in a strawberry patch felt like home. 

Chet has always been my cherry blossom baby. Upset that I was sidelined from my first marathon with a stress fracture, I bought myself a road bike. Shortly after I heard that lululemon was hosting free yoga in front of the Washington Monument during the blooming of the cherry blossoms. A weekend getaway was born. With our bikes and yoga mats packed, Christian and I went out of town for the weekend to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. A few weeks later, we realized we brought home a very special souvenir from the trip. A cherry blossom baby was blooming in my belly. 

 

When I fell in love with the art of a local tattoo artist, I knew exactly what I wanted tattooed: strawberry and cherry blossoms. I gave Abby no other instructions. I let her work her magic. Every time I glanced at my arm to check on the progress, I became more and more amazed. She crawled inside my head and created a piece of my heart on my arm. 

Every phase of blooming in captured in my tattoo. As a late bloomer in life, I feel like I’m always growing, always blossoming. 

Woven throughout the tattoo are bursts of yellow. The tattoo is literally shining. 

  

While the intention of this tattoo was a celebration of my two boys, it has evolved into a celebration of my love. It feels appropriate. My boys have been my greatest life lesson. They have shown me who I am, what I value, and what I need to embrace. Because of my boys, I have the courage to stand comfortably in my own skin and to take ownership of who I am. 

My boys are the reason I bloom. My boys are the reason I shine. 

As I started 2016, I knew this was the year to let go of everything that was holding me back. It was the year to show up and proudly say this is me. It was the year to walk away from everything that makes me feel less than towards everything that makes me feel complete.  This tattoo is just the beginning. 

  

Virginia Distance Series 100k Relay

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” ~Herman Melville

Round and round we ran. On Sunday, I joined forces with three badass ladies to make up Team NoPainNoChampagne at the Virginia Distance Series 100k Relay. For 62 miles, we ran loops on a 2.3 mile path around a golf course. The day started well before dawn, and it got colder and windier as the day got later. 

 

Team NoPainNoChampagne

 
This race had nothing to do with paces. It had nothing to do with finish times. It wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about heart. It was about finding mental strength to endure hours of sitting in the cold and running on repeat for almost nine hours. 

Muscles warmed up, and they got tight again. Mentally I tuned in, and I tuned out again. Every single time I thought my body was done giving its all, I kept going because never once was I alone on the course. There were seven relay teams, and dozens of runners individually conquering 50k (31ish miles) and 100k (62ish miles) on their own. Witnessing a local rockstar runner complete her first 100k at a lightening pace of 8:45 minute miles made it impossible to not give it my all. 

Every time I passed an individual runner, I offered words of encouragement. I was truly amazed and inspired. Every time I was passed by some of the most impressive runners I know, I received praise. Regardless of time and pace, we all were running the same race with the same heart. 

There was a pulse and an energy in the air. You could feel it. Every time I ran a loop and approached the aid station/handoff, I knew I’d be created by cheers of support. 

coming into the exchange

  
As I finished the 27th lap for our team, my three amazing friends joined me on the course. We all ran to the finish line together. Not long after we finished, the first 100k individual runner finished. Then our very own local rockstar finished her final lap. Cheering her into the finish line brought tears to my eyes. 

 

To the finish

 
I needed Sunday’s run more than I realized. I needed to tune into my own strength more than I realized. I needed to feel the pulse, the heartbeat and the connection of our running community more than I realized. It’s never about running. It’s about giving and receiving. It’s about supporting. It’s about feeling supported. 

Sunday was a day for my record book. My tired and heavy legs carried me to the finish line where I was welcome and embraced by three amazing teammates and equally amazing friends who collectively exude ever quality I admire. 

2016 is a year to do more of the things that just feel good. The Virginia Distance Series puts a big check next to that objective for the year. 

 

Pain: Check. Champagne: Check

 
My portion of the run:

16.4 miles with an average pace of 9:03 per mile. 

Time Trial 

“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.” ~Paulo Coehlo

Six weeks until the Shamrock Half Marathon means it’s go time for this training cycle. I have four weeks to being intentional with every workout. I have four weeks to push myself before I allow my body to recover. Then I race. 

This week’s training plan is a nice reminder that it is time to do work. 

Today’s plan: 

EVOFIT workout 

Warmup, 4 mile time trial, Cooldown 

Since I’m currently unemployed, I’m determined to make every workout happen. 

I haven’t run a time trail since high school. I had no expectations going into this run except I knew I was going to hurt. 

 

Today’s start line : seals at the aquarium

 
Mile 1 – My head was filled thoughts. As I wrestle with letting go of the last chapter in my life, I become energized about what is next. 

8:34

Mile 2 – If there was any chaos in my thoughts about life, they transferred to thoughts about the run. Make it half way. Beat the wind. Make it half way. 

8:28

Mile 3 – The hardest part is making it to turn around. All I have to do is finish. 

8:22

Mile 4 – crap. The wheels are falling off. Relax. Relax my shoulders. Even out my breath. Relax. Relax. 

8:11

Finish: 4.01 miles, 33:39, 8:24 average pace 

I ran this entire workout based on feel. My garmin was on my wrist, but I never looked at my watch. When I finished my cooldown, I was shocked at my negative splits. I felt myself coming undone from the moment I crossed the Rudee Inlet bridge. I gave myself permission to simply do my best. I need to fight for my finish, but it was okay if it was my slowest mile. I worked out hard this morning. I ran hard for the duration of this run. 

And then I saw 8:11. 

It was my fastest mile. When I felt like I was falling apart, I held myself together. I didn’t panic. I trusted. And I finished stronger than I started. 

This past weekend when the ladies from #jogandblog were reunited by the river, we took to the country roads to run hill repeats. While I don’t recall any of the conversations on that run (I was too busy huffing and puffing and sweating out alcohol), Kris made a simple statement and it’s stayed with me: it’s hard to not panic in the middle of the run. 

 

Chasing fast girls up and down hills

 

Perhaps this is what I’m learning the most in this transition and this training cycle. I’m learning to take ownership of the process. I’m learning to stay relaxed when the wheels fall off. I’m learning to finish strong. 

Today was the right moment to push myself. Today I embraced the obstacles on my run. I finished stronger than I started. 

A Chapter Closes

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

When Christian and I first started dating, he laid his head in my lap. As he listened to me breathe, he brought it to my attention that my breath was shallow. I wasn’t breathing fully. I wasn’t breathing deeply. In that moment, time froze. My thoughts raced backwards as I remembered every moment in my life when I couldn’t breathe.  

These moments were big life moments. They were moments I had a choice to make. I could take a deep breath, I could make a hard choice, and I could start a new chapter in my life. 

When Christian brought attention to my breath, I became aware of the stress that I was holding. As I pulled my breath deep into my abdomen, I felt myself letting go of the burdens I carried around with me. 

 

Every sunrise is a new beginning

 
Two Thursdays ago, I came face to face with a moment that took my breath away. While physically gasping for breath, I knew I had a decision to make. It was time to start a new chapter. 

Two Fridays ago was my last day at Operation Smile. It’s been a little over a week since I walked away from my dream job. 

Walking away from a dream isn’t easy. Letting go of something I’ve wanted my entire adult life isn’t easy. But when I sat in my bosses office physically gasping for breath on the verge of a panic attack, I knew it was time. 

Not all dreams are meant to last a lifetime. Walking away is actually walking towards the next dream. 

While I don’t know what my next chapter will look like just yet, I am trusting this leap of faith. I’m trusting the universe will catch me. 

Last week was my first full week since I walked away. It was hard. It was filled with every emotion. I was heart broken, and I was filled with hope. I did nothing last week. I let myself feel it all. I ran when I needed to. I hugged my boys when I needed comfort. I sat quietly when my heart needed it. I followed my breath. Whatever brought depth and fullness to my breath, I did it. 

 

This trail always heals my heart

 
 Just when I needed it most, my sweet friend invited me and a great group of gals to her river house for the weekend. It was a weekend filled with no agendas, lots of laughter, and sunsets on the river. As I got in my car to drive home, I felt the chapter closing. I felt myself letting go of everything I felt about leaving Operation Smile behind. 

 

Spread Love

 
I’m ending this chapter with nothing but gratitude. I was able to revisit regrets from my youth, and I was able to live out those dreams thanks to Operation Smile. I’ll never have to wonder what-if again. 

When I’m ready for the next chapter, I’m now equipped with a newfound strength, a newfound appreciation for my worth, and a stronger sense of my priorities. But for now I’m enjoying today. I’m enjoying my breath. I’m enjoying ever deep and meaningful inhale. I’m enjoying every intentional exhale. 

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” ~Sylvia Plath

Sweet 16

It just feels good.

This phrase has left my mouth so many times since the calendar changed to 2016. After all my group runs with the J&A Racing Training Team, I come home filled to the brim because regardless of time each on the clock, each run just feels good. As I sat in the tattoo studio on Tuesday, it felt so good (besides the physical pain) to get a tattoo I’ve wanted since Cole was born. After I leave Evofit, I always wander one block over to smell salty air and to sneak a peek at the rising sun because it just feels good.

I’ve talked to friends who are on the same journey, and every single one of them has used the same phrase when talking about life and choices.

This year is truly of year of filling myself up with what feels good.

As I read the blog of the leader of our training team, he posted 16 goals for 2016. As I read Ryan‘s goals, I found myself thinking – that feels right for this year. Megan jumped on board and posted her goals too, and again, it just felt right. I’m jumping on board the 16 for 16 goal train. I’m making choices based on what feels good

16 Goals in 2016

  1. More of “it just feels good”
  2. Meal Plan! Meal Plan! Meal Plan!
  3. Pack my lunch before I go to bed
  4. Half Marathon PR
  5. 5k PR
  6. Get Chet excited about sleeping in his own bed
  7. Take my boys to Utah
  8. Plan a day for just me and Cole
  9. Mountain Bike More
  10. A new fence
  11. Buy a picnic table
  12. Read more. Less Phone.
  13. Play Monopoly
  14. Date my hubby more
  15. Sit on the beach one day without children
  16. Reclaim my house – take all those baby toys to goodwill

If something doesn’t create the response “it just feels good” there is a good chance I won’t be doing it this year! Less energy on nonsense, more energy on the good stuff.  

Sunrise Escapes

Momentum (#blogandjog)

“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.” ~Rainer Marie Rilke 

Sunday morning I woke up early. I had more miles I wanted to run. Shamrock Half Marathon training/ Northface Endurance Challenge Marathon training is officially underway. Between now and April, I’ll be following up my J&A Racing Training Team Saturday runs with more miles on Sundays, but this Sunday was different. I had received an invite to do something a little more exciting than just logging eight miles. 

As I drove towards the boardwalk, it was the first time in along time I let my brain wander towards the cherished finish line. I visualized that final mile. I could feel the strength in my legs. I remembered last year’s celebration as I rounded the corner to cross the finish line on the boardwalk with an unexpected personal best. This year is different though. This year I have expectations. This year my goal is to own the back half of the race course. I’m chasing down my strength this year. I’m ready to let my fire burn. 

As I drove towards the oceanfront Sunday morning emotion washed over me as I visualized a finish line with my husband and friends waiting to celebrate the success of this season. While I have a goal for this race, I’m already succeeding. This training cycle is already a success. 

  
After I logged four solo miles while the sun rose, I meet three other ladies who I deeply respect and admire to run four more miles.  I received an invited from Jess at The Fit Petite to be part of her blog celebration. To celebrate the birthday of her blog, she brought us all together to #jogandblog. 

  
These ladies are fast. As we ran along the boardwalk, I held on tight. I promised myself I wouldn’t question my ability, and I’d just run. I could have (and six months ago I would have) come up with a million reasons why I don’t belong in this pack. They are fast. They are far less socially awkward then me. I ramble too much. My brain works faster than my mouth. I am way too aware of myself. My legs were already tired from Saturday. The list could go on and on, but on Sunday I never let the list begin. I’m done  with that story. 

  
As I held on during our run, something shifted. As we shared stories of why we all run over coffee, something happened. As we talked about priorities, life, and dreams, something formed. 

We all had our own unique story, yet we had a collective story to tell. We all are deliberating choosing to be our best to live the fullest life possible. Running is part of that puzzle piece, but it isn’t the whole picture. 

I went into this training cycle with one intention. I wanted to feel ownership of my body. I wanted to find my strength. I expected to find it through Evofit and through miles in my running shoes. I never expected to find it through a team. I never expected to find it through friendship. 

My greatest success this training cycle has nothing to do with miles or pounds lifted. My success is in these three ladies. It’s is in the J&A Racing training group. It is in the friendships at Evofit. My strength is my connections. 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~African proverb

Being part of a team, a pack, a group of genuine friendships has given me more than I can ever imagine. The more I give of myself to all of these amazing people, the more I get in return. 

It isn’t my anticipated finish time at shamrock that make me teary and filled with pride. It is the celebration with friends. It is the joint success. It’s knowing that every step of this journey has been supported by hundreds of giving hearts. 

What started as a simple conversation in Peru has turned into one of the greatest momentum changes of my life. 

 
Read more about our #blogandjog on their sites too 

The Fit Petite 

Kris Lawrence
Megan Ulanich Overbey

2016.

“The issues of life present us with invitations to grow; which are wild by their very nature. Wildly arresting or wildly liberating. These moments are inevitable and impossible to avoid; but unequivocally for our edification. Yes, it may be difficult. Difficult, yet doable. Decide to thrive. Trust and transform.” ~ LaShaun Middlebrooks Collier

These were the words that spoke to me the most as I started 2015. I was stuck in a place of beginning and succeeding, and I was determined to move forward. I didn’t know what that would look like, I was uncertain of what I truly needed, but I was ready. I was ready to thrive. 

Thrive I did in so many aspects of life, but most importantly I found contentment with where I’m at in life. I reclaimed my heart. Over the course of 26.2 miles in Chicago, I polished my heart, and I came home ready to be just be. 

In 2015, I decided to thrive. In 2016, I want to trust and transform. This year is about being instead of becoming. This year is about standing comfortably in my own skin and taking ownership of dreams. This year is about confidently being me. 

I’m trusting my body and transforming my approach. I’m finding my own strength. 

Last night my family gathered for all the cousins to exchange gifts, to celebrate my mom’s birthday, and to ring in the new year. To my surprise, my parents gifted me a brand new wrist Mala. Whether it was intentional or not, the intention of the Mala is a perfect transition into 2016. 

  

“An awake heart is like a sky that pours light.” ~Hafez

Welcome 2016: not beginning or succeeding, but a year of just being, a year to trust and transform, and a year to discover my own strength.