The Middle of the Mountain

We went to the mountains to disconnect and reconnect.  We went to getaway before the school year starts and the busy fall schedule begins. We went to breath in the fresh air. I had big plans for this trip. I had visions of days filled with hiking and evenings spent by the fire roasting marshmallows. We would all come home feeling united as a family and fully refreshed. But that isn’t how family vacations go. Family vacations (at least our family vacations) have a way of magnifying every area of weakness and every area we neglected this past year. 

The weekend was punctuated by Chet’s meltdowns. Welcome to 3. Bedtime was a disaster (same as at home). Getting him to eat was a disaster (same as at home). Getting him to not run off the side of a mountain wasn’t a disaster (fortunately), but it did result in a temper tantrum somewhere between the top of the mountain and the trail head. 

  
While we climbed that mountain, I worried Cole wasn’t having fun. I was afraid Christian would want to spend the rest of the weekend alone. I worried other hikers would judge us based on the level of noise we brought with us. I just wanted everyone to get along, so I intervened, I reacted, and I lost my patience. I walked a half mile back to the trailhead while everyone told me to come back. I was ready to pack up cabin and head back to the beach. 

“The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens. ~Brene Brown

After some persuading, I turned back around to finish our climb. When we finally made it to the top, two miles and 1500 feet later, we all started to head back down.  But wait! We made it! Let’s enjoy it! 

  

We took off our packs. We sat on a rock. We enjoyed the view. Christian and I let out a collective sigh that we managed to keep both kids alive on the climb up. The view of the mountains eased the tension in my shoulders. We made it. 

I wish I could say I absorbed the lesson I learned on the mountain that day. I wish I could say the rest of the vacation was exactly as I had envisioned. But Chet still had meltdowns, bedtime was still hard, and meals didn’t go as planned. But a whole lot of good happened over the past four days. Cole and Christian kayaked. The boys caught fish. I ran a mountain! Christian biked a mountain. A hammock, a few sticks and a firepit provides hours of entertainment. The boys played along the shore of the lake. Alex got his fill of sniffing and marking trees. Smores were enjoyed. 

After Cole finished kayaking around the lake, I turned him around and told him to look at the mountains. You climbed to the top of that! He’s eyes got big. He took pride in his sore muscles. He responded by saying I climbed all the way up there. It put the weekend in perspective. 

  
We went to the mountains to disconnect and reconnect as a family. It wasn’t picture perfect. It was real life. While I thought I’d come home feeling relaxed and inspired, I’m not. Instead I’m coming home with a renewed energy to invest in myself and my family. I’m coming home with a new appreciation for what it looks like and feels like to live life in the middle moments. I’m coming home with perspective. 

Right now we are all living in the middle moment of life. Cole is heading off to middle school. Chet is navigating the middle of toddler development. Christian and I are in the middle phase of life. The middle is hard. It’s past the excitement of new, yet the finish line seems so far away. There are days I wonder what in the world I got myself into. There are days I want to rewind and try again. But we keep going. We keep climbing. Because in the middle of all this hard, something magical is happening. We are getting stronger. We are become united. We are becoming a polished version of ourselves. 

As we walked in the front door after our five hour car ride home, Chet announced I’m so glad we went on vacation. I can’t believe I climbed that mountain. 

Me too buddy! Me too! 

  

Connection

Training for Chicago has been a constant struggle of highs and lows and rarely anything in between. Last Tuesday I finished my strongest workout so far this training cycle. I felt strong, confident and in control the entire run. The numbers on my garmin reflected my confidence in this workout. I felt on top of the world. 

Tuesday: 8×800 – 8:27 pace, 7:59, 7:54, 7:42, 7:41, 7:39, 7:34, 7:17

 

Sunrise Finish Line

 
I carried that confidence straight into my work day. It followed me to my yoga class after work. Everything felt perfectly in place as I relaxed into happy baby pose on my yoga mat. I moved through each pose welcoming the tension and welcoming the release. While laying in pigeon pose every inch of my body connected with the ground beneath me. I felt alive. When it was time to offer up gratitude in class my heart whispered “connection”. I was so thankful for the connection to the ground beneath me, to the countries I work with every day, to the amazing teams I find myself apart of at work, to my relationship with my running coach, and to the support of my family. My heart felt deeply connected. 

Wednesday morning I got out of my car at work, and my hip buckled. My body screamed “ouch”. I shuffled into the office, and I went about my day. I forgot about my hip until I tried to run with Chet that night. Two blocks from my house, my hip reminded me it wasn’t happy. I walked. I started again, and I quickly stopped again. I know better than to run through this pain. 

Wednsday: .25 miles 

Thursday: cancelled tempo run (per coaches orders)

Friday: Rest Day 

Saturday morning I woke up with little discomfort in my hip and headed to a 5k race. I had high hopes for the race. A PR doesn’t feel out of my grasp. A strong headwind on the way out and a blazing hot sun on the way back made for an incredibly uncomfortable race, but since my hip was comfortable I decided comfort was the place for me. 

Saturday: Six miles including a 5k (28:02) 

 

Warm Up Miles with the Sunrise

 
Even though I didn’t care about that race and even though I didn’t put effort into the run, my ego was still slightly bruised. 

Sunday morning didn’t go according to plan. By noon I hadn’t run my planned 18 miles and it wasn’t looking hopeful for the rest of the day. As I sorted through Cole’S collection of way too small clothing, I panicked. I wished there was a half marathon option in Chicago. I’m really good at running 14 miles. This week had fallen apart. I went from having best run to the worst week. I missed every run but a crappy 5k. 

As I slowly unravelled, I reminded myself: 

Inhale. Exhale. 

I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful. 

By 4pm the house had settled, and I had an opportunity to run. It wasn’t ideal, but I could get in some miles. I could chase the sunset. 

The run started off with ease. I navigated my favorite path along Shore Drive into the trails at Pleasure House Point. With the bay and the sun setting to my right, the heat of the day started to get the best of me. By mile 4 I was ready to jump off the bridge into the bay. In a desperate attempt to silence my head and to release the tension from my forehead, I pulled out my headphones to add music to my run. As I approached the Cape Henry Trail, I realized the magic I lost on the run came from inside of me. The magic of my running comes from connecting. I cheered on the mom pushing her son. I greeted all the locals out for an evening walk. I got out of my head and connected to the world around me. The paved path turned into trails and the miles flew by. 

 

Finding my Wings

 
As I retraced my steps back to my car, I celebrated the magic of each step. I celebrated the connections this marathon has brought into my life. I chased the setting sun. 

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” ~Brené Brown

This marathon cycle has shown me just how much I thrive on feeling connected. I am my best self when I feel connected to those around me. I preform my best work when I feel connected. My strength comes from connection. 

Knowing exactly what I need to be my best self and having a tool to make it possible -This is the gift of a marathon. 

 

My Heart needed this One

 
Sunday: 18 miles – 9:22, 9:28, 9:46, 9:39, 9:06, 9:37, 9:39, 9:41, 10:03, 11:16, 9:35, 9:31, 9:32, 9:27, 9:04, 9:02, 9:17, 9:29

A Life Mediation

“I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful.”

Tuesday I made it to my favorite yoga class. It’s been nearly two years since I went to a class at this studio. Yin yoga is exactly what  I always need in my life. It’s about learning how to sit comfortably on my edge, it’s about relaxing in uncomfortable poses, and it’s about finding space in tight areas. It’s physical. It’s mental. It’s emotional. 

Friday night my sleep was filled with dreams. In the midst of the chaos, I wandered hallways knowing Cole was supposed to be starting Middle School but I forgot. I forgot because I was also starting something new. We were supposed to be doing it together, but I forgot about his new start. 

Sunday morning my plans for a log run quickly changed. I stayed closer to home. Knowing my body wasn’t feeling as best as it could that day, I made every effort to run comfortably. I wanted to ease into my run. I wanted to enjoy each mile. 

Long Creek Trail

“I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful.”

This was the mantra for Tuesday’s yoga class. In the middle of summer heat, this can be a hard mantra to hold on to. In the midst of finding my edge, this can be a hard mantra to embrace. In the midst of change, this can be a hard mantra to embody. But I whispered it to myself. I reminded myself. 

During a toe squat, sweat started to roll down my back. I felt every portion of my foot expanding and stretching. When I let my brain relax, I found more space. When I focused on my breath, my heart rate settled. 

After my dreams of being unprepared for middle school, I did my homework. I pulled up the school website and added important dates to my calander. I am trying to prepare myself, but I’m not ready. I’m not ready for this leap of growth in Cole’s life. Do I walk him to the bus stop? Does he want me at open house? Cole is inching away from me, and I just want to hold him close. 

Marathon training is reaching its peak. I’m almost to the peak of my mileage and my workouts. It’s hard. My legs are always tired. I question whether I have more to give, but I keep going. 

 

Sunrise Running


 
“I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful.”

Yoga. Parenting. Running. They are all the same. They are all part of my life mediation.  They are all part of my life process. They are all part of my growth. 

“If our goal is perfection rather than growth, it is unlikely that we are willing to go back, because it requires a level of self-empathy—the ability to look at our own actions with understanding and compassion; to understand our experiences in the context in which they happened and to do all this without judgment. I call this ability to reflect on our own actions with empathy “grounding.” ~Brene Brown

Yoga. Parenting. Running. They all ground me deeply in my own life. When I find my edge, I seek comfort. When I get uncomfortable, I need to relax. When I find myself in a tight spot, I need to focus on my breath. Inhaling. Exhaling. 

“I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful.”

Spiral

I didn’t run last weekend. Not one single mile. I was exhausted, achy, and mentally shut down. I slept all day Sunday. I knew Monday would be a fresh start. I’d ease back into a big training week. Tuesday and Wednesday my runs felt great. Thursday I fell apart. 

Tuesday: 7 sunrise miles, 9:23 pace

Wednesday: 6 sunset miles pushing the stroller, 9:57 pace

Thursday: 5.5 miles, 4 tempo miles interrupted by tears, 8:35 pace

Saturday morning I woke up to a severe weather alert and lightning outside my bedroom window. I slept for two more hours before heading out for my run. 

The weather I was greeted by as I walked out my door is the weather I dream about: cooler temps, a light rain, and a wild wind. I was so excited to run. I ran along the Chesapeake Bay, along the trails in Pleasure House Point, and over the Lesner Bridge. Ever step along the way felt like a celebration. Every gust of wind gave me energy. This is why I run!

Saturday: 6 miles, 9:12 pace

  
Sunday I had 16 miles scheduled. 16 has become my new normal. It’s never easy. I haven’t felt strong on many of my long runs lately. When I got an invite to join a few friends on a new trail Sunday morning, I quickly said yes. I’ve missed the support that running can deliver. I’ve missed the encouragement of running beside someone. 

The first five mile loop, six of us ran stride for stride. Six sets of legs. 12 feet. It was awesome to be back. The second five mile loop we ended up in groups of two. I ran with a new friend. I got to learn another person’s story. I got to see the strength of someone new. 

The last six miles we left the trail behind and ran neighborhood streets. At mile 12, I felt the familiar pinch in my hip. I encourage everyone to go ahead because I want to stretch out my hip flexors. I thought I’d catch up. Instead I took a wrong turn. I got lost inside the country  club. I finished up with nearly 17 miles on my garmin. This is why I run. 

Sunday: 16.73 miles, 10:35 pace

  
Last Sunday as I slept the day away, I felt myself get caught in a downward spiral. I felt myself sinking beneath my blankets. Insecurities bubbled to the surface and leaked out of every achy joint. 

I didn’t want to follow this path. I didn’t want to get caught in the downward spiral. After 24 hours of sleep refreshed my body, I was determined to make this week a success. In the mist of creating my own upward spiral, a friend shared words I needed to read. 

“That’s the thing about shame spirals, I realized. No one wants to get sucked down in to one but in reality they are more like roto-rooters if you look at it that way. They are cleaning things out. They are pulling us down down down in to what’s lurking there all along; unclean, unaddressed, unspoken. The feeling brings us to the awareness–that there is a toxic belief system that can be re-examined. They are our system’s way of flushing, of self cleaning. But you can’t talk your way out of it, you do have to feel it. The feeling it is your key to the escape hatch.” ~ Two innocents (To innocence)

All week my sleep has been filled with dream. I’ve revisited memories from my past. I’ve explored scenarios I am afraid of finding. I’ve laughed and danced and woke up feeling lighter than when I fell asleep. Maybe the downward spiral is a cleanse. Maybe it’s ridding me of my insecurities. Maybe it is my reminder that I am safe, I am loved and I am enough. 

Maybe it’s my reminder to let down my guard, to let love in, and to celebrate. Instead of spiraling up or down, right now I’m very happy twirling around while holding the hands of people I love. 

This week, Sunday to Sunday, was the perfect balance of life’s ebb and flow – learning to trust the process – hanging on to hope! 

  

Running with Fear

It’s a story I’ve come to know so well in my life. It’s a feeling I fail to recognize until long after I get caught up in the feelings.

I can’t breathe.

2.5 miles into my tempo run yesterday, I stopped dead in my tracks. Tears fell down my cheeks. I was instantly overwhelmed by life. What are you afraid of? I asked myself out loud. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to disappoint myself. I don’t want to disappoint those who believe in me. I just want Chicago (and life) to be a success.

Forever my favorite place to run


For the last 1.5 miles I dissected what that statement means to me. What is failure? How could I possibly fail at Chicago? Why would I ended up disappointed? Why would anyone be disappointed in me? The answer is a simple one. The only way any of the above is possible is if I give up on myself, if I l loose heart in the process.

In these moments of panic, I imagine exactly what I don’t want. I imagine giving up, and in turn I end up doing exactly what I don’t want to do. I quit.

“Hope is fear’s antithesis. Hope is the reality we wish to see in the future, and fear is its shadow.” ~Chad Davis

Navigating the balance between hope and fear is a fine art. It’s one I have yet to master. I do know that when I let my hope turn into fear, I can’t breathe. I begin to panic. I begin to doubt myself and my ability. There is only one place were I find my breath again. It’s time to return to my yoga mat. It’s time to walk into a studio again and perform the comforting ritual of unrolling my mat and whispering Namaste after many intentional inhales and exhales.

“Hope and fear are inseparable. There is no hope without fear, no fear without hope.” ~Francois de la Rochefoucauld

I know this fear I’m holding on to is just a sign of how much passion I carry around with me for my goals. Through my breath, I can transform that fear into hope, and then I can learn to trust the process.

Entertained by butterflies

(Peru) Patient Announcement

(May 17, 2015)

I woke up this morning feeling a void in my middle of my consciousness. It isn’t a hole in the middle of my heart or my head. It feels like a hole in the middle of my entire being. Today is patient announcement day. A few lucky families will be told Yes! Your child will receive surgery. But so many families will be told Not this time. We don’t have enough time or enough resources to take care of everybody. Not everyone is healthy enough for surgery. Not everyone is a candidate to receive care.

There is a very logical way of deciding who gets surgery. The ranking system makes so much sense, but the nos are hard to digest.

Just like the days before, we travel an hour north along the coast to the hospital in Lima. We navigate our way to the hospital courtyard. We are greeted with a wave of emotions from the hundreds of faces staring back at us. Nervousness. Anxiousness. Hope. Insecurity. They all hang in the air. One by one the families are given their news. The ones selected are scheduled for their surgery day. The ones who are not are able to meet with the psychologist, the nutritionist, the speech pathologist, and the dentist to give them support. They are told we will be back in the fall.

In the midst of all the emotions, a young couple steals a kiss to celebrate the good news. A family embraces me as if I am their own. The mother receives directions about surgery while I snuggle with her three month old baby. I hope he always feels beautiful.

Me with this sweet boy and his aunt with mom and grandma behind us

The air is filled with every opposing emotion surrounding two very simple emotions: happiness and sadness.

The day has left me cracked wide open. I’m not sure the void will ever fully heal. I’m not sure I want it too.

As the day came to an end, there were a few hours left to wander the streets of Lima. Just like I always do, I found my way to the coast. The vastness of the ocean a reminder of the possibility in the world, but today it was also a startling reminder of just how small I really am in the world. I made a last minute decision to fly. I strapped myself to a guide and I paraglided along the coast. In reality my experience last 15 minutes, but in my heart I was hanging in midair forever.

I needed the weightlessness. I needed the quiet. I needed the feeling of eternity. I needed to fly.

Today was a day filled with a million emotions. As I glided along the cliffs parallel to the Pacific Ocean, I wondering if there are a million emotions. Perhaps they are all one emotion. Perhaps they are all a form of hope: hope that their child would be select, hope that the surgery would be a success, hope that their child can live a normal life, hope that they are doing the best they can as a parent, hope that I can help, hope that I can love, and hope that we all matter in the vastness of this world.

Take off

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ~Paolo Coehlo

Aren’t we all simply hanging on to hope? And learning to trust everything that surrounds it?

Flying

Why not me?

This weekends run started the same way as my last two runs. I parked in the same spot. I headed in he same direction. Just like last week, the first two miles breezed by. Just like last week, I found myself cracking at mile 3. MILE 3! Mile 3 is too early to crack. Mile 3 is closer to the start line than the finish line. Mile 3 is 23.2 miles from the finish line. I can’t crack at mile 3.

Unlike last week, this week I welcomed the emotions that bubbled to the surface. I took a moment to let it pass. I pulled myself together. Instead of turning around, I became more determined to keep going.  I may crack at mile 3, but I don’t quit. I keep going. I welcome it all, and I keep running because I know a few things about myself after 35 years of living.

I know I need to feel everything. I need to feel happy or sad or cracked. I know I don’t stuff any emotions inside of me. I know once I feel them, I can let them go. I know another emotion is waiting for me.

I also know I that I don’t give up. Runs get tough. Life gets tough. But I keep going. I don’t give up on things that I love. I certainly don’t give up on myself.

At mile three, I kept heading north. I ran until I hit mile 8, and I turned around to do it all again.

**********

Back in May, I watched my niece walk across the stage at her high school graduation. During the ceremony, Scott Rigell (a local congressman) gave a commencement speech. It’s the last place I expected to find motivation. It’s the last thing I expected to think about on a long run. But over the course of 16 miles there is a lot of time to think. I spent many miles thinking of people who love me and support me. I spent many miles building myself back up. My brain wandered to the drive that my niece embodies. I found courage in her courage. I found drive in her drive. She’s 18 years old and after she received her high school diploma, she went in search of her dream to be a professional ballerina. At 35, I have so much admiration for her belief in herself.

During her commencement, Scott Rigell offered up three words of advice: Why not me? His message was simple. When staring at a task that seems impossible, ask yourself Why not me? Somebody has to accomplish it. Why shouldn’t it be you? Why shouldn’t it be you that lives out that dream?

**********

I made a lot of mistakes on this run – I didn’t eat enough Saturday to recover from a tough 6 mile trail run pushing Chet in the stroller, I didn’t drink enough water. I didn’t eat enough breakfast. My nutrition was a disaster on this run. I was starving by mile 5. I ate all my GUs by mile 7. I was so thirst. I stopped at mile 12 to buy a banana and a Gatorade. I drank too much and felt sick. Every mistake taught me a valuable lesson for the rest of this training cycle.

More important than the lessons I learned today is the determination I gained as every mile passed. I want this marathon finish more than ever before.

I forgot how much fight marathon training required. I forgot just how much determination it takes to keep going. I forgot how important it is to pay attention to my nutrition. But today I remembered. Today I remembered why I’m doing this and why I am capable.

I can’t wait to run 16 again next weekend.