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.

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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?

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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.


 

Plotting my Course

Every night as I’m getting ready for bed, my thoughts wander to my running for the next day. Where should I run? My neighborhood, the park, the boardwalk, along the bay? The sunrise draws me to the beach. The sunset keeps me in my neighborhood. It’s a simple choice, but it’s a choice that brings motivation to my run.

Thursdays Tempo Run in Harper’s Ferry, WV

Saturday night I laid in bed wondering where my run would take me Sunday morning. I had 14 miles to tackle yet again. I decided to run the same route as last week. It allows me to leave my water bottle at home, I have bathrooms available if needed, and it touches so many portions of Virginia Beach that I love.

Sunday morning did not go as planned. Chet wet the bed. He woke up with a fever. Christian and I let the little things bother us both. I left the house later than I hoped, and the sun was already high in the sky. One mile in I let the excitement of Chicago pull me into my run. Two miles in I let the excitement of the boardwalk pull me forward. At mile 3, my brain shut down. I ran straight into a wall of heat and instantly felt sick. It was too much.

Some times life is too much.

I considered running forward. I ran a few blocks and my stomach was turning. My head shut down. I just didn’t have it in me to push forward. I turned around, fell apart for a few miles, picked myself back up, and finished my run. It was enough for that Sunday.

In the midst of my falling apart and picking myself back up, it all felt familiar. I’ve travelled this road before. When I trained for the Richmond Marathon in 2013, I hit a road block at this same place.

I’ve plotted this course before.

I’m rereading my own words. I’m rereading every post I wrote during my training cycle for Richmond. I already know what I need.

Shine On: I give myself permission to live with a light heart.

Redefining Perfect: Race day may not be perfect, but I can make it perfect for me. My marriage with my husband is real. It’s not perfect. We argue. We nag. We forgot that our relationship is perfect for us, but he loves me better than anyone and I absolutely adore him. Motherhood is hard. I forget to sign homework papers. I forget to put money into lunch accounts. I count down the minutes until bedtime. My running is never perfect. Runs rarely go according to plan, but I’ve learned to run what my body is asking for on every single run.

(Fill in the blank) HeartWhen I embrace each day from this place of self acceptance, there isn’t a need to guard my heart. I don’t need the armor anymore.

Reaching for Richmond: I’m drawing a heart on my hand on race day to remind me that this race is about running from my heart. It’s about lifting myself up during the hard miles. It’s about being my own cheerleader. It’s about running each mile. I won’t be chasing a pace on my garmin or on the finish line clock. I’m not even sure I want my pace showing on race day. I know what I’m capable of running when I allow my body to run. I know when I’m giving it everything I’ve got. 

As I talked to Jerry today, he brought my perspective back to a place of gratitude. He was quick to remind me that I’m not running for Chicago. I’m not running for the next marathon or the marathon after that one. I’m running to bring out the best in myself. On Saturday night’s when I’m plotting my course for the run the next day, I’m not plotting the course to a finish line. I’m embracing where I’m at. I’m celebrating the process.

Potomac River. Floated down on Wednesday. Ran beside on Thursday.

Richmond has made me stronger for Chicago, and Chicago will make me stronger for where ever my course takes me.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tomorrow I’ll be tackling 12×400 repeats while the sunrises next to me.

82 days until Chicago!

Perhaps plotting my course has nothing to do with plotting at all - perhaps it is all about navigating the current.

Perhaps plotting my course has nothing to do with plotting at all – perhaps it is all about navigating the current.

The Road to Chicago

You have to dream in color. Your dreams have to be vivid. They have to be alive. You have to feel them, taste them, touch them. You have to see yourself living them.

I have six solid weeks of training under my belt. In between the speed workouts, the tempo runs, the easy runs, and the long runs, I’ve been really focused on building my mental confidence. A few weeks ago, I walked up the stairs in my house and stopped to stare at my bookcase. Which one of the books hadn’t I read yet? I have a (not so) great habit of buying books, lots of books, because I know I will read them all one day. Mindgym jumped off the shelf at me. I bought the book last summer and never made it past the first section.

“Everyone has confidence in you but you! Everyone sees your potential but you.” ~Jerry Frostick

The first section of the book is about identifying weakness. It’s about analyzing your behaviors to discover areas of growth. I’m really good at this. I’m really good at finding areas of improvement in my life. What I missed out on by putting the book down last summer was how to implement the improvements, how to strengthen my own mental strength. I missed out on progress. As the intensity of my training plan takes off, I need it now more than ever.

Gary Mack, sports psychologist, describes the importance of dreams. Do you dream in color? Do you dream in black and white? The dreams that come true are the dreams that are filled with color. I thought about this a lot last night as I ran 14 miles along the coast as the sun set. Are my dreams colorful? Are they black and white?

The reason I decided to run marathon #3 was full of color. I craved the marathon. I could feel the push at mile 24. I could taste the desire at mile 25. I could hear the crowds cheering me on at the finish line. I watched marathon finish lines, and tears rolled down my cheeks. My dream to run another marathon was vivid. I was ready to do this.

Nearly two months ago, in the middle of the Operation Smile mission, I found myself sitting next to Jerry Frostick. I was lucky enough to be on the mission trip with two of my favorite race directors. So Kristy, tell me about Chicago. What are your goals. I want to finish strong. I want to finish confident. I want to embrace the marathon. That conversation spread from the hospital court yard to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain to the J&A Racing Office in Virginia Beach. After we got home from the trip, I found myself in his office staring at a training plan. This dream was coming true, and it was a collaboration of all the things I love.

On top of Machu Picchu Mountain

On top of Machu Picchu Mountain

I’ve run every run on my training plan. I’ve surprised myself with the paces I’ve been able to maintain. I’ve been impressed by my own dedication. I’ve committed to my circuit workouts. I’ve stared at my training plan. I’ve put checks next to each work out. I’ve analyzed finish times. My training became black and white.

Last Thursday I sat across from Jerry and I don’t know who has become more frustrated with my head. What do I need to do to believe in my own ability? I left the office feeling anxious. I have so many people believing in me. What if I let them down? Other life factors added on layers of anxiety. On Saturday, during a six mile run, I felt it all coming seeping out of my pours. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t focus. Panic was taking over.

On Sunday, I needed to run 14 miles. I didn’t want to run. I was paralyzed by fear. Christian shoved me out the door at 7pm, and I knew I had to commit to my run. Mile 1 felt stiff. My legs felt sore. As I ran up and over the Rudee Inlet bridge a favorite song came on the radio. The oceanfront was alive with summer energy. I saw my dream in color again. I let go of the black and water training plan and spread sheet. I let go of perceived expectations. I let go of perfect. My feet carried me through the crowds on the boardwalk, and I couldn’t stop smiling. I ran through the trails, and I couldn’t stop smiling. When I turned around to head back to my car, I knew I had found the magic in my run again.

At mile 7, I feared I had gone out to fast. I was nervous that I would fall apart on the way back. I quickly silenced that voice by saying who cares. Who cares if mile 14 is my slowest? What if it’s not? Who cares if I struggle for the last four miles? What if I don’t? Who cares if my run isn’t perfect on paper? Every single mile made me smile. Running the marathon is a huge act of trust. It’s an act of existing in each moment, each mile, and making the best of it. Last night I chose to trust.

My goal for this training cycle is simple: trust Jerry to create the black and white outline for Chicago and allow my heart to add the color. It’s my job to paint the picture. It’s my job to bring it to life.

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Mile 8, more than half way, an amazing reminder to trust

Sunday’s Long Run: 14 miles, 9:31 pace

(9:46, 9:17, 9:17, 9:17, 9:19, 9:06, 10:13 (trail), 9:51 (trail), 9:01, 9:05, 9:31, 9:49, 10:04, 9:35)

(Peru) Screen Day 2

(May 16, 2015)

The unknown was eliminated as we entered day two of screening. I knew what to expect. My nerves had been settled. Day two was a repeat of day one. The drive to the hospital was familiar. The walk to the courtyard of the hospital was familiar. The crowd waiting for us wasn’t a surprise. In one day this became familiar territory.

The medical team quickly settled into their screening stations. Patients were registered shortly after we arrived. With every patient that came through the screening process, I watched in awe the love of each parent. While the environment already felt like home, I still found myself standing back observing it all.

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The children were entertained by a plastic bottle that quickly turned into a soccer ball.

Stickers provided hours of entertainment.

I never witnessed a family complain.

I never saw anyone ask for anything.

Gratitude filled the air before anyone even knew if they would get surgery.

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This waiting room is such a contrast to the waiting rooms in America. Compared to the world that I know, I can’t help but feel they have found such a deeper appreciation for life when they have less. How do you blend our world so it has the best of both? How do you remove medical uncertainty, life uncertainty, and uphold the love and gratitude? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that more isn’t always better. I also know that less isn’t fair.

I feel myself growing quiet. My heart is changing. I find myself wanting to absorb it all. I want to stand back and appreciate every moment. I want to sit for hours and play. I want to learn from each person who showed up at the hospital the past two days. I want to learn from every person who showed up to volunteer. I have so much to see. I have so much to learn. I have so much to be thankful for in every moment of my life.

How do you take this all in?

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Photo credit: Michael Kelly, U-Voice volunteer (and a pretty incredible person too!)

(Peru) Screen Day 1

(May 15, 2015)

It’s about to begin. I’ve had this thought for so many weeks now. I have carried around so much anticipation knowing this moment was about to arrive, and today is the day it begins. Today is the day I get to observe the magic of a medical mission. Patients are probably waiting already. They are waiting for us to arrive at the hospital.

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I don’t have a lot of words for today. There are only images that will forever be captured in my memory. I spent most of my day observing and learning.  I was just trying to absorb it all. I was just trying to be a friendly smile to settle someone’s nerves. I was just trying to be an extra set of hands to the people who were taking care of every patient. I was just trying to keep a child happy while they waited for hours in the sun not exactly knowing why they were waiting.

It was a long day.

We arrived at the hospital and made our way to the center courtyard where screening would take place. I don’t know what I expected. I found myself taking several deep breaths as we navigated the hallways of the hospital. When we turned the corner and walked outside into the courtyard, the deep breaths got stuck in my chest. There was no visible end to the line of people waiting for us to arrive. Within seconds, people started clapping. I didn’t even realize they were clapping for our arrival until I had walked past the crowd and into the area set up for screening stations.

A Small Glimpse of Screening Day

Every single person standing outside in the sun was waiting to be screened or was waiting for someone they love to be screened. And they were clapping. It didn’t seem fair. It still doesn’t seem fair. We should be clapping for them. Life certainly can’t be easy for them. I can’t imagine the ache in the heart of a parent when the learn that their child is born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate. I can’t imagine the feeling they must having wondering what they can do. If this was my child, surgery would be scheduled and planned before he was ever born. His birth would still be filled with hope knowing help was waiting. We should be clapping for them for showing up today.

At the end of day one, we screened nearly 200 patients. Nearly 200 individuals received a full health screening to see if they are healthy enough for surgery. The had time with a speech pathologist. They had time with a psychologist. They got help with breast feeding or bottle feeding. A nutritionist meet with them all. A dentist spent time with each patient. It’s an amazing thing to observe. It works like a machine. One station to the next. Every team has a specific goal, and every volunteer treated every patient with love and compassion.

Hours and Hours of Fun thanks to a green frog finger puppet and a two year old boy who made me love my boys even more

Tomorrow we will do it all again. There are more patients to screen, more bubbles to blow, more people to love.

“It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince     

Still working hard long after Sunset (or maybe just Jerry!)

  

Race Recap – Chkd 8k

The story of this race really began on Thursday. I set out to run six easy miles on my lunch break. It was a scorcher of a day, and I was running at 1pm. I told myself to run slow and to keep it easy. It felt slow and easy, but it wasn’t. The first two miles were way too fast on days that feel like 100 degrees. When I hit the two mile mark and turned into the sportsplex, I knew I had overdone it. My brain shut down. I didn’t want to run anymore. I slowly made my way back to work.

(9:16, 9:26, 9:39, 9:19, 9:55. Mile 6 didn’t happen.)

Thursday’s run left me defeated and a little scared to “race” on Saturday. It was going to be equally as hot. (It’s summer in the south. I need to stop my whining and embrace the heat!). My plan for the race was to use it as a modified tempo run: start easy and get faster.

My alarm went off, and I desperately wanted to stay in bed. Should I skip the run because of the heat?

Success #1 – I got out of bed

As I ate breakfast, I really wanted to crawl into bed. It was too hot out.

Success #2 – I drove to the race

I picked up my race bib, ran a mile warm up. I was dripping in sweat. I changed my race plan. I decided to aim for a personal worst. Could I keep my ego in check and run slow consistent miles? I have a bad habit of running to fast and burning out. So I lined up in the back behind all the runners. I sat behind pockets of people who run slower than my normal pace.

Success #3 – The first two miles were a piece of cake.

10:25

9:59

I remembered mile 3 and 4 from last year. They were hot. The course doesn’t offer much shade. My next goal was to survive Brambleton Avenue.

Success #5 – I survived

9:49

When we finally made the right hand turn towards the baseball stadium, I was mentally tired. It takes a lot of mental strength to consciously run slow. The first two miles I was telling myself to slow down. The third mile I was telling myself to survive the long stretch in the sun.

11:27

By the time the stadium was in view, I decide I was over it. I stopped to eat my chews. I think I just wanted a mental distraction.

10:27

Still looking for distractions, I decided to walk a water stop.

Official Results: 52:22, 10:32 pace

Success #6 – I crossed the finish line with my second slowest 8k time ever, and I’m incredibly happy with it.


This race delivered everything I need to successfully train for the Chicago Marathon. There are so many valuable lessons tucked in those five miles of racing that are going to make me stronger next October. I’ve got some work to do, but I’m not afraid to do it. Summer training leads to personal bests in the fall.

Race Stats:

Place – 353/931 (37%)

Group – 34/96 (35%)

What’s Next? Time to find some summer 5ks and the Rock n Roll Half Marathon Labor Day Weekend

Uniting a Team

(May 14, 2015)

Most of the volunteers arrived in the middle of the night last night. Airport pickups had me crawling into bed after 2am. It’s all beginning. It is all about to start. The pieces of a successful mission are starting to fall into place.

As we waited for the volunteers to arrive, we guessed who was with Operation Smile. Did they fit the picture we had painted in our head? Did they look like a plastic surgeon? Would I know if they were a nurse? Voices I have become familiar with over the phone became welcoming faces.

Every single volunteer that got of the plane followed the same pattern – recognition that we were waiting for them, realizing I am Kristy, and a huge embrace. No one shook hands. No one awkwardly introduced themselves. We were instantly a family united in Lima.

Day 1 on our mission agenda included a tour of the hospital, reviewing hospital protocol and a team meeting. As we sat on the bus anticipating the one hour drive north along the Pacific coast, our Program Coordinator made an announcement. The hospital tour was cancelled. There was a protest at the hospital that made it unsafe for our visit. Our new destination was the historic district of Lima. We were going to tour a cathedral and catacombs.


The entire day I was amazed by how quickly everyone became friends. We were strangers from over 10 different countries. We spoke different languages. We have different backgrounds. Our differences never mattered. We are all a family connected and united by our common goal to bring hope to families.

Standing outside the Covent of San Francisco, I took a few moments to take it all in. I am in Lima. I am on a medical mission with Operation Smile. Tomorrow we will meet families and children who hope to get surgery, but today we have the chance to embrace this community. While we all learn to love each other more deeply, we get to stand in the middle of a church built in 1535. We get to stand in a library that was once considered the most important library in the South America that dates back to the 17th century and holds 25,000 books. We get to stand in the church’s choir. The pipe organ was built in 1901 and has more than 1000 pipes. We get to walk through the catacombs that is the burial ground to more than three centuries of priests, members of the brotherhood, and citizens of Lima. Surround by over 500 years of history, my presence in the world seems like only a small ripple.

While the Covent of San Francisco made me feel small, there is no denying there is importance in the ripples that Operation Smile will make in the lives of the families we can treat. We all know this. We all know that there is nothing more important than the children we are in Peru to treat.

In this moment, in the historic district of Lima, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m surrounded by the people I’m supposed to meet. I am where I belong. We are were we belong. We are so much stronger when we are united. Each of us bring our own unique gift to the mission and as a result families can continue to dream for their children.

My heart is so incredibly happy.