Corporate 5k – People, Puddles and Purpose

Running is my therapy. Being on the trails feeds my soul. But racing! Racing is a different story. Racing always leaves me feeling vulnerable and exposed. I show up to every start line committed to giving it my best on that day, yet there is so much you can’t control. Some race finishes leaving me feeling triumphant while other races leave me feeling like I’m face down in a mud puddle. 

I’m on a quest this summer to conquer the 5k PR I set in November 2013. The time to beat is 24:50 (7:59 pace). My plan is simple. Get strong. Run a 5k a month. Grab a new PR before I start training for half marathons this fall. 

Yesterday I ran my May 5k at the inaugural J&A Racing Corporate 5k. This race was a little different than most 5ks in the area. With a focus on employee wellness and corporate involvement, it was a 5k race after work with a tailgate party to follow. The race kicked off at 6:30pm just outside our local baseball stadium. 

I had all day to be nervous. I had all day to come up with scenarios of success and failure. Would I finish feeling triumphant or would I finish face down in the mud?

After a gentle reminder to let go of outcome expectations, I took a few deep breaths and made a mental list of my own expectations. What was I hoping to achieve?

  • Run faster than ODU 5k
  • Feel strong
  • Feel healthy 
  • Run mentally strong

There is a reason my 5k PR is nearly three years old. There were a few years where I mentally struggled with racing. I was afraid to get uncomfortable. I shut down when it got hard. I may still be wiping some of that mud off my face. All day I felt vulnerable and exposed. Would I end up back in the mud puddle after I’ve worked so hard to lift myself out of it. 

When I arrived in the parking lot of the race, rain decided to welcome me. It was nothing like a typical day in May in Virginia. Cold, wet and windy. My nerves would not relax. 

Rain or shine, I was running. Good day or bad, I was going to run with all I had to give. It was time to race. 

“I believe that vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy.” ~Brene Brown

With three great friends by my side, the race was off. The start was incredibly congested. Puddles filled the streets. My own personal game of leap frog started my race off strong. 

Mile 1 – 8:24

Mile 1 arrived, and I felt great. Had I gone out too slow? My good friend Karen stuck by my side for the race. She knew my goal was to run faster than a 8:30 pace. With her on pacing duties, I promised to not look at my watch once. There is no room for second guessing in a 5k.  Keep running hard. 


Mile 2 – 8:24

With little running since Shamrock, I was shocked by how good my cardio felt. My quads were burning, but my entire body felt engaged. Instead of focusing on what hurt, I focused on what felt strong. 

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. 

Mile 3 – 8:22

With the finish literally around the corner (around the baseball stadium straight towards home plate), I just focused on holding on. 
Final stretch – 7:42 pace 

Garmin finish – 3.22 miles, 26:51 (8:20 pace) 

Official finish – 5k, 26:52 (8:39 pace

Love hearing him announce my name at the finish

While the official time is a few seconds slower than the ODU 5k, the course was longer. The growth is clearly there. My pacing (and pacer) was perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever run a race this consistent. My body feels strong. My confidence is growing. 

This race was a huge win! 

Pushing through the fear of the unknown, of expectations, and discomfort is worth it every time. Sometimes you do end up face down in the mud, but sometimes you soar! Showing up and giving your best is only way to learn to fly. 

My Evofit Family

Twelve. 

I was twenty four years old the day Cole was born. Looking back, I was a baby. I got pregnant the summer after college having never worked an adult job. I spent that summer, fall and winter loving every moment of being pregnant. I was fascinated by the process. I read every book I could find. I educated myself on choices I knew new moms needed to make for their newborns. 

Always gravitating towards a more organic way of life, I was the black sheep in the small military town in lower Alabama. People thought I was crazy for wanting a natural child birth. A neighbor exclaimed that she prayed to God I’d only have girls because I didn’t support circumcision. I did my homework. I became a student of child birth. I became a student of how I wanted to birth and raise my baby. 

Moments after Cole was born, he was taken away from me to be treated for fluid in his lungs. After six hours of labor, I sat in a room alone and lonely. Every inch of me needed my baby next to me. Cole recovered quickly and was nursing a hour later, but in that one hour my instincts came to life. This was the moment I was born. Giving birth to Cole welcomed me to my true self. Cole became my compass. 

Cole has always been my compass. He has always been my guide. 


Today, on Cole’s twelfth birthday, there is a change in our relationship. When he was a baby, he was comforted by my nurturing. As a toddler, kisses and hugs made things better. As a boy, distractions and giggles made his worries disappear. He’s not a boy any more. He’s growing and maturing. He’s establishing who he is as a person. I’m establishing who I am as a mother. 

Cole has delivered me to where I belong, and now it’s my turn to guide him. It’s my turn to teach him all lessons he taught me. It’s my turn to be his compass. Nurturing, kisses, hugs, and giggles have been replaced with conversations and walks. We discuss breathing and what it feels like to be overwhelmed. He laughs at my guiding breathing instructions, but when I’m not looking I see him dileberately inhaling and exhaling. 

In so many ways Cole and I have grown up together. Our lives have always been parallel. As he transitions into teenage years, I’m transition too. He’s finding his wings as I’m finding freedom in mothering. Together we are learning to fly. 

Happy Birthday to the little boy who taught me how to live and love. Happy Birthday to the baby who made me a mother. 

ODU Big Blue 5k – Trust my Legs 

“Life isn’t as serious as my mind makes it out to be.” ~Eckhart Tolle 

As soon as the Shamrock Half Marathon was over, I was ready to switch gears. My body was pretty banged up after the race, so I happily entered into recovery mode. I made a plan to aim for a 5k PR (current PR: 24:50) for the summer. My plan is simple: less running, more strength training. When it became clear that my right side from my hip down to my foot wasn’t happy about running, I turned all my energy to my new found love: my gym. For the past two weeks, I have attended class every day Monday through Friday, and I’m becoming slightly addicted. 

Evofit has been my greatest surprise in my fitness journey. I’ve never felt comfortable in a gym. Weights have always intimidated me. I’ve never felt strong. While I’ve tip toed into this new space over the past few months, the past two weeks I’ve dove in head first. 

 

working out beside my hubby
 
I signed up for the ODU Big Blue 5k as part of Evofit. As race day approached, I was incredibly nervous. Since April 1st, I’ve run twice. The first run was a disaster. The second run was nice and easy to prove that I could breathe while running. My running fitness seemed to be slipping further and further away. 

All week was a mental battle. Am I healthy enough to run? Can I let my ego go and run hard regardless of pace? My biggest fear was that hard effort would result in a slow (for me) pace. 

Race morning arrived, and I was still battling my ego. The last thing I wanted from this race was to walk away disappointed. I laid on my couch (thanks to a 10:30am start time) and had to will myself to get ready. As I put on my Evofit tank top, I reminded myself I owe it to myself and to everyone who supports me to run hard. Pace doesn’t matter. It’s an outcome, but effort I can control. 

My one and only goal: run hard. 

 

Evofit Family
 
I know I’m not in PR shape so that was never part of my thought process. I had hoped I would run 8s. I really didn’t want to be slower than shamrock. I really really wanted my body to feel engaged. 

As I lined up in corral two I found two teammates from J&A Racing that I knew would have a good day. We all agreed that a great day would be under 27 minutes, but would be happy with 28 minutes. None of us wanted to see above 30 (and in my moments of doubt, I thought this could be my reality). 

Janet pulled us out fast. Stay with her. Breath. Relax. It’s a 5k. It should feel fast. Don’t look at your garmin. Today isn’t about pace. It’s about effort. You’re working hard. 

Mile 1: 8:28

Relax. Relax. Don’t panic. Just run. Get to mile 2. 

Mile 2: 8:23

Get to the water stop. Drink. Move. Relax. Relax. Relax. 

Mile 3: 8:48

Holy crap this is hard. 

Final push: 8:18 pace 

Official Results: 26:44, average pace 8:37

 

Finishing on the 50 yard line of the football field
 
Today’s course covered 3.1 miles around my college campus. While I expected to take a walk down memory lane, I don’t remember any of the course with the exception of the fountain. I was so focused on running and remaining relaxed, I don’t think I looked up more than once or twice. 

Once again race day delivered exactly what I needed. While I have a few physical goals I’d like to meet by end of summer, my mental game has been on point this year. As someone who has mentally struggled with racing for a good two years, I can’t help but smile. Knowing I brought my best (even relucantly) gives me a nice dose of confidence that I can preform on race day even if everything isn’t ideal. My legs know how to run. My heads back in the game. It’s time to start trusting them. 

A 26:44 5k and a strong mental game is the perfect kick off to a summer of speed and strength. 

 

#runawayweekend

 

Chet and Christian joined me on race day too. Chet was thrilled to see a football field. When I asked him what he thought of my race, he responded in true Chet fashion: everyone beat you. You came in last.  Another lesson learned. Next time I’m making Chet stay to watch the real last finisher. 

 

Chet Monster
 
Actual results:

Overall: 295 of 1960

Female: 76 of 1146

Female age group: 14 of 150

All my Days

Well I have been searching all of my days

All of my days

Many a road, you know

I’ve been walking on

All of my days

And I’ve been trying to find

What’s been in my mind

As the days keep turning into night

Words haven’t been easy to find lately. I’ve stared at this blank screen every night wishing for words to appear. They haven’t transformed themselves to paper. Instead I’m feeling them. I’m hearing them. I’m living them. I’m digesting them.

Life is lived in seasons, and I know with all my heart this season is a moment of peace and freedom. Life feels still. It’s a moment of pause. It’s a moment of appreciation.

img_4805

Well I have been quietly standing in the shade

All of my days

Watch the sky breaking on the promise that we made

All of this rain

And I’ve been trying to find

What’s been in my mind

As the days keep turning into night

As I headed out yesterday on a beach cruiser with a pack of amazing girls, I couldn’t help but pinch myself. I was with great friends biking through a beautiful state park while the sun was shining.

img_4829

Last week as I dug in dirt with my four year old removing ivy as old as our house, I felt breath in our movements. Being busy is where he thrives. Working beside him I felt alive. Our home seemed to whisper thank you as we brought her back to life.

Saturday night I sat on a bar stool beside my husband eating tacos and enjoying beer. This is easily one of my favorite date night activities. Conversation flowed to where we are in life right now. Being able to support his career growth more while he supports my journey of career exploration has brought a refreshing balance to our life.

Last weekend Cole’s best friend showed up at our door. He was hoping Cole could join him on a bike ride to 7-Eleven for slurpees. We’ve never let Cole venture that far before, but he’s matured into middle school this year. It’s time to give him some freedom.

Now I see clearly

It’s you I’m looking for 

All of my days

Soon I’ll smile

I know I’ll feel this loneliness no more

All of my days

For I look around me

And it seems you’ve found me

And it’s coming into sight

As the days keep turning into night

As the days keep turning into night

And even breathing feels all right

Yes, even breathing feels all right

Now even breathing feels all right

It’s even breathing

Feels all right

My words have always been my comfort. They provide a silver lining when life gets tough. I’ve always used my words to capture moments of growth, but this season of life doesn’t require comfort, silver linings or growth. This season of life is meant to be lived.

I’m on a path that feels perfectly made for me. I’m surround by strength and support. My community has been built. The sun is shining on me right now, and I have every intention of spreading my arms, lifting my head, and soaking up all it has to offer.

My favorite song for this season: All my Days by Alexi Murdoch

(Thank you Nicole at My Fit Family for always beautifully incorporating lyrics into your life. You inspire me daily!)

 

Celebrating 36. 

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” ~Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This birthday is simple. It’s special. It means the world to me. This birthday is good. My heart is full. 

There isn’t possibly anything I could ask for on my birthday this year. It’s not because I have it all, but it’s because I’m completely satisfied by what I do have right now.  The past two months I’ve taken inventory of all the things I’m grateful for in my life. My priorities have fallen into place and lined up perfectly with every thing my heart has ever whispered. Thirty six is the year I rid myself of emotional clutter. 

A year ago as I celebrated 35, I promised myself I’d find and use my voice. This year I’ve finally made the space in my life for my voice to have a platform. As I add layers to my life this year, they will compliment where I’m at in life. They will enhance my voice. They will celebrate my worth. 

Thirty six is the year I stand up straight with confidence and a smile on my face. Thirty six isn’t about wishing for more. It’s about loving exactly what I have. It’s about maximizing the moments. Thirty six is a celebration of life. 

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

celebrating 36

A Flower in the Sunshine

As I searched the Internet for a quote that embodied the happiness I felt exploring our local botanical gardens with Chet, my mom and my two nieces, I stumbled up words I adored. I read them and thought this is me. 

Maybe I should ask Christian to post it on my birthday. 

I wish someone else would find these words and say them about me. 

Then I laughed at myself. Good grief. In five days, I will be 36 years old. I can say these words about myself. I can post a picture that makes me happy, and I can say these words. 

Validation doesn’t come from the outside. It comes from the inside. Happiness doesn’t come from the outside. It comes the inside. Who we are as people belongs to us alone. 

I can say these words about myself. 

my boy and me

“Her wild heart was rare, she saw blessings were most saw burdens & if one thing was certain; her smile was like a flower in the sunshine.” ~Nikki Rowe

This is what I know. In five days I will be celebrating my thirty sixth birthday. Every phase of life has a story, and right now I feel internally satisfied. I can compliment myself. I can celebrate my strengths. I know I love to smile. I know I feel better when my eyes are squinting as my face lights up. I know gratitude is part of my daily practice. I know that life is good. 

It is okay to recognize the good in myself. In fact, it should be where I place my focus. Instead of constantly looking for ways to grow and get better, I can take the time to appreciate exactly where I’m at today. 

Learning to accept a compliment takes times. I used to dismiss them when I received them. I learned to smile and say thank you. Now it’s time to compliment myself. 

My heart is wild. 

I see the good in every scenario. 

My smile is my sunshine. 

My life is really really good. 

Taking inventory of wishes that have come true

Focused and Free, Shamrock Half Marathon 2016 

In a million ways yesterday was a perfect race. I ran to my potential based on what race day had to offer.  I felt strong and engaged. Mentally I found my sweet spot. 

In one way yesterday’s race fell a little flat. The race clock doesn’t match my potential. 

The story of the race clock goes back long before this race. My quest for a sub 2 hour half marathon started two and a half years ago. At the crawlin crab half marathon in 2013 (Read it here). I lined up ready to break two hours. I failed miserably. When my miles started to fall off pace a few miles into the race, I threw in the towel. I quit, and I finished the race feeling miserable about my ability. 

My second focused attempt at breaking two hours was at the Flying Pirate Half Marathon (Read it here), I showed up more than ready. Again I failed miserably. When my paces fell off, I gave up on the race. I gave up on myself. 

A few injuries, a few marathons, and a few life changes have happened over the last two and a half years, but the one thing that has remained consistent was my quest for sub 2. My training runs resulted in sub 2 13.1 miles, but it’s never translated to race day. This year felt like a no brainer. I showed up at the start line with three goals in my head:

A Goal: 8:xx pace overall 

B Goal: Sub 2 

C Goal: Do not give up on my race. 

For most, the C goal would have been a PR. For most there would be a drastic difference between Goal B and C but for me, it’s what I needed. My head tends to be all or nothing. I knew if I saw sub 2 fading away, my biggest challenge would be to keep my head in the game. Could I fight for a finish that had nothing to do with the time clock? 

Sunday delivered a day that was the perfect test of my strength. A Nor’easter by the name of Winter Storm Regis showed up on the first day of spring. It poured until about half way into the race. The winds fought back with gusts averaging 35mph. This was the day we were given to run, and I embraced it. Everyone was running the same race. 

I started the race with a few of the runners from our training team and the 2 hour pacers. For the first 4 miles I sat comfortably at the back of the pack (note to self: race day pace groups are not for me). There was way too much nervous energy and anticipation in the large pace group for me to feel comfortable settling into my own run. I could feel everyone’s emotions but my own. 

8:56, 9:18, 9:14, 9:16

By mile 5 I knew I needed to let the group go. I was using too much energy to stay attached to their pacing signs. I also needed to adjust my sock since my foot had started to bleed. I used the waterstop to adjust both my sock and my place on the race course. 

9:49

I let the pacers go knowing they would come back to me when the wind was at my back. I kept running north embracing the wind, and I finally felt myself mentally settle. 

9:19

Fort story can be a beast. The winds blow hard, and there were many times I felt myself stumble. I focused on the little things for the next three miles. Get to the water stop. Find the lighthouse. Get off the base. Go see my husband. 

9:20

9:34

9:44

I didn’t look at my watch once during the race for many reasons, but I knew this race was a race that wouldn’t be defined by the race clock. I knew I needed to focus on my C Goal. I needed to fight for my finish regardless of time. I needed to fight just for me. 

As I made the turn back on to Atlantic Avenue, I knew Christian would be there. Having just mentally conquered the hardest part of the course, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was proud of me. I knew at this point the 2 hour group wasn’t coming back to me. No excuses. No reasons to quit. I arrived to Christian a puddle of tears. I mumbled a quick “I’m okay,” and I kept running. He biked beside me for a block or two. He updated me on my friends. I then sent him on his way to the final turn. I needed to own my mental space on this run. I needed this race to belong to me. 

9:09

9:36

10:13 

I ran as fast as my legs would let. After a long stretch of focusing on one block at a time, I made it to the boardwalk. The finish line was waiting for me. 

Focused and free, I fully embraced the last mile of this race. As the finish line got closer and closer, my sweet friend Catrina popped out with open arms ready to support me. It was the best surprise of the day, and I welcomed a congratulatory embrace. 

Without a doubt, I had just finished one of my best mental races. 

Official finish time – 2:04:03

“Ask nothing from your running, and you’ll get more than you ever imagined!” ~Christophet McDougall

  

A Shamrock Story 

It’s race week. The lead up to this race has had its own story to tell just like every other race except this one feels different. This one belongs only to me. 

With a brand new blank slate to write my own story, I’ve been left with only my wants, my passion, my desire and my fears. It’s been a tug-of-war battle between all the voices in my head. 

With five days until race day, today may forever be marked as the day I wrote the draft for the next phase of my life. Of all days, today should be the day. 

At 7:13 this morning the sun rose. At 7:13 tonight the sun will set. Today is the day that my tiny piece of the world is perfectly balanced.  To celebrate, I went for a run. Three easy miles down a favorite trail and up and over a bridge that’s crosses the point where the Chesapeake bay meets the waterways inland. I was surrounded by beauty and balance. The trail is becoming green as spring makes itself know to our coastal city. 

 

pleasure house point
 
 Today is the day that there is equal amounts of light and dark. Tomorrow the light takes over. 

The run felt fluid. My legs felt strong. 

 

view from the top
 
 After my run, I indulged in a lunch date with two powerhouse ladies. We discussed race plans and dreams. We shared fears and life stories. During the three hour lunch, my brain ran circles around possibilities. This race is different than any other race I’ve run for one simple reason. 

Running has always healed me. It’s always pieced me back together. Every single time I’ve run shamrock, I was piecing myself back together. 

2010 – the year I ran to prove I was capable

2011 – the year I cheered from the sidelines with a stress fracture 

2012 – the year I ran to prove I could be more than a newborn mom

2013 – the year I ran my first marathon with a grieving heart (cancer sucks!)

2014 – the year I ran to prove I could come back from injury 

2015 – the year I ran to fall in love with racing again 

I always perceived myself to be broken. 

2016 is different. 2016 is the year I write my own story. This blank slate is giving me the opportunity to launch myself down whatever path I choose. There is no heartache to overcome. There is nothing to heal, fix or piece together. I am whole. 

All I have to do on race day is show up, silence the fears in my head, and run myself to finish line. Every year I’ve ran broken and got to the finished feeling healed. This year I’m showing up to the finish line whole, and I will finish the race whole. 

This year I’m giving myself permission to be unbreakable. 

tonight’s sunset

Equinox 

In less than two weeks the world approaches the small moment of time  when everything is in balance. Here along the Atlantic Ocean, the sun will rise. Twelve hours later it will set. Dark and light find harmony as our beach town begins to bloom. Spring will arrive. The equinox is approaching. 

As we transition out of winter’s hibernation, I can feel the ache of winter in my bones. My muscles are fatigued from fighting to stay warm all winter. My skin craves the warmth of sunshine. This is a new chapter in my life. The ache and the fatigue that is leaving my body is as much physical as it is emotional. The craving of warmth is as much my skin as it is my heart. As the world wakes up, I feel like I’m finding my harmony within myself and nature. 

My life is finding harmony. 

In less than two weeks on the same day as the spring equinox, I will line up with 180 teammates and thousands of other runners to run the Shamrock half marathon. The ache in my legs is proof of a season of hard training. The craving of warmth is evidence of running through many frozen morning. Shamrock weekend is just the beginning of my bloom. 

 

if you can’t find me, i’m here
 
I never expected to be here. Stripped of all career responsibilities, I have an amazing opportunity to fully examine my aspirations. My roots are rich. I’ve had nearly 36 years to create the perfect soil to encouraging proper growth. I’m seeing the strength in trusting my heart whispers.  As the winter cold drifts away, I feel myself reaching. I feel myself breathing deeply growing in the direction of the sun. 

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ~John Muir

The plan for race day is a simple as the plan for this new season. Let my roots anchor me. Let the warmth of the sun guide me. Let my spirit bloom. Let the compassion of others push and pull me. This season belongs to me. 

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ~John Muir

Tonight on our evening bike ride, an osprey flew over the river as the sunset. The osprey have returned. The air hints of summer. Nature is reminding us that spring is here to stay. 

This season will transition to summer, winter will return, but the changes cultivated will become part of who I am for every season of my life. 

“the sunset is your favorite color” ~Chet