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

  

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

Confession of a Pacer

I have a confession to make. I wasn’t sure if I could do this. I wasn’t sure if would measure up or hit the paces my team needed me to hit. When I was asked to be a pacer for the J&A Racing Training Team, I knew my heart was committed but could my legs preform. 

The first training team meet up resulted in a lot of anxiety. It felt like race day eve. I didn’t sleep. I had a nervous stomach. When I was introduced to the group, I felt like an imposter. I was a new face in the crowd. I had a lot I wanted to prove. I had a lot of self induced pressure. 

We ran that day, and our paces were exactly where they needed to be. I’ve never felt more relieved. 

 

Family
 
For the past 12 weeks, Friday nights have all been the same. I’ve been nervous. I’ve been afraid this would be the weekend I’d have a terrible run. When you’re pacing at your race pace, you can’t hide. There is no room for a bad run. I needed to be my best every Saturday. I wanted to be my best every Saturday. 

Confession: I wasn’t confident that a 9 minute mile was my comfort zone. 

Confession: I put a lot of pressure on myself to bring my A Game every weekend. 

Confession: I’ve never wanted to be successful at something as much as I wanted this. 

Every Saturday, I’ve got out of bed, my body alive with excitement. Each week my doubts have grown a little more quiet. Each week my heart has beat louder. It’s become more clear. It’s become more vibrant. I can do this. I am doing this. 

This past weekend our team had its furthest run to date. Everyone in my 9 minute group set out to accomplish 14 miles. After the first few miles, it was clear each runner in our pack was having a different day. Two were feeling strong and were ready to soar. Two were struggling with illness and need to preserve. I sent the two healthy teammates free. Go run. We will catch up. For the other two, we ran miles that felt good. For one that meant cutting the run short. For the other, we ran walked the final few. 

 

Starting Strong
 
Every single person on our team is race ready. Saturday was a formality. For everyone it proved what they already know about themselves. Their goals are waiting for them to achieve them. For the next nineteen days, our legs will become fresh again. Our spirit will continue to shine. 

Confession: I’m more excited about their race than my own. 

Confession: I’m more excited about them discovering their potential than what I can do on race day. 

I have my own personal goals for race day, but this entire training cycle has been my reward. I’ve erased every doubt my head was creating back in December. 

Confession: I hope I’m chasing them all on the race course.  

Confession: Every single runner on this team is the reason I will give my all on race day. It’s to honor them. 

“…there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love *running*. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you’ve got, being patient and forgiving and… undemanding…maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.” ~Christopher McDougall

Confession: Seeing potential in my teammates had allowed me to see my potential. 

Confession: This team has healed my heart. 

Confession: This team has made my love more vibrant. 

Confession: I don’t want this season to end. 

“Running is the heart of what it means to be human.” ~Christopher McDougall

Confession: This team has brought me back to life. 

Finishing up Saturdays Mock Race
 
Thank you doesn’t feel like the right words. They aren’t strong enough. The only way I can think of to express my gratitude for this journey is to let my heart run this race, to pour everything I have into race day, and to leave every ounce of energy I have on the race course. 

I owe it to them, and I owe it to myself. 

19 days until race day! 

chalkmaster Josh inspires again

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. 

  

Eat and Pray and Love

A few months ago, Elizabeth Gilbert announced that she would be publishing a collection of stories from her fans: Eat, Pray, Love made me do it! I jumped out of my chair with excitement, and then I sat back down and started writing. Eat, Pray, Love made me do it all. From the moment I read the book, my brain changed. It started to listen to my heart.

So I wrote, and I submitted…and I wasn’t selected. But I wrote, and I submitted which was a huge step in the direction of sharing my voice.

This weekend I will be driving to DC. Inside an amazing book store, I will get to listen to Elizabeth Gilbert speak. I’m jumping out of my chair again, so it feels appropriate that I sit back down and I share what I wrote.

Here is my version of Eat Pray Love made me do it!


I didn’t know yet that I was allowed to dream. I didn’t know yet that dreams come true. I didn’t know yet that I had the power to navigate my own life.

I had just blown out twenty-one candles on my birthday cake. My heart wasn’t born yet. My existence in this world hadn’t matured into anything yet. With champagne glasses in hand, my parents and I cheers to our next adventure. We were headed from Virginia Beach to Phoenix to visit my grandparents.

As I flipped through the pages of People magazine skipping over the celebrity news, I immediately stopped on a story sandwiched between news of the Oklahoma City bomber’s execution and horoscopes. The story highlighted Cuba as a vacation destination. The beautiful beaches and electric city life didn’t appeal to me. It was the method of travel into the country that stirred my heart. Vacationers travelled to Cuba as volunteers. They worked with a charity to deliver much needed medical supplies to the country. My heart whispered. I want to do that.

As the magazine got buried in my carryon bag, I also buried the whisper in my heart. I was living life the only way I knew how to live. I was following the road that had been paved for me by generations before me. As soon as I returned from the trip out west, I got engaged. My fiancé checked off every item of what I thought I should look for in a husband, but yet my heart whispered he’s not the one. A year later we got married. My heart whispered again. There is always divorce.  In another year I graduated from college, I moved to Alabama to support my husband’s dream to become a pilot, and my heart grew quiet. A later year I gave birth to a perfect baby boy. I was living the life I thought I was supposed to be living, but the moment I held my baby in my arms my heart couldn’t remain quiet. As I burst open with love, my heart screamed. Create a world for this baby that allows him to dream and love. Show him. Let him know there is a whole world waiting for him. Teach him to dream.

I gave birth to myself the day I gave birth to my baby boy. I instantly understood that it was up to me to create a life that reflected the whispers in my heart. Two years later I started to live my life. I left my husband. I abandoned the picture perfect life I had created, and I started again. In a tiny apartment in Nashville that was perfectly decorated for a mom and her little boy, my life began.

Divorce is hard. It’s filled with doubt and insecurity. It is riddled with question marks. As I questioned my strength and my intuition, as I questioned my courage to embrace who I am, as I questioned the rawest version of myself, I found Elizabeth Gilbert.

Every other weekend my house was painfully quiet. Beneath the Nate Berkus brown knotted afghan sold exclusively at Bed, Bath and Beyond, I opened up a book I was told I had to read. Eat Pray Love was about to give me the courage to turn my heart whispers into my reality. I was about to read a book that would teach me that dreams come true.

“Virginia Woolf wrote, ‘Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword.’ On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where all is correct. But on the other side of that sword, if you’re crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, “all is confusion.” Nothing follows a regular course. Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will be more perilous.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

As I turned page after page, my heart said thank you. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for understanding me.

The years that followed were filled with extreme highs and lows, but my heart felt validated. I felt alive. I knew the struggle was worth it. With my little man in tow, I fought my way to find balance in my pursuit of heart whispers. I took a job to pay the bills, but left for a job that echoed the wishes of my heart. Rent was late, checks bounced, but we kept moving forward. In December 2007, I found myself floating down the Choa Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand. As I stared at the golden temples glowing in the moon light, I was overwhelmed by gratitude. My job brought me here. My dreams were coming true, but somehow I knew it wasn’t right. My heart was still making noise. Surround yourself with love. You can’t do this alone. While managing the logistics of a small pharmaceutical company allowed me to travel to other side of the world, it also required late nights and long hours. My body started to shut down. I was constantly sick. I missed being fully engaged as a mother. Listening to my heart, we loaded up a U-haul and headed east. Virginia Beach or bust. It was time to move home to the open arms of our family.

thailand

“To find the balance you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have 4 legs instead of 2. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

It took having a little boy to find my place in this world. It took two hearts, two minds, four hands, and four feet to plant me firmly on the ground. When my feet became anchored, my heart came to life.

I learned that I am allowed to dream. I learned that dreams come true. I learned that I have the power to navigate my own life.

I had just blown out thirty-five candles on my cake. I quietly kissed my husband and my two sweet boys goodbye while they slept cozily in the home we created for ourselves tucked amongst the trees by the river. I headed to the airport. As my plane took off and I began my journey to Lima, Peru, I let the tears roll down my checks. I was nurturing my heart. I was trusting my life. I was loving each moment. This is my version of Eat, Pray, Love. A medical mission was waiting for me.

For the next ten days, I worked hand in hand with a medical team to deliver surgical care to patients living with cleft lip and cleft palate. Every single day I work with corporations to secure donations of medical supplies needed to perform safe surgery. I’m not reading about volunteers delivering medical supplies anymore. I’m working with companies and a team of amazing volunteers to make sure medical supplies are available around the globe. This trip was allowing me to see the medical donations come to life.

I would see every suture, every needle, and every drug. I would blow bubbles with children waiting to meet the doctor. I would hug and hold a little girl for hours as she waited for bloodwork. I would hold the hand of a mother as she waited for her child to come out of surgery. I would watch the skillful hand of surgeon recreate a smile on the face of a baby. I would walk beside a family as they headed to the recovery room listening to them sing a sweet lullaby to their baby. I got to see the final masterpiece of healing a child’s smile. I get to see the final masterpiece of life. What was once broken, became healed.


After 106 children received free surgery to give them the smile they deserve, I set off on a journey of my own to explore the sacred valley of Peru. My heart needed a moment of solitude to absorb the magic of my life. On my final day in the country, I ventured to Ñaupa Iglesia. I had been told that it was the most sacred temple in the sacred valley. Spiritual leaders from all over Peru journey to this spot.  I had been told that the temple was a place to ask the universe for what I need in my life. My heart whispered. Trust. Explore. Go. As I followed the local family down the railroad tracks and up the mountain to this temple, my heart was filled with gratitude. There isn’t a single thing that I need in my life.

I sat beside the altar, and my heart, mind, and body were one. I was filled with one single vibration: thank you, thank you, thank you.

(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.

********

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!)

  

Grow into it, still growing. 

A year ago I realized the importance of growth, the comfort of growth, the necessity of growing.

Grow into it.

It’s been almost a year since I changed jobs. It’s been almost a year since we enrolled Chet in school. It’s been almost a year since our family learned to adapted to so many new changes. During that time I found myself me    ntally coaching myself through most life moments.

Grow into it.

Very little has changed since last May, yet everything is different. I find comfort in the challenges of my job. I cherish the time Chet spends thriving in his school. Our family has gained so much since last year.

Grow into it.

IMG_6037
View from my Run

 

Yet we are still growing. I find myself adjusting to a child maturing into middle school. He’s growing and stretching. Finding comfort in this middle stage of development is a challenge. He’s loving and caring one moment. He’s withdrawn and abrasive the next moment. I want to whisper in his ear grow into it, but I know it’s me that needs to grow. I need to grow as his mother to support him.

Grow into it.

Teenage years and toddler years are a lot to manage. At the end of most days, it my connection to Christian that becomes neglected. Many discusses have ended with the conclusion that this is a phase in our relationship that we have to trust, that we have to embrace and that we have to grow through. The moments in life when our children need us most don’t last forever, so we are trusting the growth. We are focusing on small moments for just us. We are growing.

Grow into it.

A year ago I asked my husband and my children to trust me, to trust that the change I was making would make me a better wife and mother. They held my hand and cheered me on. Now it’s my turn. Nicole at My Fit Family wrote of her marriage, and it has inspired me ever since.

“Marriage is about falling into pace with each other.  When one person chooses to grow, the other person cannot be left behind.  Feelings of jealousy have no place in our hearts towards each other.

Sometimes, people grow.  And because we are individuals, we can’t force one person to be ready to grow with the other at the same time.  But here is what I’ve learned–from my own marriage of 10 years, seeing my own parents marriage of 39 years, my grandparents marriage of 64 years: When your partner grows, you must pace along with them.  Be an encourager and supportive–not bitter or resentful.

Because your turn will come.  And your partner may be the one that is holding back–and you will need his support.  It’s almost as if the person who is growing has no choice but to grow and the other person must be the supporter and encourager.  Being left behind will cause too big of a separation.  A great divide–and if you aren’t careful, it may never be filled–it may be too difficult to build the bridge to connect the two of you.”

It’s now my turn to watch my husband flourish, to pace beside him, and to let him grow. This year belongs to him.

Grow into it. 

It has been a year since I used these three simple words to motivate myself. It has been a years since I relied on these three simple words to anchor me in my own growth. A year later I know this: growing isn’t something to be feared. It isn’t something to resist. It is something to be embraced, celebrated and encouraged. Growth is the direction I am headed.

Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional.” ~Glenda Cloud

IMG_6038
View from my Run

 

 

Collide

“I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.” ~Ram Dass

Last Friday after a week-long global planning conference that I organized and attended for Operation Smile, Christian and I drove to Operation Smile’s founders’ home for a final dinner celebration. As we drove, the pattern of turns was familiar. It was a well-worn path in my memory: to the bridge, to the second bridge, to the fork in the road, to the dead-end. The road to their house was my running route in college. Nearly every day I ran by their house.

I remember the moment well, the moment I abandoned myself during my junior year of college. I wanted nothing more than to be free: free from my past, free from my story, free from the life I had lived up until that point. I wanted to rid myself everything and everyone. I just wanted to be free.

I used to wish I could go back to the moment. I used to wish I could choose differently. I use to wonder what would my life look like if I chose a different path. What if I didn’t get married my senior year? What if I didn’t move to Alabama? What if I didn’t have a baby at 24? What if I could go back and instill all of the lessons I’ve learned since than inside my heart and inside my head. The what ifs have all dissolved away. I no longer want to hold my twenty-one year old self closely. I know longer wish I could whisper in my own ear instilling the lessons I’ve learned in the fourteen years that have followed.

As we drove that familiar running route, I felt myself colliding with my past. I felt the desperation in each run during my final years in college. I felt the rush of independence I used to feel as a plowed down a path in quest of my own freedom. I felt it all, and as I pulled into the driveway and walked in the front door of a place that now feels like home, I held all those emotions close to my heart.

There are moments in life when I collided with myself. These magical moments happen when I’m living from my heart. It happens when who I am as a person is perfectly in sync with my actions. There are the big moments: falling in love and child-birth.  And there are small moments: finish lines, observing my children coming into their own, conversations with best friends, and work dinner celebrations.

This spring I’ll be boarding a plane with my passport in hand. An Operation Smile mission will be my final destination. When I used to ask myself “what-if” my mind always wandered down a road that lead to this place. Instead of whispering in the ear of my twenty-one year old self, I want to remind myself every single day to trust: to trust my choices, to trust my intentions, and to trust my heart. I’ve been on the right path the whole time: to the bridge, to the second bridge, to the fork in the road, to the dead-end. It’s been waiting for me all along.

IMG_5287

Seeking. Striving. Thriving.

A year ago I posted these words on social media. (Timehop is my favorite app.)

“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with my whole heart.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

I posted these words after spending a weekend with my Aunt Beth, a weekend spent in celebration of the memory of my Aunt Amy. These words embodied how she lived her life, and they are words that echoed into my soul this morning on my run. My heart whispered, “and I am thriving too!” as I hit the unmarked trail a half mile into my route.

The trail is one of the hardest trails to run in the park. There is a lot of climbing (for us folks who live at sea level). Because it is an unmarked trail, it isn’t maintained by the park. Trees have fallen. Areas have been washed away by the rain. It’s quiet, secluded and challenging. My miles are always slow. I normally walk up some of the climbs. Today I had one intention for my run: Thrive. I don’t need to walk. I just need to dig into the run.

My dirty little running secret is that negative self talk has creeped into my head. I’ve convinced myself that I need to walk on short runs. I’ve convinced myself that because my running pace isn’t where it was or where I want it to be, I’m not strong. Sometime between last summer and today, I’ve beat myself up at some point on a run. Today was different. Perhaps it was because I was defeated by a spin class this week, but I didn’t quit. Perhaps it was the release of so many emotions I felt after that spin class. Something shifted. I refused to be mentally defeated today. I became my own advocate on today’s run.

It’s okay for it to be hard. The hard won’t last.

Focus on the step in front of you. Quit looking for the finish. You can take step after step after step.

All of a sudden hard was no longer my enemy. It was something I wanted to get through. This is when my heart opened up. I understood. I push through the hard, and I carry my struggle into the down hills and into the flat sections. I carry defeat with me.

Today was different. I allowed myself to open my stride. I allowed myself to enjoy the easy sections. I let go of all the struggle. Today I thrived. Today I trusted my run.

trail

Two years ago I ran with my running coach and his team, Bernard Distance Project, and during every run he would remind me of the same thing. One single mile wasn’t an indicator for my entire run. Just because mile 3 was a struggle didn’t mean the rest of my run would be hard. I had to trust the ebb and flow of running. I had to exist in the moment. I had to give what I could give in that moment.

Today I remembered the lesson he taught me. Today I ran in the moment.

While this makes today’s run extra sweet, I’m more grateful for the lesson. This isn’t just a running lesson for me. This is a life lesson. I have to live each moment. I have to get through the hard stuff, but then I have to let it go. I can’t bring the heartache, the stress, and the struggle with me. It’s okay to leave it behind. Just like running, no single moment is an indicator of what is to come. It’s about existing in each moment.

I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with my whole heart. I am thriving.

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