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

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.

IMG_8252

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)

Chicago Marathon 2015

“Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.” ~Carl Sandburg

On October 11, 2015 my feet will travel 26.2 miles through the city of Chicago. I woke up yesterday morning at 5am feeling the panic that I might not get selected in the lottery process. I hit refresh on my email over and over again. I followed #Chicagomarathon to see if anyone else got an acceptance letter yet. Just after 10am, my status changed from “Pending” to “Accepted”.

On October 11th, my feet will travel 26.2, but it is my heart that will carry me.

“Courage, Dear Heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

Nine days ago I wrote a blog post: See your Magic. Inspired by the birthday of my aunt and the Boston Marathon, I eluded to the fact that I wanted to run another marathon. What I didn’t tell you was that on March 10th I entered my name into the lottery for the Chicago Marathon. I knew my heart was ready to tackle 26.2 miles yet again.

As I look at the direction of my life in the next six months, I’m overwhelmed by gratitude. This year has felt like magic. How did I get so lucky? Every year seems to be punctuated by life events. I know five, ten, twenty years from now when I think back to 2015, it is going to stand out as a magical year for our family.

On Monday, Christian started a new chapter in his professional career. He started a new job that is going to inspire him, challenge him, and allow him to grow in ways we never imagined.

On May 12th, I am boarding a plane for Peru to attend my first ever Operation Smile medical mission. I am exposed to the nature of this work every single day, but to experience it first hand, to live it, to breath it, is something I can’t begin to understand. My heart is prepared to grow.

Over the next six months, my mileage will increase once again. What now feels like a long run will become a short run on my schedule. Saturday mornings will start at sunrise. Over the course of hundreds of miles, my soul will be polished it the best version of myself. This is why I run. This is why I’m ready to run a marathon again. My heart, my head and my body are all working together.

I’m consciously telling myself to slow down, to inhale, to exhale, and to not let the excitement and the whirlwind of life overcome me. I want to enjoy every second of this phase of life.

When I look back on the thirty five years I’ve existed that all began in a tiny hospital tucked in the woods in Lake Forest, Illinois (just north of Chicago), I know what each of those years has meant to me. I’ve lived enough to know just how special this year is for me and my family. Running the Chicago Marathon is the perfect way for me to celebrate the growth that this year has delivered.

There is no better time to let my heart carry me and no better town to welcome me home. It’s time to embrace Chicago!

Photo via Business Weekly

Photo via Business Weekly

Every ounce of gratitude I feel, every gesture of love I feel, I promise to carry it with me during every training run. This marathon is about bringing my best self to surface. It is about running with my heart. It is about embracing life.

Shamrock Half Marathon 2015

“Courage, Dear Heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

A week ago I crossed the finish line of the Newport News Marathon 8k. Over the five hilly miles, my head quickly tried to play its old tricks. By mile two I found myself thinking old thoughts of “I can’t” and “it’s too hard”. As quickly as they came, I quickly laughed them off. I spent last year battling those mental demons. There was no way I was letting them win this year. Instead I had fun with the runners around me. I chatted with the few spectators that were on the course. Even when congestion prevented me from breathing deeply and a cramp emerged in my side around mile 3, I stayed happy. The result was an 8k and a perfectly executed race

(Finish Time: 45:15, Splits: 9:11, 9:02, 9:01, 9:01, 8:56)

After this race, I knew my heart (and most importantly my head) was ready for my big race weekend: Shamrock Half Marathon.

I wasn’t supposed to be running the half this weekend. I was supposed to be in Africa. I wasn’t training for a spring half. I thought my goal race would be a 10 miler at the end of April. So when plans changed, I quickly adapted my training plan to squeeze in a few double digit runs (two to be exact).

As race day approached, I had a few goals floating around in my head. First and most importantly, I wanted to duplicate the feeling I ran with at the One City Marathon 8k. I wanted to run with a happy heart. I wanted to have fun. Based on my current fitness level, I also had a few anticipated finish times.

A Goal – Sub 2 if the day was absolutely perfect mixed with a little race day magic (the same pace as my 8k the weekend before)

B Goal – PR (sub 2:03:19)

C Goal – stay strong (9:30 pace)

As I lined up at the start of the Shamrock Half Marathon with my friends, I decided I wanted to go for. I wanted to see if I had a sub 2 hiding inside my running legs. Regardless of my inconsistent training and regardless of my unfocused running all winter, I knew my heart and my head was the strongest it has ever been going into a race

The excitement is building

The excitement is building

Mile 1 9:08

Mile 2 9:06

Mile 3 9:06

Mile 4 9:01

Mile 5 9:04

Mile 6 9:05

The first six miles head north through the North End of the oceanfront and along Shore Drive through First Landing State Park. My only thought through the first six miles was to slow down. I didn’t want to run faster than a 9 minute mile. I consciously head back and resisted the urge to run faster as the excitement of race day took over.

As we turned on to the military base, I started to fatigue a bit. I think mentally I knew what the next 3 miles had planned. Three miles through a lonely, quiet military base. My running buddy Laura dropped back at Mile 7 due to some cramping so I was all alone. I started the process of counting miles and water stops. Run to the next mile marker. Run to the next water table. Run to the light house. Get me off this stupid military base!

Mile 7 8:54

Mile 8 9:05

Mile 9 9:23

shamrock2

I expected to feel a surge of excitement as I left the military base, but it never showed up. I was tired. I couldn’t find the motivation to keep the wheels turning. I hadn’t been paying attention to my garmin at this point. If I had know I was so close to going sub 2, I think I could have fought a little harder. Mentally I thought I was in the perfect bubble of finishing with a new PR above 2 hours.

Mile 10 9:35

Mile 11 9:21

Mile 12 9:56

As always Christian was waiting for me as I came out of the military base. Seeing him is always a welcome sight. He stays if I want him near. He bikes ahead when I push him away. I really wanted to be done by the time I saw him. Mentally I was tired.  When I finally saw the mile mark to let me know there was 1 mile left, I finally found some energy. I didn’t run 12 miles to quit, so I tucked my head and kept going.

Mile 13 9:30

As I made my the final turn onto the boardwalk, I was smiling from ear to ear. I knew I was going to cross the finish line with a personal best. This year I really allowed myself to enjoy the energy of the crowd. I high fived everyone on the turn. I cheered along with them. I embraced ever single sign and every single word of encouragement. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Final Stretch 8:36 pace

shamrock

Official Results 2:01:43, 9:17 pace

I felt like I was beaming as I made my way down the finisher shoot. Satisfied didn’t even begin to describe just how good I felt about my run on Sunday. Running a PR always feels good, but this year feels different. This year running was my last priority. This year family time always came first. This year my work has become my source of pride. This year I choose sleep when my body was weary. This year my life felt like everything fell in place perfectly. To be rewarded with a personal best is truly the cherry on top.

Post Race Celebrating

Post Race Celebrating

As I put another check in the box next to a goal accomplished, I can’t help but feel like this is my starting point. I felt this exact same way last year at the finish line of the Shamrock Half. I’m finding my stride. I’m finding what works best for my life. Running has become the perfect compliment for everything that makes me happy.

This year running embraced me back. My heart won this race!

shamrock3