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

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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

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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

Courage: the Path to Thriving

I thought 2015 was my year to thrive. I thought my focus would be on thriving, on blooming, on flourishing. I feel myself thriving at work. I focus on thriving in my relationships at home. I desperately want to thrive in my running. But another word keeps finding its way to my heart: courage

The Shamrock Half Marathon is twenty-two days away. Every single time I re-engage with my training, a curve ball happens: snow, lack of sleep, higher intensity at work. A focused training plan constantly gets moved to the back-burner. At the end of each run, I look at my garmin to see my running pace. A pace in the mid-nines doesn’t feel like thriving. I want eight minute miles, but I can not possibly thrive in all the areas of my life right now if I have a strict focus on my running. It’s not the balance I want in my day-to-day. As the days get closer to race weekend, I’ve felt anxiety about my own ability to run.

I have a competitive spirit. I like to thrive. I like to do my best. I like to push myself. I like to feel like I’ve overcome my self doubts. I like for my spirit to win the battle when my head says I can’t. Will I be happy running a race in the mid-nines when I have much bigger (and faster) running dreams?

While I’ve been desperate to thrive in my running, a different word keeps finding me. In order to thrive, I need to have courage: courage to let go of the race clock, courage to not let my success be defined by a finish time, courage to show up and to push myself out of my comfort zone, courage to show up with an open heart, and courage to go in with all my heart no matter the outcome

“Courage, dear heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

Running is never about running for me. Running is about my heart.

Today I ran six miles before our town gets buried by more snow. I was joined on my run by only the sound of my feet as I navigated snow-covered paths, sandy trails, and shoreline. As I ran, I couldn’t get this quote out of my head.

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a featherbed.” ~Terence McKenna

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I came to my blog to find it. I wanted to read my own words. I needed to see the story that belonged to this quote. When I found it, I smiled.

One year ago yesterday, I typed the same quote. One year ago yesterday, I was rejected by Operation Smile. I was told no when my heart was screaming yes. I thought my dream job had just slipped away. The lesson that I learned through that whole process is the one I try to live everyday. I will always show up with an open heart. I will always show up with my heart exposed. I will always give my whole heart to everything I do, because there isn’t anything that I want in my life that doesn’t deserve my whole heart.

I have to have courage to trust the process.

In twenty-two days when I show up at the start line, the only thing that matters is keeping my heart exposed. I will push myself. I will find the courage to trust my own strength and my own story. One year ago yesterday when I was told no, I knew without a doubt that I would never give up on my dreams. I refused to let it change my heart.

“There is one thing I won’t let today’s no stop me from doing. I refuse to stop dreaming. I know, without a doubt, that I will leave my finger print on our world. Maybe I’ll never see it. Maybe I’ll never have that dream job that reaches into the forgotten corners of our planet. Maybe I’ll never get the chance to nurture someone back to health. But maybe I will. Just maybe I will.” ~me

Neither my heart or my story care about the time on the race clock. My only goal is to cross the finish line feeling like I’m thriving. My only goal is to finish this race knowing that my running dreams can still come true.

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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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Alive

Thrive: Verb: 1. to prosper, be fortunate or successful 2. to grow or develop vigorously; flourish

Today I stuck to the main trail at First Landing State Park – a trail I haven’t run in nearly a year. As I ran the familiar trail, I ran through the memories of running down the Cape Henry Trail. Some of my biggest running dreams were dreamt on that trail. My confidence as a runner bloomed on this trail. It was on this trail that I realized what I’m capable of as a runner. The best I’ve ever felt on a long run happened on that trail resulting in speedy miles.

Somewhere in the middle of today’s miles, I came face to face with how guarded I’ve become with my running. It seems to happen often when I don’t meet my own expectations: I became complacent with my running goals. This summer I took a  break from training and goal driven runs. My heart needed a reset. While my heart is back in running, I’ve been holding onto the protection. I’ve been protecting myself from dreaming too big. Big dreams and big goals are scary, but running complacent isn’t what makes my heart sing.

Today, along a trail that held my running dreams, I decided it’s time to risk losing again because striving for the big goals is when I feel alive. I thrive when I’m pushing my own limits and when I’m reaching for growth.

“The issues of life present us with invitations to grow; which are wild by their very nature. Wildly arresting or wildly liberating. These moments are inevitable and impossible to avoid; but unequivocally for our edification. Yes, it may be difficult. Difficult, yet doable. Decide to thrive. Trust and transform.” ~ LaShaun Middlebrooks Collier

I find myself saying these words a lot lately, but I know that everything in my life has delivered me to this point. This is my year to thrive. It is my year to live with my heart. It is my year.

While I’m training for the Shamrock half marathon, I probably won’t be here for race weekend. Work travel is on the horizon. Life is presenting me so many opportunities to thrive – to prosper, to be fortunate, to be successful, to grow, and to flourish. I owe it to myself and everyone who is with me on this life journey to reach for the things that make me feel alive and to share that love with everyone I meet.

I’m holding on tightly to these dreams. Living any other way isn’t an option anymore.

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Thriving

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” ~Maya Angelou

These days I find myself pinching my own arm. I start every day feeling grateful – grateful for the work I get to do every day, grateful for the smiling eyes that wake me up every morning, grateful for exactly where I’m at in life. My heart is full.

As temperatures drop and the leaves fall off the trees, I’ve been drawn to the trails more and more. Running through the leaves, up and over sand dunes, and around the trees, my love of running has come back with a rush. I’m not worried about pace or mileage. I’m running until my legs burn and then I’m a running a little more. I’ve had a hard time finding words to define this new space, and then I read an article in Women’s Running Magazine where Lauren Kleppin reflected on her experience at the New York City Marathon.

I was hoping to be an inspiration! I definitely survived, but I wanted to thrive.” ~Lauren Kleppin

That’s when it hit me. I’ve been in survival mode for so long. I survived five years at a job I didn’t enjoy. I survived my running slump this summer. Now I’m thriving. As I look forward to life and running, this is the space I want to exist in. I want to thrive. I am thriving. If I back myself into a corner where I’m just surviving again, I know exactly what I need to do. I need to step back. I need to find breathing room. I need to change paths.

I’m so thankful for this year, a year I decided to focus on finding breathing room in my life. I could never imagine the opportunities that currently exist in my life. I never knew my heart could feel so full.

The new year isn’t here yet, but this fall feels like a new start for me. It’s time to embrace the breathing room I’ve created. It’s time to thrive. Welcome to my new year!

Happy Heart

Happy Heart

Race racap: Heart of Ghent 10k

Many months ago, in the middle of my running middle life crisis, my friend and running coach told me that I just need to show up to some races unplanned, unannounced, and have fun. I’m finally listening. It’s exactly what I did this weekend. As I’m slowly increasing mileage for two half marathons this fall, the idea of running a 10k as part of my training run sounded fun. Water stops. Entertainment. Supportive spectators. And the course is a walk down memory lane. So many of my heart whispers started here.

The Heart of Ghent 10k didn’t disappoint. It was the perfect neighborhood race. Wonderfully organized and supported. I loved the course (even if we missed a block this year).

Laura picked me up before the sun was up so we could run a few miles before the start of the race. Our early arrival made parking easy. We ran nearly 2.5 easy miles before the race started hoping we had left some racing ability in them for the race.

Warm up Miles: 2.47 @ 9:46 pace

As we started, I vowed to not look at my garmin. We were running and talking. The course is filled with lots of turns which I love mentally.

Mile 1: 9:14

Mile 2: 9:07

Mile 3: 8:51

At mile 3, I gave in and glanced at my watch. The 8 in the front of my pace shocked me. While my legs were starting to feel heavy, the effort felt easy. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope for some speedier miles this fall.

Laura started having cramping in her back at this point and encouraged me to leave her, but racing wasn’t my objective for this run. I was there to increase my mileage and enjoy time with friends. We walked a few blocks and ran many more.

Mile 4: 10:23

Mile 5: 10:45

Mile 6: 9:53

The finish line showed up just as my watch hit six miles. While the course ran short, my total mileage for the day is my longest run since spring. Confidence in my running is starting to creep back into my thinking. It’s funny how that happens as soon as I remember why I run.

I learned a lot on the road yesterday. Happy miles are what I need right now. Sharing miles with friends is what I need right now. This is the first run in a long time when my brain turned off, panic mode didn’t take over, and I simply ran.

Garmin Time: 6.00, 57:42, 9:37 pace

Race Time: 57:40, 9:17 pace

Almost 8.5 miles for the day! Heart of Ghent, I’ll be back next year. You have become my new favorite 10k.

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