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. 

  

Virginia Distance Series 100k Relay

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” ~Herman Melville

Round and round we ran. On Sunday, I joined forces with three badass ladies to make up Team NoPainNoChampagne at the Virginia Distance Series 100k Relay. For 62 miles, we ran loops on a 2.3 mile path around a golf course. The day started well before dawn, and it got colder and windier as the day got later. 

 

Team NoPainNoChampagne

 
This race had nothing to do with paces. It had nothing to do with finish times. It wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about heart. It was about finding mental strength to endure hours of sitting in the cold and running on repeat for almost nine hours. 

Muscles warmed up, and they got tight again. Mentally I tuned in, and I tuned out again. Every single time I thought my body was done giving its all, I kept going because never once was I alone on the course. There were seven relay teams, and dozens of runners individually conquering 50k (31ish miles) and 100k (62ish miles) on their own. Witnessing a local rockstar runner complete her first 100k at a lightening pace of 8:45 minute miles made it impossible to not give it my all. 

Every time I passed an individual runner, I offered words of encouragement. I was truly amazed and inspired. Every time I was passed by some of the most impressive runners I know, I received praise. Regardless of time and pace, we all were running the same race with the same heart. 

There was a pulse and an energy in the air. You could feel it. Every time I ran a loop and approached the aid station/handoff, I knew I’d be created by cheers of support. 

coming into the exchange

  
As I finished the 27th lap for our team, my three amazing friends joined me on the course. We all ran to the finish line together. Not long after we finished, the first 100k individual runner finished. Then our very own local rockstar finished her final lap. Cheering her into the finish line brought tears to my eyes. 

 

To the finish

 
I needed Sunday’s run more than I realized. I needed to tune into my own strength more than I realized. I needed to feel the pulse, the heartbeat and the connection of our running community more than I realized. It’s never about running. It’s about giving and receiving. It’s about supporting. It’s about feeling supported. 

Sunday was a day for my record book. My tired and heavy legs carried me to the finish line where I was welcome and embraced by three amazing teammates and equally amazing friends who collectively exude ever quality I admire. 

2016 is a year to do more of the things that just feel good. The Virginia Distance Series puts a big check next to that objective for the year. 

 

Pain: Check. Champagne: Check

 
My portion of the run:

16.4 miles with an average pace of 9:03 per mile. 

Time Trial 

“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.” ~Paulo Coehlo

Six weeks until the Shamrock Half Marathon means it’s go time for this training cycle. I have four weeks to being intentional with every workout. I have four weeks to push myself before I allow my body to recover. Then I race. 

This week’s training plan is a nice reminder that it is time to do work. 

Today’s plan: 

EVOFIT workout 

Warmup, 4 mile time trial, Cooldown 

Since I’m currently unemployed, I’m determined to make every workout happen. 

I haven’t run a time trail since high school. I had no expectations going into this run except I knew I was going to hurt. 

 

Today’s start line : seals at the aquarium

 
Mile 1 – My head was filled thoughts. As I wrestle with letting go of the last chapter in my life, I become energized about what is next. 

8:34

Mile 2 – If there was any chaos in my thoughts about life, they transferred to thoughts about the run. Make it half way. Beat the wind. Make it half way. 

8:28

Mile 3 – The hardest part is making it to turn around. All I have to do is finish. 

8:22

Mile 4 – crap. The wheels are falling off. Relax. Relax my shoulders. Even out my breath. Relax. Relax. 

8:11

Finish: 4.01 miles, 33:39, 8:24 average pace 

I ran this entire workout based on feel. My garmin was on my wrist, but I never looked at my watch. When I finished my cooldown, I was shocked at my negative splits. I felt myself coming undone from the moment I crossed the Rudee Inlet bridge. I gave myself permission to simply do my best. I need to fight for my finish, but it was okay if it was my slowest mile. I worked out hard this morning. I ran hard for the duration of this run. 

And then I saw 8:11. 

It was my fastest mile. When I felt like I was falling apart, I held myself together. I didn’t panic. I trusted. And I finished stronger than I started. 

This past weekend when the ladies from #jogandblog were reunited by the river, we took to the country roads to run hill repeats. While I don’t recall any of the conversations on that run (I was too busy huffing and puffing and sweating out alcohol), Kris made a simple statement and it’s stayed with me: it’s hard to not panic in the middle of the run. 

 

Chasing fast girls up and down hills

 

Perhaps this is what I’m learning the most in this transition and this training cycle. I’m learning to take ownership of the process. I’m learning to stay relaxed when the wheels fall off. I’m learning to finish strong. 

Today was the right moment to push myself. Today I embraced the obstacles on my run. I finished stronger than I started. 

A Chapter Closes

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

When Christian and I first started dating, he laid his head in my lap. As he listened to me breathe, he brought it to my attention that my breath was shallow. I wasn’t breathing fully. I wasn’t breathing deeply. In that moment, time froze. My thoughts raced backwards as I remembered every moment in my life when I couldn’t breathe.  

These moments were big life moments. They were moments I had a choice to make. I could take a deep breath, I could make a hard choice, and I could start a new chapter in my life. 

When Christian brought attention to my breath, I became aware of the stress that I was holding. As I pulled my breath deep into my abdomen, I felt myself letting go of the burdens I carried around with me. 

 

Every sunrise is a new beginning

 
Two Thursdays ago, I came face to face with a moment that took my breath away. While physically gasping for breath, I knew I had a decision to make. It was time to start a new chapter. 

Two Fridays ago was my last day at Operation Smile. It’s been a little over a week since I walked away from my dream job. 

Walking away from a dream isn’t easy. Letting go of something I’ve wanted my entire adult life isn’t easy. But when I sat in my bosses office physically gasping for breath on the verge of a panic attack, I knew it was time. 

Not all dreams are meant to last a lifetime. Walking away is actually walking towards the next dream. 

While I don’t know what my next chapter will look like just yet, I am trusting this leap of faith. I’m trusting the universe will catch me. 

Last week was my first full week since I walked away. It was hard. It was filled with every emotion. I was heart broken, and I was filled with hope. I did nothing last week. I let myself feel it all. I ran when I needed to. I hugged my boys when I needed comfort. I sat quietly when my heart needed it. I followed my breath. Whatever brought depth and fullness to my breath, I did it. 

 

This trail always heals my heart

 
 Just when I needed it most, my sweet friend invited me and a great group of gals to her river house for the weekend. It was a weekend filled with no agendas, lots of laughter, and sunsets on the river. As I got in my car to drive home, I felt the chapter closing. I felt myself letting go of everything I felt about leaving Operation Smile behind. 

 

Spread Love

 
I’m ending this chapter with nothing but gratitude. I was able to revisit regrets from my youth, and I was able to live out those dreams thanks to Operation Smile. I’ll never have to wonder what-if again. 

When I’m ready for the next chapter, I’m now equipped with a newfound strength, a newfound appreciation for my worth, and a stronger sense of my priorities. But for now I’m enjoying today. I’m enjoying my breath. I’m enjoying ever deep and meaningful inhale. I’m enjoying every intentional exhale. 

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” ~Sylvia Plath

2016.

“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

These were the words that spoke to me the most as I started 2015. I was stuck in a place of beginning and succeeding, and I was determined to move forward. I didn’t know what that would look like, I was uncertain of what I truly needed, but I was ready. I was ready to thrive. 

Thrive I did in so many aspects of life, but most importantly I found contentment with where I’m at in life. I reclaimed my heart. Over the course of 26.2 miles in Chicago, I polished my heart, and I came home ready to be just be. 

In 2015, I decided to thrive. In 2016, I want to trust and transform. This year is about being instead of becoming. This year is about standing comfortably in my own skin and taking ownership of dreams. This year is about confidently being me. 

I’m trusting my body and transforming my approach. I’m finding my own strength. 

Last night my family gathered for all the cousins to exchange gifts, to celebrate my mom’s birthday, and to ring in the new year. To my surprise, my parents gifted me a brand new wrist Mala. Whether it was intentional or not, the intention of the Mala is a perfect transition into 2016. 

  

“An awake heart is like a sky that pours light.” ~Hafez

Welcome 2016: not beginning or succeeding, but a year of just being, a year to trust and transform, and a year to discover my own strength.

 
   

I quit.

Four years ago today, I waited. I waited, and I waited some more. It’s a story I love telling. December 27th was Chet’s official due date. My intuition told me he would arrive early, and yet I was still pregnant on his due date. Little did I know that I had two more weeks to go.

Chet does things when he is ready. He is stubborn. His will is strong.

Giving birth to Chet will always be a defining moment in my life. In so many ways, his birth defined my entire approach to life. In between contractions, my hands had gone numb, and I looked at my doula with desperation. I can’t do this. She refocused my breath. She calmed me down. Minutes later I saw my baby for the first time.

Raising him hasn’t been easy. He does things when he is ready. He is stubborn. His will is strong.

As we approach his fourth birthday, I’ve had more moments of defeat than success. I’ve wanted to quit more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve reached out to friends when my head feels numb, and I feel full of desperation. I can’t do this. I refocus on my breath, I calm down, and minutes later he is the most loving child.

 
In the days leading up to Chet’s birth, I questioned myself. What am I doing wrong? What more can I do to prepare him for birth? In the weeks after he was born in the midst of many weeks defined by colic, I questioned myself.  What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I comfort my baby? In the middle of his toddler years, I am still questioning myself. What am I doing wrong? When will he be easy?

But Chet isn’t easy. He is stubborn. His will is strong.

I quit. I quit motherhood. I have failed as his mother. What am I doing wrong? I can’t do this.

These statements have haunted me since Chet became part of my world. I suspect they will haunt me for many, many more years. I’ve been embarrassed by these thoughts. I’ve gone to bed defeated.

Today something changed. Maybe wanting to quit isn’t a sign of failure. Perhaps wanting to quit is proof that I’m giving it my all. Maybe wondering where I have failed is proof that I desperately want to get this right. Chet isn’t easy. He is stubborn, and his will is strong. His heart is full of fire. His heart is full of fire just like my heart craves to be the best mom possible for him. I want to make growing up easy for him. I want to be his safety net. I want to fill him with so much love, he never questions himself. I don’t ever want him to wonder if he has failed or to think he can’t do something.

In the moments after I admit that I can’t do this, my body relaxes. I remember to breathe. Maybe, just maybe, it is Chet who is teaching me that I can do anything. Maybe he is the one who is teaching me that I can’t fail. And hopefully one day this child of mine who is stubborn and strong willed will approach life full of heart and determination because he already knows life isn’t easy. He already has his fight.

Together we can conquer anything. I can be his heart, and he can be my fire. 

  

Surf-n-Santa 5 miler

I was nervous going into this race, and I was over the moon excited too. After a season of getting my head straight about running, this was the first race I would be testing my new approach. Could I run strong and stay mentally engaged? While Chicago was a blast, it was far from a strong race. My nerves were quickly squashed by my excitement. This race our family was mixing it up. Instead of joining me on the race course as race support, Christian was running his first race EVER! He was RUNNING! Even though he wouldn’t let me run with him, he was still joining me on the race course. 

Papa ready to run

If having my husband on the course wasn’t excitement enough, this was my first run back as a member (and pacer!) of the Shamrock Training Team. I was proud to put my team shirt on for this race knowing I’d have a few dozen teammates to encourage along the course. As the 9:00 pacer for the team, I wanted this race to solidify my ability to execute that pace. 

 

#holdtherope

 
A few days prior to the race, Jerry called to make sure I was in the right place mentally for this race. He laid out my race strategy, refused to give me a time goal, and reminded me over and over again to have fun. 

The plan: run comfortable for the first three miles. When we turned off the boardwalk just at mile 3, I needed to focus on passing people. Finish strong. Strong, solid, consistent, HAPPY effort! 

The race: I held my race plan close to my heart. I wanted nothing more than to execute the plan Jerry gave me. (He’s been so patient with my lack of mental confidence. I wanted to show him my gratitude with this race.) 

Miles 1-3: I focused on staying in my comfort zone. I felt strong, but I wasn’t pushing. When I felt my legs starting to pull, I reeled myself back in. Be patient is what I told myself over and over again. 

8:59, 8:58, 8:56

I’m getting good at running photography

Mile 4: As we turned off the boardwalk, I knew it was time pick it up. If my confidence lacked anywhere in this race it was mile 4. I already felt strong. I was so nervous I would fade if I started to pick it up already. The last thing I wanted to happen in this race was a weak finish. Instead of going for it, I tentatively picked up my pace. 

8:51

Mile 5: By this point, we were on the final stretch towards the finish line. Standing next to mile marker 4 was a very nice police officer who looked me straight in the eyes, and said time to run. You’ve got this Kristy. For the first time, I opened up, and I ran. This mile felt AMAZING! I simply focused on passing people. My legs had so much to give. 

8:11 

I’ve never felt stronger in a race as I did yesterday. Every muscle felt engaged. My posture felt strong. My only regret is that I didn’t open up and run sooner, but that’s all part of the process. I’m learning to trust my strength, my ability, and discomfort. 

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I grabbed my medal and rushed to be a spectator. I knew Christian wouldn’t be far behind me. Watching him cross the finish line quickly made me forget that I had even run. He was all smiles, and he executed perfect negative splits as well. To say I’m proud is an understatement. 

 

finish line high


The rest of the evening was spent celebrating before we had to rush back home to wrap presents for our family Christmas. 

 

PRs for both of us


Official Race Results: 44:07

Lessons learned: I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. This race was a 1:11 faster than the 8k (My latest PR) I ran the weekend before shamrock last spring! Perhaps suffering through all that summer heat was worth it. My starting point for Shamrock training is already ahead of my finishing place last training cycle. Nothing feels better than strong, and I’m so proud of myself for having the courage to begin to find my own strength. 

This race was exactly what I needed. 

A race isnt complete without this guy!