Celebrating 35

For the first time, I’m celebrating a birthday that feels like a real bench mark in life. 35 feels established (a very nice word for old). It feels significant. So many of life’s big moments are behind me: happily married, full house, satisfying career, happy home, and satisfied with my education level. There are no more “what’s next?” moments on my life plan because what is next is simple. What is next is simple enjoy this life I’ve created for myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my voice this year in nearly every facet of my life. I’m writing my own story. I taking ownership of every step I’ve taken. I’m finding that the stronger I become in owning my own story, the more I have to offer those around me.  Finding peace in the memoir of my life has changed my perception of the world.

Understanding my story makes me want to know your story. I want to know the story of the person running by me on the trails. I want to know the story of the mother in line behind me at target. I want to know the story of the mother half way around the world who brings her child to our surgery site. Our stories are all so unique and all the same.

I find myself wondering how much compassion we would give if we all knew each other’s stories. Would we get mad at the man who accidentally cut us off in traffic if we knew what he was feeling? Would we get mad at the cashier who moved a little too slow if we knew what was going on in her home? Would we demand so much from those around us if we knew what they had been through? Perhaps its age or perhaps it’s my exposure to just how fragile life and love truly is this year that makes me want to embrace the world more. We all experience heart ache. We all experience loss. We all are doing our best to live our best possible life. Life is rarely easy, but there is so much magic in living.

“Today is your magic moment. Whatever you do will be there for the rest of our lives. We can’t relive it, so give it all today.” ~Dr. Bill Magee, CEO and Co Founder of Operation Smile

This year I will use my voice. This year I’ll tell my story. This year I will remember that we all have our own story, our own experiences, that are bigger than any one moment. This year I will embrace the magic of living.

 

The perfect gift from my parents: a yellow bench for our backyard

 

 

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

Understanding Need

I sit in front of my computer screen starring at medical companies and emails every single day. All of them are filled with potential, but on my side of the screen, I sit feeling needy. The information I need to make things happen doesn’t exist inside my head. I have to ask for help. The resources I need aren’t readily available to me. I have to ask for support. The people I need to reach are not defined. I have to search until I find the right person. My job at Operation Smile, an amazing organization that provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate, and other facial deformities for children around the globe, is to ask for Gifts in Kind. I ask companies to donate medical supplies so we don’t have to purchase them for our medical mission.

I have tunnel vision right now. We are spending thousands of dollars on acetaminophen for every mission. No one donates this simple drug. Bottles of Tylenol are in nearly every household in America. There has to be a way to find a donation. I know I can find the right company. While I researched acetaminophen, while I researched companies, and while I reached out to anyone willing to accept my call, I sat in my chair feeling desperate.

“I’m going to have to get used to feeling needy”

This is the thought that kept echoing in my head. Needy is not a comfortable place for me. Needy is not a character trait I strive to embody.

In the middle of a development conference, I sat in a small room with all my coworkers and our co-founder, Dr. Magee. Tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat is a normal part of my work day. Every single story touches my heart. As I whipped away a tear, a realization washed over my body.

“I am not needy. The children, the adults, the families, and the communities that need acetaminophen as a very small piece of what it takes to make a surgery a success, they are in need.”

I can’t perform the surgery that will fix a child’s life forever. I can’t teach them to speak years after most children have muttered their first words. I can’t provide them information on nutrition so their bodies can thrive. There is a lot I can’t do, but there is even more that I can do. I can carry their need for them. I can sit in my chair at work and turn that need into an honor. I have the privilege of asking. I have the privilege of bringing the mission of Operation Smile to corporations around our global. I get to connect these two worlds.

When I started to feel needy, I could feel myself shrinking. If continuous online searching and dozens of asks to unresponsive receivers could make me shrink in my desk chair, imagine living a life where you’re not accepted or received because of the way you look. That is a real need. When I was reminded that I was advocating for an authentic need of an individual, I sat up a little taller in my chair.

“Love by definition is self-sacrifice. Love is a decision to make someone else’s problem your own.” ~ Dr. Bill Magee

Every single day I love what I do. I love the children around the world that are kept hidden from their communities because of their cleft lip and cleft palate. I love the mothers, the fathers, the caregivers who sacrifice so much to give their child a chance at a normal life. I love every single person who makes this possible. What I do each day is an honor. I will find a company that also feels honored to provide acetaminophen to our patients around the world. I will ask and ask and ask again because this is a real need in our world.

This isn’t needy. This is love.

smile

Nothing speaks louder than Love

It’s the holiday season. Houses are decorated. We put on our best clothes. We prepare nicer than usual dinners. We surround ourselves with family and friends. We give gifts to show our love. We present ourselves in the best way possible. This holiday has so many meanings for so many people. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or the birth of Christ or Santa Claus, this time of year is meant to be a celebration of love.

If you’ve been any where near the news or social media in the past few days, I think you’ll notice a trend. Freedom of speech is being defended and attacked. Individuals are being defended and attacked. Defend. Attack. Defend. Attack. I’ve done my best to ignore it. I certainly have my own beliefs about homosexuality and Duck Dynasty.

Do I care if your gay? No. This world needs more love and I encourage anyone to embrace love. It’s that simple to me.

Am I gay? No.

Do I watch Duck Dynasty? No. I’ve never watched the show nor do I know what it’s about but I gather that they are a Christian family.

Do I attend church? No.

Do I care if you attend church? No. Again, the world needs more love and if this is where you find it, I encourage you to go.

Do I like the opinions expressed by this character on Duck Dynasty? Absolutely not, but he is entitled to have his own opinions.

Do I care if he was fired? No. The network has every right to have there brand represented however they want. I do feel bad for him for being punished for expressing an opinion though.

I guess my point is this, if I even have one. We are five days away from a holiday that is celebrated by both Christians and non Christians. We may not all agree about the reason for celebrating this holiday, but I think we can all agree that love should be the driving force behind the celebration. We can all connect over love. Our differences don’t matter.

Why aren’t we sharing love? Why aren’t we spreading love? Why do we care about a show and an opinion of a man and a decision of a network? I’m sure there are arguments to be made as to why I should care? And clearly I do care because I’m writing about it!

I care because I will never understand how we can promote and publish and feed into energy that continues to divide an already divided community, country and world. I recognize that I am also giving into this energy, but I hope that by observing, I can witness ways to connect. I can step back and see how this is causing more hurt than good.

All I see is what we are missing? We are missing love. We are missing compassion. We are missing humanity.

I believe we are all deserving of love. If we judge and determine worth by every single life choice made, none of us deserve love.

I’ve married and divorced.
I’ve cheated.
I’ve drank too much.
I’ve been dishonest.
I’ve made some really crappy choices in my 33 years.
I’ve been selfish.
I’ve been mean.

By all means, someone could (and probably has) judged me to be a bad person unworthy of love and forgiveness. But I am worthy of love. We all are.

When did we start turning our backs on people who are different then us? When did it become okay to abandon people when life gets hard? Even worse, when did we start turn our backs on the celebration of love?

We have five days until Christmas. Turn off the TV. Walk away from Facebook. Quit reading my blog. Let us use this time to come together. Spread love. Not to those who you think deserve it but to everyone. Doesn’t everyone deserve love?

We all love differently. That doesn’t make my love better than your love. It makes us equals. It makes us human. I makes us a community. I love my husband, my children, our planet, the color yellow, books, running and yoga. I love grapefruit and avocado. I love the trees and the stars. My love is what makes me ME. Your love is what makes you YOU. This should bring us together not tear us apart.

While we are decorating our house and putting on our best clothes, let us also make sure we fill our hearts with love. Not just for those who fit into your mold but for everyone. There is no such thing as too much love.

Quit attacking. There is no need to defend.

It is important to protect our freedom of speech. Being able to express ourselves, our differences, is what makes us great. If we are going to protect our freedom of speech, we have to protect our freedom to love. Nothing, nothing speaks louder than love.

20131220-114453.jpg

I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t free to love him.

Redefining Perfect

And just like that, my Richmond marathon training cycle has hit its peak. It hit its climax with a 20 mile run on Monday.

If you followed along during my training for the Shamrock marathon earlier this year, you know that training was defined by heart-break and loss. Two months before race day, I lost both my father-in-law and my aunt/best friend to cancer. Marathon training healed my heart in so many ways. Race day came and I fell into a pocket of comfort. I found support from so many sources during every step of those 26.2 miles. I was amazed by the marathons ability to reflect exactly what I needed in life: support and acceptance. That race shaped me.

I didn’t know what to expect from this marathon training cycle. Life was good. My head and heart were in a good place. I thought this would be an average training cycle. It ended up being unconventional at best. It started with a bum hip. I dealt with an aching foot. I lacked confidence. I held on too tightly to self-imposed goals. I tried to control every aspect of every run every day until I cracked (at the Crawlin Crab half marathon). In the following weeks, the crack became deeper. My desire to run slowly started fading until I decided to quit. The night my husband and I stayed up late to iron out all the hiccups in our life together, I saw clearly what I needed to embrace in order to keep progressing forward. I needed to learn to adapt.

Race day may not be perfect, but I can make it perfect for me. My marriage with my husband is real. It’s not perfect. We argue. We nag. We forgot that our relationship is perfect for us, but he loves me better than anyone and I absolutely adore him. Motherhood is hard. I forget to sign homework papers. I forget to put money into lunch accounts. I count down the minutes until bedtime. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for me. My job isn’t perfect. It’s unfulfilling and unmotivating, but its flexibility is perfect for me. My running is never perfect. Runs rarely go according to plan, but I’ve learned to run what my body is asking for on every single run.

Somehow this training cycle showed me exactly what I need right now. I have to adapt. Plan A may turn into Plan Z, but I can make Plan Z perfect for me.

I have run after being up all night with a teething baby. I have run in the only 30 minutes of free time I have in a day. I have run to pick up Cole from school. I’ve taken vacation days at work to make long runs work for my family. I have juggled kids and a husband’s out-of-town schedule and working full-time. I’ve juggled swim practice and soccer. I’ve juggled family dinners, homework, and play.

My shamrock marathon showed me just how lucky I am to have amazing support in my family and friends. This marathon is showing me that I’m not perfect, but I’m enough. I have been adapting since I logged my first training mile. I plan to do the same in my race.

Perfect or not, I will get to the finish line knowing I ran with a happy heart because I made the best of whatever race day has to offer. I believe in myself. I know I’m worth fighting for. Race day is about piecing it all together.

11 days until Richmond.

20131105-184317.jpg

The timing of Brene Brown’s course has been perfect. Follow along on Instagram if you want to track my weekly journal progress. It’s been quite a journey. I’m struggling to define it with words.

Wicked 10k 2013 Race Report

There is a reason this is my favorite weekend of the year. It brings together everything I love: family, running, and celebration. This year was a little different. My husband was in Belgium. It was a scramble to figure out which kid went where so I could run and Cole could get to his one mile race. Thank goodness for living in the same town as family. My dad and my mother-in-law came to my rescue.

Race day weather was perfect. 40 degrees and sunny at the start warming up to the 60s. I met my mom in the parking lot, and we filled up the time before the race began. With my mind on Richmond, I hadn’t put much thought into this race. I didn’t have a goal. I wanted to run with a light heart and finish happy (which always includes feeling strong in my run). After Crawlin Crab, I needed to redeem myself. My race day confidence needed it.

Getting ready to run

Getting ready to run

At the start line, I immediately found a new friend in my corral. We laughed at costumes. We teased that being way up front in corral 2 felt like we were somehow cheating when there were at least a dozen corrals behind us. She asked how fast I was planning on running. She had just returned from her honeymoon and hadn’t ran in weeks. My hope was to see an 8 on my watch for mile pace, and she asked if she could tag along. The more the merrier! I always welcome running buddies!

The course headed straight to the boardwalk. The miles flew by.

Mile 1 – 8:58

Mile 2 – 8:45

Mile 3 – 8:40

I didn’t look at my garmin until Mile 3, and I wish I hadn’t looked. I saw 8:40 and allowed myself to sit comfortably for the next two miles since I was happy with that time.  I told myself I would pick it up for the last 1.2 miles.

Mile 4 – 8:49

Mile 5 – 8:46

My new running buddy said she was going to fall back for the final stretch, but thanked me for letting her shadow my run.

Mile 6 – 8:24

Final Stretch – 7:35 pace

Official Race Time: 54:22

Garmin Time: 6.36 54:27 (8:40 pace)

I wasn’t expecting to see anyone along the course this year since Christian was out of town. When I heard my name just before the finish line, I was shocked to see my dad and Cole cheering me on. They gave me a huge burst of energy to knock a few seconds off the race clock. My final kick to the finish line felt amazing. When I saw the 6 mile marker, I knew I had 2/10ths of mile. Two minutes is what I told myself (although not really). I run two-minute intervals in speed training with my coach all the time. I knew I could pick it up and finish strong.

I crossed the finish line smiling from ear to ear. A new PR, a light heart, and a strong run. This run is easily one of the most consistent, evenly paced runs I’ve ever completed. That makes me happy too!

Happy! Happy!

Happy! Happy!

On my recovery run on Sunday, my brain jumped from thought to thought. Mentally I’ve turned a corner in my running. After Shamrock I was so determined to fight for the new goals I had set for myself, I was focusing on where I want to be with my running. I’m nowhere near that goal yet, so mentally it can become exhausting and deflating to constantly feel like you are falling short of a goal. Crawlin Crab was a result of that mind-set. My 16 mile run last week was the turning point  – the talk with my husband, all the work I’m doing in Brene Brown’s course, and finally embracing my marathon training – all led to the change. Instead of focusing on where I want to end up, I’m embracing where I’m at right now. The growth I’ve made is proof that I’ll continue to grow (with time and patience) into the person and the runner that can put a check mark next to my dream big goals.

Two years ago, breaking 1 hour in a 10k seemed like a far stretch. One year ago, I shocked myself with a 56 minute finish at the Wicked 10k. I thought that PR would be impossible to break because that race was a perfect race. This year I crossed the finish line in 54 minutes with a rather conservative output (I need more race experience with the 10k!!). Progress! I’m moving forward and that makes me so happy.

How did my mom do this year? AMAZING! She left everything on the course and came in at 1:25. I went back and found her after my run and ran a few blocks with her. She was exhausted and giving it everything she had. I hope she knows that the fight I have in me (that she praises all the time) came from her. I saw it in action on Saturday. My happy, happy mom was on the course fighting to make herself proud (and her family too!).

Cole also invited me to run the Monster Mile with him. That fight that my mom has inside her, Cole has it inside him too. Once we made our way around all the cute toddlers on the course, the boy flew. His run pace was a 7:17 mile. I had a hard time keeping up with him. When the finish line came in sight, I told him it was right in front of him. I was probably encouraging myself more than I was encouraging him. He told me he saw it, and he wasn’t slowing down.  Official Race time for him was 8:49. Maybe next year another little monster of mine will be on the race course too!

Live Love Run

Live Love Run

Happy is the only word I can find that does justice to how I feel about this race, my running, and life lately. Giving myself permission to live with a light heart has truly impact everything in my day to day life!

19 days until the Richmond Marathon!!!

Read more race reports here too:

The super fast fun loving Hollie’s Report (She’s running New York this weekend too!)

Shine on.

Where to begin? So much has occurred in my absence on my blog, I don’t know where to start.

Marathon – I decided to drop back to the half marathon because my body wasn’t responding well to the miles. Nothing felt right. My head and heart weren’t committed to the training. I came home and went online to drop back. I had missed the deadline.

Marriage – My husband was out-of-town when I made my decision to drop back to the half marathon. We fought before he went out-of-town. We have been in a funk: Nothing big just all the little things in life snowballed into a lot of stress. When he got home, we knew we needed to talk. He is the king of patience. Somehow after the conversation went from good to ugly in a moment, he was able to break it down into very simple terms. We both want and need to feel more love. We are both existing in a life bubble that just keeps moving. We were living side by side instead of hand in hand. This we can fix. Hand and hand is what we are good at.

Marathon – When we talked about my race, he was disappointed. He thought I was giving up on myself.

Me – Reconnecting with my husband cracked my heart wide open in the best possible way. It exposed patterns in my behavior. It brought me back to life.

All of this brought me to Monday. I was back. I was ready to recommit to my marathon training. I was ready to take the good with the bad and piece together the best possible race for me in the time I have left before race day.

All of this brought me to my latest adventure too. On Monday, I began a new e-course with Brene Brown. It’s based on her book The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s full of online videos, daily assignments, intention setting, and journaling.

I cringed when I saw the journal assignments. It wasn’t just written word. It was arts and crafts. It was drawing and creating. It was expression in its rawest form. The first page of the journal was a permission slip to ourselves. When facing fear, I give myself permission to….

I give myself permission to live with a light heart.

When life gets hard, when things get tough, when I become afraid, I become heavy. I sink. I guard my heart. I protect myself. These are all my patterns. Allowing myself to continue forward even when I’m facing fear with a light heart is exactly what I need. It’s not a nature response for me, but it is what I’m choosing. I will still continue down the same road but I won’t carry burden with me.

All of these led me to today. I took a vacation day from work. I met my coach. I ran with a light heart: same road but no burden to carry. 16 miles later I arrived back at my car with exhausted legs, screaming muscles, and the lightest, happiest heart. I felt alive. The first 11 miles flew by. I was in cruise control. Things got tough when I hit the trail again, but I kept going. I didn’t crumble. That arts and crafts project I questioned in my class, it is brilliant. Its more than just words. I actually created the world I want to see. The visual I created was on the front of my brain the entire run. I could see my words. I could feel them. When things got really tough, I was able to lift myself back up. I finished strong. I finished proud. I finished with a light heart.

Marathon – I’m back! Training hasn’t been and won’t be ideal, but my heart is committed. My heart is alive and ready to run!

Marriage – My husband is back out-of-town. He is in Belgium on a beer trip for work. His absences from my day makes my heart ache, but that is okay. He’s having the time of his life, and I can’t wait to wrap my arms around him. Hand and hand, we are back and we are committed to being aware of our love for each other.

Me – I’m amazed by life. I’m amazed at how much I’m rooted in my love for my husband. I’m amazed by the fact that I can create my own path. I can choose my life. I can make these dreams come true.

I’m in love with life right now. I got a message from a friend today. It was a wonderful reminder that when life gets crazy (and it will always get crazy), when it becomes a whirlwind, you just have to hang on. You have to breathe. When the dust settles, life is pretty bright on the other side.

20131023-220745.jpg

We also snuck away for a little mountain vacation!

Long Run:

Nutrition – english muffin with nutella 2 hours before run. GU with caffeine 15 minutes before start. Gu at mile 5 and mile 11.

Route – 1.6 miles to trail, 3.5 miles along trail, to boardwalk until mile 7.5, back through princess anne hills (hilly 1 mile loop), hit trail at mile 11, last 1.6 back on road.  16.05 miles, 7 miles of trails, 1 mile of hills.

Run got hard when I hit the trail at mile 11. Walked briefly at mile 13.5.

2:30:51, 9:24 pace

9:26, 9:18, 9:04, 9:08, 9:08, 8:59, 9:14, 9:06, 9:10, 9:08, 9:21, 9:51, 10:01, 10:53 (walk included in time), 9:58, 8:57