Living the Layers: Stuck

I made a promise to myself. In this new chapter, I’d learn to Live the Layers. I’d remember what makes me feel alive. I’d embrace the change. I wouldn’t allow myself to shrink or hide. I wouldn’t strip myself of all the layers I love when life felt overwhelming or like it was too much.

I’ve held on to this philosophy. This is a huge win for me because if you ask my husband, he will quickly tell you I’m the first to “sink the ship”. When life gets tough, I have a habit of adding water to my sinking ship. If it’s going to sink, I might as well help it.

From day one at my new job, I fell into my new routine. I held on to my running. I held on to nutrition. I held on to family time. When asked How’s it going?, I struggled to respond. It has just felt easy. It’s felt right. My new job and my new team fit perfectly in my life.

But I’ve been stuck.

It’s not the new job or my running. It’s not what I eat or how I spend my free time. It’s me. I’m stuck.

I’ve got the details figured out, but I’m stuck in my own head and in my own emotions. It is me that has become too much. It’s my thoughts and my feelings that I want to desperately turn off. How many times this summer have I wanted to scream why do I feel everything so intensely? How many times this summer have I finished (or given up) a run wishing I’d find my mental game again. How many times this summer have I laid in bed feeling my ship sinking desperately trying to not add water to my downward spiral? I’ve lost count.

Last night was the kickoff of for Thursday night tempo runs for the fall training season. It was hot. I felt heavy. My head and heart were consumed by feelings. My run didn’t go as planned. My head didn’t win the mental battle.

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This is summer. Every single summer, this rings true for running and for my life. When it’s hot, I become heavy.

This is where I’m at – hot, heavy and stuck – desperately waiting for the season to change.

While I wait, I keep revisiting that promise I made to myself. I will keep living my layers. I will keep showing up. I will keep running. I will keep nourishing my body. I will not shrink. I will not hide. I can’t because the moment that I do, I’ve given up on myself, on my dreams, and on my potential.

I keep repeating my mantra: I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful.

It is not easy. There I days it would be so easy to sink my own ship. There are days I want to quit fighting myself. There are days I want to just give in because not caring, not dreaming, and not striving seems so much easier than digging deep for my own internal strength.

But that isn’t who I am. For better or for worse, this is who I am. This is how I’m wired. I am a dreamer. I feel things sometimes too intensely. Right now I feel hot, heavy and stuck, but I know if I keeping striving the feeling that is waiting for me is flight. 

Some how I forgot how to use my wings this summer. I’ve been consumed by feeling hot, heavy and stuck. 

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Working on getting there

Race Recap: Allen Stone 5k

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.” ~Haruki Murakami


The truth is I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past few weeks – a summer fog. It happens every summer. I wilt. My head and heart struggle. I feel slightly disengaged and slightly overwhelmed. I can’t tell you what causes is it, but I can tell you it’s become way too familiar when the summer heat becomes prevelant. 

The only thing I know to do is to move through it. 

The Allen Stone 5k was the race I was looking forward to all summer. It was supposed to be the finish line after an intense focus on speed for twelve weeks. The training plan I created (with the help of Run Less Run Faster) is still taped to my fridge without one workout completed. 

Life has seasons, and I knew this wasn’t my season to focus on training. I’ve run when I’ve felt like it. I’ve slept in. I’ve taken afternoon naps. I’ve prioritized strength training over running miles. I know this is what I needed. I know this will reward me in the fall. 

But today was race day. I almost didn’t sign up because I knew it wouldn’t be the race I had envisioned. On Thursday I finally signed up. The only way to combat my summer blues is to move through it. I’d feel worse if I didn’t show up. 

“This is not the moment to wilt into the underbrush of your insecurities. You’ve earned the right to grow.” ~Cheryl Strayed

I had one goal for this race: fight. 

After walking in my last 5k, that wasn’t an option. Regardless of pace, I needed to fight for my potential. 

Mile 1: 8:18

This mile felt like it lasted forever. The fog I’ve been feeling followed me on to the race course. My quiet mantra for the rest of the race emerged: fight for it. Don’t give in. Fight to hang on. 

Mile 2: 8:48

Mile 3: 9:02

Final kick: 7:15 pace

The race felt overwhelmingly quiet. I ran by myself for most of the race. While I looked for someone to race, I seemed to be stuck in no mans land the whole race. 

Official finish: 27:02, 4th in my age group


The finish line was neither disappointing or satisfying. While I’m proud of my ability to hang on when I just wasn’t feeling it, I’m more than ready for this fog to move on. I’m ready for my next season. 

It’s only July, and I’m already craving fall temperatures and running. 

I’ll keep plugging away. I’ll keeping pushing through. Because I’m determined to not get stuck in this middle. 

I’ve got my eyes on another 5k before our fall training team kicks off Harbor Lights Half Marathon training on August 16th. One more race to help build a solid foundation for fall. 

Challenging Why

When you surround yourself with the right people, conversations you need to have find you.

Last Wednesday morning, I dragged Chet out of bed to run an early morning 5k on the boardwalk. It was hot. He is getting heavy. As I made my way to the start line, I dragged my feet a little. As my friend walked beside me, she laughed. Why wouldn’t I go out there and have fun? Why wouldn’t I enjoy pushing Chet in the stroller knowing our days of running together may slowly disappear? Why wouldn’t I make the best of the day and the experience? 

It was the smack I needed to change mental gears for this 5k. Racing wasn’t invited. Running and smiling was encouraged. 

Official time: 33:22, 10:45 pace


Thursday night was a similar story. Our training team was hosting a happy hour run to build excitement for the fall training team. As a pacer, I’d be leading a group of runners. It was hot. The air was thick. A 9 minute mile felt nearly impossible for the summer. 

I gave myself the same peptalk I received the morning before. Why wouldn’t I make the best of the scenario? Why wouldn’t I embrace pacing? Why wouldn’t I enjoy the heat with so many new and familiar faces?

Four steamy miles later, we all celebrated with beers and fish tacos. 

Garmin run time: 36:36, 9:09 pace 


This slight shift in mentality is working for me. When the negative self talk kicks in, I’m no longer trying to silence it. I’m challenging it. 

I read an article recently by Devon Yanko (read it HERE). As she described her journey to be a better runner, I found myself nodding along. Then she wrote something, I can’t stop thinking about. 

“Slowly, gently and almost imperceptible over the month that I have been training in Tahoe, I challenged my habit of self-deprication, self-loathing, chronic self-doubt and hurt. Thoughts would come up and instead of indulging them, I would crush them with a sometime audible, WHY? There was never a good reason. And I found peace and maybe some love for myself, possible for the first time ever.”

During this period of transition in my life, I’ve thought a lot about my why. What motivates me. What inspires me. What makes me feel alive. Why does all of this matter. These thoughts have always brought me to the place I belong. 

While I know I’ve grown tremendously in so many aspects of my life, I’m still waiting for my breakthrough race. I know I’m still sitting on the edge of my potential. 

The only thing holding me back is me. WHY?

I have a few weeks before fall training begins (and I start a new job. More details soon!). These next few weeks will be a celebration. Running and smiling is welcomed. When those pesky moments of self doubt creep in, you may hear me ask why out loud. 

Everything I’ve learned about myself this year needs to shine through my running. I’ve said it so many times, it is time for me to embrace it. These legs have so much to give if I’d quit holding myself back! 

CXB Low Rent 5k – Race Recap

Simply put, I loved this race. I loved the course. I loved the neighborhood feel. I loved the camaraderie. I loved the start and finish at Commonwealth Brewing. 

And I loved my approach. 

I went into this race wanting a PR. The last two 5ks have left me satisfied, but this race I wanted more. I was going to go after that dusty 5k. Sub 8 pace or bust. 

Bust won this race. The story is probably told best in numbers. 

Mile 1 – 7:55

Mile 2 – 8:38

Mile 3 – 9:07

Final push – 6:49 pace

Walk breaks – 3

Official Results – 5k, 25:56, 8:21 average pace

Bust may have won this race over a personal best, but I’m walking away the real winner. 

I went for it. I finished with my 2nd best 5k time, and I walked 3 times. Normally I’d be mad at those walk breaks. Not this time. This time all I see and feel is potential. I just needed to clean up my race, and I’ll come home with a new gold star. 

It’s in me. I have a personal best and so much more ready for me to claim it. 

Next up: Allen Stone 5k on July 16th (unless I get impatient) 

Defining Strength

Last October I crossed the finish line of the Chicago Marathon with a renewed love of running. I struggled emotionally through the entire training cycle. I cried during long runs by mile two. I questioned my strength, my ability and my worth. Over the course of 26.2 miles, I picked up all the broken pieces. I put myself back together. 

While I finished the race feeling whole, my body felt weak. Physically I lacked strength. When race photos were delivered, I was shocked by my appearance. It wasn’t a reflection of me (but maybe it was). My body caved in on itself. I folded in at my shoulders. My body was sinking. 


A new chapter began. I was on a quest to find my strength. I would become the one thing I’ve always doubted about myself. I would become strong. It was time to tell myself something new:

I am strong. 

It started as a physical quest. I joined a local gym (Evofit). Like all great transformations, working out has little to do with me physically. In this new space, my strength is becoming deeply rooted in my being. 

During the first week of April, I sat on the floor of the gym exhausted by the workout. In my training log, I wrote down the daily workout. Out of curiosity, I looked backwards. In March, I completed four workouts. In February, I completed two workouts. In January, four. In December, five. A seed was planted. Could I workout more during the first week of April than all of March? Could I workout more during April than the combined total since I joined the gym? I love a good challenge. My mission was set. 

The first week I was in class every day. On Friday, I celebrated. My body ached more than it has ever ached. Muscles hurt that I didn’t know I possessed. The trend continued. Every day I showed up. I finished April with twenty workouts in my training log. 


I’m carrying this new pattern with me through summer. Evofit sessions are the thing I log most on Strava. Running has taken a back burner. 

Through this process, I’m becoming aware of so much. By making an area of weakness my priority, I’m growing. I’m seeing myself from a different perspective. 

My greatest weakness was my weakness. My weakness is everything I saw in my pictures from Chicago. It’s caving in. It’s folding in on myself. It’s sinking. Physically. Emotionally. This is when I start to fall apart, and Evofit is showing me how to stay strong when this happens. 

While I’m finding a new physical strength that has me feeling stronger and running faster, it also has me standing taller. On days when I’m sinking, I now have a place to go that makes me feel strong. 

This journey to define my strength isn’t just bringing attention to areas of growth. It is also casting a spotlight on what has always made me strong. My strength has nothing to do with how many pounds I can lift or how quickly I can row 500 meters. The strength I’ve had inside of me this entire time is my ability to take on a challenge and welcome change. My strength is my ability to combine all aspects of growth and change. Transformation has to take place on every level, and I embrace this. 

Physically I’m changing, but this change is so much more than physical. This new chapter has exposed me to a brand new place to call home. 

“We can’t be brave in the big world without at least one small space to work through our fears and falls.” ~Brene Brown

How lucky am I that my space to work through all my fears and falls is my own body! 

Chicago Marathon (October). ODU 5k (April). Corpoate 5k (May).

Corporate 5k – People, Puddles and Purpose

Running is my therapy. Being on the trails feeds my soul. But racing! Racing is a different story. Racing always leaves me feeling vulnerable and exposed. I show up to every start line committed to giving it my best on that day, yet there is so much you can’t control. Some race finishes leave me feeling triumphant while other races leave me feeling like I’m face down in a mud puddle. 

I’m on a quest this summer to conquer the 5k PR I set in November 2013. The time to beat is 24:50 (7:59 pace). My plan is simple. Get strong. Run a 5k a month. Grab a new PR before I start training for half marathons this fall. 

Yesterday I ran my May 5k at the inaugural J&A Racing Corporate 5k. This race was a little different than most 5ks in the area. With a focus on employee wellness and corporate involvement, it was a 5k race after work with a tailgate party to follow. The race kicked off at 6:30pm just outside our local baseball stadium. 

I had all day to be nervous. I had all day to come up with scenarios of success and failure. Would I finish feeling triumphant or would I finish face down in the mud?

After a gentle reminder to let go of outcome expectations, I took a few deep breaths and made a mental list of my own expectations. What was I hoping to achieve?

  • Run faster than ODU 5k
  • Feel strong
  • Feel healthy 
  • Run mentally strong

There is a reason my 5k PR is nearly three years old. There were a few years where I mentally struggled with racing. I was afraid to get uncomfortable. I shut down when it got hard. I may still be wiping some of that mud off my face. All day I felt vulnerable and exposed. Would I end up back in the mud puddle after I’ve worked so hard to lift myself out of it. 

When I arrived in the parking lot of the race, rain decided to welcome me. It was nothing like a typical day in May in Virginia. Cold, wet and windy. My nerves would not relax. 

Rain or shine, I was running. Good day or bad, I was going to run with all I had to give. It was time to race. 

“I believe that vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy.” ~Brene Brown

With three great friends by my side, the race was off. The start was incredibly congested. Puddles filled the streets. My own personal game of leap frog started my race off strong. 

Mile 1 – 8:24

Mile 1 arrived, and I felt great. Had I gone out too slow? My good friend Karen stuck by my side for the race. She knew my goal was to run faster than a 8:30 pace. With her on pacing duties, I promised to not look at my watch once. There is no room for second guessing in a 5k.  Keep running hard. 


Mile 2 – 8:24

With little running since Shamrock, I was shocked by how good my cardio felt. My quads were burning, but my entire body felt engaged. Instead of focusing on what hurt, I focused on what felt strong. 

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. 

Mile 3 – 8:22

With the finish literally around the corner (around the baseball stadium straight towards home plate), I just focused on holding on. 
Final stretch – 7:42 pace 

Garmin finish – 3.22 miles, 26:51 (8:20 pace) 

Official finish – 5k, 26:52 (8:39 pace

Love hearing him announce my name at the finish

While the official time is a few seconds slower than the ODU 5k, the course was longer. The growth is clearly there. My pacing (and pacer) was perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever run a race this consistent. My body feels strong. My confidence is growing. 

This race was a huge win! 

Pushing through the fear of the unknown, of expectations, and discomfort is worth it every time. Sometimes you do end up face down in the mud, but sometimes you soar! Showing up and giving your best is only way to learn to fly. 

My Evofit Family

ODU Big Blue 5k – Trust my Legs 

“Life isn’t as serious as my mind makes it out to be.” ~Eckhart Tolle 

As soon as the Shamrock Half Marathon was over, I was ready to switch gears. My body was pretty banged up after the race, so I happily entered into recovery mode. I made a plan to aim for a 5k PR (current PR: 24:50) for the summer. My plan is simple: less running, more strength training. When it became clear that my right side from my hip down to my foot wasn’t happy about running, I turned all my energy to my new found love: my gym. For the past two weeks, I have attended class every day Monday through Friday, and I’m becoming slightly addicted. 

Evofit has been my greatest surprise in my fitness journey. I’ve never felt comfortable in a gym. Weights have always intimidated me. I’ve never felt strong. While I’ve tip toed into this new space over the past few months, the past two weeks I’ve dove in head first. 

 

working out beside my hubby
 
I signed up for the ODU Big Blue 5k as part of Evofit. As race day approached, I was incredibly nervous. Since April 1st, I’ve run twice. The first run was a disaster. The second run was nice and easy to prove that I could breathe while running. My running fitness seemed to be slipping further and further away. 

All week was a mental battle. Am I healthy enough to run? Can I let my ego go and run hard regardless of pace? My biggest fear was that hard effort would result in a slow (for me) pace. 

Race morning arrived, and I was still battling my ego. The last thing I wanted from this race was to walk away disappointed. I laid on my couch (thanks to a 10:30am start time) and had to will myself to get ready. As I put on my Evofit tank top, I reminded myself I owe it to myself and to everyone who supports me to run hard. Pace doesn’t matter. It’s an outcome, but effort I can control. 

My one and only goal: run hard. 

 

Evofit Family
 
I know I’m not in PR shape so that was never part of my thought process. I had hoped I would run 8s. I really didn’t want to be slower than shamrock. I really really wanted my body to feel engaged. 

As I lined up in corral two I found two teammates from J&A Racing that I knew would have a good day. We all agreed that a great day would be under 27 minutes, but would be happy with 28 minutes. None of us wanted to see above 30 (and in my moments of doubt, I thought this could be my reality). 

Janet pulled us out fast. Stay with her. Breath. Relax. It’s a 5k. It should feel fast. Don’t look at your garmin. Today isn’t about pace. It’s about effort. You’re working hard. 

Mile 1: 8:28

Relax. Relax. Don’t panic. Just run. Get to mile 2. 

Mile 2: 8:23

Get to the water stop. Drink. Move. Relax. Relax. Relax. 

Mile 3: 8:48

Holy crap this is hard. 

Final push: 8:18 pace 

Official Results: 26:44, average pace 8:37

 

Finishing on the 50 yard line of the football field
 
Today’s course covered 3.1 miles around my college campus. While I expected to take a walk down memory lane, I don’t remember any of the course with the exception of the fountain. I was so focused on running and remaining relaxed, I don’t think I looked up more than once or twice. 

Once again race day delivered exactly what I needed. While I have a few physical goals I’d like to meet by end of summer, my mental game has been on point this year. As someone who has mentally struggled with racing for a good two years, I can’t help but smile. Knowing I brought my best (even relucantly) gives me a nice dose of confidence that I can preform on race day even if everything isn’t ideal. My legs know how to run. My heads back in the game. It’s time to start trusting them. 

A 26:44 5k and a strong mental game is the perfect kick off to a summer of speed and strength. 

 

#runawayweekend

 

Chet and Christian joined me on race day too. Chet was thrilled to see a football field. When I asked him what he thought of my race, he responded in true Chet fashion: everyone beat you. You came in last.  Another lesson learned. Next time I’m making Chet stay to watch the real last finisher. 

 

Chet Monster
 
Actual results:

Overall: 295 of 1960

Female: 76 of 1146

Female age group: 14 of 150

Focused and Free, Shamrock Half Marathon 2016 

In a million ways yesterday was a perfect race. I ran to my potential based on what race day had to offer.  I felt strong and engaged. Mentally I found my sweet spot. 

In one way yesterday’s race fell a little flat. The race clock doesn’t match my potential. 

The story of the race clock goes back long before this race. My quest for a sub 2 hour half marathon started two and a half years ago. At the crawlin crab half marathon in 2013 (Read it here). I lined up ready to break two hours. I failed miserably. When my miles started to fall off pace a few miles into the race, I threw in the towel. I quit, and I finished the race feeling miserable about my ability. 

My second focused attempt at breaking two hours was at the Flying Pirate Half Marathon (Read it here), I showed up more than ready. Again I failed miserably. When my paces fell off, I gave up on the race. I gave up on myself. 

A few injuries, a few marathons, and a few life changes have happened over the last two and a half years, but the one thing that has remained consistent was my quest for sub 2. My training runs resulted in sub 2 13.1 miles, but it’s never translated to race day. This year felt like a no brainer. I showed up at the start line with three goals in my head:

A Goal: 8:xx pace overall 

B Goal: Sub 2 

C Goal: Do not give up on my race. 

For most, the C goal would have been a PR. For most there would be a drastic difference between Goal B and C but for me, it’s what I needed. My head tends to be all or nothing. I knew if I saw sub 2 fading away, my biggest challenge would be to keep my head in the game. Could I fight for a finish that had nothing to do with the time clock? 

Sunday delivered a day that was the perfect test of my strength. A Nor’easter by the name of Winter Storm Regis showed up on the first day of spring. It poured until about half way into the race. The winds fought back with gusts averaging 35mph. This was the day we were given to run, and I embraced it. Everyone was running the same race. 

I started the race with a few of the runners from our training team and the 2 hour pacers. For the first 4 miles I sat comfortably at the back of the pack (note to self: race day pace groups are not for me). There was way too much nervous energy and anticipation in the large pace group for me to feel comfortable settling into my own run. I could feel everyone’s emotions but my own. 

8:56, 9:18, 9:14, 9:16

By mile 5 I knew I needed to let the group go. I was using too much energy to stay attached to their pacing signs. I also needed to adjust my sock since my foot had started to bleed. I used the waterstop to adjust both my sock and my place on the race course. 

9:49

I let the pacers go knowing they would come back to me when the wind was at my back. I kept running north embracing the wind, and I finally felt myself mentally settle. 

9:19

Fort story can be a beast. The winds blow hard, and there were many times I felt myself stumble. I focused on the little things for the next three miles. Get to the water stop. Find the lighthouse. Get off the base. Go see my husband. 

9:20

9:34

9:44

I didn’t look at my watch once during the race for many reasons, but I knew this race was a race that wouldn’t be defined by the race clock. I knew I needed to focus on my C Goal. I needed to fight for my finish regardless of time. I needed to fight just for me. 

As I made the turn back on to Atlantic Avenue, I knew Christian would be there. Having just mentally conquered the hardest part of the course, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was proud of me. I knew at this point the 2 hour group wasn’t coming back to me. No excuses. No reasons to quit. I arrived to Christian a puddle of tears. I mumbled a quick “I’m okay,” and I kept running. He biked beside me for a block or two. He updated me on my friends. I then sent him on his way to the final turn. I needed to own my mental space on this run. I needed this race to belong to me. 

9:09

9:36

10:13 

I ran as fast as my legs would let. After a long stretch of focusing on one block at a time, I made it to the boardwalk. The finish line was waiting for me. 

Focused and free, I fully embraced the last mile of this race. As the finish line got closer and closer, my sweet friend Catrina popped out with open arms ready to support me. It was the best surprise of the day, and I welcomed a congratulatory embrace. 

Without a doubt, I had just finished one of my best mental races. 

Official finish time – 2:04:03

“Ask nothing from your running, and you’ll get more than you ever imagined!” ~Christophet McDougall

  

A Shamrock Story 

It’s race week. The lead up to this race has had its own story to tell just like every other race except this one feels different. This one belongs only to me. 

With a brand new blank slate to write my own story, I’ve been left with only my wants, my passion, my desire and my fears. It’s been a tug-of-war battle between all the voices in my head. 

With five days until race day, today may forever be marked as the day I wrote the draft for the next phase of my life. Of all days, today should be the day. 

At 7:13 this morning the sun rose. At 7:13 tonight the sun will set. Today is the day that my tiny piece of the world is perfectly balanced.  To celebrate, I went for a run. Three easy miles down a favorite trail and up and over a bridge that’s crosses the point where the Chesapeake bay meets the waterways inland. I was surrounded by beauty and balance. The trail is becoming green as spring makes itself know to our coastal city. 

 

pleasure house point
 
 Today is the day that there is equal amounts of light and dark. Tomorrow the light takes over. 

The run felt fluid. My legs felt strong. 

 

view from the top
 
 After my run, I indulged in a lunch date with two powerhouse ladies. We discussed race plans and dreams. We shared fears and life stories. During the three hour lunch, my brain ran circles around possibilities. This race is different than any other race I’ve run for one simple reason. 

Running has always healed me. It’s always pieced me back together. Every single time I’ve run shamrock, I was piecing myself back together. 

2010 – the year I ran to prove I was capable

2011 – the year I cheered from the sidelines with a stress fracture 

2012 – the year I ran to prove I could be more than a newborn mom

2013 – the year I ran my first marathon with a grieving heart (cancer sucks!)

2014 – the year I ran to prove I could come back from injury 

2015 – the year I ran to fall in love with racing again 

I always perceived myself to be broken. 

2016 is different. 2016 is the year I write my own story. This blank slate is giving me the opportunity to launch myself down whatever path I choose. There is no heartache to overcome. There is nothing to heal, fix or piece together. I am whole. 

All I have to do on race day is show up, silence the fears in my head, and run myself to finish line. Every year I’ve ran broken and got to the finished feeling healed. This year I’m showing up to the finish line whole, and I will finish the race whole. 

This year I’m giving myself permission to be unbreakable. 

tonight’s sunset