Connection

Training for Chicago has been a constant struggle of highs and lows and rarely anything in between. Last Tuesday I finished my strongest workout so far this training cycle. I felt strong, confident and in control the entire run. The numbers on my garmin reflected my confidence in this workout. I felt on top of the world. 

Tuesday: 8×800 – 8:27 pace, 7:59, 7:54, 7:42, 7:41, 7:39, 7:34, 7:17

 

Sunrise Finish Line

 
I carried that confidence straight into my work day. It followed me to my yoga class after work. Everything felt perfectly in place as I relaxed into happy baby pose on my yoga mat. I moved through each pose welcoming the tension and welcoming the release. While laying in pigeon pose every inch of my body connected with the ground beneath me. I felt alive. When it was time to offer up gratitude in class my heart whispered “connection”. I was so thankful for the connection to the ground beneath me, to the countries I work with every day, to the amazing teams I find myself apart of at work, to my relationship with my running coach, and to the support of my family. My heart felt deeply connected. 

Wednesday morning I got out of my car at work, and my hip buckled. My body screamed “ouch”. I shuffled into the office, and I went about my day. I forgot about my hip until I tried to run with Chet that night. Two blocks from my house, my hip reminded me it wasn’t happy. I walked. I started again, and I quickly stopped again. I know better than to run through this pain. 

Wednsday: .25 miles 

Thursday: cancelled tempo run (per coaches orders)

Friday: Rest Day 

Saturday morning I woke up with little discomfort in my hip and headed to a 5k race. I had high hopes for the race. A PR doesn’t feel out of my grasp. A strong headwind on the way out and a blazing hot sun on the way back made for an incredibly uncomfortable race, but since my hip was comfortable I decided comfort was the place for me. 

Saturday: Six miles including a 5k (28:02) 

 

Warm Up Miles with the Sunrise

 
Even though I didn’t care about that race and even though I didn’t put effort into the run, my ego was still slightly bruised. 

Sunday morning didn’t go according to plan. By noon I hadn’t run my planned 18 miles and it wasn’t looking hopeful for the rest of the day. As I sorted through Cole’S collection of way too small clothing, I panicked. I wished there was a half marathon option in Chicago. I’m really good at running 14 miles. This week had fallen apart. I went from having best run to the worst week. I missed every run but a crappy 5k. 

As I slowly unravelled, I reminded myself: 

Inhale. Exhale. 

I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful. 

By 4pm the house had settled, and I had an opportunity to run. It wasn’t ideal, but I could get in some miles. I could chase the sunset. 

The run started off with ease. I navigated my favorite path along Shore Drive into the trails at Pleasure House Point. With the bay and the sun setting to my right, the heat of the day started to get the best of me. By mile 4 I was ready to jump off the bridge into the bay. In a desperate attempt to silence my head and to release the tension from my forehead, I pulled out my headphones to add music to my run. As I approached the Cape Henry Trail, I realized the magic I lost on the run came from inside of me. The magic of my running comes from connecting. I cheered on the mom pushing her son. I greeted all the locals out for an evening walk. I got out of my head and connected to the world around me. The paved path turned into trails and the miles flew by. 

 

Finding my Wings

 
As I retraced my steps back to my car, I celebrated the magic of each step. I celebrated the connections this marathon has brought into my life. I chased the setting sun. 

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” ~Brené Brown

This marathon cycle has shown me just how much I thrive on feeling connected. I am my best self when I feel connected to those around me. I preform my best work when I feel connected. My strength comes from connection. 

Knowing exactly what I need to be my best self and having a tool to make it possible -This is the gift of a marathon. 

 

My Heart needed this One

 
Sunday: 18 miles – 9:22, 9:28, 9:46, 9:39, 9:06, 9:37, 9:39, 9:41, 10:03, 11:16, 9:35, 9:31, 9:32, 9:27, 9:04, 9:02, 9:17, 9:29

A Life Mediation

“I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful.”

Tuesday I made it to my favorite yoga class. It’s been nearly two years since I went to a class at this studio. Yin yoga is exactly what  I always need in my life. It’s about learning how to sit comfortably on my edge, it’s about relaxing in uncomfortable poses, and it’s about finding space in tight areas. It’s physical. It’s mental. It’s emotional. 

Friday night my sleep was filled with dreams. In the midst of the chaos, I wandered hallways knowing Cole was supposed to be starting Middle School but I forgot. I forgot because I was also starting something new. We were supposed to be doing it together, but I forgot about his new start. 

Sunday morning my plans for a log run quickly changed. I stayed closer to home. Knowing my body wasn’t feeling as best as it could that day, I made every effort to run comfortably. I wanted to ease into my run. I wanted to enjoy each mile. 

Long Creek Trail

“I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful.”

This was the mantra for Tuesday’s yoga class. In the middle of summer heat, this can be a hard mantra to hold on to. In the midst of finding my edge, this can be a hard mantra to embrace. In the midst of change, this can be a hard mantra to embody. But I whispered it to myself. I reminded myself. 

During a toe squat, sweat started to roll down my back. I felt every portion of my foot expanding and stretching. When I let my brain relax, I found more space. When I focused on my breath, my heart rate settled. 

After my dreams of being unprepared for middle school, I did my homework. I pulled up the school website and added important dates to my calander. I am trying to prepare myself, but I’m not ready. I’m not ready for this leap of growth in Cole’s life. Do I walk him to the bus stop? Does he want me at open house? Cole is inching away from me, and I just want to hold him close. 

Marathon training is reaching its peak. I’m almost to the peak of my mileage and my workouts. It’s hard. My legs are always tired. I question whether I have more to give, but I keep going. 

 

Sunrise Running


 
“I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful.”

Yoga. Parenting. Running. They are all the same. They are all part of my life mediation.  They are all part of my life process. They are all part of my growth. 

“If our goal is perfection rather than growth, it is unlikely that we are willing to go back, because it requires a level of self-empathy—the ability to look at our own actions with understanding and compassion; to understand our experiences in the context in which they happened and to do all this without judgment. I call this ability to reflect on our own actions with empathy “grounding.” ~Brene Brown

Yoga. Parenting. Running. They all ground me deeply in my own life. When I find my edge, I seek comfort. When I get uncomfortable, I need to relax. When I find myself in a tight spot, I need to focus on my breath. Inhaling. Exhaling. 

“I am calm. I am cool. I am peaceful.”

Spiral

I didn’t run last weekend. Not one single mile. I was exhausted, achy, and mentally shut down. I slept all day Sunday. I knew Monday would be a fresh start. I’d ease back into a big training week. Tuesday and Wednesday my runs felt great. Thursday I fell apart. 

Tuesday: 7 sunrise miles, 9:23 pace

Wednesday: 6 sunset miles pushing the stroller, 9:57 pace

Thursday: 5.5 miles, 4 tempo miles interrupted by tears, 8:35 pace

Saturday morning I woke up to a severe weather alert and lightning outside my bedroom window. I slept for two more hours before heading out for my run. 

The weather I was greeted by as I walked out my door is the weather I dream about: cooler temps, a light rain, and a wild wind. I was so excited to run. I ran along the Chesapeake Bay, along the trails in Pleasure House Point, and over the Lesner Bridge. Ever step along the way felt like a celebration. Every gust of wind gave me energy. This is why I run!

Saturday: 6 miles, 9:12 pace

  
Sunday I had 16 miles scheduled. 16 has become my new normal. It’s never easy. I haven’t felt strong on many of my long runs lately. When I got an invite to join a few friends on a new trail Sunday morning, I quickly said yes. I’ve missed the support that running can deliver. I’ve missed the encouragement of running beside someone. 

The first five mile loop, six of us ran stride for stride. Six sets of legs. 12 feet. It was awesome to be back. The second five mile loop we ended up in groups of two. I ran with a new friend. I got to learn another person’s story. I got to see the strength of someone new. 

The last six miles we left the trail behind and ran neighborhood streets. At mile 12, I felt the familiar pinch in my hip. I encourage everyone to go ahead because I want to stretch out my hip flexors. I thought I’d catch up. Instead I took a wrong turn. I got lost inside the country  club. I finished up with nearly 17 miles on my garmin. This is why I run. 

Sunday: 16.73 miles, 10:35 pace

  
Last Sunday as I slept the day away, I felt myself get caught in a downward spiral. I felt myself sinking beneath my blankets. Insecurities bubbled to the surface and leaked out of every achy joint. 

I didn’t want to follow this path. I didn’t want to get caught in the downward spiral. After 24 hours of sleep refreshed my body, I was determined to make this week a success. In the mist of creating my own upward spiral, a friend shared words I needed to read. 

“That’s the thing about shame spirals, I realized. No one wants to get sucked down in to one but in reality they are more like roto-rooters if you look at it that way. They are cleaning things out. They are pulling us down down down in to what’s lurking there all along; unclean, unaddressed, unspoken. The feeling brings us to the awareness–that there is a toxic belief system that can be re-examined. They are our system’s way of flushing, of self cleaning. But you can’t talk your way out of it, you do have to feel it. The feeling it is your key to the escape hatch.” ~ Two innocents (To innocence)

All week my sleep has been filled with dream. I’ve revisited memories from my past. I’ve explored scenarios I am afraid of finding. I’ve laughed and danced and woke up feeling lighter than when I fell asleep. Maybe the downward spiral is a cleanse. Maybe it’s ridding me of my insecurities. Maybe it is my reminder that I am safe, I am loved and I am enough. 

Maybe it’s my reminder to let down my guard, to let love in, and to celebrate. Instead of spiraling up or down, right now I’m very happy twirling around while holding the hands of people I love. 

This week, Sunday to Sunday, was the perfect balance of life’s ebb and flow – learning to trust the process – hanging on to hope! 

  

Why not me?

This weekends run started the same way as my last two runs. I parked in the same spot. I headed in he same direction. Just like last week, the first two miles breezed by. Just like last week, I found myself cracking at mile 3. MILE 3! Mile 3 is too early to crack. Mile 3 is closer to the start line than the finish line. Mile 3 is 23.2 miles from the finish line. I can’t crack at mile 3.

Unlike last week, this week I welcomed the emotions that bubbled to the surface. I took a moment to let it pass. I pulled myself together. Instead of turning around, I became more determined to keep going.  I may crack at mile 3, but I don’t quit. I keep going. I welcome it all, and I keep running because I know a few things about myself after 35 years of living.

I know I need to feel everything. I need to feel happy or sad or cracked. I know I don’t stuff any emotions inside of me. I know once I feel them, I can let them go. I know another emotion is waiting for me.

I also know I that I don’t give up. Runs get tough. Life gets tough. But I keep going. I don’t give up on things that I love. I certainly don’t give up on myself.

At mile three, I kept heading north. I ran until I hit mile 8, and I turned around to do it all again.

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Back in May, I watched my niece walk across the stage at her high school graduation. During the ceremony, Scott Rigell (a local congressman) gave a commencement speech. It’s the last place I expected to find motivation. It’s the last thing I expected to think about on a long run. But over the course of 16 miles there is a lot of time to think. I spent many miles thinking of people who love me and support me. I spent many miles building myself back up. My brain wandered to the drive that my niece embodies. I found courage in her courage. I found drive in her drive. She’s 18 years old and after she received her high school diploma, she went in search of her dream to be a professional ballerina. At 35, I have so much admiration for her belief in herself.

During her commencement, Scott Rigell offered up three words of advice: Why not me? His message was simple. When staring at a task that seems impossible, ask yourself Why not me? Somebody has to accomplish it. Why shouldn’t it be you? Why shouldn’t it be you that lives out that dream?

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I made a lot of mistakes on this run – I didn’t eat enough Saturday to recover from a tough 6 mile trail run pushing Chet in the stroller, I didn’t drink enough water. I didn’t eat enough breakfast. My nutrition was a disaster on this run. I was starving by mile 5. I ate all my GUs by mile 7. I was so thirst. I stopped at mile 12 to buy a banana and a Gatorade. I drank too much and felt sick. Every mistake taught me a valuable lesson for the rest of this training cycle.

More important than the lessons I learned today is the determination I gained as every mile passed. I want this marathon finish more than ever before.

I forgot how much fight marathon training required. I forgot just how much determination it takes to keep going. I forgot how important it is to pay attention to my nutrition. But today I remembered. Today I remembered why I’m doing this and why I am capable.

I can’t wait to run 16 again next weekend.


 

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!

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Silver Lining

I’ve been sick for the past three days. I’ve spent the last two days sitting on the couch only getting up out of necessity but when the sun came out this morning, I felt it was necessary to get outside. Nearly 70 degrees and sunshine was our reward today for a February filled with snow. My body didn’t ache this morning. My head didn’t hurt, so I headed to the trails with one intention: mindfulness.

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As much as my head and my heart wanted to run, I wanted to remain mindful of my body. I ran slowly along my favorite trails. I stopped and enjoyed my surroundings when I didn’t have energy to keep going. As I enjoyed the simplicity of moving my body in the sunshine, my brain wandered to race day. What would Shamrock 2015 deliver?

Every thought lead to one conclusion. I can’t be disappointed when I haven’t put in the time or the effort this season. No matter what happens, I’ll find my silver lining. That’s what I do best.

I left my run feeling like a polished version of myself. The silver lining of today’s run wasn’t hard to find. The simple beauty of nature is always enough for me.

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Post run I shared a few texts with a friend, the friend who is responsible for motivating me to sign up for my first race. The beauty of friendships that have existed since high school is the friend’s ability to know all aspects of my life. She’s known me through every life transition so when she starts a text with “I mean this very kindly,” I know the rest of the message is one I need to hear.

“And I mean this very kindly. I’ve never known you to trust/be content with your training and you always still have fun on race day and perform great!! I’m sure you’ll be fine!! :) two weeks!!!!”

Her timing was brilliant, and her words were accurate. I’m always wanting more. I always think I could have given more. Yes, I always find a silver lining but why can’t I embrace an entire suit of silver. Why don’t I wear silver on the outside?

The truth is I have trained for Shamrock. I haven’t followed a training plan. I haven’t had consistent speed workouts or tempo runs. I haven’t stressed over my nutrition or my recovery. But that was my intention for this race. My intention for running is to thrive.

For everything I didn’t do, I also never had a bad run. I never finished a run feeling disappoint. I never sacrificed family time or work priorities. Every single run was a gift.

I’m more than ready for this race – no silver lining needed.

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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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