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

Equinox 

In less than two weeks the world approaches the small moment of time  when everything is in balance. Here along the Atlantic Ocean, the sun will rise. Twelve hours later it will set. Dark and light find harmony as our beach town begins to bloom. Spring will arrive. The equinox is approaching. 

As we transition out of winter’s hibernation, I can feel the ache of winter in my bones. My muscles are fatigued from fighting to stay warm all winter. My skin craves the warmth of sunshine. This is a new chapter in my life. The ache and the fatigue that is leaving my body is as much physical as it is emotional. The craving of warmth is as much my skin as it is my heart. As the world wakes up, I feel like I’m finding my harmony within myself and nature. 

My life is finding harmony. 

In less than two weeks on the same day as the spring equinox, I will line up with 180 teammates and thousands of other runners to run the Shamrock half marathon. The ache in my legs is proof of a season of hard training. The craving of warmth is evidence of running through many frozen morning. Shamrock weekend is just the beginning of my bloom. 

 

if you can’t find me, i’m here
 
I never expected to be here. Stripped of all career responsibilities, I have an amazing opportunity to fully examine my aspirations. My roots are rich. I’ve had nearly 36 years to create the perfect soil to encouraging proper growth. I’m seeing the strength in trusting my heart whispers.  As the winter cold drifts away, I feel myself reaching. I feel myself breathing deeply growing in the direction of the sun. 

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ~John Muir

The plan for race day is a simple as the plan for this new season. Let my roots anchor me. Let the warmth of the sun guide me. Let my spirit bloom. Let the compassion of others push and pull me. This season belongs to me. 

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ~John Muir

Tonight on our evening bike ride, an osprey flew over the river as the sunset. The osprey have returned. The air hints of summer. Nature is reminding us that spring is here to stay. 

This season will transition to summer, winter will return, but the changes cultivated will become part of who I am for every season of my life. 

“the sunset is your favorite color” ~Chet

Confession of a Pacer

I have a confession to make. I wasn’t sure if I could do this. I wasn’t sure if would measure up or hit the paces my team needed me to hit. When I was asked to be a pacer for the J&A Racing Training Team, I knew my heart was committed but could my legs preform. 

The first training team meet up resulted in a lot of anxiety. It felt like race day eve. I didn’t sleep. I had a nervous stomach. When I was introduced to the group, I felt like an imposter. I was a new face in the crowd. I had a lot I wanted to prove. I had a lot of self induced pressure. 

We ran that day, and our paces were exactly where they needed to be. I’ve never felt more relieved. 

 

Family
 
For the past 12 weeks, Friday nights have all been the same. I’ve been nervous. I’ve been afraid this would be the weekend I’d have a terrible run. When you’re pacing at your race pace, you can’t hide. There is no room for a bad run. I needed to be my best every Saturday. I wanted to be my best every Saturday. 

Confession: I wasn’t confident that a 9 minute mile was my comfort zone. 

Confession: I put a lot of pressure on myself to bring my A Game every weekend. 

Confession: I’ve never wanted to be successful at something as much as I wanted this. 

Every Saturday, I’ve got out of bed, my body alive with excitement. Each week my doubts have grown a little more quiet. Each week my heart has beat louder. It’s become more clear. It’s become more vibrant. I can do this. I am doing this. 

This past weekend our team had its furthest run to date. Everyone in my 9 minute group set out to accomplish 14 miles. After the first few miles, it was clear each runner in our pack was having a different day. Two were feeling strong and were ready to soar. Two were struggling with illness and need to preserve. I sent the two healthy teammates free. Go run. We will catch up. For the other two, we ran miles that felt good. For one that meant cutting the run short. For the other, we ran walked the final few. 

 

Starting Strong
 
Every single person on our team is race ready. Saturday was a formality. For everyone it proved what they already know about themselves. Their goals are waiting for them to achieve them. For the next nineteen days, our legs will become fresh again. Our spirit will continue to shine. 

Confession: I’m more excited about their race than my own. 

Confession: I’m more excited about them discovering their potential than what I can do on race day. 

I have my own personal goals for race day, but this entire training cycle has been my reward. I’ve erased every doubt my head was creating back in December. 

Confession: I hope I’m chasing them all on the race course.  

Confession: Every single runner on this team is the reason I will give my all on race day. It’s to honor them. 

“…there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love *running*. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you’ve got, being patient and forgiving and… undemanding…maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.” ~Christopher McDougall

Confession: Seeing potential in my teammates had allowed me to see my potential. 

Confession: This team has healed my heart. 

Confession: This team has made my love more vibrant. 

Confession: I don’t want this season to end. 

“Running is the heart of what it means to be human.” ~Christopher McDougall

Confession: This team has brought me back to life. 

Finishing up Saturdays Mock Race
 
Thank you doesn’t feel like the right words. They aren’t strong enough. The only way I can think of to express my gratitude for this journey is to let my heart run this race, to pour everything I have into race day, and to leave every ounce of energy I have on the race course. 

I owe it to them, and I owe it to myself. 

19 days until race day! 

chalkmaster Josh inspires again

Take a Leap

The entire month of February has been defined by five simple words.

Take a Leap of Faith.

It became the time for to jump. It became the time for confidence. When asked about choices, next steps, or why, the only answer I can come up with is that I’m taking a leap of faith. I know there is something great waiting for me. I don’t know what. That excites me. I don’t know where. That is empowering. This entire process has filled me with gratitude. It’s striped away nonsense. It’s brought clarity to my priorities. It’s be a refreshing period to take inventory of my worth.

I don’t take it lightly that I have the ability to reassess how I want the next chapter of my life to look. Because I am lucky enough to explore this space, I want to do it justice. I want to do it right.

“She took the leap and built her wings on the way down.”

My intention is make choices that feel empowering. My intention is to make choices that bring strength to my family. Every day is an act of catching myself, and using my strength to take flight.

“You were born with potential.

You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness.

You were born with wings.

You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.

Learn to use them and fly.” ~Rumi

   

Flying through the fog

So far this leap year hasn’t disappointed! 

 

Safety Net

“Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it life?” ~Mary Oliver 

The past month I’ve felt myself standing on unstable ground. I’ve felt alive. I’ve felt afraid. I’ve felt engaged. I’ve felt committed. I’ve felt lost. My thoughts have wandered down so many paths. 

When I made the decision to walk away from Operation Smile, a good friend wrote four questions on a piece of paper for me. I tucked them away into my journal knowing I’d revisit them when the timing felt right. Today was that day. Each of the questions is meant to guide your thoughts towards defining a life purpose. I let my thoughts wander some more. I wrote down everything. A common theme quickly emerged. 

Home. 

Engagement. 

Safety. 

Support. 

Love. 

These words kept finding there way to my paper. If you were to ask me what I want to be be when I grow up, my answer is simple and complicated. I want to be a safety net. I want to provide my boys a safe environment to explore, to succeed and to fail. I want to be there for Christian when he needs someone to catch him. I want to be someone people can count on to lift them back. 

As all these thoughts took shape on paper, there is one moment that came rushing back to me. 

Utah. 

My heart always wanders back to Utah. During our canyoneering adventure, Christian and I faced so many obstacles that have defined our marriage. This past month isn’t an exception. 

Later in the day on that life changing adventure, we approached the edge of a waterfall. There was one way down. We would lower ourselves using our own strength to get to the pool 30 feet below us. 

  
I was paralyzed. Taking a step down, trusting myself to support myself, froze me in tracks. I sat and stared. I cried. I couldn’t make my next step. In that moment Christian wanted to save me. He couldn’t. I needed to do this on my own. 

I don’t know how long I sat there. I don’t know what convinced me to take the first step. But I do know the fear that I felt. I do know the relief I felt when I made forward (or downward) progress. I do know the rush of satisification as my body was submerged in the pool below. 

 

My facial expersion: fear and relief
 
The past month I’ve been sitting on the edge paralyzed. 

As I filled my journal with words today my vision became clear. If I want to be a safety net, it has to start with myself. I have to catch myself. 

“…there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do —

determined to save

the only life you could save.”

~Mary Oliver

This journey has been messy and inspiring. It’s been confusing and reassuring. It’s reminded me of everything I already know. 

It’s time to start living it. 

  

Finding Magic

Today I unrolled my yoga mat while Chet indulged in a nearly extinct nap. The moment of quiet was a rare treat after a freezing cold weekend kept us bundled up inside all weekend. My heart needed quiet, and my body needed a good stretch. My body is still recovering from the 100k relay. It was harder on my body then I ever anticipated. As I move through the opening sun salutations, my body felt heavy. In Warrior II my arms felt like they weighed a ton each. Everything was being pulled down by gravity. 

Saturday’s running was a mirror image of today’s yoga practice. My legs felt heavy. My body resisted. I forgot that it was well below freezing and that the north wind was whipping  in off the ocean and the bay. I forgot that the streets were frozen. Every step I took was a reminder that I have been working hard, and my body is feeling it. 

 

Every Saturday (and every day) i know i they are there for me
 
Physical my body’s is that space I’ve come to recognize and know so well. I’m in the middle

“The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens. ~Brene Brown

I used to fear this middle space. I used to see it and runaway in fear. It is hard. It is ugly. While my entire body feels weighted and like it sinking, every doubt and insecurity is floating to the surface. 

But I’ve been here before. I know this space well. Instead of collapsing on my yoga mat in defeat, I kept moving. My body loosened. My heart lightened. I returned to myself. On Saturday I kept running. Surrounded by my running family, my heart stayed engaged. A tough run was a badge of courage instead of sign of defeat. 

 

Conquering miles and fun
 
The middle isn’t winning anymore. I’m not giving in or giving up anymore. I’m plowing ahead. 

When you’ve done something so many times, you start to see the pattern. Now that my runs are hitting double digits again, I’ve felt depleted at mile 9 every single time. I’ve been tempted to give up. I’ve been tempted to quit. Instead I keep running, I let my running partners pull me, and a half mile later I find a new gear. My energy comes back. My strength is renewed. 

While I am grateful to have this awareness as part of my running, I am even more thankful to have this awareness as part of my life. There isn’t a lot of life to live in beginning and ending. Life is lived in the middle. 

Eight years ago today I started an amazing new beginning. I meet Christian for margaritas on a Friday night, and I fell in love with him before we even said hello. The beginning was amazing, but now we are in the middle. It can be tough. I run out of energy. Somedays I feel like I have nothing left to give. But I keep going because my love for him is always renewed. I’ve asked a lot of him the past few months. I needed him to be my anchor. 

Three weeks ago I closed a door on a dream. Another door is about to open, but I’m living in the middle of the transition. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve doubted myself. I’ve questioned my next steps. I’ve searched for answers and strength outside of myself. My entire body has felt heavy. The answers won’t be found anywhere but inside of me. The answers are mine to find. It’s for me to discover. 

The only way to find the magic in the middle is to keep returning to me. As I finished my yoga practice with my forehead placed on the mat, I made a simple promise to myself. I will trust my strength. I will trust my ambition. I will trust my ability to move forward gracefully and courageously. 

“The truth is that falling hurts. The dare is to keep being brave and feel your way back up.” ~Brene Brown

With every day that passes in this transition period, with every run I complete, with every gym workout that is accompished, and every time I unroll my yoga mat, I feel more alive. I feel more engaged. I feel my strength and my strengths rising to the surface. With an open heart, I’m moving (or running) forward. This next chapter is already a good one. 

Wednesday’s 8 miler: literally stuck in the middle of no where

Saturday’s run: 12 miles at a 9:30ish pace (my garmin turned off in the middle somewhere)

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.