Running Forward

I want nothing more than to conquer the race course. I want to push past the pain and the discomfort of running hard. I want to overcome the voice in my head that begs me to find my comfort zone.

I want to thrive.

This week is a race week for me. The Wicked 10k is a mental tune up for the races that are on my radar over the next six months. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m afraid on race day I won’t be enough. These fears have haunted me for at least three years. In some capacity they have haunted me my whole life.

The first time I failed to run a sub 2 hour half marathon, my confidence was rocked. It was the first time since I started running as an adult that I fell terribly short of my race goal. It was the first time I didn’t have the satisfaction of success. If you look at my race history, 2013 is a year filled with PRs and heartbreaks; thriving and falling short.

The truth is I’ve been fighting myself ever since I ran that failed sub-2 race in 2013. It’s been a tug of war battle between comfort and courage. I’ve beat myself up for not conquering courage. I’ve beat myself up for chosing comfort one too many times.

The truth is the tug of war battle between comfort and courage lasts a lifetime. You don’t choose courage once, and it automatically becomes your mindset. With every choice you make, you are faced with a decision. Will I choose comfort or courage today? Will I choose comfort or courage during this race?

I’m done beating myself up. By focusing on a race from 2013, I’ve used all my mental energy trying to overcome a race that didn’t happen. I’ve been chasing a race clock that exists in the past. I’ve been trying to prove that I’m better than, stronger than, and faster than the girl who raced that year. I’ve been running backwards.

That girl isn’t here today. I am here. I am here with my whole heart. I am here as more than enough. I am here right now in this present moment. I am strong. I am unbreakable. I am enough. But I’ve been racing in the past. I haven’t been present.

I’ve been flirting with this lesson all year. This year has been a year of tremendous growth. It’s been a year of letting go and creating new. It has been a year of healing and living.

#team9ja. Stronger together.

On Friday I asked my coach for a race plan. I needed something tangible to wrap my head around to ease my fears. He delivered this life-lesson wrapped up in a simple sentence: I wouldn’t focus on your 2013 race as that seems like a lot of pressure. I’m not sure if he realized the magnitude of the message he just delivered, but he just captured the last three years of my racing (and perhaps life) in one sentence. I’ve been chasing my dreams backwards.

It’s time to chase all my dreams forward. It’s time to run for today. It’s time to show up at the start line knowing that today I am strong, I am unbreakable, and I am enough.

“Expire the past, inspire the present” ~my very own dear friend Enrica

I will always face the decision of choosing between comfort and courage. This weekend I will choose courage. This weekend I will race. This weekend the race clock will be a reflection of one day and one race, but it will be a celebration of continued growth in life. It will be a celebration of team and new dreams.

This season of running is the start of something new! This year I am thriving.

14716055_10153804115252161_2678211919452334733_n

Advertisements

The Promise of a Rainbow

“Love was a feeling completely bound up with color, like thousands of rainbows superimposed one on top of the other.” ~Paulo Coehlo

I’ve always believed in the promise of a rainbow.

As a high schooler, I learned that the world was filled with answers to our deepest questions if we kept our eyes open. My family was visiting home in Wisconsin. A huge part of our heart will always be there. My parents lost their first baby. Three months after she was born, they were faced with the unimaginable. She quit breathing. On the day that I learned about the magic of our world, we were leaving the cemetery. My little brother asked how we knew Jennifer was okay, and a rainbow appeared. In that moment, no one needed to answer my brother. We just knew.

Every time I see a rainbow I think of her. I think of the sister I’ve never met but have always loved. I think of the grace, strength and courage of my parents who plowed forward with life.

Last night after work I drove towards the oceanfront like I do every Thursday. I was headed to meet my training team for a fun spin on our Thursday night run. Instead of conquering tempo miles, we split in to teams to race. The inaugural 4×400 was launched. Before heat 1 kicked off the event, a rainbow appeared from behind the cloudy skies. I smiled.

14516480_1075766929167633_2806702085485330651_n
#trainjanda

Promise.

Grace. Strength. Courage.

My team, team #17 (#teamjeck), was in the final heat. I was the final leg. As my teammate made her way towards me for the symbolic passing of the baton, my stomach was filled with nerves. I had 400 meters to fly.

My legs moved faster than they have ever moved since high school, and I think I had a permanent smile on my face as I approached the finish line. I had the honor of being the last runner for all 19 teams to cross the finish line, and all 19 teams greeted me (me! seriously it was a pinch me moment!) with a celebration tunnel.

14470598_1075766935834299_6186053745586459350_n
The Magic of Team

This is why I run. In the moments when I get frustrated with myself for not performing at the level I know I can preform at, when I beat myself up for missing a run, or when I think it’s just not possible to balance it all, this is what keeps me coming back. The team mates. The cheers. The celebration of being our very best – not tomorrow – but right now. It’s meeting myself exactly where I am at and knowing that it is okay.

Every single teammate tackled that 400 with grace, strength and courage. The finish line was the promise that we are exactly where we are meant to be.

It’s race weekend, and for the first time (possibly ever) I’m taking a very different approach to this race. I’m not aiming for a goal time. I’m not aiming for effort. My goal for this race is friendship. When one of your dearest friends is diagnosed with cancer and is fighting her way through treatment with nothing but grace, strength, and courage, you make life a celebration. My only goal is to keep up with her for 13.1 miles.

“Shine your soul with the same
egoless humility as the rainbow
and no matter where you go
in this world or the next,
love will find you, attend you, and bless you.” ~Aberjhani

I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. To get to do what I love every single day and to get to do it with people who genuinely care about the person standing next to them, love has most certainly found me. It attends to me. It has blessed me.

Every time I see a rainbow, I will smile. I will think of my sister, but I will also think of my family: my parents, my boys, and this wonderful community that has given me a home: a promise that is fulfilled through grace, strength and courage. 

14484714_1075766955834297_7040596834757463075_n
Strength. Grace. and Courage.

Standing up. 

I’ve been thinking a lot what it means to stand up. As an adjective it can have various definitions. The act of standing up is viewed as a courageous and loyal act, but sometimes simply standing takes courage too. 

Sunday we joined a group of friends at a local gem that locals and tourists alike should become familiar with. Surf and Adventure company was taking our group of slightly competitive and overly comical friends on a stand up paddleboard trip. 

As we lined up to enter the water, I felt a rush of unexpected nerves. Maybe it was because everyone in front of me effortlessly stood on their boards. Maybe it was because I was one of the last ones to enter the water leaving me feeling a need to catch up. Maybe it was because in a group of incredibly talented runners, I felt like I belonged in the back of the pack. Maybe it was left over emotion from the week of standing up for myself in a really big way. 

I tried to be kind to myself. Progress is a process. It’s not perfection. 

My nerves, the need to catch up, and an all to familiar internal script that I’m just not quite good enough took over. I couldn’t stand up. 

I’ll stand up when I catch up. 

I’ll stand up when we turn the corner. 

I’ll stand up when my legs stop shaking. 

Three and half windy miles later we reached our destination, and I was still sitting. I never found my legs. 


After an amazing day on the water with friends, I came home to a television filled with news of heartache. You all have heard the story by now.  Forty nine people killed. More than fifty injured. 

My heart is having a hard time processing it all. My head is looking for a solution. 

A mother who lost her son said anger is easy. I can feel the anger. It’s the sadness that is hard. I can’t stop thinking about this statement. We are all quick to blame, define, and label, but are we allowing ourselves to feel. Are we standing with our sadness? 

What does it look like to stand up for those that lost their lives? What does it look like to stand up and say no more? 

Right now I feel like I’m still sitting on my board. I feel like I’m waiting to catch up, for our country to turn a corner, and for the hatred to stop. 

When I reached our destination on Sunday afternoon, I wished I had tried. I wished I would have gave myself chance to stand. Even if I fell into the water or behind my friends, I wish I would have found my footing. 

I don’t want another mass shooting to happen in this country while I wish I had done something to make our country better. I don’t want to forget about this next week. I don’t to have this news story replaced by another injustice when we live in a land of freedom. Last week we stood up for a girl who was raped. This week we are standing up for people who were murdered. 

We may not all agree on what needs to come next, but I think we can all agree that this is not okay. Something has to change. We need to stop sitting. We need to stand up. We need to listen. We need to recognize that this country is a blend of beautiful people and best intentions. 

Today I showed up to vote in Virginia’s republican House of Representatives primary. As of 9pm, only 40,000 people showed up to vote. There are approximately 650,000 people who live in the second district. 

I may have sat on my board on Sunday, but I stood up last week. I stood up at my race on Saturday. I showed up to vote today. 

Progress is process. It’s not perfection. 

Our country will never see change if we don’t take part in the process. It will never be perfect, but we need to progress. 

We need to stand up. What we are doing today is failing us all. It failed a young woman who was raped. It failed hundreds immediately impacted in Orlando. We are failing each other. 

We need to stand up for everyone who has been hurt by our countries inability to stand together. While there are many different opinions on what needs to happen next, I think we can all agree we are tired of sitting down. 

I’m still not sure how I’ll find my footing, but I will not show up at our next destination wishing I had tried to stand up. 

Kindness is Quiet

“I’ve decide it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.” ~Nadezhda Mandelstam

When I hit publish on the first blog post, So much more than no means no, I felt like an eighteen year old version of myself. I trembled. I took a shower and cried. In that shower and with those tears, I washed away the fear. I became empowered.

I couldn’t sleep Monday night. A crack in my silence had formed, and I needed to get it out. I needed my words, my story, my voice on paper. In the dark while my house fell asleep, I wrote.

Yesterday I went to hit publish again. It was time to scream: I was raped. I trembled. I took another shower and cried. This time it was a release. My body was squeezing out every what if I have ever played in my head. I was releasing every doubt, every bit of self blame, and every insecurity I’ve ever held. Putting my story on paper and hitting publish gave me my voice back. My story was no longer my burden to carry alone. I gave it back to the universe.

Every single one of you caught me. You stood beside me. By reading my words, you offered to carry the weight with me.

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. You all have flooded me with love and compassion. You’ve lifted me up. You’ve celebrated my voice. You’ve made me feel safe. You’ve trusted me with your secrets.
At first it was my dear friends. The people who love me best today stood beside me. Then it was the people who loved me most during that year of my life. My heart exploded. I took the most comfort in the support from the people who have always provided it. Then friends of friends started reaching out followed by people I’ve never met. The ripple effect was beginning. My screams were being heard around the world.

Then I started to hear your stories too. My heart broke every time I received a message. I will carry your weight too. I will catch you. You are not alone. We are all stronger together. The words of support I received belong to you too. Please read them all. They are yours to keep.

I couldn’t hear them when I was raped. During that year of my life, I heard the hatred. I felt the anger from all of his supporters. It was all I noticed. Eighteen years later, I see them for what they were: A small pack of teenagers who needed to be angry at someone. They were small in comparison to all of you.

You didn’t just show up yesterday. You’ve been here the whole time.

Kindness is quiet. It doesn’t scream from the rooftops. It doesn’t flood the streets of town with energy and anger. It doesn’t need to. It is kind. It is gentle. It is authentic. But what if it did? What if kindness flooded the streets with the same energy as anger?

In our broken society, we see and hear the broken.  We feel the anger. We highlight and focus on the bad, but kindness is everywhere.

I am so sorry I couldn’t feel your kindness more. It was everywhere. From the boy who was brave enough to still like me the summer after high school. You brought me strawberry gum and candles because you knew I loved strawberries. I liked you too, but I was afraid. I no longer trusted the intentions of men, and I couldn’t see that you genuinely liked me. To the friends who didn’t know what do with this topic, neither one of us knew how to navigate the space. So many of you said sorry yesterday. I am sorry too. At eighteen, none of us should have to know how to deal with this. I’m sorry I didn’t trust your kindness. I’m sorry I let myself believe that no one believed me. To the people I let in, to the people who chose to love me, thank you. You are brave. You are strong. You suffered beside me, but I took all the attention. It was my burden to carry, but it spilt over on to you. Thank you for being strong enough to figure it out with me.

I’m going to beg you all one more time. If you’ve taken the time to read this, help me make kindness loud. Today our world is flooded with anger. It’s flooded with ego. It’s flooded with entitlement. It’s running for President. It’s raising our children. It’s shaping our future.

Let’s make the world noisy with kindness. Be kind to your neighbor. Accept people for who they are. Celebrate our stories. Let’s assume we are all doing the best that we can, and let’s help each other do better. You all have showed me how to do it.

Show up.

We are stronger together.

A few years ago, I got an email from my rapist. He wanted to know why I did that to him back then. I considered ignoring him, but I couldn’t. My response was simple. He has a different memory from that day. It has taken me my entire lifetime to recover from what he did to me, and I hope he can find his happiness as well.

I tip toed around my story in this blog post: Loving Kindness. I wasn’t brave enough to share my truth then, but my heart found forgiveness. Today my heart has the same wish.

May I be filled with loving kindness

May I be well

May I be peaceful and at ease 

May I be happy

May you be filled with loving kindness

May you be well

May you be peaceful and at ease 

May you be well

Please keep sharing. Please keep celebrating the young woman who was raped in Stanford. Let her feel our kindness. Share her story. Share my story. Share your story. But let’s heal the hearts of our rapist and their families too.  We have to stop the cycle. It doesn’t come from healing the survivors. It comes from healing the attackers. I hope that the Stanford rapist’s dad is able to fully examine how he lives life. I hope the rapist becomes aware of his evil. I hope my rapist can heal and do something wonderful with his life. I hope we can all heal.

It is not us versus them. It is us. It is all of us.

Help me make kindness heard. I’m so tired of anger being the only thing we hear.

May you be filled with loving kindness 

May you be well

May you be peaceful and at ease

May you be happy



I was raped 

For five years, I’ve shared my story in this space but I always avoided it. I danced around it. I alluded to it. But I never acknowledged it. I never said the words I was raped on paper until yesterday. It’s never been a secret. It’s something I share in conversation with friends. It’s something I’ve never hid from, but why was I hiding here. Why did I consciously choose to not share? 

The answer is simple. Fear. I was afraid. I was afraid of people believing me. I was afraid people from my past would verbally attack me again. I was afraid I would be called a liar. I didn’t want to relive the trauma – not of the rape but of not being believed. 

Recent news has brought attention to the rape culture in our society. Today in 2016 a dad of a rapist believes that six months in jail is “too steep a price to pay for 20 minutes of action.” Today in 2016 a judge believes that six months in jail is a worthy sentencing for a man who raped an unconscious woman. When is our society going to stand together and say enough is enough. You will not do this to our children. You can not sexually violate my daughter or my son. 

Rape is historically a silent crime. The victims suffer in silence. 68% of all rapes are not reported to the police. 98% of rapist won’t spend one single day in jail. By remaining silent, we are sending the message that this is okay. IT IS NOT OKAY. It will never be okay. 

I remained quiet on my blog because of the same fear that silenced me in my journey. I was afraid, but today I’m breaking my silence. 

This is my story. 

This is my truth. 

I was raped. 


On May 4, 1998, a friend pulled into my driveway. As soon as I saw his car, my instincts told me to hide. I thought to myself, “I should pretend like I’m not home.” I quickly dismissed my thoughts as irrational, and I answered my door. We chatted. We hung out. He kissed me. He then disappeared upstairs. I called and called for him to come downstairs. He ignored me. Finally I ventured upstairs too. He needed to leave, but he wouldn’t get out.  He wouldn’t put me down. He wouldn’t stop touching me. He wouldn’t leave my pants on. He wouldn’t get off me. 

I begged him to stop. I said no over and over again. First as a statement then as a whisper. The more aggressive he became, the more I got lost in my fear. My nos turned to whispers. I became paralyzed by fear. I cried when he walked out of my room. As he finally went to walk out of my house he looked at me and said “I feel bad. You said no the whole time.” He left like nothing happened. He went about his day like what had just happened was normal. I was broken. 

I crawled into a ball on the couch because my bedroom felt disgusting. I cried myself to sleep. I entered a fog of confusion. In the days that followed, I seeked support. A phone call to a friend left me more confused. When I shared the details of the story, she told me “it’s normal. That happens to every girl.” Finally another friend looked at me and said “there is a term for what happened to you. It’s called date rape. Kristy, you were raped.” I was broken. 

My downward spiral continued. I slept in every class at school. A few teachers pulled me aside to ask if I was okay. I finally went to our brand new computer at home. We had just got internet and AOL. I searched date raped. I finally understood what happened to me. I understood the filth I felt all over my body. I was raped. I was broken. 

Four days after I was raped, I crawled into my parents bed late at night. I couldn’t stop crying. My dad had seen my searches on the computer. He knew. He called the police. 

What happened next I wasn’t prepared for. Police swarmed our house. Detectives took apart my bedroom. Fingerprint dust was spread on everything I remembered him touching. I was then taken to a local hospital with a rape center. In the middle of the night, I was escorted down back hallways to a secluded part of the hospital. I was greeted by a male nurse who explained everything that was about to happen. I was striped of my clothes. I was examined and photographed. Every part of my body was measured and touched and examined. My insides and my outsides were photgraphed. They were looking for all evidence of trauma. I laid naked on an examine table being photgraphed, and I cried.  I broke again. 

As wonderful as the detective was who oversaw my case, and as gentle and compassionate as the nurse was who guided me through a fragile moment, I felt exposed all over again, but this was just the beginning. 

My rapist was arrested at school. Rumors began to fly. He was released on bond, and quickly began talking. I became the attacker in the eyes of gossip-driven, drama-hungry high schoolers. I was the girl who cried rape. People stopped talking to me. They whispered as I walked by. Then it got worse. People started threatening to beat me up after school. I was afraid to walk down the hallways alone. I broke again. 

It didn’t stop. With my rapist back at school, I saw him. I saw him everywhere. I broke every single day. 

It didn’t stop there. In the middle of his science class, he threatened to kill me. He threatened to come to school and shoot me. He was finally asked to not return to school, but the attacks didn’t stop. His friends still threatened me. His supporters still tormented me. 

I was broken. I was lost. 

The next year of my life I relived every moment as I navigated the legal system. I went to therapy. I tried to create a life for myself that had nothing to do with rape, but it found me everywhere. I met my college boyfriend, and people told him not to date me because I was the girl who cried rape. While working at the mall, my rapist would walk back and forth in front of my store. My rape was everywhere. It clung to me. I couldn’t get it off my body or out of my life. I was broken. 

A year later, his court date finally arrived. Since it was the state versus my attacker, I was a witness in the courtroom. This meant I wasn’t allowed to be present during the court case. I could only be in the courtroom to testify and for the verdict. While I waited outside, I imagined pictures of my vagina being shown to the court, my rapist and his supporters. I know pictures of the lesions inside my body were shown. They shared my bruises. They shared my blood. They stole more of my privacy. 

During my testimony, I was asked hundreds of questions that felt irrelevant and confusing. Everyone wanted to know details about Internet searches and my understanding of the Internet. For what felt like a hour, I was asked about instant messaging and how I saved conversations. When he apologized to me for raping me over instant messager, I saved it. This became a focal point. When his highly paid attorney asked me questions, he got closer and closer to me in the witness stand. At one point his foot was propped up on the step that lead to my chair. I don’t know what he asked. I couldn’t breathe. My rapist was staring at me, and his lawyer was inches from my face. 

I was broken. Our system is broken. 

His lawyer is well known around town. He’s expensive, and to criminals, he’s worth every penny. I didn’t have a lawyer. I was a witness in a crime against the state of Virginia. The district attorney who was in charge of my case quit before the trail. The new lawyer meet me for the first time minutes before court began. 

He was found not guilty. He confessed to the detectives when he was arrested. He confessed to me over a recorded conversation set up by detectives. He apologized over instant messager. He was found not guilty. 

I ran and I ran and I ran. Down every flight of stairs in the courtroom. I ran until I hit a deadend, and I fell on the floor. I cried. I was broken. 

No one tells you what to do next. No one picks you up and tells you it’s okay. No one said they believed me. 

At nineteen years old, I had a solid (yet small) group of believers. My side of the courtroom was filled with my family, my boyfriend, and my two best friends. They believed me. They were my champions. They held me together when every piece of me fell apart. 

It’s been eighteen years, one month and  two days since I was raped. I take pride in overcoming something so large and so traumatic. I’m proud of my strength. But as I read the story of the rape survivor over the weekend, I still felt broken. I cried with her, and when she rose up and used her voice to fight back, I cheered her on! I would be her champion. I would share her words and rally behind her. But something deep inside of me still felt broken. Maybe you never heal. Maybe all the pieces never get put back together. 

I need to be her champion, but I need to be my champion too. 


For years I’ve been afraid. I’ve been afraid to put my story on paper because people don’t believe, didn’t believe, or won’t believe me. I don’t want to be the girl walking down the hallway in high school that hears nothing but whispers and fears for her physical safety. 

But this is my story. This is my truth. 

I was raped. 

But I’m not broken. 

I’ve always wonder which break hurt the worst: being raped or reliving the rape for the year after and during the trial. The wounds may heal, but the scars last a lifetime. 

I still panic the moment I feel like I don’t have control of my body. I’m sensitive to touch. I still have nightmares. 

But I’m not broken. 

Rape changed me forever. It altered my life path, and it has impacted all my life choices. It’s part of who I am. It’s part of my story. 

But it’s my story. It’s my story to tell. For nearly five years, I’ve avoided it because I still let the story belong to him. I let the story belong to his supports. 

Today I’m taking my voice back. 

I beg you. Please stand with me. Rape doesn’t come in one size fits all. It looks like my story. It looks like the woman’s story who was raped in Princton. It looks like the story of the approximately 293,000 woman and men who will be raped this year. We are millions of people strong. We deserve to have a voice. We deserve to be heard. We owe it to our children to rewrite the script of rape in our society. 

Share my story. Share your story. Please keep this conversation going. 

Rape is something that happened to me, but it is not who I am. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a friend. I am strong. I am unbreakable. 

This is my story. 

Beyond Fear

I never finished sharing my story from Peru. I don’t know why. It slipped away from me.  I fell back into the pattern of my daily life. I got reconsumed by parenting, work, grocery shopping, running, and finding pockets of quiet. The magic I felt in that country stayed inside of me, but I lost it in my day-to-day routine.

Our world is filled with a lot of fear these days. The events that fill our news have always been there, but we have sharpened our focus. The events in Paris have made us all stop and pay attention. In the midst of the terrifying news, I watched a segment where a dad explained the events to his young son. He told him to look at the flowers. The flowers were there to fight the guns. He told him to look at the candles. The candles were there to remember the people. In the simplicity of focusing on the good, I saw the fear physically leave his four-year-old body.

Peru and France are separated by more than six thousand miles, yet my mind keeps wandering to my last day in the Sacred Valley as I watch the world news. Just like the young boy turned to his dad for answers, I am turning to a point in time where the world felt like a celebration.

It was my tenth day in Peru. Homesick and heavy-hearted, I laid in bed wishing I could go home one day early. I had hiked Machu Picchu Mountain. I had explored ruins, ate local food, and stared at the stars. My heart was full, and I missed my family.

A stomach ache sent me to the lobby of my bed and breakfast. I was looking for comfort. Tea harvested from the vegetation in the B&B’s garden cured my stomach, and a conversation with the staff cured my heart. He opened a binder, flipped a few pages, and pointed to a place I needed to visit. I took his advice to find a sacred ruin not too far outside our small community. I would need to find a taxi to take me. Knowing my Spanish is nearly nonexistent, he wrote down instructions on a scrap piece of paper, I took a photo of the place he showed me in his binder, and I set off on my quest. He left me with one piece of advice: when you get there, ask the universe for what you need. The universe already knows what you don’t need, so ask for something that will make you feel whole.

My “street”

Taxis were always lined up in the main square in Ollantaytambo. Step one in my journey would be easy. As I walked down the cobblestone street towards the square, there wasn’t a taxi in sight. When I got to the square, the street that was normally filled with taxis was empty. Not sure of what to do next, I stood there. I stared at my piece of paper, and I stood there. How in the world was I going to find this place now that I was determined to go? I needed to visit this temple. I needed to make an offering to the universe. My soul needed the world to hear it.

A local policeman must have recognized the confusion on my face. He spoke to me in Spanish, and I was more confused. I handed him my piece of paper. He motioned for me to follow him. I followed him away from the square. I followed him down winding local streets. Minutes later I followed him into a local market. He motioned to a man to join us. In Spanish they discussed something. I assumed he was telling him what I was hoping to do. After many reaffirming gestures, he introduced me to a man and handed him my piece of paper. Hand gestured communication continued. I wanted to go there. He would take me. I got into his personal vehicle with who I assume was his wife and daughter. My adventure began.

As we got further away from town, I started to second guess my decision. Who are these people? Where am I going? Am I crazy? Are they crazy? Fear crept in. I took notice of my surrounding. I made mental reminders of landmarks incase I needed to walk back to my B&B. The river is on my right. The mountains are to my left. As we arrived at a point where the road, railroad tracks, and the river all intersected, he stopped the car and motioned for me to follow him. I grabbed my backpack, and I followed. We followed the railroad tracks for at least a mile before we pushed through shrubs and bushes (avoiding cactus) and made our way up a mountain. The soil was loose. I slipped so many times. My legs were filled with fear. What was I doing? Where was I going?

Can you see it?

As I swallowed my fear, I finally looked up. In front of me was an unassuming temple. I would have walked passed it. As I got closer to this temple built into the side of the mountain, I felt it. My eyes might have missed it, but the energy in the air would force anyone to stop.  I was overwhelmed by the peace I felt in the air. My fear melted. I sat in awe of this place that was filled with love and wishes. My questions turned away from fear. Curiosity took over. How many people journeyed to this spot? What were they searching for? How many dreams were offered to this universe? How many of those dreams came true? In that moment, I was the exact same as every person who stood in this exact same spot. Our eyes were the same. We all took in the otherwise unimpressive rock, but our hearts were also the same. We all knew this place was special. Our dreams are all the same.

As I travelled to this place, I knew exactly what I needed. I was going to ask the universe for strength. I wanted to feel strong. I wanted my heart to have courage. I wanted the universe to scoop me up and give me wings. In that moment, I realized I have wings. I have courage. I have strength. I just need to trust it. I need to trust the journey. I need to let go of the fear that causes me to look down instead of up. I simply need to look up. I have everything I needed. In that moment, I was filled gratitude that can not be defined. It was the same gratitude I felt as I stared at the newborn faces of my boys. It was the same gratitude I felt when I realized my husbands hugs made the world disappear. It was the same gratitude I feel when I let my guard down, and I welcome life.

Inside the Temple

I sat on the dirt floor of the temple looking to the valley below me, and I remembered I wasn’t alone. The family the brought me there laughed with each other. They told their daughter a story. They showed her the details of the temple. They searched each corner of the temple, and I sat there. I was paralyzed by my love for the world. I saw love in their faces. I saw gratitude in their interactions. I saw past the blinding fear that took me up the mountain, and I saw a family that is deeply rooted in love.

As we made our way down the mountain back towards the river, I saw a husband and a wife who flirted when their daughter wasn’t looking. I saw a dad who carried his daughter down a mountain on his shoulders. I saw a man who offered me his hand every time I slipped. As we pushed our way through the undergrowth on the mountain side, they motioned for me to stop. The cactus beside us was filled with fruit. Using a leaf as a glove, they pulled the spiking fruit from the cactus. They rolled the fruit around in the dirt to remove the needles. They used their fingernail to split open the shell, and then they offered me fruit on the inside. Hidden behind a guarded plant and thick sick, was one of the most delicious fruits I have ever tasted.

IMG_7191

IMG_7188IMG_7189

I spent the rest of my day with this family. They took me to local ruins scattered throughout the Sacred Valley. As I walked back down the cobble stone streets towards my Bed and Breakfast, I looked up towards the stars and whispered thank you. I almost spent the entire day in bed missing my family, but instead I found a family who reminded me of everything I need in life. It’s simple. In a community where most people don’t have running water in their homes, I found love and gratitude. In a community where people work hard all day so that they can feed their family, I found spirit and heart.

IMG_7205

When Cole asks me if our world is going to war again, this is the story that I tell him. I tell him that our hearts can not be consumed by fear. We can’t stop looking up. We can’t stop feeling. We can’t stop giving our best. We need to see the flowers and the candles. We need to find the fruit inside the cactus plant. We need to offer our hand to someone as they lose their footing while trying to climb a mountain. Paris and Peru are separated by thousands of miles. The United States and Syria and every other country are separated by thousands of miles, but we are all the same. We are all standing on the same soil, staring at the same temple, sending our wishes into the universe. There is ugly in the world. There will always be ugly in the world, but we owe it to ourselves and our communities to see beyond the fear.

IMG_7134

(Peru) Patient Announcement

(May 17, 2015)

I woke up this morning feeling a void in my middle of my consciousness. It isn’t a hole in the middle of my heart or my head. It feels like a hole in the middle of my entire being. Today is patient announcement day. A few lucky families will be told Yes! Your child will receive surgery. But so many families will be told Not this time. We don’t have enough time or enough resources to take care of everybody. Not everyone is healthy enough for surgery. Not everyone is a candidate to receive care.

There is a very logical way of deciding who gets surgery. The ranking system makes so much sense, but the nos are hard to digest.

Just like the days before, we travel an hour north along the coast to the hospital in Lima. We navigate our way to the hospital courtyard. We are greeted with a wave of emotions from the hundreds of faces staring back at us. Nervousness. Anxiousness. Hope. Insecurity. They all hang in the air. One by one the families are given their news. The ones selected are scheduled for their surgery day. The ones who are not are able to meet with the psychologist, the nutritionist, the speech pathologist, and the dentist to give them support. They are told we will be back in the fall.

In the midst of all the emotions, a young couple steals a kiss to celebrate the good news. A family embraces me as if I am their own. The mother receives directions about surgery while I snuggle with her three month old baby. I hope he always feels beautiful.

Me with this sweet boy and his aunt with mom and grandma behind us
The air is filled with every opposing emotion surrounding two very simple emotions: happiness and sadness.

The day has left me cracked wide open. I’m not sure the void will ever fully heal. I’m not sure I want it too.

As the day came to an end, there were a few hours left to wander the streets of Lima. Just like I always do, I found my way to the coast. The vastness of the ocean a reminder of the possibility in the world, but today it was also a startling reminder of just how small I really am in the world. I made a last minute decision to fly. I strapped myself to a guide and I paraglided along the coast. In reality my experience last 15 minutes, but in my heart I was hanging in midair forever.

I needed the weightlessness. I needed the quiet. I needed the feeling of eternity. I needed to fly.

Today was a day filled with a million emotions. As I glided along the cliffs parallel to the Pacific Ocean, I wondering if there are a million emotions. Perhaps they are all one emotion. Perhaps they are all a form of hope: hope that their child would be select, hope that the surgery would be a success, hope that their child can live a normal life, hope that they are doing the best they can as a parent, hope that I can help, hope that I can love, and hope that we all matter in the vastness of this world.

Take off

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ~Paolo Coehlo

Aren’t we all simply hanging on to hope? And learning to trust everything that surrounds it?

Flying

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

IMG_5598

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.

IMG_5597

Enjoying the now! Somehow I forgot…

All around me, I keep seeing it. My instagram is filled with inspiration to get over it. I’m seeing it in my own child. I’m feeling it in my runs. It’s coming up in conversations. It seems to be my driving force since I set out on this quest to run marathon #2.

Fear, or the act of overcoming it.

Seriously, I see it everywhere.

My long runs have now shifted to Sunday mornings. I’m no longer running when I want, how I want, or by myself. This weekend I met my running coach for my long run. I started the run with another one of his runners who is also training for a fall marathon. She is a much stronger runner than me, so we did our two-mile warm up together before she took off down the trail.

Saturday night I couldn’t sleep. I had “first day of school” jitters. When you run with your coach, a group of people or a friend, there is no hiding. There is no room for self-doubt, fear, or other self-imposed nonsense. Knowing I’ve been plagued by all three lately added another level of fear to Sunday’s run. What was I afraid of? Maybe that I wasn’t capable of hanging with the fast crowd or maybe that I wasn’t ready for real training. Maybe I was afraid that I didn’t have the mental toughness required to get down the long, boring, straight Cape Henry Trail? Maybe I’m not ready for the marathon?

Whatever it was, it is all self-induced. I have to fight my way through it.

Family Beach Day
Family Beach Day

Sunday afternoon the family packed up the beach cart and headed to Sandbridge. Body Boards, the Beater, buckets, shovels, beach chairs, towels, and lunches were placed like puzzle pieces for the walk through the sand. When we arrived, the waves were small but picture perfect. It was the perfect day to get Cole out on a surf board.

He refused to go. After much begging, Christian took him out past the breaking waves. Together they waited for the perfect wave to find them. Cole protested. He complained. He panicked. One wave was enough for him. He pouted back up the beach straight to his chair. He didn’t like the beach anymore. He was afraid of sharks, and he couldn’t see in the water. We left him in his chair to pout.

As his mom, I know better. I know the driving force behind his meltdown is fear. It’s a fear of the unknown, a fear of failure, and a fear of just not being good at surfing. I also know that nothing I can say will change his mind until he is ready. While he pouted, Christian surfed. I played in the water with Chet. Before I knew it, Cole was back out in the water with his own body board. He paddled out past the shore break. He was smiling. He caught a few waves before he decided he was done for the day. He then joined Chet and I in the surf and the sand for the rest of the afternoon. He now talks like he is professional surfer, and I know that his initial fear is far behind him.

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.” ~Richard Bach

The first mile and a half to the trail flew by on my run Sunday morning. I knew it was fast for me, but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I sat on the heels of my running partner, and I let her guide me. When we hit the trail, we both set out to run our plan. She pulled ahead. I fell back. My only focus was on surviving the 3.5 mile stretch that is the Cape Henry trail. I had stomach problems the whole run. We think too much breakfast was to blame. My head was tense. I couldn’t find mental comfort in my run. Tension took over my brain while the need to throw up took over my stomach.

My coach bounced back and forth between the two of us via his bicycle. He has a great way of simplifying things. Everything seems manageable. Yet, I struggled. My lungs felt good. My legs felt fine. My brain would not cooperate. I played mental games to try to help myself: positive affirmations, magnets along the trail (get to that tree, find that mile marker, pass that runner, etc.), my new marathon mantra. Nothing was working. Behind all that surface level positivity, a deeper level of fear still exists. Doubt has creeped into my brain, and I need it to go away. Maybe I need to write the mantra 1000 times until I believe it. Maybe I need those affirmations on every wall I look at. Maybe I just need to give myself a little more credit.

I finished my 12 mile run feeling a little mentally defeated, a little more eager to figure out what works for me nutritionally, and not nearly as physically exhausted as I had expected by the increase in miles.

I needed a moment to process these stupid fears of mine so I can get back in the game. I needed to sit in my lawn chair and gather my thoughts so I can jump back into the surf. It’s time for a dose of “Get over it Kristy”.

No one cares how fast I run but me.

This marathon won’t matter if I can’t find the confidence and strength to get it together mentally

This time last year, I ran 14 trail miles at an 11:55 pace! This weekend’s run was 12 miles at 9:22 pace! 2 minutes and 33 seconds faster per mile. This time last year, I ran 8.25 road miles at a 10:19 pace. My road miles are in the 8s now. My goal after the Crawlin Crab last October was long runs in the 9s and short runs in the 8s. This has been accomplished.

So while I’m giving myself these pep talks to be brave and to find strength, I also need to be gracious to myself. I’ve come a long way in a year. I have a long way that I want to go, but it doesn’t happen over night.

Paddling Out
Paddling Out

I walked away from this post to do my recovery run. The words I had written flooded my brain. Surprisingly my legs felt okay after my 12 mile run. I settled into the run. I ran my normal route to the river. When I got to the water’s edge, I realized what has been missing from my runs lately. My brain has been so focused on where I’m going, what I’m working towards, that I’m forgetting where I am. I’m forgetting to enjoy right now.

Dreaming big is important. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is crucial for engaging with the world. But the journey is meant to be enjoyed. The reason those big dreams are so fulfilling is because they add a vibrancy to life. Forgetting to celebrate the journey, the moments of now, is forgetting to love life.

So here’s to enjoying now! Here’s to enjoy the success of this very moment! Here’s to celebrating the journey. Here’s to dreaming big, hanging on, and appreciating the process: the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, the boring, and the amazing. Here’s to enjoying now.

I love these two!
I love these two!

This weekend’s run: 12 miles

8:55, 8:55, 9:07, 9:21, 9:17, 9:21, 9:30, 9:40, 9:34, 9:45