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. 

A Chapter Closes

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

When Christian and I first started dating, he laid his head in my lap. As he listened to me breathe, he brought it to my attention that my breath was shallow. I wasn’t breathing fully. I wasn’t breathing deeply. In that moment, time froze. My thoughts raced backwards as I remembered every moment in my life when I couldn’t breath. 

These moments were big life moments. They were moments I had a choice to make. I could take a deep breath, I could make a hard choice, and I could start a new chapter in my life. 

When Christian brought attention to my breath, I became aware of the stress that I was holding. As I pulled my breath deep into my abdomen, I felt myself letting go of the burdens I carried around with me. 

 

Every sunrise is a new beginning

 
Two Thursdays ago, I came face to face with a moment that took my breath away. While physically gasping for breath, I knew I had a decision to make. It was time to start a new chapter. 

Two Fridays ago was my last day at Operation Smile. It’s been a little over a week since I walked away from my dream job. 

Walking away from a dream isn’t easy. Letting go of something I’ve wanted my entire adult life isn’t easy. But when I sat in my bosses office physically gasping for breath on the verge of a panic attack, I knew it was time. 

Not all dreams are meant to last a lifetime. Walking away is actually walking towards the next dream. 

While I don’t know what my next chapter will look like just yet, I am trusting this leap of faith. I’m trusting the universe will catch me. 

Last week was my first full week since I walked away. It was hard. It was filled with every emotion. I was heart broken, and I was filled with hope. I did nothing last week. I let myself feel it all. I ran when I needed to. I hugged my boys when I needed comfort. I sat quietly when my heart needed it. I followed my breath. Whatever brought depth and fullness to my breath, I did it. 

 

This trail always heals my heart

 
 Just when I needed it most, my sweet friend invited me and a great group of gals to her river house for the weekend. It was a weekend filled with no agendas, lots of laughter, and sunsets on the river. As I got in my car to drive home, I felt the chapter closing. I felt myself letting go of everything I felt about leaving Operation Smile behind. 

 

Spread Love

 
I’m ending this chapter with nothing but gratitude. I was able to revisit regrets from my youth, and I was able to live out those dreams thanks to Operation Smile. I’ll never have to wonder what-if again. 

When I’m ready for the next chapter, I’m now equipped with a newfound strength, a newfound appreciation for my worth, and a stronger sense of my priorities. But for now I’m enjoying today. I’m enjoying my breath. I’m enjoying ever deep and meaningful inhale. I’m enjoying every intentional exhale. 

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” ~Sylvia Plath

I quit.

Four years ago today, I waited. I waited, and I waited some more. It’s a story I love telling. December 27th was Chet’s official due date. My intuition told me he would arrive early, and yet I was still pregnant on his due date. Little did I know that I had two more weeks to go.

Chet does things when he is ready. He is stubborn. His will is strong.

Giving birth to Chet will always be a defining moment in my life. In so many ways, his birth defined my entire approach to life. In between contractions, my hands had gone numb, and I looked at my doula with desperation. I can’t do this. She refocused my breath. She calmed me down. Minutes later I saw my baby for the first time.

Raising him hasn’t been easy. He does things when he is ready. He is stubborn. His will is strong.

As we approach his fourth birthday, I’ve had more moments of defeat than success. I’ve wanted to quit more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve reached out to friends when my head feels numb, and I feel full of desperation. I can’t do this. I refocus on my breath, I calm down, and minutes later he is the most loving child.

 
In the days leading up to Chet’s birth, I questioned myself. What am I doing wrong? What more can I do to prepare him for birth? In the weeks after he was born in the midst of many weeks defined by colic, I questioned myself.  What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I comfort my baby? In the middle of his toddler years, I am still questioning myself. What am I doing wrong? When will he be easy?

But Chet isn’t easy. He is stubborn. His will is strong.

I quit. I quit motherhood. I have failed as his mother. What am I doing wrong? I can’t do this.

These statements have haunted me since Chet became part of my world. I suspect they will haunt me for many, many more years. I’ve been embarrassed by these thoughts. I’ve gone to bed defeated.

Today something changed. Maybe wanting to quit isn’t a sign of failure. Perhaps wanting to quit is proof that I’m giving it my all. Maybe wondering where I have failed is proof that I desperately want to get this right. Chet isn’t easy. He is stubborn, and his will is strong. His heart is full of fire. His heart is full of fire just like my heart craves to be the best mom possible for him. I want to make growing up easy for him. I want to be his safety net. I want to fill him with so much love, he never questions himself. I don’t ever want him to wonder if he has failed or to think he can’t do something.

In the moments after I admit that I can’t do this, my body relaxes. I remember to breathe. Maybe, just maybe, it is Chet who is teaching me that I can do anything. Maybe he is the one who is teaching me that I can’t fail. And hopefully one day this child of mine who is stubborn and strong willed will approach life full of heart and determination because he already knows life isn’t easy. He already has his fight.

Together we can conquer anything. I can be his heart, and he can be my fire. 

  

Love is Possible 

The news is overwhelming these days. It’s too much. The other night Cole and I tackled his homework while the nightly news was on in the background. I noticed he had completely shut down. In that moment, I realized what he was watching: news on the refugee crisis, news on the police in Chicago, and news about people getting sick from eating Chipotle. When I asked him what was wrong, his answer was simple. “Our world is ending. We don’t take care of people. We don’t trust people who protect us. And we get sick from what we are eating.”

I sat there stunned. How do I respond to a statement like that? He just watched it with his own eyes. I can’t deny it. I can tell him about all the people who are helping, I can tell him stories of hope, but it’s all still happening. We are turning our backs on people who not only need help but deserve help. Don’t we all deserve a safety net?

He wouldn’t let me sit there quietly for long. I had to answer him. The only thing I know to be true is that this is exactly why we have to love. This is exactly why we have to give. This is exactly why we have to be our best every single day. We are so lucky. We are so lucky to love each other and to live our life the best way we possibly can live life.

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In yoga today, the class started by with an intention: find our place of comfort. My body is sore these days. I’ve been doing more than I ever have before. Monday I ran. Tuesday I went to Evofit, and I ran. Today I went to Evofit, and I practiced yoga. I am moving my body, and I am feeling good. I have found my place of comfort.

My body is sore, but my heart is light. My thoughts are clear. I’m inspired by my potential. I’m motivated by those around me. Right now I just feel good.

**********

While I am moving and breathing and enjoy everything that comes with it, there is another mom with two little boys wishing for a life without fear. She isn’t sitting next to her son explaining the things he saw on the nightly news. She is searching for an explanation for what is happening all around her, to her, and to her family.

It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t seem to be fair. It’s not right, and it’s not fair. I don’t know how to explain to my son why this is happening. I am sad, I am angry, and I am disappointed. When those feelings settle, when I see past the fear, the only words I can find to tell my child as he figures out his own world is to love: love yourself more than anyone will every love you, love your family more than that, love your friends even more,  and love your enemies the most.

“We humans have always sought to increase our personal energy in the only manner we have known, by seeking to psychologically steal it from the others — an unconscious competition that underlies all human conflict in the world” ~James Redfield

We don’t have to put others down to make ourselves better. Focus on being the best version of you that you can possibly be. Find what makes you feel alive. Listen to the whispers in your heart.

I am sad for the mother raising her children in fear. I am angry that people think this is okay. I am disappointed that we believe she doesn’t deserve help. I am lucky. I am so incredibly lucky that I can watch the sunrise while I run, that I can find a group of women who support me while I find my own strength, that I can work for a company that makes the world feel small, that I can tell my husband that I love him every single day, and that I can raise boys to roam free. I owe it to every mother who isn’t as lucky to be grateful for what I have in my life. I owe it to them to be the best version of myself. I owe it to them love freely.

“We can become inspired to shape a higher, more ideal future, and when we do, miracles happen.” ~James Redfield

I have to live my life as if the world exists as it should. I will continue to do all things that make my heart light and my head clear. I will continue to love. One day the world will follow. One day we won’t let fear guide us. One day when someone asks for help, we will offer them our hand instead of judgment.

This is the only answer I have for Cole. If he doesn’t like what he is watching on the news, he has to grow up and live a life that doesn’t follow that same pattern. Life is a balancing act. On one side is a life stuck in fear, and on the other side is a life open to possibility. Our choices and our decisions are what add weight to either side of the scale. The more we chose love, the more love is possible.

  

 

I am Strong 

This morning in a new environment that is slowly starting to feel as comfortable as my running shoes, I was completing a serious of back and front squats. Prior to today, I have completed zero back and front squats. Not one. Ever. Prior to last month, I haven’t stepped foot into a gym of any form since high school. To say I took a step outside of my comfort zone is an understatement. 

Evofit

 
Two years ago I said I need to find strength outside of running. Two years ago I recognized the weakness that exists in my body. I said it over and over again. I’m not strong. I have zero strength. I don’t have any muscle tone. Some how these statements became comfortable. Instead of doing something about it, I wore my weakness as a badge of honor. The statement I’m not strong became comfortable. 

I took two years and one leap of faith to walk into a new gym to change the story I’ve been telling myself. I’m rewriting my script. I am strong is the badge of honor I want to wear. 

As I lowered into a back squat today, I was tentative. I was nervous. I didn’t trust my ability. If I squated as low as I was told to go, could I get back up? Did I have the strength? I looked around the room and the ladies who were with me were squating twice as much weight. Their bodies look strong. I was tentative. 

When I walked into this new gym four weeks ago I made a promise to myself. I promised myself I wouldn’t compare my ability to anyone else. I would celebrate my journey. I would focus on my progress. I would embrace my strength. When I started to question if I had the strength to go low enough in my squat, I reminded myself of that promise. I trusted myself. I believed in my ability. I squated. 

I can feel my body changing. As my muscles get stronger, my mind is transforming right along side of it. I’m starting to see my ability. I am excited about my potential. I am starting to believe that I am strong. 

“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” ~Brene Brown

This has nothing to do with lifting weights or running fast. This is about believing in myself. This is about believing I am capable. This is about recognizing my strength both physically and mentally. This is about owning my story. 

its also a great excise to breath in salty air at sunrise

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. Me 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 past 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.

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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.

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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.

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Expanding my Comfort Zone

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarding genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~Calvin Coolidge

Today I hit the “submit” button on the registration page of my fourth marathon. On April 9, 2016 I will tackle 26.2 miles again. It will be different this time. This race is like no other race I’ve run before. It will be 26.2 miles of trails along the Potomac River. 

I believe that marathons are filled with magic. I believe marathons are the place where my heart comes to life. 

As I ran the Chicago Marathon, I did something I’ve never been able to do in a race. I stayed positive. What could easily be considered a terrible race considering my marathon history and my fitness level, I found myself loving every mile. There were a few moments when the negative thoughts tried to creep in. At mile 14, I found myself think not yet. I wasn’t ready to feel so weak just yet. At mile 17, I found myself think I miss my husband. It was the first marathon I didn’t have him cheering on the back half of the course. (Ironically he was at mile 17. He ran all over town to get to that point which was never part of the plan. I never saw him.) At mile 22, I begged my legs to keep going because there was no way I was doing this for another hour. But as quickly as a negative thoughts surfaced – and there were so few in comparison to my training and my race history – I let it go. I welcomed the thought, and I let it pass through me. This marathon was my marathon to own. It was slow in comparison to anything I’ve run before, but my heart stayed a float. 

 

Missing this city already

 
The end result of that race was a healed heart, a happy spirit, and a deep desire to do it again. The Chicago Marathon left me hungry for so much more. How can I layer on speed? How can I push myself while keeping my heart engaged? I’m going to attempt to answer these questions this winter. While I have signed up for marathon #4, my goal for winter training is a speedy spring half. 


Marathon #4 won’t be about speed at all. Marathon #4 is about celebrating friendship. (I’ll be running with my best friend!) Marathon #4 is about adding fuel to my dreams. Marathon #4 is about finding the courage and the confidence to push myself out of my comfort zone and embracing the process. 

Winter is my season to shine! I can’t wait to tackle another season of training! 

Finding our balance: miles with Chet while he fishes