Challenging Why

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

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

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

Official time: 33:22, 10:45 pace


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

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

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

Garmin run time: 36:36, 9:09 pace 


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

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

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

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

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

The only thing holding me back is me. WHY?

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

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

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. 

Momentum (#blogandjog)

“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.” ~Rainer Marie Rilke 

Sunday morning I woke up early. I had more miles I wanted to run. Shamrock Half Marathon training/ Northface Endurance Challenge Marathon training is officially underway. Between now and April, I’ll be following up my J&A Racing Training Team Saturday runs with more miles on Sundays, but this Sunday was different. I had received an invite to do something a little more exciting than just logging eight miles. 

As I drove towards the boardwalk, it was the first time in along time I let my brain wander towards the cherished finish line. I visualized that final mile. I could feel the strength in my legs. I remembered last year’s celebration as I rounded the corner to cross the finish line on the boardwalk with an unexpected personal best. This year is different though. This year I have expectations. This year my goal is to own the back half of the race course. I’m chasing down my strength this year. I’m ready to let my fire burn. 

As I drove towards the oceanfront Sunday morning emotion washed over me as I visualized a finish line with my husband and friends waiting to celebrate the success of this season. While I have a goal for this race, I’m already succeeding. This training cycle is already a success. 

  
After I logged four solo miles while the sun rose, I meet three other ladies who I deeply respect and admire to run four more miles.  I received an invited from Jess at The Fit Petite to be part of her blog celebration. To celebrate the birthday of her blog, she brought us all together to #jogandblog. 

  
These ladies are fast. As we ran along the boardwalk, I held on tight. I promised myself I wouldn’t question my ability, and I’d just run. I could have (and six months ago I would have) come up with a million reasons why I don’t belong in this pack. They are fast. They are far less socially awkward then me. I ramble too much. My brain works faster than my mouth. I am way too aware of myself. My legs were already tired from Saturday. The list could go on and on, but on Sunday I never let the list begin. I’m done  with that story. 

  
As I held on during our run, something shifted. As we shared stories of why we all run over coffee, something happened. As we talked about priorities, life, and dreams, something formed. 

We all had our own unique story, yet we had a collective story to tell. We all are deliberating choosing to be our best to live the fullest life possible. Running is part of that puzzle piece, but it isn’t the whole picture. 

I went into this training cycle with one intention. I wanted to feel ownership of my body. I wanted to find my strength. I expected to find it through Evofit and through miles in my running shoes. I never expected to find it through a team. I never expected to find it through friendship. 

My greatest success this training cycle has nothing to do with miles or pounds lifted. My success is in these three ladies. It’s is in the J&A Racing training group. It is in the friendships at Evofit. My strength is my connections. 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~African proverb

Being part of a team, a pack, a group of genuine friendships has given me more than I can ever imagine. The more I give of myself to all of these amazing people, the more I get in return. 

It isn’t my anticipated finish time at shamrock that make me teary and filled with pride. It is the celebration with friends. It is the joint success. It’s knowing that every step of this journey has been supported by hundreds of giving hearts. 

What started as a simple conversation in Peru has turned into one of the greatest momentum changes of my life. 

 
Read more about our #blogandjog on their sites too 

The Fit Petite 

Kris Lawrence
Megan Ulanich Overbey

108

108.

There are 108 days until the Shamrock Half-Marathon on March, 20th.

There are 108 beads on my mala.

108 is a sacred number in many religious and traditional practices. Hinduism, Islam, Jain, Sikh, Buddhism, and Taoism all reference 108.  There is said to be 108 energy lines converging to form the heart charka which can lead to the path of self-realization. Some say that there are 108 feelings: 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, 36 related to the future. The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The average distance to the moon from the earth is 108 times the diameter of the moon. The connection between 108 and life are extensive.

Today I received the first training plan for the Shamrock Training Group with a reminder that the next 108 days will be spent building a foundation for success and happiness. When I realized the connection between the days in this training cycle and the focus of my life, I giggled. Every single day I wear a mala around my neck that is a constant remind of my intention to live a rooted life. It’s a reminder that I want to be deeply rooted in my community so that I can thrive. The deeper the roots, the stronger I become. 

 

always my source of inspiration
 
Coincidence or not, I can’t help but take notice of the connection between this training cycle, my intention for living, and the path I’m heading down over the next 108 days. This training cycle belongs to the community I’ve created for myself as much as it belongs to me. I won’t be showing up every weekend to simply participate in the training process. Instead I’m taking on a new role. I will be pacing dozens of runners who are like ooking to find a personal best in their running legs.

“I am rooted, but I flow.” ~Virginia Woolf

This is new territory for me. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s nerve-wrecking. It’s a step outside of my comfort zone, yet it is where I thrive. I am my best when I’m helping others. When I got a call from my running coach asking if this was a role I wanted to embrace, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Of course I would help. Of course I would love to run beside dozens of runners as the push themselves out of their comfort zone. He has somehow magically figured out how my brain works. To achieve my own goals in running, it has to be about something besides just me. When I take the focus off of myself, I thrive. Every Saturday I will be running with a group of incredibly talented and passionate runners. I get to own the honor of pacing them, and I get the privilege of pushing myself beside them. This is my sweet spot. This is the place where my energy lines converge opening up my heart to possibility.

8:18

This number represents possibility to me. I’ve had this number written on every training plan I’ve followed for the past two years. It’s the pace I need to run to qualify for Boston. Every training run and race brings me closer to this goal. As I work on my strength, as I work on finding the best in myself, this number pulls me along. It inspires me. It motivates me. It excites me. I don’t know when I will run this magical number, but I know I will get there. Over the next 108 days, I will continue my own personal quest for 8:18.

“Embody what you teach, and teach only what you have embodied.” ~Dan Millman

The next 108 days represent everything that 8:18 symbolizes for me. They will be about heart. They will be about passion. They will be about celebrating the process. They will be about community, team and friendship. They will be about support. They will be about dreaming. They will be about success. It doesn’t matter if I run an 8:18 pace at shamrock. As a team we will all find success together. Finish lines will be celebrated. 

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” ~John Lennon

108 days until the Shamrock Half-Marathon.

Want to train with me? Sign up HERE

  

Shamrock Half Marathon 2015

“Courage, Dear Heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

A week ago I crossed the finish line of the Newport News Marathon 8k. Over the five hilly miles, my head quickly tried to play its old tricks. By mile two I found myself thinking old thoughts of “I can’t” and “it’s too hard”. As quickly as they came, I quickly laughed them off. I spent last year battling those mental demons. There was no way I was letting them win this year. Instead I had fun with the runners around me. I chatted with the few spectators that were on the course. Even when congestion prevented me from breathing deeply and a cramp emerged in my side around mile 3, I stayed happy. The result was an 8k and a perfectly executed race

(Finish Time: 45:15, Splits: 9:11, 9:02, 9:01, 9:01, 8:56)

After this race, I knew my heart (and most importantly my head) was ready for my big race weekend: Shamrock Half Marathon.

I wasn’t supposed to be running the half this weekend. I was supposed to be in Africa. I wasn’t training for a spring half. I thought my goal race would be a 10 miler at the end of April. So when plans changed, I quickly adapted my training plan to squeeze in a few double digit runs (two to be exact).

As race day approached, I had a few goals floating around in my head. First and most importantly, I wanted to duplicate the feeling I ran with at the One City Marathon 8k. I wanted to run with a happy heart. I wanted to have fun. Based on my current fitness level, I also had a few anticipated finish times.

A Goal – Sub 2 if the day was absolutely perfect mixed with a little race day magic (the same pace as my 8k the weekend before)

B Goal – PR (sub 2:03:19)

C Goal – stay strong (9:30 pace)

As I lined up at the start of the Shamrock Half Marathon with my friends, I decided I wanted to go for. I wanted to see if I had a sub 2 hiding inside my running legs. Regardless of my inconsistent training and regardless of my unfocused running all winter, I knew my heart and my head was the strongest it has ever been going into a race

The excitement is building
The excitement is building

Mile 1 9:08

Mile 2 9:06

Mile 3 9:06

Mile 4 9:01

Mile 5 9:04

Mile 6 9:05

The first six miles head north through the North End of the oceanfront and along Shore Drive through First Landing State Park. My only thought through the first six miles was to slow down. I didn’t want to run faster than a 9 minute mile. I consciously head back and resisted the urge to run faster as the excitement of race day took over.

As we turned on to the military base, I started to fatigue a bit. I think mentally I knew what the next 3 miles had planned. Three miles through a lonely, quiet military base. My running buddy Laura dropped back at Mile 7 due to some cramping so I was all alone. I started the process of counting miles and water stops. Run to the next mile marker. Run to the next water table. Run to the light house. Get me off this stupid military base!

Mile 7 8:54

Mile 8 9:05

Mile 9 9:23

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I expected to feel a surge of excitement as I left the military base, but it never showed up. I was tired. I couldn’t find the motivation to keep the wheels turning. I hadn’t been paying attention to my garmin at this point. If I had know I was so close to going sub 2, I think I could have fought a little harder. Mentally I thought I was in the perfect bubble of finishing with a new PR above 2 hours.

Mile 10 9:35

Mile 11 9:21

Mile 12 9:56

As always Christian was waiting for me as I came out of the military base. Seeing him is always a welcome sight. He stays if I want him near. He bikes ahead when I push him away. I really wanted to be done by the time I saw him. Mentally I was tired.  When I finally saw the mile mark to let me know there was 1 mile left, I finally found some energy. I didn’t run 12 miles to quit, so I tucked my head and kept going.

Mile 13 9:30

As I made my the final turn onto the boardwalk, I was smiling from ear to ear. I knew I was going to cross the finish line with a personal best. This year I really allowed myself to enjoy the energy of the crowd. I high fived everyone on the turn. I cheered along with them. I embraced ever single sign and every single word of encouragement. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Final Stretch 8:36 pace

shamrock

Official Results 2:01:43, 9:17 pace

I felt like I was beaming as I made my way down the finisher shoot. Satisfied didn’t even begin to describe just how good I felt about my run on Sunday. Running a PR always feels good, but this year feels different. This year running was my last priority. This year family time always came first. This year my work has become my source of pride. This year I choose sleep when my body was weary. This year my life felt like everything fell in place perfectly. To be rewarded with a personal best is truly the cherry on top.

Post Race Celebrating
Post Race Celebrating

As I put another check in the box next to a goal accomplished, I can’t help but feel like this is my starting point. I felt this exact same way last year at the finish line of the Shamrock Half. I’m finding my stride. I’m finding what works best for my life. Running has become the perfect compliment for everything that makes me happy.

This year running embraced me back. My heart won this race!

shamrock3

In the Process

I had no intention of running the Shamrock half marathon this year. I was planning to be on a work trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I thought I’d be in the heart of Africa working with patients doing something my heart loves. Plans changed. When my own personal safety came into question, the heart of my family became my priority. These very deserving patients will get treatment even if I’m not there, and my boys don’t have to worry about my safety.

There’s a saying floating around in this world that joy is found in the process not in the finish line. While I won’t be traveling to the DRC, a shift changed inside of me by working on this project. The story of these patients is so closely entwined with my heart. Who I am as a person and the beat of my heart directly connects me to their story. I rediscovered a passion inside of me over the past few months. I’ve found confidence in my own voice and in my own story. I’ve been using my voice to capture my story on paper. I’ve revisited places of shame and guilt that existed within me, and I conquered those doubts. I wanted more than anything to bring strength to these patients. I wanted to bring compassion and courage. In order to bring it to them, I had to find it for myself.

This process has changed me. In some ways it’s been subtle. In other ways it’s been intrusive. Rearranging the components of your soul is messy. It’s chaotic. While some parts have emerged, others have left with a fight. There have been days I’ve felt emotionally unstable as I’ve struggled through this transition: old doubts and insecurities struggling to hold on while new-found strength and courage fought to take over.

Through all this change the one place I’ve been able to sort through all my thoughts is in my running shoes. I’ve worked through it all, celebrated it all, and finished every run feeling like a polished version of my self. Shamrock race weekend feels like the perfect place to shine. This year I’ll be running the Shamrock half marathon instead of traveling to Africa, but I’ll be carrying this entire process with me. The finish line isn’t the one I anticipated, but the process has been the same.

I’ll be running with these patients close to my heart. I’ll be running with the courage and determination I hoped to bring to them. The best way I can honor them and myself is to show up to my life with my heart exposed filled with strength and courage.

When I do board a plane this spring for a different mission site, my heart is going to have nothing to give but love that is rooted in my own strength. My foundation will be built on strength and courage.

 

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You can’t Fake the Core

“If there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.” ~ Cheryl Strayed

All year I’ve been peeling away the layers. I’ve been seeking out breathing room in nearly every aspect of my life. After a period of my life that felt nearly suffocating, I needed to breathe again. I changed jobs. Our house is being decluttered. I simplified our family life. I took a step back in nearly every aspect of my life. This is what I need. I know it deep inside my core.

I’m meant to live a simple life. I’m meant to live a life full of love. It’s impossible to accomplish this when your life is full of clutter – both physical and emotional.

And yet my running has struggled. I’ve struggled with my relationship with running all year. Injury. Emotional baggage. Mental weakness. I just can’t get over the hump. With my fall race season approaching, I started to panic. I need a training plan. I need to get faster. I need support. My running continued to spiral downward. I don’t want to give up on running. I love running. Should I even be racing at all? I can’t function without running. I’m working on redefining my relationship with my running shoes. Isn’t that enough? Spiraling spiraling downward. And then I bounced back up.

What I need is breathing room!

I already know exactly what I need. My body has been telling me for months (years?).

I need to trust myself. I know how to run. I know how train. Creating my own plan, trusting myself to get me to the finish line, is exactly what I need. I need to empower myself. I need to put my faith back in my own ability. I don’t need a time goal. I just want to do my best.  And I need to listen to my body.

While I was so busy trying to control the outcome of every race, I was ignoring the screams that were coming from my body. I’ve run my body into the ground based on it’s current fitness level. My hips have been rebelling. I feel weaker every time I put on my running shoes.  My body was screaming at me that something needed to change. It was reminding me what I always forget: my running legs aren’t like everyone else’s running legs. They were broken at one point. My femur, my tibia, and my foot broke. They are pieced back together by titanium rods and screws. My hip and knees have been dislocated. I have scar tissue. I have to take care of them. I have to support them. I need to get stronger if I’m going to keep running.

So my training plan is blank minus the few races I’m running this fall. I’ve left space each week for two easy runs, one speed work out, and a long run. I’ve left space for strength workouts. I’ve left space for yoga. How I fill in the space each week will be based on my life – family and work. The blank spaces make me feel alive. The blank space feels like a vote of confidence in myself. I’m smart enough to know how to build mileage. I have run enough speed workouts to select ones that challenge me. I am now smart enough to recognize that my focus has to be on strength and yoga. The running will fall into place.

I’m excited about this new plan. I’m excited to find a balance that works for me. I’m excited to listen to my body in a truly authentic way. It feels amazing to let go of trying to control the outcome. Instead I’m focusing on today, right now, and exactly what my body needs. I have a feeling I’m building the foundation for a very happy running relationship.

I hear you body! I am finally listening!

I finally feel like I am breathing!

 

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Running and life: always a reflection of each other

Starting….

I set out to run my easy twenty minute recovery run this afternoon. I picked my favorite two+ mile route at the oceanfront: rudee inlet to the pier taking the alternative route back. I put on my garmin just to keep my running log up to date.

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Slow and easy was my plan. I wanted to tune into my body to see if I felt any imbalances from the race on Sunday. I ran comfortable. I ran happy. My watch beeped just past the pier to let me know mile one was done. I looked down for the first time, and I thought my watch was broken.

7:51

I put on the breaks and slowed down. This was supposed to be an easy run. Every time I slowed down, my legs pulled me forward. I took inventory. Nothing hurt. I wasn’t breathing heavy. My legs felt great. I needed to trust my body.

8:26

I was still feeling great after mile two so I let my legs lead the way for the rest of the run. I finished the run at a 7:48 pace. I finished feeling like I could keep going. I finished, and my legs felt better than when I started.

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I was very hesitant about my running before Sunday’s race. I was nervous about my injury. I was nervous about my lack of miles. I was worried I had lost what little speed I had left.

I’m not nervous anymore. I’m ready. I’m excited. I’m ready to tackle hard runs and longer miles. I’m ready to see what I’m capable of achieving this spring in my next two races, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler and the Flying Pirate half marathon.

It’s time to be brave. I’m ready to push out of my comfort zone. It just took a solid half marathon and a surprise speedy run to help me change gears!

Hello spring training!

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Staying Afloat

In less than two weeks, I’ll be lining up to run the Shamrock Half-Marathon. I wasn’t sure if this race was even a reality a few weeks ago. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a quality long run. In fact, my last double-digit run was at the Surfin Santa 10-miler the first weekend in December. The weeks after that race lead me to drop down to the half marathon from the full marathon. They also lead me to an ankle injury.

*******

I’m really good at sinking the ship. My husband has told me this more times than I can count. In arguments, when our ship is starting to take on water, I don’t bail water. I add water to the boat. The ship is going down, and I speed up the process. This bad habit has followed me my whole life.

*******

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When I ran the Richmond marathon in November, my ship started to take on water at mile 10. I threw up. For the first time (maybe ever), I didn’t sink the ship. I collected myself, I started running again, and I moved on to Plan B. And then plan C, D and E. After I got sick each time, I just kept moving forward. I bailed water!

The same thing happened at the Surfin Santa 10-miler. The miles on the boardwalk in the wind left me flat. When I got off the boardwalk with two more miles to run, I collected myself and kept going. I bailed water again.

When I reflected on both of these races, this lesson missed me. I never saw either race from this perception until I had a conversation with Jerry from J&A Racing. He casually pointed out that I stayed mentally engaged when I could have given up.

I came home that night happy to tell my husband that I was learning to bail water.

*******

In January I started running with Coach Ryan Carroll. When my ankle injury happened, he constantly reminded me to keep moving. Injuries, while annoying and a blow to my cardiovascular endurance, can be a great opportunity to find strength in other aspects of life. Ryan got me back on my bike, something that hasn’t happened in three years. In every conversation we’ve had, he’s reminded me to keep moving. He’s reminded me to bail water.

After easing back into training, this Saturday was my first long run where I planned on testing my legs. The outcome was far better than I expected: 10 miles at a 9:23 pace. All that’s left now is to show up on race day and run what my coach tells me to run. This race isn’t a goal race. It’s a starting point for 2014. While I have some time goals in mind, my mission on race day is to keep my ship afloat.

*******

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I would never wish for an injury, but this injury delivered so many gifts. I took away all my excuses to not bike. It has given me permission to run shamrock free of self-imposed expectations. It’s showed me that maybe, just maybe, bailing water is now my approach to life.

This ship isn’t sinking! Hand me a bucket. I finally know how to bail water!

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