Namaste

Sometimes you hear a message and it hits hard. It hits you hard like a stick in the face when you’re running during a windstorm and you can’t pull it off because it is now entangled in your hair and wet and no matter how hard you try, the speckles of stick and bark are still there. Then it hurts. So I sat there in church, listening to the windstorm and walking out unable to get rid of the sting from the stick that hit me in my face.

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TIME.

We all have 24 hours in a day. We all have many of the same responsibilities like shuttling kids here and there, grocery shopping, and of course we all have to eat, which means cooking and meal prep as well. I am excellent at time management and have a multitude of “things” that I fill that time bucket with. It is full, full to the brim. There are hundreds of stones in my time bucket. What I came to realize was that not a single stone in that bucket had my name on it. Honestly, I realized this a long time ago but just pushed it away, ignored it, maybe even experienced a little denial about it. But Sunday, Sunday there was no getting out of it. My pastor completely called me out. He might as well have pointed his finger right at me. The fact that there was not a single stone in MY OWN BUCKET that was for ME was a problem. I wasn’t giving myself time to reflect, time to grow spiritually and time to grow closer to God.

SACRIFICE.

I like sleep. I like sleep a lot. I am in NO WAY a morning person. I tried the whole running on the morning thing when the world is yet to be awake and loathed it. I was in the habit of waking my daughter up for school at 6 am then heading back to bed to hit the snooze. Several times. I would get up at the last minute, rush out the kids and myself and it seemed to set the tone for the day. And in all honesty, how much sleep was I really getting having to hit the snooze button every 9 minutes for an hour?

After being hit Sunday (remember this is by the message, not literally), I decided I needed to make a change. In fact, as I mentioned, I knew I needed to make the change for a long time but have been a bit in denial. Denial is definitely a tool of the devil to prevent us from being the best version of ourselves. I took one sleep rock out and replaced it with a rock for myself. I know all this talk about myself may seem a bit selfish, but it’s really not. If we do not allow ourselves time to think, be quiet in reflection and just be present for our own self being, we neglect ourselves.

QUIET TIME.

That one hour rock that I pulled from sleep is now my quiet time. It’s been a week. Change is hard. Change also become easier when you can see the differences. That one hour of time between 6 am and 7 am is my quiet time. I really thought about what to do with my quiet time and came to the conclusion that I would do yoga and reading. Trust me, some days this week my body has screamed at me NAMASTE IN BED, but my heart laid a guilt trip that got me up. Obedience. We obey and we continue to practice what is right until it becomes the norm, a new habit.

NAMASTE.

Yoga. I have never really enjoyed it. I have always said my personality is just not fit for yoga. I don’t take myself too seriously and all the earthy feel the ground under your feet stuff just made me laugh. Out loud. Which is not so good in a yoga class. I realize now, that I did not enjoy it because I did not take time for myself. I did not give myself quiet time. There were a million other things I could be doing than laying on a mat with my thoughts. in savasana pose. No joke. The first day at the end of the session the voice on the app aid to relax in savasana. The little timer said 60 seconds. I swear the timer was off…the 60 seconds felt like an eternity. And you guessed it, I was replaying in my head all of the things I still had to do for the morning. Clearly, I had not mastered the practice in round 1. Quiet time is hard. Being alone with your thoughts is hard. We often avoid it, fill our lives wit business, distract ourselves with social media, all just to not allow ourselves time to just be, reflect and be alone with our thoughts.

It will come. It got easier. By Friday I was not looking at the clock. I was able to tune out the daily to-do list playing through my head constantly (at least for some of it).

After yoga, I read. I don’t think it is any coincidence in God’s book that the book of choice to start this journey is Lysa Terkeheurst’s The Best Yes. It is a book about really listening to what God is calling us to do and being able to decipher when we should say YES and when we should kindly pass because there is something better in store for us.

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DEFINE YOUR TIME.

I haven’t worked out in awhile. If we are being honest, my last run was probably 2 months ago. I love to run and running is a great way to have quiet time. I have yet to determine what rock needs to be dumped so that I can squeeze running into the bucket again. But because I could not fit running into my time frame right now I knew I had to do something else, thus the reason for the yoga. It suffices for my quiet time and stretches me to become more in tune to reflection all that “cheesy yoga meditation stuff” that is actually quite biblical. Plus, it is by no means denying myself physical activity. When they say feel the heat rise through your legs, that is no joke. My legs were BURNING and maybe a tad sore after.

My challenge to you is this: Define. Your. Time. Does your bucket have a rock in it with your name on it? Are you nourishing yourself physically, spiritually or likewise? What I have learned in this week that, for me, adding this time and reflection to my day has helped me to be more present in other aspects of my day and feel less pressured to get it all done. AND IT’S ONLY BEEN A WEEK! I am sure much more growth, revelations and changes will come as I continue to make a choice to not let other rocks in my bucket push this one out.

 

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Top 10 Reasons You NEED a Best Running Friend

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Over the last few years I have been highly involved in the local running community. I have met some amazing people in the process and developed some great and long lasting relationships. I have watched women come together from all walks of life and form inseparable bonds through running. It truly is an amazing community to be a part of. This past weekend I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin for the inaugural HER Madison Half Marathon and 5k. The weekend  experience completely confirmed and reaffirmed the reasons why I run AND the reasons why everyone needs to have a best running friend (BRF) or two! In fact, if you don’t have one, get one. Join a local run group, invite a few friends running, or stalk the local running path for someone who looks like they might fit the bill (although the latter may not be the most recommended way to obtain a BRF). Here is why you need one……now!

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10. They won’t ask you non-runner questions like “Why do you want to pay to run that far?” or “How long is a 5k/half marathon/marathon?” Or my personal favorite “You run in the snow/rain/sleet/hot/cold?”

9. Not only will they not question your sanity for running in what others may consider not-so-perfect weather, they will be the first to call you to lace up and head out at the first snow fall. While your non-running counterparts are layering up in blankets, starting the fire and drinking hot chocolate, you and your BRF are lacing up, layering the cold compression gear and giddy at the fact that your shoes are the first to leave tracks in the fresh snow!

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8. They won’t look down on you when they see you in public in your running clothes. In fact, if they were to see you actually put together, hair down, and “real” clothes on, they may not even recognize you! They know that your closet has been taken over by sports bras, 1/4 zip jackets, and t-shirts because theirs has been too.

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7. They always seem to know just the right moment to call or text to give you that extra push to get out the door for the day. Whether it’s 8:30 at night and they’re on their way home from kids sports or a 5 am wake up call, their timing couldn’t be more perfect because it is right when you are talking yourself out of a run. But since they reached out, and you know you’ve got someone counting on you, you suck it up, bury the excuses and just go.

6. They are persistent. If that first little nudge via text or phone didn’t work, they don’t write you off. They know there are days that can suck the life out of you and every excuse in the books is a legit one. But they don’t stop calling and reaching out until you get out and run.

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5. They aren’t disgusted by much. Let’s face it, there are issues that runners have that may not exactly be dinner time conversation. However, you can discuss pretty much everything with your BRF and they won’t bat an eye about it. From blisters, to chafing, to bathroom issues; nothing is off limits.

4. They provide free therapy. Running is therapy enough for some, but that extra ear to listen and be a sounding board makes it that much better. My BRFs half jokingly say we are not a 5 am run group, we are a 5 am life group. They know when to just run along side you and listen and when to offer advice between labored breathing. And it goes beyond the run. They also call between runs to check-in on you and make sure you’re doing ok when they know you are experiencing something extra difficult or stressful.

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3. They know when to step up and when to step back.  They train with you for the important events. Whether they needed to log the miles or not, whether they are naturally a faster pace than you, they show up for you and do it with you. They show up, plain and simple. They have that natural instinct to know when to let you go and let you shine too. They know, without words to grab your hand and raise it up to cross the finish or to step back and let you have your moment of glory solo. Sometimes we don’t even know what we need at that moment, but they always seem to.

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2. They are your number one cheering section. They will drive hours upon hours and spend dollars upon dollars to run a race with you or watch you cross an important finish line. No questions asked. They will show up, posters waving, cowbells ringing, and camera ready to go to capture your moment. Even if you’re the last to finish and they are closing down the finish line, that one person is still standing, still cheering, still shouting and is there for you.

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1. They know that running is about the journey. I cannot count the number of times that I have had conversations with people (non-runners) about running. It is a hard concept to explain, but running is not about running. It is about the journey that we go on through the process of running, goal setting, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and reaching new heights. Everyone’s journey is different and everyone runs for different reasons, but when you break down at the finish line, you don’t have to explain yourself to your BRF because they already know the significance of this race for you and are embracing you with tears in their eyes too. (As a side note, this is the reason that gave birth to an amazing company and group of women known as Fellow Flowers. If you have never heard of them, I highly encourage you to check them out and find your why.)

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*And hopefully your BRFs will not mind you hacking their Facebook account and stealing images for your blog, either. Hopefully.

Making peace with the water

A friend posted this photo for me on Facebook today:

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Now, lets rewind to the beginning of the summer when I decided to commit to a triathlon. I knew water would be a challenge, I just had no idea how much control the fear of open water had over me. Those of you that have followed this journey with me know that there have been several instances in my life that have lead to this loathing relationship that water and I have. Despite all that, committed to a triathlon and began the training process. Not only did I commit, I dedicated the journey to raising funds for an amazing organization, the Angelcheeks Foundation, which was established after the passing of my friends’ baby due to SIDS.

Throughout training I have definitely had my ups and downs. I started with lessons from friends because I had not the slightest idea on how to swim for a triathlon. I knew what it looked like as a bystander, but had no clue what I was doing in the water. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by people who are willing to invest time in me and have patiently guided me through this water process even when I’m being irrational. After A LOT of practice I started to get a rhythm down. I could breathe without feeling like I was hyperventilating, I could swim without focusing my mind on what every inch of my body was doing or worrying if my toes were pointed, and most importantly, I could make it thorough several laps in the pool continuously. I was in the pool at least 4 days a week. As confident as I may have been in the pool, pools never caused anywhere close to the anxiety I felt when it came to swimming in open water.

Unfortunately, triathlons do not take place in nice, clean, clear pools so I had to take the plunge. I have swam several times in open water as part of the process and none of those times I would call successful. My most recent lake swim was the worst. I have been able to make light of the situation and joke about it but this last swim exhausted me emotionally. I got back to my car and cried, seriously doubting my ability to do this while the triathlon date was lurking only 6 days away.

 

This was my Facebook post after that horrendous swim:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What this picture doesn't tell you is how fast my heart was pounding before even stepping foot in the water, or how tight I squeezed my eyes shut every time I went underwater to avoid looking at murky unknown water, or how one little strand of seaweed literally sucked the air out of me, or how freaked out I was at the fact that the kids swimming around me were excited they were seeing fish underwater, or how hard it seemed at times just to swim to the next buoy when it wasn't even 100m away, or how even after getting out of the water I couldn't shake the sensation of feeling like there were bugs and leeches all over me. Trust me, I'm not exaggerating.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What this picture doesn’t tell you is how fast my heart was pounding before even stepping foot in the water, or how tight I squeezed my eyes shut every time I went underwater to avoid looking at murky unknown water, or how one little strand of seaweed literally sucked the air out of me, or how freaked out I was at the fact that the kids swimming around me were excited they were seeing fish underwater, or how hard it seemed at times just to swim to the next buoy when it wasn’t even 100m away, or how even after getting out of the water I couldn’t shake the sensation of feeling like there were bugs and leeches all over me. Trust me, I’m not exaggerating.

6 days until show time and I’m freaking out like this? I mean, who does that? I seriously cannot swim in a lake without having a complete meltdown? At this point I did not even want to touch any water again until I absolutely had to, but I knew I couldn’t leave it like that.

Two days late I went to the pool. I had to prove to myself I was physically capable of doing this and that my problem was all in my head! It was/is, of course. That was one of the best, most beautiful pool sessions I had to date! I needed that more than you know! After I was done I sat at the edge of the pool to think. I prayed. And that’s where the picture from my wall comes in. As I prayed I was reminded to trust. Matthew 14:22-33 tells the story of Jesus walking on water. This is what came to me sitting on the edge of the pool that day.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courageous! It is I. Don’t be afraid. ” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said. “Why did you doubt?”

There it was, the missing link, as clear as the pool water. Trust.

I needed to hand this one over to the man upstairs and let him be my guide. I need to trust in Him to guide me and help me overcome these fears as well as trust in myself and my capabilities. I am at peace now with the water. After that defining moment at the edge of the pool 5 days before race day, I saw the light. Will I still be nervous? Absolutely. But I am at a place now where I am not letting the anxiety or the fear consume me and I am embracing the challenge. Is it still possible I hate every minute of the swim? Sure. I will, however, give it my all. I’m doing this for me, for the Angelcheeks Foundation.

That fact that later that same day a friend posted the photo above on my wall was no coincidence. It was most definitely a reminder that He’s got my back, I just need to trust! And I will do just that on August 10!

The Slower Race: the inspiring moments that happen when we slow down

Call me a sap, or a softie or a run geek. Whatever you may choose, but sometimes there are those moments that you witness that you cannot help but get emotionally wrapped up in, even if you have no idea who the people are. It’s these moments that you make an emotional connection that may not even be reciprocated, but you know, as the witness of these great events and moments, the emotions and depth of backstories that are present in them. Those moments that mean so much more than just another runner crossing the finish line. Those amazing moments that we may miss when we are running our fast race.

Yesterday I ran the Cereal City Classic 5k with my two oldest who are 6 and 9. My daughter had begged to do another 5k after getting bit with the running bug through Girls on the Run. Her performance yesterday was not as I had hoped, but the slower pace enabled me to witness two amazing stories.

As we approached the last mile of the 5k we were running behind a couple. The woman, I am assuming was running her first race and the runner beside her a very important male in her life. He was lovingly running beside her with encouraging words that lifted her up. Talking her through the journey, through the struggle, through the feeling of “I’ve lost my mind, why did I think running was a good idea?!?”. I was doing the same with my little. As we passed she smiled and cheered on my daughter. As I mentioned before, I have no idea who this woman is, or her story, but she was me 2 years ago. I am getting choked up just writing about it. I saw the struggles I went through, the feelings and emotions I experienced in my first race and the support that my circle of friends and family offered me on that day. I saw the journey that she is beginning and the empowerment that she would soon feel crossing that first finish line then the next. I was shortly in front of her as we rounded to the finish. The finishing chute was lined with spectators, all in the same shirt as her, cheering her on in her final moments of a race that will indeed be life changing, empowering and opening new doors for her. My race was not a race for me that day, I would by no means PR, and if I had never been running that pace I would have never witnessed this amazing journey of this woman. She reminded me of where I came from and for those few moments I celebrated with her secretly. I celebrated my journey and why I run. I took pride in the support of the running community and the strength, support and guidance that they have given me and were obviously sharing with her in these moments.

The second tear-wrenching moment came just a few short minutes later as the kids and I were cheering on the 10k finishers and the last of the 5k runners. A woman turned the corner to the finish chute clearly looking as if she was giving it her all. The run was not easy for her. Just to be clear, it never is easy. We just get stronger and push ourselves harder. She was tired. Her two friends jumped in, grabbed her hands and ran her to the finish. My eyes were full of tears waiting to flow. I felt like a proud mama bear even though I had no idea who this woman was. I was proud of her accomplishment, proud she chose running. Proud she was crossing that finish line. She was a strong woman. I know that, her friends knew that. Her face told a story of struggle but her friends displayed pure joy and pride as they pulled her to a finish that symbolizes anything but an end for her. Crossing the finish line is crossing over into the commitment of life changes, turning the “I can’ts” into the “I cans”.

These women may remain nameless to me but I feel a connection with them. It’s a deep, unsaid connection that we are all united in this journey together. A journey that can mean so many different things to so many different people. In the end, our journeys boil down to celebrating ourselves, challenging what we or others think we can or can’t do, and making life changes (whatever they may be). Slowing down today provided me the opportunity to be a part of these special moments that these women will indeed remember for years to come. The beginning of their journey. I have no doubt that their journeys will continue to prove to them their power and strength, and I thank them for reminding me of my own journey. I had an opportunity to celebrate it without being caught up in times, PRs, results or finish lines. Today, it was their race and I am humbled to be a part of it.

If you know these women I am referring to or any like them, make sure to tell them they are amazing, you believe in them, and they are strong.

Fish out of water

For me, being in the water is comparable to what a fish feels like out of the water: barely able to breathe, flopping around, and an imminent doom approaching.

As I am scheduling my first water session for my triathlon training I can’t help but be anxious.

I have a fear of open water. I wouldn’t say it is completely irrational. Water and I have had a rocky past to say the least. Flashback to me as a 9 y/o in community swim lessons. I could not for the life of me go under water without plugging my nose (still can’t). My instructor insisted I could, shoving my head under water. Water up the nose and that unforgettable burning sensation in the nose and throat ensued. Moving forward to a family canoe trip at the age of 13. As inexperienced tourists we were assured this river was a breeze; calm and easy. It had its treacherous moments but the worst was when it was time to dock. The rest of the family made it to shore while the canoe I was in somehow tipped and I got caught in a strong current. I panicked. I am fairly certain I probably could have put my feet down and stood up but you don’t think of those things when you’re having a near death experience. I am sure it wasn’t really that bad, but that’s how I remember it.

Even with these experiences I still swam. In fact, I fondly remember spending weekends at my grandparents’ lake. I also remember when I was in the lake I NEVER stopped moving my feet for a fear of biting turtles and fish. Now this fear, I know is illogical, unless of course you have stood still in Eagle Lake. That lake has the bravest biting fish I have ever met!

In my adult life I have become much more active. After 30 years I discovered a love for running. I signed up for my first Warrior Dash. There was a water challenge but the web-site described it as waist deep. No problem. Approaching the obstacle involving water I was able to wade in, further than waist deep but I could still reach getting on to the first platform. Heading off of the first platform I went feet first (nose plugged, of course) expecting to hit bottom and push back up with my feet. That did not happen. I kept going down deeper and deeper and never did hit bottom. After the shock of realizing how deep the water was I swam straight up and grabbed the next platform. At this point I was panicked. Adding to it, there were people swimming under the platform and I could feel them at my feet. Thank you to the kind soul that helped me up onto the next platform where I sat for several minutes trying to stop my anxiety and panic attack and regain enough strength to continue on.

Sometimes you never realize the impact childhood experiences have on you until you are put in a similar situation again. Although the Warrior Dash experience did not mimic any childhood experience it accentuated my nervousness around water.

Last summer my family went on a camping trip. My friends and husband enjoy kayaking and thought it would be great to go. We were in the beautiful Upper Penninsula of Michigan. Peaceful, scenic, smooth easy rivers. We loaded up the kids, the adults and the kayaks and began our adventure. Within two minutes of the trip my kayak hit a log in the river. This was my first time out and I had not yet learned the basics of steering. I freaked out. Completely. Melted down, cried and refused to go on. My kids, bless their hearts, encouraged me and told me “Mommy, you can do this, it’s fun, see?” I have mentioned the fact that some of this fear is a little irrational, so it is only fair I tell you that the water in this river was maybe calf deep. Deep enough so the kayak didn’t hit bottom. I continued on for my kids, for my friends. I knew I was being ridiculous but the sensible and illogical components of my mind were clearly battling this one out: illogical winning.

My first kayak trip with the family: I even managed a smile

My first kayak trip with the family: I even managed a smile

As I approach my first water training session I can’t help but think there’s hope for me yet. After my first kayak meltdown I have since enjoyed a few other eventless trips. So maybe I can get this open water swimming thing down too. Hopefully soon. But today, I’m sticking to the pool, with a friend and a lifeguard on duty!

Du-what?

Today I competed in my first duathlon. 3.3 mile run, 20k bike, 3.3 mile run. The weather was beautiful and temperature perfect, although those competing in the triathlon may have thought differently with the water temps being a whopping 67 degrees.

My theme today was slow and steady. I was doing this for me and no one else, I was my only competition. Within the first 10 minutes of the start I needed to remind myself of just that. I know my limits, I know my strengths and there was no way I was keeping up with the rest of the runners in the duathlon. Mind you, there were only about 12 of us so the field was small.

My biggest fear going into this new challenge for me was being last, I did NOT want to be last. I know, it doesn’t matter because I’m out there doing it, but last………

I was so incredibly nervous about the bike portion that my typical first mile nerves were present for the entire first run! And what a run it was! The Seahorse advertises the run as a fun course that keeps you going and having fun. Sure, if you consider crawling up steep hills, dodging roots, crossing moving bridges and climbing flights of stairs fun. In all honesty it did help the run fly by but the nature of the course was definitely challenging. Every turn I took there was a race director in a golf cart or the lead biker in front of me probably making sure I hadn’t passed out in the woods or gotten lost, because I was the last of the duathletes still running. I’d like to consider them my own personal escorts because I am THAT AWESOME!

As I ran into the bike corral I noticed about 3 bikes left in there which either meant there were 3 people behind me from the triathlon or three people already done with their bike and heading out on their run. I’d like to think it was the first option. Again, my fear is being dead last. And now for the moment of truth, exiting the transition area and clipping into my pedals in PUBLIC. I did it, without falling! Woohoo! That set the bike portion off to a great start!

The first few miles were a breeze. I could catch my breath, get a drink and ……Lord Almighty, look at that hill! The “rolling hills” or as I would like to refer to the second half of the bike course, the never ending hill, was a challenge. I passed 5 cyclists. Yes, I counted every single one only because I couldn’t count the number of cyclists that passed me. Not only did they pass me uphill like I was standing still, but they were on their second loop of the course doing the Olympic distance triathlon! On a side note, I am humbled, grateful and encouraged beyond belief at the fact that almost every single one of them encouraged me to keep going with a “good job” or a “keep it up”. All of them amazing athletes both physically and personally! It’s the little things that keep us going sometimes and they definitely helped.

Nerve racking moment number two: dismounting. Slowing down, unclipping and running the bike back into transition area. I escaped embarrassment completely today. Zero falling, tripping or sprawling out flat on my face!

I knew the last run would be a grueling one because I had just done it. Déjà Vu in full effect as I was running through the swampy trail with nothing but the sounds of my breathing and the boisterous bullfrog, crawling up the hill in the woods, and heading over the river and through the woods. (No, I did not end at Grandma’s house.)

I finished. Dead last in the duathlon, but there were still triathletes behind me in the course so no one knew the difference. Shhh!

There was a great presence there by my WSI cycling teammates. Many of them walking away with medals in hand. Imagine my surprise when my name was called at the awards. 3rd place. Only because there were only 3 females in the “Heifer” category. No, they do not really have a heifer category. I lovingly refer to it as that. In multi sport events when you are over a certain weight the men are called Clydesdales. I could never remember the name of the category for women (which I now know is Athena). I have jokingly always referred to it as the heifer category. So there it is, 3rd place, by default, which I have also already been told I need to stop referring to it as that and just claim my 3rd place. Again, just keeping things in perspective. Did I work hard for it? Sure. But I have to keep it real: real slow and real steady. That’s how I roll (and run).

Next up triathlon training! Have I mentioned how terrifying swimming is for me? That’s a whole other story that I will reveal at a later time.

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Update: Apparently I was 3rd in my age group, not 3rd in Athena. My surprise clouded my hearing during the awards. Ha!

Setting Goals (aside)

As a runner I set goals.

As a mother, sometimes those goals get set aside.

Or maybe just delayed. Last year I ran my first half marathon. It was an amazing experience all around. This spring I planned to return to the same half marathon. The only difference this time was that I had set a goal. I knew my capabilities, and I came up with a goal for my completion time. It was a completely reasonable goal, within reach, doable for me. Then life happened. Work, family needs, and coaching Girls on the Run. I was still training, lacing up whenever possible. But it wasn’t enough. Between other commitments during the week I was not able to get in enough midweek runs. My long runs were scheduled randomly on the weekends whenever they could fit in between soccer, the grocery store, birthday parties, and everything else that “happens”. I was still hopeful.

On race day I still had my goal in the back of my mind, knowing what I wanted to do. I felt determined. But in the back of my mind something told me I was not going to do it this time. I laced up, put my yellow flower (I run because I get to) in my hair and told myself I was glad I was able to run. I needed to run the race, and I needed to reflect on the reasons why I run without being so focused on the goal itself. It was becoming a joy kill. I thought I was alright with just that; running because I can. By mile 9 of the half marathon it hit me, hard, that I was not going to make the time I had so desperately wanted. It was an emotional mile for me. It was hard to swallow. I failed. Then, I began to embrace the idea that I did not fail. I was still running a half marathon, wasn’t I? My goal was still a goal, it would just be delayed, put on hold for awhile. Training with a family is a tough and delicate balance of responsibilities, commitments, and sacrifices for not just you, but the entire family. I crossed the finish; with a smile but disappointed, along with a whole lot of other emotions.

Post race after not meeting my goal. /yellow/ I run because I get to.

Post race after not meeting my goal. /yellow/ I run because I get to.

That week so many people asked how my race went. My simple response was, “I raced as expected based on my training.”

Then, I got an e-mail. Congratulations, you have won a free entry to the Cleveland Half Marathon. What?!?! I never win anything. I wasn’t going to do it. It was only 4 weeks away, I just ran a half, and I had a duathlon scheduled for the following weekend. My husband convinced me. He told me I needed to do this for me, and I better crush my goal this time. He knows me well. He knew my disappointment from the previous race. He had confidence in me and my goals. I signed up. For the next four weeks I knew what I had to do. I was more determined than ever. I had a thousand things going on at work, coaching Girls on the Run, two kids in two different sports, my husband’s training schedule and mine. Not only was I now training for another half in 4 weeks but a duathlon, which is completely new territory to me. I did my research. I came up with a day by day training schedule consisting of long runs, short runs, long bike rides, brick workouts (bike, run, bike) and everything in between. It was a tight 4 weeks with little wiggle room for flexibility, but it was a carefully planned schedule around all other activities. I was committed to the schedule and so was my family. They had to be. Runs were planned on days I could go out at night sometimes after practices, dinner and bed time routines. My husband would shuffle the kids to practice taking the extras kids along with him so I could get rides in. My rest days were scheduled in sync with his ride days. It was working.

Week 3 was an unplanned trip to South Carolina for my husband which totally freaked me out. I was only able to make my schedule work because of his commitment to help. Now it was me, 3 kids and a lot of training to do. I ran the playground track during practices, getting dizzy form the circles during the 5 mile run (the track is 1/6 of a mile). I borrowed a trainer from the neighbor and hopped on the bike after bedtime. I made it work. 5:00 am

Sunday May 18th and I was ready to give my goal another try. Again, I place my yellow flower in my hair but this time for a different reason. This time it was for the pure joy, my happiness. Confident, determined, already feeling accomplished. My usual race day nerves only gave me shaky legs for the first minute rather than the first mile. I hit my stride. I ran through the streets of Cleveland distracted by the new sights, the bridges and the amazing spectators ALL OVER the course. I had fun, danced at the music stations, played it up with the spectators, had my glass of “Beer20” from the college kids at mile 4. I crossed the finish line with my hands held high in the air, a smile across my face. Elated. 4 weeks was all it took.

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My finish line pic from the Cleveland Half Marathon right before my battery died.

I accomplished my goal. Delayed. It was not my original goal to run the Cleveland Half Marathon. It seems though that the world has a funny way of making things work out. Opportunity presented itself. I accepted that life happens and sometimes our goals may not match our circumstances and then was handed a wonderful opportunity to prove myself to MYSELF. In 4 weeks I shaved over 8 minutes off of my half marathon time. For me, that is HUGE! I crossed the finish, pulled out my phone, called my husband. I think my voicemail said something like, “I’m done. I did it. My battery is dead.” I told him my time. I snapped a finish line pic, hit save on the RunKeeper, and the phone died. I did it. Not on my schedule. Not when I expected to. It was delayed. But I assure you, delayed is just as gratifying, if not more.

Having a goal delayed allows you to put things into perspective, focus on what is important, and examine the reason for your goals in the first place. It makes you really examine the ins and outs of how to carve out that much needed time for yourself among all the other commitments we so often face as mothers and runners. A goal is still a goal. Sometimes we reach our goals on the first try. Other times we find them delayed; weeks, months, sometimes years. It does not make us a failure, it makes us determined even more. It makes us stronger in the ability to accept and overcome disappointment and turns in the road. It makes us better at doing life.

A Runner’s Story: Stacey

Half Marathon Crazy!

I was always active in high school. I participated in basketball my freshman and sophomore years, and cross country my junior and senior years, then track and field all four years. I was always running after school got out. Whether it was for a practice or not, I was running. I was also eating whatever, whenever, never to gain a pound.

After high school, I kind of “fell off” the workout/running track. I was really focused on getting my degree in teaching, and I figured I could still eat whatever and whenever, and wouldn’t gain anything. Then reality set in, and I gained a few pounds. Not a lot, but enough for me to notice that my clothing was starting to fit tightly.

Then came marriage and two kids. Part of me thought I would go back to my “high school bod” as soon as the babies popped out. Boy was I wrong! I realized this after having my first child. So, I became active in my health: playing soccer and watching my caloric intake. It wasn’t until after I had my second child, back in 2009, that I really decided to take up running again.

My good friends decided to sign up for a half marathon, which I thought was crazy! I thought there was no way I could run 13.1 miles at a time without wanting to kill myself. I decided to go with training for a 5k instead. I was a member of a Curves- like workout place, and there was a treadmill available. When I first started running, I would run at a comfortable pace, for as long as I could go. Then, I would workout at the facility. I would run that amount of time, the entire week I worked out. The next week, I would run a couple more minutes at time, than I did the previous week, and so on. I did this until I was up to running 30 minutes at a time. I realized how fast my pre-baby weight was coming off by running, so I just kept running.

That year, I ran approximately five 5ks, improving my time on each one. After the fifth one was when I decided to sign up for a half marathon, the very race that I thought would kill me. I trained using a Hal Higdon beginner’s training program, and I followed it to a “t”. Every week, as my long runs increased, I continued to doubt myself because any mileage over 5 miles was just crazy. I kept chugging along, completing my longest run, the week before my half. I ran 10 miles on 10/10/11, and ran a 10 minute mile pace. I absolutely LOVE numbers, and when I realized this pattern, I knew my half the next week would be memorable.

I did not sleep one bit the night before my half. My nerves were getting the best o f me. I remember falling asleep watching Wisconsin play OSU in college football. I think I got four hours of sleep that night.

When my alarm went off, it was still dark out, as the race was set to start at 7. I needed to eat my pre-race meal of a bagel with peanut butter, banana, and a bottle of water in plenty of time for it to digest and attempt to get dressed while I was half asleep.

I started the race with those same good friends. They had decided they were going to “up the ante” and run a marathon that day. I remember one of them telling me to run ahead, as my pace should be faster than their marathon pace. It was a very memorable race: I ran over the Ambassador Bridge, through the Windsor tunnel, two different countries in less than an hour! My goal was to just finish, so I was enjoying every minute of the sights and sounds of the landmarks and people around me. I was ecstatic when I finished. After I was done, I waited for my friends to finish their marathon. Once again, I thought that I would never run something farther than 13.1 miles, because that distance was crazy enough. Well, the joke’s on me, because I ran the marathon at that same event, the very next year!

Running and finishing my half-marathon and marathons for the first time, gave me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and strength. I realized that I could do whatever I wanted, if I just put my mind to it. To this day, I have completed three marathons, and fourteen half marathons. Most, if not all, I have a medal to show for it. Part of the reason why I run these distances is to obtain that medal, that display of accomplishment. The other reason that I run these distances is to prove to myself that anything is possible.

I have traveled to Disneyworld, Vegas, Cleveland, Detroit, Mt Pleasant, Grand Rapids , and other cities in Michigan, to run these half marathons and/or marathons. I’ve even attempted to plan my vacations around races a few times, but no successes yet.   My goal is to run a half in at least half of the states in the union.

I am currently training for my next half marathon, the Lansing half marathon. My goal is to beat my previous PR of 1:59. I have been doing long runs outside in this winter weather every Sunday, and speed work during the week, on the treadmill. That race that I once called “crazy” a few years ago, is now my favorite race to run.photo (1)

I feel running will be a part of my life for as long as my body can handle it. It’s addicting, fun, stress relieving, a great way to meet new people, and, best of all, a reason to eat whatever I want!

Conquering the voice of self-doubt

I’m not sure of the first day that my self-doubt was born. Maybe it was the time I was unable to pass swimming lessons because I couldn’t go under water without plugging my nose no matter how hard I tried. Although I cannot pin point it’s beginning of existence, I do know that it is well over 20 years old. I also know that it has been fed, and fed well. It was fed the day I couldn’t run the bases fast enough in t-ball. It was fed the day an elementary student asked me if I was pregnant when I was in 5th grade (kids are just mean sometimes, and body suits were a fad I would not care to have return), it was fed and fed well when I didn’t make the volleyball team at a private school were almost all girls did, it was fed when I failed the mile run in high school gym class. My voice of self-doubt rose from a small inkling to a full fledged monstrous voice in my head that said you can’t, you aren’t, you won’t, it’s impossible. It was so strong from its years of over indulgence that even days where I made every effort to starve it, deprive it of its power, silence it, it still was a fierce roar inside.

Just as I’m not sure when it was born, I’m not sure of the exact day that I decided to starve it either. But I did. I made a choice to ignore the screaming monstrous voice of self-doubt within and fight for me. It’s a battle, and the voice did not want to give in easily. It had days where it would reappear as strong as before, but day by day, run by run, choice after choice, I starved it, deprived it of its glories, stripped it of its powers.

It laughed at me when I decided to start running, I let it have it’s comic relief and ran anyways. It threw tantrums and sometimes stopped me mid run. Even through my first half marathon, it was the one telling me my legs hurt, I couldn’t keep running, I didn’t train hard enough, I wasn’t meant to be a runner. I chose instead to listen to the outside noise of friends, supporters, and strangers in the crowd and cross the finish line.

The part that scares me the most about the voice of self doubt is that it can rear it’s ugly head at anytime, prey on me, gain strength gradually through small doubts within and before I know it can be that enormous monster again. I can’t give it that foothold. I refuse to allow it the power it wants, the power it needs to survive and take away my accomplishments. I have power over it because I know it exists. I know I am stronger, and will continue to win the battle of keeping it contained.

I like to imagine it being a little green monster (like the disgusting Mucinex guys from the commercials) that get ground up and crushed into the pavement under my shoe every time I continue to put one foot in front of the other.

I can, I am, I will.
Take that, self-doubt!
(insert na-nana-boo-boo face here)

A Runner’s Story: Nina

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Why do I run?
My name is Nina Fagan and I guess I never really thought about it, or set out to become a runner.

Probably because every fall/winter/holiday season I put on 15-20 lbs and work for
months to lose some of it. Last year my dad gave me his elliptical so I started trying
to lose the weight. It took me a month or so of on and off to finally get serious. Getting
up at 4:30 in the morning to do 25 minutes on it, the only time available. I work full time,
raising a school age son and live on a 50 acre farm. My husband commutes almost 2 hours
to work each day so I’m left to “hold the fort down.”

Then when spring came and the weather got nice I decided to run outside.
The extra weight scares me because my mom was extremely obese all my life. I see now how much
she missed out on due to being physically unable or just embarrassed. In her late 50s she finally lost
half her body weight, at least 150 lbs. She found the courage to go workout at Curves, then worked there, then a co-owner. So pumped about working out she ventured to other gyms. I watched her
go from too embarrassed to attend parent-teacher conferences to being an inspiration to many and
a total social butterfly. It’s been almost 10 years since she started her journey and she is still working out and eating healthy.

Or maybe I run because my dad turned into a runner in his early 40s, like myself. A man who worked so hard for his family he was lucky to find sleep. He was not always a pleasant man but who would be on 4 hours of sleep, working double shifts. Then he decided to make time for himself and started running, entering races, making running friends. He was a changed man, happy and stress relieved.

Within 2 years he qualified and ran the Boston Marathon, the only trip my parents ever went on in
almost 50 years of marriage. Age and arthritis have caught up to him now. He tries and tries to run
but it is just too painful. He tried to be satisfied with walking but it doesn’t quite get it for him. It’s sad to see that he can no longer enjoy the only thing for himself he had.

I have only ran a handful of 5ks. I have never met any of you ladies from MRTT but am so inspired
and feel supported just being a part of the group. I hope to do a 10k this year even though I said I
never would. It might not sound like a big goal but it is for me.

So I guess I run because she(my mom) never did and because he(my dad) can’t anymore.

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