We Decide

Times of transition are hard.  They are frightening, they’re annoying, and most of all, they make me really pissed off.

Right now is one of those times.  Marriage, potentially moving, potential career change, potential selling of a house, etc, etc. Woah.

Having a lack of control makes me want to scream into my pillow and then take a really aggressive walk with my dog, listening to Folk Rock Pandora and talking to myself.  Most often, in these situations, I try and grasp at straws to control: maybe it is my job, my relationship, my body, or my running.

More often than not, though, the feelings of wrath turn away from external things to control and pivot inwards, tackling my self-worth and confidence to the ground.

When in times of transition, it is really hard to believe in myself.

I get moody, controlling, compare myself to others, demean myself, and lose focus of the important things.  Maybe it is because, bashing myself is easier than letting go.  Maybe it is because I take pride in my ability to “keep everything together” so when I can’t do that, I get hard on myself.  Either way, it’s an ugly place to be and I need to learn to let go.

Kristin Armstrong talks about “letting go” in a way that I think I need to apply to my life right now.

“‘There is a vast difference between giving up and letting go. I’m asking you to look at your life, look into your heart and see where you have confusion or discord between the two. As you examine more closely, you will see that one maintains your integrity and the other does not. Be mindful about this difference today’… Giving up says I quit. Letting go says I release outcomes. The integrity piece has something to do with the ownership”

Beating myself up, comparing myself, and trying to control everything isn’t integrity.  It’s giving up on myself, my values, and my faith.  These days, I need to let go of outcomes, whether it be in races, in my work, in my relationships, how I am perceived, my finances, my looks, and my lovability.

I am not giving up, letting the tide of idleness rush over my entire life.  I am not making excuses for the things I DO have the power to control (my attitude, my effort, my heart, my inner dialogue).  I am not changing who I am.

Instead, I am stepping into my integrity. I am letting go of the outcomes and taking hold of my heart again.

When the pace gets hard in life, in running, in anything, let’s transition to the next mile, saddled into our hearts.  And let’s remember that in any transition, we may not get to choose the outcome, but we get to choose how we respond.  And how we respond, ultimately, becomes who we are.

 

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Being there

This weekend, I am pacing a marathon in which I will be leading the 7:05/mile group through the first 13.1 miles of their journey.

This task has been weighing heavily on my mind ever since I signed up, and it has been tough to navigate through the space of my good intentions and my deep fears.  It is like anything in life – our destination is often littered with tests of the ego, the body, and the spirit, forcing us to reckon with our fears.

My fear is that I won’t be “enough”.

It is a fear of not being positive enough; not providing the right words, at the right time, instigating a change of heart and body in my group member.  It is a fear of not being fast or fit enough; not hitting the paces correctly, not having the physical strength to finish, not being “good enough”.  It is a fear of being not mentally tough enough; hitting a hard mile (that always comes in every run, ever, no matter what pace)  and not having the mental stamina to push through.

It would seem that in my quest to be everything to everyone, I am once again hit with the fear of not being “enough” and therefore, nothing at all.

This fear transcends the pacing world, and can bleed into every part of our lives.  Maybe you fear being not “enough” for your children, desperate to be the kind of parent that is on, all the time, providing nothing but a positive childhood for your kid.  Maybe you fear not being “enough” in your job, and you walk in every day in fear you will be fired for a missed assignment, making a bad cup of coffee, or just not having the personality that jives with your boss.  And maybe, you fear not being “enough” for your spouse, that you won’t be able to provide all the emotional, physical, and financial support you think you need to give.

I like to turn to my writer/spiritual/runner inspiration, Kristin Armstrong, for guidance on this one, as she too is driven by faith, sprinkled with a good running metaphor here and there.  In her article “Resilience Realized“, she discusses the sentiment that our own compassion and giving cannot be determined by outcome or by “flipping the light on” for someone, but for simply being there.  It is an article that to this day, brings me to tears.  Here is my favorite part:

“I used to think that made me strong, or wise, or capable, when I flipped on the light for someone else.  Now I see that act more akin to impatience, lacking true compassion, or the unwillingness to enter the apex of ache.  You can flip the switch by standing at a safe distance, on the threshold, and simply reaching in the door, but to enter the dark you actually have to step inside.  That may be real love, right there.  The willingness to be present, knowing there isn’t a damn thing you can do to fix anything.

Some of my most profoundly raw and memorable human moments have been when I have summoned the courage to get over myself and step inside and sit with someone in the dark.  When I have spooned a hiding friend in a bedroom with shades drawn, stroked their dirty hair and said not a word as they wept.  When I have gone to the ICU and prayed with my friend instead of making small talk and pretending he wasn’t dying. When I wrapped Jena in a fleece blanket and brought her a cup of tea. When I have admitted to my children that I did not have an answer and just held them instead, soaking up their tears instead of telling them reasons not to cry.  When I have run beside a shattered sister for many silent miles, matching stride.

Our own resilience is realized somewhere in the offering.”

The fear of not being “enough” coincides with this article, doesn’t it?

Being “enough” most often, involves being everything: the wisest, the most capable, always saying the right thing, being the fittest, being the most intelligent, making the most money.  Enough really doesn’t mean “adequate” anymore when we use it to describe our relationships with people: it starts to mean “everything”.

But what Kristin describes is something deeper, something more difficult that being the sickly-sweet personality of “everything”.  She describes being present, right there in the dark.

On Saturday, my new goal is to be present.  To realize my resilience in the offering, giving exactly what I can that day.  My resilience will lie in the fact that everything I need, is already inside of me, and in order to be my best for others, I simply need to be there, be present, and offer all I have to give.  Perhaps that will involve coaxing a runner through the next mile. Perhaps it will involve feeling the ache of distance and effort, and transcending the “can’t” to “can” threshold with the runners around me.  Perhaps it is offering a prayer for someone’s family member.  Maybe it will involve laughing about the flavor of the Gatorade.  Irregardless, this practice is more important that just for my pacing duties, but for my life as well.

I realize that breathing into this intention on race day, is good practice for the rest of life.  For my daily runs, for my upcoming marriage, for my future children, for my family, for my faith, for my job, for all of it.

And, whether you feel “not enough” in your marriage, your child raising, your friendships, your faith, your job, remember that it is about the offering.

And the offering, is truly “enough”.

I can be brave from here

This weekend we (Mitch and I) ran our 3rd Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago! It is one of my favorite races of the year, as it is a huge block party.  The first time I raced it, I surprised myself and ran incredibly fast (for me) and got to run next to some of my heroes.

The second time, left a taste in my mouth so bitter that I have had anxiety about this years attempt ever since.  I was (according to my symptom tracking) low in iron and overall, had a defeated and warped mindset.  I had a horrible race and a horrible day, as I was heartbroken and moreover, did not recognize myself.

My goal this year was to be more of myself, more happy and grateful, and I accomplished that.  However, I was not FULLY myself.  I still worried about what people thought of me and had an excuse mindset during the race. I was also severely worried about getting my heart broken and having a terrible race.  Though I have a MUCH better attitude this year, I still wasn’t fully present and as a result, the race suffered a bit.  BUT I don’t consider it a failure.  Here is why:

Side story.  This year, Mitch and I went to Disney! I LOVED it and conquered a lot of fears, including roller coasters.  Listen, I am not a wimpy baby (I love horror films and adrenaline) however, my mind operates on a constant highlight reel of Final Destination movies; ones where people get their heads chopped off by roller coasters.  Poor Mickey.

Anyhoo, I had a tough time raising my hand in rides.  Tao Cruz would be disappointed in me.  I did not raise my hands in the air, it was not Dyno-mite. However, ride by ride, I would lift one finger, then one hand, then finally, BOTH HANDS! Though it was brief, I raised them up and when it got to be too much, I put them back down and told Mitch “I can be brave from here”.  And, the more I did it, the more I would have my hands in the air.

Maybe yesterday, I wasn’t fully “in it” but I raised one hand.  I didn’t let a bad race keep me from coming back to a race environment that I love! And though I had bad mental thoughts, I did not let them prevent me from at least trying.  I kept lifting that hand off the belt. And next time, maybe I will get both hands off the belt. And when I practice consistent acts of bravery with my heart in the right place, I become more of myself: more brave, more belief, more heart.

And soon, I will say, with both of my hands in the air: “I can be brave from here”.

Worry!

I am a worrier – I am the type of person that will have anxiety over having children, 10 years before it is supposed to happen.  I will plan, calculate, deduct every inch of every moment of my day and future, until I am swirling around with so much anxiety and so many thoughts, that I just sit there and do nothing.  I think this is pretty common, maybe more-so among women, but nonetheless, I think everyone can relate to this on some level.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone in your head, prior to meeting with them in person, and ended up escalating your heart rate to over 200 over the confrontation that never comes? Or planned and plotted finances to the point of obsession, only to have none of the numbers add up when “real-life” comes into the mix?  I have!  I am in the middle of my over-thinking at the moment.

Getting married and thinking of my future (homes, jobs, kids, racing, life, relationships, finances, vacations, oye!) makes me want to curl up into a hole with a spreadsheet and my email, giving my 2 solid days to get things done and plan my life to the minute.  It never really works like that, does it?

But then I think of running (you thought you would get away with reading this, running-metaphor free, didn’t you? Fool).

This weekend I had a 5k in Naperville and I did pretty well for me!  But time regardless, it was more how I handled it that I am proud of, and I think I need to take a lesson from myself and apply these strategies to life.  Here are the things I did/thought of and how I need to use it now when I worry, over-plan, and generally freak out.

Positive Self Talk:

In running (and life) we can’t get through without positive self talk.  Before, during, and after the race I was OBSESSED with being kind to myself and only saying good things. When a bad thought popped up, I thought about why it was there and why it was illogical.

Maybe now, when I think about how life won’t work out for me because I don’t deserve it, or something like that, I can think of all the ways it CAN work out and how the previous thought is really dumb. (and figure out where that bad thought came from)

Focus on one mile (or step) at a time:

My middle miles are usually my slowest (and this weekend was no exception). However, when I usually slow down, it is because I get too ahead of myself and just give up in the race. This weekend, I was just plain tired.  To help myself through those miles, I would do 12 quick steps, every time I felt tired or felt a bad thought coming on.  Though it didn’t change my fitness, it did change my attitude and that means everything.

Maybe now, when I feel a swirling fear come over me when I think of all the stuff I have to do in life, I can instead focus on the mile I am in and try my best in the moment.  Maybe I won’t have all the adult-life answers right now, but I can take steps to use the knowledge I have now, to do my best today.  It may not be my “fastest” mile, but my fitness will come. So, a work, relationship, finance, home, dog, character mistake now is okay, because when I feel myself sink back, I take 12 strong steps forward to improvement.  It may not change the fact that I am 24 and still learning, but is sure as hell changes my attitude (and the grace I give myself, changes the grace I give others).

Set yourself up for success

Sometimes, I can set myself up for failure in order to protect myself from getting a heartbreak.  I think we have all been there: whether it is a physical manifestation (like, eating a burrito immediately before a race) or psychological one (blaming the weather before the race even started), that is no way to race or live!  Instead, I continued to train hard that week (I don’t taper for races unless it is a marathon) because that works for me, ate what I knew would sit well, and thought of all the ways the weather/my outfit/the course/fellow runners could HELP me.

Maybe now, when I feel overwhelmed by the planning I feel the need to do with my life, instead of avoiding it or setting myself up for failure (or pushing myself too hard for the sake of “success”) I can think of all the ways things can go RIGHT, right now.  I don’t need to worry about kids now, but I can focus on developing good habits for myself as a 24 year old, so I am healthy and happy if the time comes. Or maybe with finances, I need to chillax and worry about saving what I can, pay off the important stuff, and give to those in need.  The rest works itself out.  Maybe if I do the little things now, with gratitude and grit, I can set myself up to be happy and proud of who I am (both right now, and future me!)

Forget past races

Shame! It is a motherf*er.  I think we have all had races where we mentally gave up, had a bad day, or just a race that when we think back to it we go “oh heck”.  But shame about a past race or attitude doesn’t help, because all it does is attack our character.  Instead, I focused on doing what I know brought me a positive race experience in the past, and said that the races I was ashamed of, we just learning experiences and mistakes that EVERYONE makes!  No need to feel shame for being a human and trying!

Maybe now, when I think of things I did wrong or ways I think/thought about myself (whether I came up with them on my own or they were told to me) I can think of all the things, experiences, and words I did/heard that are RIGHT.  The wrong things are all learning experiences that at the end of the day, remind us of why we need God. But the right things are who we truly are, who God intended us to be. Focusing on the blemishes only causes us to miss all the awesome reasons why we are amazing.

Good support

Mitch was there cheering me on (and I had family support from far away) makes all the difference.  Focusing on the good people in your life only makes racing fun, as the good people are the ones that don’t care about the outcome. They only care about you – and you are not the outcome.

Maybe in life, I can continue to focus on all the amazing influences in my life, and be VERY choosy about who I let in my safe space.  Support means everything!

 

Running and life can go hand in hand, only if my heart is in the right place when I consider the connection.  When we think of running in terms of time or place (which are still valuable!), it becomes one dimensional. But when we think of running as a teacher to learn and be the best we can be in life, it can be more than just a peaceful hobby.  It becomes a friend that says the tough stuff we need to hear, builds us up, breaks our hearts, and makes life exciting and colorful.  It becomes the best teacher and friend a person can have, bad times and good.

 

 

Who is a runner, anyway?

On February 22, 2015, Mitch sat me down and gave me a training plan to begin running.  I had been “running” for a few years, whether it was on the treadmill my freshman year at Saint Louis University, unwillingly being thrown into the 4×8 in high school, or running through my town as a grade schooler with my best friend.

However, I never really considered myself a runner until Mitch got to me.  Let me explain.

In 2014, I did a half marathon and in 2013, I did a triathalon.  Both were interesting experiences, as I never really trained for them, at least like I should have.  Those were my introductions into the distance world, as a hurdler that was used to having my races tap out at 400 meters.  I never considered myself a runner during those times, as the triathlon was 2/3 me drowning in the water and/or trying not to fall off a bicycle.  The half was the struggle of all eternity, let’s just say that.  But never during that time, did I ever injest the identity of “runner”. Let’s find out why.

The Brooks CEO had some interesting statements on what constitutes a “runner”; in his statement, he said that there are basically two types of “runners” which are the self-defined and the competitive folks.  Adding to this statement, he went on to say that running isn’t a sport.  Of course, Let’sRun, the running forum, blew up and everyone went nuts.  It was an interesting take, in my opinion, but I think it highlights something I find weird with the running world.

I cannot think of a time when I have not gotten the speech of “running is about an individual race and you don’t need to compare yourself” or “it’s about YOUR best”; in addition, I cannot think of a time where I have not heard at least one person say to me, in a group setting, that “they aren’t a real runner like X, because they aren’t very fast” OR have gotten a speech about their own personal PR’s and why they matter OR gotten an explanation about a race they are doing, but emphasizing that they aren’t racing and doing it “just for fun”  (and this is not to say that I haven’t done these things because I have!).  It is this paradox that I find a weird hurricane of gospels: it isn’t about times, but also it is.  It isn’t about comparing, but if I am slower or faster, that dictates my identity as a runner.  Etc, etc.  Furthermore, I can cite multiple times where someone’s PR was brought into the conversation to shame or demean them, and almost make a comment on their character.  It is all very interesting.

It really is a narrow keyhole in which to fit your worth: a time on the clock.  In my lifetime, I have run 28:26 AND over 42 minutes for an 8k.  17 something and 20 something for a 5k.  Sub 1:20 for a half marathon and 1:40 for a half.  And each time I ran those, I felt pissed off.  Even on the PR days, I would feel happy for a minute and then later on, figure out a way to demean myself based on a time.  Each time someone asks me for a PR, I have a 10 minute story about the PR and why it sucks.  Bummer.

Yet, on each one of those races, I was still the same inner-me I am today.  I may have grown up (as we all do) but those times really don’t paint a picture of who I am, my love of running, or my potential as an athlete, worker, wife, family member, etc.  They are literally numbers.

PRs aren’t demons that should never be mentioned, but are small snippets of success with larger stories behind them.  Maybe your PR is the most painful experience of your life, maybe it was an easy day where you smiled the whole race.  Maybe you suffered tragedy before the race or maybe got proposed to right after.  The number tells a larger story, and it doesn’t necessarily tell the story of how hard you worked.  I think we can all think of a person who worked their ASS off, to not have their race pan out at the end of the day.  Or someone who couldn’t give less of a shit, and somehow managed to run blazing fast.  So how does this all connect to what I am saying about how in February of 2015, I considered myself a runner?

I think a lot of times, our competitive edge or potential take a front seat to our identity, rather than our efforts to grow as a person through running.  A prime example is of bae (Mitch) this weekend: his identity as a runner was not defined by his blazing fast race (15:26 yoooo) but by how he congratulated other runners at the end of the race and took pride in his training, execution, and grit during the run.  Sure, a fast time was definitely a cherry on top, but I bet you if he chickened out during that race and felt like he didn’t try his best or ran like an idiot, he would have been pissed.  I can say for myself, in a half marathon where I averaged 5:59 pace per mile, I was furious because I trained like an idiot, raced like an idiot, and my entire self worth resided inside the ticking numbers of my watch.

What does this mean in terms of “identity as a runner”? As the greats, Deena Kastor and George A. Sheehan say:

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Runners, when we choose to claim this title, really just want more.  We are the kind of people that dig into ourselves, because we know there is more to find.  We learn patience, grow stronger, cultivate grit, build community, find ourselves, encourage passion, and give everything.

Before Mitch sat me down and convinced me there was more, I never thought about digging into who I am.  Finding out the more, and reaching out beyond the little fenced in yard I had built in my head.  It hasn’t been about just running faster or farther than I thought I can (though, those things are nice and all have merit).  It has been about becoming a person I never thought I could, and being excited to see who I can be another 3 years into running.  To me, that is the difference between a “runner” and a “non-runner”.  The hope and the decision to try.

Some people choose to go for “more” by becoming pros to see what they can accomplish with their bodies in a controlled, intense situation.  Some work full time jobs and run when they can, to see what they can do while juggling.  Some want to see how much they can do in a day before calling it a night, to see what they can do while red-lining.  For some, running is a more spiritual experience and their dig for “more” becomes a dig for a happy and refreshing run, 4 days a week.

So, 3 years into running and I am back at the place where I started: wanting more for my life, my spirit, and my loved ones.

But after 3 years, I have learned a new tid-bit about myself and life and running: wanting more, but being grateful for everything and internally happy with who I am.

Wanting more, but happy with who I am seems like my kind of happy.

My kind of “Run Happy”.

Fit or Not

The question of whether or not to race when you are fit.

It feels fitting, post marathon with my incredible and patient fiance.  It was a PR for me, but not a time I would want to run.  We ran it after spending 4 days on our feet in the Disney parks, with 0 marathon training under our belts (the most we had both done in months was 14 miles), and slightly under the weather.

And yet, it is sure to be one of the most memorable races of my life.

I remember when I first fell in love with distance racing.  I was a sophomore in high school, taking part in my hometown’s Turkey Trot.  It was exhilarating, stepping up to the start-line, all by myself, with the hopes of running a four mile course.  I had just come off of my volleyball season, one where the most I had run in a week probably totaled up to one mile.  I was vastly out of shape.

At the start, I found a friend – a local, cross country superstar that was fresh as a daisy coming off a successful freshman cross country season.  She asked if I wanted to run with her, and without reservation, I said “sure”.

In the first mile, I felt our bodies ascend the over 100 ft climb in the first 150 meters of the race.  I could feel my lungs start to go as we reached the top, and I continued to follow her through the streets of the town.  I made it to the one mile marker before I decided to part ways with her, as she was running too fast for my fitness.  But damn, I lasted a mile.  As I continued to weave in and out of the streets, I felt the bubble of suffering pop in my lungs, cold air screeching its way through the narrow tube currently occupied by the gigantic lump in my throat.  The love/hate feeling of suffering was equally exhilarating as it was dreadful, and I counted down the miles until I reached the finish in 30 minutes, at an average pace of 7:30/miles.  For me, it was blazing fast.

As Mitch and I weaved in and out of the streets of Disney this past weekend, I could feel that same bubble in my chest; at first it was panic, the kind that comes when you dread what people are thinking of you.  “Ugh, she used to be fit when she was skinny”, “what a joke” and “quit now” popped into my heads like half-baked popcorn kernels.  I had Mitch talk me through the tough moments, and I continued on, feeling a different kind of bubble as we continued on.  Soon, the bubble turned up through my throat and into my eyeballs.  They were happy tears.  The happy tears you feel when you feel proud of yourself, happy with yourself, and grateful.  I missed that kind of bubble.

The bubble of happy-suffering hasn’t just been in my slowest races, but in some of my fastest as well.  Shamrock 2016, when I was running with some of my biggest heroes, in my favorite city, the bubble felt lighter with happiness, but was still ever present.  Alamo 13.1 in San Antonio, I could feel the bubble as I pressed through the last 5k after being led off course, determined to push for the sake of doing it for myself, as the race was officially “over” for me.

I think about people that don’t get a chance to live past 16, 26, or 56.  With too short of lives, I wonder what they would say about the question of “should I race when I am not fit”.  As I sit here, contemplating that question for myself, I can feel that bubble well into my eye sockets again, with happy tears that press me to say “absolutely” with 100% certainty.

The thing is, memories are rarely sweet based solely on numerical values (though, running fast tends to make the deal sweeter).  Memories are made when our whole hearts are out there, ready to explore everything that life throws at us.  I can feel it when I go down a street I never tried before, and find my heart float up like a light bubble in my chest, as I run through my “new” favorite place.  I can feel it when Mitch and I, on a good or bad day, throw away our pride and run with joy and with grit.  I can feel it when I am running faster than I could have ever imagined; I don’t know I am going fast because of a split, but because I can feel the speed pulse through my feet, making my strides smooth and strong.

Tomorrow is never promised.  It just isn’t.  Neither is fitness.  Sometimes, all the work doesn’t pan out to a positive result.  Sometimes, people that don’t work at all, win the race.  So what does that mean.

For me, it means show up anyway.  It means put yourself out there.  Life is too short to live from the sidelines.  Whether the bubble of suffer pops in my chest and slows me to a pitiful 8 min mile (when I am capable of running 5 min miles) in a 10k, or lightens in my chest and brings me through faster than I could have imagined, I want to hold tight to those emotions, those bubbles of feeling that I can remember to this day.  Because my love of distance running didn’t start in a time – it started in a feeling.  In living life to its fullest on my feet, in the pain cave, being brave as hell.

Should we race when we aren’t at our fittest? Yes.

To try anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift – the try begins, when you show up.

Every. Time.

Ps. Unless you are sick or injured k bye

Heart

Like I do every year, I set an intention for myself.  “Drishti”, “view”, or “sight” as some call it.  A la Kristin Armstrong, my running-life guru, this intention-setting has proven to be an integral part of my growth and development.

When we set our sights on something, is is more than just our gaze driving us forward.  It is our hearts.

This year, my word is/was “believe”, a follow-up from the previous years word of “brave”.  As I look back on the year, I am taken aback by the journey I encountered.  New job, coaching girls basketball, intense therapy, running almost the whole year anemic, copper-poisoning, getting engaged, weddings, etc.  And before I get to my evaluation of my word “believe”, let’s review the year.

It has been a difficult year in the running sphere.  Professionally and personally, this year could not have gone better.  Mitch and I got closer than ever (ummm we got engaged!), I developed even deeper friendships, I have a great job, and I bought a home, a car, and a puppy.  Amazing!  But, like that parable of the woman with the lost coin, if one thing is lost, all we can focus on is that one coin.  That has been running for me.

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I couldn’t figure out why, but I had a revelation after CIM and seeing lots of people achieve their dreams. I felt this incredible sense of loss and shame, and I couldn’t figure out why.  The entire year, I had berated myself for poor performance, lack of motivation, and seeing my physical body slip down into the mud.  Any dream I had for running, whether it be a time, a place, or a feeling, I could feel myself loosen the grip on – not in a healthy way, where we are separated from the outcome, but in a way of defeat.   It wasn’t until my birthday 10k that I realized that it isn’t me anymore, and that I needed to go see a doctor.  I found out my ferritin  was at an 11, and looking back at my running log, I suspect it had been there for quite some time.

But for 9 months, I had come to believe I didn’t deserve success because I had an eating disorder at one point in my life.  That for making mistakes with my body and for putting my self worth in running, I didn’t deserve nice things.  That I sealed my fate and I was bad and undeserving.  Mentally, I gave up on my dreams and myself.

Professionally and personally, my confidence is at an all time high – how could I go into my office or life space with this giant self-esteem, and then crumble in running?  It comes down to a lot of things – certain individuals shaming me, abuse from the past, and my insecurity in the running world as a newbie.  But belief is developed, not inherited, and this year, professionally, personally, and now I can say, in my running, my belief in myself is at a high.

My fiance coached me through one of the physically toughest summers of my life and I found joy in workouts and training again.  Despite horrible racing results, I went into each race hungry and with belief that I could do better.  I don’t know how I operated as long as I did, with the physical body I had then.  It must have been belief.  At a time, it may not have been belief in my abilities, but it was belief that it gets better.  That somewhere around the corner, there is a new day.

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This year I wanted to believe in the process rather than the outcome, and I think I nailed that.  Though giving up completely on my dreams is never the solution, the practice of loosening my grip on them and focusing on getting what I can get done, one day at a time, was extremely important.  It wasn’t easy seeing paces for mile repeats, at a pace I used to do easy runs; but I was invested in getting better THAT day, not getting back to anything.  That helped me move forward.

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This year I wanted to believe in the power of difference and change, and that mistakes don’t condemn us.  I nailed this. It took me a year, but I nailed it.  My big dreams, the scary-no one should talk about them dreams, are still in my thoughts and my heart.  And I know now that having mistakes and a past does not expel me from the possibility of a happy and dream-fulfilling life.  I learned that I can’t control people and that the best thing I can contribute to this world, is to be myself.

This year I wanted to believe in God and trust that I don’t need to prove myself to him.  That faith is really doing what we love, and that is why we are alive.  I nailed this.  I developed a deeper relationship with God; maybe not in the “go to Church every Sunday” sense (need to work on that) but in the sense that I no longer fear Him or need to prove myself to Him.  I learned that God loves me, my whole heart, and gave me fire to use, not hide.  I can’t wait to deepen my relationship with Him even further, because I feel like I am jusssttt scratching the surface.  And of course, deepen my relationship with God, as a team with Mitch, my best friend and soon to be husband.

This year, my word is “heart”.  I thought “heart” back in October and it stuck with me ever since.  I especially love “heart” because it is so fitting, as Mitch and I are getting married this year.  My basketball coach, Coach Mudd, always hit this point home with us- that we need to play with heart.  I feel that one of my strongest skills/talents is my heart.  However, this year I feel like I got a bit disheartened, and I would like to focus on using my talents to my advantage.  So, what do I mean by heart?

Heart means “courage or enthusiasm”; this year, I want to tackle everything in front of me with the courage and enthusiasm that I know burns in my heart.  I want to look at a start line, a tough conversation, or a scary change with a face of joy and a go-getter attitude.  I want to use my heart as my fuel, knowing that the pure fire that burns inside of me is the best source of energy I can ask for.  I want a heart on fire.

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Heart means “love or compassion”; this year, I want to become more compassionate and more open to opening up.  I want to look at my relationships and approach places of conflict with a tender heart, rather than a defensive one.  I want to be smart, keeping up boundaries where boundaries should be, but I also want to use compassion and love as my guide on where to build the wall.  I want a heart with softer edges.

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Heart means “the central or innermost part of something”; this year, I want to remember the important things.  I want to remember that win or lose, the important things are my character and my love. I want to remember that allowing ourselves to accept  joy and self-love into our hearts, is the toughest form of self-compassion there is to accomplish, and therefore, the most important.  I want to remember to look around at the little things, to be grateful, and to pray.  I want my heart to be where my feet are, being happy with who I am right now, what I have this moment, and the time I have been given this second.  I want to remember that when our hearts are full, the spill-over from our fullness runs into our loved ones.  That the inception of external love, is that of internal love.  God starts in our hearts, after-all.  I want my heart where my treasure is, and my treasure will forever and always be love.  Doing it all for love, with love, and through the love God gave me.  I want a heart that is centered.

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This year my intention is “heart”.

What about you?

Why

In this season of struggle, I have been feeling particularly lost and angry.  Maybe it was the unforeseen ailments that made me sideline myself, maybe it was the year of beating the snot out of myself for something that was out of my control, and maybe it was me losing something I held so tightly to; but regardless, it has been a tough time.

I turned to my guru, Kristen Armstrong, and reading her reason (and as it happens, my own) for running smacked me in the face like a limp noodle.

KA

As I read it, I felt like I could relate to it less.  That was when I knew, I needed a reality check.

Have you ever had a moment where you have this gut reaction that is contrary to your character, which reminds you to check yourself before you wreck yourself?  Like, if someone falls down and you laugh and thing “good” instead of “oh, are they okay? oh good, now I can laugh”? Or if you see someone fail and think “they deserve it” instead of “oh I know how that feels, that sucks”.  Well I had that reading this passage.

I found that the things that originally brought me to running have been shadowed by the less-than-important things (running a faster 5k, making someone eat my dust, etc).  Those things are important, but that is not why I train – and for the past year, my view has been a bit distorted.

Injury happens FOR us, not TO us, so after a month of being royally pissed off (and that is okay to feel too – rather now than holding it in for 5 years and then taking it out on my future kiddos by living vicariously through them) I am now working on my paradigm.  This is the year of BELIEVING and it would seem that in order to believe in myself, I have to start thinking like myself.

So here is my reminder, in my OWN words, why I run:

“You cannot always do something to help your friends, but you can always be something to help them…”

Okay, that’s it.  That’s why I train, right there.  Thanks Bertha.  I don’t train because I want to be able to do things (qualify for the Olympic Trials, beat all my PR’s, beat the snot out of anyone I race, though those things aren’t bad).  I train because I want to be someone better than I would be if I didn’t train.  If someone I love is running the race of their life, I want to be by their side, fit enough to experience their joy and heartbreak with them.  I want to be fit enough to follow the ones I love through any hill or valley.  I want to be strong enough to break the cycle of addiction and carry the heaviness that is lain on all of us, including that of the people I love, if only for a mile or two.  I want to have the kind of wisdom that is only developed in the pain cave, one that knows both patience and persistence, so when my friends need advice, I can stand with both weapons by my side as solutions to their questions.  If the time comes for me to experience victory or defeat, I want to have the grace to accept both of them, and therefore have the guts to watch my loved ones experiences the same highs and lows, not being afraid of what it means for me or our relationship.  I want to be the kind of person that is disconnected from the outcome and invested in the process and my people.  If I get tired or sick, I want to be the kind of person that can make it one more mile, just to make it home to the people I love.  And I want to be the kind of person that knows true strength is on the inside, and is developed through days and nights in the trenches, taking rest when necessary and pushing when I can.  If someone I love looks at me with eyes full of fear, terrified that they won’t be able to finish whatever happens to lie ahead of them, I want to look at them, wordless, with a smirk that assures them that fear means you are in the right place, so go burn up what you don’t need and ignite what you do.

This is who I am and this is why I run.  All the rest is nice, but I don’t put my faith in numbers.

I put my faith in God. I put my faith in me.  And I put my faith in the heart of it all.

That at the end of the day, we all do it for love.

A Words try to Take our B words

 

When I toed the line, each and every time

I was stronger than I think.

When I covered a bruise, and chose justice as my muse

I was stronger than I think.

I thought it was always me, a deep character flaw too pressed in to steam

But it was surprise and science

And to my eye, returned a gleam.

It was never my fear of pain

Or the mistakes that mar even the holiest of men

But the sky’s inevitability to bring rain.

It is never the flaw that scars me so deeply

That faith and salvation are already healing

But rather, it is the silver lining holding crisp-water, sweetly.

It is not the bone and marrow that crack under cosmic weight

Or my inevitability to find a reason to be afraid.

But the strength that whispers, telling me that goodness and grace are my fate.

The voices in our heads, mix the facts with fictions picked from all sorts of trees

They take our worthiness to its knees

But our soul remains free

We are stronger than we think.

And with every decision I make to get up

Show up

Or grow up

The A words begin to whimper “She was stronger than we think”

And with every decision I make to be more

Love more

Pray more

The B words begin to declare “She is as strong as we think”

Option B

Racing has been difficult for me lately.  I live in this cave of “fear of the pain” that is both warm and frightening at the same time.  The last race where I did something truely crazy-good (for me), I was in so much pain that is gives me shivers to this day.

But I think it is a bit more than that.  I think racing has also been difficult because I have not shed my first skin, my Option A.  What is Option A?

Sherly Sandberg, author of “Lean In” and “Option B”, and major powerhouse in the world of business, lost her husband suddenly to a coronary episode.  When dealing with grief and the pain of father’s day looming, she got some advice from a friend:

“Option A is not available. so let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.”

Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B.”

My former skin, Option A, was this skin that was safe and warm.  It involved me viewing people as disposable so I could never get hurt, controlling food and training to build some confidence, and learning how I had always learned : fast, furious, and throwing away anything that took more than a few months to master.  This place was safe, and it had kept me safe during turbulent years of my childhood.

Being the youngest and dealing with traumatic events all around me, I could go in my safe spot and control, adapt, and pretend.  This all worked until I began to fall in love, real love, with my current boyfriend and also, with life.

Option A wasn’t working anymore, and the innocence of my perfect facade was dying, screaming at me to take it back.  I unraveled the threads that kept this skin together, finding all the ugly under the sparkle and mourning the life I thought really existed.  It sounds melodramatic, but it is my reality.  The ways I had been treated in the past, I found, were actually classified as abuse.  The communication style I relied on was in reality, silence and entrapment.  And the way I viewed myself, as bad and worthy of shame, was actually a lie.

Shedding this skin is difficult, and taking me a lot of time.  I can feel the last bits of it stick to my skin for dear life, and ripping it off is painful and frightening.  Living without addictive coping mechanisms and the ugly, false reality I had been taught, is hard to let go of.

But here is the thing: I don’t have Option A anymore.  I can’t survive like that, knowing what I know now.  My relationships will suffer.  If I go back to the anorexia route, I might not make it this time.  And the way I learned to communicate and deal with fear will hurt not just myself, but those I love.

I raced well with Option A because my sense of self was secure and I really didn’t have to deal with the pain of life.  The pain of races was eh, managable because sickly, it coincided with how I viewed I should be treated: abused and hurt.

Racing, viewing myself as worthy of success, and being okay with who I am regardless of an outcome or a numerical value to give me some standing, is difficult.  But Option A is no longer there.  I am learning to live with Option B.

It is a drop kick to the ego to see race times that do not reflect where I was last year; it stings.  It is like getting your degree in English, and then spelling 10 things wrong on your resume.  It is like “how do you let this happen?”  But here is the thing – those times, those races were Option A.  I was unhealthy, I suffered in relationships, and I got injured.  Option A was a state of abusing myself to the point where I seriously doubted my longevity not just in sport, but in life.

So here I am in Option B – it is a painful one.  Ego hits everywhere.  Trying to deal with actually feeling emotions.  Dealing with the fact that yes, I can fail.  I can be mentally weak.  And when my self worth is no longer allowed to be in numbers or, when those numbers don’t look all that great right now, it is an uncomfortable place where I am forced to stand in who I truly am.

But here is what I am finding out about the “Option B” life and “me” I am building.

  1. Option B me is very strong in the workplace, a good communicator, and has a pretty cool head in heated situations
  2. Option B me has a lot of balls – she is willing to race when she is afraid, kinda un-fit, or in front of people that intimidate her
  3. Option B me really loves hard, and is capable of being a caring human with attachments that are healthy
  4. Option B me can eat a pizza and feel aight about it
  5. Option B me recognizes that fearing God’s wrath for being imperfect is assinine and unhealthy
  6. And finally, Option B me imagines a life of longevity: in running, in career, in relationships, and in life.  Option A me didn’t think I would live past 27.

 

Option A  is no longer available, so we are just going to have to kick the shit out of Option B.

And when I let myself feel pride in the new life I am living, then I can start to be okay with where I am at.  In running, in life, and in love.  It isn’t always where Option A Kaytlin was at, but it sure as hell is going to make it up that mountain, in a new and happier way.

The climb may be slower and harder than before, but Option B me just happens to be pretty gritty, pretty hopeful, and pretty grateful.

Let’s kick the shit out of Option B.