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

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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.

Off

Some days, I just wake up feeling off.

Maybe it is a bad dream, a upcoming deadline, life stress, or an upcoming workout.

Today it is all 4, and I am trying to figure out how to not go into panic mode.

In the advent of this stress and anxiety, I turn to metaphors, as they make the world seem more palatable for me.  Sure, it doesn’t fix the problem, but it sure makes it more legible.

Anyway, in the advent that I am trying to adopt a puppicinno this week (yahoo!) I seek the advice of nature and how to quell a frightened dog!

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A la Caesar or the Dog Whisperer, here are his tips:

Ignore the hyper dog behavior.

Give your dog a job.

Go for a dog walk to redirect dog’s high energy.

Check your own energy.

Try out aromatherapy.

Okay, great.  Now, I apply this to my ever present anxiety situation regarding life stress, being tired, and the upcoming workout/parties/things to do!


Ignore the hyper dog behavior:  Aka, tell my bad thoughts to take a hike.

“Kaytlin, you are cockey and doomed to fail” ->take a hike

“Kaytlin, you are lazy and doomed to fail”->go away

“Kaytlin, you are tired and grumpy and hate everything and are going to freak out and curl up in a ball” ->seriously, stop. Ignoring you!


Give your dog a job: Aka focus on the controllables


What can I control? What I get done in work today, how much effort I give in my workout, my self talk, how I schedule my time, how I treat others, etc.


Go for a dog walk to redirect dog’s high energy: Aka, redirect the anxiety to the controllables


Check your own energy: aka where are these feelings coming from?

They are coming from my fear of making the same mistakes.  They are coming from my feelings of worthlessness and lack of confidence.  They are coming from my anger.  From my negativity.  From my lack of remembering the joy. And finally, from my lack of trust and faith that life can be happy and my self worth is in God.


Try out aroma therapy: aka, notice the little things.

My goal this week, this day, this minute: smell the trees. Take a breath.  Smile. Cry if I need to. But all in all, be present and know that all I can do, is control the controllables.


 

I may not be a dog, but I can have the heart of one. 

Work with diligence and joy.

Run with freedom and guts.

Live with duty and love.

Woof 😉

 

Beauty and the Race

They say injuries don’t happen to you, they happen for you.

How poetic, clever, and true.

This recent “ankle sprain” has revealed far too much for me to start denying the power of circumstance and what we do with it.

The minute I hurt myself, actually, the second, I thought to myself “well, at least I don’t have to race this weekend”.  This sent me into a whirlwind of shame and complete awe at my capacity to create monsters out of sock puppets.  What I mean is this: humans are great story tellers and seeing my love for writing makes me think that story-telling is one of my strongest attributes.

Sometimes, this has been beneficial for me.  As a kid, it was my coping strategy.  Stories and metaphors helped/still help me understand the world a bit better.  This is some ancient stuff.  You know, story telling in tribes and things.  But I digress.

Sometimes, storytelling has been way too much for me; it creates moments of panic and fear, sending my imagination to dark places.  And furthermore, these stories don’t come out of nowhere.  They are a quilt of things and experiences I remember, strung together in one cluster-fluck of a situation.  That makes them extra strong, because they are built on fragments of reality.

Stories are these magical things that either inspire or send a person into complete panic.

My narrative of racing and workouts has changed through the years, but the overarching theme of “oh nooooooo” has stayed pretty consistent.  It is, by far, one of my largest triggers of anxiety next to changed plans and Mitch crossing the street without looking.  However, this fear is born of a string of narratives, brought together to create this terrifying story in which my success/failure and my capacity to handle pain are all strung into my self worth.  The hero either lives or dies by the result.  What a fantasy.

Injuring myself has proved to be a good wake-up call; even today, I was struck by anxiety, since the run today has to be mindful of the race on Saturday.  As a result, my motivation went down the tubes, as I became more anxious of the big bad monster looming in the story of the future.  Luckily, the injury made me take a step back and sit in the problem, rather than running it out.  This is the part of the story where the character sits by the lake and gets a strong dose of reality from a wizard or a talking tomato.

Post-race, I tend to feel a great high.  Partially because it is over, but partially because I experienced something fun.  The monster reveals itself as a sock puppet, and days later I continue to be anxious because “wait, that sock puppet is a MONSTER!”.  How quickly we forget… This is the part of the story where the hero has PTSD…wait, we never really read about that…what the heck, Grim Brothers?!

I am 5 months into my year of “believing”.  It has proved difficult, but the lessons along the way have been irreplaceable.  I learned to believe that yes, running sitting on the back-burner does not make you any less of a runner.  I learned to believe that yes, I can run fast, but only if I believe in my capacity to hold it responsibly.  This time around, I am learning to believe that monsters can change, only if we love them and hold them accountable.  This monster of “racing/workouts” needs to know that it does not have my self worth.  It does not hold my capacity for a happy life.  It needs to know that it is strong, but I am stronger.  Finally, it needs to know that at the end of the day, I love it, and love is going to turn it back into the sock puppet it came here to be.

This time around, I am getting some Beauty and the Beast treatment- I am learning that the monster I see now, doesn’t have to be a monster forever.  That the song in my heart that tells me to keep trying is real, and to patiently wait for love to take over.

I have to believe that the story of my life is a blessed fairy-tale.

I have to believe that monsters exist, even in fairy tales, and I am capable of living a hero’s journey despite my tragic flaws; and through it all, I have God guiding me.

Finally, I have to learn to believe that no monster is too powerful for love, and that I get to write my own story.

What kind of narrative are you writing?

The Marathon

If I learned anything from the marathon, it is that there is no true joy in anything that can be placed in a spreadsheet.

“What do you want?”, I asked myself, the days-weeks-and hours leading up to the marathon.  I could feel my chest tighten up every time I would think about a “split” or a “pace” or a “finish time”.  It was suffocating me to the point where data dominated my usually free and dis-tractable mind.

A few days prior, I talked with my guru-love, running partner and home-on-the-go, Mitch.  When you talk to someone safe, the truth tends to spill out of your mouth like a saturated waterfall.  The truth, after all this time, was that I didn’t want to race in the way I had been racing for the past 6 months- for a time.  The truth was that this race had to mean something else.

Thank God for Maggie.

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Maggie is this wonderful creature that I am privileged to call a friend. Much like my other friends like Jackie and Alyssa, Maggie has a quiet spirit that cannot be mistaken for lacking, well, anything fierce.  She is a gamer.

As we got to the start line, I felt exceptionally calm as I stood beside her, as I let go of everything that had to do with putting my “worth” and “result” in the same category.  Since I was little, I was the kind of spirit that did whatever the F I wanted, and today wasn’t going to be the day I betrayed that little firecracker.  Some days, it means I push my body to its limits and feel liberated, engaging the physics of pain and doubt.  

Today, I was engaging something so profound, I choke up when I think of it.  

Love.

For 6 months, I was engaging the physics of things that don’t have physics at all.  Numbers, splits, mileage, results, expectations, standards- things that have no flow and really, nothing magical to them.  There was nothing for me there, and I felt my love for myself and for running dissipate.  I couldn’t go back to my old, addictive habits to gain confidence, because I made the conscious decision not to.  I couldn’t find any motivation to push my body and mind, because my worthiness was in something that my heart knew was wrong.  I was thinking of a clock ticking, counting down the years till my body will have “peaked” and I “should” be at this fitness or that fitness.

It is like eating McDonalds every day and blaming your weak stomach for feeling like you are going to be sick.  It isn’t you- it’s what you are ingesting.

As Maggie and I weaved in and out of the streets, I saw a race angle I haven’t seen in a long time.  I noticed the houses and the trees.  The bravery of the runners around me.  I could feel everything- sometimes, it was pure joy (I probably smiled for 90% of this race).  Other times, anxiety, as I let go of the numbers that tied me up for so long.  Sometimes, emotional overload, as I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time.  We sang songs, talked, she took time to help another runner who was cramping (amazing), and took in silence with a peace that only the action of running can provide.

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Yay!

Letting go and engaging the physics of a race that I let my heart dictate was the decision I desperately needed.  It was the salad after the McDonalds, if you will.

Sometimes, running is a game of engaging pain, or weather, or family (hello runners racing conference this week).  Weaved within these powerful forces, gratitude, joy, and love slip in and create a magical thread that only race-day can provide.  But at the end of the day, the race is our work of art in which we get to decide what we want to do that day.  It isn’t our self worth, or our potential, or a reflection of how hard we worked (try telling me that the guys that get last at the trials didn’t work as hard as the guys at the front- it is a battle, no matter what).

If I learned anything from the marathon, it is that there is no true joy in anything that can be placed in a spreadsheet.  

Running, wholeheartedly, is where we begin to thrive and fly.

Thrive

I could feel my heart get heavy by the second mile- constantly checking my clock, I felt this weight of agony that I think only “shame” can provide.  Two days prior, I ran 3 minutes from my PR in a race that I had come to love, thus completing my fourth race in 6 months where I threw in the towel.

I thought a trail run would fix my head, but all I could think about in those first 2 miles were these two ropes pulling me in completely opposite directions.

One, led me to think that I should feel shame for letting my body run, as my paces, recovery, and mannerisms needed to resemble someone who was “reformed”.  Intense, but not intense like I was before.  Fast, but nothing threatening.  Strong, but with a recognition of how weak I am.

The other string was pulling me away from thinking about my own feelings of self worth, and placing them in a performance.  A time.  Some medal.  A standard.  More intense.  More swift.  More strong.

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Life is easier when you are pulled in…^

At some point, I broke.  I let go of the ropes and went buck-wild through the forest.  I stopped upwards of 10 times to catch my breath, fighting the humidity and post-race fatigue.  But I sprinted like a mother-fer.  As I looked at my pace afterwards, its ebbs and flows as I made my way through tactical mud and heavenly gravel trail, I felt no attachment to the numbers.  It was quick, but it was more than that.

This week, I have cried at least 5 times as I think about the upcoming marathon.

I told Mitch “I don’t know if I can run this without my addictions and I have my self worth in the outcome” and I felt this liberation for finally speaking the truth and coming to terms with what I am feeling.  Tears were dripping down my face as I paced the hallway around my work lobby, frantically trying to find out what I am running for within the span of a 5 minute conversation.

These are all first-world problems, but I can feel it on my chest as it strips my breath away.  Sometimes, I go running and my throat closes up.  The doubt, feelings of worthlessness, and loneliness are there.  And then I think back to that trail run and the reason why I started to run races in the first place.

Kristin Armstrong.

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Every time I see a new “Mile Marker’s” blog post on Runner’s World, I say in my head, literally, “And now we read the Gospel of Kristin Armstrong”.  It is blasphemy, but Jesus gets it.

Kristin is a firm believer in running as a metaphor for life, something that I have lost tough with this past year.  I can feel it every time I see a split on my watch, or see a hill I have to climb.  But I’ll be damned if the marathon loses its metaphorical magic this Saturday.

Maybe this marathon is a metaphor for me working through my problems.  Maybe, a representation of me doing something for myself for the first time in my life.  The pain of life.  The value in suffering.  The importance in staying in the present moment.  The trouble with putting your self worth in finish times.  Running with the knowledge that I am never alone.  Living life for myself.  Living life knowing it isn’t all about me/I am not the only one hurting. What “real” goals look like.

In the spirit of Kristin, I am setting an intention for this thing:

My intention is to give myself the permission to thrive.

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It won’t look like a race strategy, or a goal pace, or a finish time, or a place.

It will look like me letting myself run these 26.2 miles, reviewing and hammering in my head why I do this.  That, at the end of the day, running adds to our lives, it doesn’t make our lives.  It is lessons, toughness, tenderness, and faith all wrapped into this emotionally daunting package that when I think about it, my breath is taken away.  Thriving is wholehearted, present, and means “to flourish”.  I imaging my bff Jackie P. planting some bulb and a beautiful thing blossoms up.  You can’t measure “thriving” in a spreadsheet (see this article)

This marathon is about pulling the weeds and replanting what I believe in.  The sacredness in running.  The lessons that come with it.  The strength forged with each stride.  My faith that is made more resilient.

I have 26.2 miles to bloom and thrive.

Good thing it’s spring.

 

Personal Legend

What is your personal legend, the thing that you are chasing in ALL aspects of your life?

What is there to discover for YOU on the vine branch that we all travel?

Let’s chase it together and enjoy the journey on the vine.

 

I had a thought and then a whole lot of thoughts, and then I connected them in a semi-coherent blog post.  Let’s start with the first thought, one from my favorite author and from the book The Alchemist:

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In my head, the universe is like this big, twisty-turny vine plant.  As the green weaves in and out of its’ own limbs, various flowers and thorns pop up, filling in the empty spaces of the loops and crevices.

Every day, we travel these vines and discover new things about life- maybe we encounter a thorn, or maybe a flower.  But, each turn we take reveals something new we never would have thought or seen if we didn’t keep tracing the vine-branches.  We will never see the full plant, the full picture that reveals all of the answers, but we can see the next turn, the next flower, the next lesson.  

Maybe the beauty of life isn’t in knowing, but in the journey.  The decision to chase our dreams, live, and be full in every sense of the word.  And when we want something, we encounter thorns and flowers, turns and twists, which lead us on the greatest adventure of all (even though it may be filled with a lot of pain).

I thought about this, then I thought about running, and I thought about all aspects of my life, and then I had another thought.

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Recently, I have been blessed with a new job- it is for a medical technology company, and I shall be working as a compliance administrator.  Basically,  I make sure we aren’t breaking any laws.  I have been training and running, living at home, dating Mitchel Gilbert, meeting with friends (my bff cousin is coming next weekend, guys, this is exciting), and eating a lot of bagels and oranges (cold and flu season, yall).  There are a lot of things going on, sometimes bad and sometimes good, but they are all adventures because:

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And every day, I venture onto that vine and search for my personal legend.  The thing that speaks to my heart since I was a little chickadee.  Freedom.

Freedom for myself, freedom for others, freedom in faith.

I am pretty secure about my dreams, but the process, that is where I get insecure.  I don’t like to talk about something until I have already succeeded.  I don’t like to talk about how I applied to over 100 jobs and got turned down by some positions that were probably offered to high school kids.  I don’t like to talk about how while Mitch and I are super happy, we still get in tiny-tiffs here and there.  I don’t like to talk about how I am afraid of rejection every time I want to hang out with friends, even though they have expressed time and time again to me that they wanna higgity-hang.  And finally, I don’t like to talk about my training because it is less than perfect.

But, if my personal legend is to chase freedom for myself and for others, I can’t be a slave to this fear anymore.  I can either be a victim of the process or an adventurer of the ride.

This past year, I have used a training journal (that I LOVE-Believe training journal people, it is great!) but now the pages have been used up and I am moving back to using my RunningAhead.  I thought about how much time I will have for the blog with my new job and I thought about how I can still write and share my experience.

I decided that I am going to move all of my stuff/data from the month of January onto my runningahead (some have notes, some do not- I will be updating the notes from my training log periodically). And make it public.  And finally, learn to stand in who I am.  I have provided the link Here and will make it open to public viewing.  I am going to share what it is really like, my training and everything.  I am going to be honest.  I am going to fail a lot.  But also, I am going to believe that this adventure means something, and connect and share my search for freedom in life, in my job, in running, in relationships, and in faith.

And that is why I keep running: because it means something.

What is your personal legend, the thing that you are chasing in ALL aspects of your life?  

What is there to discover for YOU on the vine branch that we all travel?

Let’s chase it together and enjoy the journey on the vine.