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.

Miracle Cat and Why we can still rock with 3 legs

I want to expand beyond what I thought I was capable of. I want to stand up, not shrink behind the allusion that pain is a bad thing, therefore giving me the right and duty to quit. I want to do distances that scare me, because bravery is cultivated in the trenches. I want to push past those limits I thought were there, because allusions are best debunked with science and a whole lot of faith in the methods.

My cat is a huge inspiration.  He is also a jerk.  But let’s talk about the former, shall we folks?

But first, some background on my miracle-kitty:

2 months ago, my cat went missing.  A coyote was spotted in our neighborhood, so we were certain he was puppy chow (not to be confused with the powdered sugar-crack that one nasty friend brings to sleepovers…you, missy, ruined any self restraint I thought I had).  Anyhoo, we thought the cat was dead, sad.  My grandmother, who was a big advocate for animal rights (as she fostered not only children, but animals as well, throughout her life) died on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Day, someone found our cat.  As we were heading to my grandmother’s funeral, someone called, saying that they found him (place a chip in your animals, people!).  He had been hit by a car, leaving one of his hind legs hanging off of his body like tacky-dangly earrings.  But he is alive.  3 legs, 2 eyes, and one pissed-off expression.

Miracle cat, am I right?  Thanks grandma.

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^he does not want to be hugged or photographed but here I am, doing both. 

Anyway, my cat is a huge inspiration.  Sure, he survived being struck by a vehicle, but there is something even more astonishing about him.  He has maintained his athleticism.

Today, I did a treadmill-workout where I did 1 up-4 at goal marathon pace-1 down.  In a former, more scary running life of mine, this workout would have been considered a “recovery run” for me.  But alas, this workout kicked my bootay; I wanted to quit a million times (but didn’t) and had some major heat-issues (that basement gets steamy…carpets.). I felt good about myself, toughing it out and investing in the run, but afterwards I felt a bit sad/peeved.   I feel like a shadow of my former self, the person that had her self-worth in running and as a result, ran 100% of her runs off of sheer adrenaline and fear.  Not a sustainable way to live, but boy, could I cook it.

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^a conversation I have with my legs when we are taking a nice trip on the struggle-bus

I thought about this and reminded myself that I have to be kind to my brain and my body, trusting in the process and not comparing two different versions of myself without considering the full story.   The full story is, I was unhappy, too thin (for me), too overworked, isolated, and petrified of running, back then.  Now, I am happy to run, and still investing in tough workouts, scary races, annoying recovery runs, and proper fueling.  But still, the competitive part of me wants to know I will still be able to game when the time comes.  I don’t settle, I just don’t.  Even if I nailed some nasty workout or ran a great race, I would still never be satisfied/think I am that great.  But that is another blog for another time…

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^me, when I am writing…what was I talking about again?

Anyway, I thought about this want and then I thought about this amazing thing my cat did the night before.  You see, my cat in his time away from home, got super thin because hello, he was in the wilderness.  Bear Grills style, folks.  Well, now he is always hungry and would eat the bowl if he could.  So, my mom decided to place it on a high shelf because we thought hey, 3 legged cats can’t jump 3 feet in the air anymore.

Wrong-o.

That little guy jumped up onto the ledge, with 3 legs and one victory meow.  He is definitely not in the same cat-shape he was in the past, but he still did that amazing thing.  He really wanted that bowl, guys.

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^this image has nothing to do with the post but it is funny so there we are, there we are.

Guys, I really want that bowl.  Not a time (though certain times would be nice), not a mileage (though time on my feet is important), not a pace (though I still want to know I can drop it like it’s how from time to time), but a journey.  I want to expand beyond what I thought I was capable of.  I want to stand up, not shrink behind the allusion that pain is a bad thing, therefore giving me the right and duty to quit.  I want to do distances that scare me, because bravery is cultivated in the trenches.  I want to push past those limits I thought were there, because allusions are best debunked with science and a whole lot of faith in the methods.  I nailed a workout today that was void of my self-worth, pushed me past my perceived limit, and will only make me better.

I may be a different version of myself from almost a year ago, but my cat showed me that you can still get that bowl with 3 legs.

Maybe that 4th leg is fear.  Maybe it is placing my self worth in anything but who I am.  Maybe it is getting unsustainably light.  Maybe it is resisting rest.

Whatever it is, we can drop that leg we thought we needed and still get that bowl. 

We just have to want it enough.  

 

Brave

Every year, I make an intention.  Some may call this a New Year’s resolution, but I prefer the word “intention” as it represents my “focus” rather than a “destination” or “result”.  Intentions provide me the space to let life unfold and see where my one word pops up in my life, giving me the momentum and drive to breathe deeper into that focus, rather than cower away.

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^or in Yoga speak, my Drishti. Idea a la Kristin Armstrong. Also, no, I don’t do yoga.  Probably should though…not flexible.

Speaking of cower, that reminds me of my intention from this past year.  Brave.

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^not to be confused with the Disney-Pixar movie, Brave.

This year, I wanted to focus on doing brave things, experiencing bravery, learning what bravery means, and seeing what happens when I am not brave.  In my training log, my running-specific goal for “brave” was: “I want to be brave enough to succeed or fail.”

In running (and life), both success and failure takes an immense amount of bravery.  How many of us have intentionally failed (whether it be because of shortcomings or human error) and kept pushing toward our goals, despite our imperfections?  How many of us have had the chance of a lifetime and let it slip though our fingers because we are too afraid to experience the raw emotion of “joy”.  In my case, fear penetrates nearly every nook and cranny of who I am, telling me to turn around when times are tough or even when times are great.  This past year, I wanted to see what happened when I didn’t turn around.  I am so glad my intention was brave:

2016

I was brave enough to succeed at a sport I love, than watch myself crash and burn, then watch myself pick up the pieces and try again in a new way.  My way.

I was brave enough to succeed or fail.

I was brave enough to work my butt off in classes and graduate college, then watch myself epically fail at my job, then watch myself pick up the pieces and try to cultivate new talents.

I was brave enough to be both worthy and inadequate.

I was brave enough to invest in those I love, then cower away from the tough things in relationships, then get back in that arena and keep loving.

I was brave enough to decide that being human is far better than being a shell.

I still need to work on my bravery, as I will never be perfect; but, I am proud of where I have been, who I have met, and what I have seen.  I never would have imagined that an intention to be “brave” would build me up and humble me in a way that has made me happier, healthier, and more aware.  But, there is ALWAYS work to be done.

This year, I have decided I want my intention to be BELIEVE.  Believe is such a big word (especially if you have my grammar skills…); to believe is to strive, to invest, to stand up, to listen, to live with the whole heart, to try, to have faith, to be ourselves.

Image result for believe meme^Thanks, Ryan 🙂 🙂 🙂

This year I want to believe in myself:  I want to believe that I am capable and worthy of doing amazing things.  I want to believe that I can stand in the wake of failure, wounded, and still have the strength and wisdom to find solutions and happiness.  I want to believe in myself while striving to be a better, wiser, stronger version of who I am in the now, with faith in the process rather than the outcome.

This year I want to believe in others: I want to believe that the people who love me, love ME, not my mistakes, my successes, my obedience, my shame, etc.  I want to believe in people and stop striving to become what I think they want to see, accepting that who I am is enough.  I want to believe in the power of difference and change, and that the mistakes of myself and the people around me will never condemn us to a salvation-less life, just a more complex one.  

Finally, this year I want to believe in God: I want to trust that I don’t need to constantly prove myself to Him in order to be worthy of a happy life.  I want to believe He isn’t petty, and that is just my projection of Him based on my fear of people.  I want to believe that I will never have the answers, and that is okay because He has got it in the bag, even if the bag includes a world of hurt.  I want to believe that faith is just love, projected to everything we touch, with the knowledge that the impact of our blow is the reason we are alive.

This year I intend to believe.

Where is your focus?

 

18

Greeting expectation with a smile doesn’t guarantee success, as I know there are failures in my future; but, it does guarantee that we breathe easy into transformation and growth.

The thing that excites me about the marathon is not the race itself, but the training that comes with it.  Give me a long run, give me dead legs, and give me liberation from what I thought I was capable of (all of these demands are prefaced with a “please” by the way…manners…).

Liberation from expectation is either beat with the stick of apathy or the hammer of joy.  That is to say, you either resent expectation or smile your way through the unknown.

I prefer to smile.

Who really knows, when it comes to a long run, what their body is capable of?  Who really knows what we will see, how we will see it, and what we will feel at every turn and corner? I have always been equally nervous and excited for a long run, whether it was a workout or a time-on-my-feet kinda thing; perhaps it resembles the nerves someone has before a wedding or a big party, but less intense.  Unless you are me, who gets anxiety attacks at the drop of a pin, then keep up that intensity!  Feel the burn!  I’ll stop now.

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^a depiction of my social skills

Anyway, I was nervous before the-longest-run-of-my-life on Monday, fearing a two part RKO to the head: first, I was afraid I wouldn’t like it and second, I was afraid I couldn’t do it.  I could do it, but that wasn’t why I absolutely loved the run.  Maybe it is the metaphors that twist within each lesson I learned, creating a grapevine of wonder and intrigue.  Maybe it is the feeling or the adventure or the time away.  But darn-it, I really liked that.  Even when my body was in massive amounts of pain and fatigue, I could feel history and lessons burst through my veins like a massive rush of blood or coffee (as I take it from an IV these days).

I twisted in neighborhoods by my old high-school, remembering that growth requires firm roots in who I am and a recognition that I will never be stunted by my first budding.    I ran through the downtown area of my old-hometown, running by the tattoo shop and that giant hill, remembering that I may be a bad-a, but I also have one of the most cliche tattoos in history (aka, you are an easy mixture of sugar and spice, sweetie.  Cool your jets and laugh sometimes.).

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^I love this tattoo, but come on girl.  It’s a shape.

 I ran through my old neighborhoods where I would practice basketball for hours and run laps because I could, remembering that who we are, in our purest form as kiddos, tends to reveal the soul inside.  And this little soul was/is relentless.  I ran through the woods, sloshing through the slick snow and having to slow down my pace by a minute or more, remembering that in this moment, and forever, I will always be at the mercy of nature.  I happily bow down.  

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I ran across the bridge near my old place of employment, remembering my past failures and the love I had for those kiddos, remembering that failing doesn’t make us failures and anything done in love is forever sacred.  Finally, I ran to the street containing my new home, with my dog who was waiting for me to take her out on my last mile of the run, recognizing that I just lived 1000 lives within the span of 2+ hours, a blessing that requires a heart of humility toward the process and thanks to my body.

I am excited to race, sure.  However, I am more excited for the process, its lessons, and its toll.  Greeting expectation with a smile doesn’t guarantee success, as I know there are failures in my future; but, it does guarantee that we breathe easy into transformation and growth.

Smile, look around, and greet expectation without any of your own.

After all, the road is too long to carry your crystal ball.

 

Legacy

Maybe it is because gifts are better given in person.

Recently, I lost someone- scratch that, my family lost someone.  If I were to describe this someone, it would take a bit of storytelling and a lot of hand gestures to describe the essence of this someone.  I like that about her- my grandma, Sue.  Multifarious is one word for her, another is loving, dedicated, sassy, cat-loving, picks-at-food-but-never-eats-a-full-plate-er, dang good card player, friend, play-goer, and loved.

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Processing things in this brain of mine takes about 1.2 million metaphors and a whole lot of prayer.  I decided that I would process by first, defining what tradition is, what loss is, and what legacy is.  I had a feeling that one of them was important, and the rest were a bunch of shiz.

Here are the following Greek definitions (because really, why would I turn to any other group but the Greeks):

Tradition: 3862 parádosis (from 3844 /pará, “from close-beside” and 1325/dídōmi, “give over”) – properly, give (hand over) from close-beside, referring to tradition as passed on from one generation to the next

Loss: apṓleia (from 622 /apóllymi, “cut off“) – destruction, causing someone (something) to be completely severed – cut off (entirely) from what could or should have been. (Note the force of the prefix, apo.) See 622 (apollymi).

Legacy: klēronómos (a masculine noun derived from 2819 /klḗros, “lot” and nemō, “to distribute, allot”) – an heir; someone who inherits.

Well, I looked at these definitions, expecting one of them to give me a clear cut answer and so it goes, I was completely wrong.  Go figure, maybe this is why my March Madness bracket is horrible every year.

Anyway, tradition means to give over and legacy means to allot.  Loss means to be cut off from what could or should have been.  I think anyone that has gone through loss knows what this feels like. I think they call it the “anger” part of grief; you know, the pissed off part of you that wonders why it had to happen and why any of this has to happen?  I assumed that the sentiment following loss would involve duty, taking up arms to carry on tradition and legacy of an individual.

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One of the laws of mass states that energy is never lost, only transformed.  I thought that would involve the transformation of one person’s legacy to all of us.  But right now, our grandmother/mother/wife isn’t here right now.  I can’t feel her energy, I don’t know what to do, and I am really confused.  So I turn to faith and running, because I get answers there.

And I came to this conclusion:

But first, picture this: you have been to those races, right?  The ones where people are running for a cause, for a person, for something or someone.  Dedicating their efforts to the individual/cause in their hearts.  I see this and feel a deep connection with those individuals- life experience is the best way to learn empathy, so the more we experience, the more we connect.  I don’t know any of the people that are racing for a cause, and I certainly don’t know their loved ones.  But I do know love and I do know what it is to be loved.

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Maybe, when people die or things change, legacy/tradition breathes emotion rather than things.  Maybe it is hard to describe the legacy of my grandma because nothing really can describe that feeling- all I can do is say “you know. love.” and wait for connection to brew.  I love remembering the things about her, but it is the sentiment which I carry around with me.

And maybe, just maybe, her legacy/traditions passed down to myself and my family has nothing to do with gifts, genetics, or memories.  Maybe her legacy is a lasting feeling, a connection to everyone around us, teaching us the ache of loss and love, brewing empathy in our blood.

Maybe that is what Christmas is really about.  Traditions and legacy, Gingerbread and Santa, Snowmen and Rudolph, these are all things some or all of us celebrate.  But, really, none of that matters.  It is our connection with one another that makes the holidays important- it is life-experience, ache, joy, laughter, crying, throwing shiz, passing gifts, the list goes on.

I like to think maybe that is why Jesus was born as a person, rather than some crazy-transformer-pokemon-God.

Maybe it is because gifts are better given in person.

My grandma gave us a lot of gifts, but her legacy of love is the one that I carry and continue to use to connect.

Like I tell my girls’basketball team: remember what you like about yourself, and take care of each other.  

 

Head-space

Maybe our loves always come back to us.

We can’t stump their flight out of fear that they won’t return. Let em fly 😉

I am kinda a fan of Harry Potter.

I have a friend, Ryan, who knows all of the Lord of the Rings folklore and every single detail of every single tree; my knowledge of Harry Potter, does not touch the level of his expertise of LOTR.   But I do love it.

One of the best quotes and one of the most-quoted-quotes (grammar, huh?) in the HP series comes Albus Dumbledoor, the headmaster of the wizarding school of Hogwarts:

I found this quote to back up a thought I have been having lately.  It is about running and life and the amount of space things take up in my head.  But in my world, my head isn’t just my head; maybe it is the 7 year old in me, but I kinda have this imagery painting the walls of my brain.

In my world, my safe-zone/my head is a forest.  It is deep and dark, carved with a river as big as the Mississippi, sprinkled with wildflower fields and a lot of animals.  The things I love are birds, each “thing” assigned a bird based on their personality.  Running is a hawk, because in Native American symbology they represent vision and energy, both of which I feel are refined/rejuvenated in the middle of a run.  Writing is an eagle, because it represents a broader perspective,bravery, and a plea to God/the universe.  Mitch, a yellow finch (positivity and joy).  Family, a dove (love and protection).

Symbolic hawk Meaning

And, much like that wolf story (you know, the one where you feed either the good or evil spirit and the other dies? HERE is a link in case you don’t know it!), I feed the birds in my brain.  As I have spent this past year learning and growing (something I have figured out, happens every year…life is a lot of “figuring out” stuff and then “unfiguring” it out later sheesh!) I have come to realize that sometimes, I feed one bird more than the others.

But as it goes in life, that is how you starve the ecosystem.  Favoritism only applies to choosing candy and picking your favorite child.  I think sometimes, I get so afraid of life or of running “leaving me”, that I overfeed that cute little hawk.  Sure, it is a large bird and requires more attention than say, my love of documentaries (aka that random peacock in the forest), but I do need to remember to give it its’ due space.

And so it goes in life.  Sometimes, we can hide behind something or smother something.  Both strategies are the result of fear and both strategies end with us living “doing” something, not “being” someone.  For me, it results in that thing being the center of our life.  Maybe it is our relationship (been there).  Maybe it is our job (been there).  Maybe it is running (been there).  Whatever it is, it is good to look around once in a while and determine if we are giving all of our “birds” the attention they deserve.  

Lately, I have stopped researching running.  Honestly, I have stopped thinking about it, unless it is time to run or Mitch and I are sharing stories.  It has caused me to come out of hiding and stand in my whole self, even the parts of me that aren’t so safe.  For instance, I really stink at cooking; but, I have tried it more and I gotta say, I still stink.  But I am whole.  

I have an activity for us all this holiday season- figure out what birds you are overfeeding and then figure out why you are doing that.  For me, it is because I am afraid.  For others, it could be out of anger, jealousy, insecurity, or also fear.  But figure it out, then re-allocate where your energy is going.  After doing this exercise (and continuing to do it because I stink at allocating energy wisely), I have found out that while my loves are birds, they never seem to fly away from me.

Maybe our loves always come back to us.

We can’t stump their flight out of fear that they won’t return. Let em fly 😉

Breakdown

Saturday I had a toughie- 15 (turned out to be 15.85 miles… I turned my watch on kilometers so I didn’t really know where I was going alrighty then, nice side note, Kaytlin) mile workout with 10-15 (ended up being 12) kilometer surges at goal marathon pace with 1 minute rest between each kilometer (unless I was hitting a busy road, then I got more rest).

I was pretty nervous going into this workout, but I invested in each K at a time, and ended up nailing the darn thing, with each K faster than what I was aiming for (4:08 K’s which I still don’t understand… Europe, you guys have thrown me for a loop).  But, it wasn’t the success at the paces that gave me a high- it was the complete breakdown of my body.

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Why does this exist?

You see, the title of the workout (via my Believe training book) is “The Heavy Legs” and indeed, my legs felt like 10 ton bricks of clay.  Not play dough.  Serious clay, folks.  I took GU at the half-way point, but that didn’t stop my body from feeling like Gumby in the last 5 k of the run (and I was done with my surges by then!  I was falling apart at recovery pace!).  While it was slightly terrifying feeling my body leave the grips of my control, it was also exhilarating.  I thought about why I may like this feeling so much, and then I read a poem that kinda explained it to me:

 Fireflies in the Garden

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.
I guess the feeling that felt so liberating was the feeling of “humanity”, or being the “firefly” in the case of the poem.
Saturday I felt myself dance around the roads like a firefly, shining light in the way I know how; but, my humanity caused me to realize that I will never be a star.  Meaning, I will never be a perfect person, never burning out and beyond the realms of this earth (aka like God or whatever you believe).  But notice, fireflies still continue to shine, though they are dim compared to the stars.  They still continue to dance their dance, living despite their diminished glow in the wake of bigger things above them (I am sure fireflies have these complex thoughts…yeah).
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Not the sun, but still super pretty!
I will never be the perfect runner/person/student/girlfriend/daughter/etc, but that doesn’t make me stop trying to do good (not perfect, just good).  Sometimes, the most exhilarating part of life is recognizing our humanity in the midst of our best effort.  We flicker little lights that brighten up the sky, making our mark in the grand masterpiece of the landscape.  Sometimes our light burns a little less brightly, or shutters in the midst of the cold.
But maybe I should remember that the meaning of life is dancing our dance, shining as brightly as we can, understanding with humility and grace that we will never be as bright as the stars.
But that doesn’t mean we should stop dancing.

Why Frank Underwood is helping me with this whole running thing.

I like House of Cards.

I thought I would lead today’s blog with a 1st grade-level sentence about a not-so-1st-grade-show.  Spice it up, ya know?  Leave the people thinking “wow…so simple this girl, so simple”.

Kidding, it is my brain so we are going to turn something I learned from House of Cards into a metaphor for running, into a metaphor for life.  Because really: would it be me if I didn’t over-complicate the most basic things in life?  

Anyway, House of Cards, right.  Great show, terrible morals.  But, what I want to discuss is this quote by Frank Underwood:

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Boom: I like that.  I like that a lot.  Here is why:

It is no secret that this time of year is difficult for runners everywhere.  Unless you live in a climate with perfect weather, this is the time of year where we are going to be experiencing snow, wind, ice, and lower motivation (hello warm blankets, cookies, and Netflix…). Not to mention, this time of year can be really hard for people (myself included) because it is the holidays and the holidays are emotionally draining.  You think you are supposed to be overtly happy but boom fizzle, you aren’t.  And that is OKAY.  

Anyway, this time of year is tough for the runner.  I know for myself, I am working on rebuilding my base and staying healthy, meaning a lot of my runs leave me feeling like I am running in quicksand.  Not to mention, I have negative 20 points of motivation around this time of year.  This also causes me to doubt my mental toughness and whether or not I belong here.  But then I remember, doubt happens.  So do seasonal changes in speed/motivation/courage.  

Mitch and I depicting what it is like to run around this time of year.  Did I mention we once raced (the madre raced it as well) a 5k on a course that was completely covered in ice?  Fun days.

Let’s face it: it is hard to get out there.  Maybe you are running slower paces because it takes your body 2 million years to warm up in 2 degree weather or maybe you are avoiding falling on your booty (-licious…thanks Beyonce) while navigating snow and ice.  Or maybe there is no excuse and you are in a rough mile!  All three have, are, and will apply to me during this season.

But then I remember that Frank Underwood quote: when you have doubt, remember the truth.  Truth is, running isn’t easy.  This time of year is emotionally and physically tough.  I’ve got mental demons.  I have super low motivation at times.  I am afraid when I am out there running about 50% of the time.  I doubt myself.  Those are all truths, but they don’t have to be THE truth.

 

Every story has an angle, so find the truth you see in yourself that musters the courage it takes to survive and thrive.  

I could flood myself with knowledge of all those difficult truths listed above.  And personally, I think it is wise to say them out loud so they don’t fester in our brains.  But then, I move on to flooding my brain with the truths that matter and muster some courage. 

Here is a truth: I played volleyball for 4 years in high school but was kinda always jealous of the cross country team.  No regrets- I bumped,set, and spiked my way to some good memories and disgusting knee-pads.  

The truth is, this time of year is tough but here I am, showing up despite everything that tells me not to.  The truth is, there will be hard miles but those miles will serve me well in life, future runs, and everything in between.  The miles that feel good are the ones that can sustain us through the valleys, encouraging us to keep going when it gets tough.  The miles that are tough…well, those help us become who we want to be.

The truth is, I love running, even when I am laying on the floor whining because I don’t want to run, watching the miles click by as I struggle through a workout, or question my goals/this sport/myself.  The truth is, it will never be easier, even if the sparkly snow beckons us to forget the pain or Santa tells us to smile.  

But the truth is, easy isn’t the name of the game: endurance is.

Whether this is a tough time for running, life, school, dog walking, or knitting (I like sweaters, if you want to send me one 😉 ), remember the truths you see in yourself that muster the courage it takes to thrive.

Then flood the snot out of those trickles of doubt.

Let it rain.

Universe

I haven’t been writing for a while, mostly because my brain has been a whirling dervish of job thoughts, family thoughts, and chasing-my-dreams thoughts (I have a lot of dreams/goals…one of them is to try a rainbow bagel.  Dream big.).  My brain enjoys this fluster-cluck of thoughts as its’ “default” position; that is to say, if I am not mindful, my brain likes to spiral and spin.

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Mostly put this in here for the dog pic.  SO.CUTE.

It kinda reminds me of how I would run earlier this year- running off of fear and placing my self-worth in running.  Every run a tempo, every day a “just one more mile” progression, every moment running from things.  I like to think that our bodies will get from us what they need, one way or another.  My body got rest by injuring me; my brain gets rest from thinking by either a)conjuring a headache or b)getting exhausted/sad from all the spiraling and forcing me to sit “in the moment” or, c) by presenting a unique phenomena that requires my present and mindful focus.

Our bodies get from us what they need, one way or another; and, being a person of faith, I think the universe gets that from us too (refer to C above).

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I have two examples of this phenomena, both of them occurring on a run.

  1. Snow: the runner’s ultimate enemy.  Maybe red-winged blackbirds or a course without port-a-potties, but you catch my drift.  I was feeling pretty peeved this morning, as the snow was asking of my legs a slower pace and  sturdy/focused footing.  I was careful on each step, frustrated that I couldn’t go as “hard” as I wanted.  Then, I came to a part of the neighborhood where I had the opportunity to do some hill sprints; the road was clear and because I had been careful/warmed up properly throughout the run, the sprints went seamlessly.  Sometimes, the universe asks us to rest when we don’t want to so we have the stamina to do hard things when we don’t have to.  Doing hills/working hard/being honest/loving with all we have when we don’t have to=being able to do those things, better than we could have imagined, when we must.
  2. Fear: the resistance in our every-day battle toward transformation.  This weekend, I set out for a long run on a hillier-than-normal, more un-safe than normal, unfamiliar route.  The first few miles I felt panic set in, as fear crept in like those spiders you feel creeping up your back any time you watch some documentary about creepy critters.  And, like that “spider-phenomena”, my fear was unwarranted and a result of fear’s twin brother, dread.  I made it though the fear, making my way to a forest preserve in a near-by town.  I focused on staying present and accepting the fear, and as I made my way into the new forest, I felt this rush of child-like joy, as the forest was beautiful and dark.  It reminded me of who I am and what I love, loosening the fear-knots from my shoulder like a good massage.  Sometimes, the universe presents us with one strong emotion in order to bust open the doors of our hearts to allow the other emotions to enter as well.  Being open to/not numbing our emotions= making room for not just the bad, but the absolutely wonderful.

Being present and being mindful has untangled the knots in my mind, reminding me of the lessons that my body and the universe are constantly providing for me.

I guess that’s what they mean by wake up.

Hills

Hills remind me that momentum can be developed even in life’s most difficult times, and the best have the ability to use the pain of the incline as fuel for the descent.

There is something incredible satiating about how hills can apply to virtually every aspect of our lives.

Hills as life hurdles.

Hill running technique as coping strategy.

Hill terrain variability as the array of problems we see in our lives.

Hill seeking as mental training.

My mind that thrives on metaphors and “making sense of things”; therefore, my brain feels all warm and fuzzy when I think about hills.  This probably contributes to my almost-obsession (not quite at “coffee” level yet) with running hills in training.  While injured and dealing with life shifts, I wasn’t seeking hills as much.  Maybe it was out of fear or an instinctual need to preserve, but I didn’t start seeking them on purpose until after my race this Saturday.  After a bit of a failure, it is wise to reassess our training  and regain some motivation; I tell you what, no amount of coaching or self-talk can teach us like a good old fashioned “life experience”Yesterday, the hill and I were reunited.

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Where I live is hilly, country-road labyrinth that requires proper form and some guts.  Tuesday I decided to seek a major hill route, pushing my legs into fatigue.  During the run, I had thoughts about pushing myself into the well, sprinting the hills and double-sprinting the straights, an act of punishment and panic in order to reach my peak fitness in one day (and hill sprints do have their merit-but my sprinting goal had no merit backing it, catch my drift?).

But hill running has a way of reminding me of who I am and moreover, some gosh-darn common sense.  If I have learned anything from hill running, it is that You. Can’t. Panic and You.Can’t.Force.Progress.

Hill running requires a present, focused, and resilient mind, one that asks the runner to do what we should be doing all along (that means on the straight-aways, on the track, and in life):

1. Hill running reminds me to work WITH the pain, staying in the moment rather than thinking about the next hill or the slope of the incline.

2. Hill running reminds me to keep my eyes up and my heart calm, trusting the process and my ability to take the next challenge when it comes.

3. Hill running requires me to seek pain like an old friend, reminding me that lactic acid is not something to minimize, numb, or try to “control” or “manage” but rather, to celebrate (as it is a sign that I am indeed, kicking some grass) and improve upon.

4. Hill running reminds me that life may be difficult, but a calm mind and strong legs can climb pretty much anything.

5.  Hill running reminds me that hills can be climbed with a sprint or a jog, both strategies having merit; therefore, life experience and self-discretion are required to determine what kind of legs we have that day and our goals in that situation.

6. Hills remind me that no matter how much fuel I have in my body, cheering squad members on the sidelines, or self-distraction techniques I experience, at the end of the day it is my body that will crest the peak.

7. Finally, hills remind me that running continues when we crest the top; that the best runners run through the hill, not just over it.  Hills remind me that momentum can be developed even in life’s most difficult times, and the best have the ability to use the pain of the incline as fuel for the descent.

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Hills remind me that I am tougher than I believe, susceptible to weakness and pain, and that I am lucky to have them in my life.  

Seeking hills on purpose reminded me of who I am: who I am, is a climber.