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.  

 

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.

Dolly Madison and How I Retreated

I guess, in the middle of battle, survival is dependent upon what we chose to take with us when we must retreat (a painting, a smile, passion, our “weird” qualities) and how well we submit to transformation and growth. And of course, the knowledge that the war is, and always will be, our victory in the end.

I ran a half this weekend and in order to tell my story, I have to tell another story.  That is just kinda how I see the world- I see it in metaphors.

Anyway, let’s chat about the wonderful Dolly Madison, who was one of the first-first ladies in the White House.  She was charming, loved by most, and has a stellar first name; but, we are not here to talk about that.  We are here to talk about how this chick is a bad-a.

Fast forward to the war of 1812, when the British and Americans were in a tizzy; you see, when a war ends, no one forgets the past wrongs and it tends to affect both countries for quite some time.  The British continued to harass the American ships, re-triggering the Americans to remember the past wrongs of their mother-country.  With the British still salty over losing their colony and the Americans still being harassed by the British, war broke out.

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Did you need that history lesson…well, no.  But I am out of school and sometimes I get these sad spurts of motivation to write a book report.  Call me Hermoine, nerd town is my home town.  Anywayyyy….

Well, the British were storming the White House, ready to burn that sucker down with a Mrs. Madison still inside.  Mrs. Madison was known for being the ultimate nice-lady, with “feminine” qualities oozing out of her ears; but that day, as she puts it in a letter she wrote to her sister:

I confess that I was so unfeminine as to be free from fear, and willing to remain in the Castle! if I could have had a cannon through every window; but alas! those who should have placed them there fled before me, and my whole heart mourned for my country!-DM

She eventually did retreat, but not without taking some valuable things from the White House, including a portrait of George Washington that remains there to this day.

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What a doll…okay, I’ll stop

Now, thank you for staying with me this long.  Let us now talk about how that relates to my race.   Well actually, it wasn’t a race because I was mentally done before it even started.

I don’t know if it was being sick for 2 weeks prior, the injuries that keep appearing on my legs, stress, fatigue, or what have you, but I was not in that thing and it was a weird feeling.

I showed up to the start line, trying to convince myself that I would “get in it” during the race but once I hit mile 2, the panic attacks started.  I plowed through the first one by mile 3, then a second, more powerful one hit soon after.  I could have plowed through that one again but since my head was not in it, I was done for- I couldn’t breathe and I felt a bunch of stones pile up on my chest, shoulders, and back.  I was bonking, panicking, and done.  I saw my mom at mile 5.5 and was going to drop out.

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My mode of transformation that day.

I took off my bib, handed it to her, and felt the weight go off my chest.  At first I thought it was because that was symbolic of the race being over for me but then I met with one of my good friends, Ryan, later that day and he gave me some “ouch, that truth hurts”.  Which is fine, because Ryan is one of those friends that has earned the right to say the things that hurt.  He has stuck with me through the good and bad, said everything to my face, and continue to support me for who I am, even if it is weird.  We all need friends like that.

“Are you sure you didn’t take it off because you didn’t want that time next to your name?”

At first I denied it, but then I thought more about it and decided he was right (which admitting it feels so wrong, ew… ).  I took off the bib, and despite everything that was telling me to stop running completely, I finished that race.

I thought about it, then I thought about the war of 1812 and Dolly, and then I had a thought.

It is so cliche to say “you may lose the battle, but you will win the war” but honestly, it is so true.  Mitch and I talked about how 90% of our runs aren’t going to feel good and that a lot of races will occur where we are not mentally in it, bonk, or don’t reach our goals.

But we aren’t chasing a perfect record on our racing resume, a time, or anything of the like.  We are chasing transformation.

Saturday, I retreated and lost that battle.  The British came and I let the house get set on fire.  Could the American soldiers have stayed and fought? I don’t know.  Could I have raced the whole thing? I don’t know.  All I know is I took the L on that one and learned something about myself in the wake of battle:

  1. I learned that I am still afraid of being dictated by times.  But I also learned, crossing that finish line, that I regret not having that bib on.  I regret it, because me finishing that race that day was everything I had, and I wanted a memory to remember that.
  2. I learned what I am willing to fight for in the middle of a losing battle.  Dolly didn’t take everything in the White House, but she took what she could carry with her and ran like heck.  I took with me kindness (to the race volunteers) and resilience/commitment (as I finished the darn thing), no matter how much pain I was in.
  3. I transformed that day, much like the American army had to transform and regroup after losing the White House. I have a new-found confidence in my racing, no matter if the time is slow or fast for me, because to show up with my heart on the line is a victory in itself.  I have a new-found confidence in myself-I thought my mom being on the course or Mitch being there would give me strength, but at the end of the day it was me (and God pulling me through) that finished.  I learned no one has power over what I do but me. I have a new-found respect for racing, as I recognized that you can’t just show up and expect to race well.  And I have a new-found humility, as I realized that I am not immune to mistakes.  This transformation is liberating and in the end, will help me win the war.

I may have lost the battle, and we may all lose battles in our lifetime.  That is kinda the point of life, I am figuring out; we fall, we get back up, and we keep transforming.

But I wouldn’t trade that race for anything in the world.  My first mile split was a 6:05 and I finished in the 1:29/1:30 range; I will be mad that I bonked and panicked, but I will never be mad at that time.  That is the time it took for me to transform and find new confidence that I didn’t know I had.  The White House may have been set on fire, but in running and life I like to remember:

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I guess, in the middle of battle, survival is dependent upon what we chose to take with us when we must retreat (a painting, a smile, passion, our “weird” qualities) and how well we submit to transformation and growth.  And of course, the knowledge that the war is, and always will be, our victory in the end.

Peaking

I am going to show up for my race (and life) remembering that peaks and plateaus add to the scenery and are both valuable parts of the terrain; they are both valuable parts of the terrain on which I continue to move forward.

I am currently crouched by the fireplace, thinking about a half marathon I have coming up and feeling completely terrified of the race and moreover, my fitness.

Let’s not neglect the fact that two of my key half-races have ended in me getting lost or the course being a mile short; my heart still remembers how that sting felt.

But right now, I am coming to terms with what Mitch calls “a part of every runner’s journey”.  I am coming to terms with the fact that I will not be in peak fitness all the time.  Right now is one of those times.

Back in the spring, I didn’t recognize that I was reaching my “peak for the season” because I didn’t know what a peak was.  I was running every run like a race, fueled by the adrenaline of unworthiness, fear of being judged, and proving my place on the starting line.  I tried to carry this peak on for months, hoping that progress would look something like the image on the left, rather than the one on the right:

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And so it goes with life.

Sometimes, I feel myself getting exceptionally mad at myself for feeling eating disorder thoughts creep up my spine and into my brain.  Then I remember the graph on the right.

Sometimes, I make a mistake in the workplace, in a relationship, or in my karaoke singing performances in the car (I am really, truly awful at singing) and feel myself buckle under the weight of shame and self-judgement.  But then I remember the graph on the right.

The list could go on forever, as life tends to teach us lessons around every crack and corner, but I don’t want to bore you (or myself, ever notice how distracted I get writing these things?)

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Me.

The thing about not being in/accepting that we aren’t in “peak fitness” all the time is that it requires a delicate balance of forgiveness and mental toughness.  A large part of my brain is trying to convince my heart to give up and not invest in this half; it is afraid of a less than perfect/PR/”peak” outcome.  A large part of my brain tells me “why bother” when I can’t be perfect at every single task I do (ever try and be perfect at opening a microwave before it beeps? I have, welcome to crazy town). But then I remember the graph on the right- notice how, while there are knots all around, it still continues upward.

I guess that is the part of running (and more importantly, life) where we decide who we really are.  We mess up, we get up, we re-learn, we re-group, and we must decide something so totally important: we must decide whether situations are going to break us or mold us.  The best part of this crossroads, is we get to decide.  We can choose to stop our upward momentum and quit, or we can choose to keep muddling through the knot  (taking the lessons we have learned) and ferociously continue dedicating ourselves to transformation and becoming who we were meant to be.

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Kind of like this super-hip song suggests.  If you didn’t use the lyrics as a Facebook status back in the day, did you even live?

I am going to show up for my half and do what I have always done: I am going to throw my heart out there, take pain as it is (smartly), and move forward with some gratitude and a whole lot of grit.

I am going to show up for my race (and life) remembering that peaks and plateaus add to the scenery and are both valuable parts of the terrain; they are both valuable parts of the terrain on which I continue to move forward.

Privilege

Because really, it is our privilege to want more and our duty to do something about it.

Today, I had a thought about wanting more for ourselves.  Then I thought about privilege.  Then, I thought back to running, and made a smoothie of thoughts.  Not like a delicious mango-strawberry smoothie, but one of those smoothies with kale in it.

You know, confusing but weirdly satisfying.

Anyway, let’s chat, shall we?

Privilege, according to Merriam-Webster means:

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There are a lot of types of privilege, some that make the privileged uncomfortable to admit.  Others, pompous and proud of their superiority.  It has a strangely tangy connotation in our society, one that makes people either defensive, uncomfortable, or super angry.

So why am I talking about it, if it is so stinking uncomfortable?  Well, because I had some thoughts today.  Story time!  Grab your pillow pet and foam roller, let’s share.

Today was the day of the NCAA National Cross Country Championships.  Today was also the day I like to call “Kaytlin becomes very jealous of everyone and starts to doubt herself and get hard on herself.”  Seeing other people succeed, chase their dreams, and be brave both inspires me and gives me a kick in the rear.  You know, kinda like watching those stroller moms run headfirst into the wind?  First you think “wow” then you think “I am a whiney, no talent crybaby”.  Or is that just me… anyway…

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Right, jealous.  I really wanted to be out there, racing the nation’s best and running my heart out (which is both nice and also, very hilarious because I have never run a cross country race IN MY ENTIRE LIFE WHAT!?…sometimes, I am stupidly confident).  I kept comparing myself and feeling bad about my PR’s and fitness, beating myself up for not being “more”.  Then I thought to myself “You have to be your own best friend right now because this kind of self-talk does nothing but keep you stuck”.  So, I started to talk to myself like a grown-woman; that means, I started to address my emotions head-first.

Doing this, inspired me to write about privilege.

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Wrong, dog. Wish for world peace.  Never mind, I feel bad for telling that adorable dog he is wrong…I love you, stranger dog.

Wanting more for myself, feeling competitive, and feeling worthy enough to even be out against the best in the first place=those are privileges.  Because really, some people don’t have those privileges.  Some people will have career ending injuries that shatter any hopes of cultivating the craft.  Some people will undergo suppression that will prevent them from toeing the line in the first place.  And so on, and so fourth.

I thought about my privileges to run, live in a warm house, attend school, etc. and I had a thought.  I should never be ashamed of the privileges I have, but that doesn’t mean I can’t want more from them.  That doesn’t mean I can’t desire to spread the privileges I do have to the people that need it, or empower those without them to rise up.  Maybe that is what Jesus meant in the parable about the men given talents: the guys that buried them, they got reamed by their master.  The servants that grew and multiplied them, they were rewarded for never settling and using what they had.

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Cartoon Bible depictions give me some feelings.  But this is not a political blog, so I carry on yay!

I can be happy about times I have ran, but that doesn’t mean I should ever be satisfied (because to be honest, I will never be satisfied.  I like that about myself, and it is a privilege to wear that attitude).

I can be happy about the material things I have, but that doesn’t mean I should keep them all to myself.  That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t fight for those who have less.

I can be happy about my status in society, but that doesn’t mean I can’t want more for myself and the world in general.

Because really, it is our privilege to want more and our duty to do something about it.

I guess that is what they mean by never settle, but always be grateful and giving.

I guess that is what they mean by “Stay hungry”.

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