Friday, December 15, 2017

Drive...or the lack there of

When I am on I am ON!!!  When I am off I am so very off.  I wish I could figure out what makes me want to keep it stay that laser not even second guess a just operate on auto pilot.  I am not sure if it was my minor back injured that side lined me in October that kept me from running for three weeks...the first time ever that I was not doing anything.  It was weird...but at the same time it was great.  I felt like both my body and my mind needed a break.  I am back to running but it is harder than it has been in a while.  Food is still and will always be my main issue.  Running five miles on a given day is way easier than saying no to freshly made chocolate chip cookies.

So how do you find do you believe in yourself do you motivate you every day to get the train back on track.  I don't know.  There is no magic pill..there is no set amount of days of focus that suddenly you do it all in your sleep..yes I know the 21 day rule...but sometimes I wish it was 14 days.  Three years ago when I started all this I was a MACHINE.  I was so driven, so motivated, so laser focused.  That girl is still here but she is pretty far away from the girl that is here now.  I am okay with that...but maybe that is part of the problem for lack of a better word.  I know that hard work is the only way to become the person you want to be.  I know that it can't be talked about without execution...and wishing for it will get you no where.  I know how to work hard and I know what calling it in looks like...currently I am just calling it in.

My husband who I ON!  He is training for a 100 mile ultra in April.  He is changing up his diet so that he can burn fat while on his 100 mile adventure and not need to fuel with carbohydrates...not sure what fat he is burning but I understand the whole keto system and how it works.  I know that he will drink beer, eat bread and french fries again...just not now.  I know that coconut oil will not be consumed in large vats and his meals will not consist of protein with a side of protein forever.  I watch him just do his training plan without thinking twice.  I watch him not eat oatmeal or cereal..two of his favorite things...I watched him not have stuffing or potatoes on thanksgiving...I am watching him work hard for his goal.

So maybe that's it.  Maybe I need that big scary goal to get my butt into gear.  Maybe I need to not live in a place that today's current temperature is 9 degrees with the wind chill.  Maybe I need to remember how much I love to have my workout done with first thing in the morning and suck up late night tv watching for a solid night's sleep.  I try to not think of my weight and exercise as something that I have to "control" but more of something that I have come to terms with as it becomes second nature and daily habit it stays in check.  The truth of that situation is things have highs and lows.  Runs have great days and bad days.  Food is on point or everything but the kitchen sink.  One cannot be on 365 days a year...but one also must remember to get back on the bus...before it runs you over.

The holidays are here and I am not going to let the cookie bus or Buddy the Elf run me over.  I am going to make the time...not find the time for my daily exercise.  I am going to stock my fridge with healthy choices and not just saltine toffee and fudge.  I am going to plan ahead...not what the day has in store and make sure I am prepped and ready.  I am going to engage friends for accountability...I am going to go on walks at night even after I may have done a run earlier in the day to reconnect, see the twinkle lights, and move my body again.  I am going to keep myself a priority despite the seasonal pulls all around me.  I am not going to freak out over everything and the fact that hubby can say he is done eating bread and actually stick with it!  Who does that...oh a driven, focused, goal oriented person.  I know that person exists within me too...just not right now...and that is okay.

Embrace the suck...choose you...find your drive!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Showing are ready!

Many people have asked me as of late what is next...and I have nothing on my race calendar.  It is very strange to not commit to anything and just keep running and working on staying strong.  After being out of commission for almost three weeks I treasure my fitness more than ever.  A wise woman once told me that the hardest thing about getting back into shape is getting back into shape.  So this week I have watched my intake, focused on getting proper sleep, continue my PT exercises to strengthen my back and core and as the months seem to tick away I am reflecting on the year as a whole already.  Time can slow down at any point...and I am promising myself that I will not fall into the holiday craziness...taking back Christmas this year! ;) #badmoms

When looking at my races I didn't set any PRs this year but I still had a lot of fun and did a few classic to me races and other brand new ones.  I did races with friends, did a few alone, and always seem to have my community of runners and non runners to come back to.  Many people may be reading this on the eve of running a big race...there is a big one here tomorrow in Virginia and seeing all the posts of these people who are anxious, excited, crazed and scared make me so giddy with excitement!  YOU ARE READY!!

Running a race is a lot like planning a wedding or being pregnant.  The build up is huge and so is the preparation!  You can talk to so many people and there are a million different ways to do the same thing.  You have to figure out what works for you, what you are comfortable with, what you can sustain...and then trust in you.  You have to build your community that will help you with the tough decisions and emergencies and know that sometimes you have to look at things from a different perspective.  But with all things the hardest part is showing up.  You are have shown in that!
So all of you racers or future races...when it comes to race day eve...know you are ready, know you have sacrificed for something, know that this is the fun part, know that this is what you trained for, know that the nerves are just you ready to tackle the goal ahead of you.  Know that you are supposed to feel this way and you need to bottle all of the energy for tomorrow.  Remember that you can't control the weather or how your body will react to nutrition or cramping or chilly temps.  None of that can take away from all that you have put forth.  

I may be talking a little extreme...I tend to go a bit overboard when putting myself into a race...but either way...we all have goals, A, B and C goals.  We want to do good...we want all this work to be worth it...we want to do a little better than the last time we ran this distance.   When you toe the line tomorrow remember all the people that joined you on this journey, remember how important they are to you and this process.  Know that they are there with you virtually and cheering you on and that they know how much you have sacrificed to tackle this goal.  You have shown up...and they believe in you...know it is time to believe in yourself.

This next part is just as hard to write as it is to read.  Remember that this race is just a race...that you are there in a moment of time and as important as it are healthy, you are strong, and there will always be another one.  Know that plans change, and goals shift, and tears are sometimes shed in more than just happiness.  And in that moment of what feels like mass disappointment, you are stronger than you ever knew.  All that you have gone through is not for nothing and this race is not just another medal to hang or a notch on your belt.  It is just as much a part of you and sometimes may have felt like a full time job or the birth of a baby or wedding celebration...and being upset is understandable!  You still need to celebrate the tough losses...they are the building blocks to stronger finishes down the road.

So kick butt in all you proud of this commitment.  This is a big deal, this is not for everyone, and not everyone can understand all that is the crazy mind of a runner or other endurance athlete.  Trust in the process, you are ready, you have more than shown up.

0.5%        Percentage of US Population that have run a marathon
570          Total number of US marathons held annually
581, 811   Total number of people that finish a marathon annually

Embrace the suck...choose inspiried by shalane flanagan.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Press On

Well if you have any friends in the running community that love to race you probably heard them talking at length about yesterday's Army Ten Miler.  What was the race that attracted me to the sport and made me fall in love with it got hit with some nasty weather conditions yesterday.  78 degrees when we finally arrived at the start and 100% humidity.  I am the runner that is excited about a 9 degree run well before I would ever be excited about 78 degrees and humid as all get out.

school trip selfie
The days leading into race weekend were busy and chaotic as most days are these days thus the limited number of blog entries as of late.  Thursday was a field trip to the national zoo with my little first grader, running club at school followed by a few hours at work.  Friday was a trip into DC to pick up my packet for Army with a night out with girlfriends and then taking in some live music while chatting for a long time with an amazing new friend, but ended up with a late night to bed.  Saturday was a quick run before we headed to Cambridge MD to cheer on some of hubby's athletes as they did what some will forever view as impossible...completing an Ironman.  This was another late night with an early alarm set to head into the Pentagon for my race day.  Five hours of sleep the  night before the race is sometimes normal with nerves but mine was just pure lack of time.  This is life of a parent...the days are long and the years are short.  We cram as much as we can into these days and just figure out a way to make it all work...not just for us but for everyone involved.  
Army Strong

I would be lying to you if I said I handle all of this with ease an a smile on my face.  I have felt pretty worn down emotionally and physically as of late.  Those four days of marathon adulting were really the icing on the cake.  An old friend passed away unexpectedly a few weeks ago, I didn't get into Boston, a very sad man did some very horrible things to innocent people in Las Vegas.  I was feeling very overwhelmed with all that was on my plate and I was not handling it how I wanted to.  I always want to be strong and be the example but for last week I had hit my limit.  

In that moment of realization that I am not in fact superwoman nor do I want to try to be her, I finally had that moment of acceptance and just cried, a big ugly cry but I got it out.  I
Kids being Kids at IMMD
talked with those around me that are the amazing sounding boards that I need them to be.  There was compassion, tough love, and understanding.  I know I do not have it all together and I hope that I don't come off that I do.  I am typically a hot mess just rolling with the punches and hoping I am not too late to the class party or to preschool pick up.  I am just trying to survive these long days showing them ways to be kind and think of others and smile and bring a smile to someone else along the way.  Some days I rock this...other days I fail tremendously...and both are okay.
my hot mess flat momma

So here was race day of the race that I love so much...and I pretty much knew before we even started running that there was not going to be a PR set that day.  I was just going to try my best to get through it with limited walking and complaining and f-bombs.  I started with my girlfriend but we got split up around mile 3.5.  The race that I loved so much was not "there for me" but I still had to go through with it all.  I had to get back to the finish and there was only one way this was going to happen.  I walked at the water stop around mile 6.5 knowing that the bridge was coming.  I was telling myself how I can run three miles on any day and just do it already.  I started up my tired legs and just kept on going.  

There was a man next to me on the bridge walking and on the back of his shirt were the words "PRESS ON."  As I came up next to him I said the words on his shirt aloud....and loud enough so he could hear them.  He heard me and turned his head and said..." on."  He then started running again.  The girl behind us said...guess you can't wear that shirt if you don't want to reminded of it.  He laughed and I think was happy to be moving again.  Every day we have that moment to press get past the crap and heavy stuff to be reminded of the good and warm and fuzzy stuff.  It is not to say that the crap and heavy stuff doesn't weigh us down and make the day really hard.  Some days despite so many efforts finding any sight of the good and warm and fuzzy is near impossible...but I will forever remind myself to press know that there is better out there.  I know that I can do better...I know that we as a collective society can do better...I know that we can do better for those of families who have lost loved ones and are hurting.  Everyone everyday is trying to press on but they may need some help getting there.  That is where my hot mess, big silly smiley self  likes to strike up a conversation with a stranger and try to make the connection.  That is where I want to see if I can make someone smile and learn and grown from something I learned from this new person.  

my visor always with me
Sunday's race was not amazing in the sense of my pace that I was able to was amazing in that so many people pressed on despite the crap conditions  of the day.  It was amazing to see so many come together to better themselves, to try something new, to scare themselves a bit and live outside of their comfort zone.  Amazing does not have to be a picture perfect scene...amazing is what every moves you...whatever makes you keep going...whatever has you press on.  

Embrace the suck...choose you and press on.
Finish ATM 2017 1:29:08

Friday, September 15, 2017

not special...just determined

I posted some pics from my half iron this past weekend and was overall very happy with my results...5:48:39.  It was not a PR by any stretch but I trained, made sacrifices and showed up for race day.  For many that is in fact harder than the actual race...the day in day out of staying on the plan, holding course, and accepting the changes you have to make over the course of a training session.  I received comments such as I am amazing, what an inspiration, so impressive, and lots of WOWS.

#1 fan pre race
As we drove home from the race trying to catch our oldest's football game we had lots of time to talk.  I couldn't fall asleep as my mind was still racing.  Six hours of hard pushing and no nap in sight.  So we talked, talked and talked some more.  I was sharing the comments with Ben as we drove.  I wasn't as emotional at this race as I was at my first half iron.  I was proud I finished and proud I made it through the swim without an anxiety attack, or wiping out on the bike while trying to refill my water, or that for as many times that I walked on the run I managed to stick with a girl and finish strong together for my last two miles.

I guess I don't view what I did this past Sunday as awesome or impressive.  I don't know what that thing was inside of me a few years ago that made me switch and want to give running and the sport of triathlon a try.  I had watched my brother compete in a triathlon many many moons ago when I was probably in high school.  I played field hockey, softball and sat the bench on the basketball team.  I was an athlete at a young age and then I guess I forgot that.  Races give me the opportunity to focus for the months leading up to it and truly change myself and tackle the challenge ahead.  I am no more awesome or impressive or inspirational than anyone else that decides to try something hard...and that something does not need to be a physical thing.

Yes I have four kids, I have a part time job, I have a house that I am horrible at keeping clean, and a husband that is right beside me every step of the way.  I have a supportive community around me pushing and encouraging all along the way.  I have made many friends through this sport that have met me in less than ideal training conditions for a run, bike or swim.  Every one of those people are equally awesome and impressive.  Every one of them make the choice each day to push themselves, and stay the course.  We have days that are easy, days that are near impossible, but at the end of the day each task is still completed.

The whole idea of endurance sports is still scary to me.  I know that there is A LOT that goes into the training for these races.  The awesome and impressive thing is not the completion of the races but the courage and determination to sign up, to train, and to commit yourself day in and day out for each day leading up to the event.  Endurance sports are not something that you can just show up on race day and hope for the best.  They require all the effort in the weeks leading up to race day to ensure both your mind and body that you can in fact complete this task.

Heading out for the run...all 13.1 miles
These races still impress me but the emotional part for me is the choice that everyone gets to make.  The fellow athletes there no matter the pace, the gear, the support they receive from those around them are committed to themselves.  As a mom it is hard to make that choice, to put yourself on the list, to be okay that things fall to the wayside so that you can be a priority.  To accept that it is okay that you don't have it all together and perfect!  My kids were not there to cheer me on this weekend but seeing the support of other athletes and the smiles on their faces when reunited with their kids, hearing those small voices cheer you in on a long hard hot just amazing.  This training period I met a new friend and her three kiddos were there at the finish and they all wore tshirts that said "strong like mom."  She is training for a full ironman and did the half this past weekend...she is a rockstar!  The idea of a full iron is still so scary to me but I am pretty sure I will be checking that box shortly.

What is my point with all don't need a trainer, a nutritionist, a tricked out bike or the fancy new fastest shoes on the market.  Don't make a change for anyone but yourself but know that you have what it takes to change, you have the strength within you to be determined and focused and tackle any goal you put ahead of yourself.  We are all just people trying to get by with a smile on our faces and fuel to light a passion within ourselves to make a difference.  The first person you need to make a difference for is yourself.

embrace the suck...choose you...make a hard things

Monday, August 28, 2017

everything is temporary

I didn't always stay home with my kids.  I worked at a few software companies in the area doing training, marketing and traveled a bit with trade shows.  It seems like so many worlds ago that I would rush through that morning routine to get my little ones up, fed and out the door to daycare while Ben and I rushed off to work.  We would often commute together as we were just a few blocks from each other and that was our together time.  As soon as we got home it was quick dinner, bath and bed for the little ones and we were quickly behind.

Routine ten years later is pretty much the same but instead Ben and I don't have the quality time commuting while listening to Raffi in bumper to bumper traffic.  We don't get a report listing out the daily activities that happened to the kids over the course of the day and I am less concerned on how many times they went potty.  I loved those days and I loved my job, the people I worked with, and bizarrely I loved that time with us together each morning and afternoon. Now we get to the school buses, I get to preschool as close to on time as I can, get my workouts in, volunteer as I can, and help with homework and then begin the sports run around with hopefully dinner on the table at some point.

I have been with Ben for 21 going on 22 years.  We were young to be married and young to start a family.  We knew that we were going to be six pack from the beginning and we knew we could tackle lots of challenges thrown our way from the very start.  Yes we bicker, argue, disagree and get genuinely frustrated with one another.  We however are pretty quick to move past that disagreement and instead join forces again to tackle the new day ahead.

Post 50 miler hug of thanks
Two weekends ago when I had a 50 mile ride in the training plan he came with me.  There was this moment when we were out west on the trail and doing an add on loop and the sun was rising and ahead was this huge ball of orange in the sky.  We passed cows and both mooed at them as we would when the kids are with us.  Pretty sure Ben even baaed like a sheep too.  It was a beautiful morning temperature wise and the scenery was at its best.  I for one moment thought to myself...this is what we do...this is us.

It is so strange how life just goes on without you even knowing it.  Things you thought you would never do can become so crucial to your daily existence.  Knowing that I was going to be a mother and a wife was always a sure thing.  Knowing I was going to be an athlete on a team with my husband literally through this journey was one thing I definitely did not know.  Our love of endurance sports is not all we are but it surely is one thing that allows us to connect to each other.  It is something that we both take a huge amount of pride in and can easily get worked up at each other's races when there supporting at a drop of a hat.  It is the moments that my six year old daughter hops off her chair after dinner and flexes her biceps to show her grandma how strong she is, I know our teamwork is creating more than a family.

Our oldest had his first tackle football game this weekend.  He played almost the entire game and I sat there without Ben next to me as he was away for a race weekend.  I wasn't nervous about our son playing and getting hurt.  I was so happy for him.  So happy that he finally is doing the thing he has wanted to try forever and he was loving every minute of it.  It was hard, tiring and bruises were had but he never stopped.  He did his best on that field with kids bigger than him and he held his own, and the line he was on...he played center!  His eyes looked up at me and I am not sure I have been more overcome with emotion at a sports game, well maybe in Kona with Ben last fall, but not at our kids games.  The desire, passion, and effort he showed for that entire game blew me away.  I was so bummed that Ben was not there to see him in this moment but from what I can tell, this is going to be a long season.

still smiling eyes
Ben got home late from his triple crazy as can be Spartan in West Virginia with our friend.  I didn't even get to debrief with him as I was asleep when he finally made it home.  He was exhausted and sore from the three races he completed in just a day and a half.  He showered and shaved and headed off to work this morning with little conversation as the routine was in full swing.  His ability to not ever stop is something that keeps me going.  Yes, I take naps, sometimes lots...but I keep going for this team I am on.  I keep pushing myself for me and for them.  I keep Team Graham moving forward, we keep this team moving forward.  I don't want to stop for myself and I don't want to stop for them.  Yes things are hard at times, they are messy, they are complicated but that moment is only temporary...much like our commute with Raffi being blasted and our oldest wearing his superhero underwear on his head.

When I look at my races and my times over the past few years...I wonder if I will ever be as fast as I once was, if I can manage a PR this time around.  Then I is all temporary, my speed, my slowness, my on point nutrition, my cookie filled is all temporary.  So I just keep going forward...forward progress is not is the constant...the guarantee.  I keep chugging forward because going backwards is pointless...I have already been there...I want to see what I will get to enjoy in the future.  My six pack has so many highs and lows ahead of many needs and many goals to strive for.  My job as their mom is to show them that I am right with them each step of the way...that Ben and I are a team in every sense of the word, and we will always be their number one supporter through every temporary desire.

So what is my point of these get to decide if you want to move forward or just stay stationary.  Even though everything is are still the one that gets to choose.  You are the one that leads by example.  You will be so surprised who is listening, watching and learning from you.  Even if it is temporary...if you keep doing becomes a part of you and is the constant.  Let the other things around you fall to be the temporary fixes...keep you as strong, as determined, and be the example.

embrace the suck...choose the hard things.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The more things change the more they stay the same

summer crumb bun
This past weekend I went back to the jersey shore, not the one that they made ridiculous on MTV...but the jersey shore that I grew up on every summer for as long as I can remember.  So many things have changed along that coastline.  Buildings are no long there, homes were destroyed and rebuilt on stilts and bigger than ever, favorite places that house so many warm and fuzzy memories just are gone.  Three brothers pizza, colonial bakery, yummy soft bagels, taylor ham, a big jersey sized sub and of course so many members in my extended family still remain.

When you grow up in a family of my size the family lines tend to blend.  Cousins are like siblings and aunts and uncles are there with a smile and hug just like they were when you were six.  So many people that have known me my whole life are a part of that beach and although we only see each other once a year it is like things have never changed.  These soft blurred lines make me so happy and sad at the same time.

I wish I lived closer, I wish I saw these people more often, I wish I could just walk into their homes at any time and talk about the most randomness of things.  Families don't always have to like each other or agree but they do always have to love.  My kiddos felt nothing but love this weekend.  It was a welcome committee from the moment we arrived and continued up until we left yesterday afternoon.  We celebrated a cousin's engagement...the whole cycle gets to begin again as our family welcomes in another member and they begin their journey together.  

So although our time was short along that blue sea line and sandy shore we still managed to make memories and feel the love.  I still feel like I am sixteen when I walk the stone filled streets of our little shore town.  I see faces age, including mine, but my heart remains the same.  The surf still flips me over and gets sand all in my suit.  But now my aunts and uncles take my kiddos into the surf and teach them how to handle the waves.  I get to watch my kids make connections with a five block walk to their uncles house where ice cream was promised and a night of just talking and playing hide and seek in a new place.  They remember that a certain aunt always has Twizzlers while another has tootsie pops.  They innocently ask anyone and everyone to play Uno with them.  They are constantly out to make connections, share their love and make memories.   

Every time I head back to the shore I get emotional.  Time continues to pass and my kids get
more cousins
bigger and my husband and I still think we are just dating and spending a long weekend together just like we did way back when.  Our pictures of just the two of us in a b&w photo booth now are crammed with six faces together.  We didn't make it out to a quiet dinner for two but instead we had longer days on the beach surrounded by those we don't get to spend too much time with.  I took all those summers for granted and can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate and am beyond grateful for our visit even if it is a short one.  Family is family...can't change it but you gotta love it.  I loved every minute of this week with them and can't wait for another summer to come by in a blink of an eye.

I now know that these are the days to remember and they are limited. I know that I need to love the ones I am with and not be afraid to ask for help, encouragement or a place to lay my head.  I know that this is family.  Our last night at the beach we stayed up and enjoyed our final happy hour.   As we packed up there was this crazy cloud over head but still allowing the sun to shine down on us.  I think that is the perfect analogy to family.  They make sure your sun still shines out despite all the crazy clouds that sneak into our lives.  And this cloud just happened to be in the shape of a heart...coincidence...I think not.

Heart Cloud
Embrace the suck...choose you...enjoy the ones you are with.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Make your list and move on...

Things I don't like about myself
-I am messy
-I am a grazer
-I have a sweet tooth
-I often have dark circles under my eyes
-I seldom say no to things
-I don't have immediate family near by
-I can rarely say no to dessert
-I am a big time procrastinator
-I am stubborn
-I yell at my kids
-I go a day without giving my hubby a kiss
-I am not artistic

Things I like about myself
-I am a mulitasker
-I am a good mom
-I am a supportive wife
-I will always try my best
-I love a good challenge
-I speak my mind
-I am not afraid 
-I have faith
-I lead by example
-I will walk the path alone
-I would do anything for my family
-I think outside the box
-I believe in myself

So great...I made a list of the good and the bad.  What is the point of this??  I need to remind myself that faults are good.  Faults allow you to see the good.  Faults show you where you put attention.  Faults show you that you are human and and that there is always room for growth.  I just had another discussion with my four year old.  For as sweet and lovable as he is...he is still four and is learning to test his boundaries with me and everyone he encounters.  I see him duplicate motions and words and tones that he sees from those around him.  I had to tell him that I am done with the yelling and we will work through this together.  I used small words, talked slow, and in a quiet voice.  I stopped what I was doing and took the time to have him understand my frustration as well as his.  Wouldn't that be nice if all adults would do the same.  If we would just take the time to truly interact and explain our feelings.  Apologies can be said but the feelings are still true.  His current fault brought out some of my current strengths.  Together we are balanced out and we need to realize that we can do this with everyone we are with.

Social media brings so much judging and comparing and putting down.  When I see a friend kick butt on her run or sign up for some big momma race that I would never have the guts to do...I am not jealous of her, well maybe for a hot second, but I am in awe of her.  I am in awe that despite her doubts and dislikes, she is pushing though to release the strength and likes.  There is nothing I should do but lift her up, encourage her, and help her along the journey.  I know that we all have struggles and we all have skeletons in our closets, but together we work through them.  I have had so many great run therapy sessions with friends and even some ladies I may have run with for the first time have been great connections.  The different perspectives from other people I have met brings such a great spin to this journey.  Makes my likes and dislikes blend into one.

oversharer & overcarer
I am not afraid to talk to anyone or share a story or a remember when.  In chick fil a yesterday a lady that I sold some sports bras too came up to me and said that they are working great and she loves them!  I love how some people choose to keep a silly as it seems over a sports bra...she could have just walked past me and chose to go on with her day.  Social media not only makes people feel less about themselves...but it is removing the human touch.  If you have ever met know that I will probably never lose the human touch. I will be the one that keeps talking when everyone else has stopped listening.  I want to know what you are up to...I am genuinely curious, intrigued, and inspired.  I want to know what your good and bad are...I am an oversharer and an overcarer.  

So make your list and get it out of your head.  Find the people that lift you up, that compliment your faults, that you can help.  Know you are far from perfect and some of the things that you like about yourself may be viewed as faults by others.  But, as I have drilled into my head so many times...other people's thoughts do not matter.  This journey is about you, what you want for yourself and believing in you!  Confidence is an amazing thing...stand proud...tackle the the hard things...accept your faults...embrace your strengths.

Choose you...embrace the more human.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A whirlwind

What a crazy few weeks it has been since the summer season has truly started.  I have divided my day into pieces to get the things done that I have wanted to do and have not made the time to sit down and empty out my head.  I am barely treading water on some days and others we are moving in perfect harmony and look like a bunch of synchronized swimmers!  Just yet another reminder that everyone struggles, everyone has bad days, everyone is a little bit crazy and doing their best to get by.

The thing that gets me through those days, other than starting the day off with a great workout, is the company I keep.  Community is such an important part of life and having people that are amazing sounding boards for all the many spaces of life make this journey that much more rewarding.  Having the resource to talk about so many different topics that trigger your frustration or excitement makes tackling that obstacle so much easier.  These are people that genuinely want to help, are here to help, and all you need to do is ask.  Something that is so hard, asking for help but so rewarding to both sides when it happens!

my crazy crew
As wonderful as my external support crew is I can't say enough about my own little family circle.  Things are not always easy and burdens of all levels hit everyone at some point.  Life throws big huge curve balls at you and some days they can just knock you on your butt.  Trying to keep it all together not only for yourself but for that circle is really challenging at times.  What I find has worked best for us is to just stay the course.  We were off course for about six months and we kept the focus, the family and the fun.  We remained as whole as one could be.  We stayed positive and encouraged one another every day that today was going to be a great day and things are looking up.  Trying to convince yourself of this is probably the hardest...keeping it cool for outsiders may be a bit easier.

I am lucky in a way that I had my hubby by my side, literally,  during my training for my April marathon.  His ongoing support of me was one for the record books.  He made mid day runs possible, he joined me for many of them, we talked shop daily, and he keep the positive vibes flowing.  He never doubted me and never let me doubt me either.  He is one amazing cheerleader and husband.  Being dedicated to something or someone when you may have your own set of doubts is not easy.  We both learned a lesson this year.  We learned how to persevere, to push forward, to keep going when you want to stop.  Sure we do this with our workouts but regular life does not always afford the same level of challenge.  This year we were given a new test.

He was home with me and the kids for six months.  Our community supported us in every way possible.  Sometimes things just have a way of working out and the hard work you put forth is finally rewarded.  Now that we are back in our old routine we miss him, especially the little guy that would have picnic lunches mid week while the big kids were at school.  The special things that happened while he was home drew us all closer together, at times maybe it was too much, but now that we are on the other side of this, I am bizarrely grateful.

There are so many days that just don't make sense, things that happen and we just don't understand why.  So many times I would love to just scream my head off and find myself alone for any amount of time to just have silence.  But after going through this year, and being on the other side, I am thankful for the crazy, for the daily tests, for the ongoing challenges.  What we do every day molds us into who we choose to be.  I choose to be positive, loving, happy, determined, driven but  also sad, lonely, and tired.  What I have learned is that I have amazing support to help me get out of those low places and lift me up...and lift up my family as well.  We all have off days but we all have a community around you...just don't forget to reach out to them.  People are wanting to makes them feel good...and it will make you feel good too!

So week two of summer is coming to a close.  I am tying my best to keep some semblance of order in the house but six bodies and 100 pool towels every day is  A LOT!  We are just going to keep on keeping on and roll with the whirlwind.  I thank each of you for being a part of my community on some level and please know that I love to help and always have an open ear!! 
Enjoy this won't last forever!

Embrace the suck...choose you...keep on keeping on ;) 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Across the border and pushing out of your comfort zone

Just like I have for the past two years, I trained all winter long for a grueling spring marathon and then get to reward myself with a Ragnar Relay with 11 amazing women that I am lucky enough to call my friends.  This time a passport was required as we headed north to Canada to run the 200ish miles from Cobourg to Niagara Falls.  I have only been to Canada one other time in high school for a band trip, we will leave that there, and I was looking forward to seeing many different places along our journey. 
Start of the Relay...Leg 1 of 36
For those of you that do not know what a Ragnar Relay can involve either 12 or 6 runners and covers about 200 miles on the road and is a point to point relay.  It takes about 36 hours to complete and there are multiple teams doing this at the same time.  The route in which we have to run is marked with signs from the race but generally speaking the individuals running may just look like your every day runner in the area unless you know that this relay is taking place.  The teams with six runners is referred to as an Ultra team and they would then run double the miles that the team of 12 would run.  I have done that once and not jumping in that van again too soon.

Coming in at Leg 1
This whole idea of creating a Ragnar team starting one summer afternoon sitting poolside with some ladies in the neighborhood. I am not even sure who brought it up first but it was discussed and a few of us thought it sounded like a good idea and thought we may know a few friends that would be silly enough to fall for it as well.  Our first one was done in DC, then Cape Cod, then Nashville Tennessee and then our latest, Niagara Falls Canada.  If you have followed me for some time you know that I like to run, I like to run long, and I like to try and run as fast as my body will let me at that given time.  Ragnar Relays for me are not about the speed or grueling push that I put myself through on a regular road race.  This is about the moms/friends that were sitting pool side and thought this might be a good idea to get away, to connect with women that we may not normally be with on a given day,  This relay was about trying something out of the norm and comfort zone.  Who knew it would be something we would fall in love with.
Leg 1 done

Don't get me wrong, the logistics behind it all is crazy and our captain has been amazing for the past three years getting us all in a line.  The guilt we feel leaving our families and little people is something we just have to let go of so we can go and make the weekend about us and our hopes and goals.  We pack in ziploc baggies and triple check the packing list that nothing is forgotten, especially the body glide.  We fill our tummies with sweet potatoes, coconut cookies, pretzel thins, and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.  We look forward to showers and a soft pillow to lay our head on even if it is only for a few hours.  We are always excited for the first leg where the energy is amazing...the night run is sometimes a bit scary and lonely but this year it was perfect...I saw the skyline of Toronto along the lake the whole time...and the dreaded third leg is something that just has to happen in order to find that finish line
despite being so very tired.  I had just over nine miles and about 980 feet of elevation was a dozy but so beautiful!
Running in at the finish

My one girlfriend who was here for her second Ragnar kept commenting on how one of the great things about these relays is that it is filled with so many walks of life.  There is no pre-determined shape or body or mindset for these things.  These relays are about people that want to think outside the box, see a different part of the world, be a part of something bigger than a lonely run on a Sunday morning.  When I was on my first leg of the relay I was not feeling it as I passed a nuclear power plant, I was bumming out that I was not seeing the lake and all the beauty around it.  I looked down at my wrist and saw the slap bracelet that I had to bring to the next runner on my team.  There was no other way that she would begin with out me showing up.  These relays are about teamwork, about showing up, about being present in the presence of others.  In a time when we are all so connected via the social interwebs, this allowed us to disconnect and just be with each other.  I then rounded a corner on the path and came out on a beautiful view of Lake Ontario...the beauty was there...I just had to have patience.

Running is hard and not always rewarded with a fast time, or a feeling of euphoria as we cross the finish line.  There is nothing easy about pushing your body again and again on the same route to see if you can make that hill in your neighborhood not suck on that given day.  I have learned through my years of running that I always feel better after a run, I always enjoy the sweat and strength that is clearly present, and I always want to see what I can do better the next time.  My first race that I trained for was Army Ten Miler...I just registered this morning for my sixth one.  This race is so much more than a ten mile run...this is about a girl that listened to a friend and tried something different.  My first runs were done with a stopwatch on my wrist, whatever "running apparel" I had and sneakers that were probably too small for me and past their prime.  My training runs started with 1-2 mile runs...I did not start out running marathons.  Every runner starts somewhere and it is only one foot in front of the skill required there.

Realize that you can do hard things.  Realize that you will be rewarded for completing these tasks, and the rewards may be intangible.  Realize that you only have to focus on one day at a time.  Realize that we are all in this together and it is hard for everyone but somehow when you have a group around you it makes it a little bit easier.  If anyone asks you to do a race with them or a relay....say yes.  That person will be your accountability partner, your cheerleader, your motivator and your inspiration.  You will also find that you will be that for them as well.  The community that will develop from that one simple step will be amazing.  You will do things that you never thought were possible and you will find yourself wanting to do more, testing your own limits.

Team You Ran Me All Night Long
Embrace the Suck...choose you...hard is possible...enjoy this foot in front of the got this.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dying a little on the inside...loving a whole lot more.

So I am a runner, a fitness enthusiast and a mother.  Some times those three things play nicely together and other times I find physical conflict and internal conflict having them all happen at the same time.  I have coached a runner program for our kid's local elementary school for a few years now and my children have participated each year.  This year we moved to a new school and I am not sure if that made things more of a challenge for my daughter but it has not been easy.

follow in my footsteps
The running club is about nine weeks long and we meet two times a week.  I try my best to make this club fun, make sure there is a buddy or two for my girl to rack her laps up with, and occasionally may make up silly songs and cheers along the way.  Most of these kids start out with less than an interest in running.  Their parents know the benefits of running beyond physical and want to encourage their kids to start this passion at a young age.  I so much want my kids to have this spark lit as soon as possible.  By the end of the season they no longer are comparing how many bands they have to a friend...but how many bands they have to their own last run.  It makes my heart happy!

Two weeks into this daughter was not feeling it.  Every day after practice should we be crying and upset.  She was saying how she is missing time with her friends to do something she really didn't want to do to begin with.  I explained that I would be there every week coaching and she would have to be there with me either way.  I explained about her friends being there to run along side of her on the days she didn't have the energy or desire.  I would go in at night to give her a kiss goodnight and she would be so very upset.  She finally broke down and told me that she really doesn't want to do running club, but she know how much I love running so she does not want to let me down.

UGH!  Punch to the gut a million times in a row.  I was at a loss.  I felt like I failed!  It was a cross road and I didn't want her to take the place of a kid that truly wanted to be there.  I wanted to encourage and motivate and did not want to push and turn a deaf ear to her reasons.  She does not have to love running. She does not even have to like it.  She has been to many races to cheer and support, she sees the training that her parents put forth to propel themselves forward in our crazy adventures.  She knows all the smiles and love I have for my running community.  She doesn't want to do it.  It was a tough mommy moment for sure.

I brought her into my room that night a few weeks back and told her to give it one more week and if she really didn't want to do it, she could stop.  In a selfish attempt to keep her going, I told her that she did not have to do the 5k race at the end of the season if she didn't want to.  I asked her to try her best at each practice and if she just kept doing that, I would be very proud.  The mommy runner part of me broke a little bit.  The coach that tries to inspire these little feet felt like I let her down.  We were both kinda sad and a bit let down by each other.  We agreed to this plan and with race day two weeks away she is still not signed kills me but I am okay with that.

some days she is my running buddy
Being a mom is hard and lessons are learned and taught each day.  Molly and I both each taught each other something this season of running club.  We both had to bend a bit to make it work, we had to meet in the middle. I could have pushed her and had her truly hate it, or I could have let her fully give up and I would be so very sad.  So we compromised.  She has her days at club where she sticks with her speedy buddy and racks up the laps and she has days where she is more social and will run four in a row every once in a while.  But the part that I see when I call out one minute remaining and they have to cross the finish line in time to get an extra lap band...I see her push, I see her want to make it, I see her legs stretch and her face turn red by the end.  I see her want to do that for herself...not me.  I know it is in there, I know that runner athlete will come out soon,,.I know all that potential is locked up in there...I know it will emerge in good time...just like it did for me.  As Tom Petty says...waiting is the hardest part...but as a mom we do a lot of waiting and my gosh I love her so much...I'd wait forever.

Embrace the suck..choose you...happy mother's those monkeys.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What I am no is my day.

For the past three years I have trained for a spring marathon and I find a way of not closely watching what I am eating because I am so hungry from all the running!  I choose to not deprive myself and generally a few weeks post race I am up a few more pounds than I would like to be.  I know the tools I have in my back pocket to get myself back on track, I know certain foods that are my triggers, I know water is key to my overall success, I know the workout portion of the equation is the easier part for me...I know, I know, I know.  So much easier said then done.

seems like forever ago
But I also know this.  I am not the girl I was three years ago, two years ago and most definitely not 15 years ago.  I know today that those girls were great girls, girls I am very proud of, girls in that moment were rocking it and so very, very strong.  We all know things change and change is not a sign of weakness.  Change is the space within that allows us to grow and find something even better than what was there before.  I used to step on my scale every morning and hope that the number was where I wanted to be and then count the hours until the next time to step on the scale.  I was most definitely driven by the number.  Now I step on the scale but it is more of a weekly occurrence and one I am okay with the is my gauge.

Today is my day, not yesterday, not last week, not last year.  Every morning that I wake up I tell myself today is my day.  I cannot wrap myself up in a pity party looking at old pictures of me when I was 15 lbs lighter and in laser focus.  Today is the day that I get to make the choice of what I am going to do with me, and not have it be such a narrow view.  There is so much more to this journey than a number on a scale, so much more than how I look or don't look in a bathing suit.  At the end of the day I am the only one that is holding myself to some standard.  I am not saying to lower my standard, but to understand that you can only do what you are capable of at a given time.

me and my love bug
Life is beautiful and wonderful and joyful but my gosh is it also stressful, hurtful and dark at times too.  Any day can bring a mix of all those feelings and more and you cannot hold yourself to some crazy high standard of...that is what I used to be and I am nothing if I cannot be her again.  That is BS!  My littlest is in his mommy love stage right now.  His eyes light up when he sees me in the morning as he runs across the room to give me a hug, he asks me to snuggle with him at night before he falls asleep, he sees me put on human clothes and tells me how beautiful I am even without properly washed hair or makeup, he fills me up everyday with so much love I can't do much more than try to hug him extra tight and kiss him till he tells me to stop.  To think that I am anything less than wonderful because I can't fit into the dress that I bought 3 years ago to wear to Ben's work party would be so very wrong.  This girl right here is strong, driven, determined, loving and those qualities don't disappear if a number on the scale changes or I run a slower mile.  Don't get me wrong...I know I feel better when I am eating healthier and getting my proper sleep but I also know that I am not less of a person when that doesn't happen.  

I know I put a lot out there and it probably seems like I am spewing rainbows all day long.  I want you to know that I spew rainbows because I truly feel rainbows...I feel like if I can make someone's day a little bit better than that is a good day.  It feels good to make someone smile, it feels good to thank people for the little things, it feels good to be a good human being.  We all rush all day long to get to the next thing and stay focused on our goal...glad we have goals but don't forget other people do as well, can be a huge part in them making it to that goal if you give them some of your time.  Lift your head, smile at a stranger, thank someone for the service they provide, remember, this is them trying to make today their day too!

Embrace the suck...choose is your day!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The self driven marathon

Three days post marathon and I am able to walk a little easier and the stairs can be taken one step at a time.  Sunday was a day I will truly remember forever for so many reasons and yes the Boston Qualifying time is one of them but not the only thing that made that day special.

weather forecast
Ben and I decided it was going to be a solo trip to Delaware for this race, leaving the kids at home with his mom so they can continue in their weekend activities of all things sports and birthday parties and we could focus on race logistics and traffic as we drove the long drive in the rain.  The weather was something I was checking constantly and when we finally realized it would rain all day Saturday but race day would be cloudy and perfect temperatures I was beyond stoked.  We changed our hotel to be right next to the finish line the day before, figuring this would help with the painful walk back after the race was over.  We arrived late afternoon Saturday and although it was a very small race there was still excitement in the air.  We parked and walked over to the expo and took all required pre race pictures!  

expo pic
heading to start
After a great shake out run a few slices of Grotto's pizza on Saturday night we headed back to the hotel and stretched and talked over race day logistics again.  Ben was going to drive me the one mile plus to the start and then head back to the hotel to park and have his breakfast to then be at the 1.5 mile mark for some cheering.  Sure enough he was there and I ditched my throw away at his feet.  The first few miles always feel good as the adrenaline is in full effect and you are ready to tackle this crazy task ahead of you.   

mile 1.5
I knew this race was small and after a very rainy NJ full last year which  left the streets of spectators fairly empty I was prepared.  For that reason I do like to run a lot of my training runs solo...the only person that will get me to the finish line is me.  I can run with whomever that has had all this great success at amazing paces, but at the end of the day it is up to me and my legs and head to find that coveted arch that reads FINISH.  Well this course was A LOT more quiet than NJ on a rainy day.  There were big sections that were through large parks were the only people for six plus miles were the people at the aid stations.  That solitude is hard but not impossible.  I knew I would see Ben after this long stretch in the park and that is what was keeping me going.  

Again-as this is a smaller race they only have a set number of pacers for the marathon.  In the NJ full they had two pacers for every 5 minute increment.  For DE they had one for every 10 minute increment.  I knew I would not make my goal if I went with the 3:45:00 pacer so my other option was 3:35:00 or try to go it alone.  For my two previous marathons I ran with the 3:35:00 and managed to run 3:40:13 and 3:42:40.  I felt strong for this race and wanted the help from the pacer so I started with the 3:35:00.  By mile 9 I knew I could not hang with him.  Two other women around me said he was going to fast and also were going to drop off.  He had mentioned early on that this course was a bit longer, as they always tend to be...but we were already .17 at the mile 9 mark.  He said he was going to be picking up the pace to make up the difference.  With that I had that moment, and was so proud of myself to realize it, that I needed to run my race.  I decided to pull out of the pace group and just run...trying to say sub 8:20s for as long as I could, it didn't last that.  I knew that 8:23 was a 3:40 and that was my goal for the day.

mile 13-14
We came out of the park and there was Ben by the car with his music blasting, "I am Titanium." It was a very "Say Anything" moment.  He was telling me to stay strong and to keep going.  It was so lonely after the park and here we were again on a very quiet strip.  I was holding well, 1:47:31 for the half, 8:13 pace.  When you are running and trying to do math at the same time things get a little tricky.  I knew I was well under the 3:45:00 time goal but also knew that my legs were already getting very tired.  There was no down hill to hope for on the back half, it was still all me, pushing, tired, and just having thoughts in my head.  There was a little bridge up around mile 17 and the girl next to me started to walk, I said "no you don't" to her, and sure enough she started to run again, and thanked me as she got up next to me.  I was still feeling good and knew again Ben was waiting for me around mile 20 and I had to keep on going to see him.

mile 23
mile 20.5

My nutrition and hydration were good for the race.  I carried two 9oz water bottles on my waist for as needed and planned to drink and dump as I ran from the aid stations.  I would have a gel 45 minutes, 1:45, 2:30, and 3:15 in...give or take.  I had an issue opening up my third gel, pulled it too short.  So I ate my 4th one in that time slot and would hope I could open up the last one when I needed it at mile 22.  We came off the board walk at mile 22 and I went to try to open up my gel.  I remember feeling very light headed and a bit swirly.  I knew I had to eat and I knew I still had four miles left.  Ben had seen me coming towards him and was chanting for me to beat the bus.  In my mind all I had to do was run to school and run home however I knew my legs were not going to get me to the pace of those easy morning runs.  They were tired and I was feeling very off.  I tried to open up that last gel and sure enough, it would not open.  I was squeezing and trying to just pop it and deal with the explosion all over me...I knew I needed food ASAP or something bad was going to happen.  I asked a spectator if she had a gel on her and she did and gave to me.  I ate it as fast as I could and got water and just kept on running.  Ben took a video at that aid station and I look like I am floating and not really there.  I have never had that happen before...I was giving this race everything I had.  With the gel in me and water on my head and in my mouth, I was feeling better.  I don't really remember miles 22-24 but I knew that Ben again would be towards the finish and that is all I had to do...just keep moving.

final stretch
With that final stretch you have some moments of, what are you here for, in your head.  You have moments of, this is not going to happen, you can just stop now, and then there is the moment of you are so close and you are doing this...there is no longer a doubt.  I didn't start to run effortlessly, it didn't start to become easy, but I no longer had a doubt that I was not going to make it. I knew that the months of training leading up to this were for something, something great.  I knew that there were so many people believing in me, tracking me, cheering me on, and for as quiet as that course may have been, it was so loud in my head.  This is only my fourth marathon, I am not a professional, an elite, a girl that knows much about anything real as far as training goes.  But I am a girl that knew I was not going to give up on myself in that moment.  I knew where that 26 mile marker was and I was going to be able to stop soon, I just had to push through a little bit more of the pain.

last turn
Coming into that final turn and knowing it was straight for just a bit then turn and finish at the bay.  I had two girls in front of me that I was really trying to catch and hope to have them help me get to that finish.  I just wanted my legs to stop moving and I pushed and pushed until the curve with Ben yelling the whole time.  At last the finish line was there and sure enough, I made it in under my goal of 3:45:00.  My watch read 3:43:13 and 8:27 pace.  Their official time had me at 3:43:05 and 8:31 pace.  I had made my first qualifying Boston time.  I didn't start crying or that moment I was just so happy to have stopped running.  Ben came over and met me and I don't really even remember what he said.  I didn't feel well and I just wanted water and to sit.  We walked so very slowly to a lounge chair on the beach area and I took my shoes off and just sat.  The pushing and was done and my legs were finally at rest.  I was still in a bit of shock that I had made the time...but if you know me at all by know that I wanted it still to be a little faster than that.  And three days later I can say that on that day there was nothing more I could have given and I am so very proud of my time.  Each race is a different animal and I did my best on Sunday to tackle this one.  I would have loved to have been 25 seconds faster to get me a little closer to last year's time...but my gosh...I raced my heart out and nothing more can be said than that.

me and JB
We walked into the after party, I had some chicken and pasta and the driest chocolate chip cookie ever.  I kept drinking water like crazy and the thought of a cold beer was nothing I wanted a part of.  Ben later told me I had no color in my face and he just wanted to get some salt in me to get me whole again.  We chatted with fellow racers and everyone seemed pretty happy with the day.  I had put on a big sweatshirt after the finish and didn't go into my typical hypothermia conditions.  I was so happy to avoid the teeth chattering freeziness I typically encounter post race.  We headed back to the hotel and I took a nice long hot shower.  There was minimal chaffing so there was not screaming when the water hit my body.  I put on my compression socks for recovery and more warm clothes.  Ben headed back to mile 20 to pick up the car and then we quickly packed up and headed to the boardwalk for some good food.  Not every day do you qualify for the Boston Marathon and meet the former Vice President Joe Biden!  I was in such an emotional place I went right up to him and talked his ear off.  I am sure he thought I was crazy but not crazy enough to say his code word to bring on his secret service agent.  

Our trip home was a quick one with minimal leg cramping in the car.  I was anxious to see my kiddos and give them all a big hug.  I spent the drive replying back to the endless texts and messages from friends who were tracking me along the course.  My heart was so full and I was so happy the day was over, everything happened as it was meant to, and my body was at rest.  When I first tackled my first marathon in 2009 it was just to have the experience.  In 2015 it was to see what the changes to my body and mind would have on my overall fitness level.  2016 was redemption for something I didn't even know I wanted.  Well 2017, although self driven on the course, was a community marathon.  I have never felt so much support going into a race as I did on Sunday and the weeks leading up to it.  To come home and find all of my supporters there ready to congratulate me and share in my joy and excitement for the day...was beyond amazing.  This race was felt by more than just my tired legs on the streets of Delaware...and my finish was celebrated by more than my immediate family.

What's next...well I get to celebrate my love of running throughout Canada next month with my Ragnar team of amazing women, there will be no time to keep on pace with or the quest for the perfect will just be my feet and the endless miles of road ahead and lots of smiles and laughter.  I will wait to see what will happen in September with my qualifying time and if it was enough to be on the streets of Boston next April.  I know it was enough for me on was all I had...all I had hoped for...all I was capable of giving on that day.   

This afternoon I am heading to talk to an elementary school's running club.  My friend asked me to come as a guest speaker.  I have been thinking about what a few of my talking points will be. Pretty sure I will lead with these:

Embrace the suck...choose you...hard is possible...remember the journey.

One happy girl

Splits Delaware Full 2017