The Next Thing

We all have these moments. Moments of possibly standing at the brink of something vast, your toes curling the edges, your breath catching and rattling in sharp and uneven inhales. You have a nagging feeling that there is something you should be doing, a direction you should be moving, a plan of action that will propel you towards your goal, your purpose, your passion.

But you continue to stand there, feeling rather blank and somewhat foolish for not being busy and inspired. The world around you echoes with words like hustle, big-picture, long-term goals, and life’s passion. It clangs loudly, an awkward dinner bell calling what feels like everyone forth to feast but you.

I often find myself in this constant, toe-curling pattern, and my impulse is to shrink, to raise my flag of defeat at being successful or creative or driven. It’s the beginnings that paralyze me. The myriad options that are too vague and hazy, the edges too undefined. The possible trajectories at once trace the ground in a busy and veiny map and yet are uncomfortably absent, rooting me paralyzed to the spot where I stand.

I used to find myself frantically bobbing in the open water during races, gasping for breath, unable to see the immediate and logical solution of simply beginning: a few clumsy strokes slicing through the water, a few bubbles, and a few kicks. Over and over, until the entire process feels less overwhelming and much more reasonably accomplished.

And so it’s gone with pushing the shutter button and writing and having big ideas and moving forward in business.

But what I’ve learned (and often struggle to remember) through the multitude of open water panic attacks is rather than envisioning the entire race course, the huge and audacious but hazy idea, or the carefully crafted photography career, it’s much less terrifying and overwhelming to simply do the next thing.

The next thing might be one clumsy stroke in the water. Or a frustrating brain dump of awkward and simple sentences to reclaim the rhythm of fingers on the keyboard. It might be one email sent. Or finding the courage to shoot a session differently. And while disconcerting at first, the next thing might be embracing the discomfort of not knowing exactly what to do next or where you want to go and instead choosing to rest for some time in gratitude with everything that already is.

Because all of the single strokes and awkward bubbles propel you to the finish. The end becomes clearer, the strokes a little smoother, your confidence more palpable, and suddenly your toes brush the sand at the bottom, and you emerge from the water. Rebirthed and ready.

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Right Here, Right Now | Personal

Today I was on the treadmill… walking. Yes, walking. If your newish around here, I like to swim, bike, and run. To me it’s fun to race triathlons, and I’ve written about it over and over. It gives me goals to reach for and a chance to prove to myself that I am strong and capable. Now that we are caught up, back to walking. I completed my third half-ironman in September, which is 70.3 total miles of swimming, biking, and running, and I am registered to complete my first full ironman (140.6 miles) in October of 2015. I have several small stepping stones along the way to that goal with the first being the Shamrock half-marathon that I race just about every year. And this year if I don’t beat my ancient 13.1 personal best time, I might just lose it at the finish line!

After giving myself an extended break from structured training through October and most of November, I felt ready two weeks ago. And what a week! I was focused; I had great workouts. I was excited to be back, and I capped the week off with nine fantastic trail miles on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. That was the last real workout I’ve done. For whatever reason, I woke up with a tweaked lower back on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and it won’t quite go away. The chiropractor helped yesterday, and I felt good enough to do a very short and easy swim (eight laps). Today, he suggested I try some walking.

Which is why I found myself at the gym this morning stifling giggles while I walked on the treadmill. I’ve been through the injury cycle enough times in the last several years to know it isn’t worth being frustrated. It is what it is, and it’s where I am right now, so instead of fighting it, I’d be much better off embracing it. Instead of being annoyed I was only walking two miles, I chose to enjoy the fact that I was finally moving. Slowly and not as far as usual, but at least I was moving.

That long thirty-five minutes also lead me to think about photography, and how it’s so easy for me to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. I might wish I could pose like that or catch the sun like this or edit like that. I might come home from every session with a million “wish I would haves” and maybe a few more failed images than I would like to have. I’m relatively new to this game. I always try to remember that I’ve improved in leaps and bounds, but I can’t compare someone’s three or five or twenty years in to my now.

Because right here, right now, when I can be honest with myself, I’m pretty happy with where my images are. I’m happy with my progress in learning to run a business, and I’m happy with what I’ve learned (sometimes painfully) about running a session, but the perfectionist in me wants to get hung up on not being perfect. That is the struggle, isn’t it? I know I still have so much room to improve, but I also have to know that right here, right now is just as good as what will be comparatively speaking.

So whatever journey you find yourself in the midst of– whether it’s creative, athletic, or something else, take a quick moment to smile at where you are right here, right now. All of the treadmill walks and failed images are leading you to an even bigger level of greatness.

<3

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Below Our Feet | Personal

2014-11-20_0002Two weeks ago, Jon and I had the opportunity to schedule a couple’s session with Tiffany of Tiffany Joyce Photography. I’ve been so lucky to meet several incredibly kind and supportive photographers, and Tiffany is no exception. I was really excited for several reasons. I knew we would have a lot of fun. And I know Tiffany’s style of photography is very similar to mine. Plus I knew I could ask a million nerdy photographer questions, and she would understand!

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Since our wedding in 2009, Jon and I don’t have many pictures of ourselves other than iPhone selfies. And while I adore the photos we have from that day that Jeff of Calma Photography took for us, we were definitely due for some updated ones!

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And you know, life definitely has changed quite a bit since then. We’ve added Rowan to our family; I stopped teaching and began staying home with her; Jon’s position has changed at work and has brought with it more responsibility and stress; Lexus has gone off to college; we now have a newly minted teenager in the house; and Gage is almost finished with elementary school.

Listen to the river

Does it make you wonder

How anything could ever stand still?

-Brett Dennen

2014-11-20_0005Right. Nothing stands still. We are really shadows of who we were during our whirlwind dating story. We’ve grown and evolved. We’ve endured job and new baby stress and the growing pains associated with bringing together two families. We’ve found the beginnings of the middle place of a marriage more lived in than new. And sometimes we struggle to maintain the magic, the beauty of our relationship that pulled us in to begin with.

But our experience with Tiffany reminded us that underneath it all, underneath the late nights at work, the triathlon training, the kids, the house, the stress of a new business; that if we peel back all of those layers and expose the us that so often gets brushed by, we find that we still are the young and crazy couple that probably moved way too quickly because we just couldn’t stand the thought of being apart.

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Watch your step

Walk softer, softer

‘Cause dreams are growing below our feet.

-Brett Dennen

Sometimes we forget to walk softer. Sometimes the magic becomes a little distant and hazy, and we become consumed by the mundane day-to-day, and we can’t see how much we really have. But we always come back. We always rediscover each other and continue tending our dreams.

And if you’re thinking a couple’s session might be a good idea, stop thinking and do it. It totally is! I am so incredibly grateful to Tiffany for completely capturing our relationship; I will definitely miss her– she’s moving to Connecticut, so if you’re from that area, look her up!

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I’ve been obsessed with Brett Dennen lately. Here’s where I pulled the quotes for this post. It’s my favorite song of his!

Growing Pains | Personal

Rowan is next to me doing the same puzzle for the fifth time. It’s a challenging puzzle for a three year old. Twenty-four pieces. Several different patterns. She’s had it since last Christmas, but still she needs help with it each time. We’ve shown her how the edges and corners work. We’ve talked about working on one animal at a time, breaking the puzzle down into manageable bits. But still, for the last eleven months, all of that advice just hasn’t stuck: she tries to force middle pieces along the edges; she leaves the pieces in a jumbled mess instead of flipping them over so she can see the pictures. And she usually ends up in frustrated tears when she tries to do it on her own.

But tonight, tonight is suddenly and amazingly different. For the most part, she’s doing the entire puzzle on her own. The pieces are still a bit of a mess. Every so often a middle piece is forced along the edge. And she might slam a piece in place out of frustration before she finally asked for help. But her independence is stunningly obvious.

Cue the sixth puzzle attempt.

Lately I’ve been feeling these same sort of growing pains. The same sense of frustration at where I am in my learning and growing process. I know I’ve made amazing progress in the last six months. But the internal struggle of admitting that I am growing and still have so much to learn is hard for me. I’ve always been a perfectionist; I like to be right and feel secure in what I do. Photography has shifted all of that for me.

It has forced me to embrace myself exactly where I am at the moment. After a session is over, I have to find peace with the result because there isn’t usually a chance to change anything. And gratefully not one session has been disastrous. I know I am being very critical of myself and my work, but I believe that is where my growth comes. At some point in my past, I would have experienced just a touch of this awkward stage and judged it too hard, too challenging to continue. It is much safer being stagnant, but stagnancy doesn’t bring happiness. Ever!

So I’m trying to find peace amongst the dissonance of each session’s learning moments. I’m pulling all of them together and moving forward. Sometimes it sticks immediately. Sometimes I have to learn it again and again before I really own it. Most recently, after being frustrated with too many soft images for my liking, I’m celebrating finding the absolute sweet spot shutter speed for my 135mm lens to avoid camera shake. (1/640 if you’re curious!)

Some days the pressure of growing so quickly feels too much; some days it feels like an amazingly exciting ride. I can equally be ecstatic and terrified about this journey all at once. Finding balance between these two extremes is never easy, but it helps to have others who have been there. They help me flip over my own puzzle pieces and guide me to putting them in the right place. Even if that means putting them aside for the night after a meltdown over the seventh attempt. They understand and encourage me to breathe and believe in myself and come back again later. And trust in the process, growing pains and all.

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Reset: 40 day goals | Personal

I spent a recent Saturday evening out with my closest friends and our husbands. Over several different dinner conversations, I started to really understand why I’ve felt just a little off over the last several months. I haven’t been able to pinpoint it exactly, but despite a thriving and exciting new business, despite everything seeming to be moving along quite happily, I wasn’t entirely happy. This summer really proved it. I was turning inward, holing up inside the house more often than not. I didn’t want to write; training for this weekend’s half-ironman was more of a chore than something that I once enjoyed. The kids and I didn’t do much of note this summer, and while that is okay, while I know I don’t have to entertain them constantly, I also want some memories of our summers together. Aside from a fun trip to my parents’ house, there isn’t much to mark our time. And I knew it; I could watch it happening, and despite that, I constantly longed for the end of summer to let me off of the hook.

The conversation that night that highlighted all of these feelings in an incandescent light was about hiking Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah Valley. Two of my sets of friends were talking about their experiences with this hike. I was half listening to that conversation and catching part of another, but suddenly I had the very clear realization that I was almost back to sitting on the couch, watching life go by and feeling twinges of jealousy of others’ lives. That’s been the reason for this blog all along, hasn’t it? It’s been the meat of my about page since the beginning.

I know I’m better than I was. I’m making dreams happen. I’ve taken steps in a photography career that I once thought were unachievable. I’ve completed races in distances I once believed were unmanageable. I’ve written more frequently than I’ve ever before. Life is more multi-faceted, more beautiful than it has ever been before.

But still. Something is missing, and I realized that in the life span of this online space, I’ve become less transparent about some of the more day-to-day things, some of the posts that used to be fun, light, and happy. I’ve talked about that pressure to be something, both in writing and in training for triathlons. I need a reset. Here. In training after this weekend’s big race. In the day-to-day. In our family experiences.

But back to Old Rag. In that moment, I realized I needed my 40 day goals more than ever right now. I sense that I am beginning to float again. I am anchored in photography, but everything else is becoming somewhat ethereal. Again it is coming back to balance and finding the courage, the inertia, and the strength to create more of the life I want to live rather than thinking that maybe one day I’ll hike Old Rag. Maybe one day, we will have that experience. Maybe.

I’m tired of maybes. So here are my new goals. Follow along. And maybe join me and share some of your own!

    October 3-November 12

  1. Consistently meal plan again. This has been hit and miss over the last several months. I get lazy and forget to write the grocery list until the last minute. Then we wing it for the week. Life is so much simpler with a meal plan! Going along with the meal plan, I need to eat healthier breakfasts and lunches. Lack of planning here has lead to some questionable food choices. And extra pounds!
  2. Update the photo wall. We repainted our family room this summer, and the photo wall frames are still in a pile on the mantel. I have two prints I bought that I have wanted to add to it, and I really need to order updated pictures. The most recent one of Rowan framed in our house is from when she was four months old. Yes. Four months old. She’s changed a bunch in that time. And so have my photography skills for that matter!
  3. Enjoy the breathing room that comes with finishing Ironman 70.3 Augusta on 9/28. It’s been a struggle to enjoy triathlon training, running, swimming, biking, or anything for a while. I’ve found more joy lately, but I’d love to really engage with running again. And make some improvements with being free of races and plans for several months. I’m purposely leaving this goal open-ended.
  4. Plan a family trip to the mountains. If it doesn’t actually happen in these 40 days, I want to have it planned. We’ve been talking about it since last fall. And all through the summer. Those maybes and one days got in the way of doing it.
  5. Yoga on the beach. This is another one day and maybe item I’ve talked about for over two years. Rowan is in preschool two days a week, and I have the time to make it happen before it gets too cold and windy.
  6. Bringing this one back from my second set of 40 day goals ever: Smile at and say hello to strangers whenever I’m out. This pushes me entirely out of my comfort zone. I’ve definitely gotten better at this than I used to be, but I know I can be more outgoing than I am now.
  7. Do nice things. Pay it forward. Buy a stranger coffee. Snail mail a friend a small gift. I know that I need to step outside of myself more!
  8. Explore a new place for a photography session. I’m starting to get a little too comfortable in my favorite spots. I would really like an urban setting. Anyone want to schedule one in downtown Norfolk? Richmond? How fun!
  9. Take the time and energy to explore more of this area with the kids. I get stressed thinking about traffic, length of time to get somewhere, the energy it will all consume. But that leads us to sitting around and not doing much of anything. I’ve lived here for more than twenty years, but I know there are so many things we could do together that we haven’t done yet!
  10. Breathe. Sometimes it feels so easy to get caught up in stress and miss just how beautiful life is.

Kristy is restarting her goals, too! Read about her goal to say yes more!

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First Days | Personal

2014-09-15_0023Last week I sent a fifth and seventh grader off to school. Over the next two weeks they will turn eleven and thirteen. I look at myself in the mirror and wonder how it is that I’m suddenly the mom of a teenager.

2014-09-15_0021I remember anxiously worrying about these days when I was still pregnant with Pacey. I fretted that he would be one of those teenagers. The disrespectful, rude ones. One of those skaters who would intentionally block the street at the entrance to our neighborhood. Those teenage days, a bit hazy and still so far in the future, seemed like the end of all that could be good about motherhood.

2014-09-15_0022And now, teetering precariously on the cusp of those hazy days, so close that they are sharply in focus, I tenderly hold that scared soon-to-be girl-mom in my heart. The lanky, deep-voiced, almost thirteen year old that has taken the place of the round face and soft curls is no more frustrating or less lovable than he was at three. The circumstances have changed. The frustration points are much different. But underneath the lank and rasp, he’s still Pacey. He’s still curls and cheeks and snuggles. And I find that I expected a sudden disconnect because of an age humorous.

2014-09-15_0020So it’s first days around here. First days of seventh grade and fifth grade. First days of three year old preschool. First days of the teenage years. All at once they are the squinty-eyed newborns, the curly-haired and ornery toddlers, and the freshly minted teenagers. First days of seeing again and again that motherhood evolves and grows with our children, but is seamlessly and gently timeless.

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Rowan is clearly more interested in the camera than the boys are now!

Chasing Dreams | Personal

Sometimes it takes my breath away and tears fill my eyes to look around and see the changes in my life over the last two and a half years. I’ve written about the struggle over and over again. This entire blog’s concept has always been rooted in the promise I made to myself after Rowan was born to get up and live, to love each step. To engage and find the sparkly edges of life rather than wistfully watching other people do the same.

You may have noticed the header change above. With the beginning of my photography business, I’ve considered a few options for blogging through the process and sharing my work. I have managed two Facebook pages for a few months. I thought about starting a separate blog for photography and keeping this one close for personal and training thoughts like it’s always been. I questioned whether shifting the title for this blog was moving away from the promise to myself.

And then I realized that whether it’s training for races or tackling parenting or marriage questions or finding my writing voice or showcasing photography and the journey that comes with it, all of it still holds fast to the original intent. All of it is still loving each step. A name change that makes it more cohesive, that evolves with me doesn’t forsake anything.

All of it is me. Me chasing dreams and conquering fear. Me setting goals and providing a positive example to my children that you can figure out your life, one step at a time, even though there have been many moments over the years when everything was incredibly hazy and confusing.

You can bring everything into focus (pun intended).

The Love Each Step Facebook page is going to be disabled shortly– two pages are too much to manage. Everything will be posted to my new page. Please join me there if you haven’t already!

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A Respite | Personal

It’s been about six weeks since Ironman 70.3 Raleigh. Today marks the start of training for Ironman 70.3 Augusta. Technically, training for Augusta probably wasn’t intended to have a clear starting date. It should have quietly morphed from recovery to build again. But life has a way of taking its own turns and bouncing back from Raleigh was just as hard as I thought it would be.

Within a week, I felt ready to begin again. And for a week that held true. Then school ended and the days were filled with pool time and beach visits, ice cream stops and donut mornings, evening beach cruiser bike rides and dinners outside. And I just didn’t want to swim. Or bike. Or run. And on one particularly hot Saturday morning run, the quiet pressure I had been feeling for months regarding triathlons, running, and training peaked. I cried and shuffled and walked as the realization that I had been evading for a while sunk in more deeply: I didn’t like running anymore.

That shook me deeply. Running and training for triathlons has been a very big part of my identity since I had Rowan three years ago and especially since I stopped working to be at home with her and the boys. Shortly before Raleigh I wrote about how unbalanced it became especially through training for Augusta last year. Training and racing have always given me the chance to see how strong I am, to know I can succeed, and to set goals. What I missed in that process is taking responsibility to own myself beyond that space, and in that misstep, I mistakenly began to resent all of it.

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Some of the gorgeous scenery from our Pennsylvania trip. #iphoneography

As frustrating as the beginning of this year has been with training, I now know it was the process of shedding those layers a bit. And after the last two week break while on vacation in Pennsylvania with very little training and many runs without my Garmin, running and I are finding a happy place again. With the beginning of training for Augusta, I am excited to travel this road over the next several weeks. And I am equally excited to step back afterwards and reduce my training volume.

Photo Jul 12, 7 43 29 AMSo there have been growing pains through the past two years that have been about finally finding the courage to own myself, to see and love who I really am, and to be confident to go for my dreams. But coming out on the other side now (I hope), I can appreciate the process especially as I feel such immense joy with beginning my photography business. Because I don’t want to exchange one crutch for another. I don’t want to simply trade labels: Heidi-the-triathlete for Heidi-the-photographer. Over the last several months I’ve come very close to letting go of triathlon all together, but luckily there was a quiet part of my heart that knew the truth of the underlying process, that knew that letting triathlon and running fall away wasn’t the solution. Instead I have had to allow my ego’s attachment to it to fall away.

And in these early and exciting days of photography, I want balance. I want to always approach it with excitement and with the sometimes teary-eyed bliss of finally knowing what I want do. But I also want to hold fast to perspective and know that if all of it were to fall away somehow, I’d still be me. That I’d still love who I am without the running shoes, bike, and camera.Photo Jul 04, 10 29 06 AM

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh Race Report

I know. The last time I talked about Raleigh here I was reporting my tough decision to back out of the race and take some much needed down time. And I did. Following that hard decision, I came down with a terrible cold that I think I had been fighting off for about two weeks. After almost two weeks of rest, I began feeling better. I slowly started back into some basic training. And it felt good. It was during the first great swim back that I started thinking that maybe Raleigh was a possibility. Maybe by letting my mind, body, and heart off of the hook for a little bit, I was able to reset and reconnect with why I choose to do these long distances in the first place.

So quietly and with the help of friends, Jon, and my coach, I decided to go. I decided to think of it as a training day and stay happy, and before I knew it race weekend was upon us, and Jon, Rowan, and I were traveling three hours to Raleigh.

All of the prerace activities were business as usual with the exception of the split transition area. Jordan Lake is thirty miles from the finish line in downtown Raleigh, so that made the entire experience different. From dropping off my bike the day before to getting up at three in the morning in order to set up T2 and board a charter bus to get to T1 in enough time.

I was incredibly lucky to finally meet a wonderful friend I’ve made on Instagram. She was returning to Raleigh for redemption, and we enjoyed a prerace dinner and all of our race morning jitters were easily shared and dismissed as we watched the pros exit the water and waited for our own swim wave, which was third from the last.

IMG_7119This was the source of most of my anxiety. With a late swim wave, we only had 1:18 minutes to exit the swim in order to continue to the bike course. Jordan Lake is fairly calm, but it lacked the friendly current of Augusta’s Savannah River, and wetsuits were a race morning decision. Luckily the water temperature stayed in our favor. As I watched wave after wave leave the beach, I gave myself permission to be confident instead of nervous. I knew I was trained enough to swim 1.2 miles. And even with the lack of open water practice this spring, I knew I was able to stay focused and not panic.

Swim 1:00:46

I planned to take the triangular swim course buoy by buoy, and for the first leg, I was fine. I breathe to my left, and even with the buoys on my right and the typical swim start melee, I was able to stay focused and calm. Once I turned and started the second and longest leg, the sun was in my face and with the buoys still on my right and my googles fogging, it was impossible to sight. I stayed with the crowd, but I was feeling winded and short of breath, so I unzipped my wetsuit. And then the calf cramps started. As soon as I started to kick, they would seize, so I was only able to pull for the rest of the swim. My mental focus was shot, and I stopped often to reset, but I knew I was making enough consistent forward progress that I would make the cut off even if most of the other blue swim caps were well ahead of me. And just to add humor to the experience, when I was twenty feet from the exit ramp, I attempted to kick, and both calves seized, so I had to flip over and float and loosen them. The officials at the exit and the spectators probably wondered why I chose to take a break when I was within feet of being able to touch the bottom! I could only laugh to myself at that one.

Transition 1 4:57

This was an easy transition, and at least this time improved from Augusta!

IMG_7123Bike 3:55:47

I knew that this course was hilly, and some had even said it was similar to Augusta’s bike course, so I felt confident that I could handle it well and hopefully come close or faster than my Augusta time of 3:23. Oh how wrong I was! Out of transition was a slow 3.5 mile climb, and that set the pace for the entire course. For every slight downhill, it seemed there were many short, steep climbs or long, gradual climbs. The few flat sections were coupled with a headwind or a crosswind. Every so often, we were graced with a nice downhill cruise, but it was immediately followed by climbing. I felt strong until mile 30. The second half of the course was a bit more challenging, and my pace slowed. The course was mostly scenic and very beautiful, but there was constant traffic passing the bikers. At one point, I had to cross in front of cars to get into a turn lane to make a turn. At another point the cars were attempting to pass bikers in front of me and were at a slow crawl, and I felt hesitant to ride with any speed next to them on the narrow roads. By the time I reached downtown again, and had to make one last climb into transition, I was exhausted. Mentally, I was frustrated, and it took an incredible amount of willpower to stay focused for the ride and not allow the intensity of the course to deteriorate my confidence.

Transition 2 6:46

My rack was near the run exit. After a long walk in bike shoes, a shoe change, and a bathroom break, I entered the run course.

10352900_684479501588856_830415184703607121_nRun 3:01:32 

As I exited transition, I tried to focus myself for 13.1 miles. I knew the run course would be hilly– rolling hills with a few gradual uphills and downhills. Because of that, I knew I had to stay very aware of my knee, so I started with a 4:1 interval. That quickly shifted to a 2:1 interval, which quickly became a walk the uphills, run the downhills. The only thing that kept me moving through the run course was Jon and Rowan. I knew I would see them during miles 3, 6, and 9 and then at the finish. Each time I passed them (and stopped to talk to them), I fed off of their energy, and as I left them for the last time at mile 9, I spotted a girl in my age group who had been walking at a quick pace. I had passed her at the beginning of the second loop, but with my last extended visit with Jon and Rowan, she had gotten ahead of me again. I began running again and considered the three miles that remained. My knee was hanging in with the hills, but it was getting achy. I knew I had two options. I could continue with a sporadic run/walk and hope my knee held on, or I could catch up with this girl and make a friend. I chose the latter. I ran up to her, said hi, and we walked quickly and chatted for the next two miles. It shifted my entire experience. Because of my late swim wave start, my calf issues, and my run up to that point, the participants on the course were sparse, the crowd support was minimal. My knee ached a bit on the uphills, but I was happy just to find another smiling face and somehow finish the race on a happy, light note versus the grueling mental game it had been up to that point. We ran part of mile 11 and all of mile 12, and I finished with a smile on my face, seeing Jon and Rowan there waiting for me.

Finish 8:09:48

I’ve had many people ask me if I’m glad I decided to race. I am. I don’t regret the experience. The course was challenging; it exposed many of my weaknesses. I never reached a dark, frustrated place, but I was also not happy and smiling like I was in Augusta. It didn’t feel like a celebration of training, a victory lap; it felt like a hard end to a hard training cycle but rewarding at the same time. Mentally I won a big battle within those 70.3 miles. For some reason, training for Raleigh never captured me. Racing it didn’t either. Instead I had to hold on to any shards of positive thought I could. I had to fight to make the race a positive experience, and I think that’s something to celebrate.

At one point during the run, I decided I was burnt out on this long course training and racing. I thought that maybe I wouldn’t do Augusta in September, and I would enjoy the summer with short, hard workouts and strength training and yoga. But after a few days, I feel invigorated for Augusta’s course. I learned so much about mentally committing to the training and the race, and I can’t wait to feel the energy there again. There is a little more than a month of time where we can focus on run training and speed work and strength before miles and hours have to pick up. I’m looking forward to a renewed sense of focus and commitment and being positive and excited about a race again.

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Permission Granted

Earlier this week, I read an incredible post on Ivy League Insecurities. The line that most struck me?

The only person who can grant the permission and approval I need and crave again and again and again is me.

A recurrent theme in this blog and my life is finding courage: courage to run, to swim, to write, to take pictures, to simply be. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Once I finally verbalized my goals and dreams to myself and then shared them with a friend, everything has been propelled forward in a frenetic and exciting way.

Since I met with Elizabeth and the other photographers on Friday, I keep having these moments– these teary-eyed, overwhelmingly joyful moments of trust that this photography dream that I’ve squelched for so long is going to happen. Simply because I know with every bit of myself, with no edges of wondering that this is finally what will make me fill a room with me and joy and happiness. It’s the passion finally surfacing, the passion that I witnessed and wanted to emulate in my high school teacher.

After reading Aidan’s post this week, I understand that I’m finally not seeking or waiting for anyone’s permission or nod of approval to dream big. I realize wholeheartedly that this is entirely up to me. I know there will be frustrating days, days that feel like a failure. I know there will be incredible highs and successes. And of the many things triathlon and racing has taught me, it has prepared me for this ride. For the ups and downs, the hard work, the overwhelming fear that will seep in. And also for the trust in myself and my dreams, for the capability to dream big, whether it is half-ironman training or moving towards a photography business, I know it is all within my reach to stretch and find the courage to move forward.

With that, last night my step-daughter was gracious enough to be a model for me and another aspiring photographer. I was a little uncertain and awkward. I need to work on posing and being confident, but it was a marker of trust, of the drive to succeed. And it helps that she is gorgeous, natural in front of the camera, and the sunlight was perfect! (One goal of mine is to definitely work on not chopping off hands and arms at weird places.)

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