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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Augusta 70.3 Ironman Race Report | Personal

Photo Sep 29, 2 55 29 PMThis was such a huge, huge weekend for me! I hardly know where to start. I really have so many thoughts and feelings to reflect on; this race, maybe even more than the first one last year, has been life-changing!

It’s been no secret that I’ve struggled with training this year. I nearly dropped Raleigh at the last minute, and even at many, many times this summer Augusta was always a shaky reality. The thought of long training days and hard workouts constantly felt overwhelming. Somewhere along the way I had lost my love of the sport, and I know that signing up for two 70.3 distance races this year was impulsive, post-race anxiety and completely fear based. That’s another post altogether, though!

After a great training weekend in North Carolina with a great friend I met on Instagram, I felt ready. We put in 65 hilly biking miles, ten total running miles, and over a mile of swimming in Jordan Lake. I was confident that Augusta would happen. It might not be faster than last year, but I knew I was as ready as I could be.

Jon, Rowan, and I left a few days before the race and stopped in Columbia, SC, for the night. We visited the zoo and some outlets and took our time getting to Georgia. I had managed to stay mostly calm on the way down, but as soon as we crossed the Savannah River and into Georgia, I was incredibly anxious. We made it to the expo and packet pick up. I bought my traditional t-shirt, we had dinner, and checked into the hotel. I was reaching internal meltdown mode. I felt like a fraud for being there because I hadn’t trained as long or as hard as I had last summer. I knew I needed to calm down, so I found the fitness center and the treadmill. Two, sweaty miles later I felt much better!

Photo Sep 27, 10 44 01 AMOn Saturday we had to check my bike in at transition. We checked out the river and stopped over at Aiken, SC, for a fun lunch. That afternoon, I was going to do a practice swim. I arrived at the dock and found my friend, Olivia, whom I had met last year at the race. We made our way down the river together, and I am so glad I did. It was much colder than last year, and between the first two buoys, the river grass was so thick that it almost wrapped around my arms as I stroked. I may have panicked just a bit then, but it ended up being a strong swim.

Photo Sep 27, 10 50 19 AMWe had a quiet dinner in our room, and I slept really well through the night. We were up early and found our way to the race site. I spent the morning with Jon and Rowan enjoying the nervous anticipation of all the racers, the gorgeous sunrise, the sky divers, and the beautiful sky. I kissed them goodbye, and found my swim wave. I was ready to see what the day would bring! My only goal was to smile all day. I knew Augusta held magic for me last year, and I wanted to find it again.

Photo Sep 28, 7 32 30 AMPhoto Sep 28, 7 26 16 AMSwim 34:51

The corps of engineers had released water from the dam upriver overnight, so the water temperature was even colder than it had been the day before. For the first 200 meters or so, I could not get into a breathing rhythm. My exhale was shallow in the water, and it left me feeling like I was gasping on my inhale. I started to get frustrated, and for a brief moment, I even flipped on my back to backstroke. But I immediately stopped myself. Backstroke is a go-to when absolutely necessary, but I knew I was stronger and more focused than that right then. I knew I could figure out what the problem was without panicking. I unzipped my wetsuit halfway, and that was all it took. I could inhale more deeply and exhale fully. Suddenly, I was swimming strongly, and the rest of the swim was uneventful. My arms felt fatigued from the swim less than 24 hours before, but I was so glad I had done that to prepare my mind for the river grass, the water temperatures, and the feeling of my wetsuit, which I hadn’t put on since June. And for the beginning of the swim breathing issues, I still made it out of the water faster than last year! And smiling!

Photo Oct 01, 5 27 19 PMTransition 1: 5:58

I spotted Jon and Rowan along the swim exit. I cheered, skilled, waved, and made the long, winding way to my bike towards the back of transition. A slightly faster transition than last year, too!

Bike: 3:32:48

I was ready for this bike course. The 65 miles that Erin and I biked in early September were much hillier and harder than I knew this course would be. My legs felt tired, and it took at least five miles to loosen up and find a good pedal stroke. There was a stiff headwind on the way out and it was fairly consistent for most of the ride until the end. I still kept a good average for the first twenty miles. We pass by the Savannah River Site, and the road surface is extremely bumpy and can get frustrating and that is also the area where you find the first climbs of the course. On the second big climb, I too hastily shifted into my small chain ring in the front, and my chain came off. I managed to unclip from my pedals before falling over and spent a few minutes getting the chain back on the rings. Thankfully, that was the most frustrating part of the entire 56 miles. I kept an eye on my time, and I knew that with the wind and the chain issue, I would come in slower than I did last year by about ten minutes. But that was okay with me. I really enjoyed the ride, and it made me love my new bike even more. And still smiling!

bikeTransition 2: 6:39

As much as I enjoyed the ride, I was ready to find the dismount line and park my bike. The most important part of long races is to stay present with what’s immediately in front of you, but I was looking forward to the run leg all day. It is definitely hard at that point, but I knew the energy along the course would be great, and I knew Jon and Rowan would find me several times. I’m not sure what I did differently, but this transition was two minutes faster than last year.

Run: 2:49:05

I completed all of my long training runs at a 4:1 interval. I knew from last year that it was the most effective and focused way to finish for where my running is right now. I felt really good for the first two miles. I saw Jon and Rowan at the end of the first mile, and after that I began to feel a little dizzy and my stomach felt off. I knew that I needed to check in with my body to see what it needed. Fortunately, I took in all of the nutrition and fluid I should have on the bike. During the run, you eat and drink what your body demands. I mentally ran through what the aid stations have– chips, cookies, pretzels, bananas, oranges, water, sports drink, and Coke. I knew for sure I wanted oranges and some Coke. I did that at the next station and immediately felt better. I alternated between water and coke and oranges for the rest of the race. It worked perfectly! Jon and Rowan also gave me the Honey Stinger chews I had them pack each time I saw them.

The Augusta run course is fantastic. There is enough crowd support that the energy is always up, but there are also times when you are alone with other racers, and that is really when you have to test yourself mentally. I stayed focused on my 4:1 and kept it fairly consistent except when an aid station came up, when I stopped very, very briefly to see Jon and Rowan, or when I just felt I needed an extra minute to walk.

My knee started to hurt around mile seven. I know this issue so well after all these years, and I can tell when it is a superficial problem or when it will become something big. I had a feeling it would be big if I didn’t adjust somehow. And really after all of these years, I’m still not sure exactly what causes it, but something told me to straighten up and lead with my chest. As soon as I did that the pain completely dissipated. This is a huge breakthrough for this issue! It hurt again at mile ten, and I readjusted and again it was gone.

This was at mile 12. All smiles!

run

Otherwise, the run was great. I was happy and focused. I was ready to see the finish line and really the thirteen miles were over before I knew it. Time becomes a funny thing during these long races. You are completely unaware of time of day and overall passing time in a larger sense, but very focused on it in a micro way. I turned the corner to run back onto Broad Street and could see the finish line several hundred feet away. Jon and Rowan caught me just into the finish chute, and I finished my third 70.3 in twelve months smiling and happy. The same way I finished the first one. My run time was exactly the same (within seconds) as last year’s!

Finish time: 7:09:21

finish3 finish2I have so many thoughts about this last year. I found so many dark spaces in training and racing, and almost gave up on this sport all together. Augusta will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first 70.3, but also because it became about redemption through the struggle this past weekend.

I finished six minutes slower than last year on training that was hit and miss this summer. I realized that I am much stronger than I think once again– both physically and mentally. And surprisingly, I returned home from this race reenergized rather than depleted, which is such a huge difference from last year and especially this year at Raleigh. I feel ready to take on newer, maybe bigger, challenges, which is such a nice feeling after dreading every run, swim, and ride for most of the summer.

Mostly I’m overwhelmed and grateful. I’m overwhelmed that I was able to find the focus to follow through with both 70.3 races this year. I’m overwhelmed and grateful that my body can do things I never thought possible and that I have built such a huge amount of mental strength. Whenever I think of the numbers– that I can run 13.1 miles at the end of all of the miles of the first two legs, I am still amazed.

And most importantly, I am endlessly grateful to my wonderful husband who has stuck through all of my crazy ups and downs this year. My proclamations of being done with running, with dropping this race or that one. He has encouraged me and challenged me to see it through but gently and lovingly has helped me to that point. I know I am capable of being strong on my own, but with him, I am able to shine even more brightly.Photo Sep 28, 8 10 21 AM

Photo Sep 28, 5 06 35 PM

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.

Photo Jul 05, 9 09 00 PM
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

Anniversaries

Photo May 15, 9 50 03 AMOn this day fifteen years ago, the sky was blanketed with a heavy covering of grey clouds. The wind whipped mercilessly through the trees and recent signs of spring had vanished. A strong northeastern storm was moving in. I dodged rain from the car to the hair salon and back to the car. I clambered through the wind and into the beach house. I was merely twenty years old, and I was about to be married on a day that seemed at once to know what my heart already knew but could not convince my brain.

Today I ran the boardwalk, a Garmin-less run that was free and easy and importantly so as I try to recover from a harsh cold. The sun shone brightly across the blue sky. It was sometimes interrupted by clouds but made its way back again and again. As today’s wind carried me north for two miles, I marked my favorite landmarks. The local restaurant that holds our hearts: where Jon and I celebrated our marriage. A few blocks north, and I saw the spot of our first kiss, and I smiled as I realized it was next to the small hotel where I spent the night as a married woman for the very first time fifteen years ago. A few more blocks north and I passed the spot for mine and Jon’s first date and at the end of my two miles was the hotel where Jon and I stayed on our wedding night.

All of those memories brought more memories, and I realized how important this small stretch of concrete along the ocean has been to my life. Not only first dates and first kisses and wedding nights. But also a solitary, rainy walk on the day I made one of the best and most important decisions of my life and a year of finding myself after my divorce. And now most often, cleansing runs.Photo May 15, 9 56 26 AM

Today I read a post by Dani Shapiro, and she quotes Rebecca Stolnit:

“Edgar Allen Poe declared, ‘All experience, in matters of philosophical discovery, teaches us that, in such discovery, it is the unforeseen upon which we must calculate most largely.’  Poe is consciously juxtaposing the word ‘calculate,’ which implies a cold counting up of the facts or measurements, with ‘the unforeseen,’ that which cannot be measured or counted, only anticipated.  How do you calculate upon the unforeseen?  It seems to be an art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance, of recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit  to calculation, to plan, to control.  To calculate upon the unforeseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation that life most requires of us.”

Fifteen years ago, I calculated on the unforeseen; I took a risk and leaped into a marriage hoping to transform it into what I needed it to be. No longer the naive and perhaps immature girl I was, it seems painfully obvious that the unforeseen in that situation now appears to vastly outweigh the limit to control and plan and the incredible need for balance. Yet that recognition seems to be a skill that we hone with age, a balance that doesn’t seem quite so precarious to find as the years march on.

All of those boardwalk moments, the remembered, the landmarked, and the ones I’ve surely forgotten were calculated risks, were hedged on unforeseen outcomes and whether I knew it or not, a trust in the unfolding of my life’s journey. I used to regret some of them, to retract from their bitter taste, to flush red with shame, and quickly expel them from my mind. Instead I’m finding the willingness to embrace them. To see the first kiss of this life adjacent to the first wedding night of that life and realize how intricately intertwined those threads are. And to love the girl that was central to them both.

For many years today’s date was one tinged with a little regret, with a little shame for an immature life choice. When I saw the date this morning, I chose to celebrate. I celebrated the limitless magic of our choices, the incomprehensible beauty in how our lives carry us to exactly where we need to be moment to moment, year to year. I ran and inhaled the salty air, welcomed the gusts of wind, and felt gratitude that such a beautiful place holds so many of my life’s threads in its grasps for me to witness again and again.

What if I am not strong enough?

 

Photo May 03, 10 56 19 AMIn yoga, Bakasana, or crow pose is one that I’ve never been able to do. In crow pose, your hands are flat on the ground, your knees are tucked neatly into your armpits, and the goal is to lift both feet off of the ground and use your core and arm strength to hold yourself up.

The thought that seeps in just before I try is what if I’m not strong enough? So I usually use modifications such as baby crow (one foot still on the ground) or double baby crow (both feet on the ground) because I simply do not trust in my strength.

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh is less than four weeks away, and to be honest this training cycle has been challenging. Mentally I waver between feeling incapable and uncommitted most of the time. I know that is mostly fear nagging at the edges of my confidence. Physically, I feel like I’m tiptoeing around injury. From my right calf that had been a constant problem since January to my old knee issue that has recently cropped back up, I feel like I’m running and training scared. I’m worried about hanging in with training through Ironman 70.3 Augusta in September.

And on top of that, I’m struggling with an intense fatigue, a bone tired, beyond training exhaustion that has always been a part of my day to day, but within the last few months has become much more intense. I have a preliminary diagnosis of Fibromyalgia that I’ve been mostly ignoring for a few years. I think I might have to deal with it more directly at this point.

All of that mental and physical static is enough to have my focus blurry at best. I have been able to stay on track until the last two weeks. The weekend training has picked up in both distance and intensity, and it is taking many more days than it did last summer to recover enough to feel ready to dive into the next week.

I’ve considered my options. I know I don’t have to race any race. But my ego has been getting in the way of rational thought. After Augusta last year, after such a feat that I never believed I could do, my ego informed me that I needed to do more. Training and racing had suddenly or maybe gradually become less about proving my own strength to myself. Instead it became the only way I was able to see myself as strong and capable. A hefty race schedule of three half ironman races in twelve months reignited my ego; it became what defined me.

On Monday I met with my coach and after she had considered my many text messages of the weeks before, she suggested dropping Raleigh, which at first seemed odd since it’s close and Augusta is several months away. Her reasoning rang true: my heart is in Augusta. The original purpose for doing a long distance race remains at that finish line. At that race there was no ego; it was me proving to myself that I was strong. Not using the race as a support for my strength.

In struggling to make a decision over the last few days, the question at the heart of bakasana remains: What if I’m not strong enough to hold myself up?

Without distance?
Without this race or that race?
Or long training days?

What if I am not enough for myself when all of that is stripped away?

On Tuesday, I stopped a swim workout short after kicking aggravated my knee. I decided as I walked to the car that Raleigh was out; I needed to take care of my body to race the way I wanted to in Augusta. I realized that Raleigh has held my ego, but Augusta has my heart.

I came home and unrolled my mat and put on Blissology’s Monday yoga. The house was empty and quiet, and as I breathed and moved through poses, the agitation and uncertainty of the last several weeks finally began to fall away. Towards the end of the practice was crow pose, bakasana.

And again I wondered, what if I’m not strong enough?

But the question didn’t linger very long. I spread my fingers and rooted my hands on the mat. I softly tucked my legs and tentatively lifted one foot and held baby crow for several breaths. Then it just seemed to be time. With a strong core and a focused mind, I lifted the other foot from the safety of the mat and shakily held my first bakasana for several breaths.Photo May 08, 1 34 27 PM

With the release of the heaviness of my ego’s grip, I felt light. I was able to soar in bakasana using my heart’s strength. Crow pose has not become yet another defining label, like triathlete or runner or half ironman. Instead it has released me from all of those labels and given me spacious freedom to fly. And that is what I’ll do again in Augusta in September. Stripped free of self-imposed standards of success and worthiness, there is only me.

The me who no longer looks in the mirror with such a critical eye. The me who is finding more answers than questions. The me who runs and swims and bikes and practices yoga. And the me who is strong enough to stand with or without them.

Rooted in Now

Photo Apr 21, 11 13 18 AMMy friend Kristy and I must share a brain on some level. We sometimes pen similar blog posts on the same day and only after we share them with each other do we realize how closely our thoughts aligned. Or we preview posts before they are published and have conversations that can be extensions of the post. That is what happened today. Kristy published this post about dreaming, about happiness, about the struggle to balance drive with contentment. To yearn but be happy with reality. To plan but know that everything is in perfect order.

In our conversation she suggested that I make my responses a post. My interpretation to her thoughts. And we foresee this being something we do more of, too. My post, her response. Her post, my response. Because it’s from sharing ourselves with others, from being vulnerable and communicating that we grow most deeply. 

The other day on a trail run I glimpsed a bit of yellow along the neutral hues of leaves and pine needles. I passed the first one, immediately wished I had stopped to see just what it was, but kept going ahead. Until I saw another. I crouched and smiled at the single, resting honeysuckle bloom. It was so simple and yet held so much beauty and life. As I moved along the trail, I found more of the blooms, always singular, always brightly yellow.

Photo Apr 21, 11 02 56 AM

I chose the trails that day because I didn’t want to fret about running pace for my long run. It’s no secret that I get consumed by my Garmin, but when I’m on the trails, even if the pace is displayed, I rarely look at it. I think it is partly knowing that I will slow down on the trails and partly simply not caring what my pace is. My feet feel light and happy, my heart soars, my head is clear when I find myself there.

What I realize on those kinds of trail runs, what the honeysuckles made me remember even more acutely is that the only thing we have for sure is now. We have to let go of our ego’s hold on how what we might be or might have one day will define us. It’s when the quietness at our root seeps in beyond the static that we remember: running faster or taking a better picture or writing the perfect essay doesn’t define anything about the real us. It merely strokes the ego. And we do have to find success in this world; goals are important. But we also have to trust in what is now and who we are before and after those achievements, finding a deep and unwavering happiness in who we are at the root of our being, and in the quiet stillness beyond our thoughts is where it is found.

I get glimpses of it during yoga or while on a run when I’m not obsessed with time. Or most often when I simply sit in the sunshine or spy a lone honeysuckle resting on pine straw or chance upon tall trees spiraling out of the water.

Photo Apr 21, 10 54 50 AM
We are the constant light of the sun: always shining and always full of love. If we can remember that, even a just little, if we can be as stalwart as the sun’s rays in maintaining presence and trust, our lives will unfold beautifully before our eyes.

Ebb and Flow

Photo Apr 01, 10 10 42 AM

I drove down the interstate and saw the morning sun’s rays streaming to the earth. They drew me into a warm hug, and the feeling of wholeness, the understanding that the intricate gears of life really are working for my higher good overwhelmed me.

It’s what I needed to remember; it’s exactly why I headed to ocean’s edge that morning.

Photo Apr 01, 10 10 32 AM

Sometimes I want to smudge a few memories, erase parts or wholes of what have become the colorful canvas of my past even though I try to remember they have all lead me to this very place. But recently I was confronted with a sensitive and very important situation, and I was able to witness how important and integral all of those experiences are.

I approached the boardwalk, anxious for the healing way the waves have about them. The ebb and flow that mimics life, the methodic and expected dance that reveals the sand as ever changed from before the rush of water seemed to have drowned it. My run that day was slow and easy at first and then speed work intervals: two minutes of sprinting, and one of recovery. Like the waves and the sand, the speed attempted to destroy me, to erode me, but in those recovery minutes, I resurfaced renewed and stronger. Maybe microscopically at first, maybe with strength that is yet to be seen in its fullness, but infinitely better for experiencing a painful edge.

Photo Feb 20, 10 01 55 AMI’ve observed before that life tends to come in these two to one intervals, in these waves of anxiousness and relief, in an ebb and flow of joy and despair. And in those moments of joy and despair last week, in the intense speed work followed by easy running, so many things that have ever happened in my life all came rushing in on me in a powerful way. There wasn’t one particular memory or situation that contributed directly to last week’s experience, but I could see so clearly how they have all worked synergistically to lead me here.

Within that gift of clarity, life has never felt so alive and incandescent. So perfectly informing me that I am on the right path and that if I’m open to it, life is a spiritual practice. Every run, every exhale, every sharp inhale, the smiles and tears, the moments of disconnecting and connecting to those we love, a sip of a cold beer, the first scent of hot coffee in those bleary-eyed first morning moments is a prayer, a meditation. That within the crashing waves, in those moments of silent withdrawal into the great unknown, there is a fragment of awareness, a chance to bask in peace and wisdom.

Photo Feb 19, 11 54 08 AM

Cherry Blossom Ten Miler Race Report

IMG_5614After the stressful race that was Shamrock, I was determined to run this one happy and free. And for now that meant ignoring my Garmin, running headphone free, and absorbing the beauty of the course. I didn’t look at the course map before at all; I wanted to be surprised by the entire race.

We arrived in DC on Friday after a very long trip that included multiple traffic issues. We did some walking to and from dinner that night, and on Saturday, we spent the day at packet pick-up, riding the metro, exploring the zoo, and surviving Georgetown. When we were finally sitting at dinner at 8:30 that night, which we also walked to, I had blisters on my arches, my calves felt tight, and my feet hurt. I knew the race was going to be tough, and I was glad I had opted for a focus on fun family time. The race brought us to DC, and I was glad to be running it, but the laughter and love we experienced was far more important. I’m not sure hanging around the hotel would have brought the same experience.

Photo Apr 05, 12 13 26 PM

By the time my alarm rang at 5:30 on Sunday morning, I was dreading the race. The crowds had begun to get the best of me. I was exhausted, and I was anxious about navigating a crowded metro complete with a transfer of trains. I tried to stop at the Starbucks next to our hotel, but they were not open on time, so I ate a dry bagel and walked to the metro station feeling pretty discouraged.

Photo Apr 06, 6 31 57 AM

My attitude changed when I ran into a small group of other racers who invited me to follow along with them. And one who was a DC native knew an easier way to get to the start of the race without a train transfer and with minimal walking. If you are taking the red line in from Capitol Hill, the Metro Center stop is perfect. A quick, less than ten minute walk, and you are at the start of the race!

Photo Apr 07, 2 05 53 PM

The crowds were immense, but I kept reminding myself that free and happy was my goal. Somehow I had ended up in the second to last corral, and because the porta-potty lines were so long, I had to squeeze into the very back. The 10:30 and 11:00 pacers were far ahead. I’m not sure what predicted finish time I put in, but I must have miscalculated somehow.

10:46

Mile one was thick. I didn’t want to weave, and it wasn’t even possible to do much of it. I was immediately thankful my goal was free and happy. I couldn’t have run any other way at this point given the corral I was in and being at the back. I turned the pace display off on my watch and focused on happy.

10:11
9:58
10:10
10:07

These four miles were perfect. The course was still crowded, but it had thinned out enough that passing wasn’t impossible, and I found myself targeting a runner ahead and quickly leaving them behind me. I stayed light and happy, and I was so thankful to be running in such a beautiful race. The Potomac River was always in sight, the trees weren’t completely blooming yet, but they were close, and the crowd support was fantastic. My legs felt tired and heavy from the weekend’s activities, but I was still running easy. My breathing wasn’t short or shallow at all, and it felt great to run by feel and ignore my Garmin.

11:00

From mile six to seven is where my body began to give in to fatigue. I could feel a nagging tightness in my right calf, and I knew what was coming. It was the same issue I had at the Shamrock. I walked the entire length of the water stop to help loosen it up and tried to stay focused on gratitude.

10:55
11:23

These two miles were the hardest. The course heads out towards Hains Point at mile six and then back through mile 9. The scenery along the water is beautiful, but the crowds are gone, and it was long and straight. I walked the length of another water stop, made myself stretch my calf two or three times along a curb when it would tighten too much causing my knee to hurt, and slowed my pace to keep running. It seemed to help keep things moving, and mentally I stayed positive. I was glad for a happy focus even if I was frustrated with the calf issue.

11:12
9:36 (last .14)

The last full mile turns back into town, the crowd was great, and I ran as hard as I could manage. The finish is at the very top of a hill, but I knew it was coming. I pushed as hard as I could until I crossed the finish line, and yes, I was smiling. My goal of a happy and free race was met.

Garmin: 1:47:01, 10.14 miles, 10:33 average
Clock: 1:47:01, 10 miles, 10:42 average

Looking back, I’m glad I chose to run free, and it was an easy run until the end when my calf and knee began to hurt. And there were so many times I wanted to stop and take pictures because the course is really that incredible, and there were moments when I almost wanted to stop and just be still. I didn’t want the race to end too quickly. Even with that, I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed, though. I want to push myself and see results on the clock. Running free and happy is fantastic, but I feel like I need a successful race time-wise.

Next up is Raleigh 70.3 in less than eight weeks. Maybe that will be the one!

Photo Apr 06, 9 52 36 AM

Perspective

Photo Mar 23, 11 34 22 AMYesterday I was scrolling through Training Peaks, the app my coach uses to schedule my workouts, and I saw that next to the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race for next Sunday was a note that Ironman 70.3 Raleigh was eight weeks away. And my coach, who already knows me so well, also left a comment that the note was intended to excite me and not freak me out.

My impulse was to freak out, and though I almost choked on my coffee, I wasn’t settling in that that anxious place. I’ve been anxious plenty of times about Raleigh. I’ve questioned whether it was a race I wanted to train for or if I really wanted to race it at all. I’ve allowed insecurities to creep in and mangle my confidence to shreds leaving me to gather up the pieces and, with the support of friends, move forward.

But suddenly, I’m realizing it doesn’t feel quite so huge and looming as training for Augusta did last year, and a friend reminded me that my mental space was occupied for that September race in January of last year. For nine months nothing else mattered but September 29, 2013. My world, my thoughts, my time revolved around that ultimate goal and all of the hours and days required to get there.

And maybe that’s what you need to do to get through something so colossal the first time, but looking back, I’m still not sure all of what I was trying to prove (or to whom). It almost felt like a race getting to the race, and I know I was trying to prove to myself that I had it in me to do something big. I know that confidence (or lack of it) was the driving force. And I don’t regret that part. I don’t regret the changes it brought, and the sense of accomplishment I have.

Photo Mar 26, 2 22 05 PMThis spring is about balance, and with it half ironman training is finally falling into a proportional place. It is no longer a defining label I cling to; it is now simply something I love to do. It is part of the whole of me instead of the only thing I held onto in an attempt to find a deeper understanding of myself and my perspective of the world. Because when we cling to one hyper-focused thing, we eliminate so many other factors. We eliminate friends and family; we eliminate other activities we love. I built a wall around myself using the race and training as an excuse, which allowed me to sink back into old protective habits and thought processes. I might have made great strides physically, but in many other ways, life was not about growth last year. It was stunted, and looking back, I wonder if I even felt alive. Did I ever exhale or did I live holding my breath simply hoping I’d find the end of that 70.3 mile course and cross the finish line? Sometimes I’m afraid to look for the answer to that question, but I’d imagine a glance at my Instagram feed from last year would clear it up.

That tension is in stark contrast to this year that has felt alive and pulses with a beating heart and deep, cleansing breaths. It has been organically filled with friends and date nights and girl nights and family time. What felt taxing or too involved or too scary last year has naturally fallen into place. My friend Kristy is focusing on finding breathing room this year, and that is the best way to describe what is happening. There is breathing room and it is not just seeping in around the edges of training and thinking about a race. It cushions me and generates a kinetic energy that flows and connects.

This breathing room gives me the space to add ironman training in to my life as part of the whole. Instead of being the sole thread that bound the days and weeks of last year, the most important keystone that anchored me to myself, it is now something less and more. It is one of the many variegated parts that are coming together to create the brilliant mosaic that is this life. It enhances who I am and provides me with a place to test myself and grow in many ways, but it it is not the only litmus test for growth.

Instead the litmus test for growth is the happy moments that exist alongside and in front of the hard training. It culminates in the date nights and girl nights, the social trail runs and chatty family bike rides. It is noticing that race day is about nine weeks away, choking a little on my coffee, and then smiling and moving on with my day.

Balance

Photo Mar 11, 3 00 28 PMThe other day I carried a heaviness. It sat squarely on my chest and refused to lift its weight even a little. I couldn’t exactly identify the root; I just knew it made me feel like a failure, like I was unworthy. It tried to force me into old habits, to hide, and instead I reached out to a friend and tried to make sense of the gloom.

I’ve tried to make the best of my Shamrock Half Marathon. I’ve tried to rationalize and understand the experience mile by mile. I’ve categorized lessons and filed them away to remember for next time. I’ve smiled through it all. Even through those last tough miles, even at the finish line, and definitely at the post-race party (after summoning the last bit of resolve I had not to escape to home with Jon and Rowan). I was brave and owned it. I acknowledged the accomplishment for what it is; I’ve nodded along with others who have lovingly reminded me that 13.1 miles is a long way, and I should be proud.

And I am proud. I am glad for the lessons. I know with every race comes valuable knowledge.

But that heaviness was inescapable. And once I started talking through it, I couldn’t stop the tears. I was angry at my performance. I was sad about the outcome. 2:19 was not a finish time I wanted to see even on my worst day, and yet, there it was. The first few days post-race were about owning that number and learning from it, but what I had not done was balance the ownership by processing my emotional response to it, so I could let that sadness go.

Today is the spring equinox, and we have been kindly greeted with sunny, warm weather after three days of cold wind and rain. Today I am encouraged by this:

Equinox means “equal” day and night. This is a time of balance in our life. Spring equinox represents fertility and the urge to create. We are poised with our desires and visions, though. We want them to be exactly what we love the most since we’ll reap the fruit of every seed we plant. It’s time to review and renew every part of our life, to redesign and empower our relationship to outer reality from a clear vision within. (source)

The coming of spring always brings with it a sense of newness, and for me this year it is about balancing emotions, balancing racing and training goals and outcomes, and balancing life and dreams. It is about boldly reaching for what I am afraid to grasp; it is about recentering and continuing to focus on what matters. It is about continuing to own this life, to live it authentically, and to remember:

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. -Proverb

Photo Mar 20, 11 26 10 AMSo I am committing to balance this spring:

  • To train hard for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh and balance it with recommitting to daily yoga with the Blissology project
  • To race with a free and happy heart and mind but stay focused on my goals
  • To stay true to my naturally logical mind but extend into more creative threads
  • To love with an open heart but find solitude when I need it
  • To focus on my Catholic faith during this Lenten period but remember to flavor it with my own spiritual practices

I know I am finally facing in the right direction. I know that walking into the post-race party, though maybe a little guarded initially, was the best decision I could have made. It broke  my shell open and pulled me into the support of many people I love and care for. I also know that crying tears for the race that I didn’t have was the balance I needed, too. This, not race strategies, not pacing, has been the greatest lesson of all from Sunday. It is where racing and life intersect, and that is always the most important place to find yourself.