Compass Checks

Now I see that the journey was never meant to lead to some new and improved version of me; that it has always been about coming home to who I already am. –Katrina Kenison

2017 was very much a year of recovery. In the few times I wrote in 2016, I struggled with feeling incredibly off balance. I stepped into 2017 hoping to recover some of that balance, to find myself again. I made strides in my business. I tried to regain the athlete I once was. But when October rolled around, I still felt less than whole and dove headfirst into old Facebook albums.

I’ve reflected on 2017 and felt slightly disappointed in the lack of progress I made, in feeling like I ended the year just as it began. I’m not sure we entirely know what we need even when we think we do. We wander blindly and might feel nudges towards one thing or another. We might suspect the direction we should take and try any number of routes only to find dead ends.

Sometimes I get frustrated with this constant circling back and wonder why I can’t be consistent, why I’ve been lost so many times. What I’ve found is that 2017 taught me there’s wisdom to be uncovered in my kind of compass-less travel. It’s easy to feel stuck when we look around and see that we’ve wandered and floated for so long. It’s easy to feel discouraged and almost abused by a lack of self-care and self-awareness. We can know intellectually that one small change can lead to another and another and become big changes as they ripple out, but those first steps back to ourselves can be terrifying. We sulk in fear and guilt and shame.

The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.
― Brené Brown

2018 is about showing up and re-learning how to thrive.

What began as a potentially emotionally dangerous delve into nostalgia in the fall has rippled into something incredibly positive and productive. That plummet was a powerful compass check and redirection: an about face right back to who I know I am and who I know I need to be.

When I saw that picture of the girl I once was, I immediately knew what I needed to rebuild my courage, to rebuild myself. A hesitantly sent email to my former triathlon coach in hopes that she would still coach me was all it took. A meeting and reunion lunch a week later, and I was back in my happy place. I was back on the path that has saved me again and again. I was careful not to jump in too quickly; I’ve learned to be very aware of my impulse to make a change just for the thrill of making a change. I’m too familiar with the thrill of signing up for big and scary races yet not being ready to commit to the actual process of training for a big and scary race. Training for triathlons has always provided so much; it has been life-saving and life-creating, and I wanted this return to triathlon to be for the right reasons- not to prove myself to anyone and not to patch a hole in my heart. We began training carefully and intentionally with the goal of a spring sprint and a summer olympic and beyond that, we’d just see what will happen. After two months of consistent, happy training and feeling more like myself than I have in years, I felt ready to commit to a big, scary goal. Ironman 70.3 Ohio is now officially on the calendar for July.


Bringing this blog back to what it always was, separating my business writing from my personal writing, my business life from my personal life established the breathing room to write rambling posts like this. Posts that are a little clunky and feel rusty to write after nearly three years of not much practice, posts that provide clarity and direction and lay the groundwork for an intentional life to begin again.


Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake. —Francis Bacon, Sr.

I’m so grateful for this journey, this noodling and indirect path I always take towards and away from myself again and again. With each compass check, with each reset, I’ve understood what’s worth holding onto, what I need to allow to fall away, and the responsibility I have to myself. I’ve learned so very much about trusting, living intentionally, and crafting a well-lived life.

The Timing of Dreams | Personal

Many years ago I remember telling people that I would love to know more about photography, but I didn’t really think I would be any good. I briefly considered taking a photography class somewhere, but something along the lines of fear and doubt held me back.

Three years ago, I had the quiet dream of completing a half-ironman. After successfully finishing several half-marathons and short triathlons over the years, I felt ready for a new challenge even if it terrified me. Speaking that dream aloud set into motion a path to follow, and suddenly signing up didn’t feel insurmountable. I found a coach, got a training plan, and lived and breathed triathlon for two solid years, completing three half-ironman races in twelve months.

Along that triathlon timeline, my photography dream began to take form. Maybe it was the courage and confidence conquering a seven hour, 70.3 mile race brings, maybe it was the hours of training each week, the early morning sunrise sessions on jello legs. But maybe it was just time.

I’m not certain of the timing of dreams. The doors and windows that open and close along a life’s path do not follow predictable routes, and the twists and turns and noodling seem to leave us no option but to surrender to the ride.

Seems to. But not really. Within the hazy timing of dreams and all of the curves and U-turns is an intricate tapestry, a singular thread making its way in time and space with us at the helm. We might not understand the path we are on or why a particular dream is too frightening to begin to face or even why one comes to fruition almost as soon as the words tumble from our lips. But within those moments we have the option to plot a course; we can set goals; we can grasp the dreams, put in the miles and cross the finish line. And most importantly, we can trust our life’s path.

Last October I signed up for a full ironman: 140.6 miles on a single day. This year, on October 10, 2015, I was supposed to be completing another dream– a huge, terrifying dream. One that brought tears of excitement and respect to my eyes. I knew there would be hours of training, but I believed I was ready to move towards that goal.

Life has had other plans. I’ve struggled with lower back issues since November. It waxes and wanes but still isn’t healed, and the thought of being on my bike for less than an hour, not to mention three or four or more right now is unimaginable. I haven’t been allowed to run for over a month. And while I’ve been through the injury cycle enough to not allow this to completely derail me, and while I’m trusting in where I am on my path, I’m still sad. I miss hot summer runs and long early morning bike rides. I miss racing and conquering goals. I miss that part of my identity even though I go to the gym and elliptical and strength train and swim.

But then I remember the noodling. Ironman isn’t on my life’s path this year, but my photography business is front and center. It’s time for that dream to grow, and I trust that my back issue is keeping me focused on that. I know I would not have had the time and energy to be in the middle of wedding season, second shooting more than fifteen times and having five of my own weddings, planning a successful styled shoot, taking on portrait sessions, and training fifteen or more hours a week. It just wouldn’t be feasible for my lifestyle, my personality, and my family goals.

This is the beauty of the timing of dreams, and I appreciate that I have grown enough to understand that seemingly random clockwork. I can embrace a season that is meant for this business because I see that I have been prepared for this dream over the years. In my mid-twenties when I would wonder and wish and whisper about photography, I simply wasn’t ready. Now I know that I am; the timing of my other dreams has brought me to this precipice of an amazing journey.

And I’m ready to run along this path (especially since no other running is happening right now). <3



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

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.



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.

training diary, v.1 (patience)

Last year, while I was training for Ironman 70.3 Augusta, I avoided writing posts that were more or less reflections on recent training days and weeks. I wrote about Augusta training, about open water fear, about races and training camps, but they were few and not so much about the training itself as about the experience, about the lessons learned. And that is good; the macro view of the journey and its applications to life are exactly why I love training so much. And writing through them, like all writing does, brought clarity.

But as I look back, I wish I had kept a more detailed log, a micro view of the journey. More of the day to day, the small frustrations that might not make for big moments but that still define the experience in small ways. These, I’ve learned, are important, too. These small moments gather together to make big moments more meaningful. Out of that realization training diaries was born. Each week or so, you’ll find this segment where I’ll pull together recent training and what it has offered by way of improvement, both physically and mentally.

To start, here is what is on my race calendar for 2014. It’s a busy year, but it will be fun!

February 15- VA is for Lovers 14k
March 15- Shamrock Half-Marathon
April 6- Cherry Blossom Ten Miler
May 3- Smith Mountain Like Sprint Triathlon
June 1- Ironman 70.3 Raleigh
September 28- Ironman 70.3 Augusta

There will probably be a mid-summer middle distance triathlon, too, but I haven’t decided which one yet. And I’m sure I’ll add a few late fall running races.

In November, I was on target to train for a sub-2 hour half marathon at the Shamrock. I was hoping to crush my ancient PR and tackle my fears of running fast. I’m learning that breathing hard does not mean I need to panic.

But life always has other plans. I’ve had knee problems, a random back issue, and then Christmas and New Years. And now it is mid-January, and we are still building back consistency and frequency to my running base.

Photo Jan 02, 2 15 27 PM

Patience. This recent training cycle is all about patience.

I’m ready to start speed work, to interval train, to tempo run, but every run that appears on my Training Peaks calendar right now is labeled “easy.” And we had to make the hard decision that Shamrock might not be a sub-2 race this year. Denise, my coach, still believes it will be a good day, but in order to hit that target, we needed to have been deep in focused speed work by now.


It’s hard to embrace this process. We’ve built weight training and Pilates into my schedule in hopes that the increased strength will keep my knees happy. And for the past three weeks, every run has happened without issue. Though, I may find it hard to go “easy.” My legs are ready for speed, my lungs aren’t quite in agreement yet, so I keep finding myself going out too quickly in the first mile or two and then having to throttle back in order to finish the run.


Instead of focusing on Shamrock as my goal running race this year, we’ve shifted our focus to the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, which I’m really excited about. My coach will actually be running the race. Many, many friends were able to get into the lottery. It’s beautiful there when the cherry blossoms are blossoming. And it’s a new race distance. I’ve never been in physical shape to do our local December ten miler. All great, great reasons to be looking forward to this race and what I can bring to it with focused training.

But Shamrock should have been my race last year, and a knee problem caused me to defer my entry. It should have been my race this year. Shamrock will always have my heart. It was my first half-marathon (and that first one in 2008 is still my PR). It is where I cried on the sidelines two years before that first race and decided to change my life.

But patience.

Photo Jan 15, 10 44 55 AM
1/15/14, with Rowan in the running stroller

I have to remember that running is not a race. It is a process: a step at a time, a run at a time, a slow evolution towards goals. One day, that sub 2 will be within reach. It might not be this year’s Shamrock. It might not be at the Shamrock at all. But it will come. With patience and perseverance, I know I will reach it.

And honestly? Sometimes it’s hard to not feel like a failure. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel left in the dust by my amazing friends who are zooming ahead of me right now. But graciously, I’ve been reminded again and again that pace does not define me. It does not begin to define amazing friendships I have forged through running. Or lifelong friendships that running has now become an integral part of.

So with patience, life and training continues on. And both will bring amazing things. Of that I am sure. And I am learning to be patient enough to wait and see.

Photo Jan 16, 10 05 13 AM

2013: A Year of Connectedness

Photo Jul 09, 11 13 48 AM

In the early days of this year, I chose connected as my focus word. It became such a powerful and driving force in everything I did. I carried it with me, close to my heart in so many ways: in my writing, in training, in parenting, in being married. In simply living. Looking back at my list from earlier this year, I know I fumbled from time to time; I wanted to hide away from being a presence in the world, but unlike resolutions that usually fade away by the first of February, this one little word eventually pulled me out of hiding.

Here’s what the year looked like for me. Because in order to move ahead, we should always celebrate where we have been. Thank you so much for reading! Happy New Year!

Connected to Marriage


My all time favorite and most commented on post about staying connected in marriage and understanding the evolutions of a marriage that is not so new anymore.

Lived In

Connected to Writing


This year was about finally claiming my place as a writer. I owe so much of this growth to Project: Underblog.

The Risk to Blossom

Connected to this Family

Photo Mar 31, 9 15 46 AM

Instead of holding fast to an ideal, to an image of how this blended family should work, I am finally becoming connected to what it actually is and what it is capable of being. And it is turning out to be much more amazing than what my mind created.

Perfectly Imperfect


Connected to Training

Photo Sep 08, 8 34 28 AM

Not surprisingly, training for Augusta 70.3 proved to be the most transformative experience of 2013. The long hours testing physical and mental limits, weren’t just useful on race day. It all merged to create a new imprint of how I view myself and life.




Connected to Motherhood


And through it all, through the writing, the training, the three reasons I always strive to be a better person.

Prayers of a Mother


Walking on Sunshine


The Beat


Letting Go

Beyond Comfort

Photo Nov 26, 7 14 48 AMMy fastest half marathon time stands stalwartly at 2:14:13. It was my very first half back in the days before Garmins were commonplace. When your Timex could give you an idea of your pace, but by the time you were several miles in, the mental space needed to calculate time and splits was just too taxing. I’ve run many half marathons since, and I’ve come within two minutes of breaking that bar set in 2008. Realistically, I’ve had injuries. I’ve had illnesses. I’ve refocused and shifted to half-ironman training. Still, it bothers me that I’ve been unable to move beyond that mark.

So when I sat across from Denise, my new coach at Red Hammer Racing, a few weeks ago, I almost whispered the dream of a sub two hour half marathon in March. To me, stuck in my 2:15 pace zone, it didn’t seem possible. I detailed my running base, the miles and time I’ve put in since 2006 and especially in the last two years. She looked at me and quite honestly told me that I was stuck.

And next she said, “It’s time for a breakthrough.” Without focused speed work and pace work, I’ve physically and mentally fallen into a comfort zone with running. My pace has incrementally improved over the last two years just from time on the road, but she believes with hard work over the next few months, my quiet and hesitant goal of just below 2:00 will quickly and confidently drop even lower.

This conversation made me realize that running or swimming fast frightens me. The shallow breathing, the pain- it all signals panic. So I’ll back down. Instead I’ll fall into an easy rhythm and stay there. Sometimes that easy rhythm is important and necessary in training and in racing. I had to find that level during IM Augusta 70.3. Based on my training, it was the key to my success there.

So now in the off season, endurance swims necessary for race prep are replaced with shorter, harder efforts. I had gotten comfortable covering almost two miles at a slow pace. My arms are now learning to turn over faster, my lungs to embrace the burn and shallow breaths during 100 meters of hard effort. It’s new territory, and it’s intimidating to be so uncomfortable in the water. Soon my weekly runs will incorporate speed work and some long runs will be at race pace. I know these will intimidate me, too. I know they will be hard.

But without this discomfort, we can never reach a new level of comfort.

And true to form, training mimics life. I search for comfort in life, too. When things are hard or challenging or frightening, I back down. I hide. I search for a soft blanket and hunker down on the couch. It provides a sense of relief, a deep breath and release, but usually I simmer there for too long. The comfort evaporates and is quickly replaced with dissatisfaction and loneliness and frustration. Like in Augusta, sometimes that easy rhythm and comfort is necessary for growth and happiness. And sometimes it is simply hiding in fear.

The boys and I have always read stories at bedtime. We began with picture and board books and have slowly graduated to long chapter books. As they are going through the children’s RCIA process at church, and we find ourselves more ingrained in our faith, I’ve wanted to reestablish a prayerful time as we close our days. Prayer on my own is still uncomfortable and talking about real, serious things with them, about faith, about God, about beliefs make me frantically search for my blanket. But like swimming and running , in order to grow in our faith together as a family, it is something I know I need to confront. We recently began a nightly devotional for kids. It is sometimes awkward: we just aren’t sure how to talk to each other in this new way, but with effort and courage, we will move beyond this burning mental panic. It’s already getting easier; we will reach a new level of comfort.

Photo Nov 19, 8 37 32 PM

While this has been a year of pushing boundaries in many ways, it has been done within the framework of comfort. It was necessary; I have been laying the groundwork for new and amazing things: as a family, as a mother, wife, and woman, and in running and triathlon. But now is the time to push those comfortable boundaries just a bit. To confront fears more squarely and swiftly. When we do that, we can grow more rapidly in the direction of our heart’s desire.