Category Archives: Conquering Fears

Don’t Stop at Pain

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I wish I could take credit for the title, but I really can’t. It came from someone I have a lot of respect for, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Hi.  Remember me?  I’m that girl who runs, and raises three kids and tries to do way too much at any given time like training for an Ironman while learning how to be a single mom.  And when that’s done I jump into writing a book and going to nursing school, while still trying to figure out how to be a single mom.  Oh, and I write a blog about all of it.

Anyway, it’s been a while, so I figured I owed you all an update on how things have been going.  And if I’m being honest, I didn’t want you to forget about your old pal RRG.

Last time I wrote, I was kicking off my second semester of nursing school and continuing a course to help me write my book.  Well, second semester proved to be a little more than I was ready for, so after a couple weeks, I decided to take a hiatus from the book and just focus on getting through school and keeping the kids alive.  It was the right choice.  The book will happen, just not right now. As Nancy, the book professor, agreed, any of my non-school time right now has to be devoted to my kids.

It was a busy summer since I was in school 4 days a week and the kids were home, but we managed to carve out some quality time at the pool and go on some outings. Some days that consisted of the boys dragging the kayaks down to the lake while I sat nearby with my nose in a book, or a computer.  Or on rainy days, the three of them would set up a board game at the dining room table and I was just a few steps away at my desk.  But I think everyone was pretty happy with how the summer played out.  And I really couldn’t be more proud of how my kiddos handled it.  A couple days a week I would have to go off to school while they were still sleeping, so I would leave a list of daily chores and without fail, the chores were done when I got home and everyone was ready to play.

We were all rewarded at the end of the summer with a few days at a cabin in the woods near Table Rock Lake.  Brian and I took all 4 kids to the cabin we stayed at in January, and I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Thank you for bringing us here!”  They loved it.  We enjoyed endless ping-pong, swam in the lake, hunted for buried treasure, made s’mores, laid on a blanket gazing at meteors, played board games, went sight-seeing, made good use of the hot tub despite a heat index of 100 the first day or so, belly laughed, snuggled and fought like family.  I can think of no better way to celebrate coming through second semester on the Dean’s List.  My 4.0 is no longer intact due to an A- in Pharmacology, but I am learning to accept that sometimes survival trumps perfection, because sometimes perfection is found elsewhere.

As of last Wednesday, we are all back in school.  It was a staggered start with Ally on the 16th beginning 8th grade at a new (her first ever public) school, me on the 22nd and the boys on the 31st.  This was the first time in several years that I got to see them all off to their first day of school.  You may remember how much it tore me up the last couple of years to not pack their lunches and prep their backpacks and take pictures before driving them off to school since they were with their dad.  So, to say that I was happy that everything aligned for that this year would be an understatement.

With my clinicals really kicking off this semester, it’s been a little stressful the way all of our schedules overlap, but as has been the case time and time again, I have great people in my life who step up to help where it’s needed and ease the burden.  For that, I am grateful.

So, here we are at the end of week two of third semester.  2 weeks.  10 days.  And I have already gone from the high of making the Dean’s List a few weeks ago, to seriously doubting how anyone ever allowed me into nursing school.  Third semester is kicking my butt.  I know, I know, I said that last semester too.  There is absolutely a learning curve that comes along with the beginning of a new semester, new classes, new instructors, new methods of teaching and testing.  So, I should probably go easy on myself for the fact that my first few test scores haven’t been as high as I would like.  Yes, I still passed, but let’s keep in mind that in nursing school anything less than 80% is failing.  I think we all know by now I am not a fan of falling short of the mark.

By midweek last week, I had hit a wall.  By Thursday night, when I really blew it on an online charting assignment and had to email my program director, hoping and praying that she would reset it, I ended up falling asleep after many tears wondering if I should just quit.  Give up.  Find something else to do.  I have never wanted to quit something so bad in my entire life as I did Thursday night.  After the countless miles I have run, learning how to swim to become a triathlete, completing an Ironman, nothing has ever driven me to the point of wanting to totally throw in the towel like nursing school did.  I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, completely defeated.  I tried to convince myself that if I could just get through the first few weeks of this semester, it would get better.  It had to.  But even after getting some sleep, I woke up for Friday morning clinicals still doubting this path I have chosen.

I was fighting back tears as I arrived at the nursing home Friday morning.  Friday actually went better than expected.  I am gaining confidence in the field, completing my assessments, building a rapport with some of my patients, bonding with my classmates.  This is my niche, this part I’ve got.  But my head is still swimming with the what if’s…What if I drop the ball on an assignment?  What if I fail this Med Surg  test on Tuesday?  What if I can’t get past this semester?  Should I just stop now, before it hurts even more? Before it gets even harder?

After clinicals, a few of us went to Todd’s Canteen right down the road from our facility.  We talked and ate and shared our struggles.  I felt better by the time I left, but the doubts in my head were still holding on.  I got home to see Ally step off the bus, and then headed over to pick the boys up from school.  It was an absolutely perfect September afternoon so the boys were asking to go to the park where several of their friends were going.  Despite my desire to go home and bury my head under a pillow, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to let them play.  So off to the park we went.  I did my best to be social with the other moms even though I didn’t really have the mental or emotional energy to.  My battery was low.  I knew I needed to recharge.  I wasn’t entirely sure that getting up to run 19 miles with the training team on Saturday morning would do it, but I knew I needed to give it a shot.

I was asleep Friday night before the kids were, but I knew they were all at least quiet and settled.  I crashed.  And I was up and out the door before the sun came up, hoping that a good long run would be the therapy my soul was seeking.

As a few hundred of us, clad in reflective gear and high tech watches and hydration items, gathered in the parking lot on the river front listening to coach Brandi give us a pre-run pep talk, she said, “Eventually you’re going to hit the dark place.  It’s probably going to happen between miles 11-18, but be sure, it WILL happen.  And you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do to bring yourself through it.  For some, it may be thinking about family, or the finish line, or…” and she listed off several other ideas.  All I could think is that my whole life feels like a dark place right now.  Nursing school-kicking my butt.  As much as anything else in my life ever has.  And we all know I’ve taken a lot of butt kicking.

But I know that I run because it reminds me that I can fight through the hard stuff.  I DON’T stop at the pain.  It’s not in my nature.  We did a short warm up, took a group pic and off we went, down the Katy trail.  As I ran with the group, I talked with friends, learning that several others hadn’t been able to make it to many of the group runs lately either and had not put in the miles they should.  That made me feel better about my own situation.  My last and longest run lately was a 15 mile march of torture a few weeks ago during the summer of endless humidity that had me walking as much as running during the back half of those long, painful miles.  So, I relaxed knowing that I was just going to do the best I could.  I actually felt pretty good for most of it.  At one point, around mile 8, I even reached what we call the runner’s high.  My endorphins were on fire and I felt like I could run forever.  I knew it wouldn’t hold out for the entire run, so I rode the wave of adrenaline while it lasted.  It was brief.  By mile 11.5 I was starting to drag.  By mile 13, I was really looking forward to the 14 mile finish line of the first loop and being back at the red Fleet Feet tent to eat some sports beans and take a quick break before heading out for the last 5 miles.  My body was tired, but my mind was already convinced (mostly) that I could do the whole 19 if I needed to.  I was running with Joan and I had one earbud in listening to my ipod when Eminem came on and I heard the same words I’ve heard a thousand times.  But for some reason, they stood out to me this time.  He said, “Yeah, it’s been a ride.  I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one.  Now some of you might still be in that place.  If you’re trying to get out, just follow me.  I’ll get you there.”

And that’s what did it.  I did have to go to “that place to get to this one”.  But I’m not stuck there anymore.  Yes the voices in my head still pop back in for a visit sometimes, but they don’t get to stay.  I had temporarily forgotten that I am a leader and I know my way out, but a big thanks to Marshall Mathers for reminding me.  At 14 miles when we got back to the tent, a couple people from our group were debating going out for the last 5.  I could have topped off my mileage at 19 yesterday, but I decided to call it at 14.  I recently decided to drop to the half marathon in October since its not my A-race and it’s the day after my birthday when I have a wedding to go to.  So, just…why?  I really don’t need my mileage to be up at 19 yet since my marathon isn’t until December 3, when I go to Memphis for St. Judes.  I know I could have gutted it out and made 19 miles happen, but I also knew if I had, it would have been me trying to prove something.  And I don’t have anything to prove.  At least not to anyone other than myself. I opted for making a good decision for me.  I’d gotten my 14 miles in, it felt good, and then I went home to spend the day with my people.

Between Friday and Saturday, I didn’t get nearly as much studying done as I had hoped, but I have Sunday, and in this case the Monday holiday, to get prepped for Med Surg.

Last night we went off to church and you can ask Ally or Brian who were sitting on either side of me, but I’m pretty certain my face lit up when Pastor Rob announced that our guest speaker was David Hawkins, a tall skinny dude from East St Louis who has spoken at our church before.  I absolutely love listening to him.  His message was about trials, and it couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.  “Don’t stop at pain,” he said and I felt like an arrow pierced right through my heart.  Yeah, that’s exactly what I was doing, I was stopping at pain.

David spoke about a basketball player named Tim Duncan who grew up on St. Croix as an Olympic hopeful in swimming, but when Hurricane Hugo destroyed the facility he trained at, he was forced to find a new sport.  With his 6’11” frame, someone suggested basketball, which turned out to be the right call.  Tim went on to be a force in the NBA.  You should go look him up on Wikipedia, I’ll still be here…

(Insert elevator music here)

He’s pretty amazing, right?  Well, the point David made was that “the storm lead him to his destiny.”  The STORM lead him to his DESTINY.  Just think, if I hadn’t been through the storm of the last several years, would I be where I am right now?  This is my destiny.  Being a nurse is my destiny.  And God has never let me go, not through any of it, and he won’t let me go now.

The other thing David said about pain, is that when you try to escape it, or try to push down pain, you also push down your hope, your faith, your dreams.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve done enough of that already.  I won’t let the pain stand in the way of what I’m doing.  I’ve never been one to quit because of pain before, so I’m sure not going to start now.  Don’t stop at pain.  Ride the highs, don’t stop at the pain. I can’t say it enough.  In fact, I might just go write that on a post it and slap it on every one of my nursing books.  And in my car.  And on my mirror.  Persevere, Lindsey, and Don’t stop at pain!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, Med Surg is calling.

Fleet Feet Training Team...Ready, Set, Go!

Fleet Feet Training Team…Ready, Set, Go!

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This is My 40

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A couple weeks ago I did a triathlon. It wasn’t a very long triathlon, and I wouldn’t exactly say I trained for it, but it was my first and only tri of 2015. A year ago I was preparing to go to Arizona to complete an Ironman, but this year a lot happened…school, sickness, recovery. Like I said, it wasn’t a very long tri (.75 swim, 18 bike, 5 run) but it included my only open water swim since Tempe Town Lake last November.

The NEMO tri (which stands for Northeast Missouri) was one that I had been contemplating for the better part of a year. You see, it’s the one and only tri my mom has ever done. She did it when she was my age, on the cusp of 40. And she did it with my dad on the course. He was the runner of his team, but he was there.

So, a couple Saturdays ago, Brian and I made the drive over to Columbia, then north to the small town we grew up in. I only lived there for 5 years of my youth, Brian’s family is still there. I’ve only been back a handful of times since I moved away in 1989 but the memories are still as fresh as ever.

We rolled into town a few minutes before the athlete meeting at the Thompson Center was supposed to start, but I figured I could get checked in and get my biked checked before. As we approached the building, that from the outside looked exactly the same as it had 26 years ago, the memories started flooding back. Memories of my first ever mile race that ended in that parking lot, I ran 7 minutes flat. What I would give to still be able to do that!

We walked through the doors, the set up had changed, but as we walked toward the stairs, I stopped suddenly and pointed to the exact spot where my dad bought me a Mickey Mantle baseball card well over half my life ago.

We walked down stairs and into the main hallway. To the right were the racketball courts where my parents were playing wally-ball the day my brother fell off the jungle gym in our back yard and I had to call them to come home so he could get stitches over his eye. Eventually, we walked into the big gym, which didn’t seem nearly as huge as I remembered, but I had spent hours shooting baskets as a pre-teen.

I signed my waiver and got my packet, which we took to the car in exchange for my bike and helmet. We went back to the gym, got my stickered that it was approved for racing before returning it to the rack on the car. We still had a few minutes before the meeting, so we grabbed a seat and watched the other athletes shuffling in.

Brian said, “That guy has been the director here forever.” I turned and looked to see who he was talking about. And a name I hadn’t said in almost 3 decades, instantly rolled off my tongue. “Dan Martin”, a person who was instrumental in encouraging my love of running at the ripe old age of 9. I guarantee he is the one who handed my first trophy at my first 5k all those years ago.

We sat there looking around and I’m quite sure Brian could tell I was trying to hold the tears at bay as I said, “I didn’t expect it to be this emotional…”

We sat through the meeting and waited to say a quick hello to Dan, who had been trying to figure out why I looked so familiar. “You look exactly like your mom the last time I saw her!” It’s true, people say it all the time. Even our voices are the same. Even my dad couldn’t tell us apart on the phone.

Before we headed to Brian’s parents’ house we drove out to Thousand Hills State Park so I could preview the course a bit. I remembered the huge hill I was going to have to climb immediately after mounting the bike, but I wanted to see if my memory was correct. As we pulled into the park, we came to the playground. Some of the equipment was different, but them memories were still there. We parked and found the little trail that leads to the “cave”. We walked down the hill and found it. I loved that cave as a kid. I used to walk down there and imagine myself an explorer, like I was the first one who found it. I’m sure every other kid who grew up there did the exact same thing. B and I read the names that were written all over the rocks, looking for people we knew. Then we made our way back up the hill to the car and drove over to the transition area/finish that was already set up in anticipation of the next morning.

Yes, that hill was pretty much exactly what I remembered. It was a doozy. All of the hills were. I felt my nerves flare up in my stomach a little, but I told myself not to worry about it until tomorrow.

We left the park and drove past where Leo’s roller rink had been, I spent so many Friday nights there skating to the sounds of Madonna and Phil Collins. My first kiss was there in the coat area. We used to make “suicides” mixing all the different flavors from the soda machine. And we ate giant dill pickles. I had my own skates that I carried in a purple skate case, with a care bear keychain.

We spent the evening with Brian’s family. I had promised Silas I would take pictures of the baby cows for him. We grilled and ate chicken and pork chops. Brian pulled out some old school projects and we went through them seeing who all I remembered from his school days before I came to Kirksville Upper Elementary. Which has since been renamed Ray Miller Upper Elementary, for my principal and outstanding basketball coach. Brian’s sister came over with her kiddos for a while. We turned on the Michigan State football game and one by one everyone started turning in for the night. I organized my race gear and I managed to stay up long enough to see my Spartans win it against Oregon.

Then I climbed into bed and turned out the light in the room where Brian had slept as a kid. Funny, if you had told me then where I would be now, I don’t really know what I would have thought.

The alarm went off at 5:25 am. But I had already been awake off and on for a while. I rolled out of bed and started getting ready. Brian poured me some coffee in the kitchen. I made a peanut butter sandwich and grabbed a banana. We loaded up the car and by 6am we were on our way to the course. It was in the 50’s, but the air didn’t feel as cool as I expected. We got to the park, I got my body markings, set up my bike and the rest of my gear in transition. I debated about whether or not to wear my wetsuit and ultimately decided against it, as I always do, but second guessed my decision until I didn’t have a choice anymore.

Brian and I were sitting in the car to stay warm and relax since I still had plenty of time until I had to get on the shuttle to the swim start. He could tell I was nervous. He put a hand to my cheek.

I’ve done an Ironman. Why in the world am I so nervous about THIS?!

The truth is, I was scared. I was scared of how much it would hurt, of how hard that hill would be. I was scared of being weak, of overdoing it and ending up in the hospital again. I was scared of not honoring my memories of this place well.

I knew there were only 3 people in my age group, so all I had to do was finish and I was pretty much guaranteed a spot on the podium. But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to earn it.

Eventually it was time to go. I had been talking to the girls who were set up in transition next to me, and I decided to follow them to the shuttle. I gave B a quick kiss and said I would see him after the swim. Turns out one of the girls I was talking to, is the wife of an old friend of Brian’s.

I rode the shuttle over to the beach. I found a few other non-wetsuit-wearers and hung around them. Turns out, one of those guys is a friend of Brian’s sister who she had mentioned the night before. I took it as a good omen that I was meeting people I had some sort of connection to. It calmed me.

I waded into the water. The sun was up now and the air was hovering around 60 degrees, but the water was 74 so it felt like getting into a bath. I acclimated to the water. They shot the cannon sending off the individual men. Then they gave the rest of us a countdown, and 3 minutes later we were underway.

I knew once I got going some of the anxiety would dissipate. It did. I’m still not a fast swimmer, but this time I felt like a swimmer. I had predicted 30 minutes for myself. I just kept breathing when I needed to and making my way from one buoy to the next. At one point, I took a breath and I could see a row of cabins on the hill. The same cabins that the whole Jacobs side had rented for a week one summer. Memories flooding back. Keep breathing, keep swimming. And finally, Dan helped me out of the water in almost exactly 30 minutes. I ran towards T1, waved to Brian, shoved half a banana in my mouth and the other half in my pocket, then got on my bike to tackle that hill. I actually passed a couple people on my way up. I don’t know why I stress about hills, if there is one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m a climber. I rode past the playground and thought about that cave. I thought about how far I’ve come since my younger days there. And I kept peddling.

We rode out of the park and at the 9 mile mark, we turned around and rode back. I continued to pass people, mostly on the uphills. When we got back into the park, I had to go down that massive hill. I think I’m more afraid of going down than up. Steve in particular likes to tease me about how I ride my brakes going down steep hills. When I got to the bottom, I saw B as I passed. I said hi, he looked surprised to see me there already. I had finished the bike about 10 minutes faster than I anticipated.

I racked my bike, ditched my helmet, changed shoes and headed out for the run. The 2.5 miles out were almost entirely uphill. I knew I had to keep my heart rate under control. I ran past those cabins again and then onto a brand new paved path through the woods. It was tough, but beautiful. Finally after the turn around, there was one more short up hill and then the rest of the way was pretty much downhill to the finish. I was almost done. I had done a good job of finding balance between pushing myself hard, but not so hard I ended up back in a hospital bed. Just before I got to the finish I saw B and made silly faces for the camera. Then I cruised into the finish and it was done. I felt good. I felt really good. I kept saying I was surprised at how good I felt.  I was tired, but not totally wrecked.

I had hoped to finish in under 2:45. I was surprised to learn that I finished in 2:24 and change, and earned myself 2nd place for females 40-44. During awards, Dan called me up and presented me with a NEMO pint glass along with the others. Memories of years before at the forefront of my mind.

“Lindsey, you’ve done this race before, right?” He said into the microphone.

“Nope. My mom did. 25 years ago.”

And she earned a 2nd place age group finish as well. Keeping it in the family.

It was a great race. Everything went exactly as you would hope. The weather was perfect. No flat tires. It was just an all-around great day.

I had a tough time coming back to reality in the Lou after that trip to the ‘Ville. I found myself wanting to go back to Kirksville, 1985, when life was just being a 10 year old kid, riding bikes, building forts, trading baseball cards and playing kickball. But I finally had a break through the other day when I dusted off my Mizunos and hit the trails in Castlewood, for the first time since Berryman. Without even realizing that I hadn’t dumped the sand out of them since the race that made me so sick, I had been avoiding the woods ever since that day in May.

But this is how I know that I did myself proud at NEMO. I was scared, but the only way I would really have been weak or not honored my memories well, is if I had let the fear stop me from getting out there and trying. We fall down, we get banged up.  Life isn’t always kickball and baseball cards, but I will take advantage of those opportunities as they come, even if I get a scraped knee and need a Band-Aid once in a while. And, well, if this is what 40 looks like, then I’m in for a pretty good ride.

Coming into the finish of my 7min/mile

Coming into the finish of my 7min/mile

 

 

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A New Chapter

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Yesterday was National Running Day.  Now, to someone like me, who is used to running most days, you wouldn’t think that would be very significant, other than the opportunity to celebrate what I love.  But yesterday was different.  Having not run at all in almost 3 weeks since a marathon, followed by a lengthy stay at the Mercy spa, it was definitely something to embrace.

This recovery process has been longer and slower than I expected which leaves me feeling a little frustrated.  I’d say I’m back to about 85-90%.  I’m feeling mostly like myself again.  But that last 10-15% is the fatigue that is hanging on, reminding me to let my body rest.  I’m falling asleep a lot earlier than usual, frequently taking mid-day naps when time allows, and even simple things, like a few hours at school, a short shift at work or making dinner, can leave me feeling wiped out.

I’m taking things as easy as I can, ordering pizza when necessary and not scheduling any activities that would be considered “over doing it”.  But yesterday, I needed to make a comeback.  It wasn’t much, but it was something.

After I dropped Ethan off at a friend’s house so they could go off to the Cardinals game, Silas and I were hanging out on the back porch while Ally was upstairs in her room packing for their trip to Chicago this weekend with their dad.  On the way home from dropping Ethan, Silas had spotted a garage sale and since he had $5 burning a hole in his pocket, he insisted we stop.  He found a table hockey game, some Legos (like we really need MORE???) and a “decorate your own football”.  So we were sitting out on the porch, painting a football…arts and crafts mixed with athletics, perfect.

I said, “Hey Silas, it’s National Running Day.  Want to go around the lake with me?”

“Yes, ok.  Can I ride my scooter?”

While this seemed mildly like defeating the purpose to me, I agreed since I think the bigger idea is really just about getting out and doing something active.  Also, since Silas struggles with asthma, running can be tough for him.

So I changed into running clothes, Silas grabbed his scooter and we went down to the backyard where we got on the path.

“I’m going to beat you!” Silas teased. I smiled.

Yes, I’m sure you will today, Little Buddy.

And we were off.  Slowly.  At first, running felt almost foreign.  I wasn’t sure how fast or slow to even go.  But after a few steps, just like riding a bike, it came back.  About a tenth of a mile from the house, we came to the bridge.  We stopped just before and I pointed out some baby ducks near the water’s edge.  As we crossed the bridge, I noticed something perched on a log.  As we got around to the other side, Silas and I stopped to check it out.  Upon inspection, we realized it was a bird, but one we didn’t recognize.

“We can look it up in one of Ethan’s bird books when we get home,” Silas said as he took off again.

But we stopped almost immediately when we saw several turtles sunning themselves, it looked like a mom and 2 kids.  And some were swimming nearby.  We, of course, had to count them all.

Then we continued on our way.  But the rest of the journey was much like that, go and stop.  We saw more baby ducks and a really big turtle.  We got to the lighthouse and headed up the hill.  We rounded the corner at the clubhouse and started back down the hill.

“Can we go to the dock?” Silas asked.

“Sure.”

Just before we got there, Silas called me back to look at something.  “What is it?” he asked.

“It’s a dead squirrel.  You can look but don’t touch it.” I said firmly, knowing how his mind works.

And then Silas ditched his scooter on the grass and walked out onto the dock.  We watched a tiny little turtle scoot off a log and plop into the water.  We watched a mama duck and her babies swim by.  We were enjoying being out on the dock.  Just a few months ago, it wasn’t even floating.  You see, less than a year after I moved into this house, all the water from the lake drained into the Missouri caverns below.  It had happened a couple times before, but they thought the problem had been remedied.  Unfortunately though, I’ve spent the better part of my 3 years here, staring at a mud pit, rather than the pretty lake I saw when I moved in.  It’s good to have our scenery back.

Silas grabbed his scooter and I walked up the hill to get back on the path.  “Let’s take the short cut!” Silas yelled as he zipped past me down the hill.

“Which way is the short cut?” I asked confused since there is only one path.

He used the driveway.  I guess that’s the short cut?

We continued on, at one point waiting for the geese to clear the path so we could go by.  Past a barking puppy.  More baby ducks.  And back around to the other side, our side, of the lake.  And then we were home.

I stopped my Garmin. (Yes, of course I wore it.)  We had gone not quite a mile and a half, averaging about an 11:30/mile pace.  For someone who is used to running 26 at an 8:30-45 minute pace that could seem less than successful.  But the truth is it didn’t matter.  I ran.  It felt good.  It was slow, but I took it all in.  I was with my little buddy.  And if that isn’t what National Running Day is all about then I don’t know what is.

That little 1.5 mile run was so symbolic of life, the cycles we go through.  Sometimes we run, sometimes we walk, sometimes we have to stop and catch our breath.  Sometimes the scenery is beautiful, sometimes we are curious and need to take a closer look, sometimes we see things that we really didn’t want to see.  Sometimes it comes easy, and sometimes it’s a world of frustration. But eventually, it all comes back around.

There is another cycle in my life that is coming to a close.  And while I know that it’s a really good thing for me, it’s still hard and I have VERY mixed emotions about it.

Exactly 4 years ago this week, I walked into Fleet Feet in Chesterfield valley, for my very first shift.  I was excited about what might lie ahead, but I was nervous about everything I had to learn.  I immediately felt right at home with great people, who have become amazing friends, like Faith, Pam and Jess, who I’m pretty sure were all there that first day.

When I look back on everything that Fleet Feet St. Louis has been to me over the past four years, it is so much more than “just a job”.  Fleet Feet gave me purpose at a time that I needed something to hold on to, and it reignited my passion for life.  Fleet Feet has given me the opportunity to learn and grow, and has reestablished my confidence to a level I never expected.  After almost 10 years as a stay at home mom, Fleet Feet gave me a chance.  When I moved from Chesterfield to help get the Town and Country store in SBR up and running, it was both a learning experience and what felt like a reward for my efforts.  Most importantly though, Fleet Feet has given me a community.  The relationships that I’ve formed are extraordinary.  Friends who are like family.

And that is what makes it so hard to say goodbye.

At the end of June, my time at Fleet Feet will come to an end.  I’m going to spend some time this summer enjoying my kiddos and my life, before school really kicks into gear in August.  The last couple months have been tough being a hero…school, work, kids, marathons.  I’ve proven I CAN do it all, but in doing so, I ran myself right into the hospital.  It’s time to take a step back and remember what matters.

It’s time to refocus and reestablish some balance.  Change is hard.  But it’s time to let go…

This part of my journey is complete, but I’m excited to see where the next 4 years go.  It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one.  And while I’m saying goodbye, I’m not going far.  You’ll all still be able to find me on the streets and trails and race courses of the Lou.  I’ll be easy to spot.  I’ll be the one wearing Fleet Feet red.

National Running Day with Silas

National Running Day with Silas

 

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Letting Go of the Martyr Thing…

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Before I start, I want to give a quick update on Katherine.  Thank you so much for all the prayers, she is doing really well.  She was awake about a day after I posted and was communicating through writing while she was still intubated.  Last I heard, the breathing tube was removed and she was resting up in preparation for surgery scheduled for today to repair her facial fractures.  She still has an intensive recovery ahead of her, but the worst is behind us. She proved that she is the Superwoman we all believed her to be!
Something cool that happened from my last post was that my friend Leslie reached out because she had just met Katherine a couple weeks ago.  Katherine had posted looking for a photographer in Chicago and I gave her Leslie’s name.  Leslie had the pleasure of meeting Katherine’s entire family on the River front for photos.  Leslie thanked me for bringing my world’s together.  I always say I love small world stories, but my world is small because I make it that way.  I love bringing people together.  It’s who I am.
Now I’ll tell you a story…
Today I went out for a nice, little 16 mile run.  Ok, so most people wouldn’t put little in the same sentence as running 16 miles.  Fair enough.  I did the same thing I’ve done the past couple Thursdays, which has become my one “free day” during the week.  I don’t have to go to school on Thursdays and if I work it isn’t until later in the day.  So I’ve been dropping the kids at school and taking advantage of my solitude out in the woods.
This morning a couple ladies asked me if I was a “real ultra runner”.
“Are you an ultra runner? Because you look like an ultra runner.”
“I’ve done AN ultra”, I informed them.  “And I’m getting ready to run Berryman next weekend.”
“Oh, doesn’t that have one that’s like 50 miles?”
“Yes, but I’m just doing the marathon.”
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I heard how ridiculous it sounded.  “Just a marathon”.
At what point did we become a society that belittles our accomplishments?  I realize that the running community is known for this, but it happens a great deal in our everyday lives too.
I’m “just” a stay at home mom.  I’m “just” an associate.  I’m “just” a (fill in the blank).
I was thinking about this while I ran today.  And let’s face it, even though I “just” ran 16 miles, I was out there for the better part of the morning.  So I thought about several of the events of the past week.  Such as…
Last Thursday morning when I arrived at the Al Foster trail head, I pulled into the parking lot “just” ahead of my friend Heather.  (See what I did there?  Ok, sorry, I’ll stop.  For now.)  Heather was meeting a girlfriend to go for a run.  They invited me to join them, but I didn’t want my pace to slow them down.  And I was in need of zoning out, so I sent them on ahead.  But we chatted in the parking lot for a bit.  Heather gave me some of the details about Katherine’s accident that I hadn’t gotten.  We were all still pretty shaken by the whole thing.
Before Heather and her friend left, Heather said something that stuck with me this week.  She said there was a song that she always associates with me when she hears it on the radio.  I couldn’t place the song she meant, but I appreciated the sentiment.  It was something about a fight song.  I planned to look it up later.
That was Thursday, the weekend was a whirlwind!  Friday I dropped the kids at our friends house to ride to school, headed off to school myself, straight to work from there and finally arrived home in time to put Silas to bed Friday night, so I could study for a bit.
Saturday was off to the races early.  I dropped Ally at her dad’s for coverage of her day’s activities (Cue:severe mommy guilt for missing her Gymnastics Showcase).  Then we had Ethan’s baseball pictures at 9am and game at 10am.  The game went into extra innings, because I wasn’t stressed enough about the schedule, and we came screeching into the garage just minutes before Ethan’s friends arrived for his birthday party.  Fortunately my beau and his little dude were already there, just in case.  Brian and I filled canteens for all the boys, loaded everyone into the cars and headed off to Shaw Nature Reserve for an afternoon of hiking and exploring.  After everyone was thoroughly exhausted, we headed home for parents to pick up their boys. I ordered pizza while our boys played Wii.  Then B and I collapsed on the couch for a bit.  I may even have dozed briefly.  After B and G left, and my boys were settled for the night, and Ally was retrieved from her cousin’s house, I sat down for another study session until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.
Sunday morning we were all pretty quiet.  B and G were back in time to go church with all of us. We caravan-ed over to the Crossing and I passed my kiddos off to their dad after service.  Then I raced home to change clothes and grab food before going to work for the day.  After work, I got in a short run and a shower and I was studying (while cooking salmon and drinking a glass of wine) when B showed up for dinner.  Neither one of us had enough energy to do anything more than sit on the couch.
Monday morning I was up with the sun for one last study session before heading off to school to take another exam.  I tanked this one.  And by tanked I mean it brought my average down to a 94%.  I’ll survive to see another day.  But my competitive nature is flaring.  During the 3 hours of lecture that followed, I found my mind wandering more than usual.  And at 1:00 when I finally sat down on my counselor’s mini-couch (I won’t say love seat, that’s a stupid name for a piece of furniture, especially in a therapist’s office), I promptly burst into tears.
“I’m so tired!”  I sobbed.
CRASH!  That was the the sound of my martyrdom crashing head first into a solid, cinder block wall.
We talked about a lot in our hour, but that’s covered under patient confidentiality so I can’t tell you the details.  I can, however, tell you that a big part of it had to do with me taking care of…me.
Yes, it’s true.  I have this problem with being a martyr.  I try to be all things to all people.  I make sure everyone is cared for.  And while I stepped out on my own a few years ago as a single woman, in an effort to take care of me, my needs, my heart, I still find myself crawl back into the role of martyr on occasion. It’s a sneaky, subtle process.  And then eventually I hit a breaking point which brings me to the realization that I’m back.
Last night I was out to pick up a couple things, gifts for Ally’s teachers and supplies for Silas’ talent show skit.  He’s going to be Silas the Mad Scientist and do “experiments” with Pepsi and Mentos.  I hope someone will take a video since I will be at my own last day of class that day.  I walked into Bread Co to get some gift cards for the teachers and I saw, none other than, Amy Marxkors.  I find it hilarious that this girl and I can try and try and try to make plans, but they always fall through.  And then randomly we will run into each other multiple times in a week.  I saw her twice last week at the end of my 13 mile run on Al Foster.
I gave her a quick run down of what’s going on with me and found out about some cool new projects she is working on.  And then, like a flash, she was gone.  Off to deliver a strawberry smoothie to the little girl she was tutoring.  But the thing that is so cool about my random Marxkors sightings, is that they may be brief, but they are always profound.  I texted her later to say how glad I was to see her and that I knew it was supernatural.  Her text back was on point…”Oh, I’m so glad! It is crazy how we run into each other at just the right time.  Be strong and deny the “martyr” thing.  That’s just a lie the devil uses to steal our lives.  God talks about quiet and stillness.  You need that.  Don’t sacrifice that.”
So, today as I enjoyed my quiet and stillness…maybe not so much physical stillness as just letting my brain be still, I heard Him softly telling me, “It’s ok. You do an amazing job of taking care of everyone, but it’s ok to take care of yourself.  You are my child, too. Let go of the martyr thing…”
While a part of me wants to jump up and down and scream, “WooHoo!”, there is an equal part of me that isn’t really sure what letting go looks like.  Change is scary.  It’s “just” hard.  But’s it’s also a necessary part of growth.
I have proven I’m a fighter.  I have proven I can do any darn thing I set my mind to.  I have proven I can be a full time mom, go to school, work and keep everything running like a well oiled machine.  But who am I trying to prove any of this to?  Now it’s time for me to prove that the fighter in me can fight the urge to be the martyr. Because I am so much more than “just” a martyr.  I can let go. I can make waves no matter what I’m doing. Or not doing. Starting now I reclaim my life.  I reclaim me.
And Heather’s song is still just as appropriate.  Take a listen…
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Precious and Terrifying

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Perhaps it’s because I turn 39 in just a few short hours, but I have been feeling somewhat reflective today.

This morning, my kids were at my door bright and early. Ally had requested to come to my house before school so I could help do her hair for picture day.  The boys ran inside to grab more breakfast while Ally got the curling iron heated up.  During the backpack handoff, their dad and I came to an agreement on ordering a picture package that we can just split rather than ordering two as we have done in the past.  Dare I say we are making progress?

A whirlwind 20 minutes later we were in the car on our way to school and while we sat at the world’s longest stoplight, I looked over at my daughter as she told a story about horses. “Who is this kid?” I thought.  How am I possibly old enough to be her mom?  She’s so grown up.

When I pulled into the drop off circle, Ally and Ethan jumped out fairly quickly. Silas, as usual, was the pokey one.  He is also the only one who will still give me a kiss goodbye upon request.  Sadly, I don’t know how much longer he’ll do that.

I went about my morning. A trip to the post office to mail some bills (yes, I still do that even though the majority of the world does it online) followed by a visit to Dr. Brian to get me ready for my race on Sunday.  A stop at the bank, and the gas station and finally Starbucks.

By the time I got to the gym, it was closing in on noon. I ran into Maria at the door.  Even though I half expected to see her, it’s still funny to randomly run into a friend from 30 years ago.  I did a warm up on the elliptical before changing into my swimsuit and heading to the pool.  I had the pool to myself at first, which is pretty typical.  It’s funny, a couple weeks ago when I signed up at Gold’s, it occurred to me that it was the first time I have ever in my life signed up for a gym membership by my own decision and completely on my own dime.  Weird.  Even weirder still?  That the very first thing I did after signing the papers was go jump in the pool.  I’ve used the pool more than any other part of the facility so far.  So when I say I usually have the pool to myself, I mean all 5 times I’ve been in it.

But today, interestingly enough, the pool was the happening place to be. And before I tell this story, let me offer 2 things.  1.  I am in absolutely no position to make fun of anyone’s abilities, so please don’t take this as such.  And 2. I don’t claim to be an expert at much of anything, least of all swimming.

So, anyway, after about 10 minutes, I noticed a fellow in the far lane from me. My initial reaction whenever I see anyone else in the pool is…Oh boy, I hope they don’t notice how slow I am.  But as I paused to fix a leak in my goggles, I noticed that the fella in the far lane didn’t even have goggles.  He was barely putting his face in the water.  That was the first thing Coach Andy told me to do 2 years ago.  The second was “relax your shoulders”.  “Far Lane” looked just as tense as I had initially.  Which is probably why a guy at Lifetime had suggested I take some lessons a couple years ago.  Granted he was right, but no one likes unsolicited advice.  I never showed my face (or any other part of me) in that pool ever again.  I think “Far Lane” did 4 lengths.  Two full laps in the pool, I calculated as I passed him with ease, and then he resigned.  Yeah, I remember those days of only being able to swim a couple laps and then giving up out of exhaustion or frustration.  Or both. No judgment from me, Far Lane.

Again, I had the pool to myself. And then a moment later, a girl in a Tyr two-piece suit came in and set her towel and water bottle near the end of the pool, taking the place of Far Lane.  She put on her swim cap and goggles and looked the part of a real swimmer.  Again I thought, “Please don’t notice how painfully slow I am…”

I continued my swim, paying no mind to how many laps I was doing today. I just wanted to do a consistent swim for 30 minutes without using the end of the pool to take a break or push off toward the other end.  I don’t have the slightest idea how to do flip turns, but as a triathlete I don’t really need to.  Basically, I just get to the end of the blue line on the bottom of the pool and then change my stroke to get turned around going in the other direction.  We’ll call that the “triathlete’s adaptation of open water swim in a pool”.  Anyway, I was just doing my thing, watching the clock, trying not to be obvious that I was trying to see “Looks the part” through the peripheral view of my goggles.  Wait…did I just pass her?  No, I had to be imagining that.  And besides, even if I did, she’s probably still doing a warm up.  But several minutes went by and I realized that I was doing almost 2 lengths to her 1.  Ok, so it is entirely possible that my competitive juices kicked in and I began trying to see how much faster I could swim than her.  But can you blame me?  I’m never faster than anyone in the pool!  As I climbed out of the pool, I patted myself on the back for the fact that now I can go knock out a 30 or 45 minute or hour long swim, my biggest concern being boredom.  Not breathing, not exhausted shoulders, not wondering whether or not I can do it.  Just simply I don’t want to stare at that blue line while counting my strokes any longer.  In a race setting, it’s relentless forward progress toward a tangible finish line.  Training in the pool is relentless forward progress toward the wall, and then back, over and over again.  But it trains your mind to keep going, even when you really, really, REALLY don’t want to.

As I wrapped my towel around me, I noticed that “Looks the part” didn’t so much cut through the water like a pro, but sort of wound through the water more like a snake. Since I don’t know that much about swimming technique, I won’t even try to pretend that I could coach her into a more efficient stroke.  I just know that she probably could glide through the water more effectively if she didn’t have the limp noodle thing going on.  But, who am I to evaluate?

So, whoever sent me an early birthday gift of not one, but TWO slower swimmers than myself today, Thank you! But in seriousness, that whole experience again made me take note of how far I’ve come.  3 years ago I had no desire to even attempt a triathlon, even less desire to go the distance of an Ironman.  And why was that?  One thing: the great unknown.  I knew nothing about swimming.  Or racing a bike.  And especially not putting 3 sports together.  But at that same time, as I was facing so many other unknowns, I decided to give it a Go.

I always say the hardest part about running up hill is that you only see how far you have left to go, and not how far you’ve come. But today reminded me to turn around every once in a while and be proud of how far I’ve come.

Right now, as I type this, my kids are asleep upstairs after a crazy evening of homework, dinner, Tae Kwon Do, Gymnastics and buying crickets for the lizard. There is wrapping paper strewn about Ally’s bedroom floor.  There is a poster board and markers all over the dining room table, even though I’m not supposed to look in there.  And when I put Silas to bed tonight, he made me set an alarm for the morning so that he and Ally can get up to do “birthday things”.  It’s precious and terrifying at the same time.  But that pretty accurately describes my life.  Precious and terrifying.  After the “birthday things”, I will spend the day doing things I love.  I will get my first pumpkin spice latte of the season.  It’s tradition.  And I will go to lunch with my girlfriends.  And spend time with my kids.  And tomorrow evening my beau is making dinner for me.  But after I drop the kids at school, I will go for my annual reflection run.

I will look back over the past 39 years and I acknowledge how blessed I am to be standing right here right now, right where I am. I’ll looking back at the valleys I’ve climbed out of and know that God willing, I’ve got a whole lot more climbing to do.  I don’t know what hills are still ahead of me, but I know that I’m courageous and strong enough to get over them. I’ll turn around once in a while to remember where I’m coming from. And it will be worth it.  Because as challenging as it is to get there, the view from the top is always magnificent.  My life is not perfect, but it’s mine. My journey. Relentless forward progress into the unknown. Precious and terrifying.

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Ready As I’ll Ever Be

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It’s been said that if you wait until you’re ready to do something, you’ll never do it, because you’ll never actually feel ready.  I signed up for Racine 70.3 back in the fall, on a strangley beautiful November night, when I made my friend/training partner/moral support, Steve, hold my hand as I hit submit to register.  At that point, I had plenty of time, MONTHS, to get ready for the big day.  Now I have a week.  One week from right now I will have earned that 70.3 sticker…or not.  The future is unknown.

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I started down a path of major unknowns.  I assure you I did not feel ready for any of those unknowns.  And just about that same time, Farrell proposed the idea of a triathlon.  Eh, why not?  I was already about to learn a whole lot about myself and what I’m capable of, so why not shift the focus off that for a bit and learn some other new skills?  She signed up for an Ironman, the least I could do was sign up for a mini-tri and let her coach me through it.  But, because I don’t ever ease into things slowly, I jumped right in with both feet.  A sprint?  Why would I do that?  That ends with a 5k, which I can do backwards, in my sleep.  I run marathons for crying out loud!  So, I signed up for the Lake St. Louis Olympic distance Triathlon.  .9 mile swim, 24 mile bike, 10k.  And did I train for it?  Umm, well, that’s another story.  I can count my swims on one hand, and probably my rides, too.  I had a few other things going on that I was trying to tend to, like, um, buying a house for one.  So, on race day, it was just about getting through however I could.  I swam freestyle, side stroke, doggy paddle, whatever.  I desperately wanted to backstroke, but that’s a sign of distress, so I figured they would pull me out of the water.  I had a decent bike, nothing great, but I wouldn’t have expected otherwise.  And then the run…or the shuffle as the case may be.  I remember when I crossed the finish line, I said, “That was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”  And up until that moment, I believe that was true.  Was I ready for it?  Not at all.  Could I have prepared better?  Sure.  But that race happened at the tail end of one of the hardest years of my life.  I literally found out my divorce was final two days later.  Apparently it had been final for a week or two, but the judge hadn’t notified the attorneys that she’d signed the papers yet.  I still believe that I needed to get through that tri, and learn what I’m capable of, before I got the closure I was seeking.

You can’t always prepare for what lies ahead.  And sometimes, you just do the best you can to prepare, knowing that it will likely be even harder than you expect.

Am I prepared for Racine 70.3?  I don’t know, I guess so.  Should I have done more?  Probably.  Could I have done more?  No.  I don’t think so.  I did what I was capable of doing under the circumstances.  And next week I will wake up on Sunday morning and give what I am capable of giving.  I honestly have no idea what to expect other than…it’s going to hurt, it’s going to hurt a lot.  But considering how much I’ve hurt over the past several years, I know I can take it.  The hardest part is the mental game.  Telling myself to not quit even when it’s really, really, really hard.

I may not have gotten in as many laps in the pool, or miles on the bike, that I needed to in order to feel ready for next weekend, but I did learn how to swim, and I got a real bike, and mentally, I know from experience, that I can overcome any obstacle.  It may take time, and there may be setbacks, but I’ll get there.  If something goes wrong, I’ll take a deep breath, look at my wrist and do what I need to do to get back on track.

I wear it on my wrist because it reminds me that I can

I wear it on my wrist because it reminds me that I can

Persevere.  I never take that bracelet off, because it reminds me that I can.  And I have.

This morning, I went out to St. Charles for the New Town Tri.  I didn’t have nearly as many friends competing today as I did a few weeks ago at Innsbrook, but the ones who were out there today were pretty darn important.  After I dropped my kids off this morning at their dad’s house I hauled booty to meet Linds for the run portion, so I could run her in.  I made it there in time to catch her for the second loop.  I was probably there in time to do the whole run with her, but I’m a bonehead and I was waiting in the wrong spot.  Fortunately, I figured it out just in time to jump in with her for the last couple miles.  Her breathing was heavy, she was tired.  But I pushed her anyway, because she does the same for me.  I didn’t say much other than an occasional encouragement.  Sometimes, you don’t need much more than knowing that someone is by your side to help pull you along.  It was only so appropriate that I did that today for Farrell as she’s done that so much for me ever since I met her a couple short years ago.  We’ve been through some major highs and lows together, and she’s never left my side.  This morning was the least I could do to return that favor.  You wanna talk about kindred spirits?  This girl is one for sure.

After I ran Linds in, I hung out with her at the finish for a bit, along with a few of our Ironman Arizona 2014 compadres-Mark, Ron and Martin.  I saw a few other familiar faces, and I ran into Teri, too.  Man do I love that woman!  She is everywhere, and she just glows.  As I stood near the finish, which was also where the runners passed by to start their second loop, I saw Kris coming around.  I jumped in to run her last lap as well.  I tell you what, I think that girl is always smiling. She smiled and said “Thanks” to every person on the course with a sprinkle or a water gun.  She said her legs were trashed.  I said, “They should be.  That’s why I’m here.  Just feed off my energy.”   And she kept smiling.  We ran past her husband, also named Chris, who took our picture.  I love that we have a record of that moment.  I did whatever I could to help pull Kris along and enjoy the final portion of this tri.  As we rounded the corner to the finish, I said, “No puking until AFTER you cross the finish line this time!  Go get it, Girl!”  And then I met her on the other side of the shoot for a congratulatory hug.  Because that’s what friends do.

Running with Kris in New Town

Running with Kris in New Town

I had to bolt pretty quick after that, because I had to get to the store and get showered before work.  I only got in about 4 miles this morning.  Really more like 2 x 2 miles.  But it was totally worth it to give up my long run for the day to do that with my friends, and like Kris said, this week is a taper anyway.  It got me pumped for next weekend and Linds ended up with 2nd in her age group.  Since Linds is the one who got me started with all this, and fueled the fire of Racine, and has planted the seed of a full Ironman, it seemed only appropriate to do this with her today, especially since she can’t be there with me next weekend.  That was the last piece of the puzzle for “getting ready” for Racine 70.3.  Sure I’ve got another ride planned with “Grey” tomorrow, along with other workouts this week.  And I’ve still got to gather up all my gear.  And finish talking logistics with my travel crew, who will likely make it up to Wisconsin several hours ahead of me on Friday.  But the important stuff is done.  I’ve done the physical work I can do to be ready, now it’s time to trust that.  The mental work has been in all the obstacles that I’ve pushed through to teach myself the true meaning of “Never give up”.

Most importantly, something I said to Kris this morning as I ran with her, was how so many of my friends are going to finish ahead of me next week.  It’ll be like Innsbrook, but reversed.  Instead of me standing at the finish cheering in my friends, so many of them will be waiting there for me.  (Some of them might be showered and ready for dinner by the time I get there, but nonetheless)  That’s the piece that makes me the most ready to do this.  How long it takes me to complete the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run is totally irrelevant, because doing it at all makes it a PR.  But doing it with my friends makes it that much better.  That is truly a Personal Best.

I doubt very much if Racine could ever be ready for Rambling Runner Girl, but ready or not, here I come.  And I’m as ready as I’m ever gonna be.

Lindsey squared at the LSL Tri

Lindsey squared at the LSL Tri

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Confessions of a Single Mom…

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I really believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Being a single parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

I can be very resourceful.

I love being the girl who knows how to fix stuff.

Sometimes I forget to pay a bill on time.

Sometimes I remember about the bill, but it’s late anyway because I don’t have enough in my bank account to cover it.

I freak out when I can’t find a sitter to watch my kids so that I can go to work.

I’ve had to take at least one kid with me to work and have him hang out in the back room with the ipad.

I am so grateful for my awesome neighbor, Stephanie, who sometimes watches my kids and then she makes it seem like I pay her back when I watch her daughter for 10 minutes.

Sometimes when I’m stressed I yell at my kids.

I immediately feel guilty when I yell at my kids.

Sometimes I let my kids eat popcorn and ice cream for dinner because I just don’t have the energy to prepare anything.

I am always tired.

I stay up way too late, even though I’m always tired.

It’s possible to feel lonely in a house full of noisy children.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have sucked it up and stayed in an unhappy marriage, just so I wouldn’t be so lonely.

I miss my kids when they go to their dad’s.

Sometimes I get can’t wait to give the kids back to their dad, so I can have a break.

Even though I chose this life, sometimes the loneliness is almost unbearable.  I mean, I’m talking sit in the car in the garage to avoid going into an empty house lonely.  Like, wrap up in a blanket and fall asleep on the couch with the TV on to avoid going upstairs to an empty bed lonely.

Last night I did both of those.  This morning I woke up with an overwhelming, oppressive sadness.  I had a hard time kicking it.  It took a 15 mile bike ride and a 6 mile run before I finally figured out what my problem was.  As I stood in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, eating my lunch which consisted of last night’s leftovers warmed up in a take-out box (are you envisioning Diane Lane at this point?), it finally struck me.  Today would be my 13th wedding anniversary.

13 years ago today, I woke up surrounded by people I love.  I was lying next to Amy.  And Britta was in the bed next to us.  My best friends in the world.  We were at my parent’s house in Michigan.  I remember my mom coming in to the room for something, maybe just to see if I was awake yet on my wedding day.  I’m pretty sure my dad was in the kitchen making French toast.  My sister was likely tending to my niece, MacKenzie, and my brother was there somewhere.  I woke up to a house full of people I love.

Today, I woke up to an empty house.  No one.  Other than the sound of my ceiling fan, complete silence. It took almost every ounce of energy that I had to drag myself out of bed.  The loneliness was almost physically painful.

I had a fantastic weekend while the kids were away.  I went to Art Hill at Forest Park to drink wine and watch Casablanca with girlfriends on Friday night.  Saturday night after working all day and church, I was a 5th wheel when I met friends in the loop for a round of Bags at Market House Pub, followed by bowling at Pin-Up Bowl.  And after work Sunday, I had dinner with Nicole and Farrell.  So, how is it possible to have such a full schedule and still feel lonely?  I don’t know.  It just is.

For someone who actually craves alone time, it doesn’t really seem like it makes any sense.  But it is what it is.  Tonight after work I get to pick up the kids and drive to Michigan for a few days.  There is nothing better to heal the heart than a few days in New Buffalo.  We’re going to visit my mom, and play at the pool, and go to the beach, and get Shakes at Nancy’s.  And for a few days, my heart will be full to overflowing because of my kiddos.  And on Sunday, they’ll go back to their dad’s.  For a brief moment, I will breathe a sigh of relief.  And I’ll go for a run and enjoy being alone.  And then by Sunday night, I’ll probably feel lonely again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and I know they would do anything for me, just like I would for them.  But sometimes there are things you just have to do on your own.

As I was finishing up my run today, Britney Spears came on my ipod.  Yeah, that’s right, I said Britney Spears.  Ya wanna make something of it?! Don’t judge me.  Anyway, I listened to the words “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more, I’m stronger than yesterday”.   So, yeah, I’m leaving the loneliness behind me one mile at a time. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the loneliness that comes along with my kids going back to their dad’s, but I do know that I’m stronger today than I was yesterday.

On the beach in MI with my babies

On the beach in MI with my babies

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Living Out Loud

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Every day that you wake up and are breathing, you are given another opportunity for an adventure.  Some days the adventures are hidden and you have to search for them among the mundane.  However, sometimes the adventures jump out at you from behind every corner.  We never really know what the day has in store for us when we roll out of bed in the morning.  Or in my case, as I drag myself out of bed in the morning.  I am not exactly a morning person.  Until I’ve had coffee, I don’t think I’m actually capable of a coherent conversation, at least not a very pleasant one, just ask my kids.  Trust me, I don’t jump out of bed everyday, throw on my explorer’s cap and head out in search of an adventure, but sometimes adventure just has a way of finding me.  Today was that kind of day.

I got up today thinking I would head to the pool for a swim, but for some reason I showed up at the completely wrong time.  Oh well, I went home, ordered a Bridesmaids dress for Farrell’s wedding and went about my day.

Last night I was over at Farrell’s house for a bit, before I met Steve to see the movie The Internship. I found it hilarious, I’m pretty sure Steve went just to humor me. Anyway, while I watched Linds cut up brussel sprouts (yes, really) she was telling me that this is the week to sign up to volunteer for Ironman Arizona 2013 in order to earn a “speedpass” which ensures registration into Ironman Arizona 2014.  Why in the world would I want to do that?  Nope, not happening.

Well, something happened between last night and this morning.  At approximately 7:17am, I got the following text from Teri regarding IMAZ: Leave your options open—sign up and get a volunteer spot and cancel if that’s best.

At 7:38am, I sent the following text to Farrell: Ok, I’ll sign up to volunteer.  I don’t have a clue how this is going to work.  Going on faith…

Volunteer registration didn’t open until 2pm our time, so I went off to Big Shark to join the Monday morning women’s ride.  Ok, so that might have had the tiniest bit to do with the fact that there is a boy who works at Big Shark that I kind of enjoy looking at…I mean talking to…alright, both.  But, seriously, it was mostly for the ride.  (And the boy, let’s just be real here)  Anyway, I needed to get a solid ride in, so after a quick stop at the post office, I was parked in front of Big Shark waiting for the others to show.  There was only one other person who showed.  He was not a woman.  So, my ladies ride of 18ish miles, turned into a 46 mile ride, through some crazy intense hills with my new friend, Greg.  Side note, when Greg said his name, I thought he said, “Grey”, so that will become his new nickname from me since I spent our entire ride thinking he was named after a color.  Why I thought he said this, is beyond me, maybe I’ve been reading too much 50 shades. (Shrug)  Greg started to take off solo, so I asked if he minded me tagging along since I’m still a rookie.  He said sure.  We made a quick stop at Mobile on the Run and then we were off into the hills of Wildwood.  And Oh my goodness, he definitely did not take it easy on the newbie!  Those hills are ridiculous.  On some of those climbs, I seriously wondered if I was going to fall over from lack of forward motion.  And I think I need new brakes from trying to spare myself a wipeout of catastrophic proportions on the way down.  Of course, by the end, I wasn’t riding the brakes quite so hard, I was almost starting to enjoy the rapid decent.  It kind of started to feel like I was flying.  Or maybe I was just really happy to not have to use my legs to propel me uphill anymore.  Climbing hills makes me feel powerful, but after that long, they just made me feel tired.

For about 3 hours, Greg and I rode and talked about all kinds of stuff…our families, my kids, school, work, etc.  At times all I could hear was him encouraging me up a hill along with the sound of my lungs about to explode from my heavy breathing.  Greg kept saying he didn’t really think I was a rookie.  My response, as usual, was, “What I lack in speed and ability, I make up for it with determination”.  I’m all heart, I know this about me.  He called me “Supermom”, I said I must have left my cape at the dry-cleaners.   I made it 46 miles.  Now, I know I have a half Ironman in 3 weeks so I should have been up to at least that many miles on the bike already, but here’s the thing…that was my longest ride to date.  Victory! (Don’t judge me.  I’m a working, single mom.  Who has the time to spend 3-4 hours on a bike multiple times a week?!) And that longest ride ever, did I go flat?  Oh, no. It was flipping hard with those hills mixed in.  So, how do I feel about a 56 mile bike ride in Racine sandwiched between a 1.2 miles swim and a half marathon?  I feel like I’m gonna crush it!  Today’s ride was a huge boost to my confidence and I needed it.  I got in a great ride, and I made a new friend.  And the scenery was absolutely fantastic.  At one point, we were on a ridge up high, looking down into a valley of trees and I said it felt a little like being on top of the world.  (Cue the Carpenter’s song…sorry, it’s stuck in my head too)  So, my day went in a completely different direction from what I expected.  But, that’s not unusual.  Just like Forrest said, Ya never really know what you’re gonna get.

When I got home, Farrell and Nicole were texting me about what aid station to sign up for in Arizona so we can all work together.  I’m not sure what supernatural force took over to temporarily eliminate my excessive fear at the thought of a full Ironman, but somehow I managed to sign up.  Nicole and I agreed that as scary as this is, it just feels right.

Like I told Farrell this morning, I don’t have a clue how any of this is going to come together.  But when do we ever know how things are going to come together?  Even the stuff we think we have figured out doesn’t always go the way we plan, but ultimately things just have a way of working out.  And here’s what I do know…I know that I love an adventure.  I know that I can tackle a challenge.  And I know that I’ve got a story to tell in all this.  My life is my story.  And I’m gonna keep telling it by living out loud. After all, when has anyone ever known me to be quiet?

Let the adventure begin…

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Find Your Strong

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Saucony did an advertising campaign recently called Find Your Strong.  If I could have had a theme to the past week, I think that pretty much covers it.

Last week I was feeling pretty discouraged about my training for Racine and just my abilities in general.  After I blogged my pity party the other night, I decided it was time to put on my big girl panties and get to work.  So on Thursday afternoon when I left FLEET FEET, I went off to Lake St. Louis to meet up with Farrell for a little open water swim.  I got to see her new house, which is awesome.  But we spent a little too much time chatting and didn’t end up with a ton of time to swim.   We walked over to the beach and jumped in for a quick 1000 meters (I supposed quick is a relative term).  It wasn’t much, but considering that was the first time I’ve been in that lake since my first and only triathlon last August, it was somewhat monumental.  I swam 500m out and then back again in the open water, freestyle the whole way, practiced sighting and felt great.  I acknowledged how far I’ve come in less than a year and that alone was enough to restore my confidence in my upcoming attempt at 70.3.  After that swim, I got in a short 40 minute bike ride, before getting over to the Marquette High School track to be the guest leader for Thursday night Speedwork.  Cole, who usually leads, had been given concert tickets for his birthday from his girlfriend and had asked me several weeks ago to fill in.  I didn’t get to run too much of the workout with the group, but I got in a couple of slow, rather painful (my hip is still sketchy) laps around the track.  So, all in all, it was a successful day since it involved swim, bike and run.  Sort of.

Thursday morning was tough though.  As I dropped my kiddos off at their camp, I said goodbye to them until I see them again on Tuesday.  5 days straight without my babies.  Ally and I got each of the boys settled in their rooms and then we began the trek up the stairs.  She started walking slower, I could tell it was coming.  As we got in sight of her group, she threw her arms around me and started sobbing.  “I don’t want to be away from you for 5 days, Mom.  It’s too long.  I miss you so much!” she cried.  I hugged her and pulled her to the bench along the wall of the hallway.  I held her for a few minutes and reassured her that she’d have a great time at the water park with her cousins, the time would fly and we’d be back together before she knew it.  I asked if there was anything I could do to help make it easier and we agreed on a 7pm phone call Friday night.  Ultimately, I wrestled free of my baby girl’s grip and headed back down the stairs.  As soon as my back was to her, my own tears began to fall.  You see, sometimes we put on a brave face and we stay strong only because we have to, in order to help someone else feel strong.

When the kids are with their dad, I usually fill the time pretty well.  Thursday was packed with activities.  Friday I worked most of the day, then went down to Forest Park, did a couple loops on my bike, and just as I was transitioning to run, Diana showed up.  We did one loop around the park before heading back to the rooftop of her apartment building for some sunset wine and sushi.  During which, I made a call to my Ally-girl, as promised.

Saturday morning, I was up at the crack of dawn to head out to Newtown to meet up with Kris for a swim/bike.  I got in two whole laps for a whopping total of a MILE of open water swimming, no stopping, all freestyle!  Holy Schnikes I’m making progress!  We followed that up with about 15 miles on the bike before Kris and I both had to hit the road.  I grabbed coffee and food on my way to work, where I jumped in the shower. I am so grateful for this particular amenity of my job, though probably not as grateful as my co-workers, considering that as I stood in Starbucks wondering why it smelled like a fishy lake, I ultimately realized it was my own stench.  Gross.  Anyway, I fit some folks for running shoes on Saturday afternoon and then did a quick change into a little black dress to head out to dinner with a group of friends, during which I had to respond to several  “I miss you” texts from Ally.

On Saturday evening I came to the realization that I have officially become “That Triathlete Girl” who has her bike locked to the bike rack and a bike pump, helmet, cycling shoes, wetsuit, towel, swim cap, goggles, running gear and evening out clothes all in the back of my car at any given time.  Always prepared to squeeze in one form of recreation or another whenever I can.  But I digress…

This morning I was planning to cycle.  Well, it didn’t happen, for a myriad of reasons.  I had some other stuff to tend to before going off to work, which involved sending an email I didn’t really want to send but I knew it needed to happen.  After work, I was hoping to get in a long run in the rain which probably would have been good for my head and my heart, which are very obviously not on the same page these days.  The heart wants what it wants, even though the head sometimes knows better.  Or maybe the head just thinks it knows better.  I’m still not really sure.  At any rate, the lightening  extravaganza that was on display about the time I rolled up to Creve Coeur Lake, quickly put an end to the idea of my rain run.  So, I went with Plan B instead, I picked up Thai food and went to hang out with Farrell.  I needed some Linds time.

So, what’s the moral here?  Well, sometimes we have to do things we don’t particularly want to do in an effort to be strong for ourselves or someone else.  Sometimes we have to find our strong.  Sometimes it doesn’t look the way we thought it would.  Sometimes we find confidence in that.  Sometimes it means we have to let go of something.  And sometimes, it just plain breaks our hearts.  But when it comes down to it, as this weekend comes to a close, I’m proud of me for finding my strong when I needed to.  Sometimes being strong means facing a fear, sometimes it means pushing ourselves through it and sometimes it means making ourselves vulnerable.  I believe it was Nelson Mandela who said something to the effect of, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave (person) is not (one) who does not feel afraid, but (one) who conquers that fear.”  I think he was saying, Be Brave…Go find your strong.

Yesterday morning as I drove out to Newtown, the sun was shining, but I had my wipers going because it was also raining at the same time.  I thought, This is so odd.  And then in my rear-view mirror, I saw a rainbow.  But isn’t that just so representative of life…it can be sunny and raining all at the same time.  And sometimes you have to look behind you, in order to see the rainbow.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear...

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear…

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Burn Out

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Burn out.  It happens.  I can’t remember it ever happening to me in the few weeks leading up to a race, but this time it did.  Racine is 32 days away.  And I just don’t feel like training.  I just want to sleep.  For like a week.

I got back from Ragnar last week and managed to shuffle my way through the week of post-race blues.  I kept telling myself at least I have Racine 70.3 to look forward to in just over a month.  But for this week, I have absolutely zero to show for my training.  My hip has been bugging me since the relay last weekend, so I pretty much took running out of the equation for the last 10 days, with the exception of a mile and a half that I ran last Thursday with Ethan who was dragging me along the entire way, telling me to hurry up.  I think it took me nearly 14 minutes to go 1.25 miles…painfully slow.  Literally. I hurt.

I did manage to work in some laps in the pool, several miles on the bike and some strength training.  Sunday morning I rode almost 30 miles, partially in a downpour, before heading in to work.  But since then…nothing.  I have done absolutely zip.  On Monday, I had to refocus my priorities to tend to things like retirement funds and taxes and life insurance and broken air conditioner units.  All things I had been pretty much avoiding for about a month.  Except the AC, that kinda snuck up on me, and I knew I needed to deal with it before the real St. Louis summer arrives.  Basically, anything regarding finances is pretty much like someone speaking Japanese to me, so rather than try to understand it, I just smile and nod and go on my merry way.  Then I ride off into the sunset thinking that if I just ignore it, I won’t ever have to deal with it again.  Well, yesterday, it was time to stop avoiding things and confront them head on.  So I did.  But it pretty much sucked up my whole day and after a while I decided my Monday brick workout was out the window.  And I was, oddly, ok with that.

Eventually I made my way to work.  And afterwards, we had our standing Monday night girls outing…me, Linds and Katrina.  Occasionally, one of us doesn’t make it (which usually involves one of those two having plans with a boy) but last night we all ditched our plans and joined up for some 54th St Therapy.  Katrina sidelined packing and prep for this weekend, Linds bailed on the new guy from “match” and I happily saved my Chinese take-out and viewing of the Bachelorette for another night.

Anyway, I had considered going to swimming this morning, but when I was asked to take custody of the kids a little earlier than normal, of course I couldn’t refuse.  So, my swim workout again fell by the wayside.  And again I wasn’t terribly disappointed.  Relieved is probably more accurate.

I tell people all the time that eventually something will come up to throw a wrench in their training.  I had a customer the other day who insisted he wouldn’t miss a training run leading up to the Chicago Marathon in Oct.  I told him that chances were good that he would get sick or something would come up at some point to make him skip a run or even two, but he should remember it isn’t the end of the world.  Just pick up where you left off and keep on going.  He insisted he wouldn’t slip, not even once.  Ok, dude, we’ll just see about that.

So, why is it that after missing two of my crucial workout days, I am considering throwing in the towel?  This isn’t like me.  I don’t always practice what I preach (ie-Get on the foam roller everyday!…uh, yeah, I do that…usually…sometimes…not really) but honestly, I’ve never been one to be worried after skipping a workout or two.  However, tonight as I sat on my booty at the pool with the kids, eating a dinner consisting primarily of brownies and Swedish fish, I found myself considering the possibility that I have taken on one too many races and I am no longer finding this fun.  Picking the hardest race I’ve ever attempted, which takes place during my kids summer vacation, in the year that I am learning how to be a single parent, might possibly have been the dumbest thing I have ever done.   Finding time to train for this thing is STRESSING ME OUT!

So, what are my options…consider the possibility that I should step out of this race and save 70.3 for another season in my life.  OR…remind myself that I’m human, I’m not Superwoman, and it’s ok if I go and attempt this race and just do the best I can without placing a bunch of expectations on myself.  It might take me a really, really, really long time to finish this thing…and that’s ok.  I might get a toe cramp on the swim or a flat tire during the bike or any other number of setbacks on the course.  I might have to walk the entire half-marathon, which would typically be my strength.  I might, God forbid, not even finish.  And all of those things are O-K.  I’m still going to try.  Even though my training hasn’t been what I wanted it to be.  And even though this week, I’ve been in the dark place, and haven’t particularly felt like training.  I’m still going to keep putting one arm in front of the other, one pedal in front of the other and one red Mizuno running shoe in front of the other, just to make the effort.  Because that, my friends, is life.  It’s hard, and sometimes we have to do things that we don’t find especially enjoyable or we aren’t very good at and sometimes we just feel burned out, but ultimately, we know that we have to at least try.

I don’t think anyone would think any less of me if I decided this wasn’t the time or place for me to attempt this.  And quite frankly, I don’t really give a crap if they did think less of me.  I don’t need to prove anything to anyone other than myself.  This is between me, myself and I.  Nobody else.  At the end of the day, I am accountable only to the person that I see when I look in the mirror.  And I know that I’m not the kind of person to back down from something just because I may not do it as well as I do some other things.

So, yeah, this week I committed the cardinal sin of training when I bailed on a couple workouts just because.  That doesn’t mean I’ve lost my discipline, it just means that I’m a busy single mom who had some extra challenges come up. But I won’t run away with my tail between my legs.  I’ll stand and fight. I’ll get back on the horse and ride again.  And I’ll probably fall off a time or two, or ten.  And I’ll probably encounter some more things that I don’t know how to do (I still need Roberto to teach me how to change a flat tire).  And I’ll probably ask everyone I know for advice.  And I’ll probably piss and moan about how I’m just not as good at some of this as so many other people I know.  But it is what it is.  And at least I’m gonna keep giving it a shot.  Starting tomorrow.  Or maybe the day after.

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