For maybe the first time ever, I am heading into race weekend feeling relaxed. I am ready. I have prepared. And now, it’s in God’s hands.
To HIM be the GLORY!
After meeting with my running coach earlier this week, I came away with a new perspective. Instead of stressing about what I cannot control (the process of getting into the Boston Marathon… hello, could it BE any more complicated??), I am focused on what I can control and what is within my reach. Running a new personal best. Running strong. Running for the glory of God.
This training cycle, I have let go of my ‘type A’ personality, i have trusted fully in my coach and the workouts that he put before me. Focusing on one week at a time and not getting ahead of myself. I gave my trusty Garmin to Josh and I will be running the marathon without it.
All I have to do is run! I know that Josh will push me, he will get me there. And for me, this experience, of trusting in him, being vulnerable enough to put my own tracking and timing devices aside and let him guide me, has made my love and respect for my husband grow.
I know there will be peaks and there will be valleys on Sunday morning. What’s more, I know the valleys will be temporary and if I follow Josh, listen to him coach me through it and stay relaxed and focused, they will pass. It will be hard. And, as I blogged about in my last post, it will be emotional.
All I can say is…
To HIM be the GLORY!
HE has immeasurably MORE in story for me. HE will provide.
All I have to do is RUN… with GLORY… with JOY… and with THANKSGIVING.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. -2 Timothy 4:7-8
This has been a challenging year in many ways. Perhaps the hardest, and at the very least, the most recent challenge is the end of a very good fight, a very good race. A very special woman, who has taught me how to face every challenge with the prize in sight, has gone home and received her prize.
When I think about my aunt, three simple words ring in my head. Fighter. Strong. Faith.
And I am blessed. I am so blessed to have had someone so special, someone who loved me like I was her own, someone who touched my life beyond measure. She was a blessing from God.
She is the one who gave me a place of peace when I needed to retreat. She is the one who I trusted for counsel. A special bond that I was lucky to experience through the friendship she and my mom shared. She was my mom’s best friend. My mom’s rock and thus, became one of mine.
I think I shocked everyone when I began running marathons. But I wasn’t brought up as a quitter. I was raised to be a fighter. Maybe even raised that way unknowingly by some of the strongest women I know. And the marathon is a challenge that is different each and every time you step to the start line.
One of my favorite races has become the Tucson Marathon. I have run a PR at that race 2 out of 3 times, but the best part has been knowing I would celebrate with my aunt and uncle after the race. I remember the first year I ran that marathon, I travelled there alone and started the journey of 26.2 miles by myself. I knew I would see my aunt and uncle at mile 18, which was the highlight of my race. I had never had family cheer me on at a race prior to that. I remember the jolt of energy seeing them gave me, and how disappointed I was when that jolt disappeared as suddenly as it had come across me.
And then I reached mile 23. I heard a big “Nikki!” shouted from across the street and I saw my aunt standing there, waving the sign my mom had sent to encourage me.
This is a memory I cherish and I will never forget. This embodies who she was. She was one of my biggest supporters.
More importantly, she was a role model. As my cousin so eloquently wrote in her obituary, my aunt was a born again spirit. She was a woman of faith. She was filled with the Holy Spirit. She was a fighter, until the very end. She faced challenges head on, stubborn and unwilling to give up.
As I prepare for my next marathon, now just 4 weeks away. I have decided that I will dig deep. I will find that strength that lives within me, the strength that my aunt exemplified. I will rise to the challenge and persevere, as I have had the blessing of witnessing the women in my family do. Because that is who we are. I will run this race for her.
And when it’s done, at the end of the race, I will have a glass of wine, and raise it in her honor.
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31
It’s been a long while since I last blogged. I told myself I wouldn’t blog until I shook the negativity out of my head and began to once again run with joy. I found it in the most unexpected way. In the midst of a marathon that went terribly wrong. I had a choice: become frustrated and distraught or seize the opportunity to slow down, enjoy the race and simply run with joy. I chose the latter.
Tucson is one of my favorite places on earth. For starters, an aunt, who is a very dear friend to me lives there and I love the opportunity to visit her and her husband. Second, I have had the opportunity to stay with my aunt while I have worked through some tough things in my life. It’s a safe haven, a place where I have found serenity when I’ve needed it the most along with the wisdom and sometimes just the silence of the company of a good friend. I suppose it’s because of that, that the Tucson Marathon is one of my favorite races. OH, and I’ve also set 2 PR’s there, so the course has been friendly to me.
The morning of the marathon couldn’t have been more perfect. It was chilly at the start of the race and was expected to slowly rise in temperature to the mid-60’s. The hubby and I donned our finest sweats and I did my best to knock out any pre-race nerves. It wasn’t hard. I had pre-determined that this day was going to be what it was. It was totally unpredictable as I had suffered an injury in my left foot 2 months prior that prevented me from finishing the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. Nonetheless, my physical therapist told me days before the Tucson Marathon that I should just go for it. There was nothing physically preventing me from running a PR or close to it. So, with that in mind, I had a positive outlook and knew, above all, I was going to enjoy the sheer fact that I was finishing this race.
Josh and I bid goody-bye after crossing the start mat together and set out on the course, each running our own race this time. My strategy was to start out conservatively, to save energy for the HILLS miles 10-14. It was tough. The course starts fast with a steep decline and I had to constantly slow myself down. Regardless, I ran the first 7 miles about 30-20 seconds faster than my goal pace. By mile 2, I felt like I had to go to the bathroom. With the cold and the nerves, I told myself it was all mental and I could power through, willing the feeling the subside. By mile 4, the 3:40 pacer was on my heels. I knew he was pacing the group MUCH faster than he should be as I was slightly faster than my 3:35 pace at that time. I kept telling myself it wasn’t a big deal, they were running too fast, and I needed to stay on my own pace and run my own race. For the most part, I ran with the same group throughout the first 10 miles. It helped to keep me on pace to keep the same people in my sights.
As we neared mile 10, I told myself to stay conservative to tackle the hills. My strategy was to slow down a whole minute for 2 miles to save energy and not tire myself out in the 1st half. As always, the stretch between miles 10-14 were tough. The hills are not the “rollers” as they are described. At least, not what a girl from the midwest would consider “rollers”. I skipped a water stop at mile 13 because I didn’t want to stop on an uphill. The minute I was past it, I knew that was not a good idea. I needed that water and mentally I struggled to keep my mind from thinking I was dehydrated.
My strategy had worked though and as I rounded the corner back onto Highway 77, I was on track with my strategy- approximately 2 minutes behind a 3:35 finish. From there, my pace was all over the place. I was too fast, then I was too slow. I kept trying to find my “sweet spot” and stick with it, but it was proving a difficult task. By mile 15, it was apparent that I was going to have to make a potty stop. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I still had to go. I said a prayer that this would be the quickest potty ever and God answered my prayer. I don’t think I have ever pee’d so fast! I was back out of the kybo and on the course in no time. Of course, that was my slowest mile. But I just paced myself, gradually working my way back to my “sweet spot”. I noticed it was starting to get hot. One of the guys that I had been running near for most of the race had taken his shirt off and from that point forward, was known as the “suns out guns out” guy in my head. I would see him several more times on the course as I challenged myself to keep going. I also noticed a girl with a tattoo of wings on her lower back. I would see this tattoo again later on the course as well.
MIle 17. My chest tightened. My breathe became raspy and hard. It hurt every time I took a breathe and it felt like I couldn’t get enough air. The more I tried, the more it hurt. I started to panic. My mile 19, I had slowed to a walk to try and get my breathing under control. It was at this point, I knew I had a decision to make. I could crumble in defeat, knowing my chances of PR were completely shot or I could run with joy. I looked around me at the majestic mountains. The glorious sun. What a blessing it was to be running in such a beautiful place! I gave thanks to God and decided I would continue and run simply run with joy. Using that mantra, run with joy, I started to slowly get my breathing back under control. I had to stop often after that, but when I felt my chest tighten up, I kept repeating “run with joy” in my head and it seemed to help keep me calm. From mile 19 on, the course had a water stop and an aid station every mile. I stopped at every single one and asked every volunteer if they had an inhaler. This added minutes to my time with each stop. I wasn’t having any luck. Desperate, I began to stop at every intersection and ask the policemen controlling traffic if they had an inhaler. Still, no luck. I had started calculating in my head where Josh would be at this time. Knowing he was near the finish and would be worried if I didn’t make it in under 4 hours, I kept going.
At mile 21, I could barely get the words out as I asked volunteers if they had an inhaler. The volunteers at that aid station all turned to 1 guy who quickly walked over to me, very concerned. He asked me about my heart rate and seemed a bit alarmed when I told him I had no idea what my heart rate was. I told him I was going to walk and run the rest of the way to the finish and that I’d be ok. He looked skeptical and cautioned me to do just that- walk and run. I set off on the course again. Up ahead, I could see a photographer. Suddenly, the thought popped into my mind to just cheese it up for the cameras. Do something fun that I would never take the time to do if I was running for a goal time. I quickened my steps and leapt into the air with a big, cheesy grin. Cheesy and wheezy was my new mantra.
After I landed, I realized that wasn’t such a good idea as my chest tightened again. Up ahead, there was another aid station. I told myself to run slowly there and then I could take a long drink and a breather. Less than hopeful, I asked the volunteers if they had an inhaler as they handed me my water. 1 of them said “yes! but it’s in my car…” she started searching for her keys, when another guy said “mine is right here in my pocket!” No way! He graciously let me use it. I took a minute to let it sink in and then started back on the course. Up ahead was the last big hill. Keeping in mind what the concerned volunteer cautioned about my heart rate, I decided to play it safe and walk halfway up it. By the time I got the top, I could notice a difference in my breathing. The inhaler had done it’s work and opened my airways. I picked up the pace a little big, still staying on the conservative side. Another photographer was ahead. Keeping with my new mantra, cheesy and wheezy, I quickened my steps and leapt into the air again, laughing this time as I landed. The photographer was happy and yelled at me with a huge grin that he had captured it.
I was nearing the end and counting down the miles. I knew at this point, I was definitely going to finish in under 4 hours. The last 3 miles wound around and around and seem to last forever. By this point, my stomach was upset from all the gels I had ingested and it totally rejected the last one I had planned to take at mile 22. There were more spectators the closer we got to the finish. I started to remind myself to lift my hands above my head as I crossed the finish line to fulfill a promise I made to Andrea at the start of the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. We had jokingly said we would all do it for a cheesy photo op. Staying with my new mantra, I had to remember to do it. As I rounded the last corner and entered the finisher shoot, 3 large ladies were walking (half marathon finishers) and taking up the entire width of the shoot. I was beyond irritated. Not knowing what the proper race etiquette was, I kept my mouth shut (I probably couldn’t have mustered any words at that point anyways) and went around them. It was at that moment I heard Josh yelling and encouraging me to finish. As I neared the finish line, I started raising my arms and giving little fist pumps in the air, an ode to Andrea!
I crossed the finish line, got my medal and looked around. I didn’t immediately see Josh, so I walked a lap. Or tried to walk a lap. I don’t remember feeling that stiff at the end of the race in past years. I felt like I could barely move. What was worse was all the emotions that came flooding up. I do not cry in public! It hit me. The panic I had felt. The accomplishment of finishing 2 months after an injury. How scared I had been. Finishing amidst all of that alone. I finally saw Josh and as I tried to explain to him what happened, I was choking back the tears. We rounded back to the finishers area for a picture together (I cheesed it up one more time… I couldn’t resist even though I felt like crap) and slowly made our way to the shuttle bus to go back to our hotel.
I couldn’t be more proud of Josh, who ran a PR. Even though he is disappointed he didn’t make his goal time, he is still an incredible inspiration to me and doesn’t cease to amaze me. Great job, babe! And I’m looking forward to sharing many more courses with you throughout the years to come. Cheers!
Enough. It’s a simple word, right?
But who really defines when enough is enough?
It’s a question I struggle with. And as I struggle to be enough at work, in my marriage, to my family and to my friends, and in my marathon training, , I seem to find myself feeling as though I am slipping further and further from being that.
No matter how much effort I put forth, I can never be enough to everyone nor to meet every deadline, every expectation, every goal.
It leaves me feeling defeated and sad. I feel as though I am letting everyone down, leading me to question my self-worth.
Frankly, I’m exhausted.
The hard truth is that the only one holding me accountable or to unachievable standards is… me. I say hard truth, because it is not in my human nature to accept this as the truth. It is a difficult realization for me to overcome.
I set high expectations for myself. The relationships I have with my family, my husband, and my friends are gold to me. Letting any one of them down is unacceptable. But here’s the thing, if I’m not selfish at times and put myself first, I am no good to anyone else.
Taking care of myself. Another concept that is hard for me to grasp. I push myself to fit everything in to meet everyone’s needs. I push myself to hit my training goals. I push myself to be professional and not just meet, but exceed expectations in my job. I push, push, push until I am so exhausted that I can’t think straight. And then what happens? I forget easy things, make stupid mistakes, and fall far short of meeting any expectations.
What’s more, we live in a culture, where it’s almost unacceptable to disconnect from technology and focus on centering yourself. I have work email pushed through to my phone. If I don’t check it every 5 or 10 minutes, will the emails disappear? No. They will still be there when I log in next. I strive to respond or at least acknowledge any text, email, phone call, whatever within 24 hours and when the same respect is not paid to me, I worry myself into a frenzy that I’ve done something to offend the receiver or that I’m not good enough for them to respond to. Is that fair? No. There is no unspoken rule that messages must be acknowledged in that time frame. It’s another unrealistic expectation I lord over myself.
When will enough be enough for me? I admit, I want it all. I want the successful career. I want to excel at my hobbies- running, instructing fitness classes, cooking. I want to be the reliable, responsible, rock-solid daughter, sister, aunt, friend. I want to be the amazing wife, who lifts up and encourages her husband.
Is that really so much to ask? NO. What is too much, is being hard on myself when I fail to meet the unachievable standards I set for myself.
So, what is my advice?
1. Be selfish. It’s like the instructions you receive on an airplane “if you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.” You can’t help anyone else if you aren’t attended to first.
2. Take care of yourself. I don’t know why this one is so hard to grasp, at least for me. When you’re tired, sleep in or take a nap. Don’t feel guilty about revising your workout to one that’s less intensity or skipping it altogether. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. It’ll leave you more efficient and able to a better job, verses going back to correct mistakes.
3. Unplug. Give yourself at least one day a week where you don’t look at work emails. Be in the moment and put your phone, tablet, whatever device you use aside. All of the messages will be stored away waiting for you to check them later.
4. Take a time-out. Do whatever you need to do to re-center and gain a fresh perspective.
“You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.”- Percy Cerutty
Isn’t this the truth? I saw this quote come through the Runner’s World feed this week and it stuck with me. This year has definitely stretched me and I’ve grown as a result of throwing myself outside of my comfort zone. Personally, in opening myself up to a new relationship, which resulted in marriage, all within a year! And now, getting to know the new “norm”, establishing relationships with a new family, adjusting to life as a couple, and not being focused solely on me and my needs.
Now, I find myself outside of my comfort zone in my training. It all came together when I buckled down and trained hard last summer and fall. I have to admit, I was expecting to coast back into my training this summer, after taking a few months off. That has clearly not been the case, and it is definitely throwing me out of my comfort zone. It’s challenging. It’s hard. I’m left questioning why I’m bothering. But I know the reason why. And, this quote puts it rather simply: I will never grow unless I do.
I had lunch with a good friend yesterday. A good friend, I might note, who recently smoked a marathon, running a PR and finishing feeling fabulous. All 3 major accomplishments- I’m so proud of her!
As we were catching up on her marathon success, she asked about my knee and what caused me to fall on Saturday. As I started to explain to her, checking off all the excuses I had lined up in my head- I had over trained last week, I have a sinus infection, I pushed myself too far- it became apparent to me that I just don’t feel well. In an honest moment, I shared that with her. Everything feels so much tougher than it should be right now. Yes, I made some poor decisions last week (3 workouts in 1 day), but if I’m honest, I feel tired, light-headed, groggy, out of it, and lethargic most of the time. Which, in turn, is making any attempt at normal activity (ok, marathon training may not necessarily be normal activity) hard!
She shared with me some sound advice. I just had surgery. No matter what type of surgery or how minor, your body still needs to recover. And as it recovers, it will pull resources from the rest of your body to do so. Which, will leave you drained. Because your body is trying to take care of itself and heal, it doesn’t have the extra oomph I’m asking it to give at this time.
Hmmm. Sound advice. It makes sense. Although, it doesn’t make it less frustrating. And, leaves me wondering how long this feeling is going to last. In the meantime, it does allow me to re-prioritize and focus on my goals. Which, are associated with improving my running. What does this mean? It means I will have to hold back the intensity during spin class. It also means less intensity during Group Power. In order to maximize my performance during key workouts – track work, hill repeats, and pace runs- I need to dial back and conserve some energy for those extra efforts. It also means giving my body plenty of rest and sleep. It has been crying for more of it. And last night, I followed suit and put myself to bed around 7:30pm to read and was sound asleep by 8:15.
When the alarm went off at 4:45am, I was pretty groggy and thankfully, the hubs was too. We hit snooze 3 times before rolling out of bed and getting ready for our run- a first crack at hill repeats. The entire time I was getting ready, I just kept thinking about how much I didn’t want to run. I wanted to sleep. Instead of playing the wimp card, that I’ve been playing too much lately, I prayed for endurance, strength, and energy to complete this run. We started out slow on our warm up. I mean, real slow. We were passed by several other runners. Which, is humbling. For once, I didn’t care. I knew I was doing the best I could this morning. The fact that I made it further than a half mile was progress since my epic fail and fall on Saturday! We got to the hill. I drew in a big breath and we started up it. I knew during the first one, I wasn’t pushing it. Instead, it was like my legs were reorienting themselves with the motion. The hubs started coaching me – telling me to drive my knees and arms to the top. It helped. Round 2 wasn’t much faster. At the top, the hubs offered a goal pace- which meant shaving off 3 seconds. The next 3 rounds were 1 second off. However, I was going full-out. Driving to the top with my knees and arms. It felt very much like a test run this morning. My mind and my body adjusting to effort it takes to sprint to the top. If anything, it proved that I can do it. I just need some determination, renewed fire, and the sound advice of trusted, good friends to get me there.