Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Father

Big Al.

That's my Dad; Perhaps the most amazing and intriguing man to ever walk the face of the Earth. He is my hero and yet I am scared to death of him..... or, at least, I was....

I can remember as a little girl Dad and I used to play this game. He would lie on his back on the floor and lift his legs to the ceiling and, like a little monkey on a tree, I would crawl and climb and clammer my way up to his feet. I would prop my wee little tootsies right on the soles of his behemoth feet and, balancing ever so carefully, stand as tall as I could hands reached to the sky in victory. Perched on the solid foundation of the most powerful creature I knew, I would sing and dance and strike a pose. I would attempt balancing acts that were humanly impossible knowing that if I even teetered, the soft net of my father would protect me from any harm. By his mere presence, my father empowered me to tempt fate, challenge the possibilities, and fearlessly endeavor to conquer the impossible. At 4 yrs old, I knew I could do anything cause Big Al was right there pushing me towards new heights.

My Dad can do anything, fix anything, he knows just about everything and he sees things when everyone else is standing in blackness. Of course, I didn't realize all of that until recently..... sigh.... He is a big guy, towering over pretty much everyone he ever meets, with a face that is stoic and firm. His lips are set in a line and his posture is erect. Mammoth hands and naturally strong arms warn you that he means business and that only a fool would dare cross him. Sometimes, you might wonder if he is imagining just how to crush you. Until he smiles, that is. And then, his eyes twinkle and and his skin crinkles and you suddenly realize how much pleasure he gets out of intimidating the crap out of people. Dad taught me to shoot a gun and to swim. He taught me to fish and ride a bike. He came to every soccer game he could possibly make, even the freezing cold ones. Once, I guess I was maybe 6 yrs old, he snapped the neck of a dove right in front of me. He offered no apology, just the simple explanation that it was better for the bird. Come to think of it, Dad never offered any apologies for any of life's hard lessons. Why be sorry to learn a lesson? And in fact, you might as well learn it sooner than later in his mind.

Twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Dad and I workout together. I can honestly say, that these two hours have become the most precious moments in my week. We rarely talk about anything important but we talk about everything, even when we don't talk. We explore the people we have become and share the thoughts and opinions that shape our choices. I would love to know my dad better. He fascinates me and I feel like if we were ever to sit and tell the stories of our lives, the unedited version, the true and real nitty gritty of our experiences, we would find that we have so much in common it is scary. I would love to hear Dad's stories of love and loss. I would like to hear about the unmentionables and the secret thoughts, regrets, desires and dreams that float around in the cloud of his life. I am pretty sure Dad never envisioned having children and settling into the life that he lived. But, what did he see? What did he want to do that he didn't? And, possibly most importantly, how did he reconcile those two worlds and become the man he is today?

I doubt we will ever have these conversations and that's ok. You see, I can see the acceptance in Dad's eyes. I can see that from the moment we first battled each other in the Clash of the Titans, he knew. He knew I wasn't destined for the life and mold I continued to try to fit into time and time again. He knew my road was going to be hard as hell and I would have to be tougher than the average person to overcome the status quo and have the courage to embrace my life. My father imprinted me from the first time he challenged me to do something I didn't want to. He stared into my stubbornness and begged me to match his intensity. My father poured a lot of love into me. But from the first time I made the journey to the top of his feet and stood victorious, he gave me something else. He gave me the knowledge that more than anyone else in the world he was FOR me and no matter how many times I toppled, I could always climb back to the top. And no matter how hard the climb to the top might seem, he'd be right there, the firm and steadfast foundation he has always been.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

True Knowledge in a world of Information....

I love information. I enjoyed school and I still enjoy school, probably more than I should admit actually. For me, knowledge is power and I seek it relentlessly with classes, certifications, trainings, books, anything. But, in this 29th year of my life, I have come to realize that perhaps I hold knowledge up on too high a pedestal. You see, as I have become more and more educated I find that maybe I am a bit "cocky"... no that's not the right word.... I find that when I share information with others, even though it makes me feel good to help them, I feel like I should just give myself a big ole pat on the back. "Good job Becca! Way to help that person out! Boy, you are one smart cookie!" Aaaah, but how easy that is when you never challenge yourself and purposely enter a situation where you are, the LEAST knowledgeable person. What a perfect challenge for someone who holds her smarts so dear....

December's Challenge: Sign up for a course in Manual Therapy.

This might not seem so hard to some people but for me, it was. I was signing up for an advanced class and would be in the room with people who had been doing bodywork for YEARS. I have never ever given a massage, much less gone to massage school. Sure, I know anatomy and physiology and biomechanics. But, I was going to be sooooo exposed and soooooo unconfident one we started doing the practicum. I was going to have to ask for help ..... GASP! I was going to have to have someone remediate the lesson for me!! So uncomfortable, so very, very uncomfortable... I went to the three day workshop knowing that this was something I needed to do. I need this to further help my clients and I need the swift kick to my brainy ego, as well.

Day 1 was a breeze! All book stuff, all knowledge. I was a whiz! Ha! Take that!

Day 2 not so much. I had borrowed a massage table from a friend and when the time came to set that sucker up, I could not for the life of me figure it out. ugh. I took a deep breath, swallowed down the bitter taste of ignorance and asked for help..... and so it went for the next 2 days. I asked for help again and again and again. And you know what? It wasn't so bad. I opened up my ears and my mind and allowed people to share their knowledge with me. It was great! I devoured their stories and their real life wisdom drinking it up like water in the desert. And you know what I quickly realized? Something that I already "knew" but often forget. Information does not equal knowledge. I have so much information crammed into every cell of my poor brain. Those cells are firing at 15 bazillion megahertz all day long bouncing around and banging into each other and munching on information like it is the manna of life. But, it's not. TRUE knowledge, I mean the real stuff, the kind that truly and really helps people; that kind of knowledge comes from life experience. It comes from slowing down and listening to someone who has tried and failed or tried and succeeded. It comes from trying for yourself and getting it wrong. Heck, maybe getting it wrong two, or even three, times. It comes when you evaluate what went wrong and then change the approach, or the variables, or even the mindset.

I feel really empowered this month. I went in to begin the process of getting a license in massage and I walked away with so much more. I felt so connected to the people in my class. I sat and I listened and I learned from them. I gathered wisdom way beyond what any book could teach me. And I gained friends.

Granted, it's pretty hard not to become friends once you have massaged someone's uvula, right Robert!!?? :-\ OY!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Grab a shovel! We're gonna have to dig deep...

I like a challenge. If you know me, you know that. I like to push my limits and see what I can do and find new places in my heart and soul that I never knew existed. For a lot of people, that's uncomfortable. It's dark and ugly in there and, quite frankly, it's so much easier just to leave the door closed and imagine the heaping pile of mess inside will just disintegrate into oblivion. It won't. It is one of the few things in life I am absolutely sure of....

This past weekend was filled with opportunities for many of my good friends and clients and myself, for that matter, to dig deep and discover how much inner strength we all possess. The Ragnar Relay is a 203 mile race across the state of Florida. You run as a team passing the baton as you go. You run on grass, on roads, on trails. You run through the heat of the day and the cold of the night. You run in blackness so complete that only the halo from your headlamp provides the only protection from the darkness-- you run and you run and you run some more. This continues through the night with only two very short naps (maybe an hour each) and not nearly enough food. And when the dawn finally breaks through, you can't help but to wonder, for just a moment, exactly why you are doing this. Or more accurately, how you are going to do this last segment.
That was exactly what I was thinking as I stood in the chute ready to take the baton from my teammate and head out on my final segment of the race.

I like a challenge. If you know me, you know this. But, I have never in my life had to dig as deep as I had to dig on November 21st at 1:55 pm. Never. I've been tired before, so tired I thought I could just curl up in whatever spot I was in and sleep for days. I've been hungry before. I mean, the kind of hunger where you're own hand starts to look kind of tasty. I have certainly had my body ache and scream at me. My body has said things to me that would make a sailor blush. I have never experienced all three at once, at top intensity. I will tell you, it was not the most awesome I have ever felt.

So, I took the baton and I did the only thing I could do. I ran. One foot in front of the other, one step after another, focused on the person in front of me, the person I had to pass. The distance between us shrank with every footfall. I passed her and I kept running. It hurt, it was hard, but I kept moving. Running, running, running. And then, I fell. I stepped in a hole and the pain shot through my whole leg from the toes to the top. My knees buckled as I fell like a tree, a solid mass colliding with the ground. My face hit the dirt and my nose pushed halfway up to my forehead. I sucked in air and my eyes filled with tears. The tears poured over onto my cheeks mixing with the dirt and the blackness dripped onto the grass. The pain was throbbing and radiating. I couldn't breathe and if there had been food in my stomach, I would have puked. I stared down at the black puddle in front of me and watched another black teardrop fall from my nose and join the others. The blackness inside me: my worst enemy and my biggest motivator, my heckler and my coach. I run because it makes me and I run to get rid of it. I closed my eyes really tight, took a slow deep breath, glanced back and saw the form of the girl in the distance behind me. I reached deep down into my soul to dig out the last ounce of anything I might have inside, and I stood up. Oh God, it hurt. It hurt so very, very bad. But, I did the only thing you can ever do when things get tough. I started moving, I looked to the horizon and I started heading that direction. At first, just a limp, then a walk, and finally a jog. The wind pounded me in the face, taking every opportunity to beat the ever-loving crap out of what little spirit I had left. The terrain was merciless with its ups and downs. Monsters were reaching out of the ground and stabbing my ankle with every single step. The sun taunted and teased me determined to melt away any hope of finishing. I stared at the horizon and my jog became a run.

"One foot in front of the other.... Run with perseverance.... One foot in front of the other.... Run with perseverance...." The mantra rolled through my head over and over. The cadence of my feet carried an awkward off-beat shuffle sound. My mind became a void and my breathing matched the beat of my heart, a breakneck race to see which would max out first. And then I saw the sign. One mile to go. I glanced back. No one in sight. I tucked my chin and I pushed even harder. As I rounded the last bend, I saw my team hands in the air waving and screaming like a bunch of idiots and my whole body felt them pulling me forward. I handed off the baton, squatted down and let the tears fall. This time, they weren't black.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Peaceful Power-- Lessons in SELF from the ocean.

I stood, coffee in hand, on the 24th floor balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The waves marched in like lines of soldiers bravely moving forward to battle, faces a mix of stoic purpose and confused resignation. The seagulls floated on air pockets, neither still nor moving; a rather strange mix of moving stillness, really. How is that even possible? The breeze nipped at the tiny hairs on my neck and sent a shiver down my back. The ocean was all I could see, miles and miles and miles of ocean. An expanse so incredibly huge I cannot even fathom the distance or volume or power. And then, me- a teensy, tinsy little spec. A mere dust particle in comparison.

Talk about perspective. I couldn't make even the tiniest wave stop it's purposeful march to the shore, no matter how hard I tried. Even if I mustered every single ounce of strength from every single muscle fiber in my body, I couldn't float on an air pocket. I couldn't achieve that perfect mix and create stillness in motion like the birds. Every brain cell in my head working at full capacity, can't understand the magnitude of this view; I can't comprehend how all of this works so perfectly with such ease. The birds don't fret about whether or not they will catch the next air pocket or if the laws of physics will suddenly change and they will crash to the ground. The mollusks don't worry about which direction the current is carrying them and whether or not they will like this new location. How can you be so purposeful? How can you know so well your place in life that you allow it to just happen as it will? How can I be so self centered as to think anything or anyone should revolve around me? Or that I am so powerful that I can fight the natural course of life in my pursuit of anything?

I stood on that balcony and I had to fight every muscle fiber in my body. I wanted to jump so badly. Not because I wanted to die or anything crazy like that. But because I wanted to feel it. I wanted to float on an air pocket, I wanted to just let the current carry me wherever it goes. I wanted to resign and just let life happen and see what comes of it. I fight too much. I struggle and fret and wrestle, and I think it's too much. I need to learn to create change like the ocean, with poise and purpose but also resignation, humility and flexibility. Oceans change shorelines-- slowly, methodically. The ocean can't stop the magnetic pull of the moon or fight the resultant monsoons from volcanoes on the other side of the world. Nope. The ocean creates change silently and gracefully. It works with what it is given. It stays at the task day in and day out understanding that despite the challenge presented on any given day, it must continue its march to the shore creating great change without great commotion.

Hmmm. That's something to think about....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Birthday, A year of Promise!

Well, it came and it went. I am now 29 years old and I think I had the best birthday I have ever had... no fanfare, nothing huge and exciting, no giant totally notable presents. Yet, it was perfect in every way imaginable. I passed from my 28th year of life into my 29th year of life much like a duck flies awkwardly and feverishly through the sky, without an ounce of grace, just to land perfectly poised in the water, suddenly smooth and peaceful. That is how I would describe my birthday weekend. I feel like I have suddenly landed in the water and I am gliding..... at least for now.

I have been pondering an idea, a thought, a challenge for a few weeks now. I want something to commemorate this next year of life, something that represents growth in every aspect of my life. And so, I have decided to conquer 12 challenges in the 12 months ahead. To embark on 12 adventures that will challenge my heart, my soul, my body, my mind, and my spirit. I want challenges that further me as a human, an athlete, a leader, a woman. I have started to plan out these adventures and I would be lying if I didn't say that some of them scare the crap out of me! But, here we go... 12 months, 12 adventures. The beginning starts this Friday. Stay tuned....

Friday, October 23, 2009

A friend of mine posted this video on his Facebook page. Curious, I clicked play and I watched. And then, I cried. I cannot imagine what this young lady feels inside, the dark places she must visit in her head in moments of despair. But I feel like I relate to her in one way, running. In the video, as she runs her body morphs and she can control her movement. She can speak clearly, focus, and enjoy everything around her without burden. It's amazing!

This woman whom I have never met, yet respect with every ounce of my soul, is the physical representation of what my mind and emotions go through every single day. Just as her body shakes and jumps and flails, my thoughts zip across the synapses of my brain never lending me for a moment even a sliver of peace and quiet. Except when I run.

I tried once to describe the chaos in my head to a friend. "Imagine," I told her, "That 500 middle school boys are in a concrete room. They are armed with as many racquetballs as they could ever want and a racquet in each hand. Some moron has instructed these young lads to hit the racquetballs as hard and fast as they can without stopping. And, just to make it more fun, if they actually hit another person in the room, they get double points. 1-2-3-GO!" What ensues is mass confusion, lots of fun, and complete ridiculousness......

Welcome to my world.

Most of the time, my mental chaos doesn't bother me. It's like an old friend that is slightly annoying but you keep him around anyways just because..... well, who knows why, but you do. There are times when I wish this dear friend would just shut up, just stop, just quit getting on my last nerve. Perhaps I am certifably insane, who knows? But I think insanity is pretty much a requirement for greatness, so I am in a good place, right? Anyways, there are some nights where sleep will not come because this annoying friend of mine just will not lie down and rest, even for a second. No matter how much I cry or beg or plead or promise, he is relentless. He is oblivious. And he does not ever seem to tire.

But I can outrun him.

Within a mile, I am far enough ahead that his screams have faded into silence and I am safe, free from chaos. It is the only time I am in the present, in THIS moment right now, the moment that matters. The only moment that I am guaranteed. I love that feeling. I enjoy the sensation in my body, the screaming of my muscles, the mind-numbing cadence of my footfall, the soft wheeze of my breathing. I am free to notice the world around me in a vivid detail that escapes me at any other time of day.

Sometimes if I am lucky, my dear friend Mental Chaos, is so hurt that I have left him behind that he will not join me again for an hour or two. But, more often than not, he is standing by the truck waiting to climb in and talk my ear off as we drive home. I am more patient now, the moments of calm still resonating in my heart. We can be friends again in these moments, my good buddy directing the middle schoolers in his loud booming voice, "1-2-3-Gooooo!" Chaos ensues.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Running Blind

Two weeks ago I flew out to Calabasas, California to do some really exciting work in the Health and Fitness industry. I flew out Sunday afternoon after waking up super early to crew some of my runners at their very first 10K race (HUGE accomplishment for these ladies, by the way, since they just STARTED running in late spring of 2009! I was so proud!). I arrived in Los Angeles, did all the annoying but necessary car rentals and blah, blah, blah and headed out to Clabasas excited to get to run in a new place in the morning.

Monday morning I woke up super early, even earlier than I do here and without an alarm (ugh. Stupid time difference). The weather was bee-ay-oo-tee-ful, and I even got to wear a mock turtle neck and thin tights! I rarely get to put those to use here in Florida. Anyways, the hotel was in a sort of deserted area and it was plenty dark (4:30 am) and I didn't really have any idea or plan of where to run. So, I took a right.

Now, I have been fortunate enough to run in a lot of places and in a lot of conditions. When I studied in France, I ran through the streets of Reims and past the cathedral where they signed the Treaty of Versailles. I could picture the men of that time sitting around discussing poiltics and the tense, palpable air. In Paris, I ran past the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, enjoying the sweet smell of coffee, cigarettes and pastries (for some reason cigarettes smell better in Paris... it's weird). In London, I ran through the red light district and past the soldiers with the fuzzy hats. I ran in Sweden and Denmark. I ran in Toronto and Quebec. I ran in New Orleans--- of course, that was a different kind of run and we will try to forget that one :D-- and I ran in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is nearly impossible for a native Floridian. I wouldn't even call that one a run, as a matter of fact. I've run through the streets of Vegas, around Central Park, through Washington DC. I'v run on rocks and trails and sand, through mud, and snow, and rain, and even once, in the midst of a hurricane. I am always amazed at how different it is to run in a new place. It's exciting and scary and even a little silly, sometimes, but it is always the first thing I do. It is how I "become one" with my new surroundings for lack of a better explanation.

Often times, when I run in a new place, I imagine that the people there have never seen a runner before, like I am some new oddity, a strange and exotic creature. "Oh my!" They exclaim. "Just look at that graceful being dancing through the streets." In my mind, I can hear the background music that would be playing if it was a scene in a movie and I picture the bystanders pausing at their work, for just an instance, to experience my joy and freedom as I introduce myself to this new place. Clearly, I live in a fantasy world....

I am never afraid when I run in a new place, though. No matter what type of places I run through or what time of day it is, I never feel afraid.

So, I took a right into the blackness. Not a light in sight, except for the hotel which I quickly left behind. I was literally running blind and the silence of this run was deafening. I have never heard anything so thick with silence in my life. The stars were perhaps some of the brightest I have seen, but were still of little use in the lighting of my path. As my eyes began to adjust, I could sense a massive form to my right and I glanced over to see a mountain rising up to the heavens, darker even than the sky. I imagined coyotes and other creatures crouching behind the rocks waiting to see if I was predator or prey. The cold air nipped at my fingers and for the first time ever, I felt the beginnings of something that might have been fear (though I would never admit that, of course). I was weak, vulnerable, slow, and compared to the creatures around me, completely blind and directionless.

Running Blind... huh. What a thought. No direction, no input from your surroundings, no visual cues of which direction to go or what to look out for... A complete and utter sensory deficit. I often feel like I am running blind through life, no idea where I am heading. "Forward and Upwards," I say to people who ask me where I see my life heading. And that's it. That's the only direction I have. If my life is moving forward and my spirit is moving upwards, can I really ask for more than that? I don't think so. Often, I don't know the path is going to turn until I have already run into the tree because I missed it. Ouch! I wonder, on occassion, if at (nearly) 29 yrs old, I should have more answers. Should I have a more fixed destination? Should I have figured out how to use a map and stick to a plan? I don't know. I had a plan once. It didn't look anything like what my life looks like now. What if I had stuck to it? Just plowed right through the trees, determined that this was the only path for me... would I be happy now?

I think I view life differently than a lot of people. I view it as this big maze (like in Alice and Wonderland) with lots of doors. When a door opens, you might as well walk through it. You have no idea where the hell you're really going anyways, right? So, when a door opens, I walk through it. Sometimes, I love what I find on the other side. But, sometimes, I quickly search for another door. Maybe I am getting there, or maybe I am not. In reality, none of us ever know if we are any closer to the end, the final destination, right? We can't see over the high walls, there are no peep holes to know what is on the other side. So, what difference does it make?

And so goes the life of a blind runner, I suppose. You run and you just keep running, moving forwards and upwards. And that's what I do.

I got safely back up the hill to the hotel and wiped the sweat from my brow. I swiped a warm cup of coffee with a shot of cream from the table and let it warm my whole body on the way down. I thought, for a moment, of the crouching coyotes and the invisible snakes, and I shuddered in spite of it. Safe....... for now.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Thankful Runner

I can't say it as fact, but I have a sneaky suspicion that neither Martha Stewart or Julia Childs were runners. I am pretty confident that the editors of "Southern Living" and "Beautiful Home" are not either.

I was in the line at the grocery store and in a feeble (failed) attempt to avoid the chocolate, I began perusing the magazines. It took me about 15 seconds to come to the decision that those magazines are not written for runners and triathletes. It took me about 20 seconds to realize, how funny it was that that was my first thought....

I flipped open to a page showing a beautiful home. It was just gorgeous. Oh, how I would love to own a house like that, so perfectly positioned on a grassy hill with a sprawling yard......sigh! The article went on to show pictures and detail every room, and with each flip of the page my heart sank as I realized that this house was not for me, the runner. The fine entryway with the steps leading to the front door simply would not do. How can a girl be expected to walk up those things after a 22 mile run? The rich, dark hardwood floors would be destroyed by my three running mates-- two black labs and a catahula. Not to mention the fact that I couldn't possibly walk across them dripping sweat and mud! And really, how silly would the porcelain bathroom fixtures look with my sweaty shorts and sports bras hanging from them dripping onto the marble floors? I can just see me plopping down on the floor post-run and stretching while my stench embedded itself in the luxurious carpet.

I closed the magazine, made my purchases, and went home. I pulled up to my simple home with the yard that needs to be mowed. It's so hard to get to that pesky yard work after a Saturday morning spent running. I opened the door to the sound of 12 humongous paw running towards me, slipping and sliding across the tile. I walked past the ball of fur collected in the corner and stepped over one of the three cats winding through my legs. I picked up the towel I had used to wipe the mud from my legs after a bike ride and sat on the couch to realize it was still wet from where I sat on it this morning before I changed. And as the leftover sweat seeped into my jeans and the dogs fought for my affections and I took in the pile of sand next to the 4 pairs of running shoes under the coffee table, I knew I couldn't be luckier. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.... it may not be in Beautiful Homes Magazine and it may not be every person's dream home but if they made a magazine of homes for runners, my house would be on the cover.

Sometimes, it's hard to be thankful. It's hard to remember that the grass is not greener on the other side and to be content with where I am right now, in this moment. Today I am overly aware of the blessings in my life. Almost a year ago, I lost my job. Since then, so much has changed. I didn't even know how well I had it. I never even considered how fortunate I was or that I should be thankful for what I had. And the best part is that even though I am living now on less, my life is so much fuller and richer than ever before. You can't buy that.

My dogs are all lying at my feet right now, twitching and dreaming. I had a glorious run in the rain, my belly is full, my body is nourished and my spirits are high. I have everything I need right here and I couldn't be more thankful.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I used to be a wimp. I really did. Not just a wimp in the sense that I couldn't handle a little pain or criticism or something like that. I was wimpy in that way, but I was a wimp in every way imaginable. Running has made me a stronger person, a better person.

You see, running is applicable to every part of life. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." It sounds good but I think that's just a saying to most people. Runners get the full sense of what it means to "get going." So many times, when life gets tough, I want to quit. I want to do the easy thing. I want to come up with excuses, but then I remember. I am a runner.

Every time I run a race, no matter the distance, I come to a point where quitting is not only possible, it’s actually kind of reasonable. I even play in my head all the “reasons” or excuses I could tell people for why I didn’t finish or PR or whatever. …..

“Man, I got the worst cramp at mile 10 and that was it…”
“Dude, I don’t know…. My leg was aching a bit and I just couldn’t pull it out….”

When the alarm goes off at 4am I have excuses galore for why I should miss my run or bike or swim; a whole laundry list of “good” reasons not to do my work out. No one would know anyways. But on race day, when it matters most, everyone will know. You can’t hide behind excuses and you have no choice but to bare your soul to the running gods. You either did the work or you didn’t. I have done both and I can tell you one felt a whole lot better than the other.

So for me, I relate everything in life back to that experience.

Work is tough? No big deal. Stay the course, persevere, find a way to get through it and reap the reward at the end.

Marriage a bit rocky? Welcome to mile 22 of marathon day. Are you going to drop out or keep putting one foot in front of the other?

Your heart is broken and you feel like you can’t catch a break? Aaaaaah the joys of a good speed workout. Sucks right now, your heart feels like it could explode but if you just keep pushing, it will end and you won’t die in the process.

Feel like the task ahead is insurmountable? Sounds like a hill run to me. Slow down, breathe deep, trudge on…. You’ll get there!

I used to make excuses all day long. I would blame shift or try to explain my way out of stuff. And then I started running. Running keeps you honest. You either do the work or you don’t. I tell people running saved me and I really believe that it did. It saved me from a life of underachievement. It saved me from giving up on dreams and hopes and ambitions. Running took away my fear of the unknown and gave me the courage close my eyes and take the plunge. You’ll only under-train for a marathon once. And then the memory of that day will follow you… Every time you think of an excuse you’ll remember that pain and humiliation. You might think you are tough but a 5K will let you know just how tough you aren’t.

Someone once told me “Life isn’t about surviving one storm after another. Life is about learning to dance in the rain.” So, put your rain boots on, I hear the music playing…….

Thursday, August 13, 2009


There it is. Right in front of you. You can't see the top til you get there. Once you do, you can't see the bottom anymore. It's like hell on Earth while your pedaling. But when it's over, you don't remember how bad it was and you wonder about the next one, the bigger one, the steeper one, the harder one.... and so goes life....
Last weekend, I went to the mountains of North Georgia for what I refer to as a vacation--- full days of biking up the hardest mountains you can find, running the trails, and swimming carefree miles in the cool, open waters. For me, I can't imagine a vacation better than days with conquests so challenging you can't believe them when you see them. And nights so exhausted and yet strangely exhilarated by the fact that you did! Such a dichotomy of emotions....
We spent hours on the bikes during the three days we were there. It was good for me, for my mind and for my heart. I fill my life with people because I love people. I love their stories, I love to watch their reactions and emotions. People fascinate me with their unique struggles and backgrounds and dreams. I love the intimacy of quiet conversations about love and hope and despair. And I love them more when they are shared over the open road in the darkness of the wee hours of the morning. The last year has been so tough for me. I lost my baby, I lost my best friend and in some ways, I think I lost my mind. The pain in my heart is so intense that I feel the only expression is physical. I take the pain in my heart and disperse it into my workouts. When my body is tired, my mind is still.
As we biked up the steepest climb in North Georgia, I thought at moments that my quadriceps might rip from the bone. The air was thin, my lungs were hungry and at one point the darkness was closing in so rapidly I thought I might not even get my foot down in time. My chest was pounding as my heartrate maxed and I don't even know where the strength came from to take even one more pedal stroke. Each corner we turned revealed an even steeper climb with only the promise of another corner ahead. An hour and five minutes uphill. Pure Torture. But, when we reached the top and looked out over the valley, it was so clear, so beautiful, and so obvious. We couldn't see the whole picture until the end, not until we could really appreciate it. That's just how it is.... That mountain view would have been nice to someone who had driven up there but it would never have compared to the view we got to see. We put in the work and thus reaped our own reward- a deeper satisfaction in our work and a greater appreciation of the challenge.
We high-fived and gave our pats on the backs and exclaimed that we had never seen such a beautiful sight. Most importantly, though, we couldn't believe how far we had come. In the moment, in the pain, it was just about squeezing one more push out of tired legs..... left, then right, then left, then right. Now with the whole picture in view, it was the realization that the journey, no matter how hard or how long is always worth the effort.
I climbed back on my bike and started down the mountain.
I never hit the brakes.
40 mph clipped into a bicycle is a freedom and fear like nothing else.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sweat beads of Blackness....

In a normal day in my life, it is not unusual for me to go from one activity to another. I might meet a client or group to run and then head straight over to work in the studio with someone recovering from injury or someone on the pilates reformer. The other day was no exception, but as I was driving back to the studio I noticed that my clothes stunk. Not just a little un-fresh, either. Full on stinkage! I tried every trick in the book—baby wipes, smelly lotion, wiping down using the sink in the bathroom—all to no avail. I apologized to my client who politely said she didn’t smell me. Of course, she then suggested I try soaking my clothes in a bucket of double strength Oxi-clean until I was ready to wash them. BRILLIANT! Why didn’t I think of that? So, I bought some Oxi-clean and set about filling an industrial size mop bucket with water and cleaner and in went the workout clothes. This was GREAT! How exciting to have fresh-as-new clothes again! I felt like a kid getting ready for the 4th grade science fair…. Ah, the memories….plants and bugs and Jell-o and ….. but, I digress...

Knowing the stench contained within my poor, overused workout attire, I settled on 24 hours of soakage before extracting the clothes and washing them. Such a long 24 hours, too…. I could barely contain myself (embarrassingly). It was like getting a whole new wardrobe again, all clean and stink-free.

This is a testament to the mundane-ness of my life, I suppose…. Or to my inner nerd.

So, I put on my lab coat and goggles—ok that is a bit of an exaggeration…. But, I went out to the garage and began removing the clothes from the bucket and I was completely taken aback. I expected the water to be dingy, I really did. But, the water was BLACK, not tan or muddy or cloudy. It was Black, so black you could not even see the bottom of the bright yellow bucket. Disgusting. Truly and really, that is just gross. And embarrassing. And eye-opening. How could that much filth be contained in something that looked perfectly clean and bright and completely UN-filthy??

Most of the time when I run, I allow my mind to ponder things, to think deeply and to access the emotions and fears and thoughts that dwell deep inside of me. It is normal for me to talk to God as I travel through the early morning darkness. It is when I am the most honest, when I speak most freely, and expose myself. The wee hours of the morning allow me to admit to the places in life I come up short, to realize just how little I really know about life and marriage and all the things a person might wrestle with as they travel their worldly journey. Running takes all the uglies inside of me, brings them to the top and allows them to crack through the surface. Sometimes, I cry for things lost and days past. Other times, the rage within me can only be quelled by a workout so intense it would be frightening to witness. But mostly, I find joy out on the road. I clear my heart and I clear my mind and I make a little more peace with my place in the world and a mission too big to accomplish alone.

Maybe therein lies the answer to the black water. Maybe each drop of sweat carries a little of the blackness and darkness from inside my heart to the outside and each breath of the fresh morning air replaces it with lightness and joy……. Who knows? What I do know is that no matter how good or bad life is at any moment, I have a constant. Every morning I can get up and lace up my shoes. Sophie will always meet me at the door and God is always waiting to talk knowing I will discover another piece of the puzzle in the miles ahead. And when I return all sweaty and tired, my clothes will contain the filth. They won’t look dirty, but every stitch will be full of the worry and fret I left behind. And me? My heart will be full of the joy and possibility of a new day, a new challenge, a new mountain to conquer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Who knew?

This past weekend a group of us went to do the Moss Park Olympic Triathlon. This was my first tri of the season and actually my first since Timberman half ironman last year (August). Needless to say, I was a bit nervous about the race and especially since my training schedule did not allow for a taper. I ran 12 miles the day before the race. And that is where the story gets interesting. Saturday morning, after running with my Fit2Endure training group, I went out to check on my bees. Yes, I have bees and yes they make honey (they are bees afterall) and yes they are so cool and yes I am a dork--- that should answer most of the basic questions. Oh, and no I have not been stung before..... until Saturday. Therefore, I did not know that it hurt so darn bad or that I would indeed have a "gross local reaction." The stupid little booger got me right where the ankle and foot meet and my whole foot became red, painful and incredibly swollen. I got some professional advice and downed a bunch of benadryl, which I also did not know would absolutely knock me on my rear, and went to bed that night praying the swelling would reside and my foot would fit into my shoe for the race. Race morning: Did you know that if you do not take medicine and then takes lots of it, you will have a hangover the next day? I did not. Now, there was a time when I was perfectly capable of functioning through a hangover or an all-nighter or any number of similar scenarios. Now, I am old and, that is not the case. It was horrible! My foot was still swollen HUGE and my head was killing me and I could have lay down on the side of the road and just fallen asleep. Not the ideal way to feel on race morning. I wasn’t going to go through with it but I packed my stuff, just in case, and drove there with everyone and stood doubled over by the truck trying to control the vomitous sensations pulsing through my body. What to do? What to do? One of the girls suggested I set up transition and then decide when the gun goes off or just drop out if I felt bad. Hmmmmm…. Not a bad idea. I go to set up transition and what do ya know, my shoelace breaks. At this point, I know it must be God telling me to just stop while I am ahead and forget the stupid race. But my Mr. Fix-it husband rigged my shoe and pulled me down to the water just as they were lining up the guys. I still had no desire to get going and I was pondering what the people swimming behind me might think of me as they swam through my puke when I hear, “Ladies, 10-9-8-7…..Go!” Please know that at this point, I truly had no intention of starting the race. I was not in a good place mentally or physically and I knew disaster was foreboding. BUT I had exactly 10 seconds to react and adrenaline, or God, or practice, or whatever took over and I snapped my goggles in place and ran right into the water with the other girls before I even knew what I had done. STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!! You absolutely cannot turn around and go back to the start against a mass of kicking and punching women in the water. I was stuck and my heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe, but if I was going to even get back to the shore, I had to calm down and breathe. So, I slowed long enough to catch my breath, swallowed a mouthful of vomit, put my head down and just focused on finishing that first swim lap. And wouldn’t ya know… by the time I rounded the first lap, I decided to try the second one.
I came out of the water 17 minutes ahead of last year’s time and that was just the boost I needed to keep going. All the way to a 2:28:xx finish-- A huge PR and a really respectable time. I was stoked!!
Here’s the thing, though: I was so close to not even starting. I was so incredibly close to not racing and missing the opportunity to know I could overcome challenges and still put up a great race. I almost missed the opportunity to gain even more insight to myself, the opportunity to challenge myself and push just a little harder than I thought I could. I almost let myself quit. Whatever it was that made me throw on my goggles and race out into the water with a bunch of flailing women, I’m really glad because I learned a lot that day about myself. I also remembered why racing has so much application to life. I didn’t walk away with a trophy on Saturday (4th place, oh well) but I walked away with these lessons heavy on my heart….

· Go ahead and proceed like it’s going to happen, you can always stop and re-evaluate along the way.

· Don’t take too much time to think about it. 10 seconds is just enough time to take the plunge and deal with the punches as they come.

· There is always another gear. You just have to decide to pedal that hard.

· Keep your friends close. Who cares about your enemies? Only your friends can lift you over the big humps.

· When you think you can’t take another step, you always can. You have to dig into your own soul and coax that athlete out, but you really can do it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who is a runner?

Last Saturday, July 4th, when the rest of the world was sleeping in, sunning at the beach, drinking ice cold beer and strawberry daquiris, or simply enjoying ginormous hamburgers, ice cream, apple pie and all the other tasty summer treats, I was pounding the pavement. I wasn't alone, though. Nope. Nine other silly triathletes decided to join me as I endeavored on an unsupported Olympic distance triathlon right here in sunny Lakeland, FL. We jumped right off the dock into a lake and swam 1 mile (gators be damned!), then hopped on the bikes and rode through the streets of Lakeland, and ended with a sweaty 6 mile run in the heat of the day. It was great and honestly, I really don't think I would have preferred to do anything else that day. But, thinking back over it makes me consider the running and triathlon community a bit. Maybe it's just Lakeland or maybe it's running communities in general.... I suppose it could also be the way I speak so convincingly of the fun of torturous endeavors or stupid human feats and thus recruit poor souls to do things with me. Whatever it is, I love being part of a community of people who are so in tune with the ideas of challenge, perseverance, personal sacrifice, and of course reward for a job well done (that would be the beer garden after a race)!

It's interesting to me that after high school suddenly the lines between the cool people and the dorks get a little murky and people redistribute themselves into new groups and even multiple groups based on anything from religion to sport to a love of some weird computer game. Running is one of those groups that seems boundless in regards to age, gender, nationality, ability....really, any limit at all. In one week, I may share the road with someone more than twice my age or someone who worships differently than me. I could race next to a landscaper, a doctor, or even a stay at home mom. And here's the best part! At the end, when we all stand around drinking water or Gatorade (or BEER!!!), we can talk endlessly about a common ground that unites us in some weird brotherhood. I know that every person standing there was once a beginner. I know they have all tried and failed. I know they all have accomplished something that satisfies them on a personal level like nothing else. We may never talk about it, but you can see it in the twinkle of an eye. It is apparent in the finishing moment when you see the pain on their faces contort to a smile so full of life and accomplishment. And you understand. You've been there.

I love running. I love everything about it. But I really love runners.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Meet Abigail. This is the newest addition to our family and we actually got her the weekend before we had to put Roxy down. Abby and I share a similar story- a spotty past with lots of let downs along the way, never quite understood, and in swoops the superhero to save us from ourselves. Roxy saved Abigail, she chose her from all the dogs at the SPCA as the perfect one to come into the family and fill the void. So far, Abigail has eaten two heart rate montiors, three shoelaces, a sports bra, a flip flop, a pair of sunglasses, a lap watch, some socks, a multitude of stuffed animals, and more raw hides than I can count. There have been moments when I have wondered if Roxy chose this dog to get me back for something. Today, though, I am confident that Abby was chosen because, like most things in life, she is teaching me a lesson and preparing me for challenges that lie ahead.
The thing I love about Abby is that she has absolutley no limits in her little doggy brain. She does not realize she is smaller than Sophie, she does not realize we are stronger than her, she does not realize she just simply cannot run 20 miles (yet). She has no idea that the squirrels are faster or that the cat has sharper claws or that a growl is any kind of warning whatsoever. Now, I suppose it's possible that she is just plain and simply dumb. Okay, that is actually quite possible. BUT, I prefer to think that she is fearless, without bounds, unwilling to submit or conform to her surroundings. I prefer to think of her as "Abigail, the Conquerer!"
I watched Abigail this morning as she "conquered" Sophie's bowl of food. Sophie did not find this interesting in the least and instead stood by growling and barking her protests as Abby gobbled up everything in sight. But, I did. I realized that every day we have a choice; we get the opportunity to choose how to go about our day or our run or our job or maybe even just our slot in life. We can be like Sophie and stand by and protest and watch our life be gobbled up by someone else, or we can choose to be like Abigail. We can set about the goal unaffected by the nay-sayers and protesters, completely oblivious to the fact that there is any limit to what we can do in a lifetime. I hear comments everyday about how bad the economy is and how people can't find jobs and how tough it is out there and I say "Rubbish!" Sure, things aren't quite like they were and money is a little tighter. Maybe we have to think twice before we pull out the debit card or we have to skip a meal out here and there, but put your earplugs in, friends. We live in a great country with more opportunity in a day than some people see in a lifetime. We have hope and possibility. We have choices. As for me, I choose to be like Abigail. And while they are busy complaining, I'll eat their food, too!
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tarahumara within me, Run Strong!

I’m not sure what’s changed in me. I don’t know if it was the rollercoaster that was 2008 or maybe the sudden awareness that the only guarantee is that nothing is guaranteed. Maybe it’s the uber-awareness that minutes are precious and the next day may never come or even, quite possibly, my own sort of journey to find my personal limits. Whatever it is, I feel an inner frenzy to push myself further than ever before and to step out of my comfort zone in every aspect of my life. I seem to be on an incessant quest to find the last straw. I have an Ironman distance race in October, something I never even pondered until this year, and lately I have been contemplating the physicality of a 100 mile foot race.

And that is how I started yesterday’s run, with these thoughts swirling in my head. I needed a challenge. I needed to feel the pavement, to have my legs beg for mercy. I wanted the sweat to cover every inch of fabric and to feel the heat of the sun taunting me to quit. I felt the surge of adrenaline. I felt my inner Raramuri (go ahead. Google it!) fighting to be set free. I sprinted the first hill and then did it 5 more times just to prove I could. I may have even let out a war cry at the top. From there, I continued on at a blistering pace, jumping roots and dodging vines. I climbed over a fallen tree and raced the stream for a good mile. The blood was pulsing through my veins and the sun could not stop me. I was a warrior, running to conquer new territory. I was an indian chasing the deer that would be dinner. 9 miles later, I was spent. Wasted. Completely DONE.

Hot? Absolutely!

Painful? Most definitely.

Smart? Eh…. That’s debatable.

Liberating? Amazing? Satisfying? Unquestionably!

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t think everyone should go run in the heat of the Florida noon sun or do crazy (stupid) workouts or even push themselves to complete exhaustion. I do, however, recommend stepping out of the comfort zone and finding the “life” that dwells within. I think there’s great value in looking the challenge square in the face and never backing down. Maybe it’s just signing up for a race, running a new, harder course, or even trying a new time of day or a new running group. Whatever it is, DO IT!

Look long and hard at the path ahead. If it looks easy, don’t go that way.

If, however, you look out and wonder how the hell you are ever going to cross the terrain in front of you, then press on.

You know you are right on course.

Take the baton and run with all your heart!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My name is Becca and I have an addiction.

I think the hardest part of being an athlete is resting.

No, seriously.

Do you think I am kidding?!?!

The hardest part of this whole game is taking a little time off and letting the body recover. I know that my Couch 2 5K people might read that and think I am completely out of my mind, but it is absolutely true. Not in the beginning maybe, but over time it becomes a defining part of your day. You would never wake up and go about your day without brushing your teeth and putting on deodorant. It just wouldn't feel right. It is very hard for me to go a day without a workout.

Not every addiction requires treatment.

I know because I run!

Perhaps I am lucky that my drug of choice is running . Without a runner's high, the day drags and I feel crappy about myself and my body. My energy is not so high and I can be downright crabby. It's true, I promise..... ask my husband. A good run sets the whole day in motion. I mean, I accomplished a great task before the sun ever even hits the sky. I feel smart and vibrant and successful and, well, like WonderWoman pretty much. It's awesome!

Except, when it isn't. Except when the runs are going slower and the legs feel heavy and it's a chore, and maybe even it starts to hurt a bit. And that's when you know, you took it for granted. The gift of running. It's a hard balance. The balance between constant improvement and going further and faster and taking a day here and there to repair the body and enjoy just being still. It's hard when people compare mileage and times and goals to remember that those things are very individual and no two people can do the same thing.... nor should they. Sometimes, I think that's the hardest part of running but it's also one of the many life lessons that running has given me.

My schedule, my path, is mine. No one else owns the same destiny as me and no timetable is as perfect for me as the one I am on. What I view as successful may only be mediocre to someone else and as great as it is to work hard and have results, you have to slow down and be still or it all passes by before you even know it.

I tell my runners that it doesn't matter how hard you train if you hurt too bad to stand at the starting line. And I think that's todays lesson for me. It doesn't matter how much I pack my schedule and accomplish if I didn't enjoy it while it was happening.

Darn. This balanced life thing is so hard!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In the Beginning...

In the beginning, I did not run. I did not feel good about myself, I did not know the power within me, and I certainly did not wake up in the wee hours of the morning, compare blisters or toenails, discuss chaffage and the prevention of such, or spend more on good socks than I might on a meal. I am not by nature a content person, which is probably a little bit good and a little bit more not so good, and I was discontent that day. I was not fulfilled by really anything- my marriage was not as awesome as I dreamed, my job wasn't quite doing it for me, I was at war with my insides about who I was and what the heck I wanted. My Dad would tell you that this has always been the way I am, never satisfied.

I have no idea what possessed me on that day. It was December and the air was a bit more crisp and the sun was pretty. My black lab, Sophie, was hyper-- again, nothing new there.... This is the dog who single handedly ate an entire dining room table and SIX chairs. I was home alone and it was a Saturday. I could have gone to the gym and sweated it out on the stairmaster or even taken a group fitness class, but I didn't want to. So, there I was putzing around the house and one of those brilliant little ideas I am so well known for popped into my head.

Stupid Self: "Hey! I could go for a run! That would calm the dog and get me some exercise and it's beautiful outside.... what a great idea!! I could run down to the lake and back. It would be great!"

Smart Self: *crickets chirping* nothing.... nada..... sleeping perhaps?

So, it began. I got dressed and laced up my shoes and leashed up the dog and I felt ready. I should definitely mention that I knew nothing of good fitting shoes, non-cotton socks, technical running clothes, fueling for a run, none of that. The dog had never run on the leash and, oh yeah, I did not know that it was 9 MILES round trip to the lake and back. Yes, 9 miles. Ah, the naivete of youth..... such a sweet, sweet, painful, loooooooong-suffering, lesson learning, self loathing, near death experience kind of thing.

Needless to say, I survived and it was not pretty. I think I learned every single lesson about running the first day. The dog survived too, and we both limped around for a week. But, I was hooked. Never in my life had I felt so accomplished. It hurt, it hurt bad but I kept moving one step in front of the other. No, I did not run the whole way that first day and I think I may have even cried at one point. Yes, I was delirious and in pain for days. But ,I set my mind to do something and I did it. Over the next year, my life changed a lot. I signed up for my first race (a 15K... God forbid I start small like most normal people), I got out of my relationship that was so toxic, I quit my job and headed in a new direction. It was a bumpy road and dark at times. But when I couldn't see where I was going, I just picked my feet up a little higher to keep from stumbling. I had never been of the fearless variety. I was always limited by fear-- fear of failure, fear of being judged, fear of the unknown, fear of disappointing my parents or boss or spouse or whoever, fear of not being on the right timetable, of being a step behind or a step ahead.

With each mile I ran, I left another fear behind.

People ask me why I put my life out there for others to read. Why would I share such things where just anyone can see? It's because I'm not afraid. I'm done with that. I don't give one iota of thought to what others might think. I have made a lot of mistakes and I have even hurt people along the way but I learned from those things. The only thing I fear now is that I will stop changing. That I will stop growing as a person and learning from each experience. I said it from the start, it's been a bumpy, winding path this life but it's also been a blessing. It's an amazingly liberating thing when you know you have screwed up so much that you really can't mess it up anymore. So, you get humble and you share what you've found along the way in hopes that others will start to see that life isn't about the falls, it's about the strength to stand again.

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will...."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Lift as you Climb...."

"LIFT as you CLIMB...."

I heard this today. I like it. That's a hella big challenge......

I finished the MS150 today and it was pretty amazing. Actually, it was really freaking awesome! The thing that amazes me about an event like this is the sense of camaraderie that envelopes the participants. You arrive at the ride/race as an individual or maybe with a team and by the end everyone is on the same team encouraging those who are struggling and motivating one another to strive for greatness. What a concept....... I can't help to wonder why it takes biking 150 miles to sort out that really, that's the way it should be.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

150 miles….. One HUNDRED and fifty miles……. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILES!!!!!
What was I thinking? I am convinced that my mother must have dropped me on my head as a baby. Or maybe it was the constant beatings from my big brother that annihilated all my good, useful brain cells. I don’t even know how I get talked into this stuff! The others always claim it’s me that does the “talking into,” but surely someone else planted the idea in my head first. Either that or I am certifiable…… hmmm, let’s not ponder that one too long!

So, our team is doing the MS 150 bike ride on Saturday and Sunday. We start early Saturday morning at Bok Tower in Lake Wales and we meander our way to Orlando (100 miles). After a massive feast and some sleep, we will head back on Sunday for another 50 miles. Our team has worked hard to raise over $6000 so far to support the MS Society! We smashed our goal several times and had to keep upping the ante--- Great work guys!!

Now, it’s “GO” Time! We ride for people who can’t, we endure for two days a fraction of the suffering that others deal with daily. Pretty cool stuff. I can’t imagine the frustrations and challenges that those with handicaps or limitations must face and I pray I never find out. I’m so very grateful to have full ability and control of my body and if I have to ride 150 miles to understand just how lucky I am, I’m up for the challenge!

Bring on the PAIN!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mission Possible!

One of the best parts of my job is that every day I get to talk to people about their lives. I have the amazing privilege to climb inside the heads of the people I work with and tinker with the workings of their minds. I get to hear the joys and triumphs and I get to hear the sorrows and the tribulations. It is amazing to share experiences with my clients and appreciate how differently individual people deal with what life throws at them.

Today I met with a woman that fascinates me on many levels: Strong, capable, sincere, loyal, crazy intelligent, and yet absolutely at odds with herself as to her direction and worth in life. The first thing I do with clients is to try to help them set goals. Goal-setting is not a natural progression to a lot of people but I see it as absolutely essential. Goals allow you to have a fixed point on which to focus and an end point by which to determine when and if you are slipping off course. Without focus, there is no way to know the direction and no way to re-align yourself. The more we talked,though, the more apparent it became that this amazing woman, like many of us, couldn't even be sure what goals to set because the reality was she didn't even know who she was as an individual.

In life, it is really easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day and sort of lose sight of yourself and your self-worth. It is easy to fall into a role and commit yourself to that path (usually the easiest path) and like a chameleon, blend into the surroundings. The problem with this though is that one day, you look down and realize you don't like what you see or even know why you are headed in the direction you are going. I see this a lot with moms. They commit their very being, their every ounce to being a perfect mom and along the way they lose sight of what they like and what they stand for as a person. They lose sight of how to be a wife, a woman and how to even exist without the crutch of their kids. Men fall into their career and define their worth by a dollar sign or a certain level of importance within an establishment. I try to get my clients to, for one second, seperate themselves from those roles and determine who they are as a person. What would the "Mission Statement" of their life look like? What do they stand for and if they lost their job or (gasp!) if their kids grow up and leave home and make lives of their own (I know, I know, but it happens....), who would they be? That's a tough question! It is really hard to look into your own life and recognize your own passions and decide what you would stand for if you had to stand alone! But, it' essential.

So, I challenged my client today. I told her to write her own Mission Statement in life. For me, it's not too hard. I have a very strong passion and it has always been my passion. I like to empower people, to build the steps that take them to heights they have never imagined. I like to create change and challenge people to be better. I hold myself and my fellow world-mates to a high standard of morale and compassion, and I never aim for less than the best. I push my friends and family hard and I push myself harder because I believe in the satisfaction of hard work, but I also value failure. I try hard to recognize shortcomings in myself and accept the amazing variety in an everchanging world.

I'm lucky, though. That's easy for me because God has been gracious enough to give me the gift of a mission.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Ultimate Finisher's Medal

Sunday, April 26th at 1:45pm I had to put Roxy down. It was the most surreal and amazing experience, and yet somehow, it was one of the sweetest moments I have ever experienced...

The tumor began bleeding Saturday night and by Sunday morning it was uncontrollable. I called my friend, Donna, who is a veterinarian and local triathlete, in hysterics. Donna is one of those people who prances right into your life, fills you with joy, and lets you know what friendship is all about. She is an admirable athlete, a spunky woman, an amazing veterinarian and absolutely adorable at 8 months pregnant. I could hate her if I didn't love her to pieces! I am not a person to ask for help and it took me hours to decide to make the call. Donna was in Bradenton and without question packed up her stuff and headed home, texting me for comfort the whole way.

I knew when I made the call it was the beginning of the end. I knew my minutes with my best friend were numbered and precious. Roxy and I went out under the tree in the front yard and sat together and "talked." Her fur was matted with blood and my clothes weren't much better. It's funny to me that in moments like that it always seems like things around you are sensationally clear. The sun is brighter, the wind is perfect, the sounds are thunderous and the colors are magnified. As we sat under the tree, Roxy let her head fall back and the breeze tugged at her ears. She leaned into me and sighed. It was a big sigh- contentment, peace, happiness, satisfaction- but it was a tired sigh. We lay under the tree just letting the memories and moments of our life together swirl around us and then, like a single body moving together, we got up and headed to the truck. It was time.

Roxy was never afraid.
She licked my hand until her last breath, reassuring me, giving of herself even in her last moments.

I feel a little lost this week. There is a warmth in my home that is missing and a bit of a struggle within to know that I am ready to travel the road without my sidekick. I seem to be floundering for something to prove my own vitality and longevity. Roxy never held a grudge, she never pointed out my flaws, and there was never a question of forgiveness. She was what I only hope I can become. I want to love my friends unconditionally and accept them even with their flaws. I want to be patient and kind and leave behind a wake of reassurance and hope. I want to explore and play, but always remember how to get home.

It is almost exactly eleven years ago that Roxy forced herself into my life and now I am on my own. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little apprehensive...

"But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind"
Job 12: 7-10

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Do these pants make my butt look big?

People are always forever telling me that I “wear a lot of hats.” I always respond to this by saying, “Ah, but the important thing is what PANTS I am wearing….” In reality, I only have two hats that I ever wear- a Brooks white visor, which keeps my crazy fly-aways in place without making me look fat-faced, or a black brooks cap, which means my hair is both unruly and unbrushed and quite possibly unwashed. My pants on the other hand, are quite numerous- in my drawer, and my closet, and my gym bag, and the floor of the bathroom, and pretty much anywhere else they come to rest. I have fat pants and skinny pants, I have colorful pants and classic black pants, I have serious business pants and ratty jeans.
Now, I realize that when people tell me that I wear a lot of hats they are referring to the many different positions or “standings” that I hold--- coaching, training, teaching, being the almighty president of the Tri club, a daughter, a wife, an Aunt, a friend, a sister, a student, a marathoner, a triathlete…… the list goes on and on and on. The hat comment always bothers me, though, because it always refers to the things that I DO. I always make the pants comment in return because it refers to my ATTITUDE while I’m doing those things, way more important in my humble opinion. You see, if I am wearing my wife hat but my grumpy pants, everyone suffers in my wake because my attitude sucks and no matter how much I DO, it all gets overshadowed by my crappy attitude while I’m doing it. If I am wearing my biker hat (well, I suppose that would be a helmet, huh?) but I forget my patient pants, then the first flat tire ruins the whole ride and suddenly I hate biking. That’s a waste of a day, right?
Today, a group of us went out to ride the Hills in Clermont, FL. If you are familiar with the area, it is renowned for its big hills. Hey! They are big for Florida, ok? So take off your holier-than-thou-those-aren’t-hills-pants for goodness sakes!!!! Anyway, within the first 5 minutes someone from the group had a flat. I should take a moment to point out that this is one of MANY reasons running is way better than biking. Normally, this would aggravate the ever loving snot out of me. I would smile and help change the tire but Oh.My.Goodness flat tires annoy me. I felt the frustration coming on and I looked around and noticed I was the only person who looked the least bit perturbed-- I suppose I snuck my bitch hat under my helmet? I took a deep breath and considered how much nicer the ride might be if I just took a second to forget myself and my agenda and my heart rate and my cadence and my speed and slipped into my patient pants. So, I did. And you know what, I didn’t hate riding today. It was pretty enjoyable! I wonder if my patient pants make my butt look nice…..

Friday, April 10, 2009

Take that!!!

It has been 9 months since I raced a race for me. I have paced some athletes to the finish line and just run a few races because it's fun to run them. But I have not stated a race goal and set out to achieve it in nearly a year. So, May 9th I will be targeting the Mayfaire 5K here in Lakeland with a goal of 21:xx.... Gulp! There. It's out on the interwebs for everyone to see. Now, I can begin to fret.

I hate racing. I hate setting a race goal because I know full-well that doing so means that there is a very, very good possibility that I could fail. And a 5K is even worse! In a marathon or half-iron distance tri you can make lots of excuses--- a bad stomach, dehydration, hitting the proverbial wall. Not so much with a 5K. A race goal is very important because it gives the runner a measure by which to determine how their training is going. It provides information about the training plan, the diet, the pacing, all sorts of stuff. Sounds useful, huh? Yet, this "useful tool" looms over me like the boogie man who used to sleep under my bed. As a kid, I would stand on the bed and literally leap through the door to the hall so his grimey, slimey fingers couldn't wrap around my ankle and pull me down. I would lie there in the darkness and think up tireless escape plans should he one day yank me into the dark cave. Just the same, my mind is whirring with ways to tweak my training or squeeze in a few more miles or even break my leg so I don't have to race (God help me, I am a sick, sick individual).

One of my athletes, Nicole, emails me periodically in an absolute panic. "I can't do this..... there's no way.... why did I sign up for this?...." I always laugh to myself and think, "Silly Nicole! Believe in the plan; just believe." But here I am with the exact same self-doubt building in my throat as the day gets closer and closer. And the reality of the situation is that it doesn't even matter what the race time turns out to be! How self-absorbed of me to think for one second that posting a time less than my stated goal will matter one teensy. little. bit (Thank you Betsy for pointing that out :P ). What matters is that I was brave enough to set the goal, that I toe the line on race morning and allow myself to measure up and see how well I am doing. What matters is that I run hard as hell and walk away knowing how I can improve. Because the truth is that failure can drive you to greatness or it can grab your ankle and pull you under, just like the boogie man.

So May 9th, I will be at the start line and I will give the boogie man the finger because gosh darn it I'm going for it! 100%.... all out.... fully knowing that I just might fail!

I guess I should admit, then, that my real goal is sub-21 minutes. Since we're being honest and fearless and all like that....

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Two years ago, I was in Washington DC to run the Marine Corps Marathon. It was my second time running this particular race and my first attempt at a Boston Qualifying time. Everyone in the running world, and most people outside of it, know of the Boston Marathon and posting a qualifying time to receive entry is somewhat of a rite of passage- a point where something magical happens. At least I think...... unfortunately, I wouldn't know. You see, I was back at the Marine Corps Marathon because I had a bit of a point to prove. This had been my first marathon and it had been nothing less than a death March. What better way to prove myself as a runner than to return to the battlefield and not only conquer the beast but do well enough to qualify for the most renowned marathon?

This may be obvious, but 26.2 miles is a looooooong way. A lot of stuff happens in that distance. You experience so many emotions, see so many sights, watch people loving life and other people truly knocking on Hell's door. You see people in costume, people juggling (yes, juggling), watch mom's hug their husbands and children, see proud parents with signs. At a marathon, a LOT goes on over the course of 26.2 miles.

I had trained splendidly for this marathon. My mind was in the right place and success was a sure thing. I started out with a friend to keep each other in check on the pace and the miles were flying under our feet effortlessly. It started as a "wrinkle in my sock" about mile 9 and by mile 15 there was no putting weight on it. I started crying; I knew what was happening and it was over. I kissed Brian and pulled off at the med tent. My sock was bloodied and the sight was not pretty.

I sat there and cried while the Marine taped my poor foot. I felt like such a failure. This stupid foot! Surgery had removed the crippled joints when I was 16 and nothing had worked right since then. The frustration was pouring from me and the defeat was infecting my every thought. As I sat there, a blonde chick pulled off the course and sat next to me.
"I am so tired of running," she said.
I looked at her incredulously. "Um, what?!?!"
"I'm just tired of running. I want breakfast. I'm gonna let this bus take me back."
I should probably ask for forgiveness for the thoughts that went through my head at that moment. She was tired?!?!?!? She didn't feel like running anymore?!?!?
I looked at her and snapped, "Might think about that next time you DECIDE TO RUN 26.2 MILES!!"
I got up from the chair and started running. Not just running, like seriously running. I had lost 17 minutes sitting at that medical tent feeling sory for myself. What a waste. I stopped feeling the foot and just set my sights on the finish. I did not stop running until I crossed the line and the Marine kissed my cheek. Then, I sat and I cried.
Those last 11.2 miles are so representative of life, at least of my life. I think they are valid for anyone's life. You can make a choice. You can choose to be the chick who just gets tired and quits or you can set your sight on the prize, focus on what you can do and just do it. Everybody has bumps and setbacks. Everybody has failures and shortcomings. But I can tell you this, if you make it to the finish line knowing you did the best you could possibly do and if you did it right, that prize is so much more glorious.
My chip time for that marathon was 4:15:xx- a forgetable time. I will never forget that race, though. I think about it often, especially lately. Life is really a lot like a marathon. There are some miles that are harder than others. There are twists and turns and uphills that make every inch of you ache. Some miles fly by effortlessly and others seem to drag on to eternity. There are moments you wonder what the hell you are doing here and moments when you wouldn't ever want to be anywhere else. And inevitably, the thought crosses your mind to quit, to just stop trying. You think how easy it would be to take three steps off the course and blend in with the spectators. I can honestly say in life there are moments when I think about how easy those three steps off the course would be. How easy to just sit down and quit. But then, I remember how sweet it was to cross that finish line. When I get to the finish line in life, I want to look back and know that I lived what I believed. I want to know that I gave everything I possibly could.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My pacer in the Race of Life

In the spring of 1998, I went to the pound and picked out a dog. Well, in reality, I suppose she picked me out. I didn't like her at first with her multi-color eyes and big curly tail. But she loved me and my Memaw said that "a good dog picks you, you don't pick them." Dogs have a better intuition, afterall. They don't base their decision on all the silly things that we consider. I was picking out a dog for reasons different than most people. Sure, it was fun to get a puppy, but Roxy was destined to serve a much bigger purpose. She had a big job and my life and my future rested on her shoulders. I think she knew that.

When I was 14, my battle with anorexia began. I don't know exactly how it started or why it started. I am sure a psychologist could have fun blaming this or that and analyzing the various events leading up to it. But however it came to pass, it sucked me in and consumed my every thought. Looking back, it's a hard thing to explain. I wonder how I ever did it- how I played sports year round (and even excelled at them), how I covered it up, how people didn't shake me and scream and yell, how I could stand missing out on so many things. My memories of those years are very sparse and there are even periods of months that I cannot recall at all. I do remember the day I asked for help. I do remember that that day was actually just the beginning.

A year after I asked for help, my situation was worsening and my parents were at a complete loss. They covered for me when people asked and I suppose in a lot of ways it was pretty embarassing for them. Mostly, though, I think they felt like I was sliding through their fingers like the fine, soft sand on the beach. Pieces of me- my personality, my organs, my body parts- were being caught in the winds of time and carried away, never to be seen again. Desperation is what got me to the pound. Desperation is what made my dad agree to the nutritionist's suggestion of a puppy, a therapy dog. The hope was that I would feel the unconditional love of a puppy and regain a sense of purpose, a motherly instinct to survive and thrive to protect my baby. Even better, I would hopefully learn to gauge how much she needed to eat or not eat or exercise or not exercise and begin to apply those principles to my own life. It was a long shot, a very long shot.

The recovery rate for anorexia is not good. A very small percentage of those who enter the murky waters come away from them and never dip their feet back in. The day I picked Roxy up from the pound, the hard work began. We were inseperable, Roxy and I. She rode all over town with me. We went for walks and jogs and spent countless hours sleeping all curled up together. When I went to college, every bare wall was covered with pictures of her and I- reminders of my sweet angel dog.

I wish I could say I quickly gained back the weight and life was good. But I can't. I did gain back some; I had to because I was playing soccer at Florida Southern that year. My liver was not doing well and the doctor had serious concerns about other side effects of anorexia. I played that season, but I did not do well. No longer could shear will-power carry me through the tough workouts and long days. My body was tired and I was exhausted. After just one season, I moved back home. It was a huge loss for me. Soccer had been my sport. I loved the game and reveled in the physical execution. My body was failing me now and I couldn't pretend anymore.

Roxy was at home to greet me. She knew she was needed and stood by me every step of the way. She loved me and gave me purpose, even after I had lost my hopeful ambitions. The summer after I graduated from college, my weight had stabilized within a healthy range and I was considered "cured." I have never gone back. I've never stood on the banks of the murky waters and considered the temperature. I have never dipped a toe in or considered diving in to retrieve the lost memories. Not once. And Roxy has been there all along. She has walked by my side the whole way, a constant reminder that I am loved.

It's been eight years or so since I was officially "better." Roxy is laying beside me right now, snoring softly. She had a tumor removed from her face yesterday. The veterinarian couldn't get all of it and is not confident of any hopefulness for her. Her little face is swollen and bloodied and I can feel that she is in pain. I am afraid to lose her. I am afraid of procedures I cannot possibly afford. I can't even remember my life before her; she is eleven. I wonder to myself how can I look at her and tell her I can't save her? She came into a darkness that no one else could enter. She saw me, my heart, in a blackness where people saw loss and hopelessness. She never got mad or frustrated, she never gave up. She was my brave little puppy. She took my sickness.

The pathology came back and the tumor is indeed malignant. The cancer is s pretty horific one and the next weeks and months will be very tough for Roxy. :(

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Run for joy!

People run for a lot of reasons. I suppose they are all good reasons, but I feel like sometimes we just don't really "get it." I am sure that based on the little bit that people know of me, they must think I hop right out of bed when the alarm goes off between 4:00 and 4:30am. I bet they think I sleep in my running shoes and cannot think for one second of something I would rather do than run. I can assure you, at 4 o' clock in the morning there are LOTS of things I would rather do...... Sleep being quite high on that list. What's interesting about running is that you don't really love it until you've already done it for the day. At 4 am, I hate running.

Sometimes- not at 4 am, mind you- I think that it is such a shame that I have to have a reason to run. I think it's sad that only once in a blue moon do I actually pause and reflect on the "gift" that is running. I was reading today about men and women who have served in Iraq, people who will most likely never run again. I read about people who lost body parts, lost their vision, experienced horrible, unimaginable things, suffer from diminished mental capacity, and perhaps worst of all, people who have lost a joy for life. We live in a weird time right now, a scary time. Many people have experienced great loss and despair. We do not, however, live in a hopeless time. We don't live in a time when joy should be far from our hearts. That time does not exist.

Yesterday, my nephew (2 yrs old) picked out a Giant dump truck for his birthday present. As we left the store, he bent over to push the dump truck and ran with all his heart across the parking lot, Baby Bear safely tucked into the cab. When we reached the car, he stood up, smiled and said simply, "Play truck, Aunt Bec!"

It's just that simple, isn't it? The world is going to spin, the seasons are going to change, we will experience sorrow and loss, we'll grow old. But when we look back, I think it is the greatest loss if we look back and see anything less than joy. If we look back and see that we set our sights on silly, tangible things and missed the forest for the trees. Joy in life is right there, waiting for us to grab the moments and store them in our hearts for tough times. I ran with joy this morning. I felt the power in my legs, the camraderie of my friends. The breeze was just perfect and I was free to let my mind wonder. I could feel the rhythm of the pavement pounding under me and us breathing, making our own special music. The dog looked at me and I swear she winked at me. She knew. Dogs get it.... little kids do too. Running is freedom, it's escape, it's proof that you can do anything you put your mind to.

I hope and pray you run with true JOY in your heart. That you cherish the "gift" that is running and you face each day knowing that promise and possbility lie before you. Focus your mind on the sweet things in life and glory in moments that make you smile.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Honesty is a gift...

In our society, it is very rare that we feel the freedom to be honest with others. I am not talking about the mean, crass, opinionated kind of honesty that jumps to mind, but instead of the kind of honesty that speaks truth into people's lives and validates what they already know in their hearts to be true. I am also talking about the kind of honesty that keeps us from over-commiting, that let's friends and family know how much we love them, and tells someone that they have hurt our feelings. Women, especially, seem to have trouble being honest. That is not to say we are all bold-faced liars who bamboozle everyone around us. What I do find though, is that women are so afraid to speak up and tell the truth that they often allow their own health, fitness, desires, wishes, and time to be swindled away.

More often than not, we juggle an enormous weight of stressors just barely keeping each one in the air. Until, of course, one falls and then they all come crashing down and we "don't know what happened because we can usually handle everything." We take on more and more responsibility and sacrifice ourselves in the process. I think we somehow see this as powerful, but the reality is that we often go through the motions without feeling the joy of life because we just can't. It's not fun anymore.

A woman is a powerful creature and honesty is a powerful tool. Honesty is a gift. In my own life, I struggle with being honest, with telling someone I just can't do something for them. I struggle to tell someone that they have hurt my feelings. I try to be everything for everyone. I am on a mission to be more honest. I want to speak truth to my friends and feel truly joyous when I commit to something. I want to be honest with my husband when I need help from him, rather than fuming underneath and "just doing it myself." I want to be honest with myself when I do something wrong, rather than shifting the blame or making excuses.

I respect people who are honest with me. My friend, Luchrysta, shoots straight from the hip. She is never afraid to tell me when I am not doing what is Godly or when I need to re-evaluate my priorities. It sounds painful, I know. And it is most of the time..... but I ALWAYS appreciate her input and perspective. When we take the time to be truly honest with each other, the picture is so much clearer. So, I am going to try it. I'll let you know how it goes.....God help me!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Running Partners

I am what my friends affectionately refers to as a "Running Whore." I know, I know, it's not nice. As a matter of fact, it actually sounds quite mean but I assure you, if you know my friends, it is not. There is really not much I can say back to him when he says this because in all honesty, it is the truth.

"Hello. My name is Rebecca and I have a problem. I will run with anyone, at any time of day, and pretty much anywhere."

This is one of the big things I notice can be quite different between men and women when it comes to running. Women will run with just about anyone they can at any time of day. I know exactly who to call if I need to start at 4 am and who will sweat it out in the sun at lunch and who will force me to do it later in the evening. I know who to call when I need a speedwork session and who will do the hills and even who will go run next to me on the treadmill. Women will also compromise and make sacrifices in order to run with their friends, something men do not generally do.

I think it begins with the fact that women really "shouldn't run alone." While it is perfectly acceptable for a man to run at some ungodly hour all by his lonesome, us being the fairer, more delicate, and generally less hairy sex makes us a bit more desireable to the meanies of the world. At least once a week, I leave Brian behind and me and the dog, Sophie, go meet the girls for some Girl Running. I love this time because Girl Running rarely has an agenda. We have really no pace in mind, we can stop and stretch or use the bushes as needed, we rarely have anyone in the group who farts or blows snot-rockets, and we talk non-stop the whole time. Yes, the WHOLE TIME. We've laughed, we've cried, we've shared secrets and heartaches and stories and memories and scandals... and we've done all this before 6 am! Such multi-taskers, us women! This is nothing like when men run (or ride) together where the testosterone begins flowing before their heart rate evens gets elevated and the whole effort is 100% and they talk about how easy it is and pound their chests and finally come home and whine the rest of the day about how bad they hurt. You know what I am talking about, I know you do.

I have some of the best running partners a girl could ever want. I love each of them dearly and they have saved me from myself more time than they will ever know. I remember the morning after I found out my baby was dying, my friend Betsy met me at some ungodly hour (5 am, I think) in 40* weather to go biking. It could have possibly been the worst workout ever, EVER I tell you! But, never once did Betsy or the others even speak of turning around. It wasn't an option. They knew better than me that just as the cold was numbing my fingers and toes, the ride was numbing my brain and giving me the freedom to let my mind be still, just for a moment. I will never forget that ride. Had I been in a good frame of mind, I would have been the first to suggest we just go back and get pancakes. But that day, I needed to ride. And my friends suffered so I could. I have really really good friends.