It’s no secret that I haven’t been doing much running or lifting or yoga-ing or swimming or exercising or training for anything. Starting in May I found myself in a place where I was satisfied with the fun and running I had done at the Disney Glass Slipper Challenge and then my 9K at the Coastal Delaware Running Festival. Nothing out there was really stoking my “training fire”, and I was just tired. Life got scary busy, and then my world felt like it flipped upside-down (even though now I’m beginning to think it was flipped right side up…??Hmmm.), and then since August, I felt like I just needed to survive the rest of 2017. It’s taken me a lot of time to realize that all the physical training I’ve done over the past few years was also really strengthening me mentally and emotionally so I could handle the tough changes in my life that came in the second half of this year. Thank God I was prepared (even though every day I woke up not feeling like it at all). I knew what it felt like to “dig deep”. I was familiar with the feelings of extreme exhaustion and being so close to quitting, like at mile 11 of a half or mile 24 of a marathon. I knew not to panic when I felt like I was drowning, that all I was doing was gulping lake water and not moving forward, like at the frenzied start of a triathlon. I felt the feelings of crazy fear and loneliness, like in the wooded blackness of the Ragnar, and knew that I needed to acknowledge the fear, respect the fear, but then tell the fear I couldn’t focus on it because I had to keep my eyes forward and my mind on the finish. When I take a moment to REALLY reflect on the past few months, I realize just how much pushing oneself physically truly rewires the brain to handle all other kinds of stress. So with that said, here are my top 5 life lessons learned in 2017 and how I first learned them out on the road, in the pool, on the trail and with the Mamas, and how they connected a lot of dots for me in real life this year.
Have a training plan, but be flexible. We all know that no two training days will be the same, so we can’t expect that from regular days either. I firmly believe that we should always have a plan, which includes having a goal and some structured way of moving toward that goal, but I learned this year that the way I get to that goal is probably not going to look like what I wrote down on the paper. Life is going to happen and our best laid plans will likely be thwarted by something or someone so just keep your eyes forward and do something toward that goal, even if it’s just one little thing every day. Stay focused, stay determined. All those “little steps” toward that goal really add up. Never blow through an aid station. Women have the unique ability to adapt and are extremely resourceful. Often times we are our own coaches and, hell, there are situations we find ourselves in where we have to be our own heroes. This sometimes leads us to a place of loneliness because we just carry our own heavy crosses… we just get it done. We hunt, we gather, we work, we nurture, we love, we heal, we hurt, we keep walking, we don’t quit. Women find themselves in the harshest of conditions, then bloom like a lotus flower…again, we just get the hard shit done. So many times I’ve seen runners blow right through aid stations, not pausing for that cup of water, not taking that GU; they just press on not knowing that it may haunt them a mile later. In life, the aid stations are our friends. Sometimes we don’t want to stop, but I’m here to tell you that you need to. I need to. Every time. You are right when you think “I got this” because you do. But you (same for me) probably didn’t realize you were running low on energy, or you weren’t thirsty, or you didn’t think you had time to pause… or because you didn’t think you needed the encouragement. The husband who’s losing his job right before Christmas, the car that may be repossessed, the husband that’s drinking too much, not having enough money for Christmas presents for the kids, cancer, spending too much on your credit card because you wanted to give the kids a good Christmas, death of a parent, the ex-husband that vehemently challenges you every step of the way, the sadness that bears down on your soul as you prepare for your first child to go to college, the husband yells at you because you spent too much money at the grocery store, the kids that need us constantly, the injury or illness that just won’t quit and keeps you down, or the work stress that has crushed your spirit – these are the mental and emotional miles we are running. These are our hills to climb. These are the miles and the grind that strip everything away, shake our core, and leave us feeling naked and confused…. and what I want to say about all of this is that we can’t ever forget that our friends are the volunteers standing there in the cold, in the dark, in the rain, in the wind, the hot blazing sun – NO MATTER WHAT – holding out a FULL CUP just for you. A full cup, friends. Full. How many of you have a full cup in your hand right now? Slow down and TAKE the full cup from a friend or a bunch of friends (like I did at Friendsgiving). Let it spill all over your face as you start running again so you can KEEP ON.
Wear the race shirt long after the race is over. And wear it with pride! Meaning: share your story – the good, the bad, and the ugly cry. Let people see YOU because that’s the gritty good stuff that awakens someone else, teaches someone else, comforts someone else, or sparks someone else. The ripple effect of you sharing your authentic self with others will probably stretch farther than you will ever realize. Know that you are a conqueror – be proud. Wear the race shirt…. and then get ready for the next event because it’s likely that you’ll see someone else’s race shirt and be inspired.
Forward will always (and forever) be a pace. Even sideways forward is a still forward. Falling forward is still forward. Crawling forward is still forward. Baby steps are still forward. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow or how graceful.
In life, we need to celebrate all the little steps that keep us going forward – making our little one laugh, paying a few bills on time, inching our way out of bed and making it to work on time, preparing a home cooked meal for dinner, taking 10 minutes of time for yourself. Any one of those things is “a forward pace” – all together in one day is like the day you felt like God made you for running (Ha! I think I felt that just once.). This year I learned that the “little steps” are good enough. My “little steps” are moving me forward, which means I AM ENOUGH and I AM MOVING FORWARD. Your “little steps” are enough, too. YOU are enough – always.
Trust the training. I know I’ve talked about this before, but I really felt it in the past few months. When I’ve trained for races I’ve really only thought about the physical aspect of it. I didn’t realize that it truly trained me to focus my attention for long hours, to block out unwanted thoughts or emotions, and to count through some pretty extreme discomfort. Do I occasionally melt down and scream “I QUIT!”? I sure do. But I recover faster from that now. I don’t stay there, all stuck in my head and my negativity. I tell myself that I know how to do hard things. I cry, I quit for that day, I complain to my Mamas, I tell them about the knockout punch that took me down, then I start again. I know how to start again because I look at my gorgeous hardware and remember that all “starting again” begins with just one little step and I can do that. I believe in my soul that I can trust myself and my capabilities because I trust my training. I have proven to myself over and over that I CAN and I WILL.
So, thanks 2017. Thanks for teaching me lots of stuff that I didn’t really want to learn, but can now appreciate since it’s December 26th. 2018, here I come! I am so ready to see what adventure awaits. I have grown tremendously this year and while I’m a little afraid that all the hardship has prepared me for what comes next (because I really think I’ve had enough and need to recover from this year), I can only believe that I’ll be ready.
Much love to you and yours this holiday season!!!
Blaze your trail of awesomeness,