Facing My Writing Fears

This past week tested my strength as a writer. For years, I’ve had no problem sharing my voice and perspective on this blog and more recently my first book. But, as a huge introvert who is slow to open to up folks, this past week has pushed me WAY outside my comfort zone.

My first book signing.

On Saturday, I did my first book signing at an independent book store. There were three other authors present as well. It was a great opportunity to have some interesting conversations about the book publishing journey and how we became authors. That part I loved.

On the flip side, it was the first in-person time where I was asking complete strangers to buy my book. Despite having a day job as a marketer, wowza that’s uncomfortable.

Then, I had my first speaking engagement as a runner’s group. I knew some of the women, including the organizers. It was even my idea. BUT, it wasn’t until I was reading a portion of a chapter out loud that I realized just how personal my writing is – and how these folks didn’t necessarily want to know what makes a stubborn Fin tick.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t die. I don’t know if the folks I talked to this past week cared about what I had to say. What I do know, is that it is important to me to keep pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I thought I’d share my talk below… and then also put out two more announcements into the world because that’s what I do.

I’ve been nursing a real case of plantar fasciitis (ouch). But, I signed up for a 10k in October with hopes of walk/jogging it. I’ll be following that up with a trip to my doctor and a consult with a weight management doctor to continue along my health journey in hopes to tone up over the winter. In May, I hope to return to Eau Claire or Door County for a half.

My other big news – I signed up for a writing retreat in November. Yep. Time to start book 2. I’ve learned so much the past year and I’m ready to start putting thoughts to paper. I’m also ready to tap into some real professionals to help me. It’ll be tough but time. The topic: It Could be Worse: A girlfriend’s guide to grief. More on this to come in the coming months. In the meantime, a few words about my running why from the Solstice Outdoors Running Group launch event in Ashland.

Running Presentation

I’m going to share a bit more about me in a minute… but first I want to ask you all a few questions.

  • Who here ran as a kid?
  • Who here stopped running at some point… drivers license, gained the freshman 15, it wasn’t cool…
  • How many decided for years they could no longer be a runner?
  • Who here remembers that day they decided to run anyway?
  • Anyone feel like a fraud that day? And maybe even still do?
  • How many folks here consider public speaking a form of torture?

That’s my story in a nutshell. I grew up as a tomboy and would run around for hours without thinking twice about it but at some point, I stopped. And I suddenly had this limiting belief that I couldn’t run anymore… so I didn’t. For years.

Great story. That probably leaves you wondering why I am here… I’ll tell you why. Mojitos.  Yep. Mojitos. Ten years ago, I drank a few too many mojitos at a dinner party and the competitive nature in me heard some friends talking about their races… and before I knew it I casually said, I’m training for a half.

I was not. Straight up bold faced lie. I’m sure nobody would have remembered that… but my husband had given me that look. You know… I think in reality it was confusion because he knew I wasn’t training… but I interpreted it as I couldn’t do a half-marathon…

And so I did what every logical, stubborn Finn would do… I signed up for a half-marathon that was 15-weeks away…

Spoiler alert – I finished. With all my toenails. I didn’t die. And surprisingly, I did not win.

This past winter I published a book… the book was sort of the antithesis of running books… there are so many running books out there that talk about how to train harder, lose weight, run faster, run slower, eat right, exercise… but there wasn’t really a book that said, hey – you over in the corner, if you want to run you can. Just put on some shoes and start running. That you can run a race with a goal of just finishing and that’s enough.

In fact, it is because of us back of packers that Olympians win. I mean think about it, if everyone trained as hard as those in the front of pack… they’d be the losers. So yeah you’re welcome.

In all honesty, though, people run for a lot of different reasons. And I think one of the greatest things holding folks back is this notion that they aren’t good enough. And I’m here to tell you today, that you are … that if this body can run a half, y’all can do anything.

But, before you lace up and do that first run, I want you to really think about your why. Why are you here? What made you decide that this moment is when you want to do a race. And once you’ve determined your why, you can determine your what. By what – I mean training plan or food plan or whatever it is you need to accomplish your why.

Simon Sinek has this quote that I absolutely love… he says “no one likes to lose and most healthy people live their life to win. The only variation is the score we use. The metric is relative but the desire is the same.”

When you start training – you get to decide what your score will be… for me early on it was not dying and keeping my toenails… So I thought I’d share a page from my book about a moment I had in running where I had to decide if my why of finishing was strong enough to sabotage the self-doubt I was feeling.

Excerpt from It Could Be Worse: a girlfriend’s guide for runners who detest running.

Chapter 14: The Bus

By April 30th, I needed to make a decision. I paid the entry fee. I was in.

I’d like to say that once I committed, it was easy.  It wasn’t. I was still injured. I was weeks behind on training. I honestly didn’t know if I’d even get far enough in my training to have the capacity to run thirteen miles. I kept revising and condensing my already-condensed training time. My 10k in May was downgraded to a 5k and then became my first no-show ever. Things looked grim. The clock kept ticking. My chances of finishing grew dim. And then, after six weeks of dismal training, I turned a corner. My legs no longer throbbed on mile-long jaunts. I looked at the calendar, and with some creative math, I discovered that I could pull off enough long runs to at least finish. But that damn bus kept looming in the back of my mind.  I hated that bus. It represented every running insecurity I had ever experienced.

I snapped. Literally. I was on a run listening to Fort Minor’s Remember the Name. And, I got mad. In that moment, I loved running. I loved the fact that I was running. I loved the fact that I kept showing up, even though it would have been so much easier to quit. It was in this moment that I decided that I was tired of questioning whether I was good enough to run. I was running—but on my terms.  Fuck the bus!

From that moment on, I showed up for my runs. I quit caring about my time and focused on finishing the miles. For the first time ever, I ran with a couple of incredible ladies. What started as a five-mile run ended with 9.6 miles and it was fun! I kept going. There was no time for tapering. And then it was race week. I carbo-loaded with conviction. I dragged my husband to the health fair and stocked up on free samples. I posted pictures on Facebook and shared my self-doubts and conviction to finish.

There’s a lot of talk about how challenges are more about the journey than the destination. By race day morning I knew I’d finish. I knew I had it in me to show up and give it my best. I also had peace with the knowledge that thousands of runners would beat me. My goal was to finish strong. To pace myself and cross the finish line with my head held high.  After mile one, I threw that goal out the window. I decided to just run. To quit caring about time or pacing or ensuring I had enough reserves to get across the finish. I decided to be foolish and break all the rules and just run. And, so I did.

I ran for the love of running. I thought of my mom and how proud she’d be of me for not quitting. She never cared about what I wanted to be when I grew up, only that I’d try hard and make my own path. I ran for my dad, who could no longer run, but wanted nothing more than to go for a long walk. I ran for my son, to show him that it isn’t about winning, but showing up and trying. I ran for my friends, who said my journey inspired them and convinced them to try something out of their comfort zone. I ran for every fat girl who sits on the sidelines and thinks they aren’t built to run. But most importantly, I ran for me.  After eight years of showing up at starting lines, I realized that as much as I hate the process of running, I love the act of running. I love that every morning that I wake up, I get to decide if I want to run. I can blow off the training and eat the chips or I can train hard. I get to choose how much or how little I want to do, and then see those results embodied on the road. I get to see experience camaraderie of running, buy overpriced shoes, listen to hip hop and channel my inner grit.

At the end of the day, I’m a stubborn Finlander. At times, there’s a thin line between stubborn and stupid. But that day, my Sisu was strong. I knew when I finally crossed the finish line it would be my best time ever. But more importantly, I had run the race on my terms, finally at peace with the person I am, on and off the course. For anyone wondering, I didn’t beat the cut-off time. I missed it by four minutes. But the ominous bus?  It never showed up. It turned out that I was good enough just as I was.

And that folks, is my story. Does anyone want to share what lead them here today?

I’m going to end with probably one of the most famous but important tips/quotes in running… it is by a guy named John Bingham. And it goes: “The miracle is not that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Kudos to all of you for starting.

And that my friends is the latest on my running and writing journey. I hope you are all finding ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone. As hard as it is, it is nice to be back in the goal setting mindset after a few months of just wandering and being in my thoughts.

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