Sisu, Sunflowers and Spin

As I type this, I am less than 2-weeks away from race day. I’ll be going back to where it all started. Ten years ago, I crossed my first finish line after waddling 13.1 miles at the Whistlestop Half-Marathon in Ashland. This time, it’ll be a 10k. It is sort of crazy to think about everything that happened in-between.

I’m not going to attempt to sum up the past 10-years. But, these past few months, some signs reminded me about why I started running in the first place.

Spin. Yep. I purchased a spin bike. It was not on a whim. This summer I experienced my first “real” injury. Real in the sense that it literally hurt to walk in the morning, slept with a brace and donated about a dozen of my favorite shoes that don’t have good arch support. Plantar Fasciitis is no joke. I really wanted to run a race this fall, though, so I opted to cross train. That involved a few feeble attempts at swimming. But, I also decided to hit up a spin class at a local gym very early in the morning (wake up call of 4:45 am). Turns out, I love it. Turns out, driving over an hour every time I want to Spin is not sustainable, so I’m complimenting my in-person weekly class with a new addition to my home gym. I wish it didn’t take an injury (or mojitos) to try something new. But, running constantly reminds me that you’ll never know what you are capable of if you don’t show up and try. And, even beautiful things can be born out of pain.

Which leads me to my next update. Sisu. Don’t roll your eyes. I know I talk about this a lot. But now, it is embedded on my skin. Last month also marked my first tattoo. I won’t say this is something I’ve wanted my entire life. I will say the last time I thought about getting one was while studying abroad after my mom died. I ultimately chickened out (language barriers, alcohol and public health concerns may have had something to do with it as well). After dad died, the idea came back. Only this time, it wasn’t so in memory of my parents, but rather honoring the legacy they left behind. I could write a whole book about the ups and downs of my family (who couldn’t), but the heart of the story is I was blessed to have two parents who supported and instilled me a huge sense of ownership, accountability and determination to create the life I wanted for myself. There were no silver spoon hand-outs or ribbons when I finished last. But, there was always a space and acceptance for me to do me. And wow is that a gift. Plus, YOLO right?

Sisu tattoo

Finally, I grew sunflowers. As in plural. After dad died, I made a promise to myself to focus less on pleasing others. To recognize that the people and experiences that have meaning to me should get the lion’s share of my energy versus strangers, toxic people and inconsequential encounters in my day. Easier said than done. But, this summer, I let that play out in my garden. I know, sounds silly. Here’s the thing, though. I’m not a big fan of green beans. But, I used to grow tons of them because even this black thumb can go beans in northern Wisconsin. They’d often times rot in our fridge (I don’t can or freeze) or become compost in the garden. As would the zucchini and several other easy to grow but less than palette pleasing vegetables to me. I’d post a few pics on Instagram and call the garden a success. But seriously? Not so much.

This year, I didn’t grow beans. This year, I planted 3 rows of sunflowers. And a dozen tomato plants and an entire garlic bed so I could eat bruschetta weekly. This summer, I planted two sets of green peas to pick at after work. And for the first time ever, I experienced actual joy in my garden. Sure, it is covered in weeds and needs some serious soil work, but it was all mine. And, while there is certainly a scientific explanation to all of this, another part of me wants to believe this was partially dad’s doing. Another September sign that I honestly needed right now.

So how does this all tie back to running? Choices. There are so many things in this world we cannot control. But, honestly, sometimes the simplest of choices over things we do control matter most. I broke another narrative in my head about being the fat girl that can’t do things like group fitness classes, I grew the garden I wanted even knowing it might fail, and I literally branded myself with a reminder not only of the person I want to be but the person I already am, should I choose to show up for myself.


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