What If?

Copper Harbor, Michigan

I just enjoyed the most incredible week off. I traveled the UP and listened to great podcasts, hiked, took some photos and curated an incredible piece of artwork. I also played the what if game. I tend to do this a couple times per year – once in the spring and once in the fall. It is an opportunity to reflect on what’s going well and not so well in my life.

For many moons, the what if game tended to lean negative. It was often reflecting on my past and contemplating if I had made the right decisions. In many ways, a game of regrets and being disappointed that I hadn’t accomplished more in life. Rarely, did I flip the switch and say what if this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now to get to the next thing. What if I’m setting myself up for success by being here in this moment thanks to the hard choices I’ve made in life. What if accomplishing more in life looked different for me because I’m actually really happy with the life I’m living – even if others might think rural Midwest living is lame. (PS They’re wrong).

Two things happened this week that steered the what if game in a different direction. First, I had pre-ordered Mel Robbins High Five Habits. It arrived just in time for vacation and my vacation happened to coincide with her high five challenge.  At some point, I need to write a post about some of the game changing books I’ve read that have inspired me to ask some tough questions and make minor tweaks in my life that have made a real impact… but until then, I’ll just say buy the book. Or, check it out at the library. Or, watch the videos about it. It is some super simple hacks to help you understand why you think the way you do and to help motivate you out of bed. Very similar to her other book that is also was a game changer for me.

Ask yourself, if it’s not about winning, then what is it about for you?

Then, my amazing friend Tracy launched a business called Stoneweaver. I ordered one of her custom pieces that comes with a question. The question associated with mine is: if it’s not about winning, then what is it about for you?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, as I gear up for a race tomorrow morning. The race itself isn’t that exciting. I really just want to enjoy the fall colors and it helped motivate me off the couch this summer. But, it is sort of symbolic in that ten years ago, this was my first half-marathon (or any race) for that matter. (Quick plug, you can read all about this adventure in my book!) And, I realized I’m capable of so much more than I ever dreamed, if I only reframed my narrative from I can’t to I can… if I really want to. More importantly, my definition of winning in these races is finishing. For some, that is not enough. But, that’s what is so great about asking yourself what matters. You get to decide. And that’s pretty awesome.

And ultimately that’s the real question for me. This week I spent a lot of time dreaming. Trying to determine my next what if. What if I’m meant to tell more stories. What if I lost the weight. What if I went back to school or opened the business. Or, what if, I spent the next year being curious. Trying new things and seeing what other narratives I can challenge because I think my greatest passion in life is learning.

I’m ending the week with more questions than answers. A sign that I’m on the right path. Curious minds never stop questioning. I challenge you to do the same. Ask yourself what if and dream of what’s possible.

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.

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.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Do you ever have those moments where you find yourself seeing the exact thing you needed to see at the exact right moment? Last night, one of my childhood besties posted this saying by Pam Lambert on Facebook “she silently stepped out of the race she never wanted to be in, found her own lane, and proceeded to win.”

If your life is anything like mine right now, I am guessing that maybe you need to hear that message as well. For anyone who knows me, you know boundaries are a big thing in my life. Some attribute my unwillingness to hug (unless you are my son) to my Scandinavian roots. Perhaps. Perhaps it is the same genes that have helped me master the art of saying no… right until I get sucked up into society’s pressures to be something. WTF does that even mean?

Anyways, bottom line is sometimes when things get hectic, it is easy to forget what matters. To get sidetracked by the to do list versus the what matters list. I was rapidly approaching that this past week. Then Saturday hit. A perfect family fun day on the South Shore. The only to do, play with my kiddo and enjoy fabulous food. It was the perfect reminder that I needed.

It is insane to think summer is over halfway over. Work is insane. I want to run another race. The no activity COVID-19 calendar is now replaced with the how can we cram two years of lifetime in before the snow flies.

Here’s the thing. Time keeps moving. No matter how hard you try to slow it down, it just keeps ticking. Moments we can never get back keep passing by. You know, I’d give anything to have a mundane conversation with my father about the weather or ask my mom for some advice about getting my high school heart broken yet again by a two-timing loser. Maybe it is the fact that I cannot get those moments back that I fight so hard to keep my time sacred. There are the things I need to do to have the resources I need (shower, collect a paycheck, answer emails, attend meetings) … but man I try hard to not let them define me.

Am I always successful? Not really. I have an ego just like everyone else. I want to get the gold star at work and look pretty for my husband. I hear the ads of being too big and want to lose the weight and eliminate the wrinkles. I want to be successful (whatever that means). I wish I didn’t. Most day I don’t. But when I do, man does it derail my why.

So anyway, last night I was faced with a conundrum of whether I should take my kiddo to a Friday matinee and have some 1:1 mommy and Jake time (before a crazy summer festival weekend on our lake), or take advantage of a meeting free afternoon to crank out some more reports. The choice should have been obvious. But, for a moment I Iet that fear of not being enough slip into my head and challenge my why. I felt guilty for taking more time off since I have some vacation time coming up.

I’m happy to report that moment has passed. The work will get done. It always does. But, these moments you cannot get back. So, if you needed to hear this, take it from the selfish Scandinavian who chooses herself first. You get to decide which lane matters and define your success against your why’s versus someone else’s. As someone who has spent and will spend a lifetime swerving in and out of that lane, it truly is the best place to be. In other news, this month marks ten years of running. I posted about it earlier this month but I also shared 10 lessons learned for Another Mother Runner. You can check out the blog post here. And, a special thanks to The Duluth News Tribune for making me a recommended reading in their lifestyle section this past week. Next month, I’ll be doing a book signing event at Redberry Books in Cable if you are at all interested in getting an autographed copy of me living out my why. Can’t make it to Cable? Buy my book here.

Cheers to 10-years!

My first post-race photo ten years ago!

Ten years ago, I enjoyed a few too many mojitos at a dinner party and announced I was training for a half-marathon. (I was not.) Nevertheless, the next day I decided in a carb-induced hangover to make good on that announcement.

Since then, I’ve crossed dozens of finish lines, often at the back of the pack. Along the way, I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks that I wish I had known starting out. I put those together in a book and also for an upcoming blog post for Another Mother Runner.

But, today I want to share another lesson that’s been on my mind. Time. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. The obvious trigger is losing my dad and also rapidly approaching the age my mother was when she died. One cannot help but question their mortality in these moments. Bigger than that, though, is the time the constantly escapes while busy waiting or planning for the next thing.

In the healthiest of times, I guess it can be called productive procrastination. It is why I have not dived into my next book headfirst. I know my heart needs a bit more time to heal. But, in most situations, at least for me, it is about fear. It is about me wondering but what if I fail, or this isn’t the right path, or I discover I hate it or someone is better than me. Sometimes I spend so much time pondering and contemplating that I forget that sometimes the easiest solution is to just move ahead.  

Ten years ago, a few too many mojitos cancelled out my fear. Before I could ponder or talk myself out of running, I proclaimed myself a runner. I’m so grateful to that because I know 100% without a doubt if I had done the pros/cons list about whether I should start running, I never would have taken that first step.

I’m so glad I did. In the past 10-years, I’ve had a few lofty (for me) extrinsic goals that focused on time or speed. That isn’t why I run, though. I run because I choose to. Because it is the identity I want for myself. And the best way to achieve that, is to do it.

There’s a fascinating best-selling book out there right now called Atomic Habits. Game changer for me. It gives me language for a lot of the things I struggle with when it comes to creating simple daily habits that’ll help get me to the goalpost. I highly recommend it.

In it, James Clear reinforces something so vital to success – that in order to get anywhere, you have to act. Seems simple. Unless you are the plus-size runner who is trying to resume training. This weekend I did that. I tackled my first non-express spin class (45-minutes of pure sweat-induced bliss) and re-opened Hal’s app. I plugged in a fall race with my only goal being it is time to start again.

If you’re still reading this and are stuck, read Atomic Habits. If you’re stuck about how to start running, just lace up your shoes and go. If you want even something simpler, buy my book. Heck, drop me a line and I’ll even mail you an autographed copy. The bottom line is just start.

Ten years ago, I threw a few words out at a party that nobody but me remembers. But, it was the start of a journey I’m so proud of and I cannot wait to see what the next 10-years have in store for me.

The Runner’s Shot

This is a story about tequila. For years, I always thought I hated tequila. I reckoned I was more a sweet wine and vodka/rum gal. Until, the Rock personally persuaded me to try Teremana. I wish this was an ad. It is not. Anyways, I find his Instagram account fascinating for a number of reasons – and after months of watching folks salute over “the spirit of the Earth” I decided to buy a bottle. I even googled the perfect margarita recipe and bought my first bottle of Cointreau.

Keep in mind, my introduction to Tequila was $4 pitchers of Long Island Teas that I drank with a straw until puking… and when things got fancy doing shots of tequila chased with a dead worm. Regardless, I was shocked to discover I actually love me a little mana with a shot of Cointreau, a squeeze of lime and some Sprite Zero. Delish.

Funny how our perspective changes over time. What’s crazier is how much our life is determined by the narrative we tell ourself. Now, I know my life is not better with Teremana. But, it is better with running. I don’t know what past experience made me believe that I could not be a runner but for decades I was convinced that I hate running (which I actually do) but more importantly, that I was somehow not good enough to run. Right until I didn’t.

Nobody told me to run a race. Nobody talked me off the ledge of self-doubt. But, at some point (after a few too many drinks) I decided I wanted to change the narrative so I did. Sometimes it really is that simple.

So today, I ask you this, if there’s something you want to do and if the only thing holding you back is you, dare yourself to try. Maybe you’ll hate it and never do it again. But at least you’ll be calling your shot. And who knows, if it is anything like a shot of Teremana, you may find you love it.

What’s next? Running book favorites and gardening.

Springtime in northern Wisconsin.

I’m currently in process mode. I’m trying to process what’s next in terms of running goals. I honestly don’t know. But, I’m loving every single second of this space to contemplate what’s next while moving my body and catching up on so many podcasts. Also, since it is the height of spring, I’m taking this respite to tend my garden. I love gardening about as much as I love running – as in I love the fruits of my labor AKA sweet peas, mint, garlic and tomatoes. BUT, I hate weeding and bugs and sweat. Anyone with me? Anyways, the garden is slowly coming along. As are my plans for what’s next.

It is no secret that I’m also an avid reader. I draw inspiration from words. Recently, I had an opportunity to write a post for Another Mother Runner about some of my favorite memoirs. I thought I’d share it here as well in case you are looking for some inspiration.

As an aside, I’d like to add the book Brave Enough by Jessie Diggins. Not a running book, but some serious inspiration.

Check out this link to a guide to some great running reads, with a leaning towards plus-size perspective. And, as I continue to explore what’s next I leave you with these wonderful and wise words from Alexi Pappas

run like a bravey

sleep like a baby

dream like a crazy

replace can’t with maybe

Pappas describes bravey as “the label for a mini-movement, a self-identifier for those who are willing to chase their dreams even though it can be intimidating and scary. It celebrates the choice to pursue a goal and even relishes the pain that comes with effort. There is nobility to it; it’s something to be celebrated.”

Wherever you draw inspiration – however you determine what’s next – I hope you can find it in you to be a Bravey. In the meantime, I hope you find some running inspiration in my favorite running books.

It’s All Relative

May marked my first double digit in-person race in 18-months. It was my first time running in Eau Claire. The race promised to be an exciting weekend away with one of my favorite gal pals. My training, while not all in, had been consistent. I took Friday off to pamper myself with an early morning spin class, a savory maple latte, browsing an amazing independent coffee shop and investing a small fortune at my favorite Red Barn bare root plant sale (hey, some girls love purses. I love plants).

Things took a little dip when my spin instructor informed that Eau Claire is not in fact a flat city. In my defense, there was no topography map with this race. But, I definitely knew that wasn’t a good sign. She is after all, a seriously badass runner and if she thought Eau Claire was hilly, I was in trouble. Later that day, my bestie’s dad had a terrible accident resulting in her going from runner to caretaker in a heartbeat. I was devastated, for obvious selfish reasons, but also because I’ve been there. I know how challenging it is to balance work, life and caring for family. At the end of the day, father’s always come first.

As I modified my packing, I knew I needed to modify my intentions as well. Sure, I went into my training in January with a specific time goal in mind. I really wanted to clear 14-minute miles. My race a few weeks prior indicated it might be possible. I also knew, similar to how circumstances can change, this too was not a guarantee.

On Saturday, I began the journey south. I opted to “pop in” to see my boys at our family cabin. It was cabin opener and a mere 90-minutes out of the way. The extra car time gave me plenty of time to revisit my why. You know, that thing that’ll fuel your run when there’s nothing left to give. I knew I’d need it come Sunday morning.

I’ve talked a TON about my why. Heck, I even wrote a whole book about it. But, in this moment, my why felt different. It felt like a signal of acknowledging the next normal. The normal where COVID-19 still factors into daily decisions but doesn’t prohibit me from running with strangers. The normal where dad’s still in my phone but won’t answer my call. The normal where I’m starting to discover I’m living in a master’s body that doesn’t rebound as quickly as I’d like. But, at the core, my why remains as simple as because I can.

Race eve I listened to the course director breakdown the pending race. It is here my fears were calmed when she mentioned the course was relatively flat. Looking out my window at some serious hills, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I went to bed that night firm in my why and a hope that Sunday’s race would be successful.

Depending on the benchmark one uses, Sunday’s race was anything but successful. Turns out relatively flat includes a long stretch of uphill at the start and then a series of never-ending rolling hills every time you crossed a bridge. BTW the race is called Bridge 2 Bridge – turns out there are A LOT of bridges in Eau Claire. I was not prepared. And I paid dearly for it. By mile 3, it was clear that even with the help of an Uber, I would come nowhere close to my goal time. I was definitely disappointed. I even had a moment where I contemplated quitting, only I had no clue where my car was and figured it might be shorter to just finish the race then walk home. In racer moments, this was an ultimate low.

Luckily, my why kicked in. I had plenty of time to take in the scene. It was a gorgeous course with over-the-top friendly racers and volunteers. Despite being May in northern Wisconsin, the weather was borderline hot with the perfect mix of sun and shade. I was running with real people on a real racecourse. Spotify did not disappoint with the perfect race tunes. I was once again reminded of Henry Ford’s famous quote, “whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.” I crossed the finish line Sisu strong.

Statistically speaking, that race was rough. I finished not only in the back of the pack but the bottom finisher for my age group. It was my slowest time ever. I set a record in new chaffing spots and my calves are still recovering. If I’m being honest, do these numbers disappoint me? Absolutely. I’ll be taking the next few months to evaluate what’s next in my running and fitness journey. In the meantime, I’m reverting back to the basics of just moving my body every single day.

That said, I’m proud to share this story. I had many, many opportunities to quit the past 4-months. My initial race was cancelled. Spring was well spring, resulting in abnormal training conditions at best. Work is busy. Life is busy. I’m grieving. Plans changed. But, yet, it still always comes back to if I get to run, why wouldn’t I? It really is as simple as that.

So for the hundreds of runners that passed me this weekend, thanks for your words of encouragement. For those sitting on the sidelines wondering if they can, you can. I promise you that. It may not be pretty but it is still worth it. Afterall, success is all relative… and for the record, Eau Claire is not relatively flat in this gal’s eyes, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Race Day Recap

This past weekend, I lined up for my first in-person race in over 18-months. Since then, I’ve attended a game changing personal development conference (important for me to note, the conference was a game changer but the host is someone I’ve since lost most respect for), launched a book, said goodbye to my father, navigated a global pandemic and gained what I’ll lovingly call the friendly 15 (aka work from home chips).

Since January, I’ve done average on my training runs. In fact, according to Hal, I’m sitting at a solid C as I enter the final weeks of training for a 10-mile run in Eau Claire. Hal also says based on my training that I will hit my goal time come May 1. This race was a good prequel to seeing if that was true.

I crossed the finish line with no clue what’ll happen May 1. I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty but a few race highlights.

  • Turns out one should not assume the course is the same and Duluth’s hills are alive and well. I’d like to say this was a pleasant surprise. It was not.
  • COVID-19 has changed the start of races. Some good. Some bad. It is nice to know there isn’t a sea of people ready to crush you at the start. The introvert in me loves it. However, staggered start times, especially if you are starting in a middle time, means you are continuously getting passed by faster runners. It is hard to not feel like a tortoise in the way.
  • Crossing the finish line is still as sweet as ever. As is the medal.
  • Post-race cocktails are still delish.

When all was said and done, I finished 4 seconds slower than 2-years ago. I’ll take it. Am I still back of the pack? Yep. Am I still pacing ahead of my goal time for next week? Yep. In fact, my 13:37 per mile time is 23 seconds under my goal for May 1. Now, I recognize there is a huge difference between a 5k and a 10-miler but I’m cautiously optimistic that next week might go well.

All of that said, I recently heard one of those game changing podcasts that have me once again contemplating my why and motivation behind running. Brene Brown interviewed Dr. Pippa Grange about her new book Fear Less. It is currently on my to-read list. But, something she said really struck me. In their interview, they talked about a shallow win versus a deep win.

The shallow win is that carrot stick – that next big thing you are always chasing but yet somehow it is never enough. It is the world record, only to determine you need to set another record. Then, there’s the deep win. You know, the one where you cross that finish line with absolutely nothing left and even if you didn’t beat your PR, you still feel a sense of accomplishment because you ran the race on your terms? These past few months, I’ve been writing in my journal that I want to complete a 10-miler pacing under 14-minute miles. It is an arbitrary goal other than it’d be a PR and in my head, the closer I get to 10-minute miles, the closer I am to a runner versus being a jogger. This might be a simplified version of a relatively complex concept, but it does poise a few questions.

Is my goal going to help or hurt my love/hate relationship for running? On the one hand, my training has been a bit more consistent after the chaffing/undertraining/almost dying half-marathon of 2019. On the other hand, I’m wondering what happens if I don’t hit that time. If I’ll still feel that sense of purpose and achievement I generally feel, even when things don’t go well, because I kept showing up.

For the most part, my running goals have revolved around maintaining toenails, run/life balance and avoiding roadside potty disasters. But, the competitive part in me wants to set the bar a bit higher while also not losing site of what really does matter to me – just showing up and trying my best. It is an interesting conundrum to contemplate as I enter this last week of training. I guess we’ll see what happens when I cross the finish line.

In the meantime, I’ll be fine tuning my playlist (spotify premium is worth every nickel), doing a couple final training runs, carbo-loading, and gearing up for a weekend with my bestie who has graciously decided to hit this crack of dawn race with me and celebrate afterward at the Leinie Lodge. To me, right or wrong, shallow or deep, this seems like a for sure win-win to me.

Training Update, Traditions and Transitions

I’m less than 1-month to my almost half-marathon. Hal’s plan this weekend was for me to run an 8-miler…outside. I knew it was time and the weather forecast left me no runway for excuses to run inside. Don’t get me wrong, I loath the treadmill (minus the Tim Riggins part) but running outside is well hard. And frankly, everything seems hard right now.

My recent racing reset has done wonders for my body and soul. I came back from Florida recharged and ready to hit the road again… for about a week. Then Easter week hit. For many, Easter represents those crunchy mini Cadbury eggs (delish), Peeps (gross), and serious religious significance. For me, it marks the weekend mom died.

That’s a tough tradition to break. I’ve celebrated more Easters without mom than with her. Decades have passed since her passing. Yet, I always find myself Easter week replaying the activities of April, 1996, while also trying to find new traditions and memories to fill that void. I’ve had mixed success.

I genuinely enjoy prepping an Easter dinner. I’ve long since abandoned being a holiday church goer but instead celebrate my faith privately. I set aside time on Good Friday to honor my mom (today it was a spin class, latte and 3-mile waterfall hike at the crack of dawn). I savor the Easter candy and embrace the bunny themed décor.

In my quest to be healthy, I am doing my best to do some health habit stacking. This week that included a morning chat with someone I really respect, a set bedtime routine, minimal snacking, lots of water and my training plan. Yep. I said it. My training plan. Last week, Hal said I needed to run 4.5 miles twice. The first time I dived right in. The second time, my body said F-that. I compromised (trying to practice grace here folks) and said I’d walk the 4.5 miles. I was feeling a bit beat down and guess what – the work-out worked.

I came home to chaos. We have new chickens and they haven’t settled into their bedtime routine. The neighbor cat was back. Jake was hyped up on sugar (than you Iron River PTO). I took it all in stride. Right until I didn’t.

I was scrolling through my phone to text someone about a rental when I saw it. Dad. He’s still a contact in my phone. I paused for a moment, trying to shove the wave of emotions down. The practical person inside of me said to hit delete and move on. That this was no big deal. He was a contact in my phone and now he’s not. But I couldn’t do it. I’m not ready to say good-bye.

There’s lots of conversation about the stages of grief. I hate that. They aren’t stages. They are moments. There are moments of anger and sadness and denial and negotiating and acceptance and meaning (if you buy into the new theory of 6-stages of grief). Right now, I’m in the season of allowing myself to pause and be sad when needed while also trying to allow myself to enjoy meaningful moments of joy. I’m in the season of not ready to hit delete but not denying he’s gone. I feel his absence and presence every day.

So Dad is still in my phone. We’re in the process of updating his and mom’s headstone. He sits on my sister’s fireplace. I’m slowly coming to peace with how much our broken healthcare system contributed to his final days. This spring we’ll say one more goodbye to him, but it definitely won’t be our final goodbye. That’s the thing about transitions – I’m finding they can take as long as one needs.

And that 8-mile run? I did it. Well 7-miles of it anyway. It felt great. And, it was some quality time to have a chat with dad and fill him in on what he’s missed these past few months. Hal gave my overall training to date a B. But, I’m giving myself an A in the just keep showing up category making my overall grade good, not great. But solidly good. And honestly, I’m ok with that. I’m ok with giving myself some grace and seeing where this year takes me.

I’m slowly figuring out what’s next for me. Right now, it is a series of upcoming runs, garden planning, cross-training (yep I started a weekly spin class but that’s a different post for a different day) and rock polishing. I’m not sure what will stick but I’m doing my best to have fun trying during this transition.

I hope y’all find some joy in today, whatever your beliefs might be, or whatever transition you might be facing. And in the words of cheesy Hallmark, Hoppy Easter 😊