So I’ve been stuck on the movie Star Trek Beyond with my boyfriend Chris Pine, after seeing part of the movie at my Sister’s house a few weekends ago. It is very possible it was last weekend, but I honestly can’t say for certain; the days seem to run together just like they did for the crew of the Starship Enterprise as they explore the outer regions of space. How long have we been at battle with this unknown invader we call COVID-19? I am finding it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to imagine what life will be like when we’ve returned to normal.
So anyway, back to Star Trek, it’s become my touchstone, my call to action and courage as I and my team deal with the challenges that present themselves in the current world. I’ve taken to listening to the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage on my way to work as it’s the song the crew uses in the highpoint of the movie to fight off the swarm of invading aliens. I choose to think of our team as the crew of the Enterprise coming up with creative and clever solutions to ward off the current plague of invading aliens; as we find ways to ensure our residents stay connected to their family and to each other when we have to close our doors to visitors and can’t allow groups of resident’s to congregate together.
But I confess that unlike Captain Kirk, I find myself having moments where I question my ability to lead, my decision making processes and my ability to control and manage my emotions. Yesterday was a good day, I felt great and was very positive about all that we were doing and how I was managing life. Today, I woke up feeling tired and overwhelmed and unable to clear the fog that flooded my brain with the first COVID-19 related call of the day. Sadly my relationship with running has not been going well and I’ve been turning to sleep and in action when I am not at work. But when I am not at work I am still checking email, responding to text messages and spending an inordinate amount of time on conference calls. It’s hard to turn off the worry that we are missing something, that if I go to the store or pickup take out that I might come in contact with someone that is an unknown carrier and that I will then bring it back to work. It’s just hard.
At the same time I recognize that I am blessed in so many ways. I work in healthcare and am definitely essential, I also am fortunate to work for a great company with smart, courageous, and compassionate leaders and I couldn’t ask for a better team to have standing beside me through this whole ordeal. I am also grateful that I have a great support system in my sister. She is willing to do the grocery shopping, errand running and is letting Eloise hangout at her house while I am at work. I am extremely grateful that I have her and my brother in-law and that my mother made the decision to call Highland Springs home about 2 weeks before this whole mess began. I can still travel freely, get outside in the sunshine and I am allowing myself to share in the messages of support being given to healthcare workers.
So I am still here, I have no idea how many new COVID-19 cases there are in the world or the DFW Metroplex, I recognized enough to understand that I did not need to listen to the news today and that I needed to settled for a great episode of On Being featuring Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach (episode #696). No I don’t want to be ignorant of what is happening in the world, but I also can’t live it 24/7, I need to escape. I need to sit on my couch, drink a glass of wine and travel to a different world where Captain James T Kirk and his loyal crew always defeat the enemy. And I choose to believe that I and my crew will defeat this enemy.
I’ve been itching to write all week, but honestly I’ve been on complete overdrive trying to process all that is happening in my world of work as the Director of a Long Term Care Facility that is based inside a Continuing Care Retirement Community. We started preparations and precautions last week; daily calls, enforcement of an already tight response process to any type of flu, upper respiratory, or GI Virus that while inconvenient for you and I, can prove deadly for the residents that call our community home and once a bug gets in the door it can spread quickly and wreak havoc. I thought we were okay, yes the daily calls were an annoyance and sometimes redundant, but I also counted myself lucky to have the benefit of a larger company backing and coordinating our efforts. I was mildly concerned about reports of people hoarding isolation masks, gloves, toilet paper and antibacterial wipes and sanitizer, but really we were okay. I had an underlying sense of concern, anxiety, but when I left work last Saturday I felt confident that we were well positioned to act quickly and all would be well with just a few minor tweaks to our normal day to our normal routine.
And then our world turned upside down. Honestly it feels like there is no normal right now, as soon as I think I have an handle on the guidance passed down by our regulatory agencies it changes again. I feel like I am constantly on alert, trying not to focus on the news and the sense of anxiety the mass media is so cleverly crafting; but I also have to be mindful that any inadvertent contact puts my community at risk; residents, staff, and my own Mother. Do I go to the store? Do I dare go out with friends? Is it possible to wipe down all of the elevator buttons and door handles in my apartment building? My mind is on constant “go,” thinking through all of the options, trying to figure out how to respond to all of the questions from friends and family that just want to see their mother, father, sister, brother, grandparents and I am now the primary gatekeeper and decision maker as to who gets in and who doesn’t. What if I let the wrong person in? It’s a lot to process and a lot to carry. I realize that I in no way carry this burden alone, I have a great team; but it’s a lot.
I’ve managed the full scale evacuation of a mid-sized CCRC, I experienced the Oklahoma City Federal Building Bombing, and lived through 911; but there is no comparison to this COVID-19 World that we are currently all in habiting. I want to turn it off, I want my brain to just let it all go. I’ve tried running – but my body just can’t right now, I’ve been attempting a daily meditation practice and while that does help some it is still a challenge to calm my thoughts and just rest. To trust that I am a strong, resilient woman that has been placed here for a reason. I can and will rise to the occasion and do my best to ensure my residents and community are safe. But I think it’s okay to feel and live the anxiety, fear, and worry. I am working hard to recognize and allow the feelings to just be – naming them, accepting them and then moving on. It’s okay, to feel all of the things. It’s okay to not know what to do so you go buy all the bananas at the Kroger, just please be sure to bring me some banana bread!
So what now? Churches are closed, stores are reducing their hours, races are cancelled, and at work we will be quickly dealing with another set of regulations that will make life 10x harder for our nurses, care associates, residents and family members. But what now? How do we move forward? Is this a new world order or will we find our way back to life before COVID-19? I wish I knew the answers to those questions. Family members that I talk to want to know how long, how long will these restrictions last, how long until I get to see my mom? What happens when the next super virus spreads through the community? Will we be forced back into a world of separation and disconnection? I think right now I have more questions than answers. I wish I had some prophetic words of wisdom, but I don’t. But in this new world of social distancing I want to reach out in one of the ways that I know how, to say to any one that reads these words that we are still a community, we are still friends, family, colleagues and most importantly loved. We are. We are human and now more than ever it’s important to be kind to ourselves and to each other. To not brush off the feelings, but to not let the fear take control. Whatever you are experiencing right now, please know that you are not alone. We are in this together. I leave you with the only words of consolation that make sense to me right now, “Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” Isaiah 41:10 CEB
I’ve never been good at writing race reports. I will start them and then I get mired down in minutiae and never get them finished or posted, a great example is my Ouachita Switchbacks 10 miler race report. I started it, I wrote it out perfectly in my head; but getting it down on paper has been a real struggle. So on this dreary Sunday morning I am sitting myself down and I am writing out a race report for the Cross Timbers Trail ½ Marathon that I completed yesterday; Saturday, February 22, 2020 and I am going to post it with an effort to avoid over editing and over thinking; so here goes nothing.
I put the Cross Timbers ½ Marathon on my 2020 Race Calendar as part of the build up to my Big Scary A race of 2020 – the Transrockies 6 Day Stage Race in August. I haven’t been running big milage and I hadn’t been spending much time out on trails so given that this race is on a challenging trail that is within easy driving distance of home it seemed like a no brainer to sign up for. A few years ago I had run the 5 mile option, but it rained up until the start of the race and the trail was a slip in slide of mud so not something I could really use for comparison with the half marathon. I knew the trail was a lot of up and down and that it had a reputation for being challenging; but after the 10 miler at Ouachita Switchbacks I was feeling pretty confident and wasn’t overly concerned. I knew that I had a lot more in the tank at Ouachita Switchbacks and that I could have pushed myself a little harder so was looking forward to the challenge of Cross Timbers.
The week leading up to the race was less than ideal. I was late getting home from a trip up to my Mom’s on Sunday night and I have found that the older I get the harder it is to bounce back from a few nights of not enough sleep. Once I get out of my normal cycle I struggle to get back on track and find myself in a self destructive loop of plopping down in front of the TV after work and not getting myself into bed early like I needed too so I was short on sleep all week long. Thursday and Friday brought surprise visits from our friends at the Texas Health and Human Services Commissions at work which always creates a big spike in adrenaline and cortisol; you can look at my heartrate on my watch and see the corresponding spikes, definitely not an ideal setup for a successful race on Saturday and of course I have to top it all off with way too much wine and high fat, salty foods at a work dinner on Friday night. When the alarm clock went off on Saturday morning I was tired, probably a little hungover, a lot bloated, and definitely not feeling my best. A small voice in my head said don’t go, just tell people (my coach @ultraninjarunnr) that you’re sick and go back to bed. But I got up, made my coffee and toast and loaded up the car and headed out.
Saturday couldn’t have been a more perfect morning; almost no wind, a beautiful sunrise and perfect temperatures. I made the drive up to the trailhead on the shores of Lake Texhoma, picked up my race bib, hit the porta potty and made my final selection for a top – long sleeve Flyout with a tank top, my hydration vest and my long pocket jogger tights. I really wanted to wear shorts and compression socks but I’m not feeling super great about my legs right now so the tights, which are pretty light weight and have great pockets were the next best choice.
I made it back up to the start line with enough time to adjust my bib, hear the race briefing and line up with all of the other ½ Marathoners. We started off by running a short loop around the parking lot with the idea that people would spread out before hitting the single track trail, but I ended up in a pretty large group of people as we hit the trail. After the first uphill we started to spread out and I hopscotched back and forth with a guy that was speedwalking about as fast as I was running. He finally left me in the dust and I began the litany of beating myself up for all of the poor choices I had made leading up to this race – not enough long runs on trails, skipping out on one too many strength workouts, not getting enough sleep and most importantly drinking way too much the night before. I was feeling really rough and my legs felt super heavy and didn’t want to move. I started to think about dropping at the first aide station, where the 5 milers turnaround, but decided that I needed to own my shit and just keep moving forward. My goal became to just make it to the next aide station which was the ½ Marathon turnaround, I would just “keep swimming.”
Somewhere close to the second aide station I missed a turn and ended up on one of the alternate bike loops which gave me a few extra steps. Several other runners seemed to make the same mistakes as I meet people coming and going on this little loop. As I made the climb up the infamous, “Stairway to Heaven,” which leads to the aide station I had no idea how I would turn around and make the return trip. My Garmin had already clocked 7 miles at right about 2ish hrs into the race and I had not been staying on top of my nutrition and was probably over hydrated as my fingers and hands were swelling up. I hit the aide station and grabbed a peep, had a quarter of a pb&j sandwich and a little Coke and immediately felt better. I stuffed some peanut butter crackers in my pocket for later and headed back out ready to finish what I started.
Surprisingly I was feeling better and despite a cranky IT band and a sore foot I was still able to run. I managed to pass a group that had been well ahead of me early on in the race and pretty much kept them behind me through the end. I really worked hard on changing the script in my head. I knew what I needed to do to be more successful and to feel stronger. I knew the mistakes I had made, but I also knew that I could pretty much handle anything. My A race won’t be easy, it’s 120 miles over the course of 6 days at altitude and you sleep in a tent. I need to be comfortable with discomfort; to not dwell in the noise in my head, the doubts and the self judgement. I need to Welcome myself where I am, embrace the moment and enjoy the experience.
Once I got my head screwed on straight it felt like the section between aide stations flew by. The 50k runners started to catch us as they were finishing their first loop and it was inspiring to see fellow Team Ninja athlete Jen Kirkpatrick pass me on a climb, making it look easy. I hit the last aid station with a 50k Runner and took another swig of coke and headed out to finish the last 2 ½ miles. I started out with a fellow ½ Marathoner that I had seen at the start, as we started the climb out of the aid station he scooted over so I could pass him and I made it my goal to keep him behind me. I managed to pass another ½ Marathoner and again made it my goal to keep them both behind me to the end. It was fun to cheer on the 50k runners as they headed back out and I made a point to say Good Morning and thank the Boy Scouts who were kind enough to step off the trail so the runners could pass. I made the last climb up Monkey Butt and I’ll confess that I took just a moment to raise my hands in the air and give a big whoop! I managed a run back down into the finish line and was grateful to get my medal and a bottle of water.
My Garmin time was 4:39:47 and a distance of 14.16 miles. Not exactly the race I wanted to have, but I am very happy that I pushed myself to keep going when all I wanted to do was quit. I was grateful that I have been doing my core work and had a strong core to call on when I need an extra boost. I am also extremely grateful that I can have these experiences and that I have the support of friends, family, a great coach that is still positive when you have a bad day, and you just can’t beat the spirit of camaraderie in the trail running community. I am actually looking forward to my next training block which will lead up to the OKC Memorial Marathon in April and the 56k at Possums Revenge in May.
Onward and upward to the next challenge. I can tell you that I’ll be focusing more on my overall nutrition, strength training, and committing to executing on my long trail runs. I’ll also be working on my mental game and making certain I am able to welcome myself where I am and not get mired down in regret and negative thinking.
I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness on Audible recently. I know I need to shake things up a bit and thought her wisdom and insights on life might be a good place to start and I’ve had this book sitting in my library for awhile so why not started it on my commutes between work and doggie daycare? One of the concepts she talks about early on is the idea of Permission slips, she talks about the first time Oprah tapped her to be on Super Soul Conversations and how she, Brene, physically wrote herself a permission slip to enjoy the moment, to be goofy and to have fun. What a brilliant idea! My guess is that there are many areas, spaces in life where we need to give ourselves permission to be who we really are and to be true to ourselves. So I have decided to embrace this idea of permission slips and will be writing them to myself on a regular basis. Here are some of the things I’m giving myself permission to do:
I give myself Permission to…
Not like JLo’s part of the Super Bowl HalfTime Show, I’ve never been a fan.
Push my team at work to Raise the Bar.
Buy a new car
Stop indulging in self sabotaging behavior
I give myself Permission to…
To commit to my training plan, even my strength workouts
To Be Successful
To Be A Hot Mess
To Lose the Weight
To Let my Gray Hair Grow Out – Maybe, I’m still not sure I’m ready
To No Really Care What Other People Think
To Drink Less
Eat More Vegetables
Not Always Have My Sh&t togegther
To Have Fun
To Go Camping
To Have a Messy, Cluttered House
To Be Grateful
And most importantly I give myself Permission to Be Happy.
What areas of life do you need to write to write yourself a permission slip?
This is a thought that has been on my mind recently, especially after traveling when my suitcase inevitably gets tagged with the “Caution When Lifting Tag,” because I will predictably overpack. So what’s the baggage that’s weighing you down? What are the thoughts, habits, fears that are holding you back? In 2020 I want to do some hard things, things that I have previously not been successful in accomplishing. I am working really hard to change my mindset and I thought it might be helpful to unpack some of that baggage by at least naming it, releasing it, and letting it go. So here you go here are the things that tend to make my suitcase just a little too heavy, Caution When Lifting…
Books I’ve never read, but plan to someday
Cookbooks that I occasionally flip through, but never use
Clothes that are either too big or too small
Shoes that I never wear because they just aren’t comfortable
Maps to places I will probably never go
Empty flower pots
A paddleboard I fully intend to use this summer
My parents divorce when I was in High School
Stacks of old bills, pay stubs and junk mail that need to be discarded
Empty boxes (actually the empty boxes are gone)
4 different canisters of oatmeal – 2 steel cut, 2 instant rolled oats
Panty hose that I never wear
My step father’s death
Words I’ve never written
Words I need to write
Failed diets – too many to count
Bins full of things I don’t even remember that I have
Notebooks full of deep thoughts from my Undergrad and Graduate School Days
Old family pictures
12 packages of Picky Oats
Too many containers to count full of leftovers that I didn’t finish before they went bad, but they’re still in the fridge
Medals from races
Files I can’t manage to file
The fear of failing
Things I’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t done
Since writing this list out I’ve started to work on dumping my excess baggage. I don’t want a, “too heavy,” suitcase to hold me back from accomplishing my goals in 2020. To that end I am embarking on an adventure next weekend, as I near the 46th anniversary of my birth, I am stepping out and trying things I would have previously said no to like running the 25K at the Ouachita Switchbacks in Oklahoma next Saturday, January 18th. I am undertrained and am fully prepared for the ass whooping the trail will probably deliver, but is a race I’ve wanted to do for a while and a trail I’ve wanted to be on for a very long time. Originally I wasn’t going to be free the weekend of the race, but now I’m free so I’m going for it. Look for a race report soon.
Here we are, December 31st, 2019. I am flying west in an effort to make the last day of the year last about 3 hours longer, well not really. I’m headed to Vegas to ring in the New Year with some of my favorite people. I’m fairly certain that if I look back there’s a post on this blog from January 1, 2019 talking about all the things I wanted to accomplish in 2019 and I’m pretty sure if I went back and reviewed said list I’d probably find I’d not really accomplished any of those things, and that’s okay. This is not really a post about looking back and rehashing what did or didn’t happen. 2019 was not the best of years. While I did move to a new apartment and a new neighborhood, and Eloise the world’s cutest Pembroke Welsh Corgi came into my life, and I had an absolutely amazing experience at the Wilder Alumni Lab; I am ready for 2019 to be done. I try really hard to neve wish away time, but I can’t wait to ring in the new year and welcome 2020 with open arms.
I get the feeling that 2019 was hard for many of us; the loss of parents, illnesses, failed races, failed relationships, broken bodies and broken minds. 2019 did not turn out to be the year I expected. I am writing this post today to hold up the agreement that I made with myself a few weeks back to write. To practice writing and to explore the thoughts that come to mind. I am writing this post in an effort to show up for myself, to not hold back and to not choose to just bury myself in another episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; to face head on the things that sometimes keep me awake at night. To acknowledge the negative thoughts that I find hold me back and keep me from going after the life I really want.
Life is crazy. Life is unpredictable. Life will happen while I am sitting on the couch binge watching some crazy TV show, life will happen while I spend countless hours scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. Life will happen while I choose to waste time at work and end up getting home late. Life will happen, the clock will strike Midnight and as 2019 exits stage left 2020 will enter stage right and I want to write a different script; instead of living this half life where I dream and talk about the things I want to do, but end up in a spiral of exhaustion and overwhelm and never really do anything at all. I want to write the script where I run the trails, paddle the streams and lakes, love my body regardless of my weight and I don’t DNF my bucket list race. Today I am writing and I am staking my claim to a year of Joy, a Year of getting off the proverbial couch and finding my way forward. To not worrying so much about what other people might think and to embracing new things. “The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” 2 Corinthians 5:17. So I wish all a very Happy New Year, may we learn from the experiences 2019 and I hope that 2020 brings us all more light, more love, and more peace.
Note: It has taken me a couple of days to work up the courage to post this to my blog. Its a little scary to put yourself out thereand declare a really big scary goal, let a lone two when my recent track record hasn’t been that stellar; but here goes nothing.
Oops, I did it again. Off I went to yet another amazing weekend in Central Oregon for a Wilder Running and Writing Retreat, ready to go deep and come back charged up and ready to work on both my writing and running. The running has actually been pretty solid, thanks to my coach, Gregg @ultraninjarunner and #teamninjacoaching. Granted I haven’t spent much time on the trails, but I’ve found joy and strength in running and the most impossible of all races that I’ve registered for in 2020 (The Transrockies Run 6 Day Stage Race) doesn’t seem that impossible anymore; mind you the training will be a challenge, but I can already see that it will be worth it and that I can do it.
But what happened to my writing? It’s been months since I’ve committed any amount of time to actually writing and I haven’t posted anything since August when my Step-father passed away. I have spent countless hours playing around with ideas in my head, I even put a few down on paper, but then I would talk myself out of delving deeper and actually exploring the theme; because who really cares what I have to say about weight loss, running, depression, losing a parent, work stress, and the current fight within the United Methodist Church over inclusion of LGBTQ People in the church? Who am I to think that my voice matters? But who am I to think that my voice doesn’t matter? And most importantly who cares what other people think, “what other people think of you is not your business,” I think is how the quote goes. For some reason that I’ve never really been able to explain, I want to write, and I want to share what I write. I am not looking to become a professional writer – I am very happy in my chosen profession, but writing brings me joy and I need to put it out into the universe. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, “Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” I am going to step out on a limb and say yes, I do!
So I am throwing caution to the winds and putting just a few intentions in writing and sharing them publicly! I will post to this blog at least twice a month, I want to primairly focus on sharing my experience training for my upcoming races as I build up to by BIG SCARY AUDACIOUS GOAL of running the Transrockies 6 Day Stage Race in Colorado this August and as I work towards returning to my WW goal weight and becoming a Lifetime Member of WW (or Weight Watchers) once again. I go in to more specifics in subsequent posts about why Transrockies and my race schedule for 2020 and why I’ve decided to return to WW after a hiatus of many, many years. But I also plan to write about other things that strike my fancy, to try to not censor myself and thoughts so much, to dive deeper into this practice of writing.
My hope is to bring a little bit of light and love and hope to anyone that reads what I write. To hopefully reach someone else that might be feeling the same way I am and to know that you’re not alone. That life and going after big dreams can be hard, but it can also be worth the effort. So I invite you all along for the ride, who knows where this will take us all.