As 2021 finally comes to a close, I keep waiting for the right words to come along to capture this moment or more aptly all the moments that encompassed this year that I am sure we all won’t soon forget. 2021 was supposed to be the year that everything returned to normal, that Covid would just magically disappear and yet I find myself canceling travel plans at the last minute and worrying about the impact the most current spike will have on the residents and employees that call my community home. I wish I had some words of wisdom about how we let go, how we celebrate the good, how we put the past to bed; but I just don’t. All I can think to say is that we have to continue to be kind to ourselves, be kind to each other, value the moments you have with the people you love and don’t take anything for granted. Its okay if your house is still a mess, you haven’t lost the weight and you’re still trying to figure out life in a world that continues to shift and change.
I wish you all love, hope, peace, happiness and health. Happy New Year and Farewell 2021, thank you for the lessons you taught us all.
So I am just 2 weeks late with this check in/update, sorry about that I have some mental baggage that I am working on cleaning up around writing and sharing my story and not feeling like an imposter. I am currently doing a lot of work on self sabotage, because honestly I think there’s a lot there in my head that is holding me up with sitting down and doing the work with this blog. But aside from that I fee like over all my training is going well, like most people I have ups and downs, but overall I can feel my body getting stronger and my fitness returning which is exciting. Strava gives you a handy dandy graph of your fitness and I love seeing it returning.
With writing and running my brain is still my biggest obstacle. For instance I pretty much stress all week about my long runs and I don’t know why. I am not being asked to run anything that is outside of my physical ability and I am not currently running distances or for periods of time that are unknown to me, but I still just have a lot of drama going on around these runs. But right now I am feeling good, despite a disappointing long run today, about the direction I am headed in and looking forward to seeing how the rest of this rebuilding block goes.
I thought for this week’s check in I’d try to delve into the topic of why. Why would anyone in the right mind run a 6 Day Stage Race that covers 120 Miles, 20,000 feet of elevation gain at altitude. Something must be wrong with a person like that or there was probably a time in my life that I would have thought so. I very clearly remember listening to Mirna Valerio, the @mirnavator on the Rich Roll Podcast way back in 2018, Episode 340 https://www.richroll.com/podcast/mirna-valerio/. I was already vaguely familiar with the TransRockies Run, but it was never something I gave much thought to. I was following my friends along the triathlon trail and ultra distance running was just not in my focus. And then I heard Mirna talking about TRR, for some reason she caught my attention and I quickly became an avid fan of the races’ Facebook group. When the race finally happened it turned out that I actually knew people racing that year! I followed along and learned that there is an amazing community that has developed around this race. But is that enough to want to put yourself through the hours of training, through the challenge of trying to run at altitude for distances that prove challenging for the strongest of runners? I am a mid to back of the pack runner, why would I ever think of taking on such a challenge? Why would one podcast be enough to set me on a course to tackle this challenge? The answer is, why not? Why can’t I tackle something so challenging? Why can’t I push my mind, my body, my soul and my heart to see what’s possible? Why wouldn’t you want to spend 6 days in one of the most beautiful places (Colorado), climbing mountains, making new friends, making new memories? I mean there’s just something about this race that just sets my soul on fire, it makes me want to go to bed early so I can get up early and log my miles, it makes me want to actually do my strength training, think a little more carefully about what I eat and why and drink my water. I think if we are all honest with ourselves we all have something: a hobby, a dream, a goal that’s sitting deep inside us, waiting to explode. For me, it’s being outside, sleeping under the stars, joining the amazing TransRockies Community and seeing just how far these short little legs can go.
I wish I had more sound reasoning, but I don’t. It’s just like my desire to write; I don’t always understand it, given that I hated writing in high school and college. But now the call to write is there, always taunting me, calling my name. And so are TransRockies, the mountains of Colorado and my desire to stretch myself, to grow, to learn and become a stronger, healthier, version of myself.
2 Months and 4 days… that is precisely how long I’ve been planning this blog post. 2 months of stopping and starting, not ever letting myself finish, of finding ridiculous ways to put off writing and publishing this post, 2 months of continuing to hide. To share something that, at the heart I am still working on believing I can do. To put myself back out into the world and to not care what people think. Really I think that last part, the part about hiding and not wanting to put myself back out into the world, that’s been going on for longer than 2 months; probably more like most of 2021. I’ve been hiding, busying myself with work and all things Covid and then my Mom’s knee replacement surgery and moving and then Covid again. Its amazing how something like a stupid virus can take up so much space in your life if you let it. So here I am, getting ready to put it all out there. Ready to take a step, to do something I feel compelled to do, because I want to share this experience with someone. I want to connect with people again, I want to get back the life that I used to live, and let go of a life that’s been pretty narrowly focused for a while. So even if no one reads these words, I am standing up and showing up for myself instead of just hiding behind another meaningless episode of Below Deck on Bravo or spending hours scrolling social media or YouTube watching other people live their lives while I sit on my couch and watch it all go by.
Way back in the early days of 2020 I had a stupid, big, crazy, scary goal – I was going to participate in the TransRockies 6 Day Stage Race. I had signed on to work with a running coach who had a solid track record of coaching people through successful trail races of all distances. I was signed up for a series of races that would help me get to this goal. I was prepared to do the work, I had dreamed of being on the start line in Buena Vista, CO for several years and then well you know the story. Global Pandemic hits, turns life upside down and the stress reaction in my body was too much to manage. I stopped running, started eating and drinking and well sadly all races were eventually canceled and I let running, my fitness and all my running goals slip away. I will now share that I have also managed to gain 20lbs. While my rational brain understands that a lot of the weight was my body’s response to high levels of cortisol over a prolonged period of time it is still a very hard pill to swallow. I was Weight Watchers Leader for pete’s sake! I’ve run 9 marathons! How could this happen? Regardless of how I got here, I am here and well it’s time to get to work.
TransRockies 2021 came and went and I eagerly cheered everyone on from my home. When they announced that the 2021 race would be back I thought about trying to get my rear back in shape and to the start line, but I also realized I was a long way from being physically and mentally ready for a race of that magnitude; running 120 miles over 6 days at altitude. Add to that I had an opportunity to travel to Alaska to celebrate a friend’s 50th Birthday around the same time as the race, I opted to take the no questions asked deferral into 2022. So here I am, I had every intention of writing this post and publishing it back on August 1, one year from the date of the start of Transrockies 2022, but you already know how that went. Now, there are 10 months left to go and I am working hard on my mental and physical games. I’ve signed back on with my coach (Greg @ultraningarunnr, thanks for taking me back and I have faith in both of us that I will be ready come August 1, 2022.) With his help I am finally back to running consistently and I’ve even started to actually do my prescribed strength training and running on trails, something I managed to skip out on the last time I worked with Greg. I am also working hard on my weight and overall fitness, but I think that’s best explored in a separate post.
I wish I could explain why, but I really want to share this experience. I want to tell my story and I am also hoping that going public will help keep me going when the runs get really long, when I am tired and don’t want to go out to run or when I don’t want to make choices with food that support my goals (food is fuel, not fun! My new mantra). I’ve convinced myself numerous times that no one will really care and no one will want to read what I have to write, but I am also not going to let my inner critic stop me. As this is starting to get long and I need to get to bed, I’ll end by summing up my current goals on my road to TransRockies 2022:
1) Lose 10% of my current weight by my birthday which equals 1lbs a week.
2) Keep following my training plan and work my butt off to be ready to run the 25K at Ouachita Switchbacks in January.
3) Post once a week on Mondays to check in, provide an update on training and this little project of mine; to rebuild a strong, healthy, athletic body.
Thanks for joining me for this first step of an epic adventure!
“So I stood on the pale, peach-colored sand, watching the fox, as it opened like a flower, and I began to pick among the vast assortment of words…” Mary Oliver, Fox.
Today is my 47th Birthday. I wasn’t really planning to post anything today, earlier in the week I was hoping the day would just pass without much fanfare. To be honest the past 2 weeks have been rough, which is saying something when I look back at the totality of 2020. Just a week after receiving our first dose of the Pfizer Vaccine my community entered into what has probably been our worst Covid-19 outbreak amongst residents and staff since the pandemic hit, but it’s no wonder when you look at the spike in activity in the surrounding areas. After managing two vaccine clinics, and having just climbed out of a minor outbreak over the holidays, it has been somewhat dispiriting to feel like you are losing the battle again. So I think it is understandable when I say that earlier this week, I just didn’t feel like celebrating anything, I just wanted to spend the day in my pjs with the covers pulled up over my head.
But here I am, and I have to say I had a pretty good day. I woke up before my alarm clock and actually got out of bed, no snooze button. I had a good early morning walk around CityLine with Elosie and got my usual morning wave from the shuttle driver we see each morning, managed a somewhat decent run for me and even washed my hair and put on real work clothes; not the scrub pants, Banana Republic Sweaters and sneakers I’ve been favoring the past several months (I am sorry but scrub pants are just comfortable and the pockets!) The best part of the day was that we had no new positive cases to report, that I had meetings about future projects that weren’t centered around Covid, and I left work before 7:00 p.m. For all these things I am grateful. I am grateful that my family and friends have been relatively unscathed thus far from the ravages of the pandemic. I am grateful for my team at work, who continue to rally to meet each new challenge and do it with humor, compassion, and love. I am grateful that I am still able to run, that a complete stranger always looks for me in the mornings to wave (and not in a weird worrisome stalker way), that we have a new administration that seems to care about our country and wants to take action to end the pandemic. I am grateful that in the midst of it all I actually do feel a small flicker of hope.
It goes without saying that 2020 was just not a good year, my world was drastically altered and not in good ways; but as I reflect on 2020 (which up until now I’ve been reluctant to do, thus no New Year’s or 2020 recap post) I see so many little things that make me smile, that have changed me for the better. The lessons learned have been hard, but I know they will serve me well. So while I really wasn’t looking forward to turning 47 (just 3 years away from 50!), I am excited for a new year. For a chance to explore new interests – hiking and camping- to get back on track with writing and to figure out where and how I can be of service to others outside of work. I am looking forward to traveling again, connecting with friends far and wide and to learning new things. The tunnel is still long and dark, but I can see the pinprick of light at the end. Happy Birthday to Me!
Joy to the World! Joy is the focus of my advent study this morning, Joy! It seems somewhat fitting that it is a dark, cold, wet morning here in Texas. Poor Eloise was forced to face the most terrible of indignities when she had to do her morning business in the cold rain with lightning and thunder. She has taken to her hiding spot in the bedroom and is refusing to come out. This morning is not a very joyful one for poor Eloise. Eloise finds joy when she is around other people and dogs, she craves companionship outside of her Mother and feline sister. Eloise’s truest expression of joy is when I roll the window down in the car and she sticks her head out in anticipation as we make the turn into the parking lot for doggie day care, Eloise’s happy place. But Eloise is also joyful at the end of the day when I pick her up and she runs down the hallway straight to her Mother.
Joy! Where is the joy in our lives and in our world? As conflicted as I feel about the new Covid-19 vaccines being reviewed for Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA, I do think that joy can be found in the promise of a vaccine. The current vaccines, and subsequent iterations bring the promise that life might eventually return to normal. Joy can be a current state of being due to our surroundings or circumstances or joy can be found in the promise of a better tomorrow, joy that there is the potential for things to get better, be better, that we are not stuck in what can seem like an eternal wilderness or land of darkness. That we do have the ability and gift of being able to look forward, to have hope and a belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel. That tunnel might be long, but there is light at the end if you look carefully.
Poor Eloise can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel right now, her little doggie brain really only allows her to live in the moment which can definitely be a good thing, but when you face dark times; like this morning’s rain storms, isn’t it a gift to know that the sun will shine again, that the flowers and trees will look all the more beautiful in the Spring thanks to this morning’s rain, that sometimes there is joy in curling up on the couch under a warm blanket with your cup of coffee. That there is joy in the dark when you plug in the Christmas lights and light a few candles or take a few moments to bake a rum cake for a colleague that has worked so hard and put in extra hours, there’s joy for me in knowing that this small gift will bring her joy. I think it can be easy for us to be like Eloise and get stuck in where we are in the moment, to be mired down in the wet, cold, darkness. I know I can be guilty of this, of getting stuck in complete overwhelm, but then I find a moment of joy in time with my sister, a walk through our local nature preserve, or just being able to prioritize the things that do bring me joy.
Joy! 2020 has certainly not been a year full of joy for most of us; but I choose to believe that joy is still there. That at the end of the day the promise of the vaccines is good, that while we traverse this wilderness there is a promise that there will be a better tomorrow; that day by day the tunnel will get shorter; the storms will pass, the sun will shine and we will see the rainbow that symbolizes God promises of peace, hope, joy and love.
Here it is the end of the road for my daily blog post challenge. If you are just joining in on the fun, at the beginning of the month I decided to challenge myself to post to my blog everyday in the month of November. I wanted to challenge myself to get back into the habit of writing and I thought going public might be a good way to keep the challenge going and it worked! Here we are, we ALL made it to day 30! I wish I had something grand planned for tonight’s post, but I have to confess I don’t. I thought I’d start a draft this morning, but when the alarm clock went off I hit snooze way too many times. So here we are, stuck with a free write to close out my November writing challenge.
Before I map out what’s next, I want to thank each of you that has taken the time to comment, like and even read some of my posts. Your participation means so much to me. I truly value your time and thank you for taking the time to stop, click through and actually read my posts; I know how easy it can be to see a post, like it and not really read the post. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most is the sense of community and connection that I have with each of you, and isn’t that one of the things we are searching for; meaningful connection with others. I’ll be honest and say there were many days when I just didn’t want to write, but I am grateful that I have created a space where I can sit down and process the day, week, month or even the year. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to dig through some of my previous writings and share them in a public space. Thank you for coming along for the ride.
So what’s next? I’m glad you asked! Moving forward I am committing to posting once a week. I have this idea to explore some of my favorite Christmas hymns during the month of December to coincide with Advent that I want to try to flesh out. I also promise to provide a report of my first solo camping trip, coming up later this week, and I think I would like to post more about my future goals and weight loss challenges (hint it’s kind of stalled out, but that’s for another day). I do plan to spend some time reading and mapping out themes and future posts on my camping trip this week. One of the things I’ve learned or re-learned through this process is that I am not a fast writer, and sometimes I need to sketch things out and let them percolate; I want to do more percolating. I want to continue this practice because that’s what it is, a practice. I want to continue to share my thoughts, observations, and experiences as I start to sort through am I really a camper? Should I buy a house? Will we all survive Covid-19? I also want to share some of the resources that have inspired me, other people who have been willing to share their stories in either print, video or pictures have inspired me to step out and try new things; so I want to continue to figure out how to step out of my comfort zone and share my story in the hopes that it inspires someone else to do something new, something that they thought maybe one day all do that, let’s turn someday into today. So there’s much more to come, I promise!
Authors Note: I had an idea to write about some of my favorite Christmas Hymns starting with “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” by Charles Wesley, for the advent season. What came out on to paper when I sat down to flesh out this idea was something very different. I am not 100% convinced that I have adequately expressed my thoughts or that my dime store theology is sound. So as you read this, keep in mind that if it weren’t for my challenge I would probably not post this until I had satisfactorily found my conclusion, it is currently evading me so it is possible I will re-visit this work soon. In the meantime I am putting this out to the world and ask for your grace, these are my thoughts on what is a tough and challenging season and I know that I need Hope now more than ever.
Today, Sunday November 29, 2020 is the First Day of Advent. Advent is my favorite liturgical season; the waiting, the longing for something good to arrive, the promise of Hope! In the Methodist church we mark advent by lighting one candle for each of the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas day. Each candle represents a theme of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Today we lit the candle for Hope. Hope, what a loaded word. I know for some Hope is a concept that is hard to grasp right now, where is the hope? How do you hold on to hope when you’ve lost friends and family to a global pandemic that many have chosen to disregard? How do you find hope when you’ve lost your job, are worried about being exposed to Covid-19 at your job, or you’re choosing to follow recommended precautions and aren’t celebrating in the typical manner with friends and family from far and wide? This time of year, as darkness overtakes light, can already be hard to manage for many; but let’s just pile on in the grand manner that has been 2020.
It can seem overwhelming; maybe we should just all crawl into our beds, pull up the covers and wait it out. Surely when the clock strikes Midnight on December 31st, 2020 and we welcome in 2021 all of our troubles will be gone? But as much as I wish that welcoming a new year will solve our problems and lead us out of the wilderness, I have trouble thinking it will be that easy. So where is the hope? How do we find, think or even dare to dream about hope in such dark times? One of the Advent writings I read this morning (https://dianabutlerbass.substack.com) referenced back to Medieval times when the advent themes harkened of darker things – death, judgement, heaven and hell. Those themes certainly seem more appropriate for this Advent season with the darkness that seems to surround us.
But, here’s the thing, we can’t have one without the other. There can be no light without the dark, life and death go hand in hand; at the risk of being trite, “It’s the circle of life.” Yes, many of us are traveling a path that is hard, our burdens are many and we are weary. Weary of the losses that seem to keep racking up, weary of people that seem to have no regard for the life or well being of others. Weary of the discord, the disagreements, the separation, and the ever rising death toll. I would offer that it’s okay, it’s okay to be weary and to not know when you will find rest. We are most certainly in the wilderness, these are dark times. But I do know that even in these dark times it is possible to find hope. Remember light cannot exist without the darkness.
So where and how do we find hope? Being the good Methodist that I am, I am an avid fan of Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley who founded the Methodist Church. Charles was a prolific author of poems and hymns, his reach goes beyond the Methodist church having penned many of the hymns and carols that are familiar to all. One of my favorite works is
“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” Wesley penned this hymn in 1744, it is speculated that he took the following poem and turned it into song in response to the dark times facing many in England; the constant threat of war, division of classes and the poor treatment of orphans (Wikipedia, 11.29.2020):
“Born your people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now your gracious Kingdom bring. By your own eternal spirit, rule in all our hearts along; by your all sufficient merit, raise us to your glorious throne.”
Wesley was waiting, looking for the child that would be Born a King. Looking for hope in a time of darkness like the prophets of the Old Testament (Haggai 2:7). One of my favorite versions of this song has a plaintive and dark tone that gives way to celebration and light (https://youtu.be/R1Nrg6pVlG0). Yes, this is a time of darkness, but there is a voice calling out in the wilderness. I don’t know why, but I think we are meant to be in this wilderness time, we are meant to journey in the darkness; but I think that makes this season of advent even more special this year. It is important that we embrace the light when we find it and celebrate the hope; even if it is fleeting. It is there for all of us, waiting for the day when light overcomes dark, it happens every year when we pass the Winter Equinox and the days slowly start to become longer than the nights. And maybe this is the year when we take the time to find hope for ourselves by creating it for others. By feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, healing the sick and clothing the naked. Maybe this is the year that in the darkness we find and remember the true spirit of Christmas.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 CEB
Two days and counting… If you are just joining in, I challenged myself to post once a day, everyday in the month of November. Why? Well I wanted to get back into the habit of posting to my blog, and also wanted to make carving out time for writing a habit. I haven’t been as intentional about my posts as I would have liked, but I am learning from the process and it has helped me process a great deal of thoughts and feelings. I didn’t know when I started this challenge that Covid-19 would blow up again and pretty much dominate the narrative of my life for the past 28 days, I should have known; but I didn’t really think things through when I jumped into this self imposed challenge. I think that is something I am learning this year, to stop waiting for conditions to be perfect before jumping into something. If I had actually thought through this challenge I probably would have pulled the plug and not gone through with it. But I had the idea and just jumped in and 28 days I am still going.
Next week I am jumping headlong into another challenge, solo camping with a teardrop trailer. Yes, I am going camping all by myself and yes I know it’s December, but again if I wait for the conditions to be just right I will keep waiting for someday instead of giving this a try. For several years I’ve harborded this dream of going camping and of owning a teardrop trailer that I could take out anytime I felt like; and for years I’ve thought of all the things that could go wrong and just put it off, saying maybe someday. Well, this year I’ve decided that some day is going to be today. I had a lovely new tow bar hitch installed on my Volvo and I found a T@G Max that fits within my tow capacity available for rent on Outdoorsy.com. I’ve hemmed and hawed on this for weeks, but finally pulled the trigger on the reservations for the teardrop this past week. I am super nervous, I’ve never pulled a trailer before, I’ve never set one up on my own before, I’ve never camped solo before; I know enough to know that I have no clue what I am doing and that it’s going to be cold; but I am tired of waiting for someday. I want to give this a try and if it goes well I am going to consider investing in my own little trailer and I am already starting to plan a birthday trip to South Texas.
So now I have something to write about in December, instead of a race report I am going to post a camping trip recap; what worked and what didn’t. What I wish I knew and what I learned. I’m not going too far from home and I promise I am taking my pepper spray, my Garmin InReach Mini and I’ll keep my cell phone charged. But this is something I’ve longed to do and I am tired of sitting on the sidelines watching other people out doing the things I want to do. So now it’s out there, and now I have to make this happen; because I’ve committed not only to myself but all of you. That’s kind of scary too. Well, stay tuned for more on my first solo camping trip. I am not going to post specifics until I am home safe and sound, but watch this space for more to come!
Blah! That pretty much sums up how I feel right now. Even though I know that I actually accomplished a lot on my day off; ie I worked from home for only 3-4 hrs, I don’t feel like I accomplished anything. My house isn’t really clean, the bed never got made, I didn’t make time to work on my writing practice (other than this post) and my choice of consuming leftovers and chips and salsa have left me feeling more than a little bloated and achy. I woke up this morning and just felt out of sorts, it happens. I found myself drawn time and time again to that stupid little device known as my phone mindlessly searching social media for the answers to life. I know better and I know that my, “no facebook,” until after I have exercised, prayed/mediated, and planned my day serves me well; but for some reason I broke that rule today and I feel like I’ve lost the better part of a day down the rabbit hole. I suppose that my brain is probably trying to tell me it needs a real break, not a pseudo break and I need to learn to listen to that message and actually rest instead of feeding the endorphin cycle of apps and likes and posts of beautiful places and things on the book of face and Instagram.
I know better, I know the answers I am seeking aren’t there. That I am in a waiting period as things germinate and that I need to be patient. I need to wait and continue to flesh out things, to let things settle and all will be well. So I’ve put the phone away. I’ll allow myself to set my alarm right before I take Eloise out for our last potty walk of the night and that will be it. No more endless scrolling through posts, looking for what I don’t know. And tomorrow morning? Tomorrow morning I am committing to getting back into my morning routine that works for me: make coffee (actually Mud\WTR), walk Eloise, feed Eloise, plan my day, journal, mediate, run with some core work all before I will allow myself to check work emails and anything else on my phone. I need to set myself up to have a great day. I realize that sometimes it’s good to not have a plan for the day, but I also recognize I won’t start to make progress to get the answers I am seeking without forward progress, or movement. I am figuring this out one day, one step at a time.
Happy Thanksgiving! I know for many this Thanksgiving has been anything but normal, but I hope that something good happened for you today. For me it was a good day, work was minimally intrusive – I didn’t have to go in at all and only needed to manage a few emails and text messages for which I am grateful. My belly is full of turkey and pie and I am sleepy, so I am keeping this short and sweet with my gratitude list:
I am grateful that I was able to talk to my Aunt today. I haven’t seen her since February and it is a true treat when she calls! Worth turning my run into a walk to have the time to talk to her.
Time to rest, work has been pretty intense so I am grateful that things slowed down today.
Sunshine and fresh air; I am like a plant I feel better with adequate water, sunshine and fresh air. I am grateful for every step and every breath of my run/walk this morning.
Time with people I love – virtual time and real life time, I am grateful that I can connect with others even when we aren’t together.
I hope you can each find something to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving!