Saturday, February 4, 2017

My word for 2017


My word for 2016 was adventure. Click here to read my report from a year that was full of running, exploring, personal growth and adventures.

Going into 2017 has been tough for me. I've realized some things about myself that I'd like to further explore, but that exploration is scary. The truth about what we hold deep in our hearts, that we cover up with possessions and smiles and tough skin and super mom personas can be hard to uncover. But that is exactly what I intend to do in 2017.

My 2017 word is vulnerable. My goal is to allow those buried feelings of fear, shame, and unworthiness to surface so I can welcome them and befriend them. I've spent the month of January diving in and what I've found so far is nothing short of fascinating.

Let me describe an example. We are a screen watching family. While we value outdoors and adventures, our go-to is often screens. Winter and the cold makes it more challenging for N and me and we have to stay very cognizant of how much time the boys spend on screens. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by this task this past week, then in the midst of this I took BBZ to the dentist and found that he needs a lot of treatment, much like he did a few years ago. The combination of these two things came to ahead in Saturday.

The boys were playing video games together before dinner and had built a huge village and were working really well together. I was concerned about the length of time they were playing, then the village they built dominated their discussion at the dinner table. I felt completely overtaken by screens and LOST IT. You know, the kind of crabby that makes the family walk on eggshells. It was bad.

In his beautiful and supportive way, N asks me if this is just about the screens or if there was something else going on. I sat for a minute, and really explored this feeling. What was going on with me? I've been so even keeled lately. I've been ridding my home of useless stuff and seeking a more calm and quiet life. Where on earth did this anger come from?

Then I figured it out. The screens. The dentist. The decision to try a more minimal life. Under it all was an intense feeling that:

I am not good enough.

How about that for being vulnerable. A better mom would have screen limits figured out. A better mom would provide better dental care. A better mom (or person) wouldn't have all this stuff in the first place, or would have it all out of the house by now. But rather than admitting that this is how I'm feeling, I lashed out at others in "stressed out" aggression. But buried underneath this outer shell is the fear of being right, that I'm really not good enough.

Something that sent me on this path toward being more open and vulnerable is this talk from Brene Brown. It is a bit long (20 Minutes), but I encourage you to take time to watch or listen if you are interested in exploring this topic.

The example I shared is barely scratching the surface of my own fear of vulnerability. I'm consciously trying to welcome these feelings of uneasiness and fear, breathing them in and further discovering the kinds of connections that are possible with the world and the people around me when I'm being my authentic self. This is my year of vulnerability.

I have kept mostly quite on this blog lately, not making time to document my thoughts. An encounter with an old friend makes me want to dedicate some time to this space of mine. She shared that she was moved by my sharing some private thoughts and experiences when I talked about how N and I chose to start our family years ago. It was beautiful to know that she found strength in my words. So perhaps sharing this experience of being more vulnerable will resonate with a reader out there somewhere.

Like a long run on the most challenging trail course imaginable, this is going to suck.

And I'm actually looking forward to it.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2016 Review


2016 was full of many adventures, both personally, professionally, and within my running goals. It was a great year! Let's recap in photos,because that is super fun.

In February 2016, I started a new job. I know it's been a while since I posted at all, but particularly about this, but this was a HUGE move or me. For the first time in 15 years, I do not supervise a team. I am responsible for my work and my work alone. I am not in charge, and while I get to make some important decisions, the really important ones are made way over my head. This was certainly an adjustment at first, but it is proving to be the huge step back in life I needed, leaving time and space in my heart to be available and present for my boys.

I totally stepped up my running game in 2016. I ran a 15k in February...

Then a 20k in March...

Then a 25k in April! This April race was my first taste of the ultra marathon world, as the 25k distance is basically an ultra half marathon. This got me so excited about increasing my mileage!

Even N decided to run a 5k race with me. Couples who race together...!

This was the 4-week trail race series in May that I ran last year as well. All of the courses are in one of my very favorite parks on different routes throughout the trails. I landed in the top 10 in all four races and even hit the top 5 in race #4!

This guy lost his first tooth. It seems a bit early to me, but I suppose it happens at different times for different kiddos. He's growing like a little weed and is the happiest kid I know!

I just love this photo of N. He and I are just like everyone else in our relationship, we have our ups and downs, and at the end of 2016 we were in a pretty rough down. But we are working hard to stay present and connected and with the needs of our love and our family in the front of our minds. If anything is an adventure, it is going through life with another person. We love each other so, and we get complacent. But we are turning toward each other and doing our best to love each other well.

See? Little signs of love are all around us. We just need to keep our eyes open to see them.

This boy is a whole hand worth of fingers. I haven't posted much about them. I guess I haven't really posted anything in a while, but with them it is somewhat intentional. These boys are becoming the people they are meant to be. What if they don't want their stories on my blog? What if their idea of privacy is different than mine? I feel like I need to be extra guarded as they continue to grow into young men. I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that good things will come for this boy. He's a special one, my little LBZ. His demeanor is so endearing. I only hope he will not feel let down by the world when he finds out it is not as genuine and pure as his little heart.

And this boy. How hard it is to put the beauty of his soul into words. He is kind, and generous, a great friend, and a brave young man. He had a conflict with a fried at school and will barely any help from me, sought out the support from his counselor to help mend the friendship in a way that everyone felt heard and loved. I'm not sure how I got so lucky to have this boy in my life. Watching him grow into a man may be the most rewarding this I will ever do in my life.

In September I ran this race for the second year in a row, but this time it was really challenging. My head wasn't in it, and I was experiencing some burnout. The only reason I am smiling in this photo is because it's the finish line and the race is finally over.

Later in September I had another race scheduled. I got up super early as usual as there was a pretty long drive to this one. When I woke up, I saw this not that N left me. "Have fun, run hard, stay out of your head, enjoy the experience. These words were my mantra during the race. I enjoyed every mile that wrapped around a beautiful lake. This note meant a lot to me, and restored some lost love I had for running.

In the fall, N decided to coach LBZ's soccer team, and BBZ was the "assistant coach". It was a fun adventure where we met lots of new families in our area, and even found some friends that LBZ will be with in kindergarten! N was a great coach. His 3 rules: Be kind, No hand, and Have fun!

This was probably one of the most proud races of my running career so far. It was a 20k on a local trail with some of the toughest climbs around. And I ended as the 4th female overall! It was after this race, however, that I had to finally admit that there was some serious GI issues that happened to me after long runs and races like this. What I had been chalking up as typical runner's trots were becoming a much more worry some situation. I decided to make some major changes to my diet and vitamins and have been gluten free since 10/2016. It has been a slow process, but I can tell my gut is healing and this issues are less severe. I do think it will probably take all year to fully heal my gut to the point where I can build some serious miles into my plan. I hoped to start training for a 50k around this time last year, but that goal in on hold.

This is from another 20 k race in 11/2016. I was signed up for the 30k, but as described above, i needed to back off a bit while I sorted out my health issues. I had been running with a new group I met through the Meetup app, and earned myself a reputation for putting my arms out like an airplane when I go fast down trail hills. Apparently, as captured in this race photo, I also do the airplane when creek crossing, too.

Although I said I would never go to the far north in the winter months again, we made the trek to see my parents and did some hiking and adventuring while there.

My final race of the year was in chilly December, the day after our 10-year wedding anniversary! It was at a lodge, so N and the boys came along and met me at the finish line. It was so great to have them there!

We attended our very first ugly sweater party!

And had an amazing holiday season celebrating our life, our love, and these 2 young boys who simply light up our lives. This whole thing is an adventure, and one wild ride. While I'd like off every now and then, I wouldn't change a thing.

In January of 2016 I set a goals to run/walk/hike 1008 miles in 2016. I met that goal in November and decided to step it up and try and meet the 1008 miles in only running. I met it at the tail end of December, just in time.

2016 was a great year, full of accomplishments and challenges. 2017 will prove to be similar, I think. My running goals are to run 1050 miles in the year, with 300 of those miles on trails. I also hope to focus on strength training and injury prevention as I continue to figure out how I can increase my miles and heal my GI issues. I'd love to add a 50k to this goal, but that may be a 2018 goal.

Stay tuned for my word for 2017. It's a good one!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Bill Z 6/2003 - 5/2016

On 5/7/16, I made the very difficult decision to put my cat, Bill, to sleep.

I adopted Bill in August of 2003 from a coworker. I later learned that he was likely taken from his mother much too soon. I actually thought he was a girl and named him Lilly! It didn’t take long to realize my mistake.

The movie Kill Bill came out not long after the adoption, and it became the joke because he was such an asshole. Seriously. I thought maybe it was just that he was being compared to the best cat on the face of the earth (Cat V, RIP), but as time went on and I got to know him more, I think he was just a jerk.

He had what we have now labeled as Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). So perhaps he was just sick and not an asshole. It is still unknown for sure. He often had bowels outside of the litter box. I usually could figure out what was wrong and fix it – new litter, a new box with a clean scent, etc. I took him to the vet every few years starting in 2006 trying to figure out what was going on. They typically treated it as behavioral and made me feel as though I wasn’t doing enough for him. I had one vet tell me to put the litter box(es) in the main area of the living space. When I explained I had a toddler and that wouldn’t work, she acted as though I wasn’t doing enough to arrange my life around the cat. She kind of sucked a little bit.

Around 2014 when I finally realized this could be health related, I searched online and found some information about food and food allergies in cats. I tried a different food and for the first time in as long as I could remember, he had solid BMs. It was like a miracle.

It didn’t last long though. Sometime in 2015 I went back to the vet and saw the male doctor who treats my dog. He looked at the long history of bowel trouble and said some of the most validating words I have ever heard “wow, you have been dealing with this longer than most people would have”. This was when I began to see him as needing more medical care, and less like I was doing something wrong or not enough to discourage the behavior.

That doctor put him on some special low allergen (i.e. expensive!) food, and a steroid, which helped at first. When things were good, they were good. When they weren’t, Bill had to stay in the basement where his 2 litter boxes and food were. I would periodically let him spend time upstairs, and eventually he would pee or poop somewhere and would have to go back downstairs.

In December of this past year, when that last doctor retired, I worked with another doctor in the same office and we decided to go a route we hadn’t gone before – treating this as anxiety. He gave me 2 medicines to try. When we got home from the appointment, Bill was like a new cat. He had solid(ish) BMs, he was friendly, and he stayed upstairs with us and was like having our healthier Bill back. I didn’t try the medication.

That lasted about 3-4 weeks, then things turned south again. This was sometime in January. I tried the meds but he wouldn’t take one at all, and the other I had to hold him down to give, and he threw it up anyway. Over the new few months I would try less and less to reintroduce him to our living space.

About 2 weeks ago, I brought him upstairs and blocked off the majority of the house so he couldn’t access it. It was a great day full of snuggles and hanging out with Bill. I tried to let him stay upstairs overnight, but as I started to fall asleep I heard a loud and explosive poo at the end of our bed. That’s when I realized this was not at all behavioral. This was complete incontinence of bowel, and out of his control.

So I called and made the appointment with the vet for 5/7, prepared to have the conversation about the next steps for being unable to continue to care for him.

When I went into the appointment and described the symptoms, as well as what I had tried, I said that words I was so afraid to say when it came to Bill “I don’t think I can take care of him anymore.”

The vet was so supportive. He validated everything I have done and said no one could have taken care of him as long as I did. I’m not really sure what I expected when I left the house on Saturday. Maybe that they would suggest a shelter for cats like him, or maybe want to observe him for a few days. But none of that happened. They just brought the form for me to sign and started the process. They asked if I intended to stay and where I wanted to do it. I did want to stay, and I chose the “quiet room” which is where I held Cat when it was his time. I wanted him to be in the same place Cat was, for some reason.

I had some time with him before they did anything, so I just snuggled him. I noticed that his ears weren't red. Whenever he was stressed, his typically pinkish white ears and nose would become bright red. They were red when we got to the office, but when we were in the quiet room they were not.

I cried a lot. I held his little body as they injected a muscle relaxer and he became limp, but I could see his little chest rising and falling. I told him I loved him, and that I hoped he felt loved and that I was sorry. The doc came back in and gave him the medicine that made his heart stop. I found myself smiling when he was taking his last breath. I was so happy to be with him during this time in his life, which I felt was as beautiful as any other part of life. The doc said he was gone and left me to stay as long as I liked.

Once he was gone I didn’t feel a need to stay. I knew it wasn’t him anymore. So I covered him up with the towel he was laying on, kissed him and walked out.

I told a friend today that I didn’t know why I was taking it so hard. He was an asshole after all, and at times I didn’t even really like him that much. Her response was that sometimes assholes need the most love. I definitely think that’s true.

This is also the first time in at least 16 years that I have not had a cat. Before then my parents always had cats. I didn’t buy cat litter at the store yesterday. I didn’t have to feed him this morning or make sure he was ok in the basement. It’s a huge difference to suddenly not have to do something I’ve done daily for most of my life.

BBZ wants another cat. I think I need a break for a while. I made N promise to stop me if I ever suggested getting another cat. It’s hard to risk it without knowing what kind of cat we’d get. Although the boys have a pretty limited view of what it’s like to have a cat since Bill is all they knew. Either way, it will be a while.

I'm slowly getting adjusted to a cat free house. I wonder if Delilah even notices he is gone. She has her own health issues going on, but I wonder if she realizes. Animals do seem to have a sense about such things.

RIP Bill, I will miss you and your sweet little face.

I hope these two are chilling together once again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"The results of your screening are benign."

The topic of cancer is not unfamiliar in my family. 10 years ago, less than 1 month before my wedding, my mom’s biopsy results showed positive for breast cancer. She had surgery following the wedding and the full course of chemo that is the recommended treatment. Then on 2/29/16, my very first day at my new job, she again received news that the results of her biopsy, this time taken from the inside of her uterus, was indeed cancer.

So when my doctor followed up with me in mid-March because of “abnormal glandular cells” found on my pap, with a recommendation of a colposcopy (where the doctor takes a super close look at the cervix) and a possible endometrial biopsy, the reality that this could be cancer was as real as my mother’s positive diagnosis.

The follow-up appointment was one day before my mother’s full hysterectomy.  Feeling the need to allow her to focus on staying positive through her surgery, as well as the healing that followed, I did not tell her about the abnormal results of my pap. It wasn’t until after she returned home and received her own best case scenario news that I felt okay about sharing my situation.

It was a Monday, and I scheduled the appointment as early as I could to avoid using any sick time at my still brand new job. I had to meet a coworker at a work site at 10am, so I hoped this would be enough time. I failed to review the process for this procedure, and ended up experiencing tremendous pain and a lot of bleeding. I left the office feeling defeated, and terrified.

I’m not sure how we do it. How we put on a face for the world while carrying around so much inner anguish. I found myself wondering who else was going through the motions of the day, yet struggling inside to do so. I felt strangely connected to others, even though I hid what I was experiencing both physically and emotionally from all of those around me. “We’ll get the results in about a week” is all he said as he rushed out the door. My OBGYN is very popular in the birthing world in my town as a sought-after OB with a natural mind and a support for minimal interventions during the birthing process. Even though he didn’t make it to LBZ’s birth since he was born so fast, my doc would have allowed me to go 42 weeks and 5 days before insisting on induction, so for that, he was a great doctor. As a GYN, he is smart and dedicated, yet lacks in the compassion department. This is why I always go to the nurse practitioners. Which is fine as long as things are “normal”.

The next week moved by slower than I could have imagined. Each day was different. I have very real times in my life when I was aware of how long I was waiting for news. Going past my due dates with my boys, waiting for job offers, and now, waiting to find out whether or not I had cancer.

As with the way all time passes, thinking about this past week feels like it flew by, but this upcoming week seems like it will last forever. This was also the case for the long week I waited for the results.

As many in our world do, I know a few people who have been through cancer. I frequently thought of them as I waited for my results. I didn’t have a sense of what the results would be. I would play out each scenario and wonder what would happen in each. I wrote the story of lots of scenarios. My job is brand new, they don’t owe me anything. I could lose my job, my health insurance, and could N’s pick me up or would I be denied for a pre-existing condition? What if I had mountains of medical bills. I have seen firsthand what happens to families when their insurance or other circumstances fail them. It happens. To real people just like me. I am not special or unique. I'm just another person in the world who could easily be touched by cancer.

I imagined going through treatment. Having to have surgery and being unable to pick up my children. What if I had to go through chemo? My body would be wrecked. It was in this daydream that I discovered that I am not afraid of death. Truly, I am not. I had a dream once where I died. I was shot in the head, which one would think would be brutal and tragic, and perhaps the story surrounding the gunshot was, but that is not what I remember. I remember hearing the shot, falling backwards, feeling the blood dripping down my face and seeing the person who shot me looking over me. I did not feel afraid. If anything, I felt as at peace as I am when in nature or staring into the sky.

As I awaited my results of the biopsy I realized I was not afraid of death, I was afraid of what I would have to do to my body to avoid dying.

I know people do it, and they survive and fight the cancer and go on to lead long and beautiful lives. I saw my mom do it. I didn’t want that for me, just like I don’t want it for anyone in this world. I am not special. It could as easily happen to me as to anyone else. And I was afraid of that story for myself.

I spend many of my lunch breaks walking in a nearby park in order to get fresh air and some steps in for the day. My job is quite more sedentary than my old job. I used that time during the week of waiting to relax and trust in the breeze that blew my hair, or the smile someone gave me as I passed, as a clue that I would be able to handle whatever came my way. There is something beautiful and terrifying that happens when one is faced with the possibility of a cancer diagnosis. While the waiting is long, when the news is positive, I am left with a distinct remembrance of the direction my path could have gone.

For a few months now I have been planning a huge race. It was to be my first step into the world of ultra-running, which is just long distance adventure running on trails. I told myself that no matter what the results were, I was healthy and strong and could complete the race. Well I did run it this past weekend, and it was incredible. I ran better that I ever have. I felt strong and healthy and like I had nothing to lose. I had full faith in the health of my body to run this really hard course.

I can’t help but wonder how I would have ran it if the results of the biopsy had been positive for cancer. Nothing would have been different inside me besides the knowledge, as there are often no symptoms of reproductive cancer. I wonder…

So while I still have some follow-up doctor visits to do since these abnormal cells came from somewhere, the world seems a little brighter this week. The air is a little sweeter. I have a little more patience with my boys, and I feel stronger and like I can take on anything. At the very least, I have a very heightened awareness of how sweet it is to be healthy and alive in this beautiful world.

“Life is a drama full of tragedy and comedy. You should learn to enjoy the comic episodes a little more.” ~ Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Friday, February 26, 2016

Time to breathe.

My last day at my job was Tuesday.  My team put together an amazing going away celebration for me complete with flowers, balloons, cards and kind words.  I stood at the door to my office and looked in, remembering the way it felt when that door opened for me.  I was excited, and it is what I thought success looked like.  It was what I thought would be perfect for my family, as my boys played next door in their preschool.  When I pulled the door closed behind me on Tuesday, I took a breath, and exhaled, and felt the next door opening just as this one closed.

Today is the third of 3 days off I planned to take between jobs.  So for the last 3 days, I have had no work obligations, and besides my own projects I hoped to get done, no expectations.  The days weren't as uneventful as I hoped they would be, but some very big things came back to my mind.  Things I hadn't thought about for a long, long time.

When the boys were small, particularly right after LBZ was born, I often felt this unbelievable separation from my life, because of the level of happiness I experienced.  I would sometimes feel like there is no way my life could really be mine.  There's no way these 2 boys are mine, and that N and I really created this amazing little life we have.  It was a feeling of surreal, and unfathomable happiness in this life we are leading.

Lately I've been moving too fast.  I was constantly checking my emails, was filled with thoughts about work and the job, was feeling pulled to stay connected via electronics, and lost sight of what it's like to just simply be with my family.  They were there the whole time, but the surreal experience of really breathing them in and appreciating how wonderful this life is had fallen away for a while, and it came surging back in the last 3 days.

I read a book a couple of weeks ago, and was able to go see the movie yesterday.  I saw it alone!  It was awesome.  I can't remember the last time I saw a movie by myself.  I cried through nearly the entire thing, without a consideration for what others thought.  They were all crying too, anyway.

The book and movie had a story line that included an interesting and unconventional relationship between a mother and her son.  In it, they speak about how the son came to be, that he was waiting in heaven to be born, ,then he came down from heaven and was born and they have been together since.  This reminded me of something else I hadn't thought about in a long while.

In the past I have felt like my boys have always been with me.  As though they were always a part of my soul, long before they were ever born.  It's as though they were waiting somewhere for me to be ready for them, and once they entered my life, we were all complete long with their daddy, who had also been waiting for their existence.  It is something I hadn't thought about in a while, but came crashing in on me as I watched this movie play out on the screen.

I have had time to breathe over the last 3 days.  I have had time to know and accept that no job is worth the energy I was expending, especially while trying to be present for my husband and our sons.  I feel connected with them on a level I haven't felt in a long time, and I am so happy to be in this place.

I know my new job will come with demands, and I also know that they will pale in comparison to the ones I just experienced.  I will miss some of the tasks I was doing, especially the leadership and team supervision and management, but I think I will find opportunities to use the skills related to those tasks without the responsibility that accompanies a job that requires them.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches.

I noticed something after I wrote my last post.  As I skimmed my labels to decide what category my story about running would fall, I realized that almost every single label had to do with my sons.  I wasn't really surprised by this as I began blogging in order to document my new life as a mother, but I realized that I really enjoyed, and hoped to continue, to write about me.  In a way, as my boys are getting older and more independent, my life as myself is beginning to return.

So I also noticed that I hadn't written much about my job(s) in the last few years.  In the beginning of 2014, I left the agency where I spent nearly 8 years developing as a person, a professional, and as a mother.  LBZ was 2 at the time, and the new job had promise as a perfect fit with my family because of where it was the same building as their preschool.

When I began to seek employment outside of that job, I always looked at the website of the Community Center where the boys' preschool was.  Certainly I could do just about any job as long as I was that close to them. Throw in a 50% discount off of their daycare cost (what what??), a free family membership to the center and you have what appeared to be the perfect fit for my family.

Except for one wasn't.

The first 6 months were tough.  I wavered between hating it and needing to give it at least a year for a full chance.  Then one of the main staff left.  I knew I couldn't leave then.  I needed to see the program through this huge transition.  So I stayed.  As the first year went on I still felt unhappy and started to think about looking around.  Then, another major staff person left.  Surely I couldn't leave then.  So I stuck it out and actually figured out how to be really good at this job.

That was a little over a year ago.  I do not hate my job.  In fact, I actually really like it now that I have a full staff of really good quality people on my team.  The problem is, it is a very high demand job.  My staff call me as early as 5am and as late as 11pm and I am charged with finding staff coverage, cancelling program details in bad weather, having my phone with me at all times to manage any program issues, and of course, making all of the really hard decisions and communicating them with families.

It's a high energy, fast paced, high demand job.  And I am really good at it.  I can manage people, and participants, and staff, and drivers and temp agencies beginning at 5am and still work until 7pm rocking it out.  I'm like a non-profit business-running rock star.  I think the discomfort I felt during the first year was because I was growing and learning so much.  It's hard for me to not feel like a master at everything.  I learned all aspects of this job and rocked it.

But it's just not working for me anymore.

I expend so much emotional energy on this job, that I am left with less than I need to provide for my family.  The demands are just too high for me during this season of my life, and it is time for a change.  My boys need me more now than they ever have.  I thought the baby stage was going to be the most emotionally demanding part of raising children, but for me it's not.  BBZ is in grade school now, and he is developing into the person he is going to become.  I need to be present with him all the time.  I need to know that at dinner when he is telling me about a conflict at school, I will not be interrupted by a work related phone call.

I have accepted a new job at an agency that I think will be a great fit.  The hours are set, I will not supervise anyone, and there is still a level of professional challenge that I really look forward to.  It's hard to admit when something has to give, and I think I will miss the fast pace business-like world, but I know this is the right choice for me.

I was telling a friend that it feels very much like moving from the city to the country.  The city is a fast paced active part of town where some people thrive.  Others prefer the quiet solitude of the country life.

So that's me.  I'm moving to the country.  I can't wait to smell the fresh air and breath the sigh of relief.  I know I will miss the city life, and maybe one day, when my boys are older and off on their own, I'll move back.

Until then, I am looking forward to the new pace.  Maybe I'll even buy a hammock.

Friday, January 1, 2016


While I am not one for resolutions, I did actually set some goals for 2015.  It was a great thing for me, and I am so glad I did it.  I didn't meet all of them, and I surpassed others.  It was a great tool for me to keep myself on track, not because I wanted to change this big thing about myself, but rather because I wanted to see what I could accomplish when I set my mind to it.

Much of this mindset comes from my love of running.  Way back in January of 2014, 2 years ago today, actually, I decided to walk a certain number of miles each month.  I wasn't looking to lose weight, but I wanted to be in better shape and health and I was in the midst of a huge career change, and I think I was looking for something steady and predicable.

I walked almost every single day and hoped to complete anywhere between 40-55 miles in the month. About 3 weeks in, I began to feel the desire to run some of my miles.  I would run for about 45 seconds and have to stop to catch my breath.  It was ridiculous!  But it felt amazing.  I set my app on my phone to tell me every single minute, so I would run for one, and walk for 2-3.  Before long I was running 2-3 minutes and only walking one.

Sometime in February or March of 2014 I decided to sign up for a 5k race.  I went for a non-competitive one at the Botanical Garden because I wanted to non-competition part and also the opportunity to run in the beautiful garden.  I did a run-walk approach to most of the race and ended up timing at about 30:06.  I was so proud of myself!

At that point I decided that I really wanted to be able to run for at least 30 minutes without stopping.  I also wanted to do one 5k race each month.  Each month I completed one, and each month I improved.  In September 2014 I got first place in my age group with a time of 26:51, and I ran the whole time.

It was about this time that my running friends began to ask me when I would step it up to a 10k race.  I liked the idea of that, but I also wanted to take my time and not rush my body.  I was running 3-4 miles 4-5 times/week and I didn't want to increase that much to train for a longer road race.  I was having so much fun, I didn't want to change too much too fast.

In January 2015, my friend wanted to run a race, and asked me to run one with her.  We found one to run together, and I got a PR time of 25:34!

I was so happy!  I shaved over 4 minutes off of my 5k race time in less than 1 year.  My friend was super fast!  I could barely keep up with  her pace, and I was so grateful for her.  There's no way I would have finished with this time if I hadn't been trying to keep up with her.  It was such a fun race.

What happened afterwards I didn't anticipate.  I lost some motivation for 5k races now that I felt pretty certain that I couldn't top my new PR, and I didn't want to try and improve my time with speed training.  I was still running 3-4 miles 4-5 days/week, which I loved.

It was around February of 2015 that my brother-in-law asked me if I was interested in doing some trail running.  He has been a runner in the past, but because of health issues he had been sidelined for the past few years.  He was ready to get back into it, and I was ready to try running not only with a partner, but also off-road.

He and I started running on trails on the weekends.  We stuck to pretty easy trails that were either paved or gravel since the cold weather and melting ice kept the trails around town pretty wet.  We decided to sign up to run a 10k trail race in March.  It would not only be my first 10k race, but also on a trail!  I was nervous, and it was awesome.

Shaw Nature Reserve 10k Race

I was hooked.  Trail running was something I didn't' even know I was missing.  Running outside on a trail is like nothing I have ever done before.  My BIL and I went on to run multiple trail races ranging from 3.5 miles to 10 miles.

Alpine Shop Spring Trail Series Castlewood State Park

Alpine Shop Spring Trail Series Castlewood State Park

Flint Ridge 10 Mile Trail Race

I stretched myself farther than I ever have before, and learned things about myself I never knew were there.  I found a sense of adventure and exploration I never knew existed inside of me.  Running not only became the way I dealt with my heath and wellness, but is becoming synonymous with the way I live my life.

It has sparked a light it me that is hard to explain.  Most recently, on 12/12/15, I completed what is considered to be the most challenging trail run in the area.

Pere Marquette 7.8 mile Trail Race

In addition to the many races I completed this year, I also set a goal for mileage for the year at 936 miles, which I completed with a few days to spare.

Before I put on those walking shoes in January of 2014, I hadn't ran at all since I played soccer in high school.  I feel amazing, have a new rush for being outdoors, and am already signed up for a 15k trail race in February, a 20k trail race in March, the spring trail series of 4 races in the month of May and a HALF MARATHON TRAIL RACE in September!!  (Yikes!)  And last, a goal to run 1008 in 2016.

One of the most important things I learned this year is this:

It really did take nearly 2 years for me to learn this very important point.  The races I do are not about winning my age group, or setting a time record.  The races I do are about looking at a challenge, staring it in the face, and killing it.  The other runners truly do not matter.  Besides the kind and encouraging words we throw around at each other particularly after a ridiculous climb up what feels like the side of a mountain when we can finally exhale and realize what we all just accomplished!

This brings me to my word for 2016...ADVENTURE!

I want to stretch myself farther than I ever have before.  I want to set goals and watch myself crush them.  I want to try something new that I have never done.  I want to explore nature and bring myself and my family closer to each other and to the earth.

Bring on 2016.  Let's do this!