Is there anybody out there?
I’ve sat down over a dozen times to write my thoughts. Blogs come to me at odd times – during the quiet of a long run, the darkness of a late night feeding or the frenzy of life as a parent of two young children. The point is that these blogs, these thoughts which roll out so effortlessly in my head never seem to return when I sit down.
I need a ghost writer. Who follows me around, records my thoughts as well as walks the dog, changes diapers, cleans showers, cooks dinner and since we’re making outlandish requests does any bike interval that involves the words V02max.
Anyone out there? Anyone?
Another year is coming to an end. What a year. When I look back at where I was in January and where I am now, a huge smile comes across my face. I did it. Having my daughter was one of the most challenging events of emotional endurance and strength of character. From start to finish it was like a double Ironman of uncertainty, pain and waiting. After having a specialist tell me that “IVF would be a waste of your time, consider using donor eggs,” well, to finally cross the finish line and hold her every day is better than any medal, any PR, any “A” on a test, better than anything.
Also goes to show the value of a second opinion, or, in my case a fifth opinion. Never, ever give up on your dreams.
One day I will sit down and write about the process – it started in May 2013 and ended in August 2014. In that time, I put my body through the rigors of over 200 injections, drove over 3,000 miles for appointments, ultrasounds and meetings, dished out even more in co-pays. When I look at all of the obstacles I faced and then overcame, head on, to get her, I find it hard to put together any list of physical events that can top that feeling.
To top that feeling – it’s the downfall of many athletes. We constantly seek the top or beat the time before – whether we go longer, faster or do something more challenging – we keep chasing. I realized, in the past 4 months of looking at Mackenzie, that nothing will top it. Nothing needs to top it. If anything this year, I’ve learned to just be. Just be enough. Let this moment be enough for now. This is how you feel contentment – you accept and then you enjoy. I read recently that chasing happiness is futile - it’s a passing feeling that you cannot sustain. Contentment is long-lasting.
2015 is upon us. It is in this year that I will turn 40. 40 means so many things – it’s so loaded in terms of how I view myself and how others view me that it’s going to take the next 7 months until July 28th for me to filter through to find the importance of what it actually means. As I get older, I realize I am more accepting of myself; my flaws, my idiosycrancies. I’m quicker to acknowledge – heck, even announce them – and move on. I’m not perfect. As a former chaser of perfection, I’ve learned that the chase is empty and tiring. Life moves by without you as you keep running in a circle chasing the most perfect version of everything before you let yourself move forward. I was telling a friend the other day that the joke of life is that as you get older, you get more comfortable in your skin. But you keep looking in the mirror and saying – hey, that skin is getting older, that skin has wrinkles! By the time we fully love ourselves, we look in the mirror and barely recognize ourselves.
If I could go back and talk to the younger version of myself I would tell her to love herself more openly, walk more proudly and never to stay home because of bad hair, bad skin or anything else you’re convinced will be the first thing people notice when you meet them. Be yourself. Be awesome. Think, do and say so many awesome things that people can’t help but notice that despite bad hair, bad skin, you are radiant.
As long as I’m randomly spilling out these thoughts I should share some of my deeper thoughts about parenting. Parenting kicks my ass every single day. You thought ultra race pace mainset were hard? Hill repeats in the snow? Spend a day with kids and parent them. Some days I collapse in bed and have no idea what hit me. I wore my FitBit the other day and realized – in addition to workouts – I had climbed 18 flights of stairs and walked over 5 miles. JUST FROM PARENTING! And that’s just physically. The wear and tear on my heart is even tougher – will there ever come a day that I don’t cry when I drop my son off at preschool? Or when he stands on the sidewalk waving at the street sweeper? Or will I be able to look in my daughter’s eyes and resist the urge to want to wrap her up in an emotionally safe cocoon of warmth and love to protect from mean girls, aloof boys and anyone else that tries to convince her that she is anything less than amazing? On top of all of that I’m supposed to function as a housekeeper, chef, dog mom and wife? There isn’t enough coffee in the world to fuel the existential battles I wage in my head on a daily basis.
Parenting is, at worst, a nonstop blur of food service and sanitation. And yes, I went to college for this. Actually, I went to grad school. Parenting is, at best, the realization in the middle of the storm of every day that these are your people. You made them. They are all of your best and worst traits wrapped into pint-sized bundles of cuteness, runny noses and dirty hands. In short, it’s the best thing ever. I kick myself every day asking why did I wait so long to have kids? What the hell else was I doing with my life? Sometimes I answer that question with deep regret but realize it’s all part of the learning experience of life.
I chase my kids but I'm learning not to chase fitness. Don't chase fitness. Something my coach now says to me. Easy to say, hard to follow. I haven’t seen fitness since September 2013. I look for it, desperately, hoping to catch it off guard, throw a bag over it’s head and hide it in my basement! Funny thing about fitness is that it sneaks up on you. One day you’re out there slogging along, the next day (when you least expect it) the Garmin buzzes and the pace makes you squeal inside. A pace that used to mean your fitness was a little rusty but these days means you’re one step closer to the faster version of yourself. My body has slowly started to regain it’s “normal” in-shape shape. Compared to having Max, I’ve gained fitness and lost pounds much quicker. Maybe the body has memory. But more likely, I never sit down! Chasing around the older kid and caring for the little one means I’m constantly moving.
Speaking of triathlon: It’s been a great year for my athletes and my business. I’m grateful to have a job that is challenging but that I look forward to every day. And it’s an every day job. It should be. You’re trying to get to know what makes athletes tick – what motivates them, challenges them and improves their fitness. Improving fitness is the easy part! Stress + recovery = fitness. There’s no such formula for figuring out the emotions, motivation and intangibles that make that athlete capable of believing in and using that fitness when it matters most. That’s the art of good coaching.
The results? I’ve coached athletes to PRs, AG wins, podiums, overall wins, world championships, nationals championships, etc – all of that is great proof of the efficacy of the work we are doing together. But it doesn’t show the value. That value is hidden in the breakthroughs of workouts where the athlete realizes they can do something they didn’t think they could, that they could dream big, that they are finally “a runner” or that they moved up a lane at masters – hell, that they felt brave enough to go to masters in the first place. That’s the good stuff. That’s why I continue coaching.
I’ve got some races on my schedule for this year. I’ve set some big goals. But I’m trying a new approach – it’s called taking it day to day. It’s the only way I can survive (and thrive) in my life right now. I like my routines and structure. Two kids and a business? Sometimes chaos prevails. I’ve learned that all I have to do is get through today. And then get through tomorrow. And if I can string together day after day of this new definition of success, I’ll be in a place much further ahead than where I started. I don’t worry about missing one day or ‘blowing it’ because I get the opportunity to start over again tomorrow. Like I said earlier, I no longer chase perfection. I can’t. It’s exhausting and a huge relief to finally have admitting that I can’t keep up. I don’t want to run that race.
This entry was the random thoughts that pass through my head while making it through every day. Snippets of the things I’ve realized after living this life at a speed that sometimes I am not sure I can maintain. So I’ve learned a few things – asking for help isn’t weakness, it’s survival. Doing things all by yourself isn’t strength, it’s how you burn yourself out. Comparing yourself to others isn’t how you make yourself better, it’s how you lose sight of the awesomeness inside of the unique bad ass person you really are. Perfection isn’t necessary, it’s over-rated. And the new year? It’s not going to be better because this past year was bad. It’s going to be better because that is the beauty of life. Every day you get to experience it is better than the day before. That’s not wishful thinking or being positive. I don’t believe in any of that – just believe in embracing the reality of what’s in front of me after spending years wasting time or chasing outcomes or running races that in the big picture – didn’t matter.
Happy new year, hope you spend 2015 living, loving and being yourself…!