Thursday, September 26, 2013

Seasons for Everything, Boston 2014, Airport Video, and Other Randoms

"To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven..."

The above lyrics are from one of my favorite songs to play and sing on the guitar.  It is a song that is not only fun to sing but holds such a good message.  So many seasons in life.  And Thank Goodness for that!  Yesterday, along with so many other runners, I was anticipating the news on whether I got into Boston 2014.  I wasn't entirely sure that my qualifying time would get me in this year.  Either way, I was fine with the outcome.  I knew I wanted to be in Boston this coming year no matter what.  And really, serious-stick-to-a-plan marathon training isn't something I've had a huge craving for lately.  I'm just in a different season.  A run when I feel like it season.  The Amanda Plan.  However, the anticipated e-mail came and I'm honored to say that I will be running in the 2014 Boston Marathon!   

As many of you know, this race will be about so much more than racing a marathon.  It will be about coming together, running for those who can't, and sending a message that LOVE always wins...Fear doesn't.  I'm not sure how I will train for Boston or how I will run it but I do know that I will be glad to be a part of it.  It will be my fourth Boston and I am already excited to see so many of my favorite running friends.  

Speaking of Boston, I'm heading there right now to see a friend.  Funny how just yesterday I was feeling exasperated, ready to pull my hair out, and having to remind myself that parenting is worth the hard work and now, as I sit in this quiet airport with nobody to take care of but myself and nothing to do other than whatever I want (read, write, catch up with friends...), I MISS my family.  Kind of.  Okay, I'm over it.  But I'll probably miss them again in a couple hours.  I love that.  For now, I'll enjoy the quiet airport and some good girl time. 

I'm going to switch to bullets now because I'm just in random kind of mood.  Besides, I like bullets.  They are easier to write and read.  

  • I've been thinking a lot about those of you that qualified for Boston but didn't get in because of the cut off.  I know how disappointing this has got to be and I'm sorry for this.  
  • Small airports.  Love them.  So much easier than some of the bigger airports.  The Asheville Airport is especially nice and comfortable.  
  • One of the things I like about small airports is that you often don't have to go in those creepy airport scanning machines where you have to put your hands up while they scan your body.  We avoided this for many years because we usually traveled with our kids and they just sent us right through.  But last year when we traveled alone, I had to give in.  Here's a middle of the night airport video of my initial reaction to the whole experience:

  • I was originally flying into Boston this weekend to run the Adirondacks Ragnar Relay.  But gosh, talk about hard to keep a team together.  We just so many people who dropped out along the way and by the end we still didn't have a full team so I took that as a good sign to give it up and just spend the weekend with a good friend.  I think my body likes that idea better anyway.  I'm going to be soaking up this low key running time as much as I can before Boston training starts.  
  • I've been trying to make more time for mindfulness...meditation... breathing.  So many ways to do this but running truly is one of the best ways I know where I can get in a state of mindfulness.  It isn't always like this but last week when I ran my 15 miles, I was amazed at how much of a state of mindfulness I was in.  I wasn't stuck in the future or the past.  I wasn't self critical about anything.  No over thinking about any recent situation.  I just RAN.  And focused on my breath, my footsteps, and how far I was running.  I kept it easy and let my body go with what was natural.  15 miles @ 8:30ish average (not sure exact second from memory) and it felt like 2 miles.  I was amazed at how recharged I felt.  It was another affirmation for me of what a gift running is in my life.  
  • Some of my most powerful and significant messages in my life have come to me while on a long run.  As I reread over old posts where I shared some of these significant moments, I'm reminded again of what a gift running is.  
  • Thankful for writing as a process of telling my story.  Even if nobody reads it but me.  Something about writing that allows me to process.  And then rereading what I write can be even more helpful and healing.  

Gosh, who knew that airport layovers could be so wonderfully relaxing?  It's been a nice break from the energetic and sometimes hectic bedtime routine at home.  So nice to have some time with just me.  


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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Smile, Wave, Say "Hello!" Really Does Make a Difference

Exhausted.  That's how I woke up this morning even after a full night of sleep.  As usual, my ear plugs were in my ears but unlike most mornings,  I didn't wake with my husband's alarm clock.  On a normal day we take on the morning together.  I stagger to the coffee pot with one eye open and one of us wakes the kids if they aren't already up.  I often start with e-mail to a good friend or two and get started on the lunches and he gets three breakfasts ready for our little birds.  But this morning I awoke to my husband shaking my shoulder.  Convincing me that it was time to get up despite how apparent it was that I was unusually zonked out. And exhausted.  But it was picture day.  Picture day!  You know, that special day at the beginning or end of a school year where we make every effort to stop time...capture our kids as they grow so quickly.  Slick their hair back, dress them up in their nicest shirts...everything BUT what they normally look like when they are heading off to school.  So, even though I was out cold and obviously needing sleep, I needed to wake up.  After all, he can't do hair and my oldest daughter insisted on a twisty braid.  Ah, it's these little things that add up, isn't it?

I shook myself out of sleep and very distinct dreams, listening for the sounds of my children getting ready.  I expected the unique full BLOW of a GOOD MORNING from my son.  I'm still not entirely acclimated here.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that all was calm.  My husband had lunches ready to go, kids were almost dressed, breakfast on the table, my son calm and happy and still ten minutes to do a braid and slip in some 8 year old hoop earrings before the bus came to our corner.

Perhaps I'd do my 20 mile run today. I had no business running 20 at this point but I'm in one of those no rhyme or reason training modes.

So, perhaps.

Once the girls were out the door and on the bus, we had a Jenga game for three.  Knowing that my son needs a little extra attention these days made it easy to put other things on hold. Husband late for work. Prep for a 20 mile run on hold.  Instead of getting things ready for the day or preparing anything, we knew that
And we played a game together.
It was worth losing all the "get ready for ______" time.  This little guy needed the attention and everything else seemed way less important.

20 miles.

9:00 is when preschool starts.  At this point, I knew we wouldn't be on time for preschool.  Definitely not time for a 20 mile run. But perhaps a longer run?  Maybe.

See, that's the problem with not being entirely committed to a goal.  You give yourself an "Out" and it is oh so easy to take.

So, no 20 miles this morning.  But I did get 2.8 miles.  Close to 20 right?
Or not.

Sometimes 2.8 can be even better for us than that 20.

As I set out for my run around Beaver Lake in North Asheville, I was full of feeling.  All sorts of feelings.  Mind full.  Heart heavy but hopeful.  It's been a hard couple of days.  I didn't want to be running  but I challenged myself to just do what I felt like today and then move on with my day.  As I reached one side of the path that led up from the lake, I stopped to take it all morning, beauty of the fog lifting from the still water, trees reaching up to the blue sky, and the white church steeple contrasted by the thick hills of Asheville, NC.  Right then, right there, I decided that I would work on coming out of my shell a bit, reach out, wave, share ME.  Perhaps even make more eye contact.  Eye contact is tricky for me.  Direct eye contact.  When I look into someone's eyes, they see my everything.  My eyes speak more than I want them to sometimes.  When I'm joyful, they smile.  But when I'm holding things in, they sell me out.  So, I don't always share them.  Sometimes.  Not always.  Today, looking out at that beautiful lake on this cool morning, I decided to share my eyes more.

As I continued making my way around the lake path, I saw a woman I ran by a bit earlier.  I smiled.  Made brief eye contact.  Then she looked like she was heading directly towards me. I wondered if she would run right into me. No avoiding.  I knew my shell must come off a bit here. A local runner.  Beautiful and kind Laura.  Stopping me just to say hi and tell me that she reads my blog.  "What Blog?" were my first instincts.  After all, I barely write on here anymore.  I can't entirely express what her simple hello meant to me today.  Her smile.  Her words of kindness and reaching out.  This was powerful to me.  It made a difference in my day.  Her positive energy was just what I needed.  It was a reminder of a few things:
  • You never know when someone needs to hear something.  
  • Never underestimate the power of a smile, hello, and telling someone what they mean...that they matter, or how they've impacted you.  
  • We all hold the power to make a difference in this world.  
  • Sharing yourself is always worth it.
  • We often find what we MOST need when we let go.  
  • Never underestimate the power of being true to yourself and speaking your truth.  Chances are, others will be thankful that you are REAL.  
  • Things don't happen by accident.  We are all being lovingly gifted.  I believe this.  

So, thanks for stopping on your run Laura.  Thanks for stepping out of your bubble.  Thanks for reaching out and reminding me that we are all humans in this together.  All craving connection.  All seeking meaning.  And needing/wanting to know that we are NEVER ALONE in this life.  Thanks for reminding me of the value in discarding disconnect and aloofness and replacing it with human kindness and reaching out. 

And all because I was out there running.  
So, I'm thankful for running.  
And the people we meet along the way.  


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Monday, September 16, 2013

Beautiful Life and Treasured Moments: Worth Slowing Down

It's not very often that I experience a moment in my life that makes me say without a doubt that it was my favorite memory. A perfect memory.  I mean, favorite?  Perfect?  Those are strong words to use alone.  Out of all the memories we have from our existence?  To have a favorite memory?  Not just a "one of my favorites" or a "perhaps my favorite" but indeed "my favorite".  Yesterday evening was it.  It was perfect.
Heaven on earth.
It was and is...
My Favorite Family Memory (with all of us) from my life so far.  

Earlier in the day, I drove to the Biltmore Estates for a run.  As as typical for me lately, I am a bit wishy washy with my running.  I told myself that 15 miles would be nice to fit in but I would just run and see what I felt like as the run progressed.  It's hard to set yourself up for actually finishing 15 miles when your heart really isn't that into it and you give yourself an "out".  But that's okay.  Life isn't always about having a hardcore goal and constantly driving driving driving ourselves toward better, stronger, faster, longer.  It just isn't.  For me,right now,life is about slowing down.  Accepting.  Being present.  Practicing self-compassion and grace.  And allowing myself to be where I am as I am in this moment. I'm working on defining success and failure for myself, trying to judge myself less harshly, and truly truly believing that I am enough as I am.  Being a mom is enough.  Taking time to slow down is enough.  Enjoying the days without a specific goal is enough.  And cutting my 15 mile wish for a run down to 6 is enough.  More than enough.

As I hit about 2 miles yesterday, I was running in new territory.  My steps led to a narrow dirt path that meandered up a grassy hillside.  I was surrounded by big beautiful shade trees that almost seemed to be singing and whispering their life secrets to me as I ran under their huge branches and found comfort in their shade.  With every step, I climbed higher.  Alone, except for the random runner or biker coming up or down the path.  It was absolutely beautiful. The closer I got to the top of this hill, I could see that it would take me right to the Biltmore House.  And it did. There at the end of this path, right at mile 3, was this gorgeous mansion wrapped up in blue skies, fields of endless grassy hills, timeless looking trees, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Forget my 15 miles.  I couldn't help but just
Be Still.
And soak up all that was around me.

For those of you that don't know about the Biltmore Estates or Biltmore house, this is a picture of the house (source) and you can read more about it here.  Truly Timeless Beauty!  I hope to make the most of our membership by going on a many a run there, enjoying the gardens, the village, and touring the house itself.  

Standing at the top of that grassy hill with nothing but beauty surrounding me, I noticed the perfect tree.  The perfect spot in the perfect field.  And I wanted nothing more than to be sitting there on a blanket with my family.  Just us, a picnic, some wine, and no agenda other than being together.

So, that's what happened.
I ran 3 beautiful miles back to my car, went home to pack up and get ready, and we were all making our way back to the Biltmore for this perfect family memory.

Warm gentle breeze,
Nobody but us for as far as we could see,
Surrounded by gorgeous mountains and blue sky,
Grassy pastures,
Old, wise trees,
Conversation and laughter over cutting cheese and crunching on crackers,
Races down the hill,
Finding grasshoppers,
Being fully present, thankful and ALIVE,
Waiting for the sun to go down.

Like a Dream.  Heaven on Earth.

It. Was. Perfect.

I will forever have this moment as part of my heart and soul.  It was a reminder to me of all that really matters in life.  Everything felt simple last night.  Enough.  Full.  Rich beyond any wealth I have imagined. My thoughts slowed.  I wasn't over thinking anything. I wasn't anywhere but there, in that moment.

I'm sure that as the years come and go, there will be other memories that stand out to me as simply perfect.  There will be other moments where I feel like I'm in a dream or experiencing heaven on earth. But I do know that these moments are special. They are gifts.  Treasures.  And messages to us about how deeply loved we are.

I'm glad I ran yesterday.  I'm glad I chose to do my run at the Biltmore.  And I'm glad I didn't put pressure on myself to run the full 15 miles when I didn't feel like it.  I wouldn't trade my early return and opportunity for this family picnic for anything. There will always be times in life where I have big goals and where I am dedicated and devoted to doing what it takes to reach those goals.  But there will also be these times where my biggest goal is just to slow down and see that all I have right now is everything I've dreamed of.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the race through life that I miss out on what's actually here for me to enjoy right in this moment.  I get caught up in feeling like I'm not enough as I am.  My head gets full of the lists of all the ways I feel like I'm failing and not measuring up to what I think I should be.  I start chasing down what I think will make me feel successful.  And if I keep this up, I'm going to miss out on some pretty perfect moments in life.  Moments that won't always be here.

 Last night as I was tucking the kids into bed, I sang my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song as I often do.  I was singing to them and most definitely myself:

Slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the morning last
Just kickin' down the cobble-stones, lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy

Feeling groovy

Hello lamp-post, what's cha knowing, I've come to watch your flowers growin'
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me, do-it-do-do, feelin' groovy

Feeling groovy

I've got no deeds to do, no promises to keep
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me

Life I love you, all is groovy 

Life really is wonderful, isn't it?  Especially when we slow down enough to soak it up.


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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

11 Ways to Keep the JOY in Running

My most JOYFUL race. Hot, tired, covered in chocolate gel, and needing to gain at least 5lbs but so HAPPY to be running strong.  Nothing but smiles at mile 26.1 of my 26.2 run with my husband in 2011. 

Running has always been a constant in my life.  A faithful companion.  Always there to give me a boost in energy or keep me company while I spill my deepest and dearest emotions on the road. It brings pleasure, challenge, calm, fulfillment and release. And it just makes life better. But lately, running just isn't as enjoyable as it used to be.  It doesn't feel as effortless.  And I certainly don't crave it as much.  

I was reflecting this morning on how much harder running is for me now compared to the past.  Paces. Motivation. Sticking to training plans.  Being consistent.  I'm just not finding the same JOY and LOVE for running as I once did. This lull in running love can probably be connected to a lot of different things. For one, I'm I'm just not that into training for something again. On one hand, I like having a goal on the horizon and some sort of plan to follow but on the other hand, I'm wanting to skip runs more often than not.  This makes experiencing joy in my running a tricky thing.

Putting training aside, I'm still struggling to find my running mojo.  I realized this morning that so much of this running rut (and life rut even) is probably because I've been comparing myself to a version of me from the past instead of embracing myself as I am now.  Things have changed.  Life is different.  I'm not in the same place as I was even a year ago....with running, motherhood, relationships.  And that's okay. I can't expect myself to be running the same exact paces as I was three years ago with drastically different training and life circumstances.  I'm just not there right now.  With a lot of things.   That's not to say that my days of running personal bests  are over by any means. It just means that where I'm at right now with life isn't all about the hard core training and faster times.  I've got to accept this and just be where I AM.  This goes with all things in my life, not just running.

Adapting to change is easier said than done. Here's to working on embracing who I am TODAY and not trying so hard to hold on to who I was yesterday.

My life truly is better when I have running as part of it.  It makes living a full and balanced life so much easier and there's no doubt that I want it in my life for the days to come.  For this reason, I want to find ways to keep running as something that brings me JOY, not dread.

Ways to bring keep the JOY in Running:

  1. Switch things up.  Finding new places to run, trying out new workouts and running different paces are ways to shake things up with our running routines so we don't get stuck in monotony.
  2. Embrace Fast and Slow Days.  Don't always expect every run to feel fast and strong.  Some days, maybe most, just need to be nice and easy.  Go with how you feel on that day.  
  3. Run Naked.  No, don't take off all your clothes and go streaking.  But definitely run some of your runs without a watch or Garmin.  Just RUN.  This can be one of the most feeing and enJOYable types of runs.  I need to do this more often.    
  4. Try not to compare yourself with others.  It's easy to get caught up in reading running blogs ad seeing what all our running friends are doing.  This can make us lose sight of being the best US and not trying to be what someone else is. I was reminded of this truth from a tweet this morning.    
  5. Sign up for a race.  Training for a race might not be something that we find joy in all of the time but it certainly makes running exciting sometimes.  Better yet, sign up for a race with a friend and make it someplace you've always wanted to travel.  
  6. Be part of a community.  Having community is important for all kinds of things.  When we have other people in our life with similar interests and goals, it makes for some really great support, validation, and inspiration.  Join a running group, meet new friends that run, read running blogs, follow running forums, and read running magazines.  
  7. Find a running partner.  Some people like running alone and others like the company, so in addition to finding your running community in other places, you might want to find that special person that you fit well with when it comes to running.  I've known many people that have had the same running partner for years.  My husband is my favorite running partner when I do run with others.  
  8. Celebrate Progress. As you reach goals and make progress with running, don't forget to celebrate!  There are so many ways to celebrate our success and shoes, a date with a friend, self-pamper time, etc. 
  9. Try not to get to caught up in comparing your "Right Now" self with your "Used to Be" self.  You're at a different place today than you were yesterday.  Embrace it.  For some, you might be running stronger and faster than ever before and in this case, comparing is a fun thing to do.  But for others, running might seem harder and slower than it used to.  That's okay too.  
  10. Take time off.  Taking time off of running is certainly part of keeping it enjoyable.  When I've had a stretch of time where I take a break from running, I find that I start to crave it.  It always provides such joy when I return to running after a break.  
  11. Enjoy the downtime.  Enjoy the times when you just run because you love to run and not because you are training for something.  Enjoy having running as that constant in your life for no reason at all other than the fact that you love it.  
How do you keep  JOY in your running?  


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Monday, September 2, 2013

Running, Reflection and some Life GOALS

Running in Asheville certainly provide plenty of beautiful views.

Asheville is one of the most beautiful places to run.  The Blue Ridge Mountains never get old, trails are plentiful and there are so many lush trees and wildlife.  I do love that we get to live here for close to another year.  But, man oh man, it is still sinking in that there just aren't many options for running if you want a break in hills.  There might be one or two places where you can find a flatter area to do some pace work or a tempo run.  Otherwise, suck it up buttercup and enjoy the climb!  At least there are downhills to balance out the uphills.  And, when you do climb up up up, there is almost always a gorgeous view waiting for you at the top.  Oh, and hills keep the buns nice and tight...can't complain about that! Thank you hills.

The above picture is right around mile 3 of my 13.1 mile training run this past Friday.  I set out with 15 miles in mind but once I hit the 10 mile mark, I knew that I was going to have to reevaluate my plan.  Jumping into marathon training six weeks into a plan after running almost NO endurance runs since May makes for lots of catching up to do.  Endurance is so much harder for me to get back this time compared to how I've felt in the past. And you know what they say about doing too much too soon....not a good idea. Slow and steady is the name of the game here. With running.  With life.

Picking my Running Journal back up again.  And yes, I did include "Hugged a Tree" as part of my notes today.

Journals and Goals

I dusted off the Running Journal tonight.  Even though I'm keeping things light and easy this time, I'm ready to be a little bit more focused and intentional with my training if I'm actually going to cover the distance of 26.2 miles on November 9th. Writing my runs down, reflecting a bit, and setting a few goals is an important part of the training process for me.  It was fun looking back over the collages, reflections, training notes, and memories from the past.  My Running Journal really is such a great training tool!

My personal journal has been getting a bit of love from me again too.  As I flipped back over it, I remembered just how much I used to write down my goals and gratitude and how very little of that I've done recently.  This was such a powerful and intentional exercise for my daily living.  I'd like to spend more time in there again.  Even if it is just to write a short list of gratitude and goals once a week.  The thing about that is, once I start small with this, I'll find myself getting into a daily habit again.  Tonight I did take some time to write down some goals I have for RIGHT NOW in life:

  • Give extra LOVE and ENCOURAGEMENT to my husband this week as he prepares for his marathon on Sunday.  He's trained so hard and smart!  I know he can run that sub 3:10 he is shooting for.  
  • Volunteer!  Find opportunities to use my gifts to GIVE to others.  Looking into volunteer work at a literacy council where I can help adults with reading.  
  • Be present with my kids and find JOY in the time I spend with them.  These days truly are a gift (as is all of life).  
  • Keep my Mommy Panties out of a bunch and let more of the little things go.  
  • Be a bit more conscious about running/workouts.  I don't have to be too absorbed in them...just a little extra attention while continuing to have fun.  
  • Take time for Prayer, Meditation and light Yoga poses to help me slow down/stretch/breathe.  
  • Be intentional and aware of my thoughts.  Focusing on LOVE, seeing the positive in the world, lots of "I CANS" and "I AMs", and lots of believing that ANYTHING is possible.  
  • Share myself with others.  I know I don't have to be an open book or share everything about myself but it's time to bring some of the walls down again and be a bit less guarded with myself.  

Finding JOY in sharing Yoga with my kids today.  We have these cards called Yoga Pretzels that make yoga poses fun for kids.  This one is a partner pose called Double Dog.  

What are some of your goals?  Do you keep a running journal (or running log)?  


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