Enjoying the Change

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I’ve gone through one complete training cycle since deciding to not run marathons for the near future. I’ll admit I was anxious, and a bit skeptical, about the change. But with a few months under my belt, I’m a believer and am actually enjoying myself. I wanted to transition away from marathons in order to get faster and be able to spend more time with my family. So far, I’m accomplishing both.

For one thing, this spring has been crazy for us. Milo had 3 double ear infections in a row, which resulted in him needing surgery to have tubes put in. In just 1 week, Nick had 4 funerals. 4 funerals in just 7 days! It was madness. I don’t know how we kept our heads above water, much less if I had needed to go out for a 20 mile run. I definitely felt like I had better home/running balance only training for a half marathon.

But I say only training for a half marathon as if it were easy. Joe kept my workouts challenging and sometimes exhausting. What I had been running in high mileage, Joe was making up for with high intensity. The result: I’ve had 3 really great races so far this year. I’ve been really proud of all 3 races (a 5k, 10k, and half marathon) and not just because I showed up, but because I was fast. Like who-I-used-to-be fast. I feel like I’ve made more progress in the first couple months of this year than I did of all last year.

  
And I still have plenty of time to be wife and mom to my family. I’m not spending as much time running, and I also don’t feel as spent from running. My recovery each day has been better than that of my previous marathons. Which means I still have plenty of energy to chase my son around the yard all day, which is important because he wants to be chased all day.

I’m also finding my mentality is changing. I used to run so aggressively every time I laced up my shoes; there was always an expectation or pace to meet. (It’s important to say that these expectations were false notions in my head, Joe has been trying to reign me in for a long time.) I’m finally slowing down and enjoying my recovery runs. I have days each week where I get to run for running’s sake and not to beat the clock. For the first time, I put together my jogging stroller and took Milo out running. We loved it! It was a moment of motherhood I finally got to see realized. And Milo loves any excuse to be outside. I would strap him into his seat and give him one of his balls (we don’t go anywhere without a ball), then I’d take off. The only peeps he’d make were to talk to the dogs barking at us. He never whined, never cried, never implied we needed to go home.

  
I feel like for the first time in years, I’m getting to have my cake and eat it too. There’s balance and recovery built into each week, but also progress. So I’m going to stay in the half marathon camp a little longer, but I’ll be ready when it’s time to step back into the marathon

A Weight has been Lifted

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For the first time in years, I look in the mirror and feel confident about what I see. It’s easier to pick out clothes because I’m not worried about concealing my extra weight. It’s gone and so are the feelings I shame I carried for so long.

I can’t blame my weight issues on being pregnant; I had gained it all long before Milo. You can see it in my engagement picture and how round my face was:

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Sure that was before the baby, but I had just had two foot surgeries and was unable to run or workout for several months. It was to be expected that I would have put on weight after all that. Except here I am several months before the foot surgeries and in the midst of marathon training:

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This feels so humiliating. I am a runner. I train for marathons. I was a personal trainer, my job was to help people lose weight and all the while I couldn’t control my own. These pictures make me want to cry. I should have never looked like that. Not when this was me just years before:

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Whatever. That is in the past. I’m healthy again. I’m confident again. I’m running fast again. The old me is gone, never to return.

And she won’t. Because there are lessons I’ve learned. Mistakes I’ve made that I won’t repeat.

My life was unstable. I had no idea where my life was going or what I was doing. The gym where I was working was sucking the life out of me, but I had no idea what to do. So I drifted, I worked at 4 different places in 2 years. That was so much stress on me mentally and emotionally.

I dieted. I feel like there should be a slogan “friends don’t let friends diet.” Honestly, diets are the worst. When I was running my best, I ate some form of grain at every meal. Every meal. Then came the hatred on grains. I hadn’t even started putting on weight yet, but so many voices were saying grains would make you fat and so I cut them out. That was one of the biggest mistakes I made. When the weight did start creeping on, I panicked and tried everything out there. I did the protein shakes, I did the detox, I did the elimination diets. And the only thing that accomplished was adding more pounds. I wasn’t giving my body what it needed (fuel) and so it waged war against me. The more weight I put on, the more I told myself I couldn’t have certain things, and the more often I binged.

I made myself workout more. If I would have stuck to the plan my coach made for me, I would have had time to rest and recover. But I equated resting with getting fat. So I added in extra strength training sessions. I spent my lunch breaks on the elliptical. I tried to keep moving as much as possible because what I was doing wasn’t enough. But just like when you don’t give your body fuel it causes weight gain, when you don’t give your body a break it can lead to weight gain as well. The body uses fat as protection, so when I was giving my body an all out assault and not properly eating, it tried to protect itself with a nice layer of fat.

My pregnancy was actually the best thing that could happen to me in terms of losing that weight and regaining a healthy relationship with food. For one thing, I had to let go of my restrictions on what is acceptable and unacceptable to eat. There were times I was so sick, the only thing that mattered was what I could keep down. So if French fries would stay down, they were the healthiest thing I could eat. And eat them I did.

And of course nothing kickstarts weight loss like breastfeeding. Because breastfeeding is powered by fat, I easily lost all of baby weight and then some in the first couple of months (thank you, Milo).

But now I’m far removed from my pregnancy and the initial postpartum stage. At this point, my body is a reflection of me; of what I put in my body, of how hard I train, and of how well I rest and recover. I can tell you, I eat chocolate on a daily basis. I love a good pub burger and fries. And I eat an average of 3 bowls of cereal a day (for real, I love cereal). And I look great. Food isn’t my enemy, I don’t have to work hard all the time, and my mental and emotional state is so much more stable.

I still can’t look at pictures of myself without feeling awful about what I did to myself. But I’m trying not to dwell on it. Instead I look at this, my present self who is kicking ass and looking great:

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Oh This Again

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Last spring was a time of anxious waiting for our family. Nick was in process with the United Methodist Church to receive his first appointment. (You may not be familiar with the UMC appointment system. If that’s the case, read a quick summary here.) We didn’t know if there would be an appointment available, if it would be full time, or where it would be. A lot of unknowns with nothing we could do to get answers except wait.

The call came in May, which is on the later side for receiving an appointment. But it came and it was good. A full time position in a small community near family. It was by far the best situation we could possibly ask for.

We’ve been in Bartonville now for 9 months. Life has settled into routines. Nick is dreaming about expanding the ministry of the church and I am dreaming about a garden in my backyard. While there are things we wish were different, you just take the good with the bad and we mostly have good.

But it’s spring again and we are once again faced with the reality that it’s appointment season. While this is just our first year at Bartonville and they usually wouldn’t move a pastor after a year, we’re not exempt. If the Bishop feels we belong somewhere else, he will move us. We’ll face this uncertainty every spring, for as long as we’re part of the United Methodist Church.

Truthfully, I kind of don’t like it. I like control, I like plans, I like stability and I get none of that. Instead, I trust my fate to a man I’ve never met. I’m afraid we’ll get sent to the most southern tip of Illinois, putting us hours away from family. I’m afraid of starting over every couple of years.

This week a friend of Nick’s announced he had been reappointed. While it’s all of my worst fears, they had only been at their current church for 2 years and have been reappointed 3 hours away, the announcement he posted actually gave me some peace and renewed my faith. He said that what brought him here was taking him there.

My fear is trusting the bishop, but my hope should be in God’s control.

My fear is being away from family, my faith should be that I find family wherever I go.

My fear is in the unknown, my trust should be in our known God.

So we wait. We keep doing what we’re doing, where we’re at, until we’re told to pack it up and head on. Oh Lord, grant me peace.

Can I Get a Do-Over?

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Last week completely spiraled out of control. I can’t even believe that it was only a week; it felt more like a lifetime. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was crying out to God “I hurt.” Two simple words because I couldn’t make sense of everything else going on inside of my head.

It started when Nick’s younger brother asked if we could watch our 2-year-old nephew for a few days. They’re moving back to California and were having a hard time packing with a 2-year-old and newborn. Now let me just say, we gladly agreed to having our nephew over. First of all, it means a lot when someone trusts you with their child. Second of all, I wanted some quality time with my nephew before they moved. And lastly, I’m committed to our family and helping in time of need.

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But a 1- and 2-year-old can be quite exhausting! Especially when one of them is in an unfamiliar place with somewhat unfamiliar people. It took a lot of energy to keep them both happy…and fed.

While our nephew was still with us, we got word that my mom had flown out to Maryland to be with her mom in what we thought might be her final days. Fortunately the doctors are a little more optimistic about her outcome, but it stirred up a lot of emotions for me. The last time someone in my family died, I was in the 4th grade. It’s been almost 20 years since I went through the grief of losing a relative. To be honest, I was terrified that I didn’t know how to grieve. That when my grandma died, I wouldn’t know how to process it. That’s a lot to handle when you’ve already got your hands full with 2 boys!

Our nephew went home, but the next day Milo was diagnosed with an ear infection. That night felt like the longest of my life. I’ve grown accustomed to Milo sleeping through the night; now there was nothing I could do to get him to sleep. At the same time, Nick came down with a cold. For the next few days, Nick and Milo got worse and my patience dwindled.

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I ended up running only 3 times that week. No cross training, strength training, or making any attempts to get extra movement in my day. Everything inside me said to conserve my energy. I was running on empty and couldn’t afford to waste what little I had left.

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By the time this week rolled around, not only was I tired, but I had done a really good job of beating myself up. In an attempt to comfort Milo, I had allowed him to start nursing during the day again. It felt like a slap in the face, a huge step back. My heart rate monitor reminded me everyday that I was not moving enough and I was afraid I was sabotaging my training. And my husband was sick, but I did nothing to help him. It felt like every man for himself, survival of the fittest. But if the tables had been turned and I was the one sick, I would have never let him neglect me.

Fortunately it’s a new week. Nick is on the mend. Milo is on new medicine and is sleeping regularly again. I’m 100% for my runs so far this week. My grandma is still alive and recovering. Having a couple of days to catch my breath, get some sleep, and feel a little more human, I’ve started to reflect on last week and my shortcomings.

If the worst thing I do for my son is breastfeed him, I’m ok with that.

I trust my husband that he wouldn’t let me neglect him in time of need. I also trust that I acted upon every request he did make, so I did my best in the circumstances.

I believe I am better off for having taking a couple of days off of running than if I had tried to push through. Training on empty leaves you at higher risk for injury as well as illness. I may have missed a run or two, but if I had gotten sick it would have been worse.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. When the time comes that I lose a family member, I will experience grief in my own ways. But I don’t need to worry over that right now. Lastly, I am only human and I’m doing the best that I can.

Thank God that week is over.

It Doesn’t Get Easier

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I was around 8 months pregnant when I first started saying, “it will get easier when…” It will get easier when I’m not throwing up all of the time or when I can find a comfortable position to sleep in. I was so over being pregnant and thought things would just be easier when that phase was over.

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Then it was over and I wasn’t throwing up all of the time, but I also wasn’t sleeping. And I was sore from delivery and sore from nursing. It would get easier when…

Milo figured out nursing and started sleeping through the night, which definitely brought relief. But as he got bigger, my arms and back would get so tired from carrying him around all day. It was exhausting lifting him up and down repeatedly, and carrying him around on my hip while I did housework. It would get easier when he could move around a bit on his own.

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Then he started sitting up, rolling over, and eventually crawling. My weary arms would have a break. Except then he also started pulling himself up. I had to move everything from my coffee table, be more careful where I left my drink, and start baby-proofing the house. Gone were the days of being able to put Milo in one place and expect him to stay there. While he was moving around, he still wasn’t very quick. It would get easier when he could walk.

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He did start walking and I almost feel more tired now than I have in a long time. I’m constantly chasing him down. Not only does he walk, he runs to where he wants to go. He’s opening cabinets and pulling open drawers. He doesn’t want to be carried, he wants his independence.

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My latest “it will get easier when…” thought revolves around talking. So often I find myself in situations where I don’t understand what he wants, like what he wants to eat or what he wants to do. I think how much easier it will be when he can just tell me. Except with talking comes talking back and I’m not really ready for that.

When I look back over the last year and a half, I realize that things never got easier. Every time I thought they would, a new series of challenges would be waiting for me. Things don’t actually get easier; they just get different. Every stage with Milo has had its blessings as well as its challenges.

Not only am I tired of expecting the next phase to be better or easier; I’m tired of wishing Milo’s life away. I don’t want him to grow up any faster than he has to. I want to cherish these moments. So while it’s a struggle and I don’t understand why he loves bananas one day and won’t eat them the next, I’m resisting the temptation to add another day, week, or month to his life. We’ll get there eventually, but at this moment I’ll live in the better days. The days I have now.

4 Things I’ve Learned from Being Married 2 Years

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Monday will mark 2 years since I married Nick. Things haven’t been perfect, but they have been great. I still can’t believe this is real life. And while I’m not an expert on marriage by any means, I have learned a few things over these last 2 years.

Sometime I need to go to bed angry.
Read any list of tips for a happy, healthy marriage and they almost always say don’t go to bed angry. But the truth is, that doesn’t always work for me. I’m not a night person at all. So if Nick and I find ourselves in an argument at the end of the day, I just can’t resolve it right then. At that point, I’m tired, overwhelmed, and irrational. When Nick tries to engage a conversation, I find myself even more angry, defensive, and just plain hurtful. But given the opportunity to sleep on it, I’m much more able to put into words what I’m feeling, I can hear Nick better, and can actually come to a resolution. Of course Nick would prefer we didn’t go to bed angry and it’s not that I enjoy it either, but in the long run it usually works out for the best.

God doesn’t have a plan for me.
He has a plan for us. After moving to Bartonville, I felt like a tag along. Nick’s doing amazing work in the church and has developed a lot of relationships. It was very obvious that God had called him here, but it felt like God had forgotten a calling for me. I was lonely and felt like I had no purpose. But God has called us together as a couple, which means our purpose is intertwined as well. Not that God has the same plan for both of us, but we are both part of one larger plan. I believe that God has placed us here because it the best place for both of us; I just haven’t discovered my part of plan yet.

The work isn’t split 50-50.
There are days I feel like I do everything here. I do the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. I mow the yard, rake the leaves, and shovel the snow. At times, I convince myself Nick has it made. He doesn’t have to do anything. Except, you know, his 40+ hour job each week. Without the work he does, we wouldn’t have the money for the things I do. His job at the church is just as much a part of the housework as what I do. Besides, I get to spend all day in sweatpants and I love mowing the yard. Some would say that I have it made, and they’d be right.

Some things just take time.
My experience with Nick has been like we’re living in fast forward. We were dating for 2 months and then got engaged, 4 months later we were married, and 2 months later I was pregnant. In such a short time, I already can’t remember what life was like before Nick. But we’ve only been married for 2 years, and that’s really not long. Our marriage is still in the infancy stage and will take time to mature. There’s no shortcut or 10 best practices, just plain ole time will bring us closer and make things better.

So this is what I’ve learned and am learning about marriage. Like I said, I’m definitely not an expert. These aren’t tried and true tips for everyone, but just a reflection on my 2 years of marriage. I hope it encourages others to reflect on their marriages and the things that make them strong.

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A Step Back to Move Forward

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The marathon has always been my race. From the moment I decided to start competing, I was focused on it. I wanted to not only finish, but immediately had the goal of qualifying for Boston.

The marathon has been good to me. I did qualify for Boston the first time I ran a marathon. I continued getting faster, winning for my age group, and requalifying for Boston. I love being a marathoner and it loves me.

But after this year, I found myself questioning the marathon and whether it really was the distance I should be running right now.

The time to train. It’s not that I don’t have the time; it’s whether it’s worth it. Marathon training requires 3-4 months of work, with long runs that last hours. At the peak of my training, I would lose half a day to the long run and then recovery. That never phased me before, but I didn’t have a husband and child to consider. We make it work and it’s totally worth it when you have a good race, but it’s a huge gamble. I spent hours training last spring, only to get sick the week of the marathon. My fall training went off without a hitch, and we had 20 mph winds the day of the race. I’m struggling to justify all that time training when it can fall apart at the last minute.

I have nothing to prove. I can run a marathon. I have run 12 of them. I ran Chicago in 2007, which was the year we had record heat and they had to close the race down early for some runners. I was able to finish and, even with the extreme temperature, I qualified for Boston. I got a stomach bug the night before I ran Boston in 2009 and still ran the race the next morning. Even with stopping to vomit, I finished in qualifying time. I ran the Quad Cities and finished first for my age group and in the Top Ten women two years in a row. At this point, if I’m going to run a marathon, it won’t be for the accomplishment. I want to run for time, to be the fastest I can.

Can I get faster at the marathon by running marathons? Some people can. With more experience they just get faster, but my body isn’t responding that way. I got really fast for a time, I was average for even longer, and then I slowed way down. It doesn’t seem like I can just keep doing what I’ve been doing and expect to actually get better.

I took these concerns to my coach, Joe. Of course he wasn’t surprised: he’s had the same concerns for a long time. When I first started working with Joe, I had run four marathons but not a single 5k. The first thing he said was that I needed to incorporate shorter distances into my racing, and I was compliant.

But after several years of working with him, Joe started suggesting I take a break from marathons. He said I should give my body and mind a break and a chance to heal from all of the miles. I wouldn’t have it. I’m a marathoner. If I’m not running marathons, who am I? I’ve wrestled with that for a while now, but I think I’m finding peace with it.

I’m not a marathoner, I’m a runner. I don’t need a distance to define me. By allowing myself to be a runner, I don’t lose my identity just because I’m not running marathons. I am who I am at 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons just as much as I am at marathons.

I’m allowing myself to explore my potential. It’s still something I struggle with, but what if I’m actually better at a 10k than I am the marathon? What if all this time I’ve been so fixated on a distance that I’m good at, while there is another one I excel at? While it’s my marathon times I’m the most proud of, I also have impressive PRs for the 5k and half marathon. I need to give myself a chance to try new things and see what’s really the best fit for me.

So I’m not running any marathons in 2015. It will be at least 3 years before I race another marathon, although that’s not to say I won’t run one in that time. My goal is to develop speed and sharpen my mental endurance. I’m going to train harder and shorter. My goal is also to find peace with being a runner. My ultimate goal is to return to the marathon stronger than I’ve ever been. But if I can’t, my goal is to be okay with that too.

So right now I’m training for a half marathon in May. I’ve run numerous half marathons, but always in preparation for a marathon. This is my first time training specifically to race this event. That’s exciting and scary at the same time since I hate change. But it’s all still running and I’m grateful that doesn’t change.