My First 50K – A Race Report.

Back in June, my friend Ann invited me to do a 50K trail race with her at the end of September. It would be in Massachusetts, very near where she lives, and it fell on her birthday. The timing wasn’t great because it was three weeks after Ironman Wisconsin and one week after my Colin’s Hope 10K swim, but I jumped at the chance to sign up because it would give me a chance to (a) meet a new goal that I’d been considering, (b) visit a place I love that I hadn’t been to in quite a while, and (c) celebrate a dear friend I hadn’t seen in nearly two years since we ran in Maine together. I couldn’t pass up all of that! So last Thursday, I flew out and on Saturday, we ran. And oh my goodness, it was a hard, hard thing. Continue reading

People on the Trails.

Last night, thanks to an invite from my friend Jeanie, I went to a trail running film festival. For two and a half hours, we watched short films on people who do off-road running. I’m very much a road runner because I like to know my feet will plant firmly in front of me, but a couple of years ago, I started doing some trail running in an effort to deal with a post-race slump I was experiencing. I’ve found it difficult at times but always super fun. This film festival showed me another side of trail running – a crazy and fun community of people who like to push their bodies to extremes in stunningly beautiful environments.  Dare I say I might have to try one of the races featured in one of the films? Continue reading

Happy Almost New Years (To Me)!

I’m giddy that it’s October. I’ve been waiting for this month for almost an entire year. For the past year, I’ve been playing this game in my head of, “Oh, this time last year I was doing [fill in the blank]…” and the game made me sad because “this time last year” was really good. But for nearly a year now, I’ve lived without something I thought I couldn’t live without. And it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve made it. And by the end of this month, when I look back a year, I’ll be looking back on life as I know it now rather than the life I once had. That feels really good to me.

Part of me wants to kick the past year to the curb and say, “I never want to think of you again!” But if I do that, I’d be losing so much. I’d be losing my memories of my first season trail running, my fun house remodel, my time on Whidbey Island with an incredible group of women, my time at the Grand Canyon, my first time at Enchanted Rock, my first season of training with Natasha and TriDot, my trip to Barcelona, my doing the Barcelona marathon in nearly record time, an awesome weekend at a Jeanne Guy gathering, my getting through the St. George 70.3, my personal best at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, my trip to England and Germany for my family reunion, my reunion with my JBA friends, Hood to Coast, my time in Connecticut with Sarah and Mari-Eleanor, and so much more. It’s been a rich year, despite the cloud of sadness. And this cloud, like all clouds, has begun to dissipate as I’ve simplified my life, reconnected with old friends, made new friends and companions, and set out on adventures that even I didn’t anticipate.

I’m ready to look ahead. Before me, I have my Portland race this weekend, my Donald Miller conference in Nashville next weekend, a fun fall racing season, a return to Whidbey Island, opportunities to host old and new friends in my home, and my trip to Africa. And that’s all just during the end of 2013. The last eleven months have been pretty special. They were not what I expected. They were not necessarily what I would have chosen, had it all been up to me. But it’s been quite the year.

I don’t usually pack my time so fully. I don’t usually make three international trips in one year. I don’t usually travel once or twice a month to see friends or race in a new town. This has been a year of indulgence for sure, but I had to do something extreme this year to fill my heart and spirit in every way that I could. And I’d say I did a pretty damn good job of making the last eleven months more than a little worthwhile.

I’m so grateful for the passing of time and for the passing of time so richly. Happy October, everyone. Onward and upward.

Lessons of the Falls.

Yesterday, I met some super nice people with Trailhead Running at Pedernales Falls State Park, which is only about 20 minutes from my house in Dripping Springs. I’m pretty certain I’ve been there before, back in college sometime, but it was the first thing on my list towards rediscovering Austin. I got to do a beautiful 8-mile run with my friend Leary, and I met some really great women. I’d say the morning was a huge success.

Leary is way faster than I am, and he was sweet to run with me the entire time. He pushed me, which is always good, but he also got me thinking. In talking about how he and his wife Susan became active, he said that the smallest decisions can have the biggest impact on our lives. For him, it was a decision to set aside some of his interests to join Susan in her efforts running, biking and doing triathlon. Now, training and being active are a huge part of their lives together.

He’s right, isn’t he? We don’t always know how big an impact a decision will have.

When I took my first job at a law firm in 1996, indexing documents and drilling holes in plastic pipe, I had no idea the people I worked with would still be my work family and some of my best friends in 2013. When I agreed back in 1999 to train for the Austin marathon with my friend Teri, I had no idea that running would become a huge part of my life. When I agreed to do the swim leg of the Danskin triathlon for my friend Molly in 2002, I had no idea that I’d get bit by the triathlon bug and eventually go on to do an Ironman – or four. When I visited Toastmasters in 2007 to support my friend Rey in delivering her tenth speech, I had no idea that Toastmasters would become one of my favorite activities. When I visited Portland for the first time in 2010, I had no idea that I would love that area so much that I’d want to live there eventually. When I agreed to book a trip to Italy and Greece – my first international trip not counting Canada – with a girlfriend I didn’t know very well at the time, I had no idea how much travel would become important to me. Two years ago, when I left a job that clearly wasn’t a good fit, I had no idea that starting my own business and contracting with law firms, rather than being employed, would give me a lifestyle of independence and freedom that allows me to travel, pretty much any time I want to, with no guilt.

The outcomes can be unexpectedly positive. They can also be unexpectedly negative. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, but I can think of examples in my life when seemingly small decisions had unintended consequences.

How do we know if our decisions will lead to good or bad stuff in our lives? Can we know? I don’t know. I think we just do the best we can. We do what seems right to us at the time and trust that good will follow. We trust that the people who are meant to be a big part of our lives will be there and things that bring us joy will continue to present themselves.

I left my run and my conversation with Leary with a sense of peace that I didn’t have when I arrived that morning. It was nice to run in a beautiful place, in the company of a kind spirit, and be given an opportunity to learn – or perhaps re-learn – that life really is wise and that my part is to just do the best I can every step of the way.IMG_5884

Wednesday List #24 – Rediscovering Austin Continued

My weekend of rediscovering Austin really got me thinking about things to do in Austin. It’s a great town, and I know I haven’t taken advantage of all that it has to offer. I’ve been forming a list of things I’d like to experience in the near future. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Do a trail run at Pedernales Falls State Park, which I’m scheduled to do on Saturday with Trailhead Running!
  2. Hike or run through McKinney Falls State Park.
  3. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and have lunch in their cafe.
  4. Spend a Thursday night (or two or three) at the Broken Spoke.
  5. Visit the Dripping Springs Public Library and get a library card.
  6. Visit the Blanton Museum of Art.
  7. Visit the Harry Ransom Center.
  8. Visit Donn’s Depot on a Monday night. (Mac? Join me?)
  9. Watch some improv at New Movement or the Hideout or both.
  10. Try a session at the Hot Lava Obstacle Course.  (Valerie, this one is all you.)
  11. Try stand up paddle-boarding on Lady Bird Lake.
  12. Go back to Uchiko. (Erin and Joe, I’m counting on you to do this with me when Erin visits!)
  13. Go to a show at the One World Theatre.
  14. Join Ride Like a Girl for some mountain biking. (The one and only time I’ve tried mountain biking about ten years ago, I looked terribly battered afterwards but had a great time. I need to get my bike tuned up.)
  15. Visit Travaasa, a cool-looking spa, preferably on a weekday as a reprieve from the regular work week.
  16. Participate in the activity that I’m still code-naming “Pedicures With Poppe.”

These are ideas. I’m always game for more. Feel free to pass along your suggestions!

Off in the Wilderness.

I’m having one of those days when I don’t have time to write, but I need the clarity that writing often gives me.

I’m leaving town this weekend. I’m going to Connecticut to see my high school doubles partner, with whom I reconnected ever so briefly at our 20-year reunion last year, and to see another friend from my days of clerking at a big law firm. I haven’t spent real time with either of them in years and am relishing the thought of shared company and catching up on who they are and how they’ve been.

In the meantime, I’m earning my days away. I suddenly have lots of work that needs to get done before I leave town. It’s all good stuff, and it’s satisfying to knock things off the list, but it’s stressful to also be adding things to it. I’m trying to figure out if I can get it all done and stick to the commitments I’ve made (dinner, a Toastmasters contest, and a writing session) these next few nights. I think I can. I’ve gotten so selective about giving up my evenings, that when I am booked, it’s lately been stuff I really want to do. This week is no exception.

I’m a little heavy today though. I think what’s got me down is that I don’t know if I’m capable of getting what I think I want. And I don’t know if I want the right things.

I want to share life with someone. But I don’t know if I can. It takes so much effort to find someone and to get to a point where I think I want to know more. Then it’s so much effort in getting to know more. And there are no guarantees. Months or years into something, it can fall apart. And then what? Do you start over? Or do you just accept that maybe this life – my life – is not meant to be shared in that way?

I had dinner last night with one of my dearest friends from law school. She is married, but she’s always found time to spend with me, either over a run or dinner or sometimes both. Last night, we cooked up some plans for a race, a spa day, and something else that I’m calling “Pedicures with Poppe” though it’s anything but. (I’m still simmering on the idea and am not ready to reveal it.) I laughed so much during dinner. It was delightful, and I didn’t feel like anything was lacking as we shared a meal and planned some future shenanigans.

Maybe my life is not about one person. Maybe it’s about lots of people. I have some of the most amazing friends. Like this woman, these guys, this girl, these folks, this girlthese ladies, and this crowd. Life with them is rich.

Maybe I’ve got my heart set on the wrong things. If Maria is right and life really is wise, then maybe I need to crave less and just be more. Be here. Be in Connecticut. Be on Whidbey Island. Be in Africa. These are all good places to be. Can I do that? Should I do that?

I’m not sure. On the one hand, it feels like giving up, and I don’t give up easily. On the other hand, it feels like embracing who I am, which I don’t do terribly easily either. But as I’ve gotten older, I do like myself more and more. I no longer take on the hobbies and interests of the people I date. I have my own, and I love them. I no longer rush to be a part of someone else’s life. I take my time in figuring out if they have a place in mine. I like nearly 40-year-old me far more than I ever liked 25-year-old me.

I’ve never been one of those girls who was always in a relationship. I’ve never gone from one right to another. My relationships have never been about needing/wanting someone. They’ve always been about needing/wanting that person in particular. I think of the line from Say Anything when Diane is wanting to get back together with Lloyd and he says, “Are you here because you need someone? Or you need me?” He pauses and then says, “Forget it. I don’t care.”  I do care. I care very much.

Maybe we aren’t all wired for relationships. Maybe the person who is supposed to care about me – and love me fully – is me.

If that’s true, it makes me a little sad. It also takes the pressure off. I trust me. I know I’m good at loving others and building them up and helping them believe there’s nothing they can’t do. Maybe I’m the one who is supposed to do those things for myself.

I just don’t know.

Missing Canada.

Three years ago today, I was preparing to race Ironman Canada for the first time. I was there with my mom, and my dear friends Erin and Rey showed up to help cheer me on. Two years ago today, I was spectating Canada in Penticton while Erin raced. She had gotten excited as a spectator and signed up when she was on site with me the year before.  A year ago today, Erin and I were driving from Penticton to Portland after I had completed my third Ironman. This year, I’m sitting in my office in Austin, Texas. I didn’t go to Canada. The race moved from Penticton to Whistler and rather than go to Whistler this past weekend to volunteer and sign up for next year’s race, I did Hood to Coast. I loved every minute of that event, but my heart did miss Canada in more ways than one.

I’ve spent the last couple of days debating signing up for Canada in 2014. I’m already signed up to race Coeur d’Alene in June of 2014. Canada would be on July 27, just over a month later. (They changed the date this year. Normally, Canada is at the end of August.) I’d already be trained and would just need to maintain my fitness between the two and try to keep healthy.

But then I asked myself why. Why do I want to race Canada next year? I didn’t have a good answer.

Right now, I want to race it because I want so much to go back to the experiences of 2010, 2011, and 2012. They were not easy times, but they were really good times in the company of people I loved. But just wanting to go back? I don’t think that’s reason enough to put my body through two races within one month’s time. So rather than race, I’m considering planning a trip to Victoria, Vancouver, and Whistler to do some sightseeing and to spectate. That way, I can see the course, be on site at the race to sign up for 2015, and see a part of the world that’s been on my list for a while.

I’ve been telling myself that 2013 has been such a year of travel that 2014 needs to be a year of being at home. Other than planning to race St. George and Coeur d’Alene, I was thinking I’d park my happy butt at home and just be. But now I’m thinking differently. It would be an adventure to see that part of British Columbia. I think I’m at a place right now where I want to continue having adventures.

A number of you have told me you didn’t believe I would stay at home next year. Turns out you were right.

Canada in July of 2014, anyone?