Who Donald Miller Says I’m Becoming.

This morning, as Jenny, Kerry and I ran on the trails, we bumped into my triathlon coach, Natasha, and her husband, Steve. Natasha raced Ironman Florida on Saturday with an astounding 9:29 finish time, did a recovery ride on Sunday, got back into town on Monday, and was running this morning. It’s one thing for me to feel good the days immediately following an Ironman. I put in a steady effort for a 16-hour day, and when I’m trained, my body recovers quickly. But Natasha’s got power. While I’m pushing steadily, she’s full-on pushing – working harder than I probably even know how to work. And she’s on her bike the very next day after her Ironman? And running easily within days after the event?

Seeing her do those things gives me confidence in our training program. It also reminds me how important it is for me to surround myself with people who are doing the sorts of things I want to do in the way that I want to do them.

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A Spectrum in a Day.

Today went from silly to somber in 12 hours.

I started the day by participating in the Austin Tour de Donut. It’s a 25-mile bike ride that includes three donut shop stops and time bonuses for donuts consumed. I expected to dominate the female category because there were zero women entrants last year, but this year a huge group of people showed up for the ride. The group included two women who went to Kona for the Ironman World Championship. I didn’t have a chance.  I did, however, make what I thought was a valiant effort on donut consumption. I had three Krispy Kreme donuts and three Shipley’s  donuts. At Dunkin Donuts, the third location, I couldn’t stomach the thought of another donut, so I passed there, but I redeemed myself by successfully climbing Lost Horizon Drive, which some say requires getting out of the saddle, to finish the course. I just sat and peddled, feeling almost as though I could peddle no more, but I made it up the steep hill. I was pleased despite my poor showing comparitively. It was ridiculous fun.

After lunch with some of the Tour de Donut organizers, Mom and I went fabric shopping. I’m giving my house a facelift complete with curtains where there once were blinds and new bedcovers in both bedrooms. I loved selecting the fabrics. Normally, I get overwhelmed by having too many choices, but today I picked my fabrics efficiently. And I think I picked well. I can’t wait to get them all made and installed.

After fabric shopping, I worked on a speech for my Toastmasters Club. I’m working in the Humorously Speaking manual, but, as I wrote my speech, I made myself cry – not tears from laughing too hard, but real tears. Obviously, tears are not the best thing for what is supposed to be a humorous speech. The speech is filled with humor but, given my own tears, I had to question whether I could deliver the speech with the kind of energy I would need to make it funny and to get through it without tears.

Normally, when I have some doubts about a speech, I email what I’m writing to a trusted friend and ask for input. But tonight I realized that the two people who historically have read my speeches and offered input in advance of my delivering them are both mostly out of my life today. That realization brought on more tears. The losses are old losses. I’ve mostly made my peace with those. But the realization was a new realization. It snuck up on me, and I wasn’t ready for it.

Just yesterday, I felt so at peace. I felt so well that my joy felt almost arrogant, even to me. I almost pulled yesterday’s entry down because it felt boastful. And now, tonight, despite all the peace of yesterday and all the fun of today, I suddenly feel a deep longing, not for what I once had, but for a time when I’ve had all the realizations that I’m going to have about what is dead and gone and for a time when thinking back doesn’t hurt my heart quite so much.

Caught in the Act.

Yesterday morning, I went for a run around 10:00 a.m. I ran from my office down to Lady Bird Lake and did a seven mile loop by myself. I realized during my run that, at any given moment, I was thinking about one of three things: (1) how lucky I am to be able to run at 10 on a Thursday morning; (2) how good it feels to run; and (3) how much I’m looking forward to the next four weekends. It’s nice to catch myself in a state of happiness after a hard year.

I love the flexibility of my work life. I get to be a writer and a lawyer, and, though I have an office I can go to every day, I keep my own hours. So on days like yesterday when I woke up not feeling 100%, I was able to sleep in and run later in the morning. It’s nice to be long gone from the days when the firms I worked for owned me and my time. It’s also nice to be more than two years into this effort of working for myself – a leap that was frightening to make at the time but that has paid off in so many ways.

I haven’t always loved running. I’ve loved having run, but the act itself has only recently begun to be really enjoyable for me. I love that I’ve gotten faster this year and that I can comfortably do a 7.5 mile run and get back to work. I remember the days when a 7.5 mile long run on a Saturday would ruin me for the rest of the day. Now? It’s just a regular workout. It’s incredible to feel good running and to feel good after having run. I owe that to my coaching through TriDot.

And my weekends? They are looking wonderful. I have Fred’s fabulous Tour de Donut tomorrow followed by the Run for the Water 10 Miler with Kerry on Sunday. Then next weekend, I get to take my niece to see Les Miserables at the Zach Theater. The weekend after that, I get to return to my favorite farm in Iowa to see my friends and to spend time with a new friend I’ve made through them. The weekend after that, I get to return to Round Top for a Jeanne Guy Gathering. I am surrounded by wonderfully kind and loving people.

I feel really far from the person who wrote this just over a month ago or this back in July. When I read those entries, they are familiar to me, but they aren’t who I am now. I’m grateful to have felt my way through the hard stuff and to have emerged with a renewed hopefulness about…everything.

Does It Matter?

At the gym this morning, I learned that I’m not tall enough to reach the shower heads in the locker room. Someone had pushed the shower head over so that it sprayed the side wall rather than spraying right down the middle of the stall to the floor. When I couldn’t reach the head to adjust it back, I got annoyed. The conversation with myself went something like this:

Someone moved it and left it that way? How rude. I’m not tall enough to put it back? Thanks for nothing, Mom and Dad. Let’s add that to the list of gripes I have about my genes, along with being pear-shaped and having a crooked eye. If I wasn’t such a creature of habit, I might have walked into the next stall over. Next time, look up and check the head before committing to a stall. That would take just a second.

I even debated switching shower stalls but decided that moving my towels and supplies would be too much work. So I stayed there and did an off-balance shower.

And you know what? The shower ended up being just fine. The water was hot, I got clean, and my day went on with no problems.

I’ve caught myself lately wanting to make little adjustments to make things more comfortable for myself.

  • I love my house, but I have piles everywhere. If I could de-clutter it just a little, it would be prettier.
  • I love my job, but my office is a little makeshift. If I could have a real desk and maybe a bookshelf, it would feel so much better.
  • I love my shoe collection, but if I could find a pair of black boots for the winter, my cold weather options would be a little more complete.
  • I love my car, but if I could find a small trunk organizer, I could make the whole car a little neater.

I’ve spent lots of time putting things away, griping about my space, browsing online for the perfect close-toed shoe, and hunting for an organizer. But at the end of the day, do these things matter? I get to live in a house I own. I have a job that more than sustains me and gives me tremendous freedom. I have more shoes than any girl needs. And my car? It’s a little messy with all my bags, but it gets me where I need to be every time. Why am I dwelling on these things?

As I’ve been working through the materials from my Storyline conference, I’m learning that I put a lot of energy into small creature comforts that will not make one bit of difference when I’m gone. They do me no real good. They serve no one. They leave no legacy. They just make things a little more comfortable for me right now. But comfortable isn’t what I’m after.

I want full. I want passionate, exciting, challenging, a little scary and totally worthwhile. I want all of my energy to go into relationships, goals and feeding myself and others in ways that matter. The little creature comforts? I’ve got plenty. I don’t need more.

So the shower was off a little? So what? My problem this morning wasn’t that someone else was inconsiderate of short people or that I have short parents or that I don’t easily stray from routine. My problem was that I made too much fuss over something that just didn’t matter.

I don’t want to spend my time and energy on things that don’t matter. People matter. Goals matter. Needs matter. But stuff? Comforts? Those don’t matter. Not anymore.

Run + Done = Happy.

I ran the Portland Marathon harder and faster than any marathon I’ve done before. This was my thirteenth marathon, and I wanted a personal best for lots of reasons, the biggest of which was that I wanted to associate Portland with something really positive. And now I do. I haven’t been able to pull up my official results yet, but my watch time was 4 hours and 53 minutes. This is the first time ever that my marathon time started with a four. My previous best was a 5:12, which happened in New York in 2010. My best this year, before today, was a 5:19, which I did in Barcelona. So 4:53? I’m thrilled.

Even better than my time was all the stuff that happened in my head as I ran. I’ve said before that training is one way of dealing with my own demons and that my physical and emotional well-being are closely linked. This year, I’ve been dealing with more demons than usual, and if my physical improvement and performance are an indicator of anything, my emotional well-being is on the mend. In this race, I never hit a wall.

For the first ten miles, I was just in awe of what I was seeing on my watch. Most of my one-mile splits seemed to start with a 10, rather than an 11 or a 12, which is huge for me.  For the next ten, I was fighting like hell to keep up the pace, which I know faded, but I don’t believe it ever faded to a 12. I’ll have to check my splits, but I think they were mostly 11s once I slowed. I forced myself, at mile 16 and 17, to run up and over the St. John’s bridge when everyone around me was walking. That was huge for my head. I realized then that I would hit a personal best today. It was no longer a question of whether, but of by how much? And once I hit mile 20, I heard myself think, “I can do a 10K no problem.” And I kept going. The physical part was hard, but the mental part felt…effortless.

I had expected to battle with emotions all day today because my heart still feels broken, and I associate so much of the brokenness with this place, but the tears didn’t come until I approached the finish line. And those I am sure were happy tears.

I just felt well today. I was expecting to hurt. I was expecting to be overtaken by sadness at times, but that just didn’t happen. I think a big part of my being okay came from the company I kept yesterday.

My friend Gretchen, who lives in Washington, drove down to spend the day with me. We met at Whidbey Island last November. While she was here, we did something I was hoping to do – we walked up to the top of Mt. Tabor Park and took pictures. We took pictures of the view of Portland, and as we were walking back down, Gretchen spotted a view of Mt. Hood that I would have missed had she not been there telling me to look. Gorgeous, no?

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We also spent some time at a cute little fabric store in the Alberta Arts District and ate lunch at a nearby Thai place. We even pulled into the train station to explore the inside because we were so charmed by the station’s exterior.

Gretchen gave me new and wonderful memories of Portland. That’s what I needed yesterday. I needed to be in this place in the company of a trusted friend.

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Thank you, Gretchen. I’m so grateful that you went out of your way to come here and gifted me with your time. You did my heart good yesterday, which made both yesterday and today incredibly special.

A Shared Space.

Last night, I had a girlfriend over for dinner. I live out in the country, exactly 23 miles from downtown Austin. One of my dear friends jokes that I live so far out that she needs a passport to come visit. It’s obviously not that far, but the drive does keep people from just stopping by and often even from coming over at all. But this friend wanted to come. I think she has a thing for Bread, which I totally understand! He is a handsome little guy.

For nearly four hours, we talked at my kitchen table, nibbling on food much of the time. For the last hour, we began the process of saying goodnight and wandered my house and talked about different things. Alison admired my vast collection of books. I got to show her the Christmas cards from friends around the country that cover my refrigerator. I got to show her the blinds that Bread or Butter or perhaps both mutilated. As I showed her my piano room, she noticed a picture of my friend Jeff, who died in 2006, and that gave me an opportunity to tell her about what a special guy he was and what a beautiful relationship he had with a woman who loved him long before he realized it (though it was clear as day to me, silly boy) and who continues to love him more and more with each passing day. She even noticed the little Saint Gertrude statue that my friend Catherine gave me years ago. Saint Gertrude is, among other things, the patron saint of cats, so she lives high up on a shelf in my living room where she can keep a watchful eye on Bread and Butter for me.

I got to have conversations with Alison that could only happen in my space. And I loved every minute of it. I think Alison had fun too, at least in part because Bread warmed up to her incredibly quickly and even sat on her lap for a bit. That’s unusual for him. He’s a total love bug with me but incredibly shy around strangers.

When she left, not because we ran out of things to say but because it was nearly midnight, I walked back into my house, started to do the dishes, and caught myself smiling. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed having someone in my home.

I’ve spent much of the last year telling myself that I’m better off alone than with someone who is able to walk away from me – someone who is willing to do life without me. That’s true, I think. But I also think I’d started to warp my own message. I’d started to tell myself that I should be alone.

Last night, I was reminded how much I enjoy the company of another, how much I enjoy sharing space with another, and how much I do not desire to be alone, even if it’s easier than dealing with disappointment, even if it’s safer than trusting another completely, even if it’s less scary than trying again.

I’m grateful to Alison for making the drive, for being genuinely interested in who I am and how I am, and for helping me remember how wonderful it feels to share my home with another person. I needed that reminder.

Looking Towards Portland.

The weather in Austin this morning was perfect for my run. Kerry and I met at 5:45 and ran the 7-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake. It felt easy, probably because I took yesterday off. I needed to. My body was tired from the Saturday trail run, Sunday run, Monday trainer session and swim, Tuesday morning run, and Tuesday night trail run. That was too much packed into a few days, especially given that I’m supposed to be tapering for the Portland marathon.

I’m excited to head back to Portland next week. I’m staying at a hotel downtown, which is a first for me. Since I’ll be downtown, I plan to visit the flagship Powell’s Books. There are a couple of book signings there that weekend that look interesting to me. I’ll also get to see a friend from Austin who moved to Portland and another dear friend from my Whidbey Island retreat who will drive down from Washington to hang out with me on Saturday.  I’m also hoping to have a chance to either walk or run my favorite mountain and perhaps take pictures of the beautiful city view from the top of the mountain. I’ve been up the mountain a bunch of times but never with a camera. I also want to visit the bike shop that helped me last summer so I can buy an Oregon sticker and bike jersey. Those two things have been on my mind for almost a year now.

Aside from that, I don’t really know what the weekend will bring, but I’m looking forward to the cooler temperatures, being in a city I love, seeing some good friends, and having an awesome race.  And by awesome, I do mean a personal best. I’m aiming for better than 5:12, which is what Erin and I did when we ran New York in 2010. I came close to beating that in Barcelona this year. I think I’m faster now.

I would love to associate Portland with my best marathon ever. That would mean a lot to me right now. A whole lot.

Wednesday List #25 – Affirmations of Late

I’ve had a really nice few weeks. I’ve managed to shift my thinkingtrain well, explore the city, and rediscover things I used to enjoy. I’ve also read lots and reconnected with people I adore. There are seasons when my sensations feel dulled, but this isn’t one of them. I feel a heightened awareness of things going on around me – of things that help and hurt me in different ways. I want to talk about some of the really good stuff.

  1. A bit ago, I was looking for a law firm in the Pacific Northwest to help on a potential matter. One of the names I got from friends in the area was for a firm that has an Austin office, so I emailed the attorneys I work with and asked if they knew the firm. One of the lawyers who relies pretty heavily on me immediately asked me, “Are you leaving us?” When I said no and explained the situation, he breathed what appeared to be a sigh of relief. It was nice to see that I’m wanted where I work. I need that assurance sometimes.
  2. Last week, I caught up with two dear friends. One of them I spoke with over the phone. The other I enjoyed over lunch. In both cases, I told them about things that have been going on with me that I hadn’t discussed with either of them, though I consider them both to be dear friends. In both cases, they accepted the information and acknowledged that I don’t say much at times, but  they didn’t give me grief for having been guarded, as I can sometimes be. It was nice to be received so fully and, by the warm reception I received from both of them, encouraged to be more open in the future. I don’t always expect people to be understanding, but I’m learning that the good friends will be every time.
  3. Yesterday, I had lunch with a woman who used to be my swim coach and has helped me a number of times with nutrition questions I’ve had. We have Erin in common, and in talking about Erin, I suggested we connect, and she actually followed up. We had a great lunch. I believe that we will have a continuing friendship. It was nice to have someone mean what they say and follow through on connecting. So often, people don’t.
  4. Last night, I went on a trail run at Wild Basin Preserve with a trail running group. I’ve run with this group before and decided to get back into it for the fall because I’ve been thinking about taking on a longer distance, like a 50 miler or a 50K, sometime within the next year. Out of the blue, one of the coaches who has known me for a while through triathlon told me that she thought I’d be good at trail running because it takes patience and steadiness. It was nice that she took the time to say those things. It was also nice to hear that my patience and steadiness would serve me well in trail running. Sometimes people get annoyed that I don’t quickly pull the trigger on stuff. It’s just not who I am, so I appreciate hearing that how I am can be helpful at times too.
  5. At Toastmasters today, I got a table topics question that reminded me about my Grand Canyon experience last year. It was an incredible few days in celebration of my friend Jenny’s birthday. After the trip, Jenny made a photo book of our adventure and gave a copy to each of us. That book sits on my coffee table and is one of the last things I see every time I leave the house. It’s nice to have that very physical reminder of both the experience and the friendship that drove it. I’ve made books for others in the past, but Jenny was the first to make a book like that for me. What a gift.

I want to be someone who believes in who I am and in the goodness of what I have to offer and who receives others in the same way. Right now, I feel surrounded by people who are helping me become the person I want to be. I’m so grateful for each presence in my life. I hope they all know how much they’ve done for me in what may appear to them to be the smallest of ways.

Different Kinds of Fitness.

I’ve been less sore after an Ironman than I am today. I did one session with a trainer yesterday morning – the first in about a year – and I feel as though I went from a couch to a marathon with no preparation whatsoever. How is it possible that one hour of movements can cause this much pain?

I gripe, but I love this feeling. It’s been a rich few days of workouts. I did my 8-mile trail run on Saturday. I ran 7 miles on Sunday. Yesterday, I did the trainer session and swam in the morning and then went on a five-mile walk at a solid pace with my friend Ilene after work. This morning, Kerry and I ran five miles. I love working hard, and I love the tiredness that comes from feeling like I’ve worked hard. And yes, I even love the pain. Dammit, Jake.

I know my arms are sore because of the push-ups and weights we did. I think my legs are sore primarily from an exercise where Jake had me stand on a bench and lower myself into a squat on one leg while I kept the raised leg out in front of me. I got to use Jake’s arm for balance and for aid in getting back up out of the squat. It was tough. Apparently people can do this one-legged thing even on the ground. Right now, I can barely do it on a bench with the help of Jake’s arm.

This is a lesson for me that “fit” means lots of different things. Ironman fit doesn’t mean I can handle strength work. Running fit doesn’t mean I can handle swimming. Bike fit doesn’t mean I can handle running. Swimming fit doesn’t mean I can handle yoga. And none of this means that I can handle tennis, which is something I’m considering getting back into. Tennis? Yes, tennis.

I played a ton as a kid. Mom and I traveled all across the state and even the country playing tournaments until I was about 16 and totally burned out. Some of my friends are still playing, and others have recently taken it back up. In Connecticut, my friend Sarah runs a tennis club, and on my recent visit, I got to see the club and watch her play paddle tennis, which involves a smaller court, a solid racket, and, I think, more finesse than tennis. I loved being at her club and seeing the lessons and even just seeing my dear friend on a court again. Her movements on the court were so familiar, even twenty years later, that I recognized her immediately when I drove into the parking lot of her club.

Last time I played tennis with any kind of consistency, I was playing with my friends Don and Corky when I sort of tweaked my knee and decided that I better stick with repetitive movement one-directional sports to avoid injury. Now, I think I’m ready to give it a try again. Maybe I can get stronger so that all the little tweaks and movements don’t cause me pain. Maybe I can get to where I enjoy the competition once again. Perhaps most importantly to me, maybe I can reconnect with old friends and develop a community of women who play a few times a week.

There are these really cute old guys at my gym who meet most mornings for racquetball and then sit in the cafe and have coffee and some kind of pastry or cake that one of them brought. They are darling men who keep mugs with their names on them at the gym cafe, as well as one mug that says “Guest” because they like to include others in their fun. I love seeing them. I love hearing their laughter and their teasing of one another. It’s charming.

I’m not ready to be a little old lady at the club, but I do feel like I’m setting down roots. Tennis would be a nice way to be both active and social. But tennis is hard on the body – harder, in my opinion, than triathlon, even Ironman. So I need to be strong to make it work.

Yesterday was a good step towards strength. I’m hopeful that every little bit of pain I feel now will spare me some pain if I step out on the court again and as I get older. For many reasons, it’s hard to get older, but lots of people get stronger as they get older. I intend to be one of them.

What I’ve Learned From Erin.

Last night, I went to a going away party for a dear friend and training partner. She’s moving to Dallas to work with a consulting firm, a position she earned while getting her MBA from UT. I’m super proud of Erin and incredibly grateful for all the things she’s taught me and challenged me to do during the last few years.

Though we originally met through work, as is often the case with my best of friends, our friendship really developed through training. We started running together when I was doing the RevFit program in the fall of 2010. She is faster than I am, so running with her is always a good challenge for me. But even better than that, by running with her, I’ve gotten to know her unique spirit, and she’s grown my world in a number of ways.

  1. Erin’s really great about listening to gripes and then saying, “So what are you going to do about it?” She won’t let you wallow in anything. She’s incredibly solution-oriented.
  2. When I was struggling with a job change, Erin was great about listening and helping me to take steps towards owning my own business and, even more so, owning my life.
  3. She introduced me to Elizabeth, who also has become a dear friend. Elizabeth cares for me, and helps me to get out and enjoy my city. Erin knew Elizabeth and I would get along, so she introduced us and said, “You two need to be friends.” I love that she did that, and I love that she was right.
  4. Erin took improv for a bit and challenged me to do the same. She knew it wouldn’t be easy for me, and she knew that I would benefit from giving it a try.
  5. Erin invited me to visit her in Barcelona this year. More than that, she found the Barcelona marathon for me, and set it up so that I could swim and spin at her gym while I was there so I wouldn’t feel guilty about taking a vacation in the middle of Ironman training. And if that wasn’t enough, she housed me the entire trip, which made it ridiculously cheap for me.
  6. When I went through hard stuff, Erin listened without judgment and challenged me to move forward, especially when I didn’t want to.
  7. Erin invited me to join her for a Pose clinic, which was something I’d been wanting to do for quite some time. That clinic led me to make some major changes in terms of my running.
  8. Erin recently reintroduced me to the 10 mile loop of Lady Bird Lake, a run I hadn’t done in probably a decade.
  9. Erin has encouraged my writing always. She reads and comments on this blog. She tells me to write and write and write, if that’s what I really want to do.
  10. Erin makes me a better person. She makes me believe that I have potential in all areas of my life, and she encourages me to find the best that’s out there for me. In terms of work, relationships, and how she spends her time, Erin doesn’t settle for acceptable. She wants exceptional, and she encourages me to insist on the same.

I love this girl. I love her friendship. I love her energy. I love her spirit. I’m sad to lose her from Austin, but I don’t doubt she’ll visit and that I will visit her.  I don’t doubt that this friendship will continue to grow.

Safe travels this weekend, dear friend. I’m here if you need anything. Always.

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