I’m in a busy season at work that feels overwhelming. Yesterday, I was driving home from work and saw a blue FJ Cruiser like mine going through one of those new-fangled intersections that have cars oddly crossing oncoming traffic. (Don’t get me wrong – those intersections work, but the cars continue to spook me as they drive through.) When I saw the blue FJ, I immediately looked at the back to see if it was mine. I can tell based on the stickers on the back windshield. That’s totally normal, right? Except I was driving my car. I was in my blue FJ, so why was I even contemplating the possibility that this other car could be mine? I’m that tired, I guess.
Some friends and I just spent a gorgeous and wonderful weekend in Northern California. We ran the Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon, gushed about our surroundings, and enjoyed our time together. It was lovely to do a race in a new place with old friends. Here we are at the start of the race. Continue reading
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
I made a promise to myself this weekend: no more running marathons untrained. I finished the NYC marathon for the second time, but it wasn’t pretty. With all of life’s events, including two weeks of being sick, I was trained for about ten miles and ran a solid ten miles. The last sixteen were terrible. There were people walking faster than I was running. I got passed by old people, people in costumes, and even people limping. It was brutal. I finished and that’s always good, but I committed to myself that, going forward, finishing will never be enough. It’s time to do more than finish. It’s time to perform. Continue reading
As my world has gotten busy again, I’ve found my rhythm in training. I’ve taken on some additional work recently. At first I’d thought maybe I’d bitten off more than I could chew, but I’ve discovered that I actually get more done when I have more to do. Now that I’m buried in work, I’m making all of my workouts. I know part of that is because the reality of my half Ironman in St. George being just eight weeks away is kicking in. Part of it is that I need the workouts to help maintain my clarity in a stressful time. But it’s also just true that I do better when I’m focused. Right now, I’m super focused. All of that is great, but the problem is that I’m not sleeping well. I can’t get my mind to rest. How do I get to where I’m sleeping through the night? Continue reading
I’m feeling positive as I approach my personal new year, so today’s list has an upbeat undertone to it. So much is growing in my life. Here are some things that I consider to be particularly fun.
- My Tree: At the finish line in Portland this weekend, I received a medal, a t-shirt, a charm, a coin and a tree. Yes, a tree. The tree came in a little paper cup like you would see by an office cooler. The tree is most certainly the most unusual finish line gift I have ever received, but I was in Portland, so perhaps I should not have been surprised. I flew the tree home with me and planted it. (Okay, Mom planted it, but whatever.) Cute, huh? Here’s to hoping that it stays with me.
- The Number of Books I Carry: I’ve always loved blank books. I carry a journal with me pretty much everywhere I go because I never know when I’ll find time to write. The same is true for my “to do” book. These are my fundamentals, but I have a number of other books I carry too. I have a book that I use for note-taking during writing workshops, Jeanne Guy gatherings, or lectures at the Seton Cove. I started a quote book a while back. I also have a book that I use for jotting down ideas for stories or articles. I have another book that I keep in my purse for thoughts, books suggestions, or notes about conversations with random people, like those I meet on the plane. I also carry a book for poems and lyric ideas. Finally, I carry what I call my Oregon book. My Oregon book is about more than Oregon. In it, I keep a list of my dreams – not the kind that come when I sleep, but the kind that come when I’m wide awake.
- The Number of Bags I Carry: I live in the country and work in town, so I often find myself “living” out of my car. This means I carry a number of bags. I carry my purse, my work bag, my lunch bag, my writing bag, my gym bag for getting ready for work after morning workouts, a running bag for my after-work trail runs, and most recently, a tennis bag. At times, I look pretty ridiculous, and my big boss calls me a bag lady, but my system of bags works for me.
- My List of Trips for 2014: I knew long ago that 2013 would be a year of travel. I thought 2014 would be a year of sitting my happy butt at home and restoring the coffers a bit, but that doesn’t seem to be where my year is headed. I’ve got Africa in December and the first half of January. I have races in St. George in May, Coeur d’Alene in June, and Portland in October. I’d like to find one more marathon to run, so I can keep up my streak of three marathons in one year. I also want to go to British Columbia in July to see the new Ironman Canada venue. Then I have some personal trips I want to make. I want to see my Exeter roommate Karyn and her family. Jenny and I want to hit Chicago (after years of talking about it) for a Cubs game. I want to visit Gretchen in Washington in the summer so that she can take me to Mount Ranier. I want to visit Ann in New England so we can run a race together. I want to get back to DC since I missed my trip last year, so I can see Meghan and Anthony. I’d also like to plan a trip with my cousins Tina and Matt because the three of us are really liking one another in our old ages. And that’s what I know for now. So much for a planted 2014!
- My Hopefulness: I’m feeling really good about where I’m headed. Work is going well. My training is going well. I’m enjoying my old friends and making new ones. I’m writing more. And, perhaps most importantly, I’m getting excited about what a few people have separately described to me as the kindness that comes with turning 40. In the last few weeks, three different people have told me that turning 40 made them go easier on themselves. They became more accepting of who they are, less concerned about what other people think, and more forgiving of themselves when they either don’t want to do something or don’t do something exactly right. I’m ready, I think, to settle into myself more and do a little less “shoulding” on myself. Call me crazy, but I’m starting to feel pretty good about things, including turning 40.
It’s fun to think about the little joys – the ways things are happening in life that feel healthy and right. It’s also fun to think and write about them with a cute little critter staring at me from behind the computer screen, like this:
That cute little critter is my Butter. My love for my Butter is also growing every day, but that’s a whole different story.
Happy Wednesday, y’all.
In three months, I’ll be getting on a flight to Tanzania for my Kilimanjaro climb and safari adventure. That feels so strange to say because Africa was never on my list of things to do. The idea just came to me one day in mid June as I was thinking about possible ways to spend new years, and I decided to follow my heart even though I thought my heart might be crazy.
The first thing I did was mention the idea to my friend Matt who has done the climb. This was Sunday, June 16, days before I was leaving to race Ironman Coeur d’Alene. My thought was to set up a lunch for when I got back, but Matt was so excited that he responded to my e-mail on Monday with, “You have lunch plans today?” I didn’t, so we had lunch, and his enthusiasm was so complete that I walked away from that lunch committed in my own mind about the effort. I got back to my office and immediately requested information from the outfitter that Matt had used. When I got back from Coeur d’Alene, I reviewed the information they sent me and, on June 29, I put down my deposit. Acting in 13 days is record time for me, as I am perhaps the slowest decision-maker on the planet. I suppose I could have walked away from the deposit, but on August 7, I bought my ticket. Then I was in for sure. On September 3, the outfitter charged my credit card for the balance of what I owed. Then I was in for damn sure.
Now I’m buying travel insurance, rescue insurance, and health insurance for the trip. I’m looking at immunization lists and gear lists. I’m trying to figure out what I have and what I need and what I want for this trip. How will I charge my phone and camera on the climb? What will I carry in my day pack? Will I take paper books or an e-reader? How much can I pack in the duffel bag that porters will carry for me? What do I need to buy and what can I borrow from friends?
My Grand Canyon trip has helped because I now have a day pack, sleeping bag, hat and gloves. Hood to Coast helped me because I now have a compact pillow and small travel towels. Matt has helped by loaning me his trekking poles, which have been up the mountain before. He assures me that they know the way! But I need to figure out the clothes, especially because most of what I own no longer fits me. I’ve lost almost 19 pounds since January, so I’m having to buy new pants all around. Even the pants I bought in July with Rey are getting loose. At some point, I’ll do a big REI trip to buy a bunch of clothes and gear. That will be a fun effort.
But logistics aside, it’s hitting me that I’m going to Africa, and I’m going alone. My first international trip (to Italy and Greece) was with a girlfriend and her family. My second (to Spain) was to meet my friend Erin, who was studying there for a semester. My third (England and Germany) was for an extended family reunion on my dad’s side. This will be only my fourth big trip, and I’m flying for over 24 hours alone to climb a mountain in Africa with five other people I’ve never met. The me of two years ago before I’d done any international travel would never have done this.
Who have I become?
I’m someone who is turning forty in less than three months and doesn’t want being forty and alone to feel like…well, the way I expect forty and alone to feel. I want to appreciate that I have a wonderful job that allows me travel. I want to take advantage of not having kids and not being responsible for anyone but myself. I want to enjoy being able to book a trip on a whim – or as close to a whim as I’ve ever come – and seeing it through. I love people and want someone by my side, but I also want to be completely okay with being just me.
Africa is about me doing something I never thought I would do. It’s about proving to myself that I can adapt to a different and challenging environment, that I can enter a foreign territory with no one holding my hand, and that I can battle my way up to any finish line I choose to face. It’s about me trying something new and having fun. Africa is about me enjoying being forty and being forty the best way I know how.
I’m excited. And a little scared. But mostly, I’m excited. I can’t wait to get on the plane. This experience will be all my own, and I have a feeling I will come back changed somehow. I don’t know how, but I suspect it’ll be for the better.
Africa, I have high hopes for you and for me. I can’t wait for us to meet.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When I went through hard stuff, Erin listened without judgment and challenged me to move forward, especially when I didn’t want to.
- 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.
- Erin recently reintroduced me to the 10 mile loop of Lady Bird Lake, a run I hadn’t done in probably a decade.
- 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.
- 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.