work life balance

Weakness

You have to climb the mountain to be on top of the world.

You have to climb the mountain to be on top of the world.

We all love a good success story. We love triumph, overcoming the odds, rising strong. We loved cultivated badassery, we love the moment after everything clicks and you start smiling a devious smile at mile 40. We find comfort when the story has come full circle. We find relief knowing things worked out in the end. But let's be real, we don't like the hard parts. We don't talk about when we are in the middle of things, knee deep in the shit. We don't shine a lot of light on the moment when we are face down in the arena, as far away as we can imagine from rising strong. It is difficult, it is ugly, we don't know how to reconcile. The brain craves the completion of the story. But you can't have the completion, the triumph, the overcoming without the struggle, without the hurt or loss, without the uncertainty. You can't learn the lesson with being tested. But let's be real, we don't like to talk about that part. We don't like to sit with the ugly, the uncomfortable. We want to hide that part away, we want to obscure it from view, make it private, disappear from view, gloss over it, beat it into submission with platitudes. But why? The hard parts are part of being human. Each and everyone of us struggles with something in our life at some point. Our lives ebb and flow, we fail and we triumph. Life isn't just the pretty part, it is the nasty, ugly bits too.

The month of March has been a really, really hard month for me. I am knee deep in "40 miles of suck". First, I was struck down with the really nasty flu that was going around and not only was incapacitated for more than 10 days, I had to cancel 3 races including my three week trip to Cape Town to do African X and Two Oceans. Then, as I was laying in my sick bed, I was dealt another blow. I was starting to feel like, "can a girl just get a break?". I struggled feeling worthless, as some days I could hardly get out of bed. But the illness passed, I was back on my feet and I made plans to go race this weekend at the Chuckanut 50km and support my friend Krissy in her awesome race. And then on Monday those plans went out the window after I totaled my 6 month old car in an extremely terrible and terrifying car accident. Everyone walked away thankfully, but that kind of near-death trauma affects you deeply. I was already feeling like my emotional reserves were low and the accident is a lot to handle. I do not feel strong, I do not feel badass. I feel hurt, scared, guilty, shameful, sad, and angry. I felt like this month was too much. I felt like I wanted to go hide in my closet with a jar of frosting and a bottle of whiskey and wait for March to just be over and maybe April too just to be safe. I have run myself until exhaustion, I have cried myself to sleep, I have dreamed of being chased by rabid dinosaurs. I am face down in the arena and I know I will have to work to rise strong. 

But here is the thing, I know I can get through it. When I stop for a moment like I did today on my run and realize that I can, in fact, choose to embrace the suck. And in embracing the suck, I know it will get better. Doesn't in this moment mean the dinosaurs stop chasing me or that when I close my eyes I no longer see the moment of impact, but it does mean that I see the potential for post-traumatic growth. I have in fact, just happened to have started reading SuperBetter this week- a book which talks about adopting a gameful mindset to deal with trauma, living a happier life and enabling post traumatic growth. I am a big fan of self-growth, I love cultivating badassery, I love self-work and self-challenge.  I do prefer, as I am sure most people do, to do this via post-ecstatic growth instead of via post-traumatic growth. Post-ecstatic growth is struggle via the challenges we take on consciously, the quests we undertake willingly whether that is running 100 miles, writing a book or starting a new business. These things challenge us and we grow. We undertake this things willingly knowing it will be hard, it will take work, but ultimately the growth and reward for the undertaking will be worth it. The hard times, the suck, the weakness, the trauma then too must be embraced. That doesn't mean glossed over, it doesn't mean made pretty, it doesn't mean it will be any easier, but it will mean that out of this time of my life, I am going to gain value, I am going to grow. It means I may not be smiling now, but that I know if I persevere through the darkness, if I allow myself space to be weak, if I seek out support and receive it from friends and love ones, if I face the pain head on, it will get better. I will come out the other side. I will make it to the mountain top, even if it means I have to climb 1,000 switchbacks through the mud to get there. Being knee deep in the suck is real life. We all find ourselves there at some point in our life. Life is not all about perfectly curated social media profiles, expertly staged photos, or even satisfyingly complete stories of overcoming. Sometimes we are weak, we are hurt, we are lost and that is ok. Being in that space is ok. But I also know that even if I don't know how I will or can right now, I will make it through this. I will choose to put my head down and grind out each painful step forward back to the light. I will gain hope from knowing that even if it doesn't feel good, if I simply choose to take another step, another breathe, I am growing, I am healing, I am rising strong. I will be patient with myself and I will remember to have faith in my power to be my own superhero. I will never let weakness convince me that I lack strength. 

Challenge of Balance

 Photo by Sherry LaVars

Looking back on this awesome article from a few weeks ago, I kind of chuckle to myself and long to be that busy. What I mean by that, is that day was leisurely and relaxed comparative to the days since. 

I knew that the SF Marathon would be the kick off to a very busy time in my life. Not only did it commence another training/racing season, it also was the start of wedding season (for me and many close friends/family), the busiest part of opening our cafe MH Bread and Butter, moving to Marin and still running my own business at the same time. It is a lot to manage and I tried to prepare myself for the big life changes.

Managing the day to day stresses has been a great learning experience. I have found myself to be able to handle a lot more than I ever thought I could and also buckled into a giant heap on the floor (before picking myself up and carrying on, of course) more times than I can count. 

 Photo by Sherry LaVars

One of the hardest things for me has been redefining myself as a runner. For the better part of the last two years, my running goals have been the primary motivator for how I schedule and navigate my life. While I am not and have never been a professional runner, running was my priority from how I ran my own business to how I structured my days. 

Now my days are much more demanding between the cafe and personal cheffing. Our cafe is becoming a reality (thanks in part to all of my awesome friends, family and supporters through our Kickstarter campaign) and the new onslaught of activities surrounding that endeavor get squeezed into every nook and cranny of my day (Nathan and I have had more productive "meetings" on runs than I can count). I am still working full time as a personal chef and have focused intently on maintaining awesome service for my clients, even as I am building another business.

I am still running and training hard. I have an insane racing schedule through the rest of the year which includes a marathon every month (Kauai, Chicago, NYC) until December, when I will be racing the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler. I want to do more than just participate in these races, I want to do big things. But the new paradigm of my life also means that I have been forced to redefine what I am capable of.

It is a hard thing to reprioritize.  Part of my struggle is that I am still doing the workouts and putting in miles, I am just not able to lead a running lead lifestyle anymore. Having different priorities means gone are the strategically timed meals, the luxurious naps, bi-weekly personal training sessions and weekly massage appointments. My energy is also eroded away (or should I say, otherwise utilized) so often times I am unable to get in a desired second run. My weekly mileage is less than it was, even though I cling to the idea of squeezing in a 100 mile week, somehow. 

Photo by Sherry LaVars

All of this has reminded me of what I can and can't do. I can shoulder a lot and have multiple chain saws in the air all at once. I can't drive myself into such exhaustion that I spontaneously fall asleep at my computer at 2 o'clock in the afternoon (not that that ever happened today). I can't expect too much of myself and I can't ignore my limits. I can remember to be kind and supportive of myself. I can remember that falling into pieces doesn't mean I've failed, it means I just needed to release a bit of the stress. It is a challenge to find the balance of all of these things.

I know for many people, I am just preaching to the choir about managing stress and balancing everything we have going on in life. It is a challenge, but I truly believe that I will find a way to fit everything I need to onto my plate. I know I will get through all of the challenges ahead. I know I will not navigate it perfectly. But I also know that everything we are undertaking is so important and worthwhile to us that there is nothing that will stand in our way from achieving our dreams.

I am worthy


I woke up this morning with a hangover. No, not the booze induced kind. The emotional kind. The I let myself get flipped, turn upside down, which was is up kind. The feeling of going from confident and empowered to weak, confused, self-doubting and self-deprecating. This morning on my run, I had to dig deep to work my way out of the tailspin and get back on firm ground.


I am someone who is a lifelong believer in self-work. I search myself for the root of things, look in the mirror face on and continually try to be the best person I can be. I want to be the best me I can be, the most genuine, the most real. For myself and for others.

In my life, one of the things that I have had to work hardest at is not externalizing my self-worth, not depending on others to validate me or tell me I am good enough. I have learn the lesson the hard way, hurtful ways, time and time again. But as a person dedicated to self work, I have gradually learned the lesson. I have learned that the price you pay for that external validation is often too high.


Two weekends ago at the Trials, when the gun went off, I was not brimming with confidence. I didn't necessarily feel like I belonged. For the first two miles of the race, I focused on a single mantra, repeating it over and over again to chase away the self-doubt. "I am strong. I am fast. I am important." By the time we reached the 2 mile marker, the self-doubt had melted away and I was ready to just run my butt off. I knew I belonged. I believed that I was worthy. I found the validation within myself.

Since the Trials, I had not relinquished that self-empowerment. I felt excited, empowered and enthusiastic about the possibilities moving forward this year. Over the past year, I feel like I truly came into my own as a runner and with that, my understanding of myself as a runner. I was feeling self-directed and that I was training and racing the way that brought pure joy and happiness to my life. I felt free of expectations and the need for external validation. It is such an amazing feeling to wake up passionate every day about the life you are living.


But self-work is constant work and old habits can die hard. When you think you are safe, it is often the time to be most vigilant. And yesterday, I relinquished my feelings of self-worth and let others dictate how I felt about myself. By the end of yesterday, I was no longer riding the high brought on by my empowering run at the Trials, I was, instead, my own worst enemy. By externalizing my feelings of self-worth and validation, I simply moved farther and farther away from actually feeling that way. Every attempt to regain it externally pushed me farther down the rabbit hole. I could not talk myself out of it.

So when I woke up this morning, the feeling of being emotional steamrolled lingered. As Nathan and I took off on a run, I immediately started negative self-talk and self-depreciation. I beat myself up.


But as we ran, I pulled myself up short. I stopped punishing myself and being my own worst enemy. I forgave myself for relinquishing my power and my self-worth externally. I simply stopped. I realized that, despite a perception of the world being turned upside down, the world was still exactly where I left it. Nothing had actually changed except my perception of it and my perception of myself in it. Just because I was now telling myself I was unworthy, the world was no different than when I believed I was. It may seem like a very simple thing, but the way we talk to ourselves has infinite power to shape our perception of the world.

People say self-deprecating things about themselves to me all the time. They tell me they are not as good a runner, they can't go that fast, they can't do xyz and it always bothers me. I always tell people that what they are doing is amazing and it is not a matter of comparison. If 3 miles is your 50 miles, then you should feel amazingly empowered by that. To say to yourself, "I am worthy" creates an energy and power inside yourself that makes you feel like you could take on the world. Yesterday, I was reminded that whatever it takes, I need to keep the mantra replaying over in my head. We all do. Our worth is our own. And we should protect it vigilantly.

I am strong. I am important. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am worthy. 


500 miles done: 100 miles to go

Christmas morning run. Photo by Peter Duyan.

Today is the last day of the year. And what a year has it been. I feel like this year has been a good one. I have experienced many different things, had fantastic adventures and accomplished more than I ever thought possible in such a short amount of time.

In the space of a year, I have transformed myself as both a runner and as a business person. Whereas in 2010, I focused on 100 milers and trail more, 2011 had me pursuing the Olympic dream and seeing what I could transform myself into the marathon. It has been quite and experience and I am able to now fully understand who I am as a runner and who I want to continue to be. I am not just an ultrarunner, I am not just a marathoner. I am not just a trail runner, I am not just a road runner. I am all of it. This year I have found a way to balance all of my passions, push my limits, keep perspective and weave a common through line into all of my running: my love for it and enjoyment of it.

2011's big running shift was matched by an equally amazing shift in my business. In the course of less than a year, I went from nothing to having a personal cheffing business which I am not only proud of, but allows me to retain a wonderful work life balance while helping others to better health through the meals I provide. I am very blessed to work for some amazing individuals, who are not just good clients but interesting awesome people. This year I have taken my passion for food and made it a successful business and I cannot understate how empowering that is.

As this is published, I will be out for my final run of the year and my final long run before the Olympic trials in two weeks. This run will put me over 500 for the month of December which is my highest month total ever. My training has been good since NYC marathon and I have marveled at times how my body has been able to continue to adapt and learn throughout the course of the year.

With just two weeks to go before the Olympic Trials in Houston, I have about 100 miles to go until race day (cumulative running over two weeks of taper, 70 miles then 30). As any ultrarunner knows, a lot can happen over the course of 100 miles, but you put your faith in your preparation and hope for the best. In 100 miles, I will line up with the nations best and be as ready as I can be. And that is enough. It is enough for me to have come this far. It is enough for me to know that I will put every ounce of energy I have into that race to run the race of my life. This year has been one of digging down and seeking my potential. It is absolutely exhilarating to know that I can and will continue to make even more strides, even when I reach the finish line on January 14th.

Thanks for a great 2011! Cheers to another great year in 2012. Run happy and happy running!

View from Rock Springs on Mt. Tam

Work/Run/Life Balance

Shirt by me (available here). Photo by Rick Gaston.

The memory of my crazy racing schedule this spring is starting to fade. The fatigue is gone, the legs rested and I am back to running. My next "A" race is not until September, so while I am doing some very hard specific work (like Wednesday tempo or hill workouts with the fast boys), I am also taking the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time on the trails, go on adventures and pace friends and family as they pursue their race goals. Sure I have a training schedule, yes I am working quite hard but something is different. Back when I was training for Houston and LA, I went to a place in my training I had never been before, pushed in a way I wasn't sure I was capable of and achieved a hard fought for goal. It was an amazing experience. But I realized one thing about myself:

I cannot exist on a day to day basis that way. I cannot be single minded about a running goal. Moreover, I will not. That is just not how I roll. 

What I mean is, during that time period I spent a lot of time contemplating whether or not I wanted to really make a go at being the best marathoner I can be. I definitely made the move in the right direction and look forward to continuing to make strides and get faster. I fully plan on showing up at the trials ready to rock. But I am not all in, not right now. To be that person, that runner, I would have to give up too much. Or at least more than I am willing to.

I have come full circle on my thought process about the runner I want to be. When I decided to run my first ultra back in 2006, it was because I did not want to center my running and life around the pursuit of an (ultimately) arbitrary goal of a specific marathon time. In the grand scheme of life, it doesn't matter at all. Not even a little bit. I didn't want to make something like that my focus. So I started ultrarunning and connected to a deeper, more essential part of my running. Sure, I have goals for ultras. Yes, I like to be the best that I can be. But ultimately in ultrarunning, there is no single quantitative measure of things like there is in road marathoning.

Photo by Pedro Martinez

Ultrarunning, with the occasional road marathon splashed in there for a challenge, is ONE part of my life, it is not the only part. When I look at elite level marathoners, I see a single-mindedness that is a central theme. By necessity, their lives are centered around their running. I have entertained the thought many a time of having this kind of life but when it comes right down to it: it is not for me. That is not who I want to be.

Who I want to be is a healthy, happy, well rounded individual. I want to be a rockstar business owner that makes peoples lives better through healthy food. I want to be a good girlfriend, sister, daughter, friend, cousin, and mentor.  I want to be an adventurer, a speed demon, a downhill bomber, a ninja, a unflappable pacer and CR breaker. I want to get lost in the woods and test myself with crazy track repeats. I want to laugh with friends over an amazing meals and grow, learn and be balanced. Balanced. That is who I want to be. I have always balked at defining myself or labeling myself, but this is one label I would happily take on. As I get older, I realize that self-definition for me is no longer a way to seek out who I am like it was when I was younger, it is a way to express who I am.

Balanced. Life is too short and to precious to be anything but.