Friday, November 21, 2014

Life... Love... Loss... and the Run.

I'm a creature of habit. I crave routine and while I enjoy spontaneity, I am always eager to get back to my comfort zone. When I started running five years ago, it was a last ditch effort to try and lose weight and find myself. Somewhere along the way it became a constant in my life that I could always escape in and find solace, even when things were going to shit.

A year and a half ago I started dating someone who seemed like a dream guy. Like most people in new relationships do, he started out sweet and thoughtful and he made me feel like the luckiest girl to have him in my life. Our relationship moved quickly and within a short time, he was living with me and my son. It took a couple of months before the true colors started to come out. It started with a stupid, explosive argument in Wendover, which was the first time I saw who he really was. He didn't hit me, but he may as well have, with his biting words and belittling comments. Over time, I started noticing that it didn't matter how I phrased things or what I said, he usually had a sarcastic, hurtful and snide remark about whatever it was I had to say. I learned to bite my tongue - which went completely against my normally outspoken, blunt nature. It was, however, better than yet another argument.

One of the things that I initially really enjoyed about him was how much fun we would have with a glass or two of wine. While at first it didn't seem like a big deal, within six months I was noticing how much he would really drink. It was foreign to me. As a marathon runner, I am focused on training and rarely drink, certainly not to excess. There were many nights when I would go to bed and he would stay up and drink. Quite often he would come into the bedroom in the middle of the night to talk to me, waking me even though I would have an early morning long run planned. Those were the good nights. The bad ones, he'd drunkenly come charging into the bedroom to scream at me about a variety of grievances. Maybe I left some dishes in the sink or messed up the kitchen after he'd cleaned it. It always varied but it inevitably left me frustrated and hurt by his cruel, painful words. The next morning I would usually find 2-3 empty wine bottles or an empty case of beer. I tried really hard to be understanding. I gave him every benefit of the doubt. I'd rationalize his behavior with any number of excuses that I could come up with. The truth of the matter is that he was an alcoholic, and an angry one at that.

The thing I could always rely on was my running. Some days I would cry for part of it, other times I would find myself venting to my running friends, though I never really divulged just how truly unhappy I was. That was a secret I shared with only the road.

Then one day he hit me. It was in the middle of another one of his rages, this time he was on the verge of getting to the point where I knew he wouldn't remember anything. I lay in bed, trying to ignore the awful things he was saying to me. Finally I snapped back at him and he reached out and hit me on my thigh out of anger. I was shocked. He fucking hit me. I'd never been hit by a man before and I was always that girl who said any man who hit me would sorely regret it. Yet, here I was, in the thick of it and I had no idea what to do.

In the months that followed we tried counseling, which helped validate my feelings about his drinking and the verbal/emotional and now physical abuse, but it didn't really leave me feeling like we were getting anywhere productive. In training for my two fall marathons, I contemplated my dilemma over the hundreds of miles that I put in. I came to realize that I no longer loved the man who was slowly but surely breaking me. I realized that I knew what I needed to do, it's just the doing of it that is the difficult part. Several days after my seventh marathon, I sat him down and told him that it was over. It was hard, but the weight that I felt lifted following the conversation was relieving. The next month proved to be nearly as difficult as the initial conversation, as dividing up the things you collectively accumulate over 18 months is arduous. He was not easy to talk to before the breakup and it definitely got worse after. It got to the point where his tone in conversations and text messages made me afraid he might act out in anger at me or my son. I hated that I was afraid of him. I decided to take back control of the situation. Luckily, I have an amazingly supportive family and group of friends who have helped me. From my dad helping me change the locks on the house to my brother sending his police officer friends over randomly to check on me, I slowly started to feel safe again. After consulting with a police officer friend, I decided to file charges on him for hitting me and sought a protective order to keep him away from me and my son.

It may have taken me longer than it should have to come to my decision, but I do not regret the relationship if only for the lessons it taught me. I am stronger than I realized and I can carry on. It's okay to ask for help and it's okay to stumble so long as you get up to keep running. It is not the mistakes we make that define who we are; it is how we recover from those mistakes. I'm finding my way back to myself, to my comfort zone... and it feels amazing.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reflections of a Runner Turned Triathlete.. Or Something Like That.

This year has been frustrating and disappointing for me to say the least. Following my amazing PR results with the 2013 Big Cottonwood Marathon, I was excited to spend the winter working on my speed and decreasing my pace so that I had a shot at qualifying for Boston with the 2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon. Unfortunately, my body has had other plans and I've been forced to scale back my mileage trying to rehab bursitis in one of my hips and knee pain (in what was previously my good knee. Eff.). This means instead of focusing on fun things like intervals and fartleks, I have been subjected to less fun things like cortisone injections, foam rolling and icing. I have very nearly approached my Sports Med doc about just amputating the damned leg and turning me into the Bionic Woman. That seemed like a much more expedient result to me.

Which brings me to my point.. it's easy when you have a goal in mind to get frustrated and give up. It's harder to step back, assess the situation and reevaluate goals for the current situation. So Boston Qualifying for me this year is pretty unlikely - it'd take a miracle for me to shave 25+ minutes off my time. Rather than throw in the towel, I decided that maybe I should expand my horizons by exploring the world of triathlons. Keep in mind I've never been a cyclist and just went on my first road ride ever a few short weeks ago... a 50 miler with some friends because God forbid I start with something more reasonable - sorry I'm not sorry. Swimming is a skill I have always known how to do due to a brief stint on a youth swim team which I bailed on because, let's be honest, what 11 year old fat kid wants to spend the summer in the pool doing laps rather than eating Hostess in front of the TV? Not this one I tell ya. But I digress.

Enter Jen. A good friend of mine from my college days at the University of Utah, she has plenty of experience with triathlons, is a personal trainer and an all around bad-ass friend to have. She's always up for an adventure and when I approached her about doing a Tri with me, she jumped on board immediately. We made a plan to do the Rock Cliff Tri at Jordanelle Reservoir near Park City, Utah. If you have to pick a first triathlon to do, you don't get much more beautiful than this place. To prepare, I had been swimming laps at a community pool once a week on my lunch hour and worked my way up in the course of a month to doing a mile non-stop. Pretty good if you ask me! My running training must have helped with that because swimming continuously is a lot harder than it looks.
Jordanelle: Cold as hell but nice to look at.

This is apparently my terrified, "WTF have I gotten myself into" face.

Please tell me that everyone looks/feels as awkward as I do in a wetsuit.
I had no doubt that I could easily complete each individual portion of the race, it was just a Sprint after all. But the thought of swimming in open water in a restrictive wetsuit (which I hadn't tried out before - stupid mistake #1) and transitioning between the events were daunting tasks in my mind. With no experience in this triathlon thing, I had no idea what to expect for any of this. I'm so grateful for Jen and her experience and confidence to help me in preparing and completing my first Tri. We had discussed our strategy beforehand and although we easily could have split up (and possibly placed in our individual age groups - it was a small field), she agreed to stick with me for at least the swim portion in case I freaked out. Which I did. I was so concerned with getting the swim done quickly and not disappointing Jen (who is a freaking rock-star in the water) that I panicked the first third of the swim. She reassured me that I was ok to take my time and gave me some pointers to get me through it. I've never been more happy to have someone I trust with me than in that moment!

Once we finished the swim and peeled the wetsuits off - which I'm pretty took as long to do as the entire stupid swim did  - I was elated to be getting on the bikes. We headed out and found ourselves riding into a wind tunnel of extraordinary force. I'm pretty sure I didn't drink even a quarter of one of my water bottles because I didn't dare take one hand off of the handlebars for fear of crashing. It got so bad at one point when we'd turned that the wind blew my bike from the shoulder of the road into the center of the two lane road. Which is unnerving when you're riding in open roads with traffic! Still, I was on dry ground and just happy to be cruising along.

My favorite part of the entire experience, however, was the run. This is my arena. I swapped shoes, grabbed my water bottle and we were off for our quick 5k run. It was an amazingly beautiful course that varied between bits of trail, boardwalk and road. My legs felt fantastic and I was grinning the entire 3 miles. We came in to the finish line and I had forgotten all about my frustration with myself on the swim and immediately blurted out "That was AWESOME! I want to do it again!!"

Going into this experience I wasn't really sure if I would like the whole triathlon thing. I have been running races from 5ks to marathons for four years now and have gotten comfortable with what to expect from them. They feel "safe" to me. I'm so happy that I decided to step outside my comfort zone and try something new and different. I loved it so much that Jen and I are planning on tackling a Half Ironman next fall together. It will be a new experience for both of us and while I still plan on doing not one but two marathons this fall, I am looking forward to the tri-training immensely. Because for me, the race is just the icing on the cake. It's the hours, miles and conversation that add up to make the journey worthwhile for me. This is my life, and I love every minute of it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Go Bigger!

When I started this journey four years ago, my biggest goal was to lose weight. I never dreamed that I would have turned something I formerly hated into a passion and addiction. Not surprisingly, weight loss is only one of the many benefits I've gained from this hobby of mine. One of the most notable is the friendships I've developed with people from all walks of life. Runners are a funny community and no matter where you go, once you find out that you share that common bond, there is a connection made.
 My running peeps. Plus my uncle Matt, our bodyguard and photographer, who hates running but loves my aunt.
I think back to before I ran and what my life was like and it's amazing how much fuller it seems now. Simply making the choice to take back my life [and that's how I look at it - I was a prisoner of my own apathy and laziness] has opened up so many doors for me. More than ten years ago I tried snowboarding and remember despising it. My legs were weak and I was on my ass more than I was standing. I gave it several attempts before I finally decided that it was too hard. Fast forward to today and I have grown to love it nearly as much as I do running. So much so that I bought a pass to Canyons Resort last winter so that I could go up almost every weekend. Let me tell you, there's nothing more terrifying and exhilarating than conquering a double black diamond you've never tried before.
Snowboards are heavy bitches, for the record.
When half-marathons and marathons started to seem like less of a challenge, I decided to up the ante. Surely a Tough Mudder would be the answer to what I seek, right? 
Electric Eel. Just after I blacked out. You heard that right, fucking BLACKED OUT.
When I started running I also started working out with a group of people at a local boxing gym, known as Fight For Your Life. I found that I loved competing against myself and my friends at the gym. We would do killer circuits and it was there that I learned the art of boxing and found it an amazing way to take out frustration. Sadly since the gym is a side gig for my friend Heath, the schedule changed and with no morning classes offered, I found myself needing an alternative workout that would challenge me in the same way.
Heath Haraki. He is Maori, the sweetest guy and not nearly as scary as he comes across. Plus he lets me punch him. Bonus.
When CrossFit started growing in popularity, my FFYL friends and I scoffed at it. A ten minute WOD? We would laugh to ourselves and  say "I want more than a 10 minute workout." But desperate times call for desperate measures and I found myself walking into CrossFit West Jordan, which is only .8 miles from my house. [I know this because I ran by it all the time and my brain is weird like that. Don't judge me.] I remember feeling SO intimidated by these uber fit people. I didn't realize it at first, but the 5:30 am class has a reputation as being the most intense and hard-core group to work out with. What I found surprised me... Not only did I learn the movements quickly and love the workout, but I was welcomed by each person and immediately felt at home. I am amazed at the progress I've made since starting over a year ago and find that I seek out the new faces to welcome them just as I was welcomed into the box family.
Started with the bar, now I currently can squat clean 105 lb and improving every day. Boom.
I suppose the take-away is this: be open to trying new things, even if it's something that scares you or makes you get out of your comfort zone. So often I hear people turn down an offer to try something new and I think about all the missed opportunities and friends I would have never made if that had been my attitude. I'm always seeking improvement and approach life with an open mind.

We have a finite amount of days here, so why wouldn't you want to make the most of them?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Go Big.

Hi friends. It's been nearly three years to the day since I posted something on this blog and quite frankly it's because it's been a pretty shitty few years. My ten year marriage came to a tumultuous end and after trying to pick up the pieces and focus on my son, I finally feel like I have my feet beneath me again. 

Although I'm far from religious, I do find that I am spiritual at times and I'm a big believer in karma. I live by the "golden rule" and try to be kind to others. I love deeply and without regret. I know that life is never certain nor is it perfect, but right now, at this very moment, it's pretty damn close. Let's catch up, shall we?

It's safe to say I'm officially a marathoner, having tackled five of them so far, with my latest being September's Big Cottonwood Marathon. It was by far my favorite marathon experience. Ever. The day was perfect, my body was in tune and everything felt right. I was seeking a sub-four hour finish time and was elated when I approached the finisher's chute and saw that the clock was still under the elusive four hour mark. After my disappointing finish months earlier in the Ogden Marathon, I felt a surge of joy and pumped my hands in the air at the sight. This was the first time I'd ever taken on the 26.2 on my own. Normally I race with my fantastic aunt and a group of great running friends but his one was 100% me.. and it.felt.great.

For a long time, I didn't think I would find it again. I felt broken. I dated a slew of men who all never seemed quite right. Inevitably any time I felt like I had found someone I could see myself with, I was always disappointed. I tried blind dates, dating guys I'd known for many years, even online dating was difficult and frustrating. Finally, when I was about to give up, I met Brandon. Neither of us is perfect and our relationship has been through the ringer but he's helped me believe in love again.

Having earned my degree in Environmental Studies 11 years ago, I have always dreamed of working in a job that I felt I was meaningful and rewarding. I could not use those words to describe the nearly 8 years I put in of working with needy doctors. Yet again, life opened a door for me at the most opportune time: A non-profit organization who I had watched from a distance in college was hiring. They are known as Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and are self-proclaimed defenders of Utah's redrock wilderness. What at first seemed like it had to be too good to be true turned out to be a godsend. I was tired of the inter-office drama and bored beyond belief in my position. I was both eclipsed with fear at the massive change and excited at the possibility of a new job in an organization that supports something I am already passionate about! Three months later and it is only now that I realize how unhappy I was at my previous job. I feel like I am home. Loving what you do and who you work with are a critical part of being happy with your life. 

My Everything.
Tyson is now 6 1/2. He is my best friend in the world and my heart is so full of love for that little man. He is the only constant in my life and although he has no idea, his unfailing love helped me through the rough times. He is constantly reminding me that there is more to life than work; that love is blind; to smile more and that we can all afford to be a little kinder.
Starting very soon I am going to be an ambassador for a new internet company known as Ramblen. It's a website devoted to helping travelers who are health and fitness minded but in new cities and need suggestions on places to eat/recreate/etc. It's a new adventure for me and I am excited to be a part of it.

Stay tuned!