The Boston Marathon

I finally registered for the 2011 Boston Marathon after two hours of trying to get through on the website.  My excitement for this is still as high as the day I qualified.  Probably will be that way until I finish the race.  Oh, and until I buy every article of clothing at the expo that relates to Boston 2011.

“Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.” -Aristotle

Found the remedy, I had to set you free

I have disappointment in my heart and I hate its toxicity.  With every exhale I force it out, little by little.  It’s almost gone but, like the scars on my back there will always be remnants.  Being 27 is kind of like going back to 7th grade.  It’s awkward.  I’m angry.  I’m channeling it… into racing.  If I commit to excellence, success will follow.  I trust myself, I am fearless and I am powerful.  My dreams become reality.  They always have and they always will.  Stand for greatness and expect nothing less.

The results?  First Place in Age Group Division, Third Place Overall Female Division.

10K #1: 6.2 miles, 7:13 pace

60K bike: 37.4 miles, 19.7 mph avg.

10K #2: 6.2 miles, 8:09 pace

If it’s not fun, don’t do it!!  Wet, cold and still happy on the 2nd 10K.

Summer is fleeting and with that comes change.  Fall is rebirth, fresh starts, a brighter outlook on an earlier setting sun.

“Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”

I felt the wind in my hair, the power in my legs and the sun on my back this weekend.  Biking is my favorite way to see the world and experience the real truth of what it has to offer.

Except they changed the route this year, and it wasn’t as pretty.
And there was a headwind the whole time.
And it was cold.

In my brain I committed to riding 100 miles but when it came right down to it, it’s not like I had anything to prove, or was racing, or was trying to accomplish anything more than having a good time with my friends.  Around mile 63 after riding into a headwind the entire time we decided to bail on the 100 and stop at 75.  At first I felt guilty!  Almost a little ashamed but quickly got over it and here’s why:

Biking, especially on a Sunday afternoon, doing rides called “Apple Cider Century” that are billed as “tours” are supposed to be fun, right?  Then how about the time today when I was at a stop sign waiting for my friends to catch up and a man in his 50′s on an ill-fitting very expensive bike, leading a pack of other 50-year-old d.b. “cyclists,” zooms straight through the stop sign, turns right and yells, “bad place to stop!”  Really a#@hole?  Or the woman in a Range Rover honking and profusely yelling, “single file!” as we’re riding with 5500 other people down country roads.  Again, it’s Sunday afternoon here, people!

Maybe I’m the one who’s overreacting to others’ angst but really, but it’s people like them that make me breathe more deeply, focus on the now, and realize I’m not a slacker for not doing 100 miles;  I’m a champ for making it 75.

Again, “angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”  So take this as a cue on your Monday morning to relax.  Don’t take life too seriously, have fun and stop at stop signs.

A very fine group – Team Lag Ass

My Favorite Drug – Running

My head’s all a jumble.  I don’t even know where to begin today.  These entries, these memories, usually have several months worth of drafts and notes and quotes before I compile them into something that hopefully does justice to the events and people that have influenced my life. This time it’s no different but I have no idea where to begin, there is so much. Do I talk about life after running Boston?  How I left my job for an hourly part time gig to follow my passion?  How I had three jobs this summer?  How I didn’t get my hair cut for six months because I couldn’t afford it? How I managed to get into three accidents involving bikes, cabs, or a combination of the two? How about getting my heart broken, and maybe hurting one or two others in the process? That was fun. Or the fact that I didn’t exercise my right to say ‘no’ only to find myself way over-committed this summer, and very bitter about it.

Hard-learned lessons about life, love and the pursuit of happiness seem to have been my reoccurring theme of 2011.

This year I tested limits, I pushed boundaries, I swam way, way out of my comfort zone.  And for what?  My insatiable hunger for passion, that’s what.  I saw a quote that said, “the pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.”  Is it?  Aren’t we all responsible for our own happiness? No one else is going to take care of this for me, right?

And I know you’re sick of it.  You’re sick of me whining about having my heart broken. Trust me, I’m sick of it too. Despite all the sadness, the crappy dates, the guys who sent flowers and never called back, I learned a lot and faced a nasty fear: my voice.

To say that I am a passionate person, well that would be the understatement of the year.  I know that people know this about me, but I clearly wasn’t ready to admit it, for better or for worse, until now.  I seem to be either all in or all out, no in between. 100% or nothing. Take it or leave it but I think it’s what makes me sparkle.

Life.

In March, right before Boston, I resigned from my job as an Account Executive at a successful restaurant marketing company.  Months prior, I began to feel restless and unsatisfied.  I’ve felt this feeling before.  I hate this feeling.  It happens when I am no longer passionate about the responsibilities assigned to me.  When I am no longer enrolled in the mission of my duties.  I wrestled with myself, trying to rationalize everything – the paycheck, the flexibility, the hours, the vacation, the insurance.  I still woke up with anxiety in my chest and an uncomfortable sluggishness about my demeanor. Leaving my job wasn’t a wake-up-one-day-and-realize-my-path kind of revelation. More of a slow evolvement from doing something just for the sake of doing it, to doing something I love.

My happy place:

In late 2010, I knew this change was coming. I got certified to teach group fitness, I got my USA Track and Field coaching certificate and I went through a Schwinn cycling certification. I slowly tested the waters to see if this area was a world I wanted to live in. Turns out it was and from the beginning of April through the end of October I coached runners for various half marathons and marathons with my team, njoy racing. (Take note, job #1).

Another world I wanted to explore further was that of lululemon athletica. As an ambassador, I was very much ready to take my passion for the company and its culture to the next level. A trip in April to Vancouver and Whistler had me surrounded by lululemon’s founders and leaders who only inspired my curiosity even more. After some authentic conversations with as many people as I could get to, it was decided that in order to hold my own leadership position, I needed to know how the company works from the ground up.  This was a big moment to check my ego at the door and to be honest, I didn’t know if I could do that.  80% pay cut? Working set hours, working weekends, working nights? I knew if I didn’t try, I would always wonder and to me, there few feelings worse than that. I also knew that I belong in this world so I took a leap of faith and went for it. (Job #2).

In June, I was approached by my new pals at Runner’s World. (<–I totally geeked out just writing that). It’s a funny thing, the community that arises when you’re passionate enough to talk about something freely… online… with strangers. Weird. I love running. I love cooking. I love my blog. I love a lot of things and I really love to talk about what I love. So I use Twitter. After several Twitter and email dialogues with Bart Yasso that were inspired by these tweets…

…I was invited to join the coaching team of the Foot Locker/Runner’s World 10K training program here in Chicago. I mean come on, HOW COOL IS THAT? (Job #3).

Absolutely none of this was easy. Checking my ego was the hardest. In August when I was miserable at lululemon about not feeling related to my team and grumpy about the fact that I hadn’t been moved into a leadership position, a mentor said to me, “don’t forget, you chose to be here. Help everyone else see why you chose that.” In addition to my team, the person I needed to make see this the most was myself, so I started to work on becoming the kind of leader I want to be: inspirational, vulnerable, available and strong.

And then Steve Jobs passed away and quotes like this began to surface:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

The most amazing thing about reading this is that for the time being, I’ve found it. I believe that not only am I doing great work now, but the potential for great work in the future is completely limitless. I am beyond excited to be open to wherever jobs one, two or three take me in the next few years.

Love.

I’ll just be flat out honest – more tough stuff this year in this department. At the end of the day, I really I just want to love and be loved so sometimes my want for that clouds my judgement when it comes to who I should and shouldn’t allow into my life.

He told the truth and I was the liar.

He said, “I can’t do it,” but I wouldn’t believe.

He said, “I can give you support and friendship.  That’s it.”  I didn’t believe.

He wasn’t faithful because he never had to be.  I didn’t care.  I came back for more.

He never took me on a date, not once.  In 20 months.  I came back for more.

He swaddled me in red flags and I ignored them.  Waved them away like feathers.

I refused to believe that someone could decide not to be with me. What about what I wanted?  I came back for more.

I came back for more until my heart couldn’t stand the pressure and my own body began physically rejecting my stubbornness.

He told the truth and I was the liar. It wasn’t his fault at all.

I’m shooting arrows right now, big sharp ones. He hates that. But this time, they’re pointed at me.  For not seeing clearly, for not being more present, for not being more real with myself, for everything. Why can’t I just accept what he is capable of giving?  ”Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Well, this time I think I need it.

Was this karma’s vengeance for the hurt I caused previous lovers?  If they felt even a glimmer of what I felt this year then wow, do I have the ability to be insensitive. The funny thing is though, at the beginning I knew. I knew from very early on when we lay side by side and shared tales of heartbreak that this would happen to me.  ”I’m a heartbreaker.”  ”No, I’M a heartbreaker.”  I knew it was painful but I didn’t know it was this painful. Then, some time in June, in a last-ditch effort to save my sanity and a simple realization that I really don’t want to live my life on the path I was choosing, I began my resumption. I told every one of my close friends my dirty little secret: addiction to hope for a love that would never be.

But let’s be honest, I wasn’t fooling anyone.

Rehab. In an emotional dump of my heart and soul, I did a lot of yoga. I threw myself into three demanding jobs and relied on my friends when nostalgia crept in. I made room in my heart for kindness and met someone wonderful who brought a lot of it into my world. I also learned that not only do I need passion in work, but I need passion in my relationships and I need to be with someone who is passionate about something…anything (especially me!)  And girls, he’s just not that into you if you’ve been dating for three months and after three days of radio silence he tells you that he’s been spending hours and hours on the phone with his ex “reassessing where they are with everything.” #awesome. Damn good thing I had a marathon coming up to stomp out all the anger of how that whole thing went down.

And yet, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for the things that these two people have taught me.  How in their own ways, they inspired me to keep going no matter what. How they unknowingly forced me, kicking and screaming, to love myself and figure it out on my own. How one in particular believes in me so much it’s almost a tangible feeling that I can actually hold. How they validate my conviction that if I wear my heart on my sleeve, I take risks and I jump off the preverbial cliff, that I always, eventually, on my own path, reach…

Happiness.

Advice and wisdom on this cycle of training, post-Boston:

On coaching: “your training will suffer because you’ll be so tired.”
On balancing 3 jobs: “you might have to be not so ambitious with your running for a while.”
On injuries (specifically my neuroma): “you work too hard, you should rest.”

No. No. Only until I am healthy, then no.

The result? I ran 26.2 miles in 3 hours 30 minutes and 53 seconds which is my fastest marathon by 8 minutes.

It seemed this year, that the more obstacles presented to me, the more I latched on to my training plan and the faster I ran.  I didn’t make a lot of changes but I stuck with consistency on a couple of things:

1. Running outside: 99% of my Boston training was on the treadmill because I was too much of a wimp to face the Chicago winter. I also enjoyed training for that race alone; it was super meditative. Running outside is much more difficult and I knew it would make me a stronger marathoner. The month of July was hot and humid and I almost puked after every run, but those are the runs that build champions, the runs that make me feel like a superhero in the cool fall air at mile 23.

2. I committed to my track workouts: I have a love/hate relationship with the track because it reminds me of the pressures of my days as an 800 meter runner in high school. This summer I got over it and committed to my track workouts outside, on the track. I was definitely rewarded. My Yasso 800′s were like 3:10!

3. Each week consisted of speed work, tempo run, steady state, long run –> not anything different from how I trained before. The one small difference, however, my longest runs were very long collectively – 22, 22, and 18 miles.

4. Yoga, yoga and more yoga. Couldn’t/can’t get enough of it. The breathing techniques, the challenging postures, the stretching, balancing and twisting – it all makes running feel ten times better, even on the off days.

Twin Cities

TWIN CITIES MARATHON

Let’s talk training first because I had so many lightbulb moments this time around. For the first time ever I had several weeks of running that were in the 40-45 mile range. I also stopped eating gels and switched to real food on my longer runs. Justin’s Almond Butter packets, fruit leathers and baby food pouches. Yes you read right. The Peas, Pears and Spinach one is the best (right Liz Berey?)

I also became obsessed with Core Fusion Barre classes at Exhale. Over the years I have done all of the workouts. Crossfit, yoga, spinning, kickboxing, personal training, high intensity interval training, you name it, I’ve tried it. Barre at Exhale is the only workout that has directly translated to running so effectively that I had ZERO aches/pains/lingering soreness during my entire training cycle.  Even at mile 23 during the race, I heard Jon Nelson yelling, “belly button to spine!” Core awareness. I’m telling you, this was key for me.

Lastly, I added a recovery run on Sundays to the schedule, per the advice of my running BFF and coach, Dave Coligado. Wow did that really work in terms of adding weekly mileage while shaking out the legs from the previous day’s longer run. I’ll be keeping that one in my repertoire.

marathon

Official race recap:

Miles 1-22: Awesome
Miles 23-26.2: Less awesome, but still pretty good

I was lucky enough to get to run this race with Dave, which is the best thing ever. The last time we ran a marathon together I had Lyme Disease and didn’t know it. I practically cried the entire race and was 1000% sure he would never want to run with me again. REDEMPTION AT LAST! Almost two years later to the day, we toed the line again and this time it was 1000% different. Each mile was a breeze, the scenery was like an Ansel Adams painting, my playlist was on point, our outfits matched per usual and every time I checked in with him it was a smile and a thumbs up.

Miles 20-25 were uphill and that was rough. I for real hit the wall at mile 23 but at that point I also realized that I could run 10-minute miles and STILL set a PR. We crossed the line at 03:27:24 which was three and a half minutes quicker than my previous best time at Savannah in 2011. <<happy dance>>

As 2014 comes to a close, I am filled with a greater sense of faith (in God, Family and Work) and I believe that in all things there is an opportunity to choose happiness, to choose love and to kick some major ass while we all #goalcrush the heck out of our lives.

My Last Race – Minneapolis

“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”

― Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons

I’m not much of a religious person. But I have faith. And I believe.

Raised in a traditional Italian Catholic family, I attended parochial schools until college and went to mass every Saturday. My relationship with and definition of religion was laid out for me from the get-go. The things I love(d): the community, the people, the tradition. The thing didn’t love was how irreverent and antiquated everything seemed. Since I was 18, I have stepped foot inside the church on sporadic occasions- usually for holidays but most notably my sister’s wedding (!!!) and my Nana’s funeral. Those times it honored the occasion and was so reverent, so special.

Don’t get me wrong though, I did feel a void. My dad so wisely advises my siblings and me that our three priorities in life should be, “God, family and work.” He’s so right. When I get intentional around being real about faith, I see that my interpretation of those three priorities constantly evolve and are ever-so present to me right now.

minneapolis

God.

Over the past few years I have connected to God through yoga. The ritual of unrolling a mat, breathing deeply, considering the workings of the universe – all have had profound effects on my spirituality. When I am not practicing yoga, I feel disconnected from my faith and it is within the four walls of any studio that I am restored.

Lately, more often than not, I connect with God through nature. Even though I live in downtown Chicago, amidst high rises and concrete, the vast expanse of Lake Michigan and the paths on which I run are just steps from my front door. The way that the sun rises, sets, shines through clouds, illuminates buildings, reflects off the water – it’s different every day and it’s magical. Sometimes the lake is quiet, like glass, and sometimes it’s angry but always it is beautiful. When I am not outside running, I feel disconnected from my faith and it is when the sun (or rain, or wind or snow) hits my face that I am restored.

I know that the traditional four walls of a church will be there for me and when I’m ready I’ll go back, but right now I love the beauty of finding my faith in other spaces and places.

Throughout this particular training cycle, I did most of my running alone. I connected often with my faith on these runs. I spent a lot of time in that etherial space between reality and oblivion but oh so aware that there is a higher being watching over us.

Family.

Faith and belief in the structure of family is probably one of my favorite aspects of life because the definition can be so widely interpreted and the love I experience that much greater when I open my heart to its definitions.

As many of my friends begin having children, I have been surprised with this heightened sense of love for them and the new lives they have created. I can’t help but feel like I’m partly responsible for helping these little humans live big, amazing lives!

And my own family. (Ugggghhhh I love you guys SO MUCH!!) <- Sorry for the minor outburst, back to regularly scheduled programming in 3, 2, 1….

On September 8 of this year, my Nana passed away at 94 years of age. She was a spitfire. She had no filter. She ironed my underwear. She put Cheerios in her coffee. She made the best gnocchi I have ever had in my life. It was an overwhelming sadness to receive the call from my mother that she had passed. I couldn’t wait to get home to be with my family. Even though the reason we were all brought together was sad, the time we spent together was not. My sister and her husband flew in from Seattle. My dad’s four siblings came without question. I got to hold my cousin’s baby (a new DiCello in the family, the first grandbaby on either side!). I watched Hugh and Dan be pall bearers. I felt so connected with my siblings and I just wanted to hold tight to everyone.

From Nana’s necklace, I took a charm and with the intention of putting it in a safe place when I got back to Chicago, added it to the necklace I wear everyday. I ended up never taking it off. During the Twin Cities Marathon I touched the charm several times, I knew she was with me, I had faith that she gave me wings.

Work.

My favorite part about working at lululemon is the commitment that is required to goal-setting. Last year when I was recovering from Lyme Disease, I got away from this practice and was not at all inspired to get back into it. I recently wrote about ‘letting it be’ and when I did (let things be), the inspiration started to come back.

I’ve got my health and personal goals movin’ and groovin’ but career goals… WHAT ARE MINE?! Recently lululemon started a digital campaign called #ifnothing which inspired people to share that, “If nothing stood in your way, what would you do?” When I think about that, truly, if nothing stood in my way… get ready for it… I would attend culinary school. Like full-on full-time culinary school. Chills.down.my.spine. How real is this desire? I have no idea. But I’m putting it out there anyway.

There are some other goals floating around in my headspace and will soon take life in the digital space. I’ll be in collaboration with my sister – think recipes, food, photography, blogging. Are you excited yet? I AM.

Right now, career goals – I’m focused on integrity, balance and a rocking holiday season that is fast-approaching here. So when we’re on the other side of that, I’ll get back to you with career goals. But let me guarantee (in case you weren’t already convinced) that I have faith and I believe that my path will be clear and ready for me to dance right down.