#19. Louisville, KY: “Feel the joy that’s all around your soul.”

April 19, 2014
Age: 31

Occupation: Assistant Store Manager atlululemon athletica
Residence: Chicago, IL
Time since last race:  1 year, 6 months
Conditions: 70’s, sunny and stunning
Official time: 03:51:53
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Sterile and white. Questions, needles, more questions. Resigned and tired.

Peer into my brain, let me show you the thoughts:

“I am over training.”
“I am out of shape.”
“I am old.”
“I am not eating right.”
“I am not doing enough yoga.”
“I don’t sleep enough.”
“I need more rest.”
“What about my goals?”
“I need more protein.”
“I need less protein.”
“I should…”
“I should…”
“I should…”
“F*ck! What is wrong with me?!”

On and on and on this dialogue in my head went as I tweaked this and managed that for nine month’s time. From August 2012 to May 2013 I made it through each day with higher than normal levels of fatigue, joint pain in my hips and shoulders, extra long recovery times from workouts that once used to be easy, and noticeably more emotional lows. A constant stream of above statements flowing through my head, followed by another action to offset that day’s self-diagnosis.

In October 2012 there was flat-line exhaustion before, during and after #18, the Indianapolis Marathon.

“Time off will certainly help. I must be over-training.”

Time did not heal all wounds, I still felt the same come Spring 2013. After what should not have been a grueling 20-mile bike ride in late May, I sat on the couch and cried. I told H something was not right. I got a blood test. I have Lyme Disease.

Wait, WHAT?!

Yes, I have Lyme Disease.

The last (miserable) run I went on in May 2013, right before the diagnosis.

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What followed was the first full breath I had taken in a year. I mean, I really breathed fully, right into my gut and felt the diagnosis with full satisfaction.

Something was wrong and I knew it. It explained so much about the way I had been feeling over the last year!

WhowhatwhenwhereWHY did this happen? It was likely the perfect storm of a weakened immune system due to the self-imposed stresses of working, coaching and training, combined with a camping weekend in Minnesota and a fateful union with stealth tick bite. About one month after the weekend I spent in MN, I ran my personal best half marathon and then physically, it was all down hill after that. The details inconsequential at this point – you can read about exactly how I felt here.

I could not have been more relieved something was “wrong.” That I wasn’t crazy, wasn’t getting old, wasn’t out of shape- all of that internal dialogue was pointless. My Type-A tendencies loved that there could now be a Plan.

But that Plan equaled rest (and some heavy duty antibiotics). Yikes.

Here is where I thank all of my lucky stars and everything in-between that I have H at my side. There was wisdom, guidance and experience to help me realize that it was okay to rest. Hell, it was MORE than okay to take some time off. It was time for me to (re)evaluate what I want in this goal (<– I am learning more and more that revisitations to the things I have chosen to be do-or-die situations for my life is necessary, exciting and scary).

So I have this goal, right? To run 50 Marathons in 50 States. At some point in my lifetime. Not all at once, not in a detailed, patterned order. Just as they present themselves to me throughout my life. But I lost that part – the part about doing marathons when I choose to. I was getting caught up in the pace, the pattern and the unending quest to be better. Better than what? Better than who?And at what cost? Here was my boyfriend – and Lyme Disease – telling me to slow down. So slow down I did.

In the slowing, there was a lot of reflection. There was getting uncomfortable and real. In a very recent past I had attached my self-worth so willingly to a training-racing-training-faux rest-training pattern which let me to become overly concerned with what people would think if I took time off. More internal dialogue:

“How can I be a run coach and not run?”
“Everyone will improve and I’ll get slower.”
“I haven’t not run a marathon since 2005.”

I was starting to let my goals control me and there was pressure, so much pressure. But in this slowing, I realized that I’m the one in control. It’s my timeline, my choice on the pacing. To be conscious of the pace (running, achieving goals, or otherwise) was more about me trying to look good. Or avoid looking bad. I’ve learned that when I act with the outcome of those two intentions, I am inauthentic, uninspiring and frankly – fake. Oh, and tired.

Taking a step back and enjoying every moment of it

Another moment of enlightenment came when I realized that instead of being better, it is okay to just be. Okay to be scared, nervous, stressed, happy, overjoyed, in love. This kind of self-acceptance and self-kindness has been gentle for my soul and wonderful for my progress. It got me back to good health (mentally and physically) and landed me at the starting line in Kentucky, some 18-months after the last 26.2 mile adventure.

During training for Kentucky, I did the miles to do the miles. In case you missed it, 2014 was the coldest winter in a century and H and I took this as a challenge to get out and ‘play’. There were runs where my eyes froze shut, stops inside coffee shops and lots of bourbon. Always the promise of bourbon. I wouldn’t be lying if I said the carrot at the end of many January long runs was a burger from Au Cheval. The miles weren’t pretty but they were there, and when I got to Louisville, I felt ready.

 

Oh how good it felt to feel good during a marathon! April 19, 2014 was the first time I had really felt the warmth of the sun on my skin since October. I remember jumping up and down, shaking my hands as if I could shove off the months of below-freezing temps and bone-chilling cold with a few flicks of my wrist. Sometimes the marathons I do are a blur, this one was not. It felt so.good. to run, to sweat, to take in that Louisville southern charm. During the 8th mile when the course led us winding through Churchill Downs, I giggled like an idiot and took about 1000 selfies. Miles 12-15 were through a scenic but hilly Iroquois Park and by Baxter and Broadway I was ready to pack my bags and move to Kentucky.

Upon crossing the finish line, never had that medal around my neck felt so good, so earned, so mine.

In this triumphant return, I am on the other side of Lyme Disease with peace in my heart and a greater willingness to let go and let be. Because sometimes, things just have to be.

 

#18. Indianapolis, IN: “They don’t do it like my clique.”

October 20, 2012
Age: 29

Occupation:  Key Leader at lululemon athletica
Residence: Chicago, IL
Time since last race:  3 months
Conditions: 50’s and sunny at the start, progressively becoming colder
Official time: 03:32:36
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Thanks for letting me take my savasana.

Were you waiting? I was. Don’t worry, we were waiting together. Waiting for words, waiting for thoughts, waiting for laughter, waiting for love. Was there any sadness in all this waiting? I don’t remember. Although what I do remember, is what I’ll never forget: everything.

Do you remember when I told you about my muse? It was my first one. I didn’t know how to manage its power. In fact, I let my muse control me instead of the other way around. My inspiration was in the hands of some(one/thing) else and it was wildly emotional. I wondered if I’d keep it forever or if it would just evolve over time. I wondered if my muse could be a part of a collection or if I was allowed only one. I wondered if there was always some pain involved in having one and if that was the tragic beauty in its existence.

Will I keep it forever? Yes.

In a file labeled Instructions and in a sentence from a book I read some 16 months ago:  “A hero without flaw is of no interest to an audience or to the universe, which, after all is based on conflict and opposition, the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.” - The Art of Racing in the Rain. This is my foundation and from there, I build.

Has it evolved over time? Yes.

Bear with my emotions today. We visited a couple times in 2012, but I saved the all the beautiful weaving of it together until now – the threads that made 2012 the year of soul-open, eyes-focused, team-centered passion. I wanted to add ‘heart-bearing’ to the list, but that would be redundant. Isn’t that just how it always is in these parts?  Here’s where it all began: on a dark morning in January of last year, I set out for a run with my friend Dave. Our chats and moments of silence were none out of the ordinary, nor were the familiar pattern of breath and steps and Chicago winter biting at our ears. Though something was born that day, an idea that became one of the greatest gifts of my lifetime (so far) and set into motion a wonderful, joy-filled journey.

A run group. Nothing out of the ordinary except some specifics: it had to be free and it had to be fun. We wanted to give what we knew without expectation and create the space for people to realize their goals. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. A little hard work and a lot of love. The rest was up to the runners. In allowing others to achieve their goals, did it allow me to achieve mine? I crushed goals, alright. But none even close to the ones I expected to accomplish. Hang tight.

Is [my muse] part of a collection or am I allowed only one? Collection.

While 2012 was about run groups and the achievements I saw come to life, it was mostly about the evolution of inspiration and how I realized that nothing is accomplished alone. My community, my people, my team. However I (or you) define success – happiness, friends, family, financial, career, health, love – those that have the most success did not achieve it alone. This is about how I realized that hiding in my insecurities, keeping powerful relationships to myself and being stingy with what I know will just not elevate me or anyone else.

Is there always pain involved in having  [a muse]? Sometimes, but not really.

I have had my fair share of tears along this path of self-discovery. Mostly relating to love (self- or otherwise), with a few cry sessions about my career peppered in from time to time. But having a muse that inspires this level of emotion is beyond powerful. To breakdown and maybe breakthrough, well that is the silver lining in this “pain”.

The last time we visited, I was sitting on a lilly pad enjoying the silence of my life. There was a sense of contentment in the air. I was finally settled, in mind and body, enjoying the present at work, with friends and in life. Dave and I were slowly but surely growing our run club – we watched our runners get faster, set new personal records, form new friendships, gain confidence and most importantly, have fun.

Early mornings at the track and a little inspiration:Track Love

Bart Yasso came to run with us!
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Labor Day Boot Camp with Fast & Fit Racing:Fast and Fit Labor Day

Me + Dave:
Dave and Gina

They laughed. We laughed. It was happy. And then it was happier.

On July 24, after 4 months of leading run club everything changed. The Professor walked in the door just before 6:30. Wearing a hat, a Nashville running t-shirt and black shorts. He was tall – taller than almost everyone there. And striking, in such a way that made me nervous. I quickly shoved the feeling aside. We didn’t speak much, and the following Saturday I found myself sincerely wondering if he’d show up again. He did. After running we brunched. During brunch there was this:

First Day
(I know, right?)

Then there were things like this:
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And this:
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And this:
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The rest, as they say, is history. (For now) ;)

Running. Because there was a marathon somewhere in all this, right?

I, not unrealistically, had a goal to break 3:30:00 and set out with all my might to do so. Remember I was going to try to commit CrossFit to my training? Well, that didn’t pan out. I ended up being too tired to complete my runs and got burnt out VERY quickly, even though I thought I was being smart about it. I think CrossFit can really benefit the short to mid-distance runner but as a marathoner, it just didn’t work for me – I couldn’t replace a 20 mile run with a WOD. And so, like most strength programs I had tried up to this point, I left it behind. This year, Dave was my run coach. Coaches coaching coaches, it was so cool.  We worked together to figure out what worked and what didn’t and I got so much faster. In September, I ran a 1:34:30 half marathon with my training partner, Lisa. All of our 5:15 a.m. track practices and Monday morning tempo runs helped me cut eight minutes off my previous best time.

Lisa and me, post-1:34:30 PR’s:
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In 2012 I loved running as much as I have always loved it, but found that there was more joy watching others love it too. A day I’ll never forget, I have goosebumps even thinking about writing this, was the Chicago Marathon on October 9, 2012. I set my phone to receive text alerts, as I stood just shy of mile 10 with my lululemon colleagues and friends. I cheered, I danced, I yelled, I kissed, I hugged, I cried. All of our runners achieved their goals – whether it was finish line-crossing or personal best-beating, they did it. That night, I remember thinking, “this is the pinnacle of my career.” That I was able to do this through my work at lululemon, was an overwhelmingly joyful feeling. Here’s a glimpse at a few other things we did for the Chicago running community:


I will be honest that through it all, I tried to keep some semblance of running for just me, but it didn’t happen.

From April 3 until October 9, 2012 I gave myself fully and happily to efforts surrounding coaching runners, being a runner and combining it all with my work at lululemon. It was incredible. Two weeks after the Chicago Marathon, it was my turn to run. But, upon first steps across the ‘Start’ line in Indiana, I had nothing left to give to marathon #18, the course or myself. I don’t say this with any bit of negativity attached. It’s odd to explain – my heart was so warm and so full but my physical body was tired, resigned, finished.

I felt crappy almost right from the start. I wanted to veer off and finish at the half, I drew upon my muse(s) and did not make that choice. I was flanked by Dave on one side and The Professor on the other. My bike-riding cheer station multiplied and became two – both mom AND dad this time! I had all the support I needed, but the race just never felt good. After the Professor split from us at mile 10 to finish the Half Marathon, I continued on with Dave. Many times I turned to him and said, “I don’t feel good. I want to walk. I’m so sorry. I can’t do this. I don’t know why.” I was confused and hurt – I put so.much. into my training, everyone else’s training, my work, my new relationship, I over-thought it all and I was unexpectedly tired!

Running and not feeling that great, but obviously still smiling!
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It was okay, I had time while running to meditate on it. I realized this – while I worked so hard at achieving one goal on my list (sub 3:30 marathon) – I achieved a couple (one in particular- to have integrity and accountability with dating) that I didn’t truly believe I could actually do. As I ran, I realized how happy I was with what I was running towards instead of from. Running towards a life that I love, filled with people and relationships and friendships that complete the love I both want to give and to recieve. Somewhere in the depths of the miles that begin with the number 2, I cried, deliriously gushing to Dave about how thankful I was for our friendship, how excited I was about my relationship with the Professor and how sad I was that my running didn’t feel good. He just said, “you got this, G.” And I did. 3:32:36.

After Indianapolis I wanted a large break from running, thinking about running, coaching, getting up early, not drinking… the whole thing. I clung to my friends – The Monday’s, The Runners, The lulu’s. We laughed, we danced, we cuddled, we loved. The Professor and I had the best time – incredible dinner dates, lazy Sundays, cocktails in the afternoon, football games in South Bend, casual midday lake front runs. He met my family, joined us for Thanksgiving and was my incredibly handsome date at my sister’s NYE wedding.

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My family at my sister’s wedding:

 

WOW what year.

You might be wondering, as I am too… how am I doing with this whole real-relationship-dance thing? I love it. It is so fresh, so new, so very much at the beginning. It’s fun, it’s scary, it’s sometimes awkward, it’s beautiful, it’s inspiring, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted – to have a love like this.

In bringing 2012 to a close, I look back on the evolution of my muse – what was once driven by perfection and the desperate need to understand, to feel, to speak, will never be forgotten – but is now part of something bigger, with more compassion, more kindness, more love and one other really awesome person in tow. Stay with us, here we go…

13.1 Miles: Chicago Half Marathon 2012

“Once you’ve faced your dragon, your next task is to ally with it. Don’t kill the beast, you fool, because that’s your power!

This is the archetypal hero’s quest: You’ll meet the dragons and demons and fight and fight and fight them until you finally get the treasure. Then you’ll depart that quest irrevocably changed, with that treasure a part of you. Every time you stalk your fear and choose life instead of oblivion, you’ll begin to reclaim the parts of you that have been blocked off.

When you become the hunter you create new opportunities for grace and growth.”
-from Fierce Medicine by Ana Forrest

Happy Hunting.

Female Age Group 25-29: 22/1583
Female Overall: 72/6813
Overall: 487/12,105

Channeling that Usain Bolt-style speed (well, everyone except Angus!):

Run lululemon: Chicago

My epic little training buddy. Sights on 2016:

6 weeks ’til #18!