Murphy’s Law…

“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.” – E. B. White
I have found that a MAJOR part of my personal well-being exists inside my desire to have fun and be a happy person.  That sounds very simple but I believe it is a decision to wake up and live a happy life even in the worst of circumstances or when life happens and slaps you across the back of the head like it did to me recently.  It’s not all mental, I am armed with some helpful tools – I have a highly inclusive sense of humor and love meeting and talking to people.  I laugh a lot.  And not chuckles or giggles (although those find their way in as well) but loud, boisterous, throw my head back laughs that make my sides ache.  I don’t take myself or my surroundings too seriously and it has helped keep me grounded, happy, and confident. 
The story I am about to tell you is 100% true and happened to me personally. On a recent work trip, Murphy’s law showed up and showered me with what I can only tell you wasn’t rain and I had to decide how I was going to handle the surprises and what I would do in response to maintain my spirit. 
The day started off well enough, but the moment I stepped into the airport to get home things took an immediate turn for the worse… First, my flight was delayed and there would be no way for me to get home that night.  Because it was a weather related delay, the airline wouldn’t pay for me to have a hotel and weren’t very helpful in finding me secondary options.  Second, my debit card strip had become demagnetized so no machines would read it.  So basically, I was stuck in an airport at dinner time knowing I was going to need a hotel in another city with no cash of any kind and nothing to do about it. 
The debit card part was a challenge I certainly could have done without at this point and of course, I found out about the strip being demagnetized only AFTER I had ordered a salad at Saladworks and was now getting angry looks from the customers behind me…  Two people back, a older gentleman steps out of line with his wallet in his hand.  He immediately put his arm around my shoulder, squeezed, and said, “I can tell your day isn’t going so well, how about I cover your dinner.”  He refused to let me take his information to repay him and after I got my salad, he disappeared into the crowd saying only he didn’t feel like a salad, he was more of a “pizza guy”.  Redemption one.
While eating my salad outside a bar/grill in the airport, I notice a couple start arguing inside.  It should be noted that there was what I would guess was a one-year-old baby with them.  The man, who I will from here out refer to as DB starts yelling and it is obvious this is probably something that happens quite frequently in their household.  I give him a look, he meets my eyes and gives me one of those, “what are you going to do about it” faces and continues berating the woman.  A guy sitting next to me, takes his iPod buds out of his ears and we catch eyes for a second.  I can’t believe how this is playing out and neither can iPod guy who  I later found out is named Dean, and who couldn’t be bigger than 5’9″ 145.  He looks directly at me and says, “So, what do you think?”  I say, “Honestly, I think I’m about to go over there.”  He nods his head in agreement.
He gets up and walks over as now DB is standing and making a scene… Dean is very cool and I can’t hear what he is saying when all of a sudden, there is movement and DB is on top of Dean.  I jump over a booth to span the distance and get between them.  They stop almost immediately, a crowd is gathering. The cops arrest DB and Dean and I talk for a few minutes before he gets his backpack, puts his ear buds back in and heads off to get on a flight to Houston.  The booth jumping lands my shoulder in a new wave of pain but redemption two for Dean.
At this point I head towards my new gate.  As luck would have it there is a small bar immediately inside the gate and while the bar is looking good, I have no money to my name to get a drink.  I sit down and the bartender asks me what I want… I tell him I’d LOVE a Pinot Grigio but explains I have no cash.  After a quick rundown of my day he wordlessly gets me a glass and pours me a tall Pinot Grigio and walks away with a wink.  Redemption three.
While sitting at the bar, the fire alarm goes off and we are all required to leave the airport and proceed to the nearest exit and outside.  I’m wearing a thin long-sleeve top and freeze outside for fifteen minutes before being herded back inside over the false alarm.  My new best friend, the bartender, (who had not left by the way) had a fresh glass of Pinot waiting for me.  Redemption four.
I finally get to my next stop – at nearly 11:30 PM and have no hotel room yet.  My amazing mother comes to the rescue and 15 minutes later I am at the Best Western getting a room key.  I ask for a food menu and am told that the bar is open and is serving food so I walk down and a group of people is already there telling their horror story of a flight that they boarded twice, took off once, only to turn around and get reset for a flight in the morning.  They, however, had gotten vouchers for food so they generously shared them with me and even bought me a couple drinks.  We had an amazing nigh, shared some laughs, and at the end of the night went our separate ways.  Redemption five.
On a night where everything seemed to be falling apart, I was presented with people and situations that made it worthwhile and not so bad.  I was humbled by the kindness of the strangers that helped me when they didn’t have to, self-lessly helped others when it put them in danger, and even made room at a busy bar table to let me join in the fun. 
I’ll probably never see any of those people again, but I’ll never forget that night or how each of them made my load a little lighter.  I am forever grateful.  Meaningful experiences, even between strangers can have a lifelong effect and the lesson wasn’t lost on me that night. And really, I can’t complain because despite everything that happened, at the end of the day, my stomach was full of food (and wine), my heart was light, my trademark laugh had left my sides aching, and I had a great story to tell when I got home.  I got to my room that night, crawled fully clothed into a warm bed and was asleep almost instantly… and if I had to venture a guess I’d say I’m pretty sure there was a smile on my face. 

Keeping it going on the road…

I get a lot of questions about my fitness routine and my diet and I thought I’d address a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine who travels extensively about both those things! I also travel for work from time to time and everyone likes to take a vacation. When you aren’t at home there are temptations everywhere!  Food is easily accessible in airports and on the run and while healthier options are out there, it’s not always easy or convenient to try to stay focused on being healthy.  So, how do you keep up with your routine when you aren’t at home, near your gym, your kitchen and surrounded by excuses and unhealthy options??

First of all, I enjoy myself while on vacation but NOT when I am traveling for work. I have to stay disciplined and it sometimes isn’t convenient but it’s worth it to stay on track.  When I do lighten my restrictions on vacation, I eat foods I like but in moderation.  I also don’t abandon my workouts, even on vacation or let the traveling interrupt what I want to accomplish for the day. You don’t need a gym to lift weights.  Crunches, sit-ups, body weight squats, lunges, and other body weight exercises are easy to do, even in a hotel room and a little planning ahead can make runs an easy option even in an unfamiliar city.  If you belong to a chain gym, oftentimes you can even go to that gym in the city you are traveling too.  Do some research!

The Hilton gym in Crystal City
When I travel for work, I deliberately find places that are workout friendly or located near running trails for my training.  I recently stayed at Hilton which is known as a franchise for having gyms and catering to people who work out.  They have a great gym and I was able to do my strength training and hit up a treadmill for a few miles.  Food wise, there are always healthy options!  As co-workers and friends have seen, I don’t often order directly off a menu.  I ask for specific items that they can make for me that accommodate the gluten-free AND healthy requirements I have.  My food tastes are pretty easy and I don’t mind keeping it simple when I am out to eat.  I generally order a plain chicken breast (about any restaurant has that) a vegetable (broccoli is my favorite) and a fruit for a side.  It’s easy and delicious and HEALTHY! 

Chicken breast, veggies, & fruit dinner

Breakfasts I do egg white scrambles with as many veggies they have, fresh fruits, or even oatmeal with berries or bananas!  It keeps me both gluten free and low in fat and calories but very filling! 

I also am lucky to travel to DC quite frequently for work and there is always a place to run in DC!  DC is a very fit city so there are always a lot of bikers and runners out and plenty of routes can be found using online resources like Bringing my Garming (my favorite accessory) makes it easy to run to a distance or for time even when I’m not 100% familiar of a route.   
The Mall
Washington Monument
In DC, I love running along the Potomac and also running around the monuments.  It’s a gorgeous place to run.  There is nothing like watching the sunset over the mall on a clear evening or seeing the Washington Monument all lit up at night.
My girls and I go to Florida every year on vacation with our family and running on the beach is my absolute favorite thing to do!  It’s a great workout running on the sand and the view is gorgeous.  Last February when I was there, I would run once a day and walk the beach at night or in the morning.  The sound of the water and the smell of the salty air made it an incredible experience!  I even spotted dolphins a couple times out!
Siesta Key, Florida
The point is, traveling – either for business or pleasure can easily accommodate your training schedule and also spice up your routine with new locations, routes, and even cross-training opportunities.   

Injuries and Set-backs

“Simply stated, you must want it bad enough to survive the process required to obtain it. It is the force of your personal passion that gives you the force to break down the wall between you and the thing you desire.” -unknown

I learned a long time ago not to train for a day far off in the future.  I learned to train for today, because it’s just another day and training is what I want to do for the rest of my life.  Once today is over it’s time for tomorrow when I start all over again.   Like anything in life, there are unexpected injuries and set-backs that materialize and effect training and even just day-to-day living. 

I have been lucky in my life as an athlete and dancer to suffer few serious injuries and need NO surgeries of any kind.  As I have evolved my adulthood athletics I have taken great care to take care of my body.  I eat well (I will talk later about the Gluten-Free lifestyle I’ve recently adopted), I stretch before and after training, I drink a lot of water and green tea, don’t smoke, get as much sleep as possible (this one varies from time to time) and only occasionally drink alcohol.  I respect that being proactive about keeping my body strong will help ensure that I can stay healthy but it isn’t fool-proof. 

I play indoor soccer in a co-ed league once a week.  It’s a fun way to cross-train and as a life-long player, it’s an opportunity for me to get out and play, socialize, and keep my skills up.  In a recent game, I hurt my shoulder, something I never planned on happening in a soccer game, and it has drastically effected my day-to-day living!  Initially, I was very optimistic since shoulders are not critical for running but the pain and inability for me to do all my daily activities or strength train has definitely had a mental impact on me. 

It got me thinking about why I do what I do to stay healthy and what I want to do in response to this injury.   I began reflecting on the things I traditionallly perceived as “sacrifices”.  Eliminating the carbs, the hours outside running, the aching knees and hips, the unexpected and painful injuries, the nights of going to bed early instead of going out, the early mornings, the money on gear, shoes, events, all of it… And it was so obvious to me that those things aren’t truly sacrifices, (even in moments where I desperately want a Panera bagel or when I have to try to do laundry with one arm)… they are investments, deliberate choices, in getting to where I want to be and having the life I want to have. The difference between a sacrifice and an investment is the awareness, knowledge and acceptance that there will be another event, another race, another chance. Knowing that today’s outcome and today’s reality are not the end of anything or that anything was lost in getting here. That today was just another day.

This injury is not something I had planned on or have an easy solution today.  Set-backs, they occur unexpectedly or in unfortunate circumstances despite having a plan or a perfect vision in place.  Set-backs themselves carry a great deal of power.  They can make all the investments feel lost, wasted, and for nothing.  They fall like raindrops, muddying the best of plans and making it hard to stay on the path and remember why we do it in the first place.

Today, I want to compete in races and do well but ultimately, I want to train and push myself to my limits for as long as I can because it makes me happy and fulfilled. To earn those things I am willing to put in the time and energy to attain it and no injury or set-back is going to derail me from that goal.  These injuries and set-backs will have no power over me and will not change my focus.  They will serve as lessons and I will learn from them.  So my shoulder hurts today, I’ll acknowledge that, and I will do what I need to do to let it heal and I’ll be stronger for it.  But while I’m waiting, still training, still focused on my goals… bring on the rain… because it’s just another day.

Running the Race for the Cure

Today, I had the opportunity to “run” a race and not “race” a run.  The Race for the Cure is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring events for a woman to get to experience.  So many running events are in support of causes and certainly I pay attention to them and care about their impact, but all too often I get so focused on the running that I forget about the meaning and the people behind the event and their stories. 
Today, I was very lucky to get to run with two very special people: my sister, who I have never run an event with before, and her mother-in-law who is a life-long runner and a breast cancer survivor.  The day’s conditions couldn’t have been better and the run itself was fantastic!  I ran into old friends, work friends, and running with family was very special. 
My sister Jenny, Donna, and me
Before the event started, they lined up the survivors on the stairs to take a group picture.  I was so shocked to see so many young women’s faces in the crowd and to be in their company was something I’ll never forget.  That is what true strength is about and it was something you couldn’t deny when you saw their smling faces.  The pastor who said a prayer was fantastic!  He said, “Can I get an ‘Amen’?” and the crowd came back with an “AMEN!”  Then he said, “Can I get a what, what??”  And the crowd went wild!

The survivors

 My friend Becki was the team captain for my work and she did an amazing job of getting people involved and keeping us inspired leading up to the event! 

Becki and me

Some work friends and me after the race
The event today was not at a racing pace.  In fact, I didn’t wear my Garmin or get a chip so I won’t know my official finish.  Today wasn’t about capturing a time, it was about being with friends and family, recognizing the impact of breast cancer on so many, remembering women we’ve lost and most importantly, celebrating the women who have beaten breast cancer. I came away inspired and hopeful.  It doesn’t get much better than that.   

Why Running?

Someone asked me a tongue-in-cheek question yesterday, and while we both chuckled, honestly the question did take me off guard and I spent some time thinking about it : “Do you think running is a metaphor in your life?  Like you are running towards something or away from something?”
When I started running again in my adult life it was about accomplishing something small and taking baby steps.  It was about getting through the next minute, then the next mile, then the next week of running.  I had to push myself through sore muscles, inefficient lungs, and a mind that was always telling me that sitting on the couch sound so much better than being outside… It was about just DOING it and doing it when I said I would.  Accomplishing a goal I set. I didn’t like it, but I did it because I knew I needed to.  It became a hobby.

Once I had enough runs under my belt and my confidence grew, inevitably I had a “bad run” a run that hurts like the first run, one that’s disjointed, that just doesn’t flow right no matter what I did.  These runs are inevitable and can make even the shortest distances frustrating and demoralizing.  But I kept running.  On the flip side, I had some success.  Runners know about “good runs” those magical runs where everything is going right, where your lungs are clear, your legs are strong, and your strides are powerful.  You truly feel, not matter how far you’ve gone, that you can go forever. Each good run I had made every bad run feel less significant and made me appreciate my time outside pounding pavement.  It became a habit. 
That process, that commitment led to my runs getting faster, and where I once said, “Oh I don’t care about my pace, I just want to log the mileage” I was now saying, “I want to know how far and how fast I can push it.” My Garmin became my favorite accessory.  I would plan runs on the weekends and started getting more competitive in races and eased my way closer to the front of the starting line.  I added strength training to build my core and get stronger.  I pushed myself in both distance and time and began to accomplish things in training that I didn’t think were possible for me, a “non-runner” who had been an athlete all my life but had never done track or cross country.  I started to own that the work I  had been putting in had helped create a runner in me where one wasn’t before. It became a passion. 

I still have bad runs and magical ones, I still roll out of bed with sore legs, arms, abs, and other muscles I scarcely knew existed (I love those days by the way)! I still have days where the couch sounds like a solid alternative to training and days where I can’t wait to hit the weights, pavement, or the trail… but I embrace all of it as being part of the deal, part of the relationship I have with the training and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

What I ultimately realized is that I’m not running to get anywhere.  I’m right where I want to be. The irony is, in order for me to get here, I had to run.

New Chapters

I am a single mom of two beautiful girls who has a full-time (and amazing) job, and love of physicall fitness and overall well-being.  There is something very holistic about taking care of yourself so you can take care of others using your best and most authentic self.  I’ve gone back and forth about writing down some of what I know and have experienced realizing that while I may have nothing earth-shattering to share, I want my daughter’s to be able to see how our lives have evolved together and the things we do as a family to stay connected and healthy. 
My daughters are my reason for so many things…for everything really.  I am so blessed to have them and being tasked with raising confident, thoughtful, strong women in them is a challenge I take on with humility and joy.  I write these things for them and I hope that the lessons I am learning are ones we can live with together.
As a woman, we take so much time taking care of others we forget that taking care of ouselves allows us to be a better mother, employee, daughter, sister, friend.  I recognize that in so many capacities in my own life.  Running and training have become as much a part of what moves me forward as breathing and it continues to be something in my life I can return to time and time again when I need to be refueled and recalibrated.  Coaching has given me the responsibility of instilling a love of a game and a discipline and accountability in my soccer girls so that they can build character and a sense of being a part of something bigger.  Watching that grow is a gift.
This past year  has been intense, dark, enlightening, very much a learning experience.  Arguably the toughest of my life. This year has had so many laughs, moments of clarity, despair, acceptance, and the realization that I am surrounded by an amazing army of people who will go to war for me and for my girls without a second thought.  I never doubted that there was a purpose for the darkness and even when it was hard, I always got what I needed and more in ways I could never have hoped to expect. 
New people have come into my life, old friends have re-emerged, others have disappeared, but ultimately I’ve been given so many blessings that I cannot give enough thanks.  All the experiences, good and bad, that have been evolving, emerging, retracting, in and outside of my control have brought me here, to this moment.  A year ago I asked myself “I gave my life to become the person I am right now. Was it worth it?” (Richard Bach)  Today, the answer is YES.