Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sweet sorrow

"Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another 'What? You too? I thought I was the only one." - C.S. Lewis

A couple of years ago, a friend from Run On! came to me with the proposition that we invite members from The Bridge homeless shelter to train with our running classes and participate in the Help the Homeless race. As I talked and ran with the members of the group, all stereotypes that I had of the homeless were blown out of the water. They were people just like me; but tougher, and stronger, and more resilient. I learned to love unconditionally, and they learned to trust us.  

It was a blessing to see the men and women light up when they ran, and their confidence grew with each step. That's when I began researching Back on My Feet, and asked them to come to Dallas. 
I believe in the mission of Back on My Feet. Through running I have achieved things I once thought impossible, and I have had the blessing of watching our Members gain power as they begin to achieve their goals. I have truly enjoyed everything about working for Back on My Feet, so it is with mixed emotions that I announce to you that I am resigning from the Program Coordinator position to go back to teaching; a decision that is best for me and my family at this time. 

The Back on My Feet staff are true angels, and I appreciate everything I have learned from them, and their unconditional love and acceptance for all people. I would say that I will miss them dearly- but I'm not really going anywhere, as I plan to continue to volunteer and continue to push the Residential Members as I know they are capable! 

I truly appreciate you all, it is because of you and Back on My Feet that a vision I had for the running community in Dallas is a complete success. 

A big BoMF hug to you all-

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top 10 Life Lessons Learned During the Cactus Rose 100

“Every rose has its thorn.
Just like every night has its dawn.
Just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song.
Every rose has its thorn.”    Poison

Top ten life lessons learned during the Cactus Rose 100:
1.        Starting a new adventure is both exciting and scary.  Do it.
2.       Enjoy the conga line at the start when you are surrounded by others.  Later you may be very alone. 
3.       The journey is a long one, take time to enjoy the scenery.
4.       There is no need for jealousy or envy.  No matter how fast, or beautiful, funny or talented the other runners are; everyone must face the sotol .
5.       Take care of the little issues before they become big ones.
6.       When you are sitting in the porta- potty at mile 85 bawling your eyes out…you eventually have to get up, wipe your ass off, and move on. 
7.       It doesn’t always get worse.  Little orphan Annie was right, the sun WILL come up tomorrow to light your way.
8.       You are stronger than you know.
9.       The people that you need in your life will show up for you at just the right moment.
10.   Never underestimate the power of coffee. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

To Hell and Back in 90 min

"It's hot! Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking." Well, tell me what it feels like. "Fool, it's hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It's damn hot! It's so damn hot, I saw little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It's that hot! Do you know what I'm talking about?" What do you think it's going to be like tonight? "It's gonna be hot and wet! That's nice if you're with a lady, but ain't no good if you're in the jungle!" 
 -Adrian Crounour in Good Morning Vietnam
I’ve been to hell and back.  It’s a 105 degree sauna that smells of cat urine and sweat.  They make you do yoga in there, yelling at you to stay in a precise line, to" lock your knees", and to constantly give more of yourself.  Satan’s real name is Bikram.
In a continued attempt to “flex my risk muscle” while saving money, I bought the Groupon for 20 classes of Bikram yoga.  I’m welcomed by a perky girl in a Lululemon outfit who informs me that the class will be 90 min. “I’m an ultra-runner,” I think to myself.  “I’ve got this.”  I watch as the previous class exits with drenched bodies and exhausted faces.  Many of them leave the room and just sit in the lobby dripping of defeat.   I’m becoming a little more nervous.
I find myself instantly nauseous as I enter the room and the rancid smell and humid heat penetrate my senses.  I cover my nose with my hand and watch from the back as other class members lay down their mats halfway across the lines on the carpet, layering them with thick towels.   It’s obvious that there is an unwritten sign pointing the beautiful people to the front of the room and the rest of us to the back.  Barbie with her long blond ponytail and red sports bra is on the first row, joined by the Marlboro Man, the Chinese Olympic diver, and the petite runner in her bikini swimsuit.    I find my spot in the back left hand corner, where it is said to be "cooler."
Beginning Bikram Yoga Classes consist of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises.  Water is allowed during class, but Bikram suggests that your first water break should only take place after Eagle Pose.  You can then take water as needed, but only in between poses.  Hand towels are optional (not be used as a crutch or security blanket), and students are encouraged to stay in the room, no matter how badly you start to feel.  By pose 13 I am completely dehydrated, and sitting on my mat with my hands on my forehead to keep from passing out. 
I find myself getting angry.  I mean really pissed! “Does it REALLY need to be this hot?  How can this even be good for me?  The teacher is a strict b*tch.  I don’t need this sh*t, I ran 10 miles this morning!”  And that’s when it hits me- why exactly does this make me so upset?  This is about being non-reactive.  It’s about coming to terms with distractions and pain.  It's about finding balance between what your brain tells you and your body believes.  Ultimately it’s about experiencing nirvana…in any situation.  Yet even though I'm supposed to lie in savasana at the end of class to “reap the benefits of the exercise,” I can’t stand it.  I want out like a kicking and screaming toddler and head to the nearest exit, sucking in oxygen like a drowing victim.  
I could write the same story for the  2nd and 3rd classes, but like an addict I find that I’m becoming hooked on the way I feel after class- as though I’ve had a great massage and every bad toxin has been purged from my body.   After two weeks, I start to see changes in my muscles, and by the 3rdweek I've moved to the middle of the room and can make it through a whole class without collapsing into fetal position in a hot mess on my mat. 
Bikram says: “try the way and eventually you will make it."  And so the dance with the devil continues.....I'm a glutton for punishment. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Think Like a Champion

"Long distance running is 90% mental and the other half is physical."
-- Rich Davis
It’s October, 2007.  I’m at mile 25 of the St. George Marathon and 10 minutes away from a Boston qualifying race.  My legs are burning and I feel like I’m going to puke or pass out….whichever were to come first.  I want nothing more than to walk, to stop, or to lie down on the side of the street. 
I start talking to myself.  “You can do this.  You can do anything for 10 minutes…. You can do anything for 5 minutes…..  You can do anything for 3 minutes…..There’s the finish line, you can make it to the finish line.”  Crossing the finish line I collapse in a heap of happiness on the grass.  “I didn’t even recognize you – you did not look good” my husband claimed.  But I pushed past the pain, and finished 2 minutes ahead of my qualifying time.
So much of running is mental.  We tell ourselves that we need to get out of bed to train.  We tell ourselves to run a faster pace.  We tell ourselves to embrace the pain, and that we are ok.  Guess what?  Our brain listens!
It’s important that we keep thinking like a champion.  I love this article by Dr. Jo Ann Dahlkoetter called 7 Olympic Qualities for Sports and Life.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-joann-dahlkoetter/dr-joanns-7-olympic-quali_b_1745335.html
What are the key characteristics of well-motivated Olympic athletes and how do we achieve them?  Through her extensive work with numerous Olympians over several years, Dr. Dahlkoetter has developed a constellation of traits that defines the champion's mentality. Elite athletes do not possess superhuman powers or extraordinary qualifications limited to a selected few. The characteristics that make a champion can be attained and developed by ANYONE who wants to excel in sports, business or in life.”
Those traits include:
1.        Enthusiasm and desire
2.       Courage to Succeed
3.       Internal motivation and self- direction
4.       Commitment to excellence
5.       Discipline, consistency and organization
6.       Being focused yet relaxed
7.       Having the ability to handle diversity
Do you have what it takes to excel?  Stay mentally focused to run physically strong. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Living abundantly- Flexing your risk muscle

     I Like this quote I dislike this quote
"Everyone has a 'risk muscle.'  You keep in in shape by trying new things. If you don't, it atrophies.  Make a point of using it at least once a day."  Roger Ban Oech

My friend Lisa Conley decided to celebrate her 40thbirthday year by “living abundantly” and trying something new each month. Inspired by her beautiful spirit and zest for life, I too have started doing new things, and thanks to Groupon I can try stuff pretty inexpensively. That’s how I ended up at Foot Joy foot spa.

According to their website, Foot Joy “offers a range of reflexology therapy services. They tailor their works to meet each individual’s needs.” I had no idea what to expect when I went entered the dimly lit room full of reclining chairs for my “60 minute acupressure foot massage”. I WILL tell you that what my masseuse thought my “needs” were certainly did not live up to what I thought my “needs” were.

I was expecting a breezy foot rub, and I did get that. The first thirty minutes were a sweet mixture of pleasure, pressure and pain. They washed my feet, massaged each foot and lower leg, found a few pressure points that made me squirm and ultimately kept me in at the fine line between asleep and awake. Nice! Completely worth the $20.00 I paid.

That’s when things got weird, and the masseuse turned all ninja on me.

He reclined the chair straight back, had me lie on my stomach, jacked my shirt up, and began working on my back right there in the middle of the salon. “You muscles too tight” he told me- and the massage turned into a wrestling match as he caught me with a bionic elbow drop between my shoulder blades that literally knocked me breathless. I was “fist dropped”, “chopped”and for the finale received a “double axe handle”.

“Ok- you done.” He said, pulling my shirt down and patting my back. Owe! What the hell just happened here? I scrambled blindly in the bright outside light to my car and sat for a while to gather myself. Was it horrible? No. Would I go again? No.

I stopped to eat at a Chinese BBQ place on the way home (another first) and although they had roasted ducks that winked at me, I decided to stick to Beef and Broccoli.

My next adventures include paddling boarding with my work girls, indoor rock climbing with my kids, and trying exotic fried foods at the fair. Stay tuned- it’s going to be a fun ride.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Eating without guilt- or "man, those are good muffins!"

“Eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow we die.”- American Proverb

I am in love…with the pumpkin cream cheese muffins at Starbucks.  They are sweet little cakes with cream filled centers  topped with salty pumpkin seeds.  They not only taste divine,  but instantly invoke the good feelings fall- my favorite season.

I take small nibbles around the edges, sipping warm coffee in between bites- saving the gooey center for last.  Almost immediately however, a sense of guilt creeps in and I start calculating: 340 calories, 13 grams of fat and 28 grams of sugar.

My food issues go back to a time when I was about 25 pounds heavier than I am now and recovering from an on and off and on and off and on and off again relationship.  In an effort to find myself again I started exercising and eating healthier.  The weight came off quickly. 
Soon after, I became a runner and learned  that “food is fuel”.   I knew that meant I could be leaner, faster and more “bad ass” if I cut back on the Swiss Cake rolls and ate more kale.  And of course for me anything worth doing is worth doing to the extreme.  Let’s just say that my family likes what they get to eat when I go out of town. 

But this morning as I sat in the coffee shop and tasted the muffin  (instead of scarfing it down on the car ride home), that muffin spoke to me.  It said (I heard it):  “Enjoy, be thankful, and move on with your day.” 

And you know what?  I did….as I scribbled the notes down for this blog on the back of my 2000m swim plan for this evening. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Be where you are...because you're already there

“Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.”   Author Unknown
Hi.  My name is Jennifer.  I just ran 4 miles at a 10:30 pace and I am dizzy with excitement.  Tomorrow I will try 5 miles, and Saturday 6- with the hopes of not having to stop to walk.  Never mind that 12 weeks ago I was running 60-80 miles a week on rocky, hilly trails preparing for a 100 mile butt kicking in the mountains.  I’m just happy to be running.  Period. 

I admit that during my first run I mourned for the “place where I was BEFORE my injury.”  Will I ever get my endurance and speed back?  Will my foot completely heal?  Am I less of a runner than I was before this monstrous tendonitis took over my foot?  Thankfully, with a few runs under my belt this past week I’ve learned to accept where I am right now, and it’s good.   

It’s easy to cling to the athlete of our past.  So often I hear from people that I coach:
“I was fast in college.”
“I used to be 40 pounds lighter.”
“….but I was younger then.” 

How freeing would it be if we could let go of the past, to be a peace with ourselves in this moment? What if we were grateful for our bodies as they present themselves today?

Today I will enjoy the buzz of my run/walk high, grateful that I have once again been blessed with the gift of running. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Opening doors to your soul

The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live. 
Flora Whittamore

I believe that there are no coincidences.  From the day we are born, doors open and close.  With each new experience, friendship, and love…we learn, we change, and we grow. 

We can be the listener or the talker, the lover or the loved, the teacher or the student.  We can live a thousand lives in one life time, just by opening new doors.

Live without regrets- for each experience brings you closer to learning who you are, and what your soul yearns for. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where are you going?

I am no Superman
I have no reasons for you
I am no hero
Oh, that's for sure
But I do know one thing
Is where you are is where I belong
I do know where you go
Is where I want to be
. Where are you going? ”
– Dave Matthews

“Jennifer, my life is in turmoil right now.  The thing with my brother in law did not work out and I am in dyer straights.”

I received this text from a Back on My Feet team member at 10:25 last night.  After talking to him, I found that he was feeling frustrated about having to start all over.  I assured him that he had come a long way, and that this was just a bump in the road.  I also knew at that moment that I was not going to run Wasatch, and I was giving him advice that I needed to hear. 

Accepting my injury (in such a SMALL part of my foot) after 10 years of pain free running has been difficult.  Sitting still is extremely tough for me, and letting go of this goal race is devastating.  I’ve put in many miles, sets, laps, sweaty, hot runs and early mornings; but the emotional highs and lows of trying to make it to the starting line with an injury has been more toilsome on me than any training I’ve ever put in.  I’ve seen doctors, PT’s, chiropractors and acupuncturists.  I’ve gotten hours of advice, walked around in a cumbersome boot and cried caustic tears.  I’m exhausted- and it’s not from training. 

The homeless must feel the same weariness; beat from many miles on the recovery treadmill, dizzy and weak lacking proper nutrition, disabled with disappointments.   Wow.   I am not homeless.   I will heal.   I have many caring friends and coaches.  I am blessed. 

Our team members persevere to get back on their feet, and I know that I will do the same.  There is always a new challenge, always a race, and I would not be a good coach if I didn’t follow my own advice. 

Life gives us the wonderful gift of tenacity.   Thank you for supporting my fundraising campaign so others can have hope.   My new hope is that I will be at the starting line of the Cactus Rose 100.   I know for sure that I will take on this challenge with a smile on my face, and a grateful heart.  Besides, where you are my friends……is where I want to be. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Standing still

“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us, that they may see their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”  William Butler Yates

I’ve been ordered to be still.  To relax.  To heal. 

Stillness, foreign to me brings on feelings of uncertainty.   Insecurities sting my jittery, twitchy body.  I miss the gentle lullaby of movement, for with it brings clarity, passion, and progress.  In movement, I’m rewarded with my exhaustion.  With movement, I am alive. 

Yates claims “that stillness can make us live for a moment with a clearer, fiercer life because of our quiet.”  
 Forced times of stillness make us more appreciate our ability to move.  We are reminded to be thankful for our strong bodies.  We more appreciate opportunity, and when we are able to move freely again we are blessed with energy and power.    

To everything there is a season.  For a week I will practice stillness to come back fierce. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Musings from the Locker Room – the PG-13 version.
"To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don't wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now." Alan Cohen
I grew up in a strict Christian family in central Florida.  There were no tight jeans, no low cut shirts, no cut offs, no bikini’s- no discussion.  I look at high school pictures and remember that every bit of clothing that I owned was baggy “in case it might shrink.”   If it was thought that you looked “sexy”, you were sent back to change. 

My upbringing has affected me for a long time.  I was the girl who would awkwardly change in the toilet stall, or who stayed wrapped up in a towel while trying to slide my underwear on underneath. I would never wear a sundress or anything that required a strapless bra, and always bought a one piece bathing suit.  I always picked the back corner of the locker room, and I’m quite sure I could set the speed record for dressing.    

After being in locker rooms for several years now, it has occurred to me not everyone was taught that nudity was wrong, or that naked bodies are automatically equated with sex.    Women lounge around sans clothing on chairs and benches, put on makeup in thongs, and dry their hair topless.  Some linger and talk to each other naked, or leave the curtain open while showering.  There is nothing sexual about this….they just really do not care if anyone sees them, or if they are being judged.  Their bodies are big and small. Their boobs are big and small.  Their butts are big and small- and they don’t care. 

I think about how freeing it would be if women could just accept themselves for the beautiful people they are.  What if we were happy with our body for its strengths instead of judging ourselves and finding every flaw?   What if we were comfortable in our own skin?

  I’m getting there.  I don’t think I’ll ever wear the string bikini that my Brazilian house cleaner gave me before a recent vacation; but I will wear the two piece with the sports bra top.

Sigh..... now if I had just had this revelation BEFORE having three kids……..

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Journey Begins with a Single Step

“We must overcome the notion that we must be regular... it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary." Uta Hagen

It’s 9:15 pm and I am completely exhausted. I want more than anything to crawl into my soft bed, turn off the lights and snuggle under blankets in my dark bedroom, but tonight I am sleeping at the Dallas Life foundation. The glowing florescent lights above my assigned bed will not go off until 10:15, the TV is on, and there is raucous game of spades going on in the corner of the room. Although the dorm is lively and loud, I feel lonely and isolated on my twin bed in the middle of the warehouse room. My angels tonight are my Back on My Feet family, with familiar smiles and comforting hugs. I know that I can count on my teammates to welcome me and show me the tricks of the trade. We are blessed to be bonded teammates, and friends.

I am so fortunate to work for an amazing non-profit organization which supports the self sufficiency of those experiencing homelessness by first engaging them in running as a means to build confidence and self-esteem. I get to witness new members smelling their first pair of running shoes, the high fives when crossing the finish line of a first race , the hard work and commitment that goes into training for a half marathon, and the utter relief when receiving housing and a new job. My best friends are vets, and single parents, recovering addicts and businessmen. I wholeheartedly believe that they can succeed in whatever it is they want to do, and they inspire me to always reach inside for more.

I am running the Wasatch 100 trail race on September 7, 2012- advertised as “the world’s toughest 100 mile run.” By completing this run, I hope to continue to inspire those who think that they cannot. I ask a lot of them, and expect excellence…and believe that they should expect nothing less from me.

As I embark on this journey, I will complete several long training runs and races along the way….baby steps toward my bigger goal. I’m hoping that you too will join me on this adventure by making a donation to Back on My Feet. By taking baby steps together, even through small donations, we can continue to help people move forward to a new and fulfilling life.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beyond the Visitors Center

Hundreds of people are gathered at Multnomah Falls visitor center.  With triple scoop ice cream cones in hand, they stand nodding their heads Clark Grizzwald style at the waterfall cascading proudly before them.  They take a few obligatory pictures, and head off for the gift shop to buy souvenirs.   80 % of them will never make it to the trailhead.

Because they would be gasping for air on that first mile long climb, they will miss the picturesque overlook of the Columbia River below.  Because their muscles cannot handle a two mile hike, they’ll miss the enchanted forest, lush and green.  Because they don’t have the stamina to cross the jagged trails, they’ll miss the majestic waterfalls- too many to count. And because they don’t have the endurance to climb to the summit, they’ll miss the breathtaking views and calm spender of the snowcapped peak. 

In his book Running with the Mind of Meditation, Sakyong Miphain Rinpoche states that “The secret to long term happiness is engaging in activities that are healthy mentally and physically.  Physical unhappiness comes from stagnation, non-movement, bad posture, poor quality food, not enough liquid or lack of oxygen.”    In other words, driving to the visitor’s center and then heading to McDonalds for lunch. 

Being physically and mentally healthy requires effort and perhaps a leap outside of your comfort zone; but I’ve found that by working hard, I can play harder.   Take a risk and try that road less traveled, because in my experience that is where the magic is. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

There are no coincidences

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

When I needed structure, she came to me with organization.

But when I needed freedom, he gave me wings.

When I needed to feel safe, he took me in with a warm embrace.

But when I wanted to run, she showed me the way.

When I needed to laugh, he told a joke.

But weeping, she wiped my tears.

Finding myself, I climbed the highest mountain.

But finding my bliss, I looked within.

When I asked for unconditional love, you were there my friends

And I rejoice that you were part of my purpose.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Choose ease

“Do you need to maintain the idea that life is a struggle?  Let go of the belief that life is hard.  Life is joy! Life is inherent ease.”    Gael Chiarella

In a recent team meeting I was assigned a project, a  simple task  that I could certainly handle, but being the adrenaline junky that I am my first reaction was to freak out.  My mind immediately convinced me that it was going to be hard.  How am I going to get this done?  Am I capable of doing this task?  Where do I even start?  Do I have enough time?   My body confirmed that I must certainly be fleeing from a tiger as my throat constricted, my stomach was in knots and my breathing became shallow. 
Our culture has a very popular belief that working hard is the only way to get what you want in life, and many of us equate working hard with stress.  Quotes like “no pain=no gain” or “there is no substitute for hard work” convince us that life is tough.  Even Pope Paul the VI said “life demands struggle”. 

I came upon the realization that my very first instinct is always to panic after listening to a simple guided mediation by Gail Chiarella who states that “ new energy can emerge from a state of ease.”  Energy! Not weariness or burden.  Not exhaustion or fatigue.  Not fear or nervousness.  New energy emerges from choosing ease and that becomes our fuel for life!
So, my mantra for March is to choose ease.  I’ll choose ease while running, knowing that I am a smooth, efficient and capable runner.  I will stand up tall, unclench my mouth, relax my shoulders and let my legs fly. 
I’ll choose ease at work, expecting great success from myself and those that I work with.  I’ll base my fortune on my relationships with people, and  know that help will be provided to me as needed. 
I’ll choose ease at home by enjoying my family for the funny, quirky and caring people that they are, and by taking things one moment at a time.    

It's so lightening to understand that the universe is not plotting against me with writhing hands, but instead cheering me on.  I choose ease because life should be fun, and we should be happy.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Art of Pacing

The Art of Pacing

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to pace twice, and to have a pacer once, and I must say that I find as much satisfaction being the pacer as the runner being paced.  Helping someone cross the finish line of a 100 mile race is an amazing experience that keeps me motivated for my own training. 
A few things I have learned in my first few years of ultra bliss:

1.        The pacer should always smile and encourage.   This lets your runner know that everything WILL be all right, even though it might not feel that way at the moment. 
2.       The pacer should be in the shape necessary to complete his/her assigned mileage.  This race is not about you, or your nutrition inadequacies, or your aches or pains.  Make sure that you take care of yourself and are strong enough to focus only on your runners needs.
3.        Always ask your runner if they think they can run a bit more.  If they say no, be prepared to walk as fast as possible. 
4.       Sometimes it’s good to take the lead, and let them hang on to your rope.
5.       Sometimes it’s good to let them lead, so they feel in control. 
6.       Sometimes it’s good to stand beside your friend, pat them on the back, and let them know that you think they are amazing. 
7.       Find out what your runner needs before hitting the aid station and help them get it if the race allows.  Bring them food options- they may say yes to that boiled potato with extra salt this time. 
8.       Be prepared to defend your runner’s weight loss or gain by letting the medical workers know that your runner is competent, peeing and doing fine.  Help them sneak out of the aid station when the medical personnel are not looking.  (If they really are fine). 
9.       They may not care about their time goal right now, but they will when the race is over.  Keep reminding them if they are close, it could be the kick in the butt that gets them moving faster.
10.    Let them be mad at you today- they will thank you tomorrow.