Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 43 year Old Temper Tantrum

"You can't always get what you want.  But if you try sometimes, you just might find 
you get what you need."
The Rolling Stones

Imagine a three year old on the floor of a retail store; red faced, kicking and screaming because she did not get her way.  Now imagine it's a 43 year old woman,  worried because she did not get her full pay check, scared of an upcoming move, and feeling unappreciated.
That spoiled brat has been me.
I've been so unhappy over the past few weeks, feeling that I wasn't getting what I deserved- that life wasn't "fair".  But yesterday, the death of a good friend's daughter put everything back into perspective for me.
Life doesn't owe me anything.

We work hard to get that payback, but it doesn't come.
We train for a starting line, but then get injured.
We imagine our kids will grow up to be a certain way, but the path they choose is their own.
We beg to be noticed, but are ignored.
We yearn for tenderness, but they roll over.
We crave adventure, but spend each day stuck in traffic.
We think someone is always going to be in our life, but then they're gone.

Truth telling-  it always turns out to be okay.
Because someone sent a gift card.
There is always another race.
Our loved ones have amazing souls.
I am surrounded by friends.
He really is just tired.
The cabin is booked.
We are never alone.

Life is bigger than me.
The ultimate gift and blessing.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Year of Gratitude

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” 
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

Last year on the first of January, I found myself in church.  I'll admit that I'm not there much these days unless I am with my kids, but the pastor introduced a book called "A Simple Act of Gratitude- How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life" by John Kralik.
Inspired by a note his ex-girlfriend sent to thank him for a gift, John imagined that he might find a way to feel grateful for what he had by writing thank you notes.  To keep himself going, he set a goal of writing 365 notes in the coming year.  Thank you note by thank you note, his whole life turned around.

I read the book, and for a while I wrote the thank you my boyfriend for time spent together, to other teachers at my school for their help and guidance, even to the custodian at my school for putting up with my "less than organized" classroom.  But I found that even more invaluable were the  #yearofgratitude posts that I placed on Facebook acknowledging the amazing people and circumstances that the universe sent my way.  I have less money than I have ever had in my life, but the experiences I have had over the past year have blessed me ten fold.

For example:
I saw my first Joshua tree.  
My best friend texted me back when I was having a crisis, even though it was 3:30 am.
A Life Coach inspired me to take risks, and find what it is that I truly love to do.
I took the classes to keep my personal training certification, and landed a new job.
I wrote a business plan, and it was accepted.
Someone believed in me.
I completed the Western States 100 miler with the help of amazing pacers and the encouragement of others.
I've watched my kids grow into amazing people that I am so proud of.
My first coaching paycheck paid for my Ironman Texas entry.
I was given a second chance to love and be loved.
I am no longer stressed.
I work with people who inspire me to be better everyday.
The bills are always paid.
Friends check in on me, to make sure I'm ok.
I have a new coach that challenges me.
And I continue to grow through every experience that the universe sends my way.

As I look back on the past year, I am so grateful for every person, lesson and event that has allowed me to evolve.  May I continue to have faith and trust that I am cradled in love by God and the universe, and may I live each and every day as if there were no tomorrow.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

.....but the greatest of these is love

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Dear One: 

I've come to learn that the greatest gift we can give each other, is to love one another.   I have no money this year to buy you expensive gifts to show you my love for you; so I decided to send you some promises instead. 

I promise to be present for you, even when I'm not in your presence.  
You'll always get a "good morning text, and a "good night" call.

I promise not to try to change you.
Even though I'm like a puppy dog in the morning, I'll remember that you wake up slowly.

I promise not to possess you, but give you time and space to grow.  You're my superman, I know you don't need saving.  

When you are at your worst, I will be at my best.  And when I'm at my worst, I'll try not to take it out on you.  

I promise to keep looking forward, and to be grateful for the lessons we've learned.  

I promise to remember your love language, and to speak it more often.  

And in this new year, full of hope and excitement, I promise adventure, full tummies and an abundance of love.  

Merry Christmas baby........

Monday, December 8, 2014

Take my breath away

" Watching in slow motion as you turn around and say-
Take my breath away."

I've been pining for an experience that leaves me breathless.  
Well, be careful what you wish for, 'cause you just might get it. 
Over the past several months, I've had several episodes of wheezing and choking when I pick up the pace and intensity of my running.  It feels as if I'm suffocating; and until I slow to a walk, I cannot catch my breath. After visiting the doctor today I found it could be one of two things.  
1.  Exercise induced asthma or 
2.  Laryngospasms

Because the symptoms seem to happen while breathing in, not out...she believes it to be the later.  
According to WebMD  "When this happens, the vocal cords suddenly seize up or close when taking in a breath, blocking the flow of air into the lungs. Laryngospasm may be associated with different triggers, such as asthma, allergies, exercise, irritants (smoke, dust, fumes), stress, anxiety or commonly gastroesophageal reflux disease"

I now have an inhaler, which will help to relax the muscles in the airway, but what is even more curious to me why my beloved running has started suffocating me.
Did I abuse you?
Was I too selfish?  
Do I ask for too much? 
Was it my attraction to swimming and biking? 
Or maybe because I lied to you when I said I'd never doing another ultra again?

Running, you were my first real love.  Please take me back.

Friday, December 5, 2014

You are deserving of......

You are deserving of ......

A wild adventure.
Love and laughter .
Rest and solitude.
Safety and ease.

Relax and enjoy it my friend.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Voice

"There is a voice that doesn't use words.  Listen."    
- Rumi

My solar plexus is nagging me again.
"How many times do I have to tell you Jennifer....." 
It's a dull ache of blocked energy right at my rib cage that zaps my confidence and feelings of control.  It's pleading for me to take another big step.  

According to Hindu texts, the Solar Plexus is the seat of your third Chakra. This Chakra is situated just below the sternum (where your ribs attach in the front).  You can imagine it to be a beacon of light, which radiates from the center of your body.  Its energy jet propels you to move forward, toward fulfilling your dreams and goals.

I've heard it's voice so many times before; in relationships, at job interviews, even during races.  
"Danger Will Robinson"- the warning sound blares. 
Sometimes I choose to ignore it- but the whispers never silence.   I find that when I do choose to listen, it beacons the way. This time, it's begging me to have the confidence to allow my business to grow through Personal Training. Making a difference. Fulfilling MY dreams and goals.
The fervent voice is always stronger than any fear.   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chill the f*@K out! (warning: contains appropriate language)

"The moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down"
Alanis Morissette

Everyone needs that friend.
You know, the one who will listen patiently while you spew words like projectile vomit and your head begins to spin like Linda Blair possessed in The Exorcist. 
That same friend who will then calmly tell you to chill the fuck out.

My brain, so jumbled with "what ifs" and "they did" and "I'm so angry" that I can no longer think straight; as I become a Pac Man rushing back and forth to escape the ghosts chasing me.
My heart, exposed and vulnerable.  Skipping beats to save energy.
My body, worn out and stiff.  Do you think its a coincidence that my current injury is a pain in the ass?

"Jennifer, you just need to relax.  I promise you it's all going to be ok."

Sometimes you just need that friend.  The one who will remind you how blessed you really are.
You know who you are my friend.
Thank you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why do I keep running away?

Today's Centering Thought:
"My intention holds the key to fulfillment."  

It is day 8 of Oprah and Deepak's 21 Day meditation experience, but for me it's Day 1.  I sign up for every single one of the free 21 day online sessions they offer....but the daily reminders usually sit unopened in my inbox with the excuse of "I don't have time for that."
Today's session caught  my eye though:  "The Royal Road to Manifestation,"
specifically because there are two things that I have been asking for in life now.

The first is abundance.  For the first time in a very long time I actually LOVE where I am and what I am doing, but in it's currant infancy stages, coaching is barely paying the bills.
People tell me all the time, "you're isn't everything."  Well, money pays the rent.  Money feeds my family.  Having enough money takes away some of the anxieties, we all know that.  
All along I have said to myself, "as long as the bills are paid, I'm good."  But you know what?  The truth is that I would love to pay off debt.  I want to build a savings account.  I want a two bedroom apartment and to travel twice a year.
My intention holds the key to fulfillment.  
Even though I scrambled into an awkward and interrupted meditation session today, I was able to somehow feel (hear?)
You deserve all of those things, and the universe will provide them for you.   
Why is it hard for me to accept that I deserve those things?  But in so I set my intention.  I deserve those things and the universe will provide.

The second thing I have been asking for is a renewed connection to spirit.  God, the universe, my source....
For some this comes in the form of worship.  For me it comes in the form of silence.  Deepak says "The silent mind is where all possibilities are centered in seed form."
I know that in stillness and silence I feel the warmth of true love.  It is there that I understand that I am not a body, but a soul.....but getting there takes so much work!
I sit, and I feel instant pain that I have been ignoring in my back and hip.  My mind begins to wrestle with me. I hear the ding of two texts coming in on my phone.  I get a call.  But every time something distracts me I settle back into the sanskrit mantra (even though at the time I don't know what it means).
"Chit Sankalpa"
My unabounded awareness holds my pure intention.  
And as I finally settle in I start to understand.  God has been there all along, but in the business I have created in my life, I have lost awareness.  The awareness that I am love.  I am deserving.  I have and will always have everything I need.  And so I set my intention on remembering that always.

All of that in 7 minutes of stillness.  Why do I keep running away?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Finding everything in nothing

"Today I don't feel like doing anything...."
Bruno Mars

Today I didn't do anything.
Well, ok...that's not exactly true...but compared to the busyness that usually fills my days, I didn't do much.

Ever since my friend Mike died on November 5 four years ago, this day has brought me unexpected rest and reflection.  Two years ago I spent the day with an IV in my arm at the hospital.  Luckily this year only brought me a rainy day and a strained hamstring.

Today I had a massage, took a nap, and read a book.  I meditated, fantasized about traveling to Bryce Canyon and watched tv with my kids.  I made a quiche and had a glass of chardonnay.  That's it.  Time for bed.

No shoe fittings.
No two-a-day workouts.
No phone calls to new clients.

Feelings of guilt tried to creep in- but my soul immediately shushed them as it crawled back into my being.
One day a year.
Thanks Mike....miss ya bud.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"There is no better run than the one you are currently on.  
Do not aspire to do better on the next run, until this one is completed."
Keith Pippin- The Rules of Ultrarunning

I am literally suffocating in the water.  This damn wet suit is too tight around my neck, so I tread water and unzip it in the back, leaving the pull cord to twist into my right arm with each stroke.
The pack leaves me.  I roll over on my back and start to backstroke.
"Just relax." I tell myself....but it doesn't happen.  I'm hyperventilating.
The men in the next wave start passing me, and there's the guy in the canoe.  I want to quit so badly, and tell myself that maybe today is the day that I just cheer on my friends.
But I'm signed up for Ironman Texas in May!
If I can't get through this, how will I ever get through the full iron man?
All I can think about is the full iron man.
"What the hell was I thinking signing up for that?" I ask myself as I breaststroke to the next buoy.
 "Jeesh Jennifer- you have to get through THIS swim first!"  I tell myself, and I start a freestyle stroke to the next buoy.   And the next.  And the next.  And I settle in and swim the last 800 meters with ease.  I could keep going now if I had to.

I'll make it up on the bike.
I do pass a lot of people.  It's hilly and I'm hanging, but by mile 40 my ass starts to hurt and my right hamstring is screaming. I'm ready to be off of this machine.
 "How will I ever ride 2X this distance?"  I ask myself.
 It's getting hot and I'm starting to sweat, dreading the run that is to come.  "There's no better ride than the one you are currently on, " I tell myself, and I head into T2.
Getting off of the bike, I know I could have kept going.

I think the clock says I'm over 4 hours in.  The last half iron man I did was in 5:30.  How the hell did I do that?
"There's no better run than the one you're currently on," I tell myself, and I hobble into the run.
Just before mile 2 I see Jorge on his way in from the first loop, and he's walking.  "It's going to be a long day." he says as the temps crawl to 85 degrees.  I'm overcome with a huge wave of relief.  He's having a rough day too.  As a matter of fact, it seems almost everyone is having a rough day.  I turn on "ultra mode," walking all aid stations and the uphills.
"How will I ever do twice this distance?" I ask myself once again.
There is no better run than the one you are currently on.
I shove ice down my bra at each aid station, and eat from it as I go along.
 3 loops, 13.1 miles done.
I'm so glad to finish, but secretly I know, I could have kept going.

The big picture is scary isn't it?  We worry so much about what the future holds for us, that we often forget that there is no better run than the one we are currently on.  This morning I woke up next to my love.  Today I was blessed to work with inspiring clients.  Tonight, I ate until my belly was full and my kids made me laugh so hard that wine spewed out of my nose.
There is no better run than the one I was on today, helping a client go her longest distance ever. And  I have faith that tomorrow will bring a relaxing swim, and this weekend holds an exhilarating bike ride.
And you know what?
One day, you will call me Ironman, because in this race of life I have learned one thing....
Just keep going.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Running Your First Ultra

Running your First Ultra Distance Race
by Coach Jennifer Kimble

You’re intrigued.  You’ve run a few marathons, and have friends that have run ultras.
“I could never do that!” you say, but deep down you wonder…….do I have it in me?

The sport of trail running is becoming more and more popular in our busy, concrete world.  We long to get out and play and find solace in nature.  And while some ultras are done on paved paths, most can be found on single track trails through thick forests, mountainous regions, beaches or deserts.  

Ultra running has its challenges for sure, but with that comes exciting opportunities.  
You learn to relax. Gone are the mile markers and obsessing spit times of the marathon.  Every course brings it’s own test, and each day is a new PR dictated by terrain, weather and your body’s decision to cooperate.  Breathtaking courses and the social aspect of these races allow you to enjoy the time you spend outdoors.  

To begin training for an ultra, it is recommended that you have a few marathons under your belt, a current long run of at least 20 miles, and are running 40-60 miles per week.  
Training for an ultra is not that different from training for a marathon.   One change is that you extend your long run, and many ultra runners do back to back weekend long runs to learn to run on tired legs.  For a 50K, you will want to do one or more runs of at least 5 hours; and for a 50-100 mile race you should do one or more runs of 6-10 hours of duration.  The good news is that these runs will be done at an easy pace, with regular walk breaks as fast walking is a skill that can be trained for (and will be used!) during your race.  
These long runs teach you to become self-sufficient, and give you a hint of some of the trials you will face on race day.  Ultra races require more calories, so honing in on nutrition and  hydration during these long runs is essential.  Follow the rule of specificity by making your training look like the race. Train not just for the distance, but also the terrain.

Self sufficiency is a prerequisite for ultra running.  It is your personal responsibility to take care of your nutrition, navigation, hydration and safety.  The aid stations will be farther apart than they are in a marathon, sometimes up to 4 hours!  If you are doing a 100 mile race, I strongly recommend a pacer for the later miles.

Determination and mental fortitude is crucial! The question in an ultra becomes not “if”, but “when”. When you hit that wall, what will you do?  Take in calories? Electrolytes? Rest? What do you need to fix the situation?  Train your brain. It's a mental sport.

Running your first ultra is a life changing experience.  You CAN do it, but it will take hard work, determination and a willing, humble spirit.  

As Seth Godin said, “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”  

Saturday, October 4, 2014


"Life is either a great adventure 
or nothing."  
Helen Keller

I am dying a slow death in this city.
Suffocating in pollution and politics.  Trapped in traffic and tragedy. Confined in sense and suburbia.
The stronghold of my wanderlust is so tenacious that sometimes I feel like an addict jonesing for the next hit.
It's one of those days.  My gypsy soul ran by me tonight, spanked me on the ass. and begged me to go play with her.
And here I am- left longing for her beauty.

She promised the reflection of white capped mountain peaks on glassy waters, and air so fresh I could see my breath.  She teased me with the taste of cool rivers that wash away tears when splashed on a dusty face. We fantasized about aspen forests, our necks straining to catch a glimpse of the golden treetops through rays of twilight.
Scampering through fields of wildflowers, her long hair flowing behind her,  a sunset from the heavens shimmered rays of tired heaviness and tranquility.
Satisfied and full we fell into restful slumber, my ancestors calling to me with their siren song....
"It's all here.  We're just waiting for you."

Awaking to the choke hold of reality and pining for the next ticket out.....
Dreaming will never be enough.  And so I set my intention.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thank you consequence

" I can turn it on
Be a good machine

I can hold the weight of worlds
If that's what you need
Be your everything....but I'm only human.

Christina Perri

I got the email and I knew I had fucked up.  She used words like "I'm disappointed" and "you said you would..." 
I said I would, and I didn't.  I honestly forgot- but that doesn't matter. I disappointed someone. I made a mistake, and those sinking feelings squeezed my gut and my heart.  
My first reaction was to be defensive and to come up with excuses for my inadvertence, but I had nothing.  She was right.  I was wrong, and I had to just admit it. 

I've been so lucky to work with really great managers who have taught me that we all make mistakes, but it is our REACTION to the problem that makes the difference.  When we are being confronted, sometimes by very irritated people, we can sit back, choose empathy, ask for forgiveness and try to make it right.  

So I admitted my wrong.  I let her know how I would do things differently next time.  I fixed the problem and did extra work at no charge.  
How she will react is her choice, but I feel better knowing that I was able to put on my big girl panties and admit my mistake.

We can live in love, or we can live in fear.  
I choose love.   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


"Here she comes now sayin Mony Mony
Shoot 'em down, turn around, come on Mony...."

Billy Idol

One of the hardest parts of the triathlon is nailing the transitions.

When I first jump into the brown, cloudy water, it sucks my breath away- leaving me hyperventilating and panicked.  I find myself dog paddling at the back of the pack until I can finally relax and settle into my breath and stroke.  And then I'm fine.  I could swim all day.

Awkwardly clipping in on the bike, the course is rough and shaky.  My legs burn as I begin the climb.
I can't open my gel pack and I drop my water bottle.  I fear that the whole ride will be a disaster, but the road opens and smooths as I pedal to the beat of Billy Idol's "Mony Mony" dancing in my brain.  Sitting back on the saddle I soften, and then I'm fine.  I could ride all day.

I dismount my bike and my legs are jello.  My ass hurts from the bumpy  road and it's getting hot.
Clumsily, I change my shoes and put on my visor.  I take off.  No wait, my shoelaces aren't tight enough.  I stop and fix them.  I take off.  No wait.  I forgot my sunglasses.  Dammit- I can't go back for them now.  I take off.  Well, more like I run little baby steps on legs that weigh two tons.  I'm passed as I walk up the hill, yet smart enough to catch my breath and take a gel.  The first mile is quite a liar, feeling like mile 25 of a hard marathon; but by mile 2 I feel at home in the rhythmic breath of the run.  My legs grow strong and my confidence grows.  I begin to pass people, and then I'm fine.  I could run all day.

Transitions are tough.  We fear uncertainly and become anxious with change.   That's when I call out the motto- "Keep calm, and carry on."  Keeping transitions as smooth  as possible can make all the difference in your finishing time.
Transitions in life are scary too.  That new job, relationship, baby, a move.......sometimes we feel like we are drowning, or that the road is kicking our ass.
 I've learned from my races that by staying calm and confident, we loosen into our daily flow, and then we really are fine.  Each and every day.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The 5 W's (and one WTH) of Ultrarunning

"We will always ask ourselves the same questions."
Paulo Coelho

In any ultra race it will come.  That juncture in the road when you start to question your sanity.
"Who do I think I am? 
 What the hell was I thinking?
Where am I?  
When will this be over?  
Why am I doing this?   
How will I ever finish?"  
You can't fight it, it's inevitable.  But I find that it does help if you come up with the answers to the W questions (and that one WTH) before you even hit the starting line...... and way before that WTH moment punches you in the gut, knocks you to the ground and calls you a baby.  

You.  Only you.  You are the only one who can finish this race.  Not your pacers, not your crew, not your coach or your trainer.  You.  You're the hero in this story.

You were thinking this was a good asked to be here, so you're going to train.    Hard.  Almost every day.  You're going to figure out what you need to keep moving whether its nutrition, hydration, slowing down your pace.  You learn the tricks of the trade BEFORE race day so when that moment hits, you're prepared with the ammunition to fight back.

When you feel like it, and when you don't.  On summer days that suck the life out of you, and in the cool splendor of fall.  Wearing 3 layers of clothing or 4 layers of sweat.  When your legs are heavy and tired. When your friends are going to happy hour.  When the stars are out and the rest of the world is sleeping. Whether you feel like nothing could stop you, or you can bearly crawl, you train.  You run.

Because its fun.  Because you can.  So you can fight the demons.  So you can prove your worth to yourself. For adventure.  For freedom.  WHATEVER it is, determine your why.  It's the most important answer for you to memorize.  Write it on your hand.   It's the answer that gets you out of the aid stations.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.
Stay in this moment and bring what it gives you.  Remember that it doesn't always get worse.  And when you want to quit....don't.

Will it be easy?  No
Worth it?  Absolutely

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Creating balance

"I can't believe that we would like in our graves 
wondering if we had spent our living days well
I can't believe that we would like in our graves 
wondering what we might have been."
Dave Matthews 

In case you weren't aware....I'm a little competitive.
Sometimes I am my only competition, but I always strive to be better, stronger, faster, more efficient
(insert adjective here).
As a self renounced adrenaline junkie, pushing my limits and getting out of my comfort zone completely turns me on, but it does not bode well for creating balance in my life.

The dishes are piled up in my sink, I haven't washed my hair in two days or called my parents in weeks, yet I've done 4 workouts in the past 48 hours, came in top salesperson at work yesterday and I'm caught up on client schedules and communication.  You know.... priorities.

My friend Mike used to joke that "anything worth doing is worth doing to the extreme right?"   Our addiction to running, work, people,  WHATEVER (insert noun here) is just not healthy. But how do we find balance as athletes/workhorses/approval seekers?

I try to think of it this way.  If I knew I was dying at the end of the week, would those extra miles or the fact that you put in 55 hours at work this week really matter?
And if you knew that was the case, what changes would you make?

For me that means spending more time with family and friends.
Playing outside.
Going to bed without setting the alarm.
Eating food that is so amazing you close your eyes to savor each bite.
Snuggling under a cozy blanket and letting him pick the movie.
Good wine and intelligent conversation on the porch.
Happy tears
Writing your stories.
And doing all of this without feeling one ounce of guilt or regret.

Thomas Merton said  "Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony."
I don't know about you....but I think I'm leaning a little to far to the left.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Everything is possible for those who believe

"'If you can'?" said Jesus. 
"Everything is possible for one who believes."
Mark 9:23

I know running. 
Ask me about  VO2 Max, lactate threshold, mid-foot strike and the latest Garmin.  Verbiage like tempo runs, EVA, refueling, and foam rolling have become an essential part of my every day vocabulary.   I can even tell you which shorts will make your ass look fast. 

But more than that runners...I know what makes you tick.   
Be it adrenaline pulsing through your veins or zen-like peace 
Belonging as part of the group, or thriving in solidarity 
Finding yourself or losing your mind
Being more.  Needing less.
Pushing the limits or surrendering in ease
Winning the race or coming in Dead Fucking Last.......
I've been there.  I know why you run. 

So when I made the choice to become a running coach, I had ultimate faith that I was doing what I was gifted to do.  What I was SUPPOSED to be doing.  Within 3 weeks clients started coming and I was easily meeting store goals. The work was both effortless and purposeful.  I loved listening to each persons story, and became refueled by the positive energy of my team.  For the first time in a LONG time I did not dread going to work and I actually enjoyed my days.  
And then I got my first paycheck.
And had my second ever panic attack.  
And I was paralyzed by fear. 

I pulled out my "faith rock."  

The "faith rock" was gifted to me by Paula Billman during my Tejas 300 attempt.  I was completely skeptical that I would be able to finish Rocky Raccoon 100 with the way my legs felt that day, and I was having a similar panic attack to the one previously mentioned.  My divorce finalized the week before the race and I didn't know how I was going to make it, or if I even cared anymore.  Paula curled the rock into my palm- and told me to have faith.  

Brene Brown says that "Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see, and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty."   
I have experienced this "fear of uncertainty" many times in my life, mostly recently fighting cutoffs at Western States.   But during that race I kept hearing a voice in my head saying "Just keep doing what you're doing, and you'll be okay."
After receiving my paycheck, the first thing I did was to email a friend expressing my doubt. I told him my fear that I had made the wrong decision.  But before he could even answer me,  I messaged him back saying "Fuck it. I'm not going to worry about it.  I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and it will be okay.  Even if I'm barely making cutoffs, I'm still in the race." 

Faith.  I don't know how its going to happen, but it's going to happen.  
Because I know running and I love runners. 
Everything is possible for one who believes.  


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Freedom in forgiveness

Then Peter came and said to Him, 
"Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
 22Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."
Matthew 18:22 

It's the classic country western song:  "Don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart...." 
Because we are human, we've all been hurt. 

Lies scar....
We feel betrayed. 

Words bruise
We are inadequate.

Death torments-
We are left alone. 

And  the irony of our chore in this pain and affliction?    
Its laughable at its best and unimaginable at its worst.   

In this day and age forgiving seems unnatural, a weakness of sorts.  But Lewis Smede says "forgiving is loves power to break natures rule. It's loves toughest work and loves biggest risk." 
To forgive is to love.  To love is to be vulnerable.  All the good shit happens in vulnerability.  

Forgiving someone doesn't mean that what happened was ok, or even that you need to allow that person back in your life.  Forgiveness is simply making peace with the pain, and choosing to let go. 

I'm all about breaking the rules in the name of love.  
Time to let go.   Freedom awaits.   


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Powerful Beyond Belief. WS 100 Race Report

"So when you're searching for that rainbow
I will help you find it
And when a mountain stands before you
I will help you climb it
Just follow where I lead
I'll give you what you need
A love that's always true
And someone who believes in you."
Air Supply

I don't belong here.
It's the thought that won't go away, and standing at the starting line of the Western States 100 with several of the worlds finest ultra runners, it nags me like a fly buzzing in my ear.  I try to shoo it aside because the clock is counting down, and here we go.......

Miles 0-16 
"Courage Dear Heart" 
CS Lewis
As we start the 2,550 vertical foot climb into Emigrant Pass, a quiet and nervous energy embraces us.  Blessed to be breathing 40 degree mountain air, I remember to look back and watch the tangerine sun rise over Lake Tahoe.  I am lucky to be here,  because Western States is a very hard race to get in to.  First, you must do a qualifying race.  Then there is the lottery process.  The probability of being selected is a function of the number of applicant names in the hat versus the number of slots available to be filled. For example, the number of entrants in the 2013 hat was 2295, with a total ticket count of 3555. Based on an expected draw of 270, the probability of being selected with a single name in the hat was 7.9%.  I would have had 4 tickets.  But still.

My friend Libby Jones was a race sponsor this year, and I was blessed to be asked to represent The Active Joe  as a qualified race participant.  But do I really belong here?

Everyone warned me to take this first climb easy, so I settle in behind the infamous Gordon Ainsleigh (race founder and trail god) listening to his stories of why he chose California as the place to hang his hat- something about Utah being too cold and Texas having too many snakes.   The hardest climbs always produce the best scenery, and I cheer seeing my friend Dave Carder at the summit.  I give him a big hug (maybe too big) and start to head down.  My legs feel great.  Misson #1 accomplished.  I really enjoy the rolling terrain, breathtaking scenery and the community of my tribe during this part of the race, and as I stroll into Lyons Ridge, my friend (Tahoe Rim race director) Squirrel is waiting for me.  There is just something about seeing people you love out on the race course that makes your whole body smile.  George helps me refill my  pack and reminds me to "be smart out there."  Yes.  I assure him that I am, but as I look at my watch for the first time I see that I am 10 minutes behind the 30 hour cut off time.  I try not to panic, as I took that climb slowly on purpose.....but there is that thought again.  I don't belong here.  I shake it off and keep running to the next aid station at Red Star Ridge.  Now 5 minutes behind.

Miles 16-30
"You have to leave the city of your comfort, and go into the the wilderness of your intuition."
Alan Alda
This is usually the best part of the race for me, the time when I sit back and enjoy the ride, but I am starting to worry.  I haven't seen this part of the course and it is much harder than I imagined it would be.  The climbs are tough and the downhill is rocky and slippery- much of it unrunnable for a mortal like me.  I slide down into Duncan Canyon, now 5 minutes behind.  It's starting to get hot, and the climb out of there is a son of a bitch.  I reach Robinson Flat to see my crew right on time.  Dammit.  I cannot get ahead, and now with all of the changing socks, eating and trying to get it together at this aid station, I am 8 minutes behind, and visibly pissed.  My crew is patient and calm, and Chris Knodel tells me to "stop worrying about the 30 hours and just continue making the cutoffs.  90% of the people who make it to Forest Hill will finish the race."  This seemed like something I could actually wrap my head around.  So I got out of that chair and headed onward to Miller's Defeat.

Miles 30-55
"What is so great about life is that you are constantly starting over, all the time, and I love that."
Billy Crystal
From here on out I know what the course looks like, thanks to attending the training camp in May.  I remember how excited I was on that first day of camp, how amazing I felt being there on this course, on that day; and I decide to hit the reset button; to literally pretend that I am just starting today's run.  After all, I've run on tired legs hundreds of times in training, so here we go- day one of training camp.  I put on my music and forget for a while, sailing downhill to the last chance aid station.  I am (FINALLY) 5 minutes ahead of pace at this point and feeling more in control as I start to pass people.  I take it easy, even walking much of the screaming downhill to the river crossing to save my quads, and climb with purpose (mosquitoes can be a great motivator) into Devils Thumb.  Still passing people.  That's good.  Down again, up again into Michigan Bluff where I see Laura beaming.  "You're smiling!" she sang.   I'm ahead of cutoff.  Still in the game.
" I'm ok.  Let's be quick here so we can spend more time at Forest Hill." I tell her.  Libby hands me my flashlight, and we're off.

Miles 55- 80
"Don't let fatigue make a coward out of you."  
Steve Prefontaine
Laura is beautiful and sparkly.
I am haggard and worn out. 
She wants to talk.
I don't.
She runs ahead.   
I lag behind.
I lost my expensive and perfectly powerful LED Lenser flashlight earlier in the day, and am stuck with a dull cheap one, and a headlamp that keeps sliding down to my eyebrows.  I can't see shit which makes me grouchy once again.  Laura chats up German car engineering with a few of the guys we're walking with (she really is the bombdiggity) and I hang on to her skirt tail.  Up and down and down and up we make it to Forest Hill where I see my Facebook friend Jose.  "I've been waiting for you all day!" he exclaims.
 "Yeah.  I know."

I have mixed feelings about the time I spent at Forest Hill.  I ate, changed everything, and to Libby's disgust popped about 4 blood blisters and redressed them.  It seemed like I was spending forever there, but I knew that I needed to take care of myself going into the night, and that this was the place to do it.  Laura and I hobbled out of there, and as I choked down half a sandwich I wasn't sure how I would start running.    But once we hit the trail, I was able to shuffle off again.  My toes felt better, and I knew the time spent at the aid station was worth it.
Most of 63-80 is a complete blur to me.  I know I had some sections of good running coming out of Forest Hill.  I remember Laura pulling me.  I remember yelling at her (completely uncalled for and I owe her something in a blue Tiffany's box now ) when she could not tell me what mile we were on leaving Peachstone.  I remember a heartless climb somewhere around 73, and  saving another runner's ass from making a wrong turn there.  I remember looking for the illusive Rucky Chucky gate, finally reaching it, and the second river crossing.  Of course, right on freaking time.
Laura was so excited crossing the river, and on the other side a handsome volunteer (call me!) changed my wet shoes and socks (I love you!).  I changed clothes and ate again, preparing for the 2 mile climb out to Green Gate.
Where there is a river crossing, there is always a climb out.  

Miles 80-100.2
"When the train goes through the tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off.  You sit and trust the engineer."  Corrie Ten Boom

Libby has a much more detailed account of this part of the race on her blog if you would like to read it, but this is where I am fighting hard.  1 minute ahead of the stupid cut off.  I don't belong here.  I can't get ahead.  Damn this is frustrating.  I have to keep running. 
I try run intervals, counting to 100 in my head and then taking a 30 second walk break.  I decided to put my music on instead and to zone out.  Libby is great, telling me "2 miles to the next aid station."
"Now one mile to the next aid station."  We come into Auburn Lake like clockwork and spend no time messing around as the warning horn blows.  We could hear the music as we headed into Browns Bar, but we couldn't see it.  I was finally going to be ahead of cut off?  Where was it?
We ran past the blaring music.  "Fuck!  That's just a speaker.  Where's the damn aid station?"  I lost it, and Libby lied and told me she could see it ahead to pacify me.
My delirium was averted a bit, though when a familiar face at Brown's Bar put his hand on my arm,  looked me in the eyes (cue the music!) and told me I was going to make it.  I nodded a weary (and somewhat dreamlike) yes and moved on. I reached deep in the hollows of my brain to try to decipher why that guy looked so familiar.
"Was that Hal Koerner? " I asked Libby.
"Yeah.   He wanted your autograph.....but we needed to keep moving."

The climb before HWY 49 was a real bitch.  I just put my head down and followed the feet in front of me.  It was hot.  It was hard.  Slippery.  Rocky.  My feet hurt.  Please shoot me and put an end to this misery.  But as we roll down into the aid station gorgeous Laura is there again to take care of us.  "You've got this." an aid station worker told me, and I burst into tears.  "What if I mess it all up now?  At mile 93?"  I say through sobs.
 (I don't belong here)

"Time to get going" Laura answers.  The three of us hug and Libby and I are climbing again. 
Passing people on the way to No Hands Bridge (and only passed by the girl in the Luna sandals- dammit ) my confidence begins to increase.  As exhausted as I am, I finally start to relax.  My friend Jose is there again waiting, and Libby tells me I have an hour to do a 5K.  For the first time I actually believe I'm going to make it.
Right here. 
At mile 97.

It was getting really hot.  We would run, counting to 30, and then walk counting to 30 until we reached the last climb.  Sheer will pulled me up to Robie Point, knowing I would soon be on the road one mile from the finish.  This seems to be the longest road EVER, but my friend Jesus is there with a goofy smile, beer and camera in hand, telling us we have 4 turns to the finish line.

Something weird always happens to me in the last mile of an ultra,  and here that feeling is again as I run around the track at Placer High.  I don't want it to end.
Crossing the finish line with  17 minutes to spare was surreal.
I had found my brave.
 I had the buckle in my hand.
I belonged at that awards ceremony.

Do you even know how strong you are?  Do you know what you are capable of?   There is a collective universal energy that makes us powerful beyond belief.
I know that now as I read your many posts and well wishes sent along the way.

"I was tracking you all day and night."
"Come on Jenn, you're a fighter."
"We've been cheering for you from Dallas all day!"
"You're my inspiration."

Thank you for believing in me when I did not believe in myself.
I finished the Western States 100, finding the place where I belong.
Maybe Gordy and I will be neighbors someday. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

You have to taper- so taper like you mean it!

“Rest and be thankful.”
William Wordsworth

I hear it all the time:
"I just can't taper, it makes me crazy."  
"I don't know what to do with myself if I can't run (ride, swim, workout)"
"Tapering is for sissies.  Who needs to taper?"  

I love the taper.  Damn- it reminds me that I actually have a life!
I sleep past 4 a.m. for shorter runs and replace that 2nd daily workout with a nap.
I cook rich foods and eat until I am full and satisfied.
I call and catch up with friends, or set out to the porch to finish those half-read books.
I watch bad "Teen Disney" movies and snuggle with my kids. 
I give the extra 30 minutes my massage therapist has been begging me for,
and allow my body to receive much needed repair time.
I write, and plan, and paint mental pictures for each mile.  

And when all of  that extra energy builds to a paramount climax -
the horse gets let out of the barn for an epic race day.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Get out and play! The Joy and Meaning List

"I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try"


I can't get enough of Brene Brown lately.  I think we must be soul sisters  because her books speak to me as if she were sitting across the table, chatting it up and drinking Merlot.

Recently, while reading her book The Gifts of Imperfection I was struck by this quote: 
"If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity of self worth."  

What does "cultivating sleep and play" look like?
Do you even know?
Renee suggests we make a "joy and meaning" list to answer this question.  When things are going really well in your life, what does that look like? 

My personal "joy and meaning" list looks like this:

More Free Time.
Time to savor my morning coffee, linger at the Farmer's Market, run that extra mile or take an afternoon nap

More Connection
Pancake Breakfasts with my kids.  Happy hour with co-workers.  Meditating alone or group workouts.

More Travel
Mountain climbing, waterfalls, barefoot walks on the beach and winery tours.
Snow, sunsets, visiting old cemeteries and river rafting.

More time outside
Sunshine on your shoulders.   Maniacal downhills on your bike.  Swimming in lakes where you can't see shit. Exploring that cave.

More smiling
Silliness.  Laughing.  Kissing. Singing.

What does your list look like?  Are you willing to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol?
Live wholeheartedly.  Get out and play.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bring it on darlin'!

"Life is a headlong rush into the unknown.  
We can hunker down and hope that nothing hits us 
or we can lean into the wind and say 'Bring it on darlin', 
and don't be stingy with the jalapenos.'" 
Red Spicer

Here I go again clinging to the edge of the unknown.  This time I am hooked to another human who I completely trust will pull the chute that will keep me from plummeting to my death from 13,500 ft in the air.
But lets start from the beginning. :)

I signed the waiver.

Being single and 43 I had no expectations for anyone to throw me a birthday party, so I decided to create my own epic adventure.  Committed to my "get out and play" summer,  I put it out on Facebook that  I was going to go skydiving for my birthday- on Friday, June 13th.   My ex-husband John thought I was nuts, being that 15 years ago I was the girl who wouldn't even go close to the railing when we visited the Empire State Building.
But as you know, a lot has changed since then.

Blessed to have adventurous  running friends who wanted in on the excitement,  we soon found ourselves in a box of a room watching a video on how to do your first tandem jump.  Nervous energy permeated the air, and we giggled like teenagers as the sexual innuendos flew on how we should arch and bend while strapped to another human being.

Next we met Alan, our strong and handsome (aka: dreamy) jump instructor who explained our three jobs.
1.  As you sit on the edge of the plane before the jump, put your head back on your jump partners shoulder, cross your arms and curl legs back on the plane.
2.  When we jump, arch your back.  Arms come out like wings at 90 degree angles and legs are bent at the knees. 
3.  During landing- GET YOUR FEET UP.  We will be landing on our butt.
Simple enough right?
We practiced these steps showing that we could indeed do the motions, gritting our teeth because as runners we all have the flexibility of a pole, but are too stubborn to admit it.  We all passed the test and got into groups of 3.  As birthday girl, I insisted I got to go first.  :)

Gordon, Abraham and I (in that order) along with our tandem jumpers packed ourselves like sardines in the small plane.  I gave my best fake smile to the camera and we were off, down the bumpy grass runway and into the sky.  I sat between Alan's legs; my nervous hands resting on his shins, my concentration on my breath as we climbed to 12,000 feet and they opened the latch door for "air."
Seeing the landscape below was both terrifying and awe-inspiring.  I snuggled in with serenity, focusing completely on this humbling moment and we climbed to 13,500 ft.
After making sure I was securely attached and a round of "Happy Birthday,"  it was our time to go.

We scooted to the edge of the open door.  I put my head back on Alan's shoulder and crossed my arms.  1... 2... 3....
We jumped. 

The first 10 seconds were fucking terrifying, mostly I think because my brain could not comprehend what falling 120 mph was supposed to feel like.  I forgot to do job #2, lifting my arms to 90 degree angle, but Alan pulled them up for me and I regained my senses.
What a CRAZY  rush!  Its like the runners high on speed (as I imagine).  The adrenaline surged through every part of my being as we fell to the earth at 120 mph.
 A feeling hard to put into words.
I tried to lift my head and smile at the camera, but all I really wanted to do was take in the world below me with complete mental focus.
Alan pulled the chute and there was a sudden quiet and calm.
A silent stillness I have never experienced before.  With complete peace and ultimate clarity I was humbled at the smallness of my existence.  "Holy shit."  I said.
Alan laughed.  "I love taking people on their first jump."

My feet came up for the perfect landing as I heard my friends cheering me on.  Honestly, when I landed I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the experience.  So many thoughts and emotions swirled through my being.
 And then I puked.
 Grounded again :) 

After we all jumped and still buzzing,  my friends and I agreed that the coolest part was that we shared this experience TOGETHER.
We toasted that "We said we were going to do it, and we did it."
Cheers to us!

Brene Brown says that "you have to be brave with your life so others can be brave with theirs."
Today  Robert, Mike, Gordon, Abraham, Megan, Monica and I claimed a title beyond runner, parent, worker or friend. 
We are now badasses who jump out of freaking airplanes.
"Bring it on darlin', and don't be stingy with the jalapenos."   
Forever changed.