Rest Day Restlessness

We work hard. We train in the wee hours of the morning when our families are still asleep. We train in the heat, cold, and the rain. We train when we are sick, stressed, and unmotivated. We often don’t much feel like getting out the door and pushing our bodies to their limits, but we do it because it’s important to us and we are dedicated to our sport. We are athletes. We follow a plan. Rest days are part of the plan. We have earned our rest days through much hard work. So why do we have trouble resting on rest days? Why can’t we enjoy the rest day? We abuse our bodies on purpose to build them up and resting them is part of the build up process. We know we need to rest. We even dream of rest days when we are struggling and feeling tired. Then the rest day comes and we suddenly feel restless. Such a weird phenomenon.

So why do we have such a hard time resting? I have a few ideas.

  • Training gives us a sense of purpose.

Training is very meaningful to us. We would never dream of giving it up. Without it, we feel a lack of achievement; a lack of purpose. When we rest, we feel as if we are not actively pursuing our goals. We are idle and this makes us restless. We’re like lost ducklings. What on earth do we do with ourselves? We’re used to being a busy grownup AND fitting in our training. Our schedules are filled to the gills and we rather like it this way. So a day of rest? Well, it just feels wrong, doesn’t it?

  • It has become who we are.

It is who we are. We are addicted. Let’s face it: we’re junkies. We crave that rush of adrenaline. It has become part of our identity. It is in our blood. It guides virtually all of our life decisions. it gets to a point where we make our lives fit around training. We want to do everything, but we know our training is the thing that makes all of the other things better. Training makes us feel fulfilled, it contributes to this better version of ourselves that we are enjoying.

  • Rest days make us feel like quitters. 

Training has taught us to never quit. We feel like quitting, A LOT, but we don’t. We keep on keeping on. We push past our feelings of weakness. For some reason, rest days make us feel like we have quit. Like we’re slackers. It’s a guilty feeling we experience. We’re left thinking, “I can’t believe I’m not training at all today. What if this turns into two days, and then more? What if I like it too much and I lose all of my momentum? I can’t let that happen.” I have actually thought those thoughts in my head. Typing them out makes me realize just how crazy I am. I have to let myself rest. I have to remember that I am committed to my plan and rest days are part of the plan.

  • No activity compares to it. 

We try to find suitable replacements for our training, but everything pales in comparison. I know that a useful coping mechanism when we crave a certain thing we can’t have is to replace it with another thing. The problem is that I just can’t find a thing to replace training that matches its power. I will try many things on rest days, but ultimately I find myself biding my time until the next training day. Writing about it helps some, ergo this blog post.

  • It is our stress reliever. 

It’s no secret that exercise is a stress reliever. For us dedicated athletes, training at our intensity levels and never having a day of rest is a recipe for an overuse injury. We know this. We also know that an intense sweat session would clear our heads, improve our moods, and make us feel less stressed. But, alas, we’re sitting around feeling restless on rest day and can’t get in our “de-stressification” (yeah, I made up a word).

  • It is our escape.

Not only is it a stress reliever, it is an out and out escape for us. When we train we are away from our families and our work, simply doing our thing. Of course we love our families and our jobs, it’s just that it’s nice to have a healthy activity as our escape from all of that. It is our time when we don’t necessarily have to worry about life’s hassles. It is our “me time.” It is our escape. Rest days make us feel a bit trapped.

I have to say, this topic absolutely fascinates me. I know I am not alone in feeling restless on rest days. I know this because I’ve spoken to countless people that feel the same way I do on this topic. The fact that I am not alone is comforting insofar as I know I’m not the only crazy freak out there.

So, to all my friends resting out there: hang tight, training day will come soon enough.

I’m a fraud, and here’s why …

Okay, I’m going to go ahead and admit it. I’m a fraud. I’m not who I seem to be. I am always striving to project the image of a confident wife, mother, librarian, and runner. I strive to do right by the people most important to me in my life. I honestly try hard, but I fail often. I know that no one is perfect, but I am very far from perfect, and I really feel like you all should know about it. Not that any of you were thinking I’m perfect … I’m not that presumptuous. I’m just a little worried that in an effort to reassure myself of my successes I have painted the picture of someone I simply am not. I’m a fraud.

  •  I’m a fraud as a

Marriage is difficult. Marriage is rather like the marathon (more on that later, as my 15th wedding anniversary is coming up and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this concept). Marriage is not easy. I often put my own needs before my husband’s and our needs as a couple. I often approach situations with him from a “how does this affect me?” standpoint rather than a “how are we going to make this work?” stand. I work hard to squeeze all of my training in around our hectic schedules, but am I working as hard at squeezing couple time in with him? No. No, I’m not. My priorities in my marriage are a little out of whack and I need to work on this. Just as I am dedicated to my sports, so should I be dedicated to my husband. So, I’ll admit it. I am a fraud as a wife.

  • I’m a fraud as a mother.girls

My daughters are smart, funny, sweet, beautiful, and talented. They are sources of great joy for me. Their spirits and tenacity amaze me on a constant basis and they inspire me to push myself to be better. But do I pay enough attention to them? I mean really look at them and listen to them? Do I let them know how much they mean to me? No, no I don’t. I am often distracted when I listen to their stories from school that day. I am often stirring something on the stove top while answering a text about soccer practice carpool and stretching my tight calves from my afternoon cross country speed work that I’ve raced home from. I mean I’m there, but am I REALLY there? In the car when they are letting me into their worlds by telling me about this one girl at the locker and this one funny teacher that does that funny thing and the funny song the younger one made up with her best friend, am I even really listening or just picking up pieces of the story here and there? Even worse, am I calculating my long run route and the paces I want to hit that weekend? Yes, yes actually I often am. I have to say, I have never wanted to be the mother that lives so vicariously through her kids that she has no real identity for herself anymore. That’s not healthy. But, have I gone too far the other way? Am I a self-centered mom? I’ll admit it. I am a fraud as a mother.

  • I’m a fraud as a

Yes, I run. I run A LOT. I run roads, trails, and tracks. I run alone and I run with a partner or group on occasion. I run long and I run short. I run hills and I do speed work. I run races and I monitor my pacing on practice runs. I set running goals and I stick to them. I read about running. I talk about running. I write about running. I share my running passion in person and through social media. I am a runner, but I often doubt myself. I often am envious of faster runners. I often yearn for more running success instead of celebrating what I’ve already accomplished. It’s so easy for me to cheer other runners on and to remind them to quit doubting themselves. I tell them, “quit focusing on how far you have to go. Concentrate on how far you’ve already come”  and “you’re doing awesome. Don’t quit. Think about how many people that don’t have the courage to do what you’re doing.” “There will always be someone faster. Focus on beating YOUR own best.” I say these things and I genuinely mean them, but I have a really hard time following my own advice. I’m happy for faster runners, but I am also envious. I often wonder if I can really improve any more. I often wonder at what point I’ll be exposed for the running fraud that I am. People must be on to me. I mean, isn’t it obvious? I’ll admit it. I am a fraud as a runner.

  • I’m a fraud as a librarian.librarian

I love my job. I love working in a high school library. I love working with teenagers, for they are energetic, optimistic, humorous, and adventurous. I tend to have a great rapport with the students, and they inspire me to work hard for them. I love to read and write and I love technology, so being surrounded by books and technology is very comforting to me. But am I doing everything I should be doing as a librarian? Do I focus on the teachers enough? Do I focus on my administrative duties — the budget, ordering, technology maintenance, circulation reports, patron logs, collection analysis, etc.? To be honest, all of the repetitive duties and responsibilities are kind of a drag for me. I’m much more motivated by the opportunity to be playful, humorous and engaging, and I get to be this way with the students. What student doesn’t love a passionate, energetic librarian? I enjoy being that bright spot in the day for my students, but let’s face it, those bills and reports aren’t going to take care of themselves. Am I devoting enough of my time on the important, albeit mundane, tasks required of me? No, no I am not. Being a grownup means doing things we don’t like to do sometimes. I need to balance my priorities at work. I will admit it. I am a fraud as a librarian.

I know, I know, no one can be perfect. If you’ve read this far, you are probably shaking your head at me saying, “Come on, no one is perfect! We’re all frauds, really.” No one person can be all things to all people. Perfection is a myth and human beings are flawed. I know all of this, in my heart of hearts.  I know that by striving to do the very best in all areas of my life I am living an authentic life. Yes, I have made some grave mistakes in all areas of my life, but those mistakes don’t define me. Those slip ups do not make me a fraud. They just make me human.

I am flawed. I vow to focus more on living an authentic life. I am a good wife, mother, librarian, and runner … warts and all.

Runners Need Each Other

So, I have a theory about distance runners and triathletes: we are introverts that have always relied on ourselves and have a hard time accepting help from others. Many of us are very extroverted introverts, but introverts nonetheless. We enjoy solitude and self-reflection. We are introspective and possibly described by others as “deep.” So, it’s no big surprise that we tend to complete the majority of our runs solo. We approach running as we do virtually every other thing in our lives … with discipline, dedication, and great thought. We will certainly go for a social run with another runner or a group of runners and we’ll have a great time, it’s just that we don’t necessarily need that group atmosphere to push us to work on our sport. We’re fine running alone. I must admit; however, getting involved in a connected network of runners has helped me with motivation and inspiration these past couple of years. If you haven’t forced yourself to branch out and run with a group on occasion, or at the very least to forge social media connections with other runners, you are really missing out. Do it. Put yourself out there. Get a group. At some point you are going to need to ask for help and you’re going to want supportive running friends to help you. Trust me. It will happen.

You know how giddy we get when we talk about running? Well, the only thing better than that personal giddiness is sharing it with another giddy runner. How fabulous is it when you find out the person you are talking to is also a runner? It’s simply the best. I become overjoyed! I just want to know everything about their running experience. Do they have a background in running? At what age did they start? Do they race often? How often do they run? Are they training for anything at the moment? Do they cross train? What shoes do they like best? What gadgets are their favorites? Where do they predominately run? Do they trail run? Have they ever completed an overnight relay run? Have they been injured? How do they balance their jobs, families and running? The list of questions goes on and on. I want to know it all. I want to talk about races we have in common. Difficult courses. I want to hear all of their gross running experiences and I’m ready to share mine. The runner bond is like no other. It brings people incredibly close incredibly quickly. It’s quite astonishing how profound the bond between runners is, and I believe this is in large part because we have similar makeups, personalities, and quirks that make us well suited for distance running.

So, are there common personality characteristics that all of us runners posses? Ask yourselves, do you find that you are any of the following?

  • Introverted
  • Adventuresome
  • Brave
  • A leader
  • Goal-Oriented
  • Decisive
  • Determined
  • Tenacious
  • A Planner
  • Confident
  • Obsessive
  • Masochistic
  • Creative
  • Self-aware
  • Competitive

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this right now, you exhibit many, if not all, of the previous characteristics. I know that I do.

Runners tend to enjoy quiet introspection while running where they can see things in a way they don’t ordinarily get to see them when they don’t have time for them. Additionally, the fact that we will set out early in the morning for hours of running demonstrates that we are comfortable with some solitude. Runners love to see new things, period. They are explorers, enjoying the outdoors and appreciating nature. They are risk-taking adventurers that love the feeling of movement. Runners are brave, and they are leaders. Runners are goal-oriented and decisive. When a runner makes up her mind to do something, she goes after it with all of her heart and soul, for she possesses great determination and perseverance. Runners are tenacious, approaching difficulties head on. Runners are planners and they follow through with their commitments. Runners are confident and they rely on themselves to get through tough times. Runners are constantly learning to block out the emotional aspect of pain, and this serves them well in their day-to-day lives. It’s not that we are necessarily masochistic, it’s just that we have learned to soldier through discomfort and not only continue to fight, but keep coming back for more. Runners are also creative and wistful and are probably the most self-aware people on the planet. We spend a lot of time thinking while running, and so we know ourselves pretty darn well. I have met enough runners by now to know that we all pretty much fit this above description, so it is only natural that runners would make great friends to other runners.

Because I am somewhat introverted, it took me awhile to convince myself that running in a group setting and forging friendships with other runners was a good idea. Additionally, because I tend to be very self-conscious and insecure, I was scared to death to run alongside others. What if I looked stupid? What if I ran way too slow? What if my heavy breathing was really annoying? What if I needed to blow a snot rocket out of my nose? What if, what if, what if? Honestly, still to this day, I cannot run a normal run alongside other runners unless it is a race and I have my earbuds in and I am completely detached from the other runners. This is the only way I can normally run. But over the last two years I have invited others to share runs with me and I have attended group social runs. I have forced myself to do this for many reasons. First and foremost, I enjoy a challenge and I know that forcing myself to run with others will ultimately make me a more confident, capable runner. Well, maybe some day. For right now, I’m still a nervous ball of awkwardness every time I run with others. Do my fellow runners think I’m a total spaz? Who knows. Probably not. I’m sure I’m magnifying things. But, I know for sure that there’s just something about sweating and pounding the pavement side by side that allows for intimate conversation and instant camaraderie. It is rather like  a sort of communion, like sharing a meal; breaking bread. The shared participation fosters fellowship.

But there’s a more important reason why I feel it necessary to share runs and have connections with runners; it is because running is hard and it’s nice to have camaraderie with those who know exactly what this means. Sometimes I lack inspiration and motivation and I can draw from my running buddies’ good mojo. Sometimes I’m the one offering the good vibes to my runner friends. Sometimes I’m in need of advice. The bottom line is that runners need other runners. It’s as simple as that. We need each other. We belong to a select club that not many people understand. Running, more than any other sport, allows the intensity of a relationship to come through.

So, if you haven’t already, join your local running club. Take part in group social runs. Make social media connections with other runners. Share your running passion with others.

Peace In My Plateau

imageA Plateau is defined as “a period or state of little or no growth or decline.” I believe that in life, when people hit a plateau, it brings about a sort of life crises.  Some would define “crisis” as a dramatic upheaval in one’s life. By crisis; however, I mean “a turning point.” This is a turning point of sorts for me. I am nearing my 40th birthday, and this milestone birthday, coupled with the comfortable plateau I am currently snuggled into, has given me cause for some self-reflection.
Distance running is a godsend for a person who needs a bit more self-reflection. When I am out on a good, long run my attention drifts and my imagination thrives. It is as if I am in the wilderness, my mind wandering, and this frees up my creativity. I am somewhat aimless, enjoying solitude, discovery, detachment, and introspection. How many first drafts have I written on long runs? Countless drafts. The solitude, coupled with the rhythmic movement, create a completely cathartic experience. I think of many things on my long run and I also think about nothing. Often I think about some pretty dumb things. Silly things. Things that people have said that have made me laugh. Funny things that I have said. The witty comeback that I wish I had uttered in that perfect moment to get a laugh. Often I think about my family. I think about how I don’t deserve my husband and daughters, my loving parents, my coworkers and friends. Do I show them enough how much they all mean to me? Definitely not. I think a lot about how I need to fix this. At some point during the long run I think about how much running consumes me. Every single part of my body is active and engaged while running. There is virtually no body part that is not activated. This makes me feel strong and beautiful. If that feeling could be bottled up I would make millions of dollars. I truly believe that something happens to me on a long run. I believe I am changed a little. The running affords me a feeling of danger and the physical exertion brings out my alter ego. Suddenly I am transformed into a risk taker, seeking adventure and enjoying the feel of adrenaline. I am throwing out comfort in favor of testing my physical limits. I feel wild, free, and fierce. As trite as this will sound, running truly is my therapy. Running relieves my tension. Running improves my overall mood. Running helps me put things into perspective. Running forces me to put everything away and to focus on nothing but examining myself. It is my time to give careful consideration to my conduct, my motives, my priorities, and my blessings.
imageThere’s definitely more to running than just the opportunity to self-reflect, though. Running is also a form of escape for me. I would venture to say that this is true for many of us. It is a way to escape without packing our bags, leaving our families, and heading for the hills. We are bored. The daily life routine has gotten very, well routine. Realizing this, it’s really no surprise that many of us threw ourselves into running later in life. We get to a point where we look around and say, “wait … this is what life is? This is being a grownup?” As I sit here reading this back I realize how depressing that sounds, but it is just a natural, honest reaction that we all have. Running is a way to hold the reigns and take charge of our lives. We won’t just let our lives pass us by, conversely, we will hit the ground running. We will go after what we want and we will feel satiated. We know that by constantly upping the bar for ourselves we might very well be getting in over our heads, but we don’t care. The thrill of giving into our urges is electric and unwavering. In life, when I’m grappling with a difficult situation, I find that I choose to think about my running instead. I know that with trial and error I can improve my running. I know this because I keep improving. Likewise, when I’m on a run, I’ll think about my difficult situations, but I’ll know that at that particular moment in time, I can’t do anything about them. At that point in time, all I have to do is keep running. One foot in front of the other. I may slow my pace, but I must keep going forward. Additionally, running, unlike life, is a puzzle that begs to be solved. The goal of a marathon, for instance, is concrete. The goal is a measured, methodical, matter-of-fact entity: it is a finish time. Achieving that concrete goal is entirely up to us. We have a race date that serves as our deadline and it is up to us to do the things that we need to do to put us in the very best position we can be come race day. All of the training leading up to race day is what we thrive on. We may fail. Success is not guaranteed. We have wonderful plans, but there are many variables at work that could derail our best laid plans. We are always close to burnout, injury, and weakness, but just like in life, we struggle in running and we must work hard to keep going. Perhaps it isn’t a running escape we go on, that seems to have a negative connotation; like we are escaping our wonderful families and visiting an asylum. Perhaps it is a running retreat we continue to go on. It is our refuge. We are reenergized and restored, ready to be better versions of ourselves for others.
imageHuman beings, by nature, seek routine. Routines make us feel safe and secure. All of the things genuinely worth having in life are not just temporary gratifications, and they come with resistance and sacrifice. However, I find it somewhat ironic that the daily routine of life becomes cumbersome for us, but we rather enjoy the ritual of the long run. This seems to be a huge contradiction: we are bored by our life routine, but the routine of the long run intrigues us? Why is it that daily life rituals are stressful and annoying, but weekly long run rituals are exciting? I haven’t quite figured this little conundrum out yet. I think it must go back to the fact that the long run affords us time with ourselves for self-reflection. We need to somewhat abuse ourselves with our long runs in order to heal whatever it is that needs healing. Distance running is a healthy coping mechanism for us. The exercise releases endorphins, reduces stress and anxiety, increases bone mass, muscles, and endurance. Not only that, distance running helps us create self-awareness and confidence through the clarity with which we are able to think. While the physical benefits of running are many, for me, it is the outlet running creates that keeps me coming back for more. I am not afraid to admit it … I am quite a mess, and running helps center me and keep me on the right track. I treasure running. It is an absolute gift. Running makes me feel incredibly strong, and I remind myself of this feeling of strength when I feel weak. There is certainly a connection between mind and body with running. Running has taught me that once I push through the pain, it all becomes so much easier. It has taught me to cope with discomfort and pain. Let’s face it, pain and discomfort in life isn’t going anywhere, right? We all experience pain, it is not a unique experience. We all have our tough stuff with which we must deal. Running better equips me with the tools I need to deal with life’s discomfort. Instead of running from difficulties and discomfort, I will run towards them, head on, and deal with them. Often this will hurt, but I am strong enough to deal with the hurt. So maybe the long run is that part of our life routine where we allow ourselves to hurt and to struggle and to consequently feel the extreme gratification of overcoming such obstacles.
So, this plateau I mentioned is not a bad thing. It’s actually a great thing. I am doing a lot of things in my life well. I am comfortable. I have an amazing family and job. I have wonderful friends and a very fulfilling hobby. While my husband and I are certainly not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, we live a comfortable life and are afforded many luxuries not everyone gets to experience. I am happy. Running makes me realize that I am driven and dedicated and if I want to push myself to achieve more I should. I want more running success. I am committed to pushing myself more. I appreciate all of the gains I’ve already made, running and otherwise, but I have reached a plateau of sorts. It’s time for me to start climbing until I reach the next proverbial precipice.

Stoked to Start School … Seriously!

It’s that time again. Time to start my 18th year in education. My summer break with my daughters has been wonderful. I truly appreciate the fact that I have this time with them. I am completely in awe of the smart, funny, sweet, beautiful, and strong young ladies they are becoming. I also appreciate all of the time I had for myself this summer. It was a summer of relaxation and rejuvenation, but now it’s over, and I’m excited to start a new school year for many reasons.
  • Wearing real clothes.

Going back to work means wearing real clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I truly feel most comfortable and confident in my running clothes. The sports bra is infinitely more comfortable than an actual bra. The shorts have this magic waistband that won’t slip or irritate my skin, not on a four hour run, and certainly not on a half hour trip to the H.E.B. The material is dry-wicking, useful for keeping me comfortable during workouts or sitting in a lawn chair at my daughters’ soccer practices. Actually, the more I write about my running clothes, the more I realize I will miss rocking them on the daily. But my work clothes … my work clothes are beautiful. Pencil skirts and fun blouses. Body hugging, polished dresses. Open toed heels for the hotter months and closed toe heels and boots for the colder months. A fresh, straight blow-out for my hair, or a soft, fun, flowing of curls. Being a girl is quite fun, and I do really enjoy dressing up for work.
dobie class 2
  • Feeling like a grown up.

To go along with wearing real clothes, I also look forward to feeling like a grown-up with my own purpose again. For, this summer, I have felt rather like a glorified camp counselor/chaueffer/chef/referee/housekeeper/personal assistant/coordinator. I look forward to donning my “real clothes” and doing the job I’ve been educated and trained for. I look forward to spending my day independent of my children, serving in my leadership position as a campus librarian. My duties and responsibilities at work make me feel needed and important. Of course, tending to my family is a gift I don’t take for granted, but I rather enjoy having a job outside the home where I am Dendy Farrar, in my own right, not Callie and Brynn’s mother.
dobie class 5
  • Being challenged intellectually.

I look forward to going back to work because I am ready to once again be challenged intellectually. I need to scratch that itch to create that makes me incredibly happy. I love to work outside of the home. I love to work, specifically, in a high school library. I love the fact that the students are teenagers embarking on that coming-of-age journey that is universal and quite special. The logistical work puzzles that come up throughout the school year that need my attention can become quite bothersome around April or May as I look forward to my summer vacation, certainly. But come August, I’m ready for a bit of an intellectual challenge. I have had enough time off resting my brain. My brain wants to workout again.
  • Having adult conversations.

Don’t get me wrong, conversations with a fifth and seventh grader can be quite amusing; it’s just that I miss having adult conversations on a regular basis. I can only go so long hearing about the funny lip syncing video they made, the intricacies of the soccer scrimmage that was completely unfair by their estimation, and the “hilarious” homemade joke that seems to take an enternity to spit out. I love my daughters and enjoy their company, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that we have had an enormous amount of together time this summer and I’m ready to experience some adult time at work coupled with my evening family time.
  • Looking forward to holiday vacations.

It’s no secret, the faculty and staff at a school is just as excited as the students are to go on vacation. There’s nothing like those exciting days leading up to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring, Easter, and Summer breaks. Holidays are fun and long breaks from school add to the excitement for my daughters and me. I know for me personally, anticipating breaks from school makes me feel like a kid again. I openly admit that I am always searching for things that give me that childlike sensation, and working in a school library delivers that sensation. On a trail run I once saw a sign that read, “you are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely;” that sums up this concept perfectly.
  • Getting back into the routine.

I have been lazily doing as I have pleased for the better part of two months. I have gotten a bit out of touch with the real world living in my “vacation mentality.” The days started later, lasted longer, and never really felt very rushed. Granted, we still had activities going on this summer; it’s just that they didn’t seem quite as stressful as they do during the school year. We had a break from the hustle and bustle and the stacks of homework, permission slips, projects and the like. We were able to move at a slower pace and relax. It has been very nice, but we are all starting to go a bit stir-crazy around here. The girls and I are bickering and we have come to the realization that we need to get back to our routine.
  • A fresh, new start.

There is just nothing like the brand new, never before seen is there? The unfamiliar and different seem richer, louder, and clearer. The first-day jitters are electrifying. It’s the change of environment, the new supplies, new clothes, and the new people that are so exciting as we embark on another school year. The newness motivates us. We experience a rush of motivation to explore. We compare the new to our existing memories and this captivates and stimulates us. Trading in the overly familiar for the completely new offers us so much possibility, and it is all wildly exciting. But, alas, the novelty will wear off, unfortunately. We won’t be able to hold onto the newness forever. But for now, we’re excited to start another school year.
  • A time for reevaluation.

A new school year presents me with the opportunity to reevaluate how I am doing things. I strive to do my job with passion and purpose. The start of a new school year affords me the opportunity to question the expectations I have set for myself. Am I making a difference at my school? Am I fostering a love of reading? Am I helping teachers do their jobs effectively? Is my library a warm, inviting space in which to explore and learn? The start of a new school year is the perfect opportunity to evaluate current practices and try new things.
I know that come April or May I will be ready for my summer vacation. It happens every year, and while my summer vacation is always wonderful, I always become restless. The restlessness is most likely brought upon by the sheer amount of free time I am afforded. It’s time for me to get back to my juggling act. Work, home, kids, extracurricular activities, my fitness … all of it. I’m ready for all of it. Here’s to a great 2016-2017 school year!

Spinning My Wheels

Cycling is hard. It hurts. I can’t make myself go fast and my legs throb on my rides. I’m nervous leaning into turns, stopping at red lights, and riding in a pack. I look at the speed with which most cyclists ride and I fear I will never come anywhere close to achieving that kind of speed. In short, right now I’m bad at cycling.
I’m new to the cycling world and I’m at the point where I’m noticing how it is a pretty funny sport.

1. It requires a helmet.

2. I have to wear funny shoes that make me feel like I’m ice skating if I need to walk in them, and when I ride in them I’m attached to the bike … attached to the damn bike!

3. The spandex shorts have a padded ass.

It’s all just very funny to me.

But the riding, the riding is wonderful. It’s very much like distance running and swimming. It’s the meditative cadence to the breaths and strides/strokes/turns that I yearn for. It’s wonderful and freeing and gives me that childlike sensation for which I’m always searching. Cycling is a wonderful adventure; that is until it hurts and it’s horrible and I feel like quitting.

I have read, and heard from countless triathletes, that cycling can improve my running. By cycling, I’m using my body differently and building up complementary muscles. Instead of simply running and building up the same muscles all the time, cycling will build up neighboring muscles that will aid in my running. Cadence is to cycling what turnover is to running. Improving my cadence in cycling enforces a quick turnover in my running. So, if I can get faster on the bike, I believe I can become a faster runner.

Cycling uphill is no joke. Not only do I have to propel my body up a hill, I must propel a bike, with a tendency to roll backwards, up a hill in a seated position. I’ll tell you, riding a bike up a hill has really made me appreciate running up a hill forever on out. I can see how hill training in cycling would make me a much stronger runner.

Embarking on this cycling journey has made me a beginner again. It’s hard to be a newbie. Newbies are vulnerable and inexperienced, but they are also blank slates open to any and all advice and guidance. I am being molded right now by countless people and resources. I am a sponge and I am soaking it all up and always keeping my running in the background of all of the cycling gains I make.

So all of this has me thinking about how cycling and running are similar. Both cycling and running use my large lower body muscles in a sustained, rhythmic manner. Both are cardio, aerobic activities that require high lung capacity and a smooth cadence. Both running and cycling require mental strength and stamina. Both are difficult. I struggle at both. Both present me with challenges. I realized all of this on my last ride as my heart pounded and my breath quickened. I saw the straight line to the horizon and I felt that familiar blurred line that exists between discomfort and pain. I entered into that dark place where I think I can’t go on, and I realized that this is what I need. For, there is no quick answer, that’s the very nature of endurance. Endurance = the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse  conditions; stamina.

I say I’m bad at biking right now, because I know I can change this. I will improve. All I have to do is keep mounting that bike and riding.

I may be wobbly right now, but I am still upright and moving forward, and that’s really all that matters, right?

Trying a Tri

image.jpegSo, anyone who knows me knows that I am now a full-fledged runner. The running is in my blood and I have no plans of stopping. In order to support my running, I started lifting weights, practicing yoga, and lap swimming. All of these things are done in an effort to improve my strength and recovery and ultimately make me a better runner. I find that the swimming helps flesh out the junk in my muscles from all of the running and it has the added bonus of making me feel like a mermaid, and what girl doesn’t love that feeling? So, over several months, my Instagram account has begun sharing a little of its focus on swimming in addition to my running. I have been fortunate enough to forge connections with triathletes in my area and all around the world. I am always open about the admiration I have for them. The notion of doing three sports in a row in a race setting is mind blowing to me. Because of my swimming and running many have asked me the question, “are you considering a triathlon?” I always reply, “well, I am always kind of flirting with the idea of trying one, but no, I don’t think I’ll be doing one any time soon.” Well, I just completed my first sprint triathlon and I am kind of freaking out over here!

So, I’ll back up. I was able to meet three local triathletes through social media. One of them I met in person for the fist time recently as we volunteered at the Texas Ironman race. He and I have had several poignant online conversations regarding juggling our spouses, family, work, and pursuing our passions. it truly is a juggling act, and it’s nice to have a friend that can relate. The other two social media friends I had met in person prior to our volunteering at the Texas Ironman race. Bryan serves as a Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador with me, and Rachel serves as a Nuun Hydration team member with me. I met Bryan in person for the first time at last year’s Chevron Houston Marathon, and then again at our 2017 ambassador meeting. Rachel and I were both selected to run for Team Nuun at the Ragnar Trail Atlanta Relay Race, so we actually got to spend a weekend together. All four of us volunteered at Ironman Texas and it was decided that I needed to participate in a local sprint triathlon. It was settled. I would borrow Rachel’s extra road bike. I would tackle the race. Yikes! I don’t have any real biking experience! I had never been swimming in open water with a bunch of other people in a race situation. How was I going to pull this off? Could I really do it? I told them I’d think it over. I told them to let me go do some lap swimming right before a spin class at my gym and see how well it would go for me. I told them I wasn’t sure I could do it.


Over the course of a few days I tried to visualize myself completing the triathlon, but I still had so much worry about it. The truth is, I was scared about falling flat on my face. I was scared that I would be really bad at this triathlon. Doing something different is uncomfortable, but along with that fear of the unknown, comes the undeniable thrill of taking a risk. So, I vowed to give this the old college try. I went to my gym and swam a 500, then attended an hour long spin class. The swim was nice, short, and felt great. The spin class was challenging, but I felt in control the whole time. I realized that I am fit. I am capable of doing so many athletic things since I am fit. This feeling is so empowering for me.

The next step was to borrow the bike and trainer from Rachel, lower the seat (Rachel is a little leg-gier than me, much to my chagrin 😉), purchase clip-in shoes, and a helmet. My next course of action was to put the bike on the trainer, don my shoes, and practice clipping in and out of the pedals a million times. Next, my aforementioned friend Bryan hooked me up with a group in my area I could ride with. I rode with them one Saturday morning and I was keenly aware that two of the six guys were sacrificing their rides by hanging back with me. I felt pretty bad about that and told them so a half dozen times. They assured me that they had a race the following day and weren’t interested in a super hard ride, so that made me feel much better. I was so very nervous as we pulled out of the driveway, that I fell and skinned my knee right there on the driveway. It was quite embarrassing, but also quite expected, so I shook it off and we set out on our ride.


I learned a lot on that ride. I learned how to ride in a pack and how to clip and unclip from my pedals with much more ease than I had while practicing on the trainer. I was intensely aware of how vulnerable I was there riding along that feeder of a major freeway. I was honked at while riding under an overpass with my group, and the horns echoed so loud there under that overpass. I realized that if every driver were to brave that very road by bike they would behave differently when driving. Riding a bike amongst drivers makes a person incredibly vulnerable. Once you’ve experienced that kind of vulnerability, you are much more sensitive to others in that same situation. I thought a lot about this on my twenty something mile ride averaging 15-17 miles per hour.

Next, I needed to practice the open water swim. I’ve swam laps in a swimming pool countless times, but I had never swam in open water with a pack of people. My newfound biker friends hooked me up with a ladies group that rides and swims in open water together. So, I met up with the ladies group for a bike, swim, bike. This was a great experiment leading up to my first sprint triathlon. The bike to the lake was 20 miles, and while I certainly was riding in the back, I wasn’t hurting too terribly bad. Next it was time to swim. I had never tried to swim in open water, so this was a first, for sure. The first thing I noticed was that the stairs leading into the water were slimy and this creeped me out just a little. Once I started swimming, I felt pretty good. I wouldn’t say I’m a fast swimmer, but I am definitely a strong swimmer. Needless to say, I swam back to the steps faster than I’d gone out and got the heck out of that lake! At this point I had to ride the bike for 20 miles to get back to my car. The bike back was very difficult for me. I learned that I hadn’t taken in enough calories and I spent that afternoon a little sick once I was back home.

image.jpegSo, I’d practiced everything, and now it was time to prepare for the race. I had never felt as unprepared for a race as I did for that triathlon. The bike portion is what mostly worried me. Before I knew it, it was the night before the race. I packed all of my gear and I went to bed, waking every couple of hours nervous with anticipation. On race morning I arrived early, got my bike in its slip, and met up with my biker friends. Everyone was so lovely. They offered me well wishes and tons of advice and I could tell that they genuinely meant it. I always say that runners are the most positive, encouraging people, but I learned on race day that triathletes are just as positive and encouraging. I guess all athletes are positive and encouraging.

imageAs for the actual race. I did well in the swim, getting eighth place out of 23. The run was amazing and I got fourth out of 23. The bike, well, let’s just say I wasn’t last place. I was 22nd out of 23. Clearly, I need to work on the bike. But I also learned that the world is a truly beautiful place filled with beautiful people. Every time an athlete signs up for a race, trains, and shows up to toe the line, they are better. They are inspiring. Athletes build each other up with good vibes because they are paying forward what some athlete did for them once upon a time. We genuinely want others to succeed because it’s an amazing thing to see others going after their goals and it inspires us to continue to do the same.

Let’s all go out there and crush our goals! Who’s with me?


Monthly Mileage

imageI have gotten into the habit of posting my total running miles to social media each month. I don’t pay any attention to my monthly mileage as the month goes on, but I do like to sit down with my running app and view my total monthly miles on the last day of each month. It’s nice to reflect on each month of running. The months leading up to my yearly marathon contain more miles than non marathon training months, and rightly so. I know many people can run tons of miles all year long, but I’m certain I’m not one of those people. I tend to start suffering from overuse injuries once I get really high in mileage, despite my best efforts to keep them at bay. Additionally, I don’t feel that I am a born athlete. I have to work hard at maintaining what I’ve already got going, and I always feel like I’m on the verge of potentially burning out, and the idea of not having running in my life scares me. I bet that must sound kind of weird to the casual acquaintance, but I know my running buddies out there understand this completely. For, preparing for each run is a struggle. More often than not, as I lace up my running shoes and prepare for my run, I contemplate skipping it. My brain starts to tell me that it won’t matter much if I skip my run. My brain tells me things like, “Hey lady, you’re no olympian, here. You’re not qualifying for the Boston Marathon any time soon. You’re a wife, mother, and librarian. Nobody really cares whether you go on this run. Just skip it.” But, I tell that brain to shut up and I push myself out of the door, and I run. Sometimes I instantly feel better and I think, “I love this. I love running” but sometimes I think to myself, “This sucks. My legs hurt. The air is thick. Why am I doing this?” The point is, no matter the outcome of my run, I stick to my plan and I run. I allow myself pre determined rest days, but other than that, I’m running. Every mile I run is a success and I want to celebrate it.

imageSo, I keep on running each month, despite the fact that many days I really want to skip my workouts. I know that this is a struggle for many others besides myself. This is why many out of shape individuals fall prey to the “get fit quick” programs that inundate the marketplace. The promise of an easy, quick fitness solution? Yes, sign me up. But I digress, the point is that I know I must persevere, even when I lack motivation, and so I soldier on. I am disciplined with my running. Many months I hover between 80 and 100 miles. In peak marathon training season, I will average a bit more, between 100 and 140 miles. For the month of May, I ran 97 miles. That’s a good solid non marathon training month for me. After noticing my May monthly mileage total, I created my little graphic that I always make that lists my total miles for the month. As I went to post it on Instagram, I thought to myself “I bet you that total of 97 miles would really drive a lot of people crazy. I bet you they’d go out and run three more miles so that they’d have a nice round 100 miles for the month.” So, in my Instagram post I posed the question to my IG friends, “Do you make sure you end your month on a nice rounded number?” Most of my responses were resounding yeses, and it was a fun question to discuss with my running friends. I mean, ultimately, if we’re running every month, than that’s a good month, right? If I’d skipped my three mile run that morning my May miles would have been 94. If I’d skipped that three mile run and the four mile run the day before, my total would have been 90 miles for the month. 90 miles would have been a nice rounded number, but is it better than 97? No, because I would have skipped three good runs and it might very well have led to skipping a fourth good run, which could have led to me quitting running, and that would be a travesty.

imageUltimately my goal in recording my monthly mileage is to celebrate whatever running I’ve done that month. Whether it’s a big miles month or a smaller miles month, it’s really all good. I know that my friends weren’t suggesting that my monthly mileage wasn’t good or anything, they were just saying that ending the month so close to a nicely rounded number would trouble them enough to go run a second time that day to make it to 100. I can understand that, certainly. I have had many a run where I have pushed myself to stay under a certain pace simply to see those splits recorded on my running app. I have pushed myself at races to make qualifying times for the front corral at my beloved Chevron Houston Marathon. I can see the thought process there, I just for some reason don’t fret about my monthly mileage. I love to see how many monthly miles my fellow runners get in and I like to reflect on my own monthly miles. Just thinking about all of the problems that were solved, fights that were avoided, and logistical work puzzles that were worked through on those runs is magnificent. Posting my monthly mileage forces me to pay close attention to how very far I have come in these last four years of running. There was a time, not long ago, that I could not run one mile without stopping to rest. It is truly amazing what the human body and the human spirit can accomplish when we believe in ourselves and we don’t give up.

Keep running and recording your miles, friends.

Running the world’s luckiest fishing village

imageThere’s nothing quite like vacation running, is there? I’ve written about vacation running before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. I enjoy exploring new areas and when I’m on vacation, running makes me feel less like a tourist and more like a local. Last week my family and I enjoyed a beach vacation together in Destin, Florida. Destin, dubbed the “world’s luckiest fishing village,” is on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Choctawhatchee Bay in the Florida panhandle. The beach  is white and the water is emerald green. It is truly a breathtaking place. We stayed in a very comfortable and spacious condo with a beautiful ocean view. It was the most relaxing vacation I have ever been on. We woke up each morning without alarms; I woke a few hours before the rest of my family each day. I’m not complaining about those hours alone, not at all; I rather enjoy rising early and preparing for my run. Often I’ve come back from my run and everyone is still asleep. This happened most mornings while we were in Destin. I enjoyed runs along the boardwalk and beach. I got to see and hear the crashing waves and seagulls. I could smell the salt and feel the sun kissing me. It was wonderful running at the beach. I highly recommend it to every runner. It is beautiful and peaceful and it made me extremely happy.


Each day I ran the boardwalk enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, and then as a post-run ritual, I removed my running shoes and jogged, frolicked, and took pictures along the edge of the water allowing myself the refreshing feeling of getting wet by the salt water.  Some days, when I got to the beach early enough, I made the first footprints of the day. That’s a pretty cool feeling, I must admit. I learned many things from my time running on the beach. The first thing I learned is that beach running is challenging, and that running on soft sand creates an unpredictable terrain, providing excellent resistance work, much like trail running. Wet sand, while still difficult to run, is easier to run than soft sand because of the harder surface. I learned that a sunrise is even more beautiful near the beach, and that running on the beach before the sun is all the way up is much cooler than after the sun is up … that water will really reflect that sun! I learned that there is nothing quite like the sound of the ocean. I also felt both of my feet and the surface below me with every barefoot step, and this allowed me to feel more in tune with my running and my universe than ever before. This type of running really forced me to be present with my running and my surroundings. The beach run is a very zen experience, that is until you feel the exhaustion of exerting twice as much effort as you would road running. It was at the point of exhaustion that I would call my run over each day. For, there was fun to be had with my family! We went on a day cruise, saw dolphins, found seashells, ate amazing food, built sand castles, surfed the waves, swam in the ocean, rode bikes, went searching for crabs at night, went on walks on the beach, bought souvenirs, and laughed. It was an excellent vacation.

imageIf I casually mention my running in Destin with friends many will say, “you didn’t take time off from running while on vacation?” At first, I found that question odd, but then after much thought, I realized that this whole running thing has become a large part of who I am, and for many others fitness is a chore. In many ways running now defines me to some extent. I am many things: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, librarian, and runner. Running is one of the very important things in my life. Running is not something that I have to do, it is something that I get to do. Yes, sometimes it is difficult and frustrating, but so are all of the other important things I listed. Running on vacation is a treat for me. I do not spend the miles fretting about my pace or distance. I spend my vacation miles looking around at my surroundings, smelling the smells, and learning about the place I am visiting. It’s an experience for me like no other.image


What do sports teach us about life?

As I was watching my daughters play soccer this weekend I started thinking about the spirit of competition and how organized sports help mold individuals into lifelong leaders. Of course it’s easy to get bogged down in the ins and outs of the sport and to forget about the way that sports give people many outstanding attributes that they might not otherwise possess. I am happy that my girls play a competitive sport, and I started listing in my head the positive lessons I’ve noticed my girls learning. This also made me think about my sport of running and the positive changes I’ve made in my own life through my involvement in my sport. So, what do sports teach us about life?

 1. How to win and how to lose.emily dickinson

Obviously, one of the first things learned is how to lose and how to win. A competitor should be graceful when he loses as well as when he wins. When we lose it’s easy to become upset, and honestly, a bit of upset after a loss is a good thing. For, the goal is to come out on top; to perform well; to enjoy a victory. Often times; however, despite our best efforts, we lose. In these moments it is important to remember the bigger picture. To remember that a loss should not deter us from continuing to work hard for what we want. It is important during losses to continue to honor the spirit of competition; to respect your opponent and to allow them to make you better. Conversely, sports teach us to win gracefully. Nobody likes a gloat. The truth is, as trite as it sounds, we win some, and we lose some. It’s certainly more fun to win, but we must always remember that we cannot win every time. Besides, if we did win every time, would the victories be as sweet? I think not. Emily Dickinson in the poem “Success is Counted Sweetest,” asserts that “to comprehend a nectar, requires sorest need.” In other words, to truly appreciate victory, we must experience defeat.

2. How to handle criticism.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial things one learns from playing sports is how to handle criticism. This is something that I, to this day, struggle with. It is important to realize that it is not humanly possible to achieve perfection. We all have things we need to work on. If a person criticizes the way we do something, it does not mean that we are not good. It simply means that someone has made an observation about the way we do something and offered their opinion regarding it. That’s really all it is. An opinion. It may or may not be relevant to us, but people are entitled to their opinions. In a sports situation, if a coach offers an opinion regarding the quality with which we are performing, the opinion is relevant to us. It is not as if we are perfect; we have coaches nearby observing things about the way we perform that we might otherwise never have realized. If a coach takes the time to articulate an observation he has regarding our performance, we should take that as a compliment. If the coach didn’t think we had it in us to improve, he wouldn’t waste his time on us. In sports, it’s important to take criticism in stride and to avoid getting our feelings hurt and getting emotional when someone offers us criticism. Additionally, handling criticism from coaches ensures that we won’t let mistakes define us; instead we will learn from them.

3. How to persevere.

Playing sports teaches us how to work hard, deal with discomfort, overcome obstacles, learn from struggle, push our body’s limits, get back up after falling, and to never give up. In short, sports teach us to persevere. These qualities are obviously necessary in athletics, and they certainly spill over and apply to the rest of our lives. In any given situation, resilience and determination are great contributors to success. When we fight through hard times and push past discomfort, we get to the good stuff. All great things worth having in life take effort and don’t come easy. The good things are worth fighting for and require perseverance, right? Sports teach us to develop that part of the brain that is in charge of perseverance, and the sooner we learn to fight for what we want, the more successful we become.

4. How to share, work together, and celebrate others.

Playing sports also teaches us how to share, work together, and celebrate others. One cannot hog all of the limelight and never share. There is enough room for all of us to shine, and instead of trying to prevent others from shining, we should cheer others on and motivate them. By cheering on teammates we are building them up and celebrating them. The simple fact is that one person cannot do everything. When we share and work together we achieve so much more than when we attempt to do everything on our own. In order to share the limelight and work well with others, we must be willing to ask for help and receive it, and we must trust others. The ability to share, work well with others, ask for help, trust others, and cheer others on are all integral attributes of leaders. They are also attributes of great community members. Truthfully, they are simply good attributes of human beings.

5. How to set goals and have a positive attitude.

Playing sports teaches us to set goals, and this builds confidence and a positive attitude. Achieving an athletic goal we’ve set for ourselves requires us to believe in ourselves, and each time we succeed, we become more confident. Naturally, we will fall short of our goals at times, but we learn to take those losses in stride, soldier on, keep a positive attitude, and keep fighting. Setbacks will happen, but good athletes do not let those setbacks destroy them. A good athlete takes every experience, good or bad, and learns from it. It is truly the way that we respond to setbacks that dictates our future success. A positive attitude, even when we are struggling, will keep us working toward our goals.

6. How to make sacrifices.

Sports teach us how to make sacrifices. In order to pursue our passions, we must prioritize our lives and carve out time to dedicate to them. This might mean that we sacrifice idle time in order to squeeze everything in, and making sacrifices requires self-discipline. As an adult, how many times have you had to sacrifice sleep to squeeze all of your responsibilities in? How many times have you had to turn in early in order to be prepared for the following day? Playing sports forces us to get accustomed to making tough decisions regarding our schedules and our priorities if we want to accomplish our goals. Isn’t that the nature of being a successful adult? If we lazily retreat from responsibilities will we achieve all of the things that we aspire to? Most definitely not.

7. How to show respect.

Sports teaches athletes to respect authority, not because they fear authority, but because they realize that their coaches want what is best for them. Showing respect is not limited just to coaches, either. A well-rounded athlete respects their teammates, opponents, officials, and themselves. Let’s face it, there comes a time in every athlete’s life where he doesn’t agree with a decision a coach, official, or teammate makes. It’s bound to happen. A respectful athlete, even when he is displeased, will show courtesy amidst frustration. Clearly, this spills over into the athlete’s off-field life as well. There will be a time when the athlete will face a spouse, boss, coworker, etc. with whom he disagrees. In sports, athletes are placed in this position with regularity, and hopefully they learn to maintain their composure and remember their manners.

8. How to hold yourself accountable, keep on learning, and take care of yourself.

Athletes are privy to team practices, strength training, and a wealth of professional coaching knowledge, but it is up to the athlete to apply all of the knowledge they gain through these experiences. A successful athlete puts in extra work on their own time. He practices on his own because he wants to improve and he does not want to lose any momentum he has gained through his practice sessions. When athletes put in extra work they are learning to hold themselves accountable. They are learning that if they want something bad enough, they must work for it, even when no one is watching them. Every single time an athlete takes a coach’s instruction to heart he is learning and becoming better. He is conditioning his mind and body and developing himself immeasurably.

9. How to see the bigger picture.

Athletes know that there’s more to life than just the game. They know that family, friends, faith, and education are what holds the true meaning to life. Athletes; however, have an intense passion for their sport. Engaging in their sport brings them great happiness, purpose, confidence, and health. The sport certainly enriches their lives, but it should not be the be all and end all of their worlds. It is important for athletes to be completely engaged in their activity and to take the necessary steps in their lives to accomplish their goals, but they must remember that there is more to life than the sport. Involvement in sports enhances our lives, but it shouldn’t run our lives.
I am intensely proud that my daughters are involved in a competitive team sport. I truly feel that they are learning lifelong lessons out there on the soccer field. They are confident and poised and they don’t allow themselves to give up. I know that their involvement with their soccer club has been a huge contributor of the fine women they are becoming.