Unsolicited Advice


I’m sure, if you’re reading this, you are a pretty dedicated runner and have had your fair share of unsolicited advice from non-runners, occasional runners, or ex-runners. Don’t get me wrong, advice on running is something I always listen to. I will always listen, I just may disregard the advice and move on with my life, but I will certainly listen and carefully consider running advice. I’m still figuring this whole running thing out and I’m always looking for ways to improve my running. If a knowledgeable person can give me some advice that will help me to improve, I am all ears. It’s the negative comments about my running and words of discouragement I get from non-runners and bitter ex-runners that really gets my goat. Why must you, person who knows nothing about running, tell me that I am running too much? Why must you, person who, for whatever reason, got burnt out on running, tell me that eventually I will be just like they are? Why discourage me? Why offer negative advice? Why make me question what I’m doing? Why? What is the purpose?

Maybe it just boils down to the fact that people enjoy putting their two cents in on topics, whether they have any business doing so or not. People like to feel like experts on a topic … they’ve been there, but this is our first rodeo, that type of thing.

 
Would you ever tell a woman who is celebrating her first wedding anniversary, “Oh, honey. You may be happy now, but check back in with me ten years from now. It won’t be all rainbows and unicorns then, let me tell ya!” I’m guessing that most people would never dream of saying such a horrible thing to a newlywed, but whenever we squash other people’s dreams, burst their bubbles, tell them it will all go down in flames, it is rather like telling a newlywed they are destined for unhappiness. When you think of it that way it’s a really horrible thing to tell a runner that she can’t possibly sustain her running, isn’t it? It’s kind of like saying to her, “well, you might feel really strong and accomplished right now, but you just wait … you’ll be miserable soon enough.”


Now, not all advice is negative advice. There are many wonderful people out there, with various backgrounds in regards to running, that are spirited cheerleaders for us runners. These people build us up, cheer us on, and celebrate with us. These people might warn us to “listen to our bodies. Don’t overdo it. Make sure you take care of yourself so that you can continue to do what you are passionate about for as long as is humanly possible.” When these people offer us this advice, it is coming from a place of love and sincerity. These people get it. These people know that whatever their story has been, the person standing in front of them has her own story, and they don’t want to dampen that story.


I have a beautiful story about a woman who cheered for me when I needed it the most. It was at mile 24 of the Chevron Houston Marathon and my body felt like it was about to give out. I was so tired and I was feeling incredibly emotional. This woman, appearing like an angel, held a sign that read, “FREE HUGS.” I stopped, went towards her, and as she took one look at my pitiful face, she opened her arms to me and gave me an awesome bear hug. I cried a bit on her shoulder and she squeezed me harder. She told me to “keep going. Don’t stop.” I am tearing up as I type this. This woman, who owed me nothing, supported me when I needed it the most. This is the type of runner I want to be. That woman gets it. When I ran off I heard her cheers loud as could be and I knew she was rooting for me. I vow to stand with such a sign at mile 24 of a marathon at some point. I want to offer the kind of advice and support that that angel did for me.


So, I plan to run for as long as my body will let me, but more than that, I vow to be an inspiring, motivational advice giver. I vow to build others up rather than tear them down. I will not be a bubble burster. I will not wish future ill on another.

Weekends away with my husband.

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-10-39-59-amThis isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that I write about how vacation running is simply the best. But even more than that, a vacation away from our kids was simply the best for my husband and me.

 
I had to go to Austin for a meeting with the Texas book selection committee on which I serve, and for the second year in a row, my husband and I turned it into a mini vacation. It was just the two of us, and it was glorious. Then, the following weekend, my husband and I participated in the Shiner Beer Run in Shiner, Texas. So, for two weekends in a row, we took trips without our children and we enjoyed ourselves.

So what is it, exactly about a trip away from home, not even in an exotic location, that is so enjoyable?

 

  • Breaking routine

In short, we enjoyed no kids, no work, and no household chores. We traded in all of that routine for new experiences, meeting new people, and making new memories. It was so easy for us to enjoy each other with the absence of daily stressors. There wasn’t any yelling up the stairs, “Come on girls, we need to leave in ten minutes!” or “Callie, have you studied for your science test?” or “Are these dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty?” It was just talking and laughing and hanging out and it was wonderful.

  • Rejuvenation

Like a defibrillator to our chests, these mini vacations recharged us and made us fresher. The daily grind can be quite cumbersome and a break from the constant commotion was such a relief. One doesn’t truly realize the amount of stress they are under when they are constantly coming and going from one event to another. I guess, in a way, that’s a good thing, for if a person is able to just keep chugging along without a nervous breakdown, she must be doing something right. However, even the strongest people out there need to get their batteries recharged or they will short circuit. My husband and I were able to hit the pause button on our day-to-day lives, hang out together with no real responsibility (except for that pesky all day meeting that Saturday in Austin for me) and get refreshed.

 

  • Appreciation of our lives

Being away from the kids, the home, and work makes us appreciate all of those things that much more. We got to the point where we were actually looking forward to returning home to our family and our work, even though we were having a great time. We love our life. It is truly what we dreamt of nearly fifteen years ago when we got married. We wanted a house, healthy children, and steady jobs. We have all of these things and then some. Our lives are really very good. We have a lot to be thankful for, indeed. Being away from the grind made us truly appreciate what we have back at home.

  • Good old fashioned fun

While we’re certain we couldn’t exist without wifi, it was nice to chill out on the work emails and detox from the excessivie social media interactions in favor of walks in the park, listening to live music, dining at new restaurants, and lazily cuddling. These are the things that truly make the world go round. It was quite fun to do these things with my husband. We’ve been together since the year 2000, but we’ve been parents since 2004, and we don’t always take the time to enjoy each other as we should. These weekends reminded us of this, and for that I am quite grateful.

 

  • Adventure

Even though we were in cities we’ve been to countless times, we felt a bit adventurous, and this was exciting. We felt more closely bonded to each other through our shared adventure away. It got me thinking, too, that I tend to be attracted to people that enjoy adventure. The “adventure gene” should be present in all of the people with which I choose to associate. Obviously, a 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hour trip to a city within our state isn’t the same as a backpacking trip around Europe, but adventure can be found anywhere. I find adventure on my runs in my hometown, and we enjoyed the adventure we had together in Austin and Shiner. Additionally, I really enjoyed my Austin and Shiner runs, as always.

 
One day my husband and I will be sitting around in our rocking chairs asking each other where the time went. We’ll barely remember the specifics of soccer seasons, cross country meets, school projects, etc. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the stresses of our day-to-day lives and to forget what is really important. Taking a break away from home and away from our children really helps us to remember that.

Do I have self-confidence, or am I just narcissistic?

Narcissism is defined as “excessive self-love; vanity.”  Self-confidence is defined as “excessive confidence; poise.” The word “narcissism” has a much more negative connotation than the word “self-confidence;” however, when we compare the definitions of the two, they are remarkably similar. This … Continue reading

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 wife.us

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 runner.run

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.
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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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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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.

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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.

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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?

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