Knowledge Isn’t Necessarily Fun, But It Is Power

So, in my avoidance of focusing on business work on Sunday and procrastination from reviewing my knowledge of intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and understanding the scapular plane and medial epicondylitis among other random parts and conditions to name a few thousand pages…I’m back on a rather random topic that I ranted on about a year ago…

Global Sports Bra Squad Day.

Yep. That crazy movement #sportsbrasquad got back in my head.

So if you have no idea who Kelly Roberts is or what the whole deal is, check it out here–she wrote a blog a few weeks ago summing the movement and its history up pretty well:

Now, I still hold firm to my original position that I’m not likely to be chucking my shirt and running in said sports bra…but…let’s just say there’s an evolution of thought afoot.

As I get deeper into exploring body positivity and health at every size (HAES), there’s a lot of values within myself that I am faced with and need to explore their basis and truth.  I will be very honest in that my personal exploration and study into this area errs more on the body positivity side of the spectrum, as there’s much with HAES that doesn’t jive with my value system (and that’s okay–I don’t have to agree with everyone to still respect them) and it also marries into some political platforms and stances that I wouldn’t approach no matter how well-armed statistically or mentally strong I become because they absolutely don’t align with my beliefs or values.

But let’s back up and take this on a much lighter note…

I’m not even a fan of the term body positivity, because of a lot of the connotations it holds.  I much prefer body kindness, and author of the book titled Body Kindness, Rebecca Scritchfield, defines the concept as an approach to well-being from a place of love–that we fully commit to ourselves and respond to our needs accordingly.  Sounds easy, right?

Well, sure…if you haven’t spent your entire life on and off diets, gaining and losing hundreds of pounds, coping with an eating disorder, hating your own reflection in the mirror no matter what you dressed it in or painted on it to try to make the view more palatable, engaging in particular relationships because they were all you felt you were worthy of, and speaking to yourself in such vicious and vile ways that have destroyed your worth more than anyone else ever could. It’s WORK to just get to a place to take a deep breath and cut yourself some slack once in a while!

Am I there? Heck no.  Not even close.  Have I chipped into the stone…a bit.  It’s always going to be a work in progress.  God has a bigggggg mess to help me clean out because I sure can’t do this one alone, I worked myself into a good one here.  But that’s okay.  I’m not in a hurry.  Took me how long to get to the point to see the issues clearly?  It’s not going to clear up overnight.  It’s like we talk about over, and over, and over again–we confess our sin and are forgiven, but it doesn’t cancel out the consequences that come along sometimes.  This is life.  Yes, we are forgiven and made clean in the eyes of God (cue “Whiter than Snow” lol), but there is earthly restitution sometimes that still has to take place–and we own it, it’s our responsibility.

So, my restitution is my re-learning.  Backing up and learning the truth that overshadowed so much joy, understanding, and acceptance of who I am–not only as a person, a woman, a professional, but as a child of God.  It’s painful some days, it’s awe-filled almost every day, it’s full of hilarity as I learn to laugh at myself, and I wouldn’t trade any of this journey as I come to understand fully this crazy being that God placed on the planet that is me.

As I rolled my eyes at the #sportsbrasquad this morning, I stopped for a second…I had to look a little bit deeper and understand what bugged me about it, what’s changed over time in my assessment of the movement, how do I feel about it now, and is it really a bad thing….and in this whole thought process, I realized that I was wandering through the house–in my sports bra and cycling shorts.  Eye roll at self.  Followed by a laugh and a face palm (no joke).

Hide your children…and I promise, this will NEVER happen again, but for the sake of the Stephanie head game experiment to see if I can make my head explode in anxiety:


Okay, so you don’t get it in all glory because…well, I have *some* standards and um, I’ll let my husband tell you about the rest (HAHAHAHAHA!!!! Because that’ll happen!!!!).  I look at this in two ways–I see all the things I don’t like, like the weight still to lose or the sagging skin on my lower back from the 200lbs I’ve already lost, my nasty sagging skin arms….I could go on. BUT–I can also see how my eyes don’t look dead anymore, my face has a shape, I actually have collarbones, I have mad-strong shoulders, my body has a shape other than circus-tent round.  I even sport the scars on my chest from surviving melanoma ten years ago and on my back from having a large portion of deep skin cancer removed last year. (dude, sun protection…).  And yes, my rear end says, “No cupcake left behind.” Never joke about a cupcake…there’s an international cartel of triathletes that take our cupcakes very seriously!

So, while I may not be on the same wavelength as Kelly Roberts in embracing the whole #sportbrasquad and focusing on the portrayal of all-sized athletes in media, I think there’s something to taking a good hard look in the mirror sometimes and trying to figure it all out.  And now my brain hurts.  I think I’ll go back to studying about ghrelin now.


Present and Future…

(This is my response to a forum post…so some references may sound a bit off, but you’ll catch on to theme well enough.)

Big shock, Stephanie’s long-winded, so this is going to be a blog post instead of just a reply for the masses to have to suffer scrolling through (unless there’s a badge for that?).  I’ve been stewing on this topic for several days now since I listened to this module on Monday.  Self-image is one of my biggest bones of contention, even beyond endurance sports.

I have a lot of trouble seeing myself as I am in the present moment.  There’s the exercise of narcissistic encouragement of documenting the journey with a lot of photographs to visually compare the changes in myself.  Sure, I can intellectually see the physical changes–I couldn’t for a very long time, but when you’ve dropped creepily close to almost half your obscene body weight and are still losing, eventually one would hope that you can see the change with your eyes.  Yeah, got that part.  I think sometimes the difficulty lies in that the majority of the journey is so far beyond the physical, rooted so much in the spiritual and emotional change, that trying to process the physical is just stunting to me.  That’s my working theory at least, and I’m running with it.  That whole learning to be comfortable in my own skin thing, it will come, in God’s time.

I think that the endurance community has helped me in a lot of ways move forward in my journey of self acceptance and self image.  Take the MTP group for example–we are people with an incredible wide range of abilities and goals, but I have yet to see one instance of where someone hasn’t been cheered for, encouraged, given advice, or supported for right where they are not regardless of what level they are at in sport.  This is one of the reasons I think I haven’t been a super fan or had the greatest experiences at recreational or short distance races (ie: a community 5k) but have walked away from endurance, multisport, and long distance event (some even DFL) and felt like I was the first across the finish line.

Here’s where I see the difference–at the recreational events, it’s just that, recreation and fun (and there’s totally a place for that, I’m not knocking it), but when the fat girl shows up, it’s not an inclusive place.  It’s a place of judgment, like I woke up that morning and just decided I would take steps in my life for fitness, health, etc.  Not cool.  But…endurance sports, that’s a different ballgame.  (sans the occasional *coughdouchebagcough*) You show up at the start line, you get a little bit of respect (and it’s still totally fun!!!)–people understand you gave it more than two seconds thought to show up and put in the work to get to that point.  Size doesn’t equate ability, it’s a lesson I fight in my own head daily, nevertheless trying to educate the masses too (the latter, an exhausting effort and a fight I’m not sure I’m up for as it’s rather political in nature).

I think that’s also the benefit of the MTP.  My coach can assign me all the books in the world (and has), and we discuss them ad infinitum, but him saying, “hey, perhaps consider the MTP approach for a cycle or two with the group,” has been a unique experience–it’s brought the endurance race day experience down to a real life place, to see how all of us at every level of cycling and triathlon are working out some of these things on our own lives to conquer some pretty incredible things from simply living and training through cancer treatment to literally climbing some of the most incredible courses in the world on bikes.

I have a TON to still learn…I will shake how I currently see myself (which is my former self), and eventually see the reality of the present moment.  The weird thing in the picture is the future: I can see the accomplishments.  I know what they are–70.3, 140.6, varying ultra marathon distances up to 100 mile (who knows, maybe more? I swore at one point I’d never run a marathon…).  Do I know what I actually look like conquering those Mt. Sufferlandrias? Not a clue.  But I know I’m going to do it.  I’ve come too far not to.

Looks aren’t everything.  Sure, it would be great to look in the mirror and just see myself.  Just see a whole person.  Not focus in on the weight left to lose, the sagging skin on my upper arms and thighs that pulls and causes soreness (oh, thank heavens for lycra and compression running tights!), and all the other things I don’t like about myself.  Yeah, I could also get a lot of those things corrected too–crash diets (but I don’t diet and seem to still be doing a fantastic job, so I’ll stick with what works without the crazy head games), excess skin removal (yes, technically medically necessary, but I’m not entertaining it until I’ve lost all the weight I’m going to lose and have maintained it for a time–and even then, there’s a whole place of self acceptance that I need to get to first before I would consider hacking into my physical appearance.  That’s only responsible).

So, there’s the long-winded answer to a simple question–is my self-image limiting?  You bet.  I believe though having the goals that I have in play (beyond the physical ones I have expressed publicly) are going to continue to take me to that next level to break past it.  When?  How? That part isn’t so easy…but the WHY is solid and unwavering, and I’m not going anywhere.

Present and future

Death By Words

Sigh.  The things that take up real estate in the mind…and I despise that this bugs me so much.

I posed a question earlier, somewhat rhetorical, but sincere in the pursuit of understanding why this happens in my head: Why do positive affirmations so easily fall from the mind, but the single negative comment takes up residence and eats away at you?

Because of, well, the necessity to keep life moving at life’s pace and extremely poor coping skills, I’ve developed the incredible ability to compartmentalize situations in my mind instead of processing things in a healthy manner–this can be okay in some ways, temporarily, but in the long term it accomplishes nothing but rumination and an inability to see the forest for the trees.  This has become better over time, but it is a work in progress, and unfortunately it tends to be the catalyst of me being my own worst enemy.

I got to have a little “me time” Friday night and yesterday morning as my day off has been steamrolled the last few weeks, and now a mandatory meeting and some other tasks take it away without time left in the week to exchange in its place.  Oh well, life happens.  I got to blow off some steam and enjoy dinner and a movie with some gals, take an amazing scenic bike ride on a route I don’t normally have access to, and ran some errands for the church and home.  It was just what the doctor ordered! (Literally…I recently woke up and my neck hurt so badly I couldn’t turn my head and by the second day when I went and got it checked, both the chiropractor and osteopath told me it was stress induced.  It has gotten better, some days better than others, but the nagging discomfort and occasional pain is in direct correlation to the anxiety I experience at a given point…such is life.).  I realize I sound like a child whining about a day off, when it’s something that I have spent 10 years as a pastor neglecting, ignoring my husband’s pleas for many years to take one (and following his example as a godly husband and head of our family in taking a true sabbath), and have made it a priority to make happen as my eyes are opened to the value (and sanity) of it…and have only been successful in it 50% of the time since I’ve made it a goal in my life because of circumstances dictated beyond my control, it’s frustrating.  (and it’s not an invitation for suggestions…short of shortchanging other programs, people, and responsibilities, it doesn’t happen.  I’ll live.  Most of the world doesn’t dedicate the same time to life/quiet time/personal study and knowledge pursuits/morning routines in the AM that I do before starting the day, so that’s my consolation for the time being I suppose.)

Anyway…I digress.  Let’s get back to yesterday’s amazing scenic bike ride.  The last time I rode this area was seven months ago.  It’s a decently challenging ride for the climbing-inept (me), but you are surrounded by such beauty that you have a lot of distraction from your legs screaming at you as you focus on the cadence to propel your rear forward (and up!), and bonus–I didn’t run out of gears this time, my legs are getting stronger!  I was having an absolutely incredible morning–the weather was perfect, I felt great (despite sleeping like crud and my neck bothering me all night long), the scenery was great, I was feeling the improvements of the ride, and everyone out there (tons and tons of other cyclists and a handful of runners as well) seemed to be having a blast of a morning too and was so personable and encouraging to one another and me in greeting.

…and then it happened.  On the last difficult climb of the ride before the final descent, a person (oh the words I REALLY want to use to describe the individual…) came flying by me and chose to mouth off a comment that has just seared its way into my psyche.  It’s not even one of those that can just be misinterpreted through inflection, or “maybe they meant it another way,” no, this was just a mean-spirited jerk of a comment.  If not so deep in concentration of kicking some awesome butt up this hill (I may suck at climbing, but seriously, the speed will come, I understand the mechanics of this–but something was totally on par for me yesterday and I was rocking it for me! I felt amazing!), I would’ve loved to fire back a retort at this person–reminding them to not judge a person’s story by the chapter they walked (rode) in on, but I was just totally deflated.

I kept it up…I peaked the hill and actually ended up having to pull into an overlook to take return a phone call that needed my attention from several minutes earlier, and then savored every moment of the glorious reward of the descent of the last several miles where my car was parked.  But that stupid comment, it stuck in my mind.  It didn’t matter every other positive comment I heard yesterday morning, or those that I gave in return–it was the one person that had to be the turd in the punch bowl that’s taking up head space and I can’t shake it.  I’ve tried to rationalize it–is it truth?  No.  I’ve tried to justify it–could they maybe have been having a bad day and taking it out on someone else?   Maybe… I’ve even tried to reshape the words to figure out how to make it positive.  Not there.  I’m at the point of ripping this apart in my mind where I’m starting to let this false statement absorb as truth about me…and I don’t want to go there.

I’m my own worst critic.  I’ve said it before that the things I say to myself about myself are so vicious that I would never speak them of another human being, yet I do it to myself.  And now I’m adding fuel to the fire, instead of squelching it.  Two steps forward, one step back.  I don’t have the answer…I’m just venting.  It’s a work in progress.  Rewriting the lies in my head has been the hardest part of this journey.  God must have something huge in store with this lesson…that’s all I know, because all I can do is keep turning it over to Him, again and again daily.  Remind myself of His truth.  I desire to see myself as He sees me, to live as He created me to be, but ridding myself of everything the world has piled on to understand that very basic idea is the true journey.

In His time…in His time…

…and pray for those that hurt us.



I should never be left to my own devices…and then left to my own devices again.  There is a max capacity to time alone spent in my own head, and while the last almost two weeks have been rather productive progress, I’m reaching max capacity and the dog just isn’t much of a conversationalist.

It’s one of those seasons of time where I’m not sleeping well because of, well, things I can’t control.  Thus, more time in my head.  I’m coming back around again to the idea of forgiveness.  I’ve written on this before, it’s an area of struggle for me–not in general, but in a specific area.  It’s so easy to counsel others how to forgive the unforgivable, but I can’t apply the same counsel to a situation in my life.  As much of a logical and analytical person I can be, I can’t separate the action from the emotion in this situation.  I’ve begged God for far longer than I care to over the years on this to show me, to help me, to make this impossible task a little more clear cut…but, crickets.  I’m not going to lie that knowing I have this unsettled situation in my heart makes me often feel inadequate in my role as a pastor.  I don’t have the answer.  I want to, but I just don’t, and I think that hurts more than anything.  Waiting on God…waiting to figure out that next right action.

I want to find my niche again…life is falling into a routine again finally, despite all the catching up still to be done. But I can’t help but feel a little bit lost.  I have my responsibilities, I have our ministry, I have the places that I serve outside our ministry that contribute to our community…but I just can’t seem to find where I fit in the world again.  I’ve spent some time really digging in on what I want that to look like for me and while I know it’s not popular, I know what it is–and I’m going to keep pursuing those things.  I’ve put too much time, education and professional development, blood, sweat, and tears into something that God is pushing me towards not only for the betterment of myself but for others too.  So, in addition to hitting the books in preparation to make a goal a reality very soon, I’m contemplating an opportunity to build on some skills I’ve been cultivating for awhile that will benefit some longer term goals as well.  Life changes in the blink of an eye–I value too many precious things to let assumptions and judgment stand in the way of God’s purpose for me and the benefit for His Kingdom, and I’m burdened to pursue it for His glory.

I don’t really have a pretty package to tie this all up and round it all together….not sure where I’m going here.  Just wanted to lay down some ramblings and get it out of my head, we all know how that goes.  It is what it is. Very happy husband comes home tomorrow, that Friday I get to have lunch with a beautiful friend and see my favorite ballerina in her recital, and that life can hopefully get back to its semblance of “normal” until hubby leaves again in a few weeks.  ‘Tis conference and disaster season!  More later.


You Could Talk To God, Go Banging On His Door

Daily.  I’d love to say every moment of every single day, but I’m human…so let’s just say–I seek Him a LOT.


My life verse…my prayer.  The plea of my holistic journey with God.  The pursuit of holiness.  The living out of God’s will on my life.

Yesterday I did a thing, and it was amazing.


(More pics on my facebook or instagram, links on the sidebar to both of those profiles–husband is awesome at this sherpa/personal race photographer business!)

The swim–

As my wave hit the water waiting for the gun, one of the few songs “kick my rear into gear” songs came on the speakers and we were off.  I think I swallowed half the lake, but my swim time came out 0:01/100yd more than my most recent 800m TT (yeah, I love mixing imperial and metric too…eye roll).  This was a shock as I came out of the water and caught glance at my watch–we estimated my OWS pace at 0:30/100yd over my TT pace.  Other than speedier than expected and oh my rocky beach, I absolutely need to upgrade to RX googles–I may be able to see in a pool and kinda-sorta sight buoys with standard goggles, but I’m going to be a danger to myself in the long term.  I can’t see squat.  I have the info on how to get them reasonably priced…now that I have an updated lens RX, now’s the time.  I felt like I spent way too much time in the water trying to focus my eyes and process on where the buoys were to sight and make sure I was swimming in a (remotely) straight line.


If you wanted a glimpse of a few of my wilder nights in college, T1 was where it was at!  The speedy swim did a number on me and it took a few minutes and a lot of stumbling over myself to get it together.  I did take my time, finally just sat on the ground, and got myself together.  Hilarity ensued–not in the moment, but after I settled in on the bike I had a pretty good laugh at myself.


Who puts bike in/bike out on a hill?!  I thought I had gathered myself together, but the first minutes on the bike were sheer torture climbing up a hill to get from the beach out to the road.  I didn’t even make it to the road before I had to pull over and get my wits about me.  I took a minute or so to take a deep breath, pull my HR down quickly, get my head back to where it needed to be, and employ a few other attack tactics in my mental arsenal.  Got moving and hit the road–and then it was game on.  The bike course was essentially a few climbs of varying degree, so some work and then some reward.  Once I settled in after that first stop, it was exactly what I needed–I was full-on focused.  Shocked me, but bike ended up being my strongest leg of the day.  I would love to improve my speed on the climbs, but I was consistent–and I even overtook several people.  There was one point on a downhill on the return that I must have had a look of just sheer exhilaration on my face because I had like three racers in the other direction yell out that they loved my smile as I flew past them while they were climbing.  Had one guy biff it in front of me near the aid station, but I (nicely) called out in advance of it since there weren’t many riders near me for the volunteers to not to step out to hand me anything that I couldn’t grab it.  Floated my foot well in advance of bike dismount because it was on a downhill and stopping fast–no crashing being clipped in.  Nailed the estimated bike time on the head. It felt amazing. Success!!!


Nothing special.  Wish I would’ve remembered to grab my chapstick out of my bike bag or put a second one in my running handheld.


…otherwise known as a stroll in the rocks with 2 miles-ish of actual running.  Due to my disdain for it and severe lack of coordination, I simply don’t have a lot of experience running off-road.  Add in a gut full of lake water sloshing around my stomach and a rocky “path”….yeah. It wasn’t pleasant.  I attempted to recover a bit of time on the small section of paved road we got to run on, and the downhill section that was a bit less rocky where I wasn’t as conscious of every single step, but again–that gut full of lake water.  I tried to focus on the scenery around me as it was really the first time that day I actually got the take in the beauty of Lake Mead and the area and just keep moving quickly.  It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either.  Run had some wiggle room on estimated finish because it was off-road, but I finished it 12-14 minutes longer than anticipated.  It is what it is, time to practice some trails.  Stupid rocks.


All said and done, even with a long T1 and crappy run, but the extra time cushion from the swim, I finished 2:44 under my estimated finish.  And I wasn’t DFL.  It was an incredible day.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world–even the not-so-pleasant moments serve for learning.  And I got to share it with my husband and was cheered on by several friends also racing.  How could you go wrong?

All glory goes to God.

I cried out to Him, I have been obedient to Him spiritually, emotionally/mentally, and physically, and He has been faithful to me.  I know my journey doesn’t make sense to some, and I’m at a place where I’m not going to constantly repeat myself.  The part I’ve always said and will continue to say is that I’m here, let’s chat–because there’s so much more than meets the eye.  The healthy habits that have contributed to achieving a healthier weight and continue to do so, racing/training, physical accomplishments, etc–all of them are a tiny part of a bigger picture of obedience to God’s will.  I won’t be made to feel guilty about pursuing a deeper relationship with God that permeates into every fiber of my being in every single part of my life, ministry, thought, and action, or pursuing or sharing the interests that I have and not wearing the frustrations of my life and/or ministry and the minutiae and absolute insanity of each day on my shoulder like a badge of honor.  Sure, I do share some struggles, because everyday isn’t sunshine and roses…but could it be I share some things over others as my escape from the stresses of life?  Let’s put it this way…without an outlet, you probably wouldn’t want to know me right now.  And I say that in all seriousness.  But I have balance…I have lots of balls that I juggle professionally and personally and believe it or not, life is hard and we’ve navigated through some tough stuff the past few months, but God is faithful and things are coming around.

Life is good.  God is good.

I’m excited for the future in many way.  Stay tuned, there’s more to come.


It Is What It Is

My newest favorite four-letter word: tri shorts.

As I dance that sweet line between 195 and 200 pounds down (200 more days than not, but we’re not calling it official yet until consistent for a certain period of time), I still find myself in that great wrestling match of figuring out my body.  My body does so many amazing things that it has never done before, and yet I still get stuck on that teeter between how my head sees me and the person that I can see in front of my face that almost seems surreal today.  It’s so hard to absorb reality.

People often forget that not all my goals are physical.  Just like what is publicly presented and what I share isn’t 100% of what I do professionally or personally, or what my priorities are, there are other things that are being worked on, focused on, and changing.  One of the goals I have been working on through this journey of holistic wellness has been acceptance–attacking this very battle I speak of above, to come to a place where there isn’t a disconnect in how I perceive and view myself inside and out.  To learn to accept myself just the way I am.


I can’t begin to tell you the spiritual and emotional struggle this has been and I’m not going to hash out on this platform the highly personal work on what it’s taken me to start to make some progress in this area and the work that continues to still go on.  But, per usual, let’s chat–I am happy to share my experience on a one-on-one level, because I know I’m not alone in this struggle.

But, I will give you some glimpse into this–I’ve spoken before about how the loose skin on my body bothers me.  Yes, vain, I know.  I’ve also spoken how the loose skin on my upper arms pulls on my neck and shoulders and causes pain, and how the loose skin on my thighs pools on my thighs and around the top of my knees and can cause pressure on my legs.  Those things I can get over, it’s part of life…compression capris cover a multitude of sin.  In running.  I’ve sucked it up and donned the cycling shorts for a year now, but staring down triathlon race day…there’s a whole other head game in play realizing I have to run in shorts.

Now, God bless my coach, not even realizing my irrational feelings about shorts (realize, I have not owned shorts in my wardrobe in decades), has actually assigned my workouts recently to be in tri shorts (shorter inseam than my cycling-specific shorts) so that I am running in them to be used to them on race day–I’ve cycled in them plenty.  I’ve done a few super short runs off the bike with them, but today I took them for a full 5k to see the comfort at that distance as that is the distance of the run for this upcoming weekend’s sprint tri.

I was pleasantly surprised at the comfort level, I expected some technical issues that thankfully didn’t arise, but I will be prepared on race day just in case.  Still have some more runs this week, so we’ll see what happens.  As far as how I felt about it, that was a different story…here’s the view:



Do I like how I look here? No. Not even a little bit.  I see every inch of the sagging skin that I despise. But here’s what I’ve also learned–I see a woman that had a strong effort this morning running up and down the dam and equestrian center coming within 1:40 of my 5k PR that was achieved on flat course.  I see a woman that spent her morning communing with God, engaging with Him on so many issues close to her heart ranging from personal matters to professional matters and everything in between before doing anything else.  I see a woman that is imperfect, has yet to figure out how to not conduct business on a day off, actually spent a few hours unpacking boxes today, and continues to be blown away daily by how awesome that God has been faithful because she has been faithful.  The negative and the positive can coexist.

It is what it is.

Acceptance doesn’t mean I have to like what I see.  It means that I take it for what it is.  It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is.

I can’t go back and change the past.  I don’t have a crystal ball to know God’s plan for the future.  But I can live in the present.  I can do my best, each and every day to be engaged with the Holy Spirit and to carry out God’s will for me.  One imperfect step at a time. And I think that’s a pretty good goal.

My Labor of Love

Otherwise known as, “Hey! Did you hear? I’M A MARATHONER!”

So, other than blasting my crazy excitement for finishing 26.2 miles across social media, I was (smartly) cautioned by my coach to not evaluate my race performance, make too many judgments, or even study the metric feedback for the first couple days–and he was zipping his lips too–until my body and head were back to a place of more or less equilibrium and could fully comprehend and absorb the information.

First of all, can we take in the enormity of this first fact: 3 years ago I couldn’t walk to the end of the street and back without wanting to die.  On Saturday, I ran 26.2 miles.

And there’s the first point of acceptance for me that brings me back into check.  I was warned over and over in training to not set myself up with numerical goals such as pace, total time, splits, etc for a first marathon.  I did this in speech, but my numbers brain tried to do some math…I was shut down in discussion in training, but I don’t think it ever shut down in my head.  I had some different numbers in my mind, specifically in terms of finishing time and pace over different technical sections–and because of so many factors (and that I’m a noob at the marathon distance), of course I miserably failed at them.  But–I met the #1 goal: finish a marathon.

(And let’s be crystal clear–out of any perceived “failure” or factor that went wrong, I am in absolutely, positively, not in any way possible angry or upset.  It was an amazing day that I can’t possibly express in words how much finishing meant to me, an excellent learning experience, and I’m so excited to do it again!)

Backing up…

Friday was probably not the best planned.  It started early in the morning with business in our local office, traveling with my husband for business in our other office in our coordination and doing some business errands, and then driving to Las Vegas where we capitalized on a free hotel night we had.  Probably should have just stayed and rested and had a good dinner, but instead I wanted to make the most of the time we had that evening and we went to a triathlon fellowship/learning event that went late into the evening (for me, who goes to bed early) and then we had a late dinner afterwards.  Not smart.

I slept okay, but not fabulous, and was up before the alarm giving myself plenty of time to get ready.  I had some food that I had brought with us, but I did not plan ahead logically for breakfast to have quite enough substantial calories–that had some impact on performance at the outset I believe until my fuel during the race started to level out not only my hunger, but feeding my energy levels and such too.

We drove out to the race venue and got there a touch earlier than expected, no problem.  Kissed husband goodbye and he went off for breakfast and to do some other things and would be back in a few hours to spectate at the finish.  And that’s when the fun began…weather turned on a dime.

It was cool for the morning, the anticipated weather was 40 degrees at start and 60 degrees and sunny for the day…however, the ominous clouds had different plans.  The temperature never rose above 40 degrees and it rained from mile 7 all the way to the finish line (and all the way on our drive home to Laughlin).

And so came the start of the race.  First few miles, great.  Was feeling good, was keeping an side-eye on my watch aiming to keep my top pace under a certain threshold. Oh, did I fail to mention this was a really technical race with a total of 2250ft in elevation gain?  It was 13.1 miles uphill, and 13.1 miles downhill, with the exception of “the beast” from mile 21-23.  I pity the ultra marathoners that ran it multiple times for their loops…

I had really wanted in training to try to make a trip up to Lovell Canyon and run part of the course prior to the race, or at least drive it to get a taste of what it would be like so I could properly visualize it.  I am so happy that my schedule never allowed for it to happen–I promise you, I would not have even started this race had that been the case.  I had the course and elevation maps and was properly trained on hills, but it was no comparison to reality.  Other than the torture of “the beast,” I am satisfied with the amount of hill training that I had, as we live in a very hilly place and I often have a decent amount of elevation prescribed in my runs.

The wheels started to come off around mile 10.  I started getting a blister (one blister being my only “war wound” of the day) and letting it get in my head that this was going to “end me” because it was still so early in the race.  Now, rational me (that side is in there somewhere…) kicked in and realized all I needed to do was find a place to sit down where I could take my shoe off and just apply some RunGoo that I had in my tri-top pocket to that part of my foot to alleviate the worst of it.  A couple miles later at an aid station I was able to sit on a wet cooler (it had already been raining a while at that point) and take care of it and I was fine.

From there things were plodding along…slow, but plodding along.  I was FREEZING and soaking wet.  Remember that high of 60 degrees?  The average race temperature along the course that day was 37 degrees.  I was SO cold, and that contributed greatly to my significantly slower than anticipated pace.  When I’m cold, my muscles seize up and my body just doesn’t want to move.  You’d think running, you’d be warm…wrong-o!  Between the weather and being soaked to the bone, there was no chance that I was warming up.

I swore around mile 15 or so I was hallucinating when I saw my husband drive up, but no, it was real, and it was the greatest blessing of the day!!! He gave me some much needed encouragement and found some work gloves in his bag that I could wear to help at least try to warm up my hands.  He kept driving forward and was waiting every mile or so for anything that I needed, and always a much needed cheerleading session.  Even when the gloves he had given me were soaked through, he pulled a (clean) pair of wool socks out of his overnight bag that I wore on my hands for a few miles just to try and get warm.  As I got closer to finish, I was able to chuck things in the car too like my headphones that had died, my handheld bottle since I had flasks on belt, etc, which made things easier too.  I am so grateful for my husband.  I hate that I wonder this, but if he didn’t show up and do everything he did for me that day, I have to question if I would have finished–or at least finished as strongly.

And then came the finish line.  I was sobbing before I even crossed it.  It brings tears to my eyes still to think about that moment.  Sure, it took my longer that I thought it “should,” the weather was miserable, and a boatload of other stuff…but it had come.  I did it.  I ran 26.2 miles.  No one can take that away from me.

I have spoken in conversation that I felt like my very first half marathon was my most memorable athletic achievement so far, and I think I still believe that.  The completion of a marathon…it’s different.  It was incredible, absolutely, I’ll never forget it–it was more emotional that I think I possibly even anticipated it to be at the end, but the meaning that it holds is a different kind of achievement–it’s one of learning and endurance, and proving to myself what is possible, what my body can take, and how much farther I can go. And will go.

I don’t think I could possibly begin to list in detail all the many lessons that came from this experience.  I learned technical things, the areas of mental and physical strength that are still weak, things about myself, and things about humanity (mainly stupid drivers on an open course, but also how incredible and encouraging other athletes can be to one another).  I see why the marathon is a endurance feat all its own.  And I can’t wait to look at those lessons and apply them to training for the next one.  Because I can’t wait for the next one…how does six months sound?  I’m coming for you Chicago!!!

I have been truly overwhelmed by the love and reactions that I’ve received on the social media posts I’ve made too.  I can’t begin to tell you in the overwhelm and nerves leading up to the day how much the encouragement bolstered my confidence, and then in the after to be able to share my sheer praise to God and joy with the world.  Yes, it can appear some days to border on the edge of narcissism, but I also know from private feedback that my sharing is important to other people’s journey too–and we need each other in life, so I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.  As the saying goes, “you do you,” and if you don’t like it…scroll on…or as some have done, go as far as blocking me. (I’m sooo not delving into that right now other than backing up to my firm stance I’ve always held:  if you have a problem, let’s talk about it together.  I have a lot more respect for an open conversation than passive aggressive behavior)

In the days since the race, I have felt surprisingly better than I expected–I truly expected to be the marathon horror stories of those that basically crawl for the next week.  The next day I even wore my uniform heels at church! My feet weren’t so happy after that move…but I did.  Sunday I wasn’t too sore, just moved pretty slowly.  Monday the same, until I had two hours of bodywork done–then I wanted to die once I had all those muscles worked out.  Woke up Tuesday feeling much better, feeling great, just a little bit of tightness remaining in my hips.  Today…well…it was my first recovery run.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was also my coach proving a point to me about recovery.  I don’t feel sore or anything, but in motion like that, my legs were pretty much lead.  Time…

But, rest and recovery aren’t docile actions, because I’ve still got goals, and a sprint triathlon coming up in 38 days.  I’m back on the bike tomorrow for some light workouts this week, aiming to hit open water swim this weekend, and we’ll see what next week brings once I get the full calendar for that.

At the end of the day, and everything that went down to get to the finish line, the one thing I know for sure…I. Am. A. Marathoner.