Making the Impossible Possible

This is my third season to coach Cross Country, and there is still absolutely nothing like the first meet of the season. This is the first time that even the returning runners get what I have been telling them from the very beginning:

You have to make the impossible, possible.

I tell them these words early and often to combat those two words that I hear more often than I like:

I can’t.

I remind them that not only can they run, they will run well. And yet, they don’t seem to believe me.

So I stand with them at the start line, convincing them that they will neither throw up nor die, and remind them that they can make the impossible, possible.

The start gun goes off, and off they go. And I wait at the finish line…

And here come the ones who said prior injuries would be an issue, who are way out in the front of the pack. The one who started running late, and hits the finish line passing two people at the last second. The never before runners who said they were scared they would not finish the race came flying across the line. The ones who are growing so quickly and are really starting to develop as runners, the ones who are looking for their niche, the ones who just wanted to be on a team, the returning runners who had a rough last season, all of them running to the finish. Running – not walking. And the one or two runners who you had been working with for weeks and had never completed a mile…not only did they run the entire mile, but they did it well.

All of these runners made their own impossible, possible.

This is the joy of this sport for me – showing these runners, from 6th grade to seniors, that they can run, and they can run well.

You cannot help but truly love that moment.

And you can’t help but truly love the high fives, selfies, and sweaty group hugs that come afterwards.

I’m looking forward to returning to school on Monday to watch them confidently walk into the building, the result of a lesson well-learned.

I am so blessed that they call me Coach.

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Don’t Do Everything at Once – Just Do the Next Thing

New Year’s is rolling around, which means both looking back at the year that passed and making plans for the year to come.  And those resolutions…yikes!  We all want to eat more healthy food and less junk, exercise more…or just exercise at all, become more organized, improve time management…and the list goes on and on.  And for some, those resolutions will be completely shot by the end of the first week.  Why?

It is simple.  Too much too fast is too overwhelming.  If you want to succeed, you just need to do the next thing.

It was one of the best pieces of advice I received when I started Crossfit.  I wanted to be stronger, eat cleaner, and be a competitor within the next six weeks.  A little unrealistic?  Absolutely.  And those who were wiser said to me not to try to do everything at once because I would get freaked out and overwhelmed.  They were absolutely right.

I simply needed to do the next thing.  Become very consistent with training. THEN stay hydrated.  THEN begin to eliminate grains from my diet by changing one meal at a time.  None of this happens overnight.  As I worked, I had to focus on doing the next thing.  One good decision led to another.  And all of the good decisions I made were never to be negated by one or two bad ones.  This allowed me to be human.  I love that; I am allowed to be imperfect.

So if you are looking to make changes in your life, determine a realistic goal.  The heavy emphasis here is on realistic.  You will not lose 20 pounds in the next month, or clean the clutter out of your entire house and have everything properly filed in the next two weeks.  Be honest with yourself.  Then, break this down into a series of achievable steps.  If you want to become more organized with your time, start with something simple – perhaps finding an app that you will use and using it for a few days.  Then add from there.  Doing the next thing will help you build up to achieving your goal.

Do not doom yourself with a list of resolutions that serve no purpose than to overwhelm you and make you feel as if you have in some way failed.  No good can come from that.  Choose ONE realistic thing to do at a time, do it well, and then add the next thing.  You CAN succeed with that.

Just do the next thing.  Nothing more.

In and Out of the Valley of Death…Or Surviving the Santa Hustle

Into the Valley of Death has been the way I’ve been describing the registration for my first half marathon in three years.  So to complete the circle, or description, or whatever you want to call it, I am adding more words from Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,

When the race officials finally let my corral go – I was in the slowpoke corral – my plan was to just keep running as much as I could.  I listened to people all around me talk about whatever strategy they were using, but it all amounted to the same thing – we had 13.1 miles to complete and we had to keep going.

All in the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

Actually, I had heard that there were at least a thousand registered for this race, so that meant there were a thousand of us crazy enough to be doing this.  What on earth were we thinking??

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

The course was set.  There were cookies along the way – but seriously who eats cookies in the middle of a half marathon?  Some of the course conditions were not fantastic, and who in the heck put a hill on the island?  Wait, I guess that is questioning.  Just run.

Theirs but to do and die:

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

The first half of the race was pretty good, and other than a quick potty stop, my times were good.  Mile seven was not bad.  Mile eight was not terrible.  But mile nine is where runners go to die.  I really thought someone had moved the ten mile marker because mile nine was three miles long.  But mile ten finally rolled around, and I began to see the light…

Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them

This was more like Gulf to the right of them, people in strange costumes to the left.  I saw so much interesting stuff – some guy in a spandex Santa suit, a guy running in a kilt, some reindeer and elf costumes that could not have been very functional, and some costumes that had nothing to do with Christmas at all.  Interesting…

Then they rode back, but not

Not the six hundred.

And when the last three miles rolled around, I know I was walking more than I wanted.  Gone was the run as much as you can strategy…or at least the distance was quite a bit less.  But I rounded the last corner, and there it was – the finish line.  I pulled it together and ran.

They that had fought so well

Came thro’ the jaws of Death

Back from the mouth of Hell,

Oh.  Good.  Heavens.  The finish line was the most beautiful sight.  It meant the end, but it also meant that my hard work for FOREVER had finally paid off. I crossed the finish line.  I was not dead. I PR’d my last half marathon by and hour and a minute.  And there were also cookies – but not the ones with icing and sprinkles that I had hoped for.

When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world wondered.

Honor the charge they made,

Honor the Light Brigade,

Noble six hundred.

I got a medal!!!!

Into the Valley of Death…But I Hear They Have Cookies

This was my Facebook post about a month ago, along with the information for the half marathon I had registered to run.  I’ve been training for what feels like FOREVER, and now, the start line approaches.

This is my first half marathon since December of 2011.  And getting back to this point has been a process.

You see, I started shortly before I turned 40.  I woke up and realized that I hated going to the gym, that I hated not being able to see any results, and I wanted something that was less hassle.  And, irrationally, I had been told that I should not run so that seemed like the perfect option.

So I limped along at a very slow pace, not realizing how much progress I was not making.  Getting down under a 17 minute mile was a big accomplishment for me, and although I was slow, I knew I was faster than everyone on the couch.  I kept working, got a little faster, slowly ran some races, and then…all of my motivation packed up and left me.

After a big time out to recover from donating a kidney, I slowly ran a ten miler just to show that I could, and then all of my running came to a screeching halt.

I was so done.

But earlier this year, after a year of Crossfit training, I was ready to run again – and run I have.  Any rational person would not be checking their weather app to see if the heat index is below 100 before they go run, but that was me all summer long, which as we know on the Gulf Coast, runs through November.

It was hot.  It was humid.  It was yucky.  I was frustrated.  I whined to my coach.

But I kept going.

And now, it all comes to this.

At 8am tomorrow morning, I will be at the start line with hundreds of people dressed like Santa to run 13.1 miles together.

Can’t wait!  This is going to be awesome!!

And I hear they have cookies…

Run the Distance – Get the Sticker

Three things have come together over the past few weeks that helped create this blog. First, I ran my first ten mile race in about two years.  Second, I ran a 5k this weekend with my family.  And last…well, I will save that for the end.

After I ran in the Transplant Games 5k this summer, I did not want to suddenly stop training. I wanted to keep going and prove to myself that I could push my body farther than my brain thought it could go.  I also wanted to start running half marathons again.  Laughingly, I would tell people that my goal was to lower my time enough that I would make it across the finish line in time for the snacks at the end.  Usually, by the time I got there, the rest of the people racing had packed up and gone.  The reality is that I wanted to feel good about running again.  So, despite the heat of summer, I kept working – Crossfit four days a week and running another two or three days.  My awesome coach kept pushing me, and on that cool morning two weeks ago, I ran that ten miler.  I was 44 minutes faster than my last ten mile race.  And, I got snacks.

Yesterday, my family ran a 5k together. Well, not exactly together, but we were all in the same race.  My son was the first of our family to come across the finish line, and his time was pretty good.  He actually has run cross country off and on since 5th grade, and has always struggled a bit.  Now that he is training consistently, it is getting better for him.  He said he wants to start running again, which makes me pretty happy.  I was second across the line, and took 3:05 off my time.  But the even bigger deal, was my husband, for whom this was the first 5k that he did not walk the entire thing.  He’s been making changes lately to improve his health, and he has started jogging in small increments.  This is HUGE, and I am so proud of him.  He came across the finish line in a pretty good time, and even more importantly, proved to himself that it was not just possible, but probable that he would be successful at this.

The last thing that prompted this blog was an article that was shared on Facebook, the writer of which said that the distance stickers he sees on the backs of vehicles are essentially bragging, and that runners are being “arrogant.”

Really, dude?

The author is missing the point. Am I going to say that there are not arrogant runners out there?  Absolutely not.  But are all of us arrogant?

Absolutely not.

Those stickers are a representation of the hard work and dedication that runners put forth to train for these runs. It is not easy.  And runners should be proud of what they have accomplished.  Sure, you will not PR every race, but you will cross the finish line, which is far better than what you might have been able to do prior to that race.  To acknowledge that you ran that far is a good thing – bragging is not.

For me, my first half marathon sticker went on my car less than an hour after I crossed that finish line. It wasn’t so much that I wanted or needed to brag about it, but that I wanted it for myself – to remind me that it can be done.  I had worked for so long to get across that finish line, and I made it.  That sticker was my gold star on the A paper.  It is not arrogant or prideful; it was simply true.

And if my husband or son wants a 3.1, or 6.2, or whatever sticker for their car, I say go for it.

It is not bragging, just fact.

The fact is, you earned it.

Going to the Games!!

When I went to the kidney center last summer for my one year, post-donation visit, my new donor advocate handed me a flyer for the upcoming transplant games.  Based on my current crossfit program, she said that I had to be able to compete in at least one of the events.  I looked over the handout – table tennis, bowling, track and field, ballroom dancing, and several other events I had no business entering – thanked her for her confidence in me, folded it and placed it in my notebook, and did not think about it much after that. 

Fast forward a year to now, and I am a year and a half into crossfit and five months into working on improving my running.  With the guidance of my ever helpful coach/cousin, I had run four miles this weekend in less time than my best 5K time.  I’ve made progress. I jokingly told her that at this rate, I should sign up for some 5K’s in the fall, and this time I might be able to get across the finish line in time to get snacks. 

Do it, was her response. 

So I got on the running calendar for my area looking for races in the fall.  What I found, was again, the transplant games, but this time, there was a 5K listed.  I could enter this as a living donor. 

I can do this. 

So I did.  I entered. 

I’M GOING TO THE GAMES!!

So I have a month to train.  The course is hilly, so I have to work that out.  I know I can do this, but deadlines freak me the heck out.  I have no rational explanation; they just do.    

But I am going to the Transplant Games! 

This is going to be awesome! 

No Excuses!

I went for a short run just a little before sunset tonight.  I was doing a little work running over a local bridge – I live in the flatlands and that is the closest thing I can get to hill work. 

I didn’t want to go run.

I had a squillion excuses not to run…tired, sore, rough week at CrossFit, needed to cook supper, not feeling it, cloudy, don’t want to, needed to get some things done at my house…I could go on and on.

But I went anyways, and saw this. 

 Image

Wow! 

The sun streaming through the clouds was beautiful!

And I would have missed it if I had stayed indoors.

I felt so much better after having been outdoors, and the view was so pretty. 

So stop making excuses and get out there and do something.  You never know what you will miss if you don’t. 

And you will feel so much better afterwards.