CT-ALIVE

I’m just here for the scenery…

”Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance …

you can push yourself to extremes

and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations

or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet.

But when you are through, exhilarated and exhausted, 

at least for a moment everything seems right with the world…”

-Unknown

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“I’m just here for the scenery” was the half joke I made at the start of the Chatfield Hollow State Park 50K yesterday morning. The truth is I WAS there for the scenery, but I was also there for a very important reason- raising money to support CT-ALIVE (The CT Alliance For Victims of Violence and Their Families). This was my forth year fundraising for victims of domestic violence, and I certainly wasn’t going to sell them short with anything less than an ultra distance. I picked Chatfield Hollow because one year wasn’t a long enough to wipe Bimbler’s Bluff from my memory. Plus, I thought it would be fun to race in a new venue.

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Nature walk to the start. That’s my kind of race!

I was surprised when I looked at the registration list and found only 15 runners had signed up for the 50K with most runners opting for the shorter distances. Of those 15, only three were women… Clearly the rest of the ultra community (and majority of the runners present) knew something I didn’t.  Rather than get nervous over this revelation, I figured the low numbers were due to the close proximity with Bimbler’s. Besides, I was too busy enjoying the gorgeous scenery to worry about the brutality that awaited me!

Plus, I figured that if I could survive Bimbler’s, I could handle anything they threw at me. I just couldn’t imagine it being any worse. What a silly notion!

What I didn’t take into consideration was the stricter time cut offs. The total allotted time for the course was only 8 hours (an hour less than Traprock and 2 less than Bimbler’s). Like Bimbler’s, the course was extremely rocky with a good amount of technical single track trails. There were parts that literally involved scaling up and down rocks which definitely slowed me down. I am not the biggest fan of running on rocky terrain because I am clumsy to begin with; so overall the unstable footing was a detriment to my pace. That’s not to say that I didn’t still enjoy myself because I totally did!

The course was composed of five 10K loops. (Spoiler Alert: I got DQ’d after not meeting the time qualifier on my third lap; however the officials took pity and allowed me to still run a forth!) The thing that was really challenging about this specific ultra is the entire loop was up and down. Every other ultra I have run, all the really horrible climbs are either in the first third of the course OR at the beginning of the loop (For example, at Traprock of the 10 mile loop, only the first three miles were horrific and the rest were more manageable).  This race had hills throughout the loop, including rock faces that had to be scaled at the end (well played race organizers, well played). In a word, it was BRUTAL… and this is coming from a girl who did Bimbler’s as her first 50K and finished a Half Ironman less than two months after gallbladder surgery.

10418904_716524945104810_4785371998643999263_nAll that being said, throughout the race I really felt good. I was going slow, but I wasn’t hurting or miserable. I felt better on my third lap than I did on my first or second, and that was in spite of having to repeat a mile and a half section that I accidentally missed on my second time through (in my defense, the course was marked going in two different directions and I choose the one with the flags to my left because that is what we were instructed to do… I definitely had a little internal struggle about making up the part I missed knowing I was already flirting dangerously with the cut off. However, I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I didn’t want to get credit for finishing unless it was for the entire course).

At that point, I was a little tired of all the climbing and descending and the pounding on the rocks, but not to the degree I expected given the difficulty level.  It definitely helped that there were some great views and really fun sections which were enough to keep my mind off any aches or pains. Not to mention, I was too busy trying to simultaneously watch my footing and for trail markers to pay attention to much else! On a side note, I have to be honest that the scenery alone makes this run worthwhile… rocky terrain, continuous climbs, and all.

If the Chatfield Hollow SP 50K is a race you are considering doing, my advice would be to expect very rocky terrain and make sure you are prepared for it. Also, all the race distances start together, so expect the first few miles to be crowded and slow unless you get to the head of the pack. Another consideration is to plan on bringing your own water/nutrition. They have an aid station at the start/finish with some food, but the other two aid stations are just water stops without volunteers. There’s not going to be anyone handing out your snacks or water, so that’s something to keep in mind (Think “self serve”).

On that same note, while there are some people at the start/finish area, there are not a lot of volunteers on the course. Be10675731_716524988438139_6863402278390244130_n prepared to spend some quality time by yourself because you won’t find a lot of company or support out there (like at some other races with larger numbers). Personally, I like to think that the secret of ultra running to be really comfortable with yourself. Otherwise, it’s an awful lot of time to spend with someone you don’t like. Any demons or insecurities you have are going to be brought on on this course, so make sure you either deal with them ahead of time or have a strategy come race day.

Lastly, don’t get caught up with the time cut offs. I spent a good part of my first loop worrying about not being fast enough before I realized there was nothing I could do about it. I was doing my best, and it was either going to be go enough or it wasn’t. It turned out that it wasn’t; but, surprisingly, the world didn’t end. No one pointed a finger at me and told me I wasn’t good enough. In reality, getting pulled and not finishing did not even remotely detract from the experience.

I took on a course that was WAY out of my comfort zone, and I didn’t quit… even after I was technically disqualified. I am immensely grateful to the race organizers for allowing me to run that last loop and get in as many miles as I could. In addition to being a great opportunity for me to cry it out and work out my frustration (which lasted about 30 seconds until I reached the first climb up a set of stairs… what is it with ultras and stairs anyway?) it was also a terrific chance for me to savor the scenery and run for the pure joy of running.

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Okay, so in reality they said it was for finishing the 20K

(I might have to write in a little x2…since I techincally did the it twice.)

In truth, when I did get pulled after my forth loop I felt great beyond just not being sore and feeling like I could take on another lap. Every problem I had stressed about during my hell week of tapering had completely dissipated. Sure, there may have been a little fraction of disappointment; but, for the most part, I was just happy and grateful and having had the opportunity to spend a whole day doing something I love.

At the end of the day, I’m not in this sport for the finish lines or medals (although I do appreciate the bling too… shiny things, what can I say?). I do it because I LOVE the trails and constantly challenging myself. This course was INDEED a challenge, and a glorious one at that.

As far as I’m concerned, any day spent on the trails in good company is a fantastic one in my book.

Would I do it all over? 100% YES! I have absolutely no regrets.

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As much as I did this event because I LOVE trail running, this race wasn’t about me. It was about raising awareness and money for victims of domestic violence so that other women have the chance to THRIVE after abuse that I did. CT-ALIVE was there for me when I needed help, so I am happy to endure any kind of torture a race course can throw at me if it means raising funds for them to help someone else. In fact, I’ll even do it with a smile on my face.

Thank you Trails 2 Trails for a wonderful race experience and definitely living up to your “We Don’t Do Easy” advertising… although, for record, I think running 50K is hard enough without you trying to make it more challenging with 8 hour time cutoffs and such. 😉

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Life as a Whirlwind

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.

We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

-Frederick Douglass

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Holy Chaos!  It has been a SUPER busy week over here!  I thought it was about time to update you on all the exciting things this very busy Chik has been up to!  FYI: You may want to grab a snack before you start reading.  This is going to be a looong post… but don’t worry, I added lots of pictures to keep you entertained.  You’re welcome!

I figured last week would be EPIC given that I ended the previous one with an Ultra, and it started with the Boston Marathon!  I also expected it to be busy, but I never could have guessed how much I’d get accomplished.

For starters, I only worked two shifts because I have been working like a slave helping my parents move.  My brother and I loaded and unloaded THREE moving trucks of furniture, boxes, tools, and household items.  It took a full two days (of working almost 18 hours a day) to get the trucks filled and unloaded.  Then another whole day to get the house unpacked enough to be livable… Plus, that’s not even mentioning how many car loads I have brought over and by car I actually mean my Subaru Crosstrek and my husband’s truck.  Why yes, I do have other siblings.  Um no, they didn’t help.  My younger sister is a teenager, so her idea of helping consisted of inviting a friend over and throwing her stuff all over her new room… mostly on the floor.  My older sister is contending with my niece who just learned to walk… and by walk I mean run (her daughter takes after me more than her… she is in sooo much trouble…)  So it was basically my brother and I with some help from the hubs when he wasn’t working.

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That being said, my mom is super thrilled with their new place, and that is all that matters!

So obviously given that I had just done a 50K and spent three days hauling boxes and moving furniture, it seemed like a really good idea to sign up for a half marathon.  Okay, it actually seemed like a really bad idea, even to me, but I have run the Cheshire Half it’s first two years.  I really love that race!  I want to be one of those 80 year old ladies who they announce has run it every year since it started.  Besides, I figured if I didn’t run it, I would just be super cranky when all my friends were posting pictures about what a great day they had.  So really, I did it for the hubs so he wouldn’t have a crabby wife.  I’m selfless like that.

I went into the race not really expecting much of myself.  I knew I had logged some serious mileage at the Ultra and my IT bands were still wound up tight.  Plus, it was super windy, so I expected that to really slow me down.  Much to my pleasure, I found my friend Lu, who had also ducked inside to escape the cold, before the start. We both considered this a stroke of luck given the number of runners and took it as a positive sign for the day.  We chatted a bit, mostly about running- big surprise there!  He said his goal was a sub 1:50, and I told him I would be happy to break 2 hours.  We both agreed that given the conditions, we didn’t have high expectations.  Like me, though, Lu loves the Cheshire Half and didn’t want to miss it.  Also like me, Lu runs for the joy of running.  He’s not out there to compete with anyone but himself.  He is really just a kind soul and a joy to be around.

Not long after running into each other, we found the rest of the boot camp crew.  Seeing all of them made me seriously consider rejoining!  They are such a great bunch of people.  They were also super excited about the Half, and many of them were doing it for the first time.  I felt very blessed to have found all my friends before the race!  It was a definite boost because they are all so positive and inspiring.

In another stroke of luck, the sun came out and warmed us up a little at the start.  The weather actually turned out to be PERFECT.  It was overcast, cool, and there was a nice breeze instead of the strong winds when we arrived.  Lu and I began together after losing the rest of the group walking to the start, and he left me in the dust in no time!  My first few miles were a little rocky.  I mentally prepared myself for a grueling 2 hours.  However, after the first 5K I started settling in and felt okay.  By mile 6, I was even feeling strong!  Strangely, the longer the race went on, the better I felt.

The course, for the most part, is a flat one; and most of it runs through a tree lined bike path (part of the reason I like it, I am all about the trees).  For the first several miles of the race I had to fight the urge to push myself harder as everyone passed me.  Instead, I spent the entire race focusing on my form and zoning out with my ipod.  The hubs had picked and loaded all the music for my first Ultra, so it made me smile to listen to his selections.  He even put our wedding song on it!  Who knew he could be so romantic?

Conserving my energy paid off because the few hills on the course came up between miles 8 and 10.  All those people who passed me on the flats started to drop behind me when we hit them.  My legs were tired, but they still felt good.  I figured my pace was steady because the miles were still going by quickly, and I was passing people instead of getting passed.  I also knew where the worst hill on the course was, and once I was over it I told myself I was in the home stretch.  I was excited because I knew I would have a strong finish.  I had also been running at a good pace the whole way and felt so good that I thought I might PR.

I hadn’t looked at my watch once.  I didn’t want to psych myself out or get over confident.  Instead I wanted to focus on running at a comfortable pace.  I didn’t want to push my body to the point of feeling sick.  I also didn’t want to push too hard after having just done an ultra.  Mostly, I was just in awe of how strong I felt after what I had put my body through last weekend.  I silently thanked my body and reveled in how far it exceeded my wildest expectations.

I ran those last few miles hard because I knew I could.  I felt great!  Yes I was tired, but I also knew deep down that this was the best I had ever done running a Half Marathon.  I wasn’t sick or hurting or hating life.  I enjoyed almost the entire thing!  When I hit mile 12, the clock read 1:45!!!  My first thought was that if I was at this time at mile 12, then Lu must be finished.  He absolutely must have met his goal!  I did a little happy dance for him in my head.  Then I realized “HOLY $HIT! I AM GOING TO PR!”  I knew there was a possibility that the clock was wrong, but I just felt too good for that to be the case.

Despite the fact that it was still cold out, I stripped off my long sleeve shirt, so I could sport my Team Tough Chik jersey that last mile. I wanted to represent my fellow Toughies out there!  They are all so inspiring, and I am beyond proud (and BLESSED!) to be one of them.  I wanted to have that shirt visible when I crossed the line.  It was a magical moment.  I almost cried.  The clock read 1:55.  It was the fastest Half Marathon I have ever run, and I did it one week after running an Ultra (and two weeks after my first #1 in my age group).  Holy-Freaking-Epic!   I still can’t believe it!

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The funny thing is, my last PR for a half was at the Hartford Half Marathon 2 weeks after my DNF at the Ultra Beast.  Apparently Ultras agree with me.  Perhaps I should do one before every half…

Oh and as if that were not enough #EPIC news, I also got this email:

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That’s right!  I am now an official Sweat Pink Ambassador!!!!  Take that Fitfuential!  At least someone appreciates my awesomeness.  Just wait until I’m famous and the AWESOME-train has left the station without you.  lol

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But wait!  There’s more!  I also had a CT-ALIVE board meeting, and our program director Susan Omilian (the woman who changed my life after the abuse)  has asked me whether I would be willing to become co-vice president of the board.  Pretty exciting stuff!  Either she appreciates all my enthusiasm, or she has not actually read this blog and doesn’t realize what a raving lunatic I am.

Anyway, I was telling her about my mad graphic designing skillz (that is an intentional typo btw, because I’m all ghetto with my mad skillzzzz) now that I have discovered picmonkey.com.  She was so impressed that she gave me my first job as a graphic designer… minus the getting paid and it actually being a job part.  Actually, I’m just doing her a favor and making uber cool graphics with some of her quotes.  I already sent her a bunch, and she was pretty pleased.  I consider this high praise because Susan is an even bigger perfectionist than I am.  Here is one of my favorites:

 

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If you are interested at all in the concept of thriving, you should totally check out her website.  I cannot say enough about how wonderful and helpful her workshops were!   Plus, if you don’t live in the area, she has a Thriver Workbook that you can do on your own at home.  I know it sounds a little cheesy to do a self help workbook as an adult, but I have bought one for my mom, and she loves it.  In fact, I have actually bought a few for other women as well, because I really believe not only in her book, but in empowering other women to live happy, fulfilling lives.

That is all for now my lovelies!  I hope you are all off to a great week!  What did you all accomplish this weekend?  I would love to hear about it!

Enough! Recap and Taking On the Bucket List

“If you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster,

your gifts will take you places that will amaze you.”
-Les Brown

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Back when I wrote about My Grown Up Bucket List, I never imagined how quickly I would be crossing items off it.  Today I did just that!  Last week I signed up for the Enough! Race to End Domestic Violence much in the same manner as I signed up for the Lavery McDermott Race To End Domestic Violence– at the last minute.  Also as with the Lavery/McDermott Race, I volunteered with CT-ALIVE and staffed a table pre & post race to give the crowd information about the work we do and our mission to empower women to take the step from survivor to Thriver.

Initially, I was a little worried about running today because the temperature was supposed to be a record 70 degrees… which is a great deal warmer than what it has been recently and not exactly the most comfortable temp for running.  After distinctly thinking how much happier I would be with a cooler run at 50 degrees, I got in my car to find the temp was exactly 50.  I decided at that point that the universe and I were in line, and it would be a great day.  I was not disappointed!  

Since I have been tapering for my ultra next weekend, my body was not as run down from training as it typically is.  I also had plenty of time to sleep in and hydrate (after my 15 hr shift the day before) because the start wasn’t until 10 am.  This probably contributed to the great mood I woke up in.  For some reason, I just felt completely ready to rock it.

My good vibes continued when I arrived to check in without any issues, traffic, or difficulty with parking, and found my race number had not one, but two sevens in it!  Seven is my lucky number!  (Don’t ask me why, it just is…)   I took this as a definite positive sign.  The 50 degree temp and double sevens could not be coincidence… not as far as I was concerned anyway…

ImageBeyond just being pumped that the race was for a great cause (one especially near and dear to my heart… as we all know), I was excited to see the some other ladies from CT-ALIVE and catch up.  Since becoming a supervisor, my work schedule has made it difficult to keep up with a lot of the going ons and meetings with the board.  Both Susan Omilian, our project director and “My Avenging Angel Workshop” facilitator, and Vanessa Stevens of the Purple Song Project were there, so I had a chance to chat with them.  Susan is the woman who helped me rediscover myself after abuse; and Vanessa is a fellow domestic abuse survivor and thriver who has been a constant source of inspiration and support.  It was great to see them both. I was excited to hear that Susan is interested in guest blogging here, so stay tuned for what I am sure will be an inspiring post!

As far as the race, the course was the hilliest 5K I have ever run!  The first mile and a half was basically all up hill, and then second half was up and down.  The were essentially no flat parts.  It was brutal!  But the support from the volunteers and crowd at the finish were great and almost made up for the quad busting course.  Races that are put on for good causes always have an awesome vibe and this was no exception!

Starting the race, my legs were not feeling as fresh as I had hoped… but then I wouldn’t recommend working a 15 hr shift the day before a timed run. lol  I still managed to maintain what felt like a strong and steady pace in spite of the hills.  At the start when my legs didn’t feel great I told myself that “The first mile is a liar.”  Once I reached the first mile marker and saw I was at 7:20, I was pretty pleased.  

In general, I view the last 5K of a half marathon as the final stretch, so my mantra during this entire race was “I’m in the final stretch.”  When I felt crummy, I compared it to the last 5K of a half marathon and then ran harder.  At the halfway point I was congratulated by a volunteer for being the “3rd female overall.”  HOLY COW!  I have never seeded that high in a race before!

I held my position until the last mile when another two ladies managed to pass me.  I was bummed to lose out on my top three position, but knew I was running as hard as I could.  I reminded myself that was all that mattered.  In the last half mile I saw Vanessa singing on the course and yelled to her.  I knew I was almost done and was so happy to see a familiar face!  The finish came up quickly and I secured a time of 24:30.  I knew I was 5th overall for the women, which is the highest I have ever finished in a race.  

Then came a bigger surprise!  They announced me as first in my age group!!!! YES! Bucket List Item Checked!!!! I even got a little plaque to commemorate my achievement.  It was epic.

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The hubs and I celebrated by going out for lunch and then ice cream, which is normally a treat I reserve for finishing half marathons. In this case though, I thought it was well earned.

In other epic news:

Sole Sister Brook Kreder of Brook’s First Marathon asked to share my story on her blog… which is hilariously awesome and you should read it btw… and not just because she featured me either. Her escapades literally make me laugh out loud.   

Bimbler’s Bluff Recap

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
-Colin Powell 

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I am a firm believer that with persistence, anything is possible.  That might have been what lead me to sign up for the Bimbler’s Bluff 50K in the first place.  It seemed to be one of those things where the planets are in alignment and everything just falls into place… although I never could have anticipated upon signing up just how true that would be.

I needed a race to run as a fundraiser for CT-ALIVE this year, and having done attempted the Ultra Beast last year, it had to be something that would test my limits.  Ever since the Ultra Beast, I had considered doing an ultra.  I had already done a marathon, so it seemed like the next logical step.  Plus, the Bimbler’s Bluff was a bargain at $50!

BLQ-tommy-lasordaDetermination-Quotes-for-Blog-300x300Since I was not super successful with my fundraising last year, this year I redoubled my efforts.  I made an event page, sent emails, and continuously begged for money on Facebook.  The fact that I had selected a race roughly 33 miles in length worked to my favor as I had people who offered to make donations in my memory just in case I didn’t survive.  (Thanks for the vote of confidence guys)  My goal was for this year $500, but I well exceeded it making for my most lucrative fundraising year yet!  That only made me more pumped for the race.

The other exciting thing about my big run this year was that a friend of mine (Vanessa from The Purple Song Project) put me in touch with Lana Ives from Ives International Film.  It turned out that Lana is working on a documentary involving stories of inspiring people.  She had read my blog and thought I fit the bill.  She asked if she could meet me at the race and interview me before the start.  She also said I could have copies of the film and images for my own personal use (i.e. for my blog- so stay tuned!).  Beyond the shock that someone would be inspired enough by my blog to want to involve me in a documentary, I realized that this was an AMAZING opportunity.  If my mission with this blog is to inspire people to go out and live their dreams, especially after abuse, then there was no way I could not accept.

Upon arriving at the race, I found Lana and her assistant at the check in.  I was beyond stoked to find not only that the race shirts were fluorescent orange, but that the race bibs were orange as well! I took this as a good sign because, as we all know, orange is my favorite color. Even better, the bib had my name on it- which meant the runners and volunteers would be cheering for me by name!  Anyone who has run a race with your name on the bib knows exactly what I am talking about here.  Plus, it made for better conversation on the course given we all had name tags.

As far as the actual race, I don’t even know where to start.  Trail runners are such a special breed.   When you sign up and arrive at a trail run, you sign up for more than a race.  Rather, you have signed up to be a part of a community, and it’s clear from the moment you arrive.  Bimbler’s Bluff was no exception.  There was a palpable sense of good will.  When the national anthem wouldn’t play, two runners stepped forward and sang it beautifully.  However, they didn’t sing it alone because almost immediately the whole field joined in.  It was a perfect way to start, and then we were off.

The early part of the course consisted of rolling hills, which are my favorite to run.  I picked a comfortable pace and stuck with it the whole way.  I only stopped to walk if a hill was particularly steep.  I plugged along while everyone else passed me, and before long I was convinced there was no one left to go by.  I didn’t particularly mind.  After all, it was nice to see another person occasionally, and I figured most of them had far more experience with ultras than me anyhow.

The first real challenge of the race was that markers were not that easy to spot.  The red and white tape blended with the foliage in some places and required a lot of attention not to miss them… which many people (myself included!) did… repeatedly.   (Might I offer a humble suggestion of lime green or fluorescent pink next year?)  This was good in the sense that it gave me something to concentrate on; however it made it difficult to watch my footing resulting in several good tumbles.  I caught my toe on and tripped over more rocks than I could count!  I was thrilled when I arrived at the first aid station and plowed through it on to the next one.

The second section of the course had areas that were so steep and treacherous that they were really more conducive to 1394469_10151653824057397_1418743311_nhiking climbing than running… unless you’re part mountain goat.  I did my best to run whatever I could safely and was still feeling good when I hit aid station #2.  I called out my number to the volunteers and headed up a near vertical ascent.  I found Lana on the way up, and she asked how I was feeling.  I told her I was still doing ok and scaled upwards.  My reward was a magnificent view from the top!  The rest of that section seemed to span on forever, and I was sincerely doubting my ability to finish before the cutoff… or finish at all… when I arrived at station #3.  Lana, again, was there waiting for me and she even jogged down the street with me asking me questions as I crossed back onto the course.  I asked the staff at the station how much longer to the next one (which I mistakingly thought was the last one) and they said another 6 miles.  Elated by this news, I blasted past them and they called after me that they had cookies and didn’t I want something to eat.

The next section, again, seemed to stretch on forever.  This was at least in part due to the fact that I hadn’t realized I was out of water until after I started it.  My legs were no longer cooperating and the down hills were worse than up.  At some point I ran a whole extra hill because I had missed a marker.  I thought about taking the ibuprofen I brought with me, but I didn’t want to risk injuring myself by blocking out the pain.  Then I rolled my ankle and landed on it. I was relieved to find at least that it wasn’t badly sprained, and I could still walk on it.  I figured I should enjoy what was left of the race because it could be a good amount of time before I’d be running on it again.  When I did finally arrive at the 4th aid station I found Adam.  He had ridden his bike from home to greet me.  I asked if would make it back in time to see me finish, and he said it would be no problem because I still had 11 miles to go.  The volunteer confirmed this information by telling me I did a great job and was 22 miles in.  I was crushed because I had thought that there were only 4 aid stations with 8 miles left after the last one.  I truly thought that extra 3 miles was going to kill me.  Then Adam filled my hydration pack more than I needed despite my protests.

In spite of the fact that the volunteers were wonderful and supportive, I left that aid station feeling totally defeated.  My pack was the heavier now than it ha been when I started, and I had 3 extra miles to go on top of the eight mile section ahead of me.  Judging by the amount of time it had taken me to complete the last section, I thought for sure that I would never make it past the next cutoff.  It was definitely my lowest point in the race.  The one thing that worked in my favor was that there were not a lot of uphills on that segment. In fact, it was primarily downhill; and I was able to push through 8 miles in 2 hours.  I saw Lana shortly before the last aid station and called out to her “I’m smiling because if you’re here then I’m almost done!”  I stopped briefly at that last aid station- just long enough to say thank you and grab some gummy bears.  They were the most delicious I have ever tasted in my life!  I headed into my last 3 miles on a high.  It was only 4:30 PM, and I knew I could walk the rest of the way and still make it.

However, having run everything but the worst hills up to this point, I was determined to keep going.  Besides, if I was running to inspire and raise money for victims of domestic violence, I was certainly not going to give them anything less than my best.  Plus, I wanted nothing more than to be finished as soon as possible!  So I kept running, despite the fact that my running resembled stumbling more than actual running.  I was emotional on the last section because it was the first time I knew that I could do it: the finish was within my grasp.  I thought of all the hard work and 6 long months of training I had put in to get to this point; and I thought of all the women I was doing this for.  This was not a victory just for me, this was a victory for us.  All those women who were told over and over that they couldn’t accomplish or handle anything, who 564089_10151653823952397_1516264909_nhad their self worth stripped from them the way I did- it was a victory for them.

When I did finally see the finish, I sprinted to it as fast as my legs would carry me.  The people who were there erupted in cheers (not just for me, but for every runner).  Lana was there at the finish, and I told her I couldn’t believe it was over.  She asked if she could give me a hug and I was more than happy to accept it, though I did warn her that I was pretty sweaty.  She asked asked me some additional questions, and then we waited or Adam to arrive (because he underestimated how quickly I would get through my last 11 miles!).  When the race director offered me my glass (and it’s a pretty nifty glass too!) for finishing, I had actually forgotten we were supposed to get anything.  To me, the reward was just in the experience.  I spent the whole day doing something I absolutely love, in good company, with great volunteers, and raised money and awareness for domestic violence in the process.  What more could a girl ask for?

Now that it’s all over, I’m still in disbelief that I did it.  Even more than that, I can’t even begin to process how much love and support I have had for this race.  I don’t think I could have pushed through the pain for as long as I did had I not had so many people rooting for me.  Being someone as independent as I am, I am not used to asking for help… or for anything for that matter.  However, when it came to my fundraising race this year, the response was more than I could have ever imagined.  I am so blessed to have the people I do in my life, from my amazing husband who sacrificed his sleep yesterday to drive me to and from the race and cheer me on, to my awesome family and mom who left me cupcakes for when I got home, to my trainer who kicked my butt for 6 months and helped me become the strongest physically that I have ever been, to all my friends, coworkers, and fellow CT-ALIVE board members, and Arch Angels who offered words of encouragement and made donations.  I dont’ know what I did to deserve to have so many wonderful people in my life, but I am truly grateful for each and every one of them!

Then and Now

“Life is painful and messed up. It gets complicated at the worst of times, and sometimes you have no idea where to go or what to do. Lots of times people just let themselves get lost, dropping into a wide open, huge abyss. But that’s why we have to keep trying. We have to push through all that hurts us, work past all our memories that are haunting us. Sometimes the things that hurt us are the things that make us strongest. A life without experience, in my opinion, is no life at all. And that’s why I tell everyone that, even when it hurts, never stop yourself from living.” 
― Alysha Speer

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It’s approximately 3 years and 7 months since I left my abuser, yet it seems like a lifetime ago.  I’m not sure when things changed so dramatically in my life since then, but they have.  For starters, I had to count back to figure out how long it’s been since it happened.  It’s not something that crosses my mind anymore. The anxiety and nightmares are all but gone, and something even more amazing has happened…  Somewhere along the way I found myself.  

I have taken some time recently to go back and read some of my early blog posts.  I was so unsure of myself when I started this blog!  I wanted to speak out about domestic violence and show the world that abuse can happen to anyone and it isn’t something to be ashamed of.  I wanted people to see that there is life after abuse beyond just surviving.  I wanted to let people know about the concept of THRIVING, even though I didn’t quite have the hang of it yet.

ImageEvery race I entered, I wasn’t sure that I could finish.  I would have anxiety and not sleep beforehand.  I was still terrified of failure.  I was afraid of what not meeting my goals might do to my self esteem.  With each victory, I set my sights on something bigger; but all the while I doubted my ability.

However, at some point I stopped worrying about failing.  Maybe it was my first DNF that broke me out of it.  After all, I had technically failed the issued challenge, yet I was nothing but impressed with myself that I had accomplished as much as I did.  Was I disappointed? Yes, but only that I didn’t have the opportunity to finish- NOT because I didn’t think I could.  In the end, I didn’t quit.  The course was shut down- but before it did, I had accomplished something few people could say they they have done.  I took on that mountain and all it’s grueling torture and I DID NOT QUIT. 

Perhaps I was stronger than I realized all along.  Maybe I wasn’t ready yet to take on life at the extreme pace I am capable of.  Ever since my abuse, I had found myself afraid of being overwhelmed.  I wouldn’t plan multiple activities in a week or too many projects at once for fear that it would be too much to handle.  It’s only recently that I’ve found that I NOT ONLY can handle multiple projects and commitments at once, but I am better off for it.  I have more energy and enthusiasm for life when I’m channeling all my energy into being productive.  This has been especially true of my work for CT-ALIVE.  It’s been completely inspiring to brainstorm and put our plans into motion.  It makes me feel like my life has purpose and like I can take on anything.  So instead of taking time to myself to “relax” or zone out in front of a movie at night, I’ve been working on making a difference in the world… and I can’t say I really miss the TV.

It has been as if I all of a sudden woke up one day recently and decided, “you know what, ImageI like who I am, AND I’m ok with it if other people don’t“.  If someone says something negative about me, I no longer have that knee jerk reaction to defend myself.  I feel like I finally have found myself, and I like the person I am today.  I am secure, confident, and more relaxed, AND REMARKABLY: I’ve stopped apologizing.  I am done apologizing for who I am, for having opinions, or for other people’s issues.  I am keeping my head above the drama, and, for the most part, doing a good job at it.  I have better things to do with my time than get caught up in cattiness.  I don’t want to hear negative things about other people, especially when they aren’t even present to defend themselves.  I have finally found my voice, and I’m ready to use it! (For the greater good, of course)

ImageThree years ago, I was lost and broken.  I was in a terrible place and suffered from crippling anxiety.  Today, I stand before you not cracked or broken, but solid and resolute.  There’s very little that ruffles me at this point.  I have too much to be happy about!  I’m focused on seeing the good in people and the beautiful things in life.  I don’t have time for hate or resentment, even toward people who have wronged me in the past.  If someone doesn’t appreciate me for the loyal and caring person I am, it’s his/her loss, truly.   People in this world make bad decisions, and I have FINALLY learned not to take them personally.  I can only control my own behavior, so that’s what I choose to focus on.  

I am moving forward in a positive direction and life continues to get better… I’m pretty sure all the endorphins have had a role to play in it as well. 😉  It’s pretty amazing to look back and see how far I’ve come on this journey; however, I am even more excited about where I’m going!

Be the Change you want to See…

“Be the change that you want to see in the
world.”
Mohandas Gandhi

Reclaiming my life after abuse has been both the most difficult and rewarding experience of my life.  Last night I took a huge step toward becoming the positive change I want to see in the world.  I was officially voted onto the board for CT-ALIVE, and even graduating with a degree from Yale does not compare in the sense of accomplishment.  I have come such a long way on this journey!

From the time I first left my abusive relationship, I have wanted to get involved and give back to other women.  Participating in Susan Omilian’sMy Avenging Angels Workshops” has only served to intensify this desire.  The women in her follow up group are all amazing, strong, and beautiful people (both inside and out).  They have so much to offer, and I wanted to be like them.  So many of them had gone on to obtain degrees in social work and counseling in order to help other victims.  Several work in healing and advocating for victims of violence.  There is an amazing energy in the room whenever they are together.  It’s palpable.

It was at one of the follow sessions that I got the idea to use my passion for running to help raise money and awareness for victims of violence.  I told Susan how I could use the races I was running to raise money for her scholarship fund and sent an email to CT-ALIVE to ask for their blessing (without realizing that I already knew many of the members of the board).  Susan replied back on both accounts with great enthusiasm and even extended an invitation to join the board.  I was honored.  Then she asked me for my résumé, and my heart sank a little.  I had never volunteered on a board, or even for any organization focused on domestic abuse.  My entire resume had to do with medical work.  I sent it to her and attached the following cover letter:

Dear Members of the Board:

My name is Jenny W; and as you can see from my résumé, I am currently employed as a physician assistant in general surgery.

I have never functioned as part of a board, and have limited experience working with victims of violence.  However, I do have experience at being a victim of violence and speaking out against it.  I have always been a compassionate person, but surviving abuse and living with the daily struggles of PTSD has given me the ability to empathize with other victims.  It is important to me to let them know they are not alone and there is no reason to be ashamed.

I have recently started a blog titled “The Running Thriver” to raise awareness about domestic violence and provide resources and hope to other victims.  I am also planning to use my passion for running to raise money and awareness for victims of domestic abuse.

What I lack in experience I can more than make up for in sheer drive, determination, passion, and enthusiasm.  As someone with the strength and resources to speak out and advocate for others, I feel it is my duty to do so to the best of my ability.  Violence and abuse destroy lives.  I want to be a force in this world against them.

Sincerely,

Jenny W. PA-C, MMs

As I typed the letter, I had a slight sense of dread that I would show up at the board meeting and not be voted in.  I was unsure of how they would react to my lack of experience.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I should have know better.

Stepping into the meeting was like walking into a bubble of positive energy.  In addition to the many delicious snacks, the room was filled with enthusiasm and ideas.  They were eager to hear what I had to say, which I found very humbling.  It was like being in a room full of giants.  They have all accomplished such great things, and here I was just starting out. (Check out my Blog Roll for further info on their individual projects)  However,  everyone was extremely gracious and made me feel completely welcome  as part of their group.  I felt like I was part of a terrific think tank with a single mission to reach victims of domestic violence and improve their lives.  It was completing energizing, a feeling that I typically only associate with working out.

As horrible a situation as going through the abuse was, it would be difficult for me to say that no good has come from it.  After all, it’s given me a tremendous opportunity to meet some incredibly amazing women and find volunteer work that I am truly passionate about.  I also have a new found appreciation for exactly how much inner strength I possess. People who are never challenged in life miss out on ever realizing their full potential.  I, on-the-other-hand, have had the privilege of finding out exactly what I am made of; and that is something I don’t regret at all.  It has made me a stronger, more self-aware person, and (among other things) a better runner.

I would encourage everyone to visit the new and improved website for CT-ALIVE and read more about the work they do.  They are making a terrific impact on women’s lives and provide their services free of charge.  Please consider donating to help support their ongoing work.  If you know anyone who you think may benefit from reading this blog, feel free to share.  Also if you have any questions or comments you can either leave them here or email me at runningthriver@gmail.com.