Domestic Abuse

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

finishline

“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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Enough

“All I can tell you really is if you get to the point

where someone is telling you that you are not great or not good enough,

just follow your heart and don’t let anybody crush your dream.”

-Patti LaBelle

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There are a lot of things in this life that I am not good at… that I struggle with in fact. At the top of that list is feeling like anything I do is ever good enough. Despite being a complete devotee to self love and acceptance, I have to admit that I am by far my own worst critic. I am pretty sure I am not alone in this admission. The thing is, it’s not because I’m unhappy with who I am. It’s that I’m not happy with where I’m at.

I have accomplished EVERY major goal I set my mind to in the past year. I overcame numerous obstacles including not knowing how to bike or swim, surgery, and injury (and FEAR!) to not only become a triathlete, but complete my first Half Ironman (in less than 7 hours!). I finished not one, but TWO 50K ultras with a third in the works, AND ran in my first sponsored race thanks to Bondi Band at the Ragnar Adirondacks.

Beyond the athletic sphere I have made strides in my personal life as well. I successfully negotiated for a better (and more importantly healthier!) position at work with better pay and a better schedule… which means seeing the hubs more… YEA!!!! I also have spent another year actively involved with CT-ALIVE in various projects to raise funds for victims of domestic violence, including my next run for the Running For The Color Purple Campaign this weekend.

I have taken on every challenge full steam ahead without ever taking my eye off the goal. Yet, despite everything I have achieved, I have yet to ever feel satisfied or fulfilled. Sure, it’s exciting when the task at hand is accomplished, but almost immediately my thoughts turn to the next challenge. There is no resting or stopping to savor the moment. I simply don’t know how to slow down.

The fact is, no matter what I do or goal I reach, I always feel like I have more untapped potential that I am just wasting. So many people go through life fearing failing above all else. I, on the other hand, fear not trying. I would rather chase a dream I only have a fraction of a chance of completing than go after one I know I can obtain. I want to live every moment to the fullest and know I used every ounce of my potential. I don’t want to waste a single second! When I leave this earth, I want to be sure I made the absolute best use of my time here. That is why I constantly feel pressure to do more to make an impact.

I know there is something greater I should be doing with my life; and, at times, I struggle with trying to figure out exactly what that is. I am well aware that I am not the brightest, most charismatic, or talented person out there, but I do have the desire, drive, and resolute determination to make a difference. I want to inspire people to chase their dreams. I want to change the way they view what is possible. I want to educate the public, demystify domestic violence, and give a voice to those victims and survivors who can’t speak for themselves. I want to do all these things on a larger scale than I am now. I want to affect lives!

That is why I see myself as an author and public speaker. I am already taking steps to get there. I have no idea how long it will take, but I intend to stick with it until I am successful. All the women I admire (Diana Nyad, Meredith Atwood, Brook Kreder…) all have something in common- They are inspiring others, particularly other women, by chasing their dobetterdreams. They all took on goals that other people questioned their ability to obtain, and they found a way to make them happen in spite of any obstacles. These are my role models. They have achieved the type of impact I want to make. (Okay, so realisticly, I am never going to achieve Diana Nyad levels of inspiring, but I would settle for my own TED talk… just putting it out there, Universe)

It may all sound a little looney; but I am a firm believer that the people who possess the power to change the world are those who believe they can.

I believe. I just need to figure out what my path is to get there.

In the meantime, I have been trying to remind myself that while it is great (and completely healthy) to constantly strive for more in life, it is also necessary to accept yourself as enough. It may sound contradictory, but it falls in line with Maya Angelou’s quote “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

I may not feel like I have reached my full potential in life yet, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t continually strived to become the best version of myself. Everyday I am doing the best I can with what I have to work with. That in itself is something to be proud of. I will continue to push outside my comfort zone and challenge myself until I grow into a person capable of changing the world. However until then, rather than focusing on the destination, I intend to make a better effort at appreciating the journey and trusting that the universe will guide me.

I Did It

“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it.

If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”
― Nora Roberts

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Folks, I did it.  I finally took the plunge and applied for a new job. Correction, I applied for several new jobs.

It’s sort of amusing when you stop and think that it took me almost six, yes SIX years to realize my relationship with my ex was abusive. Now here I am almost six (must be my lucky number…) years into my relationship with my current employer fully acknowledging that this relationship is also abusive. In reality, I have know for a long time that my work environment is toxic. However, I approached it with the same blind optimism I applied to my failed marriage. I thought if I sucked it up and stuck with it that it would get better. I thought I could help fix it. I didn’t want to give up and admit defeat.

Again, my thinking was backwards.

It’s not me, it’s them. I can’t fix it because it’s not my problem to fix.

The sad part is that it took my health deteriorating (again) for me to realize that this relationship is indeed as unhealthy and abusive as my previous marriage. I have spent more days not feeling well than not in the past six months (since being “promoted”). I STILL have a cough and sinus infection that I just can’t shake- a full month after getting sick for the Timberman and after a full course of antibiotics. Actually, I am pretty sure what I had was pneumonia, which is probably why it’s taking so long to recover. Regardless, this is a COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE way to live.

I am tired of feeling sick and rundown 100% of the time. My eye twitches even on days I’m not at work. I have nightmares about having to go to work. I have no reserves left.  There is nothing left to give.  I told my supervisor I was looking for other work.

WHY DOES SHE STAY?

There has been so much conversation in the media recently about “Why does she stay?” thanks to the Ray Rice incident. Those of us who have experienced abuse know there a host a good and valid reasons not the least of which is SAFETY ***women who leave their abusers are 70 TIMES more likely to be murdered in those first two weeks than any other time in the relationship!!!*** However, if we all stopped and took a look into our own lives, we would realize we all put up with some type of abusive situation at some point or another. While it may not be as extreme as domestic violence in many cases, a lot of the reasons for continuing to endure other toxic situations and relationships are the same. I can tell you from personal abuseexperience that although my safety may not be in jeopardy at my current job, I feel as physically and psychologically drained as I did in my first marriage. So why did I stay so long?

As I said previously, the reasons are similar.  I held out hope it would get better. I attributed my stress to other sources in my life. I tried to convince myself I was lucky to have a job [spouse who loved me and would do anything for me]. After all, there are so many people struggling just to find work, I thought I should be grateful to have the financial security afforded by my current employment. On a similar note, I worried that I would suffer financially if I changed jobs. As awful as my current situation has been, struggling to pay the bills and not being able to afford to eat did not seem like a better prospect. Loss of financial security is TERRIFYING even with a strong support system and second income. Imagine how individuals who are completely isolated and buried in debt by their abusers feel about this situation… Then add to that fear of retribution…

Beyond all the “practical” reasons, though, the thing that has kept from moving on the longest was LOSS OF HOPE. I truly didn’t think I could do better (in either instance). I believed that even if I got out of the situation I was in that I would just end up in another one just as bad or even worse. It seemed so much easier to face the enemy I already knew. To put effort into getting out only to end up going through the same mess again was something I was convinced would break me. It took everything in me just to get through each day, each hour, each minute. I honestly couldn’t think far enough ahead to get my head on straight. Abusive relationships (spouse, work, or otherwise) are so draining that there is no energy left to dream or hope or plan. There is no imagining a better way of living let alone surmising a strategy to get there. When you are completely surrounded by and enveloped in negative, toxic energy day in and day out, it is so easy to believe that every other job (or spouse) will be the same. That is why is each time I had to get to a point where it was completely unbearable.

In the case with my job, I finally realized that my fear of every other job being as awful was the same terrible logic I had applied to dating. Not every employer treats their staff poorly, just as not every relationship out there is dysfunctional. There are people out there who get up and actually look forward to going to work. Good jobs exist. The key to finding one is knowing your worth.

I am finally at a point where I know my worth both personally and professionally. I would not be true to myself if I continued to work in my current position. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be respected, treated well, and appreciated. I am not willing to settle anymore. That is why I am seeking other employment. I will not feel guilty for putting myself and my health first.

This job is my last tie to my “old” life; and, to be honest, I will be happy to let it go. I am ready to put my the last piece of my past behind me where it belongs. While I obviously wish I had acknowledged how unhealthy the situation was sooner, I am happy that I am finally applying my new outlook and philosophy on all areas of my life. I can’t beat myself up for being an optimist and hoping things would improve. It’s at the core of my being and has gotten me this far in life. In the future, however, I will have to pay extra mind to situations and people that are wearing on me. After all, I should be able to still see the world through my rosy colored specs and still look out for myself. One would think the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Sometimes you need to just take the leap and have faith that the universe will take care of things. I am taking that leap.

Change is a good thing and I am 100% ready to embrace it.

What I’ve Learned About Failure From Diana Nyad

“I wanted to teach myself some life lessons at the age of 60,

and one of them was that you don’t give up.”

-Diana Nyad

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I think you are all aware by now that I have a rather substantial lady crush on Diana Nyad.  In fact, I am pretty sure I wrote a whole post about it at one point.  This post, however, is not simply about how much I am in total awe and inspired by her (which I totally still am), but rather what I have learned from her about life and specifically failure.

When Diana made her #EPIC journey from Cuba to Florida, I was glued to the CNN app on my phone (I’m talking Boston Marathon levels of stalking).  For me, it was the equivalent of Man’s First Steps on the Moon.  Here was this woman in her sixties taking on the ocean, Gulf Stream, dehydration, hypothermia, sharks, jelly fish, and exhaustion in the hopes of finally chasing down her dream.  She wasn’t deterred by her age, all her failed previous attempts, or even the fact that her most recent attempt had nearly killed her, TWICE!  She was all in, Cuba or Bust.

It happened at a time in my life when I was struggling to learn to swim.  I couldn’t even wrap my mind around swimming the amount of time or distance she was attempting, forget all the other hazards… or the currents… or salt water… or restrictive gear (because we all know how much I love my wetsuit… NOT!)  To me, she was the epitome of the indomitable human spirit.  I would think about her during my swims just in awe on so many levels.

The more I learned about her, the deeper my admiration grew.  This is not a woman who has had an easy life.  In fact, she’s had very much the opposite.  She was abused by her father and assaulted by her swim coach for years in silence.  Being abused by my ex husband as an adult almost broke me.  I can’t even imagine what kind of strength it took to survive and endure being injured in that way by the men she was supposed to be able to trust at such a young age without ever reaching out to someone for support.  Beyond that, that fact that she has the courage to speak about it openly (especially in a culture with such prevalent victim shaming) speaks volumes to her personal fortitude and character.

I don’t know whether it was inherent strength that got her through or developed out of necessity, but I doubt it is a coincidence that a woman who was able to endure and thrive after that kind of childhood abuse is the same one who was able to shut down her critics and swim from Cuba to Florida.  Coming from a place of having survived and overcome the betrayal of physical and emotional abuse, I can speak first hand to the type of perspective it can give on life and specifically on pain.

Everyone has a scale for pain.  When something hurts, your brain is programmed to compare it to past hurt.  There is NOTHING in this life that I have ever encountered in the way of physical pain that even comes close to the psychological pain associated with abuse.  No sport, race, or distance to date, and I doubt any ever will.  It may be a reach, but somehow I think swimming 50+ hours across the ocean probably doesn’t compare for Diana either.

However, the reason I admire Diana is not the fact that she is an open survivor of abuse, so much as who she is as a person.  She had a crummy past, but it doesn’t define her.  Instead, it has made her tough as nails.  She is utterly unwilling to accept defeat, and that is my kind of lady.  If Diana has taught me anything in life, it’s that there is no such thing as failure unless you quit.  You may have failed attempts, but until you throw in the towel and give up- it’s not over.

Prior to hearing about Diana and learning about her, I used to worry about the big D-N-F.  I was afraid of failing.  However, now I realize it’s not a failure unless I give up on my goal.  As long as my desire and dream are still alive, I’m not defeated; and the story isn’t over.

When you look at her journey from Cuba to Florida, Diana didn’t fail on those previous attempts.  They were all important steps on her journey to get there.  In the end, I’m sure the fact that she had to fight so hard for so long made it that much more meaningful and rewarding.  So now, every time I have a goal (like 70.3) that I just can’t seem to get to, that is what I think of.  It’s not a failure, it’s just going to take a little longer than planned.  Eventually I will get there, and the victory that much sweeter.

PS. If you haven’t seen Ms. Nyad’s documentary The Other Shore yet, you should probably watch it. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a swimmer or even remotely interested in swimming. You should still watch it. Because the truth is, it’s not about swimming. It’s about living.

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:

 

livingwell

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!

Fear: The Dream Killer

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”
-Dorothy Thompson

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Let’s take a moment to talk about Fear.  We have all experienced it.  Its evolutional function was to keep us safe and alive.  However the problem comes when we are in no real danger and still living in a state of trepidation.  We are no longer living in a time when our lives are perpetually in danger, yet the fear remains.  Don’t think it’s affecting you?  Keep reading.

I grew up in a household with a constant undercurrent of fear.  My father suffers from mental illness and was labeled with a multitude of different diagnoses through my childhood.  While they struggled to find the right combination of meds, we lived with the constant anxiety that he might take off or worse.  My mother had promised to never have him hospitalized, so we saw first hand what he was like unmedicated and in the throngs of full on delusions.  At one point he disappeared for days and we weren’t sure if he was even alive.  With the changes in his meds, his personality also changed.  We never knew who we would be dealing with.  During most of that time he was paranoid, angry, and verbally and emotionally abusive toward my mother.  I learned to be hypervigilant at an early age, always aware of the slightest change in his mood.

The fear from my home life carried over into life outside of our house.  We all were charged with keeping the secret of my father’s illness as if it were something to be ashamed of.  We were not allowed to have friends over, and as a result were rarely invited to our classmates houses or birthday parties.  For the most part, we all coped by excelling in our studies.  I found solace in sports.  I did both cross country and track and joined just about every club in high school.  Anything to be out of the house.  Running was a chance to escape my problems, but it didn’t resolve my deep seeded anxiety.

I was afraid of everything growing up.  I was constantly praying and making deals with God.  I would count everything as way to feel like I had some control.  I’d see programs on aliens and armageddon and be too terrified to sleep.  Every thunderstorm I would curl up in my bed with rosary beads in hand.  I was terrified of going to school, of trying new things, and most of all of failing.  Being perfect was how I coped with my lack of self worth.  It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I became fed up with living in constant fear and challenged myself to do one thing that frightened me each day.  This is what I wrote about when I filled out my college applications.

By the time I left for college, I was well on my way to becoming my own person.  I was living on my own in the dorms and paying for my own school.  It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin.  I started working and volunteering, and spent my summers home constantly out of the house.  Yet, I never managed to escape my anxiety and self esteem issues completely.  Perhaps this is why I I was easily seduced by my abuser.  He frequently complimented me and made me feel like I was the center of his universe.  I would have done anything for him.

It was likely my upbringing that lead me to stay with my abuser so long, unaware of just how much fear and anxiety he had generated in my life- fear of saying or doing something that might upset him, fear of another outburst, fear of him doing something to embarrass me in public.  At no point in our relationship did I even realize I was being abused.  I had mistakingly thought that men who abuse their partners are aware that they are abusive.  In reality, people like my ex truly believe other people are the cause of all their problems and behave toward them accordingly.  This is because people like him are completely incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions and consider their victims the problem, not the other way around.

It was after I left my abuser that my fear and anxiety hit an all time head.  The PTSD symptoms I had were paralyzing.  You know that feeling you get when you are alone in the house at night and you hear a noise?  Imagine feeling like that all the time.  It’s literally exhausting.  It ruled my life, and I hated it.  Running and working out helped.  In fact, they were the only thing that helped– not therapy and not meds.  People see how much I train, and they think I’m super dedicated; but the truth is this is how I cope with my anxiety.  The more I trained, the more I needed to train to get the same sense of calm and relief.  Presently I need to workout 2-3 hours on my days off to feel relaxed the rest of the day.  At least it’s cheaper than therapy though, right?

Now while I realize that most of you have not had to grow up the way I did or deal with PTSD, we are not actually that different.  ImageWhat is different is that my anxiety and fear existed on such a large scale that I had to face them head on.  It was the only way I’d be able to function at all.  Yet, many people live their lives in fear without ever realizing how much it holds them back.

When is the last time you thought about something you wanted to do and then made an excuse to yourself about why you couldn’t or shouldn’t?  That is the fear talking.  Don’t say I could never run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, or ultra.  The question is not a matter of can.  The question is whether you are willing to put in the effort.  Find a way. If it is truly a dream find a way to make it happen.  Get a coach, find a training plan, write inspirational notes to yourself, and build up to the person you need to be to accomplish that goal.  Perhaps you can’t do it now, but that is the point of establishing goals.  It’s a about morphing into a stronger, smarter, and more confident version of yourself.  Mold yourself into someone you can feel proud of.

Plus I will let you in on a little secret: getting outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself, while incredibly uncomfortable while you’re doing it, feels BEYOND AMAZING once you’ve done it!  It is one of the best feelings in the world- and it doesn’t matter how big or small the goal is.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  Maybe the first step in your case is just to believe you can.  That’s ok because we all have to start somewhere.  It’s your journey and the only person you should compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.  Make a commitment to yourself to grow into the person you have always dreamed of being.  Along the way you will learn to truly love and accept yourself; and the everyday fear of not being good enough will slip away.  It’s amazing how little you care about what other people think of you when you are truly happy with the person you’ve become.

Fear is just an obstacle getting in the way of your dreams, and it’s time to get over it.  Don’t let your inner critic hold you back.  He or she is just bitter about your awesomeness.  You are strong, inspiring, and courageous.  You have talents and gifts that need to be shared with the world.  It’s your time to start living fully and leave any lingering reservations in the dust.

Repeat after me: Today I stand no longer afraid.

I am not afraid to try new things– Sure it may be scary, but it’s what makes me feel like I am living!

I am not afraid of being disliked– I’m a great person.  I put others ahead of myself and truly care about the people in my life from friends and family to my employees and patients.  If other people can’t appreciate that, it’s truly their loss.

I am not afraid to fail– Because, hey, at least I am trying!  If I do fail or DNF then at least I know I’m testing my limits!  Have you ever stopped to think what you might be capable of if you just tried?  If you never try then how would you know?

I am not afraid to bear my soul– This blog is 100% me and my truth.  I am not going to hold anything back.  I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.  People can go ahead and judge, but I am going to stay true to myself.  How would I be any help to anyone else here if I wasn’t?

Who’s with me?  What fears are you ready to give up?

 

Cha-Cha-Changes

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.

For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

-Margaret Mead
 
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You may have noticed that the blog (and Facebook page… and Twitter) are looking a bit different these days.  As it turns out, spending a few days too sick to move off the couch gave me a chance to give my social media presence a much needed facelift.  At some point I’d like to have a more professional and unified logo; but for now, I think I did a pretty good job on my own (if I do say so myself… and I do 😉 ).  It’s all part of my master plan for global Thriver domination.  Step 1: personalize social media, Step 2: expand social media presence, Step 3: network with other kick ass peeps, Step 4: write and publish book, Step 5: Thriver Global Domination.   
 
Sounds easy, right?  Okay, but in all seriousness I do want to want to achieve most of those things.  Doing all of them would be nice too. 😉  Why?  Because the more I expand, the more people I can reach.  That means not only having the potential opportunity to inspire and empower other people to achieve their dreams, but also inspiring and empowering other victims of violence.  One of the main reasons I started this blog was to offer hope to those survivors of abuse who still hadn’t found their way back to dreaming and aspiring for a better life.  I also wanted to show the masses that abuse can happen to anyone, and so can a meaningful and fulfilling life after abuse.  This is my outlet to prove that enduring and surviving abuse is nothing anyone should be ashamed of… EVER.  Rather, it should serve as a badge of honor as a testament to just how tough we are as a population.  We didn’t crumble or succumb.  We picked up the pieces and rebuilt our lives after surviving mental and physical warfare.  Who has the ability to wound you better than someone who has a grip on your heart?  No one, that’s who.  Yet, we survived, we endured, and we are here to support each other.
 
I am be one person, but I am someone, and that someone is determined to bring about change.  I may not be able to do much, but IImage can do something.  Maybe my reach will never be global.  Maybe #thrive on will never catch on.  However, if I can impact just a few lives, even a handful, and then they are able to reach a few more people… you can see how far a ripple effect can reach.  As much as I would love to inspire every person on this earth to go chase their dreams and educate every individual on the planet about the dangers and impact of domestic violence, I could settle for even a few.
 
Sometimes I wonder if anyone out there actually reads the content I put into my posts, or whether people just like posts based on the photos.  Then every once in a while I will catch a Facebook post or (more recently) a retweet, and there is a part of me that’s surprised (while my heart sings and does a little happy dance in my chest).  Then again, that is the goal, right? To reach people.  All I can do is hope… and work, and continue to pour my heart and soul into this blog… and then hope some more that somewhere it is making a difference for someone. 😉
 
In an effort to expand my empire reach, I have actually started to learn how to use my Twitter account @RunningThriver.  You may have noticed my fancy new Twitter widget…  I also have started an Instragram account, but am still a LOONNNG way off from getting the hang of using it.  I did manage my first post tonight… it was a picture of my dinner.  Uber exciting, right?  I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have kids to embarrass with my lack of tech savviness yet. 😉 
 
I also applied to be a Sweat Pink Ambassador because sweat and pink sounds like a perfect combination to me.  I also think the fact that they are all about kicking ass and supporting and empowering women is pretty groovy too.  Oh, and a bunch of my Toughie Sistas at Tough Chik are doing it, so that’s enough proof for me that they must be pretty darn awesome.  I’m pretty sure they need to accept me too because I already did a post on rejection… just sayin.  
 
ImageLastly, I recently got an email from Run Inspired (LOVE their website… Running, Inspirational Stories… I am soooo sold!) that said something to the effect of “YOU ARE INSPIRING!” (I’m paraphrasing).  Apparently, this love affair is mutual, and I was invited to fill out a questionaire for their site.  Take that Fitfluential! Someone else thinks I’m inspiring, so there! jk  Joking aside, I will keep you all posted on how that goes.
 
In the meantime, I would like to invite you all to share your thriver stories.  I want to start sharing some on the blog and eventually want to start a permanent page for them.  You can include your name and pictures if you wish or write anonymously.  You can even include links back to your own pages.  What I want is to build a Thriving community here.  You don’t necessarily have to be a survivor of abuse.  Anyone choosing to thrive instead of just surviving life is welcome. 🙂
 
You can submit your story to runningthriver@gmail.com.
 
Survivors of abuse can learn more about Susan Omilian’s  “My Avenging Angel Workshops” and how to become a Thriver here.
 
#thriveon