Positive Affirmations For Pessimists: Thinking my way to my first sub-four marathon

I have been trying to break four hours in the marathon since 2015. This year’s attempt was at a hometown race, the Onward Shay Boise Marathon. Although initially I was not thrilled about running in such a familiar place that I knew would have little to no crowd support, by the end of my training cycle I appreciated the benefit of knowing the course well and being able to visualize every mile of the race. There was no magic of New York this year. This was the year to focus, to push hard, and to break four hours.

From that standpoint, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. In my mind, I had never executed a marathon property. Always fading significantly towards the later part of the race, the 26.2 mile distance eluded me. I had never performed to my capabilities in the marathon. I wanted to prove myself. If I didn’t this time, I was scared I might give up and never run another marathon again.

Physically, I knew I was capable of running a sub-four time. I put almost 650 miles on my legs over 18 weeks of consistent training, hitting all of the prescribed paces. Day after day I showed up. I worked hard and consistently. But my mental game had to be strong. I couldn’t give myself an out, and I couldn’t beat myself up and force myself to the finish line with unkind words. Close to the end of my training cycle I read a Hansons article entitled, When Do I Know I’m Ready? The part of this article that really resonated with me was the part about focusing on the process. So many times in racing I have tried to force the result or berate myself to the finish line. I took these words to heart and set the intention to focus on the process while also working on confidence and preparing myself for the difficult task ahead.

The last 10k in particular terrified me. I had a history of slowing down significantly during this portion of the race, and I had a bad experience in one race of getting hurt during this segment. I wanted to go into this marathon with the mindset that I could push through without fear, that I could Be Brave. I loved this piece from Carrie Mack about giving it all in Chicago. I thought about her words often both before and during my run, reminding myself to be patient during the first 20 miles and Be Brave during the last 10k. I wrote “I AM BRAVE” on my arm.

The week before the race, I wrote several positive affirmations on post-it notes on my bathroom mirror. Things like “Be Positive,” “Be Brave,” and “Sub-4.” I later decided that I should write them as “I AM” since that is a much stronger statement that adopts these things as true: I am brave, I am positive, I am a sub-four marathoner. I wrote these things and more in my journal and read them over and over before the race. I acted as if it had already happened. Normally, I would feel that behaving in such a way would “jinx” my performance, but I was going to try this. My mental game had been the weak link for so long that this was worth a shot. What did I have to lose? I felt like I needed to go into this race with the unwavering confidence that all of the things I was proclaiming to myself in the mirror – positive, patient, limitless, flowing, letting the race come to me, brave, transcending discomfort, strong, ready, a sub-four marathoner – were true. After all, my coach and teammates believed these things about me, why shouldn’t I believe them about myself? It felt weird, saying these things to myself, but I kept doing it. Even if just a small part of me believed, maybe it would make a difference.


The morning of the race, I had sore areas on my posterior tib and my heels that I was slightly concerned about. I gave them a pep talk. Out loud. “Ok legs, we’ve done 600+ miles and you can do 26.2 more. Then we rest. You are strong, you are ready. Let’s do this!” And again, I repeated my affirmations in the mirror. “I am brave. I am a sub-four marathoner.”

I lined up at the start and was pleasantly surprised to see pacers. There was even a 3:55 pacer. I thought “Great! I just need to stay comfortably behind her!” I followed her for the first mile. 8:57. Perfect. Second mile. 8:44. She was going way too fast! But I didn’t freak out that I had run the second mile that fast. I took a deep breath. I told myself, “You know how to adjust,” (words directly from my coach to help counteract my tendency towards catastrophic thinking), and I let the pacer go. Banking time was not the strategy I was going for. I lost sight of the group several minutes later, even though I was running under the average pace needed for a 3:55.

As the miles ticked off, one by one, I remembered to be patient. “I am patient. I am relaxed.” My coach had told me not to be scared when I started to feel discomfort, and those were very important words for me to remember. When I started to feel discomfort, I acknowledged it, and moved on. “I’m getting warmed up. Each mile is different. One mile at a time. I am flowing. I am letting the race come to me.” I focused on the process. Mile by mile. Keeping my splits in check and being careful not to go too fast. Around mile 13, the 3:55 pacer was in sight again! However, also around that time, the wind picked up and I found myself running into a nasty headwind. My next two splits were 9:07, even though the effort felt harder. My initial reaction was discouragement and I could feel the negative thoughts trying to creep in. My body started to tense up and I could feel the fear and anxiety in my stomach. I had to work hard to stay positive. “I am positive. This is fun! I am doing it! I feel great!” I thought if I told myself I feel great, it might be true. I knew that my coach and teammates would be at the mile 16 aid station, which was also the turnaround point. I reminded myself that I was running towards them, that I was excited to see them, and that once I turned around the wind would be at my back. Seeing my coach and teammates at mile 16 was wonderful, encouraging, and definitely provided me the mental boost I needed at that point in the race.

I glanced at my watch and noticed after seeing my friends and turning around with the tailwind and slight downhill I had picked up the pace a little too much. So I held back, reminding myself, “Be patient. The race doesn’t start until mile 20. This is your warm-up. You are doing great.” I knew from experience how much can go wrong in the last 10k, so every time I started to think it was going well, I worked to temper any excitement and to just stay with the moment. To stay present and to run the mile I was in. Mile by mile, I was working my way to the finish line. When I got to mile 20 the 3:55 pacer was still in sight. “Be brave,” I said out loud. “Go with her.” I picked up the pace a bit for miles 20 and 21. However, that proved to be a little too much and by mile 22 I was back to 9 min/mile. Mile 23 was difficult and at the end of that mile a biker got in my face and said, “Do you need help?” The course was not a closed course and I didn’t know if the guy was a race volunteer or a spectator joking around with me. Either way, it messed with my mental game. This is the part of the race where your mind is overriding your body’s signals saying “Hey, can we stop or slow down?” and you are leading with your heart, and when this guy asked me if I needed help I started thinking “Do I look that bad? Do I look like I need medical attention? Am I about to collapse, but I’ve somehow convinced myself I am fine?” It took me a good half mile to collect myself and get back on track. Miles 24 and 25 were my slowest at 9:10 and 9:20. I could see the 3:55 pacer, who I had almost caught, getting further away, and was trying so hard to keep her in my sight. “Don’t let this race slip away from you now. Keep going. To that tree. 400 meters at a time, 200 meter pickups. You can do it.”

Coming into mile 25 my friend Kylee appeared like an angel in white on the side of the Greenbelt. She ran beside me to the end saying words of encouragement, but never expecting a response, as she knows well the pain cave you are in at the end of a marathon. My family was there at the last .2 and Kylee took photos which I will treasure forever. I crossed the line in 3:55:59, an eight minute PR and my first sub-four time after three years of trying. It was so special to have both my family and Kylee there to share that moment with me.


Coming into mile 25. Dying. Photo by my friend Kylee.

Although of course you need the training and a healthy body, I firmly believe that it is the positive and process focused thinking that got me to the finish line in under four hours. There were three points that I looked at my overall time during the race: the 16 mile mark because I told my friends what time I thought I would be there, the 20 mile mark because I knew what time I wanted to hit that point, and when I saw Kylee so I could mumble to her how much time I had to will myself to the finish in under four hours. The rest of the time I was focused on the process. On each mile and properly executing the mile I was in. On staying positive, relaxed and keeping the right mindset. I didn’t try to force it. And when I did all of that, 3:55:59 was there waiting for me at the finish.


Did I just luck out and happen to have a good run that day? Maybe. And certainly things like weather and the way I physically felt on that day were important.  But I don’t think that was all of it. I think the positive self talk and intentional confidence, as weird and unnatural as it felt to me (and even if it felt like I was faking it), made a big difference. So I have made a commitment to implement it throughout my training (not just during the taper) as well as in other areas of my life. Let’s see where it takes me. Onward!



lululemon does law school

I wear many hats. Mom, wife, friend, runner, wannabe cyclist and blogger. In a former life I was a full-time practicing attorney, and I teach part-time at a law school. The first time I walked into a classroom of law students I was struck by the air of idealism in the room. I wanted to harness the positive energy and catapult it into the community, immediately putting all of that idealism to good use. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Turning the dream into reality requires planning, action and consistency. This is why I use lululemon’s goal setting worksheets in some of my classes, including the interns I taught this summer.

On a warm afternoon earlier this summer as students trickled into class after a long day of working at their internships, I prepared to speak to them about goal setting and creating a business plan. Some students rushed in just before the start of class still wearing suits, others strolled in at a more casual pace, having had time to change into more comfortable attire. Living their lives from semester to semester as most students do, not many take the time to think about a five or ten year plan. Survival through exams until the next break is more the name of the game.

Planning is important, however, to ensure that the steps we take today are taking us towards the life that we want. In the areas of health, personal, and career, these worksheets invite you to envision your future, examine what you want and don’t want in it, and then help you create a ten, five and one year plan. You create ten year goals, working backwards to the one year goal and even to what you can be doing today to help you make progress towards that goal.

I first used these worksheets at a goal setting workshop hosted by my coach and found them incredibly helpful in creating a vision for my own future. Every time I ask my students to complete these worksheets, I complete them with my students, and every time I complete them my goals and vision change slightly. And that’s okay. Just because you write it down doesn’t mean it’s written in stone. But writing down a goal is an important part of the process.  Gary Blair said, “A goal is created three times. First as a mental picture. Second, when written down to add clarity and dimension. And third, when you take action towards its achievement.” I encourage you to give these worksheets a try to help add clarity and dimension to your goals. These are not just worksheets for yogis or runners, but for anyone who wants to create a happier and more fulfilling life. That includes law students!

Overcoming Fear of Failure

“The reality is that if your dream is to accomplish something awesome, it’s not going to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. People who go for greatness are going to get knocked down a lot. They’ll have difficult times. They’ll struggle with doubt and uncertainty. People around them will question the wisdom of their quest. The issue is not whether you’ll fail, because you will. It’s whether you’ll get back up and keep going. It’s whether you can sustain your self-confidence and your belief in yourself and keep bouncing back. Failure is only final when you stop striving.” – Bob Rotella

My taper has not gone according to plan. I noticed some leg pain in my last big tempo run, and although I took it easy after that, it has continued to pester me. I went to the doctor to get it checked out this week to ensure I would be okay to run my goal race this weekend. He sent me for an MRI, found some minor swelling (but not in a high risk area) and cleared me to run as tolerated. I have rested all week (light cross training, no running) so I have no idea what will happen when I hit the course on Sunday. I am excited that I have a chance to run the race and put it all out there, but I am scared s#$%less of failure.

The irony of course is that this fear of failure is restrictive. This fear of failure made me want to stay home and not even try, even when my doctor and coach both told me it was okay to try, that I should try. The fear of failure makes me tense and keeps me focused on the negative. The fear of failure makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed. It keeps me from being able to enjoy the moment. And the fear of failure makes it more likely that I will actually fail.

What exactly is failure in this situation? Is failure not meeting a goal time? Not having a “perfect run” (whatever that may mean)? Not enjoying the run? I met my goal time in a recent race but still felt like a failure because I beat myself up mentally in the tough miles. I would propose that true failure in this situation would be not trying. Not showing up and giving my absolute best effort.

Failure can actually be a gift, a wonderful teacher. When we fail at things, we learn. We learn from mistakes. We learn from bad runs, bad relationships, bad decisions. We learn, we grow, and then we do better. When we are afraid to fail we deny ourselves these learning experiences, these life lessons and opportunities for growth.

So given the opportunity to toe the line on Sunday, I will not be afraid. Or at least I will try my very best to not be afraid. I will embrace the experience with an open mind and an open, positive and thankful heart. I will try my very best to not be afraid to fail big. To learn big. And if I fall down, I will get right back up with more wisdom in my pocket than I have today.


Finding the Joy in the Suffering: Barber to Boise 10k Race Report

I have some big running goals. I want to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. For an average age grouper now masters runner like me, getting to Boston would be like playing in the Final Four or competing in the Olympics. I was not an athlete growing up and hardly attach that label to myself even now, so the idea of one day running in an elite and prestigious race such as Boston would be a dream come true. In order to get there it will take years of hard work, patience and learning how to overcome the negative self-talk that seems to creep up when I start to get uncomfortable in races. I must learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable and believe in myself, even when I am hurting. I know this and my coach knows this, which is why she tells me that I need to practice racing more often.

I am in the middle of a marathon training cycle, but this weekend raced a 10k instead of doing my weekly tempo run. My coach told me to go for it and push myself. Taking her advice, I decided to go for the sub-50 PR that I had been chasing for a couple of years. The 10k is tricky for me. I tend to start out too close to my 5k pace and then flame out in spectacular fashion by the middle miles. I shared my goal with my friend Sam just before the race, and we decided to run together. I was thrilled to have someone to run with.

Sam and I started off together and ran the first couple of miles just under our target pace. I felt good and strong and with Sam beside me I felt like we had a ton of positive energy going back and forth. Without saying a word, I felt that we were supporting and encouraging each other with every step and I loved every moment. Just after mile three, Sam encouraged me to go ahead. I didn’t want to leave her side, but I also didn’t want to make her run at a pace that wasn’t feeling right for her. Eventually I pulled slightly ahead, hoping she would stay just behind. And every time I glanced behind, she was right there.

Around mile four to five, I started to get very tired. My legs felt heavy, I wasn’t sure where Sam was (although I was expecting her to blow by me at any second), and every time I glanced at my watch my pace was over my target pace. This is the point in the race where you need to stay strong. Where you need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and soldier on. Where you need to build yourself up mentally, take it one step at a time, and will yourself to finish.

I know all of the things that I am supposed to do at this point in the race where it starts to hurt, where I get really uncomfortable, when I enter the pain cave and start to suffer. Yet there is a disconnect between what I know and what I actually do. Because what I actually did yesterday and what I tend do a lot in this situation is the following: When I got to the point of discomfort I started to beat myself up mentally. Instead of telling myself that I could do it, I told myself all of the reasons that I could not. I told myself that I was too old, too tired, and too heavy. That I did my long run last weekend too fast so that I ruined any chance I had of earning a PR at this 10k. That I am not a good person and I do not deserve things like PRs and negative splits and good races. Ridiculous, mean, defeating self-talk. Not the self-talk of a champion. I would never say these things to a friend, so why do I say them to myself?  

After the race, my running team met for happy hour. One of my friends and teammates and I were talking about goals. I told her about my Boston ambitions and how I would like to do a longer triathlon. She is an accomplished elite triathlete and although she clearly has racing goals when I asked what those goals were she replied simply and beautifully: “Joy.” I think this should be my goal, too.

I reflected on her answer for a good portion of my long run this morning. I told my husband last week that I want to and that I will get to Boston, but more than that I want to enjoy the process of getting there. Mostly I do enjoy the process. Having a big goal motivates me to get up early in the mornings and do the hard workouts. Running is a huge part of my mental health regimen, and my running group is my social outlet. I have met some of my dearest friends through running.  I also like having something to work toward, even if it will take years to get there. Part of this process will be learning how to keep those negative thoughts from creeping up when I enter the pain cave during a race. It will not be enough to have those around me tell me that I am strong enough and capable. I must truly believe it myself. Once I do, I will be able to silence those voices once and for all, even when I am pushing myself physically to the limit.

When I approached the end of mile five yesterday, I saw that I was going to be very close to reaching my goal of sub-50. At the six mile marker, I realized that I may just make it in under 50 minutes if the course was measured accurately. I pushed my legs as hard as I could, coming in at 49:46, barely under 50 minutes, proving once again that it was my mind and not my body that was holding me back.

I was thrilled to have met my time goal yesterday, but I do not like how I beat myself up mentally in the pain cave. Numbers are not everything and if my ultimate goal is to find the Joy in the Suffering, I have quite a bit of work to do. I race again in two weeks. My goal for that race is to enter the pain cave again, but next time I am going to be kinder and more gentle with myself. I am going to try again to find joy and beauty in the suffering that we as runners and athletes create when we push ourselves to our limits. That type of suffering is sacred and I am thankful for the days that I can race and do that without being injured. I want to celebrate it and be kind to myself in those moments. It may take some practice, which is precisely why my brilliant coach keeps telling me to race more and to push the pace until I figure it out!


Harnessing Fear

There have been periods over the past several years where I have dabbled in cycling. Whether it be a desire to try triathlon, increase my cross-training repertoire, or to maintain fitness during periods of injury, when I mount a bicycle I typically find myself confronting fear. Fear of clipping in and out, fear of descending, fear of riding in traffic…of course those are all just variations of one primary fear: Crashing and getting hurt (or God forbid worse).

When I can confront a fear and come through on the other side of it, I gain confidence. But too much fear can be crippling and will cause me to avoid the activity. The trick is to find the right balance, or to use the fear to my advantage.

Yesterday I was riding up a hill (Bogus Basin Road for those of you that live in Boise) and came upon a cattle guard. Having never ridden my road bike over a cattle guard before I was terrified when I saw it. My preference would have been to unclip and walk over or around it, yet I was cycling uphill and cannot unclip quickly while cycling uphill. I feel like I need a lot of time to unclip and need to be pedaling on a flat surface to do so. I looked ahead and saw another cyclist a couple hundred feet ahead of me. He had obviously gone over the cattle guard and was still upright, so I presumed I could go too. I looked ahead, pedaled forward, and hoped for the best. What choice did I have? I hit the guard, rumbled furiously, and as soon as it started it stopped and I was on the other side! Still upright! But with one minor problem. Since this was an out and back ride up and down a large hill, I would still have to ride back down over the cattle guard.


I found a safe place to turn around and once I was heading downhill immediately started worrying about the cattle guard. Descending is not my favorite to begin with and adding the cattle guard to the descent was not helping at all. As I approached it on the downhill, I looked ahead of it, thought “focus on where you want to go” and rode right over it. The downhill seemed to make less of a rumble than the uphill, probably because I hit it going faster, but my body, having been flooded with surges of adrenaline from my fear, continued to shake even after the cattle guard was miles behind me. While it was confidence inducing to know that I can, in fact, ride over a cattle guard without harming myself, I cannot say that I was jumping out of bed to go do it again this morning.

I did, however, go on another (different) road bike ride this morning with my husband and that one also forced me to closely examine how I can perhaps harness my fear to motivate me and build confidence instead of destroy it. Today’s ride was full of chip seal. For those of you who do not live in the area, chip sealing is an alternative, cheaper way to maintain roads that involves dumping a bunch of loose gravel everywhere. So imagine you are on your favorite road route and all of a sudden discover that a) the bike lanes are gone, b) there’s about two inches of loose gravel for miles and miles, and c) when cars drive by they often kick up said loose gravel in your face. On one of the descents through the gravel I was swerving all over the place, spitting gravel everywhere, and when we got to the bottom of the hill I tossed my bike aside and told my husband, “I quit.” I actually said the words, “I quit.” I told him that he could ride home and get me (which would have taken over an hour) or we could ask someone at a nearby house if they would watch our bikes while we took an uber home and then drove back. He looked at me, laughed, agreed the ride was no fun, but told me to put my big girl panties on, that I could do it and to keep pedaling. And I’m so glad he did. I would have felt bad if I had quit in the middle of the ride. Also, the beer I drank when I got home would not have tasted nearly as good.

And I would not have had the rest of the ride to consider how to properly harness fear to create confidence. I still do not have that part figured out and am open to suggestions. I have owned a road bike for eight years and I still feel fearful when I ride it. But I can do things now that I could not do eight years ago. I like to believe that the more I ride the more confident I will get. Perhaps it will not come quickly. Perhaps I will always be somewhat fearful. But I keep showing up. I keep riding.

I asked myself this morning why. Why do I keep doing something that scares me so much? Why time and time again do I get on the bike only to flood my body with adrenaline, have near misses with cars or almost topple over due to my own user error? Because if I don’t try, I’ll never know what I am capable of. To show my kids what confronting fear looks like. Because there is no chance of running into a deer in a gym class and the views aren’t quite as good. Because I like doing triathlons. Because the beer at the end tastes phenomenal. And because nothing feels quite as good as doing something that you didn’t think you could do yesterday.



My Gait Analysis Follow-Up Appointment: A Valuable Lesson in Dissociation

St. Luke’s Sports Medicine is a very generous sponsor of our running team, the Boise Betties, and as part of that sponsorship we can send a runner or two per month in for a detailed gait analysis. This month it was my turn. Two weeks ago, I went in and completed paperwork, did a videotaped session on the treadmill, and several strength and flexibility tests. This week I went back to watch the videos and learn about the areas in which I most need to improve.

As most of us do, I cringed at the idea of having to watch myself run on video. I asked those who had gone before me if it might be appropriate to bring beer or wine for the viewing session. Maybe some Xanax? My coach met me there for my appointment too, with pen and paper in hand so that she could take notes and incorporate any suggestions from the therapists into my training program.

I have done a gait analysis before. I have seen myself running on videotape. I am not sure I had seen myself running on videotape in super slow motion. All I could see were portions of my body moving up and down in disjunction with other portions. Ga-gunk. Ga-gunk. I tried not to focus on that. I tried to play scientist and focus on angles and hip drops and detach myself as best I could from any emotional attachment to the image on the screen, instead trying to soak up what information I could from the health professionals in the room who could teach me how to improve.

But occasionally the eating disordered 16 year old that is still stuck inside me would rear her ugly head: “Look at all of that extra on you. No wonder you are not faster.” To which the older, wiser and more dominant 40 year old woman would reply: “Excuse me little girl, this body can run marathons. This body has birthed three beautiful children. This body is strong. And this body keeps going. So excuse me while I keep listening to these physical therapists because I do not have time for your crap.”

The appointment was very humbling (to say the least), yet also eye opening and gave me things to work on. For example, I saw that I strike the ground with too straight of a leg, which I believe is a compensatory pattern due to years of pain behind the knee cap. The knee pain may be due to weak hips and my glutes not firing so I am going to continue working on hip strength (which I was already working on) and glute recruiting exercises and see if I can make any improvements in this area over time.

In running practice the next morning we did hill repeats. They were the first ones I had done in months, since I am just coming back from injury. I could feel my quads and lower back over working while my glutes were still sleeping. I felt frustrated and remembered my appointment the day before. As I thought back to all of the things that were “wrong” with my running, I felt overcome with negativity and frustration. I was not appreciating my body for the things that it could do, but rather getting angry with it for the things that, in my mind, it was not doing.

Later that day, I read an article about a Playboy playmate who had taken a picture of another woman in the shower at a gym without her permission and then body-shamed her on social media. I was horrified. Who does this? Here we have a beautiful woman who feels the need to take a nude photo of another woman, post it online thereby violating this woman’s privacy in a horrible way, and say awful things about her. Don’t you think it has something to to with the fact that deep down the perpetrator, a playboy model, feels insecure about her own looks and her own body, so she tears others down to feel better about herself? We all know there is a better way. This mom’s response is the best.

Each body is beautiful because each body is uniquely ours. Our bodies can do amazing things. When we push ourselves, sometimes we learn that our bodies can do things we never thought we were capable of. Of course we do not look like photos in magazines. Those are not real. We are. Let’s celebrate each other and what our bodies can do, not what they canNOT

Today my body completed its first race, a short sprint triathlon, since I turned 40 three months ago and was diagnosed a day later with a stress reaction in my foot. I am so thankful for what my body could do today and am hopeful for the future. And next time I am doing hill repeats, I will be thankful that my body is able to run up a hill, no matter which muscles are propelling it. My glutes may be a little late to the game, but they will get there. I will make sure of it.

But I Get Up Again

As a runner, I feel like I deal with more than my fair share of injuries. Maybe I am just a glass half empty kind of gal but as I look over the past year I see three significant forced breaks. Granted, one of them wasn’t really a running injury, it was appendicitis, but three forced breaks over a years feels like a lot, especially when you have missed a great deal of the nice spring and fall weather. I guess the universe is still trying to teach me about patience and perseverance and I no I still have not learned. In looking over my Instagram feed the other night I came across this gem which I posted while on Forced Break Number One:

The reality is that if your dream is to accomplish something awesome, it’s not going to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. People who go for greatness are going to get knocked down a lot. They’ll have difficult times. They’ll struggle with doubt and uncertainty. People around them will question the wisdom of their quest. The issue is not whether you’ll fail, because you will. It’s whether you’ll get back up and keep going. It’s whether you can sustain your self-confidence and your belief in yourself and keep bouncing back.

Failure is only final when you stop striving.

-Bob Rotella, How Champion’s Think In Sports and Life

The last two sentences really spoke to me. Sustain your self-confidence and your belief in yourself and keep bouncing back. You see, when I get injured or sidelined it is very easy for my mind to go to the places that say, “You are not a runner.” and “You are too old.” or too something or not enough of something else and then suddenly I am deflated and defeated and eating cookies for dinner. But champions do not think that way. Indeed, they cannot afford to. In the face of injury, illness or whatever obstacle they must sustain self-confidence and keep bouncing back. Because failure is only final when you stop striving.

Oliver Goldsmith said that success is getting up just one more time than you fall. Just one more time.

Those who are successful make it look easy. But we don’t see all of the hard work and struggle. The tens, hundreds, thousands of times that person might have fallen. We just see that one more time they got up. The success!

We also fail to consider the millions of small steps taken that when viewed alone seem totally insignificant but the sum of which equals greatness. Each day cannot be a personal best, but each day we can take a small step in pursuit of a long term goal. Whether it be getting that extra hour of sleep your body needs to recover, eating some extra veggies for vital nutrients, or pushing yourself a little harder on the track. Maybe it means practicing patience and positivity (ahem, I am looking at myself as I type) because in order to achieve peak performance we must not only be fit physically but mentally as well.

Whatever you do, make sure you keep getting back up, and keep moving forward. One step at a time.

Hey Young Running Friends: Don’t Fear the Post-Baby Body!

This morning at the track I was discussing my recent appendectomy and lamenting the fact that I had not known more of the details about the surgery ahead of time. Had I known the surgeon was going to make an incision right at my navel, I would have asked if he could have fixed my diastasis recti just above that. The conversation then turned to c-sections and tummy tucks. My twenty something running friends sans children were horrified. With their mouths agape they declared never to have kids, lest their bodies be ruined. Well, I am here to tell you, fear not young runners, having children will not ruin your body.

If you decide to have children one day, your body will change. It will grow and adapt to house the new life growing inside of you. You will feel the miracle of little hands and feet moving inside of you and hear the heartbeat of your little one. There is nothing else in the world like it. And when the time comes for you to meet your baby, you will learn just how strong and capable your body is. Your body can grow and birth another human being. It can give life. And then it can continue to feed and nourish your baby.

And yes, after giving birth and breastfeeding, your body may be different. It may take some time to return to its pre-pregnancy shape. In fact, it may not return to it’s pre-pregnancy shape and that’s okay. Post-pregnancy bodies are beautiful, strong and wonderful too. In fact, each one tells a story. The story of a mother who carried a baby, nourished a baby, and loves a child even more than she thought possible. It is one of the greatest love stories ever told.

Is my 39 year old body like my 24 year old body? No, not at all. Sure, my 24 year old body had less wrinkles, sags and stretch marks, but I did not appreciate it. I struggled with body image and self confidence. At 39, although I still have plenty of moments of self-doubt, I have a better appreciation of what this body can do. Each sag and wrinkle tells my story, and it is a story of love and of triumph. I feel stronger now than I did at 24. This body has taken me to many wonderful places, and I look forward to seeing where we will go in the future. But best of all, I have three wonderful little people beside me who call me mom. So enjoy your pre-kid bodies, my friends, but when the time comes, don’t be afraid of the changes!

Trusting the Process Part II: Uncoordinated Runner Attempts Mountain Biking

I am not coordinated.  I fall while running, while walking, while going up stairs, you name the activity and I’ll find a way to injure myself.  My daughter’s name means “one who walks with a strong proud gait.”  It is my hope that by bestowing such a name on her she will be more graceful than her poor mom.  But I digress…

My husband wants to do a long bike ride for his upcoming 40th birthday and was sweet enough to buy me a nice mountain bike so that I could join him.  The first time I took it out I crashed within 15 minutes.  Today I rode with my husband in lieu of doing my long run.  We were on a beautiful trail in the mountains in McCall, Idaho.  I don’t think this trail would be considered difficult or technical by any standards.  Nice and wide with some ruts, not too steep.  About three miles in I somehow popped my chain off of the gears and got it stuck.  While my husband was patiently trying to fix my bike for me, I was repeating to myself, “This moment is exactly as it should be. This moment is exactly as it should be.”  But although my head was saying that and my eyes were looking around and trying to appreciate the beautiful scenery and the peace and quiet of being along in the mountains with my husband, my heart was screaming the following:

“This moment is NOT as it should be!  I should be on a long run!  Or with my running team at the Famous Potato Races trying to get a PR! What is wrong with me? Why am I always injured? I don’t like mountain biking.  I should sell this bike.”  I almost burst into tears.

But I got back on my bike. Repeating, “This moment is exactly how it should be.”  My encouraging husband kept telling me what a great job I was doing even though he had to slow his pace and frequently wait for me while I walked my bike around ruts that I was too timid to ride around.  I felt like my heart rate was getting higher more from the adrenaline pumping through my body due to my fear of crashing rather than anything my legs were doing to power me up the hills.  My hands were getting tired from white knuckling the handlebars.  I knew there was so much beauty around me, yet I was afraid if I took my eyes off of the trail in front of me, I would miss a rut, rock, or stick and crash.  At one point my husband asked me if I was having fun and I just smiled.  Fear and frustration had been the more dominant emotions, and I didn’t want to lie.  As I rode along I thought also about a passage I read earlier this week in a book called “How Champions Think” by Bob Rotella.  In it he says that “Failure is only final when you stop striving.”

So even though I was slow, clumsy and awkward on the mountain bike, even though I was missing running something fierce, I was no failure.  I was out there.  I was only a failure if I stopped trying. This moment is exactly as it should be.

As my husband and I got to our halfway point and turned around, the most amazing thing happened.  I started to relax and bike a little faster.  I was able to take my eyes off the bike for long enough to enjoy the amazing views around me.  I was able to chat with my husband some and enjoy his company.  A luxury that we don’t get very often with three small kids in the house!  I was actually enjoying myself and having fun!  I returned home from that ride happy, refreshed and with a feeling of accomplishment.  And when I got on the bike again a couple of hours later to ride with my kids I realized that my legs had gotten much more of a workout than I thought.

I will get back on that bike and ride again with my husband tomorrow.  And I will probably be scared.  And I will probably get off of the bike and walk around the ruts.  But I will do it.  And I will keep going.


Trying to keep up!