24 August 2015

It wasn't a fluke

Like everyone, i sometimes struggle with self worth. One of the biggest way that my shame gremlins attack me is by whispering this nasty little message:

You aren't a REAL runner.

They follow it up by saying:
*Real runners don't get tired.
*Real runners never struggle with IT band issues.
*Real runners ALWAYS want to run.
*Real runners go faster than you.
*Real runners don't get flushed when they run.
*Real runners get faster every time they run.
*Real runners never have to walk.
*Real runners have 6pack abs.

After the initial euphoria of my marathon wore off, and as i had to cut way back on my weekly mileage due to tendinitis, the gremlins went to town. Even as i kept running and racing and ignoring them, they whispered that my marathon was a fluke and there was NO WAY i could do it again. Besides, i had to walk some of it, so that meant i didn't even really do it, right? (So they said).

They told me i was a fake runner. A phony. i was a GOOD pretender, but a pretender, nevertheless.

Going into this race, i was nervous because i was afraid that i was going to fail. On Friday, Mr B and i went to pick up our race packets. i was running the full marathon, he was running his first half. We drove the last 9 miles of the course together. The second half of the full marathon followed the same course of the half marathon, so we would be running along the same path--although the half would start 2 hours after the full, so i estimated i would be around mile 11 or 12 when they started at my mile 13. i wouldn't cross Mr B's path.

As we drove along we saw the mile markers--first the mile markers for the full (20, 21, 22) and .1 miles after each of these were the mile markers for the half (7, 8, 9). i asked Mr B if he would pray for me every time he passed one of my mileage signs.

Later that evening, Mr B gave me a priesthood blessing and as we said goodnight, he kissed my hand and said, "Every mile."

When i got to race start, i was surprisingly calm. i chatted with the other runners waiting to go. i got my music and running apps all prepped. i had the overwhelming feeling of "Just do it, Jennifer. You got this."

And off we went.

The first 10 miles were on gravel forest service roads winding through the forest. We watched the sunrise (red and hazy because of the forest fires) and i chatted it up with several marathoners running my pace.

Exiting from the gravel roads and onto the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, my mom was there waiting to cheer me on. She leapfrogged me, stopping to cheer about every .75 miles from mile 10-13. From there i passed the start line of the half marathon and veered onto a single track trail for the next 4 miles. 

As i hit the trail, i analyzed how i was doing physically. My legs felt great, my stomach was a tad queasy but not too bad, my feet were fine and i still had a lot of energy. i was eating at least a couple of bites at every aid station and drinking lots of gatorade. The trail was gorgeous, the weather was cooperating and i felt good!

Around mile 15, i started passing the half marathoners who were walking. At mile 17, the trail dumped out at the Warm River Campground, i was back on pavement, and i began the hill climb. Their website describes it as a "significant climb" that lasts for three miles. 

From the very base of the hill i started passing way more half marathoners. Then i was passing some marathoners too. i kept waiting for my body to tell me that i needed to walk; i expected to have to walk some of the hill. But i kept running. And i felt amazing. i realized that this hill was nothing compared to the mountain passes i had run in my relays; i was trained and prepared.

Right as i hit mile 20 and at the peak of the hill, my mom was there waiting to cheer me on. i was on the highest of runner's highs! i shouted while grinning from ear to ear, "i'm at the top of the hill! i'm at mile 20! i haven't had to walk at all yet! i feel great!" 

The next three miles was gorgeous rolling farmland. i loved the rollers with all of the ups and downs. It felt like an accomplishment at the peak of every little hill. i was still passing people. i talked a tiny bit with most people that i had passed. 

Mile 23 i realized that my legs were very tired. My body started begging for me to walk. But there was NO WAY i was going to start walking then. Plus, i never knew when my mom was going to be there and i didn't want her to cheer on a walker.

At mile 24.5, Mr B joined in with my mom to cheer me into the end (he had already finished his race). He ran about a block with me, just enough to say "You are doing amazing and you are almost there!"

i pushed into the finishing line with my last ounce of energy, grinning when i heard my girlfriend (who also ran the half) shout "Go Jennifer!!"

It wasn't a fluke. i RAN a full marathon.And as Mr B pointed out, if after a full marathon i can grin and say, "That was SO FUN! i loved that course!" then i am a real runner. 

Side note: Mr B did amazing too. He finished in 1:45:09 (that's 15 mins faster than my PR!) averaging just over an 8 minute mile. He placed 2nd in his age category and 16th overall.

i finished in 4:35:38! And i was surprised that i also placed! i was second in my age category as well and awarded with a nice little plaque. 

Those gremlins can kiss my asphalt.

i am a marathoner.

21 August 2015

Grand Teton Relay

If i don't post about races every week, then i get behind! There are two half marathons that i have run and still haven't blogged about. 

But we will save them for another time because this race was especially exciting. 
1- It was a relay
2- It was a beautiful course
3- Things didn't go as planned
4- Mr B was on my team!

When my friend asked me if i wanted to be apart of his team, i thought it was going to be a 12 person team. As the race drew closer (like two weeks before race time), i realized that the captain was expecting me to fill a whole van (6 people) and that my friend who asked me was in the other van. i scrambled and begged asked every runner i knew if they wanted to join me. i also asked non-runners, just for good riddance. 

i ended up somehow talking these amazing four men to be in my van.

Van #2 Jennifer's boys

There were some really strong runners in my van (and even those who weren't runners were really strong in other ways) and i knew that the five of us could cover all of the legs for van 2 without a sixth runner.

After checking our van in and before we began our running, we stopped by Mesa Falls to enjoy the view. The following conversation happened in front of the waterfall:

Me: We sure seem to find ourselves at quite a few waterfalls together.
Mr B (As if surprised to see me): Fancy seeing you here!
Me: Hello, friend.

When the race started, i was under the impression that the other van had 5 runners as well. i soon found out that they only had FOUR runners in their van.

And then, after their first legs, two of their four runners dropped out (including the captain). Which left SEVEN of us to finish off the rest of the race.

And we rocked it.

Offering Mr B support on his long, hot run

"Blasphemous Bill" runs with Sasquatch

Van support

Oh that sunset!
  It was simultaneously extra stinky and extra cool to be the only girl on the team.

We are tough

Everyone picked up more miles and sacrificed more sleep without complaining once. We had so much fun.

One of us ran in the pouring rain.
One of us got wet driving the van when the driver's door started leaking.
One of us ran into a breathtaking sunset.
One of us ran in two inches of mud.
One of us ran in bright yellow tights with black polka-dots.
Several of us counted tons of shooting stars above us while we ran through the night.
Few of us slept.

One of us ran up the Teton pass (1200 feet elevation gain in under 3 miles). Guess who?

At the top of the pass after finishing my ridiculous uphill climb
The team (except the one of us who ran DOWN the pass)
There was "good game" slapping, running through sprinklers, belting Bohemian rhapsody at the top of our lungs, cat calling, dancing in the middle of the road, peeing behind bushes, chugging chocolate milk, nicknaming other runners, ignoring of the typical social norms (including modesty, personal hygiene and discretion with bodily functions), laughing, and general hilarity all along the course.

We finished the 180 mile course in 28 hours and 21 minutes.

The whole team: What a good looking crew
Man, i love these races.

17 August 2015

Cascade Corner

A couple of weekends ago, Mr B and i went on an adventure.

We spent three days and two nights backpacking across back-country Yellowstone National Park. We traveled 50 miles in the cascade corner, 28 of them with 30 pound packs and about 6 of them off trail.

The entire experience was unbelievable. i know that there is no way i could possibly describe the weekend. How could words capture watching the blue dragonfly that hitched a ride on Mr B's hat for a mile? Or feeling a spiderweb break across my face or arms every 10 yards the entire time we were off trail hunting down hourglass falls. Or hearing the thundering of the water getting louder as we approached yet another waterfall. Or running a couple of miles down the trail (in hiking boots even) because walking would have been too slow and we had so much to see.

Then there was soaking in a natural hot spring watching the sunset and the stars come out. Or falling asleep to the sound of a waterfall, knowing that the closest campers are miles away. Or crossing a steaming valley in the middle of back country Yellowstone at 10:30 at night, dodging dozens of huge frogs on the trail, lit by the full (blue!) moon.

And we saw 26 waterfalls. TWENTY-SIX!

There were so many times that i looked around and thought "This is not real! This place is too beautiful. It must be fake!"

Here is a picture explosion of some of our trip.

Hanging our bags from bear pole

This is how we look after a 20+ mile hiking day

04 August 2015

And rain will make the flowers grow

Not too long ago, my life was a mess. i was in the midst of betrayal trauma. i had so much fear that other's decisions would be made in deception and fear and that i would miss out on something amazing (and all my promised blessings and all my potential) because of it. The fear made me co-dependent; i felt that if i could CONTROL everything around me (including other people) then i could control the outcome and my future. This is crazy making. But i didn't know better. And you only know what you know.

As i have discovered amazing recovery tools (Camp Scabs, Togetherness Project, 12-Step, a sponsor, Brene Brown, Connexions Workbooks) i have learned about shame, codependency, boundaries, fear, and vulnerability. Working on my personal inventory for step four of the 12-step programs opened my eyes to the patterns in my life--both my destructive behavioral patterns and the faulty core beliefs that were ingrained into me from my childhood and on up. i learned that i have control over my own actions and reactions and have control over nothing else. i memorized the entire serenity prayer, wrote words of affirmation all over my home, read many a strengthening book and talked to everyone and anyone about the things that i learned.

As i accrued knowledge, i simultaneously realized that i am powerless but NOT helpless. i also learned that simply learning was not enough. i knew that i had much knowledge. i sat with all my information for a long while and even doled it out to other people. Perhaps my life was not quite as crazy, but i was still staying way too often in victim mode, going into shame, and creating unhealthy relationships (even if they were a little less toxic or more subtle in their toxicity than before). In order to effectuate change, i needed to apply the information. 

It was going to take a lot of work.  

Brene Brown said, “What we know matters but who we are matters more.”

It has been a lot of work to change who i am. Of course, i am still me (albeit a calmer, stronger and healthier me). And of course, i am still changing, still learning and still growing. The shame still comes in at me. The co-dependency still knocks me down sometimes. However, now i recognize it sooner and i have a whole load of tools with which to work in order to get back up again and get myself out of shame. Here are some specific things i have done/am doing to improve:

Deeper connected prayers. i recognize that God is at the center of my recovery and needs to be at the center of my life. As soon as something or someone else takes over the center position, i almost instantly lose my serenity and my balance. The best way that i have discovered to keep my focus on my Father has been to spend time with him--specifically in prayer.

Being vulnerable with Mr B. It's terrifying being open with someone--telling him when i'm hurting or sad, clarifying what my expectations and needs are, and sharing my hopes and desires. The scariest part has been speaking my shame to him (and then trusting that he won't rescue me but will walk with me through getting out of it myself). For example, sharing the insecurities about my self worth, admitting every time they creep in to whisper at me, and talking about where the doubts originated and why they aren't true. It's very vulnerable and i know that it potentially leaves me open to be hurt. It is also healthy and healing and worth it--it leaves me open to connect deeply.

Practicing meditation. i have been introduced to kundalini yoga which is known as the yoga of "self-awareness." Through the meditation practices, breathing exercises, the mantras and the music (which i listen to often) i have felt a sense of serenity and peace permeate my home and life.

Actually setting boundaries. The first time i set a boundary, i was so nervous. What if they are offended? What if i'm just being mean? What if they break it? Since i've practiced more and more, i have learned that my responsibility is to keep myself physically and emotionally safe. If i need something for my safety, i need to set a boundary--it is not mean. If they are offended, that is their shame and their responsibility. And i need to set boundaries with consequences that i am willing to keep should it be broken. i learned the format: "When you....  i feel....  i need.... i am willing to.... If you break this boundary, then i will...."

Now when someone has been texting me every 15 minutes for a week from 5am until midnight in order to "keep her out of depression," i can comfortably respond by saying "i understand that you are going through a rough time. i am willing to help support where i can. And i also need you to know that when i receive texts late at night, early in the morning and at work, i feel distracted and overwhelmed. i am happy to text you support and encouragement when i am not at work. And i need you to not text me between 10pm and 7am. Those are the hours in which i study, meditate, sleep and run (my Jennifer time). If i receive texts during those times, i won't be responding until i am off work or after 7am." Previously i would have felt that it was my responsibility to rescue her or i would have felt like a horrible person (shame) for setting a boundary. Now i recognize that it keeps me healthy and it helps me surround myself with other healthy people.

**Side-note: i've also learned to stay out of my own shame when someone sets a boundary with me. It doesn't mean i am a bad or horrible person or that they don't care about me. It is just them being honest and open with what they can or cannot do emotionally or physically.

Staying emotionally honest. This ties in perfectly with vulnerability and setting boundaries. Before i can do those things, i have to be completely emotionally honest with myself. i question my motives (for example "Am i setting this boundary to try to control someone/something?") It forces me to look at my emotions and delve into why i am feeling them (for example "Am i angry to cover up that i am really ashamed of my behavior?") It forces me to truly get to know myself--to see myself as i really am, the ugly stuff and the good stuff.

Surrender. i try to live by the serenity prayer. Surrender for me means turning over to God the things that i cannot change and over which i have no control (which is EVERYTHING except for my actions and reactions). So when something is bothering me and i can't let it go, i have to take the following three "surrender steps": 1- Call and tell my sponsor what i am surrendering 2- Write it down on a piece of paper and shove it in my Jesus box 3- Kneel down and pray aloud, telling God that i am surrendering and giving the issue to Him and asking Christ and the Atonement to take care of it so that i can let go.

Finding purpose. Right now this is my purpose:

i still often get that hated question (that i am sure i will get for my entire life): "If you had known what would happen, would you have gotten married?" That's not a fair question. It never will be. Because i DIDN'T know. And how could i know what i would have done? But more and more i grow confident in the best answer that i can think of:

"i went through so much pain. Pain i thought i couldn't bear. It was the worst storm of my life to this point. i hope that i never have to go through pain like that again. It still stings sometimes. AND i am who i am because of it. i love who i am. i would never want to go back to who i was. i would never want to give up what i have learned and what i have implemented."

Would i have learned and grown without that rainstorm? Maybe. It doesn't matter because the rain came. i survived. i am learning to be grateful for it in my own way. 

The rains will always come. Sometimes they will be gentle summer rains and sometimes cold torrential downpours. i hope that i can always take advantage of the rains...dancing in it when it's gentle enough and, if it's harsh, at least appreciating the flowers that will grow in its after effects. Because, like the Arab Proverb says, "Sunshine all the time makes a desert."

playing in the rain