Countdown to the Finish

“Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.”
 E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

I remember during my first marathon after I pushed through the wall at the 20-mile marker and finally saw in the distance mile marker 24. There was a sudden surge of excitement. The end was near. I was going to do it. Just a little more than 2.2 more miles and I was going to actually finish a full marathon and I wasn’t going to die trying. The adrenaline kicked in and the emotions started to take over. For the first time in my life, I was going to do what I thought was the impossible.

And here we are now. Four weeks away from the due date of ultrababy’s arrival. I’m still waiting for that adrenaline to kick in, but it feels more like I’m stuck at the wall at mile 20. And just like every mile along the way of my first marathon, there’s so much that I’ve learned about myself and my tribe during the longest and fastest summer of my life, and it humbles me.

I learned that while I can will my body to run 100 miles, I cannot will my body to gracefully roll out of bed, or tie my shoes, or get out of the car, or put pants on. I learned that “slowing down my pace” doesn’t mean slow down to a comfortable jog, it means to come to a screeching halt and rest. I learned that I wish I would have been kinder, more helpful, and more compassionate towards my sister and friends who had kids before me. I had no idea what the body goes through when it’s creating a tiny human. And despite the fact that I wasn’t really there for them, they are here for me, a thousand percent.

Somehow along the way, I was able to surround myself with some of the most amazing people in the world. They are kind and generous. They are compassionate and loving. They are true to their word. How do you live up to that? How do you show gratitude to all of those people who go out of their way to help you, check up on you, and to just be there when you need them? I don’t know. Tell me. My tribe is strong and I am grateful for them. And my daughter is fortunate to have all of these wonderful people in her life to help guide her and teach her how to be a warm and compassionate human being full of strength and courage. Perhaps she saw this village and that’s why she chose me to be her mother.

As the days get closer to ultrababy’s arrival, I can’t help but wonder what it’s all going to be like to finally hold her in my arms. I often hear that there are no words to describe the feeling that you get when you hold your baby for the first time. And with each passing day, I’m starting to get it. It’s something like seeing the beauty of the Grand Canyon in pictures, but the pictures don’t do it justice. You have to run from one side to there other, to experience the great heights and depths to understand and feel the beauty of it all.

Or hearing of a pilgrimage along the coast of Portugal to Spain and the stories of self discovery that comes with it, but the stories are just stories until you, yourself strap that backpack on and walk every mile from point to point, soaking in the sights and culture and confronting your own demons within during long stretches of silence and solitude. You have to experience it to understand the changes that happens from within.

Or hearing of this crazy thing called a 100-mile foot race and seeing runners cross the finish line broken and renewed at the same time and not understanding what has to happen to your mind, body, and spirit in order to accomplish such a feat. You have to experience it to feel the pain that radiates through your body, hear the argument between your heart and your head of whether or not you should quit or move on, and feel the fire in your belly as you hear the cheers of the crowd at the finish line knowing that you had the strength, courage, and shear will to push through when your body didn’t want to.

The anticipation of the experience that lies ahead of me is both exciting and scary, but I know that it’s going to be nothing less than beautiful and magical. Four weeks left (maybe less). The finish line is near. And so is the most incredible experience of a lifetime.

Lost & Found

Well, there you have it. After a little scare earlier in the week and being put on temporary bed rest, it looks like my running may have come to a screeching halt.

I admit. I feel a little lost. I’ve felt a little lost from the beginning of this craziness. For the past six years, running has been my crutch. Discovering the sport changed my life’s trajectory and made it beautiful in so many ways. Running helped me find me.

I know this is a temporary situation, but without it, I feel…well…lost.

There’s a new me to be discovered and I know everything will be okay. I know I’ll find a new norm and I know that my running will come back. But self-discovery is never easy. And all this baby stuff is a little overwhelming. And in the past when I was overwhelmed, I ran.

In less than 15 weeks, I get to meet my little ultrababy, which  doesn’t seem like a lot of time. Now that I no longer have running as my crutch to keep my stress level down, my anxiety has started to kick in. So I have to remind myself to breathe.

I just have to breathe and be okay through this new change.
Breathe and be okay with feeling lost.
Breathe and let my new self be found.

“It just takes some time, little girl
You’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right, all right”
In the Middle – Jimmy Eat World

Halfway to the Finish

“To be pregnant is to be vitally alive, thoroughly woman, and distressingly inhabited. Soul and spirit are stretched – along with body – making pregnancy a time of transition, growth, and profound beginnings.” ~ Anne Christian Buchanan

I can’t believe I’ve reach that halfway mark in this pregnancy. 20 weeks. It still feels surreal and I still say to myself, how is this my life? You think I’d be used to it by now. I’m not. Not really. But I’m adjusting. I still get frustrated that I can’t keep up with my old pace. And I don’t mean just in running. And when it comes to the run, I barely run these days. When I see other pregnant mama’s out there running or posting on the baby board that they got their mileage in, again and again, I admit, it really bums me out. I thought that I would be that person. The one who could run until the day before they gave birth. But, I’m not. I get a couple of miles in here and there, and I do try and get out there at least once a week, but running even 2 miles takes me down for the count. It seems like everyday I have to make a choice, run and be a zombie, or not run and be functional. I go back and forth between the two. I don’t know if age has anything to do with it, after all, I am 43 and most of my high school friends are grandparents now, or if it’s just the way my body is handling growing a human. In any case, it sucks.

But it’s worth the suck.

“When you moved, I felt squeezed with a wild infatuation and protectiveness.
We are one. Nothing, not even death, can change that.”
~ Suzanne Finnamore, The Zygote Chronicles

When I started to feel her flutters the day after Mother’s Day, the reality that there was a little being inside really started to sink in. I, of course, broke down and cried…you know that ugly cry with snot where you can’t catch your breath. Ugly face with tears of happiness. This is really happening. It’s still happening. I haven’t been dreaming all this time. When when I felt her strong tiny little future-ultrarunner legs kick on the outside of belly the day before Father’s Day, I cried again (but not as ugly). This little lady is already sending me messages letting me know that she’s here to stay and she going to be strong and free-spirited like the women that came before her. I haven’t met her yet and I love her so much already.

SO MUCH!

“Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace, of doubt in my mind
I’m in love, and I’m a believer” ~ The Monkeys

I was able to see my baby girl during one of those fancy 3D/4D sonograms. And while she looked like an alien monkey hybrid, it was incredible. She was sweet and beautiful and moving around like crazy! Actually, I think she looks just like her father (and I think he’s an alien monkey hybrid…shhhh…don’t tell him I said that). Her tiny little nose and her tiny little lips. Just absolutely beautiful. And last week I had my anatomy scan. This is where they get a good look at the baby to look for defects or any soft markers that could translate to a genetic or chromosome disorders. I’ve been nervous about this as I’ve been watching other mothers-to-be receive not so great news during their anatomy scans. But I knew no matter what came of the scan, I’d love her anyway. As the technician went through each part of her body and told me over and over again that she looked good, I started to tear up. Heart, good. Femur, good. Humerus, good. Stomach, good. Cranium, good. Kidneys, good. By the end of the appointment, I was crying again. Baby girl was 12 ounces of perfection.

“Pregnancy is a process that invites you to surrender to the unseen force behind all life.” ~ Judy Ford

As I slowly get settled into this pregnancy, I’m accepting the fact that training in the summer heat, even for a short race, might not be in the cards for me. And I’m almost okay with that. I’ll do what I can and see what each day brings. I stay active and try to walk at least 2 o 4 miles a day and squeeze in a run if I feel up for it. But I’m also learning how to slow down and be okay with giving up control. After all, I’m not in control anymore. She is. For over forty years, people have tried to tame me and the only being successful enough to do so is this tiny little human. This tiny little human who has changed my life in a big amazing way. I used to think that this was the next chapter of my epic life’s journey, but I’m beginning to think that this is an entirely new book with new characters and new adventures I haven’t dreamed of. I have a sneaking suspicion that the second book is going to be way better than the first. It will still have all the running and traveling and epic adventures as before, but this time it will have a different dynamic. One with unconditional, out of this world love for another human being and all the ups and downs that go with it.

It’s going to be quite amazing.

Baby, oh Baby! The Next Chapter.

“Sometimes life has a cruel sense of humor, giving you the thing you always wanted at the worst time possible.”
― Lisa Kleypas, Sugar Daddy

I have a confession to make. When I dropped out of the HAT 50K run at the last minute, it wasn’t entirely due to illness. Yes, I wasn’t feeling great and had been battling a little bit of nausea for a week or two, and I had the all clear to run it until the Friday morning before the race, when I got a call from my doctor. He had informed me that he was concerned about the low fetal heart rate on the ultrasound was and he wasn’t sure if running the race was a good idea. It would be a gamble. Fetal heart rate? Wait. Wha-waaat?? Yep. If you don’t already know, I’m totally preggers.

The chances of a 43-year-old woman conceiving naturally in a given month drops to 1 percent according to the Association for Reproductive Medicine. The chances drop significantly lower when a fertility doctor tells you that you need fertility treatments to have a shot of having a baby. One of the philosophies that I live by is, “Tell me I can’t and I’ll prove you wrong.” Well, apparently that goes for making babies as well. The crazy thing is, we weren’t even trying. The idea of having kids was no longer in the picture. For me, that ship sailed and having a family was just a distant dream that floated in and out of my mind from time to time. Well, I guess the ship that sailed, took a nice tour of the Caribbean, and found it’s way back to Maryland.

Back in mid March, after I was about 11 days late, I decided to take a home pregnancy test. I have had this happen before and never had a positive result. Typically, Aunt Flo would show up within the day of me taking a test and I assume this would happen again. And besides, I wan’t really that regular and I was pretty sure I was pre-menopausal anyway. But it didn’t. After taking two tests at home, which came up positive, I went for a 10 mile run (of course) and then went to urgent care and had them take blood work. When it came back positive, I questioned the accuracy of the test. I had a little back and fourth with the doctor about reasons why I thought it would be a false positive and then broke down and cried. How could this be?? Complete denial. Having a family of my own was no longer in my plan. This can’t happen! But I was wrong. My tears weren’t tears of sadness or disappointment, they were tears of shock and denial. The Universe had a plan of her own and I just didn’t know it.

The past couple of months have been rough, to say the least, with the extreme fatigue, the morning sickness, the thought of this living being inside my uterus. It has stopped me dead in my tracks, brought me to my knees, and completely knocked the wind out of me. The shock of it all has been overwhelming. Almost twelve weeks into this pregnancy, it still feels surreal. How is this my new life? How is it that the thing I wanted most in life was given to me at a point in my life where the timing couldn’t be any worse? But when is the timing ever perfectly right? This little soul defied the odds and found its way to me. The timing is exactly how it is supposed to be.

So, now what? Running has been temporarily put on the back burner as I was taken off of some of my asthma meds because they were considered risky during the first trimester (don’t worry…they would have put me back on them if I couldn’t keep my asthma under control without it). Running triggers my asthma and so does the pollen. I have, however, been able to get a few runs in and I’m hoping as I enter into the second trimester, I’ll find my mojo and get back out there to run consistently. My sanity needs it.

As I come out of my fog of “holy shit, this is happening,” I’m embracing my new reality and the challenges ahead, and the excitement and joy of having a baby is settling in. I’m learning how to adjust to a body that’s growing a human and learning how to navigate in a world of being responsible for someone completely reliant on you.  Every decision I make affects this little nugget and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. My pregnancy is high-risk and the health of my baby concerns me. Sharing the news is risky this early in the game, but I have always found strength in the support of my tribe, good or bad. And as I get ready to undergo First Trimester Screening and a few other genetic screenings, I pray for a healthy outcome. It’s all I can do at this point.

So, the big question that everyone is dying to ask. Who’s the baby daddy? While almost every aspect of my life is pretty much on public display, my personal relationship is the one thing that I have kept to myself. It is sacred to me. He is one of the most incredible human beings I have ever met and I have never experienced a love so deep and spiritual as I have with him. Our relationship is long-distance, but we make it work. And yes, he too is an ultrarunner (of course). Until we can find a way to come together as a family (our careers currently stand in the way), I’m okay with living as a single parent for the time being. I trust in the Universe to bring us together when the timing is right and I have an amazing support group who I can count on to help me along the way.

I’ve already started planning my comeback with a 100-miler in 2019, and I hope to start racing again sometime in 2018, and while I realize I can no longer dictate my schedule as I have done before, it won’t stop me from trying to do what I love. Somehow, I always find a way to make things work.

When I start to feel the energy, I will hit the trails as soon as I can. Together, this little soul and I will breathe in the air of our beloved trails, together our hearts will beat while we climb the hills, and together, our love of the trails and of running will continue deepen. This little incredible soul inside my belly beat the odds…all of them, to get here. She or he is here for a purpose and she or he chose me to be their mother. And when UltraBaby crosses that birthing finish line in November, I can’t wait to take that precious little hand in mine and guide this little soul through life and teach them about all the wonders and beauties of this world.

Life. It’s such an incredible, amazing, magical thing. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude with all that life has given me. Every difficult challenge in my life has given me something more beautiful than I can ever imagine. I take none of it for granted. Always humbled, grateful, and blessed and in awe of all that surrounds me and I can’t wait to share the next chapter of my life with you. It’s sure to be a hell of a ride!

Reflecting on 2016

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was,
it was important and beautiful and not ours.
It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us.
There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Another year has come and gone, and another year has left me in awe of this wonderful thing called life. If you were to ask me five years ago how my life would be now, I assure you, the answer wouldn’t be what it is. I was telling a friend at dinner tonight that I took a stroll down memory lane and looked at pictures of years gone by on my Facebook page. I noticed how I’ve changed in so many wonderful ways. My smile is brighter, my eyes have more meaning behind them, and I can see how I’ve come into my own. And I can honestly say, I attribute all of this this to my passion, running.

How can one simple thing change someone so much? Well, I can tell you that the confidence I found within myself through running changed how I looked at obstacles. I now know that there are no obstacles that I cannot overcome. I found a courage hidden so deep within and it allowed me to be okay with being who I am. It allowed me to be true to myself and I no longer cared if people accepted me or not. Through running I found my running tribe. The special group of people who lift me up, support me in all I do, who love me without judgement, and who encourage me to be the best I can be. Through running, I found limits which has inspired me to push even harder, to be better, to find out what possibilities there are for me.Through running, I found love. And that in itself is more than I could ever ask for.

2016 had many ups and downs for me. I hiked from Portugal to Spain, basked in the sun on the beaches of Aruba, ran some incredible races, and had my first DNF. I lost a dear friend to cancer, and then my grandmother immediately after and many friends throughout the year, but through it all, running is what kept me grounded and it kept me sane. Running is what I turned to when I need to grieve and running is where I went to to find happiness.

I used to look forward to the New Year and have an idea of what’s ahead of me. But not anymore. I now look forward to the New Year and I stare at it in awe, like a child seeing Christmas lights for the very first time. I have no idea what’s in store for me for 2017, but I do know this – every moment that comes my way will be a blessing, good or bad, and I will not take a single breath for granted. I know that while the life I have not is not what I imagined it would be, it is a life that I cherish and I am grateful for the choices that I have made. That sister life that I thought I would have was important. But it wasn’t mine to have. But this life, this amazingly wonderful life that I live, it what was truly meant to be.

I wish you all a wonderful, safe and happy new year.

 2016-post

Thoughts on the Camino – Seven Percent

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”  ~Henry David Thoreau

There are many things that go through your mind when walking the Camino. It’s part of the purpose making a pilgrimage…searching your soul and finding answers from within. I do this often during my runs, and I hope that by the time I finish the Camino, I will lay to rest some unfinished business within my heart. One of them is having a family of my own.

Not so long ago I heard these words from my doctor, “you probably have a 7% to 10% chance of conceiving and having a baby.” Of course my mind stopped at the words seven percent and I head nothing else after.

I always thought I’d have a family of my own and I always thought I had plenty of time. Having children was something that my ex-husband and I never agreed on, but he made a promise that we would try for a short period of time at some point in our marriage and if it didn’t happen, I promised I would let it go. At the time I thought it was a good compromise. I was wrong.

Ten years into our marriage, I brought it up. For me, it was time. For him, it would never be the time. And when he said no, in that instant I saw the family that I thought I’d have one day die in the midst of my tears. I picked up the pieces of my broken heart and convinced myself it was better this way. My life was too busy and I wouldn’t have time. I was happy with what I had, but really, I wasn’t. Fast forward 4 years and the divorce came and went and there are new possibilities to be had.

I figured, there is plenty of time. Women have beautiful healthy children into their 40’s all the time, why not me? Then I did the research and was blown away by statistics. I consulted with my doctor and we had a very serious conversation and that’s when he dropped the seven percent bomb on me. He knew my history and we both knew that conceiving would be something that would probably need some type of medical intervention, but I didn’t know how low my chances were. It was quite shocking really.

Having a family to call my own is one of the many things that occupy my mind when I run. I go out there and run and face those demons over and over again. Sure, there are many options and there are many options I’m considering. I have more appointments ahead of me to see what is best for me, and in my heart there is hope.

But…

I still can’t help but feel robbed of the opportunity when my body was more capable and my chances were greater. I feel that the choice was taken from me and I was blindsided by someone who once meant the world to me, and I can’t help but harbor some anger and resentment over it.

But I have to let it go.

I love the life I have and I’m grateful for every breath I take and I can’t continue to let this linger in my heart. And while I know it will be a long time before I can fully let it go, I know that someday I will find a way, whether or not it’s on the Camino.

There still many unanswered questions and many possibilities ahead, and I will exhaust every avenue I find. I believe in the Universe and that there is a plan but no matter what happens, I still have hope.

And on the Camino, I walk and I think,

And I walk and I grieve,

And I walk and I mourn for a family I felt I lost.

And seven percent echos in my head,

over and over and over again,

Seven percent, seven percent, seven percent…

Seven percent.

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The Story Behind the Necklace

Not running related, but I figured I’d write about this anyway. It’s funny how many comments I’ve had over the year about my little ol’ necklace. I guess people have noticed it in all of my bazillion running selfies. I wear it everywhere, day and night, during training, in races, in the shower, and in bed. In fact, it’s actually tied to my neck with a silk cord (probably not safe…don’t get me psycho killer) and I’ve only taken it off a few times to clean and polish the silver around the stones. The stones are not turquoise as some believe, but instead, it’s Larimar. Continue reading

All Lost Souls are Found on the Trails

There’s something to be said about the joy and healing of running. While I despised the act of it when I started, something happened along the way. It was as if someone gave me medicine that I didn’t want and eventually realized I needed. Then I discovered the trails, and it took this thing called running into an entirely new level. And the journey of the discovery of myself went into a new dimension. Continue reading

2015 – What a Year!

I usually have no problems with writing my end of year post. It typically flows right through me. But this year, I’ve seem to be plagued with writers block. Do you know when you have so much to say that you just can’t say anything? Well, that’s me. All. Year. Long.

I had a pretty big year in the world of racing. Actually, while I ran less races this year, the races I did run were pretty epic. Continue reading

So, Now What?

Determine that the thing can and shall be done and then we shall find the way.” – Abraham Lincoln

This year has been quite a year for me in my running and in my personal life. After accomplishing all the goals that I set for myself, I have to ask…what’s next?

Running has gotten me through some pretty tough times this year. I was grateful for having the goal of completing a 100-miler to keep my mind off of my divorce and keep me in a positive place when the opportunity to fall into a negative slump was hanging over my head. (PS – the Q&A’s for the 100-miler is almost finished…for real). I have met some incredible people and have a following of like-minded folks who support me through all of my adventures. Continue reading