Runs with Wolf

A few years ago when I started trail running, I decided to look for a four-legged running partner through a local rescue. After a few misses, we found each other. Her name was Zoey. She was about 2 or 3 years old and a black and white shepherd looking dog with a curly tail. Her fur was relentless. She shed so much that the Roomba could not keep up. She was my girl.

She and I bonded instantly. It’s as if she was waiting for me to find her. Trail running was great with her, although I had to brace for those sudden jolts from when she spotted a deer and wanted to take off. Our longest distance together was 14 miles. The sound of my breath, the sound of her pant. The clomping of my heavy feet, the jingle of her leash tethered to my waist. We ran free and happy together. We were a team.

She was my rock through my divorce, and years later, gentle and caring towards my newborn daughter. When the decision came to rehome her, I was absolutely crushed. I could not give her the love, care, and attention she deserved. I was a solo parent who had gotten laid off after coming back from maternity leave trying to keep everything together. I cried off and on for weeks trying to come to terms with the decision knowing that it was in her best interest. I was fortunate enough to find a friend who would take her in. Zoey was my first baby and I loved her immensely. And I know that she loved me too. But her time with me had come to an end.

I remember taking her to her new family. I cried on the entire drive there telling Zoey how much I loved her and that this was not her fault and that she was wanted. I didn’t want her to feel that she was just a toss-away dog. She was my baby. Her new momma kept me posted on all things Zoey. She would send me pictures and I was free to visit anytime. I found it very difficult to leave after a visit. It was as if I had to tell her good bye all over again, so I didn’t. Zoey had new fur siblings and was never alone. Her life with her new family was perfect for her and I am forever grateful that the Universe arranged it as so. She was so loved, SO LOVED.

Over the past few years I have gotten deeper into my spirituality. I believe that animals are healers. Zoey and I had a soul contract and when that ended, she fulfilled her soul contract with her new momma and family. Zoey healed me in so many ways. Not only was she there for me in my time of need, she taught me what it was like to be a mom and prepared me for motherhood. She was also a healer for her new family too.

This past August Zoey fell ill and it was time for her to cross the rainbow bridge. Her new family kept me posted and allowed me to be with them and Zoey when we had to take her to the vet. When I stepped outside of my car, Zoey wagged her tail when she saw me. I wasn’t sure if she’d remember me since it had been a long while since I seen her in person. But she did. She really did.

We held her and loved on her as she peacefully drifted off to sleep.
Our hearts broken. Our lives forever changed by our wonderful, loving, four-legged baby.

The following week I went for a long run and I felt her with me. I could hear her pant beside me and I could feel her happiness to be able to run on the trails once again. My eyes teared up and my heart was full. Since that time, I have felt her beside me on most runs. This week her last momma told me that she had DNA testing done on Zoey. Among a million things she was mixed with was wolf. Yes, she was part wolf. And I smiled. How fitting is it that my four-legged healer had wolf lineage. The wolf is one of my spirit animals.

I can imagine her spirit running with me on the trails and then going home to rest with her last momma to comfort her. I miss her so. I’ve missed her every day since I had to let her go. But now when I run, she is with me again. My own little spirit wolf.

And I am now one who runs with wolf.

Dearest Zoey,
Thank you for the love you gave me through the years that I had you. You will always be a part of my soul. You were the best dog ever.
Love, Your first rescue momma

Thank you Tracy for loving and caring for Zoey during her last years. You are a true blessing. And thank you again for these wonderful keepsakes of Zoey. I will treasure them always. Love, Sandy

Coming Home

Last Saturday, I finally got a chance to run with my old running tribe, the Charm City Run ultramarathon training group. Man, it was great seeing all those familiar faces. And there were many new faces who I haven’t met before. Our goal was two hours or at least eight miles. This run took a lot out of me but in a good way. It’s been a while since I climbed hills like these, and my legs ached from it. But damn, did that feel great! The trails have changed over the past few years. Trees were down in some places, some of the water crossings seemed a little different too. But I recognized so much, and I felt the trees smiling down on me, saying, “welcome home.”

What I loved most was catching up with old friends. Many of whom I’ve lost touch with over the years, except for keeping up with key moments on Facebook. One of the topics that came up was about the ending of relationships. Something that I’m oh too familiar with.

I don’t remember everything I said, but I remembered everything I felt and thought when I shared some of my experience with the breakup with Ultra kid’s father and the devastation I felt for months afterward.

On Valentine’s Day of 2020, he came forward with it. It wasn’t working for him anymore. I was utterly stunned. Where did this come from? Why were there no conversions of issues before this? Weren’t we happy?? In my mind, I thought I had provided a safe space for open communication, and we seemed to talk through everything together. But I was wrong.

Many of the days and weeks that passed after were a blur. During the day when I had to face people, I put on a brave front when I could. At night, I cried that snot dripping ugly cry, as my daughter slept in my arms, telling her how sorry I was that I wasn’t good enough to make him stay and that I was unlovable. I told her I would do everything to fix it. I had convinced myself that this was a phase, and he would come around if I could be the person that he needed me to be and that I could make our family whole. My heart ached to be on the trails for hours at a time so that I could sort out the grief and fix my head, and I couldn’t find my way there. And I so desperately needed to be there – the only place that I knew could heal me. I blamed myself for everything.

Then the pandemic hit, and we were in isolation.

As I look back now, I see that 2020 was the year of clear vision. The pandemic forced me to focus on myself and my situation. It took me a long time, but when I found out some truths that I didn’t know about, I knew that the breakup was a gift. He wasn’t the person I made him out to be. I was so in love with the idea of having the family I longed for, for a long time that I ignored red flags. I should have trusted my intuition, and I didn’t. Shame on me. Most of all, I should have never thought that I needed to change who I was for someone to love me. I am not to blame for what had happened. Neither of us is to blame. The relationship was karmic and we weren’t meant to be forever.

What we had was beautiful and amazing and gave me the most incredible miracle in our daughter. It had also taught me lessons in self-worth and self-love. And it brought me down to my fucking knees. Sometimes you don’t realize that you need to be broken to become better, stronger, and wiser. But when you rise up from the destruction, you begin to see that the pain of a broken heart is necessary to level up to your highest potential. You learn to see through people and trust your intuition. And through a lot of healing, I have clear vision of patterns I needed to break, clear vision of who he was, clear vision of my path, and most importantly, clear vision of who I am.

I am worthy and I am lovable and I deserve better. We all do.

Running on the hills at Cromwell Valley Park was very satisfying. I felt that I was coming back from a long crazy vacation that changed every aspect of who I was.

It was healing.
It felt like home.
And most importantly, it made me happy. 

“And I’ll rise up
 I’ll rise like the day
 I’ll rise up
 I’ll rise unafraid
 I’ll rise up
 And I’ll do it a thousand times again
 And I’ll rise up
 High like the waves
 I’ll rise up
 In spite of the ache
 I’ll rise up
 And I’ll do it a thousand times again”
Rise Up, Performed by Andra Day. Lyrics by Cassandra Monique Batie / Jennifer Decilveo

Photo by Scott Kelly (Instagram: @scott_not_astronaut)
Thank you for capturing me coming home to my happy place!

Resurrection

Hello, friend. I’ve missed you. Over the past three and a half years, so much has changed. The birth of ultra baby (now ultra kid). The breakup with her father. The countless times of trying to get back to running, racing, and writing, only to push it aside to tend to single-motherhood. Like the 100-miler, there were moments of pure joy and moments that brought me to my knees. It was through the moments that brought me to my knees that helped me grow. It helped me grow as a mother and as a divine being.

I have so much to tell you and no idea where to start. Frankly, I have about a dozen drafts saved and I never got past the first paragraph. I don’t even know how WordPress works anymore. So, I start here. Today.

Today, I resurrect my blog and hope to share and connect with you going forward. I resurrect my training and hope to find my place back to the finish line. Today, I resurrect the new me that you haven’t seen before. A little wiser, a little more spiritual, and a whole lot tougher than before.

Today is resurrection day.

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

Embracing the DNF on the Mountains of Oregon

I knew there would come a day where I would not be able to complete a race. The looming “DNF” is always in the back of the mind of an ultrarunner. When you dance with the devil called ultrarunning, you know that sooner or later, you’re going to trip up and get burned. And it was on the mountains of Oregon where I accepted this dance and got burned.

Mountain Lakes 100 ended in my first DNF (did not finish). It was the first time I was unable to reach a goal I set for myself and it was the first time I have ever had to drop out of a race. From the beginning of my running career almost 5 years ago, races have always come ‘easy’ to me. And I use that term ‘easy’ lightly. I struggled and I fought, but I always finished within the time that I wanted to. I had training runs that ended in worse outcomes than races. This time it was different. Strange thing was, while I had worried about completing races in the past, I really wasn’t worried about this one. I thought I had it. I did the training that my coach gave me, hired a nutritionist, and had a plan. I didn’t have mountains to train on, but I was getting my hill workouts. And afterall, Kaci Lickteig was able to win Western States this year training in pancake-flat Omaha, Nebraska. Ok…I’m not Kaci…not even close, but still. I would have thought I did enough to at least finish this race.

But it wasn’t enough for this course. At least for me. As a typical back of the packer, I needed to be stronger and the lack of strength training that I had this season was detrimental to my performance. I tend to perform better with lower mileage training and a lot of cross training, and if you ask me, when you don’t have mountains to train on for a mountain ultra, you need to need to find a way to get strong enough for the course. I was actually concerned about the lack of consistency with cross training that I had this season. Life really got in the way and it was a challenge to fit it all in. Still, I thought – I hoped, it would be enough. It wasn’t.

My hip gave out at mile 9 and I pushed on anyway. Every few miles it would give out from under me causing me to fall or slip. I continued to push through anyway. My energy was up and at this point, my legs still felt good. But deep down inside, this I knew this dance was beyond my capacity. The devil called ultrarunning had my number.

By the time I came down the mountain of the first 26 miles of the race, my quads were blown and my legs were fatigued. I pushed on anyway, keeping an eye on my Garmin which was so wrong that it had me at an average pace of 16:30 yet getting me into aid stations more in the 20:00 pace. I thought I had time so I took my time. And the more tired my legs got, the more my pace slowed, but I thought I still had some cushion. I didn’t. I realized it was going to be a fight to finish within the cutoff time.

As we headed into the night, I paired up with another runner, Christopher. The universe has an uncanny way of sending you people when you need them. He was exactly what I needed at that time. I wasn’t looking forward to the night run and having company was nice to get myself out of my own head. I was nervous about finishing and I kept dancing with the idea of the dreaded DNF. We chatted through most of the night taking turns pushing each other. As I started to feel my heart sink, I told him that I was about to have a moment.

We came across an open field and he paused and had us look at the stars. I looked at the brightest stars I’ve ever seen in my life. It was as if I could touch every single one of them. I’d imagine they’d feel like the sparkles that fall off the sparklers on the Fourth of July, stinging you just a little as they touched your skin. That was my moment. Now, I didn’t breakdown and cry like a baby, but I looked up at the stars and asked my heart, how bad do you want this? How much should I push this weak, struggling body? Is it okay to quit? And for the first time in my life, my big stubborn heart said yes. I took a deep breath in, exhaled and said to myself, okay. Dance over. I was done.

We took a brief moment and then continued on. Christopher caught his wind at the next aid station and was ready to take off. I was ready for bed. He chugged along ahead of me and I eventually lost sight of him in the darkness. Then out of the blue, I heard him shout out for me. And when I heard his bellowing voice, I laughed. And when I laughed I knew I was going to be okay. I told him not to wait for me and to keep going. Still, every so often, I’d hear his bellowing voice. And each time I did, I laughed again. I was going to be okay.

When I came into Clackamas (about the 55 mile mark) three hours behind schedule, Alex, my crew and pacer ran up to me with his big brown wide eager eyes, “I’m running the last 50 miles with you. We’re going to do this. Here, I’ve warmed up your clothes.” I looked at him and told him I was done. I was okay with a DNF and that I was tired, hypothermic, and ready to stop. I was completely and utterly done.

He wouldn’t hear it. Alex, with those oh so determined big brown wide eager eyes, wouldn’t hear it. “Let’s warm you up. Rest a little. What do you need? I’m not going to let you quit. Let’s get to the next aid station. Let’s get around Timothy Lake. We’re doing this together. ”

“I’m not strong enough for this”

“Yes you are. You are so strong. You can do this”

“No, I’m done. I okay to be done. I have nothing left.”

“Yes, yes you do. You got this. We’re going to do this together. YOU’RE SO STRONG! YOU CAN DO THIS!”

I argued with him and argued with him, but finally I gave in. I couldn’t look him in his unwavering big brown wide eager eyes and say no again. We took off to the next aid station. I made it to Little Crater Lake just about 10 -15 minutes before the sweepers showed up. I was finally done.

A week after my first DNF, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what went wrong and what I could do better and why was I not as crushed as I thought I’d be. Don’t get me wrong. It hurts. It stings. And when you watch your friends get their buckles, it stings a little more. I’m certainly disappointed in my performance and saddened that all the sacrifices I made just weren’t good enough to finish this race. But I know that this is all part of the game. It just is. And if I want to continue to play, I need to accept the fact that while this is my first DNF, it won’t be my last.

Christopher later sent me this quote that was sent to him. And every single freaking word resonated with me.

“You go out there to leave everything you have on the trail. You find something bigger than you, you throw everything you have at it, and *maybe* you come out on top… The finish line, it’s not the finish line. The external distance is just a distraction, an exercise. The goal is to cover new terrain in here.’ I tapped two fingers against my temple. ‘If you fall short, if you don’t cross that arbitrary line, it doesn’t mean that you suck. It just means that you have ambition, that you try to do big, heroic things. That’s what matters. A DNF should be a badge of honor. It means your dreams are boundless. Ultrarunning is the opposite of real life: when you fail, you win.'” — Mishka Shubaly

Every word, true.

And in that moment, I once again embraced my DNF.

And I knew that I would be back.

And I knew that I would be stronger.

And I realized that sometimes the suffering that you put yourself through in the anticipation of failure is far worse than the failure itself. What I learned is that I could fail and not be destroyed by it. I could fail and welcome the fact that in the search for the betterment of myself and finding my limits that failure can be somewhat comforting. It means that I live life to my full capacity. It means that I don’t just talk about dreaming big, but I do dream big. I means that my will, my spirit, my determination, my grit are all still intact because the failure lights the fire in my belly to get back out there and do better, be better, and succeed. And when I do succeed, because I know I will, I’ll start the cycle all over again.

mountain-lakes

Sunrise before Mountain Lake 100 PC: Alex Harris

The Spirit of the Camino and the Spirit of Running

Finally, my final thoughts on the Camino. It’s funny how things work out sometimes. I set forth out on the Camino seeking closure and to find answers from within. What I found though, was that I already had closure and I knew the answers all along. Even more, I found something I wasn’t searching for, the Spirit of the Camino.

I had it all planned out. I was going to use this trip to ceremoniously bring a close to my past and leave my wedding ring behind at the cathedral as a symbol of this closure. Instead, after 10 days on the road, most of it in the rain, and a grueling hot uphill climb on the last day, I ended up in the almost empty square of the Santiago de Compostela only to find that I had to go around the corner to a regular old office and wait for 2 to 2.5 hours in a line to get my final stamp and certificates of completion. Wha-what? Isn’t there some statue or alter where people leave shit behind (yes…100K down the road)? Where was my moment?? I was supposed to have an all out emotional breakdown fall-down-on-my-knees-crying-my-eyes-out-with-snot-running-down-my-face moment. Instead, I stood there in line with Michele with a blank stare. What the f*ck is this?

As Michele stood right beside me she watched for my queue. She knew I was expecting a moment and she knew that I had gone too long without eating. And when I don’t eat, I turn into the incredible Hulk. She could tell by the look on my face that I was a little distraught by this anticlimactic ending to a journey what was supposed to end with angels singing, people sobbing, and lots of hugging and “there there you’ll be okay – celebrate your new life” moments. I waited in line for a minute or two, she tried not to make direct eye contact with me, and then I decided..meh…I was hungry and needed to eat and food was just way more important.

It has been several weeks since I completed this trek and during that time, I had a lot of time to reflect on my Camino journey. And while I didn’t have my “moment” I realized that didn’t need one. There wasn’t a moment to be had. I closed the chapter of my past and moved on long, long ago and I didn’t need any type of symbolic gesture to prove that I did. I reflected a lot on some past regrets and graciously came to terms with them (sort of) and accepted what I cannot change. But to my surprise, I found something that the Spirit of the Camino was much like the Spirit of Running.

camino 3

Live in the Moment

Living in the moment is something that I want to do more of. It seems the only time I really do live in the moment are during races and the occasional group run with my tribe. Any other time, I’m thinking about what’s next, what does the future hold, how could I have done something differently in my past. I need to learn to just be. Just be in the moment and not worry about what’s coming next. More importantly, I need to find a work life balance, or at least get better at it. I spent the better part of my 20’s and 30’s working 10-16 hour days non-stop including weekends, and often times more. The best years of my life were spent in an office and while I’ve changed that over the past few years, I’ve decided to even push it further. Perhaps one day I’ll even sell or dissolve my company and just for a regular ol’ 9-5. What’s it like working only 8 hrs in a day? I have no idea. Tell me.

camino 5

Welcome Each Day – Its Pleasures and Its Challenges

Much like running, each day on the Camino was different. One day there were tears, the next laughter, the day after utter silence. And Michele and I embraced each day and learned how to work together as a team to overcome some of the challenges we faced. As a runner, I have learned to accept and embrace the fact that you have no idea how your run or race is going to go. As with life, you can’t predict the start, middle, or end – you just have to adapt to each moment and keep moving forward. This acceptance has helped me in other aspects of my life. And the best part of it – now matter how shitty the run or how shitty the day, you learn from it and you grow. And when it’s great and wonderful, you are grateful for the gift of living and breathing.

camino 6

Make Others Feel Welcome

We spent the first few days of the Camino with little interaction with the Pilgrims. However, everyone we met along the way before we started to collide with pilgrims were very welcoming. And when we finally met others like us, just as it was with finding my tribe in running, we found our tribe on the Camino. There were a particular few that we ended up befriending and sharing some meals and drinks together. They truly felt like our Camino family. We met a mother and daughter team from Germany, a few Canadians, a couple from Australia and quite a few more. I have to admit, Michele and I said in the beginning that we were happy we didn’t have the opportunity to socialize with other pilgrims. And perhaps the Camino knew that we needed time to adjust to each other, adjust to our environment, and let go of the fear of having to include others in our conversations. When the time was right, the Camino put us on the path with our tribe. And just as it was with running, you just know when you meet your own. When a new runner joins a group, there are no awkward introductions or getting to know you periods. There’s just the look of  “hey…you run trails…we run trails…we’re family!” It was the same on the Camino. “You Camino? I Camino! WE ALL CAMINO!”

camino 2

Share

Sharing on the Camino was essential. Michele and I borrowed each other’s stuff throughout our trip. And when it was time to eat, we would also share our meals with our fellow pilgrims. In running, we do the same thing. If your running partner needs fuel or water, you share. Need an extra shirt, you share. It’s just how it’s done. Wish the world could learn a thing or two about sharing. It would be a much better place to live in.

camino 8

Feel the Spirit of Those Who Have Gone Before You

As we walked the Camino and I looked at the markers, I often wondered how many others passed through. I enjoyed seeing the rocks or flowers that those who have gone before me had left on trail markers, and I left a few of my own along the way. I would think, what was their story? Why were they on the Camino? When I compare this to running, I don’t look in the near past. Instead, I think of our ancestors and how running was a necessity. I sometimes feel their spirit as I pass by the trees and wonder if they ever took the time to enjoy their surroundings as much as I do.

camino 9

Imagine Those Who Will Follow You

As I shared my Camino journey publicly, I wondered how many would follow and what their experiences would be like. Would they arrive at the Compestella disheartened like I did, or will they find a different path and different meaning? When it comes to running, the moment I introduce a new runner to the trails, it excites me. I see their eyes widen and their smile get bigger as they learn the ways of the trail. I see life being reborn inside of them and wonder if they realize that the moment they stepped foot on the trails, they’re lives had forever changed. And when someone tells me that they have just started running, I smile.

camino 10

Appreciate Those Who Walk With You Today

When you spend 14 solid days and nights with someone, you get to learn a lot about them and about yourself. There were many moments in the beginning of our journey where Michele and I were butting heads. If fact, within the first 8 hours of our hike, we were already annoyed with each other and not in agreement with decisions we needed to make. It took a lot of compromise and patience from the both of us to get us through. Later down the road when she injured her IT band, we discussed how we would continue on. I had it set in my heart that I was walking the entire trail with or without Michele. Then it hit me, what would that accomplish? She needed me and I was going to send her on a train to the next stop just so that I can stick to a goal I had set for myself and needed to do to help keep with my training schedule. I never thought I was a selfish person, but in that moment when I was struggling internally, I realized that the world does not revolve around my goals (I know…I thought it did too). But I learned that in this world, while it’s great to be able to do everything on your own, it is essential to have someone in your life that you can trust and count on. As with running, solo runs are great, but running with your tribe can be just as enriching. Life is better with friends.

camino 4

If you ever decide to walk the Camino, take this to heart. Just like running the trails, the Camino will reveal the answers you need to know and they may not the be answers you are looking for. You must go into this journey with an open mind and an open heart. You will only see things you were meant to see but you must be open to it. Again, like trail running, the Camino is not for everyone. You will know within the first few days if this journey is for you, but it is something that I recommend doing to anyone who is looking to explore new places, meet some incredible people, and perhaps find answers to questions that you didn’t know you had.

camino 7

Camino de Santiago – Getting Here

I was invited by my friend Michele to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago with her and I said, sure, why not? I’m always up for an adventure. After watching the movie The Way, my friend Michele became a little obsessed with making this pilgrimage. She also found out about and partially funded a documentary “Life in the Walk” which was about a father and son who walked the Camino together. Continue reading

Lost Boys – My Tribe

There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too

I’ve always been the black sheep of the family, marching to the beat of my own drum, never coloring between the lines….all the clichés that describe that person who refuses to conform to fit in. Even now, my family doesn’t quite get me. There’s always the passive aggressive guilt-trips that they try to put on me about how I live my life. I suspect that’s the same with many people. It used to bother me a lot, but now, it bothers me a little. And while I’ve always felt like a little bit of an outcast, I figured that I was just unique in my way of thinking. But, I’m not. Continue reading

North Face 50-Miler – Freedom Run

“She was born to be free, let her run wild in her own way and you will never lose her.” ― Nikki Rowe

On Saturday, April 9th, I ran my 4th 50-miler in DC. This was my 3rd time running the DC North Face Endurance Challenge. And for the first time in a very long time, I went into a race without a goal. As I started running ultras, I became more and more focused on goals (if that’s even possible for my obsessive brain) and the pressure of meeting these self-imposed goals started to get to me. Race after race, I would put myself through moments of despair and self loathing that I would come out wondering, why am I so mean to myself? I was afraid that I was heading towards being burnt out so I re-evaluated my goals for the year and frankly, they are pretty aggressive. After taking a look at the big picture, I realized that I needed a freedom run. I needed to toss out the goal of setting a PR and let my spirit and my heart run free. And so I did. Continue reading