Sunday, February 22, 2015

Baby Steps

I had a case of the Mondays this week.

Life is stressful and overwhelming and insane.  God doesn’t pile on your plate any more than you can handle.  Even so, you hit that point where you are staring at a to-do list, not sure what to even start next.

I hit that wall on Tuesday.  Just like when I hit a wall on a run, I thought to myself, “Just do one step.  Just deal with one piece of paper.”  Soon one thing was done, then another, and I was back at it.

One step at a time.  Baby steps.

Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat and chills, which by Friday was clearly illness.  Ugh.  I still have to work.  Still have to be functional at home.  Still need to quest.

One step at a time.    Baby steps.

I originally planned to do the Wisconsin Marathon in May.  I haven’t been able to run in two weeks.  I’m about to go into my most stressful project at work, which has a deadline three weeks before the marathon.  I’m starting to think, “well, maybe I should just do the half.  Maybe I should skip this year.”

Then I remembered that Boston and London are in April.  2nd quarter is always my most stressful at work, so I’m often skipping workouts this time of year.  Before I plunk down the money for London, I need to learn how I’m going to make running a priority this time of year.   I’m signing up for the Wisconsin marathon.

One step at a time.  Baby steps.

The goal isn’t a time or a placement, but to learn how to make running a priority when work is stressful.  I can completely tell how better my mood is when I’m running regularly than when I’m not, which should help me be a happier, healthier employee.

One step at a time.  Baby steps.

I’m still sick, I’m still woefully behind in my laundry, I’m still trying to clear out the email inbox of doom.  Somehow I have to figure out how to get my life away from work under control before work occupies all of my brain time.

So I’m processing one thing at a time.  One load of laundry.  One email.  One baby step.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sometimes, you need to ground yourself…

Last night, I was invited to a party at a watering hole.  I wasn’t planning to go, thinking it was too far away from home.  After making a very important delivery, I discovered I was, two hours before the party started, in the right neighborhood.  I could stop, have dinner, and wait for everyone else to show up.  I’m single.  Last night was Valentine’s Day.  I had every excuse in the world to enjoy a night out with adult beverages and friends who don’t care about romance. 

In order to complete this quest, I need to be disciplined.  I need to sacrifice a bit of fun today for an adventure tomorrow.  I need to commit to training plans, healthy diet, and simplified lifestyle. 

This past week has been none of those things.  I still don’t have a single clean winter running outfit.  My .pst folder on Outlook is getting queasy trying to swallow the email backlog.  I have a long list of birthday thank you notes to send.  And…I think two credit cards are lost in my very disheveled purse.  We won’t even discuss that I haven’t run in a week or that I haven't been watching my diet.  I feel bloated, slow, and off track.

I decided to drive right past the bar and straight home.  Quests are about stepping away from your normal lifestyle and habits to journey towards a goal.  Last night, it was saying no to a party that would be fun, but would have gotten me home late, which would have led to feeling tired and lethargic all day.  Instead, I arrived home at a time where I was able to get some email deleted before going to bed early.  I woke up this morning, refreshed and focused towards what needed to be accomplished--and I even took some baby steps forward.

In order to complete my quest, I need to slow down my crazy active social life until I am training regularly, eating healthy, and organized enough to tackle the six races and corresponding charity fundraising.  While friends are a key component to this journey, I am faced with a challenge that I can only overcome on my own.

It’s been a rough start, but I’m determined to make this quest happen!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Step 1: Simplify my life

There are times when life is going so well that everything is easy.  You have a great job, great boyfriend, great hobbies, and in general, feel like a fairy princess.  At least I did for three years.  Then the rug gets pulled under you, and you go into survival mode until the depression clears.  You wake up, decide to do something insane like run six major marathons in ten years, and realize “but how can I possibly do this why my life is such a mess?”

I spent most of 2012 in shutdown mode, 2013 in avoidance mode, and 2014 in getting by mode.    I now need to thrive.

In order to achieve my goal, I need to remove the excuses not to train.  “My to do list is too long today.”  “I don’t have clean running clothes.”  “There’s too much work on my plate.”  “I have to get this done today.”  If I’m more organized, more efficient, these excuses disappear.  So the first step is to simplify my life, make it functional and do-able and achievable so that running can be made a priority.  Unless you’re immensely talented (I’m not), Boston qualifying times don’t happen automatically, and I need the time to do the training required to gain speed.

Today is a great example.  I need to run five miles today as part of my training plan, but all of my winter running jackets and sweatshirts are in the dirty laundry.  Before I even consider going for a run, I have to do a load of running clothes, but what is in the washer?  Dirty blankets.  So before I can wash running clothes, I have to wash blankets, and of course the dryer still has clean clothes (socks, mostly) that need to be put away before I can put a load of clothes in the dryer. 

But the clutter is virtual as well.  It’s also easy to download an app to learn German (for the Berlin marathon), another thing entirely to clean out an bloated email inbox so you don’t miss that important email about the lottery or the charity teams or the travel agency the London marathon is using.  With the majors, it’s very much a “if you snooze, you lose.”  Success and failure will be determined by how organized I am, just as much as how good a runner I am.

So the first step towards the #6in10 is “Simplify my life.”  Make my life functional so I’m not running around a day late and a dollar short, a life where I have the time and energy to get everything that needs to get done so I have the time and energy for the things I want to do. 

In the movie version, here is where you would cut into a montage of cleaning and sorting and working and a supportive romantic interest, providing a perfectly organized life in 2.5 minutes.  Real life isn’t so pretty.  Real life is about baby steps instead of giant leaps, setbacks instead of forward motion, distractions instead of Olympic-caliber focus, and the unexpected getting in the way of plans.  All while you feel like a failure for being unable to achieve instant gratification. 

While there are thousands of books and blogs and planners and organizers that can go through every step of getting your life in better order, they only look at your outside world.  It doesn’t change the static inside my head that gets in the way of my goals.  Quests are life-changing, so I know I need to look deeper, look at how my philosophy on the way I live my life has to change: 
  1.  Find balance.  Having a more functional home life will ease my stress at work.  Running soothes my emotional and mental health as well as being good for my physical health.  Realize that trying to be everything to everyone will only run myself down to a point where I will be too exhausted to be useful to anyone.
  2.  Prioritize.  Make one day a week about me and my quest—no job, no avoidance, no distractions.  Going for a daily run has to become a habit instead of allowing work or life to distract me into excuses. 
  3.  Focus on baby steps.   Consider the question, “What needs to be accomplished in order for me to get my training in today?” and work backwards to find the first step.  Find ways to reward myself for completing intermediate steps. 
  4.  Recognize and avoid distractions.  Practice awareness, noticing what causes me to stray from my forward intertia, and work to prevent those situations in the future.  Realize that distractions are unavoidable, so I must learn how to cope with them.
  5. Accept what is.  Stop wasting energy being upset about the past.  Find the aspects in life that are going well and celebrate them.
  6. Understand that it will all work out in the end.   Trust in God that the inevitable mistakes and missteps in life aren’t mistakes after all.  See the blessing in being imperfect.

This blog has to embody these philosophies.  It is a priority, as well as a way to reflect on the balance in my life.  It’s written one week at a time, and best created all week, with me walking away and coming back to it as I’m inspired doing other things.  While there will be good posts and just awful posts, the end work will be perfect.

I may not get that run in today; the warm winter running clothes still aren’t clean.  But perhaps had I run, I would have slipped on the ice and gotten injured, so I will be okay with today and grateful I get to do indoor training tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Happy birthday to me, 
Happy birthday to me, 
Happy 40th birthday dear me, 
Happy birthday to me. 

I turned 40 today. At 20, I dreamed that by 40 I would be married to my college sweetheart, have finished my Ph.D., raising a mess of children, with all the ups and downs and growing love of a long term relationship. However, I also had visions that I would be the quintessential bachelorette who had loved and lost, traveled around the country, owned a home, even had a cat…which was strange because I’m allergic to cats. Well, I have an awesome career, my own home, and even a cat, despite the allergies. I’ve had adventures from California to Boston. What do I not have? A spouse or children, or even that Ph.D. I could be depressed, angry, frustrated….or I could take advantage of the situation and figure out what *I* want to spend the next 10 years doing.

I got into marathon running a few years ago after the man I thought was Mr. Right decided I wasn’t right for him. Living in Chicago, my first marathon was a major, so the question, “what next?” was a bit complicated. That’s when serendipity appeared. I received an email about Abbott becoming the title sponsor for the World Marathon Majors, the six major marathons. Three are in the US: Chicago, Boston, and New York, but the other three are in Toyko, London, and Berlin. I’ve never traveled to Europe or Asia.

I then mentioned the idea to the leader of my local running club, which I joined a few weeks earlier than feeling slower-than-dirt at my second Chicago marathon. He said, “well, do it now before you have kids.” I replied, “Actually, I’m almost 40 and a true bachelorette, so kids will probably not happen.” He said, “then totally go for it.” My fate was sealed.

The challenges are huge. My PR in the marathon is 5 hours, 39 minutes, and Boston requires a time of 3 hours, 55 minutes to qualify. I’d be considered an “international” runner for three, which could mean additional restrictions on entries, never mind the costs involved. Plus there’s juggling five trips with a job where I can’t just take a week off of work whenever I want. However, I see the process of overcoming these challenges more important than actually completing the races.

My birthday present this year is a quest: to complete all six major marathons in my 40s. Why a quest? A quest is just as much as how one grows and changes on the journey towards a goal; Lord of the Rings would have been fairly dull if it had been “Frodo Baggins traveled to Mordor to destroy a ring.” While I have a defined goal, the story will come from my adventures along the way. To keep me accountable, I’ve decided to blog about the experience. Rather than a weekly listing of mileage, I hope to tell the ups and downs of running towards a lofty goal, and the story of my 40s as a result.