“Life’s Most Thrilling Roller Coaster: Ourselves.” – Jen’s Update

September 6, 2013 -
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Hi everyone! Happy Friday! Today I am so honored that my friend Jen is stopping by the blog again. She is such an amazing writer and each story she tells, I never want it to stop. Jen is so inspirational & has openly shared her journey here. If you want to learn a little more about Jen before reading her below post, you can check out [Prepare to be inspired by Jen’s Weight Loss Journey] & [Jen’s Anniversary of Kicking a Habit While Kick Starting Her Life].

A few weeks ago, Jen ran her first half marathon. For those that don’t know, Jen challenged herself to 12 races in 12 months this year. A half marathon is a HUGE accomplishment for anyone & I am so proud of Jen for completing this. After her race, we met for dinner. Even though she had just completed this huge mile stone in her life, there was still something internally that Jen was dealing with.

After chatting for a while about all of this, I was so happy that Jen decided to openly share her story with you today. I tell her often that she truly is inspiring people with every post she writes and she is not alone in her struggles.

So,with that being said….
I’ll let Jen take over from here for [PART ONE] of her
“Life’s Most Thrilling Roller Coaster: Ourselves.”

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Life has such a funny way of teaching us and testing us and challenging us.  It gives us these constant ups and downs, this way and that.   It’s a roller coaster we go through and we know it, we acknowledge it, we accept it…and often forget that it is just that.  I’ve shared a few things with you through Kasey and it’s incredibly difficult to bare my soul like this, expose myself and my weaknesses, and open up.  But sometimes I realize (and Kasey points out to me) that there are so many of us that feel the same things but often don’t realize we are not alone.  This story is triumphant and ecstatic and victorious and then saddening and maddening and insane…and I’m sure most of you can understand it.

    Earlier this year, a friend of mine sent me a message that read, “July 21.  Presque Isle Half Marathon.  13.1 of the flattest miles you’ll ever run.  You have five months to get ready.”  Hesitation…and then “stop underestimating yourself” and “you can totally do this.”  I had just run a five-mile race with Kasey and Sarah, which was difficult for me but completed nonetheless.  I typically only ran once a week on Thursday about three and a half miles, maybe four, but I took the challenge.  There is nothing that I cannot do if I put my mind to it.  Nothing.  This was clearly an obtainable goal; it only required time, effort, determination, and work.   

    I trained for four months.  There were days I looked forward to running after work more than anything.  There were days I just did not feel like it.  There were days I wanted to skip out and days I refused to let something stop me.  I had awesome runs and I had some not so awesome ones (like the 10K race that nearly broke me).  I still did Bootcamp three days a week and our core class once a week.  I saw a lot of changes during this training from my body to my breathing to my mentality.  And I fell in love with running.

The day crept up on me.  I felt like no time had passed and suddenly it was here. My friend, Tod, was running the race as well.  He had never done a half, either, and I found solace in the fact that he, too, was a tiny bit on the nervous side. 

    When you train for your first gigantic race, you spend a lot of time imagining what it will feel like to actually complete it, to cross that huge finish line…thirteen miles is a long distance and now all that training and motivational daydreaming were coming to fruition.  Sarah was also running so we met up beforehand, got some hugs and words of encouragement, and she told me, “I’ll come back to find you after I finish.” (She’s so amazing!)

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    Tod and I started together and after a few minutes, he gave me a nod and a fist bump and an “I’ll see you at the finish line.”  And we were off.  From here on out, I tried to just remind myself that this wasn’t anything new, I’d done the work.  This wasn’t a major deal, it was just me enjoying running.  Live the moment, enjoy the run, take in the morning, there’s no reason to be nervous.  The strategy worked long enough for me find my pace before I realized, “You just started a half marathon.  This is happening right now.”

If you had met me a few years ago, you probably would not believe this was happening right now.  If you had told me a year ago that I would be doing this, I would have laughed at you.  But I was in the midst of it.  And, of course, I had a few goals in mind.  #1 finish the race (which was obviously going to happen as long as some catastrophic injury didn’t occur).  #2 finish in 2:30, which I was fairly flexible on.  #3 don’t walk.

I do my best thinking when I run and today was no exception.  In fact, today was the best thinking I’ve given myself in a while.  I fueled myself that morning on miles and miles of positive self talk…You’ve totally got this thing…You’ve done everything you need to do this thing…Just keep moving, Jennifer…Push, dig deep, think about that finish line.  As the miles progressed, I just kept feeding myself these thoughts and then thinking about the process of getting to an event like this and how fortunate I am to have such amazing people in my life.  When I decided to do this, I received a compliment that was one of the greatest I’ve ever heard: You’re mentally tough enough to do a half marathon. I think it resonated in me.  I think people pick up on that feeling.  I have so many friends who wanted to run with me during the last two months of this training…Brittany, Sarah, Liz, Julia, Kelley, Rita, Rene, and one of my closest and dearest friends in the whole world, Steve, who shared my last ten-mile long run with me during his trip back this way for July 4.

 

Positive self talk, positive realizations, positive that I’ll be finishing this race pretty soon.

Around the ten and a half mile area, I was starting to get pretty tired.  I wondered if I was going to see Sarah at some point, trying to anticipate her pace vs. mine.  Knowing that girl, she would absolutely have come back to see me; she finished that five-miler with me.  Instead, as I was approaching the eleven mile mark, I looked up to see Tod. My smile must have stretched from ear to ear when I saw him.  I had never actually expected anyone to finish this race with me but having him there was a joy.  Here is a person who has been a tremendous presence in my life since I began my journey on the healthy train. 

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He has been a trainer and a coach and my go-to guy for advice on nutrition and fitness.  He has been there on the good days and the bad ones, he encouraged me when I needed help more than anything, he has seen me change, and he understands my work ethic and my desire to improve and my drive.  He has been by my side every step of the way since Day One of this journey and has seen me through a whole lot…blood, sweat, and tears.  I have a great deal of respect for him and his friendship is incredibly dear to me.  There is not a single other person on this planet that I would have wanted to finish the end of my first half marathon, share this huge accomplishment with more than this person.  We had a fun time during that last two miles of the race.  We joked around, we talked about the race, we talked about what music came on for us, we talked about how our legs hurt.

Tod asked me if I was going to have any strength left to crush the end of this race…maybe the last mile?
–maybe the last half mile, I won’t have much left, but I’ll give it everything I have.

Several minutes later, Tool’s Parabola came on my playlist, and as I was taking it in, I looked at Tod and asked how much further we had…about three-quarters of a mile.  Let’s do this thing.  And from here on out I ran as hard and has fast as my tired legs would allow me to.  And the second I made that transition to finish mode, Tod gave me every single Tod-ism he’s ever given me plus some:

Dig deep…Keep pushing…This is all in your head, Jen…Don’t you dare stop on me…All day long…This is all mind over matter…Don’t you dare slow down on me…Dig as deep as you’ve ever dug, Jen…Your body is telling you to stop, you are programmed to stop, but you have to push through it and tell your body that you’re not stopping…You’ve got this thing…Do not think about anything except that finish line…

–Tod, I think I’m going to puke

…You are not going to puke, you are about to finish a half marathon, dig deep and keep pushing. 

I approach the finish and I see Sarah, I hear Sarah…she is screaming like a wild woman…I start screaming like a wild woman, high five her as I pass her and cross that glorious finish line with my arms up in triumph. 

I finished in 2:30:19
without walking a single step.

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It is in moments like these, when you get to truly appreciate some of the beauty that is your life.  I could run another fifty half marathons in my life, but none will ever be as special as the first one; the first of anything is always the sweetest.  I worked so hard to prepare my body for thirteen miles of running.  It was not easy.  And some people might think that we train and we work and put all this time and effort into something that lasts for a few hours, just one morning.  But it is the journey that is the real gift.  It is the time you spent and the effort you put forth because you know what you have to do…it is the realization that if it was easy, everyone would do it. It is convincing yourself that you can, indeed, do this. 

It is enjoying the good runs and learning from the not-so-good ones.  It is the memory that you’ve just emblazoned in your heart, the people that made it possible.  It is the half dozen or so friends who said they wanted to train with me, and the most gigantic bear hug I’ve ever gotten from Sarah, and my friend, Tod, who came back to ultimately run seventeen miles that morning because he wanted to get me through the end of this thing.  When I get to the end of my days, these are the moments that I want to hold onto.  This is why we do what we do.  I am truly blessed in life.

But I thought I said something earlier that life has a way of taking us on a roller coaster, didn’t I?  What happened several days later was not fun.  I had a turn in the exact opposite direction.  What caused this turn?  The power of bad thinking mixed with a healthy combination of exhaustion/perfectionism/the almighty scale. 

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