I’ve spent a significant amount of time in airports lately.

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I’m now in Europe but I imagine I’ll have to freak out my credit card and head home to check on my Irma-beaten home. For now, I’m refreshing a web cam hourly and drowning my anxieties in wine. In the midst of it all, I ran a race.

Stuttgart, Germany.

3pm on a Saturday.

The main event (I think. I don’t read, speak or understand German) was a 10k that started and ended on a stadium track. There was a 5k for losers-that-couldn’t-do-the-10k that started about ten minutes before. I was in that group.

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There were only a few dozen runners, mostly high school aged kids and some very fast adults. My favorite travel companion ran with me. She was yelling err motivating me like a tiny angry drill sergeant but it didn’t matter. I was pacing myself.

Was I? Or was I just being lazy?

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We ran at the back of the pack. I jogged a comfortable pace that allowed me a consistent jog without the need to walk or rest or breathe too hard. I had plenty in the tank and could even sprint around the track at the end. Pacing is important. Knowing your limits, knowing whats ahead of you, saving for the future. Economists will tell you pacing yourself financially is how you prepare for the un for seen future and keep yourself financially fit. But when is pacing detrimental?

At my home church in Sarasota, Florida (whats left of it after Irma) our pastor has been doing a sermon series on prayer. He talked about exercising your prayer life by extending the time you spend in prayer, increase the velocity and intention of the prayer. In other words,

don’t pace your spiritual life.

Amp it up. Don’t say, “God bless them”. Say, “God fill them with your Joy!” Don’t say, “God do something about my shitty co worker.” Instead, say, “God turn my heart to show them your Grace!” If you’re conservative, pray for Democrats. If you’re liberal, pray for the Congress. We all should be praying for our President – there’s a lot at stake. It’s not easy. It’s time consuming. It’s humbling to pray for people we don’t like. It’s uncomfortable to work those seldom used muscles. It’s exercising spiritual muscle.

Jillian Michaels, in a yoga dvd I do when i’m being lazy err pacing myself, she says, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” You win, big J. You win.

At this week’s race, we jogged the first mile with a nice German lady who was keeping our pace. Then, around the half way mark, she excelled. She picked up the pace and continued accelerating with each kilometer and finished quite near the front. I don’t know if she was able to sprint around the track but I know she ran to win.

My friend Amy was so frustrated with my “pacing” she almost left me for the biergarten. Seriously. The race had a biergarten.

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She stayed with me, encouraging me and shouting random German phrases in her thick Texas accent. She ran to win.

“Runners train, they don’t practice.  Your workouts are designed to work different phases. Often this means running at controlled levels to maximize the time spent working in those zones. By going all out you don’t spend much time in that zone in the beginning and then cannot go fast enough to get in the zone at the end. However pushing your limits is where your gain your speed and strength. You need to incorporate sprints and high levels of anaerobic workouts to exhaust your muscles, break them down and build them back up. Run the correct paces.” – random Reddit dude. He runs to win.

We need to be picking up the pace – doing our wind sprints so when we need the extra oomphf to pass the pack, our bodies respond. Likewise, we need to keep doing our spiritual sprints so when we need to spring to action – like rebuilding whats left of a hurricane ravaged home – we’ve got enough strength to climb that mountain.

My spiritual muscles are exhausted from praying this week.

Next time, let’s go all out on a run. And then vomit. It’ll be great!

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Run to win!

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My name is Kathy.

It has been three months since my last road race.

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I have a million excuses. Three months of excessive transatlantic travel. Three months of reunions and events and work all with my tiny tot in tow. I’m tired. I’m not motivated. It’s hot in Florida. Blah Blah Blah rough life just do it already!

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Florida. 8am on a Saturday.

The night before a race, I start to wake up every hour after about 3am. I get anxious about little things like missing my alarm, forgetting to pick up the race packet, is my Ipod charged? Will these panties chafe? Is my GOOD sports bra clean? Do my shorts have a pocket for my keys? Where are my keys? How much wine did I really drink last night? Then I do the countdown: “if I wake up at 5am I can have 2 cups of coffee, a glass of water and be able to flush it all out before I get in the car.”  Then an hour later, “if I use the Keurig, bring a travel mug, drive 20mph over the speed limit and tinkle in the bushes, I can sleep until 7:15am….

When I look in the mirror to pull my hair into my very unglamorous pony tail I focus on the giant bags under my eyes and the trail of yesterdays wine err mascara down my face and think,

“this is ridiculous.”

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Today was no exception.

The race itself was at a popular park for road races. I’d completed several there before and was familiar with the out-and-back along a man-made lake. Very pretty. Mostly flat. Paved road. No cars. Chip timed, actual bathrooms and two water stations. All necessary for a very fast, easy and enjoyable race. And it was.

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My time was horrible. I’m not sure what I expected considering my daily runs had turned into thrice weekly jogs, the occasional paddle board and a power walk through the mall. Did I think I was suddenly going to set a state park record?

In the time before the start, I stretched. I don’t do it often or enough but I know as I approach 40 like a Mercedes on the autoban, my body needs more and more prep work. I found a quiet spot away from the crowd on a little hill to bend and twist. I noticed a few ladies make their way down to my grassy knoll and join me. Before I knew it, I was leading some sort of dysfuntional tutu wearing “i run for wine” cheering soccer mom yoga class. Kill me.

A group of very ripped cross fit ladies passed by and looked me up and down like I was loosening up for a 5k hostel takeover. Little did they know I was legitimatly afraid my thighs would cramp up at the sound of the gun and last night’s sushi would make a guest appearance by mile 2.

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Road Race Rule #1:

Don’t judge others. Don’t worry about what people think of you. Don’t do crossfit. (ok, kidding. but really don’t.)

A few hundred people lined up, the gun went off and before I knew it we were at the half way turn around point. I was in the middle of the running pack, a comfortable place for me to be. But then things got interesting. First, as we made the U-turn, we now faced the sun. A blaring hot Florida in August sun. The kind of sun that makes you question your life choices. The kind of sun that will horrify your dermatologist and change your makeup base from “creamy beige” to “Punishment For Past Sins.”

Race Rule #2:

Wear sunscreen. Pack aloe. Lips can burn, too.

Thankfully I was preoccupied with the 9 year old kid that kept passing me like Buzz Lightyear then WALKING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

Road Race Rule #3:

WALKERS TO THE RIGHT!

None of that ultimately matters. What matters is doing it.

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I need to reestablish my commitment to running road races at least once a month. I need to reestablish my commitment to pushing my body farther, harder, faster. I need to reestablish my commitment to encouraging YOU to join me in our endeavor to be the best versions of ourselves. (That’s way too new-agey-touchy-feely for me but Oprah said it and I can’t get it out of my head.)

I’m out of excuses. I need to get back to running consistently and with conviction. I can’t talk about physical muscle if i’ve gone soft or spiritual muscle if I’m not putting in the time to pray and reflect. We’re running to win! There’s no time to over think it, over analyze it. There are plenty of reasons NOT to do something but when has that made you better, healthier, happier?

I kept the sushi down. So can you.

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Until next week.

Run to win.

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Sarasota, Florida.

8am on a Saturday.

I CAN’T STOP SWEATING. The only thing worse than Florida at the cusp of May is running a road race in Florida in May. However, I needed to get my butt in gear and get back to racing. April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month. In our family, every day is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month. I run for Parkinson’s, for my super athletic father who has been sidelined with it and for people struggling who need to feel lifted up.

But I wasn’t feeling it this morning. It was hot. So hot. 90 degrees in the shade hot. Running in a sports bra hot. Pouring pit stop water on your head hot. (Or artificially colored orange Gatorade if you didn’t bother to check the contents of said cup.)  I’ve been injury free thus far but this morning my sciatic nerve decided to punish me for every sin all the way back to the sticker I stole from my friend when I was 7 years old.

On the early morning drive, I decided I would phone it in today. I don’t need to run fast. I don’t have anything to prove. It’s a big race at a big state park so I’ll hide myself towards the back of the pack and jog it in. Upon arriving, I questioned if I had found the correct park. There were 12 people there. I CAN’T HIDE BEHIND TWELVE PEOPLE!

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More eventually came, but I quickly realized there’s no place to hide in this race.

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It’s OK to hit cruise control from time to time. It’s OK to hang in someone’s draft for a bit. But we can’t stay there. Character is formed and honed in the struggle to keep up with and pass the pack. The race was about to start. I had to decide to either be a leader or a follower.

Is it possible to be both? Can you lead from behind?

At West Point in the early 1990s, there was a cadet named Chris. Stellar athlete. In fact, he was the #1 athlete in his class. A few months before graduation of his senior year he had to take his last physical fitness test. Unlike the rest of us mere mortals, Chris didn’t have to worry about the run portion of the test. He could cruise through without any effort and not only pass but win the event. The cadets lined up for their run and the instructor said, “Go!” About half way through the race, with more than a comfortable lead, Chris noticed a classmate struggling. Perhaps he was unwell. Perhaps he was hurt. Perhaps running was just not his premiere event. Instead of finishing his race as the leader, Chris fell back. He stayed side by side, step by step with his struggling classmate for the duration of the run. They both crossed the finish line together. And they both failed.

Chris was able to retake the test and graduate but the event had a profound effect on this young kid. Being a leader doesn’t mean coming in first. It doesn’t mean being the best, the fastest, the strongest, the wealthiest, the most successful. Sometimes, being a leader is about encouraging others. Motivating those around you. Sometimes it’s about coming along side someone and encouraging them to Run to Win.

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I needed someone to come along side me today. I got on the 5k trail and CRAP. It’s all SAND! I can’t run on SAND!

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And then insert the Gatorade incident here.

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And whats this? ALLIGATORS? WTF is that?!

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JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL!

At my lowest point I saw a lady on the sideline with the now iconic red RWB shirt and her PTSD service dog. In a random 5k in a random city in Southwest Florida. She was the reminder I needed to step it up. Get over myself. Stop feeling sorry because I left my size 6 for an 8, because I’ve eaten too many home made blueberry muffins and washed them down with too much Chardonnay. Stop wishing I hustled my business more, called my friends more, worked harder on my relationships, said “I’m sorry” and “I LOVE YOU” more.

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My race time was horrific. But after the race, a woman came up for a high five and said, “Great run – because of you I had my best time ever.”

Be a leader – even if from behind. There’s always someone watching – a child, a neighbor, a partner, a colleague, the lady in the RWB shirt.

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You can make a difference from any position in the race. Just don’t give up. Run to win.

 

 

Valdosta, Georgia.

8am on a Saturday.

I drove 5 hours into the night so I didn’t get to fully appreciate the Florida to Georgia highway. In the morning I was able to view it in all its glory. Here’s the highlight:

Billboards. So many billboards. In a 5 mile stretch you can buy a gun, sell a gun, buy another gun, buy a rack for your gun, a holster for your gun and a gun for your gun. You can buy a bible, borrow a bible, share a bible or read a bible with someone who will also sell you a gun. And you can do it all over brunch at the Cracker Barrel – home to a manufactured nostalgia of a South that none of us ever knew.

The race itself was held at Valdosta State University. A few notes about the race: It was one of the first races where there was free coffee BEFORE the race when you’re standing around cold and anxious wondering if you’ve left enough time to flush it all out. Brilliant.

The course meandered down neighborhood streets lined with magnificent, towering pine trees and graceful ranch homes with large porches for sipping iced tea on a cool southern evening. Or shoot a gun. Toss up.

Around mile 2 a woman came up next to me and just stayed by my side. I’m not sure if she saw me change pace a little in the warming southern sun or if she just needed someone to run with. We ran together the last mile, matching each others pace until we sprinted through the finish line. I was thankful for her camaraderie. I welcomed her companionship. It made me wonder if I was doing enough to be welcoming to those around me.

On the ride home I went 9 miles out of the way to go to the Georgia Welcome Center. (I wanted a picture with a peach.)

It was closed. The Welcome Center was CLOSED.

It made me think about my actions during this season of Lent. Am I welcoming or am I closed? Do I come along people and be an encourager like my running partner? Am I leading a life thats all about me or includes service to others, open 24 hours a day? How can I encourage YOU to run to win?

Back on highway 75 I started seeing huge billboards advertising Florida:images-1.jpg

This is Florida.

ALL ARE WELCOME!

Open 24 hours a day.

Free Orange Juice!

Everybody is included. Always welcome, always open. 

Be like Florida.

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Sarasota, Florida.

10am on a Saturday.

I wasn’t suppose to run in Sarasota. I was supposed to run in Melbourne. But life happens. I was supposed drive my parents across the state. We had a lunch date with one of our favorite cadets from the class of ’89, spend the night with one of our favorite Army Chaplains, brunch with one of my high school heroines… But life happens. Dad wasn’t well enough to travel, my toddler had the flu, yada yada yada.

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I had to adjust.

I went immediately to my go-to race websites and started my search for a local race. I have a schedule to run all 50 states and every deviation poses a domino threat of epic proportions.

As luck would have it, theres a new state park a mile from my little house down here that was hosting a race. I put on my new Run 50 tshirt and headed out. As soon as I pulled up I realized I was in trouble.

It was an ultra marathon 50k race.

50k. Once again for the cheap seats – 50k.

There are 3 reasons I won’t run a 50k:

  1. I am not a masochist.
  2. I have not trained nor do I have the time to train for that distance.
  3. See #1.

I walked up to the race table and they immediately bibbed me up and sent me on the trail. About 2 miles into the run I realized the irony:   I was wearing a Run 50 tshirt.

WHAT DO I DO NOW? I CAN’T RUN ALL DAY! THERES A SALE AT MACYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I ran another 2 miles to the water station that crossed the main road, ripped off my bib number, waved a “thank you!” to the volunteers and hauled ass in the other direction.

Classy.

Change is hard but necessary. There have been plenty of times I’ve had to make major life changes. I’ve changed colleges, majors, jobs, marriages, parts of the country. I wear more sunscreen and eat less meat. I play harder with my kid and less with my phone. I canceled the cable and bought more books. Change is hard. My dad developed Parkinsons and everything changed. It can take a while to adjust to your new circumstances. It can lead to depression, anxiety and fear. I see the fear most in my friends transitioning out of the military. Don’t lose hope! With a few turns of the wheel the boat rights itself. And if it doesn’t, there are people out there who can help you sail in the right direction. Ask for help. Reach out to people around you. I’ve found incredible support during these past years of running for my Dad through our giant West Point family. (stay tuned for my blog post about me and my Long Gray Line.) Churches provide supportive communities as well as Veterans groups like IAVA and my favorite running group, Team RWB.

Life happens. Change sucks. Get up and Run to Win.

Just make sure you’re not wearing the band’s tshirt to the concert. (or the ultra marathon.)         Wear THIS shirt instead!

Up next – New Orleans.

Stay classy, Florida.

 

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