Nussdorf, Germany

2pm on a Sunday.

The last race before I turn 40 years old.

It’s cold here in Europe. Road races still happen but they are few and far between this time of year. (Far-between in Europe means I may have to run in Germany or France or Italy. First world problems, I realize. Thankfully France is as far from southern Germany as NYC is from northern New Jersey.)

I have had a chest cold for a solid month so the thought of running far or fast spooked my lethargic lungs. Luckily I found a 5k “nordic walk” which seems like a cop out until you meet the competitors. Get in their way and they will stab you with their poles.

download-2

It was a beautiful winter day. The bright sun made the air feel much warmer then its 35 degrees. The race was in a beautiful sprawling field in a gorgeous nordic-bavarian village miles and miles away from big cities or the horrific traffic I’ve become all to familiar with.

download copy

There was an enormous crowd of both competitors and spectators, multiple teams, age ranges and abilities represented. So I was surprised when, upon registering, I learned the walking portion wasn’t available – the reason for which I couldn’t discern with my limited German – and my only option was to run the very competitive 10k field.

20171125_144422-1

Crap.

The runners were lined up in their compression pants and competitive weather-wicking shirts. I was in yoga pants, a windbreaker and an old Bruins hat from college.

I did not fit in.

Everyone goes through times when they feel they don’t fit in. For most of us it’s the early years – braces, acne, big plastic glasses, frizzy hair. We experience it again and again when we move to new towns, start new jobs, try new things that take us out of our comfort zones. The important part is to face it and push through. (Just not with fashion. Overalls weren’t a good look back in 1990, either.)

download-1

I’m turning 40 in two weeks. If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me how old I am I’d probably say 28. It’s how I feel. However when I spend any significant time with someone in their twenties I quickly realize I am indeed middle aged.

My body felt good on the run, though by the end of the first few kilometers I felt the aches and pains that come from relentless physical exertion. I feel pretty good overall but be clear – my body knows I’m approaching 40. If I smell pizza, I gain a pants size by dinner. If I stay up past 9pm, I wake up looking like I’ve been at an all-night rave doing jello shots when actually I had just run downstairs realizing the laundry had been in the washer for two straight days.

I used to be the life of the party with my sharp wit and stellar conversation skills. Now my stories lead with, “you know… that guy… from the thing… with the girl…”

People say exercise is the fountain of youth. My lower back didn’t get the memo. Nor did my high-heel induced bunions, cellulite, that one chin hair that won’t die….

I slowed down a bit on the run and allowed the reflection that comes from solitude. To those in my peer group or those looking to us to ease the fear of transition from youth to middle age, grab your wine and settle in.

5 Reflections on 40

#1: Love where your body is now.

turn-neck-e1513514798366.jpg

Don’t wish you were 20. You can’t turn back time. Don’t pin hopes on the future “I’ll buy it in a size 4 for motivation…” We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow so be present in your thoughts and actions, even if that means the granny bra when you realize you can belt your boobs. Gravity is not our friend. Embrace it. Love yourself as you are right now. That doesn’t mean we can get lazy. If you listen to the world’s top athletes discuss what drives them, it’s not beating the competition – it’s beating themselves. Be your best for yourself. 

5 Reflections on 40 #2

#2:  The only opinion that ultimately matters is your own.

Not his. Not hers. Not the guy you like, not the girl you admire, not the parent who never said “good job” or your celebrity hero. The only opinion that ultimately matters is the opinion you have of yourself.

Sit with that for a moment while I return to the road race.

I get in the chute and off we go for a six mile run up and down rolling hills – big hills – where the only spectators where the local sheep who came to the edge, cheering on each runner passing by.

20171125_152059

It was a three lap loop up and down hills. I was behind the lead group but in front of the casual joggers – a spot that was lonely but I can’t understand what anyone is saying anyway. Being behind the fast group gave me someone to chase (and the opportunity to see these incredible vistas on my way up the hill.)

20171125_150550

5 Reflections on 40 #3:

#3:  We’re all encouraged to be leaders. Be a leader. But also “practice playing second fiddle.”

 “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” Romans 12:10 the Message

After the second lap, while heading up the hill to begin my third and final, the clouds rolled in, the piercing cold followed, culminating in rain. Then, as punishment for lying to my friend in the 5th grade, the hail came. Even the sheep said screw it and headed for an abandoned train car.

20171125_155046

20171125_160250

(Runners are perpetual observers of #NoMakeupSelfie.)

5 Reflections on 40 #4:

#4:  Learn Resilience.

resilience

Like this little band that played along the run route. They packed in their instruments during the most extreme moments of the hail storm but they were resilient in their dedication to cheer us on.

 

The difference between the people I choose to hang out with and those I don’t is their capacity for resilience. Successful people don’t stay down for too long. Happy people don’t dwell on what didn’t work or live a life of regret and remorse. Learn. Grow. Adapt. Evolve. Then we can be friends.

I finished the race, got my cup of carbonated water (the least refreshing post run drink ever) and headed to the farm fields that were now mud fields to dig my car out and head home.

20171125_155550

5 Reflections on 40 #5:

#5:  Find your Joy.

“Awesome things will happen today if you choose not to be a miserable cow.” This is true even on the eve of your 30th or 40th or 80th birthday.

Choose Happiness. It spreads. It’s addictive. It makes people like you. It makes you like yourself.

And didn’t we learn our opinion of ourselves is the most important? 

unicorn cow

There you go. Now go be sparkly unicorns.

And Run to Win.

italy meme

Advertisements

It’s fashion week in Milan, Italy. That means 3 things for me.

  1. I wish I was still young and thin and wrinkle free enough to walk a runway or pose outside Jimmy Choo with a pair of shoes three times my income.
  2. I wish I were wealthy enough to buy said pair of shoes
  3. I wish I had picked a different week to visit the city – because at this time in this city, I had to stay…

IN A YOUTH HOSTEL.

For those of you who have never back packed across Europe, visited NYC on NYE or ran out of money a week before pay day, let me enlighten you to the realities of hostels.

  1. You’re sharing a kitchen, living area, bathroom and sometimes bedroom with complete strangers who sometimes lack the finances (and possibly hygiene) to stay at the Four Seasons or even the local HOJO.
  2. Strangers can be a gift from God. They can also be s&m dungeon masters who rock the bed from 11pm – 12am, 2:15 – 3am, 4 – 5am? pausing for a smoke break on the shared terrace 2 feet from your bunk bed.
  3. see “bunk bed.”

Thankfully, I was traveling with a good friend and 3 children so we had a private room and I had someone to commiserate with at 1130pm, 230am, 430am….

Italian drivers are insane. Mopeds will hit a pedestrian for sport. But I take my hat off to this local. Because the birthplace of modern fashion means getting home from the runway …. on a bike …. at night … in 3 inch pink heels.

unnamed

Italy is beautiful. The architecture on the main roads is lovely but most captivating are the tiny archways tucked between store fronts that expose incredibly beautiful courtyards – hidden gems that are mostly missed by the greedy millennials racing around looking for the best bargain Prada to impress their friends back home.

unnamed-6

 

The expresso was invigorating but the cup so small I felt less glam drinking it and more like I had taken the blue pill and gone down the wrong rabbit hole. The food was incredible. Smoked meats, artesian cheeses, crisp, local vegetables soaked in home grown olive oil plucked by Sophia Lauren. Heaven.

I didn’t run in Italy. Partly because I couldn’t find a race in the area and partly because I was so sleep deprived I would have finished some time the following day.

Enter Switzerland.

First, I have been shocked by how close the countries are. I drove from Germany to Italy in less than 5 hours and went back to Germany via Switzerland in the same amount of time. The Alps are incredible. St. Moritz is probably the most beautiful part of the world I’ve seen thus far. The mountains climb so high they disappear into the soft, fluffy clouds. The alpine water below is the most captivating color of blue/green I’ve ever seen up close.

unnamed-copy

The villages are full of stone and plaster cottages heavily adorned with detailed mosaics harking a time of skilled artists and craftsmen. Every mile was a chapter from a fairy tale and the children were awe struck at every mountain switchback turn.

On Sunday I ran. It was less than 3k but it felt like a marathon. Partly because I was exhausted, partly because it was all hills – IN THE ALPS. My friend and I were trying to find any excuse why it was so difficult. Altitude? Only 5,000 feet. Distance? Ridiculously short. Sometimes I run and finish first, other times my legs feel like lead and I think back to all my past sins for fear of an impending stroke. I do it all to raise awareness for Parkinsons Disease but sometimes it sucks.

unnamed

I was completely alone after the first 400 meters. The cobblestone hurt my knees and I was grateful when I got onto the trail up the mountain. Then the fear set in. The fog was thick and the rain started to fall. Mist – Rain – Huge mountains – Quiet – Hillside… Lions? Tigers? Bears? Loch-Ness Monster? SHIT. I’m totally going to die up here.

unnamed-5

Then a thin elderly man wearing a grey hat with a green feather (can’t make this stuff up) ran past me. THANK YOU JESUS! As soon as he appeared he was gone into the mist but I instantly felt better. Sometimes a good friend calls just when we needed to hear their voice. Sometimes it’s the break we need at work or the cash you find in an old pair of jeans. Sometimes the serial killer runs past you with a stupid feather in his hat because it’s just not your day today.

Sometimes, God shows himself right when we need a reminder that we’re not alone. Maybe it’s a friend that grabs her kids and sleeping bags and says, “hell yes i’ll road trip with you!” Maybe it’s the accolade that comes when you were feeling unappreciated at home, a hug from a partner you felt drifted, a note from an old friend. We all need to be reminded to keep the faith, keep on keeping on, Run to Win.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121.

unnamed-4

 

 

 

f85f19af867deba3c97a9da1a63ed618

I like church. I like the buildings – giant gothic cathedrals, gargoyles, pipe organs, gold crosses that seem to glow even in the absence of light. I like passing through Little Italy by Canal Street and seeing all the Marys-in-the-half-shell.

I was raised in a church. Literally. My house was literally in a church. With a crypt. And gargoyles IN MY HOUSE.

2016-03-09 07.41.24.jpg

And bats. So many bats. You don’t appreciate real masculinity until you see a 300lb linebacker cover his head and scream like a school girl from a 14 inch bat. There were secret tunnels. Iron gates. Towers and secret rooms and underground chapels and did I mention the crypt? I explored every square inch. I know all the secrets. I’ve seen the most beautiful craftsmanship only accessible by ladders and rope.

images-2.jpg

One time a cadet asked my father if he could spend the night in the chapel before graduation. Let me tell you a few things I learned living in a church:

  1. Gothic cathedrals are magnificent and really freaking scary.
  2. Everything, and I mean everything, is creepy in the dark. I don’t care how beautiful it is during the day. At 2 am even white fluffy kittens start to resemble gremlins – hungry, angry gremlins.
  3. I encourage everyone to try it. You really do get close to Jesus while the wind howls and moans through the belfry and you’re cowering in the corner of the choir vestibule in the fetal position singing “Nearer My God To Thee.”

I don’t remember the cadets name or what spiritual development he was looking for but I remember the look of panic marred with twitching exhaustion that comes from real, sleepless fear.

My father is a minister. One of my favorite Aunties is an Italian Catholic from Jersey with gorgeous skin and a hearty Long Island accent. My “spiritual well” is a Reformed Jew from NYC who outlived both her Rabbi husbands. I have a kid who thanks Jesus for her My Little Ponies.

2016-03-11 08.10.35.jpg

My spiritual journey has been rich and varied. Every year I host a Seder dinner. I have a 14th century menorah that is among my favorite possessions. I also think Jesus is real.

Religion can be really beautiful. It can also be really divisive. I know you’ve experienced it. My God is a God of LOVE. Don’t dismiss God because organized religion failed you. Don’t let the state of the church deter you from the phenomenon of Faith.

2016-06-15 09.11.39

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about discovering who God wants you to be.”

Exercise and Edification. Running to Win. Wine and Wisdom –  (oh wait thats next year…..)