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I knew a Wise Woman

I knew a Wise Woman
And she said to me
That the river would mold me
And the wild wind would cool me
That the trickster the coyote
He would fool me
That father Sun would warm me
Mother Earth would clothe me
Grandmother Moon would greet me
And of the old ways she would teach me
Wise woman, she told me
To always walk lightly
Tread the earth ever gently
Lovingly so preciously
And take from her sparingly
She said, to share with others
What you have learned from me
Be still and breathe, ever patiently
For the web of life
Has woven what is to be
But you must still chose
Your own path, you will see
And lastly, the wise woman said to me
To listen to the wise one
That dwells within me
To walk my path in balance
Is too be free ✨

Author, Unknown

Sweat it out

I’m not sure how we suddenly got here—how the beginning of the New Year suddenly catapulted into May. How the pandemic has left us sheltering-in-place for weeks. How so many people are alone. Or unemployed. Or sick or dying and can’t have loved ones with them.

When I feel overwhelmed, or when I need clarity, I run. I count my blessings with each mile; I work through the emotions of the being stuck at home; I pray for others. I sweat it out. 

I like my normal routine. I like my morning runs, I like the quiet in my office, I like the shared times with my loves. That routine has been interrupted. Unexpected interruption makes us feel off-balance, lonely and helpless. So, I run. 

And while I run, I think: How can I use this time in quarantine and my talents to make a difference in the world? How can I show up in a new way, to help people? How can I do small things that change hearts in big ways?  I’m not sure what the answers are, but I think the prize will be in the process.

The gift will happen during all the miles leading me there.

I don’t know where we’re headed, or exactly what to do, but I do have some good conversations with my soul. I sit quietly, or I listen to the birds as I run through the trails, contemplating the sparks God shines inside me. The root to finding any answer is in the quiet, the “be still” moments of our lives – or at least it is for me.

Sue Monk Kidd said it best, “I realize that the heart of religion was setting up an honest dialogue with uniqueness of one’s soul and finding a deeply personal relationship with God, the inner Voice, the inner Music that plays in you as it does in no one else.” It’s in the journey, your journey alone. Your interruption of the process—the prize.

It plays differently in each of us. Even children. I listen to my grandchildren talk about “the virus” and how they’re not able to go to school, or see their friends or grandparents, or have traditional birthday parties. But they’re still happy. They still laugh and laughter is proof of hope. They’re creative. They find the joy in life—no matter what. They know they are loved. They trust it’ll be okay. We tell them it will. Children can remind us of who we are, or who we want to be.

We can find new creative ways to show up at church, to “zoom” our friends and teachers, we can help teach the value of connection but in different ways. Love and connection matter. Creating a connective life begins with us deciding to make changes day by day. Let’s walk through this pandemic together in new and creative ways. Let’s flex some new muscles. Let’s make time for the people that may need just a phone call or drop off a gift at their front door or a drive by parade with signs, balloons and music. Show up as your true self. Even in the hard. Because we can do hard things.  

We will get through this pandemic. But, it is a reminder of our inextricable connection. It’s all we have. Through our relationships we can channel love. Our true nature is love. And there is nothing more powerful than love. Everything that matters will last. Our love for each other, our connection to each other. The way we love and serve each other – none of this is in jeopardy, even in this weird quarantine world. This is giving me hope. How about you?

So, even though things are moody and messy these days; get outside, enjoy the fresh air. Go for a run, a walk or a hike through the woods. Sweat out your fear. Sweat out your worry. Ponder the simplicity of love and connection, even on the strangest of journeys.

I can’t wait to spend time with you! I love you!

Group social

Group social! 

Steadying My Gaze

February 2019

I’m taking dance lessons, which has proved to be another incredible form of exercise and a drastic departure from my comfort zone. The introvert in me is very weary from the extroverted effort of dancing. It scared me at first. I’m not a natural dancer.

My patient instructors, Rudy, Candace, Cary and Crystal (and I need all of them), have taught me how to transfer my weight quickly and hold my frame, all while listening to the rhythm of the music and following the lead of my partner.  So many of the analogies they use sound just like what I say to my athletes.  When I dance, it must be pretty obvious that I am nervous, and they are often reminding me to breathe and relax (which sounds familiar, too). Do they see me closing my eyes and saying a prayer to myself?

One of the most important skills I’m practicing is spotting before I spin–picking a point in front of me and steadying my gaze before I spin to avoid dizziness. In yoga, when you concentrate on a point of focus, it’s called your drishti. So, if I use my drishti to spot, the rest of my body will follow and I don’t feel like the room is spinning out of control and I’m going to fall over. I am reminded of the quote from the book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: “The car goes where the eyes go.”

Sometimes, it’s hard to force myself out of the house, but every week I get ready and head to the lesson. And I enjoy every single second of learning how to dance. It’s a lot like running in that when you watch someone who is really good, it looks impossibly easy and effortless. But when you try it yourself, just like running, you soon see that it is a lifelong learning curve in terms of endurance, efficiency, and grace.

The lesson: when you have a challenge before you, a difficult succession of things to accomplish, determine your focus before you begin. Will you gaze on the difficulty? Will it be on your competition? Will it be on your past? Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter—note it. And figure out a way to celebrate it. It’s better to have growing pains than to grow numb of challenges.

Just dance….and run….it will make you happy.

 

Make Miles Count

January 2019

I hope your New Year transitioned beautifully. Mine did. On January 1, I ran with some friends around Huguenot Park before participating in a local race. The “First Day 5K” takes off around 11am–a late start to give the ball-drop-watchers a chance to sleep in. As we logged a few sweaty, smiley miles on that beautiful 60-degree morning, we gave thanks to the year behind us and chatted about our hopefulness for what lies ahead. For me, it’s the perfect way to spend New Year’s Day: friends, a run, a race and moments to mark our gratitude for all we have. A new year is the gift of a clean slate, a fresh start. Close your eyes and take in the cold, crisp air. Think about what you would like to look different in your life this year. What are your roadblocks in making progress in that direction? Is there something you need to let go? How can we deepen our relationships? How can we live life more consciously, mindfully, faithfully and intentionally? Let’s open our heart to all possibilities. Listen and trust and the outcome will unfold. Maybe we will run into the year inspired and free.

I finish the day with my beautiful family sharing a traditional  New Year Day southern meal–which we hope might bring us a little luck in the coming year.

Whatever your heart desires in 2019, put it out there, believe it and prepare to receive it. God wants it that way. It’s the perfect time of year to make our miles count.

A Rare Gift

This summer, I spent a week traveling around Southern Ireland with a dear friend. But I’ve been hesitant to sit down at my desk and put into words my experience. I’ve waited, soaking the experience into my soul, before I shared it. Just like long runs deepen your connection with people, nature, and your inner self, an international adventure strengthens relationships – to yourself and to others – and creates lifelong memories, stories and experiences over miles and miles that cannot be made any other way.

My Irish adventure involved hiking, walking and running along cliffs, exploring castles, discovering hidden beaches, touring gardens, hiking through waterfalls and rainbows, eating seafood, sightseeing, logging almost as many miles on our feet as in a car, and having so much fun outdoors that we’d allot only 10 minutes to shower and throw on clothes before heading out again. Plans were easy and subject to change. The miles on the trip were exactly what I needed.

Below is a map of our journey. Click on the markers to see pictures!

Runners learn endurance and it serves us well in every area of our life. I channeled this endurance during a long flight from Richmond to Atlanta and then to Dublin—where we immediately rented a car and headed to the Cliffs of Moher, on no sleep. At least, I didn’t sleep. I met a friend on the plane (that can’t sleep on planes either) so our happy “hour” chatting lasted all night long and into the morning, when we started spiking our morning coffee with Bailey’s to make it through the final stretch. Being a runner came into play—pacing, patience and the ability to function on very little sleep. And, of course, lots of coffee.

Exhaustion didn’t stop us; I was determined to enjoy every moment of my time in this new place.

The views along the Cliffs of Moher were breathtaking. It’s a view that reveals the enormity and power of our beautiful world; I felt so small in it. The sea was like a battlefield of giant waves hitting the rocks with such force it gave the appearance of geysers of water spouting high from the collisions. The seascape was so high and the clouds were so low you could barely see where one ended and the other began. I’m grateful we could run and explore the cliffs by foot. There is no better way to see the terrain, beauty and history of this beautiful country.

Travel tip: we stayed at this B&B. Thank you James and Shelia for the best stay ever.

The adventure continued to Dingle, and I return to the subject of endurance, because we were back in the very small car, driving down very narrow roads. I spent some time in hopeful prayer that we would make it, in one piece, to the next town.

Dingle quickly became one of my favorite places in the world. The countryside was lush, green and fresh. Beautiful wild flowers cascaded down rock walls lining the winding, narrow roads. We pulled over often to take photos and to soak in the prettiest mountain views I have ever seen. We saw sheep and cattle feeding in the fields or herding along the roads, ignoring us while we stopped to watch. We took our time driving along the peninsula with full view of the sea, learning about the history and the culture of the people with our eyes and hearts wide open. We ate fresh fish and chips. We drank Guinness and danced.

I didn’t want to leave Dingle. This place and our time there was a gift from God. I said thank you often, squinting into the sunrise over the cliffs. I wanted to linger here, just for a bit and relish the goodness of this moment.

Travel tips: Stay at this B&B. Thank you Michael and Blandina for a wonderful stay. I will be back—one day. 

Visit this local pub, where we listened to great Irish music and danced the Irish waltz with the locals.   

This pit stop was yet another reminder that while we meet many people in life, we never know the moment when we will meet the ones that we’ll remember forever. Bart and Mariam: I hope our paths cross again. These are the moments I hold most dear.

On the advice of the locals, we decided to squeeze in a stop at Killarney National Park. We thought it would be a great place to run. As it turned out, this was not a leisurely walk in the park. The hills of Killarney were eternal and beastly—up stone steps and winding trails—but the scenery was so amazing that you barely noticed how hard you were working. We ran and explored the trails and saw the most amazing waterfall I have ever seen. We visited Muckross castle and gardens, where the lush plants and flowers exploded with color, like a canvas of vibrant hues and shadows that would pop into focus as you drew closer.

The next stop on our journey was Cobh, a sweet quaint, beautiful seaport village. While yet again I could wax poetic about the beautiful scenery, my most notable memory from this leg of our journey is that the people of Cobh are the nicest, friendliest humans on the planet. For instance, on my last day, during an early morning walk, I spotted a small souvenir in the window of a shop that I wanted to buy for my grandchildren. The store was closed and I was about to turn towards home, when the young shopkeeper went out of her way to open her store for me to make that one totally-not-worth-it-for-her transaction.

At the end of our brief stay here, I felt happy, grateful exhausted and full. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Our final destination before heading back to Dublin was Wicklow Park. We didn’t have much time here as the trip was long and time was short. But my travel companion’s one request before we left was to stop here—to see where the TV show Vikings was filmed (and we secretly hoped to run into some of the cast, like this badass :).

Wicklow Park is a popular location for films. While we didn’t succeed in meeting any of our favorite show’s cast, we did enjoy sandy beaches, rolling mountains, hidden lakes, bogs and small villages. We very quickly understood why this beautiful spot makes the perfect Hollywood backdrop.

We finished the trip back in Dublin and at the infamous Temple Bar for dinner with flowing Guinness and lively Irish music. It is a “must go” destination when in Dublin. After dinner, we strolled around Dublin, taking in the bustle of a lively city—the busy-ness was a stark contrast from any other stop on our trip.

A journey through Ireland is like a deep breath for your soul. My time there was overflowing with goodness, friendship, culture and adventure. Saying goodbye to this country was awful. At the airport, the only thing heavier than my carry-on bag was my heart. But the memory of this adventure–this rare gift—is now part of who I am, just like every place I’ve ever run and every person I’ve ever run with. They are the building blocks of me.

Letting Go

On a recent rainy day run, I discovered something beneficial about running: No one can tell if the water dripping down your face is tears, sweat or rain. No one knows for sure if your ugly red face is caused by emotion or exertion. It’s the best cover up for a breakdown.

A few weeks ago my daughter Lindsay got married.  She is now officially a married woman.  I am now the mother of two married daughters. I knew this was happening when I first met her now husband, Phil. There’s something about a man who gives flowers for no reason except to say, I like you, that tells you he’s here to stay. But that Saturday made it official.

Is she really old enough to marry?  Wasn’t she just my little girl?  I can barely remember.  As I walk her down the aisle, my heart beating, my eyes full of tears, sweating profusely (did I mention it was outside on a cold February day?) my emotions got the best of me. I did not cry during the ceremony.  Not during the reception.  Not when Lindsay and Phil made their big exit, everyone shouting, with sparklers and noise makers, as Lindsay in her pink running shoes, and Phil in his red shoes sprinted out of the building.  “Just for you, Mom!” she said. But that night when I got in my bed, happily, exhausted, I reflected on the day and finally letting go. It hit me too when she told me “I can’t call you next week Mom…I’m on my honeymoon.” That night after her reception, she hugged me tight and said, “See you in a week when we get back from Dominican Republic.” I am learning. Babies grow up.

image by PhotoLadyLove

The morning before the wedding, I got up, on a drizzling, cold day, put on my running clothes and ran.  Not far, not fast, just ran, to wash away the tears of emotions for the day ahead.  I knew I needed it; some time a reset run is imperative regardless of the weather. That day my condition warranted it.  I started running and felt a tightness move from my legs into my heart.  Finally, when I was in a rhythm, I allowed myself to let go of everything I had so tenuously held together all week long.  The rain bore down on me; my thoughts consumed me and finally, after about two miles, so did my tears.

I thought about how my time with my kids is so brief.  I thought about every old lady who wistfully smiled and warned me that time would fly by.  I thought about the kind of mother I have been, wondering if I am giving them everything they need and knowing that I really won’t know for sure until the time has long passed to do anything about it.  It took a few more miles to make peace with that. I finished my run, red-faced and weary, but at peace and full of excitement. The cold made me gasp, bringing me back to the present.  It was time to head home, to shower and head to my daughter’s house to get ready with the bridal party. Coffee, bagels, breakfast casseroles and mimosas await.  The day will get happier and happier as we’re bubbling over with champagne and caffeine. My reset run worked, I was relaxed, happy and content and I had room in my heart and my soul for more moments and memories with my sweet family.

The amazing thing about kids growing up is that it mandates that parents grow up too. Loving and letting go is a fine art, that requires practice and patience.  There is no manual; we learn as we go along, simultaneously teaching it to our children. Everything is happening as it should, according to a force far greater than ourselves.  As runners, we get a little taste of that every time we work up a sweat.

To love and let go.

Cheers,
Brenda

Birds of a Feather

It’s hard to get motivated when you look out your window and see cold, dreary, rainy, or cloudy days…for days. How can you “look on the bright side” when there is no bright side? Yesterday, I was looking out my kitchen window and noticed I left my bird feeder out overnight (usually I bring it in after dinner), and it was full of birds, who didn’t seem at all phased by the temperature. It made me wonder: why do we feel like we’re confined to the indoors when it’s cold or rainy? We start to feel depressed, pouty, and restless, like a kid stuck in a classroom for too long. The birds seemed to be having a good time–splashing around, eating, being happy together and not the least bit bothered by the weather. Funny, I always thought they flew south for the winter.

Birds flock together, as a team, like geese flying in a V. Let’s learn a lesson from this carefree flock. Staying motivated in the winter is a challenge for many people. We make ambitious resolutions at the start of the new year, only to fall short. Thus, we start out a brand new year feeling discouraged. Crummy weather is the cherry on top of this self-pity sundae. Remember: change doesn’t happen overnight.  Set realistic goals. If you get off the path, gently remind yourself of your intentions, get back on track and continue moving forward. Call a friend. Join a group. Staying connected through support systems, friendship, fitness goals, and fun is vital to the success of a healthy, lifestyle. Becoming a mentor to someone is a great way to challenge yourself and renew your fitness goals, as well as be a part of helping someone else reach theirs.

Peak Running wants to help people reach their fitness goals, of course. But we consider it part of our mission to bring people together. Our athletes are runners, teachers, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, coaches and more. We love to hear the variety of journeys people take as they endure the winter training to reach their personal goal. And we ask: what better way to form friendship than to go on a run together?

In time, you’ll see that your personal journey is a community journey. You don’t have to bear the hurdles, fear and hardship alone. Your personal commitment transforms into a commitment towards yourself and others who need your strength and inspiration…and you need theirs, too.

Cheers to you.  Cheers to another year together and all the miles we have shared.  May God bless you, your family, and your friends.

xoxo

Brenda

 

Running in the Heat

I just got back from a midday run and it was HOT! (especially for a person who loves summer). The heat of summer has arrived, and we must take precautions as we acclimate to running in hot, humid weather. Our bodies are far better designed to handle cold than hot and we have a difficult time in an environment that is even a few degrees above normal body temperature. Excessive temperatures can impair performance and lead to dehydration, fatigue and heat illness. Here are a few facts and guidelines that will help us better enjoy our summer training.

  • It takes 2-3 weeks of training in hot conditions to acclimate.
  • On hot, humid days, slow your pace from the onset rather than waiting until you body forces you to slow.
  • Many athletes experience fatigue and dehydration as they adjust to the hotter weather. Don’t worry, this is normal.
  • Runners perspiration rate differ, hydrate accordingly. In addition to fluids needed by daily maintenance, athletes need to replace fluids lost with exercise (weigh yourself before and after runs over a period of time). Drink 2 cups of fluid for each pound lost during exercise. If exercises exceed one hour, a sports drink will replace sugar and salt lost, less than an hour, water is adequate. However, don’t overdo it either. Some athletes adhere to the “more is better” theory, but drinking excessively, can lead to hyponatremia (low salt) which can be potentially dangerous.
  • Recent research has suggested that drinking ice cold fluids helps to combat the core body temperature rise.
  • An acclimatized person can sweat up to 4 liters per hour, while a person not acclimatized can only sweat about 1.5 per hour.
  • Vary time of day you run—morning is the most humid, but temps are cooler and evening is generally hotter.
  • Expect slower times for long distances.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing that allows moisture and heat to be lost from the body.Wear sun screen and a visor for protection from the sun

Using strategies like these can make a difference in hot weather training.

Happy Summer Running!

A New Perspective

I love spring time. It’s a beautiful time to recognize the growth and blossoms in our lives, especially after a long, cold winter. Life is out there; changing, growing, renewing. Transitions are unavoidable.  Maybe it’s a new racing goal, maybe it’s handling an injury or illness, or maybe adjusting to an aging body.  Maybe it’s a job change, a child, or a new relationship; but change will happen. Spring time reminds me of how everything is evolving, unfolding. It’s like we get another chance—a fresh start. A do over.

Have you ever noticed how we pass the same sights and sounds so many times each day that we grow immune to them?  We know exactly how many minutes it takes to get from here to there.  If we run at the same place each day we know exactly how long it takes to complete the distance. We probably see the same people along the way. We struggle with the phenomenon of complacency and numbness.

I have been trying to look at my usual surrounding with fresh eyes…a new perspective. While life goes on, let’s remember to take the blinders off—expose our complacency, let in the refreshed air and light and really see.  Next time you go out for a run, alone or with a group, notice the beauty of the moment, your friends, the rhythm of your feet and how blessed we are to be out there, running with eyes wide open.

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

What’s blooming in your life?

Here’s wishing you happy miles this spring!

Coach Brenda