Monday, June 6, 2016

Motherhood: Aisle Seven

 

Motherhood. 

A title these days that can spark a hot debate with the smallest ember of social media commentary. God forbid we agree to disagree, or, disagree to agree. 

At any given moment I can find a plethora of mother-shaming on my newsfeed; women in hot debate over who's mothering practices are better, theirs or the American Academy of Pediatrics, or their neighbor's, or their best friend's, or  Huffington Post's (all authored by women, mind you, because if a man chimes in you betcha we'll group together like a marching band at half-time and blast him right out of the Internet). 

That's how we women roll.

There is so much debate out there it kills me. I've tried to ignore it but my mouth can only stay shut for a New York minute. So, here I go. Start spreading the news.

Breastfeeding. 

<Pausing to look for bombs dropping from the sky>

Okay, whew. I'm still alive. 

Breastfeeding, that's right. 

Before you stop reading, I'm all for it. I agree it is natural and beautiful and "breast is best", and cover-don't-cover-cover yourself, and blahblahblahblah. YES. TO. ALL. OF. THIS. 

But you know what? YES. TO. ALL. OF. THIS. TOO: bottles, and formula (liquid AND powder, WHAAAT), and pacifiers, and disposable diapers, and baby food pouches, baby food jars, homemade baby food, organic or not to organic, AND breastfeeding, or Just Say No! to breastfeeding for, whichever reason you wish or don't wish to do so. 

#idonotcare #justfeedyourbaby

What sparked this rant to basically revive my usually topic'ed running blog from the depths of Blogger death you might ask? Well, I'm glad that you did. 

I read an article from Huff Post (mistake #1) this morning that "Captured the first two years of motherhood in unflinching detail" that flew all over me. (Yes ya'll, I'm in the Deep South and that is a legit phrase). You may find the link here: http://huff.to/1TY9g3a and yes, I know there's super tech savvy way to hyperlink an article on my blog but mind you, I'm "no longer a blogger" and I'm rambling via my car on my lunch break at work because #aintnobodygottimeforblogging these days. 
File me under: Full-time Working Mother of Two, Lazily Blogs Soapbox Rant on Lunch Break.

 Check. 

Don't misread me here, the photographer captured beautiful and very real photos. But, these photos are becoming tiring. Where is the other side of the coin being portrayed? Where is the balance? Where are pictures of tired and haggard mothers amidst mountains of bottles, formula cans, formula residue, pacifiers, etc...that ALSO captures "the first two years of motherhood in unflinching detail."  Where are THOSE photos? For example, the one that shows a mother's stressed face in the TSA line at the airport because her child, the one she either CHOSE to formula feed or HAD to due to (fill in the blank), is getting extra special run around to have her can of formula scanned for approval to fly, or is running low because the flight is delayed and not one store carries that special brand that is oh so expensive but it reduces colic, or stomach distress, or whatever. 

Where are those pictures of motherhood?

I digress. 

Look, I am all for breastfeeding but breastfeeding doesn't define a "real" mother. Nor, does bottle feeding. Or, organic or non-organic feeding. A mother is defined by the love and safety that she provides for her child(ren). 

All I ask is for motherhood to be fairly represented. Both sides. We all are one: we are all mothers. We all struggle, we all try to do it the very best way possible, this most important job on Earth: bringing up healthy children. 

 

Motherhood can be found not only with babes happily nestled against mama's breast. Motherhood can also be found on aisle seven. 

Peace, love, and projectile vomit. 
Motherhood. 


Friday, February 5, 2016

Reprieve and Return: self care is not selfish

Sometimes all we need is a reprieve from the self imposed demands we place upon ourselves. After a three month retreat I find myself with a flickering creative spark to write again. It is interesting what we can hear if we simply go quiet and listen. 



Like everyone else in the world these past three months have been busy and lively. I won't recap them as they are just that: a passing of three months. In this time I found my way back to my yoga mat; a homecoming of sorts. 



Yoga has been in my life one way or another for as long as I can remember; long before the days of motherhood and running. My mat is a place where I find release, strength, and self care. It is where I learn about my edge and limits; how far to toe the edge under patience and control and when to pull back. My return to the mat has translated into many facets of my life, running being a primary benefactor. 



The physical practice itself isn't the only attraction for me. Yoga lifestyle (that I am so very far from) also keeps me grounded. The principles of kindness, gratitude, selflessness, overall health and wellbeing is what I aim to absorb the most. Yoga lifestyle is the ying of the yang I continuously find myself in and as a Libra, balance is of the upmost importance in our lives. 



When friends ask me how and why I began yoga I try to think of a way I can best express my reasons. I find that the words often do not effectively express and I know that if they take themselves to the mat that they too will find a personal journey worth seeking. 



I most often find myself on Instagram following yogis from around the globe. I seek their pictures and videos for instruction and insight into poses that I either struggle with or am too intimidated to try (namely inversions) so IG has been a wealth of help for me. Type into the IG search bar "yoga" and you'll find an endless supply of instructors out there. Two I personally learn the most from are @mynameisjessamyn and @nolatrees and I had the pleasure of attending a workshop taught by both of them. It was truly humbling and I took more than yoga away from that evening. 



Whether you decide to practice at home or at a studio is solely your choice. I suggest finding what fits your personality best. Know that the beauty of yoga is that poses don't HAVE to be perfect, especially if you're just starting. You'll reap the reward of yoga in the very place that you currently are and over time, with consistent practice, you may find yourself toeing the line of the edge that you never realized was asleep inside of you. 


I am by no means an expert nor a yoga instructor but if you have questions feel free to ask whether publicly or privately. Self-care is not selfish, it is essential to being healthy in mind, body, and spirit. Feed what fuels you. 


My kids don't get to see me running much since I do it before they often are awake and I try to be an example for good health for them. Yoga is a way I can include them in my world and so far my daughter has enjoyed trying to "be like mommy".

think she's off to a great start :-)



And who said you can't still Get Outside? Yoga is appropriate everywhere, or I at least think so. 

Happy running, yoga'ing, and whatever'ing you're doing this weekend. Make sure it is moving you towards that goal. 

Relentless forward progress, always. 


Thursday, October 29, 2015

No Regrets: The Marine Corps Marathon and Beyond

If you bear through the wordiness of this post I'll take you along my journey of excitement, determination, strategy, pain, rally, accomplishment, and relief. Time is money and I appreciate you taking a moment of your life to experience some of mine. Let's get started...

Iwo Jima War Memorial

I didn't know if I wanted to write this post. I guess I sort of owe it to myself and to anyone that has followed my journey. Actually, I don't owe anything to anyone but for whatever reason I'm still writing and similar to my next marathon it is going to be my last post for awhile. More on that later. 

I'm not going to take you down the nitty gritty of every minute of every mile. If you're a runner you know how races are; long, tedious, painful, yet rewarding. There is beauty through pain, some say. To me, the journey of the marathon is beautiful, indeed. My particular race was no different. 

Steph and I ready to rock another marathon together

From the moment my alarm went off I was ready. I followed my usual morning routine and I got myself in the right mindset. I never once felt fear or doubt as I've had in previous races. The worry of being undertrained on long runs (since Hanson trains only to 16 miles) never became a thought. I had one focus: get to the start line. 


Corral selfie moment of truth.
No turning back now.
Time to beat: 4:25:09

Once there, I made my way to the corral. I believed with everything that was within me I'd succeed or come very close this morning. No doubt or fears were felt, just my typical hyper-focused race day calmness. 

Miles ticked by. Pacing, fueling, split goals, water, all became strategy. Running towards split goals (5k, 10k, 10 mile, half marathon, 16 miles, etc.) broke the morning into compartmentalized manageable chunks. At any given time I was either crunching numbers on how far ahead/behind I was to my goal, monitoring my 45 minute fuel rotation, all while getting myself to that next water station. 26.2 miles can go by really quickly and other times notsomuch. 

My mind never had time to let doubt creep in. Early on, say around mile eight, I noticed my legs felt unnaturally heavy. I pushed aside harrowing thoughts by telling myself the intense training was the culprit and that this is how Hanson has you feel, cumulatively fatigued but just fresh enough. 

I was all business; not rude to anyone but not chatty either. I was mentally multi-tasking and I retreated further into myself and watched thousands of ankles and sneakers ahead and around me. The rain and breezy wind was steady which made the roads slick. At the half marathon mark (halfway done!) I was on target for a flat 4:10:00 finish. This split (2:05:00) would also equal my current HM personal record (PR) and while it added another feather of confidence in my cap I knew I was working much too hard to keep the 9:30mm steady. Red flags went up but rather than dwell on them I decided I wouldn't get overly concerned and would hope to hold on through mile 22 at least. 

Somehow I started to become too thirsty. I was hydrating well at each stop, maybe even too much, but it wasn't sustaining me. I agreed with myself that the race day BASE salt intake paired with the Allegra I'd taken since Thursday (to ward off my looming head cold) was dehydrating me faster than anticipated. What to do? Absolutely nothing. Just get to each water stop, drink, and keep running. 

The rain had stopped and it left me cold, wet, and shivering, bizarre for 55+ temperatures. I was grateful I wasn't under clear skies and full sun which in these temps could make for a hard, hard day. The Bridge was looming at mile 20 and I was beginning to slip further behind in time. Don't overreact. I said to myself. Tempos taught you how to hold steady. There's still too much of this race left to count anything out. 

No matter the circumstances, YOU run the day.

Everyone hyped up the Bridge as a looming nemesis worthy of fear. I simply saw a long, unsightly, mind numbing bridge across cold gray water. The elevation wasn't much to speak of, a few spectators dotted themselves along the way, and as long as I focused myself on the final destination: mile 22 and Virginia, the Bridge became 10 minutes of my life: a blink. I didn't hate all that there was in this mile, I hated all that there was with my legs. My turnover and stride was choppy with cramping hamstrings. Eat more salt. My body was arguing to stop. I am not stopping. I shivered. It is not cold. I want water. Anyone have a spare bottle? Germs be damned. This is how the remainder of the race went for me all the way across the chip mat of 26.2. 



I'll spare you the hell that Crystal City (mile 23-24, and beyond) was for me. If you've ever gone down the dark rabbit hole in a race then you know where I'm coming from. Hellish is the only word to effectively describe it. I had every reason to stop and walk and besides the water station (which I typically do) I didn't do it, not once. I battled in those last miles like I never have. The crowds of spectators were large and loud here, downright defeaning. I wanted quiet and solitude and to be done.

The last mile took me back through the start line chute and I felt a sense of course familiarity. I used everything I had left. The crowds got larger and louder, so loud I could barely hear myself think. There was one left turn, a blasted short steep hill (so cruel), and a right turn to the finish. That hill hit me like a ton of bricks, not gonna lie, and I crossed the final chip mat staggering myself towards either a medal, a bottle of water, or the medical tent, whichever came first. 

My race was finished, my struggle was over. 

The clock read 4:17:45. 

The aftermath is mere details and a blur. I didn't go to the medical tent, in case you were wondering, but I probably should have. Instead I found a patch of grass to crash on. 

How do I feel about my race? Meh. I've been sick all week and haven't had time to really process it. I set a high A goal of 4:10 and I missed it. I'd be happier closer to my B goal of 4:15 but sh!t happens on race day and I accept that. Nothing is guaranteed, you just show up and run to the best of your ability in the day that is given to you and you move on. Regardless of anyone's opinion, I'm valid to think how I do about the race after many weeks of getting up wicked early, the highest mileage I've ever ran, and the personal sacrifices I made along the way. I'm not frustrated with my performance, I'm frustrated I got sick in the final hour and it became a factor. Yes, training paid off, and yes it was worth it. But, I can do better. Next time. 

All smiles with marathon #3 complete with
an overall 8 minute PR!

A few last things to wrap up this novel. What I take away from this day is this: I now can say I know what it takes and feels like to race a marathon. It's a completely different experience; one that I want more of. I know that I'm tough and can dig deep, something I've been working on improving. I also know I'll do whatever it takes to get myself to a goal if I want it bad enough. Although I didn't achieve the high goal I set for myself I walk away from this race knowing I tried and that's the victory right there. I left everything out on that course and I walked away from that finish completely stripped down and bare. I had nothing more of myself to give. For the first time, honestly, I feel like I've earned the right to call myself a marathoner, not in my peers' eyes, but in my own. 




A PR is a PR and I'm celebrating those 8 minutes, don't you worry. But, I also know I'm better than this. Give me that day back with no looming illness and I'd put down a time pretty close to 4:10 if not better. I always say there's a fine line between cocky and confident and you gotta have a little of both to be an endurance athlete. You have to go for it or else what's the point? I went for it and I have no regrets. 

To end this drama I'll circle back to my opening paragraph. If you're wondering if I'm quitting marathons, no way in hell is that happening, God willing. I'm skipping Spring next year and going for one in the Fall. Two this year was enough and my body needs to rebuild. I'm focusing on getting stronger and faster in shorter distances to show up even better next year. As far as the blogging gig, well it's time to step back and give it a rest. I've been jaded about writing for awhile. I may pick it up if the spirit calls me but I think I've said all I've needed to say. Like my race, I have nothing else to give. For now. 

I hope you enjoyed my journeys as much as I have and there is plenty more road to travel. 




Happy Running my friends. Run hard, reap rewards, leave it all out on the course. 
No regrets. 
~ Jeneen


Friday, October 23, 2015

OORAH: Journey of a Thousand Steps

I'll apologize in advance for any font or sizing issues you might experience. I'm currently blogging via mobile app at my hotel in Alexandria, VA. 



It's finally here! The race I've focused on for well over a year. Today was a bit of a blur; time stood still and passed by simultaneously. I tried to remember to take pictures but when you're navigating from one airport to the next with a sprinkle of mass transit on top, and doing so solo, picture taking isn't up front and center. 

First, getting in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson. Let me say our airport is hella busy, and dirty and old. Besides needing a facelift it was easy breezy today. Except, parking out in the Economy lot, that is. I may as well have parked in Riverdale. Anyway, I arrived early and chilled at the terminal with a book (yep, still reading Atlas Shrugged). All was well until boarding and the gate attendant informed me all overhead compartments were full and I'd have to check my bag. (LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE!). Um, you're not taking my race day clothes with you lady. Pry them out of my cold dead hands. 


I stuffed all that is needed Sunday into my backpack and I bid my carry on luggage farewell. Hope to see you in Virginia! If not, I'm fully prepared to exist in the clothes on my back. (Been there, done that, Snowpocalypse 2014). Try again, Delta, I'm a tough chick. 

The flight was great and I landed just over an hour later. My original plan was to immediately hop on the Metro and go over to Arlington National Cemetery but plans changed and I now needed to make my way to Baggage Claim. (Visions of empty overhead compartments danced in my head. I needed a coffee, stat.) There's not a lot of food options on the other side of security at Reagan and lunch was the upmost of importance. Friends that had already arrived at the expo we're telling stories of atrocious lines in the merchandise area. So I made the decision to grab some food to go, snag my bag, call ahead to the hotel and request a shuttle. Forty-five minutes later I was on the shuttle to the hotel. 


After checking into the hotel and dropping off my bags I walked about a quarter of a mile over to the nearest metro station. I'm fairly familiar with Metro and the app made it easy to navigate. I was glad I purchased my SmartTrip card in advance because that was one less thing to worry about. 


Getting over to the Walter E Washington Convention Center was easy however the expo was located on the bottom floor and I swear I walked at least a mile to get there. I didn't want to be on my feet any more than I needed to be so I immediately got my packet. I then made my way over to the Brooks merchandise area. 


Merchandise and people were plentiful. I quickly got what I wanted which was a jacket and a shirt. I made my way over to what I thought was the end of the line only to realize it had already backed up halfway across the Brooks area. I stood in line for literally an hour with a cellphone battery at 25%. Hooray. Thank God I made the decision to keep my phone wall charger with me. I gave my phone a quick 5% boost in the convention center while I sat down to relax for a few minutes. 


After buying my swag I made my way across the expo for a quick photo op at the wall. It was now well after 4 PM and I needed to find dinner. I didn't plan well enough for that so I wound up walking around the outside of the convention center more than I needed to. The first restaurant I found was where I decided to park it. Luckily they had things I like. (I ate at the High Velocity Sports Bar). I made sure to request a table next to a wall outlet so I could charge my phone again. 


Once the server came over to my table (literally 10 minutes later) I ordered an appetizer and my dinner both of which didn't stand a chance against my stomach. The only thing left on that hummus plate was celery. 


The chicken was phenomenal. Or, maybe I was just really hungry. Either way, I inhaled my food, got a water to go, and headed back to the Metro. 


The weather was great and DC was pretty at night. Sadly, I'm not here for leisure and sightseeing so I navigated back to the Metro. The sun was beginning to set and I didn't want to be out alone. 


I think the coolest part about today was just being out and about with the city filled with other runners. Despite the heavy crowds everyone was pleasant and friendly. Everyone had a commonality, a love of running and the race on Sunday. It made the day surprisingly pleasant as I tend to hate large crowds. I hope this is sign of good things come Sunday. 


The swag for this race is top notch. The mock turtleneck is thermal lined which will make winter running bada$$ this season. I really dig the patch although I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet. Maybe a shadowbox with my bib or something, I don't know. I had my dad's Purple Heart with me all day for no other reason than I'm afraid to let it leave my side. 

Tomorrow will be another busy day as I'm heading over to Arlington in the morning. I plan to go straight to Blake's grave and then leave the park as soon as possible. My goals tomorrow are to drink water, eat, and stay off of my feet as much as possible. 



With that, goodnight from Alexandria, Virginia!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Run: My stream of thought becomes a mantra.

Each time I train I learn something. For me, racing has yet to become old or routine. I hope it never does. The excitement of pinning a bib to the front of my shirt still gives me that zing; nerves, adrenaline, calmness, and clarity all wrapped in one piece of paper and four safety pins.

I learned a lot through this training: about my self-perceived limits, how much I can take, how much I can push back, how to trust in my own ability and to trust my training partners. I know when they say to give more and to go harder, I can.

I learned that I still have much further to go, how much I can improve, and the importance of staying humble and respecting the run. Each training day stands alone and isn't an indicator of the next day. Feelings and pain passes as do good days.

I learned the value of eating for fuel and the importance of sleep. I learned how critical recovery is.

I've read training plans, books, and blogs. Through it all I've learned to appreciate a struggle; how I reap rewards by not giving up when I want to and when to back off and be patient.

As usual, I talked a lot. Not so much here on my blog, but with other marathoners. I listened to their suggestions, I took what I felt applied to me. I said words I've rarely used before: tempo, speedwork, intervals, threshold. So, I generated a word cloud from the words I've used these past sixteen weeks:





I didn't put these in any specific order, the application generated them for me with the most used words placed in larger font. I entered the word text in a seemingly stream of thought as I reflected back on the past few months. I chose two colors and the shape of a heart to symbolize my passion for running.

I think the image says it all, really. With that, the marathon is becoming tangible.

Sixteen days, seventeen hours, minutes and seconds until the start line.
Happy Running :-)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Planning Ahead: The best of intentions

Planning Ahead


They say what we've accomplished now, 
is all the fruit of all we've wrought 
how beautiful it is, they say 
ignoring how one-sided this 
this vision that they keep declaring 
painting a future bright and clear 
but what they overlook is fear 
and the stress and strain, its wearing 
us down, you think, what did I miss 
and all of this? we will soon pay, 
so dont forget, though they forgot 
that each tomorrow starts with now

by Elizabeth Shield


Today I turned a page in my marathon training, literally and figuratively. Some say this is when the wheat begins to separate from the chaff. Stay attentive to one day, one mile at a time. Don't overthink, just run. Such is life, plans laid out with the best of intentions often lead you down paths with hidden switchbacks. 

Trod on. 


It's raining this morning. As I put feet to pavement under a moisture laden sky I tried to remember the last time I felt rain mixed sweat on my skin. It has been many months, I was grateful for the opportunity to feel it again. 

Stay humble, respect the run. 

Hello, Friday. Happy running!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Living fearlessly and the time Taylor Swift photo bombed my blog


What does it mean to you to live fearless? Take a few minutes and think about the topic of fear.

I think that the word "fear" means many things in different capacities. Thoughts of spiders, snakes, heights, clowns, or death may conjure up images in your mind. But fear can be so much more at a subconscious level. Fear can manifest itself into habits or compulsions such as eating, addiction, anger, or depression. Not one of us is immune to the feeling of fear however some are able to manage this feeling more productively than others.

Women nowadays are bombarded with images of perfectionism whether it be images of perfect bodies, perfect motherhood, perfect careers, perfect wifehood, or even perfect singlehood. We place self imposed pressure on ourselves. I must put forth the image that I have it all together all of the time. I have the perfectly behaved kids, they are all A students, they're the top player on their sports team. I must profess that I am the perfect wife. I am always supportive, my house is spotless, I throw the best dinner parties, my husband and I have the perfect marriage. I am at the top of my career; confident, neutrally emotional, a forward thinker and creative player on the corporate team. We have the perfect finances, we are great financial planners and our future is secure. I am a confident, fashionable, and witty single woman. I know what I want out of life and a partner for me isn't something I find necessary. I'm living life to the fullest and my circle of friends and I attend all the latest trendy spots and events.

Do any of these sound like something you've thought or have tried to profess before? If you say no, then this blog isn't for you and you may need to schedule a doctor visit to ensure you haven't been infected with an extra-terrestrial. (I'm kidding, of course). What I'm trying to say here is that at some point in all of our lives, woman or man, we have felt a feeling of fear, or inadequacy, or self-doubt. If you have, CONGRATULATIONS! You are normal.

I'm not one to profess love for Taylor but
I'll give credit where credit is due:
#BeFearlessBeFree


Kathrine Switzer shaped history for women around the world. I read her story soon after I started running almost three years ago. I've had the privilege of growing up in a generation that has women equality (at least compared to the 60's). I've never thought twice about not being able to participate in events because of my gender. I cannot imagine the courage it took for Kathrine to show up that April morning in 1967, pin the number 261 on herself, and set out to prove to the world that women are equally as capable of participating in an elite race such as the famed Boston Marathon.

While many of us may never physically run Boston, or any marathon for that matter, I think the idea is still similar: some of us face challenges and obstacles in life that are daunting, seem impossible, and are downright scary. I do not believe fear ever truly goes away, it hides itself in self-doubt, negative thinking, jealousy, and envy.


Kathrine's non-profit 261 Fearless is her way of globally helping women move past fear and into freedom. I too have found freedom from running. It's known in my small running circle that I first set out to start running to escape looming Post-Partum depression. I found myself overwhelmed, lethargic, and listless after the birth of my second child, a beautiful daughter. I've also struggled with symptoms of attention deficit and mild anxiety as a young adult. Running opened a healthy and positive channel for me to process these emotions and symptoms in a way that I felt was the right way for me. When I first read about 261 Fearless I immediately identified with it. I'd often read about Kathrine before my big races, the most recent the Publix Georgia Marathon, a race that mentally and physically is challenging if you allow it to be. I'd find strength and positivity in reading about her obstacles during her career. Here I was, a mid-pack age grouper setting out to run my personal best, not the first woman trying to complete the Boston Marathon during The Women's Liberation Movement. Breathe, woman!

261 Fearless is a movement and vision to support women to do the same: get started or continue with walking, jogging, or running. 261 Fearless isn't concerned with body types, fitness levels, or accomplishments. It is a place for women to continue to encourage each other to move beyond our self imposed fears. I am honored to be chosen as a 261 Fearless Ambassador. I feel that I can help pay it forward to others that have done (and continue to do so) for me.

So, to go back to the question I asked you earlier, what does it mean to you to live fearless? If you're interested in ways to live fearlessly, whether in your running or personal lives, then join me in being a part of the 261 Fearless community. You have nothing to lose.

Happy Running,
:-)  

If you are interested in following 261 Fearless on social media you can find collections of images and quotes using the hashtags #BeFearlessBeFree, #261Fearless, and #261fearlessrunner, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.