Thursday, August 16, 2012

Park Journeys = Life Lessons

Thursday, August 9 I embarked on a Journey to Yellowstone National Park. No words can express the amount of gratitude I feel when I look back over the last week. I was gifted with an amazing camera to use while I was there. My first attempt at photography! I was amazed at how I saw things differently through a camera's eye. The big and the small of Yellowstone seemed to pop in a way that I never appreciated before. My mother was an exceptional artist and I was lucky enough to have this door opened for me to finally appreciate what came so naturally to her. On September 9, 2003 my mother made a journal entry addressed to her two oldest grandchildren and "all to come for today", it read:
"Message to Joshua &Nathanael & all to come for today, don't be superficial. Take time to really listen, to store away, to really hear. Don't be so eager to speak, to draw attention to yourself that you don't savor the moment with the person you're with. Moments are few and pass quickly. Take time - make time - to be real."
Yellowstone and the company I kept while there....that was REAL. The silence that surrounded us gave us the ability to really hear and learn from one another. Along life's journey, we are faced with blessings. My blessings last week came in the form of ten amazing kids who allowed me to be a part of their lives for five days during the Park Journey's Yellowstone trip. They made an impact on my life in a way that I'm not sure they can fully understand. They are all amazing, smart, talented kids who possess the power to do anything they want. In the majestic backdrop of Yellowstone National Park, they have renewed my spirit to become a lifeling learner. This is just a short note to them.


Brianna, Lauren, Lateeka, Latrice, Mikayla,
Sean, Cortney, Xavier, Khalil and Jacques:

Throughout your life you will be faced with challenges. Those challenges are all merely steps that mold you and make you who you are. Some days are amazing, like that photo that is perfect on the first take. The lighting, the depth of field, all of it just seems to fall into place effortlessly. Other days, regardless of what you do, you still don't get the photo you want. The key is to never stop working for it or believing that you can achieve it. Never be ashamed to ask those who have more experience than you for help. (Thanks to Sean and Xavier I finally got the picture I wanted. It was one of 600+, but it's mine and it's perfect to me.)

Work, endurance, and humility breed success. Each of you has an amazing gift that you possess and you have the opportunity to make a difference in your lives and the lives of those you touch. You have the ability to impact people, always keep that in the back of your mind with the words you speak and the actions you exhibit. Much love to all of you. You have contributed to my life and my Yellowstone memories and I will be forever grateful to you.

Yellowstone is a part of all of us now and we too have left our mark there "STEEEEVE". When things get tough, and they will, be reminded of this time and realize that prior to Yellowstone, you were strong enough to endure the string of events that brought you to that peaceful and grand place. You will endure again and your Yellowstone will be waiting. Recognize that you have NO boundaries, you have NO walls. You have the choice to make the life you want. Be mindful in your choices and you'll see your skies open up!

Finally, don't be afraid to take the road less traveled. It is down those roads that you find the stillness of Trout Lake, the majesty of Yellowstone Falls, or the vivid colors of the Grand Prismatic.

 "There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal."
- Lord Byron

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Has Anyone Seen My Point2?

Pittsburgh Marathon Race Day – what an exciting time. Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of running one of the first two legs of the marathon relay and then heading to the finish line to cheer on the field of runners. This year was pretty much the same with just one exception – I PR'd; Nope....not a Personal Record but a Personal Revelation. Standing amidst the crowd at Relay Exchange 1, I realized that somewhere along the way, I lost my Point2.

Just stick with me; I'll get to that later.

As I took off to complete my leg of the run, I was determined to do something I hadn't done in a while; I was going to pay attention to the people and places along the way. It started out like a typical run, people lining the streets and runners weaving their way through those around them. I settled into my pace and my eyes fell on two women running together. They stood out because I usually see these two ladies in the front row of my spin class lost in the moment of the ride. Today I saw two friends running together, covering the miles effortlessly. (Nice job Denise & Lynn!) As I made my way across the West End bridge, a road I'm usually driving at 40 MPH in my car, I slowed down to look to my left at the beautiful city where I was raised. Rounding the corner in the West End, I noticed a sign that said "Today is NO EXCUSES SUNDAY." I started to chuckle and then I realized the sign was being held by a coach who has inspired many people, myself included. Thankful for my coach, I began to reflect on the people I know and how each one brings different dimension to my life.

My short distance flew by as I made my way to my finish line and passed off the duties of our team to Jill, Dave and Erin who easily ran the next three legs (Go Team!). Smiling, I walked across the Smithfield Street Bridge and realized that I had actually enjoyed the miles I just covered! Then it hit me like a ton of bricks....that is what it’s all about right?

Before 2000, I was never really into fitness and I had NEVER considered myself an athlete. I ran my first marathon when I was 30 and it was the first REAL "athletic" thing I'd done! I signed up and trained just like the rest of the crew. I woke up race day a little more nervous than the experienced runners around me. They were talking bagels and carb loading, electrolyte replacements and fuel for the run. I was completely out of my element because all I wanted to do was throw up! I did make it to the start line however and when the gun sounded signaling the start of the race, my feet started to move! The miles flew by and I was totally consumed with what it was I was doing.

I remember something from almost every mile in that race. A blue sign at Mile 1 held by a proud husband that read "my wife rocks", a flock of geese settling onto the lake at mile 12, the lady from Kansas who paced me through miles 17-22 when I thought I was going to die. All of those things are as clear as day in my mind, but the one thing I remember the most about that day is my Point2. Passing the 26 mile marker and starting up that last hill, my eyes filled with tears as I realized "holy crap, this is it, Point2 and I'm done! I can do Point2!" These were the last moments before I could call myself a marathoner. There was one hill and 385 yards between me and the finish line. I began to think of myself differently. With commitment and training, I could do anything! This was MY marathon. The miles behind me were MY miles. I went into this race because I wanted it, not because I was trying to impress someone. My teary eyes opened wide to take in all of the people lining the streets to cheer us all across the finish line. I waved and smiled, grateful that they were sharing this with me. As I crossed the finish line and the announcer called out my name I yelled, "That's me!" Damn I was proud of myself and what I had accomplished. I didn't look back and say, "Well it wasn't my best effort but...." I was my moment.

The marathon training changed my body, the event changed my life.

Over the next 11 years, I morphed into the person that I am today but along the way, I somehow forgot how to pay attention. I forgot what it felt like to pass that 26 mile marker and experience my first Point2. This "life changing event" turned into something that I needed to beat, something that I needed to do better. The competitive nature of my spirit took over and I began to lose sight of the goodness in endurance events. Yesterday, when I asked some of my friends about their experience for the day, I heard, "Well I didn't PR but..." "It wasn't my best showing but..." "I only did the relay but..." and so on. When did stepping up to participate in an endurance event of any distance become not good enough?

Am I saying to offer less than your best at every turn? COME ON… know me better than that! Don't misunderstand me; this is not a suggestion to settle for less. It is merely a suggestion to not allow the endless pursuit of another PR to take the joy of the event away from you. Maybe you're running slower today because you're training for another event. Maybe you ran the relay or couldn't participate because you're injured and just can't do the distance. Maybe you didn't PR because you just didn’t have it today!

Work hard, train hard and stop making excuses. If you don’t hold back your effort, you can be proud of your race. Enjoy your Point2 and crossing the finish line, but don't forget about the miles leading up to the finish line! Once those seconds are gone and the miles are covered, there are no do-overs so stop to smell the Biofreeze along the way!

Ride on!