A Celebration.

“Celebration when your plan is working? Anyone can do that. But when you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it over and over as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that’s when you start to learn what celebration is. When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that’s celebration.”

-Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

The marathon is a celebration. Marathon training is rarely seamless. In fact, it’s usually a bumpy road…filled with really exciting days, disappointing days, tiring days, days you feel you could run a marathon and then some. I believe, training for the marathon (and this being my 3rd in the past year and a half), God has taught me different lessons each marathon build-up.

The first, I went in nervous, excited, filled with unknowns, but also excited to see what I could do: could I race and complete a full-marathon? And, I was thrilled after. Totally filled with joy. So excited I could actually do it.

The second was filled with lots of hope, lots of confidence, and more disappointment at the end. Disappointment with a PR because I felt that I was capable of even more. But, I gave all I had when I raced Chicago. And, the end was bittersweet. Excited to finish as the 5th American. Disappointed to not run a little faster, close a little harder (the list could go on). It felt a little wrong, actually, that I didn’t run faster. And, at Houston Half, I was excited, but disappointed in 2 seconds from dipping under 1:12; I ran 1:12.01. That also felt a little wrong. The celebration was also tainted, as much as I didn’t want it to be. But, isn’t that one of the things that moves us forward? The possibility that something really good could also turn into really great.

And, so now, I meet the third. I’ve ran more mileage, become more resilient, and have chosen to see any bumps in the road as strength builders. I’ve relied more on Christ for strength than my own. I’ve turned disappointing days to rejoicing the next day with a positive step forward. I lost my grandpa a few weeks ago. He was a war veteran, stubborn, a lover of Jesus, and I believe, at the very heart, he would tell me to race with true grit, to dig deep, to embrace the pain.

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 And, I’ll chose to call this training block epic. And, LA Marathon? An epic celebration.

It will be the first marathon that my family, the love of my life: Seth, and his family will be at. It will be the first ASICS race I run, the first marathon my coach will see me race, and the first to have the support of many more friends and teammates. That’s a celebration. It’s a celebration because I’ve worked hard training and doing what God has called me to do, but I’ve grown a lot…not just as an athlete, but a follower of Christ. Marathon training teaches me often that I’m weak, but I am propelled by the ultimate strength provider: Christ. When I run in His strength, the hard days reassure me that in the race, when it’s hard, God has given me the strength to finish well.

2 Corinthians 12:10

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 A friend wrote me the other day and mentioned how it was cool that I’m pursuing my Olympic dream. The thing is, to be honest, I didn’t choose to run professionally because of an Olympic dream. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to make an Olympic team and it would be a dream come true. But, I chose running because it’s what God has given me to use to worship him, to relate to others, to love others.  It’s what He has called me to. Running has become more, bigger, and grander than pursuing the Olympics. It’s a lifestyle, for me. It’s living daily in relationship with Christ and with others. Running has taught me a lot about life, walking faithfully with my Savior, and how to handle difficult seasons.

As I’ve been in this marathon training cycle, I have been uplifted and loved and encouraged by family, friends, teammates, coaches. I value community and I value my home team, my soul sisters (Maria, Kels, Kimmy), my sweet friends a far (Katelyn, Katy, Kaela, Danielle)…those that encourage me through letters (Polina, Tynae, Christina, Sarah)…and all the great women I get to race in LA with or other professional races. I feel really supported and surrounded and fueled with joy going into this marathon. And, I couldn’t be more ready to celebrate an epic race.

Marathon training cycles aren’t completed without the love and support of those closest to my heart.

So, next Sunday, March 15, I’ll be racing LA Marathon and celebrating a great race, fueled by joy, propelled by God’s strength, and excited to add another race worth celebrating to my training log and “life” log.

The Middle.

Two marathons. Another marathon build up. Houston Half Marathon Championships. Workouts. Training. More Training. Food. Sleep. Training. Sleep. Food. Gym. More Food. More Sleep.

Mammoth has given us some gorgeous training weather. I have tons to be thankful for, like a great PR at the Houston Half Champs, running 1:12.01 and clear trails for afternoon runs. It’s like Spring. Sadly, we need snow. But, I’m silently being thankful. Thankful I can enjoy Mammoth in the winter. Thankful I can get out the door without yack-tracks or feeling like a baby deer.

Houston Half Champs '15

Houston Half Champs ’15

There’s a lot that goes into marathon training: dedication, focus, grit, patience, joy, embracing disappointment…then pushing forward.

I’ve been re-reading “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist, and I’m rejoicing in this season of life filled with sweet, but somehow simmering in the bittersweet, too. And, I smiled as I read a chapter titled The Middle, and I couldn’t help but let it sink in and then realize marathon training is summed up by the middle:

“There is nothing worse than the middle. At the beginning, you have a little arrogance, loads of buoyancy. The journey, whatever it is, looks beautiful and bright, and you are filled with resolve and silver strength, sure that whatever the future holds, you will face it with optimism and chutzpah. It’s like the first day of school, and you’re wearing the outfit you laid out last night, backpack full of sharpened yellow pencils.

And the end is beautiful. You are wiser, better, deeper. You know things you didn’t previously know, you’ve shed things you previously clung to. The end is revelation, resolution, a soft place to land.

But, oh, the middle. I hate the middle. The middle is the fog, the exhaustion, the loneliness, the daily battle against despair and the nagging fear that tomorrow will be just like today, only you’ll be wearier and less able to defend yourself against it. The middle is the lonely place, when you can’t find words to say how deeply empty you feel, when you try to connect but you feel like the thick glass is separating you from the rest of the world, isolating and deadening everything.

Marathon training isn’t always that isolating, but it can be. Some build-ups will be filled with seamless training, and others might be a lot more pushing through disappointments or nagging fears. But, that’s the beauty of marathon training. At the end, there is resolution, rejoicing, excitement.

So, I try to remember to be propelled forward with God’s strength, with the silver lining of His greater purpose.

I read a “Jesus Today” devotional the other day, and I’ve read it over and over in the past few days.

“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”-Zephaniah 3:17

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”-Psalm 29:11

When you’re in the middle, remember there is an end, a silver lining, and rejoicing that will happen.

The middle is where you learn, grown, prepare: it’s the sandwich to a marathon. Without miles 17-21 or 22-25 or the last 10k, it wouldn’t be marathon. So, it’s only fitting that marathon training looks like the race. If you get through that section, you’ll experience the phenomena of finishing and rejoicing.

A Poppin’ Review: Quinn Popcorn.

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Oh Quinn, I’m so happy to write this review.

Quinn Popcorn‘s Mission? To reinvent microwave popcorn. When it comes to packaging? No chemical coatings. It’s compostable. When it comes to ingredients? No GMOS. No preservatives. Nothing artificial. The cheese? rBGH-free. The maple? From Vermont. (Of course.) This company is real, authentic and honest. From their packaging to their ingredients, I can only speak highly of what they do. They’re cleaning up food, not just by what they make, but how they promote, how they give back, and how they keep integrity in the food world. We need more companies like Quinn!

There’s bags of delicious Quinn Popcorn already popped for you, like this Kale and Sea Salt.

Or, like most of us, delicious and warm popcorn is the best.

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So, once you pop the delicious popcorn, you pour on the oil, then the other topping and shake it up!

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I bought Vermont Maple & Sea Salt and Parmesan & Rosemary, but there are lots of other delicious flavors. You can buy Quinn Popcorn online or in places like Whole Foods. Our grocery store just started carrying it in Mammoth Lakes, so I am pretty excited. It’s the perfect snack, movie food, and you can feel good about eating it. It’s the best, yummiest, and cleanest popcorn you’ll find!

Plus, look at the simplicity of ingredients. Here’s the Vermont Maple & Sea Salt:

Vermont Maple & Sea Salt

And, here’s the fun microwave instructions:

Microwave Instructions

This is popcorn at it’s finest and popcorn worth popping.

Pop on over to your local store and pick some up! Thanks, Quinn Popcorn for sending me deliciousness. Thankful for companies like you!

And, on another note, this was my view for my double yesterday. It’s definitely popcorn weather.

Mammoth Lakes.

Fuelin’.

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. Isaiah 40:8

God’s Word is fuel. It’s fuel for my soul, every day.

I also have to fuel my body for marathon training, for running.

GoMacro makes my FAVORITE bars. Macrobiotic. Vegan. Gluten Free. Organic. Non-GMO. Simple Ingredients.

I could go on and on. The cashew butter bar is my favorite along with the sesame butter + date bar.

I have them for a quick breakfast, mini bars as a snack after my run or if I wake up hungry in the middle of the night, or even desert.

Not only that, but, I met Jola (one of the founders) and we chatted away on FaceTime. GoMacro is personable and has totally blessed me. Thank you, GoMacro for your continued support as I train for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.

I owe a HUGE thanks to GoMacro.

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And, on the topic of food: Cracked Nut Butter.

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Looking for a sweet treat that can also fuel you?

Cracked Nut Butter is packed with high quality products like grass-fed whey protein isolate, raw almonds, raw pecans, unsweetened coconut flakes, organic grass-fed ghee, and organic virgin coconut oil.

Plus, they make many delicious flavors: Cookie Dough, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Cinnamon Roll (my favorite), Brownie Batter (for the chocolate fans), and White Chocolate Raspberry (made in portables too!)

Flavor Descriptions from their site:

COOKIE DOUGH (original flavor)
Our cookie dough flavor is smooth, sweet and high in protein. It is an excellent choice for the purist who loves that “sugar cookie dough” flavor without the sugar!
Ingredients: Raw almonds, Raw pecans, Grass-fed, non-GMO Whey Isolate w/ honey, Unsweetened Organic coconut flakes, Organic virgin coconut oil, Organic pastured ghee.

BROWNIE BATTER
This powerhouse is one of our superstars. Unlike other chocolate nut butters it provides the sweet chocolaty taste, without the excess sugar you’ll find in competing brands. Velvety, rich and satisfying, You’ll swear you just finished licking the brownie batter bowl after a few bites!
Ingredients: Raw almonds, Raw pecans, Grass-fed, non-GMO Whey Isolate w/ honey, Unsweetened Organic coconut flakes, Organic virgin coconut oil, Organic pastured ghee, Organic cocoa powder.

CINNAMON ROLL
The sweet smell of cinnamon rolls is enough to make anyone’s mouth water! We’ve captured America’s favorite breakfast pastry in our honey only sweetened Cinnamon Roll Nut Butter! Enjoy this complex flavor in Oatmeal or on apples for an added treat!
Ingredients: Raw almonds, Raw pecans, Grass-fed, non-GMO Whey Isolate w/ honey, Unsweetened Organic coconut flakes, Organic virgin coconut oil, Organic pastured ghee, Cinnamon.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH
Our dessert flavor mimics the old favorite of eating the batter before the cookies get baked! You won’t believe that this is only nut butter without the use of any other fillers! We chose an organic three ingredient dark chocolate chip to keep the sugar minimal in this special treat!
Ingredients: Raw almonds, Raw pecans, Grass-fed, non-GMO Whey Isolate w/ honey, Unsweetened Organic coconut flakes, Organic chocolate chips (Organic cocoa liquor, Organic cocoa butter, Organic cane sugar), Organic virgin coconut oil, Organic pastured ghee.

So, if you’re looking for a nut butter that’s sweet, packed with protein, and totally yummy, check out Cracked Nut Butter.  Food is fuel, so fuel your body and soul well!

Thanks Cracked Nut Butter for sending me delicious nut butter. Make sure to check them out online or find a store near you (you can find stores on their website).

Filled.

I’m someone who is filled by time spent with the ones I love: my family + Seth + Seth’s family. I’m so thankful for these past few weeks of extra time with family and his family. Lots of laughter (and yes, some tears), hugs, good conversations, good food, lots of coffee, tons of shopping at Whole Foods, and yes, miles, too. I sometimes believe my heart is only filled and full when I’m around those that fuel me. God has given me a sensitive heart–one that pumps steady when it’s at peace, and one that races when it’s stressed or lonely. Mammoth is a beautiful place. It’s quiet and peaceful and always beautiful. But, with a quiet town and winter settling in, I needed a little extra time with my family and Seth so that my heart can keep beating steady.

As I get back to work and run my legs off, my heart is beating steady and strong. And, I’m filled. But, I was reminded this morning:

“In the multitude of anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Psalm 94:19

As I ran my first short workout this morning, the mountains were quiet and still. Mammoth has welcomed me back with frost, cold fresh air, and snow. The snow made a pile on my bangs and my eye lashes turned to icicles as I focused on my footing ahead of me: powering up the hills, pushing on the downhill, driving my arms and chest forward, breathing calmly, squinting and focusing. I didn’t see a soul out on the mountain trails, except for my teammate. We worked separately, but together. I laughed when my coach met me on the trail in his Jeep. Seeing my bangs in a mess and ice on my eyelashes in the window’s reflection, I smiled: this is what hard work is.

Just a few days ago I was running on the 101 with Seth. Towards the end of my run, I warmed up, finally. After a few chilly morning in his hometown, Santa Clarita, I was ready for warmth. I took off my long sleeve and he tied it around his waist (he’s a keeper). We finished the run and as I did strides, he put on his wetsuit and ran to the ocean. He’s filled in moments of meeting God: in the water, in running, on his bike. We get each other. God speaks deeply to both of us through our sports.

As warm as that day was in Ventura, the next morning, I woke up to rain. As I ran on the overcast bike trail in Santa Clarita, I looked at my watch and felt my turnover: quick and steady. I smiled; this would be a good long run. And, it was. My heart beat steady.

Just a few weeks ago, I was grazing pavement (no pounding for me) near my hometown. The American River Trail will always be my stomping grounds. It’s home to me. I know every section of the trail by heart: the mile markers, the blind corners, the places I’ve run the fast. I’ve fallen in love with distance running doing fast long runs on that trail. I’ve had fast workouts where I feel like I’m flying and I’ve had disappointing workouts where my legs go numb from starting tempos at 6am. I’ve run that trail with friends and my mom has biked with me multiple times with me to help. It’s a place where I’ve cried and laughed and prayed: I’ve lived on that trail. I’ve been filled by God’s peace on that trail more times than I can count.

And, so, I realize: my heart beats steady anywhere I go because God has given me a heart that can get through the quiet mountains, to the paved bike trails, to the warm ocean air. God is a God of comfort: He knows my heart. My heart isn’t just filled by time spent with those I love, but also when I LET God fill my heart, when I choose to listen to His loving voice, when I’m in His Word, when I keep my eyes on him.

God is a God of comfort. And, He longs to fill us up.

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Memory Making and Celebrating.

These past weeks have been such a whirlwind of fun events, family, racing my second marathon and first major, seeing friends and my love, reuniting with my college roommates, celebrating a wedding of one of them…and too much to write in a blog post.

Chicago was so special to spend with close family friends.

And, so much time with family was a huge blessing. So very thankful.

Time with Seth and his family was wonderful because they’re my second family.

Spending time with my sweet friend, Katelyn and celebrating her senior year, so very close to mine. And, seeing my best friend’s new apartment and celebrating her life as she has her first nursing job.

Reuniting with my college roommates keeps me grounded, reminds me of the blessings I have even from afar, makes me so thankful I have them still. We laughed til we cried. We reminisced, talked, laughed, cried, stayed up late, ate delicious cake (GF might I add), and sent one of “us” off to marriage. It was such a special weekend and filled with so many memories. And, sometimes, I have feared memory making with them would stop after college. But, we continue to build memories and send cards and Facetime from other parts of the world. We celebrate love, new jobs, new opportunities and rally together against boring jobs or bad dates or hard days; we’re no longer roommates, but our sisterhood hasn’t disappeared. We do what we did in college, only, it’s a little different.

And, often times, I go through a homesickness feeling after all the highs, the excitement, the time spent with loved ones. Flying into Reno, I drove home and thought about all the great opportunities God has given me. So, I am doing my best to live in gratitude, to live in thankfulness, to live in the season God has placed me.

Can I also say, Mammoth is gorgeous right now. It’s quiet and sleepy and I’m thankful for the warm sun and clear streets. While we need snow, I’m celebrating that it hasn’t come yet because I love the feeling of late fall, of the changing seasons, and frankly, not freezing my bum off.

So, in this next season, I will choose to live in celebration, to tune my ear into God’s heart for me, and keeping moving forward into another season of working hard, training, racing, and celebrating time I get to see family and friends. Because, often times, for me…I’m about what’s next. And, I so badly don’t want to miss the present or the life that is happening right in front of me: my life that God has written. It’s quite the story and I don’t want to miss it.

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Chicago: Enjoying.

I just raced Chicago marathon…two days ago. My brain is still in a fog and I’m tired from travel and walking around the city and people overload. I’m a mixture of emotions from happiness to disappointment to excitement to one million and a half questions and “what ifs” floating around in my head.

But, I’ve learned somethings in the past few years…

It involves celebrating and enjoying.

I’m barely starting to sort out the race in my head. Crossing the line on my feet is an accomplishment in itself. I think anyone who has ran a marathon can agree with that! You’re just happy to be done, to finish, to let your emotions and nerves finally calm down. After months of training, focused dedication, lots of sleep, and hammering out little details like nutrition and race day prep, crossing the line is a relief. I feel like I can breathe. Race day is a celebration.

So, I’ve learned: Celebrate.

Within the hours after the race, I received many encouraging texts, tweets, messages, FB shout outs..and also:

What’s next?

What did you think of the race?

What would you do differently?

What did you do well?

Do you think you’ll make an Olympic Team someday?

What is your greatest life ambition? (Just kidding…that’s a little far)

But, that’s kind of what it feels like. For being a planner and future-minded, when I finish a race like the marathon, here is a bit of what’s going on in my mind:

The energy it will take to walk to get a latte from Peet’s Coffee (and if I’ll have to walk any stairs).

FOOD

How I’m going to stand and shower (my legs hurt).

Do I have gatorade all over me?

My hair is a rat’s nest: do I have enough conditioner to detangle it? How long will that take? I don’t want to stand long.

FOOD

I just raced 26.2 miles…oh. my. goodness.

Coffee. Food. Need. Food.

I just want to sleep.

Or eat.

Or sit.

Call my mom. Call Seth. Oh my goodness…my phone is blowing up. Stressful. Make it stop!

FOOD.

Ok, I could go on, but you get the point.

I know other professionals are reading this and laughing; you know what I’m talking about.

So, right now, I’m enjoying and celebrating. This was my 2nd marathon and my first marathon major and I’m 24. I’ve got years ahead of me and a lot of learning to do. I know there are many things I can improve on and also things I did really well. There are things I feel really good about and things that I wish I did differently. But, I’m not quite there yet.

Life is about moments. Moments like crossing the line and seeing my team of people smiling, or pushing through the hard miles when I hear loved ones yell my name, or hugging my competitors who are also good friends because we did it. We finished. Or, the delicious dinner I ate post-race with my dear friends in downtown Chicago and the mound of sweet potato fries that I totally devoured and enjoyed. Or, walking around on tired legs and appreciating the beauty of the city. Those moments, I don’t want to miss out on. I don’t want to miss out on them in the midst of thinking about what’s next or what I can do better or if I’m happy with the race. I’ll get there, but I’m not there yet. I want my life to be full of God’s joy and celebration and slowing down to enjoy.

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