Running Across the Years and the Lessons My Kids Learn from Running

Christmas morning, three weeks ago, I rub the sleep from my eyes as I wake to squealing children. Smells of brewing coffee waft into the bedroom and spur me into action. My boys vibrate as they anticipate the presents they are about to open.

Kenny and I find our places, steaming coffee in hand and wrapped in a soft and toasty blanket. Wrapping paper flies and excitement echoes off the walls. A ding sounds through the commotion and I reach for my phone. My own excitement bubbles over as I read a text informing me I won the raffle for an entry into Across the Years.

For the uninitiated, Across the Years, better known as ATY, is a multi-day timed running event. Runners choose 24, 48, or 72 hours or 6 days. During the chosen time frame, they run, walk, or hobble, as much as desired, along a short course. Runners sleep when needed, take care of bodily functions when needed. Everyone runs the same set loop. This particular event crosses from December 28th – Jan 3rd, hence “Across the Years”, and is a 1.0498 mile loop. The winner traverses the most miles within that time frame and though they are not usually the fastest runners, they are the most determined.

I find ATY to be the most spectacular way to round out the year and was thrilled to be a participant again. Even my boys enjoy the atmosphere, especially when they cheer for the runners or hand out smoothies or dance at the start/finish line to bring extra joy. My favorite part of running timed events is the camaraderie experienced with others that you circle past or with lap after lap.

I chose to run Friday December 28th, then volunteer Dec 30th and 31st. Friday dawned with blue skies and perfect temps. Crisp air and sunny skies make for perfect running weather. Kenny signed up for the race as well and we started together.

The race unfolded as they tend to do….completely unexpectedly. Early on, I had some bathroom issues. Fortunately, Aravaipa running hung funny signs in each port-o-potty so to make the plague a little less frustrating, I chose a different stall each time to increase my laughter quotient. It worked and when I recovered, the smile on my face was quite large.

I didn’t have any plans or particular goals for the day. I am getting myself into my training for Zion 100K in April so I didn’t want to run all-out and risk injury at the outset of my training. We discussed staying all night, but since neither of us had planned to run a 24 hour event and neither of us was prepared for 75 – 100 miles, the call of the hot tub at home proved too tempting.

Nine hours after starting, I took my final steps , hit 40 miles and called it a day. It was my second longest run ever, second only to Antelope Canyon 50 miler. I could have gone a lot farther and that was the best way to end the day. I was fresh, ready for more, and motivated to leap into my Zion training.

My favorite part of the day was meeting Catra Corbett and Truman. My dearest husband, in his infinite wisdom and perpetual love, told her that I was too scared to meet her. I was mortified! But ultimately I did talk with her and got scratched Truman’s chin. It was worth every moment of embarrassment I felt.

We came back and hung around for several more days, volunteering and cheering. Quinlan performed “Orange Justice” and “The Hype” – dance moves that earned him notoriety and a shout out by Jubilee, the race director. He felt famous! Keegan was the master of the cowbell and on more than one occasion put an extra spring in the steps of the runners.

I love runners. I love being around runners and feeling the drive and desire to push myself, to compete against others and myself. I never feel better about life and about who I am then when I am running. Running truly makes me the best version of myself.

Sharing my passion with my husband and children and building family memories at running events has become a tradition. Runners are a wealth of life lessons packaged in all shapes and sizes. While our children may never be runners themselves, they are learning valuable life lessons including:

  • Age is Irrelevant – You are never too old to start, never too old to continue, simply never too old. Age is even an advantage, especially at timed events, because with age comes the ability to keep going when the going gets tough.
  • Fitness is a Personal Journey – Running as a community is a powerful place to overcome the comparison trap. In a race of 100 or 10,000, there is only one winner and chances are it isn’t you. This fact teaches us to compete with ourselves and not those around us.
  • Play is Powerful – I often take life too seriously and I am not alone. Running, especially ultra running, teaches us that play is important and laughter makes the miles fly. Plus, when my kids see Ed the Jester and his train whistle after 5 days of running, they know that even adults can have fun!
  • Mind over Matter is Real – I can explain to my children all day that if they put their mind to it they can do anything, but seeing an individual still moving after 72 hours or longer makes that statement come to life.
  • Relentless Forward Progress is Critical – It isn’t how fast we go that gets us to our goals, but rather the ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The winners of ATY weren’t running circles around everyone else, but they kept moving one step at a time.

I look forward to all that this year will bring and the future lessons my kids and I will learn. For now, the journey continues…..

Advertisements

Why New Years Resolutions Are Pointless and What You Should Do Instead

It has been several weeks since I have written.  My time and energy to write are minimal at best.  I came home and gave so much time and energy to my family, friends, and work trying to make up for being gone all summer.

But by giving so much to others, I forgot the importance of self-love.  My stress levels are through the roof and my weight is creeping up. Both are signs that Emily is not being cared for like she needs.

With these last 4 months so extremely difficult, I thought 2018 was a horrible year. When New Years hit, I was happy to wave goodbye and watch 2018 disappear into my rear view window. I chose, however, to take an hour to reflect on what did go well in 2018.

Surprisingly, once I looked for the good, I saw many shining stars. I recalled that at the beginning of 2018, I decided to forgo resolutions and instead set focuses for myself.  Lo and behold, all of my year’s accomplishments hit the mark and those focuses proved far more valuable than resolutions.  

Goal setting is important in life when done effectively.  Measurable goals that are achievable can be life-changing.  And breaking big goals into smaller bite-sized pieces is a proven way to tackle big goals.   

The problem isn’t with goals; it is with resolutions because they are unattainable unforgiving goals.  We promise to never drink again.  We promise that chocolate will never pass our lips. We promise to be patient with our children always. 

Resolutions forget we are human.  This is their ultimate flaw.

By setting focuses instead of resolutions, we establish room for error while giving our energy to the positive changes we want to see happen.   From there, we can set specific goals that are smaller and good milestones to help us as we seek to improve those focuses.  Further, by setting focuses, we can establish early in the year our priorities.  When other activities or priorities come our way, we have a foundation settle on and use to help determine if those new priorities are worthy of our time and energy.  

Steps for Setting Focuses

Step 1.   Build a Foundation of Successes – Begin by taking stock of what you accomplished over the last year. Jot down the accomplishments, proud moments, or areas of joy and set aside any negative thoughts that arise. This step is important because it establishes a tone of self-love and gratitude necessary for effective development.

Step 2. Revive the Negative Thoughts – After establishing all the good behind you, resurrect those thoughts that came along of areas you wish you did better or that disappointed you. At this point, because you established a foundation of successes, you can examine the negative thoughts with an analytical mind rather than using them as a whip for self-deprecation.

Step 3. Examine Reality and Prune the Excess – Once resurrected, the list must be sorted and culled. How often is it possible to address every area we wish we could improve upon? Examining the areas you wish to improve through the lens of true desire is critical for future success.

Step 4. Categorize What is Remaining – Of the items that remain, put them into general categories – for example, Running and Fitness or Marriage or Work Related.

Step 5. Spell out the General Categories – Write a sentence or two about that general category and how you want to improve it. This is now your focus for the year.

Example for Setting Focuses

Step 1. Last year was great because I ran several ultras, accomplished some major projects at work, and my marriage and family are thriving.

Step 2. I wish I did a better job with cross training and had done yoga every week. I also wish I would have blogged more often and written every day.

Step. 3. Given the amount of time I have and the amount of running I love to do, I don’t want to give up anything to make time for yoga so that will be culled.

Step 4. The areas I want to improve can be categorized into Running/Fitness, Family/Marriage, and Writing

Step 5. For Writing in 2019, I want to develop a consistent writing habit to help move me closer to writing a book and further developing my blog.

As you work through your own focuses, you will see that developing focuses versus resolutions creates a positive foundation for better success throughout the year. Rather than establishing unrealistic, all-or-nothing resolutions that are destined to fail the moment real life hits, focuses will give you the ability to remember what is important throughout the year.

Share below what some of your focuses are the for year. Putting them out there gives them life and value and keeps you accountable.

The journey continues…….

5 Ways to Embrace Gratitude This Holiday Season

We have cycled around to another holiday season.  Thanksgiving is upon us and we are pausing to take stock in our blessings.  An “Attitude of Gratitude” is the motto of the day.

Our world is so focused on the negative and it is easy to get caught up in that spiral.  If we wait for the news to change or our neighbors to change or the state of society to change, we will be waiting for a long time.  We each have a responsibility to make the changes that we want to see in the world.  It takes practice to see our own world through a different lens.

Practicing gratitude with the small things impacts everything else.  You begin to see the world through the lens of gratitude and you stop focusing so much on the negative side of the world.  It cascades throughout everything.

“Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.” – Mahatma Gandhi

If you are able to be grateful for a warm cup of coffee in the morning, it becomes easier to be grateful for the bus driver who delivers you safely to work.  Then you become grateful for your coworker who helped you with a project.  And when you get home from work, you become grateful that your children have the opportunities for a healthy meal and an education.

Once my husband was in the grocery store with our son and he told him smiles are contagious and then proceeded to test the theory.  Everyone they smiled at smiled back.  Gratitude is also contagious and the more we are grateful, the more those around us see the blessings in their lives too.

So how do we cultivate this same level of gratitude in our each and every day?  Here’s 5 strategies to build gratitude into your daily life:

  • Gratitude Journal
    • Begin or finish each day by writing in a journal, electronic or pen and paper, makes no difference.  Write down a minimum of three things you are grateful that day.  Big or small.  Gratitude for the ability to make your bed or gratitude that you survived a car accident – both build the habit of gratitude every day.

 

  • Set an Alarm
    • Use your smartphone to set 5 or more alarms throughout the day.  Each time the alarm goes off, pause for a minute to think of something you are grateful for in your life.  Again, big or small, gratitude is gratitude.
  • Post-It in Bathroom
    • On your bathroom mirror, steering wheel, or any common place, post a sticky note with the question, “What are you grateful for today?”  If you want to get fancy, you could stencil it or create some beautiful plaque, but be careful that it doesn’t become so decorative that it fades into the background.  You want this note to be noticeable so you look at it every day and answer the question.
  • Ritual
    • Create a ritual around a certain event in the day in which you give thanks.  For example, pausing before a meal to reflect on your blessings.  Our family regularly does a round-robin at the dinner table sharing our gratitude.
  • Gratitude Box
    • Buy a beautiful box or decorate a plain one.  Leave a stack of small pieces of paper and once a day write down a item of gratitude.  At a regular interval, weekly or monthly or so on, open the box and read what you have written down.

Incorporate one or more of these into each day and gratitude will begin to become habitual in your life.  And then that habit will influence those around you and bring more joy and blessing into your life.

Call to Action: Share in the comments what other ways you bring gratitude into your daily life?

 

How to Refill Your Energy Well When Life Gets Overwhelming

About 6 weeks ago, I returned home after 3 months away from my family.  While I enjoyed parts of my time alone, like always having a clean apartment and not having to pick up after anyone, being away from my husband and kids was difficult.  Upon my  I return, I wanted to express my gratitude for their support and to soak up and give back as much affection as I possibly could.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of others that needed my time and energy as well.  Work projects that were pending my return are coming at me fast and furious.  Friends want my company and I want to reconnect with them.  And I am trying to maintain some of the habits I established over the summer.  But the extra time that I had available in DC to focus on my needs has flown out the window.  As a result I am feeling incredibly overwhelmed.

Mental and physical energy are both taxed when we are juggling many priorities and dealing with life stress.  Managing energy is an important skill to master. If our energy becomes too depleted, we have diminished capacity to handle stress.  Compassion towards ourselves and other becomes a monumental effort.

The level of water  in a well depends on the inputs and withdrawals.  If a village is pulling water for a large variety of needs and there is no rainfall to refill it, then the well will run dry.  In times of drought, we become more conservative in our water withdrawals….shorter showers, quicker dishwashing, turning off the water while brushing teeth, and so on.  When rains come, conserving water becomes less important.

Think of energy the same way.  When life takes withdrawals, we need to find ways to refill the well.

Strategies to Refill the Well

Sleep – The most important and most effective way to replenish energy is a good nights sleep.  Many believe they can function on 5-6 hours or less, but research has shown that the average adult needs 8 hours a night.  Try it for a week and see how much more patience, love, happiness, and ability to focus that you possess.  You will likely find you need more sleep than you realize.

Healthy Eating – I am guilty of turning to junk food to handle stress, but I have learned that this only compounds stress because it puts nutritional stress on my body.  And it does nothing to refill my energy reserves.  Focusing on lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains and fruits, and plant-based proteins provides the body with the nutrients it needs to keep the fires burning strong.

Exercise – Exercise takes physical energy, but most of us use more mental energy throughout the day than we do physical energy.  Fatigue often comes because our brains are taxed.  A brisk walk, hard gym session, or good run clears the brain and leaves us with more energy afterwards than before.  Starting the day with a workout lays a foundation for a more positive day.  Exercising at lunch resets the clock for a better afternoon.  And exercise at the end of the day sheds the day’s stress allowing for a more relaxing evening.  Find the time of day that best serves you and make exercise a priority.

Hobbies – Spending time doing something you enjoy is critical to maintaining energy for the harder tasks in life.  Cultivating a hobby will provide you energy by shedding other life stress, bringing you joy, and allowing your mind to relax.  Try for at least 10 minutes a day doing something that simply brings you joy.  For me, this is reading a book, writing, or playing a good board game with my family.

Meditation – a 5-10 minute meditation session is a great way to clear the mind and reset your body.  Not only does it give you energy back, it plugs any energy leaks by helping shed negative thoughts and mental distractions. I find that a 10 minute meditation mid-afternoon is a good as a cup of coffee.

Introvert vs. Extrovert – Determining if you are introverted or extroverted is a great help in figuring out how you replenish your energy reserves.  Introverts are not always shy or anti-social.  Rather, introverts regain energy from alone time, while extroverts get energy from being with others. I am an introvert.  I love being with others, but find it exhausting.  I need time alone to replenish my energy.  If I don’t get any alone time, I find myself running on empty very quickly.  Because I know this, I will often eat lunch alone if I have meetings all day, or take a hot bath and read alone after the kids go to bed.

Implementing these strategies on a daily basis will keep your well of energy full.  A full well will keep you resilient in times of stress.  Identifying areas that are sucking the well dry is equally as important as refilling the energy well. If you find yourself running low, examine your daily habits and determine where you are leaking energy.  Are you not getting enough sleep?  Are you giving to much of yourself to others or not spending enough time with loved ones? Are you using your free time to binge watch Netflix at the expense of exercise and meditation?

Energy Sucks to Avoid

Worrying and Negative Self-Talk– A friend wisely told me once, “Worrying takes energy.  It is better to reserve that energy for positive things.”  Because our energy reserves are limited, it does not serve us to spend that energy on worrying or negative self-talk.  Rather, focus the energy you have on staying mindful.

Netflix binge – While it may seem relaxing to veg on the couch watching the latest House of Cards, a Netflix binge does not replenish your energy and it takes valuable time away from exercise, meditation, and sleep.  Rather than spending hours on end watching TV, take a nap or go to bed earlier, get exercise, or spend time talking with a loved one.

Caffeine, sugar and other artificial sources of energy – When we use caffeine, sugar, or other artificial sources of energy, we are robbing Peter to pay Paul.  A limited amount is sufficient, however if you find yourself relying on these to get through the day, examine your priorities and make sure you are getting enough sleep and investing in other energy replenishing strategies.  You will find these giving back much more and not asking  for repayment down the road.

You will quickly discover areas where you have a leak in your energy well.  Perhaps it is a slow leak which is easy to patch.  Maybe it is a large leak and will require more repair time.  In either situation, once you find the leak, you will find that implementing these strategies will refill that energy well.

The journey continues…..

TBT – 2017 Javelina Jundred Crew Report

A little over a year ago, the Fife Family was preparing for a grand adventure.  Kenny was going to be running the Javelina Jundred.  We had heard about this amazing race since we entered the ultrarunning scene and now we were going to have the great pleasure of participating….him as a runner, me as his crew.

We had plans for a repeat showing this year, but life doesn’t always like to honor our plans.  While we won’t be there this Saturday, I look back with such fond memories and look forward to another go at it next year.

To all who are running, best of luck.  For those crewing, take good care of you runner and yourself.


Javelina Crew Report – 2017

Saturday October 28, 2017

5 o’clock AM – The sun is barely rising on the horizon, light gently spilling into my bedroom as I wake for the day. My phone chimes – a text from Kenny. The night before he camped at McDowell Mountain, preparing himself for a weekend to remember. He is letting me know is ready to go and I wish him luck before he heads off to the start line.

6 o’clock AM – Packing up my camping gear, my thoughts are with Kenny as he takes his first steps onto the race course. Read More

A Moment of Reflection

A few weekends ago, Kenny and I had the amazing luxury of getting away from the kids for several days.  We spent Friday night car-camping so we could run the Prescott Circle Trail, starting at the Thumb Butte Recreation Area before we went to Flagstaff for some R&R.

A little over a year ago, I started a run from the same location.   That run would prove to change my life in many ways.  It was the Whiskey Basin 57K, my first trail ultra (second ever ultra).  Being back on the trails I rememberd to reflect on how far I have come in the last 12 months.  I am such a forward focused, what is the next challenge, type of person that I forget to celebrate the successes I that I have had.

As I reflect, I can see I have come SO very far.  That first 57K on the trails seemed monumental at the time; the hardest experience of my life.  And at the time, it certainly was the most challenging physical feat I had undertaken.  What I realized being back on those trails is that each hard challenge we tackle creates the springboard for the next great challenge.

When I look back, since that race I have accomplished so much:

  • PR at the San Diego Half Marathon (first sub 2 hour half!!)
  • Sub 6 hour 50K at Across the Years
  • 52K at Coldwater just 3 weeks after Across the Years
  • 50 Mile Race at Antelope Canyon

And that is just my fitness accomplishments.  When I examine my life as a whole, I have made great strides professionally this last year, my marriage is stronger than it was a year ago, and my kids are growing into young men that make me so proud.  I have also improved my relationship with food and my body image by leaps and bounds. Hard work and focused determination lead to so much accomplishment.

After Whiskey Basin, I wrote a race report and I went back to read it again today.  Here’s the excerpts that brought a smile to my face:


EXCERPT FROM WHISKEY BASIN RACE REPORT APRIL 2017

Whiskey Basin 57K took place this past Saturday, April 8, 2017 and it was a smashing success!!

We scoped the trails the night before and I was looking forward to running on them since it has been a while since I have run through a pine forest.  I was also feeling apprehensive and knew that it would be critical for me to run my own race. It is often a downfall for me to get all caught up in comparing myself to others and alter what I know I need to do to accomplish my own goals.  These are my insecurities boiling to the surface and insecurities that I am striving to overcome through my running.

Just before we started, my friend hugged me and said, “We’ve got this”.  That was just what I needed.  Within 100 yards, I could feel myself at peace.  My zen didn’t fly away.  It stayed firmly put.  I floated along the trails at an easy pace, feeling confident that I wasn’t pushing myself too hard, even though I could feel my legs itching to let loose.

A part of me was fearful that I would lose my flow later in the race, but I reminded myself I was well prepared and that I was feeling great.  I hit the Goldwater Aid station at 16.5 miles ½ hour ahead of schedule.  Some of my other running friends were at this aid station when I got there which shocked me because I figured they would leave me well in their dust.  Never have I felt this good half way through a race.

The course description shows the last 31K being only 883 feet of climbing so much to my surprise it involved a lot more climbing than that.  I had to adjust my expectations a little bit and even gave myself the permission to be happy if I didn’t finish within my 9 hour goal.  I was at peace with this change of plans and continued to have fun and just enjoy the ride.

From the Goldwater Aid station to the Badger Mountain Aid Station it was almost 10 miles.  I had a few dark moments through this stretch, but my body never felt like it wanted to quit.  I felt strong and powerful.  Only my brain wanted to stop but I was able to keep myself focused on the moment and was able to rise back to the light.

The Badger Mountain Aid Station came out of nowhere when I saw Squirrel Nut Butter flags flying and I was happy to discover I was still ahead of schedule.  Even though there was a lot of climbing, I hadn’t slowed down much at all.  Less than 10 miles to go.  I knew that things were about to get real, but I also could see the end in sight.  I was down into the single digits!  And surprisingly, my friends were at this aid station as well!  I couldn’t believe that I kept catching up to them.  These ladies are strong and fierce.

During the next 4 mile stretch, I ended up running with a couple that had been trailing behind me a little ways.  They were super nice and encouraging and when I told them it was my first trail ultra, they told me how strong I looked.  It made feel really good to hear that from people with experience!  At one point, I let them go ahead of me so I could fuel and take some of my Hammer pills.  I caught them again when we reached the tunnel of gloom leading to the last aid station.

The last 10K from the Sundog Aid Station to Watson Lake continued to be smooth.  I rounded a corner and at last I could see Watson Lake.  In a sick twist of humor, the trail then turned south away from the lake.  I couldn’t believe that I could taste the finish but had to run the other way!  We hit a service road that finally took  us back north towards the lake and suddenly my brain shut down.  After running on the beautiful trails and feeling strong and powerful all day, this service road proved to be my arch nemesis.

Those last two miles were my slowest of the race I am sure, but when I rounded the last bend and saw my kids climbing on the rocks, I could taste the victory.  Hands up in joy, I crossed with finish line with my sweet boys in tow, my husband waiting proudly on the other side.  My finish time was 8:39:07, 21 minutes faster than my goal!

I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family.  The time they gave me to train and go to bed early, the hours I was tired, the cranky bitch I became during my taper.  They loved me through it all and gave me the space and encouragement I needed to get it done.  The work was mine though and mine alone.  No one ran those miles for me.  No one else put in the training and the mental preparation.   That was all me.

In two weeks I turn 35.  This race is my 35 miles for my 35th birthday month.  There were only three women younger than me finished the race.  This just goes to show that the best is yet to come.


Reliving that day, both from my writing and from being on those trails, brings great joy to my heart.  I proved to myself that I was capable and it gave me the confidence to try for the next big goal. Each time we do something hard and succeed, it only fuels the flames of passion.  If we settle into what is easy every day, life is a lot less fulfilling.  When we push and stretch, we grow.  One day we wake up and see a beautiful flower growing strong. 

The journey continues…..

%d bloggers like this: