Monday Motivation: Thinking about 2015



By the time the next Monday Motivation post comes around, it will be 2015. Does that seem crazy to you? It does to me. This year flew by incredibly quickly. But as busy as it was, I have a feeling 2015 will be equally, if not more, busy than this current year.

This ain’t your Facebook Year in Review…

I’ve spent the year capturing moments – both on camera and off. But it’s only the most pristine that I display to others (or moments that are so ridiculous that I can’t NOT share them with others). Jeff Goins noted this in his recent Year in Review post, and it holds true for me as well. I looked at the Facebook Year in Review. The reason I didn’t share it? It didn’t capture the moments that were important to me. But that’s because not all moments can fit in a small view that I display to the world through the means of social media.

So here are some of the big ticket items that stuck out to me in 2014 (in no particular order).

  1. Little man turned 2 (every birthday of his is super important in my mind)
  2. I wrote a first draft of a novel and won NaNoWriMo
  3. I started this blog with my dear friend, Lindsay
  4. I completed the almost 200-mile Ragnar Relay with 11 other amazing people
  5. I got promoted
  6. The hubby and I were able to put a sizeable chunk into savings by sticking to a budget (mostly) so that we could save up for a down payment on a new house
  7. We also hit the five-year anniversary mark. Woohoo!
  8. I ran a half marathon in Arizona with my sister

And there are the unspoken, uncatalogued moments. Like during the Ragnar Relay I faced down a fear so large I thought I was going to have a heart attack (It was the fear of letting down others, if you must know). Or the fact that I pushed aside the self-doubt and was able to conquer all kinds of negative voices in my head to write a first draft of a novel. Or that I finally started a blog and decided that I didn’t have to be the perfect writer, or be able to have “my voice” well defined ahead of time, or have everything figured out…that it was enough to just start. Or that I’m continually tested on patience and perseverance in raising a precocious, adventurous and WAY too brave 2.5 year old with a pension for very high ledges. But that all happened in 2014. And it’s crazy to think that all of that was accomplished in just 12 months.

Looking ahead…

So now I turn my eyes not to what I have done, but what I will do in the coming year. I stopped putting together new year’s resolutions a couple years ago because I don’t like arbitrary goals created just because it’s a common time of year to make goals. I like setting goals when they’re meaningful to me. So I don’t think of these as aspirations. No, these are things that are going to happen.

  1. Finishing the novel – hard deadline of October 31, 2015. That means, having it in a publishable format. I used Christmas break to start skimming the surface to see if I could try and put more order to it. And now, I have to put some real thought into how much time I want to use to edit, then I need to figure out when I can get some beta readers to critique, then another round of polishing edits, then maybe looking for  a real editor, then finishing it up. That’s what needs to happen by November 2015. At that point I hope to use November to write the next novel and hopefully be at the point where I’m shopping around my first novel.
  2. Ragnar beckons me, yet again. June 12, 2015. I swore I wouldn’t do this race again. Even though I had my fastest times, even though it was an amazing bonding experience, it was still the most stressful, mentally taxing and heart-attack inducing experience of my life (okay, minus child birth). Who would be crazy enough to go through that again? This girl. Much like I’ve forgotten the long hours of labor and excruciating pain of child birth and now fondly think of what it would be like to have a second child, I once again am turning back to that gritty Ragnar Relay. And this time, I’m coming at it with a year of experience under my belt. My training will be harder, my miles might be longer, and surely my pace will be quicker. Bring. It. On.
  3. Celebrating the five year milestone: DISNEY. DISNEY. DISNEY. Oh and yes, spending time with my hubby in a much-needed vacation to celebrate our five years together. That will be happening in January.

There is so much more I hope to conquer in 2015, but for now, those are the concrete items on my to do list. Are you still wrapping up 2014 or are do you have your sights set on what’s coming up in 2015?

Happy New Year!

Acceptance is the first step in order to fall in love with your passions


How do you respond to the request “Tell me a little about yourself.”?

Typically, I launch into a 30 second elevator pitch – checking off accomplishments and current status. Went to school (insert school), work in (insert industry), which means (explain industry/company/role) and I live (city/neighborhood) with (self/people/family). Blah.

Last week at a work dinner, I was asked to “Tell my story.” As I launched into my typically story – bullet points about my past – I was interrupted and asked a series of follow-up questions. Many, many follow-up questions. It was a great way to get a few laughs at the dinner table and a memorable way to get to know someone deeper. Sure, I played tennis in school, but he wanted to know if I enjoyed it now. Throughout this line of questioning, he correctly deciphered that I enjoy running and loved cooking shows. It was a great way to get to get the answer: “What do you do outside of work? What are your hobbies?”

A hobby is an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for fun. I’ve dipped my toe into various hobbies but rarely do I dive in and give it my all. I rarely experience the reward in learning a new skill. I have a dusty sewing machine, almost-new knitting needles, half-assed attempts at calligraphy and boxing gloves. I’m not even certain how the boxing gloves made it into my closet.

The point is, we’ve all latched onto some craze or felt a surge of energy when trying something new. I enjoy learning about new subjects. I’ve checked out sewing books from the library and signed up for online calligraphy classes with little to show for the investment in time and money. It’s frustrating and annoying. Why do I bother to explore hobbies when the majority of them fail? Isn’t this supposed to be fun? Why am I stressing out about my calligraphy form? I’m sure someone could analyze the reasons why but I’ll take a stab in the dark and assume it’s because I think it’s easier. Easier to not try verses try and fail.

It’s easier…but not fun. Or fulfilling. Over the past year, I’ve experienced personal success with running. It took me months to even call myself “a runner.” It took me even longer to realize how much I truly love the sport. With every new investment – running shoes, race fees, clothing – I questioned my intentions and commitment level. Would this be “worth it” in the end? Ultimately, I experienced some level of “mom-guilt.” Everyone (EVERYONE) tells you to take time for yourself but, is this too much time? Too much focus on my needs and wants? Regardless of someone’s definition of “too much,” I fell in love with running and now consider it to not only be one of  my hobbies but, one of my passions.

Rather than skim the surface of my loves: running, yoga, writing…what would happen if I took a leap to really give it my all? The risk of failure is greater but the reward is sweeter (Jamie hits this point in another post). Ragnar gave me a taste into the pay-off of training. Now what?

In order to keep myself accountable, I joined my gym’s yoga/running program. Our class instructor sends out a weekly running schedule and healthy recipe. Each Saturday morning we get together for a group yoga class and go on a run. I was hesitant to sign up for this program because of the investment. It’s not expensive but, am I willing to wake up early every Saturday in order to run? Am I willing to make up these runs even if I’m out of town?

My goal is to continue running on a regular basis – regardless of race schedule. Plain and simple.This program combines my three fitness “loves” – running, weight training and yoga into one. How could I resist?

Getting “into” something takes guts and can sometimes be read as selfish. Who cares what others think. Just go for it and take the shot.

Tackling Ragnar: A Q&A Session to Get to the Heart of It All

Team shot minus one

Ragnar Relay team shot minus one

View our slideshow at the end of this post. Photos from members of Team 171.

Just this past weekend, Lindsay and I ran and finished our first Ragnar Relay.

What is a Ragnar Relay?

Glad you asked. In the Ragnar Relay Series, teams of 12 people run 36 legs, totaling a 200-mile relay over two days and one night. The relay we participated in started in Madison, Wisconsin and ended in Chicago, Illinois. Both Lindsay and I totaled around 15 miles each, spread out over three legs, in less than 24 hours. In total, it took our team 30 hours and 47 minutes to complete the entire trek down to Chicago.

As this was the first relay race for both of us, we thought we’d put together a look back at our journey and share how we did on the race days. Why? Because we quickly realized that although we both followed similar training plans, and we were working towards the same goals, we had some very different takes on how everything went.

So here is our first Q&A style post to get to the bottom of this experience.

1.  What made you sign up for this race?

Jamie: Lindsay’s good friends did this race last year and said it was a really great experience. Also, I had done a couple half marathons over the past year and was interested in how different this was…nothing like I’d ever seen before. And let’s be honest – I needed a fitness goal before the summer started so this fit perfectly, timing wise.

Lindsay: Last year when my friends signed up for the relay, I had zero interest to join. Running multiple times per day and driving in a van with five other people sounded like a nightmare. Worse, living off of protein bars and bananas sounded like a recipe for crabbiness. But that wasn’t their experience at all. My good friend organized a team and everyone loved the experience.

Combining the individual challenge of running with a team dynamic sounded interesting. Last November, I ran my first half marathon and although I loved it, I didn’t feel the urge to sign up for another this summer. I needed an early summer race on the books to get myself running again. I wanted a challenge.

2.  What was the toughest part of your training?

Jamie: Going into it, I thought the toughest part of the training would be actually running twice in one day. Or doing back-to-back runs from evening to morning. Surprisingly, though, that wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was getting done with a Saturday morning run and not having that feeling of “Ahhhh…I can do whatever I want now!”…because you knew you couldn’t just lounge around, eat bad food or have a couple drinks that evening. At least, not until AFTER you had finished your evening run. That was hard for me because I could never just relax, mentally. But little did I know, that was what I was REALLY training for.

Lindsay: I echo Jamie’s initial “fear” of the double-run. It sounded impossible and unappealing. As race day neared, I started to look forward to running at sunrise and sunset. The toughest part of my training was to run multiple days in a row. I typically run every other day due to my severe arthritis. Once a doctor proclaims “You have the knees of a ninety year old!” you can claim “severe arthritis.” Again, that wasn’t the case. I wasn’t able to reach my weekly mileage goals with running alone but I was able to run for three mornings in a row and cross train the other days. Lesson learned: don’t assume you know how far you can stretch yourself. Create a challenging training schedule that works for you.

3.  Do you feel like your training prepared you well for race day?

Jamie: Yes. It’s funny because when you train for a half marathon, a lot of times you’ll never run the full distance until the actual race day…so sometimes you feel skeptical that you’ll actually be able to run that far. With this race, though? It’s amazing how well your body recovers after running each leg and how the next run isn’t as hard as you’ve mentally built it up to be. But again, my longest distance was 6.2 miles. Would I have the same reaction if I had to run the 9-miler leg like some of my team mates? Hmmm. Maybe not.

Lindsay: Short answer: Sort of. Honest answer: This race is about challenging yourself, connecting with your team and conquering the physical and mental challenge of running three times in a day. Physically, I was ready. I thought I was mentally strong, as I pushed through some tough training runs. Two weeks before the race, my first leg course was adjusted from four miles to six. After that news broke, I started to get pre-race jitters that couldn’t quit. Lesson learned: Mind over matter.

4.  What was your overarching view of this race before race day?

Jamie: I had looked at a couple blog posts where other runners had recounted their Ragnar experiences and there seemed to be a lot of pressure to follow the signs posted or you’d get lost. I remember that being my number one concern. Am I going to get lost? What if I miss a sign and head off in the wrong direction? What if a bear jumps out of the woods and eats me during my night run? Other than that, I was just anxious because I had no idea what to expect, having never done something like this.

Lindsay: Somehow, this experience would be fun and worth the effort and expense. Friends and co-workers who ran Ragnar offered good pointers and tips:

  • “Don’t think of Ragnar as a race. It’s a run. A run shared among friends. No one cares about your time.”
  • “Racing and training hurts. Accept this and the rest will be easy.”
  • “Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.”
  • “Pack your clothes into three separate zip-lock bags. You don’t want to mix clean and dirty running gear.”
  • “Buy compression socks.”
  • “Have fun.”

Lesson (soon-to-be) learned: Expect the unexpected.

5.  Race day – what was the hardest part?

Jamie: First and foremost, the mental anxiety attacks.

It first hit me on my first leg. For the first half mile, it wasn’t just nerves or being excited about this new adventure like I normally felt during races. No – I felt like I was going to have a heart attack because all I could think about was my team waiting for me at the next exchange point. Now, in my mind, they were waiting there and judging my slow-pokiness and wondering why I hadn’t arrived yet.  And after I had a good sob fest under a tree providing the only shade I’d seen on my entire run, I confessed this to them. I was waiting for their disappointment. I was waiting for them to tell me with sympathetic faces, “It’s okay Jamie. We know you tried…right?”

Funny thing is, I was dead wrong. Not only had I run my fastest pace EVER…like…in my life so far…they assured me that this was not a competition against them. This is a race where everyone pulls together as a team. And not the kind of team that’s looking to run any world record races. Even with their encouraging words, though, it still didn’t sink in until my very last leg. And by that point, I had better things to worry about…like the fact that I hadn’t slept in 24 hours.

A close second in what made this race hard was just being “on” all the time. Even when we had the opportunity to relax, my mind was racing with questions like: What do we need to do next? Where do we need to be? Am I going to be able to run with this much Lasagna in my stomach? How much time until I start my next leg? What’s my course like, this time?…etc.

Lindsay: Ding, ding, ding! Jamie hit the nail on the head. The hardest part for me was to get over myself. I was a ball of nerves during the entire first leg. I was running around the lakes of Madison at a decent pace. It was a beautiful experience and I was doing fine physically but, my mind wouldn’t stop crossing over to the negative. Even though I was running a typical pace, I noted a :15 faster pace to my teammates. I cursed myself for not correcting this oversight. As the first runner, I believed that I was setting them up to fail. I was a turtle and kept turning around, assuming that the next wave of runners would soon catch up. This never happened, of course, as I ran a consistent pace and arrived at the finish line with cheers from my friends. As individuals, we all finished a leg (or two or three) faster than anticipated. We all ran great legs and not-so great legs but we all finished with honest-to-God cheers from our friends and complete strangers. Lesson learned: You are a victim of your own mind.

6.  Race day- what was the most rewarding part?

Jamie: On race day, the most rewarding parts were running faster than my normal pace and not dying, being able to connect so deeply with 12 other people experiencing the same things I was (most of whom, I had never met until a week ago), being able to accomplish something so completely outside my comfort zone.

Lindsay: Ragnar is rewarding. The entire “run-drive-sleep?” experience is rewarding. It’s rewarding to pass another runner and say “Nice job runner!” And it’s really rewarding to run, and run strong. One of my favorite runs was during my last leg. At 4:10 am and I was running along Lake Michigan and it felt like home. With only a half of a banana, I was running on empty. Cursing myself for not grabbing an energy chew, I stopped by another Ragnar team van to ask for water. They gave me a bottle and a few blocks later, their runner caught up to me. As I stopped to walk and take a much-needed drink, he asked me if I needed anything. I declined. He told me that he was counting on me to finish. He was counting on me to keep running. In that moment – after running 12 miles and only sleeping for 90 minutes – I whole-heartily believed him. I ran with my heart first and didn’t give a shit how I looked or how I felt. When I finally handed off the slap-bracelet to Jamie, I felt like a champion. Yet, I didn’t even let myself celebrate. I started making jokes about my slow pace and it wasn’t until our amazing captain asked me to stop it. I had just finished Ragnar and who cared if I was slow? Certainly not my team. It’s rewarding to be surrounded by supportive friends and fellow runners and rewarding to finally, FINALLY accept that you are indeed, a runner. Lesson learned: Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend. Be kind to yourself.

7.  Race day – did anything unexpected happen?

Jamie:  Some good, some bad. First the bad – my sob fest after my first leg. I just wasn’t prepared to be feeling all of those feelings! The good – actually having a pretty “spritely” run after going with out sleep for 24 hours. Who knew? Certainly not this girl.

Lindsay: It was one of the best experiences in my life. I was not expecting that outcome or the following:

  • To laugh, that hard, for that long. From wearing unicorn masks to watching glow-sticks explode in the van. I had a perma-smile from my wonderful teammates and from a lack of sleep
  • To discover that cold deli chicken wings are the perfect post-run snack
  • To bond with my husband, who also ran the race. I loved experiencing this as a couple and feeling the “pain” the next day as we entered reality with a crabby toddler

Lesson learned: Let go and have fun.

8.  What’s your advice for others considering a relay race like this?

Jamie: If you have a good training plan, a super supportive captain, an overall organized approach and a really kick-ass team, you’ll do great. But the hardest part of this isn’t the physical endurance, or the logistics, or the time and energy. It’s the mental endurance that you need to be prepared for. So take a good long look at what kind of a person you are and think about how you handle stress under pressure. Do you retreat? Do you attack it? Do you embrace it? Because this race is not for the faint of heart. If someone would have told me, “For 24 to 36 hours you’re going to feel like you’re entering a meeting where you have to defend everything you stand for and you can’t show an ounce of weakness. Can you handle that?” I probably would have run screaming for the hills. That’s a really long time to sustain that amount of stress. And to me, that’s what Ragnar was. Yes, it pushed me out of my comfort zone, and yes it was a success in so many ways, but I’m still trying to process how I feel about it. As I told my team when they asked if I’d be back next year, “Well…you have a year to convince me.”

Lindsay: Great meeting analogy, Jamie! Under normal circumstances, embracing a positive attitude comes naturally for me. Embracing self-doubt also comes naturally for me. Not a good combination. I flexed my mental toughness muscle the best I could but I know it can be stronger. My advice would be to trust your training, join or organize a great team, listen to your captain and make a killer playlist to motivate you through the tough spots. It’s a challenging run regardless of fitness levels due to the mental exhaustion. Keep up with running so training isn’t such a beast. I will run Ragnar again and hope you consider it too!

Lesson learned: You’re stronger than you think you are! Have fun!

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Never leave, baby pudge. Never leave! #thatchin ❤️

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