Getting my hands and other unspeakable parts dirty

I always thought flowers were best for vases and carefully arranged pots around my deck. The thought of sticking my hands into fresh earth was terrifying. I might get dirt under my nails, or worse, touch a worm. It never bothered me when my kids would play in the mud, just as long as they didn’t get it near me. I spent many years spot cleaning white tennis shoes each day to keep them bright and thoroughly rinsing flip-flops of any trace of sandy beaches. I even carried baby wipes long after the kids were out of diapers, then graduated to laundry stain wipes like Shout.

I don’t do dirt.

I also don’t sweat.

I glisten.

It’s not that I’m high maintenance.

Okay, maybe a little high maintenance. But mostly, I’m just not that adventurous and getting dirty takes a bit of an adventurous spirit. Getting dirty usually means stepping out of my comfort zone in a big way. So when my polar opposite friends asked if I would like to participate in a muddy 5k obstacle course called Mud Factor my answer was pretty clear.

I signed up on the spot.

Either I was overly medicated or intoxicated when I said yes, because this was completely out of my comfort zone and definitely out of character. My friends were just as stunned as I was, I think. For several months we just avoided the topic all together so as not to freak me out too soon. But of course, days before the event I started to get terrible stomach aches realizing what I had really gotten myself into this time.

As the group of us stood at the starting line, I wondered if anyone would notice if I silently slipped out of line. I could see a few of the obstacles in the distance. There were very tall walls to scale and ropes to climb. I’m afraid of heights. There was a giant water slide into a mud pit. I’m afraid of water slides, they go too fast. There were several logs to run across swampy water. I have no balance. Things looked pretty bleak.

And then, the race started.

The first steps across the starting line were precarious as I tried to lightly tread through the muddy path. Once I made it to the first giant sand dune, I felt pretty confident that the running part was not going to be an issue. It also became pretty clear that most every obstacle had an “out”. You could find an easier path and I started reciting the children’s story about “Going on a Bear Hunt” in my head.

Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go through it. Gotta go around it.

However, at each obstacle I gained more and more confidence and plowed through rather than go around. Yet, there was minimal evidence that I was indeed participating in a mud run. Until we got to our first real watery mess. One of my team mates decided to christen the backs of my legs, arms and body with a huge splash of brown mud. His exuberant stomping resulted in a thick layer of earth on my backside.

I cringed.

Then the next obstacle staring at me was a sludgy water hole that required crawling through it and under a fallen log to get to the other side. As I gingerly stepped into the pool of water, my shoes filled up with slime.

“This is so disgusting!” I shrieked, feeling paralyzed.

Me and J In response, one of my dearest friends proceeded to splash me, covering my face with the murkiness. Mud slid down my cheeks, falling into my sports bra. I immediately dropped to all fours and practically rolled under the log, chasing after my crew, catching a mouthful of grit and sand. Once on the other side, I couldn’t help but laugh. My white socks were now black and falling into my shoes. My clothes stuck to my body, a layer of clay was quickly drying to my skin in the 90 degree heat. From that moment on, I embraced the dirt, even as it crept into unspeakable parts at each obstacle. I scaled walls, climbed ropes, trudged through swamps and even belly crawled under wires through a mud pit all with a smile on my face. It took us about an hour to get through the whole obstacle course, MF Crew allbut no one was left behind. We all stuck together, helped each other over, and encouraged anyone who fell down or fell behind. I found my adventurous side, and let go of many of my fears. I found a new love and respect for my body and certainly have a greater sense of trust in my friends. The right people bring out the best in us. The right people help us believe in ourselves and be the person we might not even have realized we wanted to be. It turned out to be one of the most unexpected fun experiences and I would totally do it again.

Just not too soon.

I’m still getting dirt out of my ears.

Sometimes I purposely make messes to clean up messes

DW walked into our downstairs office a couple of weeks ago and unexpectedly found me rearranging furniture, bookshelves, and supplies.


“There is something seriously wrong with you,” he said without a smirk, climbing over the piles of debris and around misplaced furniture, “it’s like you have an illness or something.”

I have a plan, I thought to myself, one even better than the last time.

And the last time.

Some mornings I wake up and think, “why bother?”

Maybe it is a problem. A control problem. I never really thought about it as being something I did methodically. Until recently. When things seem overwhelming or chaotic,  I usually make changes. And they are almost always drastic changes. Instead of tackling the real issues, I tackle a drawer, a closet or a room. I cut my hair. I start a new diet or exercise routine. Those things I can control from start to finish. I can stand back after the dust settles and see real results, tangible accomplishments that feel satisfying.

On Sunday I was fortunate enough to run my second 10k race with one of my dearest friends. I’ve been silently mourning my lack of motivation and discipline to train this year. (OK, maybe not completely silently) Instead of taking spare moments to run, I’ve been reorganizing my craft room. There was a split second I thought about completely bailing on the run, but I knew my friend had been training and was counting on me for company. By mile three two I already knew I was in trouble and there were four miles ahead. My compassionate partner let me walk a few steps to catch my breath before running again, and then we set a new goal. Make it to the next cone. The next bend. The next road sign. I was tired, sore, hot and embarrassed, but I kept going. I put one foot in front of the other and stopped worrying about the next mile and just focused on the task at hand. We talked and joked the whole way without the distraction of kids, spouses, laundry, bills to pay and groceries to buy. We focused on breathing. We focused on reaching that next goal, and before I knew it, I could see the finish line.

But then I stopped.

My legs were trembling. My breath was shallow and I felt nauseous. I remembered how poor my race time was and wanted to just quit. I started thinking about the mess I had made in my craft room, my office and my kitchen. My hands were itching to organize, rearrange and clean something. Walk away from what felt like failure and create something I could be proud of instead.

“Just go on without me,” I gasped, “I’ll meet you at the finish.”

“There is no way I’m crossing without you!” my friend said.

She grabbed my hand and pulled me forward. We picked up the pace as finished runners lining the course cheered and shouted, “You’ve got this! Keep going!”

970580_612150448796317_1615874563_nWe crossed together, our names announced almost in unison, with a finish time of 1:18 (actually only 9 minutes slower than my race time last year surprisingly). It was hard not to feel proud in that moment, but it was also hard not to feel completely loved by my friend. She saw through my fear and frustration and made me keep going. She made me face myself and embrace whatever I had to give, flaws and all.

Hopefully I can keep this emotional momentum going for a while, set smaller, more manageable goals when things start to feel overwhelming rather than stop in my tracks and take apart something that doesn’t really need to be dismantled.

However, today, I do have to put my craft room back together.


And then the truth came out

It was hard to sleep Monday and Tuesday night. I just kept replaying my daughter’s voice in my head over and over. Her words convicted me.

“It was better than I thought,” she muttered, “I’m sure tomorrow will be even easier.”

I had pushed her to work hard, make her accountable for her future plans, and she eventually rose to the challenge. There were no more rolling of the eyes, whining, procrastinating or silent treatments. She never complained again after the initial shock wore off. I realize it has only been a few days, but this is a positive change. She seems almost happy with the decision, actually. Which is probably what is most convicting. I asked her to push her boundaries, push past her fear of working her body to its max potential and yet I have not put in the same effort this year. It’s not enough to say, “I had to work that hard for my goals last year” because I still have goals this year, and she knows it too. She knows that fear keeps me from moving forward often.

This is one of my favorite pictures of DW and The Tortoise just before a 5k run we did as a family a few years ago.

My children make me a better person every day. After months of nothing, I finally got my butt on the treadmill yesterday and ran my first workout of the new year. It was slow, intervals of running 5 minutes and walking 1 minute until I reached 2.5 miles, but it was consistent. I printed out blank calendars for the next three months, marking the races I have already signed up for and the ones I would like to sign up for if possible. The first 5k is in less than 5 weeks, but luckily it is a fun run/walk called a Color Run. This race sells out across the country, so a group of us registered the first week registration opened months ago. Then there is a GOTR 5k less than two weeks after that I have not yet registered for, a 10K the beginning of June and a 5k Mud Run mid-June I am registered. Then of course, somewhere in between is the half-marathon I ran last year, but I have not registered yet. That may be unrealistic, and I would need to find one later in the summer or early fall.

The entire time I was running, I kept thinking about my daughter facing the pool this week. Her brave face and positive attitude that surfaced in the wake of uncertainty inspired me to get moving too. I believe I need to work hard alongside her, encourage not just with words but in actions. It made the workout less painful, knowing that at the end of the day I could share my accomplishment with her over dinner. She could be proud of me, just like I was proud of her.

As we all sat down for dinner, my thighs were already starting to ache. But the impending burn was just a reminder that my body was tired from effort, and I knew that with each run it would get easier. I would get stronger.

“I just want you to know how much you inspired me today,” I said to my daughter, “You have been a real trooper this week and it inspired me to quit wasting time and just get to work.”

She smiled smugly, quietly nodding her head.

“I mean, you haven’t complained a bit. Thank you for that,” I added.

The Tortoise slowly took a sip of water before responding, “Well, I just haven’t complained here. But trust me, I’ve had a few choice things to say to my friends at school.”

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at her honest remark, even DW chuckled.

“But you can keep feeling inspired,” she added giggling, “then we can be sore together.”

Five Minute Friday: Broken

5-minute-friday-1My 40th birthday is next Tuesday. I have planned nothing. Usually birthdays are an excuse to make big purchases, go on fun trips with my girlfriends or make a big fuss with family and friends over drinks. But not this year. This year I feel detached and ambivalent. This time last year I was in the best shape ever, training for my first half marathon. I felt lean and strong. I felt whole. Now I feel plump and weak. Broken. I have found ten of the twenty-ish pounds I lost last year and I have not run a single mile since October’s Halloween 5k.

I have stopped moving.

The Tortoise turned 15 this past Wednesday. We celebrated with dinner out that night and are completely transforming her preteen room into one of style, sophistication and glamor. She’s chosen a black, grey, and white color palette with a few splashes of pink and couture. My daughter is excited about finishing her first year of high school and is already thinking about college plans. She is picturing her future, seeing that dreams can become reality. She is building something amazing with her life, experiencing new things everyday. I am both proud and in awe of her confidence and beauty.

She is moving forward.

Maybe that is where I am disconnected. I don’t picture any future plans for myself other than what I am doing right now. And I have no motivation to push myself to make a new goal, or create a new vision. It’s overwhelming to know I achieved a big goal like the half-marathon last year and have let the momentum slip away. Now I am starting over. No longer am I motivated by the promise of “I think I can, I think I can”, but instead am being dragged down by negative self-talk of “You would’ve been so much farther if you hadn’t stopped. Now you are starting over”.

After 26-weeks of training, was it all worth it?

I’m the short one on the right – this is obviously just before the race started

Sore muscles, stiff joints, new blisters and a bruised baby toe on my left foot woke me up early this morning. The intermittent throbbing was dull, slightly uncomfortable, but tolerable.  Ibuprofen only lasts for so many hours. After some careful shifting, I was  able to get comfortable again and go back to sleep.

The elation of finishing one of the biggest goals of my life yesterday disappeared over night, leaving me a little deflated this morning. In fact, I am kind of sad that the whole experience is over. Weeks of training for my first half-marathon came and went in just a few hours, leaving me with a weird sense of grief and a nagging question of, “Now what?”

I liked having a goal to work towards, one that drew encouragement from family and friends, sometimes even complete strangers. It’s not often so many people are rooting for you all at once, urging you to succeed. Selfishly, I liked the attention. It made me feel important, and since it was something historically and completely out of character for me, it was fun to surprise people, surpass their expectations.

But then I called my mom this morning, and we recapped the whole event. The joy in her voice reminded me of how proud my dad was when I talked to him yesterday. He was the first person I wanted to call, the first person I wanted to shout out, “Look what I did!” as if I was a preschooler showing him that I could tie my shoes for the first time.

I replayed in my mind each of the 13.1 miles. The first three felt like a warm-up. The next three were similar to the first 10k I ran a couple of weeks ago, only this time a little bit easier, physically and mentally. Even my pace was about the same. Getting to mile nine was the next big goal, and it almost seemed effortless. But I knew I could do it, because I had run nine miles before, in fact, before Sunday, I had run 10 miles straight. There was no unknown factor until mile 10.

But then at mile 10, fear crept in, everything after that point was uncertain. My body had never been pushed past 10 miles. Doubt played mind games, especially since miles 10 – 12 were almost straight uphill. I stared at the sea of runners ahead of me, climbing and climbing to the top, wondering how in the world I was going to make it 3.1 more miles. Watching them so far away, they seemed unreachable, making me feel so far behind.

Suddenly, out of no where, a song popped in to my head, We are the Champions by Queen.

“We are the champions – my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting – till the end –
We are the champions –
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions – of the world -“

Maybe I heard someone humming the tune, maybe it was being pumped out of speakers in the distance at the next water station, or maybe it was just my imagination, but either way, I heard it. I felt it to my core and I just kept running.

Certainly not the most flattering picture of me – but this was my last big push to the finish

All the months, days, and hours of preparation came to fruition at the top of mile 12 as I looked at the downhill route taking me to the finish line. Even though this was all unfamiliar territory, unfamiliar aches and pains, I knew I could finish what I started. My stride got longer, pounding the pavement in confidence until the sound of gravel was replaced by the soft thud of turf. Ironically, we finished on the 50-yard line of Elbel Field, the home of the University of Michigan‘s marching band.

I felt right at home, thinking of all the years of my own marching band experience.

The band field felt great

Smiling, I passed victoriously under the balloon arch, amazed that I actually ran all 13.1 miles, and took note of my time: two hours and 33 minutes. I had met and surpassed my goal of 12 minute miles.

But really, the best part of it all was making the two most important men in my life proud of me, my dad and my husband.

DW was there the whole time, cheering me on. In fact, he found me at miles 3 and almost 6, waving and shouting my name. He was front and center at the finish, smiling, and he didn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around my tired, sweaty body, lifting me off the ground in excitement.

So, after 26-weeks of training, was it all worth it? Absolutely.

In fact, I can’t wait to do it all again.

Today I am linking up with

and with

Next week’s Prompt: When Enough is Not Enough