Dream Awakened

July 2021 was filled with highs and lows. The highs were during our family vacation in Arizona. We got to experience the red rocks in Sedona and a few different canyons. It was a time I had dedicated to restorative rest – not physically, but mentally and emotionally.

One of the fun things I did was hike the Grand Canyon with my daughter. It was a hot time of year to be in Arizona, and while we should have started our hike at sunrise, we were on vacation, so we failed to take the heat as seriously as we should have.

We the airstream we booked through Airbnb in Flagstaff and headed towards the canyons. The night before I researched the different trailheads to find the right one for us. Based on my research, I picked the Bright Angel Trailhead.

Alisha and I had initially planned to hike down 1.5 miles to the first stop, which would mean a 3-mile round trip – totally doable for both of us.

In the beginning, our excitement was high. There were tons of other hikers, people riding donkeys, and incredible views. Although it was hot, it wasn’t unbearable. By the time we got to the planned turnaround point, we were both feeling really good and didn’t feel we would be challenged enough if we went back, so we decided to keep going. Our next stop would be at about 3 miles. We would stop to replenish our water and take a rest.

What we didn’t realize is that the heat gets worse the further you go down into the canyon, and even the downhill would start to feel uncomfortable.

A few times we considered turning around early, but we could see the rest stop as we continued our hike down the canyon. It seemed close but felt far. Having it in sight though helped us push through and get there. We also needed the much-needed water and rest.

When we finally arrived, there was a family taking refuge and rest under the shelter. The shade was much appreciated.

Behind us in this picture, you can see the well that was there. We filled my hydration pack, and Alisha’s water bottle, wet our heads and faces, soaked my hat, and then rested under the shelter for about 20 minutes.

We were all smiles as we ventured our way back up the canyon. Only 3 miles to the top…

ONLY!!! There was no only here.

By this point is was around noon. The sun was hot.

I had brought some snacks, and we had water, but none of that made this hike any easier.

Our hike up was a lot longer than the trek down…obviously. Every once in a while, we would find a shady spot and sit for a bit. Much like what you can see in this picture to the left (in front of Alisha).

Every once in a while we would see an animal and would stop to take pictures. Up ahead in this picture you’ll be able to see a goat.

By the time we could the trailhead, it motivated us to keep moving, slow but steady. There was a huge sense of relief when we made it to the top. We survived!!! It was iffy there for a while.

There were moments where I hit “the wall”, much like in a marathon. This was only 6 miles, but the effort it took to complete was equal to a marathon. It took a lot of mental energy and determination for us to finish. Emotions and exhaustion were high, but so was our determination to complete this. It would give us much-deserved bragging rights – we hiked the Grand Canyon in July when the heat was high.

Driving back to the airstream in an airconditioned car felt like paradise. Well, I wasn’t driving, my husband was – which made it even better.

I was experiencing the euphoria of this adventure. So much so that it awakened my dream of long-distance events. If I could do what I just did, with training, I could run a marathon again.

And that’s how my endurance running and hiking dreams were awakened.

Just a couple weeks later I came down with a bad case of the COVID Delta Variant. It was horrible. Weakened and in pain, it felt like death was near. I was in bed for about 5 days, but after that, I felt the lingering effects that vicious virus had on my body. Going through this only encouraged me even more. Health became my priority. I would do my best to never allow this kind of compromise to my immune system. While I know it’s contagious, my body should have been able to combat the virus more than it did. I did research on how to best recover from COVID and built myself back up.

It was November when I was at a point where I could begin running again.

I was now ready to begin making my dreams a reality.

Marathon training began… but first would come a half – or maybe 2.

In the next post I’ll continue to share my story to my double half (2 half’s in 1 week)

Mindfulness on a Run

Mindfulness is something I’ve been intentionally working on. To be honest, I don’t really understanding the word mindfulness – to me, it’s “being present”. But the word people use to describe this is mindfulness, so I’ll use it.

I started off last year with things going in one direction, but it didn’t take long before I realized I was going the wrong way. When it became clear it was time to stop, reassess and shift direction, the road back to where I came from was right there waiting for me.

It was full steam ahead, doing what I knew and did best – build. Dusting off the manuscript I had laid aside, I commited to finishing what I started.

I realized how I kept giving up my dream to help others accomplish theirs. But, I had commitments, opportunities, and offers. They seemed promising and could be exactly what I needed to help me when it was “my turn.”

But one day, while on a run, I prayed. “God, I’m so tired. I’m fatigued all the time. I can’t focus. I’m losing my drive and desire for excellence. What is happening? What am I doing wrong?”

Then I heard a still small voice in my heart, “I blessed you and the work you were a part of because your heart’s motive was good and I knew you would be a blessing to them, but, I never told you to get involved. Had you asked me, I would have said ‘it’s not my best for you.’”

Wow! I remember exactly where I was in that moment. I stopped running, leaned over resting my hands on my knees, and soaked in what I just heard as tears flowed from my eyes.

I could feel the pressure of the responsibility I felt for those I was supporting lift off of me. I had never noticed how heavy it felt carrying the weight of someone else’s ministry and calling – and I was doing it for a couple people.

What followed was uncomfortable conversations with people I love and admire to tell them that I needed to step away, completely. I even let go of a leadership role I had with a ministry my husband I had founded. That was nerve wrecking because I was the driving force behind everything that we did, but it was set on my heart “let’s see if someone steps up?”

As I laid down one role at a time, the weight got lighter and I was finally able to see what God had for ME. It was huge and it was scary, but the dreaming began. My mind was always going. I would dream, design, and build every day – even in rest days.

Rest days, that didn’t come every weekend, but when they did were sacred, were a much needed element in my life. I always made sure that at least one weekend a month, we had completely off and for rest.

But even still, one day in June I noticed that even after rest, I felt tired. I was fatigued. Exhausted.

I realized that although I was resting my body, I wasn’t resting my mind, heart, and soul. While I was in bed resting my body, I’d be designing, building, creating, and planning for the future. While I thought I was resting, my brain knew I was working.

When we went on vacation I decided to lay everything aside for 2 weeks. I wouldn’t think of the future, worry about it, or even plan for it. If I started to dream, i would remind myself that I’m not there right now, I’m here! I’m present! For 2 weeks, I’m going to be 100% present.

The first few days was hard. My mind wandered a lot and I would get these ideas, but I wouldn’t allow myself to act. After that, it got easier and I found myself not straying from the moment. I was enjoying where I was, what I was doing, without a care of what was to come – even the next day.

It was after that experience of truly being present, even mentally, that I realized I wasn’t truly resting when I thought I was. Because I had felt what it was like to truly rest and be present – be mindful – and I felt the benefits of it, in every way, I knew I needed to incorporate that in my life.

So, fast forward to my 7-mile long run this past weekend. Running with a group isn’t possible in this stage of my life because of my schedule, so I have to run alone. I used to let my mind wander a lot while running because it provided distraction and sometimes the time just flew.

As part of my therapy, running is my leisure time. Being present and mindful during your leisure will help maximize the mental and emotional benefits of this hobby. As my runs get longer, they get harder too – and I’m doing it alone. So, there is no conversation to distract me.

I chose to go on a destination run at a beach where I knew that I’d have places to stop for water if I needed some. This would provide me with scenery and atmosphere that I thoroughly enjoy and brings peace to my soul.

There’s a class I’m taking about identity, so I listened to that for about 30 minutes and made sure that if my mind went off wandering that I’d pull it back by looking around and bringing my attention back to the teaching. After that, I ran in silence. As I ran, I took in the sights, sounds, and scents of ocean life. Hawks and pelicans flew over head. I passed others walking or running. All while I watched and heard the waves crashing – a sound that soothes my soul.

Half way through I headed to the sand and took a few moments to take some deep breathes and be grateful that I live so close to the ocean – and several beaches that I could pick which ones I wanted to enjoy. I even had a chat with someone visiting.

The benefits of being mindful, even on a run are astounding, but physically what I can share is that, when I got home, instead of being exhausted from my run, I was energized and ready for my day.

It’s amazing what happens when we care for our brains as we care (or should care) for our bodies. The brain is what drives us.

So, I encourage you to try this mindfulness thing 😁. Start by taking a few moments a day and intentionally being present. Over time it gets easier and you’ll be able to turn it into a lifestyle. I never thought I’d be able to do it on such a long run, but it wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. I truly enjoyed my run (as physically hard as it was) and made memories I’ll carry with me.

First Race of 2022

I ran a trail race as part of my training plan on January 1. It was half of a half, so it came out to 6.75 miles. It didn’t take long for the reminder that trail running is a different experience from running on the road. I ran on grass and soft sand for about 75% of the race – the remaining was on hard sandy road. My legs felt heavy for most of the run, but my heart was handling it like a trooper, so I pushed myself the entire race. I knew my legs could handle it.

Quarter Marathon Trail Race

Focusing on my posture the entire race, I could feel the effort required from my hips and groin, but with one foot in front of the other, I kept moving forward. My average pace for the race surprised me because of how hard this race felt, but I guess it goes to show just how much I pushed myself.

Although I was focused and determined, I did my best to enjoy the experience. It was my first time there and a beautiful location. I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked to (considering how beautiful it was), but I did get a few so I had something to remember the experience.

I did have an extra treat by having my daughters and their friend run the 5k race, so I had company before and after the race – and pictures and video of my finish.

I finished the race with a full heart, sandy shoes, and a runner’s high.

The perfect finish to the first race of the year.

Until next time,