Tough days. Rough Races. Loving the Hard.

“Running is hard. And it’s really hard to always love the hard. But it’s worth it.” -Kelsey Bruce

I met Kelsey Bruce last summer at RRCA’s RunPro camp. At the time, I didn’t really know what she meant when she shared this with me. I was coming off the best six months of my running career. I PR’d in my main event almost every weekend. I was an Indoor and Outdoor NCAA qualifier and an Outdoor USATF Championships qualifier.

I was on a hot streak with a shiny new 2:02.67 next to my name. I forgot what it was like to have tough days, rough races, and be forced to love the hard.

Cue USATF Indoor Championships this past weekend… yep… now I remember all those feelings. Now I totally understand what she meant.

This past weekend, I didn’t handle my nerves well. At all. I let my brain take control of the result rather than letting my body relax and perform the way I’m capable of racing. Instead of taking confidence in my past 6 months of training, I took confidence in nothing. Literally nothing… haha yikes.

I’m frustrated because it feels like a wasted opportunity. I’m upset because I perceive it as failure. And I’m disappointed because I did a poor job of taking confidence in the only one who, time after time, I’ve learned I can put my total faith and trust in: Jesus.

I tried to carry my nerves and anxieties myself this weekend. HUGE mistake.

My coach, Rob Myers, always talks with me about having an unwavering faith. He talks about trusting that I am fit enough, fast enough, and strong enough regardless of outside circumstances. He talks about having faith in the process. He talks about having trust even in situations when I feel a lack of control.

This past weekend, I did a poor job with each of those, and the results reflected it. Because of that, I perceived this weekend as a failure. But Rob also talks about the fact that failure has more to do with our perception than our reality.

After my race, I talked with Rob, and he shared with me a simple message:

“Perceived failure isn’t really failure… it’s really just part of the bigger picture. Its part of the process; Its part of life.”

I have faith in my ability to bounce back. I have hope in the fact that I will lace my spikes up again and yield a different result.  And I have trust in the process– even though the process is sometimes hard and painful.

Most importantly, I have faith, hope, and trust in a God who loves me and cares about me regardless of results on the track—regardless of my “perceived failure.” I know He has a perfect plan, and I know that part of His plan requires some hard parts in the journey… but that still doesn’t make it any easier right now.

That results from that prelim still sting. I think they will for a while. Rob only allowed me 30 minutes to be totally upset about it. But I’ve bottled up some of those emotions and am saving them for motivational fuel for the next time around.

However; I am an optimist. And because of that fact, I keep coming back to a single thought:

How lucky am I?

How lucky am I to chase a dream I care so passionately about that it painfully hurts when I don’t succeed during parts of the journey?

How lucky am I to have a coach that has so much faith in my abilities that he can brush aside messy and poor results and say, “I still believe in you. Let’s get better for outdoor?”

How lucky am I to even have the opportunity to be disappointed, to be let down?

How lucky am I to have a God full of grace, a God that looks past my mistakes, my imperfections, and my insecurities, and loves me one hundred percent?

How lucky am I to have the incredible support team of people that rally behind me through this process? Columbus Running Company, my family, my medical support, my friends. Seriously, every single text, every single good luck call, every single prayer… I will be forever thankful.

Like Rob reminded me, perceived failure is not failure. It’s just life. Whether its with running, a job, school, relationships, or anything else, its part of the journey. It’s part of loving the hard.

Kelsey Bruce, I know what you meant now. Part of me wishes I didn’t. But most of me is glad I do. Loving the hard is what makes the success so sweet. Experiencing the hard is what gives you battle scars to show off when you’re standing on the other side. Like you said, the hard is worth it. I got some battle scars this weekend, but I know I’ll be just fine.

Because, how lucky am I?

It’s time for Outdoor.

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Until the next one…

Step Up to The Line

I’ve raced a total of 58 800’s over the past four years (counting relays). Yes, fifty-eight. But this one, this 59th one, was different.

It took every ounce of courage in my body to step up to the line this weekend.

From the Kentucky Track and Field Invitational on January 18th , 2014 (800 # 1) through the USATF Outdoor Championships June 22nd, 2017 (800 # 58), I was wearing a Buckeye uniform. I had a director of operations to plan everything for me. I was comfortable.

This past weekend was 800 # 59, but it was also my first 800 without a Buckeye uniform. Even though I’ve found some sweet success in a good deal of miles, 5k’s, and other off-distances since retiring my eligibility for the scarlet and grey last June, I was yet to race my beloved 800. Sentimentally, I knew that racing an 800 in a different uniform come indoor season, ridiculous as it may sound, was going to be  emotionally and mentally challenging.

This past weekend, I lacked the structure of having a collegiate team. I lacked a director of operations. But most of all, I lacked the comfort of familiarity.

The transition from the college system to the post collegiate system has been terrifying, invigorating, frustrating, exhilarating, exhausting, rewarding, and fun all at the same time. And through this period of transition, I am extremely thankful for the support of Columbus Running Company, the CRC Elite team, and the Columbus community at large.

Stepping to the line this past weekend, I felt all of those emotions. Even though I’ve stepped up to race 800 meters 58 times before, this weekend required some serious guts. I was going outside the realm of what I considered “normal” for four years. Additionally, I was battling sickness for three weeks leading up to racing that 800. I completed my first run without stopping for a coughing fit only three days prior to racing. Doubts of “Am-I-really-ready-to-race-after-missing time-for-sickness” wrestled with my “I-am-going-to-freaking-do-this-and-nothing-can-stop-me” confidence I have built up over the past 5 months of a new training regimen with Coach Myers.

It would have been easy to postpone racing. It would have been comfortable. It would have been safer. But I’m not interested in taking the easy route. I’m not interested in being comfortable. And I am definitely not interested in taking the safe route. Living easy, maintaining comfort, and choosing to play it safe result in average.

I’m not interested in being average.

I believe that I will never get anywhere in this sport or in life in general if I do not make the decision to press in, to take a step, and to move confidently forward regardless of my circumstances or my fears. Living and training this way requires a tremendous amount of faith and courage, but it is hugely rewarding. It starts with one step. It starts with getting on the line.

This weekend, I took that step. Despite outside circumstances of sickness. Despite my own fears and doubts. Despite being outside my comfort zone of collegiate track and field. I stepped up to the line. Leaning in, pressing forward, and moving on.

I ran my best 800 season opener by over 2 seconds. I was actually on pace to run my indoor PR until about 120 meters left (yikes… forgot about that 800 meter lactic acid… things got real messy real quick). If I hadn’t stepped up to that line, I would still be sitting in Columbus wondering when I was going to feel like myself again after sickness.  I would still have the sentimental worry looming over me of racing my first 800 as a post collegiate athlete. And I still wouldn’t remember what lactic acid felt like the last 120 meters of an 800 (I joke… I know this feeling all too well).

But instead of waiting, I chose to step up now.

God doesn’t care about our circumstances, he cares about our hearts. He cares that we lean into Him as we venture into the unknown. He asks us to step up to the line in an act of faith while we trust Him with the rest. The Lord is so much more powerful than sickness. He is more eternal than temporary transitions. His plans are more perfect than the plans of any director of operations. And His love and care for us is more pure than any source of comfort here on this earth.

This weekend, I chose to press on. To lean in. To let the Lord meet me where I was at. I don’t think anyone is ever really ready to take that step. We just have to step up and go. Sitting around and waiting to feel ready is foolish. I choose to trust myself. I choose to trust my abilities. And most importantly, I choose to lean in and trust The Lord. Because He doesn’t call us to just step up when we feel like it.

He calls us to step up now.

I’m ready for 800 # 60:)

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Racing in Ann Arbor this past weekend (Photo Credit: Peter Draugalis)

More than “Just Another.”

“Go get em, Rach. He who promised is faithful.”

This is the text message that I woke up to on Friday morning– the Day I raced the NCAA Regional final. It was sent to me by an old high school teammate (Shout-Out to Robbie Daulton). Two simple sentences. Nine words total. But it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

He who promised is faithful.

Jesus is faithful.

God comes through on His promises. He came through on His promise that Jesus would die on the cross and be raised to life again. He came through on His promise that we would then be set free from sin, able to live freely because of The One (Jesus) who set us free. He came through on His promise to love us one hundred percent, no matter where we are in our messy lives (and thank goodness for that because otherwise, my car would definitely need some cleaning up!!). Exhibit A:

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Litterally, this was my car last week. I’m imperfect. I’m messy. But Jesus still loves me. 

 

He came through. He has. He does. And He always will. Because He who promised is faithful. And my messy car and messy life will never be too much for Him.

I needed to be reminded of that on the morning of the Regional Final. I needed to know that no matter what happened that day during the 800 meters that I was out there racing, I could trust that Jesus was going to give me the strength to fight, because He promised, and He is faithful. And the words in that text reminded me of that truth exactly.

A lot of you guys know (since I reference it so often), but my current favorite book is Love Does by Bob Goff. I’ve read it twice now cover to cover, and I’m getting ready to read it for a third time because it is fantastically amazing. I think I actually laughed more at Bob’s little anecdotes and side stories about life the second time I read it, which I don’t even know how that’s possible– but it happened!

Anyways, there is a chapter in the book that I thought about this weekend when I received so much encouragement and truth from amazing and wonderful teammates (old, current, and new), friends, and family. In this chapter, Bob talks about how people are able to use their words to launch each other. And he talks about how we just have to be ordinary people to use our words to have an impact on someone else’s life.

“Words can launch us. We don’t need to be a dean to say words that change everything for someone. Instead, God made it so that ordinary people like you and me can launch each other.” -Bob Goff

That’s what the words in that text message did for me– they launched me! God used the text that read, “He who promised is faithful” to launch me in the direction my mind needed to be headed for that day. In fact, there were so many words that people used this weekend to launch and support me. And while you all are far from ordinary (as the way this quote is worded may suggest), you all have used your words to help launch me. And that is something that I am incredibly grateful for.

I think that words coupled with people launching others allows ordinary people to do extraordinary things. My coach likes to remind me that at one point in my athletic career, I was just another 5:02 1600-er and 2:11 800 meter runner coming out of high school (I was never a High School State Champion). At one point, I was just another name on the roster. At one point, I was just another time on the TFRRS descending order list. At one point in all of our careers– be it running or otherwise– don’t we all feel like we are “just another”?

I share this with you, because it all sounds quite ordinary. But like I said, I think that God wants us to launch each other so that ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary. We are more than  Just another. God intended for us to be more than just another. We were fearfully and wonderfully made. And we have the power of The One who faithfully promised walking right alongside us. But sometimes, we need to be reminded of that. Sometimes, we need to be launched.

I’m thankful for the “people launchers” in my life. I’m thankful for those who have used their words to encourage me and launch me– especially the past couple of weeks! Seriously, you all rock and are amazing. Your words have helped me to experience the fact that God is able to take an ordinary person like myself and use me for something that I didn’t really count myself to be used for when I was a senior in high school.

Before my 800-er teammates and I race, I always look at them and say, “This is the good stuff, this is the fun stuff.” Because that’s what racing is! It’s the good stuff and the fun stuff. It’s everything that practice is but just a WHOLE LOT more fun! This past weekend, I wound up racing my PR (2:02.67) which got me an Auto Q and qualified me to the NCAA Championships in Eugene Oregon. That was the good stuff. That was the fun stuff. And now there will be more good stuff and fun stuff to come in 10 days as a result of this past weekend.

I want to be a people launcher, too. I used to think I was just another. But now I know that God does not intend that just another life for any of us. He wants us to live boldly. He wants us to take risks. He wants us to launch people and be launched by people. My hope is that the 2:02.67 along with that automatic Q makes someone else who also thought that they were just another believe that God made them for more than just blending in with the background. Maybe it’s not with the 800. Maybe it’s not even with running at all. But it’s something. It’s definitely something. Because none of us are, just another.  All of us were made for something. And all of us are able to use that something to launch someone else.

Nobody is just another. We are all so much more than just another. Know it. Believe it. Live it.

#goBucksForever<3

Side note: I made my teammates take this picture because literally for my entire running career (so 10 years now), I’ve wanted this picture but everyone is always too embarrassed to take it. They agreed to take it (FINALLY YES), but it should be mentioned that they definitely were coerced into it. Anyways, here is a picture from the weekend with probably the best running pun ever created. Thanks Christine and Em for being part of the shennanigans:) 

Em and Christine, one day you both will thank me because you can use this photo to embarrass your kids:)


Courage Stomps on Fear.

Courage: noun- the ability to do something that frightens one. 


Today, I got on the line for the Outdoor B1G 800 meter final- the same thing I’ve done every B1G final for the last 4 years. And it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my collegiate career. For those who know me, they know that the relationship that I have with that final has quite a story. Year after year, I have let my fears and emotions overtake my ability to race well and execute to my full potential. That final has left me heartbroken and crying alone behind a tree or in a Port-A-John far too often in my collegiate career. But through all of that, God has shown me that He is faithful and that He loves me so so much regardless of my athletic accomplishments. He has shown me that I am made perfectly in His image through the Cross. And most importantly, He has shown me that He gives me the ability to be courageous. He gives me the ability to look fear square in the eyes and say, “I know The One who casts out all fear.”

This weekend wasn’t about winning B1G’s; it was about having the courage to do the thing I’ve previously been afraid of doing. At the end of the day, I came up just short of the top of that podium in a hard fought and courageous (and super windy!) race that went down to the wire. Danae Rivers is a class act, and is more than deserving of that B1G title- congrats, girl!! And despite the fact that I wasn’t the sole victor today, there is HUGE victory in knowing that I gave everything I could give this weekend in both the prelim and the final. I ran two gutsy and brave races. There is victory in the fact that I was able to take God-given courage and stomp on my fear this weekend.

So I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re the girl crying today in the Port-A-John because your fears got the best of you, I know your story. If you’re the one hiding behind a tree with tears rolling down your face because things didn’t work out, I promise you- I’ve been there. More times than I am proud to admit. What keeps me returning to this every day is not the promise of a championship, a PR, or a record. What keeps me returning to this is my love for racing, my love for this team, and ultimately my love for Jesus.

So walk out of that Port-A-John and walk out from behind that tree and face the thing that you are afraid of again. Because at the end of the day, medal or non-medal, PR or worst race ever, God is good. All the time. He is good.

Go Bucks Forever❤️

I Wish You Could See. I Wish You Could Feel. I Wish You Could Know.

 

I wish you could see my training log from freshman year- all the workouts that went unfinished because I wasn’t strong enough. I wish you could feel the burdens of the family stuff, and divorce stuff, and alcoholic parent stuff (see earlier posts) that I’ve dealt with all of college just like so many other students have. I wish you could know the pain of dealing with inconsistencies in racing. I wish you could feel the heartbreaks of all of the “almost but not quite” moments that come along with this sport. I wish you could see me hiding in a bush sobbing into the dirt after a race, feeling like I had failed miserably. I wish you could know what it’s like to be standing on the top of the hill at Wisconsin and have your coach tell your team through her tears that you were the first team NOT to make XC nationals. I wish you could see all the tears on my face after the coach I’ve had all of college told me she was leaving before I was going to graduate- that she was staying for cross country but would be gone for track. And then I wish you could have seen the 20 bravest women that I know crying right along with me upon that announcement. I wish you could see all of the hours and hours of conversations I’ve had with so many people when I’m in the need of encouragement- because let’s be honest- stay in the sport long enough and we all get to that point of being completely and totally broken.

But I also wish you could see the women around me, who believed in me even when I couldn’t finish workouts. I wish you could feel the love I felt when my teammates would make me coffee and cook me breakfast during one of the hardest years of my life. I wish you could know the joy of finally having a breakthrough after many many many moments of not having one. I wish you could see that I wasn’t crying in that bush alone, there was a teammate there patting my back and reminding me that failing doesn’t make you a failure. I wish you could feel the part that is opposite of the heartbreaks that come with this sport, when it’s no longer “almost but not quite-” when it finally happens. I wish you could know the overwhelmingly positive and highly motivating reaction the 7 women on that hill at Wisconsin had when we learned we wouldn’t be going to XC Nationals. I wish you could have seen the support given to us through teamates, coaches, and support staff after coach left. And then I wish you could have seen the 20 bravest women I know pressing on and fighting and refusing to make excuses. I wish you could have seen the hours and hours of conversations I’ve had with people when they’re in need of encouragement – because let’s be honest, this all comes full circle. We all are brought to tears. We all are heartbroken. And we all need to be built back up.

It’s really easy when super exciting awesome fun things happen to look at the person that they are happening to and think that super exciting awesome fun things have always happened to that person.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m sure that every single person on my team has their version of, “I wish you could see, I wish you could feel, I wish you could know…” and that’s what makes the sweet days so much sweeter. It’s knowing that there’s been a fight, but you’ve found a way. It’s knowing that you have been through the highest of highs and lowest of lows yet you still keep coming back for more. It’s being passionate about what you do and why you do it. It’s running.

What happened at French Field House last night will forever bring a smile to my face.

For anyone that’s reading this that has no idea what I’m talking about, let me fill you in:

In collegiate track and field, making the NCAA Championship and winning Conference Championships are two of the most highly sought after goals in the sport. The NCAA meet highlights individual successes, and the Conference Championship meet is a chance to put it all out there on the line for your team.

In Indoor track and Field, there is only one way to qualify to the NCAA Championships, and it’s pretty non-trivial, but it’s pretty tough: You must clock one of the fastest 16 times in the nation in your respective event (mine is the 800) between the start of December and the end of February.

So, with this being my senior year, one of the goals I have been chasing after, and am going to continue to chase after, is earning myself a spot on that NCAA starting line come the second week in March. And I knew that in order to achieve that goal, it meant that I would have to take advantage of every opportunity I was met with.

Last weekend at Arkansas, I took advantage of an opportunity. I had a great race, but it wasn’t quite enough- it put me just outside of the top 16, just outside of one of those coveted spots.

But this presented me with another opportunity- one that I had never thought about: The opportunity to race at home the following weekend. Usually at this Buckeye Tune-Up home meet, I rabbbit (pace) my teammates part of the way through their races and use it as a training day. But this year, I knew I needed every opportunity if I was going to secure one of those 16 positions. The coaches all got on board, and one of my training partners (Olivia Smith you literally are the bomb dot com) agreed to give up her races that night and instead pace me through the first 500 meters of the 800.

We got all of the details ironed out this past Monday, and coach sent me a very descriptive email detailing exactly what was happening and what had to happen in order to do what needed done (2:04ish). The email is included below, because it’s honestly really helpful information for understanding the process of qualifying to NCAAs, flat track conversions, and everything in between. The email is also awesome because my coach understands that my brain thinks in numbered lists, and I definitely appreciated the structuring of this email!


So, based on history, we knew that running a 2:05.5 would put me in a really good position to make the NCAA meet. We had a plan. We had a goal. We had a rabbit (Olivia Smith).

The warm up was really fun (it was 65 degrees today in FEBRUARY!). The sunset was beautiful. We ran along the Olentangy trail, just like every other normal day. We did drills in the parking lot of French Field house. We walked inside and the meet was running 30 minutes behind, which was actually a relief because I was SO HUNGRY so that gave me time to eat a blueberry bagel (the best kind) during our warm up!

And then we got to race!

Olivia was perfect on pace. My teammates were SO LOUD. Everyone knew what I was trying to do, and they were doing their best to make sure that it happened. It truly takes a village. Thanks Bucks- you all are amazing! I think more exciting than actually finishing the race was getting to be excited with you guys after crossing the line. I felt so cared for and loved by every single person last night, and that is something really unique and special. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by the people I am surrounded by, because what happened last night was a product of the people that were in that building.

I wound up running a 2:04:82, which converts to a 2:03.40- and if everything holds, will make that NCAA meet. And if at the end of the day 17 women wind up running faster than 2:03.40 and push me out of the top 16, then WOWZERS speedy ladies, you all deserve it, I respect you a ton, and good luck at College Station!

… but I’m hoping it holds… and I think it will:)

So yes, it would have been awesome to run faster at Arkansas, secure a top 16 spot there, and go with the original plan of not racing this weekend. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I believe that God had a different plan. He truly knows my heart and love for this team, this school, and my family. He delayed everything by just one week. All so that my last meet in French Field house as a Buckeye would forever leave me smiling. Jesus sings a sweeter song.

The season is not even close to over yet (thank goodness for that, I love this sport and never want it to end), and I am so pumped to head into B1G’s next weekend with the toughest people that I know… let’s go get em’ Bucks!

I wish you could see that the ups and down of this sport are real. And I wish you could feel the emotional roller coaster that the highs and lows of running leave you riding. But I wish you could know the encouragement of the people on this team, because they make every single heartbreak worth it.

Go Bucks Forever!!