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:)

Capture.PNG

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

Keep it Movin’

It was about 6:00 PM and 33 degrees on a Saturday. I had a recovery run. A mixture of rainy sleet (or maybe it was sleety rain?) fell around me. I couldn’t see it; it was dark out. But I could feel it sticking to the top of my pony tail. Great. I thought. That’s gonna take about 28 minutes to untangle once I get home. I kept running, un-bothered by the conditions of the Ohio winter, but rather annoyed by what the conditions were doing to my hair. I was at the end of a long week: fighting sickness, dealing with LOTS of car troubles, and in middle of midterms at school. I was also in that place, though, where I knew everything was about to slow down and become much less stressful. I was operating in that sweet spot between completely overloaded and a healthy amount of stress. It’s runs like these that I find I do my best thinking about my goals, my training, and my life in general. 

On this run, I kept repeating a phrase that has slowly become my mantra over the past few years:

Keep It Movin’. 

I don’t remember the first person to ever share this phrase with me, but they certainly weren’t the last. Over the past four and a half years, this phrase has been continually etched into my mind. It’s the phrase scribbled over and over again in the margins of the crinkled pages of my training log. It’s the phrase my college teammates and I would throw around during the stressful part of the semester. It’s the phrase my coaches all used after races: good, bad, or in between, just keep it movin’. 

I am 99.999% type A. The other 0.001% of me is type B… if you’ve ever been in my car or my room, you would understand where that 0.001% is coming from (HINT: They’re both pretty messy).

Growing up, I organized my closet by color. Summer Clothes went on the bottom rungs and shelves, winter went on the top. Colors were organized according to the Rainbow (ROYGBIV) from left to right.

I color coded the books on my bookshelf by genre using sticky notes stamped with the first letter of the author’s last name, and then alphabetized them accordingly. If anyone wanted to check a book out, they had to find me first. I would proceed to stamp the inside cover with the checkout date and due date. If they didn’t bring the book back by the due date, I would fine them one penny for every day it was late.

By first grade, I had perfected my “parent voice,” writing poems requesting people to “quiet down” and “go to bed!” I even wrote a poem called Worry Worry. My mom still pulls this book out that I published with cardboard every time I come home. {See Photo Proof this book still exists below}:

“Worry Worry Worry. Worry all day. Worry all night. Worry Worry Worry. Worry every day.” -Rachel Weber, age 7.

worry

Seriously, these poems existed– they are a real thing.

I don’t know what went on in my 7-year-old brain at the time, but ultimately, these actions were a reflection of my attempt to gain control while in a difficult family situation. I grew up with a Dad that loved me to the ends of the earth, but he was also an alcoholic.  I thought that controlling all other areas of my life would make up for this very large area that was vastly out of my control. I was wrong.

“I grew up in this place where I was stuck in a constant battle between knowing that my Dad loved and cared for me so dearly, but I would still see him fall into his addiction time and time again. For anyone that has grown up with a family member that struggles with any sort of addiction, you understand that it truly is a disease. It is incredibly hard to watch loved ones suffer and be so severely affected by a measly 26-ounce blue can. But it happens.”

~ (Earlier Post)

What I failed to realize at the time was that nothing– not even color coding my closet, developing my own Dewey Decimal system, or practicing my very best “parenting voice” — could possibly give me complete control over everything in my life.

It wasn’t until  I joined cross country in high school and met my teammate, Mechelle Anne, that I genuinely understood why the control over my life that I so desperately desired was never going to satisfy. Meche shared the gospel of Jesus with me. She shared about His love and Grace. She shared that I am set free from being a slave to perfection and control because I am loved by a perfect God who has ultimate control. I am free to dream, free to breathe, and free to live in His love regardless of my earthly circumstances.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

My old high school teammate, Mechelle

Fast-forward 15 years, and I like to think that I’ve grown and matured from first-grade Rach. Many times, however, I still find myself creating thoughts in my head to the tune of Worry Worry. My circumstances might be different as a 22 year old, but my actions frequently mirror the ones I performed as a seven year old. While I currently am not publishing poems about my worrying, I certainly struggle to let go of the parts of my life that are completely and totally out of my control. I still struggle to Keep It Movin‘.

I’m not a big believer in stereotypes, and I certainly do not like putting myself or people in boxes, but after being involved in the sport at lots of different levels, I’ve noticed that many of my fellow distance runners share my same struggles. We struggle to keep it movin’. We are type A. Detail Oriented. Achievers. Competitive. Goal-setters. Relentless. Gritty. Hard-Working. Perfectionists. These characteristics are what drew us to the sport in the first place. They are the reason that we choose to wake up every morning when that alarm clock goes off at 6:00am. They are the reason that we willingly push our bodies past their physical limitations day in and day out. They are the reason that we find ourselves lined up on a starting line Thanksgiving morning in spandex and a singlet top when it’s 28 degree out. They are the reason that we take calculated risks on the track, the road, and the course. They are the reason that we all share a common love for a sport that demands everything physically, mentally, and emotionally. They are the reason that we run.

Frequently; however, these personality traits, while positive on paper, can get in the way of the best overall outcomes when not handled carefully.

Often, instead of creating competition, we create anxiety. In an effort to be resilient, we become resentful. Our gritty and hard-working attitudes can turn into nagging (and sometimes easily preventable) injuries. And our achieving oriented mind becomes rattled if we somehow fall short.

Personally, I have found that my type-A-distance-runner tendencies have included (but are not exclusive to) not-always-rational thoughts (I don’t like to use the word irrational), extreme responses, and an inability to control and buffer emotions when faced with less than ideal situations. My in-house library is long gone, but there are many other areas in my life where I find myself wrestling with control. My family calls these reactions to situations outside of my control spiraling. My former college coach (Coach Allen) calls it going 0-10. My current coach (Rob Myers) calls it failure to stay in the moment.

I call them the Worry Worry moments. These Worry Worry moments are the same ones that caused me to keep the most organized closet known to man, charge late fees to my family for “checking out library books,” and write the most bizarre poetry book my first grade teacher probably had ever seen. These moments are also the same ones that cause me to lose my cool and lose sight of my ability to keep it movin’ when I lack total control. I  get frustrated when I lack control over situations, which distracts me from what I am ultimately trying to accomplish.

Over the past year, I’ve been focused on flipping the script. I give the sport exactly the amount of time, effort, and attention that it requires, and then I simply keep it movin’. I’ve been learning that, even after 15 years, I still cling to control as a source of comfort. God has carefully and meticulously been stripping away my ability to hold onto things that I really need to let go of. From flat tire, to towed car, to hitting a deer, to fighting obscure sickness — God has, quite literally, been forcing me to simply keep it movin‘. Eyes ahead, trusting Him, keeping it movin’.

In terms of running, this has allowed me to approach training and racing in an incredibly healthy (and extremely effective) manor.

Frantically scrambling in attempt to gain control over aspects out of my control is an energy suck. It takes away from efforts that I am able to put elsewhere when it comes to my running.  I am thankful for a coach that encourages/forces me to give up trying to control everything in my athletic world (while still making my career a collaborative effort). I am always reminded that I am a human, not a robot. And as a human, there are going to be things that happen that are out of my control. Seriously, thanks Rob for being the coach that you are. Thanks for bringing my focus back to center on the hard days, and for being equally excited for me in the moments of triumph on the good days. And thank you for always always always reminding me to Keep It Movin’. 

And in terms of life, this has given me the peace I need to pursue my dreams both on and off the track.

I have faith that the dreams that God has put on my heart are real and genuine. I have faith that He is providing and will continue to provide exactly what I need at exactly the right time according to HIS plan, not mine. I have faith that the dreams and visions that I have planned for myself vastly pale in comparison to the dreams and visions that God has planned for me. And I have faith that trading in a life of having control in exchange for a life of adventure with The Lord has proven and will always prove to be one hundred percent worth it.

I got home from my run and had to ring the sleety rain out from my clothes before I even walked inside. I stuffed some newspaper in my shoes in attempt to dry out the frigid dampness. I never did brush that knot out of my hair. I just kinda wore my hair in a bun for a few days and let it be while it worked it’s self out (not recommended for muscle knots… only hair knots). I grabbed my foam roller, a felt point pen, and the paper copy of my log. And in the margin, I doodled the same words I’ve scribbled a hundred times before: 

Keep It Movin’. 

 

Capture.PNG

 

Because my “Why” is Greater Than my “Why Not”

“My coach once told me that running Cross Country is like peeing yourself in a dark suit. It gives you a warm feeling all over, but nobody notices.”

-The first line to my common app essay that got me into THE Ohio State University.

I should probably follow this statement up by clarifying that I did not spend the rest of my application discussing bodily excretions. Instead, I wrote about my Why. My ability to find reason and purpose behind working hard with high integrity, even when nobody notices. My ability to love what I’m passionate about, even if what I’m passionate about is outside of the realm of normalcy. My ability to slip my shoes on every morning and work my tail off without taking the easy route.

My ability to make my Why greater than my Why Not.

Fast-forward four years to last fall– the B1G Cross Country Course was at Roy Griak, in Minnesota. At Griak, the incredible beauty of the course is equally matched by it’s tenacious difficulty. Immediately before the 3000 meter mark, athletes come around a turn and are faced with a hill that runs alongside a bike path. The night before B1G’s, my College Coach told us that on this hill, in order to keep focus, we had to remember our Why. She didn’t care what our why was, it just needed to be greater than our why not. 

In a sport where people commonly ask if, “Cross Country involves snow skis,” and question, “How many laps are in an 800,” my Why has nothing to do with the attention I gain from excelling. With the exception of the small portion of the population that actually follows distance running (most of the time, these people are runners themselves), nobody notices. Much like that warm feeling all over that my high school coach talked about, My Why has everything to do with the way running makes me feel, and nothing to do with people noticing.

Recently, a former college teammate (S/O to Christine Fredrick) asked me to write a piece on my Why. She is putting together a website and asking people to use their platforms as distance runners to share their why. Her goal is to inspire, give hope, and encourage.

I run

because I am convinced that the joy that Jesus gives me through racing is the closest feeling to invincible that exists this side of heaven.  That feeling of crossing the line, looking up at the clock and thinking, %$#@- I just did that! That moment of powering down the final 80 meters and feeling completely and totally untouchable. That fleeting second when a chance that is taken results in a dream becoming a reality.

I run

because I am constantly inspired by the work ethic, positive energy, and grit of those surrounding me. Whether talking to high school teammates, college teammates, or competitors– their passion for the sport, competitive spirit, and resounding encouragement  is contagious.

I run

because I crave the feeling of the boards beneath my feet on the turns of a 200 meter banked track. To hear the snap of the shank plate of my spike as it pops off the mondo in Lane One is music to my ears. I love surging through the curves with power, gaining energy returned from that track as I let gravity do it’s work.

I run

because that feeling of triumph after winning my first 100 yard dash Jingle Bell Kids Fun Run when I was in Kindergarten is the same feeling I still get to this day after races. It’s that same feeling I’ll have when I’m 25, when I’m 35, and when I’m 50. That feeling is universal.

I run

because I like proving people right. I am thankful to have an incredible support team from my family, to coaches, to medical, to the community at large. I want to show them how thankful I am for their belief in me and my dreams by proving them right when I am out there racing.

I run

because the voices in my head whispering, “What if this doesn’t work out?” are silenced by the counter, “But what if it does?” I never want to look back and wonder what would have happened if I took one more chance, one more risk, one more wager.

I run

because I live for the days when my head tells me that there’s no way I can make it another 400 meter rep up the hill, but my heart convinces me otherwise. My body is capable of so much more than my mind gives it credit for, and I want to test and push my limits every single time I lace up my shoes.

I run

because even on the hard days, I remind myself of the moments of victory. The moments that have given me a chance to continue to chase a dream. The moments that make every single low point worth every single sacrifice that I choose to make for this sport.

I run

because I know that the dreams that God has put on my heart through running are impossible without my unwavering faith in Him. I have hope in the future and the gospel of Jesus. Jesus gives us the courage to get back up time and time again after we fall flat on our faces, and He delights in our resiliency. I believe that God opens doors, but sometimes it takes years and years of us continuing to kick and fight while trusting that the door will eventually fall before he finally lets it open.

I run

because my Why is greater than my Why Not. Because when I’m trudging up that hill right before 3000 meters at the Griak Course, I am able to look pain square in the eyes and say, “its all worth it because maybe, just maybe, this will be my breakthrough day.” Because when I’m standing on the starting line, nervous in anticipation, I remind myself that Jesus casts out all fear, and He has given me another chance to do what I love. Because it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice to go to bed at 10:00 and wake up at 6:00 when other 20-some year old’s are out living it up on High Street. Because it is an honor and privilege every single time I put one foot in front of the other and am able to push myself further than I ever thought possible.

I do not run so that people notice, I run for the warm feeling all over. And that is the Why  that keeps me going, that overpowers every Why Not that I could possibly ever think of.

I run because my Why is greater.

Rachel 

PS- If anyone is interested in sharing their Why, go to Christine’s website and reach out to her here!

hope.PNG

Hebrews 6:19

Imperfections Refine. They Do Not Define.

I used to define success as the ability to have a perfect workout or race– in my mind that that meant hitting under pace or running a PR. I used to think that being dropped by training partners meant for an unsuccessful day, even if I was working at my max. I used to think that being physically and mentally exhausted by weeks and months of hard training meant that I was weak, especially if others were not feeling the same. I used to think that if I could conquer every workout, then I was destined for a good race. I used to think that every performance was indicative of my value and ability as an athlete and a person. And I used to think that what was on paper from workouts and races should dictate the level of confidence that I had in my athletic abilities.

I used to think that these weaknesses and imperfections Defined Me.

Recently, I have had a lot of conversations with other athletes that have centered around the definition of success relating to athletics. As a volunteer high school coach, former NCAA athlete, and current post-collegiate athlete, I interact with a lot of competitive people in my day to day. And throughout these interactions, I have found that most people define success as a top level athlete in the same way that I used to define it: Strong. Fast. Winning. Accomplished. Hard Working. Defined. Speed. Power. Endurance. These definitions are (mostly) all metrics to which a number and value can be associated. Squat max, quarter speed, winning record, ability to finish workouts, number of points, VO2 max… the list of “measurables” that one can tag on an athlete goes on and on.

Today, I got curious. I googled, “Definition of an elite athlete.” I generated a word cloud by visiting the pages of the top 5 results returned on my google search. This is the word cloud that was produced:

Inkedphysical elite_LI (2)

Now, OBVIOUSLY an elite athlete is fast (DUH) and strong (DUH) and powerful (DUH) and fit (DUH). But in my experience, the issue with using these physical dimensions as the only means to define elite athletes is that it puts a cap on the way that I train, race, and compete. It causes me to be hyper aware of my own insecurities, imperfections, and non-successes. As a result of this, I am inclined to train at a lower level so as to mask my athletic weaknesses rather than face them head on and improve. I am inclined to race more conservatively so that I don’t make mistakes rather than confidently so that I put myself in contention to win races. I am inclined to compete fearful that I am going to fail rather than fearless of the end result. I strip myself of the freedom to race without mental barriers and the ability to forgive myself and move on when I don’t perform.

Intrigued with the results from the first search, I generated another word cloud, this time searching, “Qualities of an elite athlete.” I changed out the word definition for the word qualities. This was the result:

Inkedathlete define_LI (2)

Simply swapping one word in my search created an entirely different Word Cloud. My favorite word returns were positive, adventure, focus, mindset, time, mental, and able. All of these words had to do with immeasurable characteristics. They had to do with effort, trust, patience, joy, passion, attitude, and mentality. These are words that represent qualities. Not definitions. 

Too often, I have been tempted to focus on the words associated with the definition of an elite athlete. These words are flashy. I love being able to rattle off my PR’s, or my latest workout where I completely kicked asphalt. It’s a lot less attractive to focus on a risk I took in a race or in practice that completely backfired. Its a lot less exciting to return to a workout that completely kicked my butt the first time around. But focusing on maintaining the qualities of an elite athlete rather than the definition of an elite athlete has allowed me to be refined and become a better runner.

Weaknesses are a necessary prerequisite to climb to the next level. Putting myself in new and challenging situations is an opportunity to be refined by my weaknesses, not defined.  Developing this mentality has shown me that just because something is challenging does not mean that I am weak or that I am a failure. It has shown me that achieving perfection over time of something difficult is much more rewarding than achieving perfection instantaneously of something mediocre.

This mentality  has shown me that the way I frame my mindset really does make a difference in the way that I carry out my day to day work, and that positivity really does go a long way in sustaining this mentality. It has shown me that setting a standard sometimes puts a cap on my ability to push myself to my maximum because I am far too easily satisfied once that standard has been met. It has shown me that I can press on beyond my preset limits for myself, and set far reaching goals beyond where I would have dared set a few years ago.

Ultimately, I believe that living my life both on and off the track with the perspective of being refined rather than defined by my weaknesses and trials aligns with what Jesus says about all of us. Jesus died on the cross, so I am viewed as perfect and blameless regardless of my accomplishments (or lack thereof) here on this earth. I am cared for and valued no matter what my progressive cut-down splits were today. Jesus isn’t concerned with my numbers– He is concerned with my heart. This gives me the courage that is necessary to take chances in this sport. And because of this, I am free to be imperfect because I am loved by a perfect God.

God desires to refine me through my weaknesses. He does not define me through them. 

I now define success as my ability to walk away from a workout or race a better athlete physically and mentally than I was at the start– often this means taking time for reflection and simply turning one page to the next. I now know that being dropped by training partners (or beeped at by my GPS) means it just wasn’t my day, after all– I am a human not a robot. I now know that being physically and mentally exhausted by weeks and months of hard training means that I am getting stronger, especially when I buy in to my own training and stop comparing my training to that of others. I now know that I am not going to be able to conquer every workout first try, and that being challenged paves the way for better racing. I now know that situational performance is only a small part of who I am as an athlete and a person, and I am loved by The Lord all the same. And I know that my performances in workouts and races do not have to dictate the level of confidence that I have in my athletic abilities.

I now know that my weaknesses and imperfections Refine Me. 

What Would You Attempt to do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

My Junior year of high school, inspired by Pinterest, I took an orange piece of chalk and scripted a short message in large letters onto the right wall of my closet.

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

– Robert H. Schuller

Seriously– what would you attempt?

Climb Mount Everest? Learn how to fly airplanes? How about space shuttles? Finally start training for that marathon, triathlon, iron-man? Tackle that home improvement project that’s needed completed for years?

Throughout my junior and senior year, I stared at that orange quote every single time I opened my closet door (which was actually a lot since most of the time my closet was so messy the door wouldn’t shut, so I just left it open). Convicted by the quote I found on Pinterest that was now etched into my closet wall, I decided that if I knew I couldn’t fail, I would attempt to run Track and Cross Country at The Ohio State University. I wanted to be a Buckeye. The only problem was that, at the time, I was a 2:15 800 meter athlete and 19:06 (at my best) Cross Country athlete… not exactly close to the 2:05 800 women and 16:50 5k women that were currently on OSU’s team. I had a pretty lofty goal for someone in my position. I emailed the coach anyways and basically begged him to take a chance on me… and by the grace of God– he did. I worked my tail off my senior year of high school and eventually ran 18:21 in the 5k and 2:11 in the 800. One official visit later and I had my spot on the team.

That experience my senior year of high school with taking chances, setting my sights high, and dreaming of really big extravagant goals was my first experience with chasing dreams at a different level than most are willing to chase. And through that process, I learned that being willing to set really big goals and take some pretty huge risks was a pre-requisite to actually chasing dreams.

Since my senior year of high school, my list of dreams– things that I would attempt to do if I knew I would not fail, has grown tremendously. Some are silly, some are more serious, but they all are dreams– dreams that I am willing to take the time and take the risks to make happen. If I knew I would not fail, I would build my own house from the ground up. Obviously I would want to complete the perfect cartwheel. I would start my own company. Much to my Mom’s delight, I would completely organize all of my personal spaces (car, room, closet, etc.) in a way that actually works for me. I would “Jill Kanney” it (Jill was one of my awesome college teammates– and yes, Jill, your name has been used in the context of a verb) and actually learn how to play the guitar and not just pluck the strings. I would put myself in a position where I would get to race against the best middle distance athletes– not just from the United States– but from all over the world. And in doing so, I would put myself in contention to make the 2020 Olympic Team and represent the USA in Tokyo. Through all of this, my desire would be to live every day as if it were an important part in a very very large adventure.

I’ve been working on those last three on my list this entire summer. Running. Racing. Adventuring. After finishing up my college career at the NCAA championships out in Eugene, I decided to stay in Oregon and race a couple races in Portland. My Portland Adventures, as I have been referring to them, were my first experience of traveling, racing, and competing as a post collegiate. It was different. Scary. Weird. I didn’t have a coach. Or teammates. I didn’t even have a place to sleep the first night that I decided to stay out there. I cried to my Uber driver, Teri (I still remember that kind woman’s name) because I felt completely, utterly, and totally alone– 2,438.9 miles away from the place I called home.

PTF

Racing Some 800 meter races in Portland back in June. PC: @tafphoto & @highperformancewest

I felt as if I had made a huge mistake. I heard the voices in my head whispering, “you’re not good enough. You won’t make it at this level. Everybody else knows what they are doing. If you can’t even pull yourself together in Portland, what happens when you travel outside of the United States?” 

But then I remembered something that I wrote on my goal sheet at team camp about a year ago. Its something that the entire year, I had been working on in the context of racing. But at that particular moment while crying in my Uber in Portland, it really needed to be applied in the context of life.  I wrote on a section of my 2016-2017 goal sheet,

"I have to mentally stay within myself and tell that voice in my head to shut up."
Capture

This was what was written on the bottom of my 2016-2017 goal sheet. Yes, I am a hoarder and still have copies of my goal sheets dating back to 2013.

Jesus gives us the ability to silence those voices and replace them with His truth. His truth that we are loved, cared for, valued, and important. His truth that the adventures that He takes us on are opportunities for us to chase and pursue our dreams if we only allow Him to take us to places out of our comfort zone. This risky place of being out of our comfort zone is the same place where our actions start to intersect what we would attempt to do if we knew we could not fail. I lived in that place that week I spent in Portland. In fact, I lived in that place for most of the summer. Taking risks. Taking chances. Chasing a dream.

For years I had always watched the US Championships from my couch in Columbus. I would secretly pull for Brenda Martinez, an athlete I have looked up to since I started my running career. This year during the US Championships, I was no longer on my couch– I was stepping up to the line with Brenda.

USATF

Racing at the USATF Championships in Sacramento, CA.

This year during my free time, I was no longer looking up results on Flotrack to see what the results of summer races were– I was actually racing them. This year during the summer, I was no longer comforted with the safety and security of being in Columbus, Ohio all of the time– I had the opportunity to travel around the country. So that’s how I spent my summer. Chasing dreams and living an adventure as if I didn’t know what the word failure (Or the word, “No,” S/O to all the awesome elite race and meet directors out there for giving me a spot on the line:) ) meant. And that is what I plan to continue to do. My favorite author, Bob Goff, writes it best.

“What’s your next step? I don’t know for sure, because for everyone it’s different, but I bet it involves choosing something that already lights you up. Something you already think is beautiful or lasting and meaningful. Pick something you aren’t just able to do; instead, pick something you feel like you were made to do and then do lots of that. You weren’t just an incredible idea that God never got around to making. The next step happened for the world when God dropped you on the planet. You’re here and I’m here. God decided to have us intersect history, not just at any time, but at this time. He made us to be good at a few things and bad at a couple others. He made us to love some things and not like others. Most of all, He made us to dream. We were meant to dream a lot. We’re not just a cosmic biology experiment that ended up working. We’re part of God’s much bigger plan for the whole world. Just like God’s Son arrived here, so did you. And after Jesus arrived, God whispered to all of humanity…”It’s your move.”” – Bob Goff, Love Does

My move this summer has been to dream it, chase it, and believe it. Just as Bob talks about. And I believe that in doing so, God has shown me that every day truly is an important part in a very very large adventure. He has reminded me that He is the author

LibertyMile

Racing my first road mile at the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile mile in Pittsburgh, PA

of my adventure. He has reminded me that He has already planned out the future. God knows who is going to Tokyo (and Paris and L.A. … and every Olympics here on out until forever). God knows the races set out ahead. And He has reminded me that I am loved and cared for regardless of whether or not I become a sub 2:00 800-er next season or I hang up my spikes tomorrow (although that hanging up the spikes part isn’t gonna happen for a while… but still– he will love me then as well). Regardless of outcomes, I am loved.

The really cool part about resting in that truth is that it gives us the freedom to really and truly live our adventures. To take risks. To throw caution to the wind, step up to the line, and say, “I’m all in. I’m gonna do this.” Because with Jesus, we are never viewed as a failure. We are viewed as strong and important people that bring value to whatever place we are in.

Through God’s eyes, we will never fail.  This gives us the ability to attempt to do things and dream things that require a lot of effort and a lot of laying our pride and insecurities down and taking chances. It’s telling that voice in our heads to “SHUT UP!” because we ARE worth it. We DO matter. And we were created CAPABLE. So here’s to dreaming big taking chances, and enjoying the entire adventure. Because I want to live my life attempting to do the things that I would do if I knew I could not fail, and I intend on chasing the dreams that God has put on my heart…

… My hope is that you will choose the same:)

End Note: I am dedicating this post to my college teammate Jill Kanney who has taught me how to dream it boldly, chase it fiercely, and believe that The Lord will take care of the rest. #dreamChaseBelieve

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:

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.36.55 PM.png

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❤️