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.

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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."
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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.

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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

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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:

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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❤️

Stop Playing It Small & Start Kicking Doors Down

There’s this door that I have to walk through every day. It sits in between our locker rooms and our athletic training room. This door is no ordinary door. It is this giant grey steel door. It connects two buildings underground: French Field House (where our locker rooms are located) and St. John’s (where our athletic training room is located). I have no idea how much it actually weighs, but it feels like it weighs 500 pounds. The reason it feels this way is because French Field House has these ridiculous air circulation patterns that make every door in the building resistant when you try and open them. This door, in particular, far surpasses any other door I’ve ever encountered in terms of difficulty of opening. Everyone that uses French Field House knows which door I’m talking about– it’s a monster! I mean sometimes I have to actually body slam the door three of four times before it even budges.

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This is the door that I am talking about.

I remember my freshman year, when I couldn’t get the door open on the first try, I would just assume it was locked. I wouldn’t even try to mess with the door. I would walk back to the locker room, get my stuff, and go home without going to the training room (freshman me didn’t understand how important the training room actually was to the health and rehabilitation of my body). My sophomore year, I would try a few times. Sometimes after messing with the door a bit I could get it to work. But some days, honestly, I was just too tired to fight another battle in my day, and the door would win. My Junior year, I started getting sick of loosing to the door. Surely the door wasn’t actually locked all of those times I couldn’t get it open. I started banging on the door whenever I couldn’t get it open, hoping that somebody was on the other side and could help me. Many times, this worked out really well. But even then, sometimes I was the only one in that part of the building, and I would take another “L” to the door. I am now a senior, and I am sick and freaking tired of taking “L’s” to that door. I throw my weight against that door seven or eight times sometimes, but I refuse to ever tell myself that the door is locked. Because I’ve been here for four years now, and that door has never actually been locked. Sometimes, I am just too weak to get it open. I simply need to try harder.

Every track season, I choose a book to read while we are traveling. We have lots of free time on busses, in airports, on planes, and sitting at the continental breakfast in hotels. This past indoor season, I chose Love Does by Bob Goff. My sister got me the book for Christmas and she was so giddy when she gave it to me. “Rach, you are going to LOVE it!!!” She was actually jumping up and down when I opened it. And she was right. The book was amazing. And in one of my favorite chapters of the book, Bob tells a story about his life that reminds me a little bit of this giant door that I have to open every day. Bob is talking about the way that he got into law school (which was pretty incredible), and he says, “I used to think that God guided us by opening and closing doors, but now I know that God wants us to kick some doors down,” (2012, Goff, p. 38). Kick some doors down.

One day, I was on my usual trip from the locker room to the athletic training room, and I noticed that the door was wide open. Upon further observation, I had noticed that someone had taken (I don’t even want to know how much) athletic tape and taped the steel arm at the top of this industrial door so that it remained straight and wouldn’t bend. By taping that bar straight and preventing it from bending, the door was not able to shut. They then had shoved a bunch of tape in the hinge of the door so that the door wouldn’t rotate and close even if the arm somehow had become loose. And they did all of this just with athletic tape. Pretty impressive that simple athletic tape was doing something that I had difficulty with for four straight years.

Somebody saw that door in a way that I haven’t been able to see it before. Rather than complaining that it was “locked” all the time, rather than wasting energy and running themselves into the door day in and day out, they simply got rid of the door. They had kicked the door down in their own way.

Unfortunately, the door is actually shut again. I’m pretty sure that the university 1. Didn’t approve of the way that athletic training materials were being used not for athletic training and 2. Didn’t love the janky look of a nice industrial door all taped up. However, I am forever thankful to whoever saw the door in a different way and actually taped it open for a week. For starters, it saved me a ton of energy every day. But it also got me thinking about the way I approach other doors in my life.

Sometimes, I think that I am so afraid of what might happen if I kick a door down, so afraid of what someone might say or think if I take athletic tape and tape open a steel door, that I just turn around and walk on home, telling myself the lie that the door was probably locked anyways. Or sometimes, I think I tell myself that if I go to kick the door down, I might not be strong enough or smart enough to get to get the job done. And sometimes I think I’m just waiting on someone else altogether to come kick the door down for me.

And honestly, some of those things might be true at times. I can barely bench 100 pounds. I got a D+ in Organic Chemistry my sophomore year of college (It’s two years later and my type A personality still can’t let that one go). And sometimes, I get so stressed out and feel like a million things are slipping through the cracks that I go sit at the top of St. John’s Arena (and cry and call my mom) because I feel like I’m not doing a good enough job at life.

But here’s the thing: I believe that I am loved by Jesus. And I believe that being a Child of God gives me the power and ability to kick down doors despite my imperfections. I have a quote that has hung by my mirror every day since fourth grade. I first heard this quote in Akeelah and the Bee (my favorite movie when I was younger), and have read it every day ever since.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marrianne Williamson

My favorite line in this is, “Your playing small does not serve the world.” I think when Marriane talks about playing it small, she is talking about the doors that we walk away from because we are too afraid to kick them down. But walking away from a door and just accepting the fact that “it feels like its locked” doesn’t really do the world any good. Playing it small is really easy. It’s safe. It’s secure. And it doesn’t expose failure. But playing it safe is also settling for mediocrity.

I have this friend, Jess, and she constantly is reminding me NOT to play it small. She tells me to dream big all the time, and believe in my abilities as well as the abilities of other people. She has this coffee mug that is one of the best coffee mugs that I’ve ever seen. It is an amazing blue, and all it says on the side is, “make it happen.” Jess is a make it happen kind of person. A couple years ago, we were having a conversation in a running store, and she was talking about her decision to compete at Michigan State while she completed her masters. She said something to me that I will never forget.

“To go for something, to really go for something, is a risk– for sure. But it would be so much worse to settle for mediocrity.”

-Jessica Hoover

I remember because I wrote it down right after she left the store. But she is so right. Going for something, refusing to play it small is risky. But why settle for mediocrity? Why not play it big? And why not kick down some doors along the way?

Right now, there are a bunch of doors that my teammates and I are trying to kick down. We are all trying to be All-Americans. Be Big Ten Champions. Be Students. Be young professionals. Be good sisters. Be good daughters. Be good friends. Eventually we want to be good wives. Be good parents. Be good grandparents.

And in our attempt to be all of those things, there are so many doors that we have been faced with and will continue to be faced with. It’s scary. It’s challenging. It’s an adventure.  But I’ve found the more I do things that are scary or challenging or test my limits in life, the more I see how Jesus is faithful, and the more this adventure actually becomes adventurous and isn’t stale. Because at the end of the day, when I am standing at the door completely afraid to start kicking it down, God reminds me that He has given me the power and the strength that I need. He just wants me to trust Him, stop playing it small, and start kicking it down.

 

Jess’s amazing coffee mug.

 

 

 

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!!

What It Means to Be a Buckeye

Over the Summer, I was asked to write a personal statement on What it Means to Be a Buckeye as part of the internship program I was involved with (HBGP shoutout!) at Ohio State. It took me nearly the entire summer to finish the assignment. How was I to answer that question simply in words?

How was I to answer that question without physically standing with someone in the Shoe during a night game that was a black out against Penn State when your cell phone doesn’t work due to the crowd and your vocal chords feel like sandpaper from cheering so loudly? How was I to answer that question without showing someone what it feels like to drag yourself (and your cup of coffee) to your car every morning at 6 o’clock because you LOVE what you do and the lack of caffeine and sunlight at that hour doesn’t seem to matter or even register? How was I to answer that question without taking someone to Caldwell and sitting in the lab with them working on a one-problem homework assignment for HOURS  then finally getting the code to work and feeling so triumphant? And my goodness I actually feel out of breath even from just typing all of that! It was seemingly  impossible.

So I decided to tell my story of what it means to be a buckeye. Because what I’ve realized as a Buckeye is that a persons story is one of the coolest parts about them. I’ve never once regretted sitting down with someone and listening to their life story over a (strong) cup of coffee or (rather large) bowl of ice cream. I’ve also never regretted sharing mine. Life- stuff happens to all of us. So why not share it? Why live it alone when we can live it together?

This is my Buckeye Story (and also what I eventually ended up submitting for my What it Means to Be a Buckeye Personal statement):

“Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on! O! H! I! O!” My five-year old self sent my pompoms soaring across the TV right as the Buckeyes snapped the ball off the 1-yard line and drove it into the end-zone. I turned around and gave a high-pitched-kindergarten-shriek. “GOOOOOO BUCKS!!!” I flashed a huge smile at my Dad as the Block O tattoos on each of my cheeks (yes, I wore two of them, wearing only one was bad luck) crinkled up into the wrinkles of my squinty eyes. At the time, I imagined that there was nothing in the world my Dad would love more than his five-year old daughter emphatically cheering for the Buckeyes. Little did I understand that it actually took every ounce of his patience not to quiet my creative cheer routines as he missed touchdown after touchdown due to my beloved pompoms (the instant replay became his best friend). If you’re an Ohio-State Football-Loving-Dad with a five-year old daughter that owns a Buckeye cheerleading dress, bless your patient soul.

My Buckeye loving family on game day against TTUN

I grew up in a Buckeye loving family with dreams of attending The Ohio State University. Both of my parents are alumni and by the time I was in fifth grade, I probably could have been leading campus tours. Not bad for a fifth grader.

But being a lifelong Ohio State fan does not even begin to scratch the surface of my story. As a Buckeye, I’ve realized that everyone has a story, and it’s our stories that make us unique, interesting, and treasured individuals. It took me a long time to find the right words to tell my story—my real story— not the shiny, glistening fairy-tale-esque, “Go Bucks!” version. The real one.

I grew up with a Dad that loved me so much. I grew up with a Dad who would braid my hair like a princess, shoot baskets with me in the driveway, and let me stay up past my bedtime- promising not to tell my mom.

But I also grew up with a Dad who was an alcoholic.

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.

Alcohol addiction freakin sucks, people. But my Dad had been sober a long time here, and these memories are the ones that I love and celebrate!

My sophomore year of college, my parents decided to get divorced. Up until that point in college, I appeared as if I had it all together. I was on the pre-med track, I had a great athletic career going on, and I had some awesome friends and teammates. But on the inside, I was still fighting this battle, trying to work through years of the mental and emotional aspects that come with living with someone addicted to alcohol.

My parents announcing their divorce was the tipping point of everything. During that period of time, it took all of my energy just to walk to class. Athletics, which had previously been the place I felt the most peace and security, all of a sudden gave me anxiety and made me feel restless. I can honestly say that it was during this period of time that I realized being a Buckeye meant having a family. To someone whose family was going through a lot of life challenges— having my Buckeye family meant the world to me.

I had teammates and friends who would build me up in my faith and encourage me with truth when I was struggling. There is a girl on our team who would make me coffee nearly every single morning and then just sit and listen to me talk while I was sitting on her couch. I had coaches who were there as mentors. They refused to let me give in, and forced me to keep fighting.  I had people on staff with Athletes in Action (a campus ministry at Ohio State) that would pray with me and listen to me. Quick shoutout to Sarah Schweisthal, you are the absalute best for all of those truth- filled mornings at Panara! I had a Buckeye family. My Buckeye family.

There have been times throughout my college career, especially my sophomore year, where it would have been so much easier to throw in the towel or to settle for mediocrity. But my Buckeye family would refuse to let me do that. They push me to be a better version of my self. They push me past the mental and emotional barriers in athletics and life in general. They help me to realize that I’m not alone in the real version of my story. They each have stories as well. Some are similar to mine, some are different. But that’s the cool part about having a family, you learn from each other, grow with each other, and care for each other through the unique stories that you each have to offer. And being a part of something as magnificent as that– that’s what I believe it means to be a Buckeye.

Side Note: My Dad and I now watch the games together and he no longer has to make use of the instant replay… I gave up on my cheerleading dreams when I grew to be 5’11’’. So to all you fathers that can sympathize with my Dad—it does, in fact, get better☺

So that’s my story. I love Ohio State. I love the maple-cream-stick at Buckeye Donuts. I love the cobblestone path by Thompson that I always fall walking down. I love my roommates, teammates, friends, and everyone else in between. I love how God has used this university and my experiences here to work in my life because He is the ultimate ruler of my life. I love my Buckeye Family!

Oh ya, and Maverick says to beat TTUN tomorrow!

The Bouquet of Roses I’ve Been Missing All Along

It was May of my freshman year, and I vividly remember sitting in Coach Vergote’s office next to a box of tissues. I was lucky number 49. For those that might not understand what the number 49 means to a Division One Track Athlete, number 49 on the East Regional Performance list, after all the scratches have taken place, is the first person NOT to qualify on to the First Round. It’s the person that is almost but not quite. It’s the person that sits in their coach’s office crying and feeling sorry for themselves and awkwardly trying to smile and laugh and hold back tears all at the same time.

My ever-wise (and incredibly patient) distance coach spoke to me through my tears and shared with me one of the harshest truth’s of running and athletics in general:

“Rachel,” she said, “Running track and running cross country is like 100 punches to the face for just one bouquet of roses. You’re gonna get punched. And knocked down. And then punched again. But we don’t do this sport because it promises us a painless ride into victory. We do this because at the end of the day, we believe that we’re going to get that bouquet of roses in spite of being pushed to the ground 100 times.”

Over the past four years, I’ve been figuratively knocked down and punched by this sport more times than I can keep track of. There are pages and pages in my log that detail every single bump, bruise, and cut that have been caused by this thing called running. Besides just being number 49 my freshman year, there was the Cross Country Season of 2014, where I was forced to deal with the mental and emotional injury of my parent’s divorce and Dad’s alcohol addiction. There have been hamstring injuries. There have been periods of time that I have been sidelined with the instructions of no physical activity under any circumstances. There have been periods of time when I’ve been stuck and can’t seem to break a certain time barrier. There have been mental struggles and times when it seems to be me racing against my brain instead of me racing against my competition. There have been times when I literally have ripped up my log out of frustration and then tapped the tear-stained pages back together because I can smell the bouquet of roses….. just to name a few.

Last Outdoor Track Season ended with another punch to the gut. I was sitting outside our hotel after the NCAA Regional recapping the season with Coach. She was giving me the you-need-to-freaking-race-like-you-deserve-this-and-just-freaking-do-it speech that she didn’t give me my freshman year but probably wanted to when I was upset in her office about being 49th. I was holding back tears. I had been knocked down again, and was trying to pick myself back up.

“I feel like I have had a million-trillion punches to the face, Coach. Like, too many punches to even count. But I’m still just waiting. I’m waiting on this bouquet. I feel like I’ve gotten a couple of singular roses. This team has had some great moments. But I haven’t gotten my bouquet.” I told Coach Vergote.

I went in to my senior year of Cross Country determined that this team was going to get that bouquet. We were going to go to Nationals. Those punches and moments that had knocked all of us down were all going to be worth it because we would have that bouquet.

At team camp at the beginning of the season, I knew we had a special group of women that were going to toe the line this season. We had 20 women that were all on the same page. 20 women that were willing to put it all out there for each other. 20 women that understood that it was going to take everything, including some punches to the face, to make it to nationals. 20 women that were ready to roll.

And we did roll. Right through the punches. We had people sidelined because of injury. We had people dealing with life stuff. We had people dealing with relationship stuff and family stuff. We had people running with one shoe on at The Big Ten Championships (Lilly you are such a stud). Just like every other team in the NCAA, we had people dealing with punches. And we took care of each other through these punches.

The women on this team are some of my best friends because I get to see how tough they are. I get to know their stories, their backgrounds, their experiences. Being on this team, we get to see each other’s real pain because of the punches of running and of life. And we get to pull each other though that pain. We get to laugh until we cry. We get to cry until we laugh. We get to talk for 16 miles at a time. We get to dance to Rebecca Black on a Friday workout day. We get to share life over cups of coffee and Dunkin’ Donuts post long run. We get to know each other’s families and hometowns without actually visiting. We get to encourage one another and build each other up. We get to give each other weird nicknames which incidentally are usually some kind of food. We get punched together, we get up together, and we focus on getting that bouquet together.

This past Friday, we were ready to get that bouquet and punch that ticket. And it made sense in our minds that it was going to happen. Every workout, every race, every practice was on point. We truly believed that we were going to get that fairy tale ending; we were going to get that bouquet. That’s what made all of the other punches worth it. We just hadn’t even considered the possibility that maybe we weren’t going to be the ones that got it. When you’re getting knocked down, you’re never thinking about the fact that maybe it will all be for nothing. That maybe the sacrifices and pain you are putting yourself through just wouldn’t be enough. That maybe you’ll never get the bouquet.

We finished 6th as a team in the NCAA Great Lakes regional. After finishing that race, the weirdest 90 minutes of my athletic career ensued. Our ticket to nationals, our bouquet, was completely dependent on whatever happened in the other regions. It felt like we were just stuck in this place of not being able to control anything and just having to wait and hope for things to shake out in our favor. We cooled down, did our strides, and then we all followed coach around like little ducks. She knew how to interpret the results of the other regions. She believed we had a shot, and that’s what kept our hope alive. We sat in front of our tent while coaches continued to refresh results. Some of us just sat around and nervously laughed and chatted. Others (freshman) laid on the ground and ate goldfish. We all were waiting on a bouquet.

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Post Regional-Race Waiting Shenanigans

And that’s when it hit me. I didn’t want to go Nationals just to say we made it to Nationals. I didn’t want to go to nationals to get cool gear. I didn’t want to go to nationals because I believed that it was the end all be all to my existence. I mean, I kinda wanted to go to nationals so I could dramatically throw my spikes in the shoe tree at Terre Haute. But the real reason that I wanted to go to Nationals, the reason that I wanted all of this so badly, was because I wanted to buy myself another week training with these women. I didn’t want the season to be over yet because I wanted to spend three hours a day at practice with them this week. I wanted another week of Antrim loops. I wanted another week of van rides filled with laughter.

I wanted another week of Abby crawling around on top of the lockers. Of Kaitlyn updating all of us on the current events and going out of her way to serve everyone. Of Lilly making sarcastic jokes. Of Brittany yelling, “Dooooooood!” Of Emily being the epitome of “Very British Problems.” Of Grace laughing at herself and telling stories about Annie. Of Olivia thinking of ways to make people feel awkward and also having a dance that goes with everything. Of Erin cheering, “Have a nice run, ladies!” Of Rachel L. asking questions and talking about skinny calves. Of Maddie and I twinning and looking identical as we run stride for stride. Of Sarah calmly encouraging us, “three minutes to go!” as we near the gazebo on the back of the Antrim loop.Of Claire being the most thoughtful person and giving the best hugs. Of Kelsey’s unexpected joke that comes out of nowhere but is perfectly timed. Of Annie’s drawn out stories that she tells all of us.Of Courtney being the best artist I’ve ever met and talking about creative ideas. Of Devin loving nature and picking up the bugs instead of stepping on them. Of Christine being a fighter, a mamma bear, and a kind friend all at the same time. Of Jess answering all of our health questions because she’s gonna be a freaking awesome nurse one day.  Of Lainey being a mini Lilly and giving some of the most mature advice and encouragement.  

I wanted another week of us. I wanted to go nationals because at the end of the day, getting the bouquet was never about going to nationals. The bouquet was about extending the time of doing what I love the most with the people I love the most. I’ve had my bouquet this whole season. In fact, I’ve had my bouquet for the past 4 years.

Turns out, we lost on a tie breaker with UCLA and we were one of the first teams NOT to qualify to Nationals… which is a feeling I’ve become pretty familiar with over the years. It sucks, every time. It is a punch to the face, every time. But standing there on the top of the hill at Wisconsin, I didn’t feel the punch to the gut like I normally do. As the women around me huddled together, I felt like I was being handed the most beautiful bouquet of roses. Yes, we were sad, we were heartbroken, but we also were encouraged. We were encouraged by the future potential of this team. We were encouraged because we were the bouquet, and I had been missing it all along.

Always in life, God offers a sweeter bouquet. He knows my heart far better than I know my own.He takes our almost but not quite moments and turns them into something beautiful. Sure, I knew God had blessed me so incredibly much with the people that He had put into my life on this team. But I didn’t realize that these people were the bouquet He was choosing to offer me so graciously. And if these people are my bouquet, I will take 10 trillion punches to the face for them, because they are worth every single hit. They are worth every single knock down. They are worth every single almost but not quite. They are my bouquet.

After 4 years and several thousand punches to the face later, I would like to modify Coach’s statement she made in her office from my freshman year. Running track and cross country is not one hundred punches to the face for one bouquet of roses.

Running track and cross country is so many punches to the face you won’t be able to put a numerical value on it. But every single punch, every single hit, every single knock down is worth it as long as your team is your bouquet.

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Ohio State Track and Cross Country, thank you for being my bouquet.