“Patience, Young Grasshopper”

“Patience, young grasshopper!” is a phrase that I have become rather accustomed to hearing over my 22 years of life.

I’m not a very patient person. At all.

I am the person that honks at the car in front of me if they don’t immediately press the accelerator after the light turns green. I am the person that tells someone the gift that I got them for Christmas on December 20th because I just can’t wait any longer to give it to them. I am the person that drives in the left lane to pass all of the slow cars. I am the person that DREADS boarding airplanes because the process takes SO LONG and is SO INEFFICIENT.

I am the person that everyone constantly reminds, “Patience, young grasshopper.”

The problem with my high-expectations-purely-results-based-impatient living style is that racing does not jive well with that mentality.

Quite frankly, most things in life that are difficult to achieve do not jive well with that mentality.

In racing, and most other difficult to attain situations in life, there are walls. And in order accomplish any goal you set out to accomplish, you have to break those walls down. And to break them down, it takes time. You have to hit the walls over and over and over and over and over and over and over again before they even start to budge.

To break the walls, it takes patience.

Right now, I’m learning patience. I’m hitting the same wall. Over and over and over and over and over again. On one hand, I’ve won all three of my past 800’s leading wire to wire without any rabbit. For anyone that runs track, you know that’s a really freaking hard way to race. And for anyone that doesn’t run, racing that way is basically like playing tag but having the person who is “it” chase you the entire time.

On the other hand, the times I’ve thrown down are nowhere close to the level that I’ve been training at. It’s incredibly frustrating to look at the clock and know its not reflective of my current fitness level. It feels like the wall is just refusing to fall.

But the Wall’s failure to fall does not equate to my failure to succeed.

It simply means that I must continue to be patient. I must continue trusting, having faith, and swinging for the wall. My favorite author, Bob Goff, says it best.

“Failure is just a part of the process, and it’s not just okay; its better than okay. God doesn’t want failure to shut us down. God didn’t make it a three-strikes-and-you’re-out sort of thing. It’s more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so we can swing for the fences again. And all of this without keeping a meticulous record of our screw-ups.” -Bob Goff

This weekend after my race, my coach reminded me that my faith and my patience are equally as important as my training and my racing. He candidly told me, “You don’t need a coach to write your training. You’re old enough and experienced enough now to do that for yourself. You need a coach to remind you to have faith. You need a coach to encourage you to be patient. Take a deep breath. Exhale. And trust the process.”

Sometimes, I get so sucked up into the here and the now, that I forget that running and life is a process. Trusting the process requires an incredible amount of patience, and an even larger amount of faith.

I put my faith in the gospel of Jesus.

I define myself not by the time on the clock, but rather who I am through Christ. This allows me to swing for the fences and make dents in the wall over and over and over again because at the end of the day, I am loved regardless.

This allows me to be patient and trust the process because I know The One who holds the future. I know The One who loves endlessly. I know The One who knows no failure. I know The One who whispers, “patience, young grasshopper,” when I am at my breaking point.

For now, I will keep lacing up my spikes and toe the line again. It’s time for this young grasshopper to make some more dents in that wall… because I know that it’s bound to fall with patience.

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“Patience, young grasshopper.”

 

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.

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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.

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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’. 

 

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:)


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!!

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.

waiting

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.