Monday, December 30, 2013

Brave to Win

Another year has come to an end and a new year is commencing. Like every year, more than I could have ever imagined seemed to have happened in just a mere 365 days. As in years passed, I have accomplished some great things and have made some mistakes along the way. I have gained a greater appreciation for the people and things in life that really matter, and once again, have learned that life can be tough, but that I am tougher!

2013 was indeed quite a year! I am still in awe that I was able to raise over $3,000 for Wigs For Kids, able to speak at the Senior Games at the Cleveland Convention Center about my incredible experience, and that I ran side-by-side with two of the greatest female runners in the world, Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit-Samuelson, in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in D.C. Having the blessing of a new nephew, and the privilege of being his Godmother, was just the icing on the 2013 cake. Despite many amazing experiences, it has been a difficult year, too. I have been haunted by my mystery health issue, which was eventually labeled as syncope by migraines, and have had to confront potentially saying good-bye to one of my biggest passions. But, through all of the unimaginable, something truly amazing has happened. I have gained more confidence in myself than ever, and I feel ready to brave whatever 2014 has to bring me. This year has been affirmation that I have the ability to accomplish anything I set my mind to. With that being said, in the short time I have here on Earth, I suppose I better set my mind to do something worthwhile!

In light of this sentiment, my all-encompassing mission for 2014 is to dedicate my energy to things that matter. I am a hard-working, dedicated, caring, and passionate person. Simply put, if I want something, I get it. If I say I’m going to do something, you don’t have to ask me twice. Professionally, I have made some decisions for 2014 to play on these strengths. As for my running, I have also made some decisions. I recently read a quote on Twitter that stated, “You were born to win, although to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, & expect to win.This quote really inspired me and helped shape my personal outlook for the year. My running goal for 2014 is to dedicate my energy on winning. Rather than expecting the worse and setting myself up to be okay with not reaching my goals, I’m making it happen this year. It’s time for me to live out what I was born to be: a winner! When it comes to running, to be a winner means several things. It means planning to win by following my training plan yet letting my body be my ultimate guide. It’s time to stop talking about making it happen, but to go forward, do the work, and prepare to make it happen. I am expecting to break 19 minutes in the 5k, 1:30 in the half marathon, and 3:10 in the marathon. My goals are not lofty and are completely practical, and I am fully confident in my ability. My health issues are not going away, but I’m done with letting them hold me back. I am letting go of the worry, and am choosing to keep going until my goals are reached. Quitting training is not the answer, but it is important that I am highly conscious on how I go about doing it. There is so much that goes into it, as marathon training is not just physical training, but mental training, too. I am anticipating that the mental aspect is going to be my biggest struggle, but I’m ready to fight the fight. There will be days when I will feel great, and days when I will feel awful.  But no matter how daunting it may seem or how hard I may have to work, I know I can reach my goals. It’s time to focus on bringing out the best in who am I. I was born to win. I’m ready to be a winner. And so, it’s time to take some chances. I need to be brave!

Taking a break from marathon training for the majority of 2013 has helped shaped my "winning" mentality. My back seat perspective has shown me how much I have unintentionally taken for granted. Through spectating races and encouraging all of my running friends, so much light has been shed on the glory I find in running. Running for me is not an addiction or an obsession. I don’t “have” to do it. Fortunately, I don’t “need” to do it to stay in shape as there are plenty of sports, fitness classes, and other activities out there that I can participate in. Truth be told, I am an athlete and am good at most things I try. But, nothing else has my heart quite like running. I run simply because I LOVE it. I love the burn of speed training. I love 20 mile long runs. I love all of my running clothes and running shoes; I would wear them all day if I could. I love the exhilarating feeling of the last few meters of a race when I know I’m headed to a P.R. I love the camaraderie of runners throughout training, and even throughout racing! There is just so much greatness that comes from running.

With my birds-eye view this year, I have been able to be more introspective. I have been able see my talent for what it really is. I now have a greater understanding and appreciation of the gift I have, and have gained a deeper perspective of what is still out there for me to do. The most significant part of this gift is more than just my running ability, but my ability to use my experiences to help others. I am so grateful, and simultaneously humbled, that I have been able to inspire so many people. I plan to continue blogging and Tweeting (@PavMP223 ) as my journey carries on, and am happy to continue to dispense advice and encouragement to those who seek it.

My migraine issue is not going away. I recognize that it may take away a few days from my training this spring. But, instead of looking at my migraines as a hindrance, I am going to view them as a barometer of my training. If I’m getting migraines, I am likely overtraining and need to take a break. I will not let this impair my goals, but recognize that this will dictate my ability to complete all of my training. And, that is okay. Everyone has something. This is my “something.” As I previously said, life is tough, but I am tougher. I am choosing to conquer every hurdle. I have faith in me. I will be brave!

My professional goals are in motion, and I will be moving forward with them throughout the year. I am confident I will be an even better teacher and mentor as a result. My running plans thus far are to complete the Snowball 5k in February, the Tow Path Half Marathon in April, and the Glass City Marathon at the end of April. My training begins January 6, and I plan to take my brave “winner” mentality with me throughout each training run and race this spring!

I’m sure this year is going to be just as crazy as any other, but I have faith in the craziness. I know God has a reason for it all. I do not waste prayer hoping that He makes the road easy, but rather that He prepares me to face any challenge that comes my way. I pray that He gives me the strength and courage to be brave. Set your goals for 2014, and settle for nothing better than the best. God has a mission for all of us here on Earth. Decide how you want to make the most of it! Life is all about your perspective. Be brave as you conquer your goals. You, too, were born to be a winner, so make it a great year, because why not?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Feel Again

As I was driving home from work a few days ago, I noticed a burning sensation in my chest. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in quite some time. There was no pain elicited but rather an extraordinary warm and fuzzy feeling. It felt as if I had butterflies!  I was incredibly confused by this and so, in my usual overly analytical manner, got to thinking. What reason do I have to feel this way? I haven’t accomplished anything of any stand-out significance lately, I don’t have any big trips to look forward to, and there are no boys of interest in the picture. What is my deal?  How can I possibly have butterflies? By the time I rounded the corner of my street and I made it to the drive way, it clicked. I had my answer, and it was pretty simple. For the first time in a long time, I felt exactly what I had been praying for: peace. For months since May, I’d been twisted in mental turmoil over my mystery health issue. I'm happy to say it’s behind me now, and I’m finally at a place where I am able to move forward.

My quest for peace over the past few months has not been easy. Passing out is probably one of the most terrifying experiences I have encountered in my life. Waking up in an ambulance with paramedics in my face trying to explain to me what I couldn’t rationalize if I tried has stuck with me. Just the sound of the vibrations of the motor of a truck brings me back to those memories. My body had failed me, and I lost all faith in its strength and power.  I know it sounds dramatic, but feeling a lack of control over my body is a horrific feeling I can’t exactly put into words. It's like driving a car unsure if the brakes are going to give out. Although it was great relief knowing that I don’t have epilepsy and that the constant worry of breaking into a seizure was over, it did not take the fear away. I became terrified of my migraines. Having confirmation that they were the cause of my passing out while running, and also likely linked to a few other passing out incidents from my past that were not related to running, just had me constantly nervous. I gave into my fear and decided I was going to try to avoid all possible activity that could lead to a migraine, even if that meant sacrificing all of my running goals. I put away my Garmin, completely stopped my running regimen, and contemplated completely closing the door on my running dreams. Additionally, I was shying away from being overly active and was playing it safe in most areas of my life.

Based on my neurologist’s recommendation, I started a detailed headache log. In reflection of my log of the past few months, there are two main triggers of my migraines: exhaustion and anxiety. It does not matter what kind of activity I do, if I’m feeling either of those two triggers, I’m setting myself up for a migraine. Hiding from being active might help prevent migraines, but maybe not. The only guarantee that comes with hiding is that it will make for quite an uneventful, uninspiring, boring life. Unless I plan on doing a whole lot of nothing with the remaining years of my life, I need to get out of this shell of fear. I need to face reality, figure out how to manage my migraines, and let my body feel again.

My goals for this spring are centered on gaining trust back in my body. We all have weaknesses. Greatness comes from our ability to overcome those weaknesses. Some people have hamstring issues, GI issues, or issues of even greater magnitude. My weakness is my migraines. I can’t pretend like migraines won’t happen, and running away from them is not going to make them go away. Rather than succumbing to this weakness, I want to do what I can to work around it. I want to obtain more self-awareness and learn how to better manage my migraines.

As I stated in my previous blog post, my running potential is TBD…to be determined! I am not ready just yet to tap into that potential, nor am I ready to make running a major priority. I just want to gain trust back in my body and go from there. I have been so afraid to feel any kind of pain or discomfort over the past few months, and I am now finally at a place where I am okay with feeling again. Once I can fully gain trust back, I will be ready to find out what my potential really is. I was lucky to win free entry to the Glass City Marathon in Toledo on April 27 and believe this is a positive, guiding sign from above!  Although I won’t be training to break tape over there in western Ohio, I will be taking steps towards reaching my big goals.  Training for this marathon will be a completely different experience from the others. I have accepted that the days of long, solitary runs are over.  All of my training runs will have to be on a treadmill or with running buddies. Although this takes away my favorite part of marathon training, I am now okay with this reality and am just excited to say that I will be starting out the New Year back training on January 6! I will be using the same McMillan Training Plan I used for the Cleveland Marathon last spring, but am hopeful for a much better outcome. Anything better than my messy 3:23 will make me a happy runner! But, the main outcome I want to gain from the marathon this spring is beyond a time goal. I want to gain faith back in the strength and power of my body, and use this to boost the confidence I once had that had become tarnished. I am a work in progress, and recognize that the road ahead of me might be long, hilly, and covered in potholes.  I have never let tough road conditions get in the way of reaching my goals in the past, so I believe in my ability to embark on this new journey. Regardless of the inevitable challenges I will face and length of time it may take to get where I want to go, I will get there. I’m only 31, and have so much time reach my goals.  I would rather take the time to do it right, rather than rush my training to sub-3:00 and potentially crash and burn along the way.  Slow and steady wins the race!

I am enjoying these butterflies and hope they stick around for a while. But I know in time that they will fade away, because that is how life is. I also know that it will be just a matter of time before they come back because THAT is how life is! Life is tumultuous, but it is good. I am in such a great place now and am excited to start my new journey. I am finally ready to feel again.  :-)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Being Thankful

If you follow me on Twitter @PavMP223, you likely noticed my #Thanksgiving Tweets throughout the month of November. If not, I have listed my Tweets at the bottom of this blog post. I stole this idea from Facebook and thought it would be a great thing to share with the Twitterverse. I decided to commit myself to Tweeting daily affirmations of my gratitude of the varying degrees of blessings in my life. Initially, I was hesitant about making these affirmations public. I feared that I would appear pretentious or that I could potentially make others feel insecure. But the more I pondered the idea, I decided to stick with my good intentions, put aside my concerns, and hoped that I could use this as a teachable moment for myself and others. We are often so bogged down by the day-to-day things that it’s hard for us to have a clear view of the good in our lives. Whether it’s good things, people, circumstances, etc, it can get so easily muddled in the chaos of life. It was my hopes that my Thanksgiving Tweets would inspire others to stop for a few minutes each day, reflect, and be thankful. Because the truth is, no matter how difficult things may be, we are ALL blessed in our own individual ways.

Each day leading up to Thanksgiving, I spent time thinking about my blessings. Limiting myself to 140 characters per Tweet helped me to be direct and concise, but the task of putting my gratitude into words wasn’t always easy and at times felt tedious. However, doing so really forced me to be look at my life from a different perspective. I often find myself focusing on all of things I have yet to achieve, dreaming away and thinking of what I need to do reach all of my lofty goals. My prayers are far more often centered on asking God for things rather than thanking Him for all of the great He has already given me. Although it’s important to have dreams and to be goal oriented, it’s very easy to become confined by it all. When we are constantly directing our energy on what we want without taking time to be reflective on all the good that we have, we can get lost, fall into deep holes, and forget how to dig ourselves out.

Although it may seem trite, forcing myself to see my blessings more vividly empowers me! It gives me more hope for the future and more reasons to dream. It inspires me to want to give back to those who may not have my blessings. It shows that life really is about the little things, and these little things are the easiest to overlook. Most importantly, it proves that no matter how difficult things may be, we all have things to be grateful for. God forgets no one!

Thanksgiving is a great day to help us focus on all of our blessings, but we shouldn’t limit our thankfulness to one day. Instead, we should try to find it in ourselves to see the good we are blessed with each and every day. As we embark on the Holiday season, my challenge to you is to focus on being thankful. If we could all take some time to see our lives for the good it has in it, imagine how much greater our world could be. Perhaps the fears of rejection and failure that hold us back could be minimized, freeing us to live out our dreams and give the world our very best!

If you take anything from this blog post, I ask you to consider the most important yet simplest thing to be thankful for:  your life! You were given one for a very special reason. Strive to find out what that reason might be, because if you do so, the best is truly yet to come!


MP’s 28 days of #Thanksgiving Tweets:

Day 1: I'm thankful for the good in social media that connects people and ideas in a positive way!

Day 2: I'm thankful to have a super sweet, loving Mommy that supports me, understands me, & is always my biggest cheerleader!

Day 3: I'm grateful to have a reliable mode of transportation, w/ accessible gas I can afford, to take me anywhere anytime.

Day 4:I have a job I love that energizes me, challenges me, is my passion,& makes me a better person. For this, I'm thankful.

Day 5: I am thankful to have a Dad, 3 brothers, 2 bro-in-laws, and 4 nephews to make my standards high by their example.

Day 6: I'm grateful to have the knowledge, means, and willpower to live a healthy lifestyle.

Day 7: I'm thankful for the painful years of retainers, braces, & oral surgery (8 pulled teeth: 4 adult + 4 impacted wisdom).

Day 8: I'm thankful for my vibrant, healthy hair that can quickly grow and be easily donated to those who need it.

Day 9: I'm grateful for the long talks, laughs, and tears with my sisters and Mom.

Day 10: I'm thankful for a washer and dryer to do laundry whenever I need to in the comfort of my own home.

Day 11: I'm thankful for all the veterans who have sacrificed so much so we can be free.

Day 12: I'm grateful for a cozy, warm, secure bed to sleep in each night. The cold nights always remind of this blessing.

Day 13: I'm grateful for music and all the workouts, loves, heart breaks, long car rides, & fun times it's gotten me through.

Day 14: I'm thankful for all of my education and the endless opportunities that have come with it.

Day 15: I'm thankful for my health.

Day 16: I'm thankful for good-hearted, kind people.

Day 17: I'm thankful for coffee.

Day 18: I'm grateful for all of the strong, courageous women who paved the path so we are free to be whomever we want to be.

Day 19:I'm thankful for running. Began as a simple hobby & led to so many incredible experiences w/ so many invaluable lessons.

Day 20: I'm grateful to have had a childhood that was safe and filled with love. All that I am today is because of this.

Day 21: I'm grateful for my four sweet little nephews that I love so dearly. They make life so much brighter!

Day 22: I'm grateful for every single one of my students. As I have worked hard to teach them, they have taught me so much!

Day 23: After a super busy week, I'm grateful for relaxing Saturdays when there is nothing on the agenda.

Day 24:I'm thankful for being raised with a solid foundation in religion. My faith in the goodness of God is everything to me.

Day 25:I'm thankful for Chipotle. It's fast,customized,affordable deliciousness perfectly portioned. The ultimate fast food!

Day 26: I'm thankful for the treadmill. It ensures that a solid run is possible even in the worst of weather conditions!

Day 27: I'm thankful that my family has the means for a big, delicious Thanksgiving dinner with more food than we can eat.

Day 28: I'm thankful for my fun, crazy,hilarious, loving, big family that gets bigger each year!!! I won the family jackpot!