Imagined or Real. She was Fearless, Powerful, Small and Mighty

Eleven. 80’s Tube Socks. A Statue. And Standing Strong in Pursuit of Her Dreams.

Miles: 6 biked, 11 stairs climbed

Song in my head: All things Halloween

Brunch Food Motivation: Fears and waffles

On a cool, wintry March day in New York City on International Women’s Day, McCann Ad Agency placed a sculpture in front of the Charging Bull sculpture on Wall Street. A lot of criticism and debate came out of that placement. For me, it was powerful. It was inspiring. I saw a little girl, hands on hips, standing up to these seemingly overwhelming, overpowering, solid fears. To me, I saw resilience. I saw determination. I saw the might to overcome and refusal to back down. I saw a little girl taking a stand.

She was fighting for what she believed in. She was fearless.

Fearless Girl
Photo Cred: Fortune.com

As the alarm went off at 5am and I pulled on my tights and tube socks, as I hopped aboard my bike, as I bounced to warm up and as I clamored to the top of the flights of stairs, I felt powerful, bold, unrestrained.

I felt the lyrics of Kesha ring through, “I’m a mother*&%ing woman, baby, alright,” as I ascended the eleventh stadium stairs. The DJ was blaring the jams, but that one stuck with me. It coursed through my arms and legs and resonated with me. (I mean, it’s Kesha, how could you not give a heck yeah, amirite?)

I was buoyed by the fact that two people recognized my costume. One shouted, “Where’s your Eggo’s!” And another dressed as Wolverine suggested we combine our superhero forces. In my pink dress, blue jacket, tube socks and best Eleven face, I channeled my inner Elle (short for Eleven) from Stranger Things (Netflix original series and fan favorite) as I ascended and descended the gargantuan stairs at Harvard Stadiums. I felt badass today. I felt strong. I felt like that fearless girl standing up to the bull. I felt powerful instead of powerless.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Fear as…DO NOT JUDGE ME! I have no other transition. Stay with me, people.

“Fear (n): a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”

The thing here is “whether the threat is real or imagined.” It does not matter whether that fear is actual or made up, fear can stem from just that thought. (Be kind to yourself.) So basically we could be wandering around fearful of things only in our imagination. Much of what we fear is in our head, what we’ve imagined into existence. But what exists on the other side of that starting line?

Fear holds us back from becoming who we are really meant to be. It holds us back from trying new things, from releasing the beast within. It takes bravery to fully embrace you and the best parts of yourself. Uncertainty and the fear of the unknown prevent us from trying that new thing, from launching us into something foreign and new and profound. That course awaiting just beyond that starting line is where new, exciting, sometimes difficult things happens. When we stare down our fears with confidence, when we take a stance, hands on hips, challenge in our eyes and fire in our hearts and abandon in our souls, we can’t be beat. You’ve got the present moment guaranteed. Make the most of it. I need these gentle reminders. These badass people – imagined or real – to show me how to live life unrestrained.

November Project turned 6 years old today* (coming into existence on November 1, 2011, *now 7 years old since publishing this post). 6 years, 44 cities across countries globally, countless leaders and members. It was started by two friends fearless in pursuit of staying fit and fearless during the winter months–fearless in pursuit of starting and keeping a movement going, fearless in their dreams, inspired by a pledge to each other, taking a vow to #showup, and taking a stance, making it into something bigger than themselves.

You are one person. One person can have reverberating effects with the power to make an impact on the world.

Maybe that is why I donned the Eleven from Stranger Things costume on this cold, black morning. I was taking on the confidence and persona of Eleven, a girl with superhuman abilities, able to fully harness her mind and be a badass female leader. A force that reminds me ever so much of the girl standing before the Wall Street Charging Bull–brassy (pun very much intended), confident, courageous, gutsy. Fearless.

“A ship is always safe at home, but that’s not what it’s built for.” – Albert Einstein (my man)

The women of NASA, Amelia Earhart the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and Bobbi Gibb the first female long distance runners to run with the men – they all did something with determination and in spite of, I’m sure, fear. And they opened up a world of possibilities for not only themselves, but others following in their footsteps. All it takes is one bold, brassy move and a lot of will power.

I’m sure it was because I had one of my dearest, warm and joyous friends visiting me this weekend (one of the real-life individuals that provides me endless inspiration) and the fact that I was channeling my inner Elle (Eleven from Stranger Things), a badass young girl who was fighting back, but I was full of the inspiration to look at all of the barriers, can’ts, shouldn’ts, won’ts, worries – imagined and otherwise – head on. Because fear should not be the one thing holding you back from becoming you.

Bright tights and happy trails,

Elise

 

Mountain Climbing

A short hike, a hut and a group of unwieldy climbers

Location: White Mountains, New Hampshire

Miles: 8 with 4,000 vertical ft

Song in my head: Take me Home, Country Road – John Denver (because that is what one hiker was singing at the summit)

Brunch food motivation: Hot Chocolate of the Hut kind

We huddled close, soaked to the skin in our shirts, pants and rain jackets. We cupped the hot chocolate a little tighter and allowed it to warm our insides. Nothing but white washed the outside windows. You couldn’t see what was north, which way was south nor anything in between. Every now and again the doors of the hut would swing open and another wide-eyed group of hikers would huddle through the doors seeking the shelter of the homemade bread, soup, and the reprieve of the hut. Long wooden benches lined one side, while the center was the hustle and bustle shift change of experienced hikers, Sunday hikers, and some families with the kitchen sitting off to the left. The mug of hot chocolate (nothing special just a packet and hot water) along with the dill soup were EVERYTHING. We had been hiking for just over 7 hours. And we had 3 miles to go.

We headed out into the hazardous conditions in our still wet clothing and new layers knowing 2 hours lay ahead of us between us and the car and mini-Twix as promised by Syed.

Not 12 hours earlier I had been boarding a Boston Express bus to meet Carolyn in New Hampshire for what would be an impromptu hike of Mount Lafayette and the Franconia Ridge Trail. We embraced as she picked me up from the station and we drove to pick up Syed. Carolyn is a tiger wrapped in sheep’s clothing. The most beautiful, docile in appearance with a beast inside, heart of gold, and a hilarious sense of humor. She had done this route before. Syed and I on the other hand, were still new to the mountains. Syed and I were her faithful warriors with 4,000 vertical feet between the two of us. This was my first time meeting Syed. He was absolutely wonderful, so warm and welcoming. “This is my first 4,000 footer,” said Syed as we entered his apartment. I breathed a sigh of relief. “Me too!” I exclaimed. We packed our bags with snacks and water and Syed drove us to the base of the White Mountains. Along the way, he recounted all of the research he had done on our trail. I thankfully knew what I was getting myself into, having heard the tales of Carolyn and her husband Eugenio’s adventures.

We pulled into the parking area at the base of the mountain. Other hikers were grabbing their packs and starting their way up the mountain. Onward we went. We took multiple, much-needed breaks. While Syed called the break directives, I was all too relieved to take in the blissful rests along the route.

We passed waterfalls, trees, and humble hikers galore. We chatted and caught up on life, made up stories and wandered on our path. One spot we were looking for was Shining Rock. Shining Rock was worth it. A little detour off of our path before reaching the summit. We all looked at each other and confirmed we still wanted to take the detour. It was a small, narrow, downward slope and at the end was a massive, white shining rock sticking out of the side of the mountain. We hit pause. We sat on the rock and looked out over the expansive view of New Hampshire, of the world. We felt small. We appreciated every part of the moment. We paused. It was absolutely gorgeous, the fall foliage greeting us with all of its red, orange, and yellow splendor. Shining Rock was in all of its glory, allowing hikers to glimpse at just a preview of the beauty the White Mountains held.

We happened upon other hikers as we emerged from our .1mile detour.  They asked us if it was worth it. We replied emphatically that it was! They poo-pooed the idea, despite our best efforts to assure them of its beauty, and declared they were here for the summit. That’s what they came for. We shrugged and continued on the trail.

As we reached the first summit (there are three total connected by a ridge – one mountain for each of us), we were met with wind whipping at our clothes and white clouds and more white clouds. There were dozens of hikers at the top. Their bodies made black shapes across the ridge with the white backdrop of clouds obscuring any view as they made their way across. It was a strange feeling, feeling you were at the top, but not knowing how far up, nor how far out you could see on any other clear day.

I could not have asked for better hiking companions on our tour along Franconia Ridge. They brought jokes, laughter, positivity and snacks…lots of snacks. Author’s Note: This is not the only reason I appreciated them and their shining personalities. It was a solid team: Car Keys, Hype Girl, and Boss Lady.*

There was another group at the summit singing “Take Me Home, West Virginiaaaaa! Take Me Home.” We all laughed. It was a reminder we weren’t the only ones out there. That there really wasn’t an option to turn back. Plus, we had to make it to the hut by 3pm. That had been our original plan to beat out the potential rain. We definitely weren’t making it to the hut by 3pm. And we definitely weren’t outhiking the rain. We were only at the first peak and there was no sign of Mother Nature taking back her wrath. The wind whipped hard in its best attempt to pin us to the mountain as we crested rocks and traversed the ridge. Hype mode on for all of us.

We made it to the Greenleaf Hut, the most adorable hut where you could break from the elements, regroup at the tables, meet other hikers, grab a change of clothes before venturing back out on the trail. It was the cutest New England lodge. Just cozy enough to give you a break, but not cozy enough to overstay your welcome, because, after all, you were there to climb.

We ended the hike in the dark, led by Boss Lady’s headlamp that she had remembered to pack. Teamwork makes the dream work. We highfived at the base of the mountain and in the parking lot to our lone car as Syed produced the promised treat.

We made it to the top. The one view we got was on Shining Rock, otherwise it was white clouds with an unknowing sense of where you were. We also talked about going back for the views. I sleepily smiled in the back, knowing I got something way better than views that day. I didn’t go for the views. I went to prove something to myself. I could be this new me. Maybe it’s not about finish lines, maybe it’s about the hard work, moments, laughs and unexpected people you meet along the way that’s really important. Maybe its about embracing the detours, the breaks, the unexpected. Maybe it’s the person that you’re becoming along the way, the friendships you’re gaining, the moments you’re sharing on the journey to the top that mark the experience.

“These mountains you are carrying, you were only meant to climb.” – Najwa Zebian

I think people go to the mountains to find themselves, to be reborn, and go back to their truest form. I just finished the book Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery. More on that later, but she talks about starting lines and how they might just sneakily be as important as the finish lines. Her goal was to ski 4,000,000 vertical feet in one year spanning mountains across continents and countries. She had set out to break a record, but what she found out about herself as a person was the most important revelation. The people she met along the way and the blue ribbons she had been chasing opened her eyes to something entirely new about her way of living and her true, authentic self.

Mt Lafayette, Franconia Ridge

*Syed was in constant reminder mode that he held the car keys and that we could not leave him behind in our travels. We would never. No man left behind. Hype girl’s rules of the trail.

Running Buddies | The Long and Short of It

Buddy Up! Partner Running.

Miles: 4 + 37 Harvard Stadium Sections

Song in my head: Journey

Brunch food motivation: Zico Chocolate Coconut Water

This past weekend I went on a run with my running buddy, Meesh. We chose one of our old running haunts. It just felt right again. As we paced around the river and fell into sync with each other chatting about our days and weekends and travels, the cadence of the world seemed to fall into place. I felt in rhythm and ready to ease into Fall. We talked about our retirement from running – really just taking a break from marathoning for awhile, not leaving running, but instead running without training requirements, just whenever our heart desired.* The run was wonderful. The click of each step and falling into step with my running buddy is a feeling I can’t explain. It’s a connection with someone and the world around you. It’s something that makes me feel wholly me and connected to the world. It’s my favorite place to be. We wended our way around the Charles River, chatting and stepping in tune. At the end of the run, we stretched and sprawled out on the floor.

With her training for marathons and me being sidelined with injury, we hadn’t been on a buddy run in way too long, longer than I’d like to admit. And I needed it. I needed it to push me forward into Fall.

Partner training continued into Wednesday. Wednesday, The November Project workout was dubbed RelayMan and you partnered with another to relay run the stadiums. Every 5 stadiums you would tag in your partner. It was a different feeling to be able to see their face at the top of the steps, knowing someone was waiting for you there. Knowing you have someone there to get to, to pace with, to cheer for is something truly special.

Human Connection.

That’s what I love most about November Project. It’s what I love most about DFMC and running groups and community. It’s the human connection. You need a community or just someone to pull you back into the rhythm that sets your soul on fire. You need someone who brings out you, who reminds you of the unique, quirky, fun-loving self that brings out the best for the world. The world needs a little happiness. It needs a little you. My workout running buddies do that for me.

Instagram that week also showed posts of inspiration dedicated to the people that helped them grow into the athletes and runners and humans they were meant to become. You need people on this running journey to pick you up when you get knocked down, to make you laugh, to accompany you on the road ahead, and to just have bright nonsense with.

Wednesdays aren't for waiting. Own today. #relayman #thetribeisstrong #40tree

A post shared by November Project Boston (@novemberprojectbos) on

Pacers.

In Breaking2, Nike attempted to break the 2 hour marathon mark. Many runners scoffed at all of the engineering behind the event, as opposed to keeping running to its purest form, unexpected weather conditions, simple clothes and all. One thing fascinated me about that day, the idea that groups of pacers would come in and out during the race, every three miles a fresh group of runners would swap in. I loved this idea. A fresh group of pacers coming in to keep you moving forward.

I’ve been hitting a steady 9:46 pace around the river. Every single time. 9:46 I will end you.

“As for you, pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.” – Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

“October is about trees revealing colors they’ve hidden all year. People have an October as well.” – J.M. Storm

Go out and grab a buddy. We have a lot of changing and journeying to do.

*The “Retired Runners Club (RRC)” is really just what we call ourselves, but most still train for DFMC and run almost every day, and have signed up for other races. So we’re doing really great on that retired thing.

Rest Stops | A Belated Fresh Start

“Sometimes you have to slow down in order to move fast.” – Jenny Nash

[Heads Up: Belated New Year’s Post Ahead. But I think the musings still apply and there’s a super cool video with music to match, so there’s that.]

A New Year. A New You. As the lights flash on the countdown to new years, the ball drops with the light sparkling and reflecting off of it, and the crowd looks up in anticipation, I can’t help but feel we are feeling the same anticipation. The same longing, the same expectation, the same hope that this year will bring the joy and happiness we so desperately crave. As I was sitting at the bar, New Years Eve, hat on head and beer in hand, my friend and I talked about that. That desire for happiness and a fresh start.

I’ve been in PT for over a year now, going on two years on-and-off, for the same ailment. But I can finally start to see some improvement. Some glimmer of hope. I had lost motivation at one point. At several points if we’re being honest. The prolonged ailment had been to my own dismay and my own doing. The problem was I couldn’t see an end in sight and the option of staying disconnected seemed most enticing. I had checked out.

One night, I was scrolling through old posts from 3 years ago. It was about marathon training and how training often breaks you down each mile to build you up into a stronger person – wearing and tearing on your muscles, finding rest and recovery, and picking yourself up and doing it all again, only this time stronger and more experienced.

That’s what PT has taught me. Baby steps. Little steps. Slow, calculated steps. And eventually, if you put in the work, you will see improvements you didn’t even know were happening. I had been focusing on the race, on outrunning myself. Not focusing on the other aspects that were so central and integral to training. Rest and recovery. It’s a thing. A beautiful, beautiful thing. I was charging ahead, forcing the way into the future, not paying mind to the rest stops. Turns out you need those. You need those breaks. You need those moments to take a step back and pay mind to what is happening. You need to slow down in order to speed up.

I’ve been working on strength training, preparing and building my muscles for what is to come. And I’m already getting to run again and see improvements to my stride and my approach to training. I’m already feeling more balanced. In more ways than one. The tricky part is you have to put in the elbow grease, the counterintuitive work of slowing down to see the whole picture, even when you won’t see an improvement right away. In a world that is centered on instant gratification, it’s funny how right that saying is. Just taking a moment, one moment, to pause, evaluate and listen to your body, is so important to taking that step forward you have been so desperately waiting for.

I feel as though New Years is a mindset into happiness and a fresh start. The ball dropping and the countdown to a new year is giving you permission to find a clean slate. The chance to embrace a new you, taking all of the struggles and trials and learnings from the year and using them to make yourself stronger. And conversely, taking all of the immense blessings from the year and using them to bolster that strength. Moving forward.

I jokingly have been using “New Year, New You” as my battle cry. I think there’s some truth in it this year, though. I always thought New Year’s resolutions were inconsequential. The reason for that being, I thought we were constantly changing and could be making new years resolutions, goals, missions, year-round with us as we change and grow or as life throws us curve balls. I still feel that way. We’re constantly adapting to the waves of change. But I really feel a newness this year. When you get knocked down, there is the option to stay down, to give in to that sweet, sweet comfort of the floor beneath you. But what is down there? What is keeping us there in that spot?

You can’t outrun running. “You can’t walk away from running. It will always find you.” World Record holder for the marathon (running a sub 2:50) and mom to Olympian Shalane Flanagan, Cheryl Bridges, told me that this last Boston Marathon. (I fangirled) As I sat on the sidelines, cheering, I could not get that out of my head. I’ve been stealthily avoiding, making excuses, sabotaging my road to recovery, all on my own. I’ve been giving into the floor. With this injury I’ve learned what foods and nutrition fuel my body, what exercises complement my training, and how much I love the sport. I don’t want to hold myself back anymore. By slowing down, I’ve been able to see the minute pieces that have made up the three years of marathon training and what has led to success. I’ve broadened my view. I also see the parts I have been missing in order to create the whole picture.

As we sat at the bar, hats on heads, beers in hands, we realized growth comes from your perspective and what you make of the situation. Life is hard. Running is hard. Nothing comes easily, unless of course it’s a test of your strength and there to break you down and build you up into something new. But that’s what rest stops are for. Watch out world. I’ve hit my rest stops and I’m coming in hot this year.