off trail

“Midlife: when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you: “I’m not f-ing around, use the gifts you were given.” – Brene Brown

I started this blog 3 years ago with the primary intention of documenting my journey through training for my first 100 mile race and all the life-juggling nuttiness that went into that endeavor.  I also just love to write and I believe in the power of sharing our truths. Starting a blog seemed like a nice avenue for developing my writing as well as a vehicle for sharing my story.  There have been periods of blogging weekly but lately it’s fallen off to the side in a major way.

That 100 mile race back in 2013 was a doozy.  My running/racing resume has thinned out a bit since then, with just a smattering of results on Ultrasignup (most of them embarrassingly slow).  I’m still running.  Racing, not so much.  Have I lost my desire to become a better/faster/stronger runner? Hell no.  The fire is there.  The embers are smoldering steady & hot, it’s just that other goals have moved front and center and seem to eat up a great deal of my energy.  And that’s OK. (<— took me a while to believe that).  There’s only one of me.  The “me” that runs off to the mountains and indulges in long-ass training runs, weekend race getaways, recovery naps…she has to just chill for a bit.  Her time will come.  For now (& the next 3ish years), here’s Erin’s Priority Breakdown:

  1. LIAM
  2. GRAD SCHOOL
  3. WORK

Number 2 up there is my 100 mile race.  It’s my ultra for the next 2-3 years. To say that this goal is big & scary would be a massive understatement.  To say that I have been dreaming of beginning this endeavor for 10+ years would be accurate.  To say that I have been too afraid to take the first steps, to dive in, to just toe the start line, get my Master’s degree and change careers…well, that’s partially true.  The truest truth is this: There have been big chunks of my 20s and 30s where I simply got off trail. 

In trail races, especially mountain ultras that are 30, 50, 100 miles long & held in remote areas, part of the challenge is not getting lost.  “Not getting lost” = studying the course beforehand, carrying a map, and staying focused enough that you do not miss the “flags”, or course markings.  Some ultras are long.  Like really super freaking long.  So long that you run through the night.  In the dark, alone, on a trail.  Even if you studied the course, carried the map, followed the markers, did all the “right” things…..there is a good chance you may go off trail.  Why?  Because you are tired, hungry, alone.  You might even be hurting.  Injured. You may just want to lie down in the dirt and cry.  These scenarios are raw and real and sometimes cannot be avoided.

trail2

I’ve gotten off trail in my life.  Maybe you have too.  I sometimes even felt very, very lost. Divorce, illness, depression, addiction, relationship struggles, financial worries, complete and utter loss of self-esteem.  These have, at one time or another, caused me to go off trail.  The good news is, I somehow always, eventually, found my way back.  Sometimes it took me years to find the trail.  (yep YEARS)  When you go off trail for that long, you can’t NOT learn from it.  You can’t ignore the fact that all the time you spent wandering around, thirsty & hungry, trying to find your way back, MADE YOU STRONGER.

I planned on pursuing an advanced degree upon my return from teaching English in Japan in 1999.  My time there was invaluable in so many ways, and I was ready to embark on what I’d long desired for myself: a career in Counseling Psychology. While studying for the GRE and living in Seattle with my (now ex) husband, I got pregnant.  I had battled infertility for years, taking fertility drugs, mapping my temperature and cycles, etc etc  – and finally came to the heart-breaking realization that my body had been put through so much abuse from years of anorexia that it just was not going to support a pregnancy.  SURPRISE! Needless to say, this was a wonderful off trail moment.

Liam baby pic
look what I made!

 

Liam was and is, my world.  Being a mother is the hardest and most joy-filled role that I could ever find myself in.  It’s never ending.  Right now I’m smack-dab in the middle of the teenage years.  Soon he’ll be driving. Off creating a future for himself. Witnessing this delights (and scares) me more each passing day.  I gain so much inspiration from watching him fearlessly take on his dreams.

I never planned to get divorced when he was only 4, to have to rush into my current career as an emergency place-holder until I could go back to school.  I never planned to find my post-divorce depression so debilitating it would drive me to abuse alcohol.  These were some dark off-trail times. Some serious “no headlamp, no water, no map” moments.  Major low points.

But here I am.  I found my way back.  At the end of August I will be toeing the line of another ‘100 mile race’.  This race will take me at least two years of attending classes at LIOS Graduate College of Saybrook University to earn an MA in Psychology, working FT at my current job, and continuing to mother in a way that makes me proud, as best I can. (Yes, running will be smooshed in there somewhere, as that is my no-fail happy place. 🙂 )

The fact that this is a huge, challenging, scary goal is not lost on me.  I’m kind of terrified.  But I am also so very grateful.  I have friends, family, colleagues and a partner who make up my crew.  I will have support along the way.  If I fall down or get off trail (which I know I will!!), I have confidence in my ability to get up off the dirt, dust off my knees, drink some water and get moving.  I know I can do this.  I have learned that “getting off trail” does not = failure.  It leads to lessons learned that you will use for your next adventure.

I have so many bumps, bruises, scars & stretch marks.  I have so many hard stories.  I am learning to gaze upon these imperfections and see them not as flaws, but as reminders of how tough I can be. Reminders of my resilience. I will need to remind myself often in the coming years.  If you see me out there, feel free to poke me and remind me as well. I will do the same for you. ❤

150040-httpwwwsymphonyoflovenetblogwp-UEYS

 

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