Running to Freedom

Old Christian home in Iceland

Old Christian home in Iceland. Explore and contemplate the wonders of life. It is worth it.

 

Everyone is lucky. Each of us is fortunate to be given the lives we have. Of course, all of the joy, torment, love, anger and everything else that comes with it, may at times lead us to feel the opposite. Yet notice how it is the discomfort in our lives that leads us to crack the potential light within us wide open. To me, this is the path to freedom.

Consider the linking moments of  lives together which instill peace, love, joy and presence as a way to bring out our greatest performances? In athletics we may call this entering the zone. Humans are granted the gift to see the challenging times as obstacles of which to climb, jump or fly over on their path towards new views we may have never otherwise experienced, if we choose to see from that perspective. Even the very hard things, or feelings of lack, can become the brilliant gateway to successful fulfillment.

As applied to sport, I see clearly now how my past has brought me to where I am. I wouldn’t want to re-experience them again, but as with everything in life, I would never take the harsh times back. The lessons learned, especially the devastating moments, each brought perspective.  New depths of strength and character rose from deep within,which may have never otherwise come to light.

My most recent experience highlighting this holds, in this moment, a foot on two sides of the fence of healthy freedom, and debilitation.

Two years ago, I could not walk without a limp after a horrible car accident. Trying to run felt like a nearly impossible challenge due to a severe spinal herniation, two disk tears, torn hamstrings, broken teeth and shattered dreams.

Photo Credit David Wirt Snow Canyon State Park. Me in my desert home

Photo Credit David Wirt Snow Canyon State Park. My desert home

Yet at the same moment in time, new dreams were rising to the surface. I met the right people to help me heal my body. I re-dedicated myself to my yoga practice to bring healing presence to my body, mind and soul. Opening Yoga Soul helped this. I must practice yoga and meditate daily to enable me to teach and live from an authentic place—yes, literally meet my Self on the mat. Although recent physical limitations didn’t allow me to practice in the way of my past, I realized deeply that I could practice by meeting my body where it was, now to infinity.

Up and down. My life felt like a seesaw. Some days and weeks felt as though I could start to train properly again, with the wish of racing my bicycles and running trail races successfully. My ambitions remained a fuzzy vision. I would misstep or fall due to motor skill issues stemming from my spinal injury. Suddenly I would be out yet again with temporary painful paralysis for what I worried would become forever.

Each day the hardest thing to do was to breathe deeply, as I teach my students. Breathe deeply into the mental and physical anguish until it resolved into light. Over time my breath has been the catalyst to bring presence and peace, when I might have otherwise become bitter as I was brought again to my knees.

Fast forward to this now. I can run. Without pain. Am I as fast or strong or thin or lean as I used to be? No. Am I on my way? I can say with absolute surety, yes!

For two-plus years, the thought of being healthy and feeling whole again led to tears of frustration gathered in the corners of my eyes. I would feel an unacknowledged voice inside myself asking for me to be patient. I tortured myself by being upset and afraid with thoughts that I would never be out of pain, have my teeth fixed or enjoy life again.

Fortunately moments change. Life gets better. Better than ever. Exactly opposite than the struggle, if we allow.

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Pedestrian and bicycle traffic only! Reykjavik, Iceland

Amazing Reykjavik streets of course with my Eric.

Amazing Reykjavik streets of course with my Eric.

This year there was something magical about September 2-October 3. I left for Iceland with my caring husband, Eric on September 2nd. The race we were heading towards is called RunIceland. It is a five day stage race featuring 110 kilometers of torture. Or joy. Again, it all depends on perspective. In my case it turned out to be both. I generally consider myself a hot weather specialist. When everyone else dies in the heat, I am still going. Although it has not always been 100% true. That is another story.

Giorgio Cordias, Run Iceland race director is also a tour guide. Tour we did! One of dozens of incredible waterfalls!

Giorgio Cordias, Run Iceland race director is also a tour guide. Tour we did! One of dozens of incredible waterfalls!

Gullfoss, Iceland

Gullfoss, Iceland

Cold Iceberg park. The entire shore line was dotted in them. Larger icebergs were of course stretched out far in the ocean.

Cold Iceberg park. The entire shore line was dotted in them. Larger icebergs were of course stretched out far in the ocean. And Eric is in shorts….

Iceland in 2015 experienced it’s coldest, rainiest year on record. The forecast was expected to hold lows in the upper 30 degree Fahrenheit range, with highs in the 40’s. Rain was slated for each day of the race as well. This didn’t appear to be good news for me coming from an arid 106 degree St. George on the day I left for my adventure.

When I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1998 as the proverbial poor college student, I did not have a car. I lived six miles from campus. I spent my first two years ill dressed riding my $200 Schwinn commuter bike, or running, everywhere I went. During the cold of winter I was in such great pain upon arriving to campus, I would rush to the women’s restroom before entering my English class to allow tears of anguish to run down my cheeks as I thawed out numb hands. Fortunately the next four years I learned to dress for the cold.

I now realize I am fortunate to have had my cold experiences in college. The first of course is learning to dress for cold with the minimal layers necessary. More importantly, I learned to suffer in the cold. Although my college years feel like life times ago, I still remember my lessons.

Fast forward to Iceland. Eric and I arrived a couple of days early to rest from our overly busy lives. We literally slept almost 14 hours our first night there. We walked through the wet lovely streets of Reykjavik charmed by their cleanliness and color.

I loved meeting my new friends from 17 different countries whom were there to race as Eric and I were, or to manage or direct the events in some way. I will note that the incredibly small staff of less than 10 miraculously performed the roles of 100. The day after our entire party arrived in Reykjavik, the races began.

Run Iceland Race Staff

Run Iceland Race Staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To make a long story short, I won every stage for the women. I even won a stage overall due to the freedom I feel racing in the sand next to a wild roaring ocean. I leave the remainder of that story for another time.

The beauty of RunIceland for me, was from the moment the race began, until we finished with a majestic waterfall as our backdrop on the final stage, I ran with freedom. I felt good. I was fast and strong and in love with each moment. I stepped over the fence to freedom. The cold sideways rain we experienced for three of the five stages pushed me forward on my mission to find my soul’s call to run. I chose to focus on the positives. And the entire race became that way. Another beautiful life lesson.

Photo Credit Dino Bonelli Run Iceland

Photo Credit Dino Bonelli Run Iceland. Stage one.

Finish of a very wet and foggy mountain stage. Instead of incredible glacial views, we were kept focused with only up to 10 feet of visibly to keep from running off the cliffs!

Nearing finish of the mountain stage two. Instead of incredible glacial views, we were kept focused with only up to 10 feet of foggy visibly to keep from running off the cliffs! Photo Credit: Giorgio Cordias

Beach stage. Warmer than the other days. First time I saw the sun! I won this stage. Even beat the guys. I love sand!

Beach stage three. Warmer than the other days. First time I saw the sun! I won this stage. Even beat the guys. I love sand! Photo credit: Dino Bonelli or Allesandro Beltrame or RunIceland.

This stage set a new meaning of racing for my Eric. He sacrificed his race to help my freezing hands become warm by donating his gloves after mine were soaked in icy hail, rain and snow. He then paced our dear Swiss friend Alan Hofer to his sub four-hour finish which was a real feat on this rolling trail course!

This stage set a new meaning of racing for my Eric. He sacrificed his race to help my freezing hands become warm by donating his gloves after mine were soaked in icy hail, rain and snow. He then paced our dear Swiss friend Alan Hofer to his sub four-hour finish which was a real feat on this rolling trail course!

Warming up for stage five of RunIceland! Photo Credit: Pietro Aquilotto Delle Eolie

Warming up for stage five of RunIceland! Photo Credit: Pietro Aquilotto Delle Eolie

Last stage finish scene I believe at Skógafoss with photo of Pietro Aquilotto Delle Eolie and another racer.

Last stage finish scene I believe at Skógafoss with photo credit to Pietro Aquilotto Delle Eolie.

Female overall winners podium. Due to travel, there was no possibly of fancy podiums or start finish lines. Who needs it with such incredible scenery? Makes me realize how overkill so many race scenes are. I love raw Iceland. Moves the soul.

Female overall winners podium. I was so lucky to win. Due to travel, there was no possibly of fancy podiums or start finish lines. Who needs it with such incredible scenery? Makes me realize how overkill so many race scenes are. I love raw Iceland. Moves the soul.

 

Upon returning from Iceland, Eric and I had some very busy times catching up with our Yoga Soul studio, and life. Before we knew it was time to head to Salt Lake City to be with my cherished son for the weekend. We are so grateful for my darling friend Emilie opening her home so we could stay. That Sunday was XTERRA Nationals. Even though Eric and I didn’t feel completely recovered from Iceland, my son Canyon was excited to race the 5k up at Snowbasin. I love that he shares my passion of running.

Eric and Canyon ready to race XTERRA Nationals at Snowbasin, Utah!

Eric and Canyon ready to race XTERRA Nationals at Snowbasin, Utah!

 

When it was all said and done on a lovely fall day, I finished my best nationals event in a long time. I was fourth female and 2nd in my age group in the 21 kilometer distance. Canyon and Eric had great days racing as well.

Overall female podium XTERRA Trail Run Nationals.

Overall female podium XTERRA Trail Run Nationals.

 

The next two weeks again were spent creating a sense of normalcy teaching at Yoga Soul and working with the athletes I coach to finish their seasons strong.

Eric and I again left town for out last big races of the season. This time to Flagstaff, Arizona to race both the U.S. Skyrunner series VK (VK stands for vertical kilometer. In this race it meant 3,200 feet of running up the steep slopes of Snowbowl ski resort to 11,500+ feet) and marathon distance Continental Championships for North America. This was the toughest set of races I have completed since the car accident. The steep terrain and sketchy scree made it almost impossible for me to navigate the downhills without great care. It turned out to be the difference in my ultimate 2nd place in the VK. But I am grateful that the 2nd place left me nationally ranked as 2nd female overall for 2015.

Eric after VK finish 11,500 feet high Snowbowl ski resort outside of Flagstaff.

Eric after VK finish 11,500 feet high Snowbowl ski resort outside of Flagstaff.

Run steep get high is the slogan of the US Skyrunner Flagstaff race series director,Jamil Coury. He was not joking. Eric and I gained approximately 12,000 feet of elevation gain, mostly between 9,000-11,500 feet, in just two days. Ouch!

“Run steep get high” is the slogan of the US Skyrunner Flagstaff race series director, Jamil Coury. He was not joking. Eric and I gained approximately 12,000 feet of elevation, mostly between 9,000-11,500 feet, in just two days. Ouch!

 

Doubling up on back to back races can be hard. In a stage race of course it is expected. In the Skyrunner series, they are all completely separate events. I was one of the few athletes racing both the VK and the sky marathon. I was fresh for the VK, but ran the marathon on tired legs. I wasn’t able to hold on anywhere near the leaders of the race, yet was happy at the end to finish healthy and happy.  Cheers to the first time in a what feels like forever I finished a season feeling great!

My top four favorite awards for the season. Race directors are creative!

My top four favorite awards for the season. Race directors are creative!

 

While I didn’t place top three in the sky marathon series, I learned a lot about what remains for me to work on with my motor control and fitness. I was able to spend time with some of my running friends I only get to see at national events. Today as I write this, I feel good and happy as I realize I am running to freedom.

Last year at this moment in time, I could not run. This year I can run without pain. My wish is for next year to experience my best sense of freedom in running yet. I am grateful for my amazing husband and son for being my greatest inspirations and the loves of my life. I am forever in thankful for my doctors, my physical therapist Rachel Lauchnor, and all of the other dentists, and therapists who have helped me along my path.

This life is a wild ride. Find a way to live now. It is worth it. I do know my sports are not everything. But they help to bring color and perspective. What in your life makes you feel alive? Find it. Feel it and express it in all ways possible. Do not bury the past, instead use it for reflection of your growth as a human though time. Live in the now, but keep your dreams a live.