Thursday, April 29, 2010


Hey there. I just wrote this incredibly long, dull, melancholy post about how I'm feeling sad that the arrival and passing of race day means that I'm going to have to face the fact that I'll be moving away from Lincoln, things are changing, blah, blah, blah. Then I decided to erase and start over. This is no time for negativity, people, SUNDAY IS RACE DAY!!!!!!

This Sunday, May 2nd, I'll be running the Lincoln Half Marathon (as most of you already know). I'm excited, nervous, ready, not ready, and so on. Last year, I was nervous because I really had no idea what to expect. But really, I just wanted to finish the race in a respectable time (respectable in my mind, anyway). THIS YEAR, on the other hand, I have set a goal for myself. I have TOLD people about my goal, and I have spent the last few weeks going back and forth in my mind, wondering if it's possible to reach this goal.

Let me tell you something that I believe: I believe that we have to set goals. Then we have to tell people about them (because they will hold you accountable). Then we have to tell EVERYONE about them. Then we have to believe within ourselves that the goal is possible. And then we have to not look back. We have to not even let the possibility of not reaching the goal enter our minds. That is the hard part.

I have set goals in my time (as I already talked about a few posts back) and I have achieved the really big ones. I got cut from the volleyball teams in 8th, 9th and 10th grades. But I worked my ass off (pardon the cuss word, but trust me, I worked really hard) and made the team in 11th and 12th grades. Then I played volleyball for a junior college, then for a Division II Top 10 team. I believed every step of the way that I could do it. There was no doubt in my mind that I was good enough and strong enough to do it. And I did it.

I have yet to feel that way about running. I'm not all that fast (yet). It's not something that comes very naturally to me (unlike my boyfriend who can train relatively little and go out and just run 13 miles!). But I suppose volleyball didn't come all that naturally, either. I just loved it so much that I MADE myself good at it. I worked on improving myself for years until I was finally good enough to stand on my own. And I loved it so much that I chose to believe in myself through all of the ups and downs.

So, here it is. I've set my goal and told some people about it (steps 1 & 2). Now, I'm telling EVERYONE: My goal is 2 hours and 18 minutes.

Now, I'm believing in myself. I believe in my abilities as a runner. I have worked hard week after week for the last four months. I am ready to run on Sunday. I am going to have a GREAT race. And I am going to reach this goal, come hell or high water. BECAUSE I KNOW I CAN DO IT. I am STRONG ENOUGH to do it - no matter what adversity I may face that morning.

And now... I'm not looking back.


And I will look like crap on the big screen of Memorial Stadium as I run across the finish at the 50 yard line. hahaha

To everyone running on Sunday, GOOD LUCK! To anyone out there attempting any sort of goal of their own - GO FOR IT!!!! To anyone who might like to come down and cheer on the Lincoln runners on Sunday - we'd love to have you. It's an awesome thing to watch 8,000 people try to achieve something like that... And it's equally as awesome to have people cheer for you as you attempt to do it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Strength from Letting Go

That's a pretty deep title... I don't really know yet whether or not the content will match it, so, come on along on the ride with me...

This morning, as yoga class was starting, our instructor (Thomas) mentioned that we would be working our center (aka core, aka *yikes* - although since I had rushed through my core stuff at the gym yesterday, I knew I needed it). Then he talked about finding strength through letting go; finding support through opening. In physical terms, the point of really engaging your center is so that the rest of you can move more freely. But, these phrases had such powerful meaning to me on a level that went way beyond the physical. So, I made them my intention for the day and yoga'd on.

As I was working my way through the (sometimes grueling) poses, I continued to come back to this idea of strength through letting go. This is absolutely NOT the first time I have considered such a notion. Most recently, it came to me as I was walking along the beach on our last full day in Sanibel... Sometimes I am just so damn uptight. I do what I'm supposed to do, when I'm supposed to do it (for the most part), I don't usually let my true deep-down feelings out into the open, sometimes I even laugh when it's appropriate, at the socially appropriate decibel. Type A all the way, baby. Good lord.

Being open and letting go are two of the things I struggle with more than almost anything else in my life. And I'm not entirely sure why (although I'm pretty sure I come by it honestly). I suppose it has something to do with the notion that if I never really put myself out there for the world to see, I can't really be rejected by anyone. In essence, if they do reject me (which I'm absolutely sure is more likely to happen when not being truly open), it's not really me they're rejecting - it's the uptight, non-open, non-letting go me. I don't mean to say that I'm not myself. I believe that as I've gotten older, I have become more and more authentic and more and more real to everyone around me, mostly all of the time. So, it's not that you all have known a fake me, it's just that I'm not revealing everything about who I am. The scary, painful, really challenging stuff is kept to myself and the funny, upbeat, sometimes stressed (but always "together"), type A self is shown to the world.

The intent here, though, isn't to psychoanalyze myself, but to talk about being open and letting go. What do you think of when you think of those things? When I think of being open, I picture myself with my arms open wide, embracing people, embracing life. When I think of letting go, I literally picture myself dancing in some big field of flowers, spinning around and around, without a care in the world, letting go of every reservation and fear (and probably sneezing like crazy from all the pollen). Aren't these lovely thoughts?

As I walked along the beach that last afternoon in Sanibel, and the sun was starting to fall beneath the ocean in the distance, I thought to myself, "What would it hurt?" What would it hurt to fully express my love and affection for someone, to be open with myself, give hugs, allow others (not everyone, of course - strangers on the street don't need to know if I'm having the worst day in the world) to see all of me? What would it hurt to laugh as loud and as hard as I want, whether it's situationally appropriate or not? Or, conversely, what would it hurt NOT to laugh if I don't think something's funny? What would it hurt (this is timely) to just WRITE (I'm talking about my thesis, which I edit, edit again, then erase and write over) without regard for how anyone is going to critique or criticize?

But being truly open and completely letting go are hard, aren't they? Because we know that in doing so, we open ourselves up for the possibility of real pain if the real you is rejected. However, I would like you all to take just a moment to consider what else we open ourselves up to (as will I)... Real love, real acceptance, real happiness, real connectedness, fullness, and maybe even peace. In my mind, I believe that those things outweigh the pain. The real challenge is convincing the rest of me and putting it into action. And that is my goal for the next ... however long. To be open. To let go. Sure, I'll ALWAYS be a total Type A - I'll make lists, I'll set goals and work diligently towards them, I'll feel all aflutter when I see a REALLY GOOD pre-made checklist, I'll get upset when things don't go as planned or when I'm asked to do something that wasn't already on my schedule (geez.). But maybe I'll be better at showing people I care. Maybe I'll be able to take things in stride a little better, let go, and enjoy the possibilities that an unplanned event might offer. Heck, maybe as I'm holding my center tight, holding onto who I am, I'll be able to spin and spin and let go of everything else...

Ok, this was just about as deep as the title suggested. Too much for a Tuesday morning before 9:00? Go grab another cup of coffee.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Make It or Break It Moment

With the Lincoln Half Marathon quickly approaching, I have found myself thinking a lot about my goals for this race and how I'm going to accomplish them. I won't talk about how unfortunate it is that the timing of the race coincides catastrophically with the beginning of Finals Week or how taper time (the time when you cut back your weekly miles to rest your legs before the big day) SHOULD equal more time to think about school work, but in fact it equals more time spent thinking about the upcoming race, reading books and magazines about running, etc. etc. ...

As I have been considering these goals, I have been thinking back to previous races that I've run, the goals I had for them, and some of my moments of glory and failure. I have set goals that I had no idea whether or not I could reach and no idea how to go about reaching them, which usually led to me falling short. I have set goals and worked hard to achieve them, and a few times have set no goals at all. Now, let me tell you, looking back, that seems odd. I am a VERY goal oriented person (can we say Type A personality?). I operate best when I have clear goals and clear ideas about how I am going to achieve them. This has always been the case for me - in sports, in school, in life. This year, I have a clear goal, and I'm going to work out a very straightforward plan that I hope will help me reach it.

One thing is sure, though: whether I've met my running goals over the last couple of years or not, I have learned at least one important lesson during every race. Maybe it's about what to eat next time, that 40 degrees is just a little too warm for a jacket, or that I like to talk during the first part of a race, but prefer not to towards the end. Some of the lessons are a lot bigger and more important. Like last year during the Novartis 10K (6.2 miles), I wasn't having a great race, but decided I wanted to finish strong. As I was climbing the last big hill, I realized that it may hurt for a few minutes, but I could do it. Or during the State Farm 10 mile race just a few weeks ago when I learned that if I'm tired, I just need to focus on putting one foot in front of the other for a while, and eventually I'll make it.

When do those lessons come? Once in a while they come during the few miles where I'm feeling great, smiling, and in love with life, but most of the really important lessons have come at what I like to call my "Make It or Break It Moment." The "Make It or Break It Moment" is that one moment when you are faced with two choices: stopping and quitting or breaking down the brick wall that is fear and pain. During that moment I think to myself, "Ok. You can stop right here, right now and walk. Or, you can find a little more strength and push through this." It's the hardest point in the race - the part that challenges literally every fiber of your being. It's also the defining moment of your race.

We have defining moments like this in life all the time (or at least I seem to). Moments when things are really hard and the last thing you want to do is take one more step forward into a sometimes painful or scary situation. But I continue to be reminded, with each run and each race that taking that step (or hundreds of them) is the only way to get to the other side - the heavenly side with food and Gatorade on it. ... except in life, no one is there to put a medal around your neck...

I don't know yet when the defining moment of my half marathon will come. Last year it came during the last tenth of a mile. In the State Farm race this year it came as I was running around that stupid building, searching desperately for the finish line (any of you that have run that race know exactly what I mean). In last weekend's 12 mile training run, my "Moment" came at mile 10. My legs hurt, my knees hurt, my shoulders and neck were tight, my lungs were burning. I didn't want to take one more step forward. But I did. And I learned that even when I don't want to, even when I think I can't, even when I feel like everything is falling apart, I can still put one foot in front of the other and continue on.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

After All This Time

It's official! I'm going to be a Tiger!

Ok, ok. I'll always really only be a Husker, but I have decided that I'll be entering the PhD program at the University of Missouri.

As most of you know, it's been a long, long process that started almost a year ago. Over the last year, I have been to Salt Lake City, Utah, Eugene, Oregon, Seattle and Pullman, Washington, Philadelphia, PA, and Columbia, Missouri to try to put myself in the best position possible to be accepted to the programs I applied to and to learn as much as possible about them in order to make the right decision when it came down to it.

I'm not going to lie, it was a very time- and money-intensive process, but I believe that all of my hard work has paid off. Missouri has a great up-and-coming program with lots of young, well-known faculty members who I am very excited to work with. The woman that will be my advisor, Mary Shenk, comes from the University of Washington and, from what I can tell so far, is a real go-getter who is motivated to do new and interesting research in the field of anthropology.

Through my experience at Nebraska, I have learned how important it is to have a good relationship with your advisor. I received (and am still receiving) a lot of help and advice from several of the faculty members here at NU and the experience has been invaluable. In the end, though, it was my advisor (and a secondary advisor as well) that went to bat for me. I was incredibly lucky to have stumbled onto a program that was in my hometown (which made the decision about a Master's program pretty dang easy) and had two of the most well-known evolutionary anthropologists in the country. I have been even luckier that they are not only VERY smart people, but that they are interested in my success. I have done a lot of the hard work necessary to be successful at this level, but without their constant support and guidance, I'm more than certain that my PhD application process wouldn't have been nearly the success that it was. I believe that with Mary Shenk at Missouri, I will be working with another advisor who wants me to be successful, will give me every tool I need to do so, and will go to bat for me when the time comes to find a job. At that time, I will be very happy to have my name associated with hers (I only hope she can say the same once this is all said and done...).

Of course it doesn't hurt that Columbia, Missouri is only 5 hours from home, or that one of my best friends lives in Kansas City, which is only an hour and a half from Columbia (and on the way home), or that one of my very good friends here in Lincoln also got her PhD from Missouri and gives it a glowing recommendation. These things did not help me make my decision, but they are certainly icing on the cake.

I would have LOVED to live in Seattle, or work with some of the downright amazing minds at Utah, or do my fieldwork with the Aka hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin. It was hard to choose to give those things up. But, for whatever reason, Missouri just feels right. It feels like a place that I will enjoy calling home for the next few years.

I have now officially accepted the offer from Missouri and have officially declined offers from the other three schools. So now, I've got to worry about finishing my statistics class, writing a stellar thesis, and graduating in August. Then I can pack my things and head off for a new adventure!

Thanks to all of you for your concern and support throughout this process. Oh, and I know that all of you Lincoln people were rooting for Missouri all along... I was onto you.