gratitude.

i woke up this morning with a sense of calm. and despite not going for a run and after feeling a sense of anxiety of returning to work after a week away, it didn’t come.

i methodically did my PT strengthening routine while waiting for water to boil and for the coffee grounds in my french press to steep. as i drank my breakfast kale smoothie and caught up on a few daily emails i receive, i actually couldn’t even figure out why i was feeling anxious on sunday afternoon to begin with. whatever it was had passed and i was ready, almost enthusiastically, to begin my week.

as i type this i sense a bit of sarcasm or a slight bit of surprise in my tone. it’s not that i dislike my job – i am just generally slow on mondays and while a run typically helps ease/jar me into existence, it didn’t take that today. and i’m also hugely a creature of habit and routine – so returning to a world of structure and demands from others after a week of mostly setting my own leisurely schedule could have been stressful, but it was not.

i drank my smoothie and then started in on my coffee and emails. one of my favorite emails to read first thing on monday mornings is my Ripples email. you see, i “met” Paul when he was a speaker at a youth leadership conference i attended somewhere around SOPHOMORE year of high school. yes, i’ll put that in easier terms for you – i have been receiving this email blast from Paul long before Facebook was a thing – honestly, i think i first subscribed in 2001. TWO THOUSAND AND ONE! people, that was 14 years ago. almost half my life. the year some of the girls i coach were born. *** subscribe here *** (seriously, do it)

can we all just revel in that for a hot minute?!

ok, back to it. i was reading the Ripple-y email and Paul shared a handful of quotes from an awesome guy, Wayne Dyer, who passed away over the weekend. there were four (of the six) that really spoke to me and one i’ll share with you now:

“We never sit anything out. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
-Wayne Dyer

i like that. maybe its because i feel a recent sense of being full and tipping. i think my week away from work helped me with that. i was getting to a point where there were so many things – not even bad or stressful things – just so many things floating around in my life and in my brain and a week of calm, quiet, move-at-your-own pace was just what i needed to let it all fill up and let some of the really good pour out. gratitude.

and there’s also this TinyLetter (you should consider subscribing to that one, too) i’ve been receiving daily for a bit now – Vanessa shared her thoughts on the word “happiness” which naturally, i took personally, because i’m Shayla and because i’ve been doing this little Instagram #happy project now for 388 days in a row and because i too, was a skeptic or something about the word “happiness” and about the documenting of it – that is, until i was in the thick of it. any for me, the project isn’t even about being “happy” all of the damn time – it’s really just about me noticing and taking in and observing and documenting at least a tiny piece of the world around me that i’m working so hard at being, really being in everyday – especially for the last 388 days.

so, worlds are colliding and gratitude is spilling over and semantics are where it’s at and then tonight, as i was finishing up trying to write myself a little 75-word biography about what i do besides coaching rowing, i got one more email (three! to round out the email karma for the day). it was from a Life Coach and friend of many friends here in Madison. her name is Darcy Luoma and one of the things she wrote in the email was,

“Here is something important to remember…you don’t need a reason to say no but you do need a reason to say yes! So, if it’s not an enthusiastic yes, then it’s a “hell no.”

her email was all about figuring out what’s important and learning how and when to say no. but what really got me was the subject of the email, “Replacing More with Better.” that’s a principle i try to in everyday life.

so back to the photo, and quickly, because i would like to get lights out here as close to 11pm as possible (mama’s getting old and needs her recovery sleep for a good morning run). i snapped the photo of the day today as we were heading in near the end of practice. i’d usually complain that it was too hot out – but the water was pretty darn nice. we had a slight breeze and the lake was not crazy-busy. my novice girls team is on the small side right now (meaning we only have 7 girls at the moment), but they’re focused and talented and mighty! what a gift to get to coach just a four right now. we had a shortened practice today due to some admin stuff, but the girls got out on the water and got right to work. they drilled and took some truly awesome strokes.

so all of the stuff i wrote above and the practice tonight sort of came crashing together to create something magical – at least in my own little mind-world. there’s something special about having the space to just be present and deal with the stuff right in front of you, the important stuff… whether it’s heading to work with a sense of gratitude or taking the next best stroke you can!

a sea of red. 

my staycation week was leisurely – I did some productive things and kept up my coaching duties, but I also slept in and admittedly, powered through and finished the Gilmore Girls series. one of the best things I did last week though was to stay on track with my running. knowing myself, I started off a little worried that without structure, I might also be too lazy and not workout, but instead, besides coaching, running was basically the only other constant in my week away from work. 

counting up the miles today, I realized I had hit twenty five for the week! 25 miles and I’m not feeling totally suck-tactic! huzzah. 

I know I still need to prioritize my PT work and get to doing it three times a week. and I also need to get to yoga class…but 25 miles – I’ll take it!

and today, I ran a really solid 10! I’ve been feeling a little frustrated for a while now – like muscle-y spots in my body have turned too flabby and like my weight has suddenly snuck up to a number I haven’t seen in a while. but in all honesty, none of it was sudden. not one bit. it is the culmination of almost two hard years – years in a yo-yo relationship that only heightened any insecurity I could ever have about myself. it is losing a bit of myself and my priorities in a hard time. it’s not suddenly and it shouldn’t be a surprise. not being able to run without pain and sometimes not even being interested in running should have been a sign – it was, and residual fitness helped me stick it out for a while, but lately, as I’m coming back to myself and taking proper care of myself and surrounding myself with good people, I know where I’m headed. 

about a month’s worth of consistent running in and a solid ten miler, my first double digit run in quite some time tell me that I’m on the right track…

after today’s run, I ran some quick errands and then sat down in what seemed to be a sea of red. I grabbed a coffee (see today’s Instagram photo) and sat down under a red umbrella, with my trusty red Believe training journal and reflected for a little bit. 

a sea of red isn’t something I usually embrace even though red is the color of my alma mater. I do bleed Badger red. during practice on Friday, I proudly donned my rowing unisuit, and today, sitting under the red umbrella literally surrounded by red – I felt it’s embrace. 

it’s getting late and I fear I’ve kinda missed my point – but I did want to share today’s photo and all of the goings-on in my brain surrounding it. 

goodnight, Sunday. 

runneth over. 

my eyes are always big when it comes to salad night... #happy #day386 #shaysstillstreaking #eatgoodfood

A photo posted by shayla (@ashiashay) on

sometimes, life just seems like a cup that runneth over. I had to look that one up. I didn’t know where the phrase came from u till tonight, though it’s one that we use in the English language enough, that’s for sure. 

I sat in the coaching launch at practice this morning puttering alongside the eight – filled mostly with kids (teenagers) who are new to the sport of rowing. I could have thought about how miserable it is to sit in a boat, clad in waterproof rain gear (and luckily still in Chaco sandals which I will wear far longer into the seasons than is surely appropriate). I don’t enjoy being soaking wet. maybe that’s half my aversion to swimming with a purpose – being wet for the sake of a sport. (though I do so much enjoy propelling myself forward, so I don’t have an aversion to swimming, as a sport, per se, but that is a story for another time). 

where am I going with all of this?

I coached this morning and I felt wholly present and even more than that, so grateful that I moved to this city 11 years ago and found this sport and learned to drive a boat and can confidently say that I have something to offer these kids doing this sport. it’s a pretty cold feeling that negates damp butts in launches and feet that feel like raisins for hours and even waking up in the 5’s to coach rather than do a workout myself. it makes me feel grateful and like my cup runneth over. 

I think when you consciously focus on the good, it’s easier to see it around you and maybe to feel this way. it’s just a hunch…

after practice I pulled my phone out – it was tucked away while on the water this morning because of the misty rain and slippery hands. I’ve already lost one spends phone to the big lake in town. we are going to try not to be 2-for-2 on this particular thing. I pulled my phone out at the end of practice once we were back on land to find a sweet, honest email waiting for me in my inbox. last night I shot off an email to a new friend and I was pleased to see her response waiting for me. I think I was particularly pleased because it was the kind of email I would send. so I got what she was saying. that kind of thing provides me with more comfort than I tend to realize but it’s in the realizing that I feel full. 

and tonight, as you’ll see in my photo for today, I had a giant salad for dinner. whenever I make a salad, it seems to be a giant one. I don’t actually care for preparing salads (or I would probably do it more often). I love cooking something more laborious and complicated. I like my food to either be a labor of love or as simple as possible. tonight’s salad was alright though. I used my hands to chop a few veggies and some garlic and shook the dressing. it left me feeling full in more than one way. 

now I’m going for an earlyish bedtime and an earlyish wake up and a longish run in the morning. tiny habits turn into good stuff and keep me feeling full. 

it’d make you better. 

a little over a year ago I started this daily photo taking challenge. I had to post a picture everyday for 365 straight days – a photo of something that made me feel happy that day. sometimes I waited until right before bed. other times I enjoyed something so much I could barely wait to post the photo. once in a while I was enjoying my day so much that I forgot to take a picture and had to cobble something together. at times the challenge was hard because there are some days that are just not awesome. but I made it. 

and then I couldn’t stop. I felt satisfied and proud with my commitment to the project, and I didn’t want it to end because it has become a reflection period for me – posting everyday. so I kept going. 

I started the project at a time when I was feeling a little lost in myself. and while I don’t think that one happy pic for everyday made me feel more grounded or anything that profound, I do feel like it helped me to gain some perspective and to establish some new roots. 

I’ve been thinking more and more about writing and trying to be more creative and I’m still not sure what that exactly means, but one idea I had this afternoon as the Decemberista blared from my Corolla’s sound system is that maybe I’ll try posting my Instagram pic (or sometimes it’s a video) here and expanding a bit on my reasoning for choosing that particular moment for the day. 

my moment today was driving to practice in the rain. I decided a few weeks ago threat I needed to use some of my vacation days and spend some town out of the office. it gave me a lot of time to think. and some time to catch up on the Gilmore Girls (in full disclosure mode here). I slept in a lot. I ran a bit. I baked. I hugged some people I’ve been wanting to hug for a while. and I focused on my coaching and the kids and the great rowing club I am a part of – a lot! 

I soooo needed that. while I thrive on being busy, I also need to compartmentalize sometimes. to break it down and get away. I know now that, all things considered with how awesome my summer was – next year I’m taking a damn vacation. seriously, like a long one. I dream of driving east, and possibly west. hopping from city to city – and staying with friends for a day or two along the way. 

that’s a long way off, but as I told someone I met recently, now that I’ve got the idea in my head, it’s only a matter of time before I make it happen. and I can’t wait. 

who knew this ‘little’ photo project I took on last August would turn out like it has. it’s a piece of me. and while it hasn’t made me profoundly better, I’m certainly no worse for the wear. finding my stride again – pounding the pavement and otherwise. 

american birkebeiner, 2015.

whoa guys…where has February gone?! i mean, for months and months, especially since the start of winter AND even more so, since the start of this year, the primary athletic event at the forefront of my mind has been the Birkie (the American Birkebeiner). i signed up for this event once, a few year ago because some friends were doing it and i thought it might be fun. needless to say, i never actually went and did the race. so, it’s been on my mind and on my (yet to be seen) bucket list ever since. the year i signed up before now i wasn’t committed to training. i think i skied a whopping 2 times that season. and i decided it was best to sit it out.

but this year…this year was different.

maybe a year ago from now, i began making some changes in my life. let’s say – in my personal life. i realized some things i was doing that were opposite of setting myself up for success. some call it self-sabotage. (i usually look at things through rose-colored lenses, though). anyway, i knew, above all else, it was time for a change.

and so much has changed. adios not so great relationships. hello new job that was a bit of a leap. welcome back, training like an actual athlete. oh, and that dust that sat atop the generally fun-loving, quirky, busy, introverted weirdo i am…it’s been dusted off.

i decided to make a change and then things just started becoming more clear and more obvious. and when a few random friends mentioned they were doing the Birkie this year, i though, “well, why the heck not?!”

a funny thing about this race is that it pretty much fills up before Thanksgiving every year and then you wait to see if there will be snow and how darn cold it will be and all of that jazz. this year, there was not a lot of snow, and not too much cold. i’m not going to say that’s a combo i don’t enjoy – except when i’ve signed up for this big race. oh  well! there’s training to be done.

i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: thank goodness for my friend and ski buddy Cindi who adventured with me (well, she got me to adventure with her) to some ski wonderlands…or i would have had a bit more trouble with this event. not only did she get me out there – she gave me a few excellent tips…and i swear i walked away from Saturday really pleased with my first Birkie result because of them. i heard, “keep your arms closer to your body” about a hundred times. i repeated it to myself about a hundred thousand times on race day. she gave me tips about climbing hills. and BOYYYYY were there hills! and lastly, the night before the race, i got a text that said, ” have fun and don’t crash! ;)”

YOU GOT IT!

i went into the race with a baby goal in my mind – to finish close to 5 hours. i’ve said to a few people close to me that i could have probably achieved that if: 1. i hadn’t started in wave 9 and 2. if i had more ski experience. you see, starting in wave 9 meant lots of slow uphills, especially at the start and some backed up downhills throughout the race. also, the conditions were pretty close to “fair” by the time i skied the course. again, oh well! ski on. as for #2, you can really only get better at skiing by skiing more. period.

Birkie, you’d be safe to guess you’ll be seeing me again!

rw quoteone of the things i was really, really looking forward to though in the Birkie though is that i’ve realized over the past 5 or so years…i’m truly an endurance lover. so, as the race goes on, i usually just keep on, too. just coming through the halfway point of the Birkie, i was feeling really good and with just 20k to go, i thought to myself, “this is just like the Lake Monona route and i can almost run that in my sleep.”

not only is the quote above indicative of the feelings i have about distance events, but its also especially fun to think about in terms of cross country skiing.

one of the best things i’ve discovered in training for this event is that, well, for one, i suck at directions. i mean, i’d probably not venture into the woods in the snow on my own. but in xc skiing, you really have no other choice. training for the Birkie and xc skiing is like one of those choose your own adventure books. you can go this way or that and eventually you’ll get where you need to go – but the path is different. it’s no different than any of life except that you actively get to decide over and over again over the course of your ski-venture.

on Birkie day, i took none of that for-granted. and it was amazing. yes, the first 10k or so were brutal on what they call “the powerline.” it’s a constant up and down and up and down and up and down again. at first i thought, “WHAT DID I SIGN UP FOR?!” as my heart was maxing out at 175 beats per minute. but soon after, we headed into the woods and i was like “WHOA, THIS IS GORGEOUS!”

i must have been smiling at the first and second and every aid station. but even in the very beginning, even some of the volunteers noticed. (the volunteers, by the way, fantastic!)

and so it went, i skied and i enjoyed my time out in the woods. i took it all in. there were flurries flying by as i made my way south from Cable to Hayward through one of Wisconsin’s most treasured areas of the Northwoods. somewhere near 20k down, i skied up to my pal Mike who was also out there doing this race for the first time. it was awesome to see him and we ended up skiing together – or nearby one another for i swear close to 10k. and just after we separated, i ran into my friend Kristi who, by this time, is a seasoned Birkie competitor. she joked earlier in the week that she hoped to see me over the weekend, just not on the course, and then, of course, my goal was to chase her down by the end of the 51km. we skied together for a minute and laughed about our encounter and caught up more after we finished.

i wish i had been able to capture, in pictures, the beauty and fun that i had on that Saturday, a few days ago, in the Northwoods in February, but you’ll have to take my word for it…and maybe do the race yourself one day.

instead of going on and on though, i came up with a list of sorts to help explain my experience to all of you. i hope this gives you a simple picture, and some laughs about the experience….

so, without further ado:

SHAY’S BIRKIE 2015, BY THE NUMBERS!

2 bus rides – one to the start line and one back to the car at the end of the day

1 trip to the port-a-potties before the race

1/2 banana on my way to the start line. i decided NOT to eat the other half off the ground after 10,000+ people had already walked over that snow

7 restless hours of sleep the night before

1 trip to the UP – to ABR ski area for the inaugural ski of this season

30 (or more) laps at Lapham Peak ski area on their man-made loop of snow

1 day of skiing at Iola Winter Sports Park

1 long day of skiing at 9-mile in Wausau

6 coats of wax – an estimate because i actually don’t know how to wax my own skis

25 – dollars spent on hand and toe warmers this winter

2 warm (thanks to hand warmers in my vest pockets on race day) vanilla power gels

1 disgustingly cold vanilla bean GU (seriously, the hand warmer idea was GOLDEN. have you ever had cold GU? take my word and don’t try it)

10-ish cups of lukewarm water at aid stations

12-ish cups of warm ENERGY. which volunteers shouted to indicate they had either Nuun Hydration or GU Energy drink for us. ENERGYENERGYENERGY!

3-4 ‘nilla wafer cookies

1 oreo-like cookie

1/4 chocolate chip cookie. i could have eaten the entire cookie at the top of this hill

1 bitch hill. no, really, that’s what the locals call it. also, where i had the heavenly chocolate chip cookie piece.

2 (or 3) snowmobile gangs. these guys were hilarious and made me laugh. they’d heckle you and tell you to slow down around sharper turns…but cheer if you made it through unscathed.

1 easy fall trying to step around someone who had fallen right in front of me early in the race.

0 crashes!

1 shot from the shot ski or an apple pie-like beverage. also: a proud member of the 39k club!

51 kilometers through the Northwoods of Wisconsin from Cable to Hayward, WI

2 big cups of chicken noodle soup afterwards

1 bitch hill belgian ale at the angry minnow brewpub with dinner

countless smiles and high fives and congrats.

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ok, there you have it! this was one of the best things i’ve ever done. going back to the quote, and to a year ago, i had no idea what the past 12 months would hold, but by actively choosing my own adventure in life, by choosing another path, i got to show up last weekend ready to tackle just about anything. i got to tackle the amazing American Birkiebeiner!

AND, i realize that i get to do that, to choose my own adventure every single day.

 

 

muse monday: lauren fleshman edition

its great to have goals and sometimes i arrive at the point of a new goal by witnessing the awesome going on around me and being inspired. a few weeks ago, maybe longer, #sisterhero Lauren Fleshman posted somewhere on social media about some of her lady muses. as someone who loves to see women applaud and celebrate one another, i loved this!

i’ve been following Lauren since she ran the NYC Marathon in 2011 and ever since, i’ve been fan girl-ing so hard. sure, she’s an friggin amazing athlete, a successful business owner, a great partner to another successful athlete, and an inspiring mom to one cute baby. but i think what struck me is that she’s never been anything other than sincere.

when you’re not an elite athlete, it’s easy to think that those who are are some of the “haves” and those of us who aren’t elites, well, that we’re the “have not’s” but in following Lauren, it never seems that way. she suffers like the rest of us – through tough runs and injury and constantly evaluating priorities. she seems, in a word, brave because she stands up for what’s real.

true story: i decided a few months ago to join the #PickyClub and one of the perks was a t-shirt with my membership. I tweeted Lauren about the shirt sizing and she replied back to me. directly. and within an hour or two. seriously! (follow her!)

by theunnamed-1 way, my shirt arrived – and fits just as i’d hoped…

and not only that, but the Picky Bars are great, too!

ok, ok…back to why I think Lauren is great. i struggled for over a year with some yucky injury and at the same time, she was sharing her rehab and her return to getting into racing shape after becoming a mother. there are no frills. just honesty and hard work.

she’s inspired me, from afar, to go after my dreams. to realize that while there may be setbacks along the way, it’s always a good idea to try again, and she’s also reminded me to surround myself with other people who want to do great things. i love following Lauren online and i love the opportunity to support a person in whatever way i can as they strive for their own goals.

so, thank you to my inaugural monday muse, Lauren Fleshman. i’m inspired everyday and especially the days when i get the opportunity to believe a bit more in what’s to come!

what are your goals and who are the people that inspire you to get after it?!

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on goals.

I’ve been stewing on this post and a few others for a little bit now. here’s the thing: we’ve all got goals. for me, goal setting has been a way to set myself in motion – to move toward something. in the past, I’ve done a fairly good job at achieving the goals I’ve set for myself, but I haven’t been as structured as I strive to be. this year is the year I’m working, wholeheartedly to change that.

a while back, Oiselle founder Sally B. tweeted the following (oh, and follow her, you won’t regret it):

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and I was all like, “YESYESYES, somebody is on the same page as me!!!”

the thing about goals, and often about setting goals is that they’re usually a destination. something to achieve. somewhere to go. for me, time, a race distance, a finish line…pushing myself to the next level or to see what my limits are.

and that’s all fine and good, but as I get older I also realize that goals aren’t usually achieved in a straight line. and they don’t always have a definitive end.

and that is ok!

last month for me was a spectacular running month. I got way back into the running groove, systematically building my long miles up. suddenly I found myself with 10 or so days left in the month though sort of grabbing for an arbitrary goal of running 100 miles in the month of January. great in theory, but after a few days of self-debate, i realized my primary goal for right now – to get in shape for the Birkie. so, 100 running miles is an ok goal, just not when your next race is a 51km race on cross country skis.

adjust. simplify. edit. anchor. and go forward.

and greater than that, it takes some real strength, in my opinion, to take a step back and remember your own goals and not to get caught up in what they awesome people around you are doing. you certainly can’t achieve another person’s goals for them and that will certainly not make you happy or satisfied. expend your energy elsewhere.

I took January to set some good habits knowing that whatever life throws in the path of me achieving my goals…I can handle. this afternoon, it snowed and I could have made a ton of excuses for not running, but instead I got my booty out and did it.

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and I’m so glad I did. another thing I’ve been working on is being conscious of my goals and the steps I’m taking in their direction. I’m not only doing this for me, but also for the kids I get the privilege to coach. I want them to know that they can brave the elements and whatever life tosses their way – that road blocks aren’t permanent and that its all going to be ok.

call me crazy, but I’ve been an athlete for over 20 years of my life and one thing I know for sure is that if you keep going, you’ll see that goal come alive.