Sandstorm

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Sometimes fate is like a sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out. Like some omnious dance with death. Just before dawn. Why? Because the storm isn’t something that blew in from far away. Something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give into it. Step right inside the storm. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in. And walk through it step by step. And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.

I first was introduced to this quote last year when a few members of my team were training for fall marathons. Sarah Cotton and Stephen Kersh followed us all fall and created a documentary series. At first the passage resonated with me as I thought about the hundreds of miles I would log on Lake Mary. The long and grueling workouts my teammates and I would conquer. We would be walking through our own storm, and when it became painful, we would close our eyes and take it on step by step. And we did. This storm however I chose. I chose to race the NYC Marathon and to devote all my energy, my determination, and my motivation to see how good I could be on Sunday, November 5th. I finished 10th, in 2:31. It was a disappointment but for reasons that led me to discover some things about my blood levels, that in turn has carved out a path of success in 2018. So for that storm I'm grateful.

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Other storms in my life have come at me hard and without choice. My dad passed away when I was 18 from Prostate Cancer. I didn't see him in his final months, but I saw a picture. A picture of my 55 year old father who looked 90, decrepit from chemotherapy, and the cancer taking over his body. My dad's name is James. I look exactly like him. He never met Ben. He never saw me get married, or met Riley and Hudson. Some days I look in the mirror and I see his face in mine and it takes my breath away. I have so many questions for him. I miss having a dad yell at me and threatening my husband to not break my heart.

In 2016 my mom was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer. This fi'ng storm is still chasing me. I can't possibly lose both parents to cancer. But you see you can. That's life. The first few months there were questions, doctor appointments, surgeries, chemotherapy. She lived in Phoenix, I lived in Flagstaff. I was conflicted to drive down there every week, to make every appointment. But my boys were 1 and 2 and I didn't want to miss their moments. I was training hard for CIM Marathon and it's my job, my passion, my savior. I was pulled in every direction emotionally and physically. We moved her up to Flagstaff to look after her permanently. She's cancer free at this moment, but the storm is always shifting direction.

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Then there's my brother Jamie. Jamie was my best friend growing up. His friends used to call me Jamie with a wig on because we looked so much alike. He is the smartest and wittiest person I know. Jamie got lost into drugs about 8 years ago. It happened slowly and gradually. Our conversations were fewer, and our interactions more impersonal. See after our dad died, I think Jamie didn't have anything that fueled him, or that he loved. We almost lost Jamie last year in a drug overdose. There were many nights I went to sleep wondering if I'd wake up and my brother would no longer be with us. I tried to help him for many years but to no avail. He needed to dig himself out of the desperation he was living and find meaning. I'm happy to say Jamie is in a rehab program that he checked himself into and I actually got to visit him last month and essentially reintroduce him to his 2 and 4 year old nephews that really never got to know him. His smile was back, the Jamie I once know was resurfacing. There is hope for him. And I believe there is always hope.

Sometimes I feel unwarranted guilty that I have been blessed with such healthy children, this amazing gift to train and race as my profession, and a voracious love for life. Some of my family have walked through storms much stronger and scarier than I. But we all face our own storms, and we can weather them alone or with help. Running is the path I've chosen to channel my passion, my frustrations, and my own personal struggles. Throwing myself into the challenges I face in training and racing is how I walk through the other storms in life.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
— Haruki Murakami