All posts by Crystal Weiss

hurdles

I’ve been thinking I need to sit down and tell you what my training has been like over the last month because I think it might be helpful to someone out there. As you all know (at least now you will) the Pacific Northwest Marathon is coming up-in 12 days!! I have decided that I want to run the marathon and I have been training for it. Running has become second nature and enjoyable on so many levels. During my training I’ve encountered IT band issues and hip alignment issues, but nothing devastating has happened- so I did not fully appreciate how easy it was for me nor did I fully appreciate just being able to wake up each morning and run however far I needed to and know it would be fun and I would finish well.  Then I got sick.
About 3 weeks ago I started coming down with this icky flu that involved chills, aches and pains and an awful, persistent cough. Suddenly I was weak and couldn’t do anything. I took a weekend break and Monday morning, in spite of feeling crummy, I decided to resume my training. That week I spent sleeping and having awful night sweats and chills but I was determined to push through.    My training partner toned it down for me-she could tell I was not feeling strong, and I struggled through the week, ending that week with a 20 miler that felt like death-but with tennis shoes. I finally decided that whatever was wrong was not the flu and wasn’t going away. I went back to the doctor (the first doctor told me I just had the flu) and my doctor said “pneumonia”. Blah!!!! I decided that I had to take a week off. I didn’t want to, but all those around me who had their thinking capacity intact (unlike myself) said “rest!!-or you will just get worse.” After a long week of coughing up ‘stuff’ and finishing my antibiotics, I was able to resume my training-but in a weakened state.
It was so discouraging and terrifying to feel weak and unable to do what I could before. All I can say is that you only have two choices -are you going to put those shoes back on and move forward, or are you going to let yourself be beat and wallow in a tub of ice-cream and self pity? There is only one way to get stronger at that point-TAKE CHARGE and GET MOVING! It has been hard, I have been scared and worried about the marathon because I suddenly feel vulnerable and weaker but I am choosing to succeed. I don’t know what race day will bring but I have decided that I still have it in me, that I will love that 26.2 mile run no matter what and that the runs that are the hardest to do mean the most.
I still love running! It has been an amazing journey so far, and the longer I run the more I learn about life and myself. This time around I have learned  that sometimes you do need to give your body a break and rest-IT IS IMPORTANT!  And I have gained a greater appreciation for: being able to run, being able to labor in taking care of my family, and feeling strong.

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The Road Before US

This morning was glorious! I went on a little run with my friend Amity up Mt. Pisgah. The Craguns, founders of the Pacific Northwest Marathon, were also there with their four adorable children. There is something so invigorating and peaceful about starting your day early and with a communion with nature. Fog hugged the hills, the air was fresh and cold, and the sounds of nature (and our labored breathing) was all that broke the still beauty of the trail. Amity and I struggled to run up that hill. It was hard, we had to stop and walk a couple of times to avoid DEATH…….maybe I am exaggerating a little…but we kept at it and made it up to the top in decent time. I had to keep reminding myself that we did our long run yesterday so today was just frosting. It was just fun!
I have four fantastic kids. I love them! They are energetic, intelligent, creative and they laugh at my jokes. How could a mom want anything more? Every once in a while, though, I feel bogged down, overwhelmed and outnumbered and my running has become this sweet moment of personal inner peace. I often feel like I could just lift off of the ground and fly through the air. I am so filled with euphoria as I run. I don’t know how else to describe how delicious it is to me. This morning was such a moment for me. As I continued on with the rest of my day I kept thinking about how energized my soul feels-that may sound a little silly, but its true. I feel energized down to the core.
I am filled with gratitude. I am grateful to the Craguns for reaching out to me and including me in their journey and vision for health, fitness and running. I am grateful to my friend Amity who is like a mentor to me. She is so talented and strong and has experience and knowledge about training that she selflessly shares with me. I am so grateful to my husband who has so wholeheartedly supported my crazy running and given me encouragement while carrying an extra load so that I can do the things I need to train for the marathon.
Training has required commitment, effort and the planning and labors of several individuals. We never have a road that we truly travel alone. What a wonderful life.. It is good to remember the things we are grateful for, the people who have given to us so that when we feel tempted to give up, feel discouraged, or even complain we remember all the efforts and love from all of the people who care about us and for whom we care.

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wahoo!

I am just excited, that is all I can think about. This last weekend was a great energizer for me. My friend and I did our long run (15 miles!!!) and our church had something called “general conference” during which time our whole world-wide congregation receives spiritual instruction and it is just a great boost to me-it helps me re-evaluate and focus and feel closer to my Creator. So it is on this wave of enthusiasm and energy that I am writing.
This last summer I started running. I knew it was something I wanted and needed to do. So I did it. I decided to be a little ambitious and make a goal- a half-marathon. I just wanted something to work towards-something that would measure my progress and provide a commitment I needed to keep. I have decided that I am going to do the marathon instead. I never realized that I could be here, at this point, if I just kept running. I am talking about what is going on inside of me. I feel that strong fire burning inside of me, again. It has been a long time. I have had a small flame that never dies-I guess it’s my hope flame, but I haven’t had roaring fire in so long, but now, when I look in the mirror I see a steady gaze, happy eyes and the tilt of my chin says “no monkey business” (but in a happy way). I can’t say enough about the potential of the human spirit.
I think we each need to see who we are inside. We get covered by a layer of imperfection and wrapped in disappointing experiences and pretty soon we’ve cocooned ourselves into an unrecognizable mass of less than what we are. We allow ourselves to expect less of ourselves, we see only what we’ve covered ourselves in and it drags us down, BUT if you go and look in the mirror and look into your eyes (I mean really search) you will see that spark, that twinkle-your light, begging to be let out. Oh I wish I could run around and grab people by the shoulders and tell them “you are amazing!!” and have them believe me (instead of thinking I’m a nut). I’ve decided there is no time to waste on second guessing yourself, on “tomorrows”, do what you can today because you CAN.
I was recently speaking to a dear sweet friend and we were talking about looking for local causes to help with. We want to do something positive, we can and so we will. I see the news and I want to go rescue refugees and abused children and I get so overwhelmed and frustrated at my limited reach and abilities and I will let it discourage me-I can’t do that anymore. So I will bite off what I can chew and do that. Find you 1 mile, your 5 mile, your around the block chunk of good you can do and do it. It doesn’t have to be a marathon of good works. No one starts with a marathon-every race is run one step at a time, training, planning, little steps, consistent efforts. I really believe average people doing small acts of goodness, consistently, is the key to the change we all want in this world.
So go run hard, do good and BE HAPPY!

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Stumbling block or Springboard?

Growing up my mom was always telling me how smart I was. I think she saw my potential and wanted me to be confident. I remember thinking that a sure sign of a truly brilliant mind would be that things would always be easy, school work wouldn’t require studying and the good grades would just come to me. My mother neglected to tell me that even intelligence requires hard work, in fact being able to work hard-identifying challenges and obstacles, and then being able to overcome them was what an intelligent mind does. It has taken me several decades to finally realize that potential and intelligence, just like any seed, requires cultivation and intentional effort.
I have been thinking a lot about this concept in all aspects of my life lately. I have been trying to sculpt a new reality out of the clay of my life. I feel like everything  relates back to running, for me, and it might sound a little redundant to once again bring up the merits and virtues of running but when I began running I hoped it would be a power for change for good in my life and it has.
Training with my friend, Amity, has sped up my progress and so I am running into obstacles a lot faster than before-I like to think of these as springboards, or “learning opportunities”. One of these springboards has been an IT band issue-oh yes, the runner’s bane. I have learned the importance of rest, that growth requires slow and steady rather than light speed, and that I need to develop other areas of strength-stretching, yoga, weights to compliment my running. Amity and I will not be able to train together for 3 weeks and so now I face a new challenge, heading out on my own-will I continue strong and steady on my own or is my resolve dependent on the support of others? Another significant issue for me has been related to my body image “sensitivity”-becoming a runner has meant building muscle mass in areas I felt I wanted to shrink-in short you don’t get a “barbie doll” figure running. Getting bigger leg muscles bothered me a little at first, but then I realized what it meant-I was getting stronger and more fit. I further realized that I didn’t care if my legs were getting bigger because I love to run and am not going to stop just to keep my legs from getting a little bigger! This was a fantastic revelation to me-I love feeling healthy and strong more than I am attached to my deeply rooted body image mis-conceptions. Maybe there is hope for me-I am overcoming my self-image sickness! All of these seemingly difficult “problems” have proven to be answers to other problems I have. The IT band has helped me be more patient, persistent and determined. Having to go out on my own is teaching me self-accountability and intentional planning. My body changing has forced me to face my demons and re-enforced the idea that I am in this for the well-being aspect of running and I am loving that feeling.
Recognizing these “obstacles” as spring boards and stepping stones has taken effort, though. Intentional effort has been required at every step and will be required of me in everything I will do. I started running to affect a change in my life, and though it hasn’t come easily and quickly, it has come. The neat thing about life is that we get to decided what we want to accomplish, who we want to be- and we have the power, ability and intelligence to do it-we just have to put in the thought and work. I hope the message resounds in you, reader. If there is a seemingly impossible dream you’ve been hiding away, pull it out, dust it off and get to work-and I hope that when you run into that first “obstacle” you will remember that it is just a springboard waiting to launch you to the next level.

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A lot of Elbow Grease

I recently found a friend to train with. One of the ladies that runs on Saturday, who I happen to know outside of our training group, asked me if I would like to run together in the mornings. I said “YES!!!!” …..and then the hard work really began.

You know I have written a lot about the fun and joy of running, but I don’t know if I have accurately portrayed my experience. I remember all the exhilaration and post run thrill of having completed a challenge but I forget the waking up and groaning and trying to keep my eyes open while getting dressed and the first bite of not-so-warm air as you drag your half-asleep self out into the darkness over and over again, every day, forever…..running is hard work.

My friend and I have been running together now for about two weeks and the first week was tough. We had to iron out the kinks, figure out what worked best for us and are still experimenting with our schedule but some things have remained constant. It is still a challenge, I still wake up @ 4:30 each morning we run, and once I get started I always feel great. Sometimes I worry that I won’t be able to go the distance or speed but I get out and do it anyway and surprisingly enough I can do more than I realized. The running itself has been a great mix of grit, fun conversation and that runners “high” as we’ve really dug in and worked together. Preparing for the running, going to bed on time (we both have young children) oh and did I mention getting up early?!?-has been tough and challenging and made so much easier SO MUCH EASIER by the fact that I have a friend who is doing it with me.

I think I just wanted to share two vital points: #1-running is hard work, takes determination, dedication, preparation and to a certain degree-sacrifice (yes, I love my fluffy pillow)-it is hard work so you have to LOVE IT, and #2-having a partner in crime makes THE difference. Find someone to run, walk, bike, change eating habits…with. Now I would suggest finding someone who shares your mentality about it or who runs about the same distance/speed as you do-or if you are extremely lucky like me, you have a friend who is far better, more experienced and yet willing to drag you along for the ride.
I love running, I love sleeping too, but I love how I feel, what I accomplish-not just on my run but everything else in my life feels more manageable, so the hours and planning and abandoning my pillow SO EARLY each morning is worth it. If you enjoy running but find it challenging, keep up the good work, hang in there, the hard days will turn into not so hard days, then into kinda fun days, then all of the sudden they will turn into days you just can’t live without. Push through the crummy days to get to that mountain top and enjoy the view of how far you’ve come.!!

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Get Together and Run!

This last Saturday Jenni and David Cragun held their first marathon training at the Sheldon High School track.  I awaited Saturday morning with such great anticipation that I woke up at 5 that morning and couldn’t go back to sleep.  It felt kind of like Christmas.
This time of year 7 in the morning seems unnaturally early because it is so dark still, but we had an enthusiastic turnout.  Our group of about 10 runners huddled together in the cold, bouncing and stretching and swinging our arms at random intervals to keep warm in the early winter drizzle as we introduced ourselves and talked about running.  We did some warm ups as a group, were led through some stretching by a veteran runner (who has run several marathons while raising her family!!) and then each of us ran, at our own pace-all  around the same track, together.

The Cragun’s young children joined in with the running, even the youngest stood and watched and cheered us on.  Evergreen trees stretched up to the sky on every side, watching us running, nodding their branches to the beat of the wind in approval.  The drizzle grew a little more insistent and rain accumulated on our faces and heads flattening our hair and cooling our faces.  Persistence, determination and joy flashed across our faces as some of us paired together and others drove on in solitude.  We each were beating out a very personal song as we found our individual rhythms out on that track and yet we were surrounded  and strengthened by each other.

Who, but a group of runners fueled by the same burning desire, would get up so early on a Saturday and go run in the cold Oregon rain?  It was glorious!!  As I looked around at our group of fresh faces I felt a surge of energy from the people around me.   It was exhilarating to be beginning something-a first step in a new journey.  The thought that we would be making our way towards running what we be for most of us a first marathon (or at least being ABLE to run one) was a bit overwhelming. There is something to be said about doing something as a group.  We form bonds, we help each other stay on track, we cheer each other on and we generate a greater energy together than we could alone.
Thank you Jenni and David!  Your time and investment in all of us-believing in us and helping us achieve, is making a change.  To all of those who came last Saturday-thank you!  You are tough and you showed up to start a journey that we will all hopefully take together.  I look forward to getting to know you better.  For all those who didn’t come but have been thinking about it….come!! It is CRAZY fun-yup, a little crazy and a lot of fun.  It was very informative, we learned about some ways to improve our running and strength and were provided a training schedule by the Craguns to help  with personal training.
I was so pumped after our first marathon training, that Monday morning I went out running in the rain and came home soaked, even my toes were soggy.  What a great way to face the oncoming winter weather-a support group that will keep each other motivated and moving!!

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The Wind at My Back

Two weeks ago I had an amazing run!  It was Wednesday morning, right before Thanksgiving,  and it was dark and cold.  I knew we were going to be driving for 9 hours that day so I was determined to get my run in.  I got out the door and was immediately met by nasty cold so I started running really fast-well, fairly fast, and I thought “I am going to burn out quickly if I keep this up, but if I don’t move fast I am going to lose body parts to frost bite.”  So I continued…(now a little disclaimer here, it probably wasn’t below freezing, but I love tropical weather so it felt  like frozen death to me.)
When it is early and dark I do the same safe run-well lit main street down to the local grocery store and back, so there are only two directions, there and back.  All the way down the road I felt like I was floating along.  It felt easy and great.  Then I turned around to come back home and it hit me-a wall of wind-a brick wall of cold intense wind that was trying to push me back.  I laughed at myself for having thought I was super woman all the way down to the stop light.  The wind had been helping me along and I didn’t realize it until it was no longer at my back.  Now I had to struggle and fight my way back.  It was hard at first, then I found my rhythm again and my breathing went back to normal and the wind no longer bothered me but actually felt good as it blew against my sweaty face and arms and filled my lungs.
I thought about the wind and life.  We often go floating along and things are good, great even, and we forget the wind that is carrying us along.  It isn’t until tragedy or challenges come up that we remember or even recognize that we are being carried and lifted up.  Sometimes it is necessary for our growth, our understanding, to face the wind and run against it. Sometimes hitting that wind benefits us in ways we hadn’t thought of before.
So these were my thoughts on life and then…..last week my entire family got sick-some awful flu on steroids.  And I kept hearing my own voice telling me about the wind and how it would make me stronger, make me grateful and even work for my good.  We were all making good use of ALL the bowls in our house (I think you understand my reference) and we were sore and tired and week so I focused on what I could do.  Thankfully I was able to care for my family even when really sick, we had all we needed to care for the comfort and well being of our kids, and we are all on the mend.
This experience has re-taught me some important things.  First is compassion towards others who are sick-to be patient and kind because it hurts and is crummy.  Second I was reminded that I can do difficult things because God will help me when I ask.  Third I was reminded how grateful I am for each family member and just how much they are a part of my joy.  Last of all I realized how much I enjoy and need my runs (not the flu kind-sorry bad humor) for sanity-I enjoy being healthy and strong!!! I love the little parables life teaches me.

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Setbacks

I just experienced a set back while writing my blog.  My cute little two year old, who has been sick and miserable for the last two days, turned off the power to my computer and erased the blog I was just finishing.  Oh I love my little boo bear and I am really trying to remain calm right now.  Maybe my blog needed to be done over again.
I have been running in inclement weather (well, inclement to me) and have had positive results.  And by positive results I mean that I completed my runs and didn’t die halfway through.  Tuesday’s run was in the rain-wahoo pacific northwest rain!!! Today’s run was in the wee hours of a freezing morning.  I stretched a bunch before leaving the house and ran up and down our stairs for good measure (and to wake my 12 year old son who seems to take forever to get ready for school).  It was a hard run this morning.  I felt like my legs were lead weights and I had a hard time getting my breathing into rhythm-but I must have done alright because my time was right on target.  My 10 year old son kept track, “Thank you Hyhy!”
On  a different note…we’ve had a heartbreaking week in our community.  I have watched as people all around have pulled together, reached out in love and service and created a support system for the grieving family.  Human kind never ceases to amaze me.  We are capable of so much!
Though the pain and sadness have really taken its toll on all of us, the situation has also inspired and driven to greater strength, selfless acts of service and renewed hope and faith in a better world to come.  Suddenly all the trivial things in life are really insignificant and any struggles or problems I may have felt I have melted away to nothing.
Enjoy the important people in your life and don’t waste any energy on things that don’t nourish you or others. Tickle your kids, sing out loud, be kind and smile.

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My Running Buddy

This week started off a little shaky.

Last week I went hunting with my family. I took all of my running stuff with every intention of running wild through the hills of coastal Oregon. I had these huge dreams of getting up every morning and running through the woods with nothing but the trees and woodland animals to keep me company-the cold fresh air rushing through my lungs. It was a beautiful dream…….then I got there.
On the way there I had to drive blind through a thick cloud of wood smoke (There are logging companies that harvest the trees up in the hills and occasionally they burn the leftovers to make room for the new trees they plant). It was awful and thick and suffocating. By the time I got up to our camp site I no longer had to guess where the road in front of me was, but the smell and oxygen robbing particulates were very noticeable and I found it hard to breath. I also noticed the very steep grade in the road I thought I would so effortlessly be running every morning. The first half would be down hill and the second half would be a highly improbable feat for me. So needless to say the only run I got in last week was the one I got in before going camping.
After I got back I was so worn out , and my doctor’s office called me and told me that I might have TB-yes, a lot happened at the end of last week (the whole TB thing was just a game of telephone gone terribly wrong-no TB for me!) I was feeling discouraged, exhausted and that old feeling of helplessness and doom was creeping into the back of my mind. I kept thinking, “Oh nuts!! This is the end. I am going to turn into the slug I turned into last winter and retreat into a pit of self pity and misery. My runs are over…..woe is me!!” Maybe not those words, exactly, but almost exactly…. So this week I wanted to not fizzle. Monday came and went full of tired and sleepy excuses, as did Tuesday, but Wednesday dawned with the realization that I had made a commitment to run with my friend while our boys attended scouts at our church. Wahoo!!! I was so thrilled. I was going to do this!! So Wednesday night came, I got dressed in my running garb, grabbed my sneakers and drove to the church. That is where Jenni Cragun and I met. We ran-it was fun, we talked, it was motivating and uplifting. It was just what I needed-I felt renewed and energized.
I have since decided to revise my opinion on running. I was once asked if I thought it was a social thing or a personal thing and I responded that it was personal. But come to find out you really do need support and motivation and prodding every once in a while that comes from outside of yourself. Running does need to be a personal choice, a personal competition, a personal commitment, BUT…we all need each other. Life shows us that we need people around us-people to love, serve, live for and people who are willing to listen, help and support us. We need each other. We are social beings. Running is the same. Some runs we have to do alone-just like some challenges or heartbreaks or experiences we have to go through just us and our Creator, but other times those challenges and heartbreaks are opportunities to support and love one another. This week Jenni lifted me up and helped me back on track. I was pulled off of a slippery slope I had resigned myself to and since Wednesday night I have gone on two great personal runs and a nice walk with a friend.
I love running! I am so grateful for Jenni. Something so simple as running with me made such a huge difference to me and my life. That was this week’s running insight. I hope you will take it to heart as I have and make a personal commitment to try harder to be someone else’s “running buddy” and lift a friend.

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Food for Thought

I just got back from my first run this week. It was grueling!!! I took my little two year old, who behaved like a little patient angel-thank you, peanut! This morning’s run was a plug along run, but I did it. I had to push to keep moving and I think I made it on a little bit of energy and a whole lot of stubborn.
I didn’t blog last week. Last week was challenging for me-something about the gloomy weather and dark drizzly mornings wasn’t as appealing as a bright happy sunrise run. I ran, though, I got up in the dark, put on my shoes and ran the only run I could safely run in the dark-up and down River Rd. I did the exact same run two times last week and it was not the most enjoyable experience but it felt good to do anyway. I only did two runs, though. I let myself get bogged down and it discouraged me. I made poor choices last week that drained my energy. I don’t know if the discouragement caused the bad choices or vice versa, but I do know that I stayed up way later than was good for me just about every night last week and I got into the Halloween candy (yes, before Halloween) more than once or twice. So what it boils down to is I made it hard for myself to accomplish my goals because I didn’t take care of my body.
I struggle with things. I think we all do. I feel discouraged because I know I could and should do better, I feel overwhelmed by my list of “to do’s” and sometimes instead of just slow and steady I warp speed and fizzle-or crash. That is where I am at right now. I need to do some slow and steady while I get through this little challenge time for me. Be patient, run the course deliberately and don’t worry if you have to take a “scenic” route and it takes a little longer, just keep on plugging along.

All of this perspective hit me yesterday, in church. I was feeling crummy but had decided I needed to be where I needed to be (at church) and sitting there listening to the children singing I was reminded that every effort counts, every good choice pushes us along in the right direction and that when you feel like you’re dragging dead weight you dig in and keep pushing-DON’T GIVE UP!!!
So, the Pacific Northwest Marathon is starting a run/walk with your friend challenge. I would like to point out how timely and perfect this is to keep us plugging along. Plug along in the rain, in the cold, in the dark-take a friend to make it bearable, but keep moving. Just remember that however impossible the trail may seem, however long and arduous the journey may appear, just plug along-on the other side is a glorious view and the exhilarating power that comes from making the choice to keep on trying.

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