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Beginning Again.

World’s End Reservation. Hingham, MA

 

Life has been harder than usual this past week. My body has felt heavy and my heart broken. It’s been tough adjusting, but that’s exactly what I’m doing – adjusting, growing, learning. This morning I went for my first solo long run in a long time. It was quiet and peaceful. Even though I didn’t feel lonely out there I missed my running partner. I missed hearing the sound of his feet crunching the leaves behind me. I missed climbing hills shoulder to shoulder in sync. I missed the stories he would he would rattle off that filled the space between us. I just missed him. I still miss him. And I expect to continue missing him for a long time.

But I’ll be ok.

I know I’ll do just fine. I’ve fallen before and I know that Kass’ always land on their feet. Today’s run reminded me of just that. Sure, I spent some of the run missing my running partner, but not the entire run. My mind mostly fluttered around from point to point as I worked to enjoy the moment I was in. At times I reflected on the shock and pain of this past week, but that was only a smaller subset of the run. Mostly I thought about how thankful I am to be able to go out and run for two hours without question. My body is a well-oiled machine that will go whenever, wherever and however long I want it to; what an amazing gift I have been given.

 

Lilly dancing during a picnic at World’s End

 

With the cool air filling my lungs I ran from the Trader Joes in the Hingham Shipyard through the back trails of Bare Cove Park, to downtown Hingham, around the entirety of World’s End Reservation and back again. World’s End is a spacious peninsula that overlooks Hingham Harbor with a backdrop of the busy Boston skyline. Peace. The storm in my soul felt at peace within the World’s End’s wide open space. Just me, myself and I searching for the path, searching for my path ahead into the next adventure. A hilly park with paths ranging from dirt trails to crushed gravel to straight grass, World’s End is a utopia for runners looking to begin again. I think that’s what I’m doing. No, that’s definitely what I’m doing. Today I’m beginning again.

This past week has been a blur complete with final goodbyes, overtired tears and more Grey’s Anatomy reruns than I care to admit. But something else came to light this week: In addition to my supportive family in New Jersey I have a network of people here in Boston. I may feel alone at times, but I’m not. I’m not alone. Several of my athletes and true friends reached out to me with past week to help me mourn the sudden loss of this relationship and for these friends I am forever grateful. Two days after the breakup Lisa took the day that is typically devoted to family time to drive over an hour to sit with me and my tears. While managing their own families and jobs Sarah, Molly, Alan and Lisa have answered every single text message that I have sent their way. I even enjoyed the distraction of handing out candy on Halloween and playing board games at Greg and Lauren’s home earlier in the week. Lastly, Kristi and Philip opened up their home and hearts to me on Sunday as they cooked me dinner, listened to my ramblings and shared their own experiences on what true love looks like.

Every day this past week I have woken up with this tightness in my chest and sorrow in my heart. Is this really happening? Did he really just up and leave? Is the man with whom I kissed passionately, loved furiously, and laughed endlessly truly gone from my life? Without fail the tears came.

But not today. No tears yet this morning. Progress, right?

The initial shock has finally worn off.  My heart is starting to heal.

I’ve done it before, so I can do it again.

Today is the day I begin again.

 

Never stop running,

The Lone Runner

 

My current stance on men and dating.

*Cheers to Monday, seeing Lillian this afternoon and a much needed trip to New Jersey planned for this upcoming weekend.*

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A million little pieces.

 

A special place. Providence, RI

 

I sit here in front of this keyboard with my heart broken into a million little pieces. I saw my divorce coming like a car crash happening in slow-motion, but this- I never saw this coming. Should I have seen this coming? I sit here searching for answers as to how I am suddenly on my own again in this world.

I thought I had found my match- a man who is as passionate about running and loving life as I am- but how could that be if he just walked away from me, from us?  I feel so confused, so lost. I spent this weekend with a pit in my stomach, a deep sadness enveloping my heart and tears in my eyes. After a year and a half of being in a deeply committed relationship my boyfriend and I have parted ways.

My relationship with Chris was no ordinary relationship- it was passionate, loving and life changing. Over the past year and a half I have learned so much about how to love and allow myself to be truly loved. Chris and I danced in the kitchen nightly. He picked me up off the ground to kiss me often. At times he tickled me to the point when I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. He was tender and kind with my heart and body, and I with his. We would sit on the couch and rub each others’ feet for hours post-long run while chatting the night away. In the snow, the sleet, the deep cold, the heat- we ran. We ran long on Sundays together, we napped like puppies in the middle of the day and then we watched movies at night. We enjoyed each other. We truly loved.

I shared with him my strengths (my passion, my laughter, my determination on the road and my baking skills) and my weaknesses (my endless worries, my fears, and my limited cooking abilities). Despite these revelations I felt accepted, seen and loved. Through hundreds of love letters and hours of running side by side he shared with me his own fears, hopes, frustrations and passions. It was because of these revelations I undoubtedly loved him, all of him.  His honesty allowed for me to love all of him, even the parts that were more challenging- because everyone has challenging stuff. The beauty in our relationship rested in the fact that we both acknowledged that each of us has “stuff”/emotional baggage; we didn’t try to change each other or feel jealous or insecure because of our previous marriages/experiences. There was a fundamental level of acceptance of who we are as individuals within our relationship. I believe that all of these facets comprise a healthy, strong relationship. And yet I suppose ours wasn’t strong enough. This is where I start to feel confused. How was all of this not enough?

I can tell you that Chris has peace in his heart and I have a storm in my soul. Growing up he would hop on his bike and ride for hours and hours to find his peace of mind, whereas I was a perfectionist in my studies and spent most of my time in the library and in my head. His serene energy was the calm to my storm. I had a lot to learn from this man. I learned that beans and rice is a completely acceptable dinner option, that you’re not going to die from drinking tap water and life is too short to not put half and half in your coffee. He never got angry or raised his voice. I learned to pick my battles with him and quickly realized that there aren’t too many battles really worth picking in life.

For a long while his sheer presence put me at ease, but then I believe my storm disrupted his tranquility. My worries were relentless and he felt helpless. The distance made things harder as I often left Connecticut in tears. On top of parenting Lillian, marathon training, coaching and working at the counseling center I was in a long distance relationship with a man who lived 2.5 hours away. I was overtired, at my limit and my weekly tears demonstrated that I was starting to unravel. I needed more of a commitment than I had; I wanted more than he could give. Something had to give. I knew it. Chris knew it. But I never, ever thought that it would be the relationship. We wanted to move closer to each other sooner, but we couldn’t. We are both parents with children who need us close by. We knew this from the start. We thought we could handle the distance. I thought I could handle the distance. But I couldn’t. He couldn’t. We couldn’t. Ultimately he wouldn’t do it anymore.

This relationship isn’t healthy for either of us. There’s too much pressure on us; it’s not balanced.” 

I understand each of his words separately. I hear them. I see them written out above. I know the words and yet I’m having trouble stringing them together in a sentence and processing them. I would have chosen a different path. I would have chosen to work together to smooth out the bumps, to carry each other through the tough times. He saw things differently. There’s not much you can do to maintain a relationship when one person wants it and the other has left the room.

I need to be clear here: there will be NO Chris-bashing here. No “you’re better off without him” comments allowed on this post. I’m not better off without him. I am better off BECAUSE of him and because of our relationship. I feel strongly about this. I’m hurt. I’m emotionally wounded and feeling just plain sad right now and yet this relationship has taught me so much about love and life. Feeling loved in my future is non-negotiable. Being accepted for who I am- my strengths and vulnerabilities, my intensity and my emotion- is a must. Running together through the streets, peeing together in the woods and pausing our Garmins to kiss midrun- simply making the small special moments last a little bit longer is a beautiful approach to living. I may be deeply hurt right now but I know that I am a strong woman and will be a better partner in the future because of this relationship.

I keep having flashes of memories that we made together full of so much love, laughter and fun and wonder- how did we get here? The relationship wasn’t perfect. No relationship is. There were bumps along the way. Many times he held me as I cried over the loss of my marriage or the stress I was experiencing as a single mother. He was there. He put in work. And yet my fears were so intense that his reassurance often fell on deaf ears. He had his own stuff that threw curve balls to the relationship; but curve balls make a relationship solid. You need to be able to weather the tough stuff together.

Did we spend too much time together on weekends? Possibly.

Did we get together too soon after our respective divorces? Maybe… probably.

Did I put too much pressure on him? I think so.

Do we both need time to be alone and learn how to stand on our own two feet? Yes, I’d definitely say so.

Did I ever see this coming? Nope.

I am sitting here in front of this keyboard with a deep pain in my heart and tears in my eyes trying to figure out what went wrong and how on Earth I begin to rebuild again.

***

A few months ago I had a session with a young girl in her 20’s. She lost her parents as a teenager and has been living with her elderly grandparents ever since. Full of anxiety and a deep sorrow herself she stated, “What’s the point of all of this?” That’s the question, isn’t it? What is the point of all of this- of life? The simplicity of her question stuck with me as did the pain in her voice. Much like myself she was searching for an answer to the most complicated and yet so simple question: What is the point of life? 

For the past year and a half my answer was: to love and be loved, to see and feel seen, to accept and be accepted. My relationship taught me the crucial importance of looking into your partner’s eyes, seeing them for all that they are and accepting them- strengths and weaknesses alike.

But now? Humph. I’m not sure, because being loved isn’t enough. I am starting to believe that the point IS to love and be loved, but also to love yourself and be able to stand on your own two feet. If I felt more confident and was more independent things might have worked out differently in my relationship. I need to learn to believe in myself and my strengths like I believe in my abilities when I’m on the road. I cannot let my fears overtake me and I can not ask another person to calm my fears for me. It has to come from within. How? I don’t know. But I’m working on it. As always I’m a work in progress.

I know I need to invest in myself like I have invested in this relationship. I need to stand on my own two feet, focus on my career and really start to believe in myself. Chris always told me, “You’re a motivator Kass, you bring people together. You bring good to the world.” I’m doing it now as a clinician, but I feel like I’m still missing the mark. It’s time to find myself and go all in.  Is it coaching? Is it counseling? Is it something in-between? I think so. I know that I’ve been able to bring over 20  athletes together to become each others’ support system on the road- 20 complete strangers who reached out to me because of this blog. Twenty strangers who live as close as Braintree, MA and as far as Florida and California. That’s something amazing and I did that. I created that. I need to build on that. Because Chris is right- I love bringing together, motivating them and helping them believe (and see) that they are capable of more. In due time.

 

***

Our final run took us through the back roads of Middlefield and two surrounding towns. We ran by a dead snake (I HATE SNAKES!), through the center of town, by vast open cornfields on back roads and beneath the warmth of the hemlock trees that grew by the stream and the together we tackled two NASTY hills in sync. I shoved my worries to the back of my mind in an effort to enjoy the scenery and just be present in the moment with Chris- no complaints about the hills or my higher than normal heart rate- just be present. I was trying. And then he said, “Who would have ever thought that you would run so many miles around Middlefield Connecticut?” My heart sank. I don’t know why but this statement had an air of finality to it, as if I wouldn’t be coming back to Connecticut anytime soon. Angry at myself for being so pessimistic I shoved the thought to the back of my mind and chirped back, “Who would have thought that you would spend so much time running in Quincy, Mass.?!” We laughed. We tolerate Quincy, but it is totes not my fav. Less than a week later we parted ways.

Goodbye Connecticut. Thank you for the lessons, the love and all of the new race t-shirts to add to my growing collection. It’s been one amazing long run.

 

Never stop running,

Kass

 

If Swifty can be a badass billionaire who reinvents herself after each breakup, then so can I, right?? Here’s hoping…

It me. Right here, right now.

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Out of the Comfort and into the Cauldron

Logic tells me that the fate of my marriage was sealed over billions of small, seemingly inconsequential interactions that comprised the very essence of my decade long relationship. On the other hand motion, that maniacal minx, identifies October 25, 2015 as a cataclysmic moment in my narrative. Like an atomic bomb that was detonated in late October 2015 the story of my life now exists across two distinctly separate planes: life before and life after I asked for a divorce.  My previous life of an intact family with a loving mom, dad and baby girl exists only in memories that become fuzzier with each passing day while my present day self has continues to be rebuilt brick by brick.

In my previous life I was a runner who pushed herself to her limits during races, who embraced the hurt and who wasn’t afraid of failure. Time and time again I chased my goals of a sub 3:15 marathon, sub-1:30 half and a sub-20:00 5k (actually got the 5k! wooohoo). Some days I look back and my memories tell me that I was running away from my disintegrating marriage, thereby putting all of my energy into the run. While other days my memories recall moments where my family motivated me to push harder; their support at the finish line allowed me enough calm to focus and push into the unknown at a race.

The only part of the memory that remains clear was that my pre-divorced self wasn’t afraid to feel pain.  She embraced it, surrounded herself with it and used as her ally on the road. She was cunning and ruthless and approached races from a burn the boats and no race tomorrow mentality. She was full of energy and charisma. Let’s be honest now- she was a little bad ass, am I right?

She was there on April 16, 2015 when she bonked at a very cold and rainy Boston Marathon thereby missing her goal of a 3:15 by eight minutes and yet still found a way to smile at the finish.

She was there on October 18th, 2015 where everything clicked and she negative split the race of her life at the Baystate Half Marathon in a 1:32:30.

She was even there on October 25th, 2015 when she looked her husband in his piercing, saddened eyes and said, I think I want a divorce.

But on October 26th she was gone.
After I muttered those six simple words I quickly began to seek out comfort on the road. Running started to serve a new purpose in my life complete with enveloping myself in peace and calm on the road. Running hard workouts only happened if and when the mood struck me. I spent most of 2016 and early 2017 neither racing nor training, but simply enjoying the act of running. It was different. It was magical.  The pressure to perform was off and I could run how far or fast I wanted – or not at all. (Bahahaha- let’s be serious now- no way in hell I wasn’t going to run J)

I ran. Of course I ran. But my running became something different. I was different.  My burn the boats mentality was replaced with a finish in control and with a smile approach to racing. In 2016 I ran several half marathons with this approach and I’ll be honest- it was really enjoyable! In the summer of 2016 I ran the Ironhorse half in 1:42:11, Plymouth’s steamy Run to the Rock in 1:42:10, the Hogsback Half in 1:43:48, and at Baystate 2016 I pushed a little harder with a 1:35:34 finish. That summer I learned how running means so much more to me than robotically following a plan every day in preparation for one race day months away.

After I met Chris at the willow tree (after Boston 2017) we showered, hopped in the car and drove north to a week of long brutal day hikes up mountains in the misty rain while mildly begging for mercy rest and relaxation at Acadia National Park in Maine. There we walked the carriage paths during the day, napped in the afternoon, drank some beer and played some really bad games of pool at night. Pure perfection. Somewhere in between the hiking and relaxing we started to plot our attack on the Chicago Marathon. High off of Boston Marathon finish line fumes we got all riled up egging each other on about throwing down and seeing what we were made of at Chicago. So one day on vacation we sat down next to each other (like the good little running nerds we are) and spent several hours crafting our marathon training plans, week by week, workout by workout.

 

The goal was to set a PR at Chicago.

The intention was to have a damn good time trying!

The plan was to focus on one workout at a time and run one mile at a time.

 

As Christopher and I sat next to each other crafting our plans something inside me was beginning to stir: I was actually excited for the hurt ahead. This training cycle I refused to worry about race day or actually even think about the marathon until the week of the race. I focused on attacking (and enjoying) one run at a time, one day a time. I embraced the hurt. I leaned in to the pain.

Training runs this cycle consisted of some of the following memories…  breathing the fresh air on Wollaston beach during 5 am summer sunrises, sneaking in extra runs at the Jersey Shore beach trip with Chris (cause my fam thinks that running 2x a day is crazy… I swear it’s not mom!! Ok mayyyybe a little), running long from Weymouth Landing to Scituate Greenbush commuter rail during a 21 mile long run (then taking the train back) and lots of me grumbling at Chris over making our running routes too hilly. Oh well. Boys will be boys. Midweek I tackled speed work and tempo runs on my own and pushed harder to expose my limits. In late August I ran my best executed set of mile repeats at 6:40, 6:34, 6:31 and 6:21 paces. In early September I hauled ass on the road and was able to throw down a 2×20 minute tempo paces of 7:02 and 6:37 paces. I have covered over 2,021 running miles this year with over 1,250 of those miles devoted to this Sunday’s race.

After a year of reveling in the comfort of breathing easy I was mentally and emotionally ready to fail. It was time to push myself closer to cauldron knowing that I very well that I might get burned. But hey, I might not. I might just be strong enough to handle the heat, and maybe even be bolstered by it.

 

The crew and the boy after Surftown Half.

 

About a month ago I ran the Surftown Half Marathon in Rhode Island. Well organized. By the beach. Cool temperatures. Pretty flat race* (*except for that WALL you climbed over at mile 10, and the one at mile 3, mile 7-9.. ok it was little rolling on the back end). It seemed like the perfect opportunity to gun for a PR. In shape and feeling good- I went for it.  I FELT AMAZING. I felt in control of my body and it flew- 7 min splits across the board with many splits under seven.

My inner monologue was abuzz as I coached myself through each step and each mile of the race.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

You got this. Can’t stop won’t stop.

Catch pink shirt. Catch her. Focus on her. You’re going down pink shirt.

Get to the next turn.

Get up the damn wall hill. Up. Up. Up. Now the next turn.

One mile at a time.

Catch blue shorts. I’m gonna getcha blue shorts. MuHAHAHAH

Breathe. Yes. You. Can. Yes. You. Can.

Can I do this? YES I CAN DO THIS. I AM doing this. YOU ARE DOING THIS KASS!!!

Surprise yourself. Let yourself surprise yourself.

TRY.

Put it all out there.

LET YOURSELF SURPRISE YOURSELF.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

 

 

I gave all the mental and physical energy I had to the Surftown Half. I didn’t PR but was pretty darn close. I finished with a 1:32:36 and maintain a 1:32:02 PR from Boston’s Run to Remember back in 2014. I’ll be honest in that yes, I wanted to PR and yes, I was slightly disappointed I didn’t.

But… I did go out there and for the first time since October 25th, 2015 I raced. At Surftown I unearthed the part of myself who thirsted to race and who wouldn’t feel fulfilled until she gave every last bit out there on the road. It felt really good to really see how far I could push out there. PR or no PR, I know I gave every last drop of energy and THAT is why I love racing.

After two years a piece of me feels like it has finally returned and homeostasis is starting to take place. I still struggle with how daunting it is to face this world (and all the bills) as a single mom; I struggle a lot and often and then a little more for good measure. Now I am settled in job that will develop into a career. I feel secure and deeply loved in my relationship that I hope will develop into a future. Equally as important I remind myself that I have a supportive network of family and friends who have never left my side during the tough times. Balance is slowly being restored to my life so I can focus on the important things like running ;).

After two long years I’m ready to let myself surprise myself. I’m ready to succeed. I’m ready to fail. I’m ready to try. Really- I’m ready to race.

In three days when I cross the Chicago Marathon starting line I’m ready to step out of my comfort zone and into marathon cauldron.

BRING IT ON CHICAGO.

I’M READY.

CAN’T STOP. WON’T STOP. NEVER STOP RUNNING.

The Lone Runner

 

I’M RUNNING A MARATHON IN A FEW DAYS!!