The Words Just Come and I Write Them As Soon As I See 'Em

Can you feel it?

That cool breeze, the sun setting a little earlier each day, taking more and more of the edge off the summer sun? 

I know the advent of fall has everyone all giddy about boots and sweater weather and Sweather Weather, but fall isn't just earth tones and pumpkin-flavored coffee. I've always loved fall, admittedly for all of those reasons, but it's always been about more than that to me. I didn't even realize exactly what "more" was until I ran earlier this week and, for the first time in four months, I felt like I could breathe again. 

I do mean that quite literally since humidity under 50% means I don't feel like I'm trying to breathe underwater anymore, but I mean it figuratively as well. I took a step outside of my apartment and was met with cool air on my arms, which weren't even exposed all the way up past my shoulders for he first time in, again, at least 4 months. And as I started moving it struck me that I could actually, fully breathe air into my lungs again, and I got high on oxygen, on the ability to just breathe again. I felt emotions I haven't felt in so long I had forgotten they ever existed. It was like waking up from a long, bad dream.

And it occurred to me then: I felt alive.

I had a hard summer. By all accounts, it should have been the best summer ever: I lived a mile from the beach, I had a job I really liked, I was back in a place surrounded by friends and family I've so desperately missed. I took the next (big, but necessary and right) step in my endurance sports journey. I went on 3 trips to 3 very different but very amazing places. I celebrated 5 years of marriage to Ben whom I somehow love more now than ever.

It should have been a great summer. It was a great summer in a lot of ways. I had so many experiences I never want to forget, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. There were a lot of them, maybe too many, maybe so many that I had a hard time fitting them all in, so I felt like I was constantly battling my schedule and didn't fully have time to appreciate them all in the moment. 

Half Ironman training was an especially difficult addition to the mix and made me question my life choices on a nearly daily basis. Getting the timing and scheduling right was tough, but so was getting through the workouts. I regularly got up at 4 or 5 in the morning to run, I rode my bike for 2+ hours in 100* weather, I swam until 9 at night. I did what I had to. I went through the motions but I still wasn't sure I could make it through the race I've signed up for. 

And then, just a couple weeks ago, I had a long ride + short run planned with training friends. I planned to ride 50 miles that day, something I ideally would have gotten to sooner in my training cycle but just hadn't been able to make happen yet. I'd never ridden more than 45 miles and was really looking forward to breaking through 50 (since the half Ironman ride is 56 miles long). It was the beginning of September but summer had shown no signs of relenting...until the day of the ride. I don't think the temperature ever got out of the high 70s and, even though it was humid as all get out, at least the clouds and the mist made it feel cooler than it really was. And when we finally finished, with 51 miles of cycling and 3.5 miles under our belts, I looked down to take my obligatory Garmin photos and noticed leaves. Orange, yellow, and brown leaves covering the ground. And then I knew I had done it, and I was going to make it.
This summer robbed me of my identity as a distance runner and triathlete. I had such a hard time, especially with running, that I felt like a fraud. I felt like all of the work I've put in over the last 4.5 years meant nothing, that I'd never get back to being the runner I once was. I lost who I was as a runner. I lost my why. 

But earlier this week, on a day when apparently fall decided to abruptly show up in southwestern Virginia, I finally found it again. That same run I talked about earlier, with its crazy low humidity and not ridiculously hot temperatures (even at 6pm). It was then that I realized that the numbers on my watch were not what mattered. They weren't and aren't what define me as a runner. I didn't start running to be fast or run far, and even though I've had times during my journey when I've been able to do those things, they're not what makes me a runner. It's been so long since I had a run that reminded me why I keep lacing up my Newtons even when I don't want to, I had completely lost touch with my reason for running in the first place.

Of course, my next run was back to normal: sweaty and lacking any epiphanies or runner's highs. But the one...that was enough. Enough to make me remember the why. Enough to make me realize that summer was just a season, that it is just about over, and that a new one is on the horizon. I can look back at my summer and see that, even if have conflicting emotions about how I got through it, I did some pretty amazing things. And now I can start a new chapter, one full of all my favorite weather and smells and clothes, one when I become a half Ironman, and one when I can breathe.


  1. I'm so glad you found your way out of a negative mindset! I feel like, even if it's only one piece of your life that's not going well, it's still easy to allow it to affect everything else, especially when it's such a huge part (both the time it takes up and the time it spends in your brain). I was thinking about the change of seasons and how it's the same every year so it's silly to get excited about it BUT maybe that's one of the perks of living in an area that has seasons. You get to be excited 4 times a year, and you appreciate something more when you haven't had it in a while. Personally, a big fan of Fall and not because of pumpkin anything. Something about cool, windy days where, like you said, everything just feels more alive!

  2. I love this! What a beautiful sentiment AND you are totally right! One great run makes up for a lot of not so good, not good, and very bad runs! Stay positive!

  3. Yay for fall! I had a run late last week that I actually needed a fleece pullover for. What!?!? My run yesterday morning was back up in the 70s and gross humidity, but this morning was much cooler. I like that we're flirting with fall right now, but I'm more than ready for it to be here in full swing. Only a month until our races!!

  4. i am not a fan of fall, only because it means winter is coming, but like jenn said about it being a perk of living somewhere that has seasons.. though i thought it was cold at home during winter, we never really had the stereoytpical spring or autumn.. so i am not a fan of the cool weather, but i am a fan of seasons changing, new leaves, fresh air, new starts and feeling alive. i am sorry the summer was so rough for you, i hope fall is all you want it to be and more :)

  5. I love that feeling when you have a great workiut and remember why you do it. I'm loving some of these cooler temps and am excited to get back into running during the fall!

  6. I'm so sorry I'm just getting around to reading this! Doesn't it already feel like a lifetime since this post, considering all you went through in just the two days after? (You're still my hero, by the way, and I think you always will be.) I have similar feelings about summer: so many great things happened and it was fun and exciting and adventurous, but somehow it was simultaneously torturous. I love fall for the same reasons you listed, and for some of my own, but chiefly we're in agreement: I'm starting to feel alive again. Cheers.

  7. Beautifully said! I'm currently in a weird running slump. It's not that I don't WANT to run, but I keep finding excuses. (Some legitimate, others not so much). I need to have that moment again - the moment when I remember why I LOVE running. I know I love it, but I just don't feel it at the moment.

    So here's hoping it comes soon. Yay fall!

  8. So beautifully written. Falll is actually the one season I miss having!


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