Making moves off the roads

In October 2018, I became a certified running coach with the RRCA. I had been running for 10 years at the time and was ready to take the next step by applying the knowledge I had learned from my years running everything from the 400 meter run to the marathon to coaching applications for coaching adults of all running abilities. I registered my own LLC, Chasing Unicorns LLC, and was hired as a coach for Team Sugar Runs; Jessica had been my coach for a year and was so supportive of me taking this step in my career and I am so thankful that she invested in me not only as my coach but as a business mentor. I took on my first coaching clients in the winter of 2019 and over the last nearly 3 years, have had the opportunity to work with almost 100 clients, with an amazing core group of athletes who have been around for a lot of the journey. My dream when I started my business was to be able to turn it into a full-time role in the future; I would’ve never imagined that it would be in 3 years but thanks to an amazing team behind me, I am so excited to share that I have decided to make coaching and the running industry my full-time career moving into 2022!

Making this decision was not easy and not something I took lightly. I was incredibly nervous to make the leap, leaving behind the comfort and security of a corporate job, relying on myself to be the sole determinant of my success, but knew that something had to give. I was working about 50 hours/week in my full-time job and anywhere from 15-20 hours per week in my coaching job on top of a rigorous training schedule myself and using whatever time I had left to spend time with Ross and others. I was burning the candle from both ends and it became increasingly clear to me that I was at a crossroads. I either needed to go all-in on my corporate career or on coaching. I deliberated endlessly, with one day the clear answer being coaching, and the next convincing myself that I was being irresponsible throwing away a good job in the corporate world and swinging in the opposite direction. Ross made it very clear to me that this was my decision and my decision alone; he would give me advice but he would not be making the decision for me. He would support my decision either way and so it truly on me to make up my mind.

To back up a little bit, I’m not sure I would have made the same decision in 2021 had the pandemic not happened. It truly made me slow down and take stock of what was important when the world shut down. It was during this time that I realized just how busy I was – and quite honestly – just how unfulfilled I was. Prior to the pandemic I was convinced that I was living up to my definition (or what I thought the definition was) of success. I was on an upward trajectory in my career, managing a business, I had seen a lot of success in my own running recently, and I was happily married to my best friend. This was the life I had dreamed for myself in college – climbing the corporate ladder, aka that money=success. It’s also the reason I ended up foregoing my aspiration in high school to become a teacher and instead applied to business school; I was chasing a different definition of success. Life has a funny way of working itself out though and while I didn’t end up choosing a career in teaching, I get to teach others daily through coaching while relying on my business degree to help run my coaching business effectively.

I have had jobs in the past that would have been much easier to leave if at these crossroads than the one I was in today. What I struggled with recently was that I really liked my co-workers and my company culture and wasn’t sure how I could walk away from that. My feedback in performance reviews often included that I was great at mentoring and supporting others and that’s just it – it was the people, not the daily tasks that I would be missing, and that’s what made me realize my passion and strengths lie in coaching. What did bring me a lot of joy and fulfillment was helping my athletes reach new heights in their running and watching them start to believe in themselves as much as I believed in them. Ross told me recently that he always knew when I was on a coaching call vs a work call because my energy was high and my voice excited.

Money is a taboo topic in our culture but it would be a disservice to not talk about it here when talking about leaving a full-time job. I don’t believe in the whole “money can’t buy you happiness” sentiment because I think it means a lot to be able to be comfortable and able to pay your bills, but there is some validity to the phrase in that it doesn’t mean a whole lot more beyond that if you aren’t happy. We are fortunate to be in a position where I can take this leap and follow my dreams while taking a (calculated) bet on myself; I do not take that for granted. I think the scariest part for me in this decision was the financial piece as a very risk-averse person, even if on paper it makes sense after the growth over several years. What I realized, however, is that corporate life will always be there if I need/want to go back to it, but that the opportunity to realize your dream doesn’t always come around every day. Some people go their whole lives without knowing what their passion is or how to turn it into a career and I am so lucky to have found that early on and to be able to take this step.

I am excited for what this means for my current athletes today and new athletes in the future. One of my big goals in doing this is to be able to grow my business but a lot of my goals surround doing things to enhance my current athletes’ experience and it’s been so fun to share those goals with Jessica as we continue to work together dreaming up big things for the team! One thing that I am excited to share is that I signed up for a 3-month course starting in early 2022 to become a NASM CPT to be able to coach strength for runners. In addition to coaching, I’ll be working part-time at a local running store and am looking forward to expanding my knowledge in all things gait-analysis, footwear, and running apparel while helping others along their running journeys.

I am feeling all sorts of emotions during my last week in my corporate job and I know it’ll take some time to adjust to a new schedule and routine but I also know it’ll be so worth it. To everyone who has supported and believed in me over the last few years in business, thank you so much. I can’t wait to continue to share more in this journey in 2022 and to be living a life far beyond my wildest dreams.

2021 Racing Reflections

There’s still one more month left of 2021 but in terms of racing, the books have been closed on this racing year for me. It’s been hard to find the words for how I’ve been feeling since a disappointing day in NYC earlier this month. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing I could’ve done differently that day and that it was simply just an off-day and a product of all the logistics leading into the race that did me in but it was really tough after having poured my time and energy into a training cycle to have it end so lackluster.

Part of me is kicking myself for choosing to do NYC instead of Indy Monumental as I had initially planned for 2021, but I can’t change that now. I’ve learned a valuable lesson that there is a huge perk to a lower frills racing environment where you can sleep in and roll up to a starting line maybe 30 minutes before a race instead of 5 hours already logging 5,000 steps before even starting and sitting in the cold for 3 hours. I love big marathon majors but I think I’ve learned that if I want to run my fastest times now that I’m working to shave off a few minutes instead of 10s of minutes, logistics matter.

Moving past the race itself though, 2021 was not a fun year of racing for me. I was hopeful that after staying consistent through 2020 with my training and building a lot of strength that it would all pay off in a smashing comeback to racing after races were canceled in 2020 but that wasn’t how things materialized. For my first race back, I was signed up for the Glass City Half Marathon in Toledo. Unfortunately, volunteers turned the front pack of runners off the course that day and I dropped out of the race after we were corrected since adding a mile to a half marathon is not a way to PR. As a redemption run, I quickly pivoted and signed up for a half marathon the following weekend in Wisconsin, a short drive from home. With 40 mph wind gusts on race day, a PR was out of question again and it was another disappointing day. Putting spring behind me, I turned towards the Fall season. I raced the Naperville Half Marathon during my build-up to NYC and while this race time-wise was more indicative of fitness (1:30), I struggled hard in the back half of the race and watched a PR slip away. What was even more frustrating about this race was that another female runner had cut the course and in the results bumped myself and another runner off of the podium. We contacted the race organization who has still yet to do anything about it even though the data was all clearly there on Strava showing the course being cut. Finally, my 2021 racing season culminated with NYC, a race that broke my heart and spirit after months of being so patient and continuing to show up through a more difficult training cycle.

After NYC my first thought was to sign up for a redemption race. I recovered extremely quickly, likely because my training cycle had been really solid and I ran almost 40 minutes slower that day than what I was in shape for, and I was tempted to use the fitness in another race. But we had plans on the calendar for a week-long trip to Antigua to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and I knew marathon training would not be feasible while there/not something I wanted to do since the focus was supposed to be on spending time with Ross, not running a ton of miles. After talking with my coach, we agreed that the best course of action would be to turn towards a spring marathon if it’s what I wanted to do, so I leaned into my time off, ending November with 100 miles total run after my highest mileage month in October where I ran 246 miles.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve grappled with this training season and my emotions surrounding it. I’ve realized I put so much weight into running being the thing giving me joy during the pandemic and other life stressors and that when that went wrong, I felt like I lacked purpose. The funny part is, I think a big reason why this cycle didn’t go as well is because my mind was so many other places. Part of the reason my mental game felt weak this year was because I was rusty and out of practice from racing after 2020 canceled all races, but I think now that a big part of it was because my mental energy was being consumed in other areas of my life; I think that the well was dry when it came to pushing hard in workouts or races. It feels weird to talk about because by all accounts, I was handling things well but I think that’s one of my weaknesses that is disguised as a strength – being able to juggle a lot of things at the same time because as my husband pointed out to me, I will always put others’ needs first even if it means sacrificing my own well-being in the process.

I don’t believe that life will always be “balanced”, but I do think that there is only so much that each of us can handle on our plates at one time without starting to sacrifice quality of those things. We have to determine our priorities – and some of those will be pre-decided for us – but I’ve realized that with some of the goals I have in running and elsewhere that I can’t “do it all” and expect success in every area. Running is still really integral to my daily life and I’m so grateful to have it, but I can’t let my success in running dictate my overall happiness because this isn’t the last time I’ll have a bad “season”. 2021 was not the year I was hoping it would be with my running, but I’m working on making some changes to do what I can to make 2022 even better. Running is cyclical and I may have been in the “valley” this year, but that means there are only brighter days ahead as I make my way back up to a peak.