Why backtrack?

Musings on (pro/ re) — gression.

The first month after the marathon was pretty darn tough. My energy and confidence were low. I felt at odds with my body. And I was living from sugar to coffee…. and back again.

Just over a month ago, I was at the starting line of the San Francisco marathon in peak fitness… brushing on my lifetime peak level of fitness.

Why didn’t I just build from there and keep going? Why did I just straight up stop, halt and regress?

It may not be obvious, but on the right side I felt bloated, frustrated, heavy and not nearly as strong. Both my muscle tone and mental attitude were fluffy; rather than honed and directed. And I couldn’t fit in the shorts that I was wearing on the left.

The truth is that in an ideal world, I would have loved to continue eating and training exactly as I was pre-marathon, I would have loved to continue my routine of workouts and strength, I would have loved to keep in that pattern. Somehow, I felt a pressure and an expectation from my direct community, and an implied expectation from the larger running community that I should take time off to recover and revel.

But revel in what? Disappointment? Ruminate in negativity and resentment towards the race that didn’t deliver?

I felt frustrated, cheated, and angry that the intensity, focus and my peak fitness weren’t quantified in a performance measure that reflected my fitness. Post marathon, I felt invalidated and that my efforts were for naught… and so with rebellion and frustration, resentment and sadness I promptly responded with a fatalistic attitude: because my work didn’t matter or translate to my goal, I should just give up and… enjoy some ice-cream [read: a lot]… treat myself.

And so I regressed to what Baron Baptiste calls my default response.

My default pattern is: dream big, dream some more, start, get somewhere, hit a pretty big challenge, sabotage, shame, and eventually lug myself back to baseline.

In this particular regression post-marathon, I became reacquainted with the daily battles of choosing my food intake…. and defaulting to sugar, caffeine and back again. The daily battle of valuing my body (or not) and treating it well (or not), shaming it and punishing it with over-eating. The daily struggle of believing (or not) that I can pursue goals and pursue the career path that ignites me.

The daily struggle of believing that a “lit” life is possible beyond a contained timeline, like the recent month-long fat loss challenge.

Why would I… why did I regress… take time off from the very thing that was feeding my soul…the pattern that was keeping me alive, vibrant, confident and strong. Somehow, I listened to external feedback, ignored my internal guide towards routine, consistency and patterns. For me, it is actually liberating… easier to navigate a very strict schedule and routine. Too much lee-way requires more energy from me to constantly question, negotiate & navigate.

And so, I need to believe that more than my default is possible. I am 29 years old and I yearn so deeply for the fitness and strength needed to run a 5 minute mile; I yearn so deeply to connect with another and find a true, lasting love; and I yearn to build a career doing the work that lights me up — the space where I can radiate God’s gifts and light from within.

In reflecting about when I’ve experienced this feeling, a few experiences come to mind:

Santiago de Compostela, Spain: living the aire libre lifestyle hiking upwards of 24 miles each day, constantly on the move and living with nothing beyond what fit in my 30 litre backpack and what was offered by the generosity of strangers.

Summer 2012: Santiago de Compostela, Spain

The Gambia & Mexico: Two-back to back experiences of minimalism. First living in The Gambia focussing almost exclusively on fitness and simple living with Kelly… then doing the same in Mexico with Rachel. In both cases, I returned to my former life with an incomparable power. I ran my fastest cross-country season (left) and then a mile PR in the indoor season (right).

(left) Fall 2006: Bliss during a successful cross country season; (right) Winter 2007: determination and flow on the day I set my mile PR… 5:17

And yet, I am here. I am in the now.

In each of the above pictures, this feeling of flow, zen, power, had only been accessed abroad, lasting only a few months at “home” before being disrupted by different challenges. However, in the Hacker v. Yogi Fat loss challenge, I stepped into the possibility that I CAN grow closer to the person I’m called to be: the Sarah who fully embodies and shines the light that God has given.

And so, I am making progress, even if it does feel like re-gress.

I recognize that what I’m looking for and what I’m glimpsing is the point where my current life aligns so fully and seamlessly with the divine force and power within.

A place where I am guided and led with ease, joy, and power — serving all those whom I meet along the way. Integrating this flow more and more into a daily choice and expectation, that isn’t limited to a trip to West Africa, Mexico or Spain. That isn’t limited to a month-long fat loss challenge. That isn’t limited or validated by a marathon time or percent body fat. Rather a complete light that is so pure that I can act as a constant beacon.

I continue to walk the journey and am training for a 5 minute mile as my current guide. Week 2 is in progress.

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