2015: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Initially, I wasn’t going to write the obligatory end of the year summary.  As the year winds to a close, however, I naturally started thinking about where the year had taken me, and I wanted to document it – if only just for me.  It’s been A year!  I have had some heart-stopping, stellar moments.  I’ve also had some heart-stopping, heartbreaking moments.

2015 Word of the Year

Last year, I chose a word of the year: Balance.  I felt everything in my life was OUT of balance and I desperately needed to get control of things.  My running was clearly out of control – I was prone to over-training and terrible at supplementing my fitness with cross-training and strength.  I was over-scheduled in almost every area of my life – there were some things over which I had control of scheduling and many things that I did not.  I’m not going to lie….I still struggle with balancing all of life’s demands.  But, I am better at the balancing act now than I was 365 days ago.  Truth be told, this is an ongoing challenge, but I’m up for it!

The Bad and The Ugly

I’m lumping “The Bad” and “The Ugly” together because I simply want to be DONE with all this negativity! LOL

  • Started the year with an ITB injury that stole the first 4 weeks of the year from me.  I was finally able to s-l-o-w-l-y return to running the last week of January.
  • Battled another injury – stress fracture in my heel – in July.  This hiccup took another month of running away from me and in the setback I wondered if I would be fit enough to run the full at Dallas.IMG_4598
  • The entire year felt like a battle.  I was battling to beat my ITB.  Then I was battling to recover from my heel.  Recovering from injury takes a lot of time, patience that I don’t have, and mental fortitude.
  • My biggest battle was in my mind.  It isn’t a secret (or at least I don’t think it is a secret) that I don’t have a lot of faith in my abilities – unless you count my ability to injure myself, in which case I have full faith in that!  Spending basically an entire year injured caused me to doubt myself.  I didn’t believe that my body could recover enough to ever run long distances again.  I didn’t believe that I could run smart enough to stay uninjured.  I just didn’t believe in me at all.  This was, hands down, the biggest tragedy of the year.

The Transformation

When I looked back at some of my earlier blog posts, I realize how much I had to learn….and how much I have learned!  I can’t believe how much I have matured as a runner.  I know there are still many lessons to be learned, but I have been able to find a peace with running that I never had before.  Some things I learned on my own.  Some lessons were taught to me by John, my partner for part of the year until he moved, and others I learned from my current coach, Brent.

  • I started the year with the intent to train by heart rate, but that change didn’t happen fully until I started working with my current coach in October.  The beauty of this is that all things prepare us for what will happen in the future.  Since I had been monitoring my heart rate all year, I knew how my heart would react in certain situations. Since my training with Brent is set up almost exclusively by heart rate, I was ahead of the curve, in a sense, because I already “knew” my heart.  This type of training has been very good for my running!
  • My partner, John, taught me the importance of running slower (which, ties right into the heart rate training).  With his guidance, I learned how to pace myself (which is something that I COULD NOT do before running with him).  Developing this discipline in my running certainly laid the groundwork for great things to come and made it much more easy for me to execute workouts properly.
  • I finally learned to listen to my body, even though I didn’t always act upon it.  I hope that will come as I continue maturing as a runner.  The fact that I now notice those little things is a huge victory.
  • I gave up running with music.  BEST.  DECISION.  EVER.  Taking away the distraction of the music opened up so many amazing things.  First, I can listen to my footsteps to see if there are any imbalances.  I am more aware of my breathing.  I don’t get lost in songs and beats, which formerly meant I would end up running too fast.  In addition, during those tough spots in a run, I had to rely on myself to get through it rather than finding a song to distract me though it.  BIG difference.  I think that helped my confidence A LOT.
  • The most beautiful thing happened when I started believing in myself.  By the time Dallas rolled around, I began to have a quiet confidence and somehow learned to have peace with what would come – good or bad.  I honestly didn’t fret over that race, which, if you know me, is a MIRACLE.  I am carrying that peace and confidence with me into 2016!

Cycling helped me through the rough patches

I love to bike….outdoors.  I dislike riding on the trainer, but I did a lot of that early in the year because I knew how much the cross-training would help my recovery.  Cycling also saved me during my heel fracture, because I was given the green light to ride as much as I wanted as long as I didn’t suffer discomfort.  I biked A LOT in July!

This year, I transitioned from a hybrid to a road bike, and with that came clip-ins.  Most people know how clumsy I am, and so you can imagine the number of falls I had because I would forget to twist my foot out….all of them happened in my drive-way!  I still laugh about it.

I do love any time that I get on the bike, however, and who knows – there may be a tri in my future.

The Good, Running-wise

Despite the setbacks, I had lots of victories on the roads this year.

  • Ran Skyline HM in May, even though it might have been too close to rehab and recovery.  I was 8 minutes off my PR, but the important thing is that I was able to run a fairly strong race, and it felt like a HUGE victory.Medal
  • I ran Rock the Block 10k at the end of May because I wanted to focus on some shorter distances to help bring down my HM time.  I was able to PR this race by about a minute @ 57:46.

    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter :)
    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter 🙂
  • Even though Plano Balloon HM was the WORST race of the year for me, it was a victory.  I ran this race after being back from my heel injury only 7 weeks.  I realize (now) that I was being to aggressive, but thankfully it all worked out in the end.

    Maybe my favorite race sign ever :)
    Maybe my favorite race sign ever 🙂
  • I joined Renegade Endurance and love having the support of the athletes in the club.  It is so much fun to hear about their successes and lift them up, and racing is much more fun when your teammates are there racing as well!

    My RE team members are the BEST!
    My RE team members are the BEST!
  • Rock n Roll St. Louis was one of the highlights of my year.  I went into this race just wanting to finish strong, plus the main reason I went was to socialize with my group of Twitter friends.  At this point, I had run Plano Balloon just a month earlier and missed an entire week of workouts afterward because my body wasn’t ready to run that race.  I had just started working with Brent and the main goal was Dallas Marathon.  I was completely shocked and surprised when I ended up with a PR 2:13:17 (by 43 seconds! LOL).
    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!
    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!

    My Sole Sister Jenn
    My Sole Sister Jenn
  • Believe 10k was the first 10k I ever ran.  Every year, I want to get down to McKinney to run it again but it never seems to work out.  When I asked my coach if I could run it instead of the 8 mile training run, he gave the green light and I immediately signed up.  But then, the monsoons of Thanksgiving  nearly washed away my hopes of running the race.  The race went on as scheduled, and I went, prepared for a wet, cold race.  I ended up with another PR 56:15 (1:30 better than May) and first in my age group!
  • I knew that I would have to run a TERRIBLE race to not PR at Dallas Marathon this year.  2014 was the race of the bum ITB and it took me wayyyyyyy too long.  This race was to be the highlight of my year, plus I felt I had something to prove on that course.  I was somehow able to run the most perfect race ever…for me anyway…and ended up with 4:15:12, considerably faster than the 2014 bum ITB marathon. Plus, I beat my time goal by 15 minutes!  My biggest fear is that I have now peaked.  Even so, I’ll take it, because so many runners never have a race experience as good as the one I had!  This is the race that made me feel like a real runner; like a real marathoner.

Here are just a few of the well wishes I got from my friends, near and far during and after Dallas:img_6754



This one had to call me at the finish line ;)
This one had to call me at the finish line 😉



The Non-Running Stories

So many non-running things happened in 2015.  As I look back, it probably seems that I am going through a mid-life crisis, but I think I decided that I am too old to care what anyone thinks, plus I’m running out of time to do all the fun stuff!

  • I lost my tattoo virginity.  By the end of the year, I had already gotten my second tattoo!  Be looking for a 3rd after Ragnar….I’m forcing myself to wait until then!BraceletIMG_6173
  • I jumped out of a plane.  SO.  MUCH.  FUN.  I will go again in 2016, to take Logan when he turns 18 years old!Jennifer_Kirkpatrick 034
  • Taylor went to Thailand, lost her passport in Tokyo and lived to tell the tale.
  • Taylor graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Woman’s University.147
  • Alli’s team, Madfrog 10 National, was the highest placing American team at AAU Nationals, placing 7th in the nation.  The top 6 teams were Puerto Rican.rainforest
  • While in Orlando for AAUs, I rode in a helicopter!Takeoff
  • Logan made a 34 on his ACT, which was supposed to be “just a practice”.

Looking back, 2015 was a very good year!  I look forward to continuing this progress in 2016!

Happy 2016!!



Jump of a Lifetime

On Saturday, I crossed an item off my bucket list that has been sitting on there since I was 16 years old.  My cousin, Mark, used to come to Texas to visit and tell tales of all his skydiving activities.  He was in his 20s and single and skydiving was his “hobby”.  I remember thinking how much I wanted to do it!  I thought about it several times throughout the years and NEARLY went when my niece went after her high school graduation.  Then I NEARLY went again when Taylor went after her high school graduation.  I couldn’t muster the courage.  But the most likely reason is that I had been living my entire life for other people and I just didn’t feel I was worth giving myself that opportunity.  But things, they are-a-changing.  I’ve blogged before about how running helped me find myself and finally move to a different stage of grieving over the loss of my friend.  Running has also helped me arrive at a place where I value myself more than I ever have before.  Maybe the 40s have helped on that front as well, because when I arrived in my 40s, I began having strong urges to be more true to myself.  Maybe it is a mid-life crisis?  I don’t think so.  I think it is just me, finally becoming truly comfortable with who I am.

So back in the Fall (maybe it was Winter, but my ADHD brain can’t retain details), my friend Corky (@corkycronin), and I somehow got on the subject of skydiving.  (Corky and I became friends years ago when our daughters met through volleyball.)  We both discussed how we had always wanted to go and how exciting it would be.  One thing led to another and we decided to go in the Spring when the weather got better.  I KNEW that by committing to Corky, the jump WOULD happen.  She oozes badassery.  After all her kids were gone and off to college, she took up roller derby as her hobby and she dominates the rink!

We started discussing possible dates in February and it took us until May 2 to find an acceptable day for the jump between our schedules and the weather.  Last Monday, I booked the jump and we were set!  Luckily, Mother Nature smiled upon us and gave us a sunny, warm, not-very-windy day!

Our appointment was at 10, and we were instructed to arrive 30 min early for sign in.  We completed that process then were called into a “training” where we learned things we would need to do during the dive.  Mainly: how to jump from the plane, positioning for the free fall, and landing.  OK….I was REALLY concerned about the landing, because I planned to run my first race (half marathon) of the year on Sunday and I couldn’t afford any mistakes on that front!

After the training class, we were told that we would be called to suit up after 20 minutes or so.  We couldn’t take our phones or anything with us, so we were asked to go put our phones and wallets in our cars, then come back inside and wait for our names to be called.  We headed to our cars, stopped to take a pic (for Twitter documentation, of course) and were called back inside before we even had time to tweet that pic or put our things in our cars!  corky


We headed back, got suited up, and within 15 min were walking to the plane.  Jennifer_Kirkpatrick 008

And about 15 min later, when we had arrived at 13,500 feet, it was time to jump OUT of the plane (or in my case, fall out).

Seriously not as nervous as I look.  I was trying to concentrate on what I was to do on exit AND take in the scenery!
Seriously not as nervous as I look. I was trying to concentrate on what I was to do on exit AND take in the scenery!

Can I say that it is difficult to maneuver when you are strapped to another person?  And I mean STRAPPED.  There was not one centimeter of space left between us.  Try scooting out of a plane like that! LOL!!

The next 60 seconds were my favorite part of the entire experience.  Honestly, I didn’t feel like I was falling, which is apparently attributed to falling at 120 mph and the wind resistance that comes with it.  But, it was absolutely amazing!!!  I don’t have the words to describe it properly.

Jennifer_Kirkpatrick 017

Jennifer_Kirkpatrick 034

Yes, it is as beautiful as it looks from up there!

After the free-fall, the parachute was opened and we floated back down to Earth, which took 4-5 min.  It was so beautiful and peaceful from up there, so quiet, removed from the hustle and bustle on the ground below.

Far too soon, the time to land had arrived.  It was too soon for a couple reasons.  1) The jump was so much fun and so enjoyable that I didn’t want it to end!  But, more importantly, 2) I had to land the landing!  I was supposed to cross my arms across my chest and lift my legs up.  The legs were easy enough, but he had me strapped in SO tight I COULD NOT cross my arms! Thank goodness the landing was smooth and easy because I was able to keep my feet up!  I was relieved to know that I would still be able to run my half marathon on Sunday!

After the jump concluded, we were given critiques from our instructors….I was complimented for my exit, my arch during the free fall and…..my landing!

I drove home, still rattled from the adrenaline and made myself eat 1/2 banana with peanut butter and honey for lunch.  (I felt like I do after running, but x10.  After runs I am never hungry and have to force myself to eat for recovery.)  I didn’t get hungry until late Saturday afternoon, which equates to a pretty awesome adrenaline rush!!

I am glad I decided on the video and pictures.  It was totally worth it!!  My video is posted here.  You can click on May 2, 2015 and then my name, Jennifer Kirkpatrick, if you are interested in watching the video!

Happy Jumping!


Mid-life crisis or total loss of mind?

OK, I’ll admit that most people think I lost my mind a LONG time ago…..and they are most likely correct.

In case there was any doubt left, yesterday, I did this:skydive

I have wanted to go skydiving since I was 16 years old.  My cousin, Mark, used to skydive all the time when he was younger and I always thought it sounded like such fun.  I’ve watched my niece, Laura, and my daughter, Taylor, go skydiving yet I never had the courage to actually do it for myself.  Last Fall, my friend Corky and I started discussing how fun it would be to go skydiving and that is how this trip was born.  We decided to wait until the weather was nicer and have been trying to coordinate our schedules since March!  My kids think I’m going through a mid-life crisis but I don’t really think that at all.  There just comes a point in your life where you want to start doing the things you’ve always wanted to do…..so I’ve decided to do just that!

There is one thing that gives me pause……I’m running a half marathon on Sunday!  Clearly I did not think this timeline through, and am hoping and praying I don’t break a leg or sprain an ankle!

This will be my first race of the year (and since my marathon and ITB injury) and the longest distance I’ve covered since the injury.  I have had a lot of anxiety about this race.  I wonder if I am completely ready and the reality is probably not.  But, I am *trying* to approach it as a training run, even though I have some time goals in the back of my mind.  I know, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  Stay tuned to see if I am able to execute this plan…..

Until then, Alli has the night off from volleyball (YAY!) and our softball game has been cancelled, so I might actually get something done around the house!  I am sooooo ready for some down time!  Summer can’t come soon enough!

Happy Tuesday, all!