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Valor Run Posts


Things I Learned...Valor Run 161

Originally written 1 March 2016 after a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers.

I knew 161 miles would teach me a few things, and as always the miles came through. Here’s what I learned this weekend trotting along the coast with the some of most incredible and badass people I know…

Becca is a much better logistician than I am. Probably also a better RV driver, but tell that to the tree.

Michelle continues to be a far superior athlete than I, but I’m ok with that. Or at least I should be after I repeated it in my head for 20 or so miles each day. I’m ok with that because she’s a genuine humble soul and deserves every bit of praise I can awkwardly heap on her. Girl crush for life.

Samantha is also a superior athlete to me, and I’m ok with that too, because she’s worked for every single success and accomplishment in her life.

When you request to do a run like this, it’s not about you. It’s easy to think it is when so many people come out to support – virtually or in person. It’s easy to think so when you’re suffering or hungry or exhausted, but it’s really not about you. It’s not about your pace or your pain, in fact you’re the least important person there. It’s about what you can do for others. Running is a very selfish endeavor in a lot of ways, maybe that’s why I like it. But something like this just can’t be about you, it’s about alot of things – honoring and remembering, cherishing our loved ones, our bodies, strength and grit, inspiring others, community, love, and support but it’s not about you. I’m grateful that everyone on the road this weekend had that exact outlook.

Young Marines like Assi and Lindsey re some of the toughest, grittiest, most determined people on the planet. They’re also incredibly humbling to serve with.

Silkies: I get bigger, they stay the same size.

I don’t have causes, I have communities. And this weekend was a beautiful merging of communities – the Ainsley’s Angels and Team Hoyt Families came out with some of my running/crossfit community to support along with Team RWB. Support came in through my #TruSD Truman community, my very first community back home, my family, my Va Beach crazies and my local peeps. I even borrowed the stroller warriors community. I’m grateful for my communities.

I’m am in love with the sea and everything about it. There really isn’t anything that can’t be cured by salt water.

Corey can rock a crop top better than anyone I’ve ever met – and I live in Southern California.

Running long distances with friends makes you very intimate very quickly. We share water bottles, passcodes, and even underwear. It’s weird and I love it.

Running long distances also regresses you to your childhood. Someone watches traffic for you, monitors your urine output and BMs, makes you sandwiches. You get potato chips and cola for breakfast. And you have lots of trouble with the stairs.

Sometimes you gotta let a stallion run.

The trick to covering lots of miles with few or no injuries is all about honesty -with yourself. Are you injured? Or are you in pain? Are you looking for a reason to quit? Or are you pushing past your limits out of pride or arrogance? Is this pain the normal pain? The SNIFLS (Situation Normal I Feel like S!@#) You can lie to everyone else and say you’re perfect (and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s helpful), but you can’t lie to yourself. The more times you force yourself to be honest, the better you are at it – both with running and in life.

No one cares what you’re like when you’re fresh. They say this at the Go Ruck events, and it’s so true. It’s important when you get to those dark places to be able to push through and get the job done, but more important is that you push through and be a good person. Rule #1 is not lifted just because it hurts. And Rule #1 is “Don’t be a D-Bag.”

Show up. Don’t quit. Be flexible. Ok I learned this from a friend’s recent article, but I learned firsthand how helpful this approach is to anything this weekend.

Mental toughness isn’t a thing you achieve. I learned about dams recently, specifically those built on water soluble gypsum. Those dams, while strong enough to hold back millions of gallons of water, generate electricity, and control majority water sources also require constant maintenance. And it’s the same with mental toughness. The human mind is a marvel. It can force the body to perform amazing feats and endure great pain. But the smallest thought can erode the foundation so much that it all breaks. It requires constant maintenance to identify and address those eroding thoughts, those small breaks. You don’t ever achieve mental toughness. You simply grout the voids and hope it doesn’t all break.

Thank you again. To everyone that supported whether financially, in person, virtually, or just sent good vibes. Thank you to those painfully clarifying miles. Thank you to those women and their families that paid the ultimate sacrifice.




Inspiration Isn't Yours to Keep

Originally written the night before day 1 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers. I had big plans on a really great pre-run blog post, but the thoughts are jumbled in my head, and the emotions are even more amok. Fittingly enough, the only way to clear my mind and my heart is mile after sweet clarifying mile. So I'll leave you with the one thought that keeps coming to the front of my mind - Inspiration. I've heard some variation of "you're an inspiration" quite a few times over the past week or so, and I have to say it's my favorite compliment. But if I've inspired anyone with this or any other endeavor it's only because I've been lucky to BE inspired by so many. By a hippie that ran across America for veterans and communities, by a son who inspired his father to start a movement, another father that carried that message across the country, the family that stands by me - even when they know the stuff that doesn't go on facebook, the Marines that travel hours to put on a uniform and stand guard at a funeral of a man they never met, but called a brother, the mothers and fathers that wake up and go to sleep with their children every day, the women and men that leave their families to fight for a nation, the mothers and fathers that come to this nation for a new life for their families, for the girls that face bombs and attacks just to go to school, the Gold Star families that take deep breaths and keep walking every day, the friends that support me through every imaginable means, the woman that leaves the chance for wealth to serve her fellow humans, the woman who tackles every challenge with a fierce independence, and the woman who follows her faith despite how ridiculous it may be to someone else. 

And especially this week, by the little girl that has inspired so many, without ever speaking a word.

Inspiration isn't ours to keep. You get it for a while, you cherish it, then you pass it on.

Cherish your inspiration.



Day 4 Dedication: Veterans

Originally written 28 Feb 2016, at the start of day 4 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers. Day 4 is dedicated to the vets, particularly the ones continuing to fight their personal battles every day. This run has been about honoring and remembering the fallen, but we must not forget the women and men that returned. The ones we see every day. The ones we can still support. Fox News asked me what I thought was the best way to support veterans, and I wasn't happy with my answer. So here's my redo.

Get involved. Pick a veteran's organization that you feel passionate about - I'd suggest Team RWB. If you're a civilian this is a great way to connect and understand veterans a little better; if you're a vet yourself, it's a great way to get that sense of community and camaraderie back. Maybe you can build ramps, maybe you can teach job skills, maybe you can run and guide hand cyclists, maybe you can donate some therapy time at the local veterans village. Maybe you can just spend some time with some amazing people.

Thank a Vietnam vet. This one is a big one to me. I can't count how many times someone has thanked me for my service this weekend--pretty much every time I mention that I'm active duty, I get a thank you. And--I'll only admit this here--it means a lot to me. I often don't know how to respond because I haven't been asked to do or sacrifice nearly as much as my sisters and brothers. I love my job and it really is an honor to be in charge of, and work with, the incredible people I have. But I like it. It feels like people support us. I always remember the Marine Corps Birthday ball in Chicago, I couldn't buy myself a drink. Now, this is Chicago, the dark blue liberal pocket of the Midwest. About 90% of those people said "I don't support this war, but I support you." Contrast that the experiences of my uncles when they returned from Vietnam. While those stories are theirs to tell, they aren't positive. I firmly believe that it is our nation's collective guilt on how we treated these servicemembers that has led to such a supporting nation today. They paid for this. And they are still around. So make sure you extend a handshake and thank them.

Offer a military perk. Hear me out on this one guys, it sounds superficial and people who know me know how I've felt about this. My feelings changed around mile 100 yesterday as I heard the stroller warriors talking about weekend trips. They were sharing locations and tips to make affordable adventures for the family. I started to think, man these women should have a military perks website or something. Then I realized that this was necessary. Military members (especially enlisted) don't get paid CEO salaries--I think that's pretty well known. To top it off, usually one spouse has to, or chooses to, give up a career to parent and run the house. It's incredibly difficult to find a high paying, fulfilling career that allows you the daily flexibility of supporting a military family, let alone one that allows you to move every three years. For these reasons, military families often rely on military discounts, free admission to parks, and other perks. Will some exploit this, come to expect it? Yes, and we as military members must do better. I still believe we are in service and therefore entitled to exactly what we signed up to do. And veterans please don't take this as my condoning the public shaming of businesses that don't offer military perks. You aren't entitled to it. But it is a nice kindness.

Get smart about veterans issues. Grassroots efforts, meeting veterans and interacting with them will be fulfilling for everyone, but policy change is what makes the big moves. Get smart on things like veterans homelessness, the VA, our mental health system. Then advocate for improvements.

Get smart about international security. The best way to support vets is to keep them alive and whole. Vonnegut once said war is bad for children and other living things. He was right. It's not the greatest of evils, nor is it inherently unjust. But war is a terrible thing and we should avoid it when possible. Get smart on how the international system works so you can understand it. This also just makes you a good citizen.

Reach out to vets. There are all sorts of articles out there that give you advice on how to talk to a vet, and while they give some good guidance they are not hard and fast rules. Everyone is different. There are no rules, except maybe one, be genuine and empathetic. You may say the wrong thing, but that's ok. I say the wrong things to people all the time.

Don't stare, include. This goes for everyone that is different. Inclusion is the name of the game folks.

Expect something out of us. Eric Grietens, in his book Resilience explains how his organization The Mission Continues, focuses on integrating servicemembers by asking them to continue to serve their communities. The rationale behind this is that we are happier and healthier when we are serving others - and I wholehearted believe it. We feel our best when we are contributing, when something is expected of us. Veterans aren't all broken souls that needed coddling. In fact I'd argue that most hate that. So expect something of us.

Pay your taxes. Because that pays our salaries.



Day 3 Dedication: Gold Star Families

Originally written 27 Feb 2016, at the start of day 3 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers. Today's second dedication goes to the gold star families. When we do these memorial runs, we are honoring and remembering the lives lost in service of our country, but we're also honoring those families that feel the pain of a missing sibling, husband, daughter, wife, mother, or father. We run to tell them that their loved ones are not forgotten, that we are full of eternal gratitude for their service.

I wrote on support on day 1, and so much of that sentiment applies to today's dedication as well. Thank you.

When veterans or servicemembers lose someone close, it hits us pretty hard. These fallen heroes are our brothers and sisters, our new family. These losses are hard because of the loss, but also because the represent the culmination of sacrifices, the ultimate sacrifice. They remind us of the gravity of war and the sanctity of live.

Because they are our sisters and brothers in arms, we tend to see them through our military lense. But the gold star families, they know our heroes through all the other lenses. They don't know the fallen as "Capt" or "LCpl," they know them as "Chica" or "Tiny." They are the ones that changed diapers, played tag, or exchanged wedding vows. And often they are the ones we servicemembers forget to keep in touch with. For Gold Star families whose only links to the military were the fallen, this can be hard. So today, I'm talking to you vets, if you lost someone, reach out to their families. Tell the families that you still honor and remember - the fallen and the loved ones left behind.

And today we will run for 43 women and their gold star families. We will run for all the gold star families, for anyone that's heard the knock on the door, received a crisp folded flag, or felt a 21 gun salute. Thank you, for your service.



Day 2 Dedication: Partner Women

Originally written 25 Feb 2016, at the start of day 2 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers.

Day one is in the books and by the time you’re reading this, we’ll be moving through the next 43 miles and thinking about the next 43 names – their families, their stories, and their sacrifices. As we did yesterday, today has a secondary dedication.

Today was dedicated to 43 fallen servicemembers, their names will be posted tonight. But today’s secondary dedication was a request of a former student, deployed intel officer, and fellow female Marine. She wrote me a couple months ago and asked if I could dedicate something to the women currently fighting ISIS – specifically those in the YPG. So today’s 43 miles are dedicated to all the women of our coalition partners. From the British allies who made me run a half marathon dressed as wonder woman to Israeli defense forces to the Iraqi and Syrian women resisting violent extremism to the mothers fighting Boko Haram . History has shown that women often pay a high price when conflict comes to a nation – and the current fight is no different. Women face rape, abuse, and captivity. Many face these dangerous with a resolution, strength, and calm that I cannot fathom.

When I think of the price women pay in war, I think back to an article I read in Runner’s World years ago. There was an organization that organized a 5k for women in a war-torn country someone across the globe. While unfortunately I can’t remember the details on the state or the non-profit working in the area. I remember the picture of a smiling woman with a missing leg, cheering on the runners. She was interviewed and told her horrific story of rebels attacking her house and among other atrocities, amputating her leg. Here she was smiling and cheering those that could do what she, at that moment, could not. She was excited because the organization was raising funds to purchase a prosthetic for her. She was planning on running the 5k the next year. This story has stuck with me for a number of reasons but the biggest is that this women, who has withstood so much was so joyful in the prospects of running. Now I understand the joys of running, but usually I take them for granted. I also take for granted the security afforded to me by virtue of living in the United States. I take for granted that I wake up every morning healthy and happy. This story also sticks with me as a prime example of the power and strength of women and our ability to simply endure. To find joy after suffering, during suffering, despite suffering, or perhaps even because of it.

So this day I think of the women around the world putting themselves in danger every day for a better world for everyone – women, men, children. The Mahalas and other young women that fight extremism by simply walking to school.The Kurdish women that leave their homes to form battalions to fight ISIS in their homes.The women that protect their children as they flee into the bush. The women that are so grateful and joyful to receive shoes so they too can run a 5k.

There are stories like these around the world and those stories along with the 43 women will carry us through the next 43 miles.



Day 1: Dedication to Supporters

Originally written 25 Feb 2016, at the start of day 1 of a 4 day 161 run down the coast of Southern California in honor of fallen female servicemembers

One of main missions of this run is to highlight the role women have and continue to play in our nation’s defense. It is to show that women have not been simply supporting operations from the safety of an office or a home base. By the very nature of these wars, “supporting” combat operations often means engaging in combat – a role many don’t think women are capable or willing to play. While a lot of my posts have been focused on women in those roles, my intention has not be to downplay the role of those women and men that support in so many other ways – the husband that packs the house alone, the wife that home-schools the children, the aunt that sends care packages, the siblings that call utility companies, the friends that send you boxed wine, the parents that drive across the country to smile and wave goodbye time after time. So today’s second dedication goes to the supporters.

Over the past couple months, and especially the past couple weeks, I have been overwhelmed and humbled beyond adequate words by the support I’ve received, from strangers, family, and friends. Coming from a small town I’ve always enjoyed the support that comes from being a part of close knit community even before I could recognize it. Being out in the big scary world, I’ve realized how important the support that comes from communities is. So the past week I’ve really thought about why? Why do I, we, seek out support? Why do we feel so lost without it? Why do we surround ourselves with those that support and encourage? Why is it necessary for success or progress? Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Support validates our mission. As much as we may believe in our personal mission, it’s nice to have others believe in it too. When this run started getting a little more press, I was nervous that people wouldn’t understand what the run was trying to do, or why I felt it was important. I thought maybe people wouldn’t be interested. But the support from complete strangers let me know that the mission was important, that it mattered, and that our hard work now and during the event was for a purpose that others recognized. And let’s face it, we all need a little validation.

Support gives us confidence. Support from our loved ones reminds us that others believe in us and think that we can do little bit more than we think we can ourselves. You hear a lot of people, often through cheesy instagramquotes, say that they’re motivated by the haters – by the people that say “no you can’t.” I understand that. But maybe because that happens so rarely in my life, I find myself motivated most often by those that say “yes you can.” When others believe in you, you can believe in yourself.

Support gives us safety and love. Maslov’s hierarchy of needs puts personal safety as one of the very basic of needs, without which no other needs or desires become apparent or fulfilled. While Maslovwas talking about physical safety, I think the principle can be applied to the safety of the soul. The mental and emotional safety provided by support is critical to being a happy human. And love–well, call me a romantic–but, love is the most amazing capability of the human soul. Love has been described in everything imaginable way. It’s discussed,dissected, defined, described, lamented about, cried over, laughed over. It’s started wars, families, and some of the greatest stories of all time. It’s the most sought after and yet abundant phenomena. It’s what keeps the spouses and family together despite the distance. It’s what enables a soldier to lay down her life for her fellow soldiers. It’s what solidifies friendships and bonds across time and distance. It’s what gets four girls in an RV to run (or drive) 161 miles down the coast. Support gives us safety and shows us we’re loved. And in plain English, safety and love just feel good. We all seek love and, as adventurous as my heart may be, sometimes I just want to be safe. There’s a comfort there, and for a small town girl that lived on the same dirt road for 18 years, that comfort is a need deeply rooted in my soul.

Support helps prevent failure. Michelle brought this up last week, and I wholeheartedly agree. Support helps us fight off failure. When people support you, they believe in you and they so often are counting on you – to achieve the mission, to spread the message, to reach the potential they believe you have. This can often feel like pressure and sometimes even too much pressure; but, mostly, that support keeps you going. Because of all that support gives you, you feel you owe it to people to perform, to succeed. You don’t want to disappoint your supporters. You don’t want to prove them wrong. You want to be worthy of their support – so you try a little harder, push a little farther, and achieve a little more. When you don’t think you can do something, that you’re not good enough and doing it for yourself just doesn’t get you one more step – doing it for someone else sometimes works. Support holds you accountable to your goals and helps you stave off failure for just a little bit longer.

But here’s the big one, at least to me. Although support helps you stave off failure, ironically enough, support is the one thing that allows us to risk failure. And risking failure, or rather the fear of failure, is so often the thing holding us back from really big things. From our really big dreams. When our dreams are only dreams, they’re safe. They allow us to escape from whatever. They allow us to think, maybe one day, one day I’ll be great. But they are safe from the realities of life–you can visit them often without real work or risk. But the moment you move those dreams from dreams to goals and start planning, the insecurities start creeping in. The fear starts creeping in. You start to wonder if you can really do it. You start fearing failure. And once you fail, I mean really fail spectacularly and publicly, it’s really hard to start again, to dream that, or any dream, again. Unless you have support. Eric Grietens talks about this in his book Resilience. He critiques the “everyone gets a trophy” culture that’s arguably pervading our society. He argues that children should be exposed to, and experience failure because failure breeds resilience; BUT, he argues that this approach only works if the child (or adult for that matter) has a loving support structure to fall back on. I can honestly say I’ve never failed at anything in my life that I haven’t have my support structure to take me shopping, pick me up, buy me a drink, feed me dinner, bail me out, or otherwise just be there. Without that safety net, that support, I don’t think I would have dared any number of things. I don’t think I would have bounced back, or rather, moved through my multitude of failures. I don’t think I would have ever taken a dream and thought, “Yes, let’s do that.”

I firmly believe that no one gets to where they are or who they are by themselves. I see the support each of ushave for each other, and I see the support we have from our respective communities. And I think I speak for all of us when I say Thank You. Thank you for your support on this run and all our ridiculous endeavors.Thank you to the over 100 friendsfor sharing our story and making a donation. Thank you to donating your RV, you time, your legs. Thank you for give us air time and print space.Thank you for the late night phone calls, the security blankets, the road trips, the financial support, the emotional support, the “yes you can”s and “yes youwill”s. The “I love you”s and “Let’s try again”s. The “I’m behindyou”s and “what can I do to help?”s. The “you inspire me”s and “we’re so proud”s.

And on behalf of the military community, thank you for your support. Thank you for stopping on the street to tell us you appreciate us. Thank you for paying your taxes. Thank you for the girl scout cookies and baby wipes and Christmas cards. Thank you for volunteering, for the USOs, for free checked bags, for veterans organizations and fundraising. Thank you for setting aside differences and politics and reaching out to strangers. Thank you for the flags, the honor guards, the donations, the patriot guards, the VFW drinks and American Legion meals. Thank you for playing the so often thankless support roles. Thank you for your sacrifice, your lonely nights, your rescheduled Christmases and missed birthdays. Thank you for the fuzzy skype calls and homemade caramel brownies. Thank you for feeding the kids, moving every three years, and playing nursemaid. Thank you for your patience, your love, and your support. Thank you for the “do your best”sand most importantly“I’ll be here when you’re done”s. Thank you.