Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On bravery.

“The bravest thing you can do when you are not brave is to profess courage and act accordingly.”  
Corra Harris

At the end of each school year, I always give my students a list of non-English related life lessons that I have learned and that I want them to know about before I send them off into the world. Just to give you an idea, some items from the list are:
  • Always write thank you notes for gifts, and be specific about the gift and how it was meaningful to you.
  • Have a firm handshake. (and then we practice firm handshakes)
  • When you are chronically late, you are saying with your actions that your time is more important than other people's time. Don't do that.
  • Presentation is very important; turn in crisp papers, iron your clothes, and wrap gifts beautifully.
Another one that I always include is this:
  • Be confident. And even if you don't feel confident, fake it.
I tell my students the story that when I was in high school, I wasn't super confident in who I was. But I had this incredible friend who was extremely confident, and I used to watch the way she walked into a room like she owned it, and laugh when anyone questioned her quirky style. It didn't hurt that she was head-turning gorgeous, but more importantly she was original, a non-conformist, and totally comfortable with her own unique self. I started to consciously start acting like I was confident like she did. Lo and behold, when I started acting confidently, people began to perceive me as confident, and then soon enough, I was confident. Like magic.

A few years later, I went to NELP (New England Literature Program) which was a spring semester of college English in New Hampshire. A woman on the staff who later became a great friend of mine told me about her first impression of me when I arrived on the first day of the program. She said that she noticed me and thought that the vibe I gave off was best described as: “I don't know about the rest of you, but I know who I am and I know what I'm doing.” When she told me that, I laughed to myself and thought: “See, it works!” By that time, I really did know who I was and what I was doing, but I was close enough to my old self-conscious self that I really appreciated her noticing my progress. (Hi, Laura).

All that back story was to tell you that I've been thinking a lot about bravery and doing brave things, and even though I don't always feel brave, I've decided the best thing to do is just proceed as if I am.  Close my eyes and jump.

This fall has been a drawn-out struggle, and as I am in the process of clawing my way out of it, I've been thinking about actions, things I can do, steps I can take. I've also had to do the opposite: resist moving so fast all the time, write, think, talk, sit with uncomfortable feelings, have hard conversations.  And that feels just as brave. It felt brave for me to write about my sadness. It felt brave to ask for help. It felt brave to get the tattoo that I've wanted for years, which not coincidentally, is a symbol of strength and soaring and freedom, just as a reminder. It feels brave to face conflicts within myself that I could just as easily ignore. It also feels brave, and really fun, to make some race plans for 2012.

When I signed up for my first marathon, I had so many doubts that I could actually run 26.2 miles, and I remember thinking that when I hit ENTER on the registration page for the Nike Women's Marathon, that it was like stepping onto a moving train. It was thrilling and scary, and obviously, I did run the marathon, and finishing was beyond exhilarating. I feel ready to do something big and scary (I mean brave) again. Here goes.

I am going to run another marathon this spring, the one I trained for last year but got sick and then couldn't run. Because what is the meaning of life without a training plan on the fridge? Because what is a winter in Maine without cold, suffering long-runs on the slushy roads on Saturday mornings? You don't know pleasure until you have peeled off three layers of soaking wet running clothes after a ten-degree 15-mile run and then stepped into a steaming shower. You really don't. And oh God, the hot coffee after the hot shower when your skin is all tingly and warm. Hmmm.

And then (this is where I start acting brave) in September, I am going to complete a Half-Ironman. (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run = 70.3 miles). 

Don't try and stop me. Because I'm not scared at all. Not even a little bit. No big deal. I mean, I've never swam that far in open water. I've never biked more than 30 miles at once. When I see people warming up before a half marathon, I think: “Good God, people, you have 13 miles to run! Rest up!”

Like I said, I'm not scared.

So, starting in January, I will begin an 18-week training plan that will lead up to the Sugarloaf Marathon, and then starting (ahem) the day after the marathon, I will transition into an 18-week training plan that will take me to the Pumpkinman Half-Ironman. Telling you about that makes me feel like this. Woooo hooooo.

New Year's resolution time is coming soon. Do something brave with me! And if you don't think you are brave or confident enough to do the thing that scares you (let's review today's lesson): Just fake it. Nobody will know the difference.


Jamie said...


My husband's and my goal is to do a full Ironman eventually! In 2012 we are going to run our first marathon and start doing triathlons, maybe we should just jump right in and do a half Ironman like you!

Briana said...

Good for you!! How exciting! And what a wonderful post, gave me a lot to think about.

I am planning on a 70.3 as well for 2012- Timberman in New Hampshire!

Nitsirk said...

That's awesome! The half iron distance is my absolute favorite. You are going to love it. A word of caution- doing a half often leads to the desire to complete the full. Consider yourself warned :)

Debbie said...

I'm planning to do my first half-ironman in 2012 too - Big George Triathlon in Lake George, NY. We can all be brave together!

ltlindian said...

Wow! And I thought I was being brave by *almost* signing up for an olympic length tri--Rev 3 in OOB!

Yay for you!

Brooke said...

yippeee! i am doing sugarloaf as well - it will be so fun!!

you are brave. and i didn't need to hear about you signing up for another marathon and half ironman to know it.

but, whoa. HALF IRONMAN!!

hugs and kisses.

Amy said...

I'll see you at Sugarloaf ;)

The Finicky Farmer said...

This post is so awesome, Emilie, and you are totally up to the challenge!

Way to inspire with your bravery and honesty!!!!

Kim Oldenburgh said...

Love this post!! I have a 50-mile bike loop we do often in the summer. It goes from my house here in Enfield to Old Town and back. It's a beautiful ride and you are welcome to join anytime. We love loop rides and have 3 or 4 different ones we do. We've posted a few on ridedog.
You go girl!

Jen said...

Love this! You don't know how happy I am to see you posting again. I love reading your blog.

I know exactly what you mean about the hot steamy shower after that frigid run. You have to time it right so your body core doesn't chill off too much though. I hate the chills I get after a run like that. Here's looking to an excellent winter of kick ass training!

Will I see you at Midwinter classic?

Emilie said...

thank you, thank you everyone. I will need your support once this really gets going.

Amy... I get to meet you!

Carol said...

Wooo Hooo back at you! Fantastic! I will think about resolutions in a whole new way this year.

Brooke said...

yes, we shall conquer sugarloaf together!! remember? i will be living in new england soon!!

also, are you talking about lisa from high school??

Emilie said...

Brooke... I know you are moving here but I won't believe it until I see it. I'm so excited. And yes, Lisa. Good call! xo

Jen.. I didn't register in time for Mid Winter!

Willow said...

This is a great post that came at just the right time. After two half marathons and some random 5k's, I'm ready to move to the next level. I have a friend who is training for her first half marathon and I am so envious of her. That excitement and nervousness that accompanies the weeks of preparation. The giddiness of knowing that you are about to do something bigger than you have ever done before. I want that again. So, I'm in the process of firming up my big, scary plans for 2012. It looks like it will be the year of the marathon for me. I'm scared and excited all at once. I haven't decided on the exact marathon right now, but I have it narrowed down to a few in NY, VT, and ME. I'm going to make a final decision this week and commit. The second scary thing I'm going to do is complete a triathalon through our local YMCA. It's a small one (1/2 mile swim, 18 mile bike and 4 mile run), but it still scares me which is exactly why I want to do it. I am so intrigued by triathalons, and I know I need to do one. It's not the individual activities that scare's the transitions in between. So, thank you for this reminder to be brave and confident. I'm working on doing it in other, non-athletic areas of my life as well. Here's hoping that 2012 is a wonderful year of accomplishments and growth for all of us!

Carver Fam said...

Bring it on! You can TOTALLY do it!!!!

Defining Moments said...

I love you Em ! I have always seen you as a brave, beautiful woman full of courage!
You inspire me and I cherish you. I love you!!

Liz said...

Great post! I have been contemplating a spring marathon. I never seems to run through the winter as much as I want to and regret it in the spring when I'm starting from scratch. I thought a spring race would be the motivation I need to get out the door.

I am debating between Sugarloaf and Vermont actually. I ran the 15k at Sugarloaf years ago but am leaning toward Vermont. Since you've run both, do you have any recommendations/insights?

Emilie said...

Liz.. for your first marathon I highly recommend Vermont. It is beautiful, has awesome crowd support, an impressive medal, and most of all, the whole city is just electric with cheering. Sugarloaf has its charms for sure, but it's very quiet and I think you might like the cheering crowds for your first marathon. Both are beautiful, though, so you can't go wrong. Also, you may prefer the lower-stress scene of Sugarloaf depending on what you are into. Let me know! How exciting!