July 2015, Me after finishing the San Francisco Full Marathon: 26.2mi or 42km
When I signed up to do the San Francisco Full, I knew what I was getting myself into. The year prior, I did my first marathon the Seattle Rock and Roll, and was hooked. I wanted to try it again and beat my time since I now knew how incredibly exhausting yet indescribably exhilarating it was to train and complete an entire marathon. I enjoyed being called crazy. I loved the feeling of accomplishment. I love looking back and knowing I did that!
These last few months, as many of you know, have been the hardest, loneliest, most mentally challenging times of my young life. The death and absence of my mom hit me like a glacial wall. It hit me at different speeds, with each time increasing in velocity towards the reality of my situation. That was how September and October felt like for me. It was inescapable and the anxiety of the emotional outbursts seeping into my outside life was getting worse with every week I chose to deal with the scariness by myself.
I was afraid to open up to my husband for fear he wouldn’t know how to care for someone in crippling sadness and unpredictable outbursts from emotional triggers. I was afraid to open up to my inner circle for fear of dependency on them to hold me up. I was afraid to tell my dad for fear of interfering with his grieving journey.
Friends, now I know the power of sharing the burden. In November, I chose to start seeing a grief therapist and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I was finally able to talk about my journey to rock bottom to someone who didn’t know me. I had to share my story of my happy childhood, my frustration with my shortened teenage years due to my family’s struggles, and conflict with my early 20’s trying to be a carefree college student but also feeling the pressure to perform and succeed. I had these great internships and jobs and activities but it was hard to balance issues in LA while also building a personal and professional life in Seattle. I seemed to have it all, and I believe at a time I did, but as of late, I’ve felt like I’m losing ground again and it’s scary.
A few months ago, I was triggered by people who would talk about things they do with their mom. I knew I was in trouble when I was standing in line at Costco to pay for my food and these two girls behind me were talking about getting their nails done with their moms. I got in my head and was thinking, you’re lucky you can do that with your mom because mine is dead and I’ll never get a chance to do that again. Dark, harsh. I know.
I was also triggered by things I watched. For the longest time I avoided watching Crazy, Rich, Asians because that’s the last book my mom was reading before her brain tumor hospitalization and she said she wanted me to read it with her and see the movie when it comes out. We all know how this story went. I never got the chance to see it with her, but I did however, finally get the strength to watch the movie when it was available to rent. John watched it with me and I was bawling at the scene where Rachel was surprised by her mom at Peik Lin’s house. It reminded me of the most recent and last Mother’s Day card I sent to my mom. On the front said: “I will always need my mama”. And it broke me to once again realize that she’s not here. But in that sadness and tearful breaths I also remind myself that I will still, always, need my momma. It felt good to not be so angry at the situation. It was another milestone to tell me I was getting better.
It’s a unique situation to be in–to have matured so quickly, to have been so independent at a young age, to have been married at 22 and to have lost your mom at 23. It’s a lot and not many people my age have gone through a similar path. You’re in a constant cycle of re-discovery and re-invention and it seems like the point of comfort and stability is not within sight.
With the celebration of 2019, I promised myself to continue in the path of mental and emotional strength again. Truthfully, in the last few weeks, I’ve struggled to find the inspiration to stay on that consistent path.
I kept making excuses. It’s a new year but I still don’t know what direction I want. I’ll just sign up for the 16 classes in 30 days at my Pilates studio to keep me physically committed to something. That should be enough, right?
But oh, it’s my grandpa and mom’s birthdays in the first half of January, so I’ll reset completely after that. That’s when I’ll get back on track and eat well again and start reading and blogging again. But after their birthdays passed, I was still feeling very unmotivated and uninspired. There was a lot going on and I couldn’t seem to get my groove back on the right track.
Last month, one of my best friends recommended I read the book Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. Since I have about a two-hour commute roundtrip to and from work, I listened to the audiobook. I wanted to avoid reading self-help books but heck, I needed something to keep myself mentally occupied and off the path of emotional instability.
This was the book’s hook:
Stop believing the lies about who you are so can become who you were meant to be.
I loved it.
My first impression of the audiobook was negative because I honestly got annoyed with Rachel’s LA voice (sorry, Rachel!). But I got over it after a few moments of meditation and self-talk to listen to the words and not pay attention to the voice.
Eventually, I started looking forward to my morning and afternoon commute so I can hear Rachel’s recollections and her ability to organize her memories and turn them into stories that inspire women to be find themselves and be their best selves.
It worked. So thank you, Rachel, for getting me out of this rut and for reminding me of my strength.
The last chapter was my favorite because it inspired me to blog again and share and get back on the right foot. It only took 30 days into 2019, but better late than never, right?
Throughout Rachel’s book, I found many ways of how I related to her: the death of her older brother, the struggle with personal appearance, the relationship issues she and her husband encountered and overcame, and her never-ending journey of self-discovery and knowing your self-worth.
Listening to her speak was like listening to my own self giving me advice.
The last chapter, Chapter 20, was titled: “The Lie: I Need a Hero”. That chapter, I was reminiscing on one of the proudest moments of my life. It was when I finished the San Francisco Full Marathon in July 2015, having only trained for 9 weeks. I had an ankle injury 3 weeks before race day that threw me off-schedule for the full. But I did the damn thing! But how? How did I do it then? Because I couldn’t imagine doing that now.
The days leading up to the marathon, I was mentally preparing myself for the half marathon. I’ve already completed a full so this half should be a piece of cake. I wanted to run a 9-minute mile average, two minutes faster than my first marathon’s average mile time. For context, I finished my first full in Seattle the previous year just over 4.5 hours. It was brutal. Katy Perry’s “Roar” and OneRepublic’s “I Lived” were my theme songs for that run because it motivated me to get to the finish line and get my first marathon finisher medal.
The night before race day, I was still a little bummed that I was only going to run the half. My family drove from LA to see me finish the race. My best friend Rachel was in San Francisco with me and she was going to run the full. I wanted so badly to run that race with her! But my body was undertrained and I wasn’t mentally prepared.
I kid you not, that night, I had a dream that I finished the full marathon. I woke up on race day at 4:30am and started to mentally prepare myself at the possibility of fulfilling that dream. My family thought I was crazy. They said I would hurt myself and to only do the half.
“Ugh, fine. Okay you’re right. I’ll do the half,” I told them before Rachel and I left for the starting line.
As we waited to start the race, I was looking up the route for the half and see where the two races split off; half-marathon runners go the shorter way and full-marathon runners go the longer way. As we were approaching the starting line, I remember telling Rachel I was going to try to run the full. I was thinking about it, I dreamt about it and I think I can do it.
I was lighter than when I ran the full the year prior. Now, I knew my body, I knew my knees, I knew my mental resilience. I told her regardless, I’ll see her at the finish line and I’ll text her when/if I decide to do the full. I was running on adrenaline, endless positivity, and the want to get that full marathon finishers medal again. I wanted to earn my finishers t-shirt that said San Francisco Full Marathon on it, like I originally planned.
Here’s us at the start, where I told Rachel I’ll see her right here at the finish line. 🙂
As I started the first 4 miles of the marathon, I felt like I was on cloud nine. My curated playlist was giving me life and I had a smile on my face. At mile 6, I had my first energy gel. I was chewing it as I was running on the Golden Gate Bridge and I was feeling so inspired and motivated. At the end of the bridge, at the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point where runners turned around to head back to San Francisco and continue running along the Presidio and through Golden Gate Park, volunteers were handing out packets of GU gel. It was a sign.
Not only were the GU gels my favorite flavor (Strawberry) but it came with 10 gels–enough to sustain me through a full marathon. I’ll need Advil I thought, but I knew the med tents would have that. As I ran back on the Bridge towards San Francisco I kept checking in with myself. How did my body feel? And most importantly, how did I mentally feel? Could I convince myself to finish the full and run for another 3 hours?
My phone was charged and I had battery to play my Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon playlist to keep me inspired and motivated once my Friso Marathon playlist ran out of juice. I now had the calories and nutrients needed to refuel. But I knew I also needed support, so first I texted Rachel saying I’ll see her at the finish line after I finish the full. Then I texted my family saying sorry and that I was going to finish the full so I’ll be done in three hours instead of one.
This is the photo I sent them, just as I was about to reach the fork where half and full marathoners split to continue on their routes.
I can’t describe the feeling of utter despair at mile 18, knowing I still had 8.2 miles to go until I could cross the dang finish line. I kissed my Grandpa Rey in Heaven and asked him to give me strength. Wiz Khalifa’s “See you again” was playing when I did this–what perfect timing. That song always reminded me of my Grandpa Rey.
I can’t describe the feeling of pride as I kept reminding myself that I could do this. I thought of my family greeting me at the finish line. I’d imagine it. The emotion and the happiness. I cannot wait!
Just one foot in front of the other. That’s all it takes. Just keeping on moving Raelene. I had so much freaking confidence in myself to get this done.
As I was approaching AT&T park, I started to see the finish line. THANK GOODNESS. Just a little under 3 miles now. Almost there. So close. I started to play my motivation anthems on my playlist:
- “Schoolin’ Life” – Beyonce
- “Super Bass” – Nicki Minaj (rapping this always did a good job of distracting me)
- “Power” – Big Gigantic & GRIZ
- “Divinity” – Porter Robinson
- “Avaritia” – deadmau5
- “Roar” – Katy Perry
- “I Lived” – OneRepublic
What a time to be alive to relive the moments as I pushed myself toward the finish line. My calves were cramping. My cheeks were slightly sunburnt. I was so hot from the constant sunshine and lack of hydration. But I kept telling myself, one foot in front of the other. You got this Raelene!!!
When I crossed the finish line, I could barely keep myself up. My legs were going to give out aaaaaany minute haha. I saw Rachel, then I saw my parents and I started crying.
That entire race and those moments before and after the race are my “hero” moments. I was my own hero. And as I look back at that time in my life, I am so happy that I have that story to remind me of who I was, who I am and who I am meant to be. Because of that determination and resilience, I have proven that I can do anything as long as I have the will to do it. If 2015 Raelene can do that, 2019 Raelene is capable of that and more, so long as I tell myself I can and I will.
And I urge you to find a time when you were own hero when you feel doubtful of your direction. Be proud of where you came from–the journey it took to be here and be alive. Find your light, don’t lose sight of the dream, and believe you can. The rest is still unwritten 🙂
Happy New Year and until next time!
All my love,
Photo above taken during a butterfly release to celebrate my mom’s 52nd birthday on Jan 18th. I love her and I miss her everyday but her light shines within me, I can feel it 🙂
Happy Wellness Wednesday!
I plan to release snippets of my reflections and thoughts on Wednesdays as inspiration finds me so as to recharge my mind and prepare for the rest of the week to come. As I sift through my memories and share the good, the bad, and the ugly, my intention is to promote self-care and self-discovery as we walk, crawl, skip, and run through life.
This blog is meant to be an open space where I share my deepest thoughts, while remaining poised for the Internet and to strangers who may not know me but are reading my story.
This is an evolving blog, with the eventual goal to inspire those to share, to be present, to find balance, and to be fearless.
We all have a story and I am choosing to share mine with you all.
Thank you for your interest! Comment below or contact me if you want to chat 🙂