“The best feeling is diving right into something, washed over, head over heals in full excitement and adrenaline, with no expectations but to be immersed in a whole new world to explore…” -Me, treating my Twitter account like a Disney-esque, Dear Diary excerpt on 2/15/17
Aloha. This pretty much sums up how I feel about spending the entire first segment of 2017 above and out of water! So much stoke!
For those of you that actually read blogs and remain curious about my athletic career path, I apologize for the long vacation from writing, running, racing, training, competing, performing, conversing, updating, blogging… Or whatever else you may have wanted or expected from me in 2016. Words weren’t exactly flowing in between this past year’s set of waves and a somewhat tumultuous transition from California. But no, in case you were wondering, I’m not dead yet…
Ariel: [after Rescuing the Prince] Is he dead?
Scuttle: [Place’s his ear to Eric’s foot] It’s hard to say. Can’t make out a heart beat.
Ariel: No Look. He’s breathing!
I often wondered the same thing during this “Dead Time”… doggy paddling my way between doctor visits, physical therapy sessions, dry needling, and long days of cross-training mostly at the NAU pool and yoga studio, feeling like a fish out of water in all of these new environments just trying to catch a damn breath or two.
As hesitant as I may be to do so, moving forward slowly but solidly on wobbly, Princess Mermaid Ariel legs, fresh out of chlorinated water, I have been prompted by several humans to provide an update on life via “blah blah blah blog,” as I so affectionately introduced it as back in 2012 while I was finishing up college.
Much like the Disney’s little mermaid, however, and somewhere under the sea, I feel as though I might have traded in my voice just to test out the whole leg situation to keep at this professional running thing. I have struggled the past couple of years to find something inspiring to write about to a general audience, with worry that my original full-blown blogging honesty could cost me a contract, a friendly relationship or several, my career, dignity, future, whatever in the end. Even private conversations with my family and closest friends have been snipped short in fear, like a knife to a tangled fishing line, and it still hurts me to remember all those I left hanging while navigating through choppy waters.
But as a new year has turned, and I’ve climbed and clawed and flopped on out of the water to take on a fresh perspective of what may lie ahead, I realize it’s time take a deep breath, and to dive back in to the flow of life, with less fear of rejection, more freedom and acceptance, embracing the confident 2012 college graduate Lauren Kleppin, the one that didn’t give two flying fucks, the one that bravely leapt from Colorado to California on nothing but a pipe dream, and ultimately meandered her way to this current strip of land in Flagstaff, Arizona. She still lives somewhere in this shell of an older body, tired, but fully revivable, upon land once again.
** Please excuse the “Happy Lauren” montage I just threw together to remind myself of the legs and spine I have somewhere within me, and how powerful they are when I take control of the steering wheel, paddle, compass, podium, (insert any other relevant simile here).
The first day and run of this now somewhat new-ish 2017 year was spent casually clipping off 7 minute miles on a dirt road off the 211 Winona Exit on I-40.
Surrounded by the sounds of plodding Hokas and the voices and steady breathing of my talented NAZ Elite teammates along with some other fast-runner Flagstaff femme fatales, I was just counting my blessings and enjoying the rare moment of feeling my feet on the solid ground for the first time in seemingly forever, without getting too excited and cheering every time my Garmin beeped and signaled another mile complete at what I deem a respectable pace.
2016 taught me that around every corner, and around almost every Wednesday of the next week, knowing my luck, I could step on a rattlesnake hiding underneath the next rock while simultaneously rolling my ankle and falling into a ditch, or according to my medical history: Check into Urgent Care again with… shoulder bursitis, shingles, kidney stones, hives, iron poisoning, sty on my eye, a reminder of my hyper thyroid genetics, allergic reaction to prescribed medication, and whatever other ugly medical condition and nightmare you might look up on the internet. (I am now a WebMD expert.)
Quiet as usual so early in the morning, tucked in the back but close to the pack, just listening and trying to go with the flow without sounding like a dying whale out of water… All of a sudden one of the girls (sorry I can’t remember who) looks back at me and exclaims, “Holy shit I think this is the first time I’ve run with you… like all year!” I shrugged casually in response, hoping not more of an explanation was needed other than the fact that I was present and keeping up, masking any signs of discomfort or lingering doubt from the waters that brought me here. Leah Rosenfeld swooped in with a quick heroic retort, rescuing me from the surreptitious self undertow that might have ensued and swallowed me and had me running towards the side ditch in search of a familiar puddle of toxic water to safely wallow in instead…
“2016 was your mermaid year!” she laughed with the lightness I needed at that moment to float on for the remainder of the run to finish with the school of big fish I signed up to train with. Not sure she knows how crucial she was to power me out of the mental eddy I was swirling round and round in, but thank you, Leah, and thank you to the rest of my supportive NAZ Elite teammates and crew. Thank you for helping me push back out into the wild and risky, but often rewarding, whitewater rapids of training that day, as I can now begin to embrace the rush of navigating the river of professional running again, with less of a mermaid tail and tale to tell.
“So what’s next? When is your next competition? What’s your schedule?” are often the quick fire questions I get when people cross paths with me on the open road, seeing I do in fact have two legs. (And probably what you clicked and skimmed and scrolled on down to, to discover as well…)
Well, I’ll be honest. I have no fucking idea. No clue. Wrap your head around that seemingly whale of a tale. At this point, two months in, I am enjoying running, for the pure sake of it. I am enjoying learning and rediscovering the amazing feats a healthy body can accomplish, step by step, growing stronger each day, and being grateful for that process, and being able to see and appreciate that progress, whether it comes in the form of a ripple or a wave.
It is easy to grow impatient as others are racing, wondering how many surfable opportunities pass me by… Please. Just have faith. I’m not the girl that settles for a life floating on stagnant water.
As I cheers to the end of “the year of the mermaid, ” and look forward to what the rest of 2017 has in store, I will embrace the second skin I earned in the year of 2016 and not take for granted the two healthy legs beneath me that are capable of creating motion. I am curious and full of excitement to see where these experiences over the past year will ultimately guide me.
Prince Eric: [upon first meeting Ariel, after she’s signed her soul over to Ursula, lost her voice, been turned into a human, and nearly drowned] Gee, you must have really been through something.
Sigh… Haven’t we all?
Quoting Iliza Schlesinger, one of my favorite comedians:
“Let’s make a pact! I don’t want to hear any more women talk about how they want to be mermaids…”
Maybe until I reel in a Prince Eric of my own, I’ll tell you I am personally over the whole mermaid tail tale and don’t recommend it.
Keep your legs. Keep your voice. Keep running as strong and free as you can be.
Also, be kind and thankful for the friends that stick with you through the rough waters and calm, the ones that keep you afloat, and pull you and push you to be be better and confident in your own skin and two legs.
* Bonus Announcement : In celebration of the end of “the mermaid year,” running into 2017 with happy healthy legs, and honoring our own friendship, Elle Mer Swim and I have partnered up to offer a Giveaway Contest to honor you and your favorite workout buddy. Enter to win a free bikini top for you and a friend!
You must follow @ellemerswim and @laurenkleppin on Instagram, like the featured photo of this blog and tag a friend in the comments. Follow and tag by Sunday March 5th, 2017. Winner will be announced Monday March 6th, 2017.
Good luck out there, and mahalo!