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The Next Step

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
-Walt Disney

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Can you all guess what I did today?  Anyone?  Okay I’ll just tell you then.  I started my book!  I wrote the whole preface/introduction today.  That means that writing a booking has gone from being one of the dreams I want to accomplish someday to one that I am currently making a reality.  Holy cow!!!  It doesn’t matter if it’s only a few pages because it’s started, and someday it will be finished.  To be honest, I don’t care if it is ever published.  It’s more about the principle of following through on something I’ve always wanted to do.

Up until this point I’ve have been doing the ground work.  I’ve gotten into the habit of writing regularly.  I put a lot of effort (and myself!) into this blog.  I have found my voice and identity as a writer, and been more open and honest than I ever thought I would be.  I’ve even built up my media presence.  All these smaller goals I’ve set for myself have been stepping stones for this major leap.  

I’m sure there are people who will be surprised or think I’m not qualified, but as far as I’m concerned their opinions don’t matter.  Every great author was once an everyday guy or girl just like you and me.  People aren’t born into greatness; they set out and create it.  I will succeed because I am crazy enough to believe I can.  I am a writer not because I have been published, but because I write.  My message to the world is no less valid or needed than any other work out there today.  

I believe in leading by example, and I want the world to know that you don’t need to have a perfect life or upbringing to get somewhere in life.  Every life is full of setbacks and failure.  It’s how we deal with them that builds our character.  Does surviving trauma leave scars?  Yes, absolutely!  Does it mean that you are damaged? Heck no!  

I would never wish the trauma I’ve experienced in my past on anyone, not even my worst enemy.  However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from it.  We all know that bad things can happen to good people.  What we sometimes fail to realize is that good things can come from bad situations, good things like growth and strength. 

I want people to know it’s ok to embrace your past along with your present and future- even if it’s ugly and full of mistakes.  Take what you’ve learned and draw from it.  Don’t for even a second stop to be ashamed.  We all have made poor choices in our lives.  They make us human.  They don’t define us.  It’s never too late to let go and start living fully.  Nor is it ever to late to set a new goal or chase your dreams.

It’s not about living a perfect life.  No one is perfect.  Perfect is the enemy.  It’s unachievable.  Authentic, however, is achievable; and it’s a great way to go.  

There is nothing particularly original about sharing my story from victim to survivor and ultimately thriver, however that is the point.  I’m not some elite super athlete.  I am an everyday women who took a rather round about journey to finding herself, a journey that involved a lot of anxiety, tears, self doubt, and crazy mileage and dreams.  Never in a million years would I have ever believed that I would be a survivor of domestic abuse, but I also never dreamed I would be a marathoner, ultra runner, swimmer, cyclist, or triathlete.  I am not fearless.  If anything I am a huge chicken.  I’m clusmy.  I was cut (repeatedly) from my track team and kicked out of swim class, but I never quit.  Now I am training for a Half Ironman.  

Believe me when I tell you that “If I can do it, so can you!”

Why I’m Not Ready to Give Up

“I’m going to succeed because I’m crazy enough to think I can.”

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I’m not sure where exactly the crazy idea started that I needed to do a Half IM or why it had to be the REV 3 at Quassy.  I think it likely had to do with the desire to one day complete the ultimate test of endurace: A Full Ironman.  The REV 3 at Quassy just happened to be close to home.  In fact, the course is only a few miles from our house.  What’s more, the tri club we joined just happens to ride the routes in that area and race there.  It was beyond convenient.  It was meant to be.

In my mind, there are no coincidences in life.  Everything happens for a reason.  Therefore, the fact that I am not yet pregnant and the REV 3 is almost here is a clear sign that I am meant to break into the sport of triathlon this year.  I had no idea how to swim or bike when I first set out to do this race.  I have spent over 9 months training.  I learned to swim, trained countless hours, and now am focused on spending every spare moment honing my cycling abilities.  I’m not looking to set any records.  I just want to finish.

That is why, despite my utter terror of cycling, I am not ready to give up on my dream of completing the REV 3 Half IM this year.  I can’t help but think that if it wasn’t meant to be that the registration would have closed or I would already be pregnant.  I just can’t let it go and accept defeat, even if I don’t feel completely comfortable on the bike yet.  Yes, 56 miles is more than I have ever biked in one day.  Yes, riding on hills still scares me out of my mind.  Yes, I will most likely get annihilated out there.  But, not one of those things has any bearing on whether I can finish.

ImageI know I can swim the 1.2 miles and not get tired.  I also know I can run 13.1 miles when I’m utterly exhausted.  I am pretty sure I can muddle through 56 miles on the bike in between.  I have done other races that have required me to be on my feet and moving for 8 to 12 hrs.  I can run over 30 miles.  One would think that should translate over to have the endurance to complete a Half Ironman.  While I realize its not exactly the same thing, and that cycling involves some skill; I do know that I have managed to bike over 30 miles of hills and then run while sick.  Plus, I’m at a point where I can handle my bike well enough not to be a danger to those around me… as far as not being a danger to myself, well I’m not sure that we’ll ever get there… unless they’ve invented a cure for general clumsiness that I don’t know about.  

Anyway, I am not rushing to go sign up this minute, but I did take the time to map out the bike course into Map My Ride so I can test it and see how long it takes me.  I think I owe it to myself to at least try the course out on my own and see if it is doable.  If it seems like something I can manage, then I’ll come home and sign up.  Well, that is if registration is still open at that point.  If not, then I’ll know it wasn’t meant to be this time around.  

SIDE NOTE: my other task pre-race will be to attempt open water swimming.  Luckily, they have a session this weekend with the tri club.  Hopefully the lake water will be warm enough to swim without inducing hypothermia… and my new wetsuit will get here in time!  In the meantime, I am going to keep practicing my cycling.  In fact, I am meeting up with some peeps from the tri club tonight for a ride near the REV 3 course.  Wish me luck!

Becoming a Gear Girl

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.” 
– Little Engine That Could

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Hello My Lovelies!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, especially all the moms out there!  I had an unexpectedly prolonged weekend due to be home sick from work on Thursday.  That means I have been off from work for almost a week… Unfortunately, I spent more than half that time too sick to move from bed or the couch.  I know!  It was a total bummer and definitely threw a wrench in my training plans.  The good news is, I still made it to our Tri Club Brick and BBQ with the hubs.

So here is the thing about that…  Back when the hubs was in the Marines, he decided on a whim that he was going to do a Half Ironman (IM).  Mind you, this was before he ever owned a bike.  His training consisted of borrowing a bike from a friend and doing some swimming.  Of course, he finished without a problem.

Fast forward a few years, and here I am almost 9 months into training (including learning to swim and bike), and I still don’t feel prepared enough to meet the time qualifiers.  Why?  Because I am not where I need to be with my cycling.  This is something I have been aware of, however it became more abundantly clear at the duathlon… and even more so this weekend.

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Now granted, I went into our group ride this weekend still under the weather, and most definitely dehydrated and short on calories.  The hubs also skipped out on a real breakfast, but a 30 mile ride is a walk in the park for his cycling-loving-self.  I have read in triathlon books that people who do Full IMs average 17-18 mph on the bike portion.  Up until this weekend, I had no concept really of just how fast that is.  Then our group ride started… and I was left in the dust.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you I was literally last.  I did actually catch up with two people in front of me, but the rest of the group was not even within viewing distance for the rest of the ride (aside from when they all pulled over and waited at the first few intersections… yeah, that didn’t last long).

I have to be honest when I tell you it was somewhat demoralizing.  While I understand I am still a newbie cyclist, I have been on other group rides where I was not utterly annihilated by the rest of the riders.  These people, on the other hand, were completely out of my league.  Thankfully, the only two people I could keep up with were a married couple I knew from my swim class.  However, even they were light-years ahead of me on every downhill due to my over generous utilization of my brakes.  Did I mention I was the only one actually using them?  I repeat, Out Of My League.

 

ImageAt least the view was pretty!

I was incredibly grateful to Tammy (the wife of the couple, who I happen to know better from our traumatic experience in beginner’s swimming) for keeping pace with me to chat for a while and waiting at intersections to make sure I wasn’t lost.  There was also a more experienced rider from the group who periodically circled back to make sure we were all ok, and I was beyond appreciative of her as well.  (She even gave me tips on climbing the hills, and was incredibly patient with my slow-as-heck self. God Bless her!)

In all honesty, if it had not been for Tammy, I probably would have broken down in tears.  The ride was by no means an easy one, and the descents were nerve-fryingly, white knuckled, terrifying.  The roads were wet which did not help my fears, and my husband was somewhere off in the front of the pack leaving me in the dust along with everyone else.

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More beautiful scenery as consolation…

I kept telling myself that I am not a bad cyclist, I am an inexperienced cyclist.  I also reminded myself how terrible I was when I first started swimming.  At least no one was kicking me off the route!  Instead, I heard only words of encouragement.  After all, I was the only newbie cyclist out on that loop, and it consisted of a lot of killer hills.  Here I was sick, dehydrated, and alone (for at least a good part of it), and I didn’t break down or quit.  I stuck with it- even when I got super dizzy and light-headed.  I drank from my water bottle, took some cliff bloks, and got back to pedaling.

I am pleased to report that I only toppled over once due to bumping a curb on my way up a steep hill.  I also had one near miss, but was able to correct myself.  I finished behind every other cyclist, but I finished… and I wasn’t far behind my back of the pack buddies.  The hubs and the more advanced riders finished a full 20 minutes ahead of us… which I suppose isn’t too bad considering it was a 30 mile ride.  Their average speed was in the 17-18 mph range, which consisted of riding between 40 and almost 60 mph down the hills (Um, no thank you...)  I headed off on my run just elated to have survived (I think I exclaimed something to the effect of “Yea! I feel so much safer!”).  Meanwhile, the hubs skipped his run and took a nap instead of finishing the “brick”.

I suppose when you achieve celebrity status with the Tri Club for your superior cycling talent, the run isn’t necessary.  That’s right, my super shy and antisocial hubs is now Mr. Popular.  Apparently when you ride in a group there’s a lot of chatting that goes on.  I suppose I would know these things if I actually rode fast enough to keep up with other people…  Can you believe he is already friends on Strava with all of them?  One bike ride, and they are all BFFs.  Go figure.  I guess that’s what happens when you put a bunch of like minded, uber competitive, cycling fanatics together.  How did I not see this coming?

What’s better is he even impressed Coach M and kicked her butt (her words) on the ride… though she admittedly likes the bike considerably less than the swimming and running.

In general, I have to say that I am pretty happy for the hubs.  I do find it slightly ironic, though, that I am the one who dragged him into joining the YMCA and Tri Club with me; and now he is the popular one and I’m struggling (and failing miserably) to keep up.  I guess that just means I have more work to do.

The good news is, I am getting the hang of bike maintenance a lot faster than the actual riding.  I currently am able to de-grease and re-lube my chain.  Plus, I now know how to get my wheels on and off to get all the nooks and crannies clean.  The hubs even taught me how to floss my cassette with a rag to get it extra clean.  Oh! And he happened to puncture one of his tires on the ride, so I got extra practice on changing flats.  Pretty soon I think I will be at the point where I can do these things all on my own without the hubs for supervision. 😉

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I biked today and lived! And I’m still smiling!

Today I spent the morning doing P90X chest and back, and then took some more time getting used to my bike.  I spent 30 minutes focusing on starting, stopping, coasting, balancing on one foot, letting go of one hand, starting and stopping on hills, and then I tried to practice climbing the really steep hill next to my house…  I had to stop when I started freaking my neighbors out with my wipe outs.  So instead I came in and did another 14 miles on the bike trainer… in 80 degree heat and humidity.  Can you say good time?

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So sexy… I know you’re jealous…

It wasn’t glamourous, but I got it done.  The way I figure, any time I spend on my bike is better than nothing!   My next task (other than getting generally comfortable) is to start familiar with some of the nearby triathlon courses.  In fact, I already mapped the REV 3 Half IM course in Map My Ride… I know it’s ambitious, but I figure I can do sections of it at a time and work up to the whole 56 miles.  Hopefully. it shouldn’t take too long to get there.

That’s all I have to share for now.  I hope you all are off to a terrific start to your week!  My goal for this week is to survive work and continue to work toward becoming one with my bike.  What are you hoping to accomplish?

Getting Back in the Saddle

“One thing that cycling has taught me

is that if you can achieve something without a struggle

it’s not going to be satisfying.”

-Greg LeMond

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Hello Everyone!

I have more exciting news for you all!  Yesterday the hubs and I went out for my first official outdoor ride of the season, and I survived!  In fact, I did better than just survive.  I actually did well!  No one was more surprised by this than me.  I think the hubs was secretly impressed, but he hid it well.  I was so happy because I had been terrified of tipping over repeatedly and getting covered in road rash and chain bites.  However, as soon as I hopped on it all came back to me.  

I immediately remembered how to use my gears, which was a big fear of mine.  I also did MUCH BETTER at balancing than the last time I rode theImage bike path.  This was likely related to all the practice I have had in spin and on the trainer with relaxing- especially my shoulders, which I have a bad habit of keeping by my ears.  It’s amazing how much straighter and more smoothly the bike rides when you aren’t holding it with a death grip… go figure!  

I purposely picked the Cheshire Bike Path (as opposed Lake Waramaug which involves minimal dismounting) so that I would have LOTS of practice unclipping and riding through the lane dividers (aka THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE) at the intersections.  I also thought the good vibes from PR’ing on the bike path on Sunday might carry over and help calm my nerves.

The hubs spent some time with me teaching me how to coast while balancing on one foot.  He thought it would help me with dismounting at the intersections, which it did- thankfully!  Normally, I have a lot of trouble coming forward off my seat when I dismount, so instead I end up trying to balance on the toes of my unclipped foot.  This generally leads to toppling over at long lights… hence the reason I avoid city riding altogether.  Well that and being a general hazard on the road

That being said, now that I have conquered swimming, I REALLY want to learn to ride my bike like a big girl real cyclist.  Unfortunately, that means getting comfortable with stopping and starting.  I keep telling myself that if I was able to go from not being able to swim properly at all, and being completely anxious about even getting in the water, then I can conquer cycling too.  

Furthermore, I don’t want to settle for just being competent at it, I want to get proficient at it.  Of all the legs of triathlon, you spend the most time on the bike.  It only makes sense to put energy into becoming the best cyclist I can be.  Getting over my fear of seriously maiming myself riding is a necessary evil.  When I took on swimming, I knew it was essential to achieving my goal of one day finishing an Ironman.  As much as I was absolutely terrified, I was also determined.  

Start by doing what’s necessary;

then do what’s possible;

and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Francis of Assisi

I have never been one to give up on something simply out of fear.  To me, that’s just not a good enough reason.  I don’t ever want to say I didn’t go after something I truly wanted because I was too scared to give my all.  I would rather try and fail.  That is what got Imageme through the swimming.  I was convinced if I could just stick with it that I could do it.  I HAD to do it.  I didn’t consider the fact that I still wasn’t comfortable on my bike.  All I focused on was the task at hand.

Now I am approaching my bike with the same determination.  There is no room for fear.  It is now or never.  I have a roughly 6 week window to get really comfortable on my bike before the REV 3 Half Ironman, and I want to be there.  I know in my heart I can cover the distance.  I have it in me to do it.  If I don’t do it now, I don’t know when I will have another chance.  I have already invested over 6 months of training.  I have learned to swim and spent countless hours running, spinning, cycling, swimming, and cross training in preparation.

That is why I know I will get the hang of this bike, and why I am so thrilled to have survived my first ride unscathed.  I am lucky to have the hubs to back me up.  He loves cycling the way I love running, so if anyone can help me get to where I need to be it’s him.  

Oh and since our ride went so well (we did close to 20 miles at a “good pace”- according to the hubs) I signed up for a duathlon this weekend.  I figured it may be my only chance to practice transition before June.  Plus, it will give me a feel for riding my bike in an actual race.  The hubs says I am ready, so I am going to trust him.  It’s only a 14 mile bike ride, but it’s in downtown Waterbury.  I’m a little nervous about the city riding; but I have been doing well with dismounting so I should be ok.  

Good thing I’ll have my Tough Chik gear!  I swear it gives me super powers that keep me upright!  Maybe it’s just the extra boost of confidence that comes with wearing the logo “This is what Tough Looks Like”.

What adventures are you all taking on this week? 

 

 

Boston Strong

“Every serious marathoner should do Boston,

to experience the close to a million spectators,

the three generations of families out cheering,

the little kids handing you water or orange slices.

The whole city really appreciates the runners.”
-Neil Weygandt

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I am not sure what being a “serious” marathoner entails, but I do know that I am seriously into running!  Perhaps that is why I was glued to my twitter feed all morning (in between entering orders and caring for patients) drinking up every ounce of information as if I had been stranded on a dessert island with no other source of sustenance.  Truthfully, I was rooting for Shalane Flanagan more than any other runner out there.  It was clear how badly she wanted it… Plus, I am a sucker for a hometown hero.  Add to that the fact that she is no taller than I am and a totally bad ass lady; and you can start to understand why this women has won my support.

If not, watch this:

Hello! She is wearing a polka dot jacket and she compared running to church… clearly we were separated at birth and I just happened to miss out on the super athletic genes.

Okay, now that we are on the same page… Let’s talk about why I am obsessed with the Boston Marathon.  For starters, Boston is the brass ring of the marathon and distance running community.  It’s a goal that so many people dream about.  The amount of blood, sweat, tears, and months to years of preparation and training it takes is unlike any other marathon.  The time qualifiers are so competitive that I will easily be in my 60s before I qualify by their standard, and that is only if that don’t up the qualifiers by then!

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Boston is not a race you run on a whim.  It’s a race you pine and dream about.  Every runner in that race has earned a spot there; and before you point out that there are plenty of people who get in by fundraising for charity- I would like to just invite you to take a look at the minimal fundraising requirements to get in.  When you find a cheap one, you let me know.  Point being every runner out there deserves every bit of support from the crowd.

I have always been a fan of Boston; however, after last year’s marathon it has become even more significant.  The tragedy that happened last year shined a national spotlight on the marathon and running community.  It carried marathon running into the mainstream more than it ever had been.  It inspired more people than ever to want to run a marathon and to want to run Boston.  It brought the spectators and runners together.  It drew people who never had interest in running into the sport (yes, it is a sport).  The Boston bombing didn’t scare anyone away from the Boston Marathon, rather it attracted them in droves.

Why?  Because it was a tremendous display of community and indomitable strength.  The aftermath of the explosion was filled the city with terror, but even more so it was filled with courage, selflessness, charity, goodwill, empathy, and compassion.  All the best parts of human character showed through more luminous than any damage those terrorists could have inflicted.  People risked their lives to help complete strangers. Runners continued (after running the full marathon) to the hospitals to donate blood.  Finishers gave up their medals to those individuals who were stopped short of their goal.  The whole nation rallied in support.

The Boston Marathon was not defeated, rather it became an even greater symbol of resilience.  It brought Patriots Day from a little know local holiday into national consciousness.  Perhaps, the next step should be to declare it a National Holiday, and we could all celebrate the Marathon together…  Should anyone decide to start that petition please let me know!

In the meantime, I showed my support in the best way I knew how.  I started by joining the 118 For Boston Movement and logging all my mileage with the tag #118ForBoston in RunKeeper.  If I can’t run Boston in person, then at least I can run miles for Boston!  In case you were wondering, I included the #118ForBoston tag on my Ultra mileage on Saturday as well.  It was my last official contribution before the race this morning.  I also wore my race shirt and sneakers in support of Marathon Monday as well!  My newest shirt addition from the Traprock Ultra just happens to be Boston Marathon colors, and super awesome to boot.  I think it may be my favorite race shirt yet!  I am pretty sure I am the only person who dressed in support of the marathon today at work, but I just assume that’s because everyone is living under a rock…

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Luckily for me, my coworkers were pretty tolerant of my exuberance about the race.  They even humored me with feigned interest when I rattled off the standings every 15-20 minutes.  I was sad that Shalane didn’t win, but happy for her that she ran the first half faster than the course record and got a PR.  I was also pumped that Rita broke the course record with a time of 2:18:57.  The women totally rocked that race!!!!   Way to represent ladies!!!! I think I even heard that Rita ran a 4:47 split at mile 24 which was one of the fastest splits for any of the racers- male or female.  By the time they announced Meb as the male winner, I think I was ready to jump out of my skin with excitement…. luckily this coincided with my lunch break.

So after spending my morning finally fully recognizing just how useful (and what a God-send for those of us stuck at work with no TV!) twitter can be, I texted the hubs to share my enthusiasm about the results.  Can you believe he didn’t know what I was talking about?  And he is a runner?  Before questioning how we are married, I decided that he must have just woken up.  Obviously, if he had been awake, he would have been equally as captivated by the days events… like every other runner on the planet… hello!

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Poor hubs… He had no idea what he was getting himself into when he met me.  And to think he once made a comment about his ex-fiance not being a “real” runner because she “only ran half marathons” (Pfff as if there were such a thing as fake runners… At the time we weren’t even officially dating and I don’t think I had ever run more than 8 or 10 miles).  Oh hubs, how many times have you had to eat those words in the past 3+ years…

What did you all do to show your support for the Boston Marathon today?

Just a little more inspiration for you…

You can also see her dance again and learn about the technology here

Congrats to all the Boston Marathon Finishers!!!!!

I EAT MILES FOR BREAKFAST (TRAPROCK RECAP)

“Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.”
-Julie Isphording

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“I eat miles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  That was my race mantra for the 7 hours and 30ish minutes it took me to complete the Traprock Ultra 50K yesterday.  That is a full 1.5 hours faster than my last ultra finish at Bimbler’s Bluff by the way… just in case you were curious. 😉  While I would like to say the faster time was related to my veteran status as an ultra runner (with one whole 50K under my belt…), the truth is it is much more likely related to the fact that this run was shorter (um, yes they were both 50K but this one was actually 50K… as opposed to the 50K-ish course at Bimbler’s Bluff which was closer to 34 miles… if you didn’t get lost, which I did… repeatedly) and really well marked.

One thing it was not was EASIER.  There were two ridiculously steep climbs within the first couple miles, including one right at the start.  Since the course consisted of 3 loops, we had to do both 3 times!!!  … And thats not even counting having to run the first one (which was by far the worst) in reverse 3 times as well!  So the people who designed Traprock were sadists as well, but then what trail runners and trail race organizers aren’t?  I mean honestly, when have you ever done a trail race that wasn’t filled with ridiculous hills? Or finished a race thinking “gosh that course was easier than I expected?”…. Never? Yeah, me either.  Of course, the hills on this course were steep and technical even by trail running standards.

The good news is, after the quad-busting climbs in the few first miles, there was a nice descent (not so nice going in reverse) followed by a very friendly and supportive aid station and the Lollipop section of the course.  This was the first out and back and it was super fun to cheer on all the runners who were already on their way back.  I think this was my favorite section because it was dirt (minimal rocks!) and consisted of a gradual uphill which became a fast, easy down on the way back.  From there it was anotherImage aid station cheer section and back up (literally up… sadists I tell you) into the woods on a lengthy stretch of up and down.  This felt like the longest section of the course to me.   I think partly because after picking up speed in the lollipop section, the steep parts of the hills made me feel like I was grinding to a stop.

After several fake outs (as in “nope, not leveling out yet”), there was yet another aid station at the top of the ridge.  BTW I will say there were some spectacular views along the way, and a nice breeze at the top.  The volunteers at this aid station were also AWESOME.

I just can’t say enough about how wonderful each station was!  They cheered, they played music, they asked how I was feeling and what I needed.  They even filled my hydration pack for me so I didn’t have to take it off.  It was definite pick me up each time I saw them.  This last aid station was roughly 3 miles from the finish and led to a (longer than I would have liked) paved section consisting of a gradual up and down.  The thing I hated about this section (aside from my obvious dislike for running on pavement) was that there was not much shade, and I felt like the sun was roasting me.  By the time it finished I was happy to get back on the trail, even if it meant repeating that merciless hill from the start.  Thankfully, it was slightly less awful in reverse.  Plus, it was a another loop part of the course so I got to cheer for all the runners coming out on there second loop.

Finishing the first loop meant running through the finish and then turning around and heading back up the way we came (yes, up the evil hill again).  It was slightly cruel, but not as emotionally damaging as getting lost and backtracking through the entire Bimbler’s Bluff course.  Unfortunately, during my second loop I started to feel sick.  Anytime I tried to eat anything resembling solid food, it just didn’t agree with me.  I had stomach cramps and a headache, and I was worried I might have to drop out.  It was much warmer than it has been recently, so I was not acclimated to running in the heat.  I tried to increase my fluid intake and see if that helped.  Luckily I had added a protein mixture to my water and was able to keep down the cliff bloks I brought.  It was frustrating because my legs and joints felt good.  I decided just to slow down and not push myself.  After all, it was a gorgeous day and beautiful course.  I Imageam a trail runner first and foremost.  There is truly nothing that makes me feel happier or more at peace than being on the trails.

My main goal for this race was to finish.  The time cut off was 9 hrs, which is just about what it took to run my last 50K.  I figured I should be able to make that as long as I didn’t get lost.  My secondary goal was to finish in 8 hrs.  Given that I was running over 30 miles, I thought shaving a full hour off my previous time was a reasonable aim.  When I finished my first loop in just over 2 hours (well behind most of the field btw… Ultra Runners are beasts!  And possibly part mountain goat…) I knew I had the time to slow down, and give my body a chance to recover.

My plan worked, and by the start of loop 3 I was feeling great.  I still did not push hard for fear of causing more GI distress; so instead I socialized with the runners nearby and walked the hills. YES! I walked.  I walked any reasonable looking hill.  I am no dummy.  I ran almost the entire Bimbler’s Bluff 50K, and the only thing I accomplished by doing so was burning out my legs on the hills.  This time I had nothing to prove, and I wasn’t about to mess with the heat.  Guess what?  I went faster!  I figured it was better to walk and run than crawl… which is what I would have been doing had I not walked some of those inclines!  It was so much more enjoyable too!  Because my legs weren’t super fatigued, I was able to actually run the flats and downhills, which is so much more fun than poking along at injured pace.

My whole goal for loop 3 was really just to enjoy it, and honestly I did.  Once I got through the hills on that first section I was so pumped to have “the worst” of it behind me.  The aid station volunteers commented on what a big smile I was wearing as I came into view.  I hollered back “The hard part is over! Just the fun stuff left now!” and I truly meant it.  I sailed through the entire lollipop section as if my legs weren’t tired at all (ok, well my version of sailed).  In fact, I felt strong right up until I ran out of cliff bloks.  Then I, again, got into trouble with the cramping.  This was unfortunate because I was heading into the sun-scorching paved section again.  The last 5K was the longest 5K I have ever run in my life.  Most likely because I was barely moving in spite of my best efforts.  I had given everything I had and left it on the course.  There was simply nothing left in me.  That is until I had the finish within my sight.  Then I came down that hill and hurled myself at it as fast as my legs would carry me!

ImageEven being one of the last finishers, there were still plenty of people cheering at the finish.  I was just happy that I had finished before they shut the course down!

I am no expert in Ultra running by any means, but I would definitely recommend this course to any one considering running one.  Normally I am not a fan of any kind of repeats in a race.  However, in this case, it was one of my favorite parts.

First, the fact that the course was a loop meant it was well marked with frequent aid stations (ie. cheer sections).  It also meant by the second and third loop that I knew where I was going, which made it easier to watch my footing (and not face plant).  Furthermore, it was helpful in terms running more efficiently due to knowing where to push hard and where to coast.  Finally, it was a great way to interact with the other runners!  Ultra running can be such a lonely sport when you sign up by yourself.  It’s nice to see a friendly face every once in a while when you spend hours of your day running in the woods.

While I loved my experience at Bimbler’s Bluff, I cannot say I enjoyed the course as much as I did in this ultra.  I had put so much pressure on myself last time to run well and finish.  This time around I really wanted to just embrace the experience.  That is exactly what I did.  Sure plenty of (ok most) people may finished ahead of me, but I doubt any of them enjoyed the experience as much as I did.  For me, trail running is pure bliss.  Even when I’m tired and it hurts, I still love it.  That being said, Traprock has earned a special place in my heart.

Doing Nothing to Prepare for My Ultra

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.”
-Jules Renard

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We are just 2 days away from my second Ultra, and I am preparing today by being lazy.  Perhaps the most difficult part of training for me is the tapering.  Fellow endurance junkies, I know you know my pain!  I am so accustomed to living life 100 mph that cutting back on training makes me feel like I am literally grinding to a halt.  Plus, given that exercise is my coping mechanism to deal with all the other absurdity going on in my life, the decrease in workouts makes me extra looney.

This time around, however, I am trying to enjoy the downtime.  Life has been so chaotic recently with being promoted to supervisor Imageand my parents moving that the change in pace is actually kind of refreshing.  Instead of feeling like a total slacker, I’ve been reminding myself that my training for Saturday’s run is behind me.  The best thing I can do now is make sure I eat properly, sleep plenty, and ensure my body is well rested.  

So today I am giving myself permission to be lazy.  Rather than worrying about getting in enough mileage of swimming, biking, and running this week, I have been trying to relax… Try being the operative word.  Surprisingly, this has not been as difficult as it typically is for me.  Perhaps this is because I made it to swim class Tuesday night.  We only swam just over a mile, but it was enough to take the edge off and shake off a crappy work day.  

The class was great because we learned a new “punching” drill, and I feel like it really helped my stroke.  Plus Coach M was in a great mood given that I finally gave her my gift for teaching me to swim.  I had noticed she has propensity toward soft, fitted shirts so I got her an “i swim” shirt from the comfiest brand I know: Tough Chik! 🙂  She absolutely loved it!  It’s funny to think how far we’ve come from that first class… 

Aside from swim class, I haven’t done much in the way of exercise this week… Well other than the 5K on Sunday. I might sneak in another swim today, but that will be the last workout prior to Saturday.  Tomorrow I am working, so today my goal is just to take it easy and plan out my gear and attire for the run.  The hubs has agreed to give me a ride and pick me up.  I told him not to feel obligated to stay the whole day since it took me almost 9 hours to finish the last one… plus ultra running is not much of a spectator sport.  I am lucky to have a hubby that not only doesn’t mind me spending an entire Saturday running, but is willing to give up his time to help make it happen.  I think I may have won the spouse lottery.  After all, it takes a special breed to love an ultra runner… especially a tapering ultra runner… 

Who else is racing this weekend?  Any big plans?

Fear: The Dream Killer

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”
-Dorothy Thompson

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Let’s take a moment to talk about Fear.  We have all experienced it.  Its evolutional function was to keep us safe and alive.  However the problem comes when we are in no real danger and still living in a state of trepidation.  We are no longer living in a time when our lives are perpetually in danger, yet the fear remains.  Don’t think it’s affecting you?  Keep reading.

I grew up in a household with a constant undercurrent of fear.  My father suffers from mental illness and was labeled with a multitude of different diagnoses through my childhood.  While they struggled to find the right combination of meds, we lived with the constant anxiety that he might take off or worse.  My mother had promised to never have him hospitalized, so we saw first hand what he was like unmedicated and in the throngs of full on delusions.  At one point he disappeared for days and we weren’t sure if he was even alive.  With the changes in his meds, his personality also changed.  We never knew who we would be dealing with.  During most of that time he was paranoid, angry, and verbally and emotionally abusive toward my mother.  I learned to be hypervigilant at an early age, always aware of the slightest change in his mood.

The fear from my home life carried over into life outside of our house.  We all were charged with keeping the secret of my father’s illness as if it were something to be ashamed of.  We were not allowed to have friends over, and as a result were rarely invited to our classmates houses or birthday parties.  For the most part, we all coped by excelling in our studies.  I found solace in sports.  I did both cross country and track and joined just about every club in high school.  Anything to be out of the house.  Running was a chance to escape my problems, but it didn’t resolve my deep seeded anxiety.

I was afraid of everything growing up.  I was constantly praying and making deals with God.  I would count everything as way to feel like I had some control.  I’d see programs on aliens and armageddon and be too terrified to sleep.  Every thunderstorm I would curl up in my bed with rosary beads in hand.  I was terrified of going to school, of trying new things, and most of all of failing.  Being perfect was how I coped with my lack of self worth.  It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I became fed up with living in constant fear and challenged myself to do one thing that frightened me each day.  This is what I wrote about when I filled out my college applications.

By the time I left for college, I was well on my way to becoming my own person.  I was living on my own in the dorms and paying for my own school.  It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin.  I started working and volunteering, and spent my summers home constantly out of the house.  Yet, I never managed to escape my anxiety and self esteem issues completely.  Perhaps this is why I I was easily seduced by my abuser.  He frequently complimented me and made me feel like I was the center of his universe.  I would have done anything for him.

It was likely my upbringing that lead me to stay with my abuser so long, unaware of just how much fear and anxiety he had generated in my life- fear of saying or doing something that might upset him, fear of another outburst, fear of him doing something to embarrass me in public.  At no point in our relationship did I even realize I was being abused.  I had mistakingly thought that men who abuse their partners are aware that they are abusive.  In reality, people like my ex truly believe other people are the cause of all their problems and behave toward them accordingly.  This is because people like him are completely incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions and consider their victims the problem, not the other way around.

It was after I left my abuser that my fear and anxiety hit an all time head.  The PTSD symptoms I had were paralyzing.  You know that feeling you get when you are alone in the house at night and you hear a noise?  Imagine feeling like that all the time.  It’s literally exhausting.  It ruled my life, and I hated it.  Running and working out helped.  In fact, they were the only thing that helped– not therapy and not meds.  People see how much I train, and they think I’m super dedicated; but the truth is this is how I cope with my anxiety.  The more I trained, the more I needed to train to get the same sense of calm and relief.  Presently I need to workout 2-3 hours on my days off to feel relaxed the rest of the day.  At least it’s cheaper than therapy though, right?

Now while I realize that most of you have not had to grow up the way I did or deal with PTSD, we are not actually that different.  ImageWhat is different is that my anxiety and fear existed on such a large scale that I had to face them head on.  It was the only way I’d be able to function at all.  Yet, many people live their lives in fear without ever realizing how much it holds them back.

When is the last time you thought about something you wanted to do and then made an excuse to yourself about why you couldn’t or shouldn’t?  That is the fear talking.  Don’t say I could never run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, or ultra.  The question is not a matter of can.  The question is whether you are willing to put in the effort.  Find a way. If it is truly a dream find a way to make it happen.  Get a coach, find a training plan, write inspirational notes to yourself, and build up to the person you need to be to accomplish that goal.  Perhaps you can’t do it now, but that is the point of establishing goals.  It’s a about morphing into a stronger, smarter, and more confident version of yourself.  Mold yourself into someone you can feel proud of.

Plus I will let you in on a little secret: getting outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself, while incredibly uncomfortable while you’re doing it, feels BEYOND AMAZING once you’ve done it!  It is one of the best feelings in the world- and it doesn’t matter how big or small the goal is.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  Maybe the first step in your case is just to believe you can.  That’s ok because we all have to start somewhere.  It’s your journey and the only person you should compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.  Make a commitment to yourself to grow into the person you have always dreamed of being.  Along the way you will learn to truly love and accept yourself; and the everyday fear of not being good enough will slip away.  It’s amazing how little you care about what other people think of you when you are truly happy with the person you’ve become.

Fear is just an obstacle getting in the way of your dreams, and it’s time to get over it.  Don’t let your inner critic hold you back.  He or she is just bitter about your awesomeness.  You are strong, inspiring, and courageous.  You have talents and gifts that need to be shared with the world.  It’s your time to start living fully and leave any lingering reservations in the dust.

Repeat after me: Today I stand no longer afraid.

I am not afraid to try new things– Sure it may be scary, but it’s what makes me feel like I am living!

I am not afraid of being disliked– I’m a great person.  I put others ahead of myself and truly care about the people in my life from friends and family to my employees and patients.  If other people can’t appreciate that, it’s truly their loss.

I am not afraid to fail– Because, hey, at least I am trying!  If I do fail or DNF then at least I know I’m testing my limits!  Have you ever stopped to think what you might be capable of if you just tried?  If you never try then how would you know?

I am not afraid to bear my soul– This blog is 100% me and my truth.  I am not going to hold anything back.  I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.  People can go ahead and judge, but I am going to stay true to myself.  How would I be any help to anyone else here if I wasn’t?

Who’s with me?  What fears are you ready to give up?

 

Enough! Recap and Taking On the Bucket List

“If you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster,

your gifts will take you places that will amaze you.”
-Les Brown

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Back when I wrote about My Grown Up Bucket List, I never imagined how quickly I would be crossing items off it.  Today I did just that!  Last week I signed up for the Enough! Race to End Domestic Violence much in the same manner as I signed up for the Lavery McDermott Race To End Domestic Violence– at the last minute.  Also as with the Lavery/McDermott Race, I volunteered with CT-ALIVE and staffed a table pre & post race to give the crowd information about the work we do and our mission to empower women to take the step from survivor to Thriver.

Initially, I was a little worried about running today because the temperature was supposed to be a record 70 degrees… which is a great deal warmer than what it has been recently and not exactly the most comfortable temp for running.  After distinctly thinking how much happier I would be with a cooler run at 50 degrees, I got in my car to find the temp was exactly 50.  I decided at that point that the universe and I were in line, and it would be a great day.  I was not disappointed!  

Since I have been tapering for my ultra next weekend, my body was not as run down from training as it typically is.  I also had plenty of time to sleep in and hydrate (after my 15 hr shift the day before) because the start wasn’t until 10 am.  This probably contributed to the great mood I woke up in.  For some reason, I just felt completely ready to rock it.

My good vibes continued when I arrived to check in without any issues, traffic, or difficulty with parking, and found my race number had not one, but two sevens in it!  Seven is my lucky number!  (Don’t ask me why, it just is…)   I took this as a definite positive sign.  The 50 degree temp and double sevens could not be coincidence… not as far as I was concerned anyway…

ImageBeyond just being pumped that the race was for a great cause (one especially near and dear to my heart… as we all know), I was excited to see the some other ladies from CT-ALIVE and catch up.  Since becoming a supervisor, my work schedule has made it difficult to keep up with a lot of the going ons and meetings with the board.  Both Susan Omilian, our project director and “My Avenging Angel Workshop” facilitator, and Vanessa Stevens of the Purple Song Project were there, so I had a chance to chat with them.  Susan is the woman who helped me rediscover myself after abuse; and Vanessa is a fellow domestic abuse survivor and thriver who has been a constant source of inspiration and support.  It was great to see them both. I was excited to hear that Susan is interested in guest blogging here, so stay tuned for what I am sure will be an inspiring post!

As far as the race, the course was the hilliest 5K I have ever run!  The first mile and a half was basically all up hill, and then second half was up and down.  The were essentially no flat parts.  It was brutal!  But the support from the volunteers and crowd at the finish were great and almost made up for the quad busting course.  Races that are put on for good causes always have an awesome vibe and this was no exception!

Starting the race, my legs were not feeling as fresh as I had hoped… but then I wouldn’t recommend working a 15 hr shift the day before a timed run. lol  I still managed to maintain what felt like a strong and steady pace in spite of the hills.  At the start when my legs didn’t feel great I told myself that “The first mile is a liar.”  Once I reached the first mile marker and saw I was at 7:20, I was pretty pleased.  

In general, I view the last 5K of a half marathon as the final stretch, so my mantra during this entire race was “I’m in the final stretch.”  When I felt crummy, I compared it to the last 5K of a half marathon and then ran harder.  At the halfway point I was congratulated by a volunteer for being the “3rd female overall.”  HOLY COW!  I have never seeded that high in a race before!

I held my position until the last mile when another two ladies managed to pass me.  I was bummed to lose out on my top three position, but knew I was running as hard as I could.  I reminded myself that was all that mattered.  In the last half mile I saw Vanessa singing on the course and yelled to her.  I knew I was almost done and was so happy to see a familiar face!  The finish came up quickly and I secured a time of 24:30.  I knew I was 5th overall for the women, which is the highest I have ever finished in a race.  

Then came a bigger surprise!  They announced me as first in my age group!!!! YES! Bucket List Item Checked!!!! I even got a little plaque to commemorate my achievement.  It was epic.

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The hubs and I celebrated by going out for lunch and then ice cream, which is normally a treat I reserve for finishing half marathons. In this case though, I thought it was well earned.

In other epic news:

Sole Sister Brook Kreder of Brook’s First Marathon asked to share my story on her blog… which is hilariously awesome and you should read it btw… and not just because she featured me either. Her escapades literally make me laugh out loud.   

The Great Tutu Race

“One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten in my life was from my mom.

When I was a little kid there was a kid who was bugging me at school and she said “Okay, I’m gonna tell you what to do.

If the kid’s bugging you and puts his hands on you; you pick up the nearest rock…”
― Johnny Depp

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Mmmmm Johnny Depp…  Haha only I could find a way to incorporate a male sex symbol into a post about empowering women… You’re welcome for the mental image.  For those of you who lack imagination, how about this one?

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Good morning to you too!

He’s not quite as hot and sexy as the hubs, but maybe a close second… 😉

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Photo by Sassy Mouth Photography- Most Fabulous Photograher Ever..

Sorry Ladies, he’s taken!

Anyway, back to the real purpose of this post.  Despite what it may seem, I am not trying to rally you to pick up rocks and defend yourselves against bullies.  Rather, I am encouraging you to pick up your TUTUS!  Not that anyone should need a reason or excuse to wear a tutu, but this just so happens to be a great cause.

Remember back when SELF Magazine thought it would amusing to poke fun at women running in tutus?  (EPIC fail at being snarky SELF- Shame on you both being needlessly mean and failing to be humorous).  Obviously, I had a lot to say about it.  Surprisingly, I am not here to bash SELF… and not because of their lame apology either.  Instead, I wanted to inform you all about a way to help Girls On The Run in honor of Glam Runner and earn some killer bling in the process.

I am not someone who normally does virtual races.  In fact, I have never done one.  However, I might just do this one!  A few days ago, Glam Runner shared a link on Facebook about a “Don’t Mess with My Tutu” virtual run (medal pictured above).  The race features  5K, 10K, and 13.1K distances and three different (pink, teal, and purple) medal colors to choose from.  Clearly, if there were ever a race suited for moi, this is it…I mean even my wedding dress looked like a puffy tutu…!  Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment either (ok well not the wedding dress part ,but you know what I mean…)  So what I suggest is we all don our flashiest tutus for this more than worthy cause and send a clear message that You Do Not Mess With Runners in Tutus!

And if that’s not enough to convince you, well then would you do it for Johnny?

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Why yes I do….