domestic violence

My New Home and the Next Step

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
-Lao Tzu 

 

 

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Sadly, I am almost finished with the last of my training sessions.  :’-(  As it worked out, they wrap up just in time for the Bimbler’s Bluff 50K.  I think I can safely say that I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in, and I’m hoping that will be enough to carry me through what I know will be a grueling run.  As an added incentive to hang in there, I have asked the women I am fundraising for to write some notes of encouragement that I can carry with me and read when I’m exhausted and want nothing more than to quit.  More than just having the letters to read, it will mean beyond I can even express in words to have them with me through the day.  It’s a tangible reminder to why I will be there.  Plus, I also feel like it’s a great symbolic gesture to carry them (the women, not the notes) with me on that day to overcome the challenge together. After all, our strength is drawn from our sense of community.  In reality, I think it might be the thrivers who will truly being carrying me through the day and not the other way around… 

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My cool new swimming gear!

Despite all the initial drama with my trainer, I have to admit that he has kind of grown on me… sort of like a little brother who annoys the hell out of you but you love him anyway...  Once we had a chance to hash things out, we were able to build a pretty solid partnership; and I am truly bummed to see it end.  As much as I would love to continue training even on a once weekly basis, between the amount of time I’ll be spending on triathlon training and the need to cut back on expenses, I just don’t think it will be feasible the next few months.  I suppose I will have to resort to kicking my own butt for awhile.  At least it’s something we all know I have experience with.  Plus with all the swimming, biking, and running that is about to commence, I am hoping I won’t lose too much ground in the conditioning department.  Besides, I always have Insanity and P90X to fall back on for cross training… and my trusty pull-up bar. 😉

The positive part about my training ending is I now have the time and funds (well not really, but I’ll make it work) to start swimming.  Up until this point I have only known how to swim to avoid drowning, so I definitely have A LOT to learn… Possibly even more than with cycling. Maybe I should be more scared… Better yet, maybe the swim instructors should be!

However, I am determined and committed. (I would like to cite the fact that I found a swim suit, goggles, and swim cap all in the off season today as proof!) I have been trying to find an affordable place to swim with a flexible pool schedule for quite some time now, and let me tell you it has been no easy task!  Ultimately, we decided that the Greater Waterbury YMCA will be my new home- for at least the next 8 months anyway.  

I picked the Greater Waterbury YMCA over our local one because they have two pools instead of one and a way more flexibleImage lap swim schedule.  In fact, I don’t think there are any hours that they don’t allow lap swimming during the day.  They also have off street parking AND for some reason the membership was cheaper… which makes no sense because it’s all the same organization.  Anyway, now that we joined, we can go to either one so I guess it doesn’t really matter.  Adam had pushed for the YMCA over the other pools I looked at because they offer spin classes (in addition to a multitude of other classes which I’m kind of excited to try out… if I ever have spare time between all my other athletic endeavors).  They also just did a 10 million renovation so the facility itself is really nice, nicer than our current gym actually and with more equipment including bikes!

As sad as I am to close the chapter on my personal training, I am equally excited about taking the next step in my journey to becoming an ironman (or at least half of one)!  I already signed up for swimming lessons and am hoping to take my first one tomorrow after work.  I am happy that my new home is filled with friendly, helpful staff, AND that they have a triathlon club which starts up this winter.  I am really looking forward to taking on this next challenge and making another step in the direction of my goal… I just hope I don’t drown in the process 😉    

More Things I’m Excited About

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember,

You have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
-Harriet Tubman 

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Well, in case you are wondering why I am gracing you with not one, but TWO posts today, let me explain.  My first post was one that I started on Friday but didn’t get a chance to finish until today.  This one is my actual post about what’s going on today, and I am way too excited to put off talking about it until tomorrow!

Ok, so first off I took today as a “rest” day…rest from exercise that is.  In reality, I have been quite busy and productive, which are actually two very different things by the way.  I started my morning with an all out effort at Fundraising for my upcoming race.  I created an event page, sent out emails, and the donations are already rolling in!  (BIG SHOUT OUT THANK YOU to those who have donated so far!)  This makes me a very happy girl.  Last year I was comparatively low key about my efforts and was not terribly successful in terms of raising donations.  This year I have changed tactics and basically resorted to shameless begging and badgering.  It appears this method is already working much better…

I also used my time this morning to clean out my closets and gather donations for our upcoming Book and Clothing Drive which just happens to fall on the day before my big run.  I am hoping this works to my advantage as I may be able to squeeze out some last minute donations and well wished while I’m there helping to staff it.  😉 Since I am the type of person who loves decluttering and getting rid of stuff, this would have been enough to make my day.  The fact that it was for a great cause was just a bonus. 😉

988291_10151641352072979_1069446167_nHowever, lucky me- it just kept getting better!  I got to spend time with my family this afternoon and meet my brother’s new dog who they just rescued.  Then I came home and found that my credit card balance was lower than I thought.  Awesome, right?   So with this new found information, I hopped on the Tough Chik website and officially registered to be a part of their 2014 team.  This has been something I have been wanting to do but putting off in an effort to save money and pay down some of our wedding debt.  However, I ultimately decided that I could buy a lesser expensive sign up package now and splurge on the uber cool cycling apparel later… maybe I could even set a new riding goal for myself to earn it. Lord knows I could use the added motivation to overcome my fear of my bike! 🙂

Again, this would have also made for a great day on it’s own, but it continued to get better still!

While I was on the Tough Chik page, I noticed they had a charity tab so I (of course) clicked on it and was totally blown away.  Tough Chik is affiliated with a charity called Project Athena, and I am absolutely IN LOVE with their mission:

The mission of Project Athena is to help women with breast cancer and other medical or traumatic setbacks live their athletic and adventurous dreams through the Project Athena Foundation. Awareness for Project Athena will be achieved through the ultra endurance endeavors of an experienced and high profile all-female adventure team who embody the spirit of Athena.

How AMAZING is that? And how did I not know about this sooner?!!!   I am pretty sure that if I built a charity from the ground up, this would be it’s exact mission– minus the “high profile” athletes of course because let’s face it, I’m not that well connected. 😉  More seriously though, I am just excited that an organization like this exists.  It gives me hope that someday I can quit my job and do something like this for work.  Plus, I am totally pumped that I can register to do an event with them.

In case you are not already blown away, I’ll leave you with their video.  In the meantime, I would like to remind you that every person on this planet has the power to make a difference.  What will you use yours for?

It’s October- And I’m on an Upswing

“If you give me any problem in America I can trace it down to domestic violence.

It is the cradle of most of the problems, economic, psychological, educational.”

-Salma Hayek

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Anyone familiar with this blog knows that October is an important time of year for me.  It’s the month in which I married my abuser (and the abuse escalated dramatically), and it’s also ,ironically, Domestic Violence Awareness Month… Clearly my ex had missed the memo.

Normally this time of year I find my PTSD symptoms tend to rev up.  I get jumpy, anxious, and depressed.  I don’t usually put together what’s going on until I’m well into the month, but this year is different.  This year I’m taking on October head on!  This year I am determined to live my life to the fullest!  I will not allow PTSD to rob the joy from my days.  This year I am determined to push myself to new limits and raise money and awareness for victims of violence in the process.

For the past several years, I have been choosing a race each fall to run as a fundraiser for CT-ALIVE (the charity I work with).  Susan Omilian and CT-ALIVE were there for me when I was struggling to move on with my life after abuse, and I can speak first hand to the value of the services they provide free of charge to victims of abuse. Rather than discuss what had happened in our past, Susan used her My Avenging Angel Workshops to help us rediscover our talents and establish goals.  She created a safe atmosphere where we could recognize that we were not alone and that abuse happened to women of all ages, ethnicity, and economic backgrounds.  We were all so different, and yet we all had an instant bond over what we had been through.  Instead of focusing on just getting women out of abusive relationships, the objective was instead on breaking the cycle of abuse.  By rediscovering our self worth, we were able to let go of the past and embrace the future.

I truly believe that the work CT-ALIVE funds saves lives, and not only the lives of these women, but also their children and their children’s children.  Children who grow up in abusive homes are far more likely to enter abusive relationships.  That is why ending the cycle of abuse is so important.

ImageAnd that is why raising money for CT-ALIVE and raising awareness is so important to me.  If I could change one thing that was the most damaging about the abuse, it was the reaction of the people who found out.  The comments about how “It takes two”, “There’s always two sides the the story”, and the people (primarily my abusers family) who just flat out called me a liar.  Not to mention the officer who made it a point to try to publicly humiliate me for reporting it, insisting I would just get back with my ex anyway so I was just wasting his time.  If I could educate just one person to how ignorant and damaging these types of statements are I would feel like my efforts have been worth while.  No one asks for or deserves to be abused, and they certainly don’t deserve to be blamed for it when it happens.  

I think it is unfortunate that we live in a society that is so bent on victim blaming.  If a women is raped, there is always the implication that she did something to provoke it.  We never stop to take a hard look at the perpetrators.  Somehow, they seem to escape blame in the public eye.  Where is the outrage when a man murders his wife and posts the photos on Facebook and then blames her for making him do it?  OR at the judge who over looked the mandatory sentence and only gave a man 30 days for raping a minor because he thought she looked older than her age?  Why are we as a nation not crying out for change?  One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime- ONE IN FOUR.  So why is domestic not in the news as a national epidemic the way obesity is?

In today’s society, it’s so easy to convince oneself that there is nothing we can do to change the way things are.  However, I refuse to believe that I cannot make a difference in this matter.  On October 20th, I will be lacing up my running shoes and taking on Bimber’s Bluff, a 50 K primarily self supported trail race in southern CT.  Every inch of that 33+ mile course I will be running for victims of abuse.  I want to show other women just how much they can accomplish in life after overcoming domestic violence.  I want to show the rest of the world that survivors of abuse are some of the strongest people on this planet.  Enduring and overcoming the 5+ years of mental and ultimately physical abuse was by far the hardest thing I have done in my life: harder than Yale, harder than PA school, harder than the Ultra Beast.  The fact that there are people out there who have suffered so much worse than I did and are still able to pick themselves up every morning and carry on is a testament to their strength- whether or not they realize it.

Every year I pick my hardest race as the fundraiser for CT-ALIVE, and I do it intentionally.  The people I am fundraising for Imagedeserve nothing less.  Furthermore, it is a reminder to myself every October of just how far I have come from that day I left in the pouring rain.  Every step of physical pain and exhaustion is a reminder of the psychological torment and suffering that I and other survivors of violence have endured.  It’s a reminder of what kind of strength it takes to endure abuse and how if my abuser didn’t break me, then nothing any race has to throw at me will.  I don’t know if I will complete Bimbler’s Bluff within the 10 hour times limit, but I do know that I won’t quit.  I also may just have the best motivator of anyone out there. 🙂

This month I would like to encourage you to go purple!  Do something to honor victims of domestic violence whether it is something as simple as wearing purple or making a donation to support a local charity.  Help spread the word that domestic violence is not ok and it is certainly not cool or funny.  After all, the person you are helping to make a difference for may be your own sister or daughter.

If you are interested in learning more about CT-ALIVE or donating to support Susan Omilian’s work you can check out our website.

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Never Enough

“Women are taught to feel we’re not good enough, that we must live up to someone else’s standards. But my aim is to cherish myself as I am.”

Elle Macpherson

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Anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows that I have a propensity toward over doing it when it comes to training.  I had thought (and hoped) that by working out with a trainer and optimizing my workouts that I would do better in the moderation department… Yeeeeaaahhh  Not so much. :-/

The problem is, no matter how much I run, bike, or train in a day: it just never seems like enough.  I’m not sure exactly what makes me feel like I need to work so hard.  It’s Imagelike a compulsion.  If I don’t workout at all I feel like crap.  If I go a week or more without training I get depressed.  A couple days without a run and my anxiety goes bonkers.  I have become so physically and psychologically dependent on exercise that the idea of not training or missing a day stresses me out.  It’s like I’m completely addicted to the endorphins.  There is nothing else that even comes close to alleviating my anxiety.

The problem is, the more I train, the more I feel like I need to train.  Doing a quick 5K on the treadmill just doesn’t give me the same sense of accomplishment now as it did a year or two ago.  These days I need to get in a good 8-10 miles at a clip to get any effect.- that’s on top of the 3 workouts a week with the trainer and the easily 30+ miles I’ve been biking a week. 

Maybe my problem is that the fitter I get, the harder I have to work to feel like I’m really pushing myself; and that is what training out is all about for me- pushing my limits and reminding myself that I am stronger than I thought.  The issue becomes that there are only so many hours in a day, and I can’t spend all of them training.  As it is, I already struggle to get in enough calories to keep up with what I’m doing.  I couldn’t imagine doing or eating any more in a day!

I need to find a way to deal with my anxiety that does not solely depend on working out.  Furthermore, I need to appreciate what I can get accomplished in a week and recognize that it’s more than what most people would be willing to take on.  I need to not compare myself to what other people are accomplishing because their my-weaknessesachievements have nothing to do with me or what I am capable of.  Lastly, I need to learn to not be so critical of myself, to stop judging myself based on what I’m accomplishing this moment, and instead to look at just how far I’ve come.  

There is always going to be someone faster, stronger, or fitter, but those people have nothing to do with my journey.  I have done half marathons, tough mudders, a marathon, took on the ultra beast, and I am still standing.  I may not be currently running 30 miles a week, but I am taking on cycling– and that is HUGE for me!

In fact, I just got my bike fitted today! With big girl clip-in pedals even!  To be honest, it scares the hell out of me more than anything else, but life is best lived outside the comfort zone.  Getting into cycling has been a huge fearhurdle for me, and instead of beating myself up that I’m not getting good at it faster or logging more miles in addition, I should be celebrating the fact that I am challenging myself on a whole new level.  Soooo that is what I am going to try to focus on doing.  Instead of obsessing about getting in enough mileage to run a marathon in addition to taking up cycling, I am going to try to focus on one thing at a time.  The most important thing for me right now is to concentrate on the cycling, so that is what I plan on doing.

Rather than stress myself out about what else I could be doing, I am going to continue to remind myself just how far I have come with that bike.  I have progressed from full on panic attacks to clip in shoes!  Again, HUGE!  I rode over 100 miles of hills streets, traffic, and busy intersections on a mountain bike and earned that road bike.  I pedaled though the anxiety and panic to a point where I can enjoy cycling… and I’m sure I will get back to that place once I get the hang of these new pedals… 😉

On Being Blessed

“Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.” 
― Steve Maraboli

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There are not too many people who can say they have been blessed with a second chance at life, but that is exactly what I have had.  I don’t just mean with my marriage either.

The funny thing about being in an abusive relationship is that you never realize just how bad the situation is while you are in it.  If you are a naturally upbeat person like I tend to be, then you focus on the positives and try blesseddifficultiesto rationalize or ignore the bad stuff.  Even when I was with my abuser, I still believed I was a lucky person.  I thought my abuser and his family loved me.  It was what I wanted to believe, so I did wholeheartedly.  It wasn’t until the day of the wedding when he and his family so blatantly disregarded my feelings that I could no longer make excuses or ignore the truth.  That awakening is what escalated the abuse. (If there’s one thing an abuser can’t handle it’s getting called out on his bad behavior… even when done in the meekest fashion possible!)

Had the abuse never progressed to being physical, I’m not sure that I would have gotten out as quickly as I did… or at all.  My abuser had done such a great job of manipulating the truth that it was hard to believe even what in my heart I knew was wrong.  From the second he put his hands on me, though, it was black and white.  He was the one with issues who couldn’t control his temper.  Up until that point, he had found a way to blame EVERYTHING on me.  He would twist the situation until he suited him; however, despite his best efforts- there was no turning this situation around.  When he did try to rationalize it (and make it my fault), he claimed he was being mentally abused by me and I drove him to it.  That was when I realized he was completely NUTS.  All this time he had me convinced that I was the crazy one, and now here he was grasping at straws letting his true colors show.  That is when I closed the door to us and started putting my life back together.  The fact that it was such a difficult lesson to learn does not make it any less valuable.  I didn’t stand up for myself.  I let someone walk into my life and tell me what I was worth and how to live it.  No one has that right. It’s not a mistake I’ll make twice.  

My point is if my abuser had never beat me up, I might have never realized how awful my life had become.  I had been essentially pigeonholed by my abuser for years, but because he did it so slowly over time, I never realized how much ground he took from me.  I gave up my power, my identity, and I let him control my life. I was watching everything I said and did to avoid settling him off or being criticized.

Once I was out from under his thumb, it was as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders- a weight I blessed-life1previously never realized had existed.  I was on cloud nine for about three months before the PTSD symptoms kicked in and put my life in upheaval for months on end.

While I may never be rid of my PTSD symptoms, I have gotten a lot better at recognizing and dealing with them.  They still rear their ugly head at the most inconvenient times… like when I trying to go for a relaxing run on vacation and end up panicking about being abducted or attacked by bears… Yeah that’s a good time.  I used to resent having to deal with them, but now I feel like they are a small price to pay for everything I have gained from the experience.

Despite any lingering effects, I still feel incredibly blessed to have gone through the whole ordeal and come out of it a better person.  A person deprived of sunlight will appreciate it like no other- the same applies to someone deprived of the freedom to be herself.

The fact that I have a husband now who loves me unconditionally for who I am, and not who he wants me to be is just icing on the cake.   My life is no longer filled with people who knock me down and disregard my feelings.  Instead, I choose to surround myself with positive people who are more interested in encouraging and uplifting blessed-quotes-13others than tearing them down.

I am beyond fortunate to live the life I have now- on my own terms without apologizing.  I have to say it feels pretty darn good.  I am lucky to have the ability to finance my goals because running marathons isn’t cheap and triathlons are going to be even more costly.  I am also blessed with an incredibly thoughtful and supportive husband who not only made sure I got the bike I fell in love with, but also made sure I had a road kit to change a flat AND a flashing back reflector so I’m visible to traffic.   He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t cheer from the sidelines; he runs along side me… even when it’s clear that the pace is painfully slow for him.

As awful as my life was back then, that’s exactly how wonderful it is now.  I appreciate my life now in a way I never could have before.  Furthermore, I appreciate my husband and marriage  more because of everything I’ve been through.

I only wish I could let every person in an abusive situation know how much better life can be- richer, fuller, happier, fulfilling.  People going through abuse are made to believe that they are weak and helpless, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Before I was in an abusive relationship, I always thought that abusers were aware of what they were doing.  However, having spent years with my abuser, I can honestly say that he didn’t believe he was abusive.  Instead he blamed EVERYTHING in his life on EVERYONE ELSE.  I just got the brunt of it because I was closest to him.  He truly believed that I was everything wrong with his life because he was too weak to accept responsibility in his own life.  Abusers are weak individuals who need to blame their problems on other people.  They are the ones who can’t handle life, not their victims. Anyone who is able to endure abuse day in and out is stronger than any abuser out there.  The problem is, they aren’t aware of it.

My goal is to make victims and survivors aware of just how strong they are… and how much better life can be.

An Epic Week!

“There’s nothing like biting off more than you can chew, and then chewing anyway.”  

~Mark Burnett

Haha Story of my life!!! 🙂

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I’m BAAACCKKK!!!!  And no, I was not away on a honeymoon (Boo I wish!)… Instead I have been working my ass off; now I’m here to tell you all about it!  The past few months I have been basically spending every spare second cramming for my recertification exam (the PANRE).  Prepping for this exam basically involved having to relearn everything from medical school that I don’t use on a regular basis (which is A LOT given that I work in a specialized field).  I was taking it a year early so that if I didn’t pass for any reason I would have time to try again; however this did absolutely nothing to make me feel better.  By the time I actually took the test, I had not slept in over a week- despite taking ambien on a nightly basis.  The exam itself sucked as badly as the initial certifying exam, causing me to leave the testing center with a pit in my stomach.  I didn’t feel confident about the majority of my answer choices (it’s really more of “selective the least awful answer” than “select the best answer choice”).  However, I just got my email confirmation this week that I PASSED!!!!!! That means no more cramming for another 11 years!!!   I can’t even begin to explain the sense of relief.  That was first awesome thing that happened this week.  😀

ImageBut wait! It gets better!  Saturday I took my mountain bike out for a nice long 26+ mile ride which brought me well over my goal of 100 miles biked this summer!  Beyond just being stoked about achieving my goal, I was thrilled that I managed the ride solo.  It was my first long one without Adam AND I did it on a hilly route with lots of busy streets and intersections!  This is HUGE for me!  The first bike ride I took with Adam, I couldn’t even do the downhills.  I was too scared.  Our second bike ride was completely flat and, I was still in a panic and hyperventilating.  Now,  I’m riding difficult routes in trafficwithout freaking out!

Instead, every time I get on that bike I feel strong and empowered.  Even Adam admitted he was impressed with the hills I plow up on my regular rides to the gym.  I can’t believe how far I have come in the past few weeks.  I truly feel like I have conquered a HUGE FEAR, and I am ready to take it to the next level!

Since I reached my 100 mile mark, Adam and I went bike shopping this week.  It turns out I am super short even by bike standards, so we had a hard time finding a shop with any bikes in my size to test ride.  It also turns out we hit the season at a bad time.  All the 2013 models are basically sold out, and the 2014s won’t be available for another few weeks.  This is clearly a huge bummer if you happen to be vertically challenged and looking for a bike sooner rather than later.  After 3 bike shops and several phone calls, I was completely exhausted and overwhelmed.

The first bike shop had nothing in my size.  The second shop was super helpful and had a few I could test ride, but would have to order the bike I wanted in a paint job I didn’t care for.  The third shop had crummy service and wanted to sell me the 2012 version with a better paint scheme for almost the same price as the newer models.  Luckily, REI had the bike I originally fell in love with in my size.  Unluckily, they don’t have a store that they will ship it to in our state. So there I was, stuck with the dilemma of whether it was really worth paying a little extra to get the paint job I really wanted AND have to drive to another state to get it… not to mention pay another shop to have it fitted properly.

While I anguished over the decision, Adam went ahead and ordered me the one I fell Imagein love with.  He said he didn’t want me to settle.  He was afraid if I went with a different bike that I would be disappointed at some point that I didn’t splurge on the one I really wanted.  I can’t help but think of how lucky I am to have him helping me through this process. Despite having to work that night, he shuttled me from bike shop to bike shop and was never anything but supportive about it.  I’m not sure I could have been as patient as he was if the situation was reversed!  He is definitely a keeper!

As far as financing this whole process, that leads me to my last big news.  For the past  several years I have had my first engagement ring and wedding band on consignment.  I put them in a store that belongs to a family friend because I wasn’t sure what to do with them, and I didn’t want to get ripped off.  To be honest, I never liked my original ring set.  In fact, I thought the engagement ring was hideous.  It was everything I said I didn’t want in a ring, but, of course, my ex thought he knew better than me and didn’t care what I liked or wanted.  Up until now, I had never had a good idea of what to do with the money if I sold the rings.  I did know it would have to be for something special.  When I was trying to figure out how to afford a road bike, it just suddenly clicked.

ImageThe reason I took on cycling was to get into triathlons- and the reason for getting into triathlons is to ultimately (someday) do an Ironman.  I could not think of a more fitting way to spend the money than purchase a vehicle to do the impossible.  My ex made it a point to regularly tell me how I never wanted to do anything and couldn’t “handle any little thing”.  I’m sure he would just die if he knew what I was doing with the money from his ring… or he would insist I was just doing it to spite him and take credit. lol  More likely the latter.

The truth is, I am always looking for a new way to challenge myself- physically and mentally.  Ever since I started hearing about the Ironman, it’s been one of those “maybe someday” goals.  Now that I am getting a road bike, that “someday” goal has morphed more into a plan.  Right now, I am focusing on getting comfortable on the bike.  I know I need to ride a lot faster and longer, but I am confident I can get there.  That will be my project for this fall.  In addition, I am working on keeping my running mileage up.  In fact, I did a 15+ mile run to celebrate my 26 mile bike ride on Sunday… at least that’s how far I made it before my groin acted up and I had to call Adam to rescue me from the 7 miles separating me and my car…  In retrospect a 20 mile run may have been ambitious following the bike ride, but I digress…

I know what you are wondering, what about the swimming?  Well, that will be the realImage challenge because I never learned to swim properly- like the whole front crawl face-in-the-water style.  I do, however, happen to know a very good swimmer and trainer who is willing to give me some lessons, so now I have my winter goal set as well: tackle swimming.

Finally, conveniently, this spring their will be a REV 3 Half Ironman just a few hours from our house… SOOOOOO if I accomplish my biking and swimming goals (and manage to stay injury free), I plan on being there.  With all Adam’s talk about family planning and baby making I feel like this is my one shot before I will have to put it off for God knows how long.  THEN, should the heavens smile upon me, and I accomplish this monumental task, we will see about a full Ironman.   Aside from the swimming, I think it’s TOTALLY doable…  lol

So that is my epic week so far.  What makes it even better is I am still on vacation AND Adam and I are going away for the weekend to the Berkshires for some hiking and relaxation!

More than anything, I am so happy to feel like I am on the right path to something.  The amount I got for the rings was exactly the amount I needed for the bike and shoes.  Somehow, I just don’t feel like that’s a coincidence.  If I can come from where I started both mentally and physically and even take on just the Half Ironman, I think it will be a huge accomplishment AND speak volumes to what victims of violence can accomplish when they decide to embrace life and challenge themselves.  The fact that the start of my journey to the Ironman coincides with getting rid of the very last piece of my past is purely poetic to me.

I feel like this song was made for me and thivers everywhere. 🙂

Taking the Leap

“Don’t marry the person you think you can live with;

marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.”

-James C. Dobson 

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In case you hadn’t guessed it by the quote and photo, I took a giant leap with Adam and got married last week!  That is last Tuesday to be exact.  If it were up to me, we would have snuck away and eloped on a beach somewhere.  However, because I love him, and I know how much he wanted his parents there, I suggested we elope when they came to visit for July 4th.

We picked a local beach that just happened to have a carousel and then shared the good news with our families.  That is when things began to snow ball out of control (and the nightmares of my previous wedding came back to haunt me with a vengeance!).  It started with a stream of uninvited guests.  I’m not sure whether Adam’s mom invited people out of pure unbridled enthusiasm or whether they just decided to come on their own, but I found myself, again, in the midst of planning a full blown wedding that I never wanted.

Foreseeing the meltdown that was about to ensue, Adam actually offered to elope before they got here; but seeing how excited he was about all the extra guests I could never bring myself to do it.  I had originally planned on having only our closest friends and family present.  I figured how could anything go wrong when I’ll be surrounded by love and support.  Now, I was planning a wedding with people I had never even met.  This was not my safe, comfort zone, elopement ceremony.  This was a full on, no-where-near-my-comfort-zone wedding.

We were engaged all of 2 days when this happened.  I felt like his family had ripped any carefree happiness away from me, and I resented it tremendously.  I could not imagine how these people could think it was okay to just invite themselves without ever even talking to me or Adam.  I was terrified that I was going to be bullied into another wedding to please another bunch of rude people who didn’t respect my feelings.

Then when Adam offered to sneak off and elope before they got here, I realized that even if his family behaved as badly as my ex’s (which would be an achievement to equal) he was nothing like my ex.  He was going to have my back, and he was willing to disappointment his entire family if that’s what it took to get me down the aisle with him.  What Adam wanted more than anything was just to be married, not the wedding or the frills.

So, for this man, I was willing to go through all of it again- the planning, the cost, the stress, the drama.  I gave him a wedding that was everything he wanted because he is worth it.  He is worth taking the risk for.  He never pressured me to marry him and didn’t ask for a wedding.  He was willing to elope despite how much having his family (even the self invited family) meant to him.  There is no one else I could imagine reliving and digging up my past trauma for; and just maybe now that we have dug it up we can bury it somewhere for good!

So once the dust settled and everything was sorted out, Adam and I exchanged vows in a small ceremony at Light House Point in New Haven.  We had our reception at the carousel with less than 20 guests, and everything went smoothly.  As if the heavens themselves were giving us their blessing, the torrential rain, flooding, and thunderstorms that raged on our way there stopped just as we arrived and held off the rest of the evening.  The storms even helped break some of the humidity and make the temperature significantly more pleasant for our guests.

Our photographer, who is the one and only, Super Fabulous, Sassy Mouth, was pleased with the post storm sky/lighting and did an AMAZING job!  I also splurged this time around and had my hair and makeup done professionally- by Krystalized Designs.  She did an absolutely fantastic job as well- which was evidenced by my makeup not only holding up all day until the wedding, but also through the ceremony, pictures, carousel rides, and playing on a playscape (obstacle racer style)… including a swing set.  In fact, both my hair and make up still looked great the next morning, so props to Krsytal!  The fact that she and Marisa (Sassy Mouth) have awesome personalities is just a bonus in my book.  They definitely both helped me feel completely glamorous on our special day which shows in the photos…and although I didn’t get a “wow” out of Adam, he did well up with tears 😉

So that is the story of my fairytale wedding, which was supposed to be an elopement.  I can’t help but think a week later that this is what “wedded bliss” is supposed to feel like.

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A Perfect Day

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves..”
-Sir Roger Bannister
 
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WARNING: Sorry Betsy, this is not the post you were hoping for!  
 
So maybe today was not a prefect day for running.  It was hot, humid, and sunny- my least favorite combo.  HOWEVER, today was pretty perfect.  Why?  Because today I ran the Petit 5K Road Race as our inaugural run for Team Thriver!
 
How could a day not be perfect when you spend it with women who have overcome so much, who choose to thrive in the face of adversity?  How could you not be joyful, grateful, and inspired by their presence?  Today these ladies set new challenges for themselves, and they all demolished their goals!  For many, it was a first to cover that distance.  The fact that they were able to do so in such brutal conditions is a true testament to their strength- inside and out.
 
When we first discussed having Team Thriver walk and run at the Petit 5 K, I wasn’t sure if Imagewe would have any ladies come other than Christine, Joanna, and I.  I was elated when there were more than double that number between runners and walkers!  To celebrate the occasion I had made my own Team Thriver t-shirt AND super sparkly tutu, or as I like to call it a Thriver Skirt.  
 
I do believe that my festive attire drew some giggles and laughs from the group, but it also drove home the message of what Thriving is about: living life to the fullest and having fun along the way!  A wise runner once told me, “How could you have a bad day in a tutu?” (after finishing the Fairfield Half in similarly hellish conditions).  She makes an excellent point! How could you have a bad day in a tutu?  Well, I imagine it’s darn near impossible.  Tutus are fun and festive!  Mine not only reminded me to have fun, but helped bring smiles to lots of other people’s faces.  More importantly, it was a badge of honor for me to spread our message about Thriving after abuse.  It was my chance to say, “YES it’s 90 degrees out and humid and I am in a sparkly tutu which I have every intention of rocking every inch of this race!!! Why? Because I am a THRIVER and I can do anything…even in a skirt!”
 
That being said, I got a lot of compliments on my attire; and, as far as I could tell, I was the only runner in a tutu.  However, given the envious looks on many of the young girls faces, I don’t think I will be the only one next year. 😉
 
ImageAs far as the race itself, the course was flat and went by pretty quickly given the weather conditions.  There were plenty of spectators angels outside with sprinklers and hoses to cool us off and cheer us on.  I hope they earned some serious brownie points in heaven today because they earned them standing outside in that heat!  My gun time was not bad considering I started at the back of the pack… and seriously crunched/rolled my ankle in the first half mile (out of the blue) and had to hobble-run a little ways before I could put full weight on it.  Don’t worry, I iced it as soon as I got home!
 
In truth, I wasn’t worried about my time anyway.  First, it was too hot and humid out to really push myself, and more importantly that wasn’t my purpose in being there.  I didn’t run that race for myself.  I ran that race for Team Thriver, and for all the victims of violence that the Petit Foundation helps raise money for.  This race, like the Lavery/McDermott Race, was about a cause greater than myself or even our team; and there is something about races organized around a cause- especially one dear to your heart- that other runs just can’t compare with.
 
That being said, being there with Team Thriver was just icing on the cake.  Those ladies knocked it out of the park!  I am so proud of each and every one of them, and honored to know them.  These are the women who inspire me to run on a daily basis.  They are the people who keep me going when all I want is to quit and stop the pain.  I push myself for them.  I do it for the ones who can’t and to show the ones who can that they are capable too.  Sometimes all you need is an example to realize your own potential.  Once you see it’s possible and know someone who has done it, you start believing you can too.  I want each of these women to see (if they haven’t already) they they can conquer any distance or obstacle they set their minds too.  After all, they THRIVERS!
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The Good You Do

“The good you do matters”

Hello Friends!

It’s been a while!  Life has been chaotic, and crazy, and wonderful!   My trip to Zion was AMAZING!  I will need to devote a post to it at some point, but today I have more important things to discuss- things that pertain to why I started this blog in the first place.

Yesterday was a big day for me on a lot of levels.  I spent it both volunteering and running at the Lavery/McDermott 5 K Race to End Domestic Violence in Newington CT. I never could have imagined how much one small race could impact my life!  

I’m not normally big into 5ks.  Oddly, I feel far more comfortable running a half marathon than a 3 mile race…  Possibly, because if my time sucks at least I can still feel good about having covered that amount of distance… jk  My original plan was just to go to help staff our table for CT-ALIVE; however, after watching the video above I knew I had to run. Did you watch it yet?  No seriously, go back and watch it before you read the rest… I’ll wait.

I wish I had the talent to put together a youtube video and convey to the world what it’s likeImage to endure and subsequently overcome the trauma of abuse; however, now I don’t need to because this girl (Tasha) does it in a perfectly eloquent, touching, and sincere way. Her message rings loud and clear: The Good You Do Matters!  It matters whether it’s big or small. There is no wrong way to make a difference, and it may just be that you are making one without ever realizing it.

Running was (and still is) such a huge part of my healing, it seemed only fitting to lace up my shoes and run that race.  I wanted to honor people like Tasha who have the courage to make a stand, as well as all the victims who never had the chance to speak up.

I went into the day with a solid sense of purpose.  I wasn’t worried about my time or how fatigued my legs would be after punishing them all week (especially after the 10 miles of trail running at a brisk pace Thursday and max incline sprints on the treadmill Friday)… okay maybe I was a little worried, but I figured even if it was awful I could handle roughly 30 minutes of misery for a good cause… and obviously I would love every second of it regardless!

I have to just take a moment and say how wonderful all the staff and volunteers were at that race.  They were organized, warm, and genuinely appreciative of every person who came out to show their support.  I have done MANY races with fabulous organization and staff, but this race was special.  There was a palpable sense of purpose. People were there to celebrate the lives of two important members of their community and to make a difference in the fight to end domestic violence.  There was a great sense of commaradery from the time we arrived to set up, to the warm up (which by the way was SO MUCH FUN!!!!), through the race, and even after the finish.

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So pumped to be there!

The course itself was a very wet, hilly, trail run through lots of slushy grass fields and occasionally through calf deep water (more like waste deep on me… and oh yes I loved that too!).  My legs were like lead from the start, but my race mantra was “You don’t have to have a great time to have a great time.”  Instead of focusing on how uncooperative my body was being, I paid attention to the scenery and people around me.  Everyone had such a great positive vibe.

That being said I was thrilled to see the finish and completely hauled ass to get through it.  I was pretty pleased with my time of 28 minutes, especially given the course was tough, my legs were shot, and I had to stop and tie my shoe at one point. lol  Mostly, I was just happy to be there and present in the moment.  

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My “I can’t believe that just happened!” face.

Then something completely unexpected happened (well, unexpected by me at least!)  I was totally and utterly shocked when they announced my name for second in my age group!  It was my first medal for placing in a race EVER.  The only medals I’ve ever earned up to this point were for finishing.  I had just been joking with the other CT-ALIVE members that my age group was to fast to have placed, and that I needed to get older to place better in races.  In fact, I specifically told them that if I continued to run into my 80s I might have a chance at qualifying for Boston… or winning in my age group. lol  Of course, their belief in me was not deterred, and I think they were almost more excited than I was when my name was called.  Actually, I think it took several minutes for it to sink in I was in such disbelief.

The thing is, I couldn’t care less that it wasn’t my best race performance, or that it was a tiny race without a bunch of elite athletes.  I LOVED that race.  I loved everything about it (aside from maybe the steep hill that went on forever in the beginning.. jk).  Furthermore, if that is the only medal I ever earn for placing in my age group then I will still be a happy girl because it meant that much for it to happen at that race on that day.  

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The moral of my story is that Tasha is right. The good you do matters, even if you don’t think it’s enough or even realize it helps.  So, maybe just maybe this blog matters too.  Maybe it’s making a difference for someone somewhere who just needs that little nudge to get out and live life to the fullest.  Maybe there’s someone who needs to hear that I’ve been there too, and it’s going to be ok… In fact, it’s going to be better than okay.  It’s going to be as AMAZING AS YOU WANT IT TO BE, as long as you’re willing to work for it.

My deepest thank you to all the staff, volunteers, and organizers of the Lavery/McDermott 5K for a truly amazing experience.  Thank you to Tasha for your indescribably wonderful video.  I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I watched it, cried through it, or forced encouraged someone else to watch it. Thank you all for making a difference in my life, and reminding that I can make a difference in other peoples’ lives too.  I will carry that day with me always and treasure the memories (and the medal) forever. 

Until next year,

Jenny

Give ’em Hell

“When life pushes you over, push back harder”

Since I started training for the Ultra Beast, it’s safe to say there have been a lot of set backs.  First my shoulder, then my sister’s miscarriage, then my dad in the hospital, and now frequent extra hours at work… PLUS to top it off- I think I tweaked my back.   (I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that I can avoid the chiropracter on this one) The way things have been going, I’ve been getting stressed at times that I’m not where I should be or pushing as hard as I could be.

However, it seems like the more I push my body, the more it pushes back!  Maybe I’m not designed to work out at maximum intensity for hours a day after all!  I have been doing P90X and recently started hiking with a daypack filled with sand (probably 40lbs in total… may have overdone it the last time = back pain), but nothing I do ever seems like enough.  I’m so terrified of failing that I’m almost not enjoying the workouts.  Instead I look at what everyone else is doing and think “I should be doing more” or pushing harder.  I feel like I have to make up for only having 4 days a week to train; and I find myself feeling guilty when I take any time out to have “fun” instead of workout.

The truth is, I’m being ridiculous because there’s no reason I can’t prepare even if it is only 4 days of intense training a week.  After all, I worked the same schedule when I trained for the marathon, and I survived that.  Sure, I can’t do a pull up (yet) or climb a rope (yet!), but I do have experience with covering long distances. Not that long along, I walked for hours on end and covered a full marathon at the Relay for Life.   Maybe obstacles aren’t a strength of mine, and maybe there are a number of “elite” athletes competing in this event, but that doesn’t mean I’m not qualified.

A while ago, someone posted in the Ultra Beast group on Facebook that the Spartan HQ was intentionally letting in a bunch of under-qualified racers to increase the dropout rate and make the race look harder.  I found the comment a little offensive as I’m sure I fall into that category in this self proclaimed elite (more like elitist) athlete’s eyes.  However, I would venture to guess that anyone who would feel the need to make a comment like that is grossly underestimating the capabilities of many of the registrants.  Sure, I may not have a big name is the obstacle racing world (or anywhere else in the fitness realm for that matter!) and I may not even have been able to train as much as I have wanted. However, I do have one strength that will work in my favor- I can push though physical pain and exhaustion, and even more importantly: mental pain and exhaustion.

I spent over 5 years in an abusive relationship and have experienced betrayal by people I considered family.  I have lived through pain I thought would kill me and have come out on the other end smarter and stronger.  NO PHYSICAL PAIN COULD EVER COMPARE to the pain I endured then.  Strong people don’t just happen.  Strong people are CONDITIONED.  They live through pain no one should have to suffer, pain you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.  If I could come out of a situation like that still standing (and running my mouth… haha) then no marathon length obstacle course is going to take me out, even if I have to crawl!

There’s not much I can’t stand more than quitting.  I would rather risk seriously injuring myself than quit.  I would rather suffer and be miserable than quit.  As much as I would like to have done more physical training, at can at least take solace in the fact that I have had top notch mental conditioning.  If spending five days in a hospital with little to no sleep at a time of crisis in my family didn’t break me, and spending five years with a person who constantly tried to beat me down and make me feel like I wasn’t good enough didn’t break me then this race isn’t going to break me (at least not mentally…)

When life knocks me down, I come back stronger.  All these “curveballs”  are just going to have to serve as fuel to keep pushing because ,at this point, I don’t have time to stress about them.  Anyone who thinks I’m under-qualified or just plain crazy (probably the more likely of the two) will just have to eat their words when I work  that much harder and finish.  I WILL NOT BE DISCOURAGED.  I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED.  As long as there is breath in my lungs, I will continue to drive forward from one goal to the next.  I am a fighter.  I don’t stop when I’m tired (or discouraged!).  I stop when I’m done.  

My New Anthem.