ultra

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!”

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Waterbury Duathlon Recap

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.

If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

-Dale Carnegie

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It’s the moment you have all been waiting for!  That’s right, it’s time for my Waterbury Duathlon Recap!  Spoiler Alert: I didn’t die or get maimed.  That means I am now officially someone who competes (and I use the term loosely) in more than one sport!  I am a duathlete!

To say I was nervous going into this event would be a gross understatement.  Absolutely TERRIFIED would be a more accurate Imagedescription.  Luckily, my uber supportive and encouraging hubs came along for backup.  I was a little surprised when he registered because he had signed up for the Five Boroughs Bike Tour the day after.  Have I mentioned recently how much I love him?

Anyway… he made sure our bikes were all prepped and ready to go the night before, so we were all set to go in the morning.  After finally settling on parking at the YMCA (after driving around in circles forever a few times) and taking a short walk to the start, we headed over to registration.  Can I just say that I have never raced in an event that required an ankle bracelet for a time chip.  There were also so many stickers and bib numbers!  It was just a little overwhelming… especially given that I didn’t even know how to rack my bike.  It made me very grateful to have the hubs there to show me how to set everything up.

I was also relieved to have my first race involving cycling with our YMCA family!  There were lots of familiar faces, which helped to put me slightly more at ease.  Everyone was so supportive and encouraging.  All I could think was if I could just get through the bike, I would be fine.  My motto for the day was “go slow, have fun,” and I repeated it over and over in my head.

The thing that frightened me most was that the bike course was in downtown Waterbury, and it wasn’t closed.  This meant not only did I have to contend with my general clumsiness on the bike, but do so while avoiding traffic.  Are you freaking kidding me?  As if I’m not challenged enough. lol  Had I only known what was coming!

I think you could have given me all the time in the world, and I still would not have felt ready at the start.  My bike was racked, my transition area set, but there is just no feeling prepared when you step outside your comfort zone.  As crazy as it sounds I think I was almost more afraid of the USAT official than the actual race.  Not that she wasn’t a nice person, but it was more than a little intimidating to go from just running to a race with rules and penalties.  I was so scared of accidentally drafting or doing something I could get disqualified for…  As if the race official was going to care about those of us in the middle or back of the pack.

The first leg of the race was a relatively flat 5K.  It went by fairly quickly despite the fact that my legs weren’t feeling great.  I tried to just relax and focus on my running form.  I reminded myself that just because I didn’t feel great at the start didn’t mean the whole race would be bad.  If ultra running has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t judge a race by the first three or even ten miles.  As long as you hang in there, chances are things will turn around… eventually.

I was actually surprised when I looked down at my watch at the end of the 5K and saw it had only been 22 minutes.  I made my way around the park into the transition area and caught a glimpse of the hubs on his way out.  I tried to take my time getting set up for the bike leg because it was my very first transition and I didn’t want to forget anything.

roadrashThankfully, I managed to mount my bike without too much difficulty; even though I did accidentally release the fastener on my shoe by hitting it on the pedal and had to fix it before I could get on.  Still, before I knew it, I was clipped in and on my way!  I was relieved to find they had officers at each intersection to direct the traffic.

I just was starting to relax and think it wouldn’t be so bad when the hills started…

It wasn’t that the uphills were particularly hard.  Sure some were steep and long, but it was anticipating all the downhill that had me spooked.  What goes up must come down, right?

I was probably the only person who dreaded those down hills more than the up.  As it turned out, it was with good reason!  When we did finally reach the top of all those hills, we were rewarded with an incredibly steep downhill.  Not just a downhill, but a downhill through traffic, with a sharp right turn at the bottom!  I kid you not, I thought it would be the end of me!  I couldn’t help but visualize myself wiping out on that turn.  It was not pretty!  All I could think was that I should have unclipped because I was going to eat it!  What’s worse is that it was still downhill after the turn!!!!  Even worse still, the course was a loop, so I had to do it all over again on the second lap!!!!

I sincerely thought of ditching my bike and quitting I was so shaken.  I almost cried.  In fact, I’m surprised my lip didn’t bleed from how hard I was biting it.  Despite my better self preserving instinct; however, I didn’t quit.  Instead I finished my first loop and headed out for the second.  I dreaded coming though the downhill again, but I was determined to get through it.  The second time through was even more awful because we had to navigate between a line a traffic and row of parked cars.  There was almost no margin for error.  I was SO glad I had practiced riding through all those lane dividers on the Cheshire bike path and managed to keep myself straight.  Thankfully, I made it all the way down and around the turn without crashing.  Once I got back to even ground, I knew I was in the home stretch.

I plowed through the rest of the course back to transition, and after being redirected to the appropriate exit (yes, I initially went the wrong way), I headed out for the final 5K run.  My legs felt heavy as I expected they would.  Again, I focused on form and tried to relax.  Despite the fact that I felt like I was barely moving, the miles were going by quickly so I knew I was moving at a good pace.  The sun and heat were killing me, but I had already survived the bike.  There was no way I was going to let a little warm weather take me out!  It kept telling myself “It’s only 5K, it’s only 5K “.  I chipped the miles off one by one, then before I knew it, I had the park in my sights!!!  One of my swim buddies was volunteering near the park directing runners, and I shouted his name because I was so happy to see him.  I think he was surprised to see me already so close to the finish because I had told him how terrified I was about this being my first event with a bike.  He told me I was “Rocking it!” and I continued on my way.

At that point there was only a short distance… including a ridiculous staircase (I mean really?  A staircase?  Sadists!) to the finish.  The hubs was there at the finish waiting for me.  I ran straight to him and I could see the time on the clock was 1:57!!!  I cannot even explain what it felt like to cross that line!  I had been so scared and worked so hard.  It is just indescribable what it meant to me to actually take the leap and do it.  Less than a year ago I bought my first real bike, and now I’m a duathlete.

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The hubs and I went to check the results and he was excited that he had one of the fastest times on the bike course.  (Woohoo! Go hubs!!!)  I was just happy to have finished.  I was ecstatic it was in under 2 hours, and in utter disbelief that I finished in the top 50.  As part of the race, we got bracelets that entitled us to a free beer and sandwich at one of the local pubs so we headed over to eat.  Instead of finishers medals, we were each awarded a pint glass.  I know, again with the pint glasses.  I’m going to have quite the collection!

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Actually, we left our glasses at the pub… Okay they took them, but we didn’t mind because they had the pub logo instead of the logo for the race anyway.

After we got home and cleaned up, we headed out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants followed by  ice cream at a local creamery.  Just in case you were wondering, I did not feel the least bit guilty about all the calories.  I especially didn’t feel guilty for the DELICIOUS  s’more martini I had with dinner to celebrate.

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Overall the hubs and I both had a great experience.  It was a very well organized event, and I was glad that my first tri event was on our home turf.  It definitely made it less intimidating and added some comfort level.  Plus, it was fun to see so many familiar faces out on the course.  I was really happy that the hubs was so pleased with his performance.  One of the guys from the bike shop we use had recommended he get into racing, and I think his performance might help encourage him.

When we finally got home from all our festivities, the hubs showed me how to clean the bikes and re-lube the chains.  I had told him that I want to get comfortable with the maintenance, so he has been introducing me to the basics.  His mom sent us a text while we were working to let us know she saw our race results and that we had done better than we originally thought.  Sure enough, I had placed second in my age group, 12th for the ladies, and 48th overall!  Not too bad for my first time.  The hubs had finished 26th overall and was well ahead of me with a time of 1:42.  For the record, though, I ran my second 5K faster than him. 😉

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It’s hard to imagine, even now, how much this journey to triathlete has changed my life.  It has forced me to face and conquer my fears on a regular basis.  I decided I wanted to someday finish an Ironman before I even knew how to swim or bike (properly).  Now, I am well on my way to achieving that dream.  I may not do a full Ironman in the next year, or even two, but now I have the foundation to get there.

In fact, the day after the duathlon I went to the pool and swam over 2 miles without even getting tired.  The last 1100m I swam continuously.  It’s a far cry from the girl who was terrified to even put her face in the water.  That’s how much stronger and more confident triathlon has made me.

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Moral of the story: Some of the most rewarding and worthwhile moments of your life will start with being scared to death.  Don’t be inhibited by fear.  Everything worthwhile in life is on the other side of it.

Becoming A Grown Up (And My Grown Up Bucket List)

“…Let me be something every blessed minute.

And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” 

― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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Hello Everyone!

You may or may not have noticed some subtle (and not so subtle) changes going on with this blog as of late.  You see, given that I am now married, discussing family planning, and working as supervisor it seems like my life has finally transitioned from that weird in between stage (where you are on your own but really only responsible for yourself) to official grown up.  In that spirit, I thought it was time for The Running Thriver to become more grown up too.

Over the past few years I’ve been blogging, I feel like I have finally come to a place where I have found my voice (big surprise: it’s kind of snarky) and know what direction I want to take this site.  Within the past few months I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how to customize my blog appearance, edit and create my own graphics, and use new social media outlets (twitter, instagram, pinterest… my head is still spinning!) all in an effort to make this blog completely my own and use it to reflect who I am as a person (and blogger!).  

As much as I loved the paisley (I may find a way to incorporate it back in yet!), there is more to me than a pre-designed layout.  My personality and voice are unique, so my blog appearance should reflect the same.  I started with something simple and little by little I am making it my own.  BTW I would love to hear your suggestions and feedback throughout the process! 

My monumental accomplishment for today was adding social media buttons (present above my gravatar… which PS. now links to my “About Me” page. Who’s awesome? That’s right, me! jk… It’s actually kind of pathetic how badly I struggle with these things.)  See them. Use them, Love them.  If you don’t, I will have wasted several hours of my life that I will never get back.  

Anyhow, as you all know updating this blog has been something that has been on my To Do List for quite some time.  So, now that I am in the process of tackling the major revamp, I thought I’d share some other items on my Grown Up Bucket List:

  • Publish a book– Of course not just publish a book, but become a New York Times best seller.  Then I can take the proceeds from the book and provide scholarships for other victims of trauma to live their dreams.  No, I am not kidding.  Go big or go home people!  I am going to share my story and inspire the masses that they too can chase their dreams, regardless of athletic prowess or coordination (or lack there of…)
  • Start a Non-Profit– Because someone needs to be in charge of coordinating and handing out the scholarship money.  If the best seller thing doesn’t come through, I may need to win the lottery for this one.  On the plus side, at least I have my life figured out should I ever strike it rich.
  • Start a Family– For the record, these are not in order of importance.  Also, it turns out I am not pregnant (yet) just crazy, as previously expected (I finally got my period and it snowed today. Happy Monday to me!  I know, TMI).  I may need to see a doctor if this continues… the weird symptoms that is, not the lack of pregnancy.
  • Run an Ultra in an Exotic Location– Well maybe not super exotic because I’m not really into humidity and giant bugs, but I wouldn’t mind Tuscany or Ireland
  • Vacation at the Sandals Resort in St. Lucia– Why? Because we never had a honeymoon, and if we did have one that was where I wanted to go.
  • Finish a 50 Miler– This one should be totally obvious since I have already done a 50K 😉
  • Maybe Try a 100 Miler– I refuse to commit to this dream at this time
  • Finish a Half Ironman– I am clearly dedicated to this one if I stuck with swimming in spite of Coach M kicking me out of class and telling me to get a refund.
  • Finish a Full IronmanThis one is going to happen before I die!
  • Become a Marathon Swimmer– That’s right, I said it out loud… or typed it anyway.
  • Get Comfortable on My Bike– Preferably before the Half and Full Ironman…
  • Qualify for the Boston Marathon– At the rate I am going I may be able to qualify at age 80… if I don’t get any slower by then…
  • Meet Diana Nyad Because she is AMAZING, I admire her, and I am secretly hoping to become a better swimmer by being in her presence.
  • Meet Meredith Atwood (Swim Bike Mom)– Also AMAZING, and I’d like to thank her in person for the book.  I’d prefer not to meet her though until after I’ve written my book or completed an Ironman because otherwise it will just look creepy and stalker-ish
  • Complete an Un-Assisted Pull Up– I am SOOOOOO close…  It’s going to happen. This will be my year!
  • Compete in a Body Building Competition– It’s probably the only time I will get on track with my nutrition and eat enough calories in a day.  Plus, I think it’d be a great challenge.
  • Climb Mount Kilimanjaro– The Hubs is on board with this.  We just need to find extra couple thousand dollars for funding…
  • Live on a Lake– Luckily the Hubs also has this one on his Bucket List.
  • Become a Fitness Instructor/Coach– Just part-time, you know, because I don’t have enough else going on…
  • Be a Guest on Oprah or Ellen (probably Ellen… there’s more dancing and oh maybe I could meet that girl who raps Nicki Minaj…) Clearly this would have to happen after becoming a best selling author 
  • Place First in My Age Group– Just once… maybe when I’m 80 and qualify for Boston.
  • Make an Impact– Before I die I want to do something to leave my mark.  I want to have helped to make the world a better place.

That’s all I have for now… I’m sure I’ll think of others after I hit publish.  

What’s on your Bucket List?

Any in common?  

How about a Spartan Race?  

You know I do still have that free race entry, and we are only 9 likes away from starting the giveaway.  I think you should all head over to like my Facebook Page through my new social media button and take note of the “Giveaway” tab while you’re there.  

9 MORE LIKES PEOPLE! That’s all that’s separating you and the chance for an EPIC RACE EXPERIENCE!    

Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell random strangers.  The sooner we get to 200 likes, the sooner I can make one of you a very happy fellow thriver.  And for those of you who enter but don’t win, I also have a link for a discount code.  

In the meantime, I hope you are all having a very Happy Monday! 

Because I couldn’t help myself…

Feeling Recharged

“the mind is like a car battery –
it recharges by running.”

– Bill Watterson

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The fact that I didn’t sleep well last night did not stop me from waking up feeling totally recharged this morning! My training slum is finally behind me, and I am ready to take on my next set of challenges!  (and obviously the training that will go along with them).

To celebrate this morning I did 5 miles on the treadmill.  The first half I ran with some incline and then did intervals alternating between 7 and 8 mph for the second half.  In the end I averaged an 8:20 min/mile pace, which is pretty darn good for a warm up. 🙂  

My actual workout consisted of more heavy lifting. (yea!!!!)  Not sure what it is about lifting Imageheavy things that makes me happy, but it definitely does!  Since yesterday was upper body, today we did legs.  It’s the first time I’ve gone heavy with the trainer, and it felt really good.  I was able to deadlift more than my body weight AND the trainer complimented me on the fact that I was doing walking lunges with more weight than his guys can handle.  I think he may have even admitted he was impressed at one point. lol  

It seems a few days of running and hitting some heavy weight was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries and feel like myself again.  In fact, later today I plan on signing up for that 50K Ultra.  The way I figure, the 10 hr time limit means I could walk the whole thing if I had to.  Plus, I already know I can endure a marathon and even a marathon’s worth of obstacle racing.  I strongly doubt this ultra could be any worse than the Ultra Beast, even with an extra few miles.  Besides, if all else fails I do have those 5 years of abuse of my belt.  What’s 10 hours of physical torture compared with 5 years of psychological torment, right? 😉   

Things I’m Excited About :)

“Things are looking up my dear” 

-Seema Chowdhury

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Soooo in case you hadn’t guessed, tonight I am pretty darn excited… about a few things actually.

For starters I had an awesome run this morning!  I did 6.4 miles of killer hills with my hydration pack and didn’t stop to walk at all.  Even more thrilling, I felt strong pretty much the whole way which is a stark comparison to how I have been feeling (training wise) the past few weeks.  I followed that with an awesome workout with the twelve year old trainer… did I mention I my run was to the training session?

We did some heavy lifting, and that always makes me happy.  It’s not something we Imagenormally do, but I had mentioned to the trainer that I haven’t been feeling like I’ve made that much progress based on the amount we’ve been training. I think his plan was to show me just how strong I am at this point.  I’m pretty sure I even surprised him (in addition to myself) because it took me forever to max out on a lot of our pyramids.  In fact, our session ended up running over because it was taking so long for me to fail before 10 reps.  lol

Next awesome thing- I made dinner for my family today.  As it happened, my mom’s favorite type of steak was on sale at the grocery store AND it was unseasonable cool out. So I decided I would invite my parents and sister over and make them some grilled steak and stuffed shells.  I even bought some cake and ice cream for dessert!  My mom was super thrilled, and I think Adam was glad to have a home cooked meal as well.  It was definitely a nice pick me up to get to spend some time with them and do something nice for them at the same time- especially since it’s something I used to do more regularly before my life got crazy with wedding planning and expenses.  It’s been my small way of helping my parents out at the end of the month when they are short on groceries (due to a fixed income).  It feels really good to get back into doing it for them.

As if that weren’t enough awesomeness for one day, after they left I found a 50K Ultra I think I want to do this fall called Bimbler’s Bluff.  Even the name sounds fun, right?  Plus it’s a bargain at $50.  It’s only a little over a dollar per mile! lol  The best part is they have a 10 hr time cut off, which means I can basically walk the course and still be counted as an official finisher.  This is totally my speed. 🙂

Then all that thinking about running and long distance running made me think about whether or not I should do the Hartford Marathon.  I know I had wanted to focus on biking, buuuuuuutttttttt I just can’t leave the running alone.  So that made me hop on over to the Everyday Warrior’s Blog because I remembered she had a post about personalized running shoe recommendations from Optimal Run.

By the way, if you have never been to her blog, you should definitely check it out 1) Because she is totally awesome.  If it were possible to have a blogging BFF, she would be it for me, seriously.  In fact, I think it may be pq-vibe-of-successpossible that we were separated at birth.  So if you find this blog at all entertaining you will probably love her too.  2) Because the information she provides is actually useful, and let’s be honest- we could all use another badass woman in our lives.

Anyway, I took her advice and answered all their running related questions.  Now I just need to anxiously wait like a child before Christmas for my video recommendation to arrive in my email.   If all goes well, I will hopefully find a new road running shoe that I will love as much as my innov 8 x talon 190s…. and I’ll get to keep the rest of my toe nails! 🙂

Oh and the last thing that I am actually quite stoked about is that I finally got a chance to test out my newly fitted bike… which I am actually convinced is now a death trap with those fancy new clip in pedals on it.  I have already taken two good falls (and have the scrapes and bruises to prove it!); but I have managed to get the hang of starting, stopping, and clipping in and out… at least on flat surfaces anyway.  I am hoping if I can get more comfortable in the next couple weeks that I can do either the short loop (32 miles) of the Two Ferries Ride or the 30 mile route at the Folks on Spokes.  Both rides are the same day, but the Two Ferries one is a little cheaper AND you get to ride a Ferry! How cool is that?

Overall, I am just thrilled to be out of my training slum and looking forward to bigger and brighter things. Getting to spend time with my family was an added bonus. 🙂