Friday, December 23, 2016

Goal-the object of a person's ambition or effort

The month of December has come and gone and I almost let it get away without taking a few minutes to sit down and empty my head.  My goal of a stress free holiday has not happened but still enjoying my family and friends.  

One thing about goals is that they are really daunting to actually say out loud and commit to, especially publicly.  For the past two years I joined a social media group that would track their running miles for the year.  Last year I committed to 2015 miles for the year 2015....with training for my half iron distance race I only made it to 1600.  It was yet another goal that I did not make.  I missed qualifying for Boston two times in 2015, 2016 and did not make my mileage for the year.  Not for one second would I tell myself I was a failure.  Was I disappointed, sure, but a failure, far from it.  If I considered myself a failure every time I didn't make my goal...I would never try again.  

Failure-the lack of success

Success-the accomplishment of an aim or purpose

Goal-the object of a person's ambition or effort
sharing in my successful run

With every day of training that I put forth there is both success and failure. I miss personal goals set...I don't complete tasks fully...I full on miss a day that is on the training calendar...I phone in a workout.  But with every day that I keep pushing myself and showing my family the level of importance of my goals I then share with them in success.  Success is not found alone.  Success is to be found together and shared together.  The goals that I set for myself are way to big to tackle alone..and I feel like that is what a goal should be...big and scary and something that requires a little bit of help and encouragement from those that matter most to you.  For as much as running is a solo effort when it comes to the day of a race, it is so very much every little bit a group effort that I pull from people over the course of my training.  

This group of people that I have become a part of in this mileage challenge for 2016 has pushed me farther than I would have pushed myself.  Seeing them day in and day out get out there and make an effort, no matter what, at improving themselves is just plain inspiring.  I love that kind of stuff.  I love that someone that I have never physically met is ensuring me that I will meet my goal this year, that they believe in me, that they are in my corner, and that I can in fact do it.  I love that a conversation I have with a customer at the little running store that I work at can bring me to tears.  I love that I have found something that I am passionate about and can feel and share that passion with other people.  Hearing their stories about their goals...their big scary lofty what continues to show me that I can continue towards goals of my own.  This belief along with my own and that of my family and friends is what drives me.

So I have eight days left to tackle roughly 39 miles.  When I did the math in September I realized there were going to be some rough weeks ahead...I was going to have to pull a few 200 mile months and it was going to hurt.  I told my family that the end was in goal was going to be met this year and then I will come back to a regular running mom and not this crazy person that is pushing harder than ever.   Tomorrow I will go on a long run with my favorite partner, my husband.  You would think that we would talk to each other as there are no children to take our attention away, but we run mostly in silence.  He pushes me to run harder that I was more than likely planning and I push him to get up and go when he doesn't have a race on the calendar.  

Don't be afraid to set a goal...even a really big scary one.  Don't be afraid to seek help in making that goal a is key to making it happen.  Don't be afraid to ask those around you to be a part of it...maybe not the physical part but the emotional part...I know I need positive things to think about while I run long and having a little note of encouragement ready for me before I head out the door makes my morning run that much easier.

Embrace the suck...choose you...set that big scary goal and crush it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Here's the thing...

I went to two funerals in the past three weeks for my husband's grandparents, maternal and paternal.  It was sad and we cried and we remembered the good stuff.  We didn't talk about disagreements we might have had with them, but we remembered all the happy, joyful holidays, parties, and together times.  They lived very long lives, 96 and 93 years young.  As sad as we were that we will no longer be able to make more memories with them, there was an aspect that all of this will be okay.  A sense that they are still with us today and showing their faces and their spirit in our every day life.  We cried because we were happy to have them in our life and we were forever going to miss them.

So every day I make the choice to choose me.  I make the choice to try to make healthy choices and keep my body moving.  I try to include my children in this process so they will have an understanding of why I do this for me.  I do not choose my health over my time with them...I do not want to be away from them but only to be with them longer.  I do this so they will see what their parents choose to do.  We choose every day to make that hard choice and be a stronger person than we were the day before.  We do this not just for ourselves, but for the four sets of eyes that are staring at us daily.  We do this together.

I go on my long runs and most days I have yet to speak to anyone before I step foot out my door.  I love to sleep and take naps and snuggle in my cozy bed but 9 times out of 10 I wake up alone in my bed because my hubby is already up and in the basement getting his sweat on.  He set the alarm the night before AND got up when it went off.  Even though we don't work out together, doing our workouts at the same time is a huge accountability item for me.  I can't just roll over and not try.  I get up and shut up and just head out the door and enjoy the only silence I have over the course of the day.  I come back from this ready to greet those smiling faces and tackle the day.

We try so much every day to fill our days with everything that needs to be done to get us to the next day.  We are a constant running list of errands to complete and things to order or return or forms to be filled out.  We tend to forget about the happy and focus on the right now.  Many times we lose sight of the joy and look more to the execution.  We lose the importance of the process...the reason for this life.  So this holiday season I vow to chill out, to forget any disagreements, to spread the love and hopefully get some in return.  Life is to damn short to worry about whatever that argument might have been about because at the end of the day you probably forget.  Surround yourself with those that have a full heart and bring a smile to your face.  Slow yourself down and stop the spinning and give a hug just because.  Be happy to see the faces that you come across during the course of the day.  Just think how sad you would be if they didn't show up...and you would just have to miss them...forever.

Don't get me wrong...I will keep "my time" to keep me running as a happy elf this holiday season, I will do my best to be merry throughout the season and beyond...maybe my life will start to change as a result.

Embrace the suck...choose you...and smile-you are here!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Family can be hard time.

The holidays are upon us.  Generally with that is the upping of stress levels.  We have had two deaths in our family in the past two weeks so our stress levels are kinda at an all time high.  I knew this whole adulting thing would be tricky but not actually hard...these days it is just feeling really really hard. To go through my list of why life is so hard it would probably look a lot like your list.

-kids don't listen
-too much laundry
-house is in constant pick up and clean mode
-too many papers from school
-too many appointments/practices/rehearsals for kids
-grocery shopping-my kids eat us out of house and home
-laundry...did I mention laundry
-hubby working late
-me working late
-is the homework done
-didn't they bathe yesterday
-making lunches again!
-I made dinner and now I have to wash the dishes too
-will someone other than me empty the dishwasher
-any attempt at a social calendar
-any attempt at a date night with my hubby
-more laundry
-more feeding
-more dishes
-someone better clean the bathroom
-oh yeah...and make sure I am taking care of me too...sleep, run, eat, repeat

So is a bit of a rant...and all on the week that we are supposed to be more thankful than ever.  My family is going to be in a whirlwind for the next 72 hours and we should be so very thankful that we have such wonderful family members on both sides to keep us smiling, laughing, eating and drinking in merriment.  

I will now go pack our bags for our Thanksgiving feast tomorrow followed by a wake and funeral.  I am going to smile and cry, laugh and be silent, hug and be hugged all in happiness and sadness.  I will create more memories and reflect on old stories that will be told again and again to "remember when."  At the end of the day that is what it is about...the time we get however long or short is to live this life not just watch it go by.  For as frustrating as my day to day tasks may be for my little family, I am lucky, blessed and grateful despite all of my complaints.  I know that I get to do all of this for them and there are many people that dream of this.  

Please go hug those family members, pick up the phone and tell them you love them if you are not together and framily is just as amazing as family.  Friends that are like family...they are there for you because they choose to be, not because they have to be.  
I love you Orange Mustache?!?
Just put my hand in my bathrobe pocket, yes still wearing my bathrobe at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, don't judge...and found this little gem.  I am loved and my job is to just love on my little family as much as I can and try to keep us all whole.  I know that my needs may not always come first but I do know I am on the list too.  My family knows this too and as we are thankful for our time together but know we are only stronger when we can grow a little bit on our own too.

Embrace the suck...choose you...enjoy your family time and love the ones you are with!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Here I go again on my own....

Sing it with me!  Fall is now in full swing here in NoVa and we have a quick lull of craziness before all the holidays start up again.  Sports are coming to a close and decorations are being put away before the red and green overtake my house in just two weeks.  This year like every other year seems to be in super speed.

Everything is in super speed but me, I am tired and a bit burnt out.  I went for my annual doctor's visit the other day and the only thing that I am going fast through is the aging process.  I went in to the doctor that I have been seeing for more than 15 years and I was not there to have a baby sonogram and listen to a heartbeat.  All these first time mommies were there with their sweet little bellies and partners holding their hands in the waiting rooms.  I dropped G4 off with hubby so I can go alone and there I sat in a room full of families alone.  It was awfully sad and wonderful at the same time.  

I have come to accept that we are at the point in our life where there aren't a ton of "firsts" but a greater appreciation for the growth that each of my kiddos has worked for.  I love hearing my 12 year old sound beautiful when playing his saxophone, my nine year old biking with me on a run for seven miles and not once complaining while feeling confident of herself in charge of her bike, having my kindergarten master reading through a book solo, and my baby boy just being him...going along for the ride without complaining.  Our list of firsts is different and with all of this change that is happening I need to keep me and hubby's goals in the picture too!  Adulting is so hard!

So I had my binge fest of 100 grand, milky ways, snickers, kit kats, and almond joys...couldn't decide which one was the best....I pulled my big girl pants on and said no more pity party.  Life is different and things are changing, and there is no more Hawaii to look forward to.  You have to keep the light burning within yourself.  We removed the dreaded candy,  I logged into myfitnesspal and got back into my routine of 32 oz of water before each meal.  In two weeks I am down almost three pounds.  I know it's not about the number but my gosh I already feel better.   At the end of the day I am proud that I stuck with my plan and stayed within my range.  When you hit that complete diary button on MFP and it says if every day was like this in 5 weeks you would weigh X...I love that X number every time!  I know I have this in me...I know what hard works feel like,..I like to work hard for a reward.  

2015 NJ Marathon
So I have set my goal for the spring and I hope to hit it.  I have looked back at old pics of the girl that didn't quit and hopefully she will continue to give me strength!  I am going to get through these holidays without eating all my awesome holiday cookies and yummy appetizers at get togethers.  Those are my weak spots, I know this, I am prepared, I am doing this without question, there are no excuses.  I will gain motivation from those around me, I will look to my family for support.  This may seem a bit dire but I can tell you not feeling like you is also pretty dire.  Telling yourself that you will refocus in the new year is not the answer.  Today is a new day, one we are given, one others have fought for and I am not going to let that slide.  Yes...that was just me giving me a pep talk...I may need to read this each morning...don't be fooled, every day is hard and every day is a choice.  I am going to continue on my path, hope for supporters along the way, and maybe a parade will form as we march on together into uncovering a new stronger self!

Embrace the suck...choose you...start it up!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Holding onto it all

The past week and a half has been filled with readjusting to life that is not consumed with workout plans and event logistics.  We are not packing lunches and throwing them into a cooler to head to the beach for the day, instead we are running late for the bus, oversleeping and running in circles on the weekends.  We enjoyed our family time more than I thought we would..saying we enjoyed ourselves would be an understatement, it was truly amazing.  We had fewer disagreements, more play time with siblings,  silly charades for post dinner entertainment and all went to bed exhausted every night to wake up to the sunshine and birds each morning. As soon as we landed in Baltimore I felt the home stress creep back into our lives.  In an effort to not have this trip of a lifetime kill me mentally with the biggest let down ever post return...I am trying to focus on little things that my kids can do that still amaze me.
grahamfam six pack doing our thing
This past weekend we finally made it to Sunday School and I was sitting in the back of church during the opening and watched my kiddos from afar.  My nine year old was standing and singing songs that she sings every week and doing all the hand motions.  She was in her element of fun and friends and was not concerned with anything else around her.  She looked so peaceful and happy.  If you have a nine year old girl you know that is not always a daily occurrence.  Music is one of her favorite things and at church she just loves to get into it with her whole body and heart.  It pretty much melts me.

While our leader was discussing the upcoming season of children's choir she mentioned the ages of the members of choir and called out to my five year old specifically saying how happy she was that she was finally old enough to join in.  Within a second of that special announcement my little sweetie turned her head so quickly on a swivel and smiled with glee and excitement at me that she is finally big enough to sing in the choir.  Her innocence and sweet eyes get me every day...she brings so much to our family...making me laugh out loud when she leans over the older kids shoulders while they are reading and's okay...I can't read anyway!

Next up is the big guy.  Not only is he almost as tall as me but his heart is big enough for our whole family to fit in to.  He takes the time when he walks in the door after school to go around to each of his siblings and give them a kiss on the head.  He asks them each how their day was and then he circles around to me.  After he completed his Family Consumer Science Project last night which consisted of him making meatloaf, roasted sweet potatoes, asparagus and cleaning all the dishes he gave me a huge hug and said, I have no idea how you do this every day.  Me either buddy, me either.  Thank you for always knowing when I need a hug and pitching in without are my number one helper.

Last up is my baby boy.  I keep referring to him as the baby but he will be four in just a few months.  There is nothing baby about him other then his tantrums that he can get away with from time to time as he is still three.  He is the hug and play magnet in the house, everyone needs to know what he is up to and wants to be a part of it.  His laughter is medicine for all of us and his smile can brighten anyone's mood.  He puts out his hand to hold mine as we walk into the grocery store or head to the corner to get the "big kids" from the bus.  He doesn't know of a life that consists of just him...his life is filled with so many people that love him that he can't help but give that love back to all of us.  

just us
Then we have hubby...he will be the first to say that Kona was amazing and a challenge he was so happy to have the opportunity to compete in.  But much like all of his races the day in and day out come right back to you after the finish line is crossed.  We were lucky enough to stay and celebrate him and our family a little bit more on the big island.  The day after the race just the two of us headed into Kona and walked and held hands and just took in the moment a little bit more, a little bit longer, and definitely a little quieter.

For all the times I hear that the days are long and the years are short...I know this to be true...I also know that before I know it the years will be long behind me and the days will be short ahead and my kids will be grown and on their own and all of this will hopefully be an amazing memory in their hearts.  My little one just asked how I can come up with all of these words...and I guess in all of my chaos of life with four kids, a hubby and running endless miles and trying to keep us all together...I have a lot of time in my own head.  I take my alone time on the road while running to breath quietly, I try to think of my kids and what they have going on.   I try not to focus on the pressures of it all and trying to solve the problems that are upon us, instead I take that time to reflect on the helps the miles tick by more quickly.  Sometimes I just think of the tree I need to reach to get to the top of the hill.  

and done
So now that this has come and gone...we move onto our next big thing because that is just what we do.  I will identify my spring marathon, I will start to train, and I will try again for the Boston Qualifier.  I will sit down with my coach/hubby and figure out the best way to tackle this monster of a dream.  I will meet my mileage goal for 2016 and pick a much smaller number for 2017.  Hubby can tackle the to do list that I have been compiling for post Kona...he'll love that!  Our kids will keep being themselves and that will cause us to scream, laugh, and love all at the same time and we will all try to slow it down as best as we can and not feel like we are stuck on the hamster wheel..and continue to look to find the special in the day in and day out...and hold onto it all.

Embrace the suck...choose you...slow it down and hold on to it before it's over.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The ugly makes you even stronger.

As many of you may already know I am currently in Hawaii to support and cheer on my husband as he competes in the World Championship event IronMan Kona on Saturday with the rest of the best of the best.  Ben tipped his toe into the triathlon world about eight years ago with a sprint distance then an Olympic...which lead to a half then his first full four years ago.  He was over his head in the sport of triathlon and loving it.

I have run the past few mornings we have been here and seeing these athletes running down the road that they will have to tackle on Saturday afternoon in the glaring heat with pure exhaustion beating down on them along with the Hawaiian sunshine, makes me happy and sad at the same is going to be a long day for everyone involved.  Knowing their scarifies and their commitment to the sport...just really blows me away.  As I post my pics of the beautiful sunsets and beaches we are lucky enough to take part in, I have to realize that we did not make it here on Ben's qualifying finish time alone...and that finish time came at a price as well.

For every time you see a picture of us with a smile, or a success, or a new personal record, or a yummy post workout treat, or a coordinated family picture on the beach, or a weekend get away with a fun race tucked into the activities...none of that came easy.  For every smile has a corresponding angry face resulted in frustration, our successes come with failures, our personal records come with Did Not Finish, our post workout treat is a result of many hours of biking or running and may have been a week in the making.  Our family picture on the beach probably had many minutes of Ben and I screaming at them to just stand nicely and not make that horrible smile, the weekend getaways are often filled with guilt of missing out on our kids actives and a true logistical nightmare.  With every "perfect post" there is more than likely something crappy leading up to it.

ben taking it all in at Kona
The reason I started this whole blogging thing is to show people that anything is possible.  That my family is really just like every other family out there.  We all choose to do things that bring us joy and happiness and we just choose to be crazy and focus our energies on fitness and try our best to make sure our kids understand commitment and determination.  We have worked really hard for this trip to Hawaii, literally and figuratively.  I started a part time job to help defer costs, hubby continued to work two jobs and coach a few triathletes as well.  Our families near and far supported our efforts of what IronMan meant to us.  Our friends locally created a fund to help us get there.  Anyone and everyone pitched in one way or another, if that meant watching my littles while I got a run in during the day before I headed to work or throwing a crazy send off party with pictures of Ben's bib all around the house with everyone decked out in leis, complete with Hawaiian desserts.  Every little part of those that know us best helped us get to this point.   

It has not all been easy, it has not all been fun, but it has all been worth it.  That is the lesson, as I watch these people to continue to train their butts off on Ali'i Drive and drench themselves in sweat, and have family and friends wishing them nothing but the best on maybe their first or fifth time racing at will be worth it.  This journey, although started with just a sprint triathlon, has ended with so much more.  It also did not end with my husband, it will continue on.  He has inspired me which lead to me tackling that half Iron distance last fall...and I will soon tackle another.  It has lead to friends giving it a "tri" as well and surprising themselves with a new appreciation for a sport they can fit into their lifestyle.  The sport of triathlon is competitive, but it is also a place where you can find yourself, just you, not compared to anyone.  It is a moment where you have goals for yourself and you rise to the challenge and tackle them, you may even crush them...and that is the exciting part.

For every good training day there is a handful of bad ones.  For every good nutrition choice I made today I probably made at least three bad ones.  I never thought this journey would lead me to perfection, and it has not, but I do hope it can lead me to a stronger, healthier, happier version of me.  One that knows what hard work feels like, one that wants to work hard because the reward is that much sweeter, one that understands you cannot do anything alone.  

the reasons why we try
If you take anything from my ramblings, please take that you can really do anything, hard is not impossible and everyone is watching, for the good and the bad.  Be sure to share the bad stuff too, that makes you more human, more real, more tangible.  We all know it's hard and we want to throw the towel in on many things, but be the one that doesn't...the one that sticks it out...the one that sees it through to the end...that is where your friends and family will be waiting to congratulate you and wipe your tears away...the happy and sad ones.

Embrace the suck....choose you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

As my little ones would say...that's a long long time

15 years is a long time to be with the same person day in and day out.  The ups and downs are too many to count and the moments of togetherness and craziness are balanced out with alone time and quiet.  What you want when you are 18 years old is probably a whole lot different than when you are 38.  Sometimes you change together and sometimes you change apart.  Both of these offer many different kinds of challenges and the changes that are together hopefully are a lot easier to tackle.  Stay at home mom of four, working part time at a running store, supportive Iron Widow four years and going strong, kid taxi and chef...the list of things we all attempt to balance is too long to write.  
May 1997

Over the past year or so I feel like my mom community has gotten larger and stronger and more honest with each other.  I don't know if it's because I am now an "older" mom in the group and to say I care less about the small things is wrong...but I guess I just know that things have a way of working out and it's too hard to stress over.  I am constantly reminded and thankful for the village I have around me that helps on a daily basis get through the day to day of mommyhood.  The guilt that is thrown out by our kiddos just really can break us down.  It's hard and it's exhausting and some days like this past friday night, I thought my mommy card should had been revoked.  Some days I just feel no good.

So where does hubby come in on all this.  Hubby and I are lucky that we are able to be involved in our kids sports, definitely with help from our friends.  We have children that understand that some days games will be missed or we may show up late due to our own personal commitments to our selves.  Hubby is closing in on two weeks till his big dance in Kona...we all are looking forward to the break but probably no on more than him.  Not only does he commit to this training and his goals...but he does so at a neck breaking pace.  He runs faster than I could ever dream of running and his bike just flies.  He has had way too many early mornings and staying up too late prepping the kids stuff for the next day or reviewing algebra before heading to coach swimming.  It's a good thing that this race is so soon...his flame is about to burn out.

As the wife of all of this...yes I am supportive but yes I get frustrated.  Having a spouse have any kind of hobby for themselves is taxing on a relationship.  I am fortunate that I understand the commitment participating myself, but it doesn't make the days any easier, just justified.  The early nights for early morning workouts and not really having a date night in forever kind of stink.  We haven't opened a bottle of wine and just chatted in a while either.  Our life has been logistics, commitments, training and planning, planning and planning.  As much as we focus on our fitness and remind ourselves that we can do hard things...that transfers over to our relationships too.  

September 2001
Marriage is a lot of hard work, times are not always's not the honeymoon phase forever.  But that is also okay.  As long as we keep things going forward, keep talking to each other, stay up for the late night return home to share our day, make a point to reconnect, we can get through these times as well.  We can continue to support and even inspire.  I think that is a truly important part of our marriage...the inspiration side of it all.  We have both changed into different people, people that we didn't know existed and we see the physical transformation but also the internal transformation.  We have both come out as stronger people and through it all we are stronger together.  

So I will raise my glass in 12 days when I get my husband back.  I will raise it in two days to celebrate the 15 years we have been married, 20 years we have been together.  I will continue on this journey that is life and marriage with a man that I love and admire and at times even drives me crazy.
GrahamFam Six Pack

Embrace the Suck...Choose You...Remember it's a long road and we all change...just be sure to come out a better person than you went in good them together.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Running out of my comfort zone

I was asked once and then again and again to do something that I knew was way out of my comfort zone. I was scared and nervous on many levels.  I have done three Ragnar Relays with my team of 11 other women that I know and we have our rhythm down and we run in sync, literally and figuratively.  This relay was going to be different...different people and a whole different challenge.

Thursday night I had five people come to my house and have a meal together prior to our departure at 2:30 in the morning on Friday.  I had only run with one of these people before and we, the small six of us, were going to tackle over 200 miles over the next two days.  I have NEVER done an ultra, which means just six runners and all these miles.  I have never met 4 of the members of my team, I have never tackled an ultra Ragnar and I had NO CLUE what to expect other than a lot of fun and not a lot of sleep.  It was going to be epic!
home sweet home

Our departure time came and we loaded up and headed into our home for the next 48 hours.  Our start time for the relay was 5:45 am.  We headed through the mountains and rolling hills of Cumberland Maryland.  I had never been in the first van for this relay or any relay for that matter and I was going to be runner 5&6.  I was so nervous...I have been running but I knew the hills of western Maryland were going to kill me.  

i think i can
The energy at the start was buzzing, so many first time Ragnarians, blinking lights filled the darkness and the start times began at 5am.  I found three friends that were doing their first one and they were pumped.  Our first runner went out and our journey began with the blast of an air horn!  Our second runner went out to tackle legs 3&4.  Leg three was known as "Capital Punishment."  Most of these relays have one leg that is just crazy hard, either really long, a really steep climb or a combination of all.  Our runner kept on climbing over 1000 feet and was greeted by signs of encouragement as she just never stopped pushing up this never ending hill!  I was the next one out and was pumped to get this party started for me.

starting out
This leg was hard, it was downhill, and it was loose gravel.  I kept thinking in my mind, even though I was now with these members of my amazing team, I can't let these people down we have six people and 200+ miles...I have to push through.  For every climb I had there was another down hill and my legs were feeling it and starting to hurt early.  I had ten miles of crappy terrain and dust in my face by the passing cars...I kept thinking of my past team as well...they were running right along side of me...I was thinking of who did these legs in our first relay and was channeling them to get through it.  I made it to the exchange and my whole body was very happy to be done.

Our day continued with lots of running and an amazing sense of community.  You find other vans that you tend to stay on pace with and you run into them again and again in the exchanges.  Everyone is tired and sore and bizarrely loving every moment of this challenge.  My overnight run was next...I had some pb&j and lots of water and amazing sweet potatoes (Thanks Debruns for recipe and hubby for making last minute) and I was ready to go.  I had slept for about an hour after my first leg and felt charged up and ready to get this night one done.  I knew it ended at the creamery and I could get some ice cream.  if you know me at know that would be a driving factor!  I began the run and my legs were still hurting a lot from my down hill earlier but I managed to find a buddy to run with.  We stuck together for a good portion of the first six miles...not a lot of talking but I was happy to have someone there with me on these dark stretches.  The second half of my leg was going to be all was an uphill that I was not going to be able to climb.  I was definitely the carrot for some people as they would get past me and then walk a bit...then start up and then stop.  Everyone was getting tired and the utter fatigue was setting in.  I finished my 10.73 miles and found my team at the creamery.  Mint chocolate ice cream was mine and a half gallon of farm chocolate milk for the was perfect!  I crawled back into the van and got on my amazing pj bottoms and sweatshirt and slept for three hours while the second half of our team crushed the night runs!  Our last runner had 18 miles to do and she was amazing.  She never stopped and had trained for this...I just had to be quiet to feel any frustration for my 10 mile night run!

more cowbell
The sun rose, so bummed I missed it, but Mark said it was a pretty morning.  Poor Mark had to deal with five women during this whole thing...but he was amazing.  A guy I just met and his singing along with us and ability to fall asleep in less than one minute made my weekend.  Did I mention I hadn't met these people not only was I running a race as an ultra, I have never done that, I was doing it with people I had just met.  So many things were out of my comfort zone in this relay...and each one of them had their own special reward.  We were from all over the NOVA area as well as one from NC.  We each brought a little something special to the band of misfits.  Whenever anyone asks me about Ragnar a huge smile comes across my face and I just say that it is the most fun you will ever have is exhausting, scary, moments of self doubt, smelly, full of moments you will love and moments that you will love to hate.  We continued our journey...and it was powered by the cowbell.

final leg
Our final legs were the most challenging.  We had to dig deep to make our legs move forward.  The soreness was in full effect and time was not on our side.  We contacted race command as we were worried we were not going to finish by the 9pm finish time. They approved us to leap frog some legs.  Our runners would go ahead and run two of their legs at the same time and then we could skip the next segment.  This would allow our team to complete the mileage and save on time.  We were slowing down and the finish line was not getting to us faster.  I ran with Amy on my final leg.  We had just over 9 miles to run together.  We had just met Thursday night and here she was my life saver in this final stretch.  Every mile that dinged by on my watch I wanted to stop and walk.  The sun had finally decided to make an appearance and we were feeling the heat.  My legs were crippled on the down hills and I just wanted it all over.  We stuck together until the final mile and a half which consisted of a steep uphill into Arlington.  She pushed through and made it to the finish before me and then Mark went out.  I had was not pretty or easy...but it was completed.  

All three boxes checked!

We now had two runners left and our final runner had a monster 18 miler AGAIN.  I know that I can dig deep on stuff but she was beyond words amazing.  She trained for this and was not going to stop.  Sarah was the instigator of this whole team of misfits...she was our captain...she made us who we were.  I still sit here in disbelief of her finishing this relay with over 49 miles under her belt and on little to no sleep.  She is a rockstar and I was just a part of her background singers.  

We met Sarah at the final exchange and she knew she had 12 left and then her legs could stop.  She looked great...had some bacon and grapes and headed out.  We went back to clean out the van a bit and then made our way to the finish line.  We laid on the grass and waited for the text...the one mile to go text.  She was on her way in.  We were energized by the teams all around us waiting to see that final runner and shuffle their way across the finish line.  This is what we signed up to do...finish together.
Run that by me again...Ultra Edition

And Done!
Would I do this race a heart beat.  Not sure I would rock it as an ultra as this specific Ragnar is listed in the top ten "Manliest Races" on the east coast.  There is not much I don't love about Ragnar...heck their color is could I not like that!  The finish area was packed with teams sharing crazy stories between the two vans of their teams.  They finally had more than five minutes to share their experiences at an exchange.  Family was showing up to see the exhausted family members.  We sat on a bench and shared our two pizzas and I headed to the beer tent.  There is something to be said for a nice cold beer after all that.  It is the perfect end to what was a perfectly imperfect two days.

I am so thankful I took the risk to do this.  I am so happy that I decided being out of my comfort zone can be a good thing.  I am thankful that my husband supports my craziness that is Ragnar Relays.  I am so proud of me for believing that hard is not impossible.  I am thankful for my team for encouraging each other, being the support crew when we needed them, singing crazy songs with me...and let me blast music and ring cowbell at every runner I passed.  I cannot wait to hop into another van and do this all again.  I know that I can tackle any challenge thrown down in front of me and it doesn't have to be perfect...just progress.

Embrace the suck...choose a Ragnar!!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Reflect and recap

I sit here and think back to before fitness was such a huge part of my life...and I can't think what I was focused on...I can't think of what my passion was...I can't think what drove me to push myself.  Like most things in life the decision to get involved in running and triathlon started with a discussion among friends.  My first mother's day present was a Schwinn bike from Target with a trailer to carry my soon to be baby boy behind me.  I never hooked that trailer to my bike but hubby did...and we started riding together.  After that I started running...nothing far, nothing fast...but I started.

I worked full time in Reston, roughly 18 miles from my house.  Once a week I met friends along the trail to bike into work on my Schwinn.  They were riding awesome looking road bikes and looking back now, probably cursing me for coming along as my mountain bike was SOOOO slow.  I thank them for being patient..for letting me tag along...for never saying no.  

First Training Plan
Next was training for my first race, the Army ten miler.  The first scheduled run on this plan was 2 miles.  I thought I was going to die, it felt impossible, it felt pointless, it was a slow jog, ten miles mentally felt like it would just never happen. During the work week I ran with my running partner...he had run before many races and again took me under his wing and let me go slow, complain, breath loudly, and encouraged me all the while.

For a girl that grew up on the Jersey shore in the summer and not in a pool, I did not know how to swim.  I held my nose when I went under waves, swam all day but never did a stroke.  My first sprint triathlon I swam it backstroke.  In the final lap I ended up in a cutout stairwell of the pool.  I was embarrassed and just doing whatever it took to get it done.

So here we were Saturday morning September 10, 2016, about 8 years after my first triathlon.  I have a new to me tri bike instead of a Schwinn, I have run thousands of miles since my first race, and have swam in open water on many occasions and made it out of the water to tell the story.  I have met so many people over this journey with stories of them just starting, of this being just another race in their long list, and stories of days were race day did not go as planned.  They all have amazing support systems to see them make it to the finish line.  A new bike, sneaks and fancy goggles do not make the race starts with a small belief in something scary within you that sparks and grows into an amazing feeling of anything is possible and love and support coming from your people and strangers you have just met.

bike rack for #409
We showed up on Friday afternoon, walked down to the swim entry and saw the buoys...they were far away and the water was warm...more than likely wetsuits were going to be a no.  This made me anxious as a little extra buoyancy can go a long way for 1500m swim.  We walked back up the quarter mile transition and got our packets and settled in for the event briefing.  Nothing too crazy was reported for tomorrow, other than we knew it would be hot and to stay hydrated, have fun and be safe.  Our group headed out to find some food, prep our gear and try to get a good night's sleep.  Stickers were applied, noodles and chicken were eaten and I headed to bed by 10pm.  Wake up was 4:15am with a out of condo time of 5am.  Transition area was closing at 6:45 and Half race start time was 7:00 and Olympic was 7:30.  There were about 200 people doing the Olympic distance and almost 250 doing the half.  It was a quiet morning despite the music being played to get everyone pumped...everyone was in their own head thinking through the steps and making sure their checklist was complete.
walking to the swim

We headed to the water, Ben was dealing with the fact that he had people with him at the start of the race, probably messing with his mind as he hasn't had a support crew for any of his recent races.  Mike was ready to get this thing started, and I just wanted the swim over.  As one of the announcers said yesterday...I do the swim so I can get on the bike...and that is all.  It was a beautiful morning, the heat did not feel horrible and once we stood in the water I was actually cold.  Ben was the first one of us to head out, followed by Mike, then me.  Laura was an amazing sherpa there in her orange visor and orange Stride t-shirt...makes for easy spotting!  She documented the whole day and cheered from start to finish...all while she was mentally preparing for her own race on Sunday.  

swim is done
The swim started for me and I walked a bit out to the first buoy. I  am not a fast swimmer so there was no need to try to get ahead.  I didn't want to get kicked or pushed so I just took my time and then finally said to's time to start...get your face in the water.  I kept the sighting buoys on my right not to get pushed to close to the shore, made the turn at the big yellow cylinder.  Thankfully there was a boat out there with blue flashing lights so that helped a lot with the sighting.  I made my way to the next turn buoy and then was in the home stretch.  I never looked at my watch to see my time.  I am not a swimmer so I just was going to go as strong and steady as I could.  Time was not a driver here...just completion.  I saw Mike on the swim during that final stretch...made me happy to know that he was doing well and cruising along as well.  The final yellow buoy appeared and I made the final left...the shore was in sight and I was done...there was nothing scary...just tired and wanted it over.   Laura was there....cheering for me and I was getting my legs back under me as I headed up the quarter mile jog to the transition area.
finished on the bike

I never thought biking would be my thing but I guess strong big thighs can pay off.  I managed to bike just over 20 miles per hour for the 40k bike ride.  I felt strong and not labored.  I pushed when I could, I slowed down when there was traffic of either bikes or cars, and loved the fast down hill coming off the bridge.  It was a safe course and police and volunteer presence were very visible.  I didn't drink enough water, I am a bit of a scaredy cat with reaching for my water bottle.  I drank some in my transition before getting on the bike...and never felt thirsty on the ride...I took a gu at mile 10 and made myself drink some water afterwards.    I took that final turn into the cattle gate entrance...slowed down...was happy with my pace and my tush was happy to get off the bike.

Transition to run was fine.  I had seen Mike on the bike and figured Ben was still out there biking away.  I went to get my run stuff together...grab my orange visor and head out.  It was really humid and my legs were not feeling that fresh.  Mile one went by very quickly and a bit too fast...I ran 8:20 and was excited but then I started to be tired.  I had another gu with me and now think I probably should of had it...but that day I didn't...I kept on trucking along, taking water at every aid pace was slowing but I felt like I was going as fast as my legs on this day were going to let me.  The course was interesting...Ben had told me it was wooded but I didn't take that as trail...trail is not my thing but I kept on was very pretty and still very hot.  The sun had yet to break through the clouds and I just kept on plugging away.  On the final two water stops I grabbed ice and tucked them in my sports felt great and now my feet were sloshing in my shoes...water was just dripping all the way down to my toes and I was wanting this to be over.  The final turn out of the woods had me back on the path that headed towards the finish line.  I saw Mike with his orange visor on and he said I would see Ben in just three minutes.  I was happy to see Mike running as it was so humid and a long day I wasn't sure if his legs were going to be there for him.  I was mad at myself for the slow pace but at the same time was just hoping everyone else was having a tough time with the heat and humidity.  

Sure enough 3 minutes later I saw a guy running at a fast clip coming towards me in an orange visor.  He screamed, "Go Orange Visor!" and we said our I love yous and high fived.  I had under a mile to go.  I knew it was not going to be my fastest run but it was almost done.  I was excited to finish!!  I passed a 72 year old man that I spoke with at packet pick up.  He was from Reston, and has been doing tris his whole life.  I told him great job...he said he had wanted to stop many times but had yet to do it.  I said slow is always better than stopped.  72 years old...just awesome!  
final push
The final turn was in sight and I saw Laura in her orange attire.  I pushed as hard as I could and my legs felt like bricks.  It didn't matter what the pace was, I gave my all and that day, that was all I had.  I managed just under 9 minute miles, not my best run but still very happy with the day.  

all done!!

I finished my second olympic triathlon in 2 hours 54 minutes and 49 seconds.  I improved on my first olympic time by 12 minutes.  Granted my first was very hilly bike, all my time was improved on the bike here at Patriots.  I ran and swam slower on Saturday then in my last race but my legs were ready to ride that day.  The girl that started on a Schwinn dropped 12 minutes...I can't even wrap my head around that.  I loved it...I loved every minute...even the ones I hated.  That day made me want to do it again and again and again.  This sport is not about speed or where you finish at the end of the day, it's about you putting your mind to something and seeing it through.  It's about early morning commitments and crazy training plans.  It's about time management and ensuring you are ready to tackle something that at first feels bigger than you.

podium time
I headed over to Laura to watch for Mike to come in.  He trucked on in and was happy to find that finish line as well. The heat of the day was truly upon us and we just wanted to be done.  We were waiting now for Ben and I was doing fuzzy math on trying to figure out how long he would take.  The results were being shown upon a big screen but my age group still was not complete...they had only listed first and second.  I walked with Mike and Laura getting food and drinks and we came back upon the awards ceremony.  Sure enough they were about to do my age group...Women's 35-39 and my gosh they said my name for third place.  I couldn't believe it!  I hopped up onto the podium and just smiled...I didn't think it would happen but sure enough there I was.  The girl who never thought a triathlon would be a part of her life...was standing in third place for the ladies 35-39.

So how do I feel today...I feel like I wish I committed a little more of me to this the moment I was happy with all that I did but now that the results are in and the competitive Julie takes charge...I wish I was just a little bit stronger.  I am so excited to sit down and plan out my race calendar for this spring and next fall.  I am excited for the two events I am racing this weekend and next. I am over the moon to go to Kona to see the best of the best compete in the biggest race of their lives.  I am excited to see my husband's hard work make his dream a reality.  I know today that I am capable of hard things.  I am stronger than I thought I would ever want to be.  I have days that are not good, I have days that I am great and super focused, and in the end they all balance out.  I will never stop trying or running.  Running is what started this whole thing and I will be sure to never let it end.

Embrace the Suck...Choose You...Never stop trying!

Swim 41:01
T1 3:17
Bike 1:13:10
T2 2:12
Run 55:11

Total time Patriots Olympic Triathlon 2016
3rd in Age Group 35-39
21st Female
75th overall

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Toe in the water...stuck at half way

You know how you have finished up summer and all the free for all eating...yet you somehow managed to maintain your exercise routine through it all...and for some reason you still don't feel great!?!?  

Yeah well that is because exercise is such a SMALL portion of this whole fit lifestyle equation.  As great as I can feel after a workout...if the food isn't clean eating...I still feel like junk. I get so frustrated with me...I want to be good and I know that being 100% all the time is next to impossible.  But I also know that doing it half way leads to no results.  So here I go weighing and measuring and working out as my plan says...yet I am fairly certain that I am consuming more than my fair share...and I wouldn't know because I am not tracking it in myfitnesspal.  I tell myself it will all balance out with all my exercising...but at the end of the day..or in this instance...the end of the is not is very much in the plus. does one get this situation turned around, how do you talk yourself into wanting to stay focused and do you say no to the treats and glasses of wine...well you just start small.  You may limit yourself at a given moment when maybe you don't know what the facts are around that item...and save that treat for when you are in your home and have a measuring cup and can measure out that cup of ice cream or 8 oz of wine.  I know this probably sounds a bit extreme...but if you really want to can't go around guessing things.  You have to be have to know your intake/ the end of the's all a numbers game and to have those results...the ones that will make you stand taller and feel stronger inside and out.  

The key to the day in and day to enjoy what you are doing, have an accountability buddy, drink lots of water, love the food you are eating, and don't feel like you are depriving yourself.  At the end of a successful day you know that you feel like you can take on the world...and the hardest part is to convince yourself to do it all over again tomorrow.  So moral of the story here...the days will not be do not need to workout like a crazy person to have can say no thank you to desserts and nights out that would result in you loosing control...and you can say yes to a little bit more of focus and determination.  The latter will get you where you want to be.  

Three months from now is December 7th...the start of all the HOLIDAY season!  You know what that time of year means...and you know how crazy the food and parties can be.  Imagine if you took control now...if you got yourself into that routine to uncover the stronger you didn't do it half way...but ALL THE WAY!!!  You have that power...maybe you have to write yourself a little note and read it every morning...kind of like a reset for yourself to know that you can take on the day.  If this whole process was easy than we would't be having this's really really hard.  But like most things...hard is not requires a lot of work and cheerleading!  I am a great cheerleader and happy to help you get to that point...find that buddy...sign up for some classes, do some monthly food prep sessions together, share recipes, take the time to take care of you!!

There is no point in doing this half way...go all in...feel strong..stay committed...stop the excuses...choose the stronger than you ever thought you could be.

Embrace the suck...choose you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

a letter to my 19 year old self...

I work in a running store here in Northern Virginia and these past few weeks there was a surge of back to school shopping.  The range was from families buying shoes for little feet who will be heading into a new elementary school to big feet who would be tackling a new campus for the first time ever.  There was one conversation that struck me.  A daughter who was heading to college was choosing between two pairs of sneakers and both were of equal comfort.  The mom was trying to help her make the decision and she said..."Whatever will make you want to get up and work out in the morning.  You need to be working out."

My years at college did not consist of trips to the gym or running miles through historic battlefields.  My years were filled with friends, fun (all kinds) and schoolwork.  I had yet to make the connection that those items could co-exist with school.  I met my husband the second month I was at school and we were basically together from that point on.  We did a lot of stuff together but fitness was not one of them.  I would watch him play intramural rugby and we did a lot of "greek olympic" events...but never did we think to lace up our shoes and hit the trails.

So why did this mom bug me so much when she said this...her daughter ran cross country and track throughout high school and was in great shape.  Why did this mom feel the need to remind her daughter that she needed to get to the gym in the morning.  She ended up grabbing the shoes that she really wanted and seemed very giddy and anxious for her new college adventure to start.  This mom loved her girl and wanted her to keep up the good work.  Much like we say...make sure to hit the books...we want to make sure they also hit the gym!

Dear young Julie,
College is going to be whirlwind, you are going to have so many different groups of friends that will be a part of your college career on many different levels.  Friendships change over time but know that the true friends that you meet there will be with you till the end.  You may not be able to sit at Servo over a plate of curly fries and chocolate milk and have endless hours of conversation or snuggle up and watch golden girls on a Sunday afternoon, but they are still a part of you.  
You are going to meet a guy that would do anything for are going to spend all of your time with him and make memories that will still make you smile and laugh when you are 38.  You will probably stay out too late partying and eat chocolate chip pancakes at 2 am at the local diner while he devours two double cheeseburgers deluxe and sleep in until 12 the next day.  You will probably lose sight of Julie the individual as you are starting to meld into one with your new found love.
As the two of you merge this relationship even more you will continue to enjoy your college experience.  This is okay.  You will wear too many pairs of overalls and when looking back at pics later in life you will wish you didn't.  You will look at this girl you were becoming and see how happy she was.  How she was falling in love and not focused on the strong being she would later become.  She doesn't know the importance of believing in something stronger than she currently is.  This is okay...she is not a failure...she is a girl that is growing into whatever she wants...and in that moment it was finding the person she was going to be with forever.  This girl will only make the older you stronger than she would have been without this part of life.  This young Julie will make the older Julie that much more focused and determined.  Without young Julie the Julie that is today may have never surfaced.
-Julie (older and maybe wiser)

So that mom really wants her daughter to hit up the gym and be focused...and I guess in the end I was just jealous of that drive that she has at the age of 18.  I guess if being honest I wish when I married my college sweetheart I was not 200 pounds and wearing a size 16 wedding dress.  I guess I wish a little of this drive hit me sooner than in my late 30s.  However I can't help but think that if I didn't have that struggle, if I wasn't able to look back on my actions in my early 20s and now know where I steered wrong....I would not be here today.  I would probably not be like that mom and tell her daughter to hit the gym as well as the books, I would not have seen the importance.  Heck, now I have coached the running club for my kids school for the past few years encouraging them to be active and have that be a normal part of their lives, one that might just stick with them.

So it's's okay that fitness and nutrition were not a focus in my younger years.  It's okay that things got out of hand in the later years of my college career.  That time was about the people and the experience and not the personal individual growth.  Now is my time to shine, now is my time to grow for me, now is my time to lead by example.  My criteria for a balanced lifestyle is so very different and I am not sure I would trade where I am today for that younger and not wiser 19 year old.  And that's okay.

Embrace the suck...choose you...learn from the past...just don't repeat it.