Reality Check

ImageTaking silly selfies in the gym I had alll to myself for my spin on friday.

Over the Christmas holiday, I got to spend an unexpected week at home and got some solid work outs in at altitude. My mom has fortunately put a treadmill in my childhood room, literally a foot from my bed. It was staring me down every time I tried to sleep in and was an impediment when I came stumbling home from the bars on Christmas Eve. I never thought that I would turn into one of those adrenaline junkies who actually chooses to work out on vacations and rearranges their schedule to get one in. But I’m quickly turning into one of those people. And usually I just binge on eating when I’m at home. Don’t get me wrong, I still did some carbo loading at the family Christmas dinner, but it was not like how I would normally eat while at home. I tried to be more self-conscious about what I was shoving in my face. (Ok, maybe I did have candy for breakfast on Christmas morning, but who’s keeping track really?)

ImageOk this is really embarrassing but I just have to share because it’s so hilarious. There have been some updates to my room since I moved out (see crazy cat lady picture on the wall and also the treadmill). I did actually bring my cats home with me so maybe that does make me a crazy cat lady in the making…you can thank my sister for capturing this moment.

Most of my work outs consisted of runs over the holiday. I did most of them on that trusty treadmill in my room because, why not? I was having a lot of pain in my Achilles tendon and it gradually spread up through my leg from my shin to my knee. I had to stop during a couple work outs just to try and stretch it out. Finally, on my spin on Friday my knees were on fire. Then, later that afternoon I did a trail run/hike and my hamstrings were really tired and sore. I really have been slacking on stretching the past couple of months and my muscles are straining. Also, I’ve noticed lately that my left leg has been popping out to the side slightly on my bike. When I went in to get my bike refitted at my lactate threshold test, Craig informed me that this is because I haven’t been stretching enough and my leg is trying to compensate for the discomfort.  This is a reality check that I need to take care of my body and let my muscles fully recover in-between work outs which includes a healthy dose of stretching after every single work out.

ImageView on the way to my hike. If you look straight ahead and to the canyon on the right with the snow, that’s where we went.

ImageView on the way up.

ImageBuddy enjoying some snow.

On that note, my New Year’s Resolutions include another round of Sober January (and possibly until Ironman New Zealand), eating “clean”, and stretching more. I’ve already been stretching since Friday and can immediately tell the difference.

What is this eating “clean” you may ask? Simply put, it is eating whole, non-processed foods. As I mentioned a few blogs back, I’ve been eating a lot of top ramen and lean cuisine meals lately. To put this into perspective, does your car perform better when you put good, maybe slightly more expensive gas into it or when you put the watered down stuff that is slightly cheaper? Over the short term they might perform the same, but in the long run, your car is going to stay healthier for longer and run better on the higher quality gas. This makes sense right? So that’s exactly what I need to do. Fuel my body with better nutrients. This is going to take somewhat of a concerted effort. By the time I go do my morning workout, go to work, come home and do another workout, I’m exhausted and don’t want to cook anything. I just need to plan ahead and make more meals, and in bulk if necessary. I’m so excited to try out the Feed Zone cookbook that I got for Christmas. I think this a great step in the right direction to perform even better.

Also, did some shopping with my mom and sister after Christmas. We went to Lucky jeans, which happen to be my fave jeans and they were having a sale so I went to try some on. I was shocked to discover that I am now a size 2 in jeans…to put this into perspective, in 8th grade I was 128 pounds and wore size 3 jeans. I’m now 25, weigh 132 and wear size 2 jeans. Hopefully those extra pounds are all muscle ;). I just can’t believe how far I’ve come in the last year! To date, I’ve lost over 20 pounds since Sober January 2013, and have never felt better.

Another thing that brought some added perspective over the holidays was when I was sort of feeling down on Friday and reached out for some extra motivation. I immediately received responses from my Team in Training family, which was exactly what I needed. My favorite was from Timmy:

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This is now my background.

This really kicked my butt into gear and got me out the door and on that stationary trainer for 2 hours. I know that I can always count on my TNT family for that extra encouragement when I need it the most. Had these people not been there for me so many times before, I would not be the triathlete, let alone person, who I am.

I recently saw this quote from a fb friend: “The worst person to be around is the one who complains about everything and appreciates nothing.  Life is short so don’t waste it with negative people who don’t appreciate you.  Keep them in your heart, but keep them out of your life.  There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump in puddles for you. You can be the nicest person, try your best to please everyone, but at the end of the day all your efforts still go unappreciated. When you’re always there for people, they stop appreciating you because your favors are now an expectation. The sad truth is that there are some people who will only be there for you as long as you have something they need. When you no longer serve a purpose to them, they will leave. The good news is, if you tough it out, you’ll eventually weed these people out of your life and be left with some great friends.”

As the end of the year approaches, I have come to realize who matters and who doesn’t. My family is always going to be there for me no matter what. Aside from a few friends in high school who I can just pick up with exactly where we left off the last time I saw them, I’ve had trouble maintaining some genuine and healthy relationships with friends over the years. So for the first time in my life, I know that I have some friends who I can count on in any kind of situation and who love the real me. So my final resolution for the year is to spend more time cultivating relationships with people who will reciprocate the same time and energy that I put into a friendship.

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So tell me, what are your resolutions for the New Year?

“You’re Going to Win”

This past week of work outs, I finally feel back to where I was before Tahoe. During basically every work out, things were just clicking into place and I felt like I was cruising along. I’m still having a hard time balancing such a low heart rate during running, but overall I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with where I’m at, as New Zealand looms on the horizon.

On Saturday morning, Katie and I met up for a swim at the YMCA in Berkeley. It’s an indoor pool, so a nice change from the outdoor swim works outs that I’ve been dealing with lately. I had missed my swim work out for Friday, which had been 10 x 400 yards with 1 minute rest in-between, so I decided to do that. I’ve been really lazy the past few years when it comes to swimming because it comes so naturally to me from all my years of competitive swimming and water polo, so I kind of neglect that discipline in favor of running and biking. I’ve been swimming a lot more the past few weeks and I can feel my stroke coming back. When I first started swimming 3 weeks ago, it just felt like I was spinning my arms around in floppy, mad circles and not catching any water. I probably looked like I was having a seizure in the water. Or like I just wanted to punch someone in the face every time I hit the water (I’ve been told that’s what I look like when I’m swimming by some of my closest friends).

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So anyway, Katie and I started doing our separate work outs on Saturday. She was doing about 3,300 yards and I was doing my 10 x 400’s.  Throughout the set, from time to time, we would sit on the wall and talk a little bit about anything from the colorful people of the YMCA, to what we were going to be doing over the weekend. There was the guy with a snorkel and fins splashing everyone in the entire pool and bulldozing anyone in his way. There were the “hungry, hungry hippos” as Katie fondly calls the people doing water aerobics as well as the guy instructing them with an intercom system made out of a bright, yellow safety vest.

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I felt great for the first couple of 400’s, it really felt like I was moving along effortlessly. Then around the 6th one, I fell apart. My stomach was empty, and I was out of energy. My endurance for swimming is just not where it used to be. I stopped on the wall and Katie stopped as well. I asked how much farther she had to go, and instead of just finishing out the set, decided that when she was done, I would be too. But Katie, being the wonderful person she is said to me, “But you’re going to win.” She has said this to me in past work outs. But this time, it really hit me.

New Zealand was originally where I wanted to qualify for Kona. I never dreamed that I would do so well in Ironman Lake Tahoe. But after looking at the results of last year’s race, and how the girls in my age group did, my confidence was all but extinguished. That dark part of me said that I would be nowhere near the winners in my age group. I can’t bike that fast. I can’t run that fast. I can’t, I can’t.

Unless I start believing in myself, and believing that I can win, or at least qualify for Kona, it’s not going to happen. If I don’t believe it, who else is going to? Everyone has these expectations that I will do well, that I can do this. But what if I can’t? I have to be the one that makes them happen. There is going to be someone out there willing to do those last 4 x 400’s. There is going to be someone willing to get up when it’s 25⁰ out and go for a run. There is always going to be someone willing to push themselves farther and harder out there. So now, this is going to be one of my new mantras: “You’re going to win.” Every time I have to get up at 6:00 am and go for a swim outside, I have to remember this. When I’m pulling doubles almost every day and feel “too tired” to go do that second work out of the day, I have to remember this. When my butt hurts and it’s time do another 100 mile bike ride on the weekend, I have to remember this. And the more I think about it, the more I realize how much I want it and how much more effort I could still be putting into this dream and making it a reality.

Part of that training is realizing when to push myself, and when to not. Yesterday, I did another Lactate Threshold test with Craig Upton. (By the way, he’s from New Zealand so he also gave me the inside scoop of what to see. His family also had a lake house when he was growing up in Taupo where the race is being held. I also highly recommend him to anyone interested in creating a more custom fit training plan for you.) Basically this test is hooking your bike up to this computer that measures what the most optimal training zones are for you specifically. Every 3 minutes, it creates a harder resistance. Part of the process is that Craig pricks your finger, takes your blood and measures the oxygen and lactic acid in it. Based on how your body responds, you can create these training zones of 1-5, 1 being almost an effortless, active recovery and 5 being an all-out, sprint that you can’t maintain for more than 100 yards or so.

And what the results showed was that I have been doing way too much training in zone 3. This means, that instead of chilling out and building a base of endurance in zone 2 or getting some really fast, hard work outs in at zone 4, I’m sticking in the middle. My results have only slightly changed since the last time I took a test at the end of August. You can improve in zone 3, but only so far and I’ve basically reached my limit to how much I can improve. This means I really have to listen to Hauth when he says he wants me to do a run or bike at zone 2. As much as I don’t feel like I’m pushing myself, or that I’m not getting the work out I need to, there is a reason to the madness. In this level of zone 2 effort, you’re supposed to be able to hold this pace for hours on end without expending very much energy. This is optimal for doing an Ironman. It’s such a long race that you want to use as little energy as possible so you can conserve it for the entire race. If you can push this zone 2 up so that you are outputting more power, with less energy, you’re going to go faster with essentially the same amount of energy as before. If I’m trying to do the same thing in zone 3, at first I will be going faster, but then I’m going to run out of energy faster and in the end, I will have nothing left. Hauth thinks I have enough time to push this zone 2 up another level before Ironman New Zealand, I just have to be patient and slow down.

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Better View here: Lactate Threshold Test

My results. The fainter lines are from the last test I took. There is a bigger difference on the heart rate side, but not as much on the power outage side.

My body has been kind of acting funky lately. I’ve been stressing out about a lot of things and my body is responding to that stress. I’m quitting my job when I go to New Zealand and either staying there for a while or going to the next phase of my life. I’m feeling kind of lost and confused. I know I want to continue doing triathlons and I would love to do something associated with them. I’ve struggled with this ever since I went to college. From Kindergarten through high school, there’s a plan. Even going to college can be part of that “plan”. But the second you get to college, nobody is telling you what to do anymore, it’s just up to you. I must have changed my major in college like 6 times and ended up with a liberal arts degree because it was the most broad thing you could do. There’s not one thing that I’ve always wanted to pursue, no one true passion I’ve always dreamed of. It’s hard to feel like I have direction when there are no signs. So I have some big decisions to make in the next few months. Take the road less traveled and stay in New Zealand, take the GMAT or LSAT and go to grad school or law school, or find another job. To be absolutely honest, I’ve never been so freaked out in my life…in other words, this is my quarter life crisis.

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New Coach and New Zealand!

As of 12/1/13, it is officially 3 months until Ironman New Zealand!!(And less with every passing day). Holy crap, time is just flying. It only feels like a week ago that I finished Ironman Lake Tahoe, not months. It’s time to dig in to the next round of training and pick up the mileage. However, now there is the added element of weather to deal with as I train through the winter. This has already led to some interesting turn of events for training, which I will explain later in this post.

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Some views from Sunday’s run in Lake Del Valle.

Also, I am very excited to announce that I am going to begin training with Chris Hauth and his team AIMP!! I have decided to try and take my training to the next level and really go for Kona. Hauth has a lot of experience with Kona, whether it be competing in it himself or sending many athletes on the journey to the World Championships. His goal for me is to get so much faster on the bike that I actually RUN faster. Basically I’m going to channel Miranda Carfrae or “Rinny” as she is also known. She was the World Champion this year, and set a course record as well as a marathon record of 2:50.38!! Now that’s fast. She is like a mini power house and one of my pro triathlete idols.

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Here she is grabbing the tape at the 2013 Ironman World Championships!

Now that I have the first week of training with Hauth under my belt, I have already realized that I have a lot of challenging work outs coming my way. The plan for now is to do three days a week of zone 2 effort related work outs to build endurance and 3 days of hard, grit your teeth, interval type work outs to build speed. My spin work on Friday definitely gave me a taste of the latter. 5 sets of 2 minutes with 10 seconds as HARD as I could go with 10 seconds “easy” in-between. But my heart rate was crazy high and didn’t come down before it was time to go again for a 10 seconds and just continued to spike throughout each set. This might be the toughest work out I have had since high school. I was white fisting the aerobars of my bike and holding on for dear life. And I guess I’m going to have to actually start swimming again because Hauth is a former Olympic swimmer himself, which has proven to be a challenge in itself. So far, it was 36 degrees outside on Thursday night, the water temp was a good 46 degrees on Sunday at Lake Del Valle in Livermore and it was a tropical 34 out Monday morning. This makes getting motivated to go swim that much harder.

Now, to share more of the interesting stories of my training this weekend.

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Katiepants and I in our wetsuits on sunday.

The bay area of California tends to be a pretty temperate climate most of the time.  Last week, there was a very uncharacteristic turn for colder weather as many people are probably experiencing themselves across the country.  There were many predictions for rain on Friday night last weekend.  As in there’s a 30% chance it’s raining right now (kudos if you know what this is in reference to). So we got slammed with rain Friday night. On Saturday, my wonderful training partner, Katie, and I were supposed to go for a leisurely 3 ½-4 ½ ride for me and a 50 miler for her (We’re on different training plans). Well, there was some leftover rain from the night before and instead of risking black ice on the roads or braving the cool temperatures, we decided to do an indoor spin. Do you know how painful it is to sit on a stationary trainer for 4+ hours? If not, pray that you never do. After the first couple of hours my butt became so numb that it sort of didn’t matter anymore.  But I can tell you now, a few days later, I still have what you can call lingering pains.

So to pass the time together, Katie and I decided to have a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon! We started in on season 4 when Buffy goes off to college. There were many teen anksty/life lessons we learned along with Buffy through the 10 or odd episodes we watched. Virginia also came to visit us! (Thank you Virginia!) And Katie’s dog Buffy kept us company throughout the whole thing (Yes, you guessed right the dog is named after Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself). Katie reduced her work out by 20% to account for doing the spin on the trainer from 50 miles to approximately 42 and I decided to cap mine out at 4 hours. Since you’re constantly riding with no real breaks of coasting down hills or anything, it is harder when you do a spin work out versus doing a bike ride outdoors. We did get off the trainers and have a couple of rest breaks to stretch out and give our sore hinies some reprieve. Katie ended up getting done about an hour earlier than I did. That last hour was almost torture sitting there on the trainer alone. Katie went for a short transition run then came back and made breakfast. I was starving by that point and could feel the smells wafting over me as I dripped sweat on the yoga mat below my trainer. I also discovered during this work out that I prefer to have a mile goal when I do a work out rather that a timed goal because I can actually control a mileage goal whereas time is fluid.

ImageBuffy kicking some serious butt!!

Finally, I finished out the 4 hours! (I thought my watch had stopped but apparently it turns out I was spinning for 4 hours and 20 minutes….yeah.) And Katie being the excellent wifey that she is, made me a nice, tasty breakfast of 2 fried eggs, 2 pieces of whole wheat toast, and a spinach salad with balsamic vinegar. My mouth is watering just thinking about it now! It was nice and hearty and sour and salty all in the right ways after a long work out.

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My amazzzzzing breakfast.

Sunday had an even more interesting turn of events. One of my favorite open water swims last year was in Lake Del Valle in Livermore. It’s kind of out in the boonies and you don’t get any phone reception out there. Well, my map quest decided to take me to an entrance of the lake that was closed. Meanwhile, Katie was driving around trying to find me on the complete, other side of the lake without any way to contact me.  I figured out my mistake and made my way around the lake. Katie drove out of the entrance to get service. We picked our spot to rendezvous. Finally, at almost 10 am, we found each other.

It was 34⁰ out and there was frost on the ground. Katie and I started blaming each other for reasons we were there torturing ourselves. Katie maintained that I picked a race in the middle of the winter and I blamed her for being afraid of open water swimming while silently cursing myself for making an agreement to be with her for all open water swims throughout the winter. What are friends for, right? Well, we went and dipped our toes in the water. Last year, at our first open water swim for the Lavaman season in Aquatic Park, the water had been 48⁰. This was colder than that. Katie had almost submerged her whole body in while I was sitting with just my feet in wondering how we were going to do this swim. It was physically painful, our very own version of the Polar Plunge. Well, thank goodness we decided it was unhealthy for us to even attempt this feat. We dashed out of there as fast as we could. Those good two minutes in the water had turned my feet into ice cubes and Katie’s lips blue. We sat in her car with our feet on the air vents and thawed out. Then it was time for the run.

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Being creative and warming our feet.

It was still 34⁰ out. And I had at least packed long pants and 2 shirts to wear. But it was still too cold. I added on a sweatshirt, figuring I would take it off in a mile or two when I warmed up. I never did. The day itself was gorgeous, if it hadn’t been freezing. So we began along a trail along the lake that eventually turned into a path about the size for mountain goats. It was pretty sketchy but we kept going. Then came a huge hill that we HIKED up. At the top were beautiful vistas in every direction. The lake was a rainbow of shades from blue to green. During my 1:30 run, I was supposed to keep my heart rate between 140-145 beats per a minute. Well, trail running is not really conducive to that in the first place but is almost impossible anyways for me on a normal run. For the first half of the run my heart rate was in the 170’s and 180’s. It just wouldn’t come down. It wasn’t until I was hiking up hill and walking that my heart rate settled in at 145. When I was running it stayed in the 160’s still at a relatively slow pace (for me anyway). Well, it was quite an adventure. And I don’t think tequila mixes well with long work outs. Because it’s shakin’, not stirred.

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Katie and I at the top!

A couple of other exciting announcements for this week. I am officially adding Death Ride to my race calendar for next year. It really was my turning point in my season last year and where I realized that I could do the Ironman. Excited to get a big group together and do it again. Mmmmm…and did I mention that there is ice cream at the top?!

Also, I got a pair of Flo wheels. If you haven’t heard of them, they are a company of 2 twin brother engineers (so hot!) who set out to make really fast and more affordable wheels. I haven’t gotten them in the mail yet, but I can’t wait to add them to D! She is going to look so pretty passing all those boys! #yougotchicked

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Here they are!! Aren’t they b-e-a-uuutiful??

Winner, Winner, Turkey Dinner!

Thanksgiving is a time we get to reflect on everything we are thankful for. It’s also my favorite day of the year. There’s no pressure to find the perfect gift or how much money to spend. It’s just quality time with your family over an indulgent meal and maybe a few too many glasses of wine (ok more than a few in my family).

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Proof. My Aunt Nancy drinking wine straight out of a Pyrex.

This year, I was missing two of the most important people in my life: my mom and my little sister. My mom spent the holiday in Arizona with my aunt, cousins and grandparents. My little sister on the other hand, was halfway across the world in Italy. It’s the only time ever my sister and I haven’t had Thanksgiving together except when I was studying abroad. She got to spend the day in Rome at the Vatican with her classmates. Coincidentally, I got to spend my Thanksgiving abroad in Rome as well, so it was sort of like being in the same place even if we were apart. It wasn’t the same not having my partner in crime by my side at the family gathering this year.

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Me in Roma for Thanksgiving back in 2009. #throwback

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My sister in Roma. See we even take similar #selfies.

It’s been a rough couple of months with some life changing things happen. From a break up to moving my whole life to training for my first Ironman. There have definitely been some major sacrifices to finding what I am meant to do. Instead of buying a bed or other practical things like that, I splurged on the tri bike of my dreams. For the past few months I’ve been living on top ramen, lean cuisines and a blow up mattress. Every spare dollar has gone to training, traveling or competing for triathlons. But I’m following my dreams.

I wouldn’t have made it through without my family or a few close friends. My mom-For being tough on me and challenging me to be my very best and rooting me on the whole time. My dad-For his quiet understanding and keen sense of humor. My sister-My other half. We can always make each other laugh, have a million inside jokes. When we are together it’s like we’ve never been apart. Katie-My New Zealand training bestie, the one who always has the best ideas of how to get in trouble, the one who has the best stories and always can make me laugh. Terri-My favorite, who has the hugest heart and loves unconditionally. I can always confide in her and get the best advice. Julia-My wifey, my dancing like a crazy buddy, my twinsie. Especially these people. I am so thankful for each of you.

But one of the best parts of my Thanksgiving was the Turkey Trot. It was a local race in my hometown of Carson City, being put on for the first time by the Fire Wives of Station 51 and a local gym called Kaia Fit. My plan was to run to the race start which was about a mile away from my mom’s house and then run back after to get some extra mileage in. However, when I woke up Thanksgiving morning and it was 27 degrees out, I decided I would much rather sit in my car until the race started instead of standing around freezing my butt off. So I went and picked up my race packet, and waited in my car until 10 minutes to the race. I meandered over and checked out the competition. There was a father/daughter duo that looked like serious runners and a few others I could tell who had  experience. While I was waiting, my toes were turning into ice cubes. Finally, they started counting down. I got right up to the front but off to the side. I noticed a couple of others readying their watches. The race starter couldn’t figure out how they were going to count down. Would it be ‘Ready, set, go’, or ‘1, 2, 3, GO’? But then it was time 3…2…1…GO! And we were off.

I went out immediately with the daughter I had noticed earlier and another guy. I passed the guy almost immediately. Then it was just me and this girl who looked like she was in high school out in front 1-2. I decided to warm up and reel her in. My first mile felt great despite my heart rate strap not being tight enough. It began to dance and slide, shimmying its way down to my waist. After a few failed attempts of fixing it, I just left it. My first mile was a nice 6:36, my fastest mile time ever. (I have to mention now that I am not a sprinter despite what others may think. I’m built for the longer distances!) And that’s when I caught up to the girl in front of me. She said ‘Good job!’ as I ran by her. I quickly said the same back and then the race was mine. I was winning. And not just winning my age group, or the first female, but the whole race!

The race course went up and over a small over pass. Now I already mentioned that it was 27 degrees out, but Carson City is also at about 5,000 feet above sea level. My lungs used to be acclimated to these conditions but living down in the bay area has made my lungs shrink to the size of raisins apparently. That overpass wasn’t even that steep or that long but I was losing my breath and struggling to maintain my pace. I turned around and the dad was coming up behind me. I was sure he was going to catch me but I wasn’t going to make it easy.

Going down the other side of the over pass, more people were coming up. People were cheering me on as I made my way back to the finish. I had to win this race. I had to keep the lead. I struggled to drop my pace down again. At this point, I knew I had gone out too hard and that I wasn’t really in good shape for this race or maybe it was just the altitude. Whatever the reason, I had to maintain my spot in the front. I heard someone coming up behind me. I dug deeper and dropped down my pace a little more. I was giving it everything I had to stay in front. I rounded the last corner and saw the finish line. They announced that the first runner was coming in (me!) There was a little ribbon finish line. I bounded through it with my arms held high! I won!

I turned around to wait for the next person to come in. It turned out to be a guy I hadn’t even noticed before. He was one of those atypical guys you see doused in sunscreen, looking like a day walker. We gave each other a hug and said congratulations. We talked a little bit and it turned out he was training for a 50k and was just doing the race for fun like me. Way to go distance/ultra runners! The dad was next and then the original guy I passed. And finally, the daughter came in. We exchanged congratulations and smiles.

And then I watched every single person come in. It was amazing to sit there and watch everyone. I started to leave and a girl came running up to me. She asked if I was the one who had won the race. I told her yes and she said “Well, you better come back. A big prize is coming your way!” Then she smacked my butt. I’m not sure if that was the prize or she was talking about something else. I got a nice gift basket with a $75 gift card to Kaia fit, a free one hour massage and some other spa goodies. Not too bad. I can’t wait for the chance to do it again. The only thing I would have changed was if someone had been there to watch the magic happen.

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At the finish!

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The results!

 

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And the goods!

So this year, as cliché as it may sound, I’m thankful for my family, friends, my health and the opportunity to train for triathlons. Regardless of the hardships I’ve faced or the sacrifices I’ve made, there are others out there who do not have the same opportunities to do what they love. But I would not change anything that has happened because it has put me in the place where I am meant to be right now.

What are you thankful for?