me & my BIG ideas: Perfectly Imperfect

perfectlyimperfectA layout about growth and courage. A story that has been in the making all my life: chapters have been written and rewritten, some harder to express than others. Ultimately, the journey has led me to who I am today: happy, healthy, and strong. I have tae-bo’d, Zumba’d, bootcamp’d, run 13.1 miles, swam-biked-run, but nothing has been able to strengthen my soul like Crossfit. Initially, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The images rendered upon a Google search were intimidating to say the least. However, the reality, as I would come to learn, has been a priceless, life changing experience. One that has surrounded me with inspiring, strong women who focus on the numbers on the bar instead of a piece of clothing. A gym full of encouragement, support, and stories.  I have long been moved by the thought that each of us carries a burden, a challenge, a unique tell that is part of our story. Crossfit has been no different: one workout, a myriad of individuals, multiple scales if necessary, but everyone is essentially doing the same thing, together, as one. There are good days, and bad days, and absolute soul crushing days; however, just as in life, I have the power of choice. Giving up has been and will never be one of those choices.

Running taught me to think of the bigger picture. How to train for something months away, yet keep the finish line in sight. The triathlon took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to do something scary: run, in a tri-suit in public and swim in a seaweed filled lake. I learned that biking is not my jam. The tri-suit still gives me nightmares. My thighs were not meant to be contained in such a way. Crossfit, however, has taught me about limits, and how our true limits lie far beyond that which we think is possible. Sometimes it takes many failures for us to finally see a glimpse of what others see. That glimpse alone is enough to keep going. I am doing things I never thought possible. My shirts fit funny, my booty struggles to fit within the confines of most pants, but my heart is where it should be. It is full, and happy, and strong. And I am perfectly okay being perfectly imperfect. A true work in progress. Here’s to the beginning of a new chapter in my story: one in which happiness and self acceptance prevails.


Big, Scary Goal of 2013

Six months ago, I would have never dreamed I would be HERE: no start line, no race bib, no running shoes. Just me and nearly 400 other “rookies” attempting to battle it out at a local CrossFit Rookie Rumble. Many of us hoping to just place “winner” in our own personal categories of goals.

IMG_5429My journey in CrossFit started out of pure curiosity. In search of something new, I took the dive with a good friend. We entered our local cave for our first on ramp class and were nervous, intimidated by the Google images shone across our computer screens the night before. As we worked our way through the on ramp classes, the puzzles pieces began to fall into place. For the first time in our fitness careers, we were learning proper form, being pushed to our limits, and loving it. Each day brought a new workout, a new challenge, a new success.

I worked my way from two WODs a week to three, eventually working to four or five. Sore became the new normal, bruises proud battle scars, and the numbers on the clock my new ideal v those on a scale. There is nothing more bonding than sharing the mutual suffering of an extraordinary workout. Welcoming smiles, a friendly handshake- the people were becoming just as important as the workouts. Which is how, on a seemingly normal Friday afternoon, I was talked into entering a local Rookie Rumble. The thrill of signing up lasted a few days until the REALITY of the comp started to set in. The truth was, I had never even been to a competition. I had no idea what I had got myself into: my big scary goal of 2013 was set in stone. I was comforted by the fact that there would be no seaweed. Or bike shorts (see last year’s big scary goal).

So, as I walked in to register last weekend on competition morning, I was rendered scared and nervous by the sights and sounds of something completely, utterly DIFFERENT. Used to the comfort of a starting line, race bib, and running shoes, I was surrounded by barbells, kettle bells, and chalk. Unlike running a race, there was nowhere to hide, no pack of runners to fall into if you’re having a bad day.

Only seconds into the first WOD, all the faces quickly disappeared. 21-15-9: squat cleans, kettle bell swings, and lateral jumps stood between me and the end of WOD 1. My only real goal: finish. The funny thing, I wasn’t surrounded by competitors, I was surrounded by a massive mob of support: screaming coming from every angle. The judges coaching me, pushing me, encouraging me…

rr2The nerves never went away. I will likely kick myself for a long time over my misinterpretation of a movement in WOD 3. However, overall, I am in awe of the awesomeness and inspiration I witnessed. So many different life stories, ages, sizes, yet we were all THERE doing the SAME thing. The last finisher receiving a bigger applause than the first, the entire audience willing the individual to finish.

I have never been anywhere with so much love, support and camaraderie. No egos, attitude, or negativity to be found. I am grateful I had four fellow cavers to compete with, to help ease my nerves, and to train with. I am also grateful to all those who came out to support, many of whom woke up early on their Sunday morning to drive out to the competition and many of whom completed the comp WODs with us to help us prepare.

When I toe up to a start line of a race, I am often overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment. The months of training are the hardest part for me. Race day is the prize. I know I’ll finish. I may not get the time I want, but I know I’ll finish. This competition was an entirely different beast. There was no one start, instead, there were three. Each being very different from the one before. The rise and fall of nerves, excitement, and anticipation made for a long day. I have learned a great deal about myself since starting CrossFit. I am stronger than I ever imagined possible, yet have a long way to go. Like running, it will get easier but never easy and there will always be challenging new goals.

For months, I felt like the fish out of water. However, I have never been surrounded by such supportive comrades and friends. Just as I was a reluctant runner, and felt uneasy calling myself one. I feel as though I can reluctantly say, I am a CrossFitter. It has taken me a long time to learn that winning isn’t always about crossing the finish line first. It’s about having heart, determination, and the courage to step out of your comfort zone. THESE are lessons I hope my boys see, live, and learn.

Big, scary goal of 2013: smashed.


I Bought Shorts Today…

I bought shorts today…

In order to understand why this is such a huge milestone, I’ll back up a little bit.

I have always been an “active” person. I have always loved being outside. I have always been what many would consider athletic.

However, I have always had a thing about my legs. Specifically, a thing about my legs in shorts. My thighs have eaten many pairs of shorts alive. Running in shorts has never been a graceful, model-esque experience. Instead, it’s a slow, painful thigh wedge-y filled endeavor. I am vertically challenged and that will never change. Despite my wishes, I will never have long, dancer legs.

But recently, I’ve learned that I can certainly have strong legs. Legs that can carry me through box jumps, prowler pushes, and 400 meter sprints.

My fitness journey has been years in the making. I stepped foot into a gym for the first time a little over two years ago. I was skeptical, but made it my goal to try every class. From Zumba, to UJam, to spin, to body pump…I did it all at least once. I discovered my favorites and quickly fell in love with the boot camp class. The camaraderie, shared suffering, and familiar faces soon became the highlight of my Tuesdays. And then, the gym cancelled the class. All the while, I was still training for half marathons, but the loneliness of running was getting old. I had lost the joy in running. I loved the company of quick gym friends and the accountability the familiarity brought.

The gym had become my escape. With a husband who works a ton, it was a place I could bring the kids and “escape” for two hours. It had become my happy place. Unfortunately, an incident with kid care forced me to re-evaluate my current gym membership and I chose not to renew. I found myself at a gym membership crossroads but looked forward to the opportunity to try something new.

Crossfit entered the picture. I’ll admit I was intimidated. If you Google Crossfit, images of mad crazy muscular people come up. Along with images of said mad crazy muscular people lifting crazy heavy weights.

I convinced a friend to join me and  we both signed up for the initial intro classes, diving in head first having no clue what we were getting ourselves into. Four weeks later, here I am. Hooked. More than seeing results, I am FEELING them. I am doing things I never thought I could. I am doing things I never knew existed. I am feeling things I never thought I would. A year ago, I would have looked at this picture and picked it apart. Now, I look and see a strong, driven, motivated mama…

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Last week I walked into the gym and saw the WOD on the board:

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As we began, fatigue and doubt started to creep in. I happened to look over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of my youngest son watching me. A smile on his face. He was in awe at the tire work and weight lifting going on all around. And it was no longer about being tired or sore. I would finish. I had to. I had to show Jake that one day when I tell him that we don’t quit or give up, I mean it. I live it. One of the greatest gifts brought to me after canceling my prior gym membership is the ability for my boys to now SEE what I am doing. As they watch, I can teach them about strong women, perseverance, and hard work.

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Before walking into my local Crossfit, I had talked to many different people who had tried it. Not one had anything negative to say. I get that it is definitely something you either love or hate. It is not for everyone. For me, it has been everything I loved about my old boot camp but more. The pain and suffering of an extraordinarily hard workout is lessened when done alongside others. The first two weeks, I was often the last one done, but instead of leaving, people would grab their water bottles and cheer me on.

The numbers on a piece of clothing or on the scale no longer haunt me. Instead, I now search for the numbers that truly matter: the time on the clock, the number of reps, the weight on the bar. Hours after the above workout, I was outside playing with my boys and my oldest happened to snap a picture of me…

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For years, I hid from the camera. I have never loved being in front of it. But this day, this moment, I smiled and I am grateful that I got to see a glimpse of myself through their eyes. Working out, running, crossfit…have all brought me to where I am right at this moment. I am often happiest after a butt kicking, hard workout. Conquering a WOD, leaves me thinking I can conquer just about anything. A little time for me: happy mama, happy wife = happy life. Starting over and rebuilding a decent running base mileage is humbling, but running is joyful again. Often painful and slow and ugly, but joyful.

I am stronger now in so many ways than I was a month ago…

And I bought shorts today.


Still TRI-ing…

When I signed up for the sprint tri in July, I had planned out the training months in advance: swim one day a week, run three days, and bike one or two…all while the boys were both in school three mornings a week. In my head, the plan was flawless. Then, as it always seems to happen, the plans changed and a part-time teaching position fell in my lap. As a result, I have officially traded in the yoga pants for work wear, my car/house office for a classroom, and…training for working.

The sight still makes me giddy. I absolutely love being back in the classroom and back in a school setting: teaching kids who LISTEN and having co-workers who love to talk about things other than Legos and Batman…

I survived my first full week back to work, Ty’s first full week of kindergarten, and Jake’s first week back at preschool. As we search for a new normal in our house, the first thing to go was my former workout/training routine. I desperately hope to get some of it back. And fear I will be the last person to cross the finish line in a few weeks. We now have FOUR entirely different school schedules, soccer, basketball, and swimming to keep track of. I realize there are phone apps that can do this, but I need to write things out, see them visually, and I love all paper products. Each person has a specific color. I have two boards that will be rotated and a small spiral calendar I keep nearby to plan further in advance. Items that need immediate attention, signatures, and/or checks are clipped to the board. Ty’s school picture form currently hangs, ready to be signed:

I wish we had a wall to devote to a family work station but we don’t. The calendar sits on our kitchen counter where it is clearly visible. On our fridge, I have one clip for Jake’s important papers/schedules/etc. and one for Tyson. Their morning routine/chore charts, which have proven invaluable hang below. For longer term papers/notes, each child has a folder in a standing organizer next to the big calendar on our kitchen calendar:

Thanks to Pinterest, our snack bin has evolved since this photo but it has made making lunches and packing a snack a breeze. For Tyson, I pack his snack in the front pocket of his backpack and leave his lunch separate in the big zipper portion of his backpack. That way, I don’t have to worry about him eating his lunch at snack time on the days he stays later at after school care:

And I have been getting used to being at the gym at different times. Different times = different classes. I am doing my best to squeeze in at least one spin class and a couple runs a week…I haven’t seen a pool in weeks. I am trying to adjust my overall outlook and approach for the tri. My goal is simply to finish. Have fun. Not drown. Complete the bike portion with my bike intact.

Searching for a new normal and hoping new routines fall into place. For now, still tri-ing…and wishing I had signed up for a fall half instead. I am determined to stick with the tri training but am already disappointed that I am not going to be anywhere near the kind of shape I had previously hoped.


The Color Run: Take Two

Definitely the race for anyone looking to have fun. No pressure, no timing chip…lots of crazy color. Just as fun the second time around despite the 4:00 am wake up and rush to get home.


The Color Run

I don’t think any of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into…

COMPLETELY UNLIKE any race I have ever run before:

* no timing chip

* no time clock

* white shirts worn by allllllllll runners

* 40,000 pounds of colored powder to be dispersed upon all runners

BEFORE: all smiles despite freezing coooooold and crisp white shirts…

AFTER:

Definitely one of the craziest, most laid back races I have ever run. Claimed to be the most fun you’ll everrrrrr have while running…and it was fun indeed. Can’t wait for The Color Run take two in a few weeks. A few lessons learned: Ziplock back for my phone, the powder got everywhere, including inside my running belt. Baby wipes = lifesaver, yay for the mommy pack in the car. BIGGER sunglasses for the next race…


The Chronicles of a Non-Biker Non-Swimmer Attempting to Try a TRI

I’ve gone and done it now.

Officially registered for my first sprint tri. Nervous. Scared as hell that I’ll drown via seaweed contact on the swim. If anything remotely slimy or sea-weedy touches any part of me, I am done.

A TRI rests on my life long bucket list among the things that sound really cool to say you’ve done, but aren’t actually among the things you think you’ll really do. Right next to it is to finish a full marathon.

While on vacation last week, one of my goals was to make my way to the pool and swim real laps. For the first time in over twenty years. I thought I would dive in and automatically retain my ten year old swim team glory and form. Not so much. You see that lady there on the treadmill, I am certain she got her fill of free live entertainment watching me splash my way across the pool only to realize that was ONE length. I attempted a flip turn, thinking I could manage the way I did when I was ten, again, not so much. I nearly killed myself.

Yet, despite a less than stellar two days in the pool, I am confident I won’t drown. It won’t be pretty. But I am determined to cross this off my bucket list. Will they let me dog paddle?

And after conquering the swim portion, I am gifted with the bike leg.

Not sure what I am thinking…

Any tips for a total TRI newbie??!!


Divas Half Marathon: Race Report

Went into this race with absolutely no time or PR expectations. My goals were simple: have fun and FINISH with my two best running friends. No nerves. No stress. Headed over Saturday to the race expo to pick up my bib and was thoroughly overwhelmed with more pink than I have seen in my lifetime. Pink is just not my color. Never has been. Race expo was super small with a couple of fun booths: Lululemon, Runningskirts.com, and See Jane Run:

Not going to lie, the absolute hardest part of this 13.1:

Woke up at the butt crack of dawn, stumbled into the kitchen, drank my coffee, got sparkled up, and headed out to pick up my running partners in crime:

The end result = a PR for one BRF and an amazing illustration of hard work, perseverance, and running triumphs by both my BRFs. WE also got to be a small part in another friends FIRST race: awesomeness all around. After THREE YEARS and seven half marathons, I can finally say that I finished a race WITH my two best running friends. And it was by far my most memorable race to date. I can still see E’s smile as she ran down the finish shoot and the triumph of finishing on R’s face…both priceless.

And what happens when you ask strangers to take pictures, no attempt to move us out of the shade, sorry J:

I really wanted to LOVE this race. And I LOVED the route: absolutely gorgeous.

BUT…

* they ran out of water at the turnaround. Like, completely out of cups AND WATER. One dude handed me a pitcher of water and told me to drink from there. At other water stations, they were not prepared for the numbers of people and water cups were not pre-made. You were handed an empty cup and then had to wait in line for someone to fill your cup.

* mile markers were not super visible.

* large portions of the race were run on super small two lane trails and got super congested.

* the post race snacks and champagne lines were ridiculously long. Had we waited in them, we likely would have missed the last shuttle back to our car.

* the last shuttles were not schedule out far enough and did not leave people enough time to enjoy the post-race festivities.

* the shuttles were poorly organized. No lines, no signage, very little communication amongst drivers and multiple buses went to the same hotel versus the other locations in need.

* the race touts good-looking firemen at the finish handing you your rose and finisher’s medal; however, the reality was prepubescent boys in firemen-ish costume. Quite possibly the biggest disappointment.

* their Facebook fan pages posted that over 6,000 people registered and only 5500 packets were picked up, yet they still ran out of goods. I truly don’t understand this. Despite being an inaugural event, running out of water is just not acceptable, especially at a pivotal point such as the turnaround.

With the race done, I am looking forward to crossing the next big milestone off my bucket list: a triathlon. Of course, this means I need to find a pool and see if my junior high swim team experience still holds. And a bike without a flat tire. In honor of working towards this goal, I sucked it up, and gave spin a second chance. For the record, my booty still hurts but I killed the class. I have never, in my life, SWEAT so much. I will be back. I am determined to finish a triathlon in the near future. Without drowning.


Running Magic: BRFs


I am certain I could do anything with these two by my side.

They have taught me that much.

Running has taught me that much.

8 miles on Sunday, with two of my favorite people.

MAGIC

Ready for race day. Excited.

Bring it: number seven.


I Love Running, I Hate Running, I LOVE Running…

There are many things in life I have a love/hate relationship with: mornings, jeans…RUNNING.

I hate the first five minutes. Without fail, every single run. It’s a struggle to get the legs going, get my head in the game. It is often at this point where the decision as to how far I’ll go is made. Or not made, in some cases.

I hate the sore, the pain, the aftermath of a particularly sucktastic run.

I hate the rebuilding of your base mileage after time off. Knowing what you CAN do, HAVE done, but not being ABLE to do it.

I hate that my thighs don’t cooperate with the super cute running skirts out there. Thigh rubbage + shorts = no bueno. For anyone.

I hate the stress and anxiety of sticking to a training plan.

BUT…

I love the twinge of jealousy I feel when I see someone running outside while I am driving in the car.

I love the confidence, self esteem, and sense of accomplishment gained from conquering 13.1.

I love and cherish my friendships made on the trails.

I love the example I am setting for my boys.

I love the ME that I am when running consistently.

Sunday was slated to be a typical long training run, the last before my May 6th Half. As always, trying to schedule anything with two other busy mammas proved difficult and I ended up on my own for this one. In the past, this would have done me in. I would have either ditched the run all together or powered through 8 or 9 and called it a day.

It may sound cheesy or completely cliché, but something happened on this run that has never happened before and I have no idea why. I wish I could bottle it up the awesomeness for future use.

Having run many training runs on this particular trail, I decided to run out and back 4, stop at my car, pick up my new handheld water bottle, and then head out for the remaining 8.

Throughout the first four miles, I still held out hope that one of my Best Running Friends would text that she was on her way. Meanwhile, I struggled to find my legs and had to reset the mind for a new game plan: 12 solo miles. I headed out for four, found myself back at the car, and picked up my water bottle. There are only two water stops on the trail and I knew I had to suck it up can carry my own. I haaaaaaated running with the water, but perhaps that made the difference?

Headed out for 8. Mentally telling myself I hadn’t just run 4 and only had 8 to go today. Four out, four back.

I purposefully left my g-mo at home. When running with the Garmin, I find myself obsessively checking the mileage and pace, pushing myself harder to reach a certain time. Instead, I ran with my iPhone and the Nike+ app LOVING the little applause that played each time someone liked the post. I wanted to track the mileage, but not necessarily the pace.

The miles weren’t flying by, but they were falling by the wayside nicely. My pace was surprising as I was running comfortably, following my find the JOY in running plan. I was grateful for my water. It as warm, even at 7:30.

I got back to the car and my mileage was at 12.44. I noticed a sub-2 was easily in sight. I threw my belt and water bottle in the car and headed out for the last .6 or so. If I did it, awesome. If not, okay.

I have never in my life had such an amazing 13.1. Certainly, NEVER during a training run. I knew that I would be running Divas for fun. I have never looked at that race in any other way. My two BRFs will be taking some time off and it will be our last hurrah together. I have every intention of crossing that finish line WITH both of them, something we have never done in our three years of running together.

I am certain that the cross training has paid off.

I am thrilled that my body knows what to do.

I am less than thrilled that it appears a handheld water bottle seems to be the way to go. Any tips on how to carry this without hating it?

More than anything, I LOOOVE how this run made me feel. Kick ass. Strong. Confident.

I LOVE RUNNING.