Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Great Return

Picture from my first marathon!
It has been quite some time since I have opened up my computer to write a post, and it is officially time to get back to it. What I have learned during my three month hiatus is that I am much more consistent with my exercise routine when I am actively blogging. Now is the time to become more accountable again, accountable to myself!

So, where did we leave off back in November?

I just had the most fantastic Auntie Sarah Gobble Gobble Home Grown 5k. This event was fantastic, with just over 33 people participating or cheering on the crowd. It was so phenomenal that I have already set up the Facebook event for the 3rd annual event to be held Thanksgiving morning in 2017.

In addition, I have been working on becoming consistent with my Chicago Marathon training. Some would say the weather has been perfect for said training, and I can't dispute that fact. What I will say is that my attitude has waned a bit. My bestie and running buddy always has significant obligations that make it difficult for her to run the first few months of the year. My other running buddy has kiddos, which make her schedule fluctuate a bit.

Where am I now?

Well, what you likely read above is that I have been a slacker, and I'm trying to push the blame to my people, however, that shouldn't mean anything. What should really motivate me is showing up for myself, and myself alone. Of course, because I use the word should, that means I haven't been doing it as consistently as I would like.

Where the heck am I going then?

I'm at some crossroads, and I know for certain that I am going to take the journey down the road that leads to the Chicago marathon... Rather than running three days a week, whatever distance feels good, I'm headed straight to my pal Hal Higdon's training schedules to guide my efforts.

I have to say, some motivation for me has been watching my good friend Solitare train for her first 5k. It is so fun watching someone work toward achieving their new goal. With that said, Sue and I will be running Solitare's first 5k with her in March!!!

What all of this means is I will intentionally work towards the Chicago Marathon by setting weekly goals every Sunday night. The goals are intended to make me accountable and define what is to come. I will return to my weekly stories of my marathon journey, and invite you to come along for the ride!

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Second Annual - Auntie Sarah's Incredible Gobble Gobble Home Grown 5k

The Runners
For a second year in a row, my friends and family toed the line of our own personal turkey trot. The reason I started this 5k, one year ago, was to give everyone the ability to go to the same spot and get their exercise on Thanksgiving morning. It used to be that many of us participated in various 5ks around the Chicago area, but in large masses of people we didn't know, and were lucky if we actually ran into people we knew at the end. It also used to be that we all paid approximately fifty bucks a piece to participate in said races. I finally said NO MORE! Let's do something fun that wouldn't require huge entry fees, and would be all inclusive.

Last year there were approximately 15 of us who came out to walk, run or spectate. I thought that was hugely successful. What happened this year? We doubled in size and 34 of my family and friends came out to have fun on Thanksgiving morning.

Also, new this year, we had a food drive. It just so happens that all of us participating in our friend and family 5k are very fortunate. None of us need for anything, and so I asked folks to donate food, if they were willing. I collected a small lot of food, and have delivered it to a food pantry for distribution. Albeit a small donation, it was a much appreciated donation.

So, what did this race net participants? Hugs galore, friendly faces, donuts, muffins, coffee, water (on course), and the best homemade 'medals' a person could ask for (I'm biased, I made them all).

So, if you find yourself in the Chicago land area in 2017, please consider the third annual Aunti Sarah's Incredible Gobble Gobble Home Grown 5k.

Here are some pictures from the hugely successful day!
The Medals

Some Little People Finishing

Finish Line


Some Family!!!
The Turkey
The other Turkey

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What is Resilience?

This, my friends, is resilience...
I've lost my blogging way the past month, actually the past year. The events that have taken place since I've last blogged have been somewhat surprising. Most notably, unless your head is in the sand, you have heard, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, and I registered for my second marathon. And you know what? The world is still revolving.

Am I happy about all of the most current events? Nope, but this is what I posted to my parents:
To mom and dad: Thank you for raising me to be a thoughtful, kind hearted, loving person. The past 24 hours have knocked the wind out of my sails, more so than being diagnosed with ms. Because of you, I will practice resilience. Just pray that the affordable Care act is not fully obliterated. But that too will work itself out... To the best parents who have always given me the best, taught me the best, modeled the best, I love you and am thankful for the moral compass you instilled in me...
I want to sit with the most important word in that post to my parents: RESILIENCE!!! One of the things us athletes know is that set backs are part of the environment. The set backs are not what define us, but rather the response to the set backs. I was having a conversation with a friend in recent days about how I can get stuck from time to time, even run away, and that is not what I want to be known for. Go back and look at my post about the hard thing rule... Running away is not allowed. 

So how does our good friend google define resilience? The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. 

There are some things in life that shave away at the lining of our toughness, but that doesn't mean we should hold back. I have encountered a number of things that have thinned my toughness skin, but I refuse to give up, as I'd rather be a bit weak and ask for help, than so callused that I don't try anything new. 

With that being said, I'm freaked out by this marathon I signed up for, and I am guessing that I am going to hit speed bumps through the year of training, but what I do know is that every speed bump will color my journey, and resilience will be one of my hard thing rules...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Avoid the Crisis

I have yet to master the art form of asking for help. Instead it goes something like this...

I'm working on something and it gets hard, so I set it down. I realize I need to keep working on it and so I go and look at it for a little bit, decide I'll get a small chunk done but the attempt at the small chunk falls flat, so I walk away again, maybe even after setting my tools down harshly. I try to forget about it for awhile and lose some sleep but can't figure out why (or should I say, won't face why). The project continues to sit and all the tools and resources needed to get the job done slowly get put away, or more accurately lost. I eventually just forget that it was even something I was working on, until out of nowhere it is right in front of my face again, no warning and instead of being just something I was working on, it is now a crisis.

If only I had asked for help in the beginning, when it first presented itself as hard, right?

Thinking back on my early days of athleticism, I remember when I would 'train' for a sprint triathlon and would find myself 12 weeks out from the race. What would I do in those circumstances? I would dive into training that first week and go for one run, and a swim; forget the bike because it was too cold! And it was always hard, so I would sit back down on the couch and remind myself that I still had 11 weeks and I would be fine and say to myself, "I'll get started with the training next week". Next week would come and I would have the same conversation with myself recognizing I had 10 weeks, and so on and so forth. And then two weeks before the race, crisis mode would set in and I would 'cram' for the event.

While this training strategy works for some, it certainly doesn't work for me. If only I asked for help in the beginning, like a training buddy? Those days would have been so much easier. Now I have some solid training buddies so it makes things a lot easier...

But let's take a step back and look at why one might not ask for help. Is it because they tried, but didn't get it? Is it because they are scared of being found incompetent? Is it because they don't want the world to know they aren't strong?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I do know they are questions to be explored because until I figure out the best way to ask, I will continue to create awkward personal crisis that could have been averted by just saying, hey I need some help!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I'm Coming for You!!!

Am I really an exercise bully? I don't think so. I just invite people to join me on various athletic adventures and then use some of the following expressions to be convincing: come on, you know you want to, if I can do it you can too, it's only 150 miles, it will be tons of fun, you must not like me, and if all else fails I cry!

At least that is how it has been explained to me a couple of times. I don't believe it!!!

So, this past week, as I was coming down from my amazing adventure with my sisters and my awesome friend, I found myself lazing on the couch, well actually the hotel room bed, and then the couch. ALL WEEK!!! And you know what? It was kind of nice, especially this weekend. I was able to wake up in the morning and do whatever I felt like doing without regard to a training schedule. It was freeing!!! Until it wasn't...

On Saturday I woke up and finished making some soup and stew, made some deliveries and then went and bought a big kid bed for my guest bedroom. And then today, I spent my time with two of my friends, first at a barn sale with one friend, and then at an ice cream parlor and on the couch with the other. It was so nice to have that time with no agenda, and I want to make sure I'm better at making one of my weekend days exercise free, notice I did not say agenda free!

Now with all that being said, I also found myself planning out my 2018 exercise plan. A few weeks ago I announced that I will do another half ironman, and then I officially invited people to participate in a 2018 Rock & Roll MS ride in Memphis. Let's just say that although I spent my week in a lazy state, my mind was still exercising its' right to plan!

Don't be surprised if you are the recipient of my convincing ways in the near future...

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bavarian Breakaway - A Weekend of Fun!

I'm gonna win!!!

All of these are random hashtags that can be seen on my, and my teammates, social media accounts
My team!!! Rockin their tie-dye
from this weekend. Why you may ask? Well most of my readers know why... My small but mighty team of 4 rode a collective total of 600 miles on our bicycles this weekend, to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis.

Not only did the four of us ride, we also had a small but mighty team of supporters who came along to be there to provide support, hugs, diet coke, laughs, stories, sweaters, more laughs and love along the way. Our cheering section showed up with their tie-dyed shirts and waved the figurative flag for team Ridin' for Myelin! It was fantastic to see the smiling faces as we approached rest stops at the top of hills, when our bikes were broken, or when we just needed a high five or a hug!

To add to all of that awesomeness, because of all of YOU supporters, to date, we have raised $6,510 to fund Multiple Sclerosis research!!! How cool is that?

Hay Bail Art
And then there were all of the new friends that we made along the way. The Bavarian Breakaway was hands down the friendliest of events I have ever participated in. The staff, volunteers and other riders were amazing, so much so, one volunteer loaned me his bike seat for the day when mine suddenly cracked. Our cheerleaders made friends with the volunteers, my team made friends with other riders, and people remembered us along the course. It might be that our team was comprised of the most hilarious and appealing members, or it could have been our antics along the way (almost causing collisions so that we could take photos of wild turkeys, stopping on the road to examine roadkill, taking aspirin breaks, or taking the alternate route that may have added additional miles to the ride)... Regardless, I will always remember the couple we spent a lot of time with at rest stops, and that solo dude who was riding what appeared to be a mountain bike on a sometimes demanding hilly course (to us flatlanders) who we were happy to have join us for dinner to celebrate the ride!

With all of that said, I think the one thing that made this weekend epic was that I got to spend it with many of the leading ladies in my life!

"I was driving down the road one day...
Someone hit a possum - BAM
The road was his end...
His end was the road...
So they say!!!"
There are so many stories to tell ranging in topic from the expletive forest, the hammock saddle, roadkill art, shortcut girl, beef jerky, pasta pizza, razor misuse, snoring, mohawks, heat activated beads, broken hotel doors, Christmas stores, and on...

But my most important takeaways from this weekend include: Comma splices still don't make sense, my sisters are both fiercely protective, my best buddy can endure tremendous pain, I will still need to rewrite paragraphs to avoid using the words affect and effect, hay bales are for a lot more than king of the farm games, roadkill can look artful, and I have the best supporters around.

The Finish Line!
And here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure... Enjoy!!!

Toasting with hohos...

Town sign.

Accidental selfie. 

A big ole thank you to my donors!

Another town selfie. 

Believe it... All for Janell and Sue's pleasure...

Only missing two in this photo. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

the "Hard Thing Rule"

I found myself at my typical first stop of almost every road trip, on Friday. I was standing at the audio book rack at Cracker Barrel, trying to decide if I wanted a murder mystery, a comedy, or a self help book. Let me set this up for you though, I picked out three books to start, and the three genres all have some sort of  meaning for me:

1) Murder Mystery: As of late, I have found myself overly entertained by television and fictional stories. Watching TV is typically my escape, and because I find myself watching so much TV lately, I can only assume that I have been living in a bit of an escape. It used to be that I would take baths to escape, but since those are off limits these days, I've defaulted to television. Quite honestly, I wasn't really in the mood for an escape.

2) Comedy: See murder mystery explanation and then add to it that I don't like comedy. In fact, I often tell my friends that I guess I don't like to laugh (tongue in cheek). But in all seriousness, unless it is over the top satire or Dumb and Dumber (no joke, ask my friend... I made her sit through Dumb and Dumberer for my birthday IN THE THEATER!!!) I am just not entertained by comedy I think it is because I grew up on bad dad jokes or something. Anyway, I again wasn't in the mood for escape, or a laugh (or lack there of).

3) Self Help: I always like to self help myself. In fact I'm always looking for ways to be better, but see point one... I have been somewhat addicted to escape and so I was leading towards my default, even though I really wasn't in the mood for my default.

Anyway, I walked around Cracker Barrel with all three books in my hand while looking at the random items for purchase, and then realized I was broke and needed to go with the cheapest book. I was happy with this decision until I looked at the prices and realized self help was the cheapest. I mean seriously, why was that? Psychology appointments cost like five hundred dollars an hour, the book was 9 hours long, you would think it would have been upwards of four thousand dollars? Alas, I purchased the book. Need I mention that if you return the book to Cracker Barrel within a week you get a refund minus three dollars for the book? So, cost shouldn't have been a factor, but self awareness set in, and I remembered that nine times out of ten I forget to return the book and I spend a bagillion dollars on a book that only mildly entertained me.

Anyway, after making this purchase, while scratching my way to the car (did I mention I have poison ivy on my entire body?) I convinced myself that I was going to put the first disk in and if I didn't like it I would stop at the next Cracker Barrel and return the darn thing and pick up a country music CD (my least favorite type of music) and turn it on repeat for six hours over the course of the weekend, as a means of causing noise for myself.

What happened though, was a bit of a miracle... The author was the narrator and she captured me at the prologue... Talking about her dad, and geniuses, and the fact that she isn't one, and so on and so forth. I found myself laughing right out of the gate. Quite honestly, that was probably the only time I laughed while listening to the book, but instead found myself diving deep into the world of self help that I think will help me in every facet of my life.

Forget that this is the blog of a determined athlete for the next sentence... This book that I picked up Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance happened to be of discussion at work recently, and I found myself drawn to the one excerpt I read, but because life happens and it was a tough week both professionally and personally I quickly forgot about my interest... But what I learned is that what I exhibited that exact week, when I was introduced to the book, was the exact opposite of grit. And so my desire to reflect on that and 'work' on that at work was the first big dip into self reflection I made.

I'm not going to focus on that work stuff here though... That is for me to explore with the help of my tremendous support system called my colleagues and boss... Instead I will focus on what this means for me athletically.

Aside from the book talking through the psychology of grit, grit scales, charts, research, research, research, all which mean nothing to me because I am a believer in experience, both yours and mine, I found myself engrossed in the stories of athletes, military personnel, KIPPsters and Teach for America participants. As I listened to how we as humans can learn grit from the 'outside in' and how our experiences in life teach us how to, or how not to, persevere, I found myself realizing that although I want to have exponential grit, I sometimes rest on my laurels and simply say "I can't". In fact, I have found myself saying I can't a lot lately... I can't run in the heat, I can't have my air conditioner above 68 degrees, I can't sit outside in the heat, I can't stop scratching this stupid poison ivy, I can't, I can't, I can't...

What if my parents always let me default to I can't? Well, if they did, I would probably still be scared of airplanes, I probably would never have been on an awesome softball team with a bunch of girls I didn't know... Fast forward to adulthood. If I lived in a world of I can't, I would never have been a person to cross the starting line, or the finish line of any race. Add MS to the equation and I would never have participated in my second half ironman this summer. And so with that, I will say that I am lucky to have been nurtured by my parents, first and foremost, in exploring the I CAN in life.

In the final part of the book, the author starting talking about raising kids, and although I don't have kids, I just spent the weekend with three of my seven nephews and nieces (yeah, another one is on the way!!!) and this portion of the book was of particular interest especially because I got to watch my nephew at his first track meet, and my other nephew study for the SATs and talk to my niece about her extreme interest in cooking. One of the ideas the author spoke about is the Hard Thing Rule, that she employs in her house. There are three rules, and I don't necessarily remember what they are verbatim but they basically were: 1) do something hard; 2) finish that hard thing; 3) no one else can choose your hard thing. She also went on to say that once her kids hit high school there was a fourth rule, the fourth rule is that you have to stick with that hard thing for two full years.

I heard this and instantly had my AHA! moment...

One of the things I know about myself is that I persevere when I like something, when it gets hard depending on what it is I stick my head in the sand or I charge on... Then add some external forces and if I find that it is so hard and I'm scared, it is immediately followed up with I can't. This was both an invigorating discovery, as well as a sobering discovery... Did this mean that I lack grit? Or does this mean that I have been out of practice and I need to reemploy some of that grit? I'm going to go with the latter, because it makes me feel better, and because I know there is something I can do about it.

So, yes I have been doing triathlons for years... yes I have been enjoying the experience... yes, I believe training, starting and finishing are all accomplishments... BUT, what if I said I wanted to improve next time around? What does improving mean? How does one measure that improvement? What external forces have to be explored to determine that improvement? These are all questions for exploration, but what I do know is that I can improve, and I'm going to spend two years doing just that. In 2018, I am going to do my third (maybe fourth, if I get antsy next year) half iron distance triathlon, and I'm going to do better...

The one thing the book didn't explore was the idea that 'I can't' can sometimes be real, and then what? I would love to sit down and talk with this psychologist, especially because she captured my attention once again when she talked about how our neurological receptors, or something like that, can always be enhanced, especially considering our bodies, even in adulthood, have the ability to continue to develop a myelin sheath... Um... I'm guessing MS has not been a factor in her research? It would be of interest to me to talk through how demyelination might impact her grit scale, but does it really matter? Perhaps it does.

Anyway, I walk away from this book with the desire, the desire to improve. And so I adopt the "Hard Thing Rule."

I plan to dedicate one post a month to where I am with my experience employing the hard thing rule... I hope you will enjoy!