Category Archives: Running

The Relationship Between Coach and Athlete

“One who goes before and shows the way. Coaches point out the sharp turns, potholes, perils, and pitfalls of the road being traveled. They steer clear of dead-end streets and unnecessary detours as they safely navigate us to our desired destinations. Whether they are leading or teaching or showing or guiding or mentoring, they are coaches. And they are indispensable in helping us find our path and purpose.” – Kevin Hall, Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words

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The relationship between my coach and I is one that means so much more than most other relationships in my life will ever mean. He holds a special place in my heart that will forever have such a deep significance that words may not adequately describe it (but I will try). I, honestly, don’t even think he knows the importance of his role in my life…

When I started cycling religiously, my life was in a very dark place and I believe I was cycling to gain meaning. I needed something to hold on to and cycling gave me an arena to feel free and happy.

I’ve known Steve for the majority of my life (his sister, Guiselle, is my best friend of 29 years) but we didn’t really socialize with each other because our only connection had really been his sister and my connection to her. From what I knew about him, he had always been athletic (running, playing basketball, and cycling) but it wasn’t really until MY journey with cycling that our friendship, and eventually him becoming my pseudo coach, began…

I knew the passion Steve had for cycling and I started reaching out to him for help with everything cycling, especially things I felt too dumb to ask other people. He answered anything I asked, despite some things probably ACTUALLY being dumb questions. He was very patient with my nonsense and began subtly giving me pointers and goals to work towards. He had become my coach inadvertently but very much on purpose at the same time.

EVERYTHING in life happens for a reason…

Early on in my cycling youth Steve crashed, and he crashed bad… He crashed, flipped his bike, landed on his back, broke the transverse process of T1, T2, and T3, and nearly shredded his Assault on Mt. Mitchell jersey. I wanted to make him feel better so I searched for the jersey online to buy him a replacement (I knew by then what an awesome feat it had been for him to ride up that mountain). Once I saw the prices of the jersey online, I retreated from that decision but declared that I would one day do Assault on Mt. Mitchell with him so that we could have the chance to get one. I’m pretty sure that my verbal filter was broken that day and that is why I even thought to utter such a ridiculous statement in the first place…

**SPOILER ALERT!! That was the moment when things started changing…

“You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don’t even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don’t even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me.” –from the movie Life as a House

I began riding more and more and more.

He convinced me to sign up for mountain ride after mountain ride, each harder than its predecessor finally culminating in the Assault on Mt. Mitchell (each of which I described in earlier blog posts The Journey Towards a Century Ride and The quest towards a century ride, REALIZED.).

I am not sure if he believed in me, liked having someone that faithfully gave into his torture (although I rarely did what he told me to when he told me to do it, I’m hard headed like that), or liked having someone to ride with. Whatever his reason was for helping me, this usually very quiet man took me under his wing and changed my life forever.

He gifted me cycling, and yet he gifted me so much more…

He taught me pretty much everything I know about cycling and cycling essentially save my life. Cycling gave me a purpose. Cycling gave me light and smiles again. Cycling gave me confidence. Steve pushed me and forced me to find the confident women that I had hidden for entirely too long. I am not sure if that was his intention but it was certainly what he did.

I can pinpoint moments on all the big rides I have done with him where I wanted to give up and throw in the towel and he wouldn’t let me. The weird thing is that he didn’t force me to do things or ridicule me into doing them; he just had a way about him that made me want to push just a little bit harder and NOT give up. His quiet, yet very obvious presence demanded a level of hard work from me that I am not sure I had ever doled out before. He helped me, knowingly or unknowingly, complete some of the biggest achievements of my life.

Earlier this year when I decided that I wanted to begin training for Ironman, Steve began coaching me about running. He gave me pointers on running, training, and told me what books to get. When I decided to sign up for my first half marathon in Miami, he signed up soon thereafter and, although we didn’t run together, I was able to know that somewhere on that course was my coach cheering on my finish.

His voice is a constant in my head when I am training whether it’s in the gym, in the pool, out on the bike, or out on a run. He is always there telling me what to do and the right way to do it. I am not saying that I always listen, but I certainly know how he would have me do whatever I am doing. As I mentioned before, I am a hard headed person and it often takes me a while to give in to whatever thing he wants me to do but eventually I do and I always end up with my tail between my legs admitting I was wrong and should’ve done it sooner.

I should point out here that Steve is no saintly, kind man… He can be very sarcastic, grumpy, ornery, and standoffish but the great thing about him is that once you squirm your way into his life you see past that. His way of being is what makes him unique and what made it so that he could teach me as he has done. He never spoon fed me anything and certainly never made things easy for me. But what he also did was that he never left me behind and he never gave me more than I could handle, even when I didn’t think I could handle it. He put thoughts out into the universe of what he wanted me to do knowing that eventually I would give in and do them. He saw potential that I didn’t know existed…

There will never be a way to repay the service that he has done for me so the only thing I can do is continue chasing my dreams and showing him how good I can be.

Doubt and fear enter my mind a lot when I think about the athletic feats that I want to accomplish in my life but every time “I can’t” slips into my mind, Steve saying “why can’t you” is never far behind.

This past Saturday, Steve and another friend were trying to get me to get up to go eat breakfast and we all sat there looking at my wall of race bibs and medals. Steve quietly mumbled “do you remember when there were only 2 or 3 up there? Now they don’t even fit.” I have a lot of angels that I race for and that are my constant motivation when I am out there running or cycling and, lucky for me, I have an angel right here on Earth that pushes me just as much…

On Sunday night, Steve and I were hanging out with two of our friends when they began asking us about whether we had ever “hooked up” and why we hadn’t. I tried to explain but I think that my explanation just made our friends believe me even less.

You see, we haven’t ever and we wouldn’t ever for probably a multitude of reasons. It is not to say that there hasn’t been ample opportunity for such a thing to happen, it just isn’t something that is in the cards.

We live in a society where the thought of a woman and a man being friends, especially close ones, is something that is marred by the belief that if a woman and a man are friends they must have 1. slept together in the past, 2. be sleeping with each other now, or 3. want to sleep together at some point. Lucky for everyone, I often like to go against the norms that society has created for me…

So when you hear me call him my “cycling husband,” know that I don’t mean that in the carnal sense, he is everything that is supposed to be good about a husband with none of the extra drama.

Thank you Steve for everything you have given me and all the gifts you have bestowed upon me. There is so much more that I would say but I truly can’t find the words to describe how thankful I am. No matter how many times I have read through this post, I still don’t feel like it has adequately expressed the gratitude and love that I have for everything you have done for me. You are one of the most special people in my life and, no matter how much you aggravate the hell out of me, your opinion is always one of the first that I ask for.

I look forward to crossing the finish line of Ironman Florida 70.3 on April 10, 2016, a race dedicated to you. Without your push and the faith you’ve had in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Life as a runner

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

 

I’ve been struggling with finding the right words to use to write about completing my biggest running accomplishment thus far… a half marathon. This post was written over several sittings and even after having finished my SECOND half marathon.

I’m not sure I ever could’ve pictured myself  running 13.1 miles but I did. Thinking back, I’m not exactly sure how I even got to that point, to be honest.

I know that it began when I printed out a schedule for half marathon training and then just kinda started following it and running.

And then I ran some more and some more and some more…

And somewhere in there I stopped disliking running as much as I once had. I stopped dreading it… I stopped having to make bargains with myself to “just run a little further.”

It’s weird, looking back, how uneventful the process seems to have been yet how eventful it actually really was.

This year’s Miami Turkey Trot was my first 10k race and I was happy with how I did, 56:48. It was also the first race I got to do with my brother which made it that much better.


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After the 10k, I just kinda kept running… And then randomly decided one Wednesday, in the middle of the work day, that I should leave early and try running the half marathon distance for the first time.

So I did… And I ended up running 14 miles… And it sucked and it was absolutely glorious all at the same time. That day showed me that I had what it took to run that distance so all I had left to do was to get it done on race day.

I had planned it all out, I had chosen my first half marathon based on where it was being held… In Miami, my hometown, the city that still owns my heart. It seemed only right that the place that held my heart should be the city that watched me achieve a huge step towards my bigger goal of becoming an Ironman.

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Found my name on the “A” on the Miami Marathon sign

But Miami, in all its glorious unpredictability, had some tricks up its sleeve for my first half marathon. Race day was freezing, especially for a born and raised Floridian. I woke up at 230am on race day to find that the temperature was 50 degrees and dropping coupled with insane wind. I still thought I would be fine in a tank top and running shorts because I was sure that my body would warm up when I started running, boy was I mistaken.

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Pre-race metro ride
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Just a little cold…

The race start temperature was in the low 40s and I had turned into an ice cube. Nothing I did while running managed to warm me up, yet I still ran. My hands burned from the cold, my feet were numb, my nose was bright red and a complete running faucet… and yet I ran.

I ran and I kept running and I kept running.

My headphones started REPEATEDLY warning me that they were about to die around mile 6 and then finally did die around mile 8 or 9. Now I was faced with only having my thoughts as a distraction for the toughest part of the race. Everything hurt. The joy that was the beginning of the race had faded long before my headphones did.

I wanted to stop. To stop being cold. To stop the pain. To stop running. To stop the madness.

Who’s damn idea was this anyways??

Oh yeah, mine. (insert dramatic eye roll here)

I reminded myself… “You want to be an Ironman. Toughen up. This is nothing. This will be a walk in the park compared to THAT race day.”

And so I ran.

I ran up that last bridge, mile 10, pushing through pain and doubt (the only mile I dropped over 10 minutes at 10:08).

I ran those last few miles with a hip that felt like it was going to give out at any minute. Despite the pain, despite the cold, despite the overwhelming exhaustion, my last 2 miles were two of my three fastest miles.

I was able to overcome my most powerful enemy, my own mind.

I did what many didn’t think I could do, what I didn’t think I could do once upon a time…

I crossed that finish line with my arms raised high, I felt like I was on top of the world. Every inch of my being wanted to breakdown and cry tears of joy. But I didn’t. I maintained my composure (mostly because I wasn’t sure I could stop and also because the lady next to me was crying and, boy, was it not very cute).

Truth be told, I was a damn Popsicle when I finished even having to go as far as to ask a volunteer to open my water because my fingers were so frozen and numb that they couldn’t bend. It took me a good 3 hours to finally warm up, but it was still one of the greatest moments of my life to date.

I am so proud of my time and what I accomplished that day. I finished my first half marathon in 2:08:23, a PR for me.

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The half marathon crew

Since that day, I ran a 15k six days later in 1:22:49

and my second half marathon four weeks after my first finishing with a new PR of 2:04:09 (both in my current hometown of Gainesville). I can feel myself getting better and my time improvements mirror that feeling.

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There are so many things that led up to my decision to set out on this journey that I am on and, although they were painful experiences, I wouldn’t change a thing. Those experiences molded me and shaped me into this new fierce version of myself that won’t give up, that won’t back down…

I have a feeling that this new version of me is going to come in handy when I venture to that Ironman 70.3 start line on April 10, 2016 and even more so in that full Ironman I’m planning to do in 2017.

The story is just getting good so stay tuned for what’s coming…

 

Leaving My Comfort Zone Behind in My Rearview Mirror

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.”

I often talk to my clients about comfort being the enemy of change. I find myself reminding them that if they are comfortable in my office during therapy, they probably aren’t doing the hard work necessary to achieve the positive change they want.

It’s strange how the lessons we most often teach others are the ones we tend to forget when it comes to our own lives.

I wouldn’t say that I have been “comfortable” in my life by any means but I think it’s safe to say that I have found a place where the discomfort I feel has become routine and comfortable in its own right. I have definitely become complacent. I have found myself putting things off that I have dreamed of in order to keep living my “routine” life.

Life has a way of shaking things up, usually when you least expect it. I have found that when the universe decides to upend my life, I tend to make big decisions and big changes. Most people would probably steer clear of making big decisions during rough patches but I find that they bring me solace and a goal to work towards so that I don’t get swallowed up by whatever nonsense is going on.

Recently, I once again found myself at a crossroads in my life… Change or stay where it was “comfortable”

Most people that know me or have read my first couple blog posts know that my love of cycling was born from a disastrous break up and that the strength I had to persevere to the top of Mt. Mitchell came from the sudden death of someone very close to me. Now, at this tough juncture in my life, I have made yet another decision… To chase my Ironman dreams.

I found myself in bed for 24 hours on Labor Day, an emotional wreck. I could not even muster the strength to go ride which I knew was a very bad thing for me. The next day, I knew that I had to do something or the hole would just grow and end up swallowing me whole. I made a decision, a very scary decision for me…

I have dreamt of doing an Ironman from the first moment I learned of its existence. Back then I was not a cyclist, probably couldn’t have run around the block, and certainly wouldn’t be caught swimming with any type of “form” other than that which resembles how a dog would swim and, yet, I still vowed to one day cross that finish line and be announced as an Ironman. I made that promise to myself a long time ago when I had a much younger body…

I have since been living life while still holding that dream in the back of my head. Three years ago, I completed a sprint triathlon but came very close to drowning during it. I have an intense fear of drowning most of which I know is mental but is quite real to me nonetheless. My fear of drowning coupled with my complete disdain of running had made it very easy to avoid considering what it would take to be an Ironman finisher. Until September 8, 2015 that is…

I knew that I needed something big to move me, to motivate me, to lift me up…

I researched the Miami Half Ironman and reached out to a close friend who used to swim competitively as well as used to coach swimming. Every fiber in my body told me that it was time… I made the decision to actively begin training for the Miami Half Ironman in 2016.

Since I began actively training for this crazy big dream, I’ve become more comfortable swimming (I don’t panic as much) and I have become a better runner. I even registered myself for the Miami Half Marathon on January 24, 2016 to give me something to work towards in the meantime.

I can feel a change happening within me…

I can even honestly say that I have developed a love for running that I never would’ve thought would happen. I can’t say that I love swimming just yet but I do believe my biggest personal growth has come from becoming better at that discipline. It is quite an amazing thing to feel as if you are overcoming a fear, overcoming something that you never thought you would overcome, and actually feeling like you are kind of good at doing it.

My first love is and will always be cycling but I am learning that I have room in my life, and can make space for, other things too.

Even within my love of cycling there are areas of discomfort which I try to avoid such as riding in groups… I recently conquered this area of discomfort by stepping out of my comfort zone and venturing out to do a big ride without my coach. I finished my first century ride in which I didn’t have him (my friend, my lucky charm) by my side. I was terrified of not having him with me to coach me and lead me. I was able to conquer my fears and actually joined a few groups of strangers on the ride, I got dropped by the first group before ending up with the group that I stayed with to finish out the last 50 miles. I was even able to make a few friends on this journey and look forward to expanding my horizons even in the sport that I love so much.

Life really is full of twists and turns and sometimes you have no choice but to roll with the punches. But there are other times where change is necessary, you have to make yourself uncomfortable, and you have to punch life right back in the teeth.

Here’s to punching life in the teeth and becoming the Ironman that I know I am!!

I am one Tough Mudder

“If you want to change you have to be willing to be uncomfortable”

If someone were to ask me to define myself I would most certainly call myself a cyclist, I would ride all day if I could. By no means would I ever call myself a runner. Runners love running. Even if a runner moans and groans about the process of going to run, they get out there and love the actual running. I moan and I groan getting ready to go and the whole while I am doing it. This is in stark contrast to the clarity and freedom I feel in my mind while I am riding (even in the toughest of conditions). I had always thought about doing a Tough Mudder but once I fell in love with cycling that thought pretty much faded away. Besides… the thought of adding military style obstacles throughout a 10-12 mile run made the idea that much less appealing as well.

The opportunity, however, resurfaced when my brother convinced me to do one with him as his Christmas present and I was sure that I would be a “one and done” type of mudder. I wanted to have the experience with my brother because, despite our individual athletic endeavors/accomplishments, we had never done any sort of event together. Despite my hesitation about getting electrocuted, being covered in mud, jumping into ice war, and getting tear gassed I was very excited to finally be able to cross Tough Mudder off my to-do list. 10422302_10204914583558894_4666883680843050455_n The day arrived and it seemed like every single thing that could go wrong was going wrong. We were late leaving our hotel, got caught in a horrendous traffic jam, and everyone was on edge. We finally made it to the event location in Doswell, VA and my anxiety was through the roof. I was worried that I hadn’t trained enough, that I would let my brother down, that I would get injured, and about a whole host of other nonsensical things. The atmosphere, however, was electric. There were teams of people everywhere seemingly working to psych themselves up for their impending mission. It seemed like everyone was also trying to act really confident and “better” than the next person walking by. It actually became kind of humorous which helped to lessen the anxiety I was feeling. 10629800_845132567278_4432652533047138123_n We quickly located the rest of my brother’s friends whom were a part of the ‘For Great Justice’ team, put all our final preparations in place, and got all the registration stuff completed. We had missed our original start time so we started with the 9:15am wave. My parents, my kids, my pregnant sister-in-law, and the significant others of the other team members all registered as spectators and were able to follow along on some of the course to watch us complete the obstacles. 11249634_10205885245304831_8379264542788722271_n  11403019_845132357698_927840402909850716_n

The experience in itself was a truly amazing one that emphasized teamwork rather than individual strength. And this wasn’t just teamwork amongst your own team members but across every team line there was. Everyone taking part in the event wanted to help you and see you succeed, whether it was during the log carry or getting over a wall or swinging on a rope, or whatever really. There were no teams on the course, only friends. Friends you never knew you had but friends nonetheless. It is a truly humbling feeling to know that you can ask any one of those hundreds of people for help and they wouldn’t hesitate to give it. I am not sure that I have ever been part of such a thing. The running sucked but that didn’t even seem to matter because once we did the first obstacle, I knew I would do another Tough Mudder and that I would be perfectly fine getting through this one.

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I don’t feel the need to describe every obstacle that we faced because they were all hard whether physically or psychologically. There were some that I wished I would’ve done better that still haunt me when I think about them and others that I aced. I am very proud of the fact that I attempted every single obstacle placed in front of me even the tear gas, ice water bath, and electrocution. I can honestly say that I loved every last one of them too which probably makes me sound a tad bit crazy. Truth is, we all have a little crazy in us, I like to think of my crazy as the good kind though.

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It was amazing to have my kids and my parents there to witness us go through the grueling course. I feel like my kids look at me differently now, with a stronger sense of pride at who their mother is. They have heard me talk about races and bike rides but they never actually witnessed me do one. And, of all the things that I have completed, this was definitely the one that probably looked the toughest. It was pretty amazing to get to hug them as I crossed the finish line and be able to see the pride in their faces. It was also fun having to sit in the car with them while they went on and on about wanting to do one themselves and how they made me promise to do one with them when they turn 16. And, promise I did. I will be way older but I will gladly do it with them and we will love every minute of it.

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I also feel as if my brother and I became closer in what we dubbed as the #SiblingToughMudder. Something indescribable happened as we suffered through the heat and struggled, pushed through, and overcame all the obstacles placed before us. It is not something that I can even find the words to describe but I know it is there and so does he. We finished something amazing together and no one can take that experience away from us.

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Nothing becomes SOMETHING

It’s strange to not have a cycling goal to work towards in my life. For almost the past 2 years there was constantly another challenge that I was pushing forward towards. Now? There’s nothing… And that’s kinda how it feels at the moment. Like nothing.
True, there’s really nothing that I need to make me want to get on my bike. Riding is like breathing to me, I would most definitely die if I didn’t ride. While I realize that statement seems a little extreme, it’s kinda how I feel.
So, I find myself sitting in a hotel room in Washington DC thinking about the fact that right now I should really be fighting with my bed in Gainesville so that it will free me so that I could get up and ride. Instead, I’m sitting here pondering my latest life challenge that is completely un-cycling related.

The same way that I am passionate about cycling, my brother is passionate about doing Tough Mudders. I mean, the guy tore an Achilles’ tendon while living in India, rehabbed it, and then trained to do a Tough Mudder for 8 months when he moved back to the U.S. He did it and then he was hooked. He told me that he wanted to do a “sibling” Mudder to which I agreed half-heartedly (I always wanted to do a Tough Mudder but cycling was my thing then, I didn’t want to run anywhere). He had all kinds of plans to do tons more and then, in the true nature that is our precarious relationship with the universe and injury combined, he tore his OTHER Achilles’ tendon last summer. I talked to him the same day and he sounded pitiful. I already knew what was going to happen… And happen it did. I promised to do a Tough Mudder with him as his Christmas gift.
So here I sit, staring at the Potomac River and Georgetown across it pondering our sibling Tough Mudder in two days and wondering what the hell is wrong with me. I constantly dream of making my body ride a bike 100+ miles up some gorgeous mountain where I will have incredible views and adversities that I’ve overcome to write about. Instead, on Saturday, I will be forcing myself to jump into ice water, to be electrocuted, to be teargassed (really, wtf?), to be caked in mud, to do other ridiculous obstacles, and even to RUN (a lot)! Just as in cycling, I don’t like to know the truth about what’s coming. But, also as my coach loves to tell me the truth, so does my brother. (That’s how I found out about being teargassed!) I’ve looked at the map but tried not to study what obstacles we’ll be doing because, honestly, I do better with convincing myself to go forward when I have no clue what’s around the bend.

So, my nothing has become something. Not quite the something I had planned for but a something nonetheless. Now all I can do is bide my time until Saturday, take in some sites in this beautiful city, and pray that I make it through the Tough Mudder with all my body parts attached and unbroken.

Here’s to great ideas and super ridiculous Christmas presents!! Who knows… Maybe I’ll end up wanting to be a Mudder Legionnaire!! After all, I clearly enjoy torturing myself…