Embracing the Winter

As many of you know, I am spending a majority of this winter in Connecticut. About a month before I was scheduled to head South to Florida, I was offered a job working for the Connecticut Section of the PGA of America, located in South Glastonbury. You could say this job kind of came to me, as I was not seeking a job in Connecticut. However, as the opportunity presented itself, I knew it was something I could not pass up.  So, I made the decision to pursue this new venture, which in turn meant having to find a place to stay in Connecticut as I began my initial training for my new position.

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If you know me well, you know I have never been a cold weather girl. I am very cold blooded, and my fingers and toes are constantly freezing. I love the heat, and I’m that girl who is out at 1pm on a 90 degree day, running 20 miles.  I love sweating, shorts and tanks.  I thrive in humidity and spend every possible second outside in the summer.

But, here’s the thing…in DECIDING to take this job with the PGA, I made conscious decision to give up warmth and longer days in Florida for a winter in Connecticut. I made that decision fully aware of what I was getting into. In doing that, I gave up my right to complain. After lots of mental conditioning, self talk, and support from amazing fiends, I decided that I would embrace this winter. I would stop using the words, “I’m cold.” “This sucks”, “I hate winter.” etc. Just by repeating these phrases I am not giving myself any chance to like any part of the winter. I am such a firm believer in the phrase, “what we think, we become” and I practice that in every other area of my life, but why have I always overlooked that with my winter thoughts?

Why? Probably because I never had a good reason to change my way of thinking. I always knew I wanted to spend my winters in Florida so I was using my energy toward getting there, not staying here.  Guess what? It worked. I became a snow bird. However, the universe is funny and I somehow ended up back here in CT.  My friend, Kyle, said to me matter of factly recently, “Dar, I know you. You are a New England girl. You are a winter girl. You just have to get out there and embrace it.” Then there’s my boss who sees all my incredible friends stop by the office, out at night with me, or beep as they drive by my office and says, “I cannot understand what made you ever go to Florida. You have such a huge network of people here.”

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Maybe they are right. However, whether they are or not, the reality is that I am here….and I decided to be here. So, this winter you may have noticed a different me.  I’ve had so many people ask me, “how are you doing with this cold?” Or, “wish you were in Florida?” I am pretty sure (unless you caught me at a bad moment) my response was a positive one.  “I’m fine!” “No, I’m happy to be here. I’m embracing it.”

Maybe part of me is trying to convince myself with those answers, but a big part of me isn’t lying.  I am living in a warm home (unlike the last 14 years where we FROZE) working in a beautiful, cozy, warm office, and also making a huge effort to change my thoughts about winter (with a lot of help from my buddies Justin and Bill) I bought some good clothing after hearing several times, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” All of this has helped. But what has helped the most? The thing that seems to make the biggest difference in EVERY area of life….the people I surround myself with.

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I already mentioned Kyle. Her and I will be doing IRONMAN Lake Placid together.  This girl is bad ass and amazing and always up for an adventure. She loves every ounce of life. Todd and Loren who make every hike and run an adventure, and every night out one that I walk away from feeling incredible.  My brother…he may not love the cold, but rarely do you ever hear him complain. Instead, he summits Mountains with Davey at 6am.  He embraces it. Davey actually had me sad I wasn’t staying before I knew I was, talking of all the amazing winter adventures they had planned.  Bill, who is the first one to call me out about bitching and tells me, “it’s like summer out there” when it’s literally 9 degrees. Trish, who always gets me out in the woods, even at night chasing the Super Moon through the woods.

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A big turning point for me was a cold November night when Justin asked me to join him for a track workout. There is 0% chance I would have done this on my own.  It was amazing. Pitch black, motivating talk, shooting stars, Pukey speed work, and even sweat.  That night shifted something in me….if you surround yourself with the right people, ALL of this world is amazing. The cold, the warmth, and most of all the adventures and the company.

Dont get me wrong, I’ve had my moments and some lows since being back here. In fact, after my 50 miler I went into what some may call “post marathon depression”. I went into a slump, and I am slowly now coming out of it. A 10 day visit to Florida may have helped…or maybe my body just needed that time off.

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I posted my vacation workout goal (3000 squats/2000 push ups/1000 burpees) on Facebook. It did it for 2 reasons. One, to hold myself accountable. If I posted it, I would do it. Secondly, maybe to inspire another to do something similar. I hesitated in posting it in fear it would come off braggy. However, I’m happy I posted it because in return our trainer, Kim, became inspired and signed up for a 10 mile race, but also because of the responses I got. Ones that made me think. “You are amazing.” “I want to be like you when I grow up” etc. These comments always surprise me.  I wish people knew how THEY ARE LIKE ME!!!! I am not special. Trust me. I have the same thoughts, battles and issues as you. In my life I’ve been 20 lbs heavier than I am now, I’ve suffered from anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphia. I’VE BEEN THROUGH IT ALL. My body hurts all the time and I want to give up just as much as you do.

The difference?  Two things. One, I’ve conditioned my brain for many years through athletics to keep pushing. To stay in it, even when I feel I have nothing left to give. Because when you’re the star player on your collegiate basketball team and the game goes into triple overtime, coming out isn’t an option.  So, you suck it up and play on.  And you survive. All of those years of being a 3 sport Athlete have made me stronger. You have that same ability in you. To keep going and push further, but so many of us quit before we even see that we don’t just have a 2nd wind, but a 3rd and 4th.  You have to start conditioning your brain to keep going.

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The other thing that may separate me from you…the people I surround myself with. I wish you could have seen the Florida me.  The one surrounded by elderly, unmotivated people. How I began to slowly morphe into, “4 miles is good, why push it?” Then I get to CT.  I hang out with Matt, Bill, Davey, Justin…and suddenly I’m signing up for a 50 mile trail race. An IRONMAN? And guess what?  I am feeling more alive than ever.

I cannot think of the video of my finish at VT 50 without crying. I think about the grind of it all. The mental battle that I WON.  Hearing Kyle screaming in the video as my Dad pumps his fist for me.  Erik looking back to make sure I wasn’t going to be caught, almost skipping with happiness. He was there when my alarm went off at 5am so I could run for 5 hrs before work.  He got it.  My brother who was there with his camera at the finish, but more importantly with his arms open wide, because NO ONE will ever understand the battle I had those last 4 miles like him.  As I write this, tears pour down my face. Nothing feeds me with this emotion like these adventures do.

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My own wish is that every single one of you understood that I AM NOT DIFFERENT THAN YOU!!!   You can do everything I do IF YOU WANT IT BAD ENOUGH.  I could never make you want it, you have to want that yourself. All I can promise you is that whatever you want….all of it….is on the other side of fear. It will be uncomfortable, but I swear it will be worth it.

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As 2016 comes to an end, I encourage you to look at 2017 as a transformation year. DECIDE to make it your year, because when we make a decision and stay committed to it, anything is possible. Anything, like me running to the store today (because I still can’t embrace driving in snow, after some bad close calls because of other idiots) and really enjoying it. We control our own world, and this winter I’m going to have some fun! Yes, it will be cold, but I chose the cold.  After all, we are in Connecticut!!!

 

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