YOU are an IRONMAN

YOU are an IRONMAN

I was told it would be life changing. That it would be one of the best days of my life. With each day that passes post race, I can honestly say they may have been right.

This race holds so many memories, thoughts, emotions, and lessons for me. Warning: this is a long one.

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PRERACE:
About 10 years ago a sat on the couch with my husband watching the IRONMAN Kona championship on TV.  I knew of traithlons, but was unfamiliar with an IRONMAN. I will never forget him explaining it to me, “They swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles then run 26.2”

We then had a ligit argument, me telling him he had it wrong. There’s no way possible a human can do all of that continuously. At the time I was working as a banker, getting into hiking and just starting to get into 5ks. (My goal at the time was a 5k under 24 minutes)  I was a collegiate athlete, but after college got a little lost in life, struggling to find my place when my whole life (basketball) was done.

Fast forward a few years. I find myself in Lake Placid watching my first IRONMAN. As I said in my last blog entry, I was overwhelmed with emotion and awe of the event. I cried most of the day, as I watched THOUSANDS of athletes complete 140.6 miles. They seemed no different than me, some even 70+ years old.

This was when we had just started mission FITNESS and I was starting to get my fire back as an athlete. I had left the banking world, luckily snapping out of it & realizing this was not me, this was not my destiny. I would not be a 9-5 corporate zombie I was becoming, comfortable with being comfortable…I was meant to be more than that.

So, I sat at that finish line 7 years ago and vowed to myself I would do this event.

However, as the years passed I realized my extreme love for the woods and the mountains and I ended up doing a few ultra marathons (50k/50 mile trail runs) all while never missing but one year of IRONMAN Lake Placid.

While in Placid I would bike the course (one loop) but get into the Adirondacks as much as possible. While the excitement of the triathlon buzzed around town, I found my true bliss deep in the mountains away from the craziness.

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Then race day came. An energy no one can hide from. At 630am you are all-in, fully vested in every athlete in that race. Mike Reilly begins to get the crowd into it from the jump, and from that point forward the day is forever a part of you. Whether you are 8 or 80 years old, a triathlete or out of shape, this event makes it hard to walk away from without part of you wanting to one day be on that course.

So, 10 years after I passionately argued that 140.6 miles was not humanly possible, I began my journey to prove myself wrong. To up the anti even more, at our MF goal setting party I wrote down a lofty “stretch goal”…to complete it under 12 hours.

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As the reality of life, 2 jobs, and training for this race set in, I slowly started to shift my goal. I opted to not buy a new TRI bike, and use my old road bike instead. I refused to put THOUSANDS of dollars into this sport, just to be faster.

This was hard for me, being so competitive,  but it was truly against everything Erik and I are trying to do in our lives. Buy less, live more. Minimize, minimize. This proved to be very difficult in the triathlon world. I will say one of the hardest things for me in this process was all of the “stuff”. I hate it.  I hate that the person next to me can buy a more expensive bike & $2000 wheels and beat me by an hour because of it. I missed running in the trails when the ONLY way to beat someone was to outwork them. End of rant. Sorry.

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So, as my training ramped up and my decision was made to not buy speed, I decided the 12 hour goal was going to be very tough and developed a plan B:

1.) Enjoy the race and LOOK like you’re enjoying it.

2.) Finish happy and healthy & able to watch the midnight finish.

RACE DAY:

As the race approached my level of stress and anxiety dissipated a little. I think I kind of let go of the uncontrollables & knew what would happen, would happen.

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However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t  worried. The thought of the swim would immediately break me down, to the point just a few days prior I had a ligit emotional breakdown thinking of the swim….Full blown sobbing, my brother and Erik reassuring me I would be fine.

*I had to add this because I think for some odd reason people think I’m unlike them. I have the same fears, nerves,  etc. This was truly a race I was 100% uncomfortable with.  (I should add here that I went into this race with only 4 total triathlons under my belt in 7 years. All sprint tris. Nothing more. This was truly unchartered territory for me. I felt lost, confused, nervous, and truly scared.)

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SWIM START:

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I was very fortunate I had 4 amazing peeps doing this race with me. As I made my way to the water I not only had Erik and Matt with me, but I was joined by my childhood friend, Kyle, and her friend Jolene. We then met up with Drew and Mike, Kyle’s boyfriend and friend. The four of us were able to spend the next 15 minutes together, before the race start.  This was huge. I cannot thank these 4 enough for their support during the race.

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As I started to file into the water I looked to the side and saw Amy (an amazing friend who happens to be a Tri coach)  She looked at me with so much confidence and said, “you’ve got this.”  I believed her. Then I saw Patti, so excited for me all week and all day.  Lastly, my husband Erik was right there on the other side of the fence as I marched forward into that water. I will NEVER forget seeing him with tears in his eyes, as he could only nod at me. He was literally there every step of the way as I approached the scariest race I’ve ever done. As always he knew what it took to get there more than anyone. As always, he was my biggest fan.

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I won’t go into too much detail, but I managed to complete the swim without having a full blown anxiety attack  (my biggest fear) If you saw an aerial I’m pretty sure I zig zagged the whole race.

“Why is no one around me?” – OMG, I’m almost on shore.

“Why am I being attacked by 5 men?” OMG, I’m almost at the boueys.

And so on…

Finally, 1:18 later, I was on my feet and running down the chute. SO. HAPPY!!!!!

BIKE:

I cannot say enough how amazing the volunteers were. As I transitioned to bike they basically did everything for me. Unreal.

I have to say the first 10 miles or so on the bike my hamstrings hurt SO BAD. I began to think, “how the hell will I do this for 112 miles?” Luckily,  that went away at some point 🙂

Soon we would hit the downhill. I was super nervous about this, and I held on for dear life for 8 miles while I got passed by huge men literally doing 50 mph.  By the time I got the bottom my arms were so tired from the stress and hanging on so tight. I passed a couple people on the side of the road who crashed on this downhill. Urgh.

The next stretch was flats where I was told several times prior to the race to hydrate and EAT like crazy. I did, in fact I followed my nutrition plan almost to a T.

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Amy told me to make sure my first loop on the bike I go easy. Super easy.  Take in the scenery, and if you aren’t then slow down. I did this and the few times I did catch myself trying to attack I slowed.

I read the day earlier that the elevation gain in those 112 miles was 13,800 ft. which scared the shit out of me, but I have to say the bike was fine. East Haddam and Glastonbury Hills were amazing training.

The two things I wish I changed on the bike was:

1.) Slowing at each aid station to get water/Gatorade. It was chilly and I wasn’t  sweating which leads to…

2.) I had to stop 4 times on bike to pee. This added a bunch of time to my bike.

If I only stopped at every other aid I would have saved a ton of time plus less peeing.  Oh well.

Final bike time: 6:36

RUN:

This was the moment I envisioned so many times leading up to the race.  Being done with the with the disciplines that I was really worried about (bike fears= flat tire/crash) and on my own 2 feet!!

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As I started the run route I saw all of my family and friends, hugged them, and I couldn’t have been more happy to be feeling good. I thought I consciously SLOWED DOWN because I knew I could go too hard here, but apparently that didn’t work; my first 3 miles were a 7:20 pace. Whoops.

I have to say, at this point I knew I had to do a 3:50 marathon  (based on my fuzzy calculating) to do sub 12 hr race. This was a constant battle in my head to go for it and to forget about it to ensure a healthy finish.

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I felt good, but Bill told me time and time again, “go slow on that first 13 miles. You can easily blow up in the 2nd 13 if you don’t”

I was passing people like crazy, literally hundreds of people on the run. People were cheering for me like I was a rockstar (your bib says your name so everyone calls you by name=awesome) While I occasionally doubted  being able to sustain this pace as I saw others puking, cramping, etc. I truly was confident in myself.

Why???  Because I trained hard. Very hard. I knew I was different than most of them. When my plan said 90 mile ride, I did 90. Not 89. When I saw my car on a run and I still had 15 minutes,  I circled my car for 15 minutes. Thirsty, hurting and just wanting to get in that car….I kept running. Why? BECAUSE OF THIS MOMENT. If I stopped I would be the one puking and cramping. To be elite you have to go the extra mile. You have to do what others won’t. I learned that as a child playing basketball and I NEVER want to lose that quality.

So, I kept running. I ran the hills that I was told to walk. I ran, and I continued to feel good. Spectators told me I looked amazing, and I felt amazing….until about mile 16. Things started to shift a little then. I kept running, but my stomach started to turn a little and I could only stomach water.

At this point I was trying to calculate and I knew I could hold a 10 minute mile and still do sub 12.  However, I kept pushing and I was soon out of River Rd and climbing back into town. 3 miles of climbing,  an easy 2 mile out and bike and I was in that oval.

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(At this point I saw Kyle who ran to me with open arms saying, “YOU did it. I’m so proud of you, you’re amazing.” I can’t say enough about this girl. She is just absolutely amazing and to do this race with her was such an unforgettable experience. Her, Drew, Jolene, and Mike are just amazing people and I can’t wait for many more adventures with them!)

I had just passed one of the many amazing signs Matt had made for me, this one saying “you haven’t come this far to only come this far. Finish it.” It had one of my fav pics of me high fiving my Dad as I approached my first overall race win.

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So, that’s what I did. I finished it. I entered that oval the way I spent so much time envisioning. Feeling strong,  with my family and friends on the sideline, with enough time to hug them all and still finish sub 12 hours!

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And to hear those famous words by my dude Mike Reilly,  “Darcy Lucas you are an IRONMAN”

Run time: 3:40

Final Time: 11:50

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Road to IMLP 2017

Road to IMLP 2017

The bags are packed. The bikes are racked. I’m en route to Lake Placid. This is maybe the 6th or 7th time I’ve made this trip, but this time it’s dramatically different.

It all started in 2010 when Matt and I made a last minute decision to head to Lake Placid to watch the IRONMAN. We knew a couple people racing, and why not leave the hot and humidity of Connecticut and make our way into the mountains.

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I wasn’t prepared for what I would witness that weekend. I think the only  way to describe it is magical. First, the scenery. The mountains a constant backdrop no matter where you were.  Then the actual event.  An energy that is palpable.

I’ve said it time and time again, but if you ever get a chance to watch an IRONMAN, do yourself a favor and go. Even if you never have a desire to do one yourself, it is certainly something to see. It’s hard to put into words, but there is just an electricity at this event like no other I’ve been a part of. Couple that with the thousands of inspiring athletes and Mike Riley MCing the whole day…just unreal.

I cried several times that Sunday in 2010. One specific memory I have of that day is Mike on the Mic talking to the racers as they waded in the water, waiting for the gun to go off.  Mike said, “only you know what it took to get here today. Only you know the sacrifice, the early morning swims, bike rides and runs.”  THAT made me lose it.

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That day as I  sat at the Olympic Oval watching so many athletes finish with unfiltered joy, I committed to my brother I would do this race.

Many years went by, and this event would become one of my favorite trips of the summer. I watched so many friend cross that finish line, hearing Mike Riley say those famous words, “YOU are an IRONMAN!”

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Somehow I knew that 2017 was my turn. I’m not even sure why. I can’t even recall my thought process as I signed up. I just knew it was a bucket list item and if not now, when? I knew it would give me a goal for the winter training, which I had planned to do in Florida. I needed something to keep me motivated since the winter before was tough for me, being away from all my peeps.

So, I signed up…and for the next couple months nothing changed. Exercise as usual. It wasn’t until March that I started to ramp up my training.

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As the training got more intense, so did my stress. I work two jobs and I was finding it more and more difficult to get the training in. My husband and dog were in Florida and trying to balance 60 hour work weeks, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and training for an IRONMAN proved to be one of the hardest things I have done.

However, in those tough times is when we learn the most about ourselves. Like, we are capable of more than we ever knew.

My days would look like this:
430am: wake up
5am-730am: workout
8am-4pm: work at PGA
430-730pm: work at mission FITNESS
8pm: shower/eat
9pm: Bed

At this time  I was living in South Glastonbury, which made it very easy to get to work, both jobs being a mile away. This was one positive.

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However, come May when my husband came back to CT we moved 35 minutes away.  Now I had an extra hour that had to be accounted for.  It was around this point I hit a breaking point. My ability to shower in my SoG home was gone, so I would some days shower in a sink after my workout then work all day, drive home 35 minutes sweaty, tired, hungry and just cranky.

So this last month I feel I became this person I hated. I was in a deep abyss of self loathing, negativity, and becoming the person I despise. This continued until about a day ago. Everything that could go wrong, did. Ripped wetsuit, 2 shipments of the wrong bike shorts,  sunglasses on backorder and not coming in time, bike making clunking noise 3 days before we leave, etc. I was miserable and not representing the character I want my clients to mimic.

Then, I received a card from my Dad Monday night.  He will never understand why my brother and I do this crazy event, and this time around I was giving him every reason to question it. In the card he wrote, “I think is supposed to be fun, not a dreaded event.”

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At that point I decided that with less than a week to go it was time to let go of all the negative talk, the self doubt, the worry, the stress. I wrote a letter back to them,  but it was really to myself. I took a deep breath, sealed it, and let it go.

Guess what? Yesterday things started to turn around. I woke up with amazing news. From then the day kept flowing positively. Bicycles East looked at my bike, cleaned it up and gave it back with no clunking.

I know IRONMAN isn’t going to be “my thing.”  I know I could be very good at it, but it isn’t where my heart is. The trails and woods is where I feel at home. It is where my stress melts away. It is my everything.

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No, this race was going to have to be more than just training and finishing. I must have signed up for something more, and that’s what I got. I go into this race knowing that what I used to think was busy, was not busy. What I used to think was an early wake up call, is now sleeping in.

More than anything, I learned that “The Secret” is real. We attract what we put out. Never have I been so negative than in this last month, and never have I had so many bad things happen to me. I truly think that is what this race was meant to teach me. You get back what you put into this universe, I believe it now more than ever.

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So, with the race just 4 days away I am filled with positivity. I am on my way to the beautiful mountains with my husband, where we will share digs with my brother, sister in law and nieces. We will be right on a golf course, away from the chaos, relaxing. My parents will join, and I’m so excited for my Dad to see how beautiful it is up there.

More than anything, it is so important to me to enjoy this big day. I want to finish happy and healthy and in a way that my Dad may slightly understand why we do these crazy things. I know I am capable of being very good at this sport, but that’s not what I’m in this for. I’m here to experience what many have called, “the most memorable day of their life.”

I’m proud of myself for getting the training in, even when it seemed impossible. I have already become a better person because of this race, and THAT IS WHY WE DO THESE CRAZY THINGS! Bottom line.  When you push limits, you discover what you can be.  When you stop playing small you begin to realize you aren’t even close to the top of the iceberg of what you can do.

Thank you all for all of your support. For those that will be out on the course on Sunday cheering me on, you have no idea what that means to me. Here’s to another amazing moment in my life, one of many more to come.

My Brother.

It’s Friday night and I’m at mission FITNESS, grinding it out on the spin bike. 30 minutes until my client arrives and until people start pouring through the door for happy hour bootcamp.

I know my brother is in the main room because I hear the inspiring words of Connor Mcgregor echo through the gym. My thoughts shift to him out there. He has been here for a solid hour prepping for his class, and I have a sudden urge to go out there and give him a hug. So I do it. And I don’t let go for awhile.

Here’s the thing, there’s only a few people that know what this man has been through in his life. The constant battles he fights as this world tries to continuously knock him down. You don’t see what he has persevered through in the business. You just see the amazing product, the phenomenal trainers, and you may think that his life is pretty easy.

Well, it’s not easy. However, Matt will be the first to tell you he has an incredible life. He has a wife that sticks by his side and supports his every goal and passion. He has 2 beautiful girls that fill every moment of every day with purpose. He has a business that he believes in and loves. He has hundreds of clients that not only work their ass off for his mission, but support and promote it as if it were their own.

He has all this and he will be the first to say he is a fortunate man. You will NEVER hear him complain about the curve balls that have been thrown at him in life and in business. In fact, I have to pry the bad shit out of him.

The things he rises above are enough to make me lose sleep at night. If they happened to me directly I would have probably checked out months ago. I guess it’s the shit you go through as a business owner, the things that weed out the weak ones.

Just 24 hours after Matt told me the latest “slap in the face”… one so messed up I wonder how he will keep chugging, I see this picture on Facebook.  The Miclette kids were in at 6am, as they have done for so many years. Their father, Larry, writes, “After 3 years Matt finally gets his turn on the swing.”

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I think to myself, this is why this man is a leader. This is why he WILL BE by far the most successful man in this industry. Because no matter what he has been dealt he moves forward and keeps his head and heart on his mission. He never loses sight of why he does what he does, and continues to make people around him better.

While Matt seems to take the punches for us all, I hope that every MFER continues to stand by his side. I would fight like hell for this man, not just because he is my brother, but because he is one of the few ligit good people doing what he does for the right reason.

Matt is more than a good athlete. He is more than a good business man. A good husband, brother, son, and father. Matt is an amazing human and role model.

People always say that Matt is so lucky to have such a great group of trainers. Ironically, I hear this about another business owner and person I admire greatly, Bill Driggs. Some things have no luck involved. Some things happen because you set a certain standard.  When you are special like Matt and Bill, people want to be around you.  When you lead by example, you will certainly attract people who want to be involved with such greatness.  This is what Matt and Bill have done.

Thank you for setting such a high standard for me, Matt. As an athlete, a business woman, and as a person. You continue to amaze me with your perseverance, and I can say with so much certainty that there is no one else in the game like you!!

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!!!

 

Vermont 50 Race Report

If you read my last blog about signing up for this race, you would know that I had a different goal in mind when hitting “REGISTER”.  I was 14 weeks out with a very low level of fitness. I hadn’t run more than 6 miles in ages, and my body was broken.  However, my thinking was that by signing up for this race I would force myself to start focusing on recovery, diet, and increasing my fitness level. My simple goal of this race was to just get out of my current funk and just finish it.

As the weeks went on and I stayed committed to my training plan, I started to feel stronger and my goals started to shift.  I was back in my zone, loving the trails, and asking myself, “why not you?” So, with about 6 weeks left to race weekend I started to voice my stretch goal.  “On a dream day I could win this race.”

The funny thing is, I had not worn a Garmin since last October.  I simply did all of my training based on time (hours) and I had no clue what my pace was.  My only measure was a 5k I ran as part of a duathlon that had me at a 6:45 overall pace.  So, I’m not sure what made me think I could win this race.  I guess just believing in my training and knowing I was not only doing the work, but pushing hard.  However, with about 3 weeks until race day things started to shift. After 2 long training weekends (4.5 hrs on Sat and 5 hrs Sun) my body started to scream at me.  I have some major hip and back (psoas) issues and just standing for more than 30 minutes was becoming unbearable.  Mix that with just stresses of life, I started to wonder where this race would go.

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Erik and I left Saturday morning, went to race check in, then headed to the house we would be staying at.  I have to  mention and thank a few people here.  When Kyle, my amazing childhood friend, found out I signed up for this race she immediately text me and told me she may have a perfect place to stay.  Her friends parents live a few miles from the start and they would probably love for us to stay.  I told her I didn’t want to put anyone out, and was fine sleeping in the car at the race location (a common ultra running practice) She called me nuts and said she talked to Mr. Klene and he would love to have us.  I cannot thank Kyle and Mr Klene (Roger/Home Owner) enough for this generous offer.  The Klenes property was literally one of the most picturesque settings I have ever seen! 60 acres with showcase views of Ascutney Mt. Combine that with being surrounded by truly amazing company, this was an experience that really added to my race weekend.

We got to the race start around 530am for a mandatory pre race meeting.  It was freezing cold (35 degrees) and dark. Race start was 630am. My brother and Dad arrived, we found Justin who was also running the 50,  and before I knew it we were off.

We started on the road, and I decided to stay with the lead pack.  The pace felt very aggressive for a 50 miler, but I was with 3 other females and I decided I was either going to race this for the win, or just to finish.  I made a game time decision in those first few miles that I was going for it.

During this time I ran with Liz, her and I chatting while settling into 2nd and 3rd female.  I knew she was strong because her time at Cayuga 50 was 8:45ish, while mine was 9:13. I said to her at that point, “OK Liz, lets vision us 1st and 2nd female” She probably thought I was a nut, but this is a huge part of my training. You will hear about it more later, but I visualize a ton for every race.  I think it is so important.

A cruised into mile 12 aid station, feeling good.  This was the first one I was able to see my crew at.  **A side note here for all of you aspiring ultra runners: do not mess around at the aid stations! Think about it, if you spend 1 extra minute at every aid station that could add as much as 10 minutes to your time.  I have 2 water bottles filled with my nutrition and I literally pass the old one off and take the new one.  I am so thankful for all I learned from Amy Rusiecki when I ran my last 50 with her, and this is one big thing she taught me.** My crew told me I was in 2nd and I corrected them, I was 3rd.  I knew there were 2 girls ahead of me. I wouldn’t see my crew again until mile 30.  That was tough to swallow.  I can’t tell you what it did to me mentally to see their faces.  Erik, Matt, my Dad, Kyle, Drew, Roger…all giving up a day and weekend to support me.  I am so freaking lucky to have such amazing support in my life!!

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The next 18 miles (as well as the majority of the rest of the race) is kind of a blur.  It was A LOT of UPS and DOWNS.  It was mentally just tough all around.  The terrain. The elevation. Being solo almost the whole race. Fearing that my hip/back/hamstring would go out at any minute. Just tough.  I finally got to mile 30 and again my crew says, “2nd female” …”NO!” I say, “3rd!” but I find out the girl I thought was in 1st was a relay!! 2nd female it is!

I started hurting bad after mile 30 and I started to let the head take over. “You still have 20 miles left. 2nd place vs. 3rd doesn’t mean that much.  Walk if you need to.” My stomach started to turn a little and my body just kept hurting more & more. It was a low point for me, but that’s endurance racing. Highs and lows.  You just try to actively ride out the low to hit the high again.  I definitely walked a lot of sections in the next few miles.  Some because I should have, others because I wanted to.  The only things keeping my spirits high was the fact that we had joined the 50kers at this point and I was passing a lot of runners.

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I stopped feeling sorry for myself, however, when I ran upon 2 guides who were leading a blind runner. “Rock to the left. Slight turn to the right.” I waited for a large gap in the trail and passed them, choking out an “incredible job” as I held back tears. Who the hell am I to feel sorry for myself at all right now?

At about mile 42 I looked behind me and see a female runner looking strong.  I look at her bib….green.  I look at mine…green. Shit! How does she look so good?!? As she runs by me I ask, “are you relay?” (Ha!) She says no, I ask her name (Jordan) cheer her on, and settle into 3rd as she opens up her stride on the road we just hit. I accept 3rd easily …I thought I was in 3rd for 30 miles and was okay with it.

The last (and 3rd) station I could see my crew at was mile 45.9. As I run past them they yell out, “2nd female.” Again I correct them, “THIRD!” (Man, looking back maybe they chatted with Meg and were pulling some Sports Psychology shit on me!)  Just ahead was the aid station, which I ran right by, but not before seeing Jordan walking away from it. As I pass her, “you got this Jordan!”  “Thanks Darcy.  Nice job.” I love this sport!

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This was ultimately where the race started. 4 miles to go and I had heard rumblings of it being some of the toughest miles of the race.  It was at this point that I had to ask myself: “What are you made of? This couldn’t be scripted any better.  It’s all about mental toughness and grit right now.  Are you able to step up and practice what you preach and tap into all of those motivation videos you listen to and get it done?  Or are you going to let this girl out-tough you?”

It is in these next 4 miles that I learned things that no video or book could teach me. It was my own journey, my own self discovery, and in those 4 miles I gained so much more than a podium finish.  I learned that when I feel I have NOTHING left to give, that there is always more.  That I am capable of so much more than I even know, and the mind is truly everything.  So many people don’t understand why us endurance athletes do these “crazy” things.  However, until you get to that point of ultimate exhaustion and you push past it…you will never understand. It has nothing to do with running, it’s about life.

The last two miles I ran with everything I had.  I had so many people comment on how I was killing it and I was passing people like crazy.  I was in a zone and I had a clear vision of high fiving my Dad on my way to the finish and the hug I would get from my brother. With one mile to go, I look behind me and I see Jordan Running HARD. She seemed to be gaining on me and I somehow ran even faster.  I don’t want to exaggerate, but I would guess my last mile was maybe a sub 7.  It was a sprint. With only 50 yards to go I hit my crew, the moment I visioned for so long.  I made sure Jordan wasn’t right behind me, and I start to take it all in.  2nd Female. 9th Overall. 7:48 finish.

This may be the hardest race I’ve ever done.  The elevation was 9,000ft vs Cayuga’s 12,000ft.  It took me 7:48 hours vs 9:15 hours at Cayuga. On paper you would think Cayuga was tougher, but this race just destroyed me….In. The. Best. Way. Those last 4 miles will stay with me a long time.  The thoughts I had, the feelings I felt…they are mine and I am better today because of them.

 

Thank you to everyone who supported me.  The texts, the phone calls, the hugs, the support is everything to me. All my mission FITNESS peeps..YOU inspire ME!  To those who joined me on runs and bike rides during the training. To my best friend Meg who is ALWAYS there for me and lucky for me she is a mindset specialist and sports psychologist! To Bill who not only told me to sign up for this race but shared so many runs with me & listened to way too much complaining. (I told you Sayulita would podium) To Mr.Klene for being the most amazing host and just an incredible guy. Kyle and Drew, I could never thank you enough for making last weekend so special. Kyle, every girl needs a friend like you. To Erik who is my biggest supporter in life and on the race course. To my Dad and Brother who left CT at 3am to be there for me (and my Mom for babysitting so they could) That high five from my Dad and hug from my brother was what kept me going.  Thank you for being the two men that made me the athlete I am today.

 

 

 

 

Vermont 50 and IRONMAN Lake Placid Registration

I really just moved to Florida to get away from the Winters. I knew it would just be a place we would hibernate, make some money, and leave when May came.

I had no idea what would come next. Would we spend the Summers in Coastal Maine? Would we take the camper and go out West and see the National Parks? Would we end up back in CT?

If you asked me last October, the last option was not my favorite. I knew financially it would be the best option, but I was ready to explore. Nothing about going back “home” for more than a few weeks made me excited.

Fast forward 2 months. As I came down from my “Marathon High” I quickly lost any desire to train. My body felt broken, and my head was in a bad place. I would hear about, and see pics of my bro training “Bill” who would soon be attempting MT. EVEREST. He would send me pics of them in the trails, doing hill repeats, etc. For the first time I started to want to be in CT.

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That’s when I started to realize the significance of being surrounded by people who make you want to be a better athlete and person. Something that seemed so normal at home was actually not so normal. I wrote a blog about it, expressing how what we have at MF could NEVER be replaced.

Three months later we were offered an amazing opportunity to come back to CT and stay at a beautiful Lake house. It was all of a sudden a No Brainer. I needed to go back and surround myself with my MF Family…”Yes, we’ll take it!!”

Within hours of stepping off the plane I was at a mission FITNESS bootcamp. I left that night on a high that I hadn’t felt in 6 months. “This was what I need.” I thought. “This is home.”

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Leading up to this point I had taken a month completely off from working out, trying to mend my broken body. I was unable to even stand without immense pain. I had done Yoga 30 days straight in an attempt to be able to begin running again when I got back to CT.

Well, 1 week after my return I had a date to meet Matt (my brother) for a trail run at one of our favorite spots. I was nervous, given my running was nearly non-existent for the past 5 months. I show up to the trailhead and Matt says, “Bill’s coming.” Shit. I’m running with my brother and a man who just came back from climbing Mt. Everest. Any other day I would have been psyched, but I was unconditioned like I’ve never been.

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The run started off manageable. Bill says, “this is a good pace” Matt responds, “yeah, none of us are trying to kill ourselves” Bill was still suffering numbness in his toes from Everest, Matt was battling back and knee pain, and my hip and back were still sub par. We continue to run, holding a casual conversation. Then came the 1.5 mile climb…

Matt all of a sudden took off. My lungs and legs immediately felt the absence of ANY elevation and as we neared the top, I was doing everything I could to not walk. Bill was behind me, and I told him to go ahead. (I wasn’t about to walk with him behind me. Not after what he just did on Everest.)

Unfortunately, he said he was fine and stayed behind me. So I pushed. I wanted to walk. Vomit. Stop! But I kept going. Because Bill was behind me and he just did freaking Everest!!! It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast, but I made it to the top.

After that it’s about 2 miles to the car, mostly downhill. The 3 of us, all hurting from injuries, took off. I want to say we probably averaged a 7 minute mile to the finish. Where the hell did that come from? Here’s what it was..it was 3 like minded people feeding off each other’s energy. Not one word was spoken in those last 4 miles, but no words were needed.

That run was a turning point for me. My soul had reawakened and I was ready to start training again. Not 3 weeks later I text Bill, “I’m thinking of doing Vermont 50. Should I do the 50K or 50 Mile? I don’t feel ready for 50 miler.” His immediate response, “50 miles.  Sign up today” Five minutes later I sent him a screenshot of my registration. I was back!!! Back home and back with people who make me better!

Since that day I have enjoyed my time in CT like I never thought I would. My training has been going great, and I’m loving being back in the trails.  I am also doing some road runs, biking, swimming and strength.  My heart is happy with such a great group of people to train with and I feel so lucky!

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Just last weekend I joined my brother and a bunch of other MFERS to cheer on our peeps who were competing in IRONMAN Lake Placid. I attended this event in 2011 for the first time and it was such a powerful experience for me. I remember standing at the finish line, eyes full of tears and saying, “I’m doing this event”

Years passed and although I continued each year to spectate and be incredibly inspired, I never took the plunge. I watched my brother run the Olympic Oval to the finish, full of pride & happiness, yet still feared making the commitment myself.

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Sometimes the timing just has to be right. Sometimes you just know when it’s your moment. I left this years IRONMAN on such a high. I felt drunk with happiness and inspiration watching our MFers finish, but still went home that Monday with no real thought of signing up.

Then the texts starting pouring in. Many asking if I was going to sign up, and a couple from 2 bad ass chicks (one a close High School friend) saying they had signed up!! With the thought of moving back to Florida in October looming, I suddenly realized that this may be the year. I could work on my swimming in Florida and hopefully stay motivated with the focus of being an IRONMAN while down South.

I reached out to 4 men that I admire deeply. I admire them for how they push limits and do things that many don’t even think is possible. Mt. Everest. A TRIPLE IRONMAN. 100 Mile Trail Races. Each one of them gave me their own bit of advice. Then I hovered over the “Registration” button for a good 30 minutes.

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Then something clicked. These amazing athletes that I have the pleasure of surrounding myself with have shown me that FEAR and our MINDS are what hold us back from so much. Once I get rid of that, I am unstoppable. And this was the first step. 140.6 miles scares the shit out of me. Especially that first 2.4. However, I wasn’t meant to be average or to live an average life. And I’m sure each one of these men will try to explain that the reason they do this “crazy” stuff is because it is the closest to LIVING that you will ever get.

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So, in the next year I will do another 50 Mile Trail Race and an IRONMAN. Then I will continue to keep doing Races, Adventures, and LIVING. Life is short….Time to start getting uncomfortable.

I thought you moved to Florida?

The million dollar question!  Here are the answers to all of your questions:

Yes!  We sold our condo in Connecticut and bought a condo in Venice, Fl.  We did this for one main reason: WE HATE WINTERS!  We hate being cold, we hate driving in the snow,  etc.  Each year we would spend more and more time in the winter in Florida, and last year we spent 5 months down South.  We bought a camper and spent a month in the Blue Ridge Mountains, 2 months in Venice, Fl then another 2 months exploring in our camper (Jacksonville, Fl/Jekyll Island/St Simons Island/Savannah, Ga/Beaufort, SC/Charleston, SC/Southern Pines, NC)

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We work in the golf course industry and we would have our winters off, allowing us very little places to travel (again, we want to be WARM)  So, many years ago we had the idea of moving to Florida, saving money on taxes, cost of living, etc and having our Summers off instead.  Golf courses tend to die down Summers in Florida.  This would allow us so much more options to explore with the Camper and for Adventures.

When we decided this, we wanted to make sure we weren’t settling with Venice, Fl because that’s where we were comfortable. That is the reason we explored last year in the camper. We absolutely LOVED many of the places we explored, but even Jacksonville, Fl was freezing! So, Venice it was. Erik’s parents own a place there, and we bought in the same condo complex as them.

If you read this blog regularly, you know this winter was a tough transition for us.  We lived with my in-laws for 4 months while we waited for a current renters lease to be up then renovate the  condo.  That was a nightmare, but in the end we were settled and happy.

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People would constantly ask me if we were coming back to CT this summer and I told them I had no idea. That wasn’t a lie. We sold our condo and at that time the only thing we had planned was to spend the Summer traveling in the camper up North.  However, I always knew there was a chance we would find a place to stay in CT.  Here’s why:

Last year when we decided we would sell our place in CT, we had the thought of renting in CT for 6 months. I put the word out that we were looking, and we found out Erik’s friend from High School had a small cottage on Bashan Lake in East Haddam.  We checked it out and the place was gorgeous. He had completely renovated the whole thing, all top of the line. The yard was HUGE and it had amazing lake views.

Well, it was out of our price range, but while we were looking at it Erik’s friend (the owner) mentioned he needed help taking care of his properties (he owns 4 and constantly has projects going on) So, when Erik told him we weren’t going to be able to take the place, he mentioned he would love to help if he still wanted someone to help around the properties. He ended up doing about 25 hours a week and LOVED it. Outside all day, physical labor, not dealing with people, on the lake, etc. Well, his buddy kept bringing up, “next year” and Erik would say, “well, we have nowhere to stay so I may not be able to do next year” He made a comment hinting that maybe we can use one of his places…..So, there was hope of CT, but we weren’t sure.

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In March, Erik contacted his buddy, and it turns out the original (gorgeous) house we looked at was still available and he offered it to us and Erik would continue to work for him 30+ hours a week.  This was so amazing because now I was able to make some money at the Golf Course and go back to mission FITNESS, which made me so happy. Not that a summer traveling in the camper wouldn’t make me happy, but I didn’t work all winter and I really was ready to WORK!!

So, here we are. Living in East Haddam and happy as hell. We still plan to take the camper on weekend trips, but to be honest to have a house (not a condo) for the first time it almost feels like we are camping!

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This is what’s going on for this Summer. Who knows what next Summer will bring. That’s the beauty and excitement of it all. If it looks like we aren’t going to come back to this place next Summer we may take the camper out West and explore the National Parks.

 Life is good. However, I can’t say it enough that this life we CREATED was not luck. It was a lot of calculated, small decisions mixed with a lot of hard work and living very simply and below our means.

Follow your heart…take that leap. You will find your wings on the way down!