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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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.

Marine Corp Marathon Race Report

I last left you as I got dropped off at the airport where I said farewell to my parents. My flight was Friday at 730pm, which I also knew was the same flight as my friends Melissa and Sara. Melissa would be running the MCM also, and I was really excited to just be in her presence for this flight. Melissa is an amazing runner with more passion for the sport and for life than most. While excitement and happiness just exudes from her, she also has the ability to calm you and put things in perspective for you. At a time when I felt my life and mind were a little chaotic, I was looking forward to the energy and advice she always provides. Bonus: they were seated right in front of me on the plane!

One episode of Modern Family and a half episode of Amazing Race later and we had landed. (Side note: I love Jet Blue) I hopped on a shuttle and within 5 minutes I was at the hotel. Shower, a little chatting with my roomie Ryan, and in bed by 10pm. Perfect!

The next morning (Saturday) Ryan and I went downstairs and had the breakfast buffet at the hotel. I carb loaded like a beast, taking in a bagel, croissant, and a banana.  Ryan and I took some time during this meal to chat about racing, and more importantly: mental strength, creating our own limits, pushing past expectations, etc. I don’t know Ryan real well. I met her through a mutual friend and proceeded to train both her and her husband at mission FITNESS. However, since I have met her I see a progression in her that excites me. She just recently ran a half marathon PR at 1:49:04 and her Instagram post read “If someone told me a year ago I’d break 1:50 this year I would have laughed. Feeling on top of the world with this PR”. My brother has gone out of his way to text her, post about her, etc.  Matt and I have even talked about her privately. Why? Because she is starting to GET IT and it is such a beautiful thing for us to see when people make that transition. And as Ryan and I chatted about runnIng and racing and what it stands for in life…we both started to cry. THIS IS WHAT RACING IS ALL ABOUT. THIS IS WHAT PUSHING YOUR LIMITS IS ALL ABOUT. It makes you grow not just as a runner but as a human being. Ryan was not “on top of the world” after that PR because of a medal she got or a time on a clock. She was on top of the world because she worked, sacrificed and pushed herself to do what she never thought she was capable of doing. And isn’t that LIVING?  After being in this industry many years I can see a direct correlation between what people do when the gun goes off and what they do in every day life.

Ryan started throwing out times she would be happy with and I told her, be careful what number you throw out there because the mind is a powerful thing. I can’t tell you how many times I have mentally envisioned clocks at the finish lines or race scenarios and they have happened exactly how I pictured them. I think this talk was what Ryan and I both needed. And watching her shed tears describing her feelings about running made me CERTAIN this girl is just getting started in this sport. She is starting to understand that we are all capable of SO MUCH more than we settle for. So why don’t we set those goals higher?  Why do we stay in that comfort zone?  Because it is scary as hell to set big goals and it takes A LOT OF FREAKING HARD WORK AND DEDICATION. However, those who dare to push to that next level can get chills and shed tears at simply thinking about racing and success.

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I then headed to the Expo to pick up my Bib and Race Packet. I proceeded to shed more tears. Marine hands me my bib. Cry. Marine hands me my shirt. Cry. Marine calls me Ma’am. Cry. I’m telling you, the Marines, man. They get me. The rest of the day/night was uneventful. Carbs. Water. Below Deck Marathon on Bravo. Carbs. Water. Gatorade. Race day outfit decisions. Motivation videos which led to more tears from Ryan and I!  Ha!

5am Sunday morning. Wake up. Stuff a bagel down my mouth with eyes still closed. Change into race outfit. Shove a banana down. Head to the start. We decided to walk since it was about a mile. Once we got to the security Ryan decided to use bathroom, so we wished each other well and went our separate ways. I waited in security for about 45min-1hour. By the time I got to the runners village it started to rain. I was cold as hell and wet. I found a large tent and huddled with hundreds of others as I sat down on the concrete, resting my legs. At this point I had been walking and standing for nearly 1.5 hrs.  It was about 7:20am with a race start of 7:55am. I tried to entake Generation UCAN but ended up losing half the powder as I tried to pour it into a water bottle. Poor planning. Lol. At about 7:40am I used the bathroom one more time and made my way to the start. It was insane. So many people. I walked and weaved and walked and weaved until I found the 3:25 and 3:15 pacer.

My goal was sub 3:20 and I was disappointed to find out the night before there was only a 3:15 and 3:25. My plan was to start between the two and see how I feel. Drop back or run ahead after a few miles. However, once I settled between them I quickly saw that there were many people up there that did not belong. I was told by a buddy who had run it last year to move up a coral because the start is so congested and it is a huge hassle. So, I made a game time decision to start up with the 3:15 pacer. I knew on a dream day I was capable of that time. After the National Anthem and precision sky divers landing as they held the American Flag, the CANNON went off. Within the first mile I almost went down twice, getting tripped up in others legs. This game of slowing, speeding up, swerving, etc lasted a good 8 miles. It was nuts. Mostly because I was determined to stay with the pacer. Not behind him, but next to him!  Mile One he announced he had just done a 62 mile ultra race and the Ice Age 50. That was the sign I needed. This was my dude. So, we chatted about trail running, ultras, elite mind training, etc. He also did Cayuga 50 in 2014. The miles were ticking by easily. I felt great.

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Before I knew it we had hit the Blue Mile (mile 12) A mile dedicated to the fallen soldiers, their pictures lining both sides of the street. After that, family members held huge American Flags high on both sides of the street. This mile was what this race meant to me. How could I complain of aches and pains from running when these soldiers died fighting for this country? How could I think about how hard this was when the sight of thousands of Marines reminded me this is nothing. My Dad shared some stories of what he went through at boot camp, and these Marines have experienced more hurt, pain and struggle than I ever will in a marathon.

After battling in my head for miles whether I should stop to use the bathroom or not, I decided at about mile 14 to do so. It was all I could think about and I needed to enjoy this race and finish strong. A quick pit stop and a sprint and I caught back up to Nick, the pacer. At about mile 18 I started to battle whether I should push ahead on my own. The distraction of being with a group made the miles pass so fast, but I also felt like I may be a little too comfortable. At times I felt I was holding back, and I didn’t want to finish this race knowing I had more in me. So, I took a chance and ran ahead. The next few miles were low 7’s and it still felt OK. Then we hit the bridge. About a mile of running across the bridge with no spectators and no scenery. This was tough. Finally back into Crystal City where there was spectators everywhere. At about this point I did my fastest mile: 6:57. This is probably my proudest part of my race, as I vowed to break through this mental “wall” everyone creates..and that I did!  Mental training people…do not overlook it. Do not spend so much time prepping the physical and neglect the mental. The physical is capable of more than you could fathom if you get that head right!!!

Mile 25-26.2 was definitely the hardest for me. It seemed to drag on, as it brought you away from the crowds and onto highways with what seemed to be always a slight incline. Then the crowds started back up to make you think it was over. At this point my watch read 26.4 and I was just ready to be done. But no. Turn a corner and then go up a STEEP MOTHER F’IN hill. So this “hill” I heard about is really a hill, huh? Just. Mean. I crossed the finish line in 3:13:36. I beat my goal of 3:20 and even my dream goal of 3:15. But guess what number floated in my head all race…..3:13. Like I said, careful what you think about.

A Marine put a medal around my neck and I waddled my way back to the hotel. I was reunited with my phone and I had 16 texts from people who were tracking me. I can’t tell you what this meant. Because every time I stepped over a time chip on the course I told myself that someone was out there getting updates and I wanted them to see me get stronger with each update. There was one person I knew was getting updates and that was my brother, Matt. Every time I crossed a checkpoint I created a conversation in my head that he would have. 10k point: “uh oh, is she going out too hard?” 13.1 mile: “ok, she’s on pace for a 3:15” 30K: “holy crap, she’s getting faster” And just like every race I run, what motivated me was that text I would receive from him when it was done. Because while I run for myself and what it does for me, he is the only one that really gets it. In many ways he is my other half in this journey and to make him proud means the world to me. And guess who was the first one to text me? “Holy Shit!! 3:13. So proud of you!….” He wrote more, but I will keep that between us. But guess what else he wrote??  He got chills and maybe shed a tear when he got the finish text, picturing me crossing the line and seeing that time. Because he gets it. He gets the sacrifice. The pain. The dedication. But more than anything he gets what it feels like to see that time you worked so hard for and how it changes you as a person. And he gets what it felt like to do that in front of thousands of marines.

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I ran that race not only for the Marines, but with my childhood heroes motivating me. My father, my favorite Marine. And my brother, who is a big reason why coming back to CT often is  a necessity. Because those many miles we ran this summer in the trails meant the world to me. Those miles were not only where I gained my physical strength, but where I became mentally tougher. He is my favorite training partner and I need to keep progressing so we can one day cross a finish line together. Boston Marathon, Marine Corp Marathon, Vermont 50….whichever one. That would be my dream.  And I can picture it.  So that means it’s going to happen!

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Moving, Marathon and More

I am officially a Florida resident. Registered voter.  Florida license.  Florida license plates. Florida address.  We are official homesteaders of The Sunshine State.

This last month has been crazy. I am pretty sure I have experienced every human emotion imaginable in the last 30 days. The stress of selling a home, trying to get everything packed and selling/donating everything we didn’t need. Loading a UHUAL and shipping all of our possessions as well as my car, dog and husband off to Florida, where we would close on a home down there.  Knowing I was going to be away from them for 5 weeks. Two jobs going full force in the process, making for very LONG working days. The sadness of leaving the place I have called home for the last 35 years…as well as the family, friends and clients that have made my life in that state AMAZING.  Excitement for new beginnings and heading to a warm and sunny location that we have dreamed of living at for years. Extreme missing of my boys. Physical pain and exhaustion from marathon training. Doubt of whether I would be able to even run a marathon with the pains I was experiencing. Nostalgia from staying at my childhood home for a month and running the same routes I did all through high school and hanging at my lake. Fear of making such a huge change and wondering if we did the right thing. Stress from trying to plot out a flight to D.C., run a marathon, then flight to Tampa to MOVE!!! All of this caused me to have extreme scatter brain and almost a numbing feeling as I went through the month.

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It was all so complicated. I was so sad to say goodbye and leave CT, but also so excited to get to Florida to see my boys I was missing so badly. And sandwiched between all of that was the Marine Corp Marathon. As all of this other stuff called LIFE was swirling around me, I tried to stay focused on the 26.2 that I had spent so many weeks training for. This would be my first marathon running for a goal time (3:20) and I knew I had to stay grounded and rested to hit that goal. I am a strong believer that the physical body is deeply attached to the mental state, which I was thinking was the direct reason for my body breaking down. While mentally I felt numb to all of the insanity going on in my life, I was pretty certain it was presenting itself as lower back pain /hip pain. (If you haven’t read Dr. John Sarno: Healing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection, you should!)

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So, while making date after date with my friends and clients (goodbye lunch, dinner, drink, hike, etc) I tried to also stay focused on meditating, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep. Before I knew it, it was time to go.  My parents dropped me at the airport Friday Night and I boarded a plane to go run a race. Not to move.  Not to go see my husband. Not to leave CT and all those that mean the world to me. I boarded a plane to take care of business and in the process pay my respect and honor to the Men and Women of the United States Marine Corp who so selflessly put their lives on the line to protect us and our freedom. This race has been on my bucket list for years. I have always had a special place in my heart for Marines, because my Dad is a Marine and a Veteran of the Vietnam War. So I was not only running this race for the Marines I have never met, yet still fight for me…but for my Father, my favorite Marine.

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Next stop, D.C.

Stay Tuned fo Marine Corp Race Report.

Racing With No Expectations….

….Except Maybe a Win!!

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I went into this weekends race with no idea of where my fitness level was. I have not worn my Garmin for over 6 months and have been running solely by feel. The only way I was able to gauge where I was at was by how I felt on climbs, and by one run with my brother where he stated, “this is a pretty good pace.”

I guess you can say that ditching the Garmin was a strategic move. For one, I feel like by monitoring my pace while running I was in a way holding myself back. I had an “idea” in my head of what my pace “should be” and I feel like I was limiting myself by staying in that zone. What would happen if I just ran by feel? Ran until I couldn’t run any faster without over-exerting myself?  Based my effort on my heart rate. I just felt that this was a better training move for me.

So, while I felt like my fitness level was pretty good going into the Summer Solstice 5.5 mile race, I had no idea what to expect. Was I capable of an 8:00 pace or a 7:00 pace? I honestly didn’t know, but I did have a hunch. I had a feeling that I could trust the fact that EVERY training run was done at maximum effort, and with a clear vision of what I was training for.

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That brings me to the importance of this race.

THE HISTORY:

2012:

41:06/7:29 pace

3rd Female/24th Overall

My first year running this race. I ran the entire race flip flopping 2nd and 3rd place with who I would later learn to be Lisa. Lisa ended up placing 2nd, while a few seconds later I finished for 3rd place. I learned I had done a 7:29 pace, which blew me away. On the trails, that pace seemed extremely fast to me. I was happy!

2013:

41:22/7:32 pace

2nd Female/16th Overall

This is the race that has probably fueled a fire inside me more than any other.  I held on to first place until about the 5 mile mark, when I was passed by the girl who was on my tail the whole race. I remember the exact spot she passed me, and from that day forward every time I run the red trail at Gay City I attack that same hill harder than ever. It is true that for every failure, it brings you a step closer to success. There is a finish line picture of this girl breaking the tape with me about 10 ft behind her, trying like hell to catch her. That picture has been burnt in my head as my motivation for the last 2 years

2014:

38:44/7:03 pace

2nd Female/7th Overall

I wasn’t even sure if I was doing this one.  I was running my first 50 Mile Race just two weeks prior, and I was uncertain how my legs would feel.  However, this was the first year we had partnered up with Hartford Marathon Foundation, where we lead a 6 Week Trail Running Series prepping runners for this race.  So, I wanted to run to represented mission FITNESS and our partnership.  I was surprised with my pace, but unfortunately I knew winning this race was going to be difficult as I got past early by a High School girl wearing an All-State Cross Country shirt. I was happy with my 2nd place finish!

2015:

38:29/7:00 pace

1st Female/9th Overall

As I stated earlier, I had a lot of uncertainty going into this race.  However, I also had some things I was certain about.  I had a realization once back in Connecticut and in the woods that Trail Running is my passion. It is when and where I find complete happiness.  It’s my exercise.  My meditation.  My therapy.  But, more than anything, I am starting to realize that it is something I have a lot of potential at.  Racing and placing 6th among very good competition at the Cayuga 50 Mile National Championships last year made me realize I may be able to compete at a higher level.  Being back in CT made me realize that I want to represent mission FITNESS and make my clients and the Owner (my brother) proud.

To commit to being EXCELLENT at something is scary.  I think I always knew I could be an Elite Trail Runner, but I was never ready to ADMIT it and OWN it.  Once I did that, it meant things would get uncomfortable.  I was no longer in my “safe” AVERAGE zone.  I was stepping into territory that few have the desire (or maybe courage) to enter.  However, after endless hours of listening to motivational videos it became so clear to me that I DO NOT WANT TO KEEP ASKING, “WHAT IF?”

I don’t want to look back and think about what might have been. If I could have been one of those runners I follow on Instagram who get to run for their job.  I don’t want to wonder who I could have motivated at mission FITNESS if I chose to become that runner I dreamt to be.

So, my runs started to have purpose.  As I ran the trails, did hill repeats, etc. I would visualize crossing that finish line at the Summer Solstice Trail Race.  The picture was so clear.  My brother would be there with a big smile, and a high five.  He would hug me after, proud of me for representing mission FITNESS for everything it is.  My runners from the Trail Running Series would congratulate me, knowing they were lead by someone who knows what they’re doing.  What I didn’t know is that my amazing husband and Mom and Dad would also be there. As well as an amazing, inspiring friend (Melissa) who gets this trail running thing more than any other friend…and REALLY gets my history with this race.  It was really a dream finish.

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The vision was so clear for me, that instead of wearing our Trail Running shirts from the clinic (which had an image of trees on the front) I would wear my mission FITNESS tank.  A strategic move so the finish line picture of me breaking the ribbon would advertise the BEST fitness facility in Connecticut:

MISSION FITNESS. 

   DREAM IT.  BELIEVE IT. ACHIEVE IT.

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3 Epic Race Weekends

I know my blogging has been slacking, but it is definitely for a good reason!  I have been busy crewing, pacing, spectating, and participating in epic races!  Each one so completely different and awesome. 

Saturday, July 19th: VERMONT 100, Windsor, VT 

Crew/Pace for Amy Rusiecki:  if you read my blog post about Cayuga 50, then you know who Amy is. If you are an ultra runner from New England then you know who Amy is. She is a rockstar in the Ultra scene and I was lucky enough to share the trails with her nearly the whole Cayuga Race.

It’s amazing how things work. I was out running with a couple girlfriends in the trail a week before the Vt100 and told them, “I think pacing would be a great gig. Enjoy the race, not a lot of stress, etc etc”. No joke, I got in my car and had an email from Amy asking me if I was free the following weekend to pace/crew her for the VT100. I wasn’t, I had 2 jobs that I was working, but I knew I had to make it happen. This was a chance to experience an amazing race with a runner I have so much respect for in some beautiful scenery. 

I got coverage for my jobs and headed up to Vermont with my friend Melissa to experience our first VT100. What an amazing experience. We got to crew with two extremely enthusiastic up-and-coming Ultra Runners and I was able to pace her from mile 77-88. I was very nervous with it being my first pacing duty and the fact that it was for someone who was TOP 2/3 female. This was not a middle of the packer just trying to finish. No, this girl is the real deal. Not to mention she is next years race director, so it was as if I was running with a celebrity!  

I learned so much from this event and had an amazing time. It was beyond gorgeous and running alongside the horses was just cool as hell. Amy finished the race with a PR (18:47) and 3rd female overall. Her husband would break the course record that day (14:47) and win the race. This couple. Come on.

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Sunday, July 27th: IRONMAN 140.6 Lake Placid, NY

The following weekend  was the IRONMAN in Lake Placid. I have been attending this event for the last 6 years and it will always hold a special place in my heart. This event is something every person needs to experience in person. The energy is unlike any race I have ever experienced. Add that to the constant backdrop of the Adirondacks and you have a girl who is at her emotional edge for 5 days straight. Then throw in the fact that MY BROTHER is doing the race. Stop it. Too much. 

This year my husband was able to join me….YES!!!!!  Best. Thing. Ever. Breath taking bike rides, hikes, and moments with him.  My Mom was there. My sister in law and nieces. Then add in two other mission FITNESS clients doing the race and about 10 MFers up there to spectate. Enough said. An amazing 5 days. 

Race day. Unreal. Too much. My brother KILLED it. Finished about 11:42. He is just unreal. My two friends finished happy and feeling good with great times! So amazing. One thing I will never miss at an IRONMAN is the midnight finish. If you have been, you know what I mean. 11pm-12am is THE MOST AMAZING HOUR IN SPORTING EVENTS. I can’t even explain it. You have to be there. But, as I sat there and watched it this year I couldn’t help but think about the finish line I was at exactly one week prior. People finishing a 100 mile race, and MAYBE 10 spectators. A horse. A few claps. That’s it. INSANE!!!  You DO NOT do a 100 miler to finish with thousands cheering you on. You need to have something else that drives you. But, I guess that’s with ANYTHING we do.

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Saturday, August 2nd: GMARA Bitter Pill 12 Hour Adventure Race, Richmond, VT

last weekend I headed back up to Vermont to participate in an Adventure Race. I did one of these years ago with my brother and LOVED it. It is basically finding checkpoints in the wilderness by orienteering (using a map, compass, etc) while doing several different disciplines (Could include: Trek, Mountain Bike, Kayak, Canoe, white water raft, Repelling, etc) I have been wanting to do one ever since I did one with Matt, but I’ve had a hard time finding someone to race with.   Traditional AR teams are coed teams of 3 and it is hard to find people who can take a weekend away from family. I luckily bumped into a guy in the trails when training one day and he happened to be a Rev 3 sponsored Adventure Racer. He contacted me to race with him and his other Rev 3 teammate and I jumped on the chance. 

I was extremely nervous since my I have not been Mountain Biking a lot, and I knew these were professional racers. Turns out I kept up just fine and we ended up destroying the competition. With bonus checkpoints we beat the 2nd place team in our division by 6 hours. Crazy!  Results can be seen here

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So, that’s what I did my last 3 weekends. So amazing. Life is good!