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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At Any Given Moment Who Have Two Options…

2 weeks from today….Friday, October 23rd I will board a plane and officially leave Connecticut. I will not fly directly to Florida, however. I fly to Washington D.C. where I will run the Marine Corp Marathon, then to Florida. In exactly 2 weeks I will move from the state I have called home for the last 35 years. I will fly to Erik, who has already arrived in Florida and reunite with him and Gunner after a month apart.

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While it has been a tough month with so much craziness and transitions, I have to say I could not have written a better script for my departure. First, with Erik and Gunner gone for a month when it is my time to leave it will make leaving so much easier.  I miss them so much it literally hurts. Second, I will be flying to run a marathon, which will take my mind off of leaving with the nerves and excitement of marathon weekend. Third, I am able to spend my last month with my parents, in the house (and bedroom) I grew up in. To go out on runs on the same roads I remember doing as a child and to spend this time with my parents has been a real treat.

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So, as my time winds down in Connecticut I am embracing this beautiful fall season, but also looking forward to the change. I have always known that I am not that girl who stays in her small town home and never leaves the comforts of all it has to offer. I’ve always had this tug on my heart to leave and go explore what this world has to offer. I have suffered from incredible anxiety in my adult life, and I am starting to understand it was largely because I felt trapped. I felt I was living a life that I was not meant to live. I only felt truly free when I was traveling and discovering small towns and unfamiliar areas. When I would return from these adventures I would feel homesick. What a crazy thing. I was homesick from the mountains, the woods, the places I only spent one night at. I was never homesick from “home”.

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So, now we start the journey of the unknown. Erik has already started working at his job and seems to really enjoy it. We will work seasonally in Florida, allowing us the summer months to explore and travel. To jump in our camper and discover small towns, mountains, and all the places I have never been but am homesick for. While I am experiencing a lot of sadness and some uncertainty about such a large move, I am overwhelmed with excitement. I feel this is the beginning of a new, happy life for Erik, Gunner and I.  More than anything I am proud of us.  We are the only ones who really know what it has taken to get to this place. The sacrifices we have made and the endless hours of working and saving. All with a goal in mind. And, as we celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary this month we celebrate 12 years of working as a team and accomplishing more than we could have ever dreamed of. A life of happiness, big dreams, freedom, and love. The love. That’s what means the most. Because what would all of this mean if I didn’t have my best friend to share it with. On the month of this 12 year wedding anniversary I am so thankful the young me never gave up on us. I am thankful I get to start the life of my dreams with the only one I would ever went to share it with.

Every Ending Is A New Beginning

Life has done a 180 (quite literally) in the last few months. This is probably a big reason why I have not been blogging as much as I would have liked. Partly because my time as been limited, but we all know when we really want something we MAKE time for it. So, I would say my lack of blogging has been largely due to: a) not knowing exactly what to write b) mixed emotions making my ability to speak “truth” difficult, as I am not really sure what my truth is.

Never the less, I have been asked several times lately when I was going to put a new blog up…so, alas, here it is. I will try to fill you in on the details of what’s going on in my life to an extent that I am comfortable with sharing. Some thoughts and ideas may not make the World Wide Web yet.

The big picture: we have sold our Connecticut home and have bought a condo in Venice, Fl.  Venice is the town that Erik and I have called our “2nd home” for many years now. Erik’s parents bought a condo there in the late 80’s and we have spent a ton of time there in the last 10 years. We absolutely love it there, and have developed real comfort there. We have our friends, our coffee shop, our ice cream joint, Gunner has a vet, a groomer, etc. I guess it has always felt like home to us, and every year when we take the Venice exit off of Interstate 75 we just both just breath a deep sigh of relief and our mood just changes.

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This past Winter we knew we had to explore other areas and not “settle” with Venice.  While deep down we always saw ourselves living there, we needed to make sure places such as Asheville, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Beaufort, etc did not steal our hearts. While each one of these places made a distinct mark on our hearts, there was no place like Venice. The number one factor: the weather. Almost every day of the 2 month stay in Venice was sunny and 75-85 degrees.

Here’s the other thing you need to know: for the last 20 years Erik has been Food and Beverage Manager at a New England golf course. This means working 70+ hour weeks in the Summer, leaving Winters our time to vacation. Well, how many places can we go in the winter? We aren’t big island goers. We aren’t ones to sit on the beach all day. We would much rather go on an adventure. Ride our bikes, hike the mountains, explore small towns, etc. So, we would spend winters in Florida , and many years ago realized that the community we are in is VERY seasonal, with a ton of golf courses. So, we started to think about changing our seasons. What if we worked seasonally in the winter, while still enjoying beautiful weather, and then spend the summers traveling?  Then we can go to places that have been right at our back door for so many years, but we were never able to get the time off to explore. Bar Harbor, White Mountains, Adirondacks, and…the National Parks!!  Now we can go see Crater Lake, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Moab, etc because the summer months will be our time to travel.

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This all seems like it was an overnight transition and a seamless one at that.  Those who are close to me, however, know that this was a multi-year process and a lot of small steps that have lead to one big step. It really is amazing how things have gotten to where they are now, and how organic it kind of feels, while knowing the we have spent so many years planning, making decisions, taking risks, but most importantly: listening to our hearts. Last year we bought a camper and used it to explore the Southern Coast this past winter. Well, it looks like that camper will be getting a lot of use, as we will have summers open now to take it wherever we wish.

With all of these amazing changes there are, of course, always some negatives. For one, I am leaving my home. The place I grew up, where my family resides and where I have made memories of a lifetime. I am leaving my job as a personal trainer at a fitness company I co-founded with my brother and that has been one of the most rewarding endeavors of my life. My clients and the bootcampers at mission FITNESS have made my life so enriched and fuel my energy daily. I can honestly say that I will never find another place like it. Not only because of the incredible staff and clients we have, but because it is a business I put my heart and soul into for many years. It is now my brothers business and to try to excel for something bigger than you…to help him succeed and give my nieces a better life, made me a better trainer. To walk away from this place will be one of the hardest things I will ever do. However, I know a part of me will always be there, and I know I will always find my way back to mission FITNESS even if it is just to take a bootcamp while I’m in the area.

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As I write this and look around at our blank walls and boxes labeled with the few things we decided to keep, I can’t help but get teary eyed. This is the first home Erik and I have ever had. We have been here 13 years and we have grown so much as a couple since we moved in. If these walls could talk….the ups and the downs we have experienced here. Just a few years ago I would have told you that this place was perfect for us and that we would never sell it. But, this past winter the 5 months we spent traveling has changed us. We came back to Connecticut different people and we no longer feel like we fit here. Sometimes you must go away to come back stronger, and not only are we both stronger now, but we are stronger together. I feel a bond to Erik that I have never felt so strong. He is not only my husband but he is my teammate, my partner, my rock. I am so excited for what we have ahead of us. And in the midst of the chaos of these next couple of months I will do my best to stay calm and trust the process. To surrender to what is and have faith that if we keep chasing what pulls our hearts and live our truest selves we will end up in the right place…wherever that may be!

Why Do I Run Ultras?

It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday. The sun is shining and a majority of the population is poolside or at the beach sipping on a cocktail. I am 2 hours into my run, drenched in sweat, sipping on my Camelback hose. Why am I out here, in the middle of the woods, training for another crazy race? Here’s why:  I HAVE NEVER LOOKED BACK AT A DAY AT THE BEACH AND GOTTEN CHILLS AND LET OUT A SOB THINKING ABOUT IT!!!!!

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However, 15 miles into our trail run on Tuesday I couldn’t stop myself from crying while explaining to Matt (my brother) the feeling I had when I rounded the corner to the Finish of my first 50 miler.  How I saw my husband, who had been there with me every step of the way leading up to the race, and at EVERY AID STATION along the race, and what that image does to me to this day.  As I type this I am crying.  It is a feeling I will NEVER forget.  It had very little to do with finishing that actual race.  It had to do with those days that lead me to that Finish.  The 10 hours of running every weekend while my friends were poolside.  Those moments on the trail when all I wanted to do was quit.  On those days I gave myself every excuse in the world why I could just cancel this race.  Why it was stupid and not even healthy to run that distance.

But guess what?? That would be taking the easy way out.  And if I did stop when it hurt and got uncomfortable I would have lost out on so much growth.  It is in those moments, when everything in us tells us we are done and we continue, that a whole new world opens up.  On the other side of that wall is a life worth pushing for.  On the other side of that wall we are stripped of all of the barriers we have put up and are completely vulnerable.  We find out who we really are, and more importantly what we are capable of.

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I am not interested in an average life.  I’m not interested in running a race that is comfortable for me at a comfortable pace.  Because COMFORTABLE will NEVER give me chills.  Comfortable will never bring tears to my eyes at just the thought of it.  And for many, it doesn’t even need to be an ultra marathon.  What it needs to be is pushing yourself past uncomfortable.  When what you have done even inspires you looking back at it.  Sometimes it may not even be sports.  However, for me…it is in those woods that I find myself.  I don’t say that nonchalantly.  I literally find out what I am made of on those trails, and with that it carries over into every aspect of my life.  Lately, I have had many people comment on how I just fall into great things in my life.  Trust me, if I chose to settle for average in my training and in my racing I can GUARANTEE you my life would be average.  But I was not put on this earth to be average.

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The first step to making this change is to surround yourself with like minded people. It will be very hard to make the leap without the support of extraordinary people.  I was lucky enough (well, it isn’t luck) to spend my day poolside yesterday.  Except, instead of drinking cocktails, I was with my childhood best friend who is a Sports Psychologist/Mindset Performance Coach.  And around me were 3 others who are some of the most successful people I know.   Forward thinkers.  Elite Minds.  Endurance Athletes. The hardest workers I know.  We spent almost two hours working with her on strengthening or mental game.  These 4 people support my dreams and believe in them, as I support their dreams.  And for that I am one happy girl.

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Why I do That Extra Rep

i canAs many of you know, I am a bootcamp instructor and personal trainer. At my classes the fitness levels vary: there are 15 year olds next to 65 year olds.  IRONMANers next to Couch to 5kers.  You get the point.  There are others ways to see differences, however. There’s the ones who push past uncomfortable next to the people who just breeze through class comfortably. The ones who finish an exercise with shaking muscles, heart pumping, hands on knees, nearly ready to puke next to the ones who are holding a comfortable conversation.  The ones who do that last rep with one second left, and those who end with 3 seconds left.  I must say I have an equal respect for both of these categories. I DO understand that we are all there for our own reasons, and I applaud EVERY bootcamper that walks through the door.

My clients may not know I see these things (although many have said they think I have eyes in the back of my head)  but I do!  I found a quote last night that read, “don’t be upset with the results you didn’t get with the work you didnt do”  I love this quote for so many reasons. It relates to SO MANY PEOPLE I know, especially in the fitness world.  So often I hear excuses from people of why they aren’t succeeding to meet their goals, but may not understand what it really takes to get there.  Let me give some examples.

We are so fortunate at mission FITNESS to have instructors that walk the walk.  They are billboards for fitness and hard work.  My brother, the owner, is not naturally fast.  He is not naturally strong and bulky.  He is 5’7, 155 pounds.  However, he is not only finishing 5Ks in the top 5 overall (18:30ish finishes) but also just qualified for Boston Marathon, doing Vermont City Marathon at 3:05.  Just a couple of years ago he was setting WORLD RECORDS for bench pressing, putting up 360 pounds!  None of this came easy.  It came because he did the work.  He did that last rep with one second left.

Then there’s the trainer who is in her 40’s with 4 kids.  She is in ridiculous shape and just finished a recent 5K 4th placecomfortable female overall.  I hear so many other Mom’s say they don’t have enough time.  However, those same Mom’s are at my class for the same hour this trainer is.  Guess which one stops with 3 seconds left and which one does that last rep?  Guess which one walks out of class dripping in sweat with NOTHING left to give while the other walks out feeling great and looking good?

Another trainer is the one I specifically saw and made me think of this blog  After my class the other day I had to go up to her and tell her why I love her.  Why she inspires me.  She ALWAYS does that extra rep.  She NEVER stops if she thinks she won’t get that last burpee in.  She just goes 33 seconds instead of 30 if that’s the case.  She is so physically fit, and this is not because it is easy.  It is because she stays after the class she teaches to do a workout ALONE and STILL finishes the exercise with her hands on her knees breathing hard when NO ONE is watching.  This is what separates one athlete from the next.  This is what brings people to the next level.  This is what inspires me when I want to stop with 2 seconds left.  This is why I DO THE LAST REP!

easyPLEASE, don’t get me wrong…I am 100% ok with someone coming to my class to just get 1 hour of exercise in and staying comfortable during class.  This is better than NOT working out.  I award you for being there.  I love that you are there.  This is about those who complain that they aren’t losing weight, they aren’t losing any time off their 5k, 1/2 marathon, marathon, etc time.  However, they are stopping with 3 seconds left.  These are the ones I think of when I hear “don’t be upset with the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do”  Getting to the next level in the fitness world takes a lot of work, dedication and discipline.  I am very fortunate to work with trainers who make me want to be better, stronger, and work harder.  I am also lucky to train MANY people who do the same.  Many of my bootcampers have no idea how much the INSPIRE ME.  Thank you..