SPIN: my new love!

ImageMy best friend and I recently had a conversation about the power of energy. Whether it is positive or negative, the energy of an event, person, or situation is damn near palpable. We have all witnessed it, and it really is a phenomenon.  I see it (and feel it) every time a teach a bootcamp class. When there is a large class, I always say, “the energy of the class runs itself”. It’s true. 20 people working hard, the endorphins dancing, high-fives, partners cheering each other on…it’s incredible. On the flip side, I have taught a class in the past that has been very small, with a Negative Nelly in the crowd. I felt the energy getting sucked out of me. I had to fight to teach harder than I ever have, and after an hour I felt like I had just ran a marathon.

Back to our conversation. We discussed how anyone that question that energy can be physically felt, has probably never attended a concert, a marathon, or an IRONMAN. Events like these always move me to the point of being emotionally affected. I think I cry at every large race, and come close at every concert and basketball game I attend.  The energy just moves me. 

This brings me to my spinning experience. From the outside looking in, I liked the concept of spin. Lights low, door shut, music blasted and choreographed to the pace of the class. It sounded like my kind of thing. And, with the winter upon us, I needed something to get me through this cold weather. A perfect time to take up spin. 

I’ll admit, the first class I took I fought to make it through the hour.  It was tough!!  I was not in THAT kind of shape, and I was trying to keep up with the ones around me who seemed to be professional spinners. However, after a couple of classes, I found my own rhythm and I was able to get through class with much more ease. 

Just last week, I took my third class and it was one that stole my heart. One that prompted a phone call to my best friend with another prime example of the power of ENERGY. Anyone who has attended a spin class has probably experienced this at least once, if not EVERY class!  

Here’s my experience:

First, I love the idea of exercising in the dark. As a personal trainer and fitness instructor, I’m used to all eyes being on me when I take a class. It was nice to be in my own zone. Doing my own thing. All while being surrounded by others who are on the same “ride” as me. The energy of this camaraderie filled the room.

Second, I love the LOUD music. Music has always been my thing. It takes me to another place in just one beat, one lyric.  Combine a good song with a good workout…it’s makes me happy even on a cold winter day, when NOTHING makes me happy. During this class it was “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink that did it for me.

Another thing I love about class is not only when the instructor sings along, but when multiple people in the class sing along. Not the whole song, but those lines that just cant be kept in.  It’s like the combination of the amazing energy you get from a concert, a race, and a good workout combined into one.

So, last Tuesday around 1015am, SPIN and PINK stole my heart. I was 45 minutes into an intense workout, dripping in sweat, endorphins and emotions high, “I’M NOT BROKEN JUST BENT” playing SO LOUD, the beat bouncing off the four walls, so my horrible voice wasn’t even a whisper as I belted out the lyrics.  Being in THAT moment. In MY zone. On MY bike. In MY class. This is what positive energy feels like. This is how it can rock you physically and emotionally. This is SPIN!




Race Reflections: My First Ultra

Yesterday while doing my trail run I had several thoughts of things that I would do differently for my next ultra. All and all I think I did pretty good for my first one. I knew it was going to be a learning experience and I definitely learned a lot.

What I was happy with:

  • Training Plan: I had never really followed a true training plan before and I feel like it definitely helped me. I took rest days when it told me to, I ran an hour when it told me to, and I did nine hill repeats when it told me to. It definitely got me out on the trails when I wasn’t feeling it and normally would have taken a day off.  I love organization and I’m a person of lists and this definitely was good for me. I also know that it helped me big time towards the end for the tapering. Knowing me I probably would’ve went all out trying to cram as much in in the last three weeks as possible and burnt out.
  • Garmin:  I have always been attached to my Garmin when training on the road and even in the trails.  It was a very hard transition for me when I went into the woods and had to let go of my 6 to 7 minute mile pace .  A friend of mine suggested that I don’t wear it for this race and to run solely by feel.  this scared me…I though that I would either go out too fast and not realize I was doing a strong pace, or run too slow.  It turns out that I found someone to pace with in the beginning and then went by feel the rest of the way. I am not sure that I will leave my Garmin at home for future races, but I do think for my first ultra this was the best choice.
  • Hill Repeats:  my training plan called for them. 600m repeats. Sometimes 6, 8, and at most 10.  While I didn’t particularly look forward to these, I did know that they were going to be huge in my training and I was right. Throughout the race I felt pretty strong  on hills.  I will definitely continue to do these in the future

What I will do differently :

  • Nutrition: during the race my nutrition consisted of:  Clif Shot Blocks, Gu, and Perpetruem. I stayed with this  because it was safe. It was what I had trained with and I wasn’t trying to change anything up race day. However, next time I will make sure I train with real food and try to stay away from so much sugar. I have been pretty good about having a clean diet off trail, I don’t think it should change on trail.
  • Cross Training: with the long runs taking up all of my free time I slacked on my strength training and stretching/YOGA the last couple of months.  I need to add these back next time to have an even stronger race.
  • Race Date:  While October is a great time to race, I found it very difficult with my work schedule and lack of daylight to get in my long runs.  September/October are my busiest months at the golf course, nearing 40 hours some weeks. Add 20 hours personal training/teaching classes and 10+ hours a week on the trails…I started to get burnt out.  I even had to find coverage at the course, losing a lot of $ to gt in my 4= hour runs.  Boo. Maybe next time I will plan an early September race.
  • Company:  I am not sure if this is something I have power ove, or that may even be common in Ultras, but I wish I saw SOMEBODY the last 20 miles.  It got lonely, mixed with fear, always wondering if I was  on course.  The few miles I was able to run iwth people in the beginning were so much less stressful and went by so quickly.  Maybe find a race with more people?  Or try a multiple loop course?

As I said,I cannot be dissappointed with my first Ultra.  2nd place female (2nd to the course record holder) and 12th overall is good.  However, as many runners know, it is also a race against ourself.  ONly we know if we did eberything we could leading up to the race and during.  While there are changes I hpe to make, I would say I worked pretty darn hard and it did pay off.  Now, time to plan for what’s next?

My First Ultra Marathon: Bimblers Bluff 50Kish

I haven’t decided yet if this is going to be one LONG post, or if I will break it down into a few.  It is amazing how the race day has so many elements.  The pre-race, race, and post-race almost feel like 3 different events.


You all know about the FEAR I had as I went into this race.  I saw myself tip-toeing nervously on my hurt ankle for 32 miles, trying not to get hurt.  That would make for a REALLY long day. So, I called my best friend who happens to be a sports psychologist.  I had her talk me through some visualizations, and fill me with some positive thoughts for the race.  Then I contacted my rock star friend, Katie for some nutrition advice.  I followed her advice and had my last meal around 5pm (small plate of pasta) and then a bagel with coconut oil and half a banana at 5am. (3 hrs before the race)  These were 2 big changes for me.  Usually I eat a later, bigger dinner the night before the race, doing MOST of my carb loading at that time.  However, after lots of reading and researching I learned to start my carb loading 3-4 days before.  I also hate waking up early, so for most of my past races I wake up about 90 minutes before the race and eat breakfast then. I am hoping all these changes lead to this great change in my pre-race events:  I did not have to “use the bathroom” once at the race and during the race!  Since most people reading this are probably runners or friends, I am not embarrassed to admit this.  And if you are a runner with issues like this, you know how huge this is!!   So far so good as I toe the start line.

The Race:

I went into the race with a goal of finishing under 6 hours.  Based on my training, I knew I was capable of this.  I knew I could definitely place top 10, possibly top 5, and on a REAL GOOD DAY top 3.  However, this was my first ultra, and only my 4th trail race. Before this my longest being the Bimblers Bash 10k.  This was a whole new ball game.  I stalked this race, over-researching details as I do with everything in life.  I watched the video from 2011…2 hours of taking in details:  Aid stations, terrain, what runners did, wore, etc.  I then looked at the confirmed entrants.  I compared them to the past years results, seeing which racers who finished as top females were competing.  It looked as though only a few were.  AND, I see that the girl who beat me by 3 seconds in the Summer Solstice Trail Race for 1st Place  was running.  The competitor in me saw opportunities all around.

Before the race I saw a girl who looked strong, heard her name was Amy, and heard talk of course records.  I assumed it was Amy Lane, and thought, “I swore she didn’t sign up.”  (I found out later it was another Amy, a Team Inov-8 runner who represented the USA in the World Championships of Trail Running this year).  I also saw the girl who beat me at Gay City, and went over to say hello.  She said she was looking to do under 6 hrs, so I thought I would maybe pace with her.  (After a lot of back and forth in my own head I made the decision to only use the clock on my Garmin, not the pace or mileage.)


After the pre-race briefing we lined up at the start for the National Anthem.  I knew we would do a lap around the field and enter the woods right after.  From watching the video and reading blogs I knew if you entered towards the back it would bottleneck, forcing you to walk up the first climb.  So my plan was to enter in the Top 20ish.  I did this, staying right behind a girl who looked like a strong runner.  She looked familiar and I had a feeling she was a top female.  I ended up running right behind her for the first 9 miles or so. I settled into her pace, which seemed to be strong, but not too fast.  I was instructed numerous times by my “training partner” to go slower than you want at the start.  However, without my Garmin I did start to worry, “is this too fast?”  After about a 8 miles the guy she was chatting with turned around and said, “you’re quiet back there.”  I told them I was just trying to stay with them because I didn’t want to get lost (my biggest fear) and it was my first ultra.  I soon found out the girl I was pacing with was someone I “knew of” (another Amy) from Bimblers Bash and who finished a few spots ahead of me.  Right before we entered the 2nd aid station was the first time we “got lost”.  It wasn’t bad, just 3 of us, standing still saying, “which way?”  We would eventually find the trail and continue.


At aid station 2 I saw my hubs and parents, refilled my nutrition, and then headed for the Bluff Climb.  I knew what to expect, as Erik and I had done this part of the trail when checking out the course.  As we climbed, I realized one area I need to work on…my hiking/climbing.  Amy pulled ahead as I huffed up the mountain.  Once at the top, I caught back up and we continued to chat.  This was by far my favorite part.  We found out we had mutual friends, talked about triathlons, IRONMAN, etc.  It was effortless and the miles and time flew.  WELL, it was soon after we realized we were off track.  We were descending a rocky, gravel road when a kid in front of us yelled up, “do you see any markers?”.  I then said, “I was just thinking I haven’t seen any in a while.”  Big decision: do we keep going down this hill, looking for markers, making the climb up longer if we are off track?  I decided no, and told them I am heading back up.  My adrenaline was pumping.  I was so upset.  The race was going perfect.  We were running as 3/4th female and I was feeling good.  How far off track are we?!?!  I went WAY too hard trying to make up time, found the turn, yelled to them, and continued to go as hard as I could to make up time.  However, now I was paranoid and I would descend a hill, not see any markers, run back up, wait for someone who would say it was right and then keep running.  So much wasted time and energy.  Urgh.

Finally, I got to the 3rd aid station.  I figured I lost a lot of time and places, which is why I was very surprised to leave the woods and  hear, “3rd female”.  At this aid station (mile 16) I refilled my pack with water, and proclaimed “we got lost”.  I was informed everyone was saying that, and I was still only 2 minutes behind my brother (who got lost at the same spot).  It was right after this station I hit my first wall.  I am not sure if it was from the adrenaline filled hard pace I had just come off of, or the fact that I was now solo.  I started to walk climbs that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.  There was no one in sight.  No one behind me or in front of me.  Part of me wondered, should I let Amy catch me to make this less miserable?  I decided to keep truckin’, and finally spotted someone, and passed him as he stretched.  I asked if he was ok, he said “yeah, I just keep worrying I am off track”  Ok, I wasn’t the only one.  This was my first ultra, and I wasn’t sure if what I was experiencing was just me.  I then hit an area of single track mountain biking trail.  It seemed to wind, twist, and turn forever.  Even worse, it was marked all pink ribbons and I had no idea if it was even the course.  All the other ribbons were red and white.  I didn’t see any of those.  Was this talked about pre-race and I missed it?!!?  I literally wanted to cry at this point.  Was I even running the right trails?  Finally I popped out and soon found white and red ribbon.  I ran up the trail, but found people running in all directions.  “Are you looking for the Aid Station?” “What mile are you at?” “Is it an out and back?”  I saw my brother and after running up the trail a little more, decided to turn back with a few others.  I felt like I had been out there more than 6 miles and I started to worry I skipped over 4th aid station.  I started to see signs stating, “soup is near” and knew I was close to an aid station, but which one?  As I popped out of the woods to see my hubby and fan club I knew it as the right station. Phew!


My goal for the next 8 miles (which I was warned by many blogs and the race instructions would “feel much longer”) was to pay attention as close as possible to NOT GET LOST.  The issue was, at this point my eyes started to get real blurry (I started to worry about this, but later found out it is “normal” from looking at the leaves for so long) and couldn’t see the markers until I was right on them.  With the sun shining through, the white ribbon was hard to spot.  I had MANY moments of, “oh no, is this right?” but would luckily decide to keep going and soon see a ribbon.  It began to bring me so much relief, and I chose to use these sightings as “energy”.  Part of the sports psychology 🙂

All reports were right, it seemed much longer.  I ran out of water and I was hurting.  I was trying to do math in my head.  A volunteer told me 10K left, 6K to next aid station.  Was I going to hit my 6 hour goal?  A little later I saw a hiker who told me just over a mile to the aid station.  Oh my, will this ever end?  Just then, a blister must have popped because I had a burning pain on my toe that hurt like hell.  Finally I saw my girlfriend on the trail and she started to run with me.  She said, “oh no, where’s your brother?”  What?!?!  I never passed him, which meant he was lost again.  Shit!


I was approaching the aid station I had dreamt and visualized about.  Only 2.5 miles to the end.  In my dreams, however, 2.5 miles felt so much shorter!  My Dad gave me a high-five as I entered the last aid station and my fan club, Mom and Hubby cheered me on.  Erik then says, “listen babe, it’s your song!”  Out of some hidden speaker I hear, “Let Her GO’ by Passenger.  A song I am currently OBSESSED with. The sun was shining, the fall colors bursting, and (looking back) it was perfect.


All I could think for the next 2.5 miles is DO NOT GET LOST.  This section actually seemed to go by pretty quick.  Well, looking back that’s what I remember!  Music to my ears was when a volunteer told me 100 yards left.  I just thought, “just a football field.”  I ran down the last hill, making sure I didn’t fall, and felt strong as I crossed the FINISH.  My time read 5 hrs 44 minutes!  To my surprise I was told I was 2nd female and 12th overall!  As I hugged my parents and hubby I was immediately handed a chocolate milk by one of the top finishing men.  What I read is true, ultras is a different breed.  How nice of this guy.  He made sure I was ok and told my the blurry vision was normal.


5 minutes later my brother crossed.  He was 13th overall.  His Garmin read 35 miles!  Oy Vey!  What a day we had.  I learned so much, and could not believe how stressful it was.  I was so mentally and physically exhausted.  I guess this is ultra-running!

While I am very pleased with my results, I know I was not the 2nd best female.  The girl who was in 2nd the whole day must have gotten VERY lost during that 8 mile stretch.  A hiker had told me around mile 23 she was about 4 minutes ahead of me.  I also know I was in 18th most the race.  Many would argue this is all part of Ultras, but I will take from this race what I needed from it.  I have a lot of work to do to place in the big races, but I also know I am not too far from being a top racer.  Now I need to decide where I go from here.


I have what it takes, but it will take everything I got!

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.. 

Track Workout Challenge

track wourkoutOkay, I need some of you to do this workout and give me a goal time!  The Burpees I will be doing CHEST TO GROUND and the squat jumps should be done with the BUTT BELOW THE KNEES.  Send me your times on here or on TWITTER: @myworldmygym.



Learning to Walk the Hills

I know I don’t write blogs often enough, but that is simply because I only write when I feel a strong desire to get thoughts out.  Thoughts that I think may touch people in some way.  I never want to write just to write, and I also never want to write until I am sure of my thoughts.


I think I have not written in the last 2 weeks not from lack of thoughts (my thoughts NEVER stop) but because I have been spending a lot of time lately trying to gather my thoughts.  Thought #1 ~One thing I KNOW for sure is I am not only a completely different person from what I was 10 or 5 years ago, but even ONE YEAR ago.  When people say “you find yourself in your 30’s” they weren’t kidding.  I feel like I grow with each day, and it is a fascinating journey.

Thought #2~One area that you will see changing is in my fitness life.  From the age of 5 I have been trained and taught to go as hard as you can when practicing/training.  In recent years, when running became the only competition I had, that meant going out and running as fast as I can for as long as I can.  I would finish every run as strong as possible, and go all out to the end.  This would translate to races, where I would cross every finish line with nothing left in the tank.  I ran 5Ks, half marathons, and in October a Marathon.  Throughout this, people would say it was easy for me because I was a “runner”, but they were only basing that on the fact that I would finish each race in the Top 3 in my Age Group, and at times Overall for females.  However, the truth was, not only was I not a “runner” but I hated it.  I dreaded my runs, but it was the one way I was able to still compete, and the energy of RACE DAY seemed to make the dreaded training runs worth it.


So, as I stated, I finished my first marathon in October, the ING Hartford Marathon, running alongside my best friend.  It was an amazing experience, and I am happy I did it.  However, it was like the end of an era for me.  I crossed it off the Bucket List and thought to myself, now what?!?

Throughout the training for my Marathon, I would spend some runs in the woods, whether solo or with another friend of mine.  Her and I would explore the local trails and State Parks for hours, and every time I would finish the run not with relief (like on the road) but being disappointed it was over.  There has always been something about the woods that I was drawn to, 2 of my favorite things being hiking and mountain biking.  However, I never thought about trail running competitively because I didn’t think there were any races locally.  However, as I started to research it more, I realized that there were options, although maybe not as close by.

So, I made a decision for MYSELF…no more road running.  I would stay in the trails and train a different way.  I would walk the hills when they became steep, and throw out my old mentality that “walking on a run was not a successful run”.  I would take some advice from my more experience friend who has spent years in the woods, and instead of sprinting the last 100 yards of the run, I would stop and walk.  I would finish my runs taking in the beauty around me.


In these last few months I have spent so many hours in the woods by myself.  I look forward to every run, and I still have to drag myself off the trails, not wanting it to end.  I have spent many moments running and thinking, and at times STOPPING to enjoy the views and thinking!  With this, I have set some goals for myself for 2013/2014:

  • Trail 50K

The Power of The Universe

alchemistFor several months now, maybe even over a year, I have been intrigued with Transcendental Meditation.  By no surprise to those who know me, this interest began from my Man…my Buddha, my Leader: Howard Stern (many of you will change your opinion of me based on this knowledge.  Some for the better, others for the worst.  I could write a whole blog on this contraversy, but just know that if you hate him, you probably haven’t spent enough time getting to know him)

Anyway, Howard is one of the biggest promoters of TM, and draws in more people to the process than almost any other.  After several months of researching and talking to other TMers, I decided to finally take the plunge and start my process of learning the technique.  I started last Thursday with an Intro, followed by (what will be) 4 straight days of learning and practice.  I am currently on Day 3.

I will not go into too many details of TM and my experiences, as I am still learning and trying to figure it out myself.  However, I do want to share a story.  I will not relate it to TM, but rather the power of putting your intentions out there and following your heart.  (those who have not read, The Alchemist, I suggest you do!)  The first day I started TM, my instructor heard what I do for a living and my hobbies, and asked if I knew “Sarah”.  Apparently, we had a lot in common (personal trainer, triathlons, racing, yada, yada, yada) and she recently started TM.  I told her I knew “of her” and we were mostly Facebook friends, only bumping into eachother a few times at races.  However, I added that since leaving Facebook, she is one of the people I miss “keeping in touch with” (this reminds me, I need a “Why I left Facebook” blog)  She always posted beautfiul pictures in the woods, followed by great quotes…posts that I would do myself.


Fast Forward to Tuesday, my first learning day of TM.  I drove from TM to my studio thinking, “I need to find someone who knows “Sarah” or will see her (she works at another Gym right down the road) to get my her info.  The fact that she did TM was just confirming to me what I thought several times when seeing her posts on Facebook, “I should get together with this girl for coffee”.  I put it out there…to the Universe: find a way to contact “Sarah”.

The next morning I decided to leave for work early to go for a trail run.  I went to a location that isn’t my first choice, but it is right on the way to work.  Convenience won.  I enjoyed a great run, completely by myself in the woods, as this is not a popular area.  A.) Not too many people know about it B.) It is really just an out and back…not many options C.) It starts at a shooting range, which has been active with military/police my last 2 runs there.  Lots of gun shots.  Not very welcoming.

I did my “out” and made my way “back”.  As I got closer to my car, I see a person with her phone out, looking like she is taking a picture.  As I get closer, I see a very recognizable hair style and right away I knew.  Probably soone than I should have….IT WAS “SARAH”!!!  I was so excited and blown away that I was seeing her that she probably thought/thinks I am a nut bag.  She had no idea of the process that lead me to her, but after telling her she said, “make sure you share this with our teacher.  This is stuff that happened to me when I started TM”

Come to find out, she had not been to those trails since she was 8 years old.  She got lost then, and felt a need to come back and explore.  It was only my 3rd time there.  Again, these are NOT popular trails.  This was the first time I have seen her outside of races.  Come to find out she likes trail running and has the same availibility as me (before 3pm).  We were both looking for running partners, since it isn’t the safest being a female alone in the woods!  I got her digits, and I will text her soon about running together and maybe coffee.

This is the power of intention.  The power of energy.  The power of the Universe.