My Brother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

“How’s Florida?”

You can’t imagine how many times I’ve been asked, “how’s Florida?”  Every time this question pops up on my phone I stare at it and think, “how should I answer this?”  90% of the time I give a simple response, “It’s beautiful!”  “Gorgeous”. These are not lies. Florida is insanely beautiful. Not only is the weather warm and SUNNY every day, but there is SO MUCH TO DO in the nice weather. Every weekend there’s a different festival, fair, show, parade, etc. Not to mention the breathtaking beaches that are always just a bike ride away. Erik and I find ourselves almost daily asking out loud, “can you believe this is our hometown?”  It is everything I have always wanted. To NEVER BE COLD. That was literally my goal in life. Winters in Connecticut made me miserable. I was constantly cold, which meant I was always miserable. I honestly can’t think of too many things I hate more than being cold.

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So, here I am in paradise. LIVING where people VACATION!!  So, why am I staring at these texts unsure of how to answer them?  Here’s why…..because I am in FLORIDA and mission FITNESS is in CONNECTICUT. And THAT simple fact makes me feel incomplete. Like I left a part of my soul behind. Like there is a big void missing that cannot be replaced. Those of you reading this who are not MFers are probably thinking, “just find a gym there. I’m sure Venice, Fl has gyms.”  And if you are thinking that you clearly have never been to mission FITNESS!

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Let me explain. Yes, MF separates itself easily by the quality of the workouts and the trainers. But what really separates MF from the rest is the attitude there. The culture. The energy. While I am sure I may be able to find a place here (or anywhere) that gives me a good workout, it could never match the workout or overall FEELING I get at MF. That’s because in the last 7 years MF has attracted and maintained clients that feed off each other and will never settle for any workout less than their best. The way we are truly a FAMILY of people who have decided that average isn’t what we are striving for. A group of people who have realized this isn’t just a workout facility. This is a place that we go to when we need that extra motivation to sign up for that next race. Or take that big step in your life. mission FITNESS (watch this video) is a fitness facility that you enter to maybe lose weight or gain strength, but leave wanting to be a better person. There is a reason why every person who has ever left to maybe chase the next Groupon sale ALWAYS comes back.  It’s because while other gyms may have the same kettlebells or TRX bands as us, they could never match the energy.

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MF has separated itself from the rest and that’s because it starts, and has always started, from the top. Matt, the owner (and my brother) has always lead by example. From 5ks to Marathons to IRONMANS he has showed everyone that through hard work and dedication anything is possible. He has showed us that what we do in the fitness area of your life is what we carry over to the rest of our life. This combination has been the reason why MF is not only the fastest growing fitness facility in the area, but in my opinion the best facility….dare I say…anywhere!?!

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When I think of how my heart hurts for my separation from MF I think of the quote, “it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”. While I know MF will NEVER be lost from my life (both mentally and physically) being away from it has made me realize some things. First, I need to be a trainer and work with people like MFers like I need air, water and food. Second, I will NEVER settle for anything less than MF. Which means it’s time for me to start seeing what these Venice people are made of and see if I can get that MF energy going down here!!

Summer Solstice 5.5 Mile Trail Race

Photo Courtesy of Hartford marathon Foundation

Photo Courtesy of Hartford marathon Foundation

Not long ago I mentioned to someone that I follow a local runners blog.  Right away she responded, “I’m sorry, but to me she is way too self-absorbed.  Get over yourself”  I have learned to let people judge without feeling the need to defend, however, I couldn’t help but think, “Is this what people think about me when I write my blogs?”  Maybe.  Probably.  But as I drove out of the parking lot of Gay City State Park on Sunday, after racing the 5.5 mile Summer Solstice Trail Race, I thought, “I need to get my thoughts out there.  I need to blog this.”

So, why do I blog my experiences?  For a few reasons.  One,  I love to write.   Whenever thoughts overwhelm my head I write them down.  More often than not it is in my personal journal, however, when I think it is a topic others may benefit from I put it out on the world-wide web.  I know there have been so many times I have read others blogs and thought, “so, I am NOT the only other person who feels this, thinks this, etc.”  So, here are my thoughts about Sunday’s race.

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Like almost every race I do, I went into this race thinking I set the bar too high last year and would have a hard topping that performance.  (You can read about that race experience at the blog I wrote for  mission FITNESS, “Who Was Pushing Who”).  I came in 3rd place with a 7:29 pace for 5.5 miles.  For the TRAILS, this was a stellar pace for me.  However, upon checking in I knew one of the top finishers from last year was not competing, since she was working the event.  This was the girl I CHASED last year the whole race and placed 2nd, right ahead of me.

This year was nice because we had A LOT of mission FITNESS people running the race, many of which did my Intro To Trail Running Series.  It was also nice because toeing the start line next to me was my brother, the owner of mission FITNESS.  My childhood hero, my fitness inspiration.  Whenever I do a race knowing he will be at the finish line, it drives me a little harder.  I want him to be proud of me when he sees me finish.

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“Racers ready?” BANG!  We took off.  I found myself at the front, staying with the leaders of the pack for the first half mile, as we ran up the pavement park road that would lead us to the trail head.  Doing a quick pace (6:45ish) up a gradual hill, mixed with the anxiety of the race, left me short of breath as we entered the woods.  As usual, once I hit the single tracks I calmed down a little and settled into my pace.  At about 1.5 miles in while on a double track, I ran along side another runner for a while, who complemented my pace and told me I was in first (I knew this) and he had just passed the 2nd place girl, who was a little behind me.  I felt good.  My stride felt comfortable, and my heart rate was starting to settle.  I had a confident feeling that I may win this race.  However, I kept thinking of the blogs I’ve read….”it is mentally draining to be the one being chased.”  I knew I would have to maintain the lead the whole race, and that would be tough.

On the access trail I opened up my stride, and felt like I was doing a good pace.  I didn’t look back, but just hoped I was opening up the gap between the 2nd place girl and myself.   We detoured around a pond, and took a turn.  As soon as we took the turn, it didn’t feel right.  I didn’t pay attention to the arrow (rookie mistake) because I was just following the guy in front of me.  I panicked.  I stopped dead in my tracks, and as I did about 5 people who were right behind me, including the 2nd place female, passed me.    Urghhh.  This was the start of my mental “breakdown”.

I quickly continued running, and passed her again.  Looking back, should I have held back a little? Maybe.  But I was pissed and charged ahead to get back ahead of her.  So, the race continued with her on my heels.  I could LITERALLY hear her breathing for the next 4 miles.  My legs started to get tired, and as we hit the muddy, swampy areas I was losing my footing easier than I should have.  I was mentally breaking down.  I started to think about the 12 miles I ran that past Wednesday, which shouldn’t have been a factor.  With each hill I fought the urge to just let her pass and let this mental game of being chased end.  I felt like Katniss in the Hunger Games.  I battled with the thought of trying to pull ahead with a mile to go, or easing back and trying to “recover” to give myself enough energy to pass her at the end.  However, I knew a “slower” pace would hurt just as much as my “fast” pace, so I decided:  go as hard as you can for as long as you can, and hopefully that will get you the win.

I have never WON a race, and I wanted this so bad.  I wanted it because I felt I deserved it.  I’ve had the lead the WHOLE race.  I wanted it because I knew all my MFers who ran the 3.3 mile course would be at the finish line.  I wanted to win it for them.  I wanted to see the look on my brothers face when he saw I WAS THE 1ST PLACE FEMALE!!!

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A t mile 5, with 1/2 mile to go the girl who was on my heels the whole race passed me.  I stayed about 5 feet behind her, thinking that upon exiting the woods and hitting the pavement I would sprint to the finish, beating her.  I kept telling myself, maybe she made a push too soon and you will repass her.  We hit the pavement, for the last .2 miles to the finish.  You dream of this moment.  That moment that “something takes over you” and you go harder than you knew you could.  Well, I went as hard as I could, but it wasn’t hard enough.  Nothing “took over” but a downhill finish, making it tough to do anything spectacular.

As we sprinted down the hill I heard a Mom tell her young child, “Look!  Cheer!  That’s the 1st Place Girl!”  It hurt.  I was the 1st place girl in the woods for 5 miles.  Then she stole my thunder for the crowd.  Irrational thoughts, I know.  But, I’m a competitor.  It hurt.  Then the second punch to the gut….they were holding up the banner for her to run through when she finished.  This never even crossed my mind during my daydreams of winning.  Dammit.

I ended up finishing 2 seconds behind her, for a 2nd place finish.  I ended up with a little slower time, a 7:31 pace, but the WET trails mixed with my moment of being turned around may account for this.  This last 24 hours I have had a lot of “what ifs”.  What if I didn’t stop and let her run by.  What if I allowed her to keep the lead for a while?  But, these are all learning experiences.  I am new to this trail race world, and I will take all of these thoughts and images with me while I train for my next races.

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I will dream of that 1st place banner being held for ME, while my brother cheers me on, and I will do what it takes to make those dreams a reality.

“Some wish for it, others work for it”