Lessons Learned from Camping

You’re going camping for the weekend?

I wasn’t that surprised when my father gave me that response last Friday. After all, he always referred to me as his little ‘luxury girl.’ He didn’t mean anything by it, but it triggered thoughts of how much I’ve changed in my 30s. A few years ago I would’ve dismissed the idea of camping all together, and that’s in the unlikely event it would be presented to me in the first place. I would never be running, going to Cross Fit, encouraging people to do obstacle course races….or even doing them myself. But I’m not that girl anymore. I think it’s just taking my dad a little longer to realize that. He’s not good with change.

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On Sunday it dawned on me that I had essentially traded a $300 sushi dinner in Boston for $6 worth of fudge at a quaint little general store in Phoenicia. Instead of room service at a 5 star resort, I sat at a little picnic table with my love, outside a market with coffee and admired my surroundings. We talked about how nice it would be to have a vacation home in a humble little town like the one we were in, rather than a luxury suite at some exotic location.That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy being pampered in a private jungle cabin in Mexico a few weeks ago – I loved every second of that – but over these last few years I’ve come to realize that life is about the little things. Like my fiancé coming home with a slew of Paleo recipes he researched because he knows I am training for the Spartan Beast, or that moment when a 3-year-old asks to hide with me in a tent and says I love you.

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The truth is that for so long, I waited for my break. Things just weren’t going my way for years. And when my ex made a life-changing decision for us both, a good friend told me that this was my break. I didn’t believe her. It took me 3 months to find the courage to walk out the door and my first thought was: early 30s and divorced with a destroyed and unsellable home. Some might call that a failure.

I call it a do-over.

I am living with no regrets. I don’t have any what ifs. I am proud of the person I’ve become. So give me a home-cooked dinner, burpee penalties and a sore neck from sleeping on the ground any day. I wouldn’t trade this life for the world.

And I knew at the finish line.

Happy Mother’s Day

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever master a rope climb. For me, it’s always the toughest obstacle, and I credit my inability to poor upper body strength. But there are two obstacles off the course that are much harder, one of which is Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day has been a very difficult day for me these last 13 years since my mom passed away. I’ve had absolutely no reason to want to acknowledge the day and so instead have always spent the day ignoring it. I would go out of my way to find a restaurant that didn’t celebrate it and activities to keep me busy where I knew families were less likely to be. My dad was always good at distracting me.

But this year was different. This year I have the most wonderful man in my life, with a family who is just as kind as he is. It was time to push myself. I was doing that for me, to test myself, but I was putting myself in that vulnerable place because he and his family are worth it.

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I was hesitant these last few weeks about going. It was like the fire jump at the Beast last year. It was the final obstacle and the finish line was in sight. But the fire was abnormally high and I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

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You go ballerina!

Those words from a spectator was the push I needed to jump over the fire pit that night. And even though there was nobody to push me but me yesterday, I knew that I had a catcher if I started to fall.

Someone will always help you.

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That Spartan spirit – the amazing camaraderie that lives on an obstacle race course, that strong desire to help other people – also lives right here with me. If only my mom could meet him.

I’m proud of you.

One of the things racing has taught me is that being strong is about having the ability to bring others up. He knows that, and has yet to set foot on a course. I am glad that he will never truly understand how I’m feeling, but I feel fortunate that he definitely gets it. Not everybody would. As for that one last obstacle, I am confident that I will clear that one this year too.

And I knew at the finish line.

Unbreakable

One year ago today I remember thinking about the Boston Marathon attacks and how, as a runner with a personal connection to Boston, it hit close to home. I remember feeling lucky that it was only my house that Hurricane Sandy took from me; that I’m fortunate because my friends and family are safe. On this day, I was proud of myself for running a mile in soft sand with 18 pounds on my back.

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I look at pictures from this day and think about how clueless I was about what was coming. I had no idea that one year ago today I was just 9 days away from having the biggest bomb of my adult life dropped on me. My (then) husband was about to change my life, inevitably for the better. I was 9 days away from the start of agonizing over whether to leave him. Leave my comfort zone behind. And little did two of my best friends know, but they were just 9 days away from becoming the open ear I’d need for months to figure out for myself what to do.

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2013 was a big year for me. It was a year of change in more ways than one. I did a lot of things that scared me – starting with setting my sights on the Spartan Race Trifecta. I’m unsure how I got to that place. I don’t know what made me want to come back after failing my first attempt at running hill repeats two years ago or why I gave in to Kim’s stubbornness when I was first asked to do an obstacle course race. What I am sure of however, is that those very moments are what would ultimately set me on my journey to becoming a better, happier me.

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A lot of people talk about how Spartan Races have changed their lives. And I’m sure a lot of other people think that’s a joke. It’s just a race. But for me, and many others, it symbolizes so much more. There’s a reason why Spartan imprints ‘unbreakable’ on the bracelets it gives away at events. It isn’t just a marketing ploy.

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We all face different types of hardships in our lives. The reality is, I’ve probably been faced with more than many at only 33, but still, I push on and don’t feel bad for myself. I learned to look at my own hardships as obstacles, each one being a mental challenge that I had to overcome. Racing taught me to see things from that perspective, to be strong and to realize that it isn’t selfish to put myself first by going after what I want.

And I knew at the finish line.

Big Shoes

I have some big shoes to fill this year. When Kim publicly announced me as acting team captain for the first part of the racing season, she caught me off guard. Would I be able to motivate my team as well as she does? Can I guide others? I’m not as strong as her. I had doubts. It sounds so silly seeing as we’re not a competitive team. We’re just a group of welcoming people who love doing obstacle course races together. But even so, I wondered: can I fill those shoes?

I’d just have to see as the season unfolded.

As Jeff began preparing for his first race, I started sharing the same tips and strategies that had been taught to me. Carry the sandbag on your head. Practice for the tractor pull with my tire. Put the treadmill on the steepest incline possible and hike. Get ready to run in wet shoes. I started to get the same ‘why are you torturing me’ looks that I’d give Kim. I must be doing something right. Then it came at 6:00am this morning.

Are you going to give me a Spartan workout beating today?

I caught glimpses of him pushing himself today at the gym, but I never realized just how hard it is to keep an eye on someone else while doing a workout yourself. Burpees, push-ups, bear crawls, crab walks, sprints, lunges, squats, mountain climbers and planks. These workouts aren’t easy, and I’ve been emphasizing the well-deserved high-fives and good jobs. But there are also shouts to get up when he needs to hear it. I try to motivate. Because that’s what a captain does.

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You’re a good trainer.

It was nice to hear that, but there’s more. Lunchtime suckfests are back and I’ve got Casey with me this year. She’s an awesome running buddy who is training for a road race. Now I know nothing about road race training (I hate them) but Casey wanted a challenge last week and had turned to me to create one. So we did:

  • 3 rounds of running hill repeats
  • 1 round of walking hills with a 40 pound sandbag in tow
  • Leg raises
  • Russian twists
  • Sit-ups

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Casey killed it, and it was a challenge for me as well. But now I see things differently…it’s not just about me anymore. It’s about pushing and encouraging the people around me just as much as I push myself.

And I knew at the finish line.

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Reality Check

As I sat at dinner the other night with my boyfriend and a few of his friends, I listened to one guy tell me that when he runs, he competes against himself instead of a clock. I understood that mentality. I’m not sure everyone else did. But then again, I know I’m my own kind of crazy.

Now fast forward three days to today and that was me…competing against myself. It wasn’t pretty.

It’s been exactly two years since I began running the hills of Oyster Bay, so it seemed only appropriate that my first lunchtime run of the year include the hill that started it all. Casey and I picked a two mile route that I’d run countless times before without a problem. Today I struggled.

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It felt good to be running outside again, though reality hit when we got to the hill on Anstice Street. We got about 80% up – to the stop sign, an old landmark that I aspired to reach two years ago – before we had to start walking. Granted, it’s one of the bigger hills in town, but I had run it in its entirety so many times, even with weight on my back, that I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed in myself. But I know that muscles have memory.

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We ran some flat ground and approached Simcoe – the hill I was put on my very first day as a so-called runner. I remembered how it was impossible for me to complete for quite some time, and how big it seemed, when in reality since then, I’ve tackled far worse. But since I didn’t run all the way up Anstice, I wanted to see if I could pull this one off. I wanted to see how far back I had fallen.

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As it turns out, the answer was not terribly far, because I did it… and without a struggle. We even added some squats at the top for good measure. So even though today’s run was an ugly one, there’s always tomorrow. It’ll only get better.

And I knew at the finish line.

Spartan The F*ck Up

Much as I hate running the hills of Oyster Bay, I still miss them in the winter. I’ve been looking forward to taking out my tire and sandbag. And even more than that, I’ve been dying to get my new spartan-in-training outside. Well today was my day.

This season I get to pay it forward. It’s my turn to teach someone else all that was taught to me – obstacle course race strategies…training for the discomfort. Today it became very real.

I found the steepest, longest hill in the neighborhood and off we went to run, do tire drags and sandbag carries. It was a challenging workout but he’s got the same heart I do. He had this.

It’s easiest if you put the sandbag on your head.

I sounded just like my mentor. Cool.

As I dragged my tire, I watched him embrace the suck, running up that hill, wearing our team shirt with 40 pounds in tow. He couldn’t see the huge smile on my face. We met at the bottom of the hill at the end of the workout.

Okay, what’s next?

Music to my little Spartan ears.

Maybe he will discover a passion for obstacle course racing, maybe he won’t. Perhaps this May will be his only race and if it is, then that’s okay. Because I realize that he’s trying for me just as much as he is for him. He’s killing it.

And I knew at the finish line.

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Thirty Three

Last year, on my 32nd birthday I felt the need to stop and reflect on everything that happened, what had changed, and the lessons I had learned over the previous 12 months. And now, one year later, I found myself doing the same thing again as I drove to work this morning. Here they are:

  1. Practice patience – good things come to those who wait.
  2. I am in charge of my own destiny.
  3. I am not afraid to take risks.Image
  4. I’ve learned to pay it forward because I’ll never know how it may impact someone else’s life.
  5. It takes just as much strength, if not more, to pick yourself back up when you fall as it does to climb a rope. And someone will always help you.  Image
  6. I didn’t know it was possible to feel as happy as I do. And I deserve it.
  7. It’s the small gestures that really matter.
  8. Thoughtful gifts trump the lavish ones any day.Image
  9. Crying doesn’t make me weak.
  10. A day can make all the difference. Image

And I knew at the finish line.