Goodbye Tutu

The 2015 racing season opened this past Saturday with the New Jersey Spartan Beast. I knew I had trained hard and was confident that I’d do well. I’d finish strong and be towards the head of the team. I promised myself that I wouldn’t let Spartan break me. But that’s not exactly what happened.

The team dynamic had already changed months earlier. The novelty of the tutu was wearing thin. My great friend and (now ex) team captain Kim and I had discussed it on multiple occasions and eventually she left. Initially, the team was a supportive group who always vetted out new members with enthusiasm. We were friends, each at different athletic abilities, but we shared the same values when it came to racing.

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But it’s not like that anymore. I consider only one of the girls a good friend and the truth is, had I not been part of the team almost from its inception, I’m not sure I’d even be invited to join. This version of Badass Honey Badgers are much more light-hearted, taking pictures on the course—not the race—seriously.

The tone was set the night before, when I arrived to find my teammates smoking. There was a pile of gu sitting on the table, but no sign of actual race preparation. It continued the next morning, when most of the group was running late. I was really annoyed and I know it showed on my face. Looking back, I should’ve just left without them, but in the moment that option didn’t even cross my mind so I ended up taking off late. More troubling was how I was feeling that morning—panicked and nervous. And when Kim called to tip me off on a few race-related things and wish me luck, I got hysterical. Kind of like my first Super in 2012….she asked how I was at the finish line and I burst into tears. But like a good captain and friend does, she made me feel better.

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The cannon went off and I lost my team along the way—they were ahead of me. I was frustrated with myself for that. We caught up with one another several times, but I was irritated nonetheless. I pushed on and tried not to think about it and instead concentrate on the positive.

And the positive hit when I approached the bucket carry. This obstacle first appeared at the Spartan Beast in Vermont in 2013. I couldn’t do it then. It re-appeared at the Beast the following year and was completed only because Kim and I had teamed up. This year I was strong enough to do it on my own.

I was proud of myself for moving at my desired pace of 2 miles an hour for a fair chunk of the race. I am not proud of myself for letting Spartan (or so I thought) break me down. I thought, why am I doing this? Maybe I should quit…a DNF isn’t a big deal. Yes it is. I don’t want to DNF. My mind was racing. I actually questioned whether earning a second trifecta was really as important to me as I had initially thought. As I kept the training tips I had originally been taught in my head, I realized what it was. It wasn’t Spartan breaking me down. It was me breaking myself down. This team, in its current state, isn’t for me anymore. Turns out I’m still learning things about myself on the mountain…even four years later.

After I crossed the finish line, I noticed two of the girls had bought Trifecta finisher shirts. I laughed to myself. They’re not trifecta finishers yet, I thought. One of them isn’t even a true Beast finisher. Two of the girls were smoking cigarettes and pot during the race. I couldn’t believe it. I told Jeff about it when I got home Saturday night.

You have to stop. You take this more seriously than them.

I had been pushed over the edge, and a few hours later unbeknownst to him, I threw my tutu in the trash. So I’m trading in my Badass Honey Badger shirt with fond memories of what we were originally for something better. No regrets. No looking back.

And I knew at the finish line.

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Me, But Better

When I first started this blog my intent was to use it as a progress tracker as I trained for obstacle course races. Then life got in the way and I slacked. I missed my trifecta last year because of that.

But this is a whole new year that’s so much bigger than me. It’s about us. I’m marrying the love of my life in 3 months and we have a plan in place to start a family this year. That plan also means my racing season ends in June, so that begged the question: when would I get redemption? I figured it would be 3 years at least.

But I was wrong.

It begins in less than 2 weeks. I made the commitment about a year ago when Spartan announced a NJ Beast that I would make up for last year now. I’ve up’d my training, been maintaining (for the most part) a paleo lifestyle and have been rewarded with results I’m excited about. So here I am, back to making a solid commitment to track my progress once again:

Box jumps – at my best two years ago, I was jumping 14 inches. A few months ago I hit 18, and a few weeks ago I hit 20.

Deadlifts – my personal record used to be 105 pounds. Now I’m at 135.

Cleans – for so long I struggled at 45 pounds, so I don’t know why exactly I loaded a 55 pound bar earlier in the week. I guess I figured the worst thing that would happen is that I would have to take weight off. But I didn’t need to. And tomorrow I will be reunited with my longtime workout partner and try for 65. I fully expect to have my ass handed to me either way. She’s notorious for that – she’s a believer in tough love.

So confident as I may feel, I still know there are no guarantees for what this season will bring. But this future mommy-to-be is going for broke, and heading out (temporarily) with a bang.

And I knew at the finish line.

When It’s Staring Me In The Face

When I got new my car a few weeks ago, I intentionally chose to hang my Trifecta medal on the mirror. I wanted that specific one because it serves as a reminder of what I am capable of. I worked hard for that medal in 2013 and thought it would be a few years before I could earn it again. But then Spartan announced a NJ Beast in April and a Boston Super in June, plus there was already the Tri-State Sprint,
so it’s set. My fiancé is even racing in Boston with me!

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But I remember how much work went into getting that first Trifecta two years ago. With a new job, a wedding and planning for a family, this is going to be a big year for me. And now I have half a season to get done in what should be a full one. I know what I have to do for that.

I’ve been at Cross Fit more often and have been running at the gym on the weekends. There are things staring me in the face there too.

Like a box.

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It’s just a box jump. Nowhere to go, really. But I was staring at that box for a good five minutes before attempting to jump on top of it. I was not used to a box like this; it was a lot higher than the ones I’ve jumped before. I’m short. I’m not flexible. That all works against me.

So tonight that box was my obstacle, but I got through 95 reps of jumping on it. And about halfway through I stopped thinking about what I cannot do because I was proving myself wrong in the moment. I am capable of more than I realized. Sometimes it’s the small gains that make all the difference.

And I knew at the finish line.

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The 2014 Obstacle Course Race Season

The 2014 obstacle course race season has come to a close. This year has been a whole new experience for me, teaching me all new lessons and helping me to better learn about myself.

I didn’t train as hard this year as I did in 2013, and I only have myself to blame. I kick myself now for letting that happen, but since it did I’ve spent some time reflecting on the reason behind it. Some have said things along the lines of ‘oh, well you’re in a relationship so it’s normal to let yourself go a bit.’ NO. That is not okay, nor is it acceptable. I love that I found what I wanted: a man who would either run obstacle course races with me or wait for me at the finish line, but I’ll never keep fit just for him. I do this for me.

I think sometimes he thinks he’s partially at fault, that he de-motivated me enough to not work as hard. I see things in the reverse.

I ended a 15 year relationship last year…no easy feat, but I did it with no regrets. Looking back though, I think I ignored my unhappiness by distracting myself with exercise. When I reached one goal, I pushed myself harder. I set my sights on the Spartan Race Trifecta and spent the year wondering, can I really do this? My ex would always wish me luck before a race, but he didn’t truly take much of an interest or try to understand why this was so important to me. Upon reflection, I think that made me want to work harder.

I remember stomping up the mountain at the 2013 Super, angry at him for making decisions that impacted my future but proud of myself for putting me first and leaving. It motivated me to push more. I remember thinking about the two guys I had been speaking to on Plenty of Fish, both of which took the same interest in my racing as my ex-husband – the difference was, both of those guys had yet to even meet me. Now it’s one year later, and I’m marrying one of them.

I should’ve realized that a healthy, happy relationship and hard-core race training are not mutually exclusive. It sounds like common sense, but I didn’t consciously come to that realization until about a month before this year’s Beast, and even though I had started to feel like myself again by the time race day came around, my body told me otherwise.

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I climbed Killington with an ulcer that started hurting me about 36 hours earlier. I chalked it up to my own personal obstacle – I was getting on that mountain. I sprained my thumb and had my left hand wrapped but still, I continued. But it got to a point where I had to stop. I was disappointed, but I don’t regret my decision. Last year I earned my Trifecta; this year I earned my first DNF, and lessons were learned from both.

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I wasn’t ready to end my season though, and signed up for the Merrill Down & Dirty. It wasn’t a difficult race, but it involved a lot of trail running which in turn, would find me on the floor around mile 5. Both knees were skinned, my pants were ripped, my nose was bleeding and my lip had been cut open. Volunteers ran over with water, offering to call a medic. I declined. My fiancé suggested we quit. I could see the look of concern in his eyes.

No, I am not a quitter. I’ll limp to the finish line if I have to, but we are not stopping.

So I’ve closed the season knowing that I didn’t race to my full potential this year, and I can never get that back. But I didn’t lose heart either – something a friend told me long ago could not be taught. So season four will be about combining it together, all while gearing up for a wedding and a pregnancy, because as my fiancé says, I’m a tough chick.

And I knew at the finish line.

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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.