Thursday, October 2, 2014

With my shield or on it

Beginning with the IN Spartan race, I chose to race each course for fun. Every warm up was intended to find my smile before entering the starting corral. And it worked like a charm. My body thanked me. It's amazing how much stress can drain your legs. I figured that out in Georgia at the Spartan Sprint. Following GA I raced being thankful for the opportunity to spend the day outdoors with my Island of Misfits comrades sharing war stories and beers. For this reason, 2014 has been my best season yet. Perhaps, not my fastest, but my strongest and most rewarding.

And then came Vermont. Simply, Vermont broke me. I'm not sure what it broke. Maybe my human spirit. Mayby my silver linings attitude. I don't know. But I remain broken after that course. Ulrike and I spent 9 hours on that 16+ mile course with 6,600ish feet of elevation gain, insane, dangerous terrain, and obstacles that are seemingly easy when standing alone, but hell on Earth when strewn together in perfect order that only a sadist could visualize. In all honestly, the inverted wall served as the Gates of Hell. Once we climbed over it, shit hit the fan. Perhaps, that was intended by Norm. Who knows? I slowly transformed into a very ugly person. Every other word out of my mouth started with an "F." I felt hatred towards people who were truly innocent or meaning the best. I flicked off another racer at the Tyrolean Traverse. After falling into the water and doing my 30 burpees, a guy had the audacity to ask me if this was the burpee station if you skipped the obstacle. What. I did not provide an answer, but gave him the death stare. He turned to ask someone else and up my middle left finger went. The barbed wire crawl was painstakingly long. Glancing at it when not already being on the course, it would be super easy. But, after being on the course for so long, it hurt. Every minute pebble, grain of sand, dug into my palms and knees. Rolling was impossible. The weather was cold. Worst of all, there was an innocent, cheery volunteer in a Moose hat who I truly wanted to throat punch. I am ashamed to say this. This is absolutely not like me. I am always the happiest person on the course screaming the names of the folks I know as I see them and thanking all of the volunteers. Earlier in the day, I was screaming, "I'm alive. I'm human," while swimming across a pond because I was my typical race self. But this self, was fucked up Vermont self. I transformed into a Vermonster.

And I still have no idea. No amount of analyzing has revealed the answers. I just don't know. I know I'm broken. I know I am not the same person that I was when I started that course. I can honestly say you had to be there. I advocate for a 2014 Vermont Beast Support Group. Luckily, I have had Ulrike to share the experience with. I am grateful we can laugh at our absurd behavior and also not feel crazy when we realize we have both suffered spontaneous crying and lack of motivation. We joke we became OCR wives on that course calling each other babe and being the strong one when the other was faltering. I cannot imagine not being able to share in the experience with someone. So, that was Vermont. Not the glorified experience that I imagined. It was a beat down without success or satisfaction. Simply an ass kicking.

Now I go to the Ohio Spartan. After VT I decided to downgrade to only the Super. Spartan never returned my email, so I have decided today to stick with the Trifecta heat. Why? In some sick, masochistic way, I need to feel the pain. I need to know that Vermont did not defeat me. I am giving myself a 10% chance of completion. In exchange, I will leave 100% on the course. I will feel the pain of the struggle. I will be ripped off the course fighting. After Vermont, I just have this weird need to fight back. To go 10 rounds with Spartan. This is completely insane I realize, but to the racer, to the athlete, to the achiever, to the fighter, it is a fight that must be fought. It must be fought with bravery and courage. It will hurt and I will struggle, but I will leave satisfied. The odds are in my favor this time as I will have my team scattered all over the course. This is a team that has been with me through it all and has given me strength. I am proud to call myself a Crazy Mudder Mucker and cannot wait to line up next to them this weekend. I am ready to give myself to the Spartan Ohio Trifecta; heart, body and soul. So bring it Spartan.With my shield or on it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Curious Explorer

To say the least, the past several months have been a journey of self-reflection and discovery. I have found myself questioning all of the decisions that I have made. Questioning everything that has led up to that particular moment when I'm set in a deep reflection. I've had my doubts. I've had my moments where I am in sheer panic that I totally screwed up my entire life on April 8th when Jon and I chose to separate. I speak to many who have been through the same. Its fascinating how quickly you can connect to a complete stranger once you discover you are both going through the same grieving process (furniture sales women, nail technicians, co-workers, family, teammates, etc). You compare stories, compare emotions, you relate, and you realize what you are feeling is par. Phew. I'm not crazy. Well, at least not in the committed kind of way. Most importantly, I've uncovered an underground, secret society of those who have been through it. Those who understand. You know who you are. And I thank you. We've grown closer because of this and your support has truly meant the world to me. I am grateful that so many friends and family have stepped forward to lend a helping hand, share a story, or just tell me, "It sucks" and offer a big ol' hug. It is a process, and it still sucks. There are good days and there are bad days. There are Tuesday nights that I'm roaming Big Lots crying my eyes out. And then there are days I feel that I can conquer the world. I much prefer the latter.

Regardless, this is the decision that was made. I will continue to grieve as is the process. For how long? No idea. Whose to say? What I can do is choose how to ride the tidal wave of change. Starting new is an opportunity not many folks are afforded. And here I am presented with this gift. I choose to ride this wave as long as feasibly possible without getting knocked of my board. I have decided to not settle into my old ways. Yes, I may stray. I've always been terrible at quitting cold turkey. But, I will strive to live the life that I was meant to live.

What does this mean? The life I was meant to live. When experiencing a monumental shift in lifestyle, one thinks back to the ways things were. For me, I thought of my childhood. I was a truly, happy child. I enjoyed my childhood. What changed between then and now, outside of my mom's home cooking and my dad pitching wiffle balls? After much thought and conferring with close, childhood friends (which to this day remain my closest comrades), I have realized I was an explorer back then. I was a leader as well. I've always had a tough time conforming to rules if I felt there was a better way. Well, that led to a lot of trouble. Ask Steph and Matthew about the time I convinced them to drag our bicycles through 100 yards of mud (Matthew broke his bike). Ask Andrea how I convinced her to skip Girl Scout chores to explore the woods and find new trails while at camp (We got in huge trouble with extra chores). Ask Shannon, if she remembers, how I convinced her I knew where the Fountain of Youth was (We ended up grounded because our parents couldn't find us). Ask my mom about all of times I came home covered in poison ivy, but I just kept going back into the woods determined to find a new adventure.

Now, quickly approaching 32, I observe my nephew and niece as they embark on their lives. They are 4 and 2, respectively, untouched and unscathed by the influence of school, media, and others around them. They are simply true to there genetic make up. They are who they are. Who they are meant to be. Emma talks to ants and lives in her own happy world. Independent and confident. Colby, loves to learn. He will question everything. And he's an amazing athlete. I envy them. I have realized that I need to get back to my essential being. Who I am, and who I was meant to be. I've tried to fit a mold. Huh. Not a good fit, perhaps, currently. Although getting there. I need to go back and remember who I am.

This finally leads me to the reason behind the title of this blog. I have a book, Wise Women, by Joyce Tenneson. It was given to me over a year ago for attending a business women's networking event. It's a coffee table book with pictures of women aged 65+ sharing memoirs or advice on life. Last night, was the first time I chose to actually open the book. Fate, or whatever you may choose to call it, had me turn to pages 24-25. Evelyn Lauder's message on page 25 resonated with me so strongly it brought me to tears. And I quote, "I've always believed that whatever you are when you are young, as you age, you become more so." I found the closest pen, and I wrote, "I am an explorer."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spartan Sprint IN - The Catalyst for Change

I distinctly remember the moment that was the catalyst that set into motion small changes that have slowly transformed my life.

Not surprisingly if you know me or read this blog, it was at the 2012 IN Spartan Sprint. My very first OCR. It was bitter cold. The temperature hovered around 40 and the sun was nowhere to be seen. My brother, Jon, my dad, my sister-in-law, and I arrived at the course to see people swimming across a lake, carrying logs, hurdling over logs eight feet in the air. To put it simply, I was scared shitless. This was not what I signed up for. These races were supposed to be fun runs. This could not have been further from the truth. I wholeheartedly believed I was going to die. That I was not able to do this race. I asked Jon to stick with me and help me through it. However, he was more interested in competing with my brother. We fought. I begged him to stick with me, we were married after all. Yet, he insisted on running at his own pace. It was bad enough that my dad and sister-in-law walked away because it was uncomfortable. Here I was at the starting corral, petrified, upset, and fighting with my husband. Once Drop Kick Murphy's started playing, we took off with Jon speeding ahead. At one point he looked back for me, and at that point I just told him to go on. I'll do it by myself. And I did. And it was incredibly scary and insane. I met some people along the way here and there, just as I do now when I race. There were folks who helped me when I needed it. I remember when standing at the lake crossing hearing my dad cheering for me to go for it. Telling me I can do it. So I swam across that damn lake. And I felt amazing. I had just swam across a lake in 40 degree weather with my dad and sister-in-law in winter coats watching on. The tempo really changed for me. I went into my fighter mode and picked up my pace.

At some point after this when I was mostly alone on the trails, I felt this surge of empowerment. Here I was, doing what I thought could not be done and on my own. I am capable of conquering amazing feats with solely me as the support. I seriously felt all, "I am woman hear me roar." And at that point I reached down, swiped my index fingers in mud and swooped them across cheeks like war paint. That was the moment. That was transformation. The sheer surge of empowerment has stuck with me for 2 years now. That course released something that was buried way down deep that I had forgotten about. It released my essential being, who I am. The nature girl. The lover of adventure. The eternal optimist. The girl who believes in Disney movies. The hard worker. The laborer. The athlete. The fighter.

IN Spartan Sprint 2012 will always hold a special place in my heart and will always be my favorite race. Since that first race in 2012 I have accomplished more than I ever could imagine. I traveled to IL and TX to race. I became obsessed with nutrition and the healing power of food. I changed jobs. I left a position with a small company because I was unhappy and did not foresee an opportunity for growth. I joined Merrill Lynch and passed both my Series 7 and 66 within 7 months on my own time. Then I chose to stay with my team when we transitioned over to Morgan Stanley where I continue to thrive in the industry and play a key role. I have met many, many, many amazing people through the sport of OCR who continually inspire me with their own Super Hero conquests of glory. My outlook on life has changed. I want more out of life because of this moment. More importantly, I have the courage and faith in myself to go after it.

That being said, I am running this weekend's race not so much to compete but to celebrate. I don't think you'll see me this weekend without a smile slapped across my face just grateful to have tromped through that dirt 2 years ago and appreciative of everything the sport has given me. Aroo!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fear and Failure

Fear has been at the forefront of my thoughts lately. Not so much what it means, but how it affects my choices. I've long believed that I push myself in all aspects of my life because I have a fear of failing. I'm afraid of admitting that I can't do something. Having to deal with some sort of shame. Yesterday I had a profound revelation when I failed to hit a back squat PR. Coming off a rest day when Ryan said we were doing back squats, I announced, "I'm going to PR today." I worked up to 175lbs, and I failed. I did half a squat. I tried again on a second round, and although stronger, I still failed. Driving home, I thought about not hitting my PR, and about how I'm going to get to that 175# benchmark next week. And while I'm at it, maybe I should have a goal of a 200# back squat. Then, light bulb. Not one of those environmentally friendly lights bulbs that barely give off enough to light up a room. I'm talking bright, industrial grade fluorescent lights. In that moment I realized that I thrive when I fail. I. Thrive. When. I. Fail. This whole time, I've been holding onto a fear of failing for no good reason. This fear has been holding me back. Stopping me from doing things because I might fail. And more than just athletic endeavors. Career. Life. Travel. You name it. All along, this sneaky fear of failure has paved my path. Who knows what I have missed out on? Who knows what I could have been or where I would physically be? All because of this fear of failing.

Watching the Olympics is always an inspiring experience. You watch these athletes who have fought and trained everyday for 4 years, just to have a chance to compete in the international spotlight. I caught the post performance interview with Gracie Gold following her skate for the Team event. She mentioned that her and her coach were reading Phil Jackson's book. Summarizing from the book she said, " know, when you let go of all the fear that’s when you find the love for—not just in sports—but anything in life. So you have to love it and let go of all the fear." Days later I still find myself thinking about her statement. I even bought the book.

I've made the decision to not let the fear of failure dictate my life. I'm letting go of that fear. I may need to remind myself from time to time, but I'm taking a stance against it. Failure may become more common place. But, who cares? I'll come out stronger on the other side.

So here's to failure. May we have many more.

**Please note author does not believe failing in Sky Diving will make her stronger or better or alive for that matter.**

Saturday, February 1, 2014


What started as a short walk ended in the ugliest, slowest, but most glorious and necessary 3 mile jog. I'm back. It's time to rebuild. But most importantly, I have running back in my life. Running is my happy place. Running is my dark place. Running is my therapy. It is my escape. It lets me feel without judgment.I run when I'm happy. I run when I'm grieving, when I need to sort things out. I've cried my eyes out, I've laughed, I've danced, I've smiled, I've rejoiced, I've gone numb. All while running. I'm alive. I'm free. I'm me. Am I a masochist? Maybe. Am I an addict. Yes, in all sense of the word. I turn to running to hash things out. I crave the goose bumps and tension release with every deep exhale. I need the time alone where I can just be me. No To Do lists, no work obligations, no pressure. Just my shoes, my body, and my mind working as one.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

2014 To Do List

2014 is going to be my year of redemption. It's going to be huge. Epic. I have never been so focused and determined. I have never woken up at 5 am consistently in my whole entire life because that's just crazy. Unless, you want it that badly. Come Hell or high water or snow or ice or sleet, I am in my car just about every morning headed to the Sweat Shack (Go Native Fit) to bust my ass or my shin to become a better athlete. And I am. Ryan (owner and my OCR Coach Extraordinaire), is slowly building my body making me stronger faster. And I'm loving every second of it (except for rowing. I hate rowing. You're literally rowing for dear life but going nowhere. Even with a PR today, I still hate it. I like my boats with a motor and an ice cold beverage in my hand.) I digress. Let's just get into it.

  1. Do 1 One Handed Push up - Why? Because then I would be a legitimate Bad Ass and its a cool party trick.
  2. Run - Still healing my thrice sprained ankle
  3. Run Faster - Naturally
  4. Stay healthy - No more shin splints or PF or sprained ankles
  5. Do 10 Pull ups - I'm up to 3 as of yesterday's Friday Pull Up Challenge
  6. Ring the cowbell at the top of the rope with my foot - Somebody better have a camera ready if I succeed
  7. Go outside the wake and then back in on my Wakeboard
  8. Run 50 miles in one day - Original plan was to run the Mountain Masochist but due to timing and travel, I've decided to do 15 laps at my favorite park and call it the Cowbell 50. Insane? Yes. But I love this park and I want to accomplish this feat on home turf with hopefully my friends and family running a lap or two with me and cheering me on. Date is TBD. Spartan needs to get their stuff together and announce VT's date. 
  9. Get up and over the Sternum Checker at MGG - 'Nough said. I'm tired of falling off this thing.
  10. Goal Race finishes (Note: My race schedule is very lean and focused. No "Fun Runs." I'd rather be training either at Go Native or on the MGG course)
    • Spartan Race - Top 15
    • Mud, Guts, and Glory - Top 3 
    • Mud Ninja - Top 3
    • OCR World Championships - Top 20
That's it. Nothing fancy, but definitely tough. I expect the race field to be deeper with amazing female athletes this year. Having not ran since late November, I have moments of panic and feelings of failure. I know my strength is there. It was almost there last year. I know it continues to improve by leaps and bounds, but I fear that I just won't be fast enough on my feet. And that is when I have to flex the mental muscles and squash all feelings of trepidation. This is when I have to completely trust Ryan and believe him when he says to wait a few more weeks, you'll get it back quickly because you love it, and you got the dog fight in you. Followed by, "Go row."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013 Thoughts and Montage

My second season of OCR has officially come to a close. A quick trip to Texas to see TeamTx members and get my Trifecta would cost about $600. I have a work commitment the morning of the Artic Dash. And, most importantly, my sprained ankle needs to heal. Thus, it's time to give my race shoes one last hose down for the year.

Even though it was a very frustrating season being plagued with a foot injury and shin splints, it was also very rewarding. Despite sub-par training and running, I performed better in almost all of my races. Back in January, I laid out my goals for the 2013 season. I had two:
  1. Top 10 Female finish for any local OCR's I race. 
  2. Top 20 Elite Female finish for IN Spartan Sprint in April.
I am very proud to say that I accomplished Goal 1 with 8th being my lowest place. Goal 2 did not happen. Due to struggles with my foot, I didn't even line up with the Elites. Instead I walked/ran the race with my bestfriend, Andrea, and fellow teammate Gina. And it was a fantastic time. Yeah, I was heartbroken and of course frustrated, but there is always 2014. And there will be a 2014. And more importantly, Goal 2 is on for 2014 and very achievable.

Now for the fun part (at least for me). If this were an end of season sport's banquet, it would be time to pull down the screen, dim the lights, and cue Queen's, "We are the Champions" (Please hit play before continuing for your viewing pleasure).

Pre-Spartan Sprint IN
Everyone's first Spartan with the exception of me and my Brother, Boogie


Oh, the dreaded barbed wire crawl at IN. It may have been dramatically shorter than 2012's, but definitely wetter and uphill. Lessons learned: 1. Don't stop to take a break. The man working the hose has no mercy. 2. Andrea has a fantastic butt. I had the pleasure of literally pushing it up the mud hills.

I was forced to a walk during this race due to my foot. It was frustrating and I held back tears during this race. I also found that I still do not like ice water.

Road Trip to Marseilles for the MW Super. I literally decided to race that week and Andrea was best friend enough to join me. Being out with a busted foot she was a loyal SAG. Monumental moments include: discovering Chicago is an hour behind us; finding my foot no longer hurt when I ran; getting up and over the inverted wall followed by singing, "Damn it feels good to be a gangster"; getting over the slippery wall after the fight of my life with the assistance of an amazing racer, then to get 3/4 of the way up the rope; feeling pure sadness looking up at the trees when I found out there was only 1 mile left of the race; meeting with TeamTx member Jesica and other Texan OCR's at a Mexican restaurant that evening (note: Texans should not visit Mexican restaurants in the MW. They will be disappointed); sharing the reasons why we ran our first Spartan and why we still run them; swearing I would retire from OCR once I got up a rope during a race; checking out the strip club in the mobile home in Peru, IL from the parking lot.


Hands down, best moment ever. Well, shortly before the best moment of my 2013 OCR season at the Mud Ninja. This is a picture right before Ulrike and I became friends. At the right of this photo you can see how the traverse is built into a mound. This mound drops into the biggest mud pit ever. The biggest mud pit ever is where I met my fellow BAMF, Ulrike. We both struggled around this pit trying to find a way to claw our way out of it. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life in this pit. We strategized and bitched together. It was awesome. We finally found climbing pockets on the right side and clamored out. I ended up finishing the race before Ulrike, but I waited at the finish line for her. Best decision ever. I respected her as an athlete and wanted to cheer her on as she finished. I had to meet this girl. As soon as she finished, there was no shutting us up or separating us. We spent hours chatting, laughing, struggling to go to the Port-a-Potties in our flip flops through the mud. We raced a total of 5 races together this year (the first being the Survival race when we didn't know each other but she was on my hip the entire time being a PITA). I can't wait to race with this Chica in 2014. World be warned.

I raced the Mud Ninja because it was $27. Turns out it was an awesome race. Amazing obstacles and terrain. I completed all of the obstacles, including their tougher than Spartan Traverse wall, with the exception of the Ninja Warrior style spring board cargo net contraption. We'll blame that on my fear of taking a leap of faith. I acknowledge that fear and also know that it is responsible for my inability to conquer the Sternum checker at MGG. Any who, I had no idea that the top 15 of each gender won a Ninja Sword. And a real one at that. This pic, "What? Its a legit Ninja Sword." This sword has split Lemons over a bottle of wine and it was also the weapon of choice when I thought I was going to get robbed (turns out it was my neighbor dropping off a card and bottle of wine the night before my Series 7 exam).

Not OCR, but an Epic wipe out during my first time Surfing off the back of a boat.

Placing 2nd to the OCR champion Amelia Boone at the inaugural MGG. That's about it. Full recap can be found here. This moment was truly monumental. A game changer. I unfortunately sprained an ankle a few weeks later but the fire is still burning brightly. 

Not OCR but still awesome. Double Hula Hooping BKB for the WEBN fireworks.


More Cowbell = Get your ass up the rope. Done. I had my brother make me this shirt for the 2nd MGG race on Nov 2nd. I was deteremined to ring that damn cowbell during the race. I failed the first race and the first training session. I got up it the second training session after several tries and after channeling the RAS section of my brain (Google it). During the Nov 2 race, first time. I developed a rope climbing mantra at one of my training sesh'es at GoNative, "Loop, Push, Grab." Worked like a charm. I also decided to go back on my word and not retire from OCR.

This is the Weaver and luckily this picture is shot from a more flattering angle. I included this picture because despite my sprained ankle I still rocked the obstacles at MGG, Nov 2, that I failed at the first MGG. I got up the rope, across the Weaver, across the Monkey Bars, across the Polish Traverse. My time was much slower, but my strength and determination really shined through. I really look forward to being at the top of my game for their first 2014 race.

Not only are these ladies Sexy Beasts, but they are strong, crazy, determined, and so much fun. From left to right, meet my new fav OCR ladies, Grace, Ulrike, Bianca, and Me. I always look forward to these faces when its race day. Bianca and I share a certain determination when it comes to walls and ropes. We conquered the walls at Mudocalypse and rung the cowbell at MGG Nov 2.

The Crazy Mudder Muckers. I literally finally figured out what the team name alluded to after Mudocalypse. Before that I just thought it was an annoyingly long team name. Apparently I was the last to that party. Now I'm proud to call myself a CMM. In fact I've always been a CMM just Lone Wolf style. I've now found a pack that drinks from the same pitcher of Kool-Aid whom I look forward to seeing through out the year. We're a weird bunch. Quite frankly. But that's the OCR community in general. We're very tight and very hyper for a couple of hours following a race. We stick together like glue. We're friends with folks on Facebook that we've never met in person but trust them more than some of our own blood. We trust and respect one another because we know and understand the Hell we put ourselves through just to fight through 3-5 miles of woods and obstacles. We stayed glue to FB for a weekend searching frantically for updates on WTM, the Death Race, the Ultra Beast, and no one else knows what the hell we're talking about. We will have viewing parties on Dec 7th. Our hero's won't be found in Sports Illustrated or People. Our heroes are likely people who have a story similar to ours. Our heroes are lost souls who found their calling in becoming human again through the sport of OCR. We are people who cannot simply walk down the road. No, we walk down the road with logs or a tire someone tossed. We carry CamelBak's during races so we can hand out Gu Pak's and salt pills to racers that are struggling. We are who we are or who we are becoming. Most OCR athletes can tell you an incredible story about how the sport has transformed them. I know I can. Its a powerful hobby. Its a powerful passion. My family will joke that when my brother decided we're doing a Spartan race he created a monster. I like to think he forced me down the road I was meant for. I am forever grateful for this sport. I cannot wait for April when I get to race again. In the mean time, you'll find me diligently training so I can have opportunity to race with these admirable folks again. These folks who I call family. These folks who post all sorts of dirty pictures of themselves on the internet. These folks who understand the determination it takes to get through one of these races.