Thirteen point freaking one.

One year ago this month I ran my first 5K. Well it was not technically my first since I used to run and did the occasional 5K for a good cause but this was my first one in probably 15 years. But after diving into fitness to help me cope with my grief, I can’t explain how running made me feel. It was as if I found myself again. It was also a way to give back and advocate for causes I believe in when doing races for charity.

When I lost my job, running seemed like the only thing that made sense. When I run, I feel free. Free from all my worries and stress. It’s just me and the my feet hitting the pavement while I listen to my favorite music. I love the feeling of the wind in my face and the road under my feet. It doesn’t matter how fast I go, if I win or lose. I often think about the people I pass or when the ones behind me or next to me and what their story may be. We are strangers and we have no idea what we may have overcome to get to this point. Running has comforted and healed me. It has showed me that I am physically capable of more than I ever thought was possible.

When I signed up for the Baltimore 1/2 marathon, I had other experienced runners tell me it was a challenging and hilly course. I was asked if I was part of a training group because I probably needed the support, etc. I blocked out all the comments and suggestions because I enjoy training alone and I obviously enjoy a challenge now too (see this post). I downloaded the Hal Higdon 1/2 marathon training app and began to train.

And on October 12th, I did it! I ran 13 point 1 miles and I never stopped until the end.

Baltimore half


I swam. I biked. I ran.

In that order. And I finished.

On Sunday, August 18th I completed the Athleta Iron Girl Triathlon which is a sprint tri that consisted of 0.62mi swim- 16mi bike – 3.4mi run and took place at Centennial Lake Park, in Ellicott City, MD.

I have to say that this was the most challenging thing I have ever done. Way more than childbirth, trust me! I wanted to back out the entire week before but I had another reason to do this besides it being a personal goal. The race took place on Dan’s birthday and he would have turned 43. I had to do this for him. I also had to do this for my kids to show them that you can do anything you put your mind to.

I trained for the race on my own and didn’t really follow any certain plan. I spent countless hours at the gym taking cycling classes, personal training sessions, cardio classes, etc. I bought a road bike and admit I only used it a handful of times on the road, mainly because I don’t like to go alone. I also logged miles and miles on the Ma & Pa trail where I typically run. But the swim part, my weakness, never really happened. It was like I had a mental block, anxiety, or a fear I had to face. I have never been a good swimmer and can’t say I love the water. I am the type that likes to get wet to cool off, and that’s it! So the thought of swimming .6 miles was daunting to me. I don’t know what I was thinking. My friends Tracey and Aimee who have done these in the past make it look so easy. Aimee even met me at our gym pool to practice with me and show me some things. And while she swamp laps so effortlessly with her muscular arms gliding her through the water, I kicked the board across the pool like a 5 year old in her first swim lesson! Ask my family, 2 days before the race I was watching YouTube videos on how to tread water and do different strokes. Who does that right before a triathlon?!

So race day finally arrived. The weather sucked. It was sort of cold and raining on and off. It had been only in the 70s the few weeks prior which is unheard of for summers in Maryland. I left my house at 4:45 am to get to the park in time and set up. My friend Nicole, who has done these many times, met me to show me the ropes. She is such a positive spirit who was able to calm my nerves since I showed up in tears. I even ran into Aimee who so kindly checked my tire pressure and got my bike all ready to go. It helps being friends with a triathlete! And Tracey was reminding me to know my limit but to me, there was no limit. I had been through way too much that I was not going to quit now.

My swim wave wasn’t going off until 8 so I had a lot of time to pass. We headed down to the water where I ran into some other friends who were doing it too. I quickly realized I was the only one who barely swim trained and thought WTH was I going to do?! I decided to just go be alone to get my head focused, watch the swimmers and see if anyone was hanging on to kayaks, quitting, etc. It was there that I met Sara. She was doing the same thing as I was and I said out loud “I am freaking out” and she said “me too, I just learned how to swim this year!” So we started to talk and talk and talk and we than we walked over to the end of the park so we could get a better view of the water and what we were about to do. We both had a fear of drowning too. And we both were determined to finish. We felt a little bit better seeing about 50 kayaks in the water along with the resting buoys so we at least felt safe. Sara was going off 12 minutes after me so we said our goodbyes and hoped we meet at the finish.

I got in line with my wave and the tears started to flow. I was being hugged by strangers. It was the sweetest moment having other women there tophoto(48) support you, calm you, and tell you all the things you need to hear at that moment. And my sister was there too. She was snapping pictures of my tears (after she hugged me and told me it was going to be ok and she knew I wasn’t a quitter). I listened to all the tips I had gotten from friends and got in the back of the pack. I couldn’t stop crying. I heard a familiar voice and it was Tracey offering a hug too. I kept walking in and all I could think about at that moment was Dan’s fight with cancer and his inability to walk and how he would have given anything to walk across the room. So how could I even think for a minute that I couldn’t swim .6 miles. I knew this was 80% mental and realized it’s now or never. I didn’t care how long it took me, this was for Dan.

And then we were off. I backstroked, I side stroked, and I half ass breast stroked. I stopped at the resting buoys to breathe too. I saw the pink caps of the swim wave after mine coming in and passing me but I kept at it. I flipped over to my back to float and rest that’s when I would take the moment to look up at the sky and talk to Dan. I did not care if anyone saw or heard me that point. I needed the strength to keep going and this is what kept me from stopping. And it took me 60 long grueling minutes. I reached the end all wrapped up in sea weed and emerged from the water to see my 2 sweet little boys. That made those awful 60 minutes worth everything.

photo(47)Once that swim leg was over, it was smooth sailing. I knew I could cycle and run so now I just had to enjoy the rest and finish. Oh and towards the very end of the cycle leg, my new friend Sara came flying by me out of nowhere yelling my name. We were even able to run part of the last leg together too. Here we are proudly showing our finisher medals!

So that is a half day of my thoughts all wrapped up into a blog post. The best part was finishing and seeing my family. Everyone was asking if I would do it again. Here is the parallel to childbirth again….so kind of like after you give birth, everyone asks when you are having another kid right?! I said no immediately but reflecting back on the experience, I found it to be amazing, rewarding, exhilarating, and so much more. I decided that if I do properly swim train, I would probably do it again. So do not quote me, key word here is probably.finishing Iron GirlSo what is next? The Baltimore 1/2 marathon on October 12th.

p.s.  you can click on the pics to see them larger too. : )