Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Emancipation Of Plain Jane

For almost forty-four years I have lived my life worried about what others thought of me. I cared too much about conforming with the conservative sector of society, and was extremely uncomfortable in any situation that made me feel different or "visible" ~ as I have always been much more comfortable as my favorite flower, the Wall. I credit much of this to my conservative, New England, "first impressions matter" upbringing. It was drilled into me my whole childhood that it DOES matter what people think of you and this should always be in the forefront of your mind when you leave your home in the morning.

Fast forward to age 39. The age I began to get a taste of freedom and free thinking. The world of triathlon allowed me to begin to discover myself, to become comfortable in my own skin, and to feel accepted by others for who I truly am, in my rawest form, and to understand that it was okay to just be me. It didn't happen overnight, but over the next five years I began to discover more about myself - my interests, my abilities, my dreams. I suffered loss but I rebounded. I had low times and I had times of joy that were unparalleled to anything I had experienced before. I began knocking things off my "list" of things I wanted to do during my lifetime instead of just talking about them. Slowly I began caring less about what I assumed people thought of me and began to love me for me.

So here I am now at what I consider to likely be the middle point of my life. I'm ready to embrace the second half of my life but I want these years to be about fulfilling my dreams and experiencing everything in life that I want to experience. Sometimes I like to have a visual reminder of things to keep me on point. That's what this is about. My symbol of who I am, what I can do, and who surrounds me.

The hummingbird is for my dad. Since he passed I have associated seeing these creatures with him, and these sightings give me much comfort. They represent a lightness of being and a strength and speed disproportionate to their small stature. Constant forward motion. Just keep moving.

The Ironman symbol is obvious. The culmination of a lot of hard work. A reminder to me that I can do anything I put my mind to if I want it bad enough. That perseverance and the strength to face my fears are inate. There is nothing I can't do, and nothing I can't survive.

The background is the logo for FitBird Fitness. The teardrop symbolizes water (the swim) which was the greatest fear I have ever had - and one which I have faced and overcome. The two larger circles represent the wheels of the bike (with the black representing a race wheel), and the smaller circle symbolizes the run. And together they are a reminder to me of what got me through my training, my race, and my personal struggles - my FitBird friends and family. It is a reminder that I am not alone, and I am loved by many. 

So yes. Today starts the second half of my life. The one in which I don't worry so much about what others think of me. The one where I continue to tick away at my "list". Where I remind my children it's who you are on the inside that matters, not on the outside.

This is where this blog shall end.


Plain Jane No More

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Bucket (List) Is Overflowing...

Yes, it is that time again. Towards the end of every year I look back, reflect on the past year, and plan for the future. This year has been EPIC in many ways and I have truly lived my life to the fullest. I have achieved things I never thought possible although I dreamed of doing them from a young age. I am more motivated and determined to live every day to the fullest and go after the things I want to do and experience in life. The benefit for my writing out my list is that it helps to make me do the things I talk about. I recently found a piece of paper that my son wrote laying around the house. It was titled "My Bucket List" and on it he wrote:

1. Climb Mount Everest
2. Scuba Dive
3. Travel the world
4. Set and beat a world record

Just the thought that I might have gotten him thinking about his own dreams and desires is a huge gift to me. I hope he continues to feel he can, and will, do everything he sets his mind to.

This years focus steers me away from triathlon for a bit into other areas that I have wanted to experience. I still hope to compete in some smaller races, but want to hit the trails and break out my mountain bike again...maybe even get an adventure race or two under my belt. I am exposing myself to new areas of interest and I hope they will spur on new passions and excitement for life!

So, now (drum roll)... the unveiling of Bucket List 2014:

Items that have already been achieved are listed in blue. Items in red are planned for this year. New items are in green. * mark the items accomplished in 2013.
  1. Write and publish a book.
  2. Remain happily married to the same man (ongoing).
  3. Have children. 
  4. Skydive.
  5. Obtain the rank of Black Belt in a martial art.
  6. Officially complete a Half-Ironman.
  7. Officially complete a Full-Ironman.*
  8. Go to Kona and watch the Ironman Championship.
  9. Go camping alone for a weekend.
  10. Get a cool tattoo I design myself to symbolize #7.
  11. Own a black Jeep Wrangler that I can put my road bike on the back of and a yellow lab in the front of!
  12. Own a convertible.
  13. Run a half-marathon.
  14. Run a full marathon * (I'll accept wogging it)
  15. Sail a boat around an island.
  16. Make a significant, life-changing difference in someone's life.
  17. Ride a horse on a tropical beach at sunset.
  18. Go on a mission trip in a foreign country.
  19. Swim with dolphins.
  20. Go to a Joan Jett concert.
  21. Converse in adequate Spanish in a foreign country in order to be understood and to understand conversation.
  22. Travel outside of the U.S. (in particular: Canada, Italy, Caribbean, Belize)
  23. Open my own business (and build it enough to financially cover my hobby expenses)
  24. Find my biological family.
  25. Watch the sunset with friends.*
  26. Rock climb and rappel a moderate size cliff.
  27. Go snow-skiing on real powder snow.
  28. Hike part of the Appalachian Trail.
  29. Snorkel around a tropical island.
  30. Scuba dive on vacation.
  31. Save someone's life; respond to an emergency situation.
  32. Watch a baby being born (got to watch my daughter's birth).
  33. Become a Certified Search and Rescue Canine Handler
  34. Learn to ride a horse.

I'm excited to get 2014 underway!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ironman Florida 2013 Race Report... The Final Chapter.

I admit it. I crossed the finish line, before the stroke of midnight, with a stuffed monkey in my arms, a cramp in my butt, and a huge smile on my face. But honestly, would you expect it to end any other way??

So now that you know how it ends, you can either go on about your day, or keep reading to see what led up to this incredible ending. It's your choice, but this may likely be my last post on this blog. So choose wisely.

The week leading up to the race was a blur of diarrhea, butterflies, deer-in-the-headlight staring, and obsessive compulsive behavior that included packing and re-packing my gear bags, reviewing the course maps over and over, re-hashing my Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C, and basically just obsessing in general. I drove solo to Florida by choice. It worked for me years ago when I went head to head with my solo attempt at Gulf Coast 70.3 so I figured I'd try it again. The drive allowed me to be in complete silence - no radio, no talk, no distraction. I can’t say I gave any thought to the race at this point, and an eerie sense of calm was actually coming over me. This calm would last right up until it was time to put on my wetsuit and enter the water. Then it would quickly transform into tears and trembling.

When I arrived in Florida I debated whether I should drive the back-half of the bike course as originally planned or just go check into the condo and review the course maps and online videos some more. Coach encouraged me to stick with my game plan, so I added the extra hour into my drive time. It was a good decision as I had not ridden the “road from hell” at training camp, having unintentionally taken a wrong turn at that time. This road was a four mile out and back that was worse than the worst section of River Road. Driving it I could tell it would be brutal on my overly sensitive neck, but I logged the distance and mentally told myself it was only 8 miles. Another advantage was that the “mountains” that I remembered from camp back in March were more like gentle rollers now and I knew I had done much harder rides in both St. Francisville and the last century ride in Mississippi. I would be okay. Reassured I drove straight to the race site to catch the first mandatory athlete meeting, hit packet pick-up, and swing through the expo before it got too crowded. This too was all a part of my grand plan, as I hate crowds and time constraints. This allowed me the grace to knock out the necessities on day one, freeing day two to acclimate to my new surroundings.

First to arrive, I checked into my condo and declined a group dinner, opting to hit up a local sandwich shop for a last solo meal. I returned to the condo after sunset and decided to go sit on the beach and have a moment to reflect on how I got here. The tears streamed down my face as I thought about my dad and how I wished he was here to see me race. I let out the anxiety that had been building up for the past few weeks, then pulled myself together and went to the condo to meet my roommates as they arrived.

Andrea and Shay-Shay can always be counted on to make me smile and in true monkey fashion within just a short while we were laughing pretty hard. I slept relatively well and looked forward to our practice swim in the am.

Thursday brought the excitement of the pre-race festivities. We got in a good practice swim in the am, a short bike ride, and had time to relax and visit with my friends. Andrea and I scored autographs from Miranda Carfrae and pictures to prove authenticity. My Sherpa Liz and Monkey Cheramie arrived mid-afternoon in time to dress up for Halloween and head to the Athlete Banquet meal. It was an incredible night, and I was inspired by the videos and speakers at the banquet. Having the iron-team and our sherpas together for a meal was priceless and we had a great time.

Friday -

I never worried about the weather, honestly. I had finally accepted my Coach’s directions to control the controllables, and I knew that this was not in my control. There was a strong band of weather that was coming through, and the seas were already showing the effects. The surf was up to 6 1/2 foot swells, and the winds were picking up by the hour. I battled the breakers in morning swim practice and was only able to clear them once out of multiple tries, and that was with the help of a teammate. It wasn’t the most confidence inducing swim, but it was what it was. I was determined that I would battle it on race day until I won or until I was pulled out. One event at a time.

Gear bags were packed and dropped off in transition, and my bike was given a final once-over, a blessing and kiss, and was dropped off onto a rack from which bikes were being blown off of by the strong winds. I made the sign of the cross, suddenly feeling religious, took a breath and walked away. It was what it was. I can’t control it, let it go.

Our team gathered for a quick lunch and chance to connect with our support crew who had arrived from Baton Rouge. It was awesome to see the OWLS and the other team members and families who had come all the way in just to support us.

When we returned to the condo we had lots of 
laughs. A sing-a-long re-placed the planned TWERK-OFF amongst roommates, and a candlelight dinner with our monkey AEDon was arranged for our last meal. A gorgeous sunset blessing allowed me to check off another bucket list item after having the chance to share it with friends. Andrea and I specially selected a meal of rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, green salad, and corn - the latter of which we bet on to see who would be the first to reproduce on race day. My husband made it into town and checked in on me and then Coach showed up for some last minute TLC and final words of encouragement before bed. The work was done, all that was left was execution.

After a semi-restful night of sleep I awoke at 4am to the sounds of monkeys rumbling through the kitchen. I dressed, then inhaled some monkey bread as I stood on the balcony and waited for the sun to rise enough to show me a glimpse of what I would be facing at the water’s edge at 7am. I could still make out white-caps breaking in the distance but was hopeful that they had diminished overnight and would continue to do so over the next few hours.

Time seemed to fly by and before I knew it I was in the van with my sherpa heading towards the race site. I entrusted her to drop my special needs bags while I got my bike ready in transition and made the first of many last-minute pit stops. I decided that morning to take an Imodium as I was beginning to worry that I would be dehydrated before the race began. Needless to say, I won the corn challenge.

We gathered under the green gazebo and waited as the other team members, family, and support crew trickled in. I was eerily calm all morning, even through transition, but as 6:15 approached and I began to donn my wetsuit my anxiety suddenly loomed. This shit just got real. My legs started shaking uncontrollably and as much as I tried to play it off I started getting worried that I was about to fall apart. I looked up to see Coach looking at me and I knew that she knew I was losing my shit. The tears started to stream down my face without a trigger other than the neoprene being pulled up over my body. Suddenly I was scared. I got some reassuring hugs from those around me and managed to pull myself together and say my goodbyes before walking down to the water to see what lay in store for me.

Thousands of people lined the beach and dotted the water as the pre-race warmup commenced. The waves were visibly reduced from the previous day but still loomed 3-4 feet high as they neared the shore. The water temperature was comfortable and perfect for swimming. I practiced some in and outs and swam out towards the first buoy. The shaking subsided and a calm focus came over me again as I exited the water for the last time before the race began. I knew what I needed to do and that was to execute what I had been training to do all year long. I had not put any thought into where I would place myself in the mass start, so I just walked until I got to a place that seemed to feel right. My goal time was somewhere between an hour thirty and two hours, but I found myself near other swimmers who were hoping for an hour fifteen. Instead of hiding in the back, I put myself near the front and figured no matter where I went I would likely get pummeled.

Hand over my heart for the anthem and then the boom of the cannon sent us all moving forward at once. Three thousand pink and green capped seals shuffling into the waves, bouncing over the surf and laughing at each other as the breakers tossed us sideways and backwards. The swimming was choppy at best. Stop and start. Smack in the face with a hand or a foot. The pressure of someone pushing down on my legs as I tried to stay buoyant made my heart rate rise but only temporarily until I pushed back with my legs. There was no time for panic. Panic would only cause death, or that’s what was running through my mind. I couldn’t even control my pace as I felt like I was being carried forward by a huge mass of swimmers. I wondered if it was going to be like this for the entire swim as it never seemed to let up. After 900 yards the final buoy to the turn was reached and numerous swimmers let out a triumphant yell that made me smile.

The swim towards shore was less aggressive but I struggled staying near the buoys and felt like I was swimming extra yardage. I could feel the burning of my wetsuit rubbing on the back of my neck but knew there was nothing I could do about it now. I pictured raw meat hanging there by the end of my swim and made a mental note to grab some Vaseline in transition.

When I reached the breakers I was able to body-surf many of them in. The feel of the soft sand beneath my feet was glorious and I knew that I had the swim in the bag if I could keep the same focus on the second loop. That feeling was reinforced as I ran through the aid station and saw Coach cheering ecstatically along with my fellow birds. I ran up to give her a high five. If she was happy I must be doing okay. I turned to a nearby swimmer and asked our time. He told me we did it in 48 minutes! I cheered out loud and decided to try and negative split the second loop.

Getting through the breakers seemed easier this time, and the swim had cleared out considerably so that I could get a pattern of strokes down without hitting or being hit by anyone. Congestion was always worse at the buoys but by now everyone seemed to know how to manage it. I started to count my strokes, not from anxiety like I often did in training, but to just use it as form of rhythmical comfort. I counted to 100 over and over and never let myself think too far ahead into the rest of the race. One discipline at a time. I remember Andrea telling me before the race to take mental pictures throughout the day as there would be so many memories that I would want to keep. I thought of the pictures I had taken so far: the shaking of my legs as I put on my wetsuit; the breakers crashing into the swimmers as the thousands poured off of the beach; the look of pride on Anne’s face as I finished my first loop; and now - the sun rising up above me as I swam longer and harder than I ever had in my life, reminding me of when I was a child and dreamed of being able to swim forever in the ocean. I was doing it.

Swim: 1:38:41 (2:33/100m)

The beach to transition was just that - a pathway to my next obstacle. I used the strippers to peel off my sandy wetsuit and I rinsed off in the shower as I jogged through the crowd. I saw the occasional fitbird cheering for me and I smiled as I knew I had begun this day’s journey well. I took my time in transition, meticulously applying the athletic tape to my foot so that it would support me through the bike and the run. I took a deep breath and jogged out of transition to my bike, where I knew the real work of the day was about to unfold.

T1: 13:31

The weather was perfect at this time, a blend of overcast skies and cool temperatures. I quickly fell into a comfortable pace and tried to push within my comfort zone. I usually struggle with pacing and wanted to average between 14-15 mph over the course of the ride. For the first 25 miles there was a moderate headwind, but it was tolerable. I leap frogged with Layna for awhile before she eventually left me. My mind was clear and nothing but the whirr of the wheels and monotonous motion of my legs entered my thoughts. This was going to be my biggest battle. This ride would make or break my day.

I was glad I had driven the course earlier in the week. The hills were tougher than they were when driven, but not as bad as I had remembered from March. I had broken the ride down into segments, and knew how many miles lay between each main turn on the road. I no longer was riding "20 or 30 more miles", but “only 5 more till the next aid station” or “one big hill left and then 7 miles to the stoplight”. At one point I heard the hum of a motorcycle and looked up to see Big John riding next to me with Coach hanging off waving a cowbell madly and asking how I was doing. I gave two thumbs up and kept pedaling. 

I felt great, as I always do, for the first 56 miles, and then the battle began. I conquered the bumpy road, although I think I left part of my shoulder and neck along the way. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich I hoped to eat from my special needs bag just swelled in my mouth and I couldn’t swallow it. All of the food I packed for my ride was suddenly insatiable and the only thing I managed to eat was banana after banana until I didn’t even want to look at them anymore as I forced them down. I was living off of pepto-bismol and was starting to get a headache from the sun, which no longer was hidden by cloud cover but was directly over me.

Miles 60-80 were especially difficult as I rode into a full-blown headwind and faced the majority of the hills on the course. As fatigued as I was, I was motivated by my ability to still pass people - and to do so going uphill versus down. I wasn’t the last person for once, and I was still showing strength. I held onto the belief that the penalty tent where I hoped to find my fitbird cheering squad volunteering was at mile 82. I prayed they were there as I needed to see a friendly face. At this point I found myself having to pull over just to take salt tablets or to drink. The fatigue was creeping in and I tried to focus on nutrition before it fell too far behind.

Like an oasis in the desert, I saw the penalty tent in the distance. Whether my birds were there or not I had already decided it was my next stop for nutrition. As if answering a prayer, as I approached I first saw Ellen and called out to her. It is amazing what a smile and an encouraging word can do. As my birds piled around me I felt rejuvenated by their energy. I could do this. I am doing this. I will do this.

Energized and ready to tackle the next 32 miles, I set out again this time with a tailwind at my back. Now I pushed hard and tried to make up any time I had lost on the hills and from the winds. I started passing more and more riders, many of them men in their fancy aero helmets and their bikes with zipp wheels. The more I passed the more my confidence grew. I was doing this. It became a matter of not just finishing the bike portion before the cut-off but a matter of just how quickly I could get back now. The sooner I got back, the more time I would have for the run. I knew I needed all the time I could get.

I’m not sure if I was struggling with exhaustion, nutrition, or mental stability, but at one point I reached back to get a water bottle and glanced down to see a hand on my horns holding my bike steady. It was so real that I let out a shocked yell and had a surge of adrenalin run through me. I made sure I ate something right away but wondered if it was my daddy holding me steady as I rode, as I had been praying to him frequently throughout the ride.

Bike: 7:20 (15.27mph)

Transitioning from the bike to the run went smoother and slightly faster. I gave up trying to remedy the tape on my foot which by this time was falling off from sweat. I changed into dry socks hoping that they would secure the tape somewhat and then headed out. I stuck with my game plan and walked the first two miles before attempting to run. I felt hot and although I was relieved to be off of the bike, I was anxious to see if I would be able to run. 

T2: 9:28

As Kellie, a fitbird, jogged nearby shouting encouragement to me, I came upon the FitBird tent and was met in the road by Coach, cheering encouragement and showing off her “Ass-Kicker” beer bottle. She encouraged me to get running as soon as I could and cool off the next time I found some ice. I was on track she said but needed to be purposeful in my forward motion. In other words, “get your ass moving Pearson.”

I tried to jog but soon found that my right foot was having no part of that plan. I threw in short spurts whenever I could, while keeping a close eye on my pace via my Garmin. I was holding a 14:30 at the time and wanted to keep it under 15 minutes for as long as I could. I had no idea what was going to happen after 13 miles as I had never raced that distance before, and had only run 15 once before I tore my plantar fascia. I figured as long as I could keep a good walking pace it wasn’t worth destroying my foot trying to run. With high arms and short fast steps I leaned forward and pushed from aid station to aid station. 

St. Andrews Park was lonely and the sun was beginning to go down. Suddenly I heard a familiar voice and Jay was next to me. It was so good to see him I almost stopped walking so I could hug him. We only had two minutes before he had to start his run again, but it was a glorious two minutes!

Shortly after he left I switched my headlamp on and fumbled through the dark streets of the neighborhood. The fans were sparse in this area and there were no dancers, strippers, or drunken bystanders to take the focus off of the pain. I was queasy again and struggling to get anything down. My last pepto-bismol had disintegrated in my fuel belt and the pink paste was wiped in frustration on my shorts. I tasted the chicken broth offered at an aid station and it went down surprisingly well but I was afraid it wouldn’t be enough to last me the rest of the night.

As I neared mile thirteen I was met by Kathy who walked with me and answered my questions. Liz was up ahead and joined up before I got to my special needs stop. I was concerned - my Garmin was dying, I was dying, and I didn’t know how to reverse my nutrition issues. In addition I was starting to get cramps in my left hip, enough to make me stop occasionally and wince and jab my thumb into the muscle to try and get some relief.

Liz calmed me as she worked out my pace issues with Coach. I left her to get my special needs bag. I was offered a chair and I sat blankly staring into my bag, unsure of what I was supposed to be looking for. After what seemed like ten minutes I remembered I wanted a pepto-bismol. I grabbed the hot Dr. Pepper that I had thought would be a nice treat, and a bag of nutter butter bites.

Within minutes of sipping on my Dr. Pepper I started to feel better. Liz kept walking with me and encouraged me to eat and drink until my life-force returned. Eventually I made her drop off and made my way alone to the desolate part of the loop. It wasn’t long before I was surprised to see Kathy again - laughing and chatting and running ahead of me just so she could walk with me for a bit farther down the road. I lost her, or she lost me, as I neared St. Andrews for the last time. My pace had slowed to 16:30 but from all accounts I had plenty of time to make the cut-off. 

Suddenly I am faced with Shannon, swinging her arms and yelling at me that I have to start to run. “Why?” I ask. “I have plenty of time to walk six miles. I can’t run. It’s too painful.”

“You have to. Coach says. She wants you to hold a 16 minute pace. You can do this. You have to. Promise me you will. Run a minute, walk a minute. You have to.” She moved ahead of me into the distance as if to say “follow my lead”.

Those last six miles were a slugfest. Walk/jog, suck down some broth, eat another banana. Shannon and Kathy had moved into the shadows, just barely visible. Walk/jog. The pain in my hip and butt were really becoming difficult to ignore. I could hear the finish line as I approached 23 miles. At one point I was sure I heard my name being called out but decided I was hallucinating again.

I was alone again for the last few miles and noticed that I had picked up a weave in my forward motion. The aid stations were abandoned and I was so thirsty I couldn’t think of much else. I focused on walking straight but couldn’t seem to. I didn’t want to be “that girl” that gimps across the finish line. I just needed something to drink. Finally at the last mile I found a cup of hot coke and downed it. It was just what I needed to make it in.

The finish chute came quickly and the people lined both sides of the street cheering as I approached. I had to run. There was no way I wasn’t going to at least try. I reached out and slapped hands all the way down until I got to the end where I was...stopped...before I crossed the finish line. There on the ground in front of me was AEDon, my monkey! And my Monkeys were alongside holding me in place while the announcer was saying something. I was confused and didn’t understand what was happening until I heard..."Ready everyone? One, Two, Three, .... Janie...YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!” as the entire crowd shouted the words I had waited an entire year to hear. Dazed, I was allowed to run across the finish line to have my medal placed around my neck by my Coach, and dear friend Anne. There was no better end to the journey than that moment. She who started me on this path, ended it with me. Full circle.

Run: 6:56:32 (15:53/mile)

Finish Time: 16:18: 12


This has been a tremendous journey. I learned that it wasn’t about the finish, although that made it even more special. It was the journey itself. I have learned that I am strong, and confident, and brave. I persevere and do NOT quit. I may hurt but I can overcome it. I can set a goal and can achieve anything I dream. I learned that I have friends that love me. I learned I have a husband and family that is willing to sacrifice for me. I learned that corn passes quickly through me. I learned that I am bigger than my fears.

When I started this blog five years ago it was with the intent to journal my way to a 70.3 distance triathlon. Instead I got to journal my way through five years of life: the loss of loved ones, dealing with friendships that were strained, changes in jobs, the facing of fears, and the development of new and special friendships. It has been an extraordinary journey.

I don’t know what is next for me, but I do know that whatever it is, if I set my mind to it, I will achieve it.

Special thanks to: 

The Shock Da Monkey Team (Shannon, Andrea, Cheramie, Lizard, Susan, AEDon) - you guys made this journey incredibly fun. What started off as a joke turned into a lifejacket. There was absolutely no way a person could take this training too seriously when a humongous stuffed monkey was around. You each did your part in giving advice, helping me train, and challenging me to keep going. Monkeys Rule!

Sherpa Liz: The Best Sherpa EVA! You who allowed me to bathe in your home and sleep by your fire whenever I needed. You who put Styrofoam monkeys in your bathroom to make me laugh. You who gave up your time weekly to meet me for lunch, lend an ear or a shoulder, and help me keep the faith. You who fed me Nutter-Butters and pushed me on. You who gave me a candlelight bubble bath and washed my stink-ass clothes in Diva wash. Words cannot express my gratitude to you my sister. Love you and hope some day I can try and return the favor!

Night-Guides Shannon and Kathy - You guys pushed me through those last 13 and I am ever so grateful.

Hill, Chase, Justin, and Ashlen - Although Hill is the only one who can truly see what this took to accomplish, as you kids grow older I hope you will see that our sacrifices will be worth it. I hope if nothing else you learn that anything is possible if you want it bad enough. Thank you all for your sacrifices, for giving of your time to help make my dream come true. I love you!

Iron-Birds - I cannot imagine doing this training alone. You guys are an incredible group of athletes and friends. Each of you have helped me along the way by encouraging me, riding my ass, checking on me when I was struggling, and caring for me as a family member. I heart you all.

FitBirds and OWLS - Your willingness to support me by joining in "unrequired" training sessions, providing aid stations and relief, and coming out to support the race is so appreciated. You have no idea how much an impact you have made on me. I look forward to returning the gesture.

Anne - you took me from novice to Ironman, from non-swimmer to swimmer. When I met you I had no confidence in myself and now I am fearless. You have changed my life for the better. You are so dear to me as a friend and as a coach. Having you there at the finish line was the icing on my cake. Love you.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sliding Into Home...Almost

I honestly thought the work was over, the training was "in the bank" and I was gonna be able to slide right into IMFL in good enough position to hit my goal of finishing it come November 2nd. Apparently I was wrong. I have two more hard weeks of training, two more century rides, a few more open water swims, and some more long weekends away from my family. I've had to chew on that since this morning when I missed my 5000yd swim workout. It's not over. Not yet.

It's been a year of hard training for me. Couch Potato to Ironman. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The mornings I get to sleep in again. The weekends I can spend doing other things I also enjoy. I almost get giddy sometimes thinking about how else I am going to spend my time besides training. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike it. Training has kept me focused when life got difficult. It helped me lose weight. It helped me build confidence. It strengthened many friendships. But let's face it. I'm tired.

Once I got over the initial realization that there was still hard work to be done, I accepted it and re-focused my efforts. I had to remind myself that I have invested way to much into this journey to not see if through to the end. I am ready to take on the end-game and in many ways just want to go out and give it everything on that day. I know I will. What I struggle with is having to give it everything to just get through the next few long rides when physically it just hurts so badly. I know I've got enough in me for that one day. I question whether I have it in me for three. 

I rode alone today and thought a lot about the journey thus far, and just how far I've come even in just the last year. My confidence has blossomed, my fears have diminished, my skills have improved. I have proven to myself that I can be mentally tough and push through challenges. I've persevered even when I didn't want to. I've stuck with it, and didn't quit. My training has been far from perfect and I've dropped the ball plenty of times, but ultimately (and with some persistent encouragement) I've managed to pick it up again. When I think of all the things I've accomplished, I'm proud. Getting through this final push will be my last huge endeavor before the race. I'm going to buckle down and give it my best.

I am entering into unknown territory this month. I'm on an emotional roller coaster. A few weeks ago I had a complete emotional breakdown, mostly over the state of my injured foot and how it could impact the outcome of this race. I'm plagued by crazy non-sensical dreams where I'm missing the race cut-off by minutes while my friends are singing in Do-Wop bands and I am eating lots and lots of ice cream. I am sent running to the bathroom just from reading the Athlete Guide and thinking about the bike course or swim. As crazy as it all sounds, I know exactly what it means. The race is nearing. 

I'm a bit worried what else is in store emotionally. I know the anxiety will hit again as race day approaches. I know there will be tears shed in the days before the race. I'm hoping all of this is somewhat normal for a first-timer. And if it's not, then I'm hoping I will handle it and move forward, one step closer and stronger to finishing this journey.

To all those who lovingly surround me these next 3 weeks, God Bless You All.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Augusta 70.3 Race Report -

These last few months have been a roller coaster of emotions brought on by training stress, injury, questionings of desire, and juggling to keep the balance and focus in my life. In summary, I've been miserable. Fast forward to Augusta 70.3 - my final race before the Ironman in November.

Leading up to this race I was crippled by a torn plantar fascia and have been completely unable to run for the past 2.5 months. It has been frustrating and depressing to say the least, and has done nothing to help my confidence going into November. My goal for Ironman is to finish, and to do so, every second counts. Having the run portion knocked down to a hobble was not helping my morale, after all I have been training a year for this race and just wanted to get to the start line healthy and trained so I would have the best chance to finish. My training was modified significantly to include some aqua jogging (which I detest) and more biking to make up for my not running...but it has been hit and miss as life and focus has derailed much of it. I've spent a lot of time questioning if all of this is worth the final push to the race, and if it was worth racing injured.

Last week I finally decided, against the advice of many, to attempt to complete the full Augusta 70.3 race. After much internal debate, I realized that mentally I had to know what it would be like to walk or "wog" (walk/jog) that distance on a bum foot, knowing that in a month I would have to double it. I decided if I did the full race, one of three things would happen: I would immediately know if I couldn't run and could pull out and then make a "research-based" decision on competing in IMFL; I would finish the half knowing that either I survived it without worsening my injury and would have four more weeks to train and build back; or I would injure it more but would have four more weeks to rest it, so I could give Florida a "go" and knowing I had the mental strength to tough it out.

SO here is what I took from Augusta:

Pre-Race: I need to do my own pre-race facilitation and mental prep work. I like quiet, calm, and low activity to get me feeling settled. I like to feel in control of my schedule and to do whatever feels right at the time. I like to be dependent on no one and make my own decisions on that day. I'm an early eater, early packer, and early to bed kind of girl. I was on my feet way more than I intended on Saturday and that just increased my anxiety level. I expect IMFL will be 500x as stressful and I plan on having my own vehicle, my own schedule, and can come and go as I please. It's the one day I can be selfish and not feel badly about it.

Swim: I was actually looking forward to this swim as it is known for being fast and fun! Well, I was fast for me and swam a 1.2 in 33:40 (my usual race speed is 45min or above). I was slow but not dead last! I struggled a bit with the wetsuit as it seemed to really work other muscles and fatigue my legs and back ~ setting me up for a horrific back spasm on the bike later. But it was a fun swim and I enjoyed going into it feeling I could do the distance without a problem, I just needed to keep calm and not panic. I like to have a good ten minutes or more to just be in the water before I start swimming. In this race there was no chance to become "one with the water". I got in immediately before my wave started and tried to calm myself as much as I could before the time ran out. The short (actually absence of) warmup was hard for me as my adrenalin sky-rocketed but I managed to plug through and tried to focus on finding my rhythm.

T1 (8:58) : The longest transition of my life, and a bit frustrating as I am prideful in my quick transition times. But as Coach reinforced to me the night before, it was worth taking the time to do what I needed to do so that I could have a good race.  Exiting the swim I was barefoot, and running uphill on a hard surface did not feel great on my foot but I knew I would be taped and in a fixed position on my bike for a few hours and I hoped that would give it time to calm down. "Doing what I needed to do" meant sitting down, toweling off my foot, and taking the time to tape it up well to get me through the long bike ride and potentially longer wog. I swallowed my pride, knowing this was killing "easy time" and did what was required. It was a good choice and I am glad I listened to my Coach.

Bike (3:30:55 at 15.93mph) : I was looking forward to riding a new bike course, and enjoying the scenery of the rolling hills of GA and SC. I did not know the course, although I finally had time to review a few of the you-tube videos before bed the night before (a task I intended to do much earlier in the week). I don't like surprises during a race and was glad Layna had given me a heads up on the hills at mile 31 and 37, and the downhills that would come after. It made it much easier to mentally check them off as they came by. I felt like I started out riding too fast but there was a strong tailwind so I went with it. Looking at my splits I'm glad I did because my average didn't end up being that great. I had hoped to average a 17 but during goal setting Coach kept re-focusing me on what I had actually done in training to help me set a realistic goal. I hesitantly dumbed down my goal to 16mph and I'm glad I did. As I struggled with some of the hills (constantly reminding myself I had done way harder in Muskoka) I was able to push hard trying to reach my goal rather than beat myself up for not getting close to the 17mph I hoped for initially. It was a fun scenic ride and I loved the rolling hills. Layna caught me at mile 31 and ditched me at the worst of it. I never saw her again. Jacob passed me early on in the ride. About the halfway point I started getting a horrible right flank cramp which I have never had while riding. I couldn't figure out how to stretch it. I tried to problem solve and took some more salt tabs and gatorade and switched from gu to bananas. That seemed to help a bit. The only thing I can figure is that the wetsuit got me all jacked up. I need to practice more in it before November because it really tired out my legs kicking in it.

T2 (7:36): Again I swallowed my pride and took extra time to do things right. I sat, removed my sock, checked my taping, changed to dry socks, and secured my laces well. I walked out of transition and had them put sunblock on me as I figured there was a good chance I would be out in the sun for a long time.

Run (3:00:27) : I did a little jog right out of transition but the foot felt tight so I resorted to walking. I had decided my plan would be to walk the first mile as a warm up and then move into a wog. I stuck with that but when I started to jog my shins immediately started to cramp so I resolved to just walk fast and see if I could keep it under 15 minutes. I popped some salt and buckled down and focused on high arms, a forward lean, quick turnover and light feet. I saw a true speed walker fly by and was amazed by his speed and technique. It wasn't long before I found another walker, Chip. He was doing this race untrained as a bet by his co-workers. He was struggling with cramps and knew nothing about nutrition. I gave him most of my remaining salt tablets and coached him on how to choose from the buffet of items at the aid station (and then explained my nickname). It was kind of fun to mentor him and it helped distract me. I got him running and pushed him to keep with me as I started to run a block, walk a block. I was surprised at how conditioned I felt when I ran. I used my inhaler as needed but I really expected to be sucking wind and not being able to run any distance at all. Breaking it up with a walk allowed me to keep a decent wog pace and change the impact on my foot. After the first few miles I found I made a game of trying to not let my pace go above a certain number by adding just enough run in to keep it where I wanted it. Initially that number was a 15 min pace, towards the end I was aiming for 13:30. I dropped Chip at the halfway point as he was cramping and no longer able to keep my pace. From this point on I just kept with the plan of walk a red light, jog a red light. I kept up my nutrition and hydration and felt...great! I would have paid a pretty penny for some gas x though. The farther I got the better I felt about the potential for my run attempt in Florida. My pace kept improving and I was running further and faster each mile. The last three miles were my best pace but the most uncomfortable. By this point I could feel that my conditioning was being challenged and my feet were pretty pissed at me. I wanted to push harder to see how well I could finish, but decided the goal was already met and I needed to listen to the signs my injury was giving me and not try and sprint the end of the run. I hit that finish line to see all my birds cheering for me and I have to say that has been my most memorable finish yet. This race was a HUGE confidence instiller.

I may be one of the slower birds out there but I am genuinely proud of my performance yesterday. I did not PR like my initial hopes were, but I proved that I could face IMFL and give it my best. And that's what I plan to do.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Imposter

* Disclaimer: There may be a bit of wallowing and self-despair in this post. Read with caution.

I have previously stated that I am using this blog as a personal journal as I go through my Ironman Journey, so please bare with me as I work some things out today. It was a tough training day, and I am struggling with what I am doing and why I am doing it. I probably just need to go eat dinner and take a nap and wake up and start over but I think there is a lesson in today's training disaster so I am going to take a few minutes and look for it.

I've been working hard since November trying to get into shape, stay focused on The Goal, and plod away at the transformation I was sure was inevitable. I have fought to keep Doubt out of my head, as confidence was one of my weaknesses and positive self-talk and self-assurance are areas that I really want to show improvement in. Up until today I've managed to keep the negative talk at bay. So what happened? I'm not sure. I think it is a combination of a multitude of factors.

Training is getting tough. Long runs, long rides, long swims, early mornings, tough weather conditions, and little free time. That's no surprise, it has been tough all along and I knew the summer would intensify the training. Lately I feel like I've been battling my body - my feet hurt to walk on them, I struggle to breath, and I'm just plain tired. I've been told over and over how I need to just deal with it because race day is gonna be ten times worse than what I feel now. I have no doubt about that...

But today I am questioning why. Why am I really doing this?? I totally feel like a fraud. Like I am trying to be an athlete and play with the Big Kids but really I belong in the kiddie pool ~ but no one has the heart to just tell me that. I am slow and I seem to be getting slower not faster. I feel like I work hard but it's not enough to even reach my goal of finishing. I don't want to work harder. It hurts and I question whether it's worth it. My mind tells me that my body is not made for this, nor is my mind. I'm just an imposter trying to fool others into thinking that I can do this. What if I can't?

Today my Coach asked me if I had doubts. I said no. But the more I think about it I do ~ but I'm afraid to admit it because it makes me look weak and insecure, like I'm not confident, a pussy even. I believe that anyone that does these races never doubts themselves or they wouldn't even attempt it. If I admit that I'm afraid I'm not gonna be able to get my brain to push my body to get through this race then I've just given it permission to fail. So I'm lying to myself on top of everything else. I don't obsess on it, but I do have doubts.

Today's training was a long run, but I've had longer and succeeded. Today I had a goal to achieve in training and I failed miserably. Every step I took forward I watched my goal slide away...and I couldn't get it together to rally back and claim it. I was so very disappointed in myself. "If you can't do it in training, you can't expect to do it in the race." I listen. Too well.

I know there will be bad training days. I'm sure I will bounce back from this one. But today I will admit I have doubts. And fear. And dread. And I wonder what the f--- I was thinking when I signed up for this thing.

Why did I want to do this? To see if I could. I just didn't realize the first obstacle was going to be to survive the training. My focus has always been on the race itself.

I still have four months. Surely it will start to come together for me. I don't give myself credit where I deserve it and I need to build up the good and let the bad wash away. I just rode my first century ride this week and I pushed through some miserable pain at the end. I've had two long weekend runs, and hit 15 miles in one push which has been my longest to date. I rode hard in the hills recently and managed to push through a 7 mile off the bike run even though my brain told me to stop and drink beer. So I know I've got it in there. Now I just need to figure out how to tap into it consistently.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Laughing Causes Gastric Distress: Gulf Coast Triathlon 2013

Shay-Shay, Goose, Coug, Smiles
I have never laughed so hard before in my life. I mean non-stop, belly-busting, gas-producing laughter. Four full days of it. And it didn't take any effort to take it to that extreme either. The banter was quick-witted and absolutely hysterical. Hands down the best race weekend of my triathlon career.

It has become clear to me now the importance of finding a good group of traveling buddies to keep the pressures of impending racing away and to unite to just enjoy the experience. The Shock The Monkey team has become just this. We have come together to embrace the funnier aspects of triathlon, and we use this to keep the mojo flowing!

Even the ride to Panama City Beach was filled with training opportunities and team challenges. The Mobile Tunnel for example became an "underwater breath holding competition". Transitions were practiced at nearly every gas station between Baton Rouge and Florida as clothes were removed and replaced during toilet breaks, and every form of nutrition and hydration was sampled to determine toxicity and digestibility. Worst food combination that was discovered would have to be the pecan log followed by beer. Second would go to the Lime-A-Rita and bag of Ranch Dipped Hot-Wing flavored Doritos. The Lime-A-Rita was consumed on the run (literally) ...prior to purchasing (precedent was being set for future incidents). Apparently taste-testing your alcoholic beverage to see which size or quantity to buy is not highly recommended while in the quickie-mart, and in actuality is against the law. Who knew??

As it was becoming more and more apparent to us, food was going to be the theme of the weekend. If we weren't eating, we were talking about food, planning our next meal, or shopping for it. Upon arrival at the beach we immediately went for food at Pineapple Willies. Luckily we had thought ahead and the first thing that was packed were several empty refill mugs. We felt it was important to keep our sherpa hydrated. The rest of the FitBird team joined us and the family unit became one once again. As a group we hit the expo and registration and then we separated to check into our condos. Exhausted from all the activity, I settled in for a good 2 hour nap, woke to snack and then went back to bed for the evening loaded up on an assortment of chest medicine and inhalers.

Monkey Love

FitBird Crew - Layna, Boy Diva, Freebird, Kellie, Goose, Smiles, Shay-Shay

Calm Before The Storm
Trial Run On Monkey Jammies

Friday morning consisted of open water swimming, dance videos, and pancakes ~ after which we made a mad dash to Publix for more food (?) and subs. Publix had no idea what was coming when they let us in. Armed with six inch submarines, we claimed a bench in the front of the checkout line, pulled up our grocery cart, spread out our picnic, and proceeded to feast on all of our unpaid items - sandwiches, drinks, chips, and a box of cookies while the employees looked on in disbelief. Once our stomachs were full, we went back to shop for

In her element...

Talley Riding the Waves
A Wet Goose
Warm-Up Swim
Publix Dining A La Cart (literally)
Talley had to have her shirt scanned since she ate her sandwich already
Bike Drop Off
Pre-Race Team Meal
Bike check-in and constant radar updates took up our afternoon, and then we settled in for a pasta buffet at the pre-race meeting. Shay-Shay tried really hard to bandit the meal but was thrown out by an elderly ticket taker. Good effort, but rejected. The radar had been showing heavy thunderstorms sitting on top of Baton Rouge all day and the prediction was that they were heading our way just in time for the race. The race director reassured us that all would be well as far as the weather, so we accepted the line "control the controllables". I was pleased that I didn't let the thought of not racing, or having to modify the race, mentally demoralize me. I was ready for whatever 6am brought and would give it my best. If it meant just a run, then I was prepared to run hard. At dinner Layna threw down the gauntlet by teasing me with her newly borrowed 404 zip wheels that she hoped would keep her ahead of me on the bike and give her the edge she needed to pull out a victory. I knew it would be a tight race between us and I figured I'd have to work hard on the run to make up anything I lost on the bike. I was pumped for the duel and energized by the challenge!

Dynamic Warmup Monkey Style
Before returning to our condo we made one last stop to Walmart for window paint for the car and our dynamic warmup in the aisle. By the time we returned to the condo I was tired but had yet to get in my PRF run. We all rallied and changed clothes and hit Front Beach Road for our 20 minutes. It may have varied slightly from what was intended, but jogging through Alvin's Island and stopping to pose with monkeys made it more fun. I made the final adjustments to my transition bag, texted Coach, and headed to bed.

We Couldn't Resist
Slight detour during PRF run
I've been trying to improve my race nutrition these past few months. With that in mind I set my alarm for 2:30am and got up to eat a bagel and cream cheese and down 16oz of water. I woke again at 4:15am for an English muffin and more liquids, and quickly dressed to leave. The radar looked surprisingly clear but one glance out the window and you couldn't see past the chair on the patio because the fog was so thick. We shrugged it off and hoped for the best. I put a call into Coach for one last pump up and then we headed out.

Race rectangle: 900 out, 200 across, 900 back
Transition went smoothly with the exception that all of us left our bike pumps in the car. Within minutes I had borrowed one and set up my gear the way I like. For the first time ever with this distance race I was not nervous or afraid or had a sense of dread. I was excited and I was ready. I was comfortable in my routines and the time moved quickly but I managed it well.

Black Stallion
Freebird, Coug, Goose, Smiles

Wetsuit on, a gel downed, and my warm-up swim commenced. There were some moderate breakers but the water was surprisingly calm. I felt good and relaxed. I was slightly unnerved by my lack of nerves but associated it with my new found confidence and let it go.

Warm Up Swim
I got a last laugh when I saw that the butt of Layna's wetsuit had been accidentally ripped out by Trey. I figured the extra drag might work in my favor. I watched Talley go off with the first wave and started to feel excited. We moved into the corral and got ready for the start of our wave. I went to the front even though I knew I'd get swum over. I like thinking I'm with just a few people. When I'm in the back it just makes me anxious because I see the denseness of the group. When I heard the countdown hit zero I hit the start on my Garmin and jogged into the surf and started swimming as quickly as I could. I felt awkward and clumsy and couldn't get a rhythm. I wasn't panicked, but felt frustrated and I kept pulling at my wetsuit. I found myself popping up and breast stroking to calm myself down. I don't know what happened, if it was adrenalin or panic or just me being spazzy. It took about 3 bouys before I finally relaxed and began to swim. I was frustrated at my poor start but let it go and focused on finishing strong. The water was rolling but I could see the buoys unlike in past races here. I breathed and sighted every stroke and couldn't ever get into a three stroke/breath rhythm so finally gave up trying. I really need to work on that as it seems I'm wasting energy doing it my way. But for now it worked.

I swam until I touched the shore and then jogged up the beach to find Shay-Shay literally in the middle of the swim exit high-fiving me and cheering me in. It was awesome having a cheerleader and it pumped me up. Transition was clumsy and took longer than I hoped, but I wanted to make sure I didn't forget any nutrition or my inhaler. I realized my Garmin had not recorded my swim so I stopped to reset it and take it off multi-sport which seemed pointless.

If there were any nerves about this race it would have to be over the bike leg. I knew I could do the distance, but I didn't know how much discomfort it would cause me. I also had big expectations for my bike speed and really wanted to hit 17mph average. Up to this point I had never even held 16mph for this distance, but I knew I had it in me. I had to ride smart and maximize whatever advantages the course gave me. I focused on my cadence and didn't worry about other riders whizzing by. I was actually pleased to see how many riders I passed. I knew the course in and out thanks to training camp and past races, and this helped tremendously. I knew the halfway mark and I knew the out and backs. I gave a shout out to Andrea and a few other Fitbirds that I saw along the way. It wasn't until the half way point that I saw Sherpa Shan yelling to me from the side of the road and informing me that Layna was only two bikes ahead of me. That motivated me to speed up and whisper zip zip zoom zoom as I passed her. Ten minutes later and I'm out on the highway and hear Sherpa Shan beeping her horn and yelling out her window that "Coach says you need to hammer the bike!". I smiled and realized that Anne was monitoring the weather from states away and must know something I didn't know about the radar. Shannon confirmed this with a "it's about to open up on you guys, get back as soon as you can!". I nodded and upped my pedaling.

It wasn't long before the inevitable happened and I heard zip zip zoom zoom from behind me as Layna flew by. She shouted out encouragement that I would get her on the turn a rounds, and I knew she was right. We leap frogged like this for the second half of the ride. I wasn't looking forward to the bridge, but it was nowhere near as tough as it used to be. I was so grateful for all the hard spin sessions I had undertaken in Unleash Your Inner Athlete. I was well prepared.

I managed to come into T2 about the same time as Layna, Trey, Wendy, and Kelly. I pulled off my soaking socks and rung them out just to see how much water came out. I replaced them with dry socks but it was pointless as during T1 I managed to remove the plastic bag protecting my running shoes from the rain, so they were soaked when I went to put them on. Maybe it was just mental, but the dry socks even for a moment seemed to make me feel better. I looked over and saw Layna struggling with her race belt as it had broken and she was trying to figure out how to rig it. I would have loved to help her (grin) but didn't have anything that would have, and knew this was my chance to break away! I left out to gain as much of a lead as I could and think I was the first or second out of our group to get out of transition.

I held a good pace for my first mile and as I approached the aid station saw a crazy woman in pink blow out of someone's garage and head screaming towards me. I quickly identified the loon as Shay-Shay and got a good laugh at her antics as she tried to film me and get me motivated for the run.

I was feeling the need to make a pit stop and was trying to decide how and when to make the side trip. I hadn't gone all day as I'm not one to pee on the bike. I figured I'd hit the second or third aid station and when I made my detour I heard Diva Boy shout out to me as he passed. Damn! I knew they were close, but I just lost my lead! I kept them in my sites for a while but never caught back up.

The run was tolerable but I found myself struggling with my breathing. By this point my chest was tight and I was over dosing on inhalers. My legs felt okay but my energy was lagging. I was trying to stay on  top of my nutrition and felt like I had done a good job all day. I took another gel and did feel a bit better after about 20 minutes but still had trouble breathing. By the time I hit St. Andrew's Park I felt like I still had a long way to go, and I did. I hadn't seen any of my fellow FitBirds in a long time and felt like I could benefit from a friendly face. I'm not one to chat up a stranger, but when someone finally started running and talking to me I latched on. Frankie from Augusta got me moving for about three miles and I'm so grateful. He distracted me and I learned the importance of reaching out to people when you need the help. Wendy passed me towards the end of St. Andrew's and although I kept her in my sites, I never caught back up. She was having a stellar race and I was pumped for her! Frankie finally bailed on me as I was wogging too much, but another Georgian came to my rescue for the last few miles. We weren't  keeping as good a pace as I did with Frankie, but at least it was company. I managed to run most of the last mile in on my own and was greeted by energetic fans down the shute. And of course, most of my monkeys were there waiting on me! It was awesome having that cheer section and I flash-forwarded to IMFL and how that might feel. I crossed the line with a smile and was thrilled when I learned my PR had dropped over 23 minutes on this race! I had hoped to break 7 hours but considering all the "uncontrollables" I was stoked. I fleetingly worried about how in the world I would be able to double this distance but let the thought go and just enjoyed what I had done. I have six more months and plenty of time to get to where I need to be. A lot has been accomplished since November and I am way ahead of where I thought I would be. My confidence is soaring and my ability is so much better.

Trying to finish strong


There is something to be said for good friends coming together to support each other in their endeavors. They help to maintain calm, keep focus, and remind us to laugh and find humor in life. I am blessed to have a wonderful Shock The Monkey Team and Fitbird Family that does this for me. I look forward to what the rest of this season brings us all!

Until The Next Time...