Short & Sweet

I still can’t believe I’m married. It’s been 4 days and I constantly catch myself saying “Did that really happen? Is it really over?” Just as everyone told me all those years, months, weeks and days that went into planning disappeared with the blink of an eye.

Luckily those same people told me take moments in the day to just let it all sink in, and I’m so glad I did. I did it as I watched the sun rise over the ocean on my morning shake out run. I did it as I stood back in a big, bright kitchen, as I watched some of the most important women in my life curl hair, pour mimosas and laugh. I did it as I stood in an open doorway, pacing between checking for the limo and looking in the mirror because I just couldn’t believe what was staring back at me. I did it as I sat in silence in the empty limo, staring out the window as familiar faces made their way to rows of white chairs. I did it as I took my first steps down the grassy path, clutching the crook of my father’s arm. I did it as I watched my husband shakily slip a band onto my finger, as he spun me on the dance floor for our first dance, and as I watched my parents trade off dance partners with my new brother and sister-in-law. I don’t think a tent has ever felt as much love and happiness as that tent did that night. I’ve certainly never.

And so this week, I’m going to leave my words at that – and let a few pictures do the talking, for they say it best. I’ll be back next week with my usual ramblings but today, I’m going to spend some more time in this wave of happiness. :)

 

PS. Thanks to the friends/family for capturing these shots. If you want to see more (I mean, how could you not? ;) ) check out our photographer, Rebecca Deaton’s blog post.

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That white dress

Three days.

In just three days I will put on the white dress I knew was mine from the minute I saw it. In three days I will walk down the grassy aisle, stand in front of my closest friends and family and declare my love for the boy I met eleven years ago this month. It still doesn’t feel real to me.

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Babies (and just friends) in 2003.

 

One would think it should have sunk in by now, since we’ve literally had the longest engagement in history (Ok maybe not the longest – but over two and a half years is a pretty long time). There were many factors in our endless engagement, some of which didn’t surface until after our decision, confirming my belief once again that everything happens for a reason. But the biggest factor was the girl I was on that bitterly cold February night.

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One of the few pictures of us I have from the months around our engagement.

I can make the joke now that he didn’t “slip the ring on” – because it was incredibly tight on my pudgy little finger. In the days after we got engaged I would take my ring off and assess the imprint it had left on my skin, the same way my jeans did. And I think that’s when the panic really set in. I couldn’t imagine myself in a white gown. I couldn’t think about standing in front of my closest friends and family, looking the way I did at that moment. The road from Point A to Point B was impossible.

We all know well by now that I did make it from Point A to Point B. And I couldn’t have made it there without this incredible guy by my side the entire journey. When I came home and told him that I had found a local studio that I thought would be the answer to all my problems his response was “Call them up!”. When I cried the first week because I was hungry and too sore to move he carefully portioned out my dinner for me, brought it to the table, and told me he was proud of me. He would leave water bottles in the freezer for when I got home from bootcamp that first summer. He celebrated every pound lost with me, and he reminded me of how far I had come whenever I got frustrated. He came to cheer me on at my first race, and has rarely missed one since. When I finished my first double digit run I crawled into the house to a card and a box of Lush bath supplies because he was so proud of me for sticking with it. I smile when I catch him talking about me to someone because even though he doesn’t know a thing about running, I can hear in his voice just how proud he is.

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My biggest cheerleader, always.

Sometimes I feel incredibly selfish for the amount of time I absorb in working out, training, running, racing. I feel guilty that I go to bed early on Friday nights because I have a long run on Saturday. I feel bad that sometimes I’m too tired and sore to do anything besides lay on the couch. But I know that at the end of the day I’m not just doing this for me. I’m doing this for us, for our future. Someday I want to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. I’m doing this because someday I want to be that mom whose kids are used to Saturday mornings in their jammies in the running stroller. I’m doing this because I want to show my children what it means to be strong, to face challenges, and to take care of your body. I want to grow old with the love of my life in the best way possible.

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to put on that gorgeous white gown on Saturday. I know how much sweat, how many tears, how many miles and inches and pounds I have fought through to get to that dress. But the truth is- I’m more excited for what comes after that white dress. Excited for this new adventure together, excited to see what comes next.  Andy has never seen me for anything other than the person he loves, even my worst times. But a relationship is that much stronger when you learn how to love yourself just as much.

And so in just three days I will begin both the shortest- and longest race of my life. A race that isn’t about how fast I get to the finish line, but enjoying it for as long as I possibly can. But just like everything else these days, it’s just right, left, right. :)

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Let’s rewind two years.

We all know I’m a sucker for anniversaries. I’m even more of a sucker for anniversaries where I can attach sappy symbolisms to them and with just 10 days to go to my wedding – I’m a sucker for anything soft and sappy lately.

Two years ago this weekend I ran my very first race, the Diva Dash (no judging). Fast forward two years and this weekend I will be running a 5K alongside the beginner running group I coached over the summer. How’s that for sappy symbolism?

That first runner's high glow.

You can’t help but stop here and ask “How the hell did this happen?”. At least I can’t.  As I quickly flip through the images and events of the last two years it still comes as a shock to me.  Road races, triathlons, half marathons… if you held a crystal ball two years ago I probably would have thrown it back in your face.

There’s so much about that first race that I never want to forget. I never want all that naïve goodness to disappear. It will always remind me where I came from. I knew practically nothing about running- I didn’t know about paces, or where a bib goes on your shirt. I had just gotten my first pair of “real” running shoes (which I didn’t wear for the race because I didn’t want to get them dirty) and I will admit now that I showered and did my hair before it because “I wanted to look cute”. I thought I needed to carb load the night before (truth be told- the fat kid in me just wanted an excuse to have pasta again). and I didn’t have a goal except that I wanted to finish. I was scared shitless.

Steps away from my first finish line.

And while I’m sitting here being all mushy and reminiscent there’s no way I couldn’t write about the person who got me across that first finish line. The one who two years later continues to push me across them- both physically and mentally. She is always a step ahead of me (more like 10 actually), and somehow always sees my potential miles before I can. I know I mention her all the time but she is every reason I’m here writing this today. It may not have taken a village to raise this runner – but it certainly took one hell of an individual.

Sometimes I catch myself saying something I’ve heard her say a million times and I smile. The thing about being a runner is you’ve got to pass on the tips and tricks that you learn along the way. I can only hope that someday I’ll be that person to someone else.

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A whole new age group.

My birthday is always a bittersweet day because I consider  it the last hurrah of summer. I know that right behind it are cool mornings, earlier sunsets and pumpkin everything. This year my birthday symbolizes even more changes: the last few days as a “single” woman, a brand new age group for races, a whole new decade in my life. That’s right – today I turn 30.

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I know that a lot of people freak out over the jump from your twenties to your thirties but I actually feel ready for it. I look back at who I was when I turned 20 versus who I am today and all that happened in between – and I am astounded. In my twenties I graduated from college, I went through the growing pains of independence and becoming an adult. I got a little too drunk with my friends, I spent a little too much money on cover charges and bar tabs. I bought my own car. I moved through jobs and career ladders, eventually stumbling into an organization I wake up excited to start my day at. I fell in love, and eventually realized it was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I watched as my friends fell in love, watched as our circle moved from dance floors to kitchen tables in new homes. I discovered fitness, health, happiness, confidence. I became a runner. I ran my first 5K, dozens more road races, my first triathlon, THREE half marathons. Despite the ups and downs of the last ten years I will never look back at my twenties with regret.

Oh to be 22 again.

Oh to be 22 again.

So bring on the thirties. Bring on married life and all the love, happiness, and hard shit that comes with a new last name and a wedding band. Bring on real adulthood – mortgage payments, home improvement, and children (that statement is officially petrifying). Bring on more kitchen table parties, for that means our circle of friends is growing older together. Bring on even crazier fitness goals – the ones that make your eyes glisten because you never imagined that they would ever happen to you. Bring on proving that I can get even faster, even stronger, even more confident as I get older.

Never in my life did I think my bachelorette party would involve a road race.

Never in my life did I think my bachelorette party would involve a road race.

30, I’m ready for you.

What does 1/3 of a Half Ironman equal?

This little old journey of mine has been made up of hundreds of moments. Some of them good, some of them bad, all of them teaching me invaluable lessons along the way. Timberman this past weekend was no exception. I think it’s safe to say I felt almost every emotion possible in a 12 hour span.

Race day started far beyond bright and early, with a wake up of 4am. I put on the clothes I had laid out the night before, checked my backpack one last time, and we headed out into the dark. Because I knew there was practically half a day before I would have to run I was nervous, but more nervous for my buddy (who was doing the full 70.3) than I was for myself. I was preoccupied for the first few hours as I watched people set up their transition areas, adjusted wetsuits, and hugged my friends goodbye as they made their way to the start. Every time I heard the air horn send a wave into the water my stomach did a flip. That sound meant the day had officially begun.

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I cheered as the swimmers crawled back to shore and made their way to transition. The cyclist in our relay team headed out and I said goodbye to my friend as she took off on her bike. That’s when I realized how many hours I had to kill. And that I was alone. And that’s when the panic set in.

I wrapped my legs up in a sweatshirt (Wish I had thought to put comfy sweats over my running shorts) and curled into a ball at a picnic table. I glanced at my watch and couldn’t believe how slow time was moving. I felt my breathing get more and more panicked as I tried to envision 13.1 miles. And then in true half ass fashion, I put my head down and started to cry. I wanted it to be over, I wanted my fiancee there, I wanted my comfort beside me telling me I could do it. I wanted anything but to be sitting alone at that table staring at a war-zone transition area.

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Luckily before I became an all out disaster our relay swimmer found me and snapped me out of it. We spent some time watching the elite athletes and then found a shady spot near the relay corral to wait for the bike to come in. Bless her soul for allowing me to ramble on about stupid things to calm my nerves. With no exact way of knowing how soon I could start running I paced in the corral until it was time. We exchanged the chip, high- fived each other, and I took a deep breath as I headed out. Show time.

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Originally I thought that the “double loop, out and back” course would mess with my head, but I ended up appreciating it. In my mind breaking the race up into 4 5Ks seemed manageable so I forced myself to only think about one leg at a time. I took in the scenery (the spectators and signs were awesome!), kept my pace steady, and even made a friend for a while. Towards the end of the first leg I heard someone yell my name and looked up to see my buddy on her bike across the street. I smiled and felt a little piece of the alone-ness melt away.

I proudly stomped on the timing mat as I ran around the first loop. 1 down, 3 to go. On the way back I timed my water/beans perfectly, and was even able to take them down without having to stop running for the first time in my life. I’m sure the water stop volunteer appreciated my jig as I ran by. Shortly before the halfway point I heard my name again and looked up to see my buddy smiling as she ran towards me. As always, she yelled exactly what I needed to hear and I made myself run a little taller. If she could swim 1.2 miles, bike 56, be in the middle of a half marathon and STILL have the energy to yell at me – I could do this. She is my all star, always.

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The turn around was the worst. All of the runners made their way down the same grassy path, with crowds on either side and the music blasting. A woman stood in the middle directing traffic: finishers to the left, 2nd lap runners to the right. I growled at her as I ran by, but tried to remind myself that the faster I ran the faster I would be there too.

5K #3 was tough. Limbs started to get heavy and tired and the realization that I was only half way done set in. The mind games rolled around my head until I crossed the timing mat again. One lap to go and I would be done. Time to dig in. Time to prove myself.

I was slow but determined those last few miles. No matter how much I wanted to stop I reminded myself how close I was, I visualized the finish line. I started going through the list of things in my head that I said I’d never be able to do- and have done. I passed my buddy one last time and as we slapped hands she yelled “GO GET THAT MEDAL!”. I smiled as I felt the tears come on again. But this time, they were warm and happy.

As I rounded the last few bends I started to hear the music again, noticed the crowd getting thicker. My smile grew bigger and bigger and as I passed the woman directing traffic I yelled “STAYING TO THE LEFT!”. She just laughed. I heard people cheering. I heard my name being yelled by my friends parents. I passed by the other two members of my relay team who were jumping up and down and cheering. I don’t think my smile could have gotten any bigger. My face actually hurt more than my legs as I crossed the finish line.

 

With my medal around my neck and a bottle of water in my hand I stopped, despite the crowd still around me. I only noticed two people in that park: the girl I used to be and the girl who had just finished a half marathon of a Half Ironman. The thing that seemed impossible was over. And I had done it. All on my own. I smiled, I laughed, I cried big, fat, happy tears. I was just so proud.

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Despite my “speedy” long runs the last few weeks sadly I didn’t pull off an impressive PR on Sunday. I am still a very slow half marathoner. But I am starting to understand distance running. I am starting to learn what it means to dig deep and push yourself to the finish line. Starting to learn that your legs can out run your mind. Starting to believe in myself. And you know what? All of those things are worth far more than any PR.

Ready.

As a runner you never feel “ready” for a big race.  You question your runs, especially the last few. You pick apart what you did wrong on those Saturday long runs. Your breathing suddenly seems ineffective. Suddenly that clear vision of the finish line you’ve had all this time vanishes. Out of no where aches and pains appear and those that already existed magnify (case in point: I’ve convinced myself that the tiny blister on my big toe is reason for amputation). I dare someone to tell me they’ve ever kicked back during their taper week and felt 100% confident in their ability. And after you’re done telling me- please teach me how to be just like you.
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I don’t feel ready to run 13.1 miles.  And I most certainly don’t feel ready to run them by myself. The furthest I’ve ever run alone is 11 miles. And in training for Timberman I only ran to 10. Those extra 3 miles are a long way to put my faith in. I know that I could get to the start line and completely freak myself out. I know that I could let myself go out far too fast and crash and burn. I know there will be a point where I hit my wall and want to give up. The memory of what a half marathon feels like on my body is still incredibly vivid. How it feels in my brain is even stronger.
But despite all of my worries and doubts, I feel ready in other ways. Ready in ways I’ve never felt before. Ready to figure out if I can ever handle the mental aspect that goes hand in hand with being a distance runner. Ready to see if I can fuel myself properly. Ready to see that those 10 miles were truly all I needed. Ready to see if I can pace myself to run smart and steady.
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Ready because for once, the excitement of success slightly overshadows my fear of failure. Ready because I want to see if the voice inside my head can push me to keep going, instead of the one running alongside me. Ready because I know there will be a team waiting at the finish line who is depending on me. Ready because I want to call my fiancee and scream “I DID IT!” proudly. Ready to prove to those who have believed in me all along that I finally believe in myself. Ready because I want to see that I am stronger than I think I am.
And at the end of the day, maybe that’s the only kind of “ready” you ever really need to be.
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Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

Something’s different.

I can’t quite put my finger on when it happened. Or how it happened. Or even why it happened. But all of a sudden, I’m starting to see some changes.

It all began with my hip. For a decent amount of time I was putting in the bare minimum, doing exercises only when I was reprimanded about them. Essentially I had regressed to the student who does as little homework as possible to get through class. When I started getting sick of this on-again-off-again pain I realized that the rehab activities were there for a reason. So I started spending more time stretching post run. Setting an alarm on my phone to remind myself to do my band walks. Taking the extra 15 minutes at night to go through my routine because believe it or not… this shit actually works! There are still times the pain comes back (I have an ice pack glued to my hip as I type this due to an intense 10 miler this weekend) but I’m starting to get back to higher mileage and more importantly, a happier runner. Lesson learned.

Sunday night routine.

Sunday night routine.

It’s only taken two years and god knows how many near death instances- but I’ve also finally started to get a handle on nutrition when it comes to fueling myself for workouts. I started paying attention to what I’m eating the night before long runs because I know it will affect how I feel mid run. I’m hydrating throughout the day. My days this summer are long and full and I was discovering that by the time I get home I could eat nearly the entire fridge. I started paying attention to what I was eating mid-day, and making sure that I wasn’t heading out on my evening workouts already starving. Sometimes this means eating a PB & Banana sandwich in traffic but if it keeps me from eating both mine and my fiancees dinner at 8:30pm- I’ll gladly take the extra time to pack it.

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Fuel on the go!

The combination of all of these things have slowly but surely been showing me that I can become a better runner. But something even more crucial, even more exciting, even more important? There’s something different going on in my head.

As my mileage started increasing a few weeks ago I decided that I needed a change of scenery for my long runs. I remembered being told about a nearby bike path/trail and decided it just might be worth the earlier wake up call.  So I set the alarm a little earlier, packed myself up and headed to the park. The sun was just coming up, the air was still cool, and as I ran I felt this energy I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I was shocked and how much easier the miles passed, how much faster I ran. I returned week after week, only to find the same magic in my miles. I was convinced that the running fairies were sprinkling dust in the path over night. Negative splits during a long run? 10 miles with an average pace 2 seconds faster than my 8 mile run? Reminding myself that I’m stronger than I think I am? That shit doesn’t happen to me…. EVER.

One of the most epic runs of my short little runner life.

One of the most epic runs of my short little runner life.

I don’t know why I’m suddenly doing all of these things. Maybe watching all these other talented runners around me is finally getting to me. Maybe all the lessons I’ve been taught are finally sinking into my thick little skull. Or maybe, just MAYBE – I’m finally starting to see the potential in myself. We’ll see how long this lasts.