Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Train of Life

Very recently, I was reminded of how absolutely wonderful the running/triathlon/endurance community really is.

When I graduated from college and started working part time at the local gym before I found my big-girl-job, I befriended a small group of guys and we spent more time together at 5am on Saturday mornings than most can imagine. Todd was also an employee of the same gym and we started running together after work from time to time. Closest to my age, we bonded quickly and it wasn't long before Rob and I found a new everlasting friendship in him and his wife. Eventually we decided that we each wanted to bring in another friend to our small running posse. Todd introduced me to Shane, the Sherpa of the group. While I brought in Russ (a member of the gym whom I saw damn near every day at 4:45am as I opened the doors), the biggest pain in the ass there ever was. Shane and Russ are both "older" than Todd and I and always refer to us as the "whipper snappers" of the foursome. Russ and Shane were also formerly in the military. Russ, the Marines. Shane, the Army. Put the 4 of us together and we are an unfiltered, determined, masochist bunch. Being the only female in such a strong group (and the youngest), I learned pretty quickly that I had to have the sass ready to fire at a moments notice.

The 4 of us were in very different stages of life. I had just graduated from college while Rob finished his degree, 3 hours away in Champaign, IL. Todd spent more time at the gym than ever as his wife was working the night shift in the ER as a trauma nurse while going to school for her masters degree. Shane and his wife were extremely comfortable with life and were about to embark on the journey of parenthood. And Russ traveled the globe at the drop of a hat for work and spent all of his time in the states running with us or with his wife and son.

So how does a group like this find a common ground? We shared one commonality. Endurance. We all thrived on the pain of a hard workout. We needed to know that after an awful week of work, traveling overseas to Sweden & Germany, working 12-14 hour days, we'd all find each other on Saturday morning during sunrise for a long run around Crystal Lake. Together, we named ourselves The Strugglebus.

Megan's first 70.3

These guys, they're the reason I bought my first bike.

These guys, they're the reason I can swim respectively at all.

These guys, they're the reason I started triathlon.

These guys, they're the reason I know any sort of biking routes in the Marengo/Union/Woodstock area.

These guys, they believed in me when I never believed in myself.

These guys, they watched my cry when I was such a bad cyclist that I would cry when they wouldn't wait for me. All the while they knew what they were doing. Let her cry, she's gonna laugh at herself one day. And they weren't wrong.

These guys, they told me I'd be a badass when I doubted myself most.

These guys have wives, kids, demanding full time jobs. And they found it reason enough to guide me towards a sport I never knew I needed in my life.

Todd and Russ were my catchers as I crossed the finish line of my first 140.6

As loyal as they come

Last Wednesday morning as I was finishing up a swim workout, Shane walked onto the pool deck with a mighty large gift bag. Back in the fall I had a housewarming/belated birthday/season celebration party. Unfortunately Shane couldn't make it but still had a gift to share with me. He finally put it in his car and decided to surprise me at the gym with it one day. Wednesday was that day.

The bag contained 2 items. An extremely nice zip up Sugoi Ironman hoodie that I have worn almost constantly since I opened it. And the other was a picture frame that had the phrase "The Struggle Bus Is Real" He continued to explain himself and the gifts.

"Megan I'll always have 2 pretty amazing memories with you. The reason you have the sweatshirt is because I remember more than once running through the dead of winter with you and the guys. We stopped at one of your friends houses and he had water out on his front porch for us. Weekend after weekend he always had water for us. And the picture frame is because the 4 of us will always be The Strugglebus. We were the beginning of your triathlon journey." 

Don't forget, it's approximately 6:30am and I have just finished a pretty tough swim workout and I am running late for the showers to get ready for work. And here's Shane, makin' me tear up and get all emotional. Of course, he had to mention my water boy. You all remember him, right? He went on into further detail to explain how the 4 of us, the Strugglebus, we were all apart of each others Train of Life. He told me about a book he had read, and how a train can be a metaphor for someone's life. Every once in a while the train stops in different towns, different people get on and off your train, some stay on your train longer than others. And all make some impact on your life, whether it be small or large.

Megan's pre-triathlon days, only a few months after I bought my first bike
These guys, they've been some of the best mentors and and friends a girl can ask for. (Yes, even crabby and unfiltered Russ.) And the truth of the matter is, they never left my train. At the end of the day, we find our way back to each other. I may not need swim lessons from The Strugglebus anymore, and I might be able to lead the pack on the bike on a good day, and I might not cry anymore when I think I'm lost, but I still need these guys more than ever. I need their wit, their sass, their raw unfiltered humor that can leave my abs sore for days.

Annual end of the season celebration!
Celebrating Megan's first 140.6
These are the kind of relationships that I can't imagine my life without. These people are one of the biggest reasons I'll forever be passionate about this sport. Our families have grown into some of the best friendships. I've watched Todd and his wife bring 2 amazing children into this world (and any day now, a 3rd!). I've watched Shane and his daughter Shayla dance and eat more cake than I thought possible for a 4 year old. And Russ' son Jack and I, well let's just say he still thinks I have cooties. (But I hear that goes away once they hit highschool, right?)

We can do more than swim, bike run
Where it all began, Todd and I roping Russ into race after race with us.
All this being said, I couldn't be more motivated for the season opener tomorrow. As far as I'm concerned, the unofficial start to the racing season happens every year in Cary, IL at the March Madness Half Marathon. Todd and Russ will be in attendance, among most of the the RyBread crew. Some of my most favorite racing moments happen when my worlds collide. And I can't wait to toe the line with Todd and and set the pace for a record day (while we wait for Russ to finish with a sundial πŸ˜‰) All while I pay my respects to my favorite waterboy. It's officially been 2 years without him and this race holds a whole new meaning to me since that 9th day of March 2016 when we all had to say our finals goodbyes. My phone no longer lights up with a message post-race, "You need to get your head checked if you think that this Sunday morning running stuff is fun! But I love ya all the same!" - Mike Powers, my waterboy. He was another example of someone who was always aboard Megan's Train of Life.

Because it's just not the same without him
Ready or not legs, it's go time.

Friday, February 9, 2018

21 Day Sugar Detox: Not for Everyone

"Day 1: My usual banana and coffee was replaced with a coffee and 2 pre-prepared egg cups (eggs + spinach + lean ground beef baked in cupcake form, reheated and seasoned to perfection). Quite tasty and a good change to my usual. And... I wasn't hungry an hour later. But when I was at work, I found my mouth watering constantly. I drank more water the first 2 hours of work than I sometimes do all day. My body was definitely not used to this new routine. 10:30 Snack: Carrots and hummus. A staple in my mind and something I eat almost daily. It subsided my watery mouth short term, but as work began to pick up it was a good distraction from my body sending out an SOS for sugar. 1pm lunch: Spinach salad with pine nuts, walnuts, grilled & seasoned chicken, feta cheese, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper, no brainer). What I REALLY wanted was my granny smith apple and almond butter but was saving that for afternoon snack. On this detox you're allowed either 1 green banana (yuck, disgusting) or a green apple a day. And that's all the fruit you can eat. I don't even like green apples, but I LOVE apples to an unhealthy level so I decided to go for it and used the almond butter to soften the sour. It worked. Still not as satisfying as my honeycrisp and peanut butter, but it'll do for the time being. After my 3pm snack of granny smith apple with almond butter I walked into a co-workers office and stood there and simply said, "Banana." She laughed in hysterics. DAMN JUST GIVE ME A BANANA ALREADY. 5:30pm swim workout: warmup was definitely sluggish and I felt winded much quicker than normal. Uh oh, this could be a rough 3 weeks. However, this could also be a result of a hard run over the weekend. As I got into the workout I fell into my groove much quicker and started to feel like my old swim self. Crisis averted. 7pm dinner: scrambled eggs with onion, mushrooms, peppers, spinach and cheese. A side of mashed sweet potatoes (athletes allowed 1/2 cup of sweet potatoes or 1/2 cup of quinoa daily on this sugar detox) with butter. Unsweetened almond milk to wash it down and I'm officially through day 1 of no sugar and I'm not twitching, nor do I have a headache. But my mouth is definitely salivating much more than normal..."

The above was written on January 8th, 2018. At the time, I had just started a 21 day sugar detox. Sounds simple enough, but we're talkin' ALL sugars. Carbs and fruits included. Literally if there was ANY sugar in the food, I wasn't allowed to eat it, natural or not. My list of go to foods included, all forms of meat, eggs, most veggies (starchy potatoes a no-no), most nuts, unsweetened almond milk and coconut milk, with a side of water. Mmmmmm. I was planning on keeping a daily log so I could write a blog about how the entire process went. But, we all know plans change.

No, the intention was never to "lose weight" by any means or to go on a "diet". After I got home from Chattanooga twice in the month of September, I slowly but surely fell into a spiral of all the foods I shouldn't be eating. And then the holidays came. I said no to nothing. I gained maybe a few pounds, but that wasn't the point of this at all. The point was, I wanted to feel better.  I was constantly tired and sluggish. I was always craving something sweet and caving at the drop of a hat. I was finding less and less joy out of the veggies I usually thrived on. I needed to reboot my system and what better way to do it than to eliminate every last bit of sugar in my diet?

I followed a "Level 1" Diet

My menu for the next 21 days!

If there was ever any question, this chart answered it.

 You all remember Kait, right?  She introduced me to this diet a few years ago and I attempted it circa 2015. But when a few family members fell ill, it was near impossible to live on hospital food without sugar in it. (Ironic, yes?) I had to call it quits halfway through the 21 day program just so I could I simply eat at the hospital while visiting family. Assuming I didn't have any "life" curveballs this time around, there was no reason I shouldn't be able to complete the detox. The nice part about this detox is that there is an athlete version that allows anyone who is active, a specific amount of natural sugars a day. I focused on the 1 green apple a day, 1/2 cup of sweet potato or 1/2 cup of quinoa a day. That was what I allowed myself in the form of "athlete foods".

I decided to give myself the best chance and started on January 8th. S-NO-W Fun Run is always the first weekend in January and the thought of missing out and watching my friends eat and drink the night away sounded like a nightmare. Starting after my favorite winter running party was what I was going to do.

I made sure I was prepared and prepped everything I needed, down to the emergency snacks for when all triathletes get hangry. They say the list of side effects can be quite extreme, ranging from severe headaches to mood swings to "the shakes". I never experienced any of that. Instead, this is what I experienced:

  1.  Crazy amounts of mouth watering on Day 1. Holy cow. The most awkward thing as I felt like I was constantly spitting all day when I spoke. By Day 2 the mouth watering subsided but was still most definitely more active than normal. 
  2. I wanted a banana like you wouldn't believe. I live on bananas. Between the coffee pot and my favorite food ever, it's a close tie for which I touch first thing in the morning when I wake up. 
  3. During the day, I felt completely normal. No headaches. No mood swings (that I noticed of myself, but no one told me I was moody either). No shakes. Just me. 
  4. While I worked out, it always took me longer than normal to get my momentum going. Warmups felt like workouts. The workout felt like I was racing almost every time. And, my ears ALWAYS felt plugged up when I was working out (swim, bike or run). Why? I have NO idea. But I definitely noticed a huge difference in my ears while working out.
  5. DRASTIC weight loss. Enough that it scared me a little. And made me rethink this entire process. 
The first couple of days I didn't think to much about the workout sluggishness. I knew there would be an adjustment period and I was willing to see what the other side was like. Except, when I woke up on day 5 and stepped on the scale. I had lost 6 lbs in 5 days. Uh oh, this isn't good. I immediately followed that up with my usual Friday workout, a swim and a shakeout run. It took everything I had in me to finish 3 measly miles. 

It was time to re-evaluate, for sure. 

I didn't want to completely throw in the towel just yet, but I knew that my Saturday long run was definitely going to suffer and possibly injure me if I didn't make some adjustments. My cousin (who happens to be a rockstar dietician) created this phenomenal energy balls that I was planning on using on my run (since gels and the usual running nutrition was a no-no) but I was starting to think that even that wouldn't save me. I already had my lunch/snacks packed for that Friday of work so I needed to formulate a plan by dinner time. After discussing with a few co-workers, I decided to add in some carbs to my dinner that night to help fuel my run in the morning. Dinner included steak, green beans, sweet potato, and 2 dinner rolls with butter (and regular ole 2% milk). Definitely nothing drastic. But after dinner I can't tell you how different I felt. The only additions I ate were the 2 dinner rolls and a glass of milk. THAT'S ALL IT TOOK FOR ME TO FEEL A BIT MORE ENERGIZED. 

The next morning I ate my usual egg cups that I had prepared and a few of the energy balls pre-run. I also weighed myself again and was officially down 6.5lbs in less than 6 days. Once I was done with this run, I was positive my next meal was going to include more sugar than I had consumed in the past week.

My on the go breakfasts! Egg Cups: eggs + ground beef + veggies (spinach, peppers, and mushrooms)

My "if I have time breakfast"
Sweet potato toast, avocado, and a hard boiled egg. DELISH!

So, was it worth it? Totally. I know people think I'm nuts when I have these crazy ideas. But now I can definitely say I think twice before I put food in my mouth. I opt for different choices, less bread, more veggie. I wanted my taste buds to come back to normal, and they did. I'll call it a success. You might also remember, Jacqui did this same detox during the month of December before going on a family cruise over Christmas. You'll never believe the difference in our stories. Read about it here if you're interested! That just goes to show ya, every body is created differently and everyone has separate needs. 

Was it hard to avoid sugar? No. It was actually easier than I thought. After I got past the first day, I didn't think about it much. Sure I was envious of my coworker as he walked in a Chipotle burrito the size of my head for lunch, but I never dwelled on it and it wasn't hard to sit and eat my meal next to him at all. In fact, I got engaged on Day 3 of the sugar detox. And still, I wasn't even tempted to bust out the champagne at all. I was pretty determined to make it through this.

Lemon zest tilapia, steamed broccoli, and quinoa topped with pico de gallo
Scrambled eggs with all the veggies, sweet potato with butter, and almond milk

As you can see, I ate pretty damn well during this 6 day stint. And had some great ideas and recipes to follow in the days to come. But, my health comes first. And most importantly, I've got some big goals this year. And I'm not about to compromise them for anything.

Until next time, friends. Cheers.

Friday, January 26, 2018

F^3 Lake Half Marathon: Middle of Winter Check Up

Full Disclosure: I never intended to race until the infamous season opener at March Madness this year. Obviously I caved to peer pressure, yet again.

I mean, can you blame me? #didntwannamissout

The F^3 Lake Half Marathon is held in the middle of January on the Chicago lakefront. It's everything you would expect it to be. Freezing cold with piercing winds and has potential for some serious snow covered paths. I ran this race circa 2014 and it was just that. Five degrees at the start line, nasty Chicago winter winds, and snow packed covered paths that felt more like hiking than running at times.

F^3 Lake Half Marathon 2014
Shane (nicknamed "the Sherpa") and I wore all the layers

This year, Jacqui was looking for some friends to join her. She was chosen by Chicago Athlete Magazine to help them review races in the Chicagoland area. She decided to run and was pretty consistent when it came to asking me if I'd be running with her. My answers went as follows:

"No, it's to cold."
"No, the last time I ran I had to climb snowdrifts."
"No, I retired."
"No, I need to do laundry that day."
"If this serious cold spell breaks, I'll consider it."
"Ok, if these 40+ degree temps stay I'll register by Wednesday."
"Ok I registered." 
I prayed that Ryan would tell me I needed to focus on my long run instead of racing. Instead he told me, "Well, your long run that weekend is going to be pretty intense anyways so you might as well race." Yer killin' me smallz. The weather was looking beyond amazing and RyBread had a small posse racing {Ryan, Jacqui, and Kati} so at that point I had a hard time turning down a 40+ degree race on the Chicago Lakefront in the middle of January. 

The 4 of us piled into Kati's car on Saturday morning and headed South to Soldier Field. One huge benefit to this race {that wasn't available in 2014} was the fact that we were able to stay INSIDE Soldier Field until the gun went off. You mean I don't have to stay in my car until the last minute and then sprint to the start line and risk a rolled ankle? Sign me up. 

Mark decided to come hang out and spectate at the last minute so he took the train down and met us at Soldier Field and provided some solid entertainment. We found a friend from home along with plenty of other familiar racing faces and mingled while we prepped for the race. Jacqui, Ryan, Kati and I took off for a warmup and the whole time I formulated a last minute race plan in my head (because Ryan pretty much just told me, let's see what you can do #facepalm). I wanted so badly to stay as consistent as possible. What I knew about this course: the first mile takes you around Soldier Field and then spits you out on the Lakefront path where you run straight south through mile 7 and then turn around and head straight back north. The wind was heading North so I'd have a headwind through mile 7 with a tailwind on the way back home. This could work out in your favor, if you're smart. 

Oh, hey Linus! #weneversawhim
Warmin' up with the Field Museum
We hung out inside until the last possible second, moments before the National Anthem was sung so we could stay as warm as possible. Kati and I said goodbye to Jacqui and Ryan and found our spot a little further back in the herd of people (3000+ to be exact, this wasn't exactly a "little" race). The gun went off and I made Kati promise me she'd wait for me at the finish line. 

Mile 1: 7:08 Soldier Field is bigger than I thought. It literally took almost an entire mile to run around the whole stadium. Crowds were a little heavy, but I made sure to let the speedster take off. I glanced at my watch and saw I was definitely running to fast, slowed it down a bit but still had to swallow a faster mile that I wanted for mile 1. 

Mile 2: 7:25 Much better. We hopped on the lakefront path and the winds hit us right away. Winds were never terrible, but always present. Anything over 10mph winds on Lake Michigan can always feel much worse. And today, I wanted to manage them as best as I could. 

Is that bare skin showing? Why yes, yes it is. And it's January. In Chicago. 

Mile 3: 7:31 Yes, perfect. Hang on to this pace. Stay consistent in the wind. I wasn't feeling over labored at all. I wanted to conserve so I could potentially pick up the pace at the turn around. Around mile 2.5 I heard a voice from behind me ask, "What's with the RyBread?" Oh, it's my racing team! "Oh, I just thought you were like really into Rye bread sandwiches or something." #facepalm

Mile 4: 7:29 Is it too early to be impressed with myself? I mean, come on. This consistent pace is makin' me all sorts of giddy. About mile 3.5 I took my first gel and was happy I took it when I did. Had I waited another aide station things might have gotten ugly. 

That skyline tho 😍

Mile 5: 7:31 Alright, this is getting a little creepy. But, I rolled with it. Don't let yourself go out of control before the turnaround, only 2 more miles until you can start to let go a little. This is also the same mile we had to do a little "off roading" if you will. Parts of the Lakefront path are being redone, so we had to jump ship and move from one side of the path to the other, crossing a supposed to be grassy section but happened to be 100% mud due to the amount of snow we've had lately. I two-stepped approximately 3 steps through the mud and stomped my feet clean on the path afterwards. 

Mile 6: 7:33 OK, I'm still feeling pretty good but I'm ready to ditch this wind. Chicago, I love ya with my whole heart everyday of the year, but you can keep this wind and shove it where the sun don't shine on race day. Kapeesh? This is also the same mile I started to see the leaders heading back home. Jealousy ran deep to my core as I watched Ryan head home first, then Jacqui, followed by Kati.

Mile 7: 7:32 FINALLY! The turnaround! Yes! Let's go HOME! I need a gel though, take a gel at the next aide station and let it boost you home. 

Mile 8: 7:40 Considering I damn near choked on my water and gel at this aide station I'm not upset that I dipped into the 7:40's. I spent a solid 10 second coughing up my right lung like a first timer {one day I'll figure out how to drink and run at the same time} so I ain't mad about it. Also, this wind isn't as much of a tailwind as it's supposed to be. Next mile it will be better, yes. 

Mile 9: 7:50 OK, before you freak out you need to know something. My stomach pretty much rejected that last gel I just took. This was not a cramp, or a sidestich from lack of oxygen. I legit had the worst stomach ache in the entire world and it felt like my insides were eating itself. The fact that I still managed to maintain a sub 8 minute mile right now was beyond me. OK, this will pass. Take another water at the next aide station and let it help relax you and you're back in the game. 

Mile 10: 8:06 OMG THIS IS SOME OF THE WORST PAIN IN THE WHOLE WORLD. My legs felt fantastic, in case you cared at all. But my gut, watch out. I kept hoping I'd upchuck really quick so I could rid my body of this poison that I just ingested. But of course my body doesn't operate like that. Also, I still wouldn't consider this a tailwind. 

Mile 11: 8:06 Please don't get any slower, please don't get any slower. Hopes of a PR are definitely thrown out the window at this point but I could still run under 1:40 if I could find another gear these last 2 miles. 

Good thing Kati's sunglasses are hiding the pain in my eyes

Mile 12: 8:05 So, I'm consistent while in pain. I suppose this is a good thing! One more mile. One. More. Mile. 

Mile 13: 7:55 Good. At least you were able to salvage some dignity so your last mile wasn't your slowest. One problem, the mile 13 marker was not near me at all. This course was long. Longer than 13.1. Sub 1:40 wasn't going to happen. 

Finish: 1:41:23 I found Mark at the finish and immediately started to curl into a ball while I tried to explain my misery. He found it hilarious while he had the camera in my face. Ryan and Kati were waiting for me at the end of the chute, Ryan shivering out of control. Mark immediately threw his coat on top of him while we all shuffled back into Soldier Field. At one point I thought I was going to have to carry Ryan, he limped like he had 2 broken legs. His brand new shoes caused him all the blisters on the bottom of his feet. WHAT A NEWBIE!

I was pretty happy to see this finish line

After I had time to sleep on my performance and dwell on my non-success (we won't call it a failure, just not a success), I immediately hounded Ryan for answers. Am I out of shape? Do I need to rethink 2018 goals? Was it just a bad day? Be honest with me or I find a new coach. He swore to me that I wasn't out of shape. Hell, it's only January and I just ran one of my fastest ever half marathons. (Running this close to 1:40 is something I've only ever done a handful of times. Running under 1:40 has only happened twice before.) I'm only about a month into some serious training for 2018 and recently had a pretty big curveball thrown my way. An engagement. Followed by some celebrations that made me laugh until I cried, and cried just because I was so happy. My roller coaster of emotions has been pretty alive these last 2 weeks. And the fact that my body was still able to run one of my better half marathons ever, well that's sayin' something. Stress hits the body in every way. I don't feel like this engagement has caused me any stress, but I suppose good stress is a thing too. As Ryan says, "Good stress hits the body just as hard, and you've done pretty well with it. Just next time, don't get engaged this close to a race." Ha, got it coach. I'll save my next engagement for post-race. 

Did I mention I was bleeding at some point during the race? How? #onlyme

After more and more thought, I'm in no way upset with my performance. I was just a little hopeful for more at this point in the year. (yes, 20 days in) But, these little "check ups" are good to give the body a little test to see what needs to be altered. I don't plan on another check up before March Madness. But who knows, I'm not making promises anymore.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

I Said Yes

Let's take a step away from the training and racing world for a hot second here to talk about how...


Because I only plan on doing this once in life 

Last Wednesday, Rob came over after work for dinner as my boyfriend. He left that night as my fiance. It was perfect. The two of us, being us. No crowds, no cameras, no fuss. Just me, Rob, and a shiny new addition to my left hand. It was a secret Rob kept to himself, telling no one when he'd pop the question. One of the sweetest things he's ever told me, "I wanted you to be the first one to know." We ran down the street immediately to tell my parents and Mark. Rob had visited them last week, but of course they didn't know when this day would come. Instant tears and hugs ensued. My hand never stopped shaking and that smile never left my face while we sat in my parents living room.

I'll always remember that I got engaged in my finest sweats

It took us an entire day just to spread the word to all of Rob's 9 siblings. It might have been the hardest secret I've ever kept for 24 hours. But when Rob FaceTimed me into his mother's birthday celebration late Thursday night after work and I was able to witness the family's reaction, it was well worth the wait. Screams and cheers filled that kitchen instantly and I sat in front of my computer and tears came to my eyes. These people that I've grown to love over the years, they love me just as much. And soon they'll officially be my family.

Soon after, the secret began to leak. I've spent more time on the phone in the last 3 days than I ever remember before. FaceTime is a glorious thing, being able to SEE everyone's reaction as Rob and I tell everyone the great news. Yesterday we made a special trip to go tell my grandmother, 93 years young and more full of life than ever before. Her reaction was priceless, and at one point she even told us, "You know, I say my prayers every night and I always include Rob. And I pray to God that I won't club him!" Well Gram, now that's one less prayer when you go to bed at night.

Soon to be πŸ’–

Being the good brother that Mark is, he took a few nicer pictures of us (not in sweat pants) for us to remember this special time.

How long until I think this kind of stuff is cheesey? Never, good.

Me and my Spectathlete, forever πŸ’•
In our matching Kineta Relay πŸ‘ŸπŸ‘Ÿ

We decided to head out last night, for the first time in a long time. Very impromptu, very last minute, very much the kind of celebration I love. But we had some of our dearest friends by our sides and we celebrated the night away.

Seriously.. It'll never get old πŸ˜‰

Full Disclosure - this photo was taken after midnight
I was so proud of myself for staying awake so long!

So, I guess you could say 2018 is off to a pretty solid start. We're only 14 days in, and I haven't stopped smiling yet. Cheers 🍻

Sunday, January 7, 2018

B Words

This time of year you're going to see a lot of blogs and posts on all types of social media stating things like "This is my year! I'm going to be a totally different person!" "I'm going to lose those 50 lbs I've always said I would!" "I'm going to be better with my money this year!" It's great, I love to see everyone with so many resolutions. What I don't like, is watching people fall off the wagon.

I don't like to think of myself as a resolutioner. I like to think of myself as goal-oriented. I believe there is a difference, resolutions gearing more towards a lifestyle change while goals can be as simple as learning to ride a bike. Goals, if set properly and realistically, can lead to a lifestyle change.

The older I get, the more I live for the small wins in life 

I entered 2017 with some big goals for my Ironman performance. I laid them out for you in the beginning of the year, and then you watched me literally fall apart during Ironman Texas in April.  It was a hard pill to swallow, watching all of my hard work over the winter literally go down the drain. But we all know that the Ironman world is SO much a game of chance. You can follow the strictest of diets. You can recover like a champ and nail workout after workout, but if the wind isn't blowing your direction on race day that's the way the cookie crumbles. What I never expected after Texas was to formulate a brand new shiny goal {Qualifying for the 70.3 World Championships} a month later. And when I snagged that last qualifying slot of the day at IM 70.3 Wisconsin a month after that, you can definitely say my world was flipped upside down. It just so happened my cookie crumbled in a direction I never expected. 

Clearly 2017 took me in a direction I never could foresee. When it comes to racing and training, there are a few key items I like to follow in order to help with success, regardless of which direction it takes you. Here are the key lessons I learned in 2017 and will carry with me in the future.

1. Reflection is KEY

Looking back on racing and training and taking the time to lay out what went wrong, what can be tweaked, areas that can be improved on. This is something I've learned over the years. I wish I would have started blogging years ago, because the more I do the more I learn from it. Writing down my thoughts post-race and re-reading them in the weeks, months, and years after the fact has given me more than I ever imagined it would. {Caveat, I had to be coerced into starting this blog by a few people. I dreaded it in the beginning, I won't lie. Now, I can't imagine where I'd be without my keystrokes.} Now, this doesn't mean that EVERYTHING gets published for the whole world to see. I have plenty of drafts that will likely never see the World Wide Web.

Sometimes the week after a big race is almost as stressful as the week before the race for me. I've usually just gotten home some exotic location (ha!), have a mound of laundry, sleep to catch up on, and food to prepare for the week. And usually the first thing I do when I get home from work every night is grab my computer and start typing. The longer I wait, the sooner it slips away forever. No, I don't have kids to tend to so I understand this is a huge luxury a lot of people don't have. But even if you have to create a note in your phone while the kids are doing their homework to jot down some thoughts, it's well worth it. 

2. Stay in the moment 

Racing an Ironman, a Half Ironman, or a Marathon are all very long events. If you're having a bad day, it can be so easy to let your mind take over. Thoughts like "I'm never going to get off this bike!" or "I have to run another 20 miles!?" can easily be game changers. Letting yourself focus on what's ahead is never going to get you in the right headspace. Never wish yourself out of the water. Never start praying to ditch your bike at mile 70 {because at mile 6 of the run you're gonna wish you had it back}. Never EVER wish you could be at that finish line as you finish loop 1 of the run.

Why? First and foremost.. obsessing over what you have left ahead of you can be extremely daunting. Taking the rest of your uncomfortable ride 5 miles at a time is much easier on the mind. "Sure, I can ride 5 more miles." The next thing you know, you're lacing up your running shoes.  But for me, I'll never wish away a race. I can't think of anything else that brings such a high as racing. The hours before the gun goes off. The smell of the open water. The extremely little patience I have with my spectators pre-race because their pace isn't mine and I need to be in transition like 30 seconds ago to check on Matilda. The rush of diving into the water with how many strangers around you, all fighting for the same position. The monotony of the bike, which also has the power to make you feel most alive throughout the entire race. The pain of the run, the part of the race that truly separates the men from the boys. The hysteria of the finish line, and the emotion that immediately follows, sometimes for days at a time.

This is why I'll never ever leave the moment I'm in on that race course. 

One of the biggest differences between a Pro athlete and an Age Group athlete (I believe) is how they race. Pro's are extremely methodical with their races. Every aspect of the day is analyzed, dissected, and meticulously thought/planned out to the best of their abilities. But Megan... I plan out my races too! You're right, we do. Us Average Joe's obsess quite a bit over the little things. But at the end of the day, we're raw and race with our hearts.  

3. Flexibility

Half of the racing and training battle is learning to train the mind. Many (if not all) of the people I've met in this sport are extreme type A personalities. We have schedules for everything and once a wrench hits the blueprints, all hell can break loose in our minds.

Did you oversleep and miss your morning workout? Consider it a sign your body needed the extra rest, preparing you to comeback strong for your next workout. 

Did you have to stay late at work and now you don't have time to cook that healthy dinner you know you need? That's why God made these things called restaurants, giving us umpteen choices to choose from. Make the right choice and your takeout meal can be just as healthy as homemade.

Laundry piling up? Sink full of dishes? A layer of dust on everything? But you need to sit on the trainer for 3+ on a Sunday, right? Time management is key. Load that dishwasher before you ride, start the laundry ASAP and it gets done when it's done. And that dust? Clorox wipes. I'm tellin' ya, they're magic.

I'm sure I'm telling you nothing you don't already know on the flexibility front, but sometimes it does us all good to hear it again. We all need a little reminder once in a while. It is what it is. Let it be and move on, always looking forward. I had some serious curve balls thrown my way last year, and I always had a choice. Let it get to me, or deal with it as is and move forward.

So Megan, now what?

So if you've been reading along, you know I've been hinting at my racing future for the past few months. Sitting at awards in Chattanooga in September (the 2nd trip, the full Ironman) I sat at that table and had myself a little meltdown. Kati consoled me while Ryan walked up to the table at just the right moment, witnessing it all. I knew my 2017 a season was something most would love to have, but I couldn't help but wonder, where would I be right now if my run were in better shape? I spent SO much time over the past year trying to get my bike and swim up to speed, and I sure did. My run didn't suffer necessarily, it just didn't improve. 

So that's why I'm about to go through more running shoes during 2018 than ever before.

I need to run faster. I need to be more consistent. I need to learn to take my mind and my legs somewhere they've never been on the run. And that's why I'm devoting 2018 to the art of running. I'm already signed up for a few smaller races, and of course, my "A" race of the year. And this year, I couldn't be happier to say that I'm taking Nuun with me. As an ambassador for Nuun for the 2018 racing season, I can safely say I'm extremely grateful that I have the ability to stay hydrated all season long with my favorite electrolyte replacement. If you're interested you can find more information about Nuun here. 

Megan stop being so vague, where are you racing this year and what are your big goals!?

Ahh right. Minor details. The big show of the year happens in June this year. I'm rallying the troops and heading north, damn near the Illinois/Canada border to Duluth, Minnesota. The ever so popular Grandma's Marathon that resides in Duluth, Minnesota. 

And if you're any sort of runner that has looked into these "destination races" you know the main reason people go as far north as Duluth, Minnesota to run a marathon.... 


Yep, you read that right. I was in Boston in 2012 to watch my girl, Kait (whom you've met before) run the Boston Marathon on a sweltering hot day. But the next time I go, I want to be the one running that race. Go big or go home, right? I have 6 minutes to shave off my marathon time, and more if I want to guarantee entry (which I do, obviously). It ain't gonna be easy, but I'm up for the challenge. But like all things in life, I won't get there alone. So I want to ask a small favor from everyone. 

If you see me on the streets while I'm running and I appear to be struggling, roll your window down and remind me to get my head out of my ass because Bean Town is calling my name. Seriously, I'm in for a world of hurt this winter, so I'm gonna need all the help I can get. But I honestly can't wait. 

2018 here we go.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Unforgettable Moments of 2017

2017 has been one of those years that I reflect on and think to myself, "Seriously, ALL of that happened?" From day 1 to the final days that are approaching, I look back and think how did I manage?  But, as the saying goes, the Good Lord doesn't give you anything you can't handle.

Every time I race, I hold a piece of that day in my heart. I blog so I can be sure to keep the moments around longer than my mind will allow. I read back once in a while and catch myself thinking, oh wow I forgot that even happened! Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. But I never regret it and always close my computer with a smile on my face.

Here are some highlights from the the most unpredictable racing year to date. Some of the memories you've already read about while there are some memories (and races) that I never actually wrote about. Sit back and relax, I had some fun writing this one.

S-NO-W Fun Run
January 7th, 2017

This is a race that never actually made the press. It's 100% purely fun and meant to be run for the post-race party. Every year, the first weekend in January, the old PlayBoy Bunny Mansion, The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, WI, swarms with runners looking to log a couple of miles around the lake so they can rightfully earn their post-race beverages. It's always so hard to pick a favorite moment. And this year, there were plenty...

Perhaps it was this, watching Ryan pass me on the out and back course dressed as a Gorilla..

Who needs a hat when you have a Gorilla mask

Or maybe this moment.. when Lauren and I crossed the finish line stride for stride...

10 degrees. So. Flippin. Cold.
Oh I know, it was when John greeted us in the ballroom after the race and asked us why we weren't on "his level" yet...

Let the evening begin

OR It was winning this Goblet to hold all of our "post-race hydration..."

Promise there's water in that 😜

PSA: if you've never run the S-NO-W Fun Run, you need to start ASAP.

March Madness Half Marathon 
 March 19th, 2017

This is by far one of my all time favorite races. I will ALWAYS run it as long as I live in the area. It's close to home, a pretty cheap entry, and it offers a serious challenge that most mountainous races can't top. And this year, it wasn't any different. But what I didn't expect was to walk away with a new fresh face that I would later call a very dear friend. Meeting Kati before the race and slowly getting to know her over the next couple of months is easily the best part of this year's March Madness Half Marathon. Kati was a mutual friend of Lauren's, and the newest member of the RyBread Racing team. I truly believe that certain people are meant to be in your life, whether it be your whole life or someone that enters the picture 50 years into the game. And Kati entered the picture at EXACTLY the right moment. At the time, I was currently experiencing a heart throbbing relationship that was beginning to exit my life.

We ran our warmup together and I learned so much over the course of our slow 'n steady 2 miles. 1. Her husband's name is also Rob. 2. She was planning on doing her first full Ironman in September in Madison. 3. She's a wicked fast runner. 4. She's not a fan of the water at all. 5. She enjoys an internal argument with herself on the race course just as much as I do. Once I found this out, I knew we were meant to be friends...

I wasn't lying about the wicked fast part..
She took 6th overall female on this disgustingly difficult course.

Ironman Texas 
April 22nd, 2017

Ironman Texas definitely left a bad taste in my mouth this year. But there were some stand out moments that I'll never forget. Like the night before the race when I headed to dinner with Rob and Ryan, and my Dad and Uncle just happened to be there to surprise me? When you pour your heart and soul into a passion so deeply. When so many of your waking moments are devoted to training. And when you continually try to make yourself better than yesterday, it goes without saying that a surprise like this will surely break you down. I sobbed my little eyes out in that restaurant booth, Rob to my left, Uncle JB to my right, and Pops sitting across from me. So many people will tell you over and over again that it takes a Village to get a single person across that finish line. And my Village just so happens to be one of the best.


So many moments from the Ironman Texas race course I've tried to forget, but there's one that I'll always try to remember. While on the run, I was able to spend almost 2 miles stride for stride with Ryan. Unfortunately, this memory comes at his cost. His body wasn't responding the way he needed it to in those final miles of Ironman Texas. But for me, someone who will never see the #1 spot of any Ironman, I was able to share those miles with an Ironman Champion. An amazing mentor. A phenomenal coach. A kindhearted soul. And, one of the dearest friends anyone could ever ask for. We were able to run stride for stride together. I did my best to keep his mind as clear and positive as I could. While I know for a fact he was doing everything he could to drop me faster than he did, I'd even dare to say he enjoyed these miles too. Ironman Texas was a rough day all around, but moments like this make it all worthwhile.

The day before, when we both felt much better

Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga 
May 21st, 2017

This race crept up on me pretty quickly after Ironman Texas. I was in the middle of buying a new house. I was also in the middle of changing jobs. And I had just gotten home from Texas less than a month prior. To say I was bleeding money out my ears would be an understatement. But there was no way I could cancel this trip. Because, without a doubt, the best part of this trip was being able to spend 4 entire days uninterrupted with Rob. Rob had recently been switched to working the night shift and was putting in some serious hours. We were lucky to see each other for a few hours every Saturday night. But he requested this entire weekend so that he could be my sherpa, as promised. Rob and I have been together a long time, 7 and a half years at this time of the year. We've grown into our relationship quite well over the years and I guess you could say that there really aren't many surprises these days. We are who we are together and that's the deal. But this trip, we laughed more together than we had in a long time. We watched the weather go from beautiful to ugly to unpredictably perfect at the drop of a hat and we were simply in awe of my weather racing abilities. We met celebrities together (Heather Jackson!) and were both a little starstruck, even Rob had to tell her how he witnessed her impressive win at IMLP in 2016 in the Olympic Oval. We made no plans (other than required race events) and simply spent our time reconnecting. Pardon the mush, but I'd dare to even say I fell a little more in love with him on this trip. 

We ate free Chik-Fil-A chicken sandwiches from a street vendor

My guy and his love for architecture

His new motto after this trip

My #1 fan!

Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin
June 11th, 2017

Isn't this what they call a no brainer? I mean, I qualified for the World Championships at this race. And I did it in the most adverse of weather. Freezing cold water + crazy chop: check. 30+mph winds on the bike (head/cross/tailwinds. It truly was coming from all angles of the Earth): check. 90+ degree temps with 0 clouds: check. Rob was there. Mark was there. BOTH Jacqui and Ryan were there. Kati and Ryan both shared the race course with me. 

I came home from Chatty 70.3 a little sour after being so close to qualifying for the World Championships that I found my way into this race, calling it my last shot. And I'll be damned if it wasn't the best decision I've EVER made in the midst of my life being a total shit show. I had literally just moved ALL of my possessions only 72 hours prior and woke up on race morning sore because of it. But the moment I'll never forget was while we were sitting at the awards. The announcer had already passed my age group and I had already sent the "didn't make it" text to Mom and Dad. I had kind of stopped listening. My heart was a little crushed and I wanted to make a break for it to my car. But then, I heard this: "It looks like the Female 18-24 slot won't be taken so it goes to the next biggest age group... Female 30-34!" My heart sank, Mark and Ryan went from slouching in their chairs to immediately perked and sitting upright, and I felt a small wave of nausea come over me. Before the announcer even called my number, Ryan sat next to me whispering "YES! YES YES YES!!" I jumped to my feet, hugged Mark, and sprinted to the stage to accept my slot. The crowd had thinned but I remember the cheers being so loud and vibrant. Tears streamed down my face and my hands shook uncontrollably as I attempted to fill out the necessary paperwork. I looked up and Mark had his phone in my face, my parents on FaceTime confused beyond belief. I was sobbing so of course they assumed I was hurt or dying, but as soon as I was able to articulate what happened they joined the celebration. This race, this was by far a memory I'll not soon forget. 

I don't know who took this picture, but I'll treasure it forever
The moment I snagged the LAST qualifying slot of the day!

Lake In The Hills Triathlon
June 18th, 2017

At this point in the season my body had already been through hell and back, but there will be a pretty serious reason the day I miss out on the Lake In The Hills Triathlon. It's literally in my backyard and draws all my local favorites for a short little race of triathlon. And this year, almost the entire RyBread Racing crew, AKA the LPpartee, ventured out to Lake in the Hills, IL to join the fun. The non-locals crashed at my house the night before and the next morning we did what we know best, we raced each other across that finish line. It's hard to get all of us together considering we spread across the Chicagoland area pretty well, but this day was one for the books. It could have been the fact that John and Brittany made sure to make it known that they were READY TO LEAVE THE HOUSE FIRST (and not last like usual). Or catching up with an old high school friend while we dipped our toes in the water before the gun went off. Or, maybe it was when Trina decided to smoke me with less than a half mile to go on the bike, something she's turned into a tradition when we race together. Or it could have been hearing John run up behind me on the run screaming, "EAT MY TURDS!" Or, perhaps it was watching Jacqui's comeback after what seemed like countless injuries. Whatever it was, I know that this day and race will forever be one of my favorite days.

She's baaaaaack!

Perhaps Brittany and I can introduce you to these things called "sunglasses"


Advocate Family Fitness Run 10K
July 4th, 2017

I found this 4th of July 10k years ago and always find myself on the starting line if I happen to be in the area for the holiday. I missed out last year, so of course it made the list this year. One thing I'll always remember about this race is the heat. It's ALWAYS sweltering and offers some challenging hills you wouldn't wish on your enemies. After years of racing this one, I can safely say I finally feel comfortable on these hills. I was ready to test my fitness this year! Except, when they change the race course on you and you are forced to run blind to the terrain. Cue small panic attack. Definitely not the end of the world, but I'll be damned. Just as soon as I start to get comfortable, there goes my comfort zone. They changed this course to avoid multiple train tracks (which has stopped the race in years past due to an unforeseen train) so ultimately I couldn't be mad. It's no secret that I'm a creature of habit, but I've certainly grown to embrace change. And lemme tell ya, this change is something I'd prefer to know before the gun went off. The hills we ran were some of the hills that Mark and I would bike on when we ventured out to Barrington. I wanted to test my fitness, and I'll be damned if that didn't happen. 

I'll stick to the longer distances from now on..

Ironman 70.3 Muncie
July 8th, 2017

So I didn't actually race Muncie this year. But I was there for Mark, Jacqui, and Kati as their race day Sherpa and lemme tell ya, that shit's harder than it looks. We left the hotel on race morning at a God awful time and went through the typical race day preparations. I'm used to getting up on the weekend, sipping my coffee, doing a few things around the house, and then taking off for my long run. This whole "wake up, drive to a race site, sit in the car for 3 hours, watch the start of the race, then go run" thing wasn't my norm. But I laced my running shoes while my little posse took off on the bike course and had one of my better runs to date! My body was tired, legs were heavy, and nutrition was definitely not on point considering I'd been awake for 7 hours already and pretty much had been living off of hotel coffee and fruit snacks. The human body can do amazing things if you let it. 

Once everyone hit the run course, I grabbed Phoebe (my road bike) and turned into a course marshall and road up and down that run course more times than I can count. I road up to Jacqui to let her know how she placed and back to Mark to laugh at him, and never found Kati at all and it started to worry me. I was in uncharted territory on the sidelines and I wasn't good at sending updates back home. My body was tired and hungry from my run. I was sweating bullets because it was getting hot outside and I knew the aidstations needed the water for athletes. I peed in more bushes than I'd care to admit because that's what you do in Muncie, IN as a Sherpa on the race course. But, I watched my friends kick ass and take names, all while they had a smile on their face. And you know what, sometimes that's just as fun as racing. 

The reason I Sherpa πŸ™Œ

Amita Health Fit America Half Marathon
July 22nd, 2017

I'm gonna keep the details about this one short 'n sweet because OMG it was probably one of the most miserable races EVER. I was in the middle of a small triathlon hiatus because my body was about to be put through the ringer during the month of September, but I was itching for a race. So we settled on this Half Marathon. Here are the super short highlights:

1. Humidity like you've never experienced. I'm sure this day was similar to running through a cloud. I was sweating buckets before the start.
2. Puddles. Puddles. And more puddles. My shoes and socks were legit drenched during our warmup. 
3. Indian style warm up runs with Mark and Kati. Yep. It happened.
4. All the popsicles you could imagine post race.
5. The 3 of us got interviewed post race so of course we mentioned RyBread Racing umpteen times throughout the interview.

Would I do it all over again with these 2? No doubt.

Ironman 70.3 World Championships
September 9th, 2017

Also, more popularly known as, my 30th birthday. Picking standout moments from this race is definitely a challenge because the whole experience was something I'll cherish. From the moment Mark and I pulled into town til the moment we left, I could write another blog simply on my memories of this trip.

The first and maybe the best moment of the entire trip happened early on. The day before the race, shortly after the group finished our open water practice swim (that's an entirely separate story, lemme tell ya) we were all getting ready to go our separate ways. My phone rang and I saw that Rob was calling me when he should be sleeping, getting ready to go to work in a few short hours. He was calling to let me know that his original plan of surprising me at dinner was thrown out the window because the rental car company didn't have a car for him until 2pm. Instead, he'd be arriving in the middle of the night, with hours to spare before the start of the race. You wanna talk about an ugly cry? Well this was it. I was happier than you could imagine that my #1 wasn't going to miss the race after all. He does this Sherpa thing ALOT for me these days, but even he'll tell you, he's NEVER missed a big race. And he never intends too.

I think he had been in town approximately 5 hours at this point

The surprises weren't over after that. Walking to dinner that night, I found my cousin and his wife seated at our table, having not told anyone that they would be there for the race until the day before. They were there for their inaugural Ironman event (they picked a hell of an event!) and my 30th birthday. You couldn't pay me enough to stop smiling at this point in the trip.

Pre-Race meal!

They were pretty impressed with their first triathlon ever
Let's fast forward to race day. The start of this race isn't the norm. Athletes walk down a very long pier, lined with a red carpet where you then choose your starting position. There were 10 gates in front of me and a horn blew every 10 seconds, allowing 10 athletes to dive into the water at a time. Saying goodbye to Mark and Rob and walking that pier with Jacqui, I was very aware of how the moment I had been waiting for was literally HERE, and how much I desperately had to pee. {Not like a nervous pee, like I hadn't peed all day kinda pee} I felt as though I was getting the royal treatment, and for the 2nd time this year, I was able to walk stride for stride with one of my best friends (and one of the best triathletes I know) to start this race. How does a girl get so lucky?

Walking that Red Carpet with Jacqui!
Sleeveless: Me, Jacqui to my right!

The bigger picture of the start!

I was able to watch Ryan race the very next day, something that always leaves me in awe. At one point on the run course, I knew he would be wanting an update from me about his position. I stood at the end of the pedestrian bridge, waiting for Rob to flag me down so I'd know when he was coming. Rob's arm went into the air and soon I saw Speedy come flying down the bridge. "SPEEDY! You're 1 minute down from 2nd, 3 minutes away from 1st!" I screamed at the top of my lungs. He responded to me with a very animated thumbs-down gesture. Mark immediately asked, "uhhhh what's that mean?" and the nice Australian lady standing next to me gave me her opinion without warning, {spoken in the thickest of Aussie accents} "Ohhhh. Well he's to hard on himself. I think he can do it, it's not that much time!" Yea lady, I know. 

Literally all race pictures of Speedy are blurry because he's that flippin' fast

Overall, there aren't many memories that don't stand out. I had multiple college friends that drove in for the race as well. We celebrated that night with dinner and drinks. During the race, I climbed a huge mountain that I think still has left it's mark on my quads at times. Like I said, I could never ever end with the highlights from this trip. 

Legit climbing mountains

My group - Pre-Race!


Ironman Chattanooga
September 24th, 2017

This is another race filled with all the memories. Late in 2016, this was supposed to be my "A" race of 2017. Clearly, plans change. I had all of 2 weeks to get my body recovered, re-tapered, and ready to go before this race. Lemme tell ya, that's not an easy task. 

The stand out memory for me hands down is this picture right here, coming across that finish line with both of my parents on the sidelines. My mom doesn't travel well, or put up with heat all that well. And Chattanooga isn't close to home and it was all of 95 degrees on race day. And she put up with all of it like the trooper she is. 

You can see my dad in the blue, mom right next to him πŸ’“
I had some pretty high hopes for this race that I needed to dial back a bit after competing in Worlds only 2 weeks prior. But when I got off that bike and immediately Rob was there to tell me that I was currently sitting in 4th place in my age group, my stomach dropped. I was in contention for a podium spot and even more if I could run this marathon the right way. Unfortunately, my body wasn't fully recovered yet and at times I began to wonder if I'd be taking my first DNF. My quads were cramping uncontrollably and I did all I could to calm them down. Alas I found the finish line, but it was definitely a close call. 

The moment Rob told me I was in podium position
The shock is hidden behind the sunglasses

As soon as my body began to shut down, I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd be seeing Kati come at me from behind. Remember how I told you that she's a wicked fast runner? Well, she's someone who ALWAYS has her run legs handy. 112 miles on a bike has nothing on this girl before a marathon. Around mile 20, I spotted Rob at the top of a hill and he stood laughing at me. It was starting to piss me off, he knows when it's ok to make jokes and right now, it wasn't ok. "Kati is right behind you!" He told me. I turned my head and there she was, that little spitfire, chugging up the awful hill we were on. I knew my hopes for the day were over, so I stopped and waited for her so we could enjoy this together. 

I made sure to greet her with a hug
Now, this is the same girl that I had to FORCE into the water at the start of the race. Team RyBread approached the pier ALL TOGETHER without a single person in front of us {hard to do at an event like this} and had the opportunity to dive in the water at the same time. Halfway down the pier I noticed Kati was missing. I turned my head and spotted her standing on the end of the red carpet, stone cold. Remember that fear of water I told you about? Yea, it's real. I ran up to her and grabbed her hand tight and made her walk to the water with me. She shook uncontrollably and a part of me considered for a brief moment maybe you shouldn't force her? But I KNEW she'd regret it if she didn't get in the water. I smiled and reassured her that she WOULD get out of the water and that she WOULD see the finish line. Obviously, the rest is history. 

Mark and I played cat and mouse all day during IMChatty. I beat him out of the water. He passed me on the bike around mile 25. I passed him on the run at mile 5. When I found him on the run, I spotted the RyBread kit but could not understand why he looked swollen and puffy. The closer I got, I soon realized he shoved approximately 20 sponges in his kit to stay cool. He looked like the Michelin Man and it gave me a good laugh when I needed it. 

Told ya 🀣
I could go on and on again with the memories. Because my cousin and his wife had so much fun 2 weeks prior, they decided to come back for round 2 to witness double the distance. I watched 3 first timers cross the finish line, Nate, Lauren and Matt. {Matt walked away with a 5th place finish as a newbie, amazing!} The next day, team RyBread accepted a first place award for Tri-Team Division 5 {the smallest division, we're a little group!}. This race was my 3rd trip to Chattanooga in 5 months to race, and you can definitely say I walked away with some lifelong memories in this wonderful town. 

Because it's harder and harder to make this moment happen!


Winner winner Chicken Dinner!

Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon
November 25th, 2017

After I got home from Chattanooga for the 3rd time, I took a much needed break. But of course you all know I can't sit still THAT long. And Ryan and I had been talking about how it was time to put my run to the test in the future. Testing my baseline at the Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon seemed like the perfect opportunity. I had to run this race knowing that Thanksgiving was only 2 days prior, and that my diet wouldn't be the norm pre-race. It was also chillier than normal and the course was a bit challenging offering some hills and relentless wind. I knew this wasn't going to be a PR opportunity, but more a chance to see if I could ACTUALLY try and follow a race plan that Speedy had laid out for me.. something that is ALWAYS a challenge for me. And wouldn't ya know it, I was able to follow the plan (to a point, when my body just didn't have the umph anymore and I was forced to slow down in the wind). I was so proud of myself for not throwing down a stupid fast mile when the gun when off and literally running what we had talked about. Quote me now, this is something that is going to be worked on RELENTLESSLY over the winter.

stick a fork in me I'm done

Racing with friends always makes the day that much more fun, and this time I was able to share the road with an old childhood neighbor. She's the kind of person that makes my unfiltered mind look tame and is always the light of the party. She's definitely the kind of person you need to remind you that life is short and that the fun is to be had NOW. 

A shiny new PR for Jenna! 
She's a firefighter at the Schaumburg fire station and post race she gave us the grand tour. I don't think I've been to a fire station since I was probably in Kindergarten so this was definitely more fun than the last 3 miles of the race running into the wind. 

The 3 Musketeers of Bradford Lane circa 2001

Kiwani's Run for Kids Santa 5K
December 3rd, 2017

Who doesn't love to wake up on a Sunday morning and see 1,000 Santas running in front of your house? This race is just as fun as it sounds and offers the opportunity to dress like the world's most recognizable person and run around town. Without a doubt the best part of this race was being able to run only 3 seconds off of my 5K PR on some unprepared legs. I didn't have a race plan and was ready to run based on feel. And when I was able to consistently hold 3 steady miles and not feel like I was about to drop a lung, I was damn proud of myself. 

Little Santa, Big Santa, Little Santa

Prairie Ridge Ugly Sweater 5K
December 9th, 2017

So in our race packets from the Santa run, there was as flyer for the Ugly Sweater 5k at our cross town rival high school the following weekend. Initially Mark looked at me and was like, "Let's do it!" NO I told him. My body needs rest. And then, Jacqui initiated it. "Guys, we should run the Ugly Sweater 5k! It looks like fun!" I tried to play the "oh, I have to ask Speedy" card. But Jacqui had already beaten me to it. "Speedy said we could all run!" Yer killin' me smalls. We were all signed up that night of the Santa race. The only problem with all of this, the weather forecast was getting colder and colder by the day. We were looking at 15 degree race day temps with some fun blowing snow. HAVE I MENTIONED HOW MUCH I HATE WINTER!?! But, I'll do anything for these 2 turds. We showed up on race day and started on the high school track all decked out in our ugliest of sweaters. {Caveat, Mark's sweater was just a normal sweater from Kohl's that he thought was ugly. Classic.} 

There were some awful prints at this event
We took off and the wind was blowing and I was FREEZING my butt off. I hung out with Mark for the first 3/4 of a mile while we weaved our way around the high school campus. Once we hit real pavement I picked up the pace for the sole reason to get done faster. Turns out, when you run to keep warm, you take 2nd place overall female! Any guesses who was first?! Now, I realize that this was a SUPER small local event and that all I needed was for Lauren or Kati to show up and I would have been bumped down to 3rd or 4th place. But I'll admit, it was kinda fun to share the top spot with one of my better friends in life, and an athlete that I've looked up to for years. 

Jacqui 1st!
Megan 2nd!
Other nice girl 3rd!

If you would have told me on January 1st, 2017 that I was about to faced with the year I had, I likely would have had some sort of panic attack and crawled in a hole out of disbelief. But I assure you that this hobby and this sport is more than just "something to do after work." It's opened my eyes to so many life lessons, introduced me to some of the most amazing people, and given me some memories I can't believe are my own. In 2017, I set out to accomplish some big things in the Ironman world, and instead I topped the charts in the Half Ironman World. I'd like to say I have a good idea of what I want to accomplish in 2018, but 2017 is surely a testament that life will rarely go as planned. 

I realize this is getting a bit long and that I'm likely losing your interest, so I'll get off my memory soap box here. I have a slew of thoughts going into 2018, but I'll save those for the 1st of the year. If you've made it this far into the blog, I want to thank you for taking this journey with me. I have a hard time expressing how much everyone's support means to me. Please know that I appreciate everyone's support more than you can comprehend. Without you all, 2017 wouldn't have happened. 

I'll be back for more in a few days. Until then, cheers to 2017🍾