Sunday, June 01, 2014

Review: LUNA Protein Bars, Two New Flavors!

Through my position as a Women's Health Action Hero, I was gifted two yummy protein bars from LUNA.  I LOVE Luna stuff, but I really haven't ever met a protein bar I can say I truly "liked."  Most of them are tolerable, but taste a little bit like a bar full of chemicals with a nasty aftertaste that is attempting to taste like chocolate.  It's usually a major letdown, and just makes me want to go eat a Reese's cup.

So, I was very excited to see what Luna had to offer. 
And Mugsy the Wonder Pug was also very curious...and hoping I dropped them so he could pounce
The first one I tried was Chocolate Coconut Almond, because, YES.  Those are three of my favorite things.  At just 180 calories and 12 grams of protein, I have to admit I was skeptical.  Was it going to be just another letdown?


This was really, really good.  I'm honestly not just saying that.  I'd be straight-up honest if there was that weird protein-bar-aftertaste because that's what I hate.  But there wasn't!  It was dangerously good.  It kept me going through that danger zone of 3:15 When The Last School Bell Rings But There Are Another Two Hours Until Dinnertime.  That is a time I have been known to stuff the nearest edible food hiding in  my schoolbag or between my car seats into my face (Old random baggie of cheerios in the carseat?  Sure. That's totally legit). 

The Lemon Vanilla was also good, but I'm definitely more of a chocolate fan, so I'd have to say I'd personally prefer the chocolate.  But still no nasty aftertaste!  If lemon is your thing, you'd probably really like it.

Overall, I was a huge fan of these bars.  I thought I had sworn off protein bars as a nasty-tasting rule, but I have been proven wrong.  Now I just have to hide them from my kids! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What's Next

Well, I can walk and sit down unassisted again, and in general you shouldn't make any decisions before you can walk or sit down.

I immediately started to research marathons in the fall.  Presque Isle sold out, which was annoying.  Then I found a few other ones through friends--one geared towards a BQ in Illinois; one in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  They were in late-August or early-September, because if I wanted to do this and register in time, then I'd need to do it then.  Which means I'd need to take a quick 4 week recovery, if possible, and then throw myself back into it.

I've been focused on marathons for about year now--right after the attacks last year was when I set my sights on it.

I'm tired.

I don't really want to do another marathon this soon.  I do but I don't.  I do because I am pissed off.  I don't because it's not a good decision for me or for my family.

Doing a marathon because you're pissed isn't a good enough reason to do it.  Then I'll be running angry all summer. That's not a good way to spend a summer.

My original plan was to qualify and then get back to triathlons, which I love.  I put Rev3 Cedar Point on hold last year so I could qualify in Columbus.  When I missed it by a minute there, I threw myself back into training to do it in the spring.  And I tried--twice.

I learned a few things:

1.  I have work to do still.
2.  It needs to NOT be hot.  That is really, really important for me.
3.  Training during the Polar Vortex Winter, even with good friends, was a bit soul-crushing.  Spring marathons are a no-go.
4. Training through summer is much easier on my life, both personally and professionally.

So if I don't try this fall, that means next fall.  And I didn't want to wait a year and a half to try again, but that's what's going to have to happen. Because see Exhibit A on "running angry."  Just not a good reason, or a good idea.

I think I can not only run a 3:40, but run solidly below 3:40.  But I need to think about what's best for my family and for me.

My plan has always been to do Rev3 Cedar Point and crush my best 70.3 time, which I did 6 months after Emery was born.  Last year I put it on hold.  The other thing is that my buddy Andy is also going to do it.  And Jackson and his little guy are BFFs from Kindergarten--we talked about our two families going in on a condo, making it a fun family weekend, etc.  I can train all summer, with friends.  It's not *just*  running, which has taken a toll on me and beat me up over the past year.  I can enjoy early morning swims in the lake, long rides in the summer with friends, and not feel as much pressure to GET IT DONE HURRY UP QUALIFY OR LIFE ENDS which is how I've felt lately, and which is just silly.

Maybe my friends will qualify again and go with me later.  Or not, and I go out there alone.  Either way, I'll get there.

So the plan will be:

Racing for Hope 5K: June 28th.  I'll be EXTREMELY tired and jet-lagged after a super fun opportunity I'm going to do, but it will be a fun time.

July 14th: Summer Triathlon in Lorain--Possible sprint tri, or I may volunteer to get me a free entry to the next one below...

Huntington Sprint Tri July 27th: Again, I'll be EXTREMELY tired and jet-lagged, but it will be fun.  I'm heading to Stanford University from the 20th-26th for a pretty cool opportunity that I got, and will be really really exhausted, but oh well!  It's fun.

Vermilion Harbor Triathlon: Olympic Distance, August 17th.  Use it as a nice tune-up for Rev3

Rev3 70.3 Triathlon: September 7th. Also the day my brother and sister-in-law are due, so we'll be close enough to hop in the car and get to the hospital to hold my new niece or nephew :)

November 23rd: Fall Classic Half Marathon. I think it's about time I obliterate my current PR of 1:47 in the half, considering I just did that and then kept going at that pace for 7 more miles.  Coach thinks I could break 1:40.  That would be fun to try for.

Then, reassess.  Figure out if I have changed my mind on the spring marathon, but I don't think so.  Then think Fall 2015 for another shot at a full.

You know what?  Typing all that makes me a LOT happier than typing: "Run a full marathon by September 14th or I am a Worthless Person."

Time to dust off my goggles and CD0.1.  It's been way too long since I've spent time with my old friends.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Race Report: Cleveland Marathon, 2014

Well, this isn't how it was supposed to go.  Any of it.

I signed up for Athens because Cleveland is usually too hot for me.  Then Athens was 80 degrees and turned into a disaster.  So I signed up for Cleveland hoping I could somehow connect the dots to get there.  The double irony is that the weather in Cleveland was absolutely perfect.

So of course, I'm thinking that if I had just signed up for Cleveland, I would have hit my Boston Qualifying time.  Easily.

I was stronger this spring than I ever have been.  I hit every single training run and then some.

Everything went wrong, and I'm still pretty crushed.  There will be no Boston in 2015; that is now apparent.  Believe me, I've researched.  Even Presque Isle sold out on freaking May 13th, and when I put my name on the waiting list on May 18th I was already #268.

I was so upset that I even texted Coach and said, "Is this even a realistic goal?"  Maybe I'm not meant to do this.  I'm honestly not that talented.  She replied that I would NEVER say that taking off a few minutes is an unrealistic goal to my own children.  That Meredith Kessler DNF'd 3 Ironmans for various reasons and now look at her.

I know, it makes sense.  I know I'd never say that to my own kids. Or any of my friends.

It just hurts a lot.  For a person like me who this does not come naturally for, I only have 2--maybe 3--shots a year.  And I poured so much of my heart and soul and time into this, and came so close, and then this spring everything just went to crap.  The winter sucked the life out of me, but I still did it.  I got stronger.

And then I was crushed. First at Athens, and now in Cleveland.

The night before the race I found an old picture of me at the finish line of my first Cleveland Marathon in 2003.  35 pounds heavier, standing there with Matt, beaming after my time of 5:14.  I was almost last, and I didn't care.  I would have rolled my eyes in disgust at Me 2014 who was crying after finishing in 3:54.

3:54.  For years, I didn't think I could break 4 hours.  This race ended in disaster, and I still finished in 3:54.

Have I become so out of touch with things that I'm one of "those runners" who is upset with a 3:54? And more importantly, how can I stop?

I think it's time to back away for a bit.  Boston 2015 is probably not happening.  It's not, and I hate to say it and type it but it's the truth.  I'm looking at my running shoes with the same animosity that I looked at my Trek after Ironman Wisconsin.  GET IT AWAY FROM ME.

When this stops being fun, it's time to back away.

My plan was to hang onto the 3:35 pace group for dear life.  I figured if I could still squeak in around 3:37-38, I'd be okay.  I lined up with my friend and training partner Amanda (who is super young so she needed a 3:35) and we started.  The first two miles were either really slow or the mile markers were off.  Then the next few miles we were sub-8, according to my Garmin.  It's so hard to tell at these things.  The pacers said the mile markers were off, so I trusted them, but my splits were all over the place.  The half split was good, though, so it worked out somehow.  We made our way out of town and hit the half in 1:47.02, which is now a new official PR for me of 8 seconds.

Hey, at least one thing went right.

We entered Rocky River--where I teach--and I still get emotional thinking about all the support I had there.  It was pretty unreal.  My parents, Matt and the kids, and a whole bunch of people had lined the streets and were cheering at my friend Tracy's house, which we ran directly by.  I was still feeling pretty good so I gave them a big wave and smile.

Tracy and her adorable family had a "watch party" on her front lawn!
Jackson is behind me, holding what I thought was a cowbell.  Later I found out it was a cinnamon bun. That's my boy.

Then I ran another 100 yards and saw this:

I looked at it, pointed, and yelled, "Hey! That's me!" to the people standing on the lawn.  They all started cheering, and a woman yelled, "Pablo made it for you!" and I realized that it was one of my APUSH students.  Turns out he was in the house when I ran by, but it seriously made me tear up seeing the big sign.  Here I am running in Rocky River, photos courtesy of Pablo's mom:

Right on pace and feeling pretty good
I saw my awesome brother, who got ALL the running talent in my family.  He was out there in two different spots, and it moved me to tears.  I didn't know he'd be out there.  I thought of the times I went to his Cross Country meets to cheer him on and how fast and talented he is despite him feeling "slow" next to his eventual-D1 college-running friends.  Maybe some of that talent will show up in me today?  Having him there gave me a little hope.

Then we turned around.  And I saw about 10 million more friends at Mile 16, including my training partner Katie, who already punched her ticket to Boston last fall.  I still felt good.  I thought, this is the day. This is the day I do this.  I headed back through downtown Rocky River and my friend Pat snapped this picture--I'm making a horrible face with the sun, but I still felt pretty good at this point.  It was almost mile 18.
I kept with the pacer over the bridge and turned into Lakewood.

And then something happened.

My right calf seized up.  Like, a pregnancy leg cramp gone wild, for those who know what I mean.  If you don't know what I mean, basically, my right calf knotted up and scared the crap out of me and made me double over and go "AGGGGGHHH!"  People around me gasped.  "Are you okay?" people said.  I shook my head yes, tried to stretch it, and kept going.  The pacer surged ahead, but I thought no biggie--I'll just keep him a little ahead of me and I'll be fine.  I hit mile 19.

Then the other calf did it.

I stopped at the aid station, grabbed 3 powerades, chugged, and quickly stretched my calf.  And swore.  Willed it to stop.  Kept going.

I hit the 30K mark right on time.  Average pace, 8:10/mile.  This was the fastest and farthest I'd ever gone.

And then All The Muscles cramped.  Both legs, seizing up.  Toes curling. I had to run flat-footed, but was still holding an 8:30 pace.  No.  This is not happening.

I saw my awesome friends, Tom and Casey and Len and Kelly.  Len gave me a water bottle, and I chugged it.  I took my last gu.  I said a little prayer.  Please.  Please, not with a 10K to go.  Come on body. Move.

Mile 20.

I surged again.  The pacer was gone, but I was still hoping I could do it. 




It was awful.  I was doubling over, and spectators were looking at me with pity.  I did everything I could to keep moving, but I was now falling way off pace and into the 9s.

Around 22, the 3:40 pacer caught me.  Amanda was there.  She had has some trouble back at 17 but caught him and held on.  He was amazing and did everything he could to keep me moving.  I was stifling screams at this point and trying so hard to run.  I saw my friends Kim and Tim and they yelled some encouragement.  It was mile 23.

And then, one more stabbing pain, and I screamed. And stopped.

And they ran away.

And that was it.  It was over, and I knew it.  And I looked at the pavement tears welling up, too much pain to even get an f-bomb out.

I was crushed.  But I had to somehow get downtown. I stared at the shoreway in front of me and knew I had to get there, but at this point, I just wanted it to be over.  I wanted to jump in the lake and swim the way home.  The emotional hurt was almost as much as the physical, and the physical hurt was second only to the delivery of my two kids.

Over the past two days, I've been replaying that moment in my head, tormenting myself.  Was there any way I could keep going?  Amanda finished in 3:38.  I could have stuck with her and done it.  Couldn't I?  Was I just weak?

I don't think so.  But I wonder.  And it hurts.  It hurts almost as much as the hurt I felt staring at a long, empty road, trying to move.

The next two miles were basically a blur of shuffling.  I looked something like this:

Photo courtesy of my friend, Beth. I actually don't look like death here too much.

Here I do. Definitely look like death here.

I somehow miraculously shuffled my way to 13-14 minute miles these two miles.  This is how I felt:

Doin' the Zombie Shuffle

It was pretty awful. I was not proud.

I kept thinking the 4 hour group would pass me any second, and was ready to be crushed yet again when that happened.  But then I hit mile 25 and looked at my watch and thought, "Are you kidding me?"  I was still going to come in--comfortably--under 4 hours.


That gave me at least a little bit of a surge to not look like a total asshat the last mile.  I vowed to make it there and smile.  This was my 7th marathon (8th if you count IM Wisconsin), and I was still going to come in under 4 hours.  There had to be some kind of a silver lining in here somewhere.

The crowds were amazing.  I shuffled my zombie walk, and I smiled.
Heading down the chute
And wow, my finish line pictures are seriously the best I've ever taken. I'm smiling and look strong in every single one, despite feeling so heartbroken and bombing my goal miserably.  I guess the worse the finish line photo, the better the performance, right?

I saw my family.  I smiled and waved. I almost stopped--I really should have--to hug them.  Matt worked so hard to get the kids where they needed to be to cheer me on, to watch me BQ.  I felt like I let them down a bit. I know I didn't, but that's what I felt at that moment.

This might be the most flattering finish line photo ever taken

All I had left was a smile. Everything else was gone.

Emmy, cheering me on

My kids loved this statue downtown!
And I smiled and crossed the line.  3:54, my 2nd fastest marathon ever.

And then the tears stung my eyes again.  

But before I could descend into a spiral of self-pity, one of my favorite yoga instructors snapped this picture of me and gave me a huge hug and told me how amazing it was that I just finished, so I smiled again:
I honestly look happy.  I'm a pretty good actress.
Amazing that I finished.  I wiped the tear away again, and thought, you know what, it kind of is.  It's amazing that I finished.

I'm tired of being disappointed with amazing performances, and that's what I feel that this quest has done to me over the past 8-9 months.  I went 3:41 in Columbus and 3:54 here, and I was--I am--disappointed.  That's wrong.  The rational person in me understands that.

Looking at that picture, I look so strong and lean.  I almost didn't recognize myself.

Compare that with these two:
Finish line of my first marathon, 5:14

It rained a lot. I didn't care.

Elated.  Not lean.  Happy.

There has to be some kind of a way to put those two people together.

I'm not exactly sure where I'm going to go from here.  I'm not making any decisions until I can walk normally again.  I'm overwhelmed with all the love and support that has been thrown my way.  Any finish line is amazing and something to be celebrated, and I think I need to somehow get in touch with that.  That might mean hanging up this goal for a while.  Or not. I'm not sure.

I do know that I am loved and supported, and that despite everything that went wrong, a lot went right.  I am still stronger than I ever was--at age 36 with two kids--and stronger than I ever thought I could be.  So that's good.
You wanna talk about strength? Meet this girl.  My former student, Blaire, who finished her first half.  She's kind of amazing. 
 I am sure I'll be replaying the what-ifs and coulda-done-this and shoulda-just-signed-up-for-CLE for a while.

Here's the thing: none of us have crystal balls.  I can't predict the future, the weather, or what my legs will do.  All I can do is try.  On Monday, I told my students (who I could tell were a little disappointed as I told them a second time that I tried and failed to reach a goal I set) that I reach high, but I fall hard.  And that's just my personality.  I'm not a play-it-safe person with this stuff, and sometimes it works, and other times it doesn't.  That is the risk you take, but that's a risk I still believe is worth taking.

My good friend Jo, who I am sad that I will not be attending Boston with, said it much better than I can.  For me, trying is the sweet spot.  I know I'll try again.  I don't know when.

But one of these days the girl who never should make it to Boston will get there.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Break Fresh Start Go

Okay, so I wallowed for maybe an extra day or two.  In snow. 

But I'm ready now.  I feel at peace with my decision to stop at the half in Athens, and I am excited to get back on the horse and make this thing happen.

It's fitting, really, that I'll make this happen in Cleveland.  12 years ago and 35 pounds heavier, I finished my first marathon in Cleveland in five hours and fourteen minutes.  They even changed the course this year to be more like that old course, and it is all on the west side.  Miles 13-19 are in the city that I teach in.  The turnaround is about 2 miles from my house. 

In short, imma gonna have support and friendly faces ALL up on that course. 

So I'm ready.  I'm not really sure how to connect the dots from a botched attempt at a race where I was very tapered to May 18th, but that's why I have Coach do the leg work for me. 

And you know what? The sun is out.  It's getting warmer.  I'm heading to Chattanooga Wednesday for our annual Evotri Training Camp and it's gonna be hot and hilly, so I can get in a good 16 miles of heat and hills and trails. 

It may be hot in Cleveland, and I'm going to have to deal with that as it comes.  But, as my friend Katie said to me yesterday, "There was 100% chance it was too hot in Athens at mile 13."  Indeed.  So I'm going to have to roll the dice and hope and pray that it's not that hot in Cleveland on May 18th.  But if it is, I'm going to do whatever I can to acclimate and be ready. 

I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.  And Betty White is just so awesome.
I'll be a hell of a lot more ready than I was on April 13th, anyway.  Our CLE schizophrenic April weather is in full swing, but today will be 75, so when these days come, I'm just going to have to get out there and run in it.

It is worth mentioning that my legs were trashed after last Sunday's race. Those 13.1 were no joke and took quite a bit out of me.  I ran the half in somewhere around 1:46 (not counting two stops) which would be a PR for me.  Um, yay? 

Anyway, the heat left me very sore and dehydrated.  But I feel like myself again today after my run, and I'm ready to hit this hard and make it happen.

This jam has been pumping me up this week.  Enjoy.
Oh, and hang on for the ride--this will be an interesting journey to the next start line.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Minus 50

So less than 48 hours after it was too hot for me to finish a marathon, I woke up to this:


I mean....I....what the...

There are no words.

Except, of course, that clearly that was NOT meant to be my day. 

Have a rotten cold at the moment--might be the 50 degree temperature swing in the past two days--but I'm trying to regroup and psych myself up to do this again--for real this time.

I'm very excited that Spring Break starts on Friday and I get to head to TN next week for some much needed fun and training with my Evotri teammates.  Oh, and a long run, too, I guess.  I'm gonna need to con them into that somehow.  Maybe I can break it up a bit and they can each take an hour?  Maybe I can promise them lots of beer?

Trying to keep the chin up over here.  Been a rough week, and not just with this race.  But I know that all this work wasn't wasted.  There's still a good engine in here.  I just need to get the chance to let it work.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Today, I can cry

Okay, so first of all, I'm a bad blogger and just saw the comments from Robyn and Jo in my moderation folder and promptly cried again.  You both rock.  Thank you. 

There is so much irony in today, that somehow this has to be funny.  It will be, someday.  But not today.

I'm allowed to cry today.  Just today. Then I'm done.

That whole weather/heat thing I was worried about?  And I tried really hard to ignore it but checked a few more times and watched the low and high temperatures creep up, up, and up some more?

It did me in.

The thing that just kills me, and Robyn sort of hit this on the head, is that I did SO many things right this training cycle.  I ate clean, got up so early and nailed EVERY. SINGLE. RUN. that I did. I am leaner and without a doubt, much stronger than I was in October.  I knew I had this. I just knew it. 

I told my friends about 11 days before the race (aka the night before the first time I could check the weather report) that "I am ready for anything that might throw at me--except heat, of course! LOL" 

LOL. LOL, indeed.

In the past 4 months, I have not done one run outside in a temperature warmer than 36 degrees.

Not one.

I did two treadmill runs of 14 miles when the ice and wind chills were so bad.  They sucked, but I did them.  All of my morning runs were inside.  Every single one.

Today, the low was 61 and the high was 81 in Athens.  It was, quite literally, the warmest day of 2014.  And probably the warmest of the past 6 months.  35+ degrees warmer than any outside run I have done since September.

And I really wanted to believe it wouldn't be that bad, because how could it? I have nailed every single run I have done this session and then some.  My buddies have been surprised at me, because I'm not usually the one setting the pace--I'm usually the one frantically trying to keep up. 

I did everything right.

It didn't matter. 

See, I have this thing that I don't like to admit or talk about, but it's this irregular heart thing involving extra beats.  And I've been aware of it for over 20 years, and it almost never ever causes me problems.  The only time I EVER notice is when it's hot.  Temperatures that to many don't seem too warm can really mess me up, big time: crazy high heart rates that defy all logic. 

I realized at mile 9 today that I felt like it was mile 22.  And mile 9 is entirely too early to feel like it's mile 22. 

I kept going, but I knew that it was only going to get hotter, and my heart was doing that racing in the heat thing again, and it was just too early for that.

So I did what was really, really difficult: I decided I was done at 13.1.  I decided I was going to stop and try again at Cleveland, even though Cleveland is usually too hot for me to succeed. 

It was hard.  I said the F word and cried a lot.  I wanted to keep going.

But it wasn't going to work, and I knew it.  So I cried some more, and I'm crying a bit here while I type and then I'm done because I have to go to work tomorrow and I can't be sniffling while teaching World History and doing practice DBQs. 

To quote the great Forrest Gump, that's about all I have to say about that. 

What kind of kills me the most is that I know I can do this.  That, and Tuesday is supposed to be 36 degrees and snowing both in Athens and Cleveland.

You're soooo FUNNY, Mother Nature! $(#)%&!

So much irony in the ONE SINGLE DAY I would have loved it to be 40 degrees and cloudy, it was in the mid 70s and not a cloud was in the sky.  So much irony in that I am in the best shape of my life and I have to stop--no, I made the decision to stop, which I think is even harder--trying to reach a goal that I know that I absolutely can achieve.

Got home, and got this shirt in the mail finally that I was hoping would come before the race so I could wear it.  It's from this shop, and I kind of love it:

 Elle est forte.  She is strong.  Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future" --Proverbs 31:25

It was just a bit too late--in fact, I missed it by probably just a few minutes as we left yesterday afternoon.  Just missed it.  

But she is strong.  She will try again.

She will also cry for about another hour though.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Fall down seven times, stand up eight

About a month ago, I found out I was selected as a Women's Health Magazine Action Hero!  I was quite surprised, and super excited.  It's been fun connecting with a dynamic and diverse group of women: we are pretty much at all stages of life.  Some in their teens, most in their twenties, and a few like me, too.  Seasoned veterans. (That sounds a lot better than "older.")

I mean, I did start blogging here in 2005.  In the good old days!  When internet was one step above dial-up!  And I was about to start my Ironman journey!  Oh, man.  In some ways, that feels like yesterday, and in other ways, it seems like...well, like almost a decade ago.

So much has happened since then. 

I was assigned to write my post this week for our Action Hero blog, and I smiled.  Perfect timing.  I need to stop and reflect anyway, and think about this marathon I'm going to run next Sunday.  What can I say about where I've been and what I'm about to attempt?

When I think about where I've been and where I'm about to head next Sunday, it's a little surreal.  In 2002, I completed my first marathon in a time of 5:14.  I remember it pouring rain on me as I brought up the back of the pack that year.  I also remember not caring.  I was just so happy to make it to the finish line, even if they were tearing it down.  Even if the balloons at the finish had already blown away.

I set a goal, and I made it.

That was 35 pounds heavier.  That was before I had two children.  Literally--it was almost a lifetime ago.

I was, most assuredly, a different person.

That first marathon made me dream bigger.  I set my sights on the MS150 Pedal to the Point the following summer, and although my buddy Peter and I were too tired to even go to Cedar Point that night and instead watched the E! True Hollywood Story of Anna Nicole Smith in a run-down Howard Johnson's in Sandusky (yeah. that's pretty pathetic), we made it.  I rode 150+ miles in 2 days. 

So then, of course, the next thought that popped in my head was, "hey, I'm just about a 2.4 mile swim away from Ironman." 

Because that's totally logical, right?

Since 2002, I've seen a precedent set of dreaming very big.  Bigger than I had any reason or really any right to do.  I certainly did not look like an Ironman triathlete.  But I decided I'd build up toward that.  In 2005, I took 56 minutes off my marathon time and finished the Flying Pig Marathon in 4:20.

So could I break 4?

But in between, I focused on Ironman.  And what a journey it was.  I made some amazing friends and despite having pretty much the worst weather you could have for an Ironman, it was honestly one of the best and most memorable days of my life. 

Then, I had a day that topped that, and my little Jackson entered my world and stole my heart. 

Training became something different then--it wasn't just about me and my times.  It was about justifying my time away.  I didn't just want to run aimlessly; I wanted to run with purpose.  Every ride, every swim I did had a focus in a way that I didn't quite have before. 

And because of this, I got faster.

Every time I had in every distance started to drop.  In 2008, I set my best bike/run split at Steelhead 70.3.  Then, I broke 4 hours in the marathon at Columbus.  That May, I had a great day at the Cleveland Half Marathon, and then I got pregnant with my little bean, Emery Grace.

The joke some of my friends told me really was true: one kid was pretty managable, but two kids made it feel like you had an army.  (Major props to anyone with more than 2 kids.  You are my heroes, all of you.) Between working full-time and working out, I had to prioritize even more and get even more focused.

And my times dropped again.  When Emery was 6 months old, I PR'd the 70.3 distance by 16 minutes. 

That's when I really felt like Boston might be within grasp.

So I tried. And failed. And tried again. And almost, just almost made it, and missed it again

So here I am.  One week out from another attempt.  I feel stronger than ever and very fit.  I know I have put everything I have into this race: every ounce of my focus outside of being a wife, mother, and teaching, has gone into this race. 

It is still a reach.  There are no guarantees.

But I think about whatever will happen at this finish line and what I'll say to my kids.  They are only 6 and 4; they have no idea what Boston is or means or how hard I've worked to get there, since I've done most of the work while they were sleeping.  But someday, I will tell them.  I'll tell them that Mommy had a dream...a dream that sounded crazy and unreachable, but step by step, finish line by finish line, she inched even closer.

And there were times when she failed, and felt crushed.  She got injured and couldn't compete.  She felt like all her time and effort was wasted.  But then she remembered the words of a teammate, that no race or training cycle is ever "wasted."

I learned quite a bit on this 12-year journey since I crossed that first finish line. 

Regardless of what may happen next weekend, I want them to know that you don't ever have to stop trying. 

I'm going to line up at that start line next Sunday with a nice healthy appreciation of where I've been.  And then, I'm going to take a deep breath, say a little prayer, trust myself, and take that first step.

That's the only way you can get anywhere, anyhow.