Wednesday, March 27, 2013

And When She's Weary...Try A Little Tenderness

“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.” - Ashleigh Brilliant

Just over a week until my race season begins and I’m in rest and recovery mode.

Why? Because for the past few months I’ve been training and pushing myself just about 7 days a week.

Why? Because the dark and cold of winter can suck the life out of person and I knew if I stopped, I would struggle to get started again.

Why? Because I want to be better than I was the day before....faster, stronger, smarter...and that means I need to train. Right?


I am learning a lesson (the hard way) that I expect every athlete* must learn at some point. That in order to become better, faster, and stronger you must also allow your body time to recover. Unfortunately, having found a love for fitness a bit later in life means learning the lessons late as well. Thankfully, the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a falsehood. Those of us that have chosen to change our lives prove every day that anything is possible at any age.  

Believe me, knowing the reasons why my body needs time to recover does not make it any easier. This “rest” period is not a choice. It is the result of my body finally breaking down under the abuse and no longer performing as it should. And, it is knowing that if I don’t take care of it now I risk permanent injury which I absolutely want to avoid. If that means rest, then I’ll rest. Like it or not.

Still, it is not easy. I stood pacing and practically bouncing out of my shoes as I watched my fellow Spartan teammates train this past weekend. Unable to join in (in other words, “ordered” by our trainers), I was there for moral support and team camaraderie. It sucked. They were put through a killer workout and all I could do was watch.

‘It’s only temporary,’ repeating in my head.

Now, as the sun makes a much overdue appearance reminding us that the long, dark days of winter are finally coming to an end, I grow more antsy and anxious to be outdoors and moving. My bicycle and running shoes sit beckoning. Could I take a leisurely ride or run? Possibly, but I’ve never been one to do things in moderation. I guess that’s lesson number two of the week.

1. Listen to your body. Respect it. Rest it. Recover.

2. Moderation is a good thing. Push beyond your limits, but not every day.

For now, I will have to settle for walks with the dog, yoga, and stretching. By week’s end, I hope to be on the road taking a stab at sticking to a leisurely pace. I need to focus on clearing my overactive mind of the clutter, my body of the restlessness, and begin to focus on the bigger picture. I only have one body and I owe it the respect it deserves if I expect it to perform at its peak.  

*I still have trouble referring to myself as an athlete. It seems so odd at this stage of my life. But, I’m actively training to compete (albeit against myself) in races and therefore, I *am* an athlete. Right? still makes me snicker...but in a good way.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Crazy? Definitely. But Inspirational...

When I talk to people about the changes I’ve made in my lifestyle, about my workout regimen, and running OCRs most of the responses are the same...

“That’s crazy!”

“You really are insane.”

“You’re absolutely nuts!”

As of late, however, I seem to be getting some different responses...

“What you do is inspiring.”

“Keep it up. You’re a great inspiration.”

And my personal favorite, “When’s your next workout? I want to come.” inspiration? That’s impossible. There has to be some kind of mistake.

When I look back on my life, there is nothing that could possibly be inspirational to others. In fact, it’s more of a “what not to do” guide to life. I see a train wreck of poor choices. From bad relationships to ill-advised career moves, there is not much I can think back on without cringing. It’s for that very reason I try to keep my focus forward and avoid the past entirely.

Okay, maybe avoid isn’t the best word because I have come to terms with my past. It is what it is. I refuse to regret the path that got me to where I am in this moment and helped set me on my  course toward the future. Still, I’d rather be in the present and looking ahead than discussing and analyzing the past. So before I go off on a psychoanalytic tangent, let me get back to the point...

People see me as an inspiration and I'm feeling a bit like Spiderman. Not in a tingling spidey-sense way, but in a "with great power comes great responsibility" way.

Almost two years ago I made the decision to get fit. I didn’t do it to impress anyone. I wasn’t trying to compete with others. And I certainly wasn’t looking for praise. I did it for me and it was the first purely selfish decision I’d made since becoming a mother. I needed to feel strong again, mentally and physically. I was ready to put in the effort. If that meant selfishly taking time out of my day for me, so be it.

You know what worked. Not overnight. Not within weeks. In fact, it is ongoing process to this day. But, as the months passed, I could see and feel the difference. It pushed me to challenge myself, to work harder, to fuel my body to perform, and it gave me confidence. What it didn’t prepare me for was being a source of inspiration to others.

Yes, when I started down this path I hoped that I could serve as a good example for my children. I want them to grow up understanding the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle and seeing that living such a life means fun and adventure, not being on a diet or trying to keep up with the latest exercise fad. But, being a role model to your kids is very different than having others view as a source of inspiration.

I inspire you? Me? Really?

‘Wow,’ was my first thought followed quickly by an overwhelming sense of pride. I had never experienced anything like that before. I was inspiring people to challenge themselves and to make positive changes in their lives. It was wonderful and a bit scary all at the same time.

The wonderful part is that people I care about are bettering their lives. I have workout dates with friends, running partners, group workouts outside the gym, and more and more people I know are signing up for races. It's exciting and fun and has in turn helped keep me motivated. I’m pretty good about dragging my butt out of bed at 4:30 a.m., but on those few mornings I'm tempted to crawl back under the covers it helps to know that someone may be waiting for me. No slacking, no excuses.

But then there is the scary part...the responsibility. What exactly do people expect of me? Will they be disappointed if they don't find the satisfaction or success they hoped for? It's taken half a lifetime for me to realize that I can't live my life based on the expectations of others, so how do I handle this new role I find myself in?

What I have to remember is that it's their journey, not mine. And success will only come if they are ready, like I was. All I can do is offer my support.

Need a workout partner?  Call me.
Want to go for a run? I'm there.

Need someone to talk you out of eating that donut? I'm your girl.

Nothing would make me more proud than to be your inspiration, but I can't be responsible for your success. Only you can change your life. And you can do it. I know because I did.  

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kellie Talks Mud, Sweat...and FEARS

I have 3 training accessories: mud, sweat and fears.

Mud is fine…mud is pretty fun, actually. Might even clear up a few pores or tighten some of that elasto-stuff that’s sagging.  I’ve always associated a damn good day with coming home scraped and muddy and sunburned. I have no issues with mud. 

Sweat is great! Never minded working up a good sweat, and am actually fairly impressed with myself when every limb is sweating and my eyebrows are little diving boards for the drops launching off my forehead. Sweat has that smell of victory to it, right? 

Fear can be a good thing too…motivational, inspirational and even kind of funny sometimes.  I think we all have a good number of fears as we endeavor to better our bodies and minds with crazy workouts, insane races and the gauntlet of funky smells called the gym.

For example: I fear that my butt looks wobbly in that certain pair of yoga pants. That my form when I’m doing squats is attracting the attention of The Weird Dude that sits on the thigh master for 2 straight hours. I’m afraid that, in my next race, I’ll wear that pair of underwear that always rides up my left cheek and have to endure a chafing wedgie for 45 minutes because I’m not gonna yank it out during the race and chance a picture being taken Just Then to be posted on the website.  I also fear running in temperatures below 30 degrees F, forgetting my bib on race day, that my ancient stove will spontaneously combust…and plant roots.

But what I really want to address here isn’t just normal, everyday fear, it’s…


You know, the kind that keeps you awake in the wee dark hours, staring at the ceiling and wondering if you’re really getting stronger or just fooling yourself. The kind that whispers in your ear, over and over at mile 4 or 12 or 20, that there’s no way you’re going to make it another mile and maybe it’s better to just stop and say you tried.  The Fear that crept in at 35, established residency at 40 and has now redecorated in my head at 44 by hanging a neon sign that says, “You look like an idiot out there with all those young, fit people. You don’t belong out there…stop embarrassing yourself.”

Yeah, that Fear.

It disguises itself as fatigue, anger, anxiety…and sometimes is very convincing when it shows up as a juicy cheeseburger while waving your overscheduled calendar in your face. Sure I’m tired; overworked and overscheduled, and fitting in those workouts seems like a real pain in the ass. But it’s the Fear talking. If I can find an excuse to avoid the training then I have a way out. No one would expect me to get out there and race if I’m not in shape. I can just put it off. Right?


Because I know what will happen if I give in to Fear.  Fear pals around with Self-pity and Depression, and you don’t want those two ringing your doorbell.  They’re not selling cookies, oh no. They’re gonna bring over at least a couple days worth of gluttony and sloth and snicker at you while they hide your running shoes. Nope. That whole situation just needs to be avoided. And that means Fear has to get the boot. Kick its ass out.

Tot ziens.

That’s when I have to step back talk myself through it. Aloud sometimes. I’m not too tired to workout, and if I just get started I’ll have the momentum to finish. It’s not too cold outside to run. I have the right clothes and I just need to put them on. I can eat the cheeseburger, and enjoy it, without pigging out for the rest of the day. I’m not too old, or too inexperienced to enter that race. There are age categories above mine full of people and I’ve never stood at a starting line without seeing folks of all shapes and sizes. And I can absolutely go that One More Mile. I won’t die. I might wheeze and cry and limp, but I will cross that finish line. And Fear cannot come with me.

The Fear will be back, I know.  It’ll show up unexpectedly as too many fat rolls in a picture taken by a friend or a finish time that makes me wonder if everyone else took a shortcut. It lurks. But it’s easier to ward off than it used to be and it’s no longer all consuming. More of a stumbling block than a gaping pit of doom these days. I think it’s scared of my new friend who’s taking names and kicking some ass:


We’re running a race together this weekend, Determination and I…in the cold and wet, with hills, sponsored by a bunch of college kids with good abs. And it’s going to be FUN!

Piss off, Fear.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fear Thee Well

Fear.: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. (

We all have fears. Some tangible, some intangible. Some grounded in past experiences, others originating from the unknown and irrational. Regardless of the origin or nature, the fear is very real and so is the impact it has on life.

I have many fears. I fear for my children’s health & safety, for where our society is headed. I fear ending up alone and at the same time fear being bound to another. I'm afraid of snakes and zombies, the list could go on and on. I’m just thankful that none of these fears are crippling and I can go about my daily life without being anxious. However, about a year ago, I woke up one day and thought, ‘Is this it? Is this is all my life is going to be?’ and that was my first experience with a near crippling fear. I realized in that moment that my greatest fear of all is of a life of complacency, of routine....of settling.

As I thought back, it became undeniably clear that this was always what I have feared. It’s why I had spent much of my adult life moving from place to place, changing jobs and careers, never standing still long enough to deal with the bigger picture of what my life was and where it was going. But, now, I was a mother. I had two young children I was responsible for and I couldn’t just take off on a whim and move across the country or to the other side of the world. Talk about a wake up call!

For the first time in my life, I couldn’t run away. But, that didn’t mean I could run.

I had been active on and off over the years. I played various team sports when I was younger. There were a few years (in the pre-Mommy world) that I was really into cycling and probably in the best shape of my life, but even then I’d never been able to run. When 30 miles was going for a short bike ride and I was completing 100+ mile events, I hadn’t been able to finish a 5k run without walking. Things were different now, though. I needed a challenge and, more importantly, I needed an outlet. My bike still sat in the garage, but I looked at it and thought “been there, done that” and being a single mom, I didn’t have the luxury of the hours that cycling required, so I invested in a pair of running shoes and tried to reprogram my brain from “I can’t” to “I can”.

And so I ran...

I didn’t love it, it didn’t come naturally, but it wasn’t as hard as I had remembered it, which I accounted to the fact that I had spent the better part of the previous year attempting to live a healthier lifestyle and working to get back in shape. A mile quickly turned into two and then three and I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Then I hit the wall, barely being able to push through a mile without wanting to collapse. People told me it was normal and I’d get through it, but it hurt and giving up on the premise that “I’m just not a runner” sounded so much easier.

A that what I wanted to be? Because despite the justifications, that is exactly what I was setting myself up to be and I couldn’t live with that.

I’m competitive by nature, much more so than I had ever admitted to, and I could not quit! This is how I ended up in the world of obstacle racing. Running, just to run, was not something that was appealing. Running, jumping, climbing, crawling...that was something totally different and exciting. I didn’t have to focus on how far I’d run and how far I had left, I just had to concentrate on conquering the next obstacle that got in my way. Suddenly, running didn’t seem so bad. And now, almost a year later, after I push through the first couple of miles of a plain, ordinary run, I actually enjoy it. I *am* a runner. I found my escape.

Last year, I challenged myself to complete the Urbanathlon and with Kellie’s help and encouragement, I did. This year, I’m training for not only my first Spartan race, but for the Spartan Trifecta. This is keeping me occupied, keeping me sane (well, depending on the day and who you ask), and even when I’m at my breaking point, keeping me going. And while I’m trying to remain focused on the task at hand, my mind still insists on wandering to next the next challenge.

In the few moments that I slow down long enough to think about it, I wonder if anything has changed. I know I'm healthier and stronger than I was, even more confident, which is good, but are things different? Or, am I still just running away?

Now, my fear is that one day I’ll have to stop and answer that question.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Letter to Motivation

Dear Motivation,

You stormed into my life...a force to be reckoned with, opening up a world in which the seemingly impossible was possible. You believed in me, you encouraged me, you never doubted me. Your passion for adventure and pushing the limits was infectious and most of all, addicting. And like an addict, I craved more. Then, one were gone.

Not believing you’d vanish so abruptly, I sought you out at every turn, my ego longing for that confidence waning, but you were nowhere to be found.

Not wanting to confront reality, I continued to push myself beyond my limits. I worked harder than ever to prove that your faith in me was not unfounded, all the while seeking you out, steadfast in my belief that one day you’d return. I’m still waiting...

but, more importantly, I’m still going strong.

What I’ve come to realize is that while you play an invaluable role in my life, one I will forever be thankful for, my success is not your responsibility. You will forever come and go in various forms. When you’re present, everything will feel as if it’s fallen into place. And when you’re not, life will be a struggle. It’s how I choose to handle the times of struggle that counts.

It’s easy to get lost in self wallow in emotions and lose sight of your goals. And while I have never admitted it to anyone before, I have fallen victim to this scenario for most of my life. The funny thing is that people always compliment me on my strength and resilience in facing life’s adversities. I guess that’s what comes with having a good game face because they couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, I’ve always done what I needed to in order to survive, but that’s all I was doing and life should be so much more than that.

The key: believing in myself.

That may sound simple enough. There are lots of people in this world that are naturally self-confident, but for a many of us, it’s a long and difficult struggle. For me, it’s taken 40(ish) years, but I think I finally get it now. I must look beyond my own doubts, fight back against the fear, and push through the aches and exhaustion. I must commit to myself, regardless of whether or not you are with me, that I will always strive to be better than I was the day before in all aspects of life.

I know that for each victory, there will be many failures. But, what I also know is that regardless of the outcome on a particular day or at a particular moment, I gave all I had...did the best I could...and I’ll get up the next day and do it all over again, with or without you. And that, my friend, is success.  

Until we meet again...

With love and gratitude,

Monday, February 4, 2013

Welcome to Mud, Sweat and Fears

We are women.
We are mothers.
We are warriors.

And by some standards....we are insane.

I'm Annie.

I'm Kellie.

And we'd like to welcome you into our world of mud, sweat, and fears.

Annie: First, a little background. Kellie and I met a few years ago over the internet. That's right, folks, we are living proof that you can find a life-altering, successful relationship in least as far as friendships are concerned. As for romance, well, let's just say my inner romantic jumped ship a long time ago so I'll keep my thoughts on that topic to myself...for now.

So back to the friendship...

We started out as two single, working moms of a certain age commiserating online about the struggles of getting through each day knowing that tomorrow was going to be the same grueling and unsatisfying routine. Slowly, as we exchanged stories and viewpoints it was clear we had much more in common than our “single mom” status and a genuine bond was formed. We vented, we listened, we laughed, and most importantly, we pulled each other back from the edge when needed. I now consider Kellie one of my closest and dearest friends. (Enjoy the sentiment, folks, because that’s about as sappy as you’ll see me get. Right, Kel?)  

Since then, the friendship has grown beyond the anonymity of the internet and taken root in the crazy, confusing, and always chaotic reality of the real world. We are in touch daily and see each other as often as schedules allow, which isn’t often enough as we live in different parts of the country. Finally, about a year ago, there was one thing that became painstakingly clear to both of us...there had to be more to life than just surviving.

Kellie: Ooo...we are an internet success story, aren’t we? Love it! And I will echo Annie's rare and greatly cherished sentiment: she is one of my closest and dearest friends also! This is likely one of the reasons why we find ourselves neck deep in delusions of fitness grandeur at this point.

Now don't misunderstand us, we're not two curmudgeon-y, whiny middle-aged women with nothing better to do that voice our discontent in a blog -- well, usually not -- it's just like Annie said, we knew that there had to be something we could grab onto that would give us that personal sense of motivation and satisfaction we were so desperately missing. Some sort of emotional/karmic pick-me-up that would make us feel fabulous and keep us from eating our young.

And since society generally frowns upon picking up cowboys half our age for a personal rodeo...just sayin'.

So it was time for some drastic change. We both knew we were tired of cringing at ourselves in the mirror, and, truly, at my age (mid-40’s) there's the looming spector of "very bad things" happening healthwise. I had visions of the EMTs finding me down from a heart attack and I’d be wearing my oversized granny underwear with the holes because my pretty ones didn’t fit anymore. The horror! (I’m a nurse. We have these kinds of nightmares.)

We began to plan, plot, and make impulsive race registration decisions...

Annie: Back in May 2011, I made the decision to get myself back into shape. I had a few extra pounds to lose, but more than that I wanted to feel the strength and energy that comes with being physically fit. And, I figured punching and kicking things a few days a week would be pretty satisfying to my psyche as well. After about 7 months, I was feeling great, but still felt like something was missing and I added an MMA class to my workout routine. This class, as you can probably imagine, was mostly men and I admit to feeling pretty intimidated. However, I was determined not to fail, so I stuck with it. As I gained confidence in my abilities and felt more comfortable, I began to chat with the guys in class and started hearing stories about these crazy events called obstacle races. After seeing an ad for the Men's Health Urbanathlon, I questioned them about it and they said they’d run it the year before.

My first thought was, 'Damn it, if they can do it, well so can I.'

My second thought was to send the link to Kellie.

Kellie:  Now, I was feeling pretty satisfied with getting my first 5K under my belt (finish time = 47.23 min) when Annie sent me that link. I had planned to find one of those "couch to 10K" plans and set my sights on a half marathon. Having been an athlete most of my life (dancer, cheerleader, tumbler, racquetball, rock climber, martial artist...) I figured I'd probably be able to get myself back into shape with a good dose of self discipline (and Advil) and a moderately challenging running plan. I was crazy envious of Annie's MMA workouts but didn't have the financial means to join a gym here. And my son's TKD school is kid oriented so I wasn't keen on working out there either. I figured it was just me, nature, and a pair of kick-ass, brand-new, magical running shoes. My biggest obstacle? I really like to eat. I mean...REALLY like to eat. I was struggling with, in my mind, reducing my quality of life by
restricting my comfort food. Couldn't I just run it off??

And then there was Annie's email...with the link...

OMG...There were people climbing over walls, charging up stairs, running through tires and mud, scrambling over city buses (buses, fer gods' sake!), hanging off monkey bars and it looked like THE. MOST. FUN. EVER!!

My inner warrior-goddess (who is obnoxiously competitive) suddenly turned green, became massive, and was yelling, "HULK, SMASH!" before I even finished my reply to Annie which basically stated: YES! YES! LET'S DO IT!

Game on, lesser mortals! Comfort food was 86'd and the training began in earnest. I had a plan and I had a goal. A goal I shelled out money for. And more importantly, I had a vision of crossing that Urbanathlon finish line and feeling like a million bucks. (Plus, there might be cowboys! Right, Annie??)

Annie: This is NYC, Kellie, you probably want to stay away from any guys playing cowboy. But, yes, I’ll admit that participating in a male-dominated event sponsored by Men’s Health did have it’s appeal.

So we trained, each in our own cities and our own schedule, but we pushed because as terrifying as the idea of participating in the Urbanathlon seemed when we registered, there was no way we were going to back out. And, through all the physical and mental ups and downs of training, we were there for each other...cheering, sympathizing, listening, and yes, even scolding when it was needed. We’ll share our individual training experiences with you in future posts.

What is important to know now is that on October 27, 2012 we each crossed the Urbanathlon finish line at CitiField in Queens, NY and were hooked, already looking ahead to the next big for the 2013 Spartan Race Trifecta (because we can and it's FUN!).

Annie: Just a quick follow up note to say that Kellie was scheduled to fly out the Monday after the race, but her plans were foiled as Hurricane Sandy hit the tri-state area on Sunday night. She was forced to stay 4 extra days at my house on Long Island - with not just me, but also my kids, my mom...and my dog - with no electricity, no heat, and no hot water. The fact that she still speaks to me is a true measure of her friendship. Of course, she did get a stockpile of home-baked goodies and alcohol that helped her survive the stay.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

If you like getting down & dirty, you're in the right place. Stay tuned for an insane and amusing ride with Kellie and Annie.