Swim, Bike, Run…(sort of…like a turtle…)

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After a great weekend celebrating friends, family, and birthdays I had the chance to compete in the City Island Triathlon. It was an odd distance for me with the swim and bike a bit longer than a usual sprint. .8 mile swim in a river, followed by the a 14.5 mile bike, and a 3.2 mile run — my goal was to just finish under 2 hours (transitions and all). I knew I could do the swim in under 20, I knew I could do the bike in under 45, and I knew I would fall apart in the run. But last night as I broke down my results I really broke down mentally along side them.

…I was 3rd in my age group heading out of the swim and spent barely a minute in transition and that included downing a Gu…

…I climbed up to 2nd in my AG by the time I got off the bike and again about a minute in transitions…

…then came the run and I dropped down to 9th…

I am a slow runner and have gained weight that I know doesn’t help any of the 3 disciplines but seeing me drop so hard in the run hurt. I am an OK swimming, a stronger rider, and a horrible runner – and that needs to change. I know I am capable of a podium finish and one day I want to look back at this post and remember how far I have come.

Up until that point I was running on a high!! Despite a long delay for the swim start I had a great swim. I always have a slight panic attack in open water swims where even with goggles on you see nothing but brown (yuck). After some deep breaths, mantras, and back strokes, I got myself in gear and just followed the red bouys down the river.Not seeing any of the next waves swim caps around you is always a good sign!  I felt strong coming out of the water even though I used my legs too much and not enough of my arms (always a swim goal of mine to save my legs). Not swimming for a year will do that to you! Heading on the bike I was passing people left and right and mentally really strong. Coming into T2 and seeing my bestie and little bestie on the side of the transition area helped! Then I headed on the run and made it maybe .5 miles before my shins and calves cramped HARD. From there it was a slow march to the end. I finished 1:49 – 11 minutes ahead of my goal – but I wouldn’t have done it without the help of a teen tri-team member named Emily. She helped me run-walk-run to the end! At the finish her dad was standing there running along the chute cheering her on (because he had finished well ahead of us) and I couldn’t help but think of me and my dad — he was just like him. I told her to be proud of the fact that her old man kicks her butt and that even at 28…I still have not been able to beat mine!

The best part of coming into the finish chute was seeing even more first and little besties there! Kyle, Addi, Doug, Caro, Leslie, and Baby J were the icing on top of my first tri in almost 2 years – and so were the cinnamon roll pancakes we had afterwards.

High: Getting back into tri racing and having my friends there with me

Low: the run

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You’ve got to re-start somewhere…

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This year has been a rough one for little ‘ol triathlete me. I’ve fallen out of shape, gained back weight that I worked hard to work off, and slowedddddddddd down to a painful speed. My passion is back and a combo of running/biking outside again and morning gym workouts will get me back there but I really wish I could rub a magic genie in a bottle and get back to my lowest “race weight” if you will. It doesn’t mean I have not competed or workouts out this last year – I just have not had my heart in it and my body took notice.
Yesterday I ran the Parks 10k – the furthest I’ve run this year. Boy oh boy was it the wake up call that I needed! My only goal was to not finish dead last and I did that…but barely. I was using run-walk-run before I even hit the first mile marker and my shins were screaming by mile 2. This is a race that I could have done in my sleep a year ago. So what’s changed?
1) I stopped seriously running. I am talking planned out routes with intervals some days and maintenance miles on others. 
2) I have done little to no weight training. I have not gotten my butt into the gym and I need to.
3) I stopped learning. I used to be glued to info on form, nutrition, pace, techniques…but I could not tell you the last time I bought a Runners World magazine. Actually it was at the airport a few weeks ago…but that was the first one I have bought all year!
It’s gonna take time to get back down to by goal weight and form…but if I don’t stick to my plan I’ll never get there. If anything, the 10k I ran this weekend reminded me that we all have to start somewhere (or re-start…).
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Getting back into the swing of things…

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Back when I started blogging in 2013 the #SweatPink community and this little slice of the internet helped me reach goals I never thought possible. This little blog helped me lose over 30 pounds, helped me run PRs, and helped me find my strong. Since my last blog I’ve ridden multi-day Bike MS rides for the MS Society, competed in my first Olympic distance triathlon, conquered my first open water swim…and have fallen a bit off the wagon!

So I’m starting back up again and sharing my journey along the way. Keep an eye out for swim/bike/run training tips, cross training workouts, inspiration, delicious and probably not very health recipes, and more! I’m no pro – just sharing my love for swimming, biking, and running while holding myself accountable through this little slice of the inter-webs.
SO what’s up next for me? The 2016 Reston Century!
 This is probably the most difficult century I’ve ever ridden. It’s late August HOT, incredibly hilly, and for most of the ride we rode in packs…FAST packs…think crit racing tight and fast. Hopefully my dad will be back to run with me (and possibly push me up a giant hill or 10) but I’m stoked for my next century…and the post-century nap.
Stay tuned!

Race Recap: MCM 10k

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Marine Corps Marathon weekend in Washington, D.C. is one of my FAVORITE weekends in the city. Flags line the streets, signs are up all over the place, the expo is huge, and and runners from all around the country head to our Nation’s capitol to take part in “The People’s Marathon.” It’s different than other marathons…there’s no huge prize purse, the winners are often members of our Armed Forces, and the course is one heck of an emotional roller coaster. Each year the organizers offer a 10k (the last 6.2 miles of the full marathon) and that’s right up my alley. Perhaps one day I will get to full marathon status…but I’m sticking with my 13.1’s for now!

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This year I was lucky enough to run with my bestie Christy (check out her blog here), Amanda, and her bad ass dad. We met bright and early at 7:00 AM on the National Mall and headed to the security check points — and the weather was already pretty warm! Thankfully, we didn’t have to use any of the mile long porta potty lines and were able to line up in the 1:20:00 finish time zone easily before giving a round of hugs to our cheerleader Matt and starting off. Up in the sky, Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter parachuted down with the FASTRAX sky diving team carrying a 7,800 square-foot American flag as the National Anthem played down on the ground. How can you not get emotional? The cannon *yes…cannon* shoots off and the music starts pumping as we make the long trek down the shoot and get ready for this beauty of a course:

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Just a few weeks ago Christy and I set our new individual 1/2 marathon PR’s at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon and some medical problems sidelined me for much of my training time that followed. So training for this was…well…non existent! It consisted of a 2 mile run about 15 hours before the race to make sure I would be ok…but more on that in a later post! Stay tuned! So I turned to Christy at the starting line and asked her what her game plan was. She said she was shooting for a 13 minute mile, so I asked her if we could shoot to stay just below that and push it!! She agreed to my craziness and the next 6.2 miles were AWESOME! I could not be more proud of her (and thankful that she didn’t kill me)!!

About a mile and a half into the race we were passed by the leading hand-cycle from the FULL marathon course with his police escort and everyone cleared a path and cheered like crazy for him. The inspiration on this course if my favorite part: people running with photos and signs of their loved ones, single and double amputees, soldiers running in full combat gear, veterans of all ages! By mile 3 we grabbed our first drinks at the aid station and at mile 4 we ate our energy (a Gu for me and ShockBlocks for Christy) before heading into the final stretch. We were consistently hitting just above a 12:00/mile pace just like we wanted and at mile 5 we ran into Sgt. Carlos Torres who I read about after last years MCM 10k in an photo that because quite famous. Check out his story HERE. We chatted for a bit and thanked him for all he’s done before continuing on.

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A porta potty stop put us a minute or two behind where we wanted to finish…but we still came in at 1:20:31 at a 12:58 pace…2 seconds below Christy’s goal!!!!!! We sprinted up that final hill and were SO excited to see our favorite cheerleader (Matt) waiting for us at the finish. After getting our medals and taking out obligatory photo with the Iwo Jima Memorial we met up with Amanda and her dad who finished just a few minutes behind us. OORAH!

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IMG_4980Pictured from left to right: Mr. Brian (Amanda’s bad ass dad), Christy, MEEEE, Amanda

The energy around this race is absolutely electric. We left the medal area and made our way to the snack bags and then to our cheerleaders. The MCM does food RIGHT! Our bags had water, chips, protein shakes, fruity snacks, granola bars, bananas, and more! YUM! Then the delicious watermelon festival people were at the finish line as well and you know I ate two of those 😉 delicious!

Every time I run this race I carry with me those who have served, currently serve, or are getting ready to serve with. My USNA brothers from Christy’s family like Matt (who supported us today!), Coleman, Ross, Jener, and Hunter are in there…Max’s best friend Evan who is deployed in Afghanistan right now was there…my cousin Eric was there…all of our veterans…they’re all with me when I run this race! I love it! So thank you to all of sacrifice everything to keep our great country free. God bless you! This one’s for you!

Race Recap: The Reston Bike Club Century

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Today I finally rode over 100 miles.

Today I got pushed up hills like a baby by my awesome and wicked strong rider dad.

Today I rode in my first organized ride.

Every year for the past 32 years the Reston (VA) Bike Club hosts the Reston Century and it draws 1,500 riders from all over the area. This was my dads third time riding this century and it was my first. Now that the pain is over and done with and the muscles are icing up, I can say I loved it!

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They offer 3 routes:

  • Half metric (35.7 miles)
  • Metric (67.4 miles)
  • Century (103.5) — or a little longer if you miss a cue card or sign (woops)

The biggest different for my between cycling and running is trying to remember that this is an organized ride and NOT a race. That’s does not mean that we are going slow by any means…but it does mean that I need to remember that each person that comes up to me is not trying to race me (you hear that, dad?!).

To save an hour of sleep in the morning I decided to spend the night at my parents house. We had a healthy power dinner of grilled chicken, brown rice, and a lot of spinach and veggies…oh and then we split a Lindt chocolate bar (woops). We were in bed by 7:30 pm and up at 4:00 am to start getting ready. Oatmeal and eggs over toast for breakfast with 2 cups of coffee for both of us! We arrived in Reston at 6:30 am and were on the road at the starting line at 7:00 am. Looking around at all of the DC Velo and pro-team jerseys I know that I was in trouble!

Throughout the entire ride there really were few spots where we were ever on our own out on the road. The first sections were a little crowded for my liking (eg. where all 3 routes were rolling together) but then it thinned out as different routers headed in their own direction. I was pretty proud of being able to keep up with the “big boys” for the most part. Mom met us at the finish line and it was great to see here there so proud!

A few observations:

  • Cycling is a very male-dominated sport. At every rest stop I would run into 1 maybe 2 other ladies and 20+ men. Let’s change this ladies!
  • The RBC did a fabulous job of staffing and filling the rest areas. Every 15-20 miles there were marked rest stops in community centers or parking lots. Each stop had mechanics from bike stores, water, gatorade, bathrooms, racks for your bike, maps, and tons of food (PB&J, muffins, breads, trailmix, vanilla waffers, rice krispy treats, bananas, oranges, cheese-its, power bars, fig newtons).
  • RBC also did a great job keeping riders safe! There were electronic signs saying “cycling event, share the road, etc), state troopers at major intersections, SAG wagons for those who needed to quit or got hurt, and my favorite was the motor bike that took the main front group we were in through a particularly confusing area so that we knew where to go…I felt like I was on the Tour de France). Everything was very well marked!
  • RBC (again) did a great job with their post-race party. The finish shirts look great and there was a delicious spread of salads, pastas, chicken, fruits, an ice-cream truck on hand to give out ice cream treats, and a massage company there to help role you out.
  • I was so proud to see so many riders out rocking their Bike MS jerseys. I spoke with each one I saw and thanked them for their help!

What I want to improve on:

  • I want to be stronger! My poor dad had to push me up some gnarly hills (check out those peaks in the map! I am sure you can guess the 2 “hills” that were the killers). Big strong riders were stopping on hills from cramps, pulling off to the side of the road, it was bad. Dad would not let me quit and kept coming back to get me, give me a push, or (literally) push me up the hill in our granny gears. I cried on those hills…they will be scars in my mind for a while.
  • I need to eat and drink better on rides. I didn’t eat as much as my dad did on the century (my total for all of the rest stops was: 2 half PB&J sandwiches, half a bag of pretzels, half a bag of cheese-its, half a bag of trail mix, 2 orange slices, a Gatorade snow cone, and 1 banana). On the bike I had 2 gu gels when I really struggled, 4 shock blocks, and over 10 bottles of water).
  • Stop drinking gatorade. As you know, I am a HUGE Nuun fan. 2+ years of drinking Nuun as my sports drink of choice reaffirmed how sugar loaded Gatorade is. I got sick to my tummy today from it. WAY too sweet and sticky.
  • Intervals. I need to dedicate a day each week to interval training to get those muscles built.

All in all a GREAT ride, full of hills (the should re-name is the Never-Ending-Hills Century), and I am so proud of us!

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Look at all of that food!

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(right) How I actually felt about dad after that ride/hills/telling me it was a “flat course”/convincing me I could do this

(left) loving my pops

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Riders enjoying the massage section and all of the great food

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Feeling strong after completing my first century!!

Final States:

Miles – 103.5

Kilometers – 167

Time – 6:46 (5 rest stops with about 10 minutes at each stop for stretching/restrooms/filling water/eating)

Guest Post: Transformation Thursday and Hypothyroidism

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Welcome to Finding My Strong Blog’s first ever guest series. Over the course of the next 4 weeks I will be adding two guest posts from a wonderful writer who not only happens to be my best friend, but happens to be finding her own strong this year. Her journey through cancer, weight loss, and Hypothyroidism is one you won’t want to miss! Christy is a professional counselor and Mobile Crisis Team Specialist living in Annapolis, MD. Between lifeguarding for six years and subsequently responding to crisis situations with local police, Christy has learned to handle adversity, keep her cool, and how to make a plan of action. Christy is a strong believer in gaining support and learning from others and hopes to pass on some of what she has learned along the way. Christy’s journey to finding her strong is ongoing and you can follow Christy on Twitter: @beachnative27, on Instagram: beachnative27, and even on Snapchat for motivational gym snaps: (you may have guessed it…) beachnative27. Now join me as we learn more about to to build strong and healthy bodies through Christy’s inspiring journey.

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Hypothyroidism… Heard of it? I hadn’t heard of this endocrinological condition until I was 19 and had to face what it meant in regards to my life. Basically it is a condition where your thyroid gland is slow and doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone. The major issue here is that an underactive thyroid upsets the normal balance of your body’s chemical reactions and the more severe your thyroid impairment is, the more severe your symptoms are. Now the thyroid can have issues with being too fast or too slow and the graphic below covers the symptoms on either side of the spectrum… this post however, will focus on my experience of hypothyroidism.

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Hypothyroidism officially came into my life when I was 19, but it was actually wreaking havoc for years prior to my diagnosis. My slow thyroid is the culprit of mood fluctuations that I experienced as a child and as a teen. I would slip into severe depressions every couple of years, but did not know at the time that it was abnormal. These depressions included irritability, chronic fatigue, an immense lack of motivation for day-to-day activities, self-loathing, and thoughts of killing myself when things got bad enough. I grew up in an active and social family family and I am no exception. I have a wonderful family and a multitude of friends whom I did not want to alarm, so I learned to hide my depressions when they struck by gluing a smile to my face and excelling in school, sports, and in life.

The game changed when my family moved across the country from San Diego, CA to Annapolis, MD and my depression hit hard. Suddenly I had to finish high school away from all my friends and I was angry. I stopped playing sports to take more AP classes and I got a job at the local movie theater to take up time on my lonely weekends. … The weight started to pile on. I was no longer running around all the time and burning enough calories to compensate for my increased emotional eating. I’d never been skinny, but I’d also never been fat… then suddenly I was 193lbs at 17 years old. At 5’8” I still wasn’t fat, but I was no longer my healthy self. Then the depression hit harder and I proceeded to cope by eating. My happy façade fooled people enough that I had plenty of friends and no one gave me a hard time for putting on weight, but by the time I graduated high school I weighed 227lbs. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that it was suggested that I get a thyroid test… a very easy blood test. Sure enough my results came back positive. I had some facts to face. The first and foremost is that I now take a pill called Synthroid every day to provide my body with the extra thyroid hormone that my thyroid gland cannot produce. I will have to continue taking Synthroid for the rest of my life to stave off the worst of my symptoms.

So what now? I was a college sophomore and I was hovering somewhere in the 230-240lbs range, taking a pill every day and miserable. Suddenly the majority of my mood symptoms vanished, but I was left to contend with my struggle to lose weight. I say struggle because having hypothyroidism makes losing weight approximately 4x harder than the average person (a fact provided by my primary care physician). For the typical person it is a matter of calories in vs calories burned, not for those with hypothyroidism. You have to work even harder to get your metabolism up to speed… because as you may have guessed by now, a slow thyroid means a glacially slow metabolism.

My goal is to be healthy and to be strong so I made a commitment to myself when I was 19 that I was going to turn things around. I got involved with my university’s lacrosse team (Go Saints!), I began taking part in group activities, I swam every day in the summer and I did lose weight. But then I’d gain it back if I slipped in my diet, even just a little. I learned then that this will be a struggle I battle every day, for the rest of my life. I had to find the fight within me.

At 22 I went off to grad school and my weight was an even bigger struggle because insane time constraints can make the poor health choices easier to make. At 24 I recommitted to myself and started running. I may not have been very fast and the weight may not have fallen much, but I dropped 2 pant sizes in a month.

At 25 I graduated with my master’s degree and my graduation present to myself was to join the 24 Hour Fitness gym here in Annapolis. I took control of my typical excuses by finding a gym that is close to home, is open 24/7, and it has a pool. I sweetened the pot when I decided to start working out with a personal trainer. He’s expensive, but he’s worth every penny. I began working with him about five months ago and I am still working to dip below the 200lbs line, but I have dropped 7% of my body fat and I have lost inches all over my body. My commitment to myself and working with a professional trainer has gotten me onto the right track to become healthy and reach my goal of getting the heck out of the 200s. It’s a struggle every day, but I have achieved so much more than I ever would have imagined when I was that hopeless, heavy 18 year old. I had to find my inner fighter and tell myself that just because I am faced with some extra hurdles does not mean that I cannot overcome them. I ran from the girl I was and hid in the food I ate. Now I run for the woman I want to be and I work out to make sure that she is as strong as she deserves to be.

A little trip down memory lane…

When I was young and then at my heaviest:

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Taking my life back:

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A couple fitness tips for people with hypothyroidism:

  • Commit to yourself and appreciate who you are
  • Develop a fitness routine that you can stick with and set realistic goals
  • Eat healthy meals 3x/day with two snacks in between (eating approximately every 3hrs will help kick start your metabolism)
  • Keep carbs to earlier in the day
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get others involved in your goals (your doctor, trainers, work out buddies, and moral support in general can be a big help)
  • Do your research to better understand your diagnosis and how to work with it

For those of you struggling with hypothyroidism or any other chronic health condition: do not give up on yourself… not ever. Weight loss is a challenge, but with the right support you can do it in a healthy and safe way. It is important not to compare your progress to those around you because your body chemistry is different and it is painful to watch sedentary friends lose weight while you consistently kick your own butt in the gym … at least it sure is for me. There are plenty of books and accounts out there for you to check out about hypothyroidism, remember that your experience will be unique to you as mine has been to me. I wish you all the best of luck in your fitness endeavors.

Laura’s Note: I am so incredibly proud of Chrity’s transformation. She’s a beautiful person inside and out — and a HUGE inspiration to me! I am also proud to announce that Christy has officially signed up for her first half-marathon this Fall. Join Christy and I (and Maxwell!) as we run the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon on October 5th and let us know more about how YOU are finding your strong.

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Race Spotlight: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon

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This weekend I had the pleasure of helping promote one of my FAVORITE half marathon’s in the DC area. Drumroll please…

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You may recall my race recap from this race in 2013. Max and I stumbled upon it after the Marine Corps 10k as Max was bitten by the half-marathon bug. This was his first half and he absolutely kicked butt! For me, it was my worst half-marathon time to date and I got double calf cramps at mile 9…but it is still one of my favorite races! That says a lot about the race and I’ll explain why:

  1. Microbrews. Runners know that most races hand runners Michelob Ultra at the end of a race, but the WWBHM let’s you pick a a delicious microbrew.
  2. The course. This race starts at Mount Vernon Estates, runs down GW Parkway, into Old Town Alexandria, and over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into National Harbor. The views are breathtaking!
  3. The size. The half is capped at 5,000 runners so it’s not too big and not too small.
  4. Support. I’m a middle of the pack runner. On this run I was a back of the pack runner. Calf cramps and poor hydration on my end pushed me to the back and I was happy to see that I had course support (water, cheering groups, etc) the entire 13.1. Thankfully that was very different than Heather Gannoe’s experience in the back to the pack.
  5. New 6k. New to running? Not up to the half marathon distance? No problem! Try the 6k option and join the party at the finish line!

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We will be back this year!

So this weekend I joined the official mascot of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon at the Purple Strides 5k in DC. Now Woody is pretty heavy…but don’t let that fool you…because he is fast! The crowd loved taking pictures with him, racing him on the course (he runs a 28 minute 5k!), and competing. Woody’s a pretty big mascot so he needs a little big of help to get around — so was more than happy to play Secret Service for the morning. Here are a few of the highlights:

DSCN0233 Even U.S. presidents have to pay for parking.  Tickets are no joke!

DSCN0260 Playing around on the Foosball, ping pong, and basketball games set up.

DSCN0273 Helping some new friends stretch so they’re ready to run the 5k.

DSCN0255 Snapping a TON of photos with the 4,000 people running/walking the 5k.

IMG_3168 Hitting the 5k course strong on a beautiful sunny day.

IMG_3299 Recovering with a banana and water post-race.

IMG_3345 Challenging a new friend to a push-up contest.

Want to learn more about the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon and 6k? Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter for more information and dive in! 

WWBHM FAQ