Monday, October 24, 2016

Stop the Stigma - My Inspiration for MCM

In the 3rd part of the ‘why MCM’ series, today I give you my inspiration/ motivation for finishing the Marine Corps Marathon.  Bear with me, this is long but worth it!

As explained in the last post,  I certainly have the odds stacked against me on this race.  I’ve done a marathon before, but not ‘standalone’ and not with the issues that I’ve had this year.  I could just throw in the towel and say “ok I’m gonna rest” but a dear friend is pushing me.

I have to rewind a few years.  I met Dawn in 2012 while standing in line with Ironman Florida volunteers, waiting to sign up for our first 140.6 Triathlon.  We sat and giggled about the crazy people around us and about the long line that went around the corner.

We talked for the few hours and even exchanged pictures of us throwing down $700 to sign up for this crazy race.  The internet is a great place these days, we kept in touch all year as we trained and became close.  She told me a few times that my story had inspired her, I often find that hard to believe on ‘fast’ athletes, but everyone is motivated by something!     We joked through the year about many things, including her star struck-ness (is that a word?) with Mirinda Carfrae. I had the pleasure of meeting Rinny a few times that year so I used those excuses to send Dawn funny things (like autographed pictures) or just selfies taunting her.

The time had come, we made it to Ironman Florida the following year. Rinny was there so we got our pics together with her.

She got to meet my dogs, another thing we really bonded over (big dogs rule).   She was a 13 hr finisher of Ironman and I was a seconds to midnight finisher, but that didn’t change our friendship.

A couple months later I heard from Dawn, she was getting a divorce and moving several hundred miles away.   My heart ached for my friend, but life has a way of throwing you into  situations that you truly need.  

In this new location, she met the love of her life.  When I tell you soul mate, I mean soul mate.  There are few couples that I have ever seen that you just KNOW they were made for each other.  Dawn and John are THAT couple. I was SOOO happy for her.   She deserved this.

Then, just a couple months later, she received the most shocking, devastating news.  She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer.  WHAT?   A fit, 13 hour Ironman finisher, non-smoker had LUNG CANCER? And it spread to her back and brain?  How does this happen?  

So begins her journey, the chemo, the reality of stage 4 cancer, and unfortunately the STIGMA of Lung Cancer.   If you get nothing else out of this post, please, please, please read about ending the stigma. Lung cancer is not the “smokers cancer.”  (Check out these sites StoptheStigma, StoptheStigma1 and StopTheStigma2 for more some Stigma busting facts).

Dawn never smoked, was never around smokers, but poof…here it is.   We have to start changing the stigma on this disease so friends like Dawn do not have to endure the stigma and so that research can actually be done on it!  I will be wearing a special lung that she designed, on my shirt.  It shows all the things that are important to her.   Go Team Dawn!

John stayed by her side, and I was inspired by both of them. He is an amazing support to her!  They worked together to figure out treatment. I watched from afar and am so inspired by her spirt. She had just found the love of her life and here this is handed to her.   She continued to fight back so she could swim, bike and run.  And she did it, and I was so proud.  Dawn, however was upset that she wasn’t the ‘same Dawn” that did Ironman.  We had some interesting discussions on ‘pace/time’ and sometimes you have to reevaluate what is acceptable and guess what, sometimes just BEING OUT THERE is a huge win.   Dawn did finsh her triathlon while fighting this disease!  Awesome!

Stage 4 Lung cancer is pretty darn scary. If you read anything, you read about scary stats. Dawn and John were realistic, and often had pretty blunt updates for facebook. (yes you can read about her journey here Lung Cancer: A Triathlete's Journey, in her own words).   They were realistic, but optimistic.  

Even through her battle, John proposed to her, and it was beautiful, everything they both deserved.  A few of her wonderful friends organized a beach wedding for them on New Year’s Day.   THEN they streamed it online so we all were able to watch this beautiful moment.   AH perfection!  John even said, We may have weeks, months or years together but any one of those is better than not having her at all. My heart melts at their strength.

Dawn had a pretty scary few months that did take away her athletic activity,  then a new med was put on the market.   It was miraculous and eventually let her to being  active again.  She’s spending every minute of life just ENJOYING and making memories.  They don’t wait until tomorrow to make the memories, they make them TODAY.  As I type this, they are soaking up the sunshine and sand! I couldn’t be happier for them!

Earlier this year, Dawn found out that I was going to attempt MCM.  John is Retired Army and a huge military supporter.  The Marine Corps Marathon, and the charity I'm running for, Semper Fi Fund are very near and dear to them so they have been behind me from the start.

Dawn knows what a struggle it is for me to attempt this, but she’s encouraged me.  She and John supported me in ways I cannot comprehend to make this entry come true.   In a recent, sobering conversation, Dawn asked me how I was doing.  I told her “there’s only a slim chance I’ll make that bridge.”   She said to me “you know they said I only had a slim chance, right? “..    You are so right Dawn, slim chance.. we still GO FOR IT, GIVE IT OUR ALL, MAKE MEMORIES, and if we get to the finish line, it was meant to be!

I hope I do her proud next Sunday.  Every step will be a step for Dawn, it will be pushing and giving my all, I will be making memories,  and I will succeed by even getting to that start line in her name!

Dawn, this is for you!

MCM #23140

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MCM - tough training year

This is reposted from the Fatgirl Facebook page:

Yesterday I told you I was nervous, today I’ll tell you why. And tomorrow.. I’ll tell you why I’m not backing down from Trying to beat the Bridge at Marine Corps Marathon.
Most know I have EDS. It’s that pesky disorder that not only affects my joints, it causes migraines, dislocations, chronic pain, but other issues that I don’t talk a lot about. I’ve found myself in this pretty cool position in life to educate others about it, and to help inspire people with EDS to get out and start moving. No matter what, just do ‘something.’ For some that’s doing one toe raise from their hospital bed, for others it’s doing an Ironman. We’re all so different. When I want to quit from pain, I think of the people who have reached out to me over the years who have said they were able to see the light because I showed them “they could.” In my dark days I think of a few of those folks and I just shuttup and “go do it.”
This year has been interesting. I changed jobs, increased my workload (and stress) and well, I’m getting older. EDS was not kind to me this year. My autonomic dysfunction issues have increased significantly. The best way to describe it is my body knows how to go 100MPH or slam on brakes- nothing in between. I have a really hard time working out when it’s hot out, not like your normal issues, I mean my BP goes through the floor, I sweat like someone is dumping a buckets over my head, and my body temp drops. This results in nausea, vomiting and me curled up in a ball for a period of time. If I’m lucky enough to not have these drastic issues, the body goes into ‘freeze’ mode. When I stop running, my body will visibly shake and shiver, my lips turn blue and friends freak out (except those that know me). I actually am ‘ok’ in this situation. I just have to take a hot shower.
These are just a couple of the autonomic issues that are going on, some others are GI related. A food will be fine for me one day then the next puff me up like a marshmallow. It gets old. I threw in the towel this year for Ironman. (IMMD). All of you know I DNFed the bike of Rev3. My legs just stopped working about mile 64. I have trouble firing some muscles sometimes, this usually happens with hills. But at Cedar Point my legs just wouldn’t work on the flats. That was new. I had the burn of climbing a 20% grade, for over 3 hours! Not cool because it was flat!

My running speed is not where it needs to be. I have to do 18 miles next Sunday faster than I’ve ever run a half marathon to make that bridge.
I’m not posting this for sympathy, this is just what I do, it is my reason for being slow. I’m proud to be out there though. I should have deferred to next year given all the health issues this year, but one very special friend has pushed me. I will think of her with every step, I will push myself beyond any comprehension. I will do this for Dawn! (Now tomorrow I tell you WHY).

Monday, March 14, 2016

I Saw The Sign

I know..I know, I should write more. I have several posts half written (Hogsback 13.1, Patriot 70.3, IMFL 15,  Disney Dopey Challenge).  Life is just flying by and I can't keep up with myself.

But I had to post this today.

I've been struggling with a decision to run a standalone Marathon.  I have to have one that is very forgiving with cutoffs and honestly it has to be fun.  I don't want to be alone out there for 20 miles.   A friend approached me about a month ago and asked if I wanted to run the Marine Corp Marathon.   My immediate thought was 'ugh, I'd love to but I'll never make the bridge.'

For those unfamiliar, you have to manage 14 min pace to mile 20 aka 'the bridge.'  There is a very hard cutoff there because they need to reopen to traffic.   That pace is pretty rough for me, I really never know what my body will do on any given day, and that pace is expecting a perfect body day!

I had decided "no, it's just not something I'm capable of."... I ran a 5K yesterday that gave me two incredible signs.

I spoke with my friend that AM and said 'ok I have a 50 min goal today.'  She said "ok fine, aim for 45 min."  In my mind I thought that was crazy. I haven't done much in the last 8 weeks and I can't do 15 min miles when I'm in shape!

So off we went.  I was looking at my watch and seeing my pace in the 12-13 range.  I thought my Garmin was broken or something.

Then the Worcester Police Department came by in drill formation.  If this isn't motivation to you, you're hopeless.  I was able to record it while running with them for about 1/4 of a mile.

I enjoyed the pace keeping, maybe I need to hire a platoon to chase me?

So after they passed me, I trudged along and noticed that my pace was in the low 13's.  WHAT?

I hustled along and cross the finish line a full 10 min faster than my goal and 2 min pace faster than I thought possible!

So guess what I did when I got home?

I registered for the 2016 Marine Corp Marathon with the  Semper Fi Fund.

 It's a stretch goal for me, I am not guaranteed a finish with this, in fact, there is a good chance I won't make the bridge, but damn if I'm not going to try!

**If you would like to support my Semper Fi Fund bib, click here:

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Smaller Side of Fat

I’ve lost 25 pounds this year.  Not earth shattering, but also it is quite noteworthy.    It was 14% of my body.   Before you read on, I give you this disclaimer.  If you are offended at actual ‘numbers’, please stop reading.   I’m on the ‘smaller’ side of fat, but still fat.  I have every right to feel fat, the charts tell me I’m obese and I’m doing what I can.

I do not represent every ‘fat girl’; nor do I represent every physically challenged person, nor every short person, nor every slow person,  nor every middle aged person, etc. I have a story and it inspires others who are ‘similar’ to get off their rear ends and realize THEY CAN.  

I was 175 pounds in January. Today I’m 150.   I’ve seen folks say things to us ‘smaller fat people’  “wow I WISH I was ONLY  175” or “Don’t make me feel bad about myself, I  would be so happy to be xxx lbs.”  Ok, GREAT, then get on with your journey and back off of mine.   It is unfair to judge me or others like me for celebrating our numbers.  I kid you not, I’m fat (I’m ok with that F word). No need to say “oh but you aren’t fat.”—I am, and it’s cool.  Don’t judge me because I’m not “fat enough” for you.  Please refrain from comment on others too who have the GUTS to mention their weight, don’t belittle their accomplishment because your numbers are different.   Our society has such a stigma on weight, let’s support each other rather than making it a competition.

I don't see the weightloss???

So if you’re’ still reading, thank you.   I didn’t even plan on this post, but I’ve had so many comments on my appearance lately that I thought I should bring it up.   I lost 25 lbs leading up to Ironman, but I didn’t “feel good” about it.  I could tell my pants were saggy in the legs and butt, but my belly was still “huge.”  I couldn’t understand why 25 pounds didn’t give me a new pant size.   Frustration was an understatement.

In the last month or so, I’ve seen many folks who haven’t seen me in months and they started to notice. I would get the compliments “Wow, you look great.” After a few of them, I started to wonder what they saw that I didn’t see.  Then I looked at old pictures.  I lost it in my face and some other areas. I was too focused on my damn belly that I missed the big picture.   I chalk the belly up to being middle aged and the fact that I really struggle with any worthwhile strength workouts (EDS crap).  Thank you to those who have noticed, you made ME notice.

I challenge all of you to just take a monthly picture on your journey, and LOOK  at them.  Stop staring at that ‘problem area’ and celebrate the rest of you.

Method to my madness:

.**Everything I say here is different for everyone and is very much trial and error. This is just my story.

I was asked “what did I do (to lose the weight).”  Well, trained for an Ironman. However, with my previous Ironman training, I gained weight, so I do attribute my current loss to focusing on a few different things.

I pretty much stopped ‘counting calories.’ That wasn’t working for me.   I ate decent meals, I tried to be conscience of limiting breads or white flour.  A big thing for me last year was ham, egg and cheese bagel for pre-LONG workouts. It worked but also was keeping me fat. I removed those this year.

There is newer research out there that states, pretty much the obvious. There is no one ‘diet’ that will work for everyone. I’ve tried all of them. From the 80’s fads like cabbage soup (sit on crapper for days = lose weight), to Atkins, to Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, even tried prescription diet pills, OTC meds, and in recent times, Paleo-ish.    I had most success with Atkins (yuck) and Paleo-ish. The problem is that I can’t figure out how to fuel properly for the long course with Paleo.
For me, counting calories makes me feel bad. I don’t want to feel bad so I stopped doing it.  I just watch what goes in my mouth and keep ‘mental’ notes on training. I need to make sure I get about 200 extra calories an hour when training.

 I also started focusing on my hydration.  I generally do not drink enough during the day or during exercise. I carry my hydration on bike and run so I can sip. Gulping at aid stations doesn’t work for me.  I do not drink much caffeine/coffee either.  I have the occasional iced coffee.  (If you do drink them,  make sure you know exactly what is in your drink, even though I don’t “COUNT” my calories, I don’t want to have a beverage that is 400 calories)!

I have a wide variety of things I eat while working out, yes I eat carbs but try to limit them.  You don’t “need” any of these expensive shakes, mixes, hydration, etc, but they do make things "easier."  I have a wide variety of things I will eat, mostly because I get tired of things and want ‘change’ so the more I can be comfortable with, the better.   I even packed a turkey sandwich with pickles on a few long rides this year (which was awesome btw).  There is nothing better than the looks you get from people on the bike path as you eat a pickle, in aero bars.


Bottom line is I stopped ‘focusing’ on what I was eating. I was sensible, I added back calories as I worked out, I focused on adequate hydration and I monitored my body. I had bad days, yes I ate a pizza (or nine), but I didn’t let that spiral me into eating crap all the time.

 Yes, I weigh myself daily.  That works for some people, it horrifies others. Do what works for you!  I carry about 4 pounds in inflammation; I know I carry them when I work out, but if I take a break the extra pounds just ‘disappear.’  I don’t get obsessed with the scale number, but I use it to evaluate the previous day.  Such as “did my food intake cause additional inflammation? Perhaps I shouldn’t eat that again.”

So yes, I lost some weight this year, yes I look different, yes I didn’t even notice until friends started to point it out.

If you see a friend who looks different, say something !  If a friend happens to talk about their specific numbers, congratulate them for taking the time to share.   Most importantly, find YOUR path, it really is a trial and error thing, what works for one person may not work for you. – Don’t give up!



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Thursday, October 29, 2015

2015 IMFL Race Day Tracking

Welcome to race week!    I hope to include everything you need in to track in this post.   My # is above 1332, it is very important to note that there are TWO Laura Backus in the 40-44 age group, so my # is more important this time.

I thank each and every one of you for your support over the last few years, and I want to thank my husband John for putting up with this lifestyle!  A few of us are lucky to have supportive spouses!   He is my Sherpa, house cleaner, cook, and anything else you can imagine.  You can't do this without a supportive spouse! I know I am super lucky!  If you see John, say hi (He will most likely have 2 bernese mountain dogs with him and my green team shirt).

First and really important, for my East Coast friends, please note that Panama City Beach is on Central Time!  Start time is actually 7:15AM EDT (6:15 Central).

If you are at the race, starttime is 6:15AM Central, you will want to arrive at 5 or earlier.  Watching the sun rise with all the athletes is a sight to see!

You can track my progress on  my Fatgirl page: and with the GPS trackers below!

Most of you know that tracking on "ironman athlete tracker" is prone to issues, so I have some alternatives. in addition to the standard trackers,  Please check out or as there is a feed all day.  I do expect to be in the last hour, but be warned, the video feed is something you will be glued to as so many cross that finish line!
My Athlete Tracker
During race day I will be wearing a small device which will transmit my location via cell phone signal. I have elected to wear this device in order  to make your experience more enjoyable as a spectator! 
The easiest way to track me using this device will be to download the My Athlete app which can be found in the iPhone Store or Google Play Store on your smart phone.
Just look up MyAthlete or MyAthleteLive and you should find the free application.
On race day you can see exactly where I am by plugging in my #1332 - Laura Backus 
You are all welcome to take screen shots along the way and send them to my Fatgirl page!

I will have some guest Admins on Fatgirl, so NO I will not be posting during the race ;)  Thank you Kelly, Jill, Sue, and Amy!!

The swim:
The swim is a 2 loop course, where we will all exit the water at the half way point, run on the beach then back into the water.  Best photo ops, other than a top floor room in the hotel, are best at the water exit, especially for loop one.  Once finished with loop 2, I will run under the chute and head to the wetsuit strippers and then to the transition area.

The Bike:
I will exit the hotel/ T1 / Changing area and someone will hand me my bike and I will be on my way to riding 112 miles through the towns.  I will be wearing some visible clothing, my shirt is green and yellow with the best motto "Be realistic plan for a miracle."  This is my team shirt from the Pan Mass Challenge, a big bike ride / charity fundraiser for Cancer research and care!   I chose to wear the same clothes as last IM, because I find meaning in this phrase and honor all my friends who are fighting right now!     Once you see me leave, head to the beach, it will be a while before I return.

 Once I complete the bike, I will return to the transition area.  Look for signs "Bike dismount", you will see me there.  It would be best to head toward the run out at that point.

The Run:
I will change my shirt to a sleeveless "Be realistic" shirt and I will have a sparky green shirt on.  I kind of stand out.  The run is a 2 loop run, you will be able to see me at the run turnaround. Look for signs or ask directions to the turnaround.

The Finish:
The finish line will be hopping, especially in the last hour.  It is an electric place and you will be caught up in it, whether I'm there or not.  You will want to get there early especially if you would like a good spot in the bleachers or along the chute.

I will have a hard time estimating my times this year, it has been a rough physical year for me and EDS in addition to insane work stress.   I never know what body will show up on race day, but I go in thinking I'm going to give it my all.  With that here's my guess.

  • I expect a 1:35 - 1:50 on the swim.
  • 5-7 minutes in transition
  • 7-8 hours on the bike.
  • 4-5 min in transition
  • My run is the wild card.  You will want to check the GPS to find my pace.  Use this chart as an estimate. 
The yellow is where I actually expect to be with no mechanical or physical issues..  But I really never know.,

For those that will be at the race:
  1. My family will be wearing the 'Team Laura' t-shirt, if you see them, say hi! 
  2. Every athlete loves to be called by name or number. Look at their race bibs for that info. For Example-“John you are looking great” or “Great Job #1302” or “Awesome Bike Ride #121”
  3. Don’t be scared to cheer for people you don’t know!
  4. Cheering “You are almost there” is never a good idea unless you are standing in the finishers chute! :)
If you see me, saying "GO Fatgirl" is also OK!  I'll know you found me here! (Unless you're my brother, in case he will just be so happy to speak 'fatgirl' this and not get yelled at, Norm, no yelling this at anyone else.)!

Thank you to Stefanie for writing much of this content for herself, and allowing me to copy (AGAIN).

Please like my  Fatgirl page to get live, human updates throughout the race.

Thank you!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eagleman '15 - or was it AFRICAMAN

Eagleman 2015 is finished.

I usually love this race and this race venue.   We arrived on Friday to share a house with some old friends and some new ones.   The house was amazing and I tried to figure out how I could stay and the owners not notice.   This was a view from the yard!

We were about 2 miles from transition so it was a perfect distance to help me finish my race! (more on that later).   The first thing we noticed though, man it was Hot. New England folks had a rough winter and spring just arrived, so dumping me directly into 90+ with 90+ humidity was quite a shock to the system, even for milling around Ironman Village.

We checked in on Friday and just shook our heads at the swag. I know we don't do these races for the swag, but at $300+ a piece, Ironman keeps getting cheaper and cheaper. This year the "backpack" didn't even have the race name on it, just a generic 70.3.   Oh well. Disappointing, but it is what it is!


Sat evening was rough for me, I don't know what weather rolled through, but it felt like my body was put through a washing machine.   Everything just felt weird. Not really in pain, but just uncomfortable. I couldn't sit, stand, lie down, sleep, run around. EDS sometimes is just stupid.  But I had to figure out how to just "go."

I have many races under my belt now, and none have stuck with me the way this race has.  You will see many race reports or comments with a common theme: Heat.   I would expect something like this in Africa, or Ecuador, but not Maryland in June!   I know the run is always hot, but this was something out of a science fiction movie.    I  can't even find the right adjectives, they all seem too cool for whatever the hell Sunday was:  hot, sizzling, dessert, blistering, boiling. It was described as the Zombie Walk, death valley in the East.


Sunday AM  we arrived onsite around 5:15AM.  It was already a non-wetsuit swim, as the water temp had climbed to 79 degrees. 

There was very little excitement in the air like I usually see at a big race. Just tons of faces walking around. Little did I know but we would all become expressionless drones as the day wore on.    My wave was almost 8AM so the temp was RISING! 


I found the swim to be ok. I was expecting 50 minutes in a wetsuit, so seeing 53 on my time without the wetsuit wasn't too bad. I eventually looked and saw I swam 1.4 instead of 1.2, so even better?  I'll take it.  Many folks complained about the swim and the current, but I didn't find it as bad as previous years.  There were no jellies and it was relatively consistent in the current department.   I usually swim outside in bigger races to avoid the crazies.   

I had one guy swim up over my back then take the hardest pull and whacked me square on top of the head.  Of course with EDS this isn't good. He actually knocked a couple of vertebra out of place and did cause a headache.  I understand bumping and hitting, but there is zero reason to swim OVER someone and whack so hard on top of the head. I don't see how this is even possible unless it is on purpose.   Although Karma would prevail for him later in the race! 

Swim Exit- Zombie Style
Photo credit Zachary Rose


Because I was in a later wave, the temp was really taking off by the time I got to the bike.  Originally I had been really excited to tackle Eagleman with no wind, I was expecting a PR.  Instead I was just trying to survive. 

Rainbow Unicorn with me in transition
 for all my EDS Athlete peeps!

The first 15 miles were pretty good. I managed an 18.5 average and was comfortable. I was taking in about 15-20oz of liquid an hour, eating on schedule, taking salt tabs and was feeling ok.  Then around mile 20 someone turned up the furnace. 

 97 degrees with humidity 99%

I was so aggravated at my legs. I thought it was me and my EDS but everyone was slowing down. Everything was harder, breathing, eating, drinking.    Everyone was irritated too.   At one aid station they gave me a very warm Perform, so I asked the next volunteer in the row if she had any Ice. She said "YES", so I slowed, moved over and I landed about 2 bike lengths past the ice.  I turned and she said "well if you want it, go get it" (REALLY?) I've copped an attitude with 2 volunteers in my LIFE.  I'm the one who says thanks to every single person I can, police, kids, even the dogs that are out there, but this lady..woah.   I said "can you please hand me some?". Her reply was "No, get it yourself, I'm handing out water" !?!?!   of course I made a snarky comment back and rode away. I shouldn't have but man, really?  The next aid station was awesome and they helped a girl out with some ice that promptly went into my shirt!

Photo credit Zachary Rose
Back to Karma guy.. I usually yell to see if broken down folks need anything.  I was approaching a guy who was off his bike and throwing things around.  I asked if he needed anything and he promptly ignored me.  As I rolled by, I heard a loud POP as he was filling his new tube with CO2, then lots of swearing.  It was the guy from the swim!  I giggled and rode faster.    I never saw him pass me, so I assume he DNFed after that 2nd tire explosion.  Moral is "don't be a douche, it WILL come back to you."

I eventually rolled into transition, I survived the bike with a 3:34.  I was really trying for a sub 3, and I had expected a 3:15. But with the heat, meh, that's not so bad.    I actually almost cried in T2. I have no idea why, it was just 'holy shit, that's done now I have to RUN?'


Those that endured this next part have this bond that is unexplainable, we just existed together in some insane weather.  I've never experienced anything like this.  Everyone was walking EVERYONE.  If you saw someone even attempting something that looked like a run, other athletes were giving high fives.  I tried to stay hydrated, I briefly tried to run, but it just wasn't happening.  I was managing about an 18 min mile to begin with and that would not last long.   I very much wanted to quit at mile 1, mile 2, mile 3.   At mile 4, I saw Fireman Rob in his FULL GEAR. I was half naked and he was in his full suit, looking like death itself forced him to keep walking with a hot poker.  That fueled me. If he can do THAT, I need to keep trying until they yank me from the course.

Around mile 5,  I noticed that I had stopped sweating.  CRAP! CRAP!  Luckily I've worked enough races to know the early signs.  When your arms are dry, you're in trouble. If you don't do anything about it, you will then start with the chills, headaches, dizzy, and eventually pass out or throw up or both.   I slowed down, I knew I needed to keep my heart rate low and try to cool myself. I stuffed as much Ice as I could into my bra at every aid station.  I had to laugh at how many of us just had our hands down our shirts and pants,and it was 'normal.'   I started talking to medical at each station, just informing them of my issues.

I could not catch up on hydrating or cooling myself. I also know I was getting really close the the official cutoff of the race. I had never DNFed before, I didn't want THIS race to be a DNF.  I was totally cool with a technical DNF, but I wanted to cross that finish line.    I made it to mile 10.  The medical people I talked to there told me to get in the golf cart.  DAMMIT.  They took me (and several others) to the very packed med tent.   There wasn't much they could do for me "here have gatoraid" and "have some ice" (I already had a 5 pound bag in my shirt).

I also still heard the finish line, it was not closed yet.  WHAT? I could have walked those last 3 miles, I just couldn't walk fast enough to finish in time and to keep my dehydration from getting worse.  I talked to those at the finish line and he said I could take my medal and just go do 3 miles tomorrow. Um no thanks, I will do three miles NOW.

My friend drove my car home and I walked the 2 miles home, then up and down the street until my Garmin had my 13.1 run miles.  

I completed 70.3 miles on Sunday.  I never put the medal on my head though, meh. I did complete it, I did deserve the medal for my wall, not my head.

Photo credit Cynthia Pickett,
even though Ironman published it without credit 

Mother Nature felt bad about the hell she rained down on us, so this was her gift.  I sat and watched this amazing scene after I FINISHED my 70.3!

So what's next you ask? how about another Half Ironman this Saturday?  Patriot, here I come!

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Friday, January 9, 2015


Perspective "a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view." (Google)

Today I had 70 minutes to adjust my perspective.  Up at 4:30AM so I could go to a Spin class at 5:45.  I like to sit up front because I need to look at my form in the mirror.  With EDS, I have no perspective of my body in space, so making sure my knees are in place, for example,  is a must. 

While looking into the dreaded mirror, this is what goes through my head:   
"ugh I'm  fat, out of shape; man my belly is big; what happened to my Ironman self? wow I'm lazy; my arms are huge, when did that happen? I shouldn't have taken the year off; ugh, am I really going to be able to take this weight off? or is this more about being over 40?......"
Then my brain wondered elsewhere:
"damn, I have all race clothes on; do I own anything other than race clothes?  people must think I'm trying to show off; oh yea they prob don't care, they're probably thinking they are fat too.... wait, I have stuff from 6 different races on!?  dork, I'm a dork...."
Here's where perspective changes:
Hey wait, I have my PMC shorts on, Chesapeakeman shirt, Irongirl headband, Ironman Florida sweatshirt, Patriot half water bottle, and Providence Half Ironman bag on the floor... that's a ton of races represented!  (Then I started to add in my head, - which only helped pass time as I can't add in my head).
Hey I AM  representing a TON of miles in my clothing today! (well really half a ton).
  • PMC 192 miles cycling x 3  = 576
  • Chesapeakeman Ultra 112 miles x2 = 224
  • Ironman Florida = 112
  • Patriot Half 56x2 = 112
  • Providence Half = 56
  • Irongirl 12 x2 (x5 if you include the previous owner or the race, Danskin).= 60

That is 1140 miles of cycling DURING RACES that I am representing right now, in my perceived fat, out of shape body!  .. 1140!  Half a ton of miles!

Yea I may be out of shape, but there's an athlete in here an I'm not afraid to admit it!

What did you do today to change your perspective? 

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**Please do not reply to this blog post with 'you are not fat' that isn't the point of the post; everyone has moments and it is meant to illustrate the thought process.  I only mention this because someone will reply with just that sentiment. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just and Only

Just and Only are dangerous words.  I am just as guilty as the next guy at using these words.  Have you ever caught yourself saying one of the following?:

I JUST did a 5K
I ONLY did a xx minute mile
I JUST did a sprint triathlon
I ONLY did the swim

The beauty of our sport is that EVERYONE can do it, and everyone should feel included.  There are many elitists out there, I will dedicate an entire post to those annoying jerks, but this one is for the "rest of us."

I always feel the need to qualify my time.  I don't know what it is about it, my friends all know I'm slow but I feel the need to state it all the time.  I am trying very hard to STOP qualifying my times or workouts because I will always be faster than someone (and slower than most, LOL)!  

I feel bad when I see social media posts like "OMG MY RUN SUCKED SO BAD, I HAD ONLY A 10 MIN PACE."  I tell you, if I ever came out of a race with a 10 min pace, I would be doing cartwheels (and pigs would probably be flying). 

I love long distance cycling for example, but 'just' because I do 50 miles, doesn't mean your 2 miles are less important.  

It is about what YOU can do, and how you compared to what YOU are capable of doing.   It is not "just"  or "only" anything, it is YOUR accomplishment.

Please stop qualifying workouts with these words, every time you say it, it puts someone else's amazing accomplishments down.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Anything is Possible - No Excuses!

I don't even know where to start this post.  I spent Saturday with 15 people who are just amazing.   Selfless, determined, and inspirational.  This is going to be a long one, please stay to the end it is amazing!

Rewind a bit: 
My friend Jay was my Ironman cycling training partner, even though he doesn't do triathlons!  Spending a couple hundred hours together means you get to know one another.  Through Jay I met and got to know his wife Dawn.  She has Parkinson's Disease and is quite young for how severe her symptoms have been.

I'm sure you've heard of Parkinson's, but here's a basic description from
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that belongs to the group of conditions called motor system disorders. PD cannot yet be cured and sufferers get worse over time as the normal bodily functions, including breathing, balance, movement, and heart function worsen.
Parkinson’s disease most often occurs after the age of 50 and is one of the most common nervous system disorders of the elderly. The disease is caused by the slow deterioration of the nerve cells in the brain, which create dopamine. Dopamine is a natural substance found in the brain that helps control muscle movement throughout the body.
It affects men more than women, and generally has an onset later in life. Dawn was diagnosed when she was 28. Her symptoms fluctuate and she does have good and bad days.  Unfortunately, her case is complicated and she has not responded normally to the standard Parkinson's protocols.  She is a bit of an enigma to her doctors (on her 12th neurologist).  This leaves confusion and frustration for Dawn about what her body is willing to do on any given day.  Some days she can walk fine and three weeks ago she had walked 2 miles on her own.  When I met her she had yet to be able to walk a mile. 

Dawn has been following my blog for years and has told me several times how she admires me for what I can do despite my own EDS limitations.  Then when I finished Ironman, I told her "you can do your own 'Ironman' you know?" (Ironman definition here: pushing your body and mind to places you want it to go, despite the obstacle  or pain in your way).

She called me crazy, I told her that if I can push my bendy body to 140.6 miles, she can handle 3.1.  She agreed, then had a laser focus on training for a 5K.  As with EDS, the more you keep your body active, the better you feel.  Dawn was experiencing the same!  She still had symptoms, good days, bad days but it had an overall positive impact.

She asked me "is everyone doing this for Abby?".  I skirted the question.

I then decided to go all crazy.  I had a 'secret' REAL 5K in the works. I invited friends who have proved anything is possible. Friends who understand and support other friends unconditionally, even friends they never met before!!  One friend Sue, made a tutu for Dawn, brought a finish line banner, and invited HER friends,  then BROKE HER FOOT the week before.  So we improvised and brought a wheelchair. (not that she stayed in it the whole time)!  Sometimes you improvise to make your goals. The journey may not turn out the way you planned, but you CAN get there.

Jay also invited some friends and family, and Dawns best friend FLEW IN for this amazing milestone in Dawn's life.  Back of The Pack Productions, which couldn't be a better sponsor for this event,  donated the water and snacks!  Dawn had no idea any of this was in the works.

Weeks leading up to the event she would message me with statements like this;  "I don't want to let anyone down... do you know how long this is going to take me?.. I don't think you know how slow I am"- I assured her that the only way to let anyone down was to NOT TRY!  And that we didn't care how long it took.

She kept training, she had a goal. She had an inspiration too!  (everyone needs an inspiration).  She admires Abby, my friend's 5 year old that continues to fight brain cancer.   So Dawn was "doing this 5K for Abby"  It is what kept her going!  (Abby is my own inspiration for the PMC).

Then came race day!

It was a beautiful fall day in New England.  15 people from 3 states met up on a bike path to walk a 5K with Dawn, regardless of how long it would take.  She arrived and saw the mass of people dressed in tutus and dawned with race numbers!   Immediately she was apologizing "I'm sorry, do they all know how long this is going to take?" Yup they do!! (and I can understand this sentiment, because that's how I feel with anyone who decides to 'run' with me).

I gave an intro and she was told 'oh this is FOR DAWN!' -- but Dawn still had her Beezy Bee (Abby) t shirt on and I gave her a photo of Abby for her back. Her inspiration was with her! (Ok I won't lie, anything  athletic I do is 'for Abby' too).  I handed out bracelets from my  #GotChocolateMilk  friend Chrisann that said "She believed she could, so she did." It was perfect!

We started off and immediately she noticed that she was going to have an uncooperative body day. What took her 15 min to do a week ago, now took an hour. She continued to 'feel bad' and apologize and you could see frustration on her face.  No one was leaving, we were here for her.  Unconditional support of athletes is something that is very special about our community!  (Yes Dawn you are an athlete now),

Jay is an amazingly supportive husband. He knows  how to take care of her. "Dawn do you need a kick start?" -  "yup", so just about every step she took yesterday was initiated by Jay 'kicking' her foot forward.  With Parkinson's her balance and gait are affected. Some days are better than others.

She was in pain, her wrist hurt from holding onto Jay for so long. Her feet were 'on fire.'  Along the way, Dawn changed her shoes 4 times, and once changed socks as she was trying to make her feet comfortable. (Sounding more and more like an Ironman isn't it?).  I would ask "would you like to turn around? or would you like to sit in the wheelchair?"  Emphatic NO was the answer each time.

I saw the look of defeat on her face every time she'd ask for a mileage check. "Ugh, that's it?" (hmmmm again, sound like Ironman?).  We would see looks of pain, of frustration "oh I'm holding everyone up, I'm sure they have something else to do today.".. No Dawn, we don't we are HERE FOR YOU!   Then came the halfway point.  We lined up and cheered.  GIANT SMILE across her face. WOOOHOO I GET TO TURN AROUND :).

  We headed back and I thought she was going to kill me; we joked that she was going to have the bat waiting for me at the end.  She had the option to sit or even ride back in the wheelchair, but refused every time.  She was in pain but the grin that crossed her face when passersby gave a giant high-five was priceless. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE was proud of her for being out there, for trying!

She would ask about a distance check more and more, (again sound like Ironman?).  A few of us would run ahead "look see that bend, the bridge (which was near the car) is around that corner."   She yelled at me once "you said that 5x already with each bend I just see another bend."

She decided she wanted some tunes so put in her iPod, she had a little spring in her step for a bit!  Jay continued by her side, walking sideways while kicking her foot forward.

The day wore on, but I refused to tell her what time it was. We were approaching 7 hours.  We really did make it to the last bend. Kellie, Laura, Angela and Jay stayed with her for the last .1 miles and the rest of us ran to the corner to set up the finish line.

I gave everyone medals, and we held up the finish line.  She couldn't see us until she was only 20 or so steps away.  Her face was covered in MANY emotions. I heard her say "I can't cry in front of all these people?" .. I said OF COURSE YOU CAN, I bet we all will.  I cry at sporting events all the time, especially the ones that are INSANELY motivational.. like this one.  So like an Ironman, you're rounding the corner to the finish line FINALLY, what do you do? Fix your hair, make sure you don't have cookie on your face, tuck in the shirt LOL.. Yes Dawn, you really did go through all the steps just like Ironman day.

She saw the finish line, came and went through the tape like a champ.  I'm not sure she grasped what just happened, she just wanted out of those shoes and to sit down with a Pina Colada.

We cheered, we teared up.. then her mom walked over to her to give her a MEDAL. 

Dawn had no idea I had medals!  Mom gave a little speech on how proud she was, it made EVERYONE cry.  

Videos of the finish in 3 segments;
The things like Mom's approval, or a random stranger's high five, or 15 random strangers (now friends), family and friends sticking it out for 7 hours,  on a day like today are priceless!

Dawn did it, she tackled what the thought was NEVER possible.  I hope her mindset is changed. SHE CAN do it.  She will now and forever be an inspiration for OTHERS as well!

Sometimes you have to think about your goals and how to achieve them. The path to get there may be unique only to you, but there is a path to whatever you want to accomplish!

Yes Dawn believed she could, so she did!

Feel free to leave comments on the blog for Dawn, I will make sure she sees them!

***I can't thank everyone enough for supporting Dawn, it was an amazing selfless day for all that attended. Yes it was a long day, but everyone went in knowing we were getting her to that finish line.  I love you all for being there!  You are all amazing, inspirational and my hero today!

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