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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Friday, May 16, 2014

Nothing is wrong with you because I don't see it!

May is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Awareness month. Normally I post and try to raise awareness but the month has gotten away from me.

I have several posts that talk about my EDS,  you can read about them here.  It is important to remember that EDS is a different for every person that has it, but there are many common characteristics, like chronic pain, subluxations, dislocations, and general body stability issues.

Today I choose to discuss the update from  IPC (International Paralymic Committee) to all Parasport including TRIATHLON on the para-triathlete' definition.   You can find the entire classification document here: Triathlon Para-triathlete Definitions  

They are trying to do a good thing by expanding the definition so the physically challenged category can be more inclusive.  However, they have specifically EXCLUDED Ehlers Danlos Syndrome or Hypermobility as a reason to be included as a PC athlete.
---"Findings such as minor soft tissue contracture, joint instability such as joint dislocation, joint hypermobility, impaired muscle power from disuse, hypotonia e.g as associated with Down syndrome, Ehlers Danlos syndrome, oedema, disuse atrophy, organ dysfunction, fatigue as in myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or fibromyalgia or symptoms such as pain and/or numbness without other eligibility criteria listed above shall not beconsidered as a permanent physical disability. Such impairments are not considered in the types determined by the IPC."-

This angers me, people with EDS are constantly trying to 'prove' that something might be wrong.  It is common to have to argue with physicians and even family that your pain is real.  If someone is visibly injured or impaired, no one questions them, however 'invisible' illnesses are ignored.  EDS patients have a really hard time even getting proper pain medications.  They are often classified as pain-med seeking junkies.  It is a sad reality. 

I personally am managing, I have a great support team from my family to my coaches to my physicians.  But I am closely involved with many others with EDS and this is NOT the norm. 

Having Triathlon specially call us out is a slap in the face.  I would rather be ignored than a specific call out. It is saying "hey, yea YOU are not included (and I hear the undertone, you are making it up)"

I have been most positive about my EDS and becoming an Ironman.  I have no idea if it was 'easier' or 'harder' than the next person, I work with what I've got!

 I don't know what it's like to wake up pain free.  I don't know what it's like to have an injury that gets better with time.   I never know what my body will give me from day to day.  I've learned to just deal with it, because I don't know any different!

I would LOVE to go for a run and not have my arch collapse, but my reality is that it WILL, and I have to know how to deal with the pain and how to 'push on' if I can. I would love to go for a ride with cyclists and actually pace line, however, I cannot sit upright on a bike because my wrists and shoulders fall out of place.  I must ride outside of the line in my aerobars.  I would love to just run, or ride, or swim without thinking of EVERY body motion, every step, every single stoke.  It is natural for athletes to just 'get in a zone', however I have to concentrate on where my joints are with EVERY step, because they don't know where to be.

I have so many odd considerations in how I work out and race.  I carry a plethora of medical 'stuff' with me on every ride/race.  I'm sometimes laughed at because I bring the kitchen sink, but it is what I have to do.

I have wondered, am I physically challenged?   Even if I was able to compete in a PC category, I still wouldn't win anything.  The only thing it would do for me is cause questions "hey she looks fine, why is she in that category?" - (A very similar reaction that young people with EDS face if they have a Handicap parking sticker.  Check out this story).

I'm not saying "hey, pick me as a physically challenged athlete." - but they certainly shouldn't have called us out!  Everyone has a challenge of some sort so there really has to be a 'line', but why does it have to be here? and why do we have to be called out?

I know this is probably going to be a controversial post, and that is ok.  Some circles think that EDS isn't real, our pain is made up, or we're attention seeking babies.  Some circles think that hypermobility is a "benefit" - well, I tell you it is not.  When I watch gymnasts or contortionist, I cringe. I know what they're doing to the joints in the long run.  I would love to give my body to someone just for one day if they think any of these things.

We are living in the era of 'everyone is included' - TO A FAULT;   Such as kids all win trophies, whether they win or lose.   I am ok with not being INCLUDED as a PC athlete, but I have a problem with being specifically called out as excluded.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover.. I am an IRONMAN!

Writing this post is quite frankly the scariest thing I have ever done!  But I feel it needs to be said!

I am a real woman, with a real body, real body issues, and a real accomplishment to share.  Body image is plaguing us, both young and old alike.  We are afraid to share our bodies, we are afraid to do things because of 'how we look.'  I have numerous friends who say they love to swim but 'No one wants to see me in a bathing suit."  It breaks my heart, so I am finally  putting this out there.

I started writing this blog 6 years ago. I named it "FatGirl's Ironman Journey" because I identified with being fat and there's a little tongue in cheek humor on it based on how Triathlon classifies larger athletes.   I've had so many conversations about "FAT", it is a bad word to some, it is an excuse to some, it is a demon of some, and it is a word that I am not afraid of, I am embracing "FATGIRL"

I have wanted to write a post like this for years but honestly, it's scary. I know there will be haters, and I know this will encourage others so I'm doing it.    I've been yelled at: "did you call this fatgirl to just get attention.".. uh no? no one told you to read my blog :).  

Today I weighed 170 lbs.  I am 5' tall!  Yes that puts me in the obese category.  I am not the biggest women ever, I'm also not so small.   I haven't lost hundreds of pounds, I am in awe of those folks! You guys are awesome.  I get looks of "shuttup" from some larger women, they say "you're not fat, cut it out"- but I am, and it's ok.

  I find my self defending 'you're not fat.' I'm like 'hello? you should see me without the spanx or just in a bikini top."  I don't strive to look like one of the Olsen twins, I just don't want to FEEL fat anymore.   I also just recently found myself saying the SAME thing to a friend who I think is beautiful and well, SKINNY.  She isn't happy either, she's had a couple children and said "I'd like to keep that other stupid 5lbs off." I immediately went to the "you are not fat, really are you on the 'overweight or obese line in the health scale?" - wow I'm a jerk.  I thought about it after and  she has a right to feel uncomfortable just like I do.  I think until society makes a little plumpness more the 'norm' we will all have these issues, and we need to stick together.

I am a story of persistence, and of acceptance.  I bounce between 150-170.  I don't really lose weight.  I have tried just about every fad diet, diet meds, nutritionists. Things like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or just tracking calories.  I've tried prescription diet pills and even the OTC scary ones that had ephedra in them. I quietly sat by and did these things to my body without letting anyone know my struggles.  I am so sad about what lengths women and girls are going through 'lose weight' like the cotton ball diet? ugh!    There is a point where so many folks just throw in the towel and just binge eat.

I never lose weight, I was always 'fat'. People say I don't "look" fat, that's good!  I can dress! My crazy outfits are on purpose. A well placed design on a bike shirt hides rolls I don't want to see.  This is the same day as the top picture!

I am almost to a point  of acceptance. I mean I did an Ironman and I'm still fat, that means..guess what, my body wants to be here!  I'd like my pants to fit, I'd like to not be horrified at the 'wrong angle' picture.  I'd like to wear a form fitting shirt.  I doubt any of those things will happen!

What I have to do now is realize, yea so what, I'm fat... but I AM AN IRONMAN!

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Freezer CrockPot Example

This post goes hand in hand with the one from last night.
Here is an example on how to put it all together.
I found recipe from

First, I copied the recipe into my word doc, then copied the ingredients into my excel spreadsheet so I could gather all ingredients.

5-Spice Slow-Cooker Pork Ribs  
3-4 pounds baby back or St. Louis pork ribs
salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse (granulated) garlic powder
1 fresh jalapeño, cut into rings2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons coconut aminos
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Put the ribs into pieces that will fit standing up in the slow cooker. 

Lay the ribs on a cutting board and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

 In a small bowl, mix the Chinese five- spice and garlic powder together,  then massage onto the meat to coat the ribs. Toss the jalapeño rings into the bottom of the slow cooker, and add the rice vinegar, coconut aminos, and tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste is combined with the other liquids. Add the ribs, standing up so they’re not lying in the liquid – or use a roasting rack inside the cooker so the ribs are not lying on the bottom – cover, and cook 6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low. 
When the ribs are fall-apart tender, remove them from the cooker. Pour the liquid into a heat-proof container and refrigerate until the fat separates from the juices. Remove the fat and bring the remaining liquid to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes. Use as a dipping/drizzle sauce for the meat.4. Want ‘em crispy? Throw the ribs in a 400F oven for 10 minutes while you boil the sauce.
Fast Forward to actually prepping this meal for freezing:

I review the ingredients list, and decide what items should go together.  Here I put the liquids in one bag and the spices in another. The reason is that the spices are a 'rub' and the liquid goes in the bottom of the crockpot.  If this recipe simply had a marinade, I would have put the spices and liquid together in one bag.

I then took the ribs out of the store packaging and put them in a ziplock.

My end product, I have a gallon bag with all my necessary ingredients to just start a crockpot meal.  Bag goes into freezer, then 1-2 days before you're going to cook it, put it in the fridge to thaw.

After it thaws, (or depending on how you like to cook, you an put many frozen meats into  a crockpot and it will do fine).  I put the liquid in the bottom. If you have a thicker liquid, you can cut a corner of the bag and squeeze it out like icing a cake!

I tossed the ribs as directed then organized them on their side in the crockpot.

I can't tell you what this will taste like, as I just put it on.  I also made several changes, like I didn't use Chinese 5 Spice, and I didn't have coconut amino,so I used low sodium soy instead.

Hopefully this shows a little more how I put these together.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Prepping Food for the Month!

Today I posted a picture of my latest grand idea and you all seemed to want MORE so here's my brain dump on it!

For the 3 years leading up to Ironman I went to Dream Dinners.  John and I both loved the concept! They provide several meals from which to chose. You go to their store and prepare everything in an hour.  They do the hard work in organizing, chopping, and laying it all out for you.  You just assemble your meals the way you want them, go home, stick in freezer, then pull out as you need them!  Problem for me is once I started training really hard, I wasn't eating enough of the 'meals' to warrant the minimum required purchase.

*note if you stop in the Framingham store, tell them I said HI!

I loved meals for my crockpot, but not all of Dream Dinners went in the crockpot, some were saute, some oven, etc.  Most were simple but just not what I need right now.

I have been trying to collect ideas and recipes on how I can create a bunch of paleo-ish recipes for my CROCKPOT and today I took my first whack at it!

First I collected recipes in Pinterest. I started a board for crockpot and/or Paleo recipes that I intend on modifying or just using. I spent a week or so just collecting recipes when I had a free minute.

Yesterday I went through those recipes and copied a dozen or so into MS Word.  I put a page break between each so I could print it out and stick into the bags.

Next, I went through the recipes and outlined the ingredients into excel. I tallied up all the things I needed from each recipe (including Dill Weed, which I still giggle at writing or saying).  This is probably the most important part. You want to have ALL of your ingredients ready before you start.

Make sure you get good 'freezer' bags. You'll want quart, gallon and some 2 gallon ones. You will also want to get a large open mouth container that can hold a freezer bag open for you while you dump things into it! Otherwise you're messing with the edge of a plastic bag trying not to spill!

Next, the grocery store!  Ugh, I don't shop for a family of 18 but buying this much made me think I was doing just that!  WOW!

I had originally intended on also prepping the meals last night but I had ENOUGH once I collected, and organized the menu for the month then went shopping!

I personally love crockpot meals, but you can do this with LOTS of different meals and preparation styles!  I am also hesitant to post ACTUAL recipes for two reasons:

  1. I haven't tasted any of these yet and more importantly 
  2. I'm a 'non-measure' person.   

I modify recipes, eyeball spices and such.  For example one recipe called for Chinese 5 spice. John hates cloves, so I just threw in some other spices instead. I LITERALLY threw them in,  I couldn't tell you how much! I will continue to collect recipes on Pinterest, I've found that to be a great place to just tag what might look good, or what might be a good base for me.

I pulled out all ingredients and worked off one recipe at a time.  This was a mistake. Next time I will add more prep to my excel sheet so I can have things like veggies cut up appropriately before I start. You will mostly 'prep' the food prior to putting them into the bags. You will rarely cook anything before you freeze it.

If you do try this, you'll want to put your protein in one ziplock.  If that protein has a marinade, just go ahead and add it to the bag.  If it's a 'rub' or other dry spice ingredients put that in a separate small bag to be 'rubbed' before you cook it.   You'll want to put things like 'liquids' together into a ziploc, you may have a 'meal' with 3-4 ziplocks inside.  Put your recipe and directions INSIDE the bag, and write the date on the outside.

I will get better at this and will post some pictures of the step by step next time, but this should get you started!  I do have 4 more meals to do tomorrow night!

**UPDATE: check out my new blog post, it shows a little detailed explanation  of one recipe.

Thanks for reading!

Please consider helping me to reach my goal to get rid of Cancer, one pedal stroke at a time! ! 

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