My Grandma. We didn’t call her Granny or Maw Maw or Grandmother or Mimi. She didn’t roll like that. She was Merj. A nickname given to her by my Grandpa and one that just stuck once her oldest grandchild was born.
She whistled when she walked. She laughed, loved and lived with all she had. She never stopped learning and gave it all back along the way. And the older she got, the more life she had in her.10 years ago, she passed away after being diagnosed with Leukemia, and it was a dream of mine to join Team in Training, and complete an endurance event. I really wanted to run a marathon but I hated to run and didn’t have the courage to sign up and try. So I thought about doing the 100 mile cycling event in Tahoe, but never got around to it. Fast forward to 4 years ago. I was with Lynette at the Crescent City Classic 10K (my first race, ever) and she was gung-ho to sign up for a half marathon. There was one that fall in Baton Rouge and was trying her hardest to convince me to do it with her. I KNEW that she would run a half marathon, with or without me, and I really wanted to experience it with her but REALLY hated running, so I was in a bit of a conundrum. And then it hit me. I turned to Lynette and said, “I’ll do a half marathon with you IF we do it through Team in Training and IF the race is somewhere fantastic because I will never run a half marathon again. It has to be memorable.”
She agreed. We trained with our Team in Training group, each raised $3,500, ran our first half marathon in San Francisco (fantastic destination – check!) and made lifelong friends through this group.
In the last couple of years of her life, she struggled with shortness of breath and would say “Phewf” a lot when she needed to rest. I put it on the side of my shirt in her honor knowing that I would be “phewfing” as well, tackling the hills of San Francisco.
Fast forward to now… many half marathons and a full under my belt. But needing and wanting something different to go after.
In February, without any swimming experience other than knowing how to, but not for sport, and not even owning a bike, I signed up for a half Ironman. I hired a coach, got a bike and went to work. 2 1/2 months in, I completed a 50 mile distance triathlon and was feeling really good about my big race a month and a half later. A week later, I broke my elbow and everything came to a screeching halt. With much contemplation and angst, I made the resolve to back out of my original race and sign up for a replacement that would be in Augusta, GA, in September. I would be healed and have time to get another couple of months of training in. I talked it over with Lynette, got excited about the new race, went to sign up and my heart sank when I saw this – General Entry SOLD OUT…I slept on it that night and woke up wondering if there was any way for me to get into the race if I joined a charity organization – like the one we joined for our first race. After a little digging, I found out that the partner charity for Augusta is the Scott Rigsby Foundation. I had no clue what this was but I wanted to be part of it so that I could secure a spot for the race. Little did I know, at the time, that this foundation would be one close to my heart. As the exclusive charity sponsor of the Ironman 70.3 Augusta, The Scott Rigsby Foundation provides grants to Warriors that were highly deployed or injured during military service to participate in this race. The program, called Operation IRONFREEDOM, enables Warriors with disabilities to regain their health and wellness, recover from mental and emotional injuries, and begin the reintegration process as they transition home from military service.
Why does this charity tug at my heart strings? Both of my Grandfathers fought for our country and one of them, a Prisoner of War for 6 months in Germany and honored with a Purple Heart, is now buried at Arlington National Cemetery. To know just brief snippets of what he endured, how hard he fought to survive and the demons that he silently lived with his entire life, gives me a personal attachment to this fundraising effort.I am truly humbled to do such a small part in giving back to those that risk so much. All I have to do is raise $2,500 and work my ass off to cross the finish line. A small price to pay when you think about the payoff. My biggest wish, through all of this, is to at least give one wounded warrior the gift of hope, a renewed sense of purpose, the will to go after something seemingly impossible, and that unbelievable feeling of crossing the finish line. To swim, bike and run beside these heroes will be an honor that I’m blessed to experience and to train and cross that finish line in memory of my two Grandfathers, has given this race a whole new meaning.
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. In 2 instances, 4 years apart, I took (what I believed to be) an unbelievable leap of faith to go after a remarkable goal – finishing a half marathon and finishing a half Ironman – thinking that the “finish” would be the prize for my hard work and training. The first race, I knew ahead of time why I was running and who I was running for. This go-round, my plan started unraveling right before me and in picking up the pieces, I can now clearly see that THIS was the plan all along. My race journey, my dream, will enable someone else to live theirs and realizing that the finish line, once again, was never meant to be about me is the biggest win of all.
Every single dollar counts. Every single dollar will help a soldier literally get back on his/her feet and chase a purpose.
Click below to donate. And thank you for coming on this journey with me and them.
Plan B. There’s always a Plan B.
As much as I hate not being able to finish what I originally set out to do, I’ve officially decided to back out of Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake. I’ve been struggling with this decision since May 15th after fracturing my elbow and arm and my desire to go finish what I started has been outweighed by the nagging voice in my head telling me to be patient and take the time to heal.
So, I’m readjusting my goal and making it count – in ways that matter more than just crossing the finish line.
I’m thrilled and honored to announce that on September 27th, I will be racing my first 70.3 IRONMAN in Augusta, Georgia, with Operation IRONFREEDOM – a group of athletes raising funds to support the health and wellness of returning wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan.
I will be raising a minimum of $2,500 through the Scott Rigsby Foundation, which will in turn, help our soldiers & their families as they transition back into civilian life.
Not only do I have friends and family that have served in the military and sacrificed their lives for our country, but I am the granddaughter of 2 men that fought for our freedom and one that was a Prison of War during WWII for 6 months in Germany and is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
I’ve witnessed the extraordinary benefits of training and racing as a tool to help our soldiers transition back into “life” and am dedicating this race to giving back to those that gave so much for us. A small amount to help supplement a debt that could never be repaid for their contribution to each and every one of our freedoms. Every dollar that you can contribute, will help give a little piece of their life back.
Every swim stroke, every pedal, every step I take in training from now until race day, will be in honor of our soldiers. And on race day, I will swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1, on behalf of those that can’t, and with those that will.
CLICK BELOW TO DONATE!
Being determined and committed to a training plan for almost 3 months, with 2 out of 3 sports that I knew NOTHING about when I started was a bit grueling (and frustrating) at times. Getting thrown into a training race that is just short of the half Ironman distance just 3 months into training is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Finishing that race, still running and with a gigantic smile on my face, knowing if I had to keep going, I could, was exhilarating. And then breaking myself, literally, a week after that race, and having to just sit still for healing to take place is thoroughly depressing. Oh, and having a broken elbow hurts pretty much 24/7. Every single thing you do with your hand, wrist, fingers, arm…directly effect the elbow. It’s pretty much one of the most annoying things I’ve ever had to deal with. I never knew (because I’ve never broken a bone) how exhausting it is to hurt and how sore you become in other places trying to compensate for not being able to use your arm. And don’t even get me started on the sling.
So, I’ve had plenty of time the last couple of weeks to think about where I started and how my mindset has changed about tackling this 70.3 beast. How much I’ve learned about myself, my capabilities, my will to embrace the unknown, no matter how intimidating, and what it feels like to enjoy the encouragement and accolades but not need them because the accomplishments (however big or small they are along the way) feel so damn great all on their own.
Let’s start with one overwhelming thought that almost kept me from signing up for this half Ironman. One that I kept repeating and questioning and talking about over and over with Lynette before signing up.
“I’ve never done a triathlon in my life. I kind of feel like jumping straight into a 70.3 seems disrespectful to the sport. Shouldn’t I earn my way into training for that by completing all of the smaller distances first to prove to myself and others that I have the “right” to train for such a big distance??”
After now completing a sprint and X-50 distance, and listening to stories (at the gym, on the course, through friends and in blogs), about how people got started and why and how long they’ve been training or racing or attempting to accomplish whatever goal for a number of different reasons, I’ve been able to silence that deafening question in my head with confident peace and resolve.
I also read a facebook post recently where someone said “I don’t feel completing a marathon in under 7 hours is actually “completing” anything. I had a friend that never ever ever runs do a marathon in 5:30 and so my thrill of saying ” I did a marathon” is over.”
Not only am I completely on board (with myself) about “jumping into a 70.3” but that post really gave me all the permission I needed to let go of wondering if I had the right to train for it at all. I quickly realized that the only people that would judge anyone’s efforts or the means by which they accomplish any type of goal , would only be people like the one above. People that validate their own success on their perceived inadequacies of others. If his “thrill of doing a marathon is over” because of his self-proclaimed “worthy” bar, or because someone didn’t put in what he deems as acceptable time into the sport to deserve it, he is the only one not worthy of the respect of the sport. The sport, whatever that may be, bows it’s head to anyone that puts in the time, gives it their heart and finishes knowing they did something they once thought was impossible. It high-fives anyone that crosses that finish line feeling accomplished. And for someone to discount anyone’s efforts to earn that feeling, should be ashamed.
My journey is just that – it’s mine. And I get to work at and train for my goal in my own way, in my own time. And I get to determine what equals success and then I get to experience that “high” (hopefully), each day that I reach a milestone (that I set or that my coach sets for me), each time I swim, bike or run faster, quicker, longer or with more heart than the time before and each time I race, knowing I left all of my potential and then some (on that day) on the course. I get to experience that feeling of “earning” it when I cross the finish line.
No one gets to tell me – or you – what you deserve to train for. No one has the right to judge me – or you – for seeking out a finish line and then going after it. No one is worthy of judging the worthiness of you.
And on that note, I saw my good friend in the scrubs today, Dr. Penton, and I got the thumbs up on my x-ray report.
X-Rays look great. Healing is on the right track. You’re all cleared to run, cycle on trainer and swim with kick board.
To that dreaded sling. #ByeFelicia. To my training plan. #HelloBeautiful. To all that asshat above represents. #GoHome.