Bag Lady – My Review of NOCORI

“Bag Lady” – the term my sweet fiance deems me for the sheer fact he thinks I have too many.  And for the record, I’m not referring to purses, I’m referring to gym bags, grocery bags, totes, etc.  I seem to throw everything into one tote…or five and wonder why I can’t find a thing.  One of my many flaws I presume, BUT then my good friend, Phoebe, came to me with an awesome idea.

Let me tell you about my dear friend Phoebe.  She’s awesome.  And I don’t say that to just say that because she’s my friend and of course she’s awesome because why would I say anything different?  I MEAN IT.  She’s awesome.  She’s everything you want to find in a person – beautiful, smart, driven, hardworking, amazing friend, puts her mind to something and never gives up (I guess that’s driven too, so she’s SUPER DRIVEN!), the passion of giving back to the community, and on and on I could keep going.  So one morning after a workout and we were out grabbing breakfast, Phoebe brought up this new idea.  She had said she was working on this project for a new kind of gym bag. Umm…ok but there are so many gym bags out there, Pheebs.  Ok keep an open mind.  It’s a bag that could be used as a gym bag but be versatile as a purse you could bring around to whatever errands or meet up with friends you needed to do after your workout.  Crazy idea?  Not really when you think about it.  I know for most of us, we are fitting in workouts whenever our schedules permit, which means waking up two hours before a brunch or going to the farmers market.  OR working out on your lunch break (like me!) OR even making it to the gym between leaving work and heading out to dinner or happy hour.  Whenever you can fit it in, but running around with 3 or 4 different bags of stuff.  What if you could just have one and be done?  That’s what this bag is.  Needless to say I didn’t need much more convincing after that.

The bag I am referring to is now called NOCORI and the motto is “More than Just your Gym Bag” and YES it is.  The word “NOCORI” is derived from the Japanese word nokori のこり and means what is left or remaining.  The bag is inspired by Japanese minimalist aesthetics and leaves you with only carrying around what is essential to you.  I have had the pleasure of purchasing a bag to use myself and I am hooked for life!  The appearance of the bag is like a messenger bag and the functionality of one as well.   Style meets functionality!  It’s minimal appearance, yet ability to hold everything you need for the day is what is so attractive to me.   It comes in five style options – three different leather colors with different zipper colors to choose from – Casablanca (shown below), Minuit, Moutard, Kuro, and Sacrebleu.  The bags retail for about $170, depending on style.

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The functionality behind the bag:

There are two zipper pockets – the main pocket at the top is where the money maker is. When you unzip, you will find a dry-wicking, machine- washable mesh compartment. This mesh compartment is what is so genius – this is where you can throw your dirty, super sweaty gym clothes into after your workout and when you make it home, you can unsnap the mesh bag, using the easy to use button snap tabs, and throw it into the wash. This is ideal for anyone from hard core endurance athletes finishing up a 3 hour run to the yogi who loves hot yoga or the momma carrying her kids soaked swim suit.  It holds it all until you get home – safe and sound without ruining your other stuff.

 

The second zipper pouch is used for all your other essentials.  It holds your cash, phone, maybe a snack or two and has a card carrier to keep your plastic and IDs organized.  My favorite part because I can actually find my debit card or gym membership card without having about 7 panic attacks digging through my other “Mary Poppins” bag.  (Mary Poppins bag – meaning I pull everything out under the sun except for the items actually needed.  Unfortunately I’m not practically perfect in every way….damn you MP and your awesome tape measure)

My experience:

I’ve been using the Casablanca style bag for about two weeks now and I can’t get enough.  It goes with me everywhere, looks fashionable, yet keeps everything I hold dear together.  I am constantly running on my lunch break, so I’ve been able to quickly toss my clothes after my run into my bag and head back to work no problem.  I’ve tested the functionality of the mesh compartment and have washed my clothes in it twice now.  I’m happy to report the compartment and clothes came out clean both times.  ALSO the mesh compartment didn’t see any wear and tear from the washing machine – I was nervous about this part and happy to know my fears relieved.

What I love the most about it is how it looks like a normal purse / messenger bag, but also keeps me organized for the day.  I can do so many things without having to have multiple bags for different things.  (NO MORE BAG LADY!)  I’m always looking for better ways to organize my life and keep myself balanced.  I find this is a plus to moving that forward.

I couldn’t be more proud of Phoebe.  She has been planning this for quite some time and to see it come together for her is just so inspiring!  Go check out her website and experience this for yourself.  You even get a little something back for helping out my friend and now small business owner – EATBIKERUN20 gets you 20% off your order.

GO CHECK IT OUT!!!

https://nocori.com/

 

 

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Burnt to a Crisp – Ironman Texas 70.3 – What it Means to Race “Burned Out” on Racing and on Life

Ok y’all.  So I did it – I did another 70.3.  AND it wasn’t a pretty sight.  In my last post, I talked about how mentally and physically draining Ironman Arizona was- why the heck did I sign up for another one?!  I think I have a problem – I think I enjoy inflicting pain upon myself or I’m just plain dumb.  Probably a combination of both?  Who knows.  What I do know is, I had no business signing up for another half iron distance race with ultimately zero downtime after a huge race.  Especially given how draining Arizona was.  BUT here I am, typing up a race report on Ironman Texas 70.3.

Signing UP – Why drinking wine with fellow triathletes is not the best idea:

Backing up a month and a half – I finish Arizona, swore off triathlons for the rest of my life, and contemplated putting my bike up on Craig’s List.  Then these events happened in rapid succession:

  •  Thanksgiving
  • Closed on a House
  • Mom’s Back Surgery
  • Christmas
  • Year End at work – I’m an accountant and this is when sh*t gets real and continues all the way through the first quarter of the year.
  • Disney World Marathon & Trip
  • Chevron Houston Marathon

Ok, so y’all see that I had NO business signing up for Galveston.  Zero. So let’s flash to before Disney and having dinner with some fellow first timer triathletes and fellow teammates.  They decided to make their triathlon debut by signing up for Galveston 70.3 – I LOVE THIS RACE!  I told them it’s fun, it’s perfect for the distance, you’ll have a blast, blah blah – “more wine?” “oh yes please”.  “Rachel just sign up for it – you have plenty of time to train” “more wine?” “yes please” – “SCREW IT, I’LL DO IT!”.  Before I knew it, I was signed up, credit card approved and ready to rock another 70.3.  The LIES wine tells you. The bed of lies.  Oh well – I’ve done this race many times before.  What’s the worst that could happen?

What’s the phrase?  “Life Happens”

After signing up and heading to Disney World, I get back and hit the ground running at work.  My first week back was a blur that I blinked and it was the weekend again.  That Saturday arrives and I’m off doing a shakeout run and picking up my packet for the Chevron Houston Marathon.  That Saturday ended up being the best day of my life, because before I know it, I’m saying YES! to the guy who stole my heart.  Yes, I got engaged!!  AHHH!  What I have a marathon to run in the morning, screw it!  Let’s drink more wine and hang out more with all our friends and family – *gets to top of a mountain* – “I’M ENGAGED!!”.  Needless to say I ran the half the next day – it was hot and I was already sweating wine when I reached the start line.

NOTHING could pop my bubble now – I was engaged, starting wedding planning, shopping for the new house before we decide to move in – “what? start training? OH for that…I have plenty of time to do that – next week, for sure NEXT week”.  I mean what could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Ahh life…can really be a gut punch sometimes.  Go back up to my timeline – remember where it said “closed on a house”?  Exciting right?!  And it was – super exciting!  It was going to be a couple of months before actually moving in, because I still was renting another house and wanted to end that on a good note.  Besides, that left us with a lot of time to throw some fresh paint on the walls and do a little remodeling without us actually being IN the house.

Oh Hello rain and flooding!!  What?  Has it been a year since I saw you last?  Gosh – can’t say I was super excited to see you, but I guess you were.  You know…since you flooded the rental house…and don’t forget about that black mold we found.  Well sh*t.  I guess we have to move out of the rental house in two days.  “training?  what training?  I have to MOVE all my stuff – no time!”.

I know what you’re thinking though, good!  Because we have a house to move into – and you’re absolutely right.  How blessed were we that we had a backup plan, somewhere to go.  Trust me, I know and I was unbelievably thankful of the timing of this.  It was a painful two days of packing, throwing junk out and moving everything in ourselves – but it was well worth it.  We didn’t to do the stuff we wanted to on the front end, but four walls and a roof ain’t bad. “ok ok, NOW I can start training”

“Honey – does that look like water to you?  Yeah right there, coming out of the base boards in our bathroom?”  What’s more dramatic than a face palm now adays?  A face desk or a body slam of some sort?  Think that.  Yup, we had a pipe leak two weeks into us moving into our new house.  That one pipe leak turned into a few and ultimately turned into repiping our ENTIRE house.  We knew buying an older house, we ran that risk of older pipes – but damn…two weeks in??  Water has really become the enemy here.  “oh yeah training – gtfoh – we got new pipes to get installed” Side note: I did do some training here – you can go see my TriDot profile.  It’s there – I SWEAR I logged some workouts. Scout’s honor.

Life slows down, work picks up LIGHT speed:

After the pipes incident, life slowed down a little.  I was able to do some wedding planning and fit in training.  I wasn’t super stoked about training at this point, but I knew I needed to do something to keep my stress levels at work to a reasonable level.  Work progressed with a bank audit, inventory appraisal and then a financial statement audit.  I got stressed – and I mean STRESSED.  Training was helping some, but I was finding myself just plain tired.  BURNT to a CRISP you might say of just everything.  My appetite still wasn’t right from Arizona, I was losing weight and not in the fun way.  In the “I should be eating more, but I keep forgetting to eat lunch at work, and OH hey hot fries and coffee, you’re a good breakfast”.  I surprisingly was able to keep a steady training schedule up until about the last three weeks leading up to Galveston.  I was working 65+ hour weeks and it became “should I sleep or should I train”?  Sleep always wins.  ALWAYS.   I did what I could and when race week arrived I just decided to just go have fun and see what happens.  I think I at least earned the backpack you get at athlete check in.

Race Day – The Great Storm that Never Came:

Leading up to race day, I did what any other athlete would do.  Obsessively watch the weather, and noted that a HUGE storm was heading our way.  The weather man said flooding, lightening, high winds – the perfect weather to race in.  My teammates and I kept watching and the day before the race we just told ourselves that it is what it is and we will take it.  Me kinda secretly crossing my fingers to cancel the bike or something.  You’re totally still a half ironman if you just run 13.1 miles.  I know, that’s not funny, ESPECIALLY for first timers – I promise I kept it positive to my teammates!  I wanted them to have the best time, my life happenings and burn out was not their fault on any level, so I shouldn’t bring those vibes to them.

Race day came bright and early at 4am.  Alarm sounds and it’s time to get up and get ready!  Weather predictions stayed the same, but it looked like we might actually get off the bike before the really bad stuff happened.  Or that’s what I was hoping – Galveston is known for bad winds already, then you throw in a thunderstorm and you’ve got yourself a wind party.  NOT the fun kind either…is there a fun kind?  Not sure…mental note to google this after I post this novel, excuse me, I mean blog post.  (I just scrolled up on this thing.  It’s getting long, I’ll wrap this up shortly.  Promise – hang in there with me!) Back to race day – everyone got dressed, packed in the car, and my honey drove us to transition.  Good ol’ transition.  I made it quick – threw on some nutrition, organized my stuff, checked my tires and out I went.  Gosh I really had to pee and that line looked like I might have to pee in my wetsuit.  Don’t worry, I didn’t, I made it.

The swim was kinda ok, but also kinda crappy.  SUPER choppy but at the same time the current was nice coming in.  So basically I drank a lot of water, but then the ocean passed me in like crowd surfing.  Ok so that wasn’t so bad.  I actually think I might have earned a 30 second PR on that.  Score!

The bike SUCKED.  Ok so typically on this course, it’s an out an back.  So one way is tail wind and the other way is head wind.  I knew this going in, but I also checked those weather predictions and saw those beautiful 30+mph gusts.  Oh goody!  Going out is when I FLY!  I always tell myself that Lance Armstrong should really call me so I can tell him how amazing a bike rider I am and I can give him so many tips on being awesome like me, then I get checked coming back in because headwind kicks in to remind me how much of a NOOB I am.  This year wasn’t the same.  Going out, I could maybe feel a tail wind?  But with the constant gusts coming at me I asked Jesus to take the wheel so I wouldn’t fly off the road and clinched my legs so tight for 28 miles and then got beat up by the typical head wind coming back in.  Bullocks!

The run – ugh.  Let’s just say that I screwed up my IT band from holding on for dear life on the bike, soooo I practically walked the entire run.  Oh and that storm?  It never came, it actually went AROUND Galveston.   And to many – especially my teammates – was the best part of the day.  You know, other than them ALL finishing their first triathlon that happened to be a half ironman!  (seriously, so proud of all of them)

Do as I say, not as I do:

Basically no PR for me, but did I expect one?  Hell no.  I was not mentally or physically ready for this race and boy did my performance show it!  Could I blame the “race conditions” as part of the reason my race was shot to hell?  I could.  But I would also be lying to myself, because going into this day I wasn’t ready.  I should have never done this race, I should have taken a well needed rest from endurance to rebuild strength for my body and mind.  That is exactly what I’m doing now.  Taking a break – and taking a long one from triathlons.  I’ll be back, for sure – and with a new last name at that!   So kids, do as I say, not as I do.  Take a break when you need one.  And REALLY take a break – your body needs it…your brain needs it.  There’s always another race and another time.

 

 

 

 

Heart and Courage – Ironman Arizona

Wow, so I just realized I haven’t blogged for a whole year!  Here’s to getting better at this. I wanted to give a detailed race recap of my experience in Arizona to hopefully help myself in future races or to remind myself to never sign up for another Ironman again (70.3s for me! – who am I kidding?  I’ll probably sign up again in a few years).  I wish I could write and say I had the greatest race of my life or everything went to plan, but what I can say, as the days pass since race day, I fought and fought hard for that finish line.  No matter what, I keep reminding myself that I finished, I crossed the finish line in the time allowed and made it to see another day.  For these simple things, I am grateful.  (Warning, this is a long read)

Friday – November 18th, 2016

After days (let’s be honest, weeks) of packing, stressing, planning, training, and most importantly, raising money, I found myself upon race weekend.  Casey and I got up around 5:30am to get ready and head to the airport.  Casey’s parents had came the night before to pick up Yoshi, I shed a few tears to see him go, knowing the next time I saw him would be after the race.  *GULP*!  We pack up the car and head out to the airport.  One speed bump was that I found out that what I thought was my driver’s license, was my concealed handgun license – FYI you can’t use this as a valid ID in the airport.  I made it through security, but got to third base with a TSA officer with a very intimate pat down.  BUT we were in the clear and soon we were boarded on the plane for take off!

The plane ride was smooth and a quick two hour plane ride later, we were in Phoenix!  We got off the plane, grabbed our rental car, and were off to meet up Team Ironman Foundation for our luncheon banquet.

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This might have been my favorite part of the entire weekend.  The Ironman Foundation brought in the organizations that our fundraiser dollars were being donated to, which was so heartwarming to hear how we impacted the community of Tempe and really made all the months of fundraising worth every penny. This was something I would take with me on race day, that I didn’t do this race for me, I did it for so many others. A shout out to every single one of you that donated to me on this day – YOU made this all possible and you helped so many people in the process.  We all win!  Bonus points were we got some pretty cool swag, too!

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After the banquet, I went straight to athlete check-in.  Casey hung around the Ironman store and I went to go get all my stuff for race day.  If you haven’t participated in an Ironman, let me tell you you get SO MUCH stuff that you use for race day.  You first walk in and sign your life away – kidding, but you do sign release forms and “just in cases” for emergencies. You get your wrist band with your race number, your race number stickers, swim cap, race bib, timing chip, all your bags for transition, and of course THE backpack everyone gets excited about.

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After I finished check-in, we walked around Ironman Village for a bit and then headed to the grocery store to pick up some snacks and breakfast food for me on race morning, checked into the hotel, then laid around until dinner.

At dinner we met up with my good friend Bryan and the whole Tri Dot and Tri Mafia family to talk out some prerace jitters and just meet some pretty awesome fellow triathletes.  Some racing and some volunteering to be able to sign up for the race the following year.  All in all, it was a great time!  Now it was time to head home and get some good rest, because we all know sleeping the night before a race is a fairy tale that hardly ever comes true.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Wow!  I had the best sleep Friday night – and thank goodness for that.  With the time difference, I woke up wide awake around 5am, but laid around until about 7. We got up and went downstairs at the hotel for breakfast that didn’t really hit the spot, so we just  went back upstairs so I could finish packing my transition bags.  Today I had to go grab my bike from Cycle Chauffeur and then go check in my bike and gear bags.  I am glad I have a slight OCD, because getting ready for a race like this takes a LOT of logistics planning.

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Before check-in, I met up with Bryan again and the Tri Dot crew to do a short shake out run on the race course to get an idea of the run route.  We got good almost three miles (maybe two?) and then  Bryan went off to do the practice swim.  I’ve never done a practice swim for a race before, and the superstitious in me said I better not start now.  I decided to go pick up my bike and then head to check in.

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All went pretty smooth and quick and before I knew it, I was ready!  All checked in and ready to rock  140.6 miles the next day.  Then my nerves set in.  HOLY SHIT I WAS ABOUT TO DO ANOTHER IRONMAN IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS!!

Casey and I walked around Ironman Village for a little bit longer and then my stomach said it was time for lunch.  We have a great friend that lives in the Phoenix area and made lunch plans to meet up.  We ate lunch at a cool little Italian grocery store, I grabbed some spaghetti and meatballs (carb loading hoolllaaaa!) and enjoyed some conversation.  We hadn’t seen Patrick in a long time, so it was a great catch up.  After lunch, I told Casey I needed a few more things to add to my special needs bags so we all went to REI to do a little more shopping around.  We got what we needed, plus a few more things (thank you REI dividends!) and then headed back to the hotel to relax before the big day.  I got back to the hotel and I decided I wanted to do something more to show my appreciation to every single person that donated, encouraged and inspired me to get me to race day.  So after I put my Tri Tats on, I decided to grab a sharpie and start writing all the names of my supporters on me, so that everyone came with me.  This was when I found myself in the darkest spots of the day, I could look down and see all the names and remember why I was doing this.  (Casey graciously helped me!)

img_3226We called in dinner afterwards relaxed and watched movies until I fell asleep around 9pm.  Of course I woke up every hour on the hour until my alarm went off at 4am, but that was expected. I was ready to get this show on the road.

Sunday,  November 20, 2016

PRERACE:

Holy Sh*t.  It’s race day.

As mentioned, I really couldn’t sleep all night.  My nerves took full control and it took everything in me not to just break down and freak out.  Yes, I had put in so many hours of training, yes I had put in the dedication, but could I do this?   Could I finish this?  Would I let everyone down, most importantly myself?  I had all these questions running in my head and then the worst thing that could have happened that morning happened.  Mother Nature stopped by (sorry for the TMI) two friggin weeks early.  A huge curve ball.  I sat in the bathroom and all the tears came, I couldn’t do this, I was already feeling sick – this is going to be a huge rock to move.  As I pulled myself together, Casey came to the rescue. He reminded me that I’m going to face pain that I have faced before and that I can overcome this.  It’s just something I will have to deal with, but I can do it.  I will do it. I didn’t travel all this way to fail, I will succeed.  So with that, I got dressed, ate my pop tarts, and headed out the door.

We arrived at transition way to quickly in my opinion, I needed about an hour drive, but 10 minutes later we were there.

We walk through Ironman Village and Casey stood by while I walked into transition to drop my nutrition off and fill up my water bottles with nuun.  I cried the whole time I walked in, my nerves were there and I had a hard time controlling them.  Thank GOD my friend Bryan saw me and gave me the best pep talk before.  It calmed me down and I made my mind turn the “I can’ts” to “I can and I will”.  I also met up with Julianne and Sarah from the Ironman Foundation.  They gave me the best hugs and warm wishes as they helped me set up my bike.  I am forever grateful for all three of these people for seeing me before the race start.  I needed the smiling faces. I needed the support and confidence at that moment.

Flash forward after I  peed and walked back over to Casey, it was time to go.  Casey helped me put my wetsuit on and gave me the best hug as warm tears started falling again.  He kissed me on the forehead and told me to go get em.

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I began my walk to the swim start and about that time, two volunteers saw me and saw how nervous I was.  They both gave me more well wishes and helped me get to my spot for the rolling swim start. One of the ladies helped introduce me to some fellow racers getting ready to swim that were in my corral.  I met one lady doing her first and two other guys that had done countless.  They all gave me the best pep talks and talked to me about how the day was going to go, and all about this particular course.  One guy told me, he said “Just know today you will have highs and lows, just like any other day.  The highs will make you feel invincible and the lows will make you feel like you didn’t train hard enough and you aren’t strong enough.  Know that these moments will come and accept them and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You are stronger than your lows, you will beat them and you will hear your name called at the end of today”  Start the water works again – boy did they made me feel so much better!  The spectators along the swim start were another group of amazing, they saw my tears and all started yelling for me and some even offering up prayers to me.  All this support, all this love, I could do this.  I will do this.  And before I knew it, I jumped in.

SWIM: 1:37:08

This was the best part of the day.  I jumped in and just as expected, it was cold, but nothing different than I had experienced before.  I would rate it about like how cold Ironman Texas 70.3 swim is in Galveston.  It’s cold, but boy do you appreciate it as you get about 1000 meters in.  I felt good on the swim.  I took my time, kept it easy.  I wasn’t breaking any records here and I wanted to feel as fresh as possible for the bike.  45 minutes later and I was halfway through – hell yes!  There was some kicking and pushing during the first half, but the last half was smooth sailing.  It didn’t get congested again until right before the finish and I had a little bit of a struggle to get out of the water as a lot of people were coming in and started kicking again.  Overall – the swim was great.  I felt great the whole time, no stopping, just smooth swimming.  Before I knew it, I was out of the water and running to get my wetsuit stripped.  Here comes the hard part – the bike.

TRANSIITON 1: 11:07

I ran out of the water, down the shoot and the volunteers had my bag ready to go.  Grabbed it and ran to the changing tent.  I told myself I was changing every transition to cut down on chaffing and keep myself comfortable. It was going to be a LONG day afterall!  It also was a little chilly and I didn’t want to be cold, especially on the bike.  I changed into bike shorts and my Ironman Foundation bike jersey, along with some arm sleeves (thank you Tim, I promise I will give them back soon!) and of course my shoes and helmet.  I gulped down two Honey Stinger gels and off I went to go grab my bike.  Julianne and Sarah were out there yelling for me as I grabbed my bike.  I was off!  112 miles, let’s do this!

BIKE: 7:45:33

I got on the bike and I was so excited – I was doing it!  I couldn’t believe it.  I read race reports that I shouldn’t be fooled by how easy the first 9 miles were, so I tried not to get too excited, because I knew that the 9 miles or so on the Bee Line Highway were going to be rough, full of headwind and a nice climb up.  The course is three loops of about 37ish – 38 miles, going out is the hardest and then going back into town would be a blast.  I kept telling myself to go easy going out and then pedal for your life on the way back in.  Around the 9th mile, my excitement went away and I started feeling, well, not so great.  Seriously?!  MILE 9?!  I first thought, well maybe I was still a little out of it from the swim, so I just told myself to get through the next 9 miles and an aid station would be at the top of the hill.  This was about at the point where the incline started, I couldn’t stop on the incline, so I just pushed as much as I could to get up and get to the aid station.  I might have been pushing 12 miles an hour here.  It was a struggle and took all of me to climb it at this point, every pedal stroke my stomach felt worse and worse.  I FINALLY made it to the top.  I clipped out of my bike right at the turn around and two spectators came to  my aid.  They were asking if I needed anything and then helped me get to one of the volunteers at the aid station.  This is when I met my saving grace – the best damn volunteer who helped me every single time I came back to that aid station.  Unfortunately my stomach got the best of me here and welp, there goes all the nutrition I had consumed so far.  The nutrition that I had used all during training, my stomach decided it didn’t want it that day – the day of all days for my stomach to tell me no.  I ended up chunking all of it away and my helper got me chips, water and bananas.  He told me these will get me through the rest of this, as long as I can keep it down.  That was all I needed.  So, on race day, I changed my nutrition strategy.  At this point – you do what you have to do, right?  That seemed to help me and my stomach allowed me to keep it.  I got back going and was able to keep that food down for the remainder of the first loop (which I FLEW back down – that downhill was so much fun!) and I kept it down through the second loop.  The second loop the winds shifted and instead of headwind going out and tailwind coming back, the second loop turned into headwind both ways.  Fantastic.  I kept feeling off, but no more throwing up at least through this loop.  I wrapped up the second loop and finally saw Casey!!  I was so happy to see him, I stopped to talk to him and shoved another banana in my mouth and got a much needed hug.  He could see in my face I wasn’t feeling well, but he told me I was looking great and doing so well.  He’s a good liar. 🙂 Unfortunately, this was around the time I started feeling worse again – please stomach don’t throw up, I have another loop left!

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Before I left to start loop three, Casey gave me another pep talk – “You’ve got plenty of time, just get through this last loop and you will get to your favorite part.  You’ve got this, but try to find someone to ride with, you need a friend to help keep you going.”.  He’s right.  Ok, well – here goes nothing.  I start the final loop and normally I passed the first aid station on the loop, but this time I had to stop.  My stomach stopped cooperating and welp, there goes all that banana I just ate.  This was about the time I thought to myself if I should stop, how could I go on if I couldn’t keep any food down?  Yeah I could push myself through 38 more miles on the bike, but I still had to run 26 miles.  How could I do that when I can’t eat?   I told myself, just get through the bike and you can make that decision when you get back to transition.  You can at least do that – 2/3 of the race ain’t bad – just one pedal stroke at a time.  38 miles isn’t that much.  Come on. You got this.  I made it to the aid station halfway through the loop that I had stopped at every time.  The spectators I had seen the first loop were still there and yelled when they saw me again (“Rachel!!!  Keep going, girl!!”), and so was my angel volunteer.  He helped get me more chips, but I couldn’t hold any more bananas at this point.  I tried eating one, but I gagged it back up.  So chips it was.  Tostitos, bless you.  About this time, a girl I had seen throughout the race rolled up to the aid station.  We chatted a bit and decided to wrap up the final 18 miles together.  Yay a friend!!   I learned a lot about this girl – she had been diagnosed with diabetes and was doing this race to raise money for the disease as well as because a person in her life said she couldn’t do this because she had diabetes.  How awesome is that?  She was doing it!  She inspired me to keep going, even with fresh vomit on my shirt, I had no excuse to not do this. We chatted for a while, but then when we had about 7 miles left, she got her second wind and took off and I unfortunately was still on the struggle bus to finish. I am thankful to have met her – I know she killed it and became an Ironman that day.  Another thing I was thankful for was to get off the Bee Line Highway, no more damn wind!  I still had some miles left, but I could feel I was coming to the end and then…  Finally!  There is was, the finish…I could see transition…finally I could stop pedaling.  Finally I could get off this damn bike.

TRANSITION 2: 11:57

I came into transition full of tears (yes I know, the whole day was full of tears.  I’m surprised at this point I had any left) and the best volunteer grabbed my bike from me to return back.  I almost sold it to him right then – KEEP THE DAMN THING!  Kidding, but seriously, we need a break.  I began running to my last transition bag and saw Julianne and Sarah jumping up and down.  I HAD MADE IT!  I MADE IT BACK!!

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More tears, of course, and the thought of stopping that I had at the beginning of the last loop on the bike had vanished, I was going to do this.  I was going to finish what I had started.  I ran into the tent again, and the another angel sent volunteer came to my aid.  She saw the stress in my face and immediately came to help me.  Side note, can I just say that yes ALL volunteers are awesome, but the tent volunteers are amazing.  She saw all of me changing and still reached down to put on my socks.  I smelled awful, and I am thankful for her help.  I wish I had all of your addresses to bake you brownies, you deserve so much for what all of you did for me.  As I finished getting dressed, I drank some coke in hopes of settling my stomach and then, before I knew it, I ran out.  It was time to run.

RUN: 5:54:59

I took off out of the run out tunnel and headed out onto the run course.  My stomach still didn’t feel right, but at least I knew I had chicken broth waiting for me at the aid stations.  I was in hopes that would help ease my stomach some.  Of course the first aid station didn’t have it, I learned that it was at every other aid station.  Dammit.  Well, coke and water it is.  I drank more coke and some water and trucked along, 1 mile down, 25 to go.  At this point, I just told myself, get as far as you can.  Aid station two came along and BAM there it was, chicken broth.  I swear this was from Jesus himself.  I was waiting for a priest to come out and say “Blood of Christ” or something because my god, it was amazing.  It perked me up some and there it was 2 miles down.  I made it fairy ok through the first loop like this.  My stomach never really felt right, but I was able to push an 11:00 per mile pace fairly ok.  Far from what I had trained for, but at this point, if I was running – I was happy. I finished the first loop and around this time I saw Casey again. Oh bless him.  I stopped and gave him the biggest hug I could muster up.  My stomach had gotten worse through mile 12 and 13, so stopping for a few minutes sounded amazing.  He asked me how I was doing, and I said “meh, ok”.  He told me I was killing it on the run and if I kept this up I would be done in just a couple more hours!  Keep going!!   Well, I had gotten this far right? Hoping my stomach would hold out for 13 more miles on coke and chicken broth, I set out to start loop 2.  I yelled out “please go find me at mile 20, I’ll need to see your face there!”, and off I went.

Loop 2 of the run was when my body crashed.  And crashed hard.  Chicken broth and coke no longer worked and at about mile 14, I let it all out again.  You know you are looking pretty bad when all the volunteers start coming to you and asking if you are ok or “do you want to sit down for a second?”.  Around this time I heard the guy’s voice from the start line of the swim.  “You will have lows today, accept them and just keep putting one foot in front of the other”, so I did.  I knew it was time to finish this race with what I had left – my heart.  It was still pounding and it was still telling me I could do this.  I came too far to quit with just 12 miles left.  I came too far to let all the people around me that got me to the start line down.  I was finishing, dammit.  The rules said you could run, walk, or crawl, and I’ll do all three if I needed to get to those lights and that finish line.

I couldn’t run aid station to aid station like I had done during the first loop, so I switched to running 2 minutes, walking 2 minutes.  This seemed to keep my stomach feeling off, but not off enough to need to throw up again.  Whatever works, right?  I did this all the way to around mile 17 when I met a new friend.  A woman who looked like she was doing the Ironman struggle shuffle like I was.  I had seen her a few times already during the run and decided I needed someone to help me finish this today.  So I ran up beside her and asked her straight up, “Hey, do you want to run together?”  Her reply was “Only if you don’t mind walking”  Me – “Girl I love walking”.  I made a new friend!  Turns out her watch had died and she had been counting in her head how many seconds to run and walk, so I was happy to help by us doing the run and walk combo.  We talked for a while and I found out this was her 4th Ironman and she was from Corpus Christi, Texas – yay I found a fellow Texan!!  She had told me she had done Texas a few times and that was her favorite race.  We shared a lot with each other and helped push one another to the finish line.  We decided that our motivation to finish was that we just wanted to go to bed at that point.  Feet up?  A shower?  Stop moving?  Oh my gracious, those things sound like me seeing a unicorn at this point.  As we talked, the miles ticked by 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and then 24 came.  Up this point, I graciously saw Casey again at mile 19 – gave him a high five and said “I’m going to keep running, I can’t stop or I’ll stop!”.  He yelled “keep going hun, you got it!” and then he showed back up at mile 23.  I yelled at him to get to the finish line because he was supposed to put a medal around my neck and dammit he better be there.  Like I said before, mile 24 came and boy did that wall.  I thought my wall was at mile 14, but apparently this wall came with a mote and a draw bridge that I needed three passwords for and fight a troll to get through.  My body stopped completely.  I couldn’t run 2 minutes, shit I could barely run 1 minute.  The course had a lot of hills throughout it as you ran up on the shoulder of the highway, so you had to run up the overpass (seriously Ironman, you jerk – who does that?!).  I came to the last one and my body said “Nope, nope, nope”.  I asked my friend if we could just walk for a while because I couldn’t run.  I also told her, she could go on without me if she had the energy to run it in.  She told me no, we would finish together.  Thank you to the heavens for all these wonderful people who carried me through this day.  We walked the last two miles and before I knew it, my ears perked up – is that the crowd?  Is that Mike’s voice calling out names?  Oh yes, yes it is!  It’s here!  I made it!!  We got to the last .2 and I said “let’s run this bitch in”.  And that’s the last I remember.  The flood of the lights, the loud cheers of the crowd, and all the tears rushed down my face.  I did it.  I finished.  “Rachel Miller, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”.

As promised, there he was.  My knight in shining armor, my sherpa, my person – standing there waiting for me to put my medal around my neck and catch me as I started to collapse.  More tears poured down my face because there wasn’t anyone else I wanted to see and to hold me at that moment, than Casey.  Julianne and Sarah were there too, screaming congratulations and how proud of me they were.  I couldn’t believe it, I was done.  I could sit, I could stop.

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Well there you have it.  I am officially a 2x Ironman finisher.  This race wasn’t easy, in fact, it was the hardest race of my life.  I have said it before, but I was very disappointed in my time, but to be honest, as the days, now weeks have passed since this race, I am more proud of my spirit that pushed me to get to the finisher’s chute.  I didn’t give up.  I had the courage to start this journey and used all of my heart to finish.  This is for everyone of you who supported me to get me here, this is your finish too. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!  It might be awhile before I sign up for another full, but I think one day I will be back. Until next time, see you later Arizona.  Thank you for showing me that I am stronger than my fears, stronger than my doubts and most importantly, stronger than the voice inside my head that says “no”.  Sometimes Ironman isn’t about the time you finish, but the journey and triumph of how you finish.   I can. I will. I did.

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Finding my light.

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This quote is more than just a line from a book, but a phrase I read to myself often going through difficult times.

Depression, anxiety, stress, OCD, the list can go on when it comes to mental illness.  It’s always hush hush.  No one wants to speak about it for fear of coming off crazy, judged, or worse – abandoned.

For those of you who don’t know me, I haven’t always been the happy, bubbly, endurance junkie that I am today.  No, I didn’t have a hard life – great parents, great home life, blessed with parents who sent me to college debt free, and a family (and friends!) who loved and supported me no matter what.  How did I still end up depressed with an eating disorder?  The answer is, I have no idea.  I always thought to myself, “I have nothing to be depressed about, what is wrong with me?” And honestly, that happens more than people think.  Chemical imbalances happen to the happiest of people.  It can be hereditary or just something that happens.  Mine was hereditary.  My mother has suffered most of her adult life with OCD and depression and unfortunately passed this onto her kids.  Absolutely not her fault, there are things in life we cannot control and we must carry on with the cards that we are dealt.

For most of my life, I have been happy.  As mentioned before, I have nothing to complain about.  I was blessed with wonderful parents, family, great home life, a roof over my head, clothes on my body and food in my belly.  I never thought about weight, or what healthy food was, or any of that “adult” stuff until I hit high school.   I was about 14 years old in my 9th grade health class (the irony, right?).  We were learning about body fat percentage and how much a person should have (given factors such as age, height, gender, etc).  When it was my turn to go up to my teacher’s desk for him to do my measurements, he did them and then looked at me and told me “you’re actually considered above average, you should really look into doing something about that”.  I honestly didn’t really understand what he meant, I mean what 14 year old does?  “Am I fat?” I asked my mom when I got home, to which she assured me I was “nowhere near fat” and you know, whatever mom says is the truth.  I left it at that and moved on.  It wasn’t until my sophomore year (about 15 years old) that my best friend said we both needed to lose weight and introduced me to the first diet I would ever be on – the Atkins Diet.  And so began my obsession with my weight.  I went the rest of high school trying to not eat, and if I did, go straight to the treadmill to run it off.  I did the yo-yo thing for a number of years, and when that stopped working I went to diet pills, and then finally purging myself.  It still scares me to this day about what the effects of those pills I took will do to me long term, but that’s another post.  I began purging in college, about 19 years old when I moved out of my parents’ house.  As anything, it started out once a week, then once a day, and then it grew to whatever I put in my mouth I would immediately go to the bathroom.  That would sometimes be 9-10 times a day.  It was like this was my release for myself every day.  When my roommate was home, I would act like I needed to shower and bring a bowl of some sort into the shower with me and thought the sound of the shower would drown out any evidence of what I was doing.  I would learn later that all these attempts of sneaking my illness were not as ninja like as I had given myself credit for.   This went on until I was 21 years old and my cousin caught me in the act.  At that point when she threatened for me to tell my parents or she would, I knew I needed help.  How could I have let it get this far?  How did I think this was healthy for me?  I was killing myself slowly every single day and in my mind I thought it was exactly what I needed to do to fit the mold of the “perfect body” image of what I had in my head.

Once the hard part of telling my parents was over, I went to seek help and after digging deep, I realized that it was a lot more than just body image I was suffering with.  It actually turned out that I was using my body as an excuse for a lot of the other things going on in my life that I won’t go into, but were tough for a young teenager / adult to go through.  It made me anxious.  It made me depressed.  And it made me focus on my body until I became completely and utterly obsessed.  I hadn’t put together that if I had a particularly stressful day or situation, it made me binge and purge more.  Like it was a natural response my brain ordered me to do. Your brain is such a powerful muscle in the body, and when it is sick, it can be quite the little liar.  Your brain can tell you anything about yourself in such a way that it has you eating from a spoon…every word seems like the absolute truth, even when it is far from.  When you suffer from mental illness, it almost seems like your brain becomes the enemy to your body.  Your thoughts are so poisoning and you are left feeling so defeated.  (Side note, isn’t it funny too how AMAZING your brain can be when you are going through something completely different, like an endurance race or studying for a really hard exam or any other life event.  Your brain, when healthy, can keep you going.  Convince you that you are ok and that you will get through this.  Our bodies are pretty freakin awesome.)

After two years in therapy and medication, I finally was able to take control back of my life.  I found the gym, I found a spin bike and I found running.  Along with incredible support from my family, I found some peace with myself.  Happily ever after right?  Unfortunately no.  A lot of people aren’t aware that with mental illness, it’s a lifetime partner.  You find ways to control it, but whispers of it are always there in the back of your mind, waiting for the perfect opportunity to return.  Whenever a weak spot in your life happens, it finds its way back to the front lines ready to take over.

Fast forward to today, and I have found myself falling backwards back into the hole of OCD, anxiety and depression.  I am happy to say that I am still 7 years strong of no purging relapse, but the beast takes on many forms.   About 6 months ago, I noticed a change in myself – subtle, nothing major, but a change.  I started getting really irritated at people closest to me, self-criticized myself more and more, wanting to spend more time at home sleeping and not wanting to do anything, stopped training for the marathon I was so hopeful for a PR at, and pushing people away from me.  I would pick fights then immediately apologize and cry.  I was scared to lose everyone around me, especially him, and at the same time I thought they were all better off without me.  I began thinking I was burden, not worth anyone’s time anymore.  I was inconvenience.  I was unworthy of anyone’s love.  All this was happening and I still hadn’t said a word to anyone about it.  I didn’t want to bother anyone.  I didn’t want to feel judge.  I was scared to admit that my demons had returned, scared to admit how crazy I felt, and wanted to protect everyone from having to deal with my problems.  So I kept them all to myself.  I would have break downs and just freak out, cry, make up things in my head that were so far from true, but my brain convinced me they were reality.  Again, I thought I was being sneaky by keeping them to myself or doing everyone a favor, but honestly I was hurting them and especially him.  I hurt him so bad that I almost lost him, all because I wouldn’t tell him.  I wouldn’t open up.  When I finally did, it was because I had backed myself into a corner and if I didn’t tell him, he would have been gone.  Shaking and crying, I came clean.  I poured my broken heart out.  I felt naked, exposed and scared that he would just leave.  I gave him an out, because in my mind “who would want to deal with me?”  I am so thankful that I was wrong. As much as I didn’t want him to take on my problems, he took them from me and he did it with so much grace, kindness and most importantly, with love.   I have been able to tell my family again and sought out help.   It has given me new hope and my fighting spirit has returned.  I am so grateful for this life and though it can seem difficult at times, it is so very much worth it.

I wrote this for anyone that is suffering with mental illness, in hopes that I gave you some courage to fight your own demons. You CAN find happiness again, if you only turn on the light.  I apologize for the novel here, but I felt like I needed to open up about myself to continue to help me heal.  To show myself that I’m not afraid of this and it does not own me.  It is NOT who I am, just a small part – a very small part.  I hope this helps anyone else that suffers with mental illness and for you to know that you are not alone and it is NOTHING to be embarrassed about.  Everyone has their own demons, you are not a burden, and you are SO worth this beautiful life we have.  If you need a listening ear, I am here for you or I can even point you in the right direction to help.  You do not have to suffer alone.

When thinking what I am thankful for this holiday season, it is this life.  It is not perfect, but it is mine.  Thank you for listening and thank you to those closest to me for all of your help and support through this.  I say thanks for each of you every single morning.  You are all my light in my darkest of times.  ❤

Checking in – 8 weeks out til San Antonio!

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Ok guys, it’s been forever since I have posted and A LOT has happened since February. I’ve been able to keep my promise to myself and nailed most of my goals I placed for building myself back up to training.  I wasn’t able to do the 10K I wanted to, but I have kept pushing myself and feel confident in my new abilities.  Strength training/yoga/HITT workouts carried me through most of the year with minimal running, so when it was time to start training again in August, I was ready!  Took a few weeks to get back into running long, but all the strength training I did made my legs strong and able to handle the endurance.  I also was able to complete my first Tour de Pink – a bike ride dedicated to helping raise awareness for breast cancer.  The team I was on helped raise over $30,000 dollars!!  This was an amazing group of women that I was so honored to have been apart of and to ride with.  It was truly an amazing day.  We rode just over 63 miles.  Amazing!

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Flash forward to today, I am 8 weeks out from my 4th marathon.  I am so excited!  This will be my first one that isn’t the Houston marathon, and like mentioned previously, my first time I won’t be seriously training through the holidays.  I’ve had some bumps along the way, everyone knows a training cycle isn’t complete without a few weeks of life happening and disrupting what you thought was the PERFECT plan.  It happens.  Burnout happens, sickness happens, injuries, putting your goals to the side to take care of others happens, LIFE HAPPENS.  And that is OK!  Learning to let go of the idea of perfection has helped me enjoy this process more and I know that I will still be ready when my toes reach the start line.  The only thing I have control of is my reactions and making sure I still put one foot in front of the other and thankfully I am still doing that.

Since I have had a few weeks of life happenings, I needed something to help motivate me to get out and get that awesome long run I’ve been without.  I made a spontaneous decision, with the help of some pep talks from my lovely boyfriend and another good friend of mine, to sign up for a race this weekend.  It’s the 10 for Texas in the Woodlands.  I am planned to have 10 miles at race pace with my long run of 17 miles this weekend, so what better way to get the 10 in, then race it?   I have planned to run a few warm up miles and then run the remaining after the race as a cool down.  For me, sometimes I need that taste of competition to fire me back into focusing on my goals.

What do you do when you lose focus?  What are some ways that you keep your stress down or how do you handle life when it throws to much at you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories!

Happy Miles,

Rachel ❤

Next up: How not eating enough, too much stress and not enough sleep can completely wreck your goals and your health.  (aka how I totally didn’t check myself and wrecked myself)

Rebuilding My Base and Finding My Strength

Houston Chevron Marathon has passed, so time to reflect on what didn’t work, what did work, and what I need to do to lock in my goal of qualifying for Boston by the end of the year.  It’s an aggressive goal, yes, but I want it.

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Believe me – this goal scares me.  I’m scared of failing.  I’m scared of how hard it’s going to be.  It’s almost impossible to shave off 30 minutes off a marathon time in one training cycle, most people at most can shave off 10 minutes.  It’s going to be brutal, it’s going to take time, but I’m going for it.

I’ve spent the last several weeks researching new workouts, new approaches to marathon training (not doing a long run every week and focusing more on speed/interval training), nutrition, etc.  The Internet is a beautiful thing. 🙂  I also bought a book around Christmas time that I’ve been reading called “Build Your Running Body”.  This has proved to be very beneficial!  It has all the basics (which are great to read every now and then), mental training (that I desperately need), sample training plans, sample workouts, nutrition, the list goes on and on.

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Also, my sweet boyfriend got me a training journal for Christmas called the Believe Journal.  It’s a year’s worth of entries to set goals, plan out how to crush them and go to work.  It has sections of motivation, checking in with yourself, a brief “how to use this journal” and so much more.  This journal and this blog are going to keep me accountable!

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I’ve also decided that the Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon will be my race.  It is December 6th of this year, which gives me plenty of time to rest, recover, and rebuild my running body.  It also lets me enjoy the holidays instead of running through them.  (I’ll be tapering through Thanksgiving and completely off for Christmas!  That hasn’t happened in YEARS!)

As for now – I’m stripping everything and starting new.  Relearning everything.  My approach is to spend January – March to mainly cross train with some running.  I have found yoga and lifting weights to be extremely therapeutic with a little swim/bike/climb. Since the 40 days challenge is going on until the end of February, I’ve been practicing 5 times a week, weight training 3 times a week and finding a run twice a week.  Climbing happens sometimes on the weekends, and I’m finding spin class at nonameFIT studios on Friday nights.  Trying to fit in swimming, but probably won’t add that back in until March or April.  For these first three months I only want to do what I feel like doing.  I don’t want to feel like I’m training, I just want to workout and do whatever makes me happy.  No pressure.

From March to July, my approach is to incorporate more running back in by sprints, hills, etc.  I’m calling this my strength phase.  I’m going to train for a 10K to produce a major PR. (maybe another race in July to keep me on my toes – but that’s it)  I’ll keep on with this (speed training, longish run on the weekends, weights, yoga, swim/bike) until August when I start back marathon training again.  I have faith and confidence that this will be my recipe for success.  I’m so excited to see what the year has to bring – I’m ready to kick my butt! 😀

#40DaysComeTogether – 40 days to a Personal Revolution at BIG Yoga

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Since marathon training is now over until the fall, I want to get into other forms of fitness for a while. I decided to sign up at Big Yoga for their 40 days of yoga challenge, this would be a great jump start to getting better at yoga and taking care of my body.  Also, it would be a great way to take some time and focus on myself.  This challenge is more than just 40 days of yoga, it’s about making yourself present and to stop worrying about what happened in the past or what will happen in the future.  To live NOW and to live BIG. The marathon was a disappointment, along with other personal issues going on.  As hard as I try, being happy with myself has proven to be difficult.  I’ve dealt with these types of issues for years, trying anything I could get my hands on to reverse it.  Fights that happen between my boyfriend and I really come down to my insecurities with myself.  I have recognized this.  I will find happiness with myself.  This challenge felt like a calling, so I answered.

The low down is that you have to practice 6 times a week (5 being in the studio and one can be on your own) and you get one day off.  You attend a group meeting to go over the lessons for the week.  You have to purchase the 40 days book, meditate twice daily (starting at 5 minutes in week 1, then increase by 5 minutes) and mindfully eat.  The first day was the day after the marathon, I was extremely sore but I didn’t want the first day to be my day off.  I knew the second day soreness would set in on Tuesday, so I knew that would probably be my day off.  I’m so glad I went! We fit 100 yogis in one room – 200 lungs breathing in sync with each other. It was so motivating! It was hot…extremely hot (I had to take my shirt off because I was sweating so much), but I loved it. I was able to let go the disappointments from the race and embrace a new day and new challenges. I knew I had made the right decision starting this challenge!   I selected to be in the #40daysgamechangers group.  There are 10 separate groups with 50 yogis in each.  That’s a lot of energy!  I chose the Game Changers because that was what I was trying to accomplish in my life.  To change the way I think about things – change my own game.  Fitting right? 😀

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I have made it to week two still pumped and ready to continue on.  I even signed up for their Energy Exchange program – which basically is volunteering with BIG for 4 hours a week and receive free yoga in return.  I’m so excited about this off season and what is to come in finding my happiness and myself.  2015 I finally feel ready for you!