Monthly Archives: July 2013

Racing Racine: A Recap, Part IV: Runner’s High & Part V: The Finish

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Part IV: Runners High

It’s a little disheartening to begin a half marathon at the end of a half Ironman and just a few steps in see a sign that says “MILE 7”, but know that it’s not for you.  The run was two loops of out and back along the same course.  I was not looking forward to that.  However, it turns out that made the experience not just tolerable, but absolutely amazing.  It was like one big party to celebrate what we were out there doing.

We headed down a hill along the beach, then back up.  There were a lot of people walking the hill, but I was still trying to get my body adjusted to running.  Besides, as we all know, I love hills, and my lack of wetsuit for the swim already declared me to be the non-conformist that I am, so I ran past everyone walking up the hill.  I looked at the water and wondered if it was my imagination or if the waves had settled down considerably since a few hours earlier.  The first aid station was at the top of the hill.  I walked through it, got a drink, poured some water over my head and was back at it.

I had been slightly dreading the run.  As a runner, can I even admit that?  Well, I just did.  Running is supposed to be my main event, but I was worried that it would pass so slowly after the exhaustion of my prior activities.  I was worried that it would hurt, a lot.  But I started running and I felt surprisingly ok, even my hip.  I scanned the faces of the runners coming in the other direction, looking for folks that I know.  I saw Katherine and yelled her name.  She was so focused she never even heard me.  I figured she was on her last loop, so she only had about 3 miles to go. Wow, that girl is awesome!  Then I saw Erin.  We cheered and high-fived.  Then Chad.  Then I was at the turn around.  I had knocked off 3 miles already.  I stopped to pee.  Grabbed one more water at the aid station and picked the pace back up.  I say that, but I think my pace averaged about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes slower per mile than my usual race pace.

I started thinking I should see Nick anytime now since I figured he would catch me.  About 30 seconds later, I yelled, “NICK-YYYYYY!”  I wondered how long it would take for him to catch up to me.  I kept checking behind me.  I saw Serena, Kristen, Tracy, Steve.  When Steve saw me, we ran towards each other arms out and did a double high five.  Right before he elbowed me in the face, almost knocked my visor off and gave me black eye.  Dude, you’re not supposed to do that!  Now I wonder if he was trying to sabatoge my race.  Hmmm…

As I ran, I thought, this is awesome.  I couldn’t possibly be having more fun.  I was seeing my friends all over the place!  At Mile 6, I was coming into the “Tour of the Zoo”, which was really anything but.  We saw the backside of the parking lot, where they had a pen of turkeys or something.  I guess if you want to call that a tour of the zoo, you can.  I call it, Lame.  However, just before that, I saw Karen walking up ahead of me.  I jogged up behind her and called out her name.  She turned and we hugged each other tightly, completely unaware of how sweaty and salty and disgusting we probably were.  We walked together briefly and I told her I had been thinking of her while I was being tossed in the waves that morning.  I told her how glad I was to see her at that point on the course.  We had both made it through the swim.  That terrible, crazy, ridiculously challenging swim.  2 non-swimmers had completely overcome obstacles and made it through that.   I told her that while I swam, I was praying for her.  And I told her that I started singing a song in my head as I swam.  She asked which song.  I told her it was a Britt Nicole song.  She knew which one I meant, but couldn’t conjure it.  She asked me to sing it. I started singing (this will not surprise anyone I work with, since I am known to randomly burst into song).  Then Karen joined me.  So there were were, walking along the half marathon course of a half Ironman…SINGING.

So get out and let your fear fall to the ground, no time to waste, don’t wait, and don’t you turn around and miss out on everything you were made for.  I know you’re not sure.  So you play it safe, try to run away.  But if you take that first step, into the unknown, He won’t let you go…So what are you waiting for?  What do you have to lose? 

I’m sure all the people who passed us thought we were nuts.  We didn’t care.  We kept singing.  Eventually, Karen said she didn’t want to slow me down and I took off again on the run.  As I pulled away, I heard Karen yell behind me, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! Amen!”  I yelled back, “That’s right, Girl! Amen!”

Then I cruised on in to the shoot where we could either go on to the second loop or go into the finish.  People lined the course on both sides.  I saw my mom and a few steps later, Jenny.  I high fived them both, yelled “Only 6 more to go!” and whooped it up as I ran past.  My mom said how strong I looked, I felt it. I told Jenny that Nick was right behind me.  I was seriously having the time of my life!

I looped around and started my final lap of the run.  I merged with people who were just coming out of transition to start the run.  I felt good. I didn’t know how it was possible to feel that good.  I climbed that early hill again.  I scanned the faces looking for Teri.  I never did see her, but I knew she was out there and that gave me strength.  I went through my longest stretch of the run without seeing anyone and then, there was Erin again.  And then Chad.  I was right on his heels.  He said, “I’ll see you in a minute!”  I couldn’t believe Nick hadn’t caught me yet.  I rounded the turn.  I heard the two guys in front of me talking about how they could see the finish line.  The one guy said, “See it?  It’s way over there.”  I said, “Don’t say it like that!  You’re supposed to say, “Look!  It’s right over there!”  They both laughed.  I kept plugging along, and there was Nick.  I hollered, “It’s in the bag now, Baby! ”

I overheard some guy complaining about how hard it was, “Why are we doing this?!  This sucks!”  I responded, “Nah, Man, THIS is Living!”  He gave me a somewhat confused smile, but he started running again.

I walked through a water station and started talking to a random girl on the course.  We walked together briefly and talked about what an amazing experience Racine 70.3 had been.  I tried to pick my legs back up again to run.  I could feel large blisters forming on the pads of my toes, but I was so close I just wanted to keep going.  Again, I saw Serena and Kristen who both yelled something encouraging.

With about a half mile to go, I saw Tracy through the fence.  I couldn’t tell you what she yelled, but I was completely exuberant.  At the last possible second I saw Steve before he headed out for one more loop and I headed into the finish.  I yelled, “Get ‘er done, Steve-o!”  I ran down the hill, I didn’t give that last aid station a second glance.  I was all smiles.  As I ran past my mom and Jenny, who had found each other at this point, I was beaming and I raised my hands in the air.  Someone in the crowd yelled, “Look at that smile!  Way to represent, FLEET FEET!”

When I arrived at the split and got to go to the side that said “Finish”, I had one last burst of energy.  I ran into the finish, hands up, big old Lindsey smile on my face.  The announcer said, “That’s Lindsey Jacobs who just came across the line” and I said, “Yeeeeah It Is!”  as I high fived a kid volunteer.  The announcer said something about how much fun I was having and gave another shout out to FLEET FEET.

Someone put a medal around my neck and said, “Congratulations!” Someone else handed me a hat that said Finisher.  I said, “Thank you!”  I was beaming.  Someone else removed my timing chip from my ankle.  Then I saw Chad a couple steps ahead of me, so I moved up to grab him.  Funny that I started the race on the beach with Tracy and I finished just steps behind her fiancé, Chad.

We came out of the corral, and I got a hug from Erin’s mom.  I choked up as I told her how awesome it was to see everyone along the course.  Then I found my mom.  I was smiling and crying.  I was depleted.  Joyful.  Exhausted.  Exuberant.  Overwhelmed.  I couldn’t stop saying how awesome that was.

It was a completely crazy ride…from the giant waves, to the bumpy bike, to what was probably my slowest half marathon ever.  And I wouldn’t change a single minute of any of it.  Just about an hour after we packed our gear back to the car where I slapped my 70.3 magnet on the Pathfinder and headed back to the Marriott, the sky opened up and dumped a total deluge of rain.  We felt so fortunate that we didn’t have to be out there riding or running  or gathering gear in the downpour.  Even though the swim had been more of challenge than any of us could have predicted, they didn’t cancel it.  We were given the opportunity to go out that morning and do all of what we had prepared to do.  And BOY, did we ever make the most of it!

Proud Finishers...LJ and Erin

Proud Finishers…LJ and Erin

Part V: The Finish

So, what did I learn from my experience of Racing Racine 70.3?  I learned that impossible means NOTHING!  The word impossible really is just a challenge to go out and try.  I remember 2 years ago, right after I started working at FLEET FEET, an all staff email went out that Lindsey Farrell had completed a half Ironman, I think it might have even been Racine.  And I remember thinking I could NEVER do that.  Well, never say never.  But if you would have told me 2 years ago that I was capable of this, I know I wouldn’t have believed you.  Now, I believe.  And I’m ready to tackle even more challenges that lie ahead with Ironman Arizona 2014.  Even Teri sent me a text saying the next day saying that if I made it through that, I can do ANY swim.  I was glad to hear it isn’t always that rough.  Lake St. Louis is a month away.  I get to have a rematch with the Olympic course I did last year.  That will be the true test of how far I’ve come and I can’t wait to get out there and really see what I am capable of.

What else did I learn last weekend?  I learned that runners can talk about poop excessively and never stop thinking it’s funny.  And I learned that all restaurant’s named Dewey’s are not created equal.

I learned, once again, to play the hand I’m dealt.  Life doesn’t always look the way we think it’s supposed to, and once we finally get over that, we are free to take things as they come…good or bad.  When it’s bad, it’s time to suck it up and get the job done, but that’s usually when we can see how much progress we’ve really made. Which makes the good even better.

Most importantly, I learned to stop doubting myself.  I really am so much stronger than I gave myself credit for.  I had no idea what to expect from all this.  I probably could have finished even faster than I did, but I couldn’t be happier with my 6:44:55.  I wouldn’t trade this experience, MY experience, for anything.

It wouldn’t have been the same experience without my friends there, without all those familiar faces along the course.  I can’t imagine it any other way and quite frankly, I don’t really want to.  And just like the magnet on my fridge says, where ever you are it is your friends who make your world.

Racine 70.3 was a wild ride.  From training to prep, from start to finish, it was a wild, crazy, ridiculous ride.  But I happen to like the wild ride.  I like the ups and downs.  I like the whiplash and the butterflies in my stomach.  I like the fear and excitement, the anxiety and exhilaration.  But more than anything, I like having my friends on the ride with me.

Nick, RRG, Steve...Half Iron People!

Nick, RRG, Steve…Half Iron People!

 

Here’s the video of the song Karen and I sang on the run…

Karen says I lifted her heart, but I say we just helped carry each other.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeTu8twnGvU

 

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Racing Racine: A Recap, Part III: The Longest Ride

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The bike mount was at the base of a pretty sizable hill.  I had set my gears to make it as easy as possible, but I’m still not great at clipping in and getting going, so I was prepared that I might have to walk my bike up the hill.  I decided to give it a shot anyway.  I looked over and saw my mom cheering me on.

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Relief swept over me when I saw that she made it.  I smiled and yelled something about how hard the swim was.  Just seeing her lifted my spirits even more. I got going, clipped in quicker than usual and plowed my way up that hill.  I made it! At the top, some guy yelled, “Pepper that hill, Girl!”  I didn’t have a clue what he meant, I didn’t know if he was encouraging me or criticizing me.  I didn’t really care at the moment and I kept going.  About a mile in, I pulled the banana from my pocket and ate it.  I tossed the peel to a group of folks who said they’d take garbage.  Ok, on to the next part.  A couple miles down, a whole lot more to go.  The roads were somewhat rough.  Every few feet there was a crack in the road, but it was like going through a ditch each time.  Gu-gunk. 3 seconds later…ga-gunk.  3 seconds later…again.  Ugh.  I had to pee.  And the bumps were making it worse.  I pulled over at Mile 15 for a pit stop.  It’s a long race, better to be comfortable, right?  While I was off the bike, I grabbed a GU Roctane and washed it down with some water.  As I remounted the bike, I heard someone yell, “Let’s Go FLEET FEET”.  As he passed I saw he had one green and one orange Zensah sleeve, he was also wearing FLEET FEET gear.  I started back up and made my way through the country roads of Racine.  Every direction we turned seemed to present a stronger head wind.  How is that even possible?  It reminded me of riding in New Town.  I passed people.  I got passed by a lot more people, especially super fast dudes on Tri bikes.  I saw lots of debris on the road, disgarded water bottles, someone’s old tube, splattered gels, CO2 cartridges.  I saw a girl’s tire blow right in front of me and it scared me half to death because it sounded like a gunshot.  I worried that I would do something wrong and get a penalty, but I kept pushing.  I passed a guy as I powered up a hill.  I could feel his eyes burning into me as I passed him, so I turned and smiled.  That’s right, buddy, you just got chicked.  I saw people fixing flats, adjusting chains, doing whatever they could to get their bikes to the end.  At Mile 35-ish, I took another GU.  When I reached mile 46, I thought of my 46 mile ride through Wildwood with “Grey” a few weeks ago.  This ride was certainly less hilly.  At Mile 47, I realized I had already accomplished my longest ride ever.  And I was about to bust through that with 9 more miles.  No problem!

Somewhere between 45 and 50, I found Kristin.  I yelled, “Hey, there’s my girl!”  A few miles later, I came up on Serena.  I yelled her name, she smiled and said Hey, and we kept cruising along.

By mile 50, I couldn’t believe I was almost done with the bike and I’d had no issues.  My prayers for no flat tires had been answered.  Worst case scenario, I could run my bike to the transition at this point.  I came up to an aid station knowing my fluids were low, and knowing I probably hadn’t hydrated enough on the bike.  I prepared to grab one of the bottles being held out for me.  As I motioned that I was going to take one, I apologized in advance to the woman holding it out and said, “Sorry, I’m still terrible at this!”  But I grabbed it, didn’t crash, chugged some of the water and tossed the bottle toward the pile of “Last Chance Garbage”.  Success!

I was back on the neighborhood streets of Racine, getting close now. The bike course doubled back on the run course.  There were already lots of runners out on the course, it got tricky passing cyclists without riding into the running lanes.  Time to start prepping mentally for the run.  It’s gonna be hard, it’s gonna hurt, I’m not gonna be able to run like I normally do. Just take it nice and slow and whatever you do… KEEP GOING!

I made the final turn and headed down the hill into T2.  The volunteers along the side motioned to slow down.  I did.  I unclipped.  I got to the bottom and dismounted, just as a guy fell over.  The girl in front of me got around him and we all narrowly avoided a crash.  I could hear someone behind me yelling my name, but I didn’t turn around to look, I just threw my hand in the air and waved.  My feet were killing as I tried to run into transition, unhooking my helmet as I went.  I looked over to my right and saw Chad, so I yelled his name and waved as he looked up.  He smiled, waved back and I think he hollered, “Hey Lindsey!”

Chad's daughter Jazmine must have taken this pic right about the same time I waved to Chad in T2.

Chad’s daughter Jazmine must have taken this pic right about the same time I waved to Chad in T2.

I put my bike back on the rack and began removing my cycling shoes.  I commented to the girl next to me that I’d never been so happy to put on my running shoes.  She agreed.  I ditched my gloves and exchanged the helmet for a visor.  I grabbed my water bottle off my bike and took a last swig of G2.  I readjusted my sunglasses and I headed out of transition for the run.  I remember thinking…just a half marathon, I’ve done this distance hundreds of times, no problem.  I also remember considering how difficult it would be to run a full marathon after doing twice what I had already completed. Well, no time to think about that today, focus on what’s ahead.

I thought of Farrell and her text to me the night before.  She wrote: You’ll do awesome!!  Just remember its all mental and you are one of the strongest people I know.

She’s right, I am strong.  I can do this. 57.2 miles down, 13.1 more to go…

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Racing Racine: A Recap, Part II: Sink or Swim

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I crawled back out of the waves and lined up with Tracy.  We stayed to the back of the pack as it edged closer to the water.  Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger blared over the speakers.  The wave ahead of us started.  We moved up to the line.  4 minutes to go.  They asked how many of us were doing our first half Ironman, a lot of us hollered and raised our hands, Tracy and I included. 3 minutes to go. I looked around for Kristin and Serena. I didn’t see them, but I knew they were there somewhere.  2 minutes to go.  Wow, those waves are really huge.  1 minute.  I said, mostly to remind myself, “It’s just a fun day of activities I love, with my friends.” 30 seconds to go.  Goggles on.  One last fist bump with Tracy.  We got this!  I looked at the clock just over my left shoulder.  3 seconds.  Here we go. The horn went off.  We set out into the waves.  It felt like a slow death march at first.  How far do I wade in like this before I try to swim?  I stayed to the back and the side.  Ok, here goes nothing.  Waves kept splashing me in the face.  Just make it to the turn, then it will get easier.  I did whatever I needed to in order to get there.  I tried to find what would work for me in that mess, so I alternated between freestyle, breast stroke, side stroke, doggy paddle…you think I’m kidding, I’m not.  I spent the entire first half of the swim having a major hissy fit.  I complained in my head, it ISN’T supposed to be like this.  What the hell?!  This sucks.  Why did I even bother learning how to swim if I can’t perform in this anyway? The waves weren’t supposed to be this big! 

I heard an announcement, “We need a pick up between 4 and 5”.  I glanced that way and saw a kayak.  Someone was hanging onto the side.  I prayed that it wasn’t one of my friends, prayed they were all ok.  (Unfortunately, I learned later that one of the approximately 200 swimmers pulled from the water was my friend Jen.  I’m happy to report that she’s fine, she just got a little seasick and determined it wasn’t her day so she got cleaned up and was waiting for us at the finish) As I swam,  I wondered how Karen was doing, since I knew she was equally as scared of this as I was.  As the waves crashed over me, a song from my ipod popped into my head and I thought through the words…”You look around, It’s staring back at you, Another wave of doubt, Will it pull you under?  You wonder…What if I’m overtaken?  What it I never make it?”

C’mon, Linds, you’re almost to the next marker.  Just get there.  Is this even safe?! Should they have cancelled the swim portion?  Well, they didn’t, so keep going!

At about the half-way point, something changed inside me.  I had been frustrated with the conditions and having a whiny pity-party about it, but I finally told myself, “Lindsey, yes, the conditions are terrible out here!  But Girl, SUCK IT UP!  This is the hand you were dealt today, so get over it and do what you came out here to do!”  At that point, I did just that. I got over it.  I started to swim. I mean really swim, just like I learned how.  Head down, elbows up, finger tips pointing toward the bottom of the lake, breathing as often as I needed to. It was way harder than in the smooth, even water of the pool at Crestview Middle School, but I pulled myself from one buoy to the next.  I was tossed in the waves, I swallowed about a gallon of water, and I kept ending up way off course.  But I swam.  On the second half of that course, the waves got worse, but I got better.  Every once in a while I would gag as a wave splashed in me in the face and I had to stop to catch my breath, but then I’d get right back to it.  My goggles that had never given me problems before filled up with water on the right side.  As I breathed, I looked over and saw someone 4 feet higher than me, then I couldn’t see her at all, on the next breath she was 4 feet lower.  I got passed by waves of people, but I passed a few people myself.  I got knocked in the head, I felt like someone swam over the top of me and I had to change directions when I ran into several people, but I kept going.  My mantra became “Just get ‘er done!” I finally got to the last buoy before the turn.  The waves were bouncing off the breaker wall and throwing us all over the place.  Almost there, Linds, you did it.  Just swim and let the waves carry you into the shore.  After what seemed like an eternity, I put my feet down on the sand.  I tried to stand and got pitched forward.  I tried again.  The guy next to me said, “That was terrible”.  I responded, “Yeah, it’s a little choppy out here today.”   We smiled and made our way towards the shore.  I thought of the Seinfeld line where George says, “The sea was angry that day, my Friends” and made a mental note to say that to Steve when I saw him later.  He was probably just getting started when I had that thought.  I had been in the water for an hour. Nick was in the water somewhere.  I figured Erin had passed me in the lake. I wondered where Tracy was.  People were stripping off their wetsuits.  I was smiling.  I made it.  My longest open water swim ever.  In conditions like THAT.  The swim, all by itself, was a victory.  When it was all said and done, I was probably closer to 2 miles because I kept getting so far off course.  But it was time to put the swim behind me and focus on the next part.

I trudged through the sand and stumbled toward the transition.  I heard several people say things like, “Way to go FLEET FEET!”, “No wetsuit! Wow, that’s hard core!” and “Look at that smile!”  I jumped through the little wading pool to rinse my feet and ran past the wetsuit strippers.  I heard someone yelling my name, so I looked to the right and saw my friend and co-worker Claire in her purple FLEET FEET singlet yelling and jumping up and down.  I waved and smiled and kept on going.  Claire’s husband was competing and she was there cheering us on, that was the only time I remember seeing her on the course, but it was perfect timing.

I got to T1, and it was more than half empty of bikes.  I chatted briefly with one of the girls near me about how ridiculous the swim was, as I was putting on my helmet, socks, cycling shoes, sunglasses.  I stuck a banana in my pocket.  I grabbed my bike off the rack.  Am I forgetting anything?  I looked down and saw my gloves, so I bent down to get them and headed out for the bike.

I made it to the bike leg.  I didn’t sink.  I didn’t drown.  I didn’t just survive, I swam.

Wave 7, Females 34-39 (Yellow) lined up at the start and ready for take off...

Wave 7, Females 34-39 (Yellow) lined up at the start and ready for take off…

 

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Racing Racine: A Recap, Part I: Getting to the Start

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There is a magnet stuck on my fridge at home with a quote from William James.  It says, “Where ever you are it is your friends who make your world.”  Last weekend proved that to me once again.

On Friday, after work, I began my solitary road trip to Racine, WI, knowing that I had several friends waiting for me at my destination.  But the destination was really just a starting point to our weekend adventure.  Just before midnight, I pulled into the Racine Marriott parking lot, packed with cars decorated with empty bike racks, where Steve, Nick and Nick’s girlfriend Jenny were all waiting up for me, watching Storage Wars.  (Remember a few months ago I shared the text exchange with my anonymous friend “Mick”?  Well, if you didn’t figure it out then, it was really Nick, and Jenny was the mystery woman) Jenny came along last weekend as moral support, Sherpa, cheerleader and troubleshooter.  She has completed not only 70.3, but a full 140.6…Twice!  Her expertise and encouragement were priceless.

On Saturday morning, we took our time getting up and had breakfast of omelets and waffles at the Marriott buffet amidst many athletes dressed in technical gear, announcing bragging rights from previous races.  Then we made our way to downtown Racine where we would make it official.  We checked in, signed waivers, got wristbands, packets and timing chips, freaked out a little and ran into lots of friends including Chad and Tracy, who had an additional surprise…Tracy was sporting a little extra bling on her left ring finger.  What a way to make a big weekend even bigger!  Congrats guys!

LJ, Steve, Nick, Chad, Tracy...Ready to Rumble!

LJ, Steve, Nick, Chad, Tracy…Ready to Rumble!

After check in, we headed over to drop our bikes.  Then on to the beach for a practice swim.  The boys had me scared to death that I would be running into Icebergs along the course since it was a whopping 55 degrees on Friday and they declared the water was numbing.  Fortunately the water had warmed up considerably from the day before.  I plunged right into the 64 degree water and told them to stop being a bunch of pansies.   They said, “No really, it was so much colder yesterday!” Uh-huh, sure.  (I actually do believe them, I just like to give them grief)  The water was smooth, we could see the bottom, sighting was easy, the temp was great, and everything was falling into place.  I swam toward Chad, Tracy and Steve out by the buoy.  When I popped up, I sprayed Chad and exclaimed loudly, “Yeeeah! Lindsey learned how to SWIM!”  I was pumped, this was gonna be a good race. Nick eventually made his way out to join us in full wetsuit attire.

After lunch of peanut butter sandwiches by the car, we stopped by the Piggly Wiggly to get some supplies and spent the rest of Saturday lounging.  We grabbed some take-out pasta, brought it back to the hotel and had dinner on the Marriott patio, which Nick dedicated the “Goat Garden”.  Who knew the Marriott had a room just for goats?  Oh, wait, that sign says Coat Room…nevermind.  We laughed a lot, which broke the tension we were all feeling from the nerves and fear.  I fielded many “Good Luck” texts and messages throughout the day, to most of which I responded that I was feeling “nervous and scared and very excited!”  A great mix of emotions.

After we did race prep, like putting bib numbers on race belts and stickers on helmets, gathering all our gear, then double and triple checking that we had absolutely everything, we turned in for an early night.  But we all had a hard time falling asleep.  As we lay there in the dark, I broke the silence after a few minutes, “Umm, I have a dumb question…”  I don’t even remember what I asked, probably something about transition.  Followed by several more rookie questions.  Eventually we all drifted off to sleep and the next thing we knew, at least 3 alarms were beeping, buzzing or singing that it was 4:30am.  The excited, nervous chatter started immediately, even though we still didn’t move from the beds.  At 4:40am, Jenny exited the bathroom, the only of the 4 of us not racing that day, and found the 3 of us still lying in bed watching infomercials.  What’s wrong with this picture?!  We made our way out of bed still taking notes on great products like the Winbot, got dressed in racing gear, ate more peanut butter sandwiches, filled water bottles and made our way to the Pathfinder.  We drove over to the course, found parking and trekked our stuff to T1 to set up our transition areas.

On the way into the transition area we got our body markings.  Lack of coffee caused me to say, “I’m number 316, no, wait, that’s wrong, I’m 613.” Yeah, uh, probably need to get that right. Then she asked my age at the end of the year because that gets written on your calf, to which I replied, “No fair, I’m an October birthday”.  But she assured me it’s an even bigger accomplishment the older you are.  So, I said, “Ok, if we’re talking accomplishments, then can you also write on there that I’m a single mom of 3?”  She laughed and said, “Honey, I’ll write anything you want.”

RRG chatting it up with the Transition neighbor

RRG chatting it up with the Transition neighbor

Once inside T1, we saw friends, took pictures, filled tires, generally just tried to keep from freaking out.  At 6:30 they closed the transition area and evacuated all athletes.  On my way out, I saw Karen; we hugged and freaked out a little.  We assured each other we could do this, and then we hugged again.  And one more hug for the road before her parting word to me was “Ohmmm”.  Finally we separated, she headed to the start, I headed to the bathroom line.  It was long, but it seemed to be moving.  Less than an hour until my wave start.  Tracy and Chad walked by on their way to the
start, I said I’d be right behind them.

I got through the line, met back up with Jenny and the boys and we embarked upon the mile walk up the beach to the start line.  We looked out at the water and saw that it was considerably more choppy than the day before.  Choppy but not as bad as my swim in Lake Michigan the week before.  Not yet anyway.  My mom called to say good luck, she was on her way to watch me and she hoped to get there before I took off on the bike.  Steve guess-timated the bike would take me 3:30-45 (Ha! Boy did I show him!)  As we walked up the beach, the waves grew bigger and bigger.  I started to second guess my decision to ditch the wetsuit, especially as I saw that I was very possibly the ONLY person in the field of 2200 athletes who was not wearing one.  That’s ok; I’ve always been kind of a non-conformist.  I got one last hug from Nick, Jenny and Steve, kicked off my flip-flops and made my way through the crowd while the boys began the process of wetsuit robing.  Erin found me and we scanned the beach for Tracy, “She was just right here”, Erin said.  Then we heard an announcement for wave 7, women 35-39 to get in line.  I bolted and started pushing through the crowd knowing that people were probably wondering why I waited so long.  When I arrived at the start line wild-eyed and frantically searching the crowd of yellow swim-capped heads for a familiar face, I couldn’t have been happier to hear Tracy’s voice yelling my name.  She said I still had a couple minutes, so I should jump in the water to get acclimated.  I pulled my swim cap on, spit into my goggles, and marched out into the waves, aware of all the eyes on me wondering where my wetsuit was.  I looked at one guy with his mouth gaping open and said, “Yeah, that’s right, I’m that crazy girl.”  Then I dove into the water.  As I tried to get up to walk back to the shore, the force of the waves knocked me back down.  Oh my, this swim is going to be interesting.  Little did I know of the challenge I was in for…

It's official.  #613 is all checked in.

It’s official. #613 is all checked in.

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Hot Mess to the Rescue!

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Last night at 8pm, my Hot Mess peeps reunited in the Lifetime parking lot for a field trip. Well, half of us reunited anyway. It’s been a month since our Ragnar adventure from Madison to Chicago, so it was time.  The plan was set in motion on our drive home to St. Louis last month, when we talked about all the fun events we were planning.  Sadly, our Castlewood run a couple weeks ago, which was to be followed by pancakes at Kris’s house, was kind of a bust, due to migraines, and travel, and unfortunate life circumstances.  Almost everyone had to bail on that gathering, so the group was small that day.

So, last night all the Hot Mess girls (Kris, Shalini and myself) along with a few of the boys, (Gerry, Wes and Shane) piled into my Pathfinder and we drove over the Missouri River, west on 94, out to the Lewis & Clark trail for a night run.  The point was for everyone who doesn’t usually run at night to be able to reuse some of the supplies we had to purchase for Ragnar, ie headlamps and reflective vests.  As the FLEET FEET Chesterfield Social Run Leader, I use mine on a fairly regular basis, but there was no way I was gonna miss out on this adventure.

And what an adventure it turned out to be…

We arrived at Lewis & Clark by dusk.  Wes figured out how to set the timer on Shalini’s camera, and the scent of bug spray was in the air (and my mouth…gack!) as we steadied the camera on the one other vehicle in the gravel lot to get the right angle for our self-portrait.  We all commented that it was odd for that lone Camry to be out there at that time of day.  We speculated that there was an ax-murderer waiting for us in the woods.  Ah, but there is safety in numbers.

We each took a final swig of Gatorade before leaving our bottles in the car and I handed the car key off to Shane for safe keeping.  We debated between the 5 mile loop and the 8 mile loop, ultimately landing on the 5 mile loop, nice and slow, before we would head back to the valley for a beer.  The 5 mile loop is Lewis, right?  No, it’s Clark.  No, no, it’s definitely Lewis.  Whatever, somebody knows, right?  Maybe…

We turned on our headlamps and set off down the path.  Of the group, I had run out there the most recently, but the last time was Easter.  The trail has changed a lot just since then with all the rain and tornados we’ve had.  Wes and I are the most frequent traversers of that path, so Wes primarily took the lead, confirming with me in places.  But Gerry, who had only been there once, turned out to be invaluable, finding the path on multiple occasions.

It was officially dark by the time we reached the bluff overlooking the river about a mile in.  The moon was high, lighting up the water enough to see it moving rapidly down below.  Wes said, “Be careful how close you get to the edge there”.  As I scootched closer and closer, I said, “Oh, like this?  Does this bother you Wes?”  I don’t think he found me amusing.

We tried to take a photo or two with Kris’s phone, while the sweat rolled down our faces, but I’m not sure how successful the pictures turned out to be.  Then we took a hard left and headed down the hill.  Shane said something at one point about when were we going to go back up.  Then we went back up.  And up.  Then back down.  Then across the creek to the sign…wait, where is the sign…?  Wes found it.  We’re following Lewis, right?  That’s the 5 mile loop, isn’t it?  Yeah, it is.

No, it isn’t.

Unbeknownst to us, we chose the longer of the roads less traveled.  We carried on, going along our merry way, Wes making owl calls and other odd noises.  What is that sound?  Is that a chainsaw?  It was at about Mile 5 that we got stuck.  The path ended, we headed back up.  No, that has to be the right way…it was, the path was just blocked by a HUGE tree that we had to climb through in order to get back on track.  Good thing we had Explorer Gerry with us to go on ahead and figure it out.

When we got to the sign that read Lewis Trail Mile 6, we knew for sure what we had done and that we still had a couple miles to go.  We were on the longer trail.  That was also the point that I couldn’t stop thinking about the Gatorade that was sitting in my SUV.  It was surprisingly pleasant in the woods last night.  After how incredibly hot it was all day yesterday, the woods seemed strangely cool, despite the thick humidity in the air.  I commented that I didn’t think getting super dehydrated 4 days before my big race this weekend was probably in my training plan.  But, what can ya do?  Just gotta keep going.

At about mile 6.5, Wes, Shalini and Kris were maybe 15 yards ahead of me, Shane and Gerry.  Then I heard Shane say, “Who is that!?”  We could see someone in a striped shirt following close behind our trio of friends ahead of us.  What in the world was going on?

As we caught up to them, we learned that Bill from Florida, had gone out for what he thought was a 3 mile hike at 7:30pm. He ended up on the 8 mile trail, just like we had.  What are the chances of that?  I always say everything happens for a reason. Hot Mess to the rescue!  That’s what I like to call a happy accident.  He had already called for assistance, so when he saw our lights, he asked “Are you search and rescue?”  Kris, not knowing that he was serious, said, “Sure!”  We’ve never met a stranger.  Especially when someone is in distress.  So our group of 6, then became 7.

As we hiked him out of there, he called 911 back to say he had been found.  It was entertaining to hear only his side of the conversation.  “No, I don’t know these people.”  “They’re very well prepared with lights” and “They’re a very exuberant group”.  I’m pretty sure he was talking about me with that last part.  Go figure.  I’m loud.  And I like to laugh.  This is nothing new.

As we finally closed in on the end of the trail, we could see there was quite a welcoming committee waiting for us.  As we exited the woods, we were met by an Ambulance, Fire truck, a couple cop cars, the Park Ranger, and a flatbed trailer to transport the ATV.

First things first, “Shane, unlock the car so we can rehydrate!”  We all agreed that Gatorade had never tasted so good.  The Ranger took down Wes and Shane’s info so that if the deputies had any questions they could get in touch with us.  We took photos in front of the emergency vehicles to commemorate our walk on the wild side.  When I saw “Cottleville” on the Fire truck, I went over to ask if Farrell’s fiancé, Ryan Heaberlin was on board since that is his station.  I talked to Fireman Steve and told him how I know Ryan.  As we talked we realized we had met once before when I brought Silas to the station for a visit.

Eventually, we headed out of the parking lot. I had to weave my way between all the large vehicles with their lights flashing.  We headed to Itap in the valley, for a well-deserved drink, as we relived our adventure of the evening.  Never a dull moment with this group.  I guess that’s partly what makes our name, Hot Mess, so appropriate.  And remember how we saved the distressed runner on the course up in Wisconsin last month?  Well, I’m really glad I didn’t have to help carry Bill through the woods, like I did Angela at Ragnar!

I really don’t have much of a moral to my little story here, other than if you’re going to set off into the woods at dusk, make sure you bring a light.  And make sure you know which trail you’re supposed to be on.  But I’m glad I had that time with my teammates last night before I set off on another adventure.

I leave tomorrow afternoon for Racine.  It may not be in the woods, but it’s still unfamiliar territory. I need to go finish gathering my necessities and packing.  Yes, the piles are already forming on my bedroom floor.  But I got my Hot Mess mojo last night, so what else do I really need?

Please keep all your positive thoughts coming my way, especially starting at 7:20 am on Sunday when the yellow wave of women 35-39 sets out into the waters of Lake Michigan.  It’s almost Go time, People.

I’ll catch you on the flip side…

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Ready As I’ll Ever Be

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It’s been said that if you wait until you’re ready to do something, you’ll never do it, because you’ll never actually feel ready.  I signed up for Racine 70.3 back in the fall, on a strangley beautiful November night, when I made my friend/training partner/moral support, Steve, hold my hand as I hit submit to register.  At that point, I had plenty of time, MONTHS, to get ready for the big day.  Now I have a week.  One week from right now I will have earned that 70.3 sticker…or not.  The future is unknown.

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I started down a path of major unknowns.  I assure you I did not feel ready for any of those unknowns.  And just about that same time, Farrell proposed the idea of a triathlon.  Eh, why not?  I was already about to learn a whole lot about myself and what I’m capable of, so why not shift the focus off that for a bit and learn some other new skills?  She signed up for an Ironman, the least I could do was sign up for a mini-tri and let her coach me through it.  But, because I don’t ever ease into things slowly, I jumped right in with both feet.  A sprint?  Why would I do that?  That ends with a 5k, which I can do backwards, in my sleep.  I run marathons for crying out loud!  So, I signed up for the Lake St. Louis Olympic distance Triathlon.  .9 mile swim, 24 mile bike, 10k.  And did I train for it?  Umm, well, that’s another story.  I can count my swims on one hand, and probably my rides, too.  I had a few other things going on that I was trying to tend to, like, um, buying a house for one.  So, on race day, it was just about getting through however I could.  I swam freestyle, side stroke, doggy paddle, whatever.  I desperately wanted to backstroke, but that’s a sign of distress, so I figured they would pull me out of the water.  I had a decent bike, nothing great, but I wouldn’t have expected otherwise.  And then the run…or the shuffle as the case may be.  I remember when I crossed the finish line, I said, “That was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”  And up until that moment, I believe that was true.  Was I ready for it?  Not at all.  Could I have prepared better?  Sure.  But that race happened at the tail end of one of the hardest years of my life.  I literally found out my divorce was final two days later.  Apparently it had been final for a week or two, but the judge hadn’t notified the attorneys that she’d signed the papers yet.  I still believe that I needed to get through that tri, and learn what I’m capable of, before I got the closure I was seeking.

You can’t always prepare for what lies ahead.  And sometimes, you just do the best you can to prepare, knowing that it will likely be even harder than you expect.

Am I prepared for Racine 70.3?  I don’t know, I guess so.  Should I have done more?  Probably.  Could I have done more?  No.  I don’t think so.  I did what I was capable of doing under the circumstances.  And next week I will wake up on Sunday morning and give what I am capable of giving.  I honestly have no idea what to expect other than…it’s going to hurt, it’s going to hurt a lot.  But considering how much I’ve hurt over the past several years, I know I can take it.  The hardest part is the mental game.  Telling myself to not quit even when it’s really, really, really hard.

I may not have gotten in as many laps in the pool, or miles on the bike, that I needed to in order to feel ready for next weekend, but I did learn how to swim, and I got a real bike, and mentally, I know from experience, that I can overcome any obstacle.  It may take time, and there may be setbacks, but I’ll get there.  If something goes wrong, I’ll take a deep breath, look at my wrist and do what I need to do to get back on track.

I wear it on my wrist because it reminds me that I can

I wear it on my wrist because it reminds me that I can

Persevere.  I never take that bracelet off, because it reminds me that I can.  And I have.

This morning, I went out to St. Charles for the New Town Tri.  I didn’t have nearly as many friends competing today as I did a few weeks ago at Innsbrook, but the ones who were out there today were pretty darn important.  After I dropped my kids off this morning at their dad’s house I hauled booty to meet Linds for the run portion, so I could run her in.  I made it there in time to catch her for the second loop.  I was probably there in time to do the whole run with her, but I’m a bonehead and I was waiting in the wrong spot.  Fortunately, I figured it out just in time to jump in with her for the last couple miles.  Her breathing was heavy, she was tired.  But I pushed her anyway, because she does the same for me.  I didn’t say much other than an occasional encouragement.  Sometimes, you don’t need much more than knowing that someone is by your side to help pull you along.  It was only so appropriate that I did that today for Farrell as she’s done that so much for me ever since I met her a couple short years ago.  We’ve been through some major highs and lows together, and she’s never left my side.  This morning was the least I could do to return that favor.  You wanna talk about kindred spirits?  This girl is one for sure.

After I ran Linds in, I hung out with her at the finish for a bit, along with a few of our Ironman Arizona 2014 compadres-Mark, Ron and Martin.  I saw a few other familiar faces, and I ran into Teri, too.  Man do I love that woman!  She is everywhere, and she just glows.  As I stood near the finish, which was also where the runners passed by to start their second loop, I saw Kris coming around.  I jumped in to run her last lap as well.  I tell you what, I think that girl is always smiling. She smiled and said “Thanks” to every person on the course with a sprinkle or a water gun.  She said her legs were trashed.  I said, “They should be.  That’s why I’m here.  Just feed off my energy.”   And she kept smiling.  We ran past her husband, also named Chris, who took our picture.  I love that we have a record of that moment.  I did whatever I could to help pull Kris along and enjoy the final portion of this tri.  As we rounded the corner to the finish, I said, “No puking until AFTER you cross the finish line this time!  Go get it, Girl!”  And then I met her on the other side of the shoot for a congratulatory hug.  Because that’s what friends do.

Running with Kris in New Town

Running with Kris in New Town

I had to bolt pretty quick after that, because I had to get to the store and get showered before work.  I only got in about 4 miles this morning.  Really more like 2 x 2 miles.  But it was totally worth it to give up my long run for the day to do that with my friends, and like Kris said, this week is a taper anyway.  It got me pumped for next weekend and Linds ended up with 2nd in her age group.  Since Linds is the one who got me started with all this, and fueled the fire of Racine, and has planted the seed of a full Ironman, it seemed only appropriate to do this with her today, especially since she can’t be there with me next weekend.  That was the last piece of the puzzle for “getting ready” for Racine 70.3.  Sure I’ve got another ride planned with “Grey” tomorrow, along with other workouts this week.  And I’ve still got to gather up all my gear.  And finish talking logistics with my travel crew, who will likely make it up to Wisconsin several hours ahead of me on Friday.  But the important stuff is done.  I’ve done the physical work I can do to be ready, now it’s time to trust that.  The mental work has been in all the obstacles that I’ve pushed through to teach myself the true meaning of “Never give up”.

Most importantly, something I said to Kris this morning as I ran with her, was how so many of my friends are going to finish ahead of me next week.  It’ll be like Innsbrook, but reversed.  Instead of me standing at the finish cheering in my friends, so many of them will be waiting there for me.  (Some of them might be showered and ready for dinner by the time I get there, but nonetheless)  That’s the piece that makes me the most ready to do this.  How long it takes me to complete the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run is totally irrelevant, because doing it at all makes it a PR.  But doing it with my friends makes it that much better.  That is truly a Personal Best.

I doubt very much if Racine could ever be ready for Rambling Runner Girl, but ready or not, here I come.  And I’m as ready as I’m ever gonna be.

Lindsey squared at the LSL Tri

Lindsey squared at the LSL Tri

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Grand Intentions

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If you read my last post, you know that I spent the past few days in Michigan with my kiddos visiting Mama J.  As we left town on Monday, I had grand intentions of getting up early every day to swim in Lake Michigan to ensure that I’ll be a pro for the open water swim at Racine.  However, intentions are what we make of them.  Due to an arrival time of 4am (Thanks to Diet Mountain Dew and Jason Mraz), I didn’t manage to crawl out of bed until about 10am on Tuesday, which I still thought was fairly respectable.  The kids had slept the entire drive, so they were up early and ready to go.  Grandma hauled them all off to the beach to let me keep sleeping.  That was the day that swimming in the lake would have been ideal…I repeat, would have.  There was a haze in the air and the water was like glass.  But sadly, I let the opportunity slip away.

On Wednesday morning, I went off for a long-ish run down the lake road that I love so much.  I didn’t intend to go far, but I felt good, and that road has the capability of drawing me farther and farther along, so I let it.  Running out of water on a humid day, meant it was a good time to call it quits.  I considered jumping in the lake for a quick swim, but I got back to the homefront later than I planned, my mom had somewhere to be and the wind was really picking up, so I decided to wait thinking the next day might be better.

By Thursday, the wind was whipping and the waves were rolling.  Fun to play in, but swim?  Not so much.  Ugh.  What to do?  I really wanted to post this blog and brag about my impressive feats, like saying I had managed a full mile, or two even, in the open water waves.  But, Alas, I cannot.

So, let’s talk about highlights of the week.  Tuesday night we swung by Nancy’s and grabbed milkshakes to take with us to the beach for a fantastically amazing show of a sunset.  We lucked out with that one, because earlier in the day it stormed and we weren’t sure we’d see the sun again.  But New Buffalo came through for us, the clouds moved on by and we got our sunset.

We pretty much started and ended the trip at the best burger joint in the world.  Redamak’s.  A Jacobs tradition since 1975, give or take.  I had my usual. Both times.

But here’s my biggest highlight…walking on the beach with my kiddos.  On Wednesday, Ethan crashed on the couch right as I was offering a walk to anyone who wanted to go.  Ally and Silas were my takers, Ma offered to stay with Ethan.  So, picture this…LJ strolling down the beach, looking like a total hoosh (For my non-St. Louis friends, that’s short for Hoosier, which is the equivalent to Kirksville’s “cricker” or in Michigan we go with straight up “white trash”).  Yeah, so, I’m meandering down the beach in my cut-off jeans that I’ve had since college (literally) and a wife beater style tank.  In classic Lindsey fashion, a visor covered my hair, which had gone unwashed for a few days.  Random side note: The other day I got a text from Diana declaring that she had gone almost a full week.  Dang!  She broke my record.  Now the challenge is on!  I’m pretty sure I’ve got this in the bag since if you’ve known me for more than say, 5 minutes, you know how I put off washing my hair.  And this new messy hair look that’s in, just go ahead and ask me how much I love that?!  I can rock a pony-tail or a messy bun like nobody’s business.  Throwing on a visor earns me at least another couple days, right?

Ok, back on topic…so cruising down the beach, looking really classy.  We were picking up beach glass and cool rocks.  Silas had a collection of odds and ends, mostly sticks.  Just as we got back to the public beach, I stopped and faced the water.  I held my arms out like I was flying and closed my eyes.  Ally asked me what I was doing.  I said, “I’m feeling the wind”.  I stood there, eyes still closed, listening to the sound of the waves crashing and the seagulls calling.  Feeling the spray of the waves, the sand between my toes, the sun on my cheeks and just feeling the wind.  Feeling the wind reminds me to enjoy being alive.  It reminds me to feel everything.  The good, the bad, and everything in between.  This is kinda like that thing I do when I run down hills with my eyes closed, but not as likely to send me to the ER.

Fast forward to Thursday, another walk on the beach, this time all 5 of us.  The kids knew I planned to swim and they really wanted to see me get out there.  I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, so we were talking about it.  Silas asked why I wasn’t swimming.  I was whining about how cold it would be, and being afraid because the waves were so big, and blah, blah, blah.  I grew up swimming in Lake Michigan, so when did I turn into such a wuss?  Silas kept at it.  I mentioned something about fear of the unknown.  And then he reminded me of the time I swam out to try and retrieve a raft that had blown into the lake.  As we sat in our beach chairs, some woman approached us and said, “Umm, isn’t that your raft out there?”  I looked from her, to the raft, to my brother and simply asked, “You or me?”  I shouldn’t have asked.  I lost.  I swam out, way out; so far that my kids freaked because they couldn’t see me so they sent Uncle Adam out on the boogie board to get me.  I made a valiant effort.  I went about halfway to Chicago (ok, not really) only to give up on the $2 raft that definitely wasn’t worth my life.  So, swimming in Lake Michigan wasn’t really the unknown, but it was still a little scary because now I should know what I’m doing, even though I’m not convinced I do.  The unknown part actually has more to do with what lies ahead in Racine.  But, I’ve faced the unknown enough in the past years that I know I’m brave enough to do it.

When we returned from our walk, I stripped off my t-shirt and shorts, grabbed my goggles and Garmin and set out into the waves.  The temperature was surprisingly perfect.  The waves, on the other hand, were ultra-ridiculous.  I set off toward a buoy. Just as I would start to get into a rhythm, a wave would splash me in the face and send me gasping for air.  I regained my composure, I can do this.  A few more strokes, I’ve got this. Practice sighting, wave in the face, choking on water.  And so it went.  Swim, breathe, swim, gasp, swim, coughing fit.  I managed a whole, whopping…wait for it…quarter of a mile.  That’s all.  3 days at the beach with a half Ironman coming up and that’s all I’ve got.  Weak.  But, in my defense, the yellow flags were up and we saw the rescue team out, so it’s probably better that I made the smart choice and called it quits.

I guess what it comes down to is this…Intentions are good, they give us purpose, they give us something to shoot for.  But, whether it’s sports or life, we need to keep in mind that even with the best intentions, things won’t always work out the way we’ve planned and there could be something else in store.  Sometimes, you have to know when to suck it up and be courageous (sometimes you have to know when to be safe and smart) and sometimes it’s ok to just stop and feel the wind.

As we enter into the final week leading up to Racine, I don’t have any delusions that I’m gonna rock out some outstanding time next Sunday. I’m really just hoping to cross the finish line within the 8.5 hours allowed to make it official, claim my medal and then slap that 70.3 sticker on the back of the Pathfinder.  I’m going to spend the weekend with my friends and attempt something amazing.  My only intentions are to be courageous and to remember to feel the wind.  I think those intentions are realistic, but they’re also pretty grand.

Yep, I still like to write my name in the sand

Yep, I still like to write my name in the sand

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Confessions of a Single Mom…

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I really believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Being a single parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

I can be very resourceful.

I love being the girl who knows how to fix stuff.

Sometimes I forget to pay a bill on time.

Sometimes I remember about the bill, but it’s late anyway because I don’t have enough in my bank account to cover it.

I freak out when I can’t find a sitter to watch my kids so that I can go to work.

I’ve had to take at least one kid with me to work and have him hang out in the back room with the ipad.

I am so grateful for my awesome neighbor, Stephanie, who sometimes watches my kids and then she makes it seem like I pay her back when I watch her daughter for 10 minutes.

Sometimes when I’m stressed I yell at my kids.

I immediately feel guilty when I yell at my kids.

Sometimes I let my kids eat popcorn and ice cream for dinner because I just don’t have the energy to prepare anything.

I am always tired.

I stay up way too late, even though I’m always tired.

It’s possible to feel lonely in a house full of noisy children.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have sucked it up and stayed in an unhappy marriage, just so I wouldn’t be so lonely.

I miss my kids when they go to their dad’s.

Sometimes I get can’t wait to give the kids back to their dad, so I can have a break.

Even though I chose this life, sometimes the loneliness is almost unbearable.  I mean, I’m talking sit in the car in the garage to avoid going into an empty house lonely.  Like, wrap up in a blanket and fall asleep on the couch with the TV on to avoid going upstairs to an empty bed lonely.

Last night I did both of those.  This morning I woke up with an overwhelming, oppressive sadness.  I had a hard time kicking it.  It took a 15 mile bike ride and a 6 mile run before I finally figured out what my problem was.  As I stood in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, eating my lunch which consisted of last night’s leftovers warmed up in a take-out box (are you envisioning Diane Lane at this point?), it finally struck me.  Today would be my 13th wedding anniversary.

13 years ago today, I woke up surrounded by people I love.  I was lying next to Amy.  And Britta was in the bed next to us.  My best friends in the world.  We were at my parent’s house in Michigan.  I remember my mom coming in to the room for something, maybe just to see if I was awake yet on my wedding day.  I’m pretty sure my dad was in the kitchen making French toast.  My sister was likely tending to my niece, MacKenzie, and my brother was there somewhere.  I woke up to a house full of people I love.

Today, I woke up to an empty house.  No one.  Other than the sound of my ceiling fan, complete silence. It took almost every ounce of energy that I had to drag myself out of bed.  The loneliness was almost physically painful.

I had a fantastic weekend while the kids were away.  I went to Art Hill at Forest Park to drink wine and watch Casablanca with girlfriends on Friday night.  Saturday night after working all day and church, I was a 5th wheel when I met friends in the loop for a round of Bags at Market House Pub, followed by bowling at Pin-Up Bowl.  And after work Sunday, I had dinner with Nicole and Farrell.  So, how is it possible to have such a full schedule and still feel lonely?  I don’t know.  It just is.

For someone who actually craves alone time, it doesn’t really seem like it makes any sense.  But it is what it is.  Tonight after work I get to pick up the kids and drive to Michigan for a few days.  There is nothing better to heal the heart than a few days in New Buffalo.  We’re going to visit my mom, and play at the pool, and go to the beach, and get Shakes at Nancy’s.  And for a few days, my heart will be full to overflowing because of my kiddos.  And on Sunday, they’ll go back to their dad’s.  For a brief moment, I will breathe a sigh of relief.  And I’ll go for a run and enjoy being alone.  And then by Sunday night, I’ll probably feel lonely again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and I know they would do anything for me, just like I would for them.  But sometimes there are things you just have to do on your own.

As I was finishing up my run today, Britney Spears came on my ipod.  Yeah, that’s right, I said Britney Spears.  Ya wanna make something of it?! Don’t judge me.  Anyway, I listened to the words “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more, I’m stronger than yesterday”.   So, yeah, I’m leaving the loneliness behind me one mile at a time. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the loneliness that comes along with my kids going back to their dad’s, but I do know that I’m stronger today than I was yesterday.

On the beach in MI with my babies

On the beach in MI with my babies

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Ode to Mayberry

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It’s funny that I consider myself a city girl at heart, when I really could not imagine a more perfect setting for my run this morning than Mayberry USA.  It’s the 4th of July, Independence Day, and I’m spending it with my kids in the town that I spent so many of the Christmases and Thanksgivings and 4ths of July of my childhood.

Quincy, IL is nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, just across from Hannibal, MO, home of Mark Twain.  It’s about halfway between St. Louis and Chicago, so it’s one of those rare places where Cubs and Cardinals fans can set aside their differences, focus on their mutual love of baseball and actually be friends.  This is a town where people decorate their houses for the holiday like it’s their patriotic duty, large flags flying and small flags stuck in the ground lining the sidewalks.

As I set off on my run this morning, I wasn’t really sure how far I would end up going.  I was hoping for 6, but I wasn’t sure if my hip would let me go more than 3 or 4.  It’s still giving me trouble and I’m just hanging on to hope that it will hold out another couple weeks to get me through that half marathon at the end of Racine 70.3.

I left my Grandma’s house and headed west on Payson Road over to 24th street.  I turned north at Niemann’s Horse Farm, which holds a secure spot in my earliest memories of this place. I ran past the entrance to my Aunt and Uncle’s neighborhood and I waved hello to a man driving a tractor down the road.  I ran past homes with freshly painted porches and manicured lawns, well maintained, showing the pride these folks have in the lives that they’ve built here.   I continued north on 24th all the way to Maine St.  That’s right, Maine, with an ‘e’.  As I stood at the corner of 24th and Maine, waiting for the traffic to clear, I nodded hello at a couple cyclists and I smiled at the driver of an old-school Ford as he cruised on by.

I ran west down tree lined Maine, past all the old mansions, toward the heart of downtown and the river.  At some points the brick sidewalk showed the age of the town, you could see how the roots of the huge trees had grown over the years, breaking the bricks and rippling the sidewalk.  It got a little treacherous, but it was well worth it for the nostalgia of the day.  I thought of our trip out to Camp Point last summer to see all the sights of where my dad had lived in his earliest years before the Jacobs clan came to Quincy.  My Uncle Tim drove us out there last year for the Camp Point 4th of July parade (be careful not to blink or you might miss the whole thing).  We went by the cemetery to pay homage to my Grandpa Wayne who fought with the Navy in World War II and my Great-Grandpa Issac who fought with the Army in World War I.  We drove past my Great-Grandma Winnie’s little pink house…or where it used to stand anyway.  We stopped by the park and got root beer floats and elephant ears, at 10am.  Breakfast of champions.

I snapped back to present day when I got to 12th street.  I briefly considered turning right and bailing on my run with a stop at Maid-rite, but instead I went left and headed back in the direction of my Grandma’s house, knowing that my kids were probably chomping at the bit to get over to swim with my cousins.  They adore my cousin Jerrison, who is the youngest of 3 boys my Aunt Jane and Uncle Tim adopted from Haiti a few years ago and is the same age as Ally.  I ran down 12th, past the Governor John Woods mansion on my left, and Mr. Bill’s Bar and Grill to my right.  I ran to South Park, established 1895.  I ran on 12th until it turns into Cherry Lane and leads back to 24th. I ran over the Curved Creek bridge and up the hill by Niemann’s, past the long white fence lined with American flags flapping in the breeze.

At this point I realized I was going to top out just shy of 8 miles for the day. I guess there is something to be said for sentimentality carrying me through and over-riding the pain.  The sun was high and it was warming up, I probably should have brought water (I usually try to practice what I preach with this one).  I started wondering if I should have headed out on the bike before my run this morning since I need more practice with transitions.  I did get in a decent brick workout yesterday, a ride out through the country roads with surprisingly more rolling hills than I would have thought, followed by a short run.  But today, was about getting back to being who I am.  Before I was a triathlete, I was a runner.  Even before that though, I was a Jacobs.  That’s the thing I really love about being here in Quincy.  Even time I come back, I am always reminded of who I am.  And even with all my baggage and goofiness and geekiness, here I am completely 100% comfortable with all of my weirdness.  That’s the thing about the Jacobs family; we’re all about the more the merrier.  We quote lines from the National Lampoon Vacation movies.  We help each other.  We love baseball.  We share stories about the good old days.  We take a lot of pleasure in the over-the-top fireworks display that my Uncle Jerry puts on.  We take naps on Norma’s couch and we cheer on our beloved Cubs without fear of ridicule.  We eat a lot.  We put together jigsaw puzzles and watch reruns of Andy Griffith and Cheers.  We’re not extravagant, we just are who we are.  We’re loyal.  We’re accepting. We’re not perfect, but we love without judgment.  We find comfort in family and traditions, and we know how to celebrate life without holding back.

I used to declare that I’m not sentimental, because I don’t keep a lot of “stuff”, but today proved that might not be entirely accurate.  Maybe I don’t keep the “stuff” but I keep the memories and I remember the traditions, and that’s what really matters.  Being a Jacobs is near and dear to my heart.  I’m proud to be who I am, and I’m proud of where I came from.  And obviously, I’m not completely averse to keeping the “stuff” because my Great-Grandpa Issac that I mentioned earlier…well, his old trunk from when he headed off to the war has found a home in my living room.

Yesterday I got this picture of my niece from my brother, with the caption: It’s like she wakes up every day and says…what is something awesome I can do today?

Brooke Love Jacobs...being awesome

Brooke Love Jacobs…being awesome

My text back to him was: Well, duh.  She’s a Jacobs.  Would you expect anything else?!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a burger and some strawberry pie to eat before we head off to a small town baseball game and fireworks.

Happy 4th everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying your families today, as much as I am enjoying mine. And I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to say a heartfelt thanks to those who have given their lives and fight for the freedoms that we enjoy and celebrate on this day.  Thank you and God Bless America!

Mama J and RRG having breakfast in Camp Point, IL 7/4/12

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Living Out Loud

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Every day that you wake up and are breathing, you are given another opportunity for an adventure.  Some days the adventures are hidden and you have to search for them among the mundane.  However, sometimes the adventures jump out at you from behind every corner.  We never really know what the day has in store for us when we roll out of bed in the morning.  Or in my case, as I drag myself out of bed in the morning.  I am not exactly a morning person.  Until I’ve had coffee, I don’t think I’m actually capable of a coherent conversation, at least not a very pleasant one, just ask my kids.  Trust me, I don’t jump out of bed everyday, throw on my explorer’s cap and head out in search of an adventure, but sometimes adventure just has a way of finding me.  Today was that kind of day.

I got up today thinking I would head to the pool for a swim, but for some reason I showed up at the completely wrong time.  Oh well, I went home, ordered a Bridesmaids dress for Farrell’s wedding and went about my day.

Last night I was over at Farrell’s house for a bit, before I met Steve to see the movie The Internship. I found it hilarious, I’m pretty sure Steve went just to humor me. Anyway, while I watched Linds cut up brussel sprouts (yes, really) she was telling me that this is the week to sign up to volunteer for Ironman Arizona 2013 in order to earn a “speedpass” which ensures registration into Ironman Arizona 2014.  Why in the world would I want to do that?  Nope, not happening.

Well, something happened between last night and this morning.  At approximately 7:17am, I got the following text from Teri regarding IMAZ: Leave your options open—sign up and get a volunteer spot and cancel if that’s best.

At 7:38am, I sent the following text to Farrell: Ok, I’ll sign up to volunteer.  I don’t have a clue how this is going to work.  Going on faith…

Volunteer registration didn’t open until 2pm our time, so I went off to Big Shark to join the Monday morning women’s ride.  Ok, so that might have had the tiniest bit to do with the fact that there is a boy who works at Big Shark that I kind of enjoy looking at…I mean talking to…alright, both.  But, seriously, it was mostly for the ride.  (And the boy, let’s just be real here)  Anyway, I needed to get a solid ride in, so after a quick stop at the post office, I was parked in front of Big Shark waiting for the others to show.  There was only one other person who showed.  He was not a woman.  So, my ladies ride of 18ish miles, turned into a 46 mile ride, through some crazy intense hills with my new friend, Greg.  Side note, when Greg said his name, I thought he said, “Grey”, so that will become his new nickname from me since I spent our entire ride thinking he was named after a color.  Why I thought he said this, is beyond me, maybe I’ve been reading too much 50 shades. (Shrug)  Greg started to take off solo, so I asked if he minded me tagging along since I’m still a rookie.  He said sure.  We made a quick stop at Mobile on the Run and then we were off into the hills of Wildwood.  And Oh my goodness, he definitely did not take it easy on the newbie!  Those hills are ridiculous.  On some of those climbs, I seriously wondered if I was going to fall over from lack of forward motion.  And I think I need new brakes from trying to spare myself a wipeout of catastrophic proportions on the way down.  Of course, by the end, I wasn’t riding the brakes quite so hard, I was almost starting to enjoy the rapid decent.  It kind of started to feel like I was flying.  Or maybe I was just really happy to not have to use my legs to propel me uphill anymore.  Climbing hills makes me feel powerful, but after that long, they just made me feel tired.

For about 3 hours, Greg and I rode and talked about all kinds of stuff…our families, my kids, school, work, etc.  At times all I could hear was him encouraging me up a hill along with the sound of my lungs about to explode from my heavy breathing.  Greg kept saying he didn’t really think I was a rookie.  My response, as usual, was, “What I lack in speed and ability, I make up for it with determination”.  I’m all heart, I know this about me.  He called me “Supermom”, I said I must have left my cape at the dry-cleaners.   I made it 46 miles.  Now, I know I have a half Ironman in 3 weeks so I should have been up to at least that many miles on the bike already, but here’s the thing…that was my longest ride to date.  Victory! (Don’t judge me.  I’m a working, single mom.  Who has the time to spend 3-4 hours on a bike multiple times a week?!) And that longest ride ever, did I go flat?  Oh, no. It was flipping hard with those hills mixed in.  So, how do I feel about a 56 mile bike ride in Racine sandwiched between a 1.2 miles swim and a half marathon?  I feel like I’m gonna crush it!  Today’s ride was a huge boost to my confidence and I needed it.  I got in a great ride, and I made a new friend.  And the scenery was absolutely fantastic.  At one point, we were on a ridge up high, looking down into a valley of trees and I said it felt a little like being on top of the world.  (Cue the Carpenter’s song…sorry, it’s stuck in my head too)  So, my day went in a completely different direction from what I expected.  But, that’s not unusual.  Just like Forrest said, Ya never really know what you’re gonna get.

When I got home, Farrell and Nicole were texting me about what aid station to sign up for in Arizona so we can all work together.  I’m not sure what supernatural force took over to temporarily eliminate my excessive fear at the thought of a full Ironman, but somehow I managed to sign up.  Nicole and I agreed that as scary as this is, it just feels right.

Like I told Farrell this morning, I don’t have a clue how any of this is going to come together.  But when do we ever know how things are going to come together?  Even the stuff we think we have figured out doesn’t always go the way we plan, but ultimately things just have a way of working out.  And here’s what I do know…I know that I love an adventure.  I know that I can tackle a challenge.  And I know that I’ve got a story to tell in all this.  My life is my story.  And I’m gonna keep telling it by living out loud. After all, when has anyone ever known me to be quiet?

Let the adventure begin…

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