Friday, September 18, 2015

A Dream Realized - Ironman Wisconsin

   First, I feel the need to apologize for the length of this post before I even get going because I know that it will be a long one.  How can it not be when a dream that you have been striving for, for mulitple years is finally realized?!
   Second, I need to thank a few people who helped me to get to where I am today.  
       GOD - I thank God for the gifts He has given me and the courage and perseverance to pursue goals and dreams I never thought I would be capable of.  
       My Parents - Who have constantly supported me and encouraged me through all of my dreams, not just athletically but in every aspect of my life.  There will never be a way for me to truly show my appreciation or my gratitude for all the support they have shown me over the years.
      My Coach Kim - She helped me and pushed me in my workouts, structured my workouts to my personal needs and what was going on in my life to help me get to the finish line.  She encouraged and motivated me when I didn't think I could do it, reminding me to trust her and trust in the training.
      All of my family and friends - You all put up with so much from me since I started pursuing this dream.  My relentless talk of triathlon, training, nutrition, lack of sleep, intense workouts, etc.  I NEVER would have been able to do this without all of you supporting me in ways I never thought imaginable.  The amount of encouragement and kind words throughout this whole process has been unreal!

     As so many of you know, pursuing Ironman has been quite the process for me, many years of trial and error, rigorous training and unwavering determination.  I did a 1/2 Ironman last summer with the idea of pursuing a full Ironman in a few years, but somehow IM WI was still open.  Do I register or do I wait?  Due to my Dad's encouragement, I signed-up!  I truly didn't know at that point what I had gotten myself in to.  I planned on figuring out the training program on my own, going off of the training program I used for my 1/2 IM and then in an amazing twist of fate I teamed up with Kim.  I received daily workouts and encouragement throughout the whole process.  Training was the hardest thing I have ever done - as crazy as this probably sounds, it was WAY harder than the actual day. Squeezing in hard, intense workouts while working full time, maintaining other obligations and trying to have a social life (which felt like it was next to impossible).

Race Weekend
    I worked a half day and then headed up to Madison.  The amount of encouragement I received from my co-workers was incredible.  The best thing someone said to me was, "May you stay safe and injury free, may you get the desired results and may you have constant confidence that you can do it because that is how we view you!  
Here we go!! Off to Madison, Wi
I got up to Madison and went through the athlete check-in and got all my gear.  I walked around and soaked in the atmosphere, the energy was palpable!  That night was the athlete dinner - a mix of motivation, intense emotion and incredible stories of people's individual journey's to get to Ironman.  I ate dinner with some of my Tri-teammates and then met up with some others at the end of the dinner.  Taking a bunch of pictures and encouraging those of us who had never completed an Ironman.
Ironman Virgin Teammates!
 After the Athlete Dinner, I headed over to my hotel to check in and meet up with my sister Monica.  I got to the hotel and unloaded all my gear - Triathletes have ALOT of gear...  As I looked around my hotel rom which would be my home away from home for the next 3 nights, I spotted these flowers.  My absolute favorite - Sunflowers and thought, wow I love that they have sunflowers in here!  As I glanced around the rest of the room, I thought, they are kind of weird because they don't really go with the decor.  Suddenly I realized that they were flowers for me!  Talk about a sweet gesture that totally had me in tears!

Saturday was an early morning because Monica had to get to the Volunteer meeting.  I needed to get in an easy open water swim, and an easy bike ride.  Monica headed off to the training to be a finish line catcher while I joined the hoardes of other athletes getting in the water.  It was a chilly day but the water was wonderful.  My first open water swim of the season and I loved every minute of it!  The bike was rather chilly but it gave me the confidence that I needed for the next day.  Monica and I then went on a mission to find some breakfast, listen to a course talk and then head back to the hotel to put my feet up and take a nap.  Later that afternoon, the next person of my support crew showed up - Amanda!  We went to Mass and then dinner - They enjoyed drinks while I chugged water.

At Dinner, Amanda told me that her kiddies, my adorable niece and nephews wanted to come but couldn't so they sent me a picture of support.  I cried yet again when I saw the below picture!

After Dinner, we headed back to the hotel for an early bed time.  I fully anticipated not being able to sleep, but somehow I managed to sleep really well.

    Sunday - Race Day:
Naturally Race Day is an early day, I was beyond wired and ready to go!  Nerves were beginning to set in a little bit but all in I was confident in what I was about to do.  My sisters dropped me off near transition and as I was finalizing my transition prep and items I suddenly realized that I left my Garmin in our hotel room charging.  NOOO... I started to freak out - what was I going to do?  My Garmin goes off every 15 minutes to remind me to drink and eat on the bike.  How could I do the bike without it??!  I tried to calm myself down but I was definitely in panic mode.  Naturally I did NOT have my phone on me - I was almost at the point of asking a complete stranger if I could borrow their phone but thankfully I ran into my Teammates daughter and asked to borrow her phone.  Thank God I remembered my sister's number!  My sisters were able to make it back to the hotel, get my Garmin and make it back to me before the race started.  It was then time to start making my way to the Swim Start.  The energy was incredible, everyone encouraging each other, helping get each other's wetsuits zipped, etc. I turned the corner and finally saw the swim entrance, I suddenly exclaimed, "HOLY CRAP".  A guy in front of me laughed and turned and looked at me and goes, "First time?"  Haha... what gave that away??  

The swim is crazy!!! 3,000 people starting at the exact same time in a 2.4 mile swim.  I think I was the only person that did NOT wear a wetsuit.  Is that crazy?  Maybe but it was what I was used to and I made the most of it.  My plan was to stay out of the main stream of people and focus on my stroke, and doing my own race - not panicking if people are in front of me or doing better, than me, etc.  The first turn came up and suddenly it was like a symphony of people Moo-ing in the water.  Yes - you read that correctly!  Everyone Moos as they turn the first corner.  I wasn't about to miss out on that so I moo'd right along with everyone else.  Before I knew it the swim was over.  Swim Time was 1:32 minutes.

By this point, my parents and other siblings had made it up to Madison and were able to catch me coming out of the water.  The number of people cheering you on, up the Helix was amazing!  I passed a few teammates and was quickly on my way.  Into transition I ran, grabbed my bike bag, loaded up on nutrition, put on my helmet and sprinted off to my bike.  Now for me, the bike is my absolute arch-nemisis.  I have always told people that if I can survive the bike I would be able to finish the race.  There is the greatest chance of things to go wrong on the bike - you can crash, get a flat tire, drop your chain, get a penalty, get hit by a car (no this wasn't a closed course).  I was determined to just do my own thing on the bike and not worry about the people that were passing me. Within the first 20 minutes of the bike, I managed to get a drafting penalty!  There was a guy biking in front of me who was slower than I wanted to go and right as I am about to pass him, I hear a motorcycle to my left.  I obviously did not want to move into the path of the motorcycle, so I hung back behind the guy waiting for the motorcycle to leave.  Well - little did I know, it was a course official who decided I was drafting off of the guy in front of me.  He gave me a blue card which was a 5 minute penalty.  I was pretty disappointed by that but was determined to not let it ruin my race.  I went to the penalty tent and served my 5 minutes, as I joked around with another biker who got the same penalty.  The bike course is a 2 loop course.  The first loop felt never ending, and I hit the 3 bitches (the 3 worst hills on the course) and was suddenly surrounded by my cheering crew.  On the second hill, I saw some of my tri-teammates who cheering me on and ran next to me, encouraging me up that hill.  The Last of the 3 hills, had my family waiting for me - I came around the corner and saw my Dad and brother, who told me that the rest of the family was waiting for me on the hill.  My sisters and little brother saw me coming and quickly ran next to me up the hill while my mom was farther up the hill snapping a bunch of pictures.  

   The second lap of the bike felt so much better than the first.  While I saw my family the second time around, they asked how I was feeling and I said, I'm pretty sure you won't believe me when I say I feel amazing!  And I did, I really did. I was beyond shocked to see that my Grandma, Aunt and Cousin had joined the ranks of my support/cheering posse. They drove over 3 hours just to get there and see me a few times.  It was incredible and meant so much to me! Naturally when I first saw them I couldn't stop on the bike to say hi - had to keep going!

The energy and camaraderie of the other athletes on the bike was so much fun!  Finally the end of the bike was insight and it was getting close to the run.

Hello - Bike Helix!
I got off the bike and felt like I needed to get my land legs.  Took a little bit of effort to focus and get into transition.  The woman who helped me in transition, said, Wow, you have so much energy!  I said, heck yes I do, because I am going to be a FREAKING IRONMAN!!  She laughed and said, yes, yes you are!  You have so much time, you've got this!  Out of transition I went and saw my family really quickly.  I saw my grandma and had to stop and say hi to her!  Naturally she gave me one of her famous kisses that left lipstick on my cheek!

Grandma Bea!!
 I started my run and tried to remain conservative for the first 6 miles.  Running and then walking through the aid station. I hit mile 6/7 and saw my family again, and quickly asked for a picture of us all together since I knew that they couldn't all stay for the finish line.

Just a portion of my family
Once I got close to the half way point on the marathon, I knew that running the last 1/2 of the marathon was out of the question.  My stomach was no longer cooperating and the second I tried to start running I felt like I was going to end up puking.  I ran into my friend Deena who said she was going to run with me for a little bit.  I laughed and said, Nope, I am walking at this point.  So we walked and talked about how I was feeling, what was going on etc.  Suddenly she turned and looked at me and goes, woah, you do realize you are walking really fast right now!?  I just kept going, one foot in front of the other.  By the time I was 3 miles away from the finish, I was struggling to walk straight, beginning to stumble, partly because it was now pitch black outside and partly because I was exhausted!  I mentally yelled at myself, and told myself to keep it together, that I had come WAY TOO FAR to have them see me struggling now and pull me from the course.  I focused on one foot in front of the other and a good power walk.  I was about a mile out from the finish line and a volunteer told me that the crowds were going to get more intense, bright lights, etc.  As I approached the Capital Square, I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear.  I was about to cross that finish line!  Everything I had been working for 6 years and training for for the last year was about to come true.  I turned the corner and I entered the finish chute.  Immediately the tears started coming - I even heard a woman say, oh look, she is crying!  How could I not be?!  Finish Line Video  My sister's were anxiously waiting for me to cross that finish line.  The camera flashed and suddenly they were on top of me!  They almost knocked me over because of how excited they were.  It was incredible!!

My family has been there with me every step of the way, so to see them at the finish line was truly amazing!  Their support made this entire thing possible!  I then witnessed a couple get engaged!!  Talk about a special day/special moment for them!  I then went and got a massage - which was incredibly relaxing and painful - but in a good way.  I had to go back out for the official finish of the race.  It was the most intense finish I had ever experienced!  Waiting for the last few people to come in was intense - once they ended the race, I had to leave because I would have been so devastated to see someone come in after the official time was up.   My sisters and I headed back to my hotel, but despite the fact that I had worked out for almost 16 hours and had been up for almost 24 hours, I could NOT sleep - much to my sister's dismay!  Sorry Katie!!

The next morning my sisters, Katie and Monica had to get to work and school, so Amanda hung out with me.  We went to the athlete breakfast and the finishers store.  Talked to a variety of athlete's who had some fun stories to share and incredible experiences.  It still hasn't quite set-in that I actually did it, that I met my goal.  There is no feeling that compares to crossing that finish line - truly an incredible experience.  All I kept thinking during the race was, "I am GLAD to be here! I am truly blessed!!"

Thursday, January 29, 2015

27, Single - So what?

              I’ve started this post numerous times, mainly when I have been angry or hurt, and I always end up throwing it out because writing when I am angry or emotional will make me sound bitter in this post.  So I am writing this when I am calm and rational and can hopefully adequately get my views across – I’m not always the most articulate, so we will see how this goes…
                I am 27 years old.  I am single.  I have been in 2 relationships, both of which were fairly short.  The reason for this post is to hopefully shed some light on my feelings about being single and why it’s not right to belittle, poke fun, or just be downright rude to someone about their relationship status.  Recently I have gotten a TON of flak for being single, maybe it’s because I am 27, maybe it’s because younger relatives are in serious relationships or are engaged, maybe it’s all just a joke.  No matter what the reason is – it’s not ok to put pressure on me to get into a relationship or to get married.  Since when did my personal life become anyone’s business?  Since when is it ok for people, sometimes complete strangers, to give me their opinion on how to find a guy?  Since when is it ok to tell me that I am becoming an old cat lady (which is ironic in and of itself since I am deathly allergic to cats and will never own one), or to call me a spinster even in jest?  Since when is it ok to tell me that if I don’t find someone soon, I will be single for the rest of my life?  Does getting married at a young age automatically mean that you are going to be happy for the rest of your life?  Because I certainly have my fair share of friends that are going through divorces.  Why is waiting for the right one to come along a bad thing?
                I suppose I am “old-school” in my beliefs about marriage, but I truly believe in the sanctity of marriage.  I believe in saving myself for my husband and giving him the total gift of myself upon marriage.  I believe in being married for life, divorce isn’t an option.  I believe in the importance of being, as my mother would say, “evenly yoked”.  I believe that the best marriages and relationships are built on a foundation of friendship.
                I do NOT believe in sacrificing my morals or values to “land the guy”.  I do NOT believe in being in or staying in a relationship just to be able to say, I’m in a relationship.  I do NOT believe in being in a relationship with someone who isn’t going to bring me closer to Heaven.  I do NOT believe that another person “completes me”.  I am a complete person on my own, another person can complement me and my qualities but does NOT complete me.
                Do I want to meet Prince Charming and have my happily ever after?  Of course, who doesn’t!?  But just because I haven’t found him yet, doesn’t mean that I am a spinster, an old cat lady, incapable of commitment or inadequate as a person.  What it does mean is that I am willing to wait for the right one! I am willing to wait until I am 100 years old, if that’s what it takes. I will NOT settle!
                Making fun of me for being single, or cracking jokes at my expense is not only mean but it is hurtful.  Maybe I will never find “The ONE”, maybe I will never get married and have a family – but being made fun of for that fact doesn’t help the situation.  Telling me that you’ve given up on me and my chances for getting married, is hurtful.  Telling me that you thought I would be married by now isn’t helpful – it’s hurtful.  

So please, please think twice about your comments, because while they may be well intentioned or meant to be funny, they can be incredibly hurtful and mean.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

St. Paul's Cathedral - Church Architecture

      Last week I was out of town on a business trip in Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota.  It was my first ever business trip, so I kind of felt like a kid at Christmas.  I was so excited to see a new place, since I've never been to MN, and experience new things.  I did a variety of things from attending the conference, going to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, exploring the city on foot (while definitely bundled up), and ordering my first ever room service, but my absolute favorite thing I did was a brief architectural tour of the Cathedral of St. Paul.
The view from my Hotel Room
       The nerd in me, sat there listening to the tour guide while taking notes on my iphone - had anyone looked at me they probably thought I was being disrespectful and texting someone while I was in a church, but I wasn't I swear!

        The history of this gorgeous church is so amazing, here's some of the things I learned:
The High Altar
   This Cathedral was the 4th Cathedral to be built in St. Paul, it was built on a hill known as the hill of St. Anthony, now it is called Cathedral Hill.  The architect was Emmanuel Masqueray who helped with the Worlds Fair in St. Louis, the Bishop loved his style and told him that he wanted to build a Cathedral.  After further conversations Masqueray moved from New York to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to be able to design and build the Cathedral.  His influence is seen in various buildings in the area.  He originally thought it would take 1.3 million dollars to build, it ended up taking 1.65 million.  It took 9 years to build, the interior floor of the Cathedral was done in Travertine marble, but the Bishop was very upset when he realized that they had only put the nice travertine in the aisles and not throughout the entire church and where the pews were going.  He made them pull out the flooring they had put down and put travertine everywhere.  The Bishop wanted the first mass to be Palm Sunday 1915, but they warned that since the travertine has just been laid that it wasn't ready for that much traffic and weight, the Bishop said it would be fine.  He was wrong.  The travertine settled unevenly and the pews and floor undulates like waves - that wasn't the design.  Now it is part of the character of the Cathedral. In 1915 the structure of the Cathedral was finished but they were out of money and the interior was completely plain and empty.  It would take another 45 years to truly complete the interior of the church due to WWI, the depression and WWII.  In 1915 it was the 3rd largest Cathedral in the US, now it is the 4th largest.  37 different marbles were used in the construction.  The Interior is 187ft tall, which for perspective means that if the Statue of Liberty - the copper statue, not the base she stands on, were place in the center of the Cathedral there would still be 15' from the top of her head to the ceiling.  How incredible!

Choir Loft - with an incredible Organ
Beautiful Rose windows
The ceiling of the largest dome in the Cathedral
     I truly find Church Architecture to be absolutely amazing!  The details, plans, revisions, struggles and stories all help to create this incredibly rich history of this Cathedral.  Details that most people would never think of, or understand why it was used in the church.  One example of this excellent foresight and detail by Masqueray was the use of limestone on the interior walls.  Marble is used for the first 7 feet and then the rest of the walls are limestone.  To the naked eye, one would think that they ran out of money, but it was part of his design from the beginning.  Limestone has a lot of holes and imperfections in the stone, which help with the acoustics of the Cathedral, so that the sound doesn't echo and bounce off the walls.  
      If you ever get an opportunity to go to Minneapolis/St. Paul - I'd highly recommend stopping into St. Paul's Cathedral and appreciating the architectural magnificence and beauty of this Cathedral. I certainy