Some You Win, Some You Don’t

Hello Friends, in continuing my half marathon each month this year goal, today’s adventure brought all new excitement to my journey! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, each race tells a unique and valuable story for a runner. This half proved to be both!

It all began this morning in my cherished hometown of Rochester, MN. I’ve run a bunch of races all over the place this year, and I’ll admit it was comforting to know this one was right here. I was well rested having not traveled hundreds of miles to get here. My nutrition was on point because I wasn’t relying on restaurants. I recently turned a corner with my running and was feeling more confident than ever. I was really excited at the prospect of a possible PR.

I was bursting with hometown pride as I checked out the starting line. The Med City Fall Half started right there on the airport runway. How cool is that?!?

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I love that the first few moments of this race would be run between rows of some pretty fantastic, privately owned planes.

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I’ve flown into and out of the Rochester International Airport many times, but never before on foot! What a fun race element this was, allowing runners to feel as if we were lifting off at the start! The weather was overcast and in the mid-sixties. As the race began, the sky began to spit, and I was in my happy place! The first few miles felt incredible, strong! By mile 5, a PR was looking very possible. The miles were ticking away through the beautiful contryside just outside of town.

By mile 6 my knee was reminding me it had been less than eager earlier this week, and by mile 7 it shut down my running. Entirely. As I limped through the beginning of mile 8, I had a tough time coaxing the next steps. If you know me well or have been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m not a quitter. I often joke that I will cross that finish line if I have to crawl!

I’d slowed to a stop. I could no longer put one foot in front of the other, couldn’t even bear weight on my left leg. I was totally immobile. I was also completely alone until I soon heard a quiet hum. I realized the race sweeper had pulled up a short distance behind me. I was the last runner…a reality I’d never before experienced. The driver was so kind; he gave me a respectful distance. When he realized I was no longer capable of moving, he asked if I required assistance.

My body and mind have always been a cooperative team, but not in this moment…another all-new situation. It was surreal knowing I was done; there was no longer any choice. I mean, what are ya gonna do?!? It was impressive how quickly the sweeper summoned a medic, and I was immediately whisked away by these great volunteers…talk about service with a smile!

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I’ve had the luxury of crossing each finish line of past races on foot, so this fast forward was new to me too. They efficiently orchestrated my speedy delivery around and through the remainder of the course, straight over the finish. A kind and clearly empathetic volunteer placed a medal on me as a few spectators cheered in support. The thought that crossed my mind in that moment was they should’ve cut off a chunk of the medal because I only earned two-thirds.

A strong responder hoisted me off the cart and hauled me into the first aid tent…clearly he spends time at the gym haha! I found myself quickly and expertly examined by a sports therapy angel.

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Thankfully, my suspicion was confirmed. My IT band was in massive revolt. To those of you who need some translation…I dodged some very big bullets! I have lots of ice, foam rolling, rest and a trip to Active PT in my near future.

So, Friends, the bad news here is that I was not able to run beyond the race today to accomplish my 18 mile long run for today’s marathon training. The good news? I crossed the finish line in record time. Sort of lol! Always a bright side!

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At the end of the day, some you win, some you don’t…Que Sera.

 

Gave Up on Giving Up!

Hello, Friends! I’ve been quiet lately as I have made strides working through some emotional stuff…good, good progress that has taken me several years to accomplish. I’ll share more on that soon.

Recently I’ve struggled, too, with my attitude regarding my running. Ordinarily I wouldn’t bore you with it, but I thought if anyone else could relate, it may be helpful to share. Some of the thoughts reach well beyond running too, so here goes. I’ve been running a lot this year….a LOT! And although I’ve finished many races as part of a year-long goal, recently I found myself just going through the motions.  Now a good part of it has to do with that emotional stuff I mentioned earlier, but it goes further. I’ve been feeling unworthy of calling myself a runner, down on my dismal pace. I’ve gone so far as to doubt my ability to complete a big race coming up due to its time requirement I feared I couldn’t beat. It really messed with me, but thankfully I’ve been able to turn it around.

One day after deciding to downgrade a marathon to a 10K, I got a pretty strong message to Give Up on Giving Up! It came just in time because I hadn’t yet downgraded my registration.  Then something amazing happened. During a training run in San Diego with friends, we practiced intervals…simply running 30 seconds/walking 30 seconds. I couldn’t believe how different I felt after 20 miles of that. I didn’t feel like dying! And at that pace, we would finish that marathon with time to spare!

Once home, I began playing around with varied intervals of time and found I went faster than if I just ran. Now if I’d done any reading at all about running, I’d know this by now, my mind was blown! My anxiety melted away and I was actually beginning to enjoy training again…thank you, Jesus!

I forget I’m still a fairly new runner. And that a mere four months ago I dodged a breast cancer bullet with a benign biopsy and surgery. And that only a year and a half ago I was a fractured mess following a car accident. Not to mention I weighed 246 pounds four years ago. I need to remind myself more often where I started and how far I have come; it may help me grant myself some much needed grace.

Last weekend I woke up facing a 12 mile run. I nearly slid right back into my previous mindset. I could feel the anxiety rise, yet I wouldn’t allow it to take me down. I decided on a route, drove to the start, started my various apps and took off. The first mile was the toughest, so I played Katy Perry’s Rise over and over to soak in mass quantities of determination. I settled into the intervals and before I knew it, I’d found the joy again. But who wouldn’t in this place? It was enchanting.

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Signs of fall have begun to add to late summer’s beauty…

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The sights, sounds and smells of a magical place took over; my twelve miles ended in sheer gratitude.

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That left me in a great place mentally to rest Monday with some restorative yoga. And this morning I was blown away. I drove to one of my favorite 4 milers…a couple times around Silver Lake. I upped my intervals, got lost in some great music and my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw I had shaved nearly a minute off my average pace.

Later this afternoon, following a bike ride to the athletic club, a training session and another ride home, I flaked out on the couch ready to zone out on Netflix. I came across something I instantly knew I needed to see…

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I found this movie in divine timing. I believe I was meant to watch it this afternoon! This documentary followed 12 strangers that had lost a combined 1200 pounds, as they came together to complete a 200 mile Ragnar relay. I spent an hour and a half crying as each of the participants shared their stories and Ragnar experience. I saw myself in each of them. I could easily have been part of their team, as my story was much like theirs. We’ve walked and run parallel journeys!

I ran my first Ragnar a month ago. I went into it terrified. I didn’t know any of my teammates and the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint them with my pathetic pace. But I had no reason to feel that way, they were extraordinary; some even had similar stories. If they take the opportunity to watch this film, they will finally understand what power leg 28 had over me. I happy-cried today, glad for the perfect timing of this film, grateful for my Ragnar team the Twisted Blisters, elated I’d gone through with it despite my trepidation, and thrilled I gave up on giving up.

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I Declare Me-Day Monday!

Happy Monday, Friends! It IS a happy Monday because I’ve declared a Me-Day! Are you living such a fast-paced, crazy-busy life that you don’t even know what me-time is anymore? Well let me tell you how Me-Day looked for me…

If you follow the FIT BFFs Facebook page, you know I’ve been on the go. I just returned from a quick weekend in San Diego to train with these running buddies.

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With their help, I was able to mark a 20 mile run off my training schedule. Between that run and the travel back and forth to accomplish it, my body was exhausted. As I turned the calendar page to this week, I was relieved to see rest written down for today…which means no running. I decided to take rest one step further in declaring a Me-Day.

Keep in mind, I’m not nearly as stressed out as many of you. My kids are independent now, I don’t currently have work responsibilities. My church and scout volunteer activities have not started back up for the school year yet. But I took today for myself anyway. Here’s what I did…

I slept in to restore what travel and running took from me last weekend. I enjoyed my coffee and breakfast at a leisurely pace with a good book. I threw on some clothes and biked to the gym.

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The weather was unbelievable; it was like the perfect day out there, Friends! My destination brought me to the next part of my plan…a hatha yoga class to ground and center my mind, body and spirit.

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It worked like a charm! Next it was time to nourish. I treated myself to one of my healthy favorites at the deli.

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Soon I was back on my bike, headed for home, but in no hurry.

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My schedule was clear of responsibility, because remember, I declared it Me-Day! So there was nothing to do but enjoy!

Once home, I spent a little time doing some crafting that I love.

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And later tonight I plan to finish up with a guided meditation class. Wow, I really took the whole day, didn’t I? And in doing so, I’m better equiped to take on whatever the week and month throw my way

Friends, I know it takes a lot for some of you to make time for yourselves. Work schedules, lack of vacation/personal time, childcare, $$…it can all make Me-Day seem somewhat impossible. Look for ways around whatever is preventing you from devoting important time to yourself. Could you trade a day or half-day of daycare with a friend? Could you initiate a school carpool with a friend or neighbor? Can you flex at work to carve out some extra time here or there? If there’s no room for a day off, could you take a weekend day just for yourself?

Get creative! If money is a concern, think of all the things you love to do that are either low-cost or free. A walk around the lake, some uninterrupted time at the library, a borrowed fitness dvd or two, your next great read, a picnic and some time of reflection/journaling at your favorite nature locale, a bike ride or hike amidst the backdrop of changing leaves, a YouTube meditation video or two…the possibilities are endless, Friends, just use your imagination!

I’m going to make a list of the things that feed my soul and plug them into my planner. I’ve already blocked off time for next month, and you should too. Notice…I chose another Monday. What a great way to start off the week!

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Let’s get with it, FIT BFFs! Let’s make plans to care for ourselves so we can be refreshed and ready to care for others that depend on us. It’s just one more way to put our Best Foot Forward!

Reposting from last year: The ABCs of Weight Loss

Hey Friends, it’s that time of year, so I thought I’d repost this from last year with a couple minor adjustments…it’s always a great time to reflect and refocus!

Happy September, fellow FIT BFFs! Parents across the country are breathing a sigh of relief. They’ve survived another action-packed summer and it’s time for the kids to go back to school! It’s time for students to be reunited with friends and return to a predictable schedule.

This becomes the perfect time for parents to return to themselves, so to speak. Back-to-school season is a great time for parents to redeploy their own personal goals…that’s what I’m doing.

Although I’ve lost a significant amount of weight within the past 4 years, I’ve gained some back, so I have work to do. Recently, I’ve been stuck. So I’m reminding myself (and anyone else who’s interested) just what it’s going to take. This is what I’m calling my…

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A is for Attitude, make sure it’s the positive kind.

is for Breathe…take time to quiet your mind and soul.

is for Calories, yeah, they count. Read those labels and stick to a serving size. One.

is for Determination. Some days will be easy but others you’ll need to dig deep. You’ve got this!

is for Every Day…a fresh new opportunity to be successful, so go for it!

is for Food! Eat whole foods, not the processed stuff. Remember it’s fuel and your stomach is not a garbage can!

is for Goals. Set them. Reach them. Set more!!!

is for Hard! Heck yeah, it’s hard! If it weren’t, everyone would do it!

is for Inspiration…look for it in others, never stop seeking it out. Soon you’ll inspire others too.

is for Journaling. Write down everything you eat…EVERY. SINGLE. THING!!!

K is for Keep Going! Start over as many times as it takes…just keep going!

L is for Lifestyle Changes…lots of little modifications make big differences. Huge.

M is for Mindful Eating. Eat at the table. Don’t rush or distract yourself with TV, computer or phone.

is for Never Give Up. Ever!

is for One Day at a Time. Results take time; be patient!

is for Promise…promise yourself that you will see this through. All the way!

is for Quit, don’t do it! And, for Pete’s sake, quit saying ” I can’t.”

is for Reward Yourself. You’re working so hard and you deserve it! Just try to make it the non-caloric kind.

S is for Sleep! Get it. Lots of it. You need it….enough said.

is for Try New Things. Try it all…new activities, classes, ideas, foods and recipes.

is for Unstoppable. Convince yourself that you are, and you ARE!

V is for Vegetables. Eat them, all kinds of them; they are a weight loss secret weapon!

is for Water…drink it often. Lots of it!

is for eXercise. Often. Do the active things you enjoy frequently. Enlist the company of others…

is for You Are Not Alone. Many are on similar journeys. Find them and support one other.

Z is for Zero Regret….what you will have when you give it all you’ve got!!!

A Little Airport Workout

Hello, Friends! I spent much of yesterday at airports and on flights returning from one of my half marathon weekends. My morning began with an Uber ride to the San Diego airport, followed by a flight to Detroit, then on to Minneapolis. Once there, I was faced with a 3 1/2 hour layover before my flight to Rochester and the realization that I’d only gotten around 1000 steps. I was not okay with the ridiculous lack of activity that number revealed.

A person rushes to get to the terminal well before a flight to just sit…a hurry up and wait kind of deal. I’ve often thought airports would be great places for treadmills; wouldn’t that be a perfect way to pass that wasted time? But since that brilliance has yet to catch on, I took full advantage of the expansive stretch of concourses within MSP. I set a simple ground rule for myself. skipping all mechanically powered options, thereby racking up my daily 10,000 step goal as quickly/efficiently as possible. So here’s what that looked like…

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Pardon the blur of these pics…I was on the go! I skipped each and every people mover along the way, cautiously avoiding the carts…those could kill a person!

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I passed right by those train stops too.

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And although the escalators were darn tempting, I opted for the stairs every time. I hauled myself from the F concourse, clear to A and back to F…I didn’t even bother with G. Keep in mind, I did not have a roller board bag, just an over-the-shoulder style, but that added to my workout. Why? I had a five pound Himalayan salt lamp in that baby! I worked up quite a sweat (lucky for others later, I had the seat to myself on the final flight).

I was getting pretty thirsty by then. But I have that one figured out, Friends…one of my favorite airport hacks! TSA will not allow a person to carry a filled water bottle through. But they have no problem with an empty one. So I bring my empty and fill it up just past security.

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After all, a traveler must stay hydrated. Plus at $3 a bottle, you’d be nuts not to carry your own!

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So I’d walked the entire terminal twice and had neared my step goal. But in doing so, I was accomplishing a second aim as well. It was now dinner time and in walking the full length times two, I was able to see the full picture of what my food options were. And with that I was able to make an informed, smart choice!

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As I walked once more to the C concourse where my gate was, I saw it! I must have been moving so quickly I completely missed it. Twice. And it was as amazing as I had imagined. No, better! I am in love, fellow FIT BFFs! An airport treadmill workstation!

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I sensed, in that moment, the rain clouds parted and angels sang…I was just that in awe! I know where I’ll be next layover, Folks!

Well, there you have it, my airport workout. With a few simple rules, I managed to rack up my daily step goal and more!

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Friends, next time you are faced with extra time at an airport, get those steps in; it’s just one more way to put your Best Foot Forward!

Ragnar Relay Resolution

Friends, I’m coming off another one of those weekends. One packed full of adventure, determination, endorphins, frustration, exhaustion, hilarity, non-stop forward motion, teamwork, triumph and victory!

This past weekend was all about coming together with someone I met in December at a murder mystery dinner theatre. We became Facebook friends and when that happened, it was time to think about marking her off my Facebook Friends Resolution…you know the one, fellow FIT BFFs; to do something fit/active with each of my Facebook friends. Emily invited me to join her Twisted Blisters team to run the Ragnar Great River Relay, where together we would continuously run 200ish miles over the course of two days. And since I will try anything once, of course I said yes! But here’s where the storyline was altered.

Circumstances kept Emily from participating, so I dove headfirst into this event with ten perfect strangers, nearly all new to Ragnar! Luckily we had a seasoned veteran join last minute to provide expert guidance and support. Heck, she even gave me her guestroom the night before…thanks, Kristine! Our team was split between two vans; my van was the half to begin the relay bright and early Friday morning…this pic is Van #1 plus Kristine.

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And before I was even able to consider how far out of my comfort zone I was about to be hurled…it all began. Once set into motion, there was no turning back. Zero! I was runner #4, which allowed me to observe the first few legs and exchanges to get a pretty good feel of how this would all play out.

My first leg came up quickly and I was thrown out on the road with some pretty typical Minnesota heat and humidity that is August in the Midwest. But that barely factored into my mindset as I plowed through my first 6.6 miles. I was embracing the beauty of the banks of the mighty Mississippi.

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And soon our van was finished with our first rotation of the relay. We stopped for lunch, then went on to meet the other half of our team, as a few legs had been cancelled due to a little flooding. Yeah, I guess it might have been a bit tough to run and shuttle through areas such as these.

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The day flew by as, one by one, we took our turns.

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Each stop gave us opportunity to cheer our runner to the finish and get out of our van that, by then, was escalating in stench.

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Soon it was time for my second leg of this thing. Coincidentally, Emily turned up at my exchange as a volunteer. It was a perfect time to see her, was encouragement I took along for my next leg.

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Because it was evening, I was outfitted with my required vest, blinking tail lights and headlamp. I was running into a drizzly abyss that cleared up to reveal sunset. I found myself smushing through sloppy, gooey gravel, between cornfields in the darkness of middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin. Thanks to an earlier deluge, the temps were quite comfortable and the stillness of night was settling. It occurred to me that although completely alone, except an occasional runner passing me, I was not afraid. I had a comforting sense of contentment. And just like that, my quick little 3.4 miles were done.

Upon completing our second rotation, Van #1 slammed some grub and headed to a motel where we took in a quick 2 1/2 hours of restorative sleep. I enjoyed a life-changing shower and very soon we were at it again!

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I made a critical error in grabbing a gas station breakfast. I guess they call it a gut-bomb for a reason. I don’t know if it was that, the exhaustion or nerves that hit me, but my belly revolted at each of the next four exchanges. The porta-potties were less than user friendly, and I found myself attempting to stifle my gags. By the time my final leg rolled around, my stomach was mad as hell.

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The last thing I wanted was to run, especially since this was my most difficult leg through the rolling, rough and unpaved trails of Afton State Park. I dug pretty deep to get that one done. I did my very best to embrace that 5.5 mile leg but came up pretty short in the gratitude department. It was not one of my finer moments, but I got it done. This will probably go down as my least favorite race pic of all time…

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Or maybe this one…

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But Andrew was right there ready to crush his last leg in rockstar fashion. It took a couple drags on my inhaler and the relief in knowing I was done to put that one behind me. We hopped back in the van and soon finished our final rotation with a quick meet-up with Van #2.

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As they left to finish it all, Van #1 drove forward to the finish line by way of a fantastic little brunch detour. Once at the finish, we had some time to kick back as we waited for Van #2 to arrive.

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It was inspiring to see each team join in the final few yards as their last runner arrived. And when Kristine came flying down the hill, our team put closure to this wild, warrior experience together!

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Just like that, it was done. The Twisted Blisters finished what they’d set out to accomplish.

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Just 35 hours earlier they were all strangers, but I left with 10 amazing friends. Even though I wasn’t able to cross Emily off my resolution list, I had others to mark off…I love how it all worked out.

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Moving Forward

Friends, today is a pivotal day for me. I’ve recovered from riding Ragbrai over a week ago…420 miles throughout 7 days across the state of Iowa on my bicycle. I’m heading into my next challenge this evening. It seems so metaphorical…I’ll tell you why in a moment. Tonight I will travel to Winona, Minnesota where I will sleep on the couch of a perfect stranger. The invitation, a wonderful gesture of a teammate I’ve yet to meet. I need to be there this evening because at the crack of 4:45 tomorrow morning we will be briefed on the rules, regulations and safety reminders of Reebok’s Ragnar Great River Relay.

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Together, with my team of 11 other runners called the Twisted Blisters (none of whom I’ve met), we will begin an epic run around the clock beginning in Winona and ending in Minneapolis. That’s something like 200 miles divided among the 12 of us. When we are not running one of our 3 legs of the race each, we will be hanging out in two team vans ultimately headed toward the finish line.

Why would I do this? It began as one of my Facebook Friends Resolution activities with a woman I met in December, who unfortunately, will no longer be participating. I will miss you, Emily. But, fellow FIT BFFs, as you know…I will do anything once. And Ragnar seems like a challenge I should participate in at least once! So I will give it the best that I’ve got in this crazy Minnesota summer heat and humidity. It’s all about fuel, hydration and will!

It seems quite fitting that I should embark on this challenge. I’ve come upon the end a chapter in my professional career today, and this event seems to be the symbolic turning of the page to the next. Although I don’t have the details sorted out to share with you just yet, know that it seems to be a logical life purpose for me following my own total transformation with the help of so many…

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It’s the next step for me in helping others attain their own wellbeing; I couldn’t be more excited!

For now, I pack…three sets of clean running clothes, my running shoes and all the other necessities involved in running toward reaching my goals and chasing my dreams. If, I mean when, I finish Ragnar, I’ll let you know how it went lol! In the meantime, keep an eye on my Facebook page FIT BFFs for updates. It’s going to be one wild ride!

4th Grade Reunion Resolution

Hello, Friends. I’ve had the best day because it included marking another friend off my Facebook Friends Resolution…you know the one, to do something fit/active with each of my Facebook friends. Much like many of my other resolution activities, I messaged my friend Connie and we set up a meeting after not having seen one another for years. Like 15 years!

She and I taught 4th grade down the hall from one another about 17 years ago. She was the most amazing mentor as I was pretty new to the teaching thing. Although she was one of the busiest teachers, being everything to everyone, she always had time for me. I loved her then and although I haven’t seen or spoken with her for years, she continues to be one of my favorite people on Earth. Today reminded me of that and, wow, do I ever love her still. She just gets this crazy thing called life like no one else I know. And she does the best Sean Connery impression I’ve been dying to hear forever!

We began walking around Silver Lake this morning and in the process of catching up, we rounded that lake twice before we even noticed. With only a few more yards, we hit 4 miles…yay, US! We could have walked 20 and still not have run out of things to laugh and cry about together. With that walk, I marked her off my resolution list, but I can’t wait to get together next week and do it all over again!

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Ragbrai Resolution…the Long AND Short of It

Friends, I apologize for my absence lately, I’ve completed something profound and it has taken me an additional week to recover and wrap my brain around the experience. If you follow me on Facebook (at FIT BFFs), I kept you up to speed.

For years now, several friends and I have tossed around the idea of riding Ragbrai…the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. We joked about it because it seemed like an insane idea, spending an entire week doing nothing but cycling across the entire state of Iowa and camping out every night during the hottest time of year. We laughed about it, because it seemed like daring each other to die!

I admit, it became a challenge that began taunting me with its allure. The time never seemed right and when I started being tempted, no one else would commit. It should also be noted that, at the time, I was riding around on a 20-something year old, 10-ton Huffy that would have made the ride an absolute hell on wheels.

Two years ago, following a serious car accident that left my body and spirit broken, a miraculous thing occurred…I won a bike from the Rochester Post Bulletin’s giveaway, generously provided by Jennifer, owner of Essence Skin Clinic. I couldn’t help but think it was meant to be!

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The timing could not have been more perfect. I needed an incentive to quit the pity party and get back to the business of increasing my strength and stamina. Slowly but surely, this was the vehicle that brought me back to life. I regained my zest and was soon accompanying my Boy Scout buddies on their 50-mile rides to earn their cycling merit badges. I thought that would be the extent of my long-distance adventues, but boy, was I wrong!

When I resolved on New Year’s of 2015 to do something fit or active with each of my Facebook friends, I never imagined how far it would take me. I messaged a former SuperStar Video co-worker from ions ago, Tim, and asked what he’d be up for. As crazy luck would have it, he owns a Ragbrai team and invited me to ride Ragbrai. And if you know me, you know I can’t refuse a challenge and will try anything once, so I couldn’t say no. I read up on this year’s route and learned, contrary to what we Minnesotans believe, Iowa is very hilly! One look at the route’s elevation had me freaking out. Good grief, what had I agreed to?!?

There was only one way to deal with this knowledge…TRAIN! It was difficult to balance my marathon and Ragbrai training, but I did the best I could. I biked whatever miles my schedule allowed during decent weather and hit the gym’s studio cycling classes too. I’d love to tell you I felt fully prepared, but that would have been a flat-out lie. And before I could even comprehend, it was GO time!

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This was the extent of my gear…bike, helmet, trunk bag, water bottle and a rubbermaid tote…CRAZY! I drove three hours south to Cedar Rapids to set this one-of-a-kind adventure into motion; at that point, there was no turning back. None.

It was surreal seeing Tim and meeting three of his six children; keep in mind I hadn’t seen him in something like 18 years. Although I was a bit apprehensive about this thing I was about to embark on, I knew in the event of disaster, Tim had my back. Probably.

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Tim’s outfit, Team Wimpy, gathered that morning to pack the bus, load the bikes atop and travel to the westernmost point of the ride. Here we are, ready to roll…

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Upon arriving in Glenwood, we set up camp in someone’s yard, much like most of the other teams. It was miserably hot and humid. I constantly hydrated through the rest of the afternoon and evening as that fluid spilled right back out of my pores. I hit the expo, grabbed some food and retired early to my tent where I maybe got a total of an hour of sleep in a sweat-drenched stupor. That seemed to be the experience of most of the team…that was one unforgiving night. None of us were well rested, but we eagerly started out the next morning!

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This was the extraordinary view of riders from all over the world ready to get this party started! Sunday, that first day, there were over 19,000 cyclists working their way the first 50 miles. I quickly learned the importance of clear, concise communication on the road. I’d done my homework to know how to RIDE RIGHT, but reading about and experiencing were two very different things.

Although I rode up on multiple accidents and difficulties throughout that first day, I never felt unsafe. There is an amazing sense of security on Ragbrai, knowing members of the Air Force Cycling Team are nearly everywhere, ready to lend a helping hand…for any reason. I LOVE those guys!

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I feel fortunate to have not required their assistance along the way, but so grateful in knowing they were there!

It felt great to be putting those first 49 miles behind me. I was constantly inspired by the makeup of this event…people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities embracing a common goal in unique and creative ways on all sorts of wheeled vehicles.

It was a mercilessly hot first day. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to arrive in Shenandoah that afternoon, ready for a shower, some refueling and a restorative night’s sleep.

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I just love how the towns embraced all the riders, and was thrilled in knowing this was an enormous, economic boom for them too…win/win!

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Props to Team Wimpy for the abundant source of power; so nice to be able to recharge all my technology!

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Distance wise, Monday…Day 2 was a new PR for me. I’d never ridden 77 miles before in one day. I was able to use my handy 24alife app daily to record all my stats. Although I think the calorie expenditure seemed pretty inflated, it gave me permission to eat. whatever. I. wanted!!!

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I wasn’t sure how Day 2 would treat me with the heat and distance, but I kept on top of nutrition and hydration. It was Military Veterans Appreciation Day, and I appreciated having a secret weapon momento of my dad along for the ride…his memory has seen me through some pretty tough stuff lately and I was glad to have him on board! The hills were unceasing that day…3,994 feet of climb.

I came upon a wonderful distraction that day named Linda. We rode together for several miles and found we had a lot in common. When I told her about how my Facebook friends resolution got me into this, she wanted to become FB friends too. Though she didn’t want to count this as our activity together, she invited me to go whitewater rafting in Colorado…see how I get myself into these adventures! I couldn’t say no! Those few miles we rode together really bolstered my spirit. I’d been riding alone so far and Linda’s exactly what I needed!

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I was happy to roll into Creston that afternoon…time to set up camp, shower, eat, sleep, and repeat again Tuesday.

Tuesday was only Day 3, but it was kind of a blur for me. The days seemed to run together in my mind. I kept comparing the day-long riding with so many others with the East Austrailian Current Marlin rode in Finding Nemo. I felt like once I was on the road, I was in continuous forward motion with thousands of other turtles, umm, bikes, I mean. I felt like I had no control over that motion…I just had to let it take me. And later, when I was taking a lunch break, I had to remind myself to get back on my bike and just keep swimming…or biking, I mean. I guess that many hours and miles on the road in the heat of the sun does some pretty strange things to a person’s brain lol. Before I know what hit me, I arrived in Leon…Day 3 done!

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I took full advantage of the enormous calorie deficit I’d created throughout the day and decided to enjoy some downhome cooking from the fine men and ladies of the Methodist Church…these people know how to refuel hungry bikers, both physically and spiritually. I felt as though I had dined with family!

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Day 4 was 65 miles of Carla’s getting tired. So I made more frequent stops and indulged in several of the tempations along the way. It helped. I was thankful to land in Centerville for the evening.

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I set up camp, showered and headed toward their town square. I will be returning to Centerville for a girls’ getaway weekend sometime soon. I was enchanted by the charm of their unique boutiques and quaint coffee shop where I realized how much I appreciate wi-fi and just how weathered I was beginning to look. I thought if this kept up, I would likely resemble the Marlboro Man by week’s end.

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  I grabbed some grub at The Garage while soaking up some much needed air conditioning.

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That burger was a game changer! Having refueled, I felt more like myself and was reminded why I was here…

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I stayed up late that night to blow off some steam at the Hairball concert…rock on!

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Day 5 threatened to bring me down. As I hopped on the team bus to grab up my stuff off the closeline, I was horrified to discover that someone (probably unknowingly) went off with my bike shorts. They were nowhere to be found and my hiney went through the next 51 miles with zero padding…good thing I have some of my own, I guess. I was determined to not let it destroy my day, because I had something I was looking forward to in Ottumwa…well besides the finish line for the day.

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I knew a favorite little something was waiting for me in Ottumwa. Little did I know I would have to climb a vertical hell to get there, but it was SOOOO worth it! Some of you know what lengths I will go to for my Pita Pit!

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I got far more than my most coveted chicken souvlaki pitas…I had the most incredible conversation with Elliott Oil Company’s Foods Supervisor Joyce P! Our chance meeting was a much needed heart-to-heart in divine timing. Joyce, your story inspired me and those two hugs were PRICELESS. I love how life sends you exactly what you need, when you need it!

It happened again on Day 6, thank God, because I hit a major wall! My shorts did not turn up and my hiney was on day two of crabby. The weather was overcast and much cooler, so at least I had that in my favor. I was suffering from the effects of cumulative exhaustion. Although I slept well, this week was really taking its toll. My confidence was shot and I imagined my emotional eating came out of its four-year hiatus with a vengeance. Really, I wasn’t doing all that bad, foodwise, but after having lost a ton of weight and having counted, measured, portioned everything out for so long, I was starting to feel out of control on this ride. Like 246 lb. Carla out of control; a mind can really play tricks

What I needed to remember was that the 72 miles I rode that day needed fuel. I started out fast and should’ve taken time to eat more earlier in the day because by the time I hit a wall, it was too late. I attempted to revive myself with this…

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But I was too far gone. I continued to ride and ride because that was the only way I was going to get from point A to point B. I had come way too far to jump aboard the sag wagon now. I was determined to say I rode every last mile across Iowa.

However, the final mile of the day became my toughest all week. My positive thoughts and self affirmations were long gone. A 58-year old man from Des Moines rode up next to me and asked me if I was okay. I told him I was having a moment. He told me he and I were not like all the serious bikers out there. He asked me if I felt like I was going to cry because that’s how he felt with each town he reached…like each is a victory.

The tears started. He asked if I’d been riding the entire week and I nodded, inches from bawling. Then the magic words came…”Do you realize what you’ve just done?” Um yeah. Tears pouring down. And then exactly what I needed to hear at the very moment I needed it…”You should be DAMN proud of yourself!” He went on to talk me up the final hill into town. And of course, the moment we hit town, he disappeared. Yeah, I know exactly who sent him.

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I skipped the hoopla throughout town and rode directly to the vendors and bought my sorry butt a new pair of bike shorts. I was determined to end this thing on a high note! I grabbed some Chinese with some of Team Wimpy, okay a TON of Chinese. And got my aching ars to bed. I knew what tomorrow was and I was going to do this thing!

Day 7, oh how I’d waited for you! Just rehearsing in my head how this day would play out was heavenly. I had renewed resolve. I was nearly giddy as I ripped my tent down for the last time…I don’t care if I ever see that thing again! Because guess why? I was sleeping in my own bed tonight!

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I only had 50 miles left. After 370, that was NOTHING! And much fewer hills were icing on the cake. As I was riding pretty early on, I heard someone from behind…”Is that Carla?” Music to my ears! Another one of those what I needed, when I needed it kinds of things. It was Linda of Colorado, from Day 2! What a gift in a sea of over 20,000 riders that day to meet up with her. She introduced me to her sister Donna and we stopped to enjoy our last meal. Together!

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I don’t even remember most of the rest of the miles that day.Those last couple were dreamlike. This had been the biggest physical and mental challenge of my life. When Muscatine came into view, relief washed over me. I was finishing what I’d set out to accomplish. I rode every last of 420 miles, 7 days, 2 wheels. The Mississippi River was a sight for sore eyes. In true Ragbrai tradition, I dipped my tire…

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And it was done. And there was only one picture left to take. One I wasn’t sure I’d ever have, because I didn’t think I’d ever do this crazy thing.

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It’s a Girl!

Many of you had no idea I was expecting! I’ve been keeping a very big secret lol!!! I’ve known about this life-changing opportunity for several years, but it wasn’t until this spring I knew the time was finally perfect. After all, my teenage sons are in that don’t-want-anything-to-do-with-Mom phase!

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I’ve set out on an exciting new journey that included an application process, a background check and an interview/orientation with Bolder Options last month. I really looked forward to hearing I had been matched with someone! Bolder Options is a genius organization here in Rochester and Minneapolis, that pairs mentors with at-risk youth to promote and engage in goal setting, physical activity, confidence building and healthy life skills development.

Meet my new teenage mentee, Kiara! Isn’t she adorable?

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I’m so excited to begin this journey with her. We will spend 2-4 hours together each week exploring health and wellness topics, participating in group activities (like a cooking class we attended last night), training for some 5K race events and 15 to 30 mile bike rides, or just getting some great exercise together.

The above picture is from our Zumba on the Plaza experience Monday night. We had a great time getting to know each other better as we walked to this community event. Once there, we joined about 100 other people in a 90-minute sweat and giggle session that is Zumba! Although this was Kiara’s first experience with Zumba, I doubt it will be her last!

In our initial meeting last week, it became obvious we have a lot of interests in common. As we began brainstorming all the fun activities we could do, it occured to me just how quickly our year together will fly. I’m honored to have an important role in Kiara’s life this year, but I’m not sure anyone quite understands how important this opportunity is for me…all new reasons for me to remain active, a rewarding chance to enhance a young person’s life, a way to give back, purpose.