swmslo


1 Comment

2013 Year in Review

2013

2013

We rang in the New Year quietly at home and just a few days later I was off  to run Ragnar: Miami to Key West

Chuck Norris Never Ragnar'd

Chuck Norris Never Ragnar’d

I opted out of February’s Donna this year due to my hip, but we still made it out to cheer

Cold!

Cold!

For Spring Break, Alex came to visit!

<3

<3

And T:E Girls partied at One Spark

IMG_0550

And rocked it out at the gym

TE

In April, Ben and I hopped on a plane to spend a few days in Santa Barbara and Malibu for my cousin’s wedding

Cheese

Cheese

Malibu Beach

Malibu Beach

Wedding!

Wedding!

In May, we started enjoying Florida’s beautiful beaches again

Date Night

Date Night

By June, I was back in the open water

Duval Ocean Swimmers

Duval Ocean Swimmers

And finally able to run again by July (see: #hipsaga2012)

July 4th 5k

July 4th 5k

CROME (formally known as Timed Exercise) also took to the beach this summer

TE1

TE2

Midway through July we ran away for a week on the Allure of the Seas with my family for my dad’s 60th birthday

Docked at Labadee, Haiti

Docked at Labadee, Haiti

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico

DSCN0459

Come August, I swam my second Hammer Head 2.5 Mile Ocean Marathon and place 2nd in my age group

Running to the finish

Running to the finish

And Hannah came to visit before shipping off to college :)

So proud of this girl

So proud of this girl

In September I joined JumpingFish for Up The River – Downtown – a 10k/6mi river swim escorted by 45 kayakers/boaters!

river1

Source: Jacksonville.com

river2

river3

Soon after I spent a weekend in NYC with friends. We ate cupcakes, ran through Central Park and celebrated Lindsay’s upcoming wedding

nyc nyc2

October brought several events including my second Siesta Key 5k Swim with a 4th place finish

Siesta Key 5k Ocean Swim with DOS

Siesta Key 5k Ocean Swim with DOS

My 30th Birthday

Thirty

Thirty

My first GORUCK

Damn good heart if you ask me

Damn good heart if you ask me

One Team

One Team

A trip to Virginia with Ben for Sarah’s wedding

Sarah and Andrew :)

Sarah and Andrew :)

Rainy Day

Rainy Day

And my fastest 5k ever!

29:33

29:33

In November I traveled home for Lindsay’s wedding and to see some of my favorite people

Eric!

Eric!

And on Thanksgiving morning I ran the Subaru 13.1 in 35 degree temps (Florida?!?) – this race was iconic for me because it was the first 13.1 after all my hip issues. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to run the distance again. I ran it thanks to my wonderful PRS group.. I even PR’d by a minute :)

2:20.29

2:20.29

Before we knew it, it was December and time for my second GORUCK.

GORUCK Light Class #153 - Jacksonville Beach

GORUCK Light Class #153 – Jacksonville Beach

I also ran a painfully difficult soft-sand beach 5k, but had a ton of fun AND placed!

Patrons of the Heart Beach 5k

Patrons of the Heart Beach 5k

The next day (Sunday 12/22/13), Ben and I went to the beach, like any other Sunday. It was incredibly warm and beautiful for just three days before Christmas.. but that’s Florida for you.

Little did I know...

Little did I know…

Little did I know that I’d walk to the water with my boyfriend and walk back up the beach with my fiancé :)

Yes!

Yes!

The next couple of days included engagement excitement and Christmas

Christmas Eve Shenanigans

Christmas Eve Shenanigans

We rang in the New Year with a simple dinner and home before midnight (noticing a NYE theme here..)

Bye-Bye 2013

Bye-Bye 2013

And started 2014 with friends at an extremely rainy Gator Bowl

We managed to have fun anyway :)

Mid field, 6 rows back – can’t complain

It was seriously an exciting year and we have so much to look forward to in 2014! My calendar is already filled with a trips to Atlanta/Blue Ridge, Islamorada for venue shopping, a one-week south Caribbean cruise with friends, Lake Tahoe for a wedding, Portugal/England with Ben as well as things like the Wolfson’s 55 relay, Gate River Run, Hammerhead Ocean Marathon, Siesta Key 5k swim, many 5ks and fall running :)

One last thing

While it’s important to focus on the good in life, I had one very sad event this year. On 12/1/13 my sweet Alley girl went missing. We have absolutely no idea how she got out of the house and we don’t understand why we didn’t see her lounging around in the sun within two days. She has literally up and vanished. My loving girl is 14 years old and I worry about her every single day – she’s been my devoted snuggle friend for over 11 years. My heart is broken and I just wish she’d find her way home.

Love this pretty girl

Love this pretty girl

The silver lining in this tragedy, is that while trying to find Alley, we rescued an 8 month-old feral kitten. We weren’t sure what to do with her at first, because she was a bit insane (which earned her the name “Ninja”). But she’s pushed our way into our hearts and our home, so we think she’s here to stay.

Not such a ninja anymore

Not such a ninja anymore

All we have to do is convince Savannah

She's still undecided

She’s still undecided


2 Comments

GORUCK Light Class #153

December’s GORUCK was supposed to be my original GORUCK, but I got antsy and did October’s GORUCK first. I’m glad I’ve done two because they were so incredibly different from one another. The people were different, the cadre was different, the messages were different- an overall new experience. However, both were excellent.

GORUCK Light Class #153 - Jacksonville Beach

GORUCK Light Class #153 – Jacksonville Beach

Our class was unusually small. I’m not sure what happened because I know we had a lot more people signed up. Many people started backing out a few days before and others just didn’t show up that morning. We ended up with only sixteen people and I think eleven of us were girls. This Light was notably “easier” than my last one. I don’t know if it’s because we had a different cadre, because I knew what to expect or because Garet went easy on us for being a mostly female group (I hope not!)

Unlike my last Light, this one started at 7:00am, so we got to ruck during sunrise.

DSC_0005

I felt a bit better prepared this time since I sort of knew what to expect. I chose to wear pants instead of shorts; my shorts were fine last time but I chose pants a) just in case it was a bit chilly and b) because last time my knees got a bit raw during the “Tunnel of Love” (no ToL this time). I also tied my hydration hose to my ruck strap (with a rubber band), which kept it in place, so I didn’t have to keep reaching back to find it. And finally, I was more prepared with the fact that I would have no concept of time and no idea when the event would be over.. last time around, this lack of awareness made the event seem like it was going on forever. This time was much better.

Garet doing his thing

Garet doing his thing

Oh, pushups..

Oh, pushups..

Inchworm pushups

Inchworm pushups

These had a name...

These had a name…

Took us a few tries

Took us a few tries

Embrace the suck

Embrace the suck

Garet, our cadre, was kind enough to hold off ordering us into the 65 degree water until the sun was fully up, but that doesn’t mean it made getting in any easier.

Rucksack trust fall

Rucksack trust fall

Holy cold

Holy cold

Garet also made sure we remained very, very sandy.

Sugar cookies

Sugar cookies

He let us wash off, then said, "Just kidding"

He let us wash off, then said, “Just kidding”

Of course, since this was a Light, we sang quite a bit.

DSC_0090

And when we didn’t sing well enough, we were punished.

DSC_0092

These were pretty uncomfortable.

Luckily, we were spared any real weights this time around. No 120 pound sand bags or a couch… but we were given kegs to toss for a few miles, and then returned them to the convenience store where they originated

Matt, cadre in training

Matt, cadre in training

Most of our singing was done in front of the homes of GORUCK employees and military vets.

Good morning, GORUCK staff!

Good morning, GORUCK staff!

It’s all fun and games until one of your teammates gets out of the water without his team. Then it turns into very cold and wet pushups.

Waves make it a bit difficult

Waves make it a bit difficult

TL

TL

Garet's Class #153 Gift

Garet’s Class GRL #153 Gift

At first, I was a little bit bummed that I didn’t have Jason, my cadre from last time. But by the end of the day, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to ruck with Garet. He’s a really nice guy and extremely funny. He kept us laughing the whole day and really took the time to get to know us.

Though this Light was much more lighthearted than the previous one, what we lacked in buddy carries, excessive singing, and extra weights, we made up for in miles. Nine miles, actually. My legs are pretty sore the next day as are my shoulders from PT. Or, as Garet called it, Asian Calisthenics (complete with Asian elevator music).

A good time had by all, I’m sure. I made some new friends and enjoyed everyone I rucked with. I was inspired by some people who rucked with us despite dealing with some physical challenges. Some people are truly amazing!

The big question is:

What Next?

 

Special thanks to Jim for shadowing this event and taking pictures.


4 Comments

Walkin’ on Sunshine with GORUCK Light

goruckflag

This past Saturday I completed my first GORUCK Light. Although I “knew” what to expect from talking to others and stalking the internet, I didn’t really “know” what to expect. It’s safe to say that no one does, regardless of what kind of background you have. You don’t know what to expect until you’re actually in it. I had a hard time finding a blog for a newbie, like me (especially for a Light). Hopefully, this helps a bit.

Who and Why

“Who does these things?” is a common question I’ve encountered. Well, anyone does them.. I highly recommend that you’re in shape, can run/walk a good 6-10 miles, carry a decent amount of weight and you’re a team player. “Why?” is a more difficult question to answer. I can’t really say “why” other than “because.” This is a challenge – it’s a bit of a physical challenge but it’s more of a mental challenge. It’s also a team challenge – can you take one for the team? Can you take several for the team?

This particular GORUCK event was a fundraiser for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, which serves to help families tackle childhood cancer by providing comprehensive financial, emotional and practical support. It’s an incredible organization and I am proud that we were able to contribute to the cause.

Prepping

I can’t say I did any extra preparation for this. My regular weekly schedule of Timed Exercise (EDIT: now called CROME), running and swimming was plenty. The only “extra” I did was a walk or two with my rucksack – mostly so that I could adjust straps and weight and figure out whether I could get away with a sleeveless shirt.

You need: a rucksack (preferably a GORUCK), a hydration system (no, not water bottles.. an actual hydration system like a camelbak), bricks (2 or 4; you must wrap your bricks completely in duct tape to protect the inside of your ruck… google videos), your ID and emergency cash. That’s really all you need for this event. Optional would be snacks and a waterproof case for your phone/keys.

Pool noodle pieces used to raise bricks/take up space without adding weight

Pool noodle pieces used to raise bricks/take up space without adding weight

As girly as this sounds, I struggled with what to wear: capris or shorts? I went back and forth on this for days and tried to google what other women have worn… I came up with nothing. Here’s some help for future GORUCK newbies: it doesn’t really matter. I went with shorts because the idea of wet capris/pants made me cringe. A few other girls wore shorts, a few wore capris and two word ankle-length tights (tucked into socks, which apparently helped keep sand out of socks). My shorts left me with some raw knees from crawling in the sand, but otherwise, I was very happy in them. Obviously, it was a warm day.. I can’t speak for cold events. I opted for a short-sleeve shirt (yellow in all the pics) to protect my shoulders from my rucksack. I quickly learned that nothing will protect your shoulders, FYI. Some girls ended up in just sports bras, some girls wore long-sleeves for protection from the sun.

Let’s Go

We met at the roundabout at One Ocean in Neptune Beach, Florida at 12:00pm. Everyone stood around for a bit, getting to know each other before Jason, our Cadre, came to spread his Peace and Love. We had our rucksack check and were reminded of a few life lessons. Our main theme for this event was: It could always be worse. This was in honor of our fundraiser. The struggle families go through when a child is diagnosed with cancer is far worse than anything I have ever had to endure. No matter what you or I might experience in life, it could always be worse.

It could always be worse

It could always be worse

"You will smile," he said, "Whether on your own or because you are made to...."

“You will smile,” he said, “Whether on your own or because you are made to….”

And then we got wet.

One Team

One Team

Actually, let me point out that originally, we entered the water as a giant, clustered mess; we were quickly lectured on teamwork and punished with heart-shape inchworm push-ups:

Damn good heart if you ask me

Damn good heart if you ask me

Up... down... up... down...

Up… down… up… down…

After about 20 rounds, we were sent back into the water, where we entered as a team… for sure. A few flutter kick later, we exited the water and began the true torture of the day: singing.

I’m Walkin’ on Sunshine

Just typing the words makes me shudder. Every time I hear a tune from a car driving by, I think it’s THAT SONG. This song was chosen via vote on our FB page… it sounded like a good choice at the time. I hate this song. Everyone hates this song. So. Annoying. We lined up in our two “army thingies” (rows) and began singing. We were awful. Everyone was off beat, half of us got the words wrong even though someone had printed out laminated lyric sheets (brilliant) and we were barely audible. I’d like to say that all changed pretty quickly, but it took us a long time to get it right. We sang it over and over and over again… and our cadre was unimpressed over and over and over again. Eventually, a bunch of tweaks earned us the opportunity to move along. We sang this song hundreds of times throughout the day.. in front of Poe’s Tavern, in the courtyard near Lilly’s, in front of beach goers, life guards, Joe’s Crab Shack, Lynch’s , various homes up and down 1st Street, and finally at the Team House.

Sing louder he said, so apparently I did. Also please note, our straps were "taken away" so we held our rucks

Sing louder he said, so apparently I did. Also please note, our straps were “taken away” so we held our rucks

Serenading a lifeguard

Serenading a lifeguard

Serenading the Team House

Serenading the Team House

Casualties, Sandbags and a Couch

Throughout the day we carried each other, we carried sand bags and we carried our rucks. We carried our rucks without straps. We carried each others’ rucks. We also carried a couch. Yes, a couch. A few classes back a discarded couch (throne) was picked up and carried by the team and an ambassador was chosen to sit on the couch… while it was carried. It’s not unusual for a class to come across random, heavy things to carry. I knew this; I saw the pictures. I did not know, however, that Jason had held onto said couch and kept it in his backyard. Halfway through our walk, when we picked up 5 sandbags and 2 water jugs; we also picked up the couch.

Fact: water makes rucksacks heavy

Fact: water makes rucksacks heavy

Casualties being carried

Casualties being carried

Casualties & no ruck straps

Casualties & no ruck straps

While being carried is better than carrying, it's quite uncomfortable

While being carried is better than carrying, it’s quite uncomfortable

What happens when you don't sing together

What happens when you don’t sing together

p.s. these suck - especially when your cadre is spraying a hose in your face

p.s. these suck – especially when your cadre is spraying a hose in your face

Challenge for the girls - carry the 120 lb. sandbag up and back in under 3 minutes(we did it in 2)

Challenge for the girls – carry the 120 lb. sandbag up and back in under 3 minutes (we did it in 2)

Lots of casualties - it was a nasty war

Lots of casualties – it was a nasty war

Flutter kicks

Flutter kicks

Flutter kick w/ ruck passes

Flutter kick w/ ruck passes

Tunnel of Love

Tunnel of Love

Never been so happy to see a house - the Team House - our finishing point

Never been so happy to see a house – the Team House – our finishing point

We're done! As long as we can sing one last time, we're done!

We’re done! As long as we can sing one last time, we’re done!

When It’s All Said and Done

I had a good time. Obviously there were a few parts that sucked and by the time 5 hours passed (total time was 6.5) I was ready to go home, but I had a good time. I’m sore (very sore) and bruised (very bruised) and pretty tired.. but I would do it again. I’m proud of myself not because of the physical parts but the mental parts. When someone needed to be carried, I carried them. When someone needed me to take weight, I took weight. I think I handled my turn as Team Leader rather well. I kept my mouth shut and didn’t complain and encouraged others to do the same. We all got along really well and no one argued; it was refreshing, actually, considering what I observe at work on a daily basis. These are people who work hard. These are people who don’t complain. These are people who acknowledge that it could always be worse.

GORUCK Light Class 117

GORUCK Light Class 117

Light patch - never sold, only earned.. special edition patch for the Jay Fund

Light patch – never sold, only earned.. special edition patch for the Jay Fund

Pro Tips & Things to Remember

*Join the FB event page so that you know important information beforehand
*Pack what you’re supposed to pack, but remember that your rucksack will be passed around and carried by others; if you pack extra, your team carries extra (i.e. I ended up with an 8 brick rucksack)
*It says bring a hydration system, so bring a hydration system. Water bottles are not a hydration system.
*Follow directions, people. Wrap your bricks!
*Don’t plan on anything the rest of the day. You have no idea how long your event will last. Your Cadre can keep you until he decides you’re done.
*Just suck it up. It could always be worse. Be a team player.
*Light does not mean easy. They say it on the website and they mean it. Light just means less hours… it in no way means easy.

Extra Inspiration

We were lucky enough to have Frank join us for this event. Frank’s 6 year-old daughter has been in remission for a year and a half. Frank’s family has benefitted from the amazing Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, so he decided to ruck with us. Shortly into PT, Frank had a hard time keeping up. H’s a boxer and teaches kids to box every week.. but this was a different kind of conditioning for him. He pushed hard through the Tunnel of Love with cheers from our team and then found himself short of breath and I think a bit panicked. But Frank was reminded that quitting is not an option. Our Cadre reminded Frank that there are people in this world who deal with much more difficult things in life and they aren’t able to just up and quit. “Like my daughter,” was Frank’s response. Frank, like his daughter, is an inspiration. Frank stood up. Frank got in line. Frank finished the challenge. Frank earned his patch. Thanks for joining us Frank!

No man left behind

No man left behind

Please take the time to donate a monetary gift, frequent flyer miles or give the gift of volunteered time to this important organization: More information here

*Pictures courtesy of Jo, who shadowed our class (public album on FB) – thanks Jo


Leave a comment

Aspirations

In case you missed it, this month I participated in Up the River Downtown. It was such a phenomenal event that came together perfectly. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt so alive the entire swim. We’ve spent the last few days talking about incredible plans for next year. And then, today, Diego’s video came out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=N6PHkm7zs-Y

Diego brought his GoPro with him during the swim. I didn’t think much of the camera while we were out there, but watching the video has inspired me all over again. I want to do more. I spent the day thinking about some of the things I’ve considered doing lately and now I really want to do them. Some things I’m already working toward… but 2014, I’m looking at you, kid.

On My Way

1) Sub 30 5k. I want to break 30 in a 5k. I am so close to this goal.. it’s right around the corner. I’m running on the track once a week and I’ve been feeling great. I need to run throughout the rest of the week, which I promise to do… soon. And then I just need to find a 5k when I’m actually in town. (December edit: I did it! 29:33 at the Evergreen Pumpkin Run)

2) GORUCK. I saw an ad for GORUCK a while back in some magazine somewhere. I didn’t think much of it. Then, I saw someone with a shirt, which inspired me to search the website. The final push was seeing photos pop up on facebook. I visited the website again, found the next available date for a GORUCK Light (December) and registered. Rucksack, bricks, gloves and hydration purchased, and I’m on my way. Even better – an October date opened up, so I get to check this one off my list even sooner than expected. Then do it again in December with a good friend :) (December edit: DONE)

I’m Coming For You

1) Thirteen point one. I want to run a half marathon again. I went through #hipsaga2012 last year where I dealt with a bunch of fancy medical terms for torn tendons in my hips. I stopped all running for what felt like years, did a bunch of rehab and strengthened my core. Part of me feels like running this distance is out of the question, simply because of the training. Part of me feels I can do it if I do right. Am I motivated enough? Maybe. Some days I still feel a little pain/tension, some days I don’t. We’ll see. (December edit: DONE! Subaru 13.1 and even with a 1 minute PR)

2) Swim Around Charleston. I wanted to do this 12 mile swim last year and couldn’t find the time. This year, I have an obligatory trip to NYC. I really want to do this next year. The relay is an option, but I want to do it on my own. I’ll need a support boat with a crew member (any volunteers?) and I’ll need to swim more than I did this summer.. but swimming distance has never been much of a problem. Just the idea of this swim is SO exciting. I really hope I can make this happen.

charleston

And that’s all for now. I’m hoping for a cruise in March/April and have a trip to Portugal planned for late summer/early Fall… but I can’t exactly call those aspirations, can I?


2 Comments

Up the River Downtown – 6 Miles in the St. Johns River

 mainstreet

I love this city.

Really.. I’ve liked it for quite a while now… but lately, I just love it. I remember having a conversation with my mom about Jax shortly after I moved here. I complained that I felt like something was missing and this just wasn’t the city for me. We concluded that Jacksonville was missing heart, missing a center. That conversation today would be the exact opposite. This city as heart. It has soul. It has a community – and I love it. I just needed to find it all.

groupstart

Today, I participated in an incredible community event… a first timer. Up the River Downtown was intended to be a river advocacy swim with a few swimmers and a few crew members. We swim in the river all the time and wanted to do something a “little bigger” to show everyone that our waterways should used for recreation. Our river is not dead and should not be ignored. We are so lucky in Jacksonville to have both the ocean AND the river. We also decided to raise money for the local Special Olympics Swimmers, because, well, they’re pretty darn awesome.

image1

Well, our “little bigger” turned into the largest in-and-on-the-water event in the St. Johns River. We had 10 swimmers, I’m guessing 15-20 crew members (SJRK boat, pontoon, SUP), two dragon boats (about 20 people each), and the Jacksonville Fire Association’s boat with fire fighters (who had a water spout going at some point). We all started at Jacksonville University with the plan of swimming about 6 miles down to the Riverside Arts Market.

image2

We knew we were having a bunch of people joining us at the nearest public boat ramp, Arlington Boat Ramp. As the days grew nearer, we expected quite a few people.. we started calling it the “flotilla”. We did NOT expect forty-eight kayaks to join us. As we passed the boat ramp, we took a hydration stop. It was incredible looking around at all the people surrounding us in the river. Usually, we just have 2-3 kayaks. At one point during the swim, I took the opportunity to turn around and look behind me… it was such a beautiful sight. I really wish I had a camera (Diego had his GoPro.. hopefully a link to the video will be coming soon!) I’d like to send out a huge thank you to the volunteer flotilla – thank you for joining us and thank you for staying behind us, and allowing only the crew kaykers to remain up front; this kept the swimmers safe. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

9/17/13 EDIT: Diego’s video has been posted! https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=N6PHkm7zs-Y

Photo taken by Jacksonville.com

Photo taken by Bruce Lipsky @ Jacksonville.com

Source: Jacksonville.com

image3

The swim was incredible.. from Jacksonville University, past the Arlington Boat Ramp, past Exchange Island, under the Matthews Bridge, Under the Hart Bridge, under the Main Street Bridge, Under the Acosta Bridge, under the railroad tracks and to the Fuller Warren Bridge/Riverside Arts Market. A little over six miles. The water was warm (88 degrees) and a little choppy between near the Hart Bride (as usual) and yes, there was algae (light speckles, not much more than we have seen in the past)… but we could not have asked for a more perfect day.

news

swim

Thank you to Megan for being our social media person (pretty last minute) – you were amazing. Thank you to the hundreds of people who met us at RAM. Thank you to my little swimmers who came to watch me swim :) And thank you, thank you to everyone who donated under my name/sponsored my swim – the Special Olympics Swimmers thank you too. Thank you to my wonderful boyfriend for getting Honda to be my official sponsor :)

speech

Photo by Megan on behalf of JumpingFish

JU

Photo by Megan on behalf of JumpingFish

boats

dragonboat2

railroad

swim2

Roger - leader of the pack, my crew kayaker & keeper of my water/snacks! <3

Roger – leader of the pack, my crew kayaker & keeper of my water/snacks! <3


2 Comments

2013 Hammer Head Ocean Marathon – Race Recap

Happy open water anniversary! This race in 2012 was my first open water race as an adult, so this year marks my one year anniversary. Every year they offer a 1.25 mile option and a 2.5 mile option. I choose the 2.5 mile option… obviously!

6am felt especially dark this morning.. maybe just because it was a Saturday and 6am should never be seen on a Saturday. As any swimmer is able to do, I was in my suit and out the door by 6:10am. Before heading to packet pickup, I stepped out onto the sand to watch the sun start to rise.

So lucky to live here

So lucky to live here

Pic courtesy of Candice

Pic courtesy of Candice

Packet pickup was super easy. No markings this year, which is like sweet sorrow. I don’t exactly love the permanent marker on my body for days, but it’s also something that you earn and lets others know you competed. The shirts look the same as last year, which is fine. I was disappointed with the caps, though. The caps are clearly recycled from other events.. some people even had caps that said 2003 on them. Really. This is the 8th year for this event; by now they should have someone funding caps that at east have the name of the race on them.

shirt

What I do love about this race is that it’s local; it’s great to hang out pre-race and catch up with some people I haven’t seen in a while. Our Duval Ocean Swimmers (DOS) group all found each other pretty easily. Two school busses drove us south to the start line (start area.. can’t exactly say there was a start line). I remember having a somewhat unexpected start last year and this year was even worse. Upon arriving at the beach, half the swimmers hopped in the water to warm up… which kind of makes me chuckle, because there was no way anyone could possibly have time to properly warm up. You’re racing 2.5 miles and you’re going to warm up by swimming 100 yards? Whatever helps their psyche, I guess.  Anyway, suddenly a bunch of people started yelling for everyone to get out of the water because we were going to start soon… and a few seconds later everyone was yelling while running back into the water to start. No megaphone, no countdown, no gun start…. just hey, wanna go? Ok sure. It’s ok, though.

I was pretty happy with my entry this year as compared to last year. I’m much better prepared now to deal with the crowd (not getting kicked in the face or ribs) and handling the incoming waves. I made it out and around the buoy pretty easily and started my 2.5 mile swim north. I stayed with Jim and John for about the first mile and then lost John.. still had sight of Jim, though he stayed pretty shallow and I stayed pretty deep. Thankfully for the rest of us (and bad for him), he opted to wear his white DOS cap instead of the race’s green cap – he stood out very easily. Around the time that I lost John, though, I started to zone out and I think I forgot I was supposed to be racing. We reached the 1.25 mile buoy (halfway mark), I looked at my watch, saw 39 minutes and thought, “Oh… shit.” Too slow. I wasn’t sure I had the mindset to pick up the pace, but then I saw Jim….. :)

Jim was pretty far in front of me, but I had my mark. When I was a competitive distance swimmer in school, I survived by finding my mark and hunting them down.. or finding my mark and pulling one more black line ahead of them every flip turn. Finding Jim was the kick I needed, especially when I realized we still had at least 25 minutes until the last buoy. I could catch him in 25 minutes. So, I put my head down, stopped sight breathing (time waster) and went on my hunt. It did take about 20 minutes for me to finally reach him, and thankfully he didn’t put up much of a fight. I blew past Jim, found Vedad just before the last buoy and raced home. Sorry Jim ;)

I had total sea legs when I finally hit the sand and had to walk a few steps before picking it up to run to the finish. Candice snapped a pretty good photo… I almost look like a runner!

Running to the finish

Running to the finish

I finished in 1:19:38, which left me second in my age group. I was 12 minutes behind first place, but 7 minutes ahead of third place. Keep in mind this is a small race. We stood around for a while, watching everyone else come in. We cheered for our friends who won their age groups, took a team pic, ate some bananas, etc,

DOS

DOS

And then it came…. the storm we’d been avoiding all morning. Honestly, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Rain came, we headed out for breakfast and then home for a nap!

Pic courtesy of Jim

Pic courtesy of Jim

…..it’s now the next day, and all the little zaps and stings I felt during the race have proven to be sea lice. I really hate sea lice. Where’s my cortisone? *itch* *scratch* *cry*

Next Up

Up the River Downtown on September 7th. JumpingFish has organized a 10k swim from Jacksonville University to the Riverside Arts Market/Fuller Warren Bridge. We’re swimming under 5 bridges with close to 30 kayakers, St. Johns River Keeper’s boat, the Firefighter Association’s boat, dragon boats, SUPs and plenty of land support. Come out to RAM just before noon to watch us arrive at the docks. It’s sure to be a great event! In addition to raising awareness for our river, we are raising money for Special Olympics – the goal is to send their best swimmers to Nationals. If you’d like to donate a few bucks, you can do so here: http://events.jumpingfish.net/sponsor/

poster

Happy Swimming!


Leave a comment

Going the Distance

I have been a complete slacker in the water this year and it’s about to catch up with me. I’ve been loyal to T:E and I’m running once, maybe twice a week (listen, it’s hot, I’m busy and I’m worried about pushing my hip too far)… but swimming? Oops.

Last year I had a YMCA membership and did a decent job with weekday swims, but I don’t have a membership there anymore because of T:E, so I’ve only been in the water on SUNDAYS. Yep, once a week. Jacksonville is a funny place when it comes to public pools. In south Florida and in Tallahassee, it was easy to find inexpensive, outdoor, public pools. My options in Jacksonville? Brooks YMCA (indoor, crowded, expensive and a little on the gross side) or UNF (indoor, parking’s a pain, and lane space can be limited with all the other activities going on). I really despise indoor pools, especially in the summer. I very recently learned that some of the local high schools let you swim for free, outdoors, but the ones close to me don’t have a pool and driving time puts a major dent in my workout time…. and time is seriously lacking in my schedule.

I’m thankful for my Sunday swims with Duval Ocean Swimmers. We’re swimming our usual 1.1 or 2.2, depending on the current, every week. It’s just not enough for what I really want to do with swimming.. I can tell it’s not enough by a) the way I feel on the way back of the 2.2 and b) how difficult it is to keep up with people I could coast with last summer.

DOS 8-3-13

DOS 8/3/13 – Hannah came to visit!

Like I said, it’s all about to catch up with me.

Hammerhead Ocean Swim 2.5 Mile

I’ve committed to the Hammerhead Ocean Swim 2.5 mile option next Saturday, August 17th at Jax Beach. We meet at the lifeguard station and are bussed south to the start (either 1.5 o 2.5 miles); we then swim North with the current and finish back at the lifeguard station. Last year, it felt like the longest swim every because it’s just a straight swim north. I’m ready to swim 2.5 miles no problem; not sure I’m ready to race 2.5 miles, though.

Up the River – Downtown 10k

Three weeks later, I’m joining our JumpingFish crew for the annual Up the River event. This year, we’re swimming 10k (yes, 6.2 miles) from Jacksonville University own to the Fuller Warren Bridge/Riverside Arts Market. We are swimming under five bridges: Matthews, Hart, Main Street, Acosta and touching right at Fuller Warren. Joining us will be kayakers, paddle boarders, dragon boats and the St. Johns River Keeper flagship. We’re not only advocating for our river, but raising money for the local Special Olympics swimmers. If you’d like to donate, you can do so here (even just $5 is awesome): http://events.jumpingfish.net/sponsor/ Please choose Stephanie, obviously ;)

Up the River Sponsorship

Up the River Sponsorship

I’m super excited for this swim. I’ve swum under all the bridges except the Matthews, so I’m happy to check this one off the list. I’m excited about the fantastic group of swimmers will be in the water and I’m even excited about the distance. Thankfully, this is not a race, just a group swim. I know I can handle 10k in the water, but I’ve never done this distance open water and I haven’t done this distance, period, since I swam competitively (ah hem…12 years ago). Everyone and anyone is welcome to head out to the Riverside Arts Market to watch us come into the docks. There will be a big announcement on the main stage and some media present. I don’t know our exact launch time yet, so I don’t know our arrival time yet. But you can follow me on Twitter and I’ll post the info as soon as I can. I’m assuming it will be somewhere around 12:00/1:00.

Siesta Key 5k

And finally, October 5th I return to Siesta Key for the 11th Annual Daiquiri Deck Tropical Splash Open Water Swim. I could have chosen the 1 mile, I could have chosen the 1.5k, but of course I’m in the 5k. It’s the day before my 30th birthday and will literally be my last swim in my 20s. Might as well go out with a bang, right? Again, the distance is no issue.. but racing the distance is a different story. This race is also full of USA competitive swimmers.. aka KIDS.. who kicked my ass last year. This race is totally worth it, though. I’ve traveled the world and Siesta Key is seriously one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Last year, we took a boat out to a sand bar party and watched the sun set. I can’t wait to do it again.

Course Map

Course Map

Last Year

Race Start – Last Year

It is what it is for this year. I’m looking forward to all three swims and going to take what I can get. My dilemma really sits with 2014. The number one road block is swim lessons. I love teaching lessons, but really need to scale back next summer if I want to train more and race more. I also need to commit to a pool.. just suck it up, pay the membership and swim. I need to balance T:E with swimming and somehow fit running in there too. If only I could commit to 4:45am wakeup calls. Ha. Did that for too many years.

Happy swimming!

 


2 Comments

One Week at Sea – #AllureoftheSeas

My dad decided that the perfect way to celebrate his 60th birthday was on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas – heck yeah! We are loyal to Royal and have enjoyed the Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas many times, but this was the first time we were lucky enough to sail the Allure. I’ve heard all kind of things about this ship… I’ve heard mostly praises but I’ve also heard statements like, “It’s simply too big.” Well, let’s just put that little rumor to rest. There is no such thing as too big when cruising the Caribbean. This ship is absolutely incredible and absolutely perfect. And to quote the late night comedians, “You book a trip on the largest ship in the world, and then complain because it IS??” Seriously.

Docked at Labadee, Haiti

Docked at Labadee, Haiti

Our big beauty next to itty, bitty Carnival

Our big beauty next to itty, bitty Carnival

Our eight day trip sailed from Sunday to Sunday, complete with a day at Labadee, Haiti, a day at Falmouth, Jamaica, a day at Cozumel, Mexico and a total of three days at sea. Although not overly “wow’d” by the ports (simply because I’ve been to them all before), the trip was amazing.

Check in was a breeze, as it always is with Royal Caribbean. We headed straight for drinks and to check out our rooms… we decorated my dad’s room while he was out having a Margarita.

Dad's stateroom

Dad’s stateroom

Happy 60

Happy 60

Staterooms

My dad booked the staterooms based on recommendations from a friend and a private tour of the ship he had taken (per usual, dad). Normally, we’d choose mid-ship overlooking the ocean. My dad booked our staterooms on the 12th floor, aft, overlooking the Boardwalk. Best decision ever. The location of our rooms allowed us to view the activities on the Boardwalk, watch the Aqua Theater shows from our balcony, watch the zip-liners above us and view the ocean out the back of the ship. We literally had the best of all worlds. Additionally, decks 11 and 12 have aft balconies that seemed completed secluded from the other 6,300 passengers on the ship. We pretty much had the giant balcony, with lounge chairs, all to ourselves. It was our daily meeting place for appetizers and wine prior to heading to dinner.

Panoramic view from our balcony

Panoramic view from our balcony

Loving our "private" aft balcony

Loving our “private” aft balcony

Loving our view

Loving our view

DSCN0459

DSCN0494

The only downside to the rooms was that you really had to remember that the people across the way can see directly into your room. Don’t forget those curtains when you’re stepping out of the shower. It’s especially concerning when that unintentional peeping tom is your father….

Oh, hey dad

Oh, hey dad

The Ship

Massive. Seriously massive. A floating city. 225,000+ tons with 7 neighborhoods, 4 pools, a splash pool and countless hot tubs. There’s an ice cream parlor, hot dog stand, candy shop, Starbucks, pop corn/cotton candy booth, cupcake shop and multiple specialty restaurants for lunch and dinner. Most impressively: the ice skating rink, TWO Flow-Riders, carousel, mid-ship zip-line, TWO rock climbing walls, basketball courts, mini golf course, comedy club, jazz club, night club, a bar that moves up and down between floors (yeah, a moving bar – you read that right), casino, etc. etc. etc.

The bar getting ready to raise up to Central Park

The bar getting ready to raise up to Central Park

They won before they lost

They won before they lost

My favorite neighborhood was the Boardwalk; it was just fun, exciting and had such youthful charm. A close second was, of course, Central Park. Central Park houses several specialty restaurants, Central Park Café (great for lunch), an incredible amount of live vegetation, several quaint seating areas and live music throughout the day/evening. My only gripe about central park is that since it’s mid-ship and on a low floor, there is little to no breeze, making it extremely hot during the day. The same goes for my favorite sun spot, the Solarium (adult only pool area); the Solarium has sections of covered glass, which is necessary considering it’s at the front of the ship. Without the glass, it would be ridiculously windy… however, the glass pretty much deters all breeze, turning the Solarium into a sauna. One really can’t complain when cruising through the Caribbean in JULY, though……

Solarium

Solarium

I was surprised and pleased with the amount of seating available on the ship. The Freedom and Liberty are smaller ships with less people and finding a chair by the pool, or anywhere for that matter, is constantly a hassle. This was not the case on the Allure. Even with over 6,000 passengers on board, I never had trouble finding a seat anywhere; the pools were easy, dining areas were easy, shows were easy (except the tiny comedy club) and there were plenty of tucked away seating areas available.

Wine tasting at 105 Park

Wine tasting at 105 Park

Doughnuts and Starbucks on our last day

Doughnuts and Starbucks on our last day

99% of the ship’s crew were attentive and went above and beyond whenever possible. I did feel like there were a few disgruntled employees, but you’re likely to find that anywhere. I also felt like the crew were more strict/had more rules than usual… but there ARE 6,300 passengers on the ship; they did an excellent job ensuring there was constant order. Our stateroom attendant, Marlon, was top notch – super friendly, very helpful an went out of his way to help us on multiple occasions. We also enjoyed our dining room staff (we chose My Time Dining, but had the same table each night): Sandra and Ilber. Though slow to warm up, which I attribute to language barriers, each night got better and better. Sandra gave her honest opinions of selected menu items, which was more than welcomed ;)

Ports

Our first stop was Labadee, Haiti. I’ve always liked Labadee because it’s quit and simple. We laid out in the shade under palm trees, I did a little open water swimming and we walked through the market. Our second stop was Falmouth, Jamaica, where we chose a zip-line course. Although we did a lot of standing around/waiting in line, the actual zip-lines were impressive. They were by far the longest traverses I’ve been on and at the greatest heights. I really wish I could’ve brought a camera with me, because the views were stunning! Our third stop was Cozumel, Mexico. Originally, we had no plans in Cozumel, but my dad talked us into kayaking and snorkeling. There wasn’t a ton to see under water, but the area was beautiful, the tour guides were friendly and we all had a really great time.

Labadee, Haiti

Labadee, Haiti

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico

And that’ that. I distinctly remember saying on Day 2, “It’s only day two….” and then suddenly it was Day 7 and we were placing out bags in the hallway for the night. Time flew, as it always does on a cruise. And speaking of bags… finding my luggage was a nightmare. We waited out the crowds in the dining room during breakfast, leaving the ship way after our number had been called. My luggage was nowhere to be found. For whatever reason, it didn’t make it off the ship in its assigned group and ended up being one of the last bags off the ship. Not a major crisis, but slightly irritating.

Overall – fantastic vacation. I’d sail on the Allure again in a heartbeat… maybe next time the Oasis? Actually, we’re contemplating sailing from San Juan next Spring, which means a smaller ship.. but more/different ports of call. Time to start planning :)

Posing for the professionals

Posing for the professionals


Leave a comment

Lucky Girl

Sometimes there are certain situations, experiences or views that make you take a step back and realize how lucky and thankful you are. Today, it was a view. This view:

Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville Beach

Overall, I’ve been feeling pretty lucky the last few months, but this morning the feeling was overwhelming. I ended up arriving at Jax Beach a little early for my group swim, so I walked out on the sand to check the surf. For whatever reason, I took a moment to just stare out into the distance and acknowledge my happiness :)

Lucky Athlete

I have a really fun and supportive ocean swim group, Duval Ocean Swimmers (DOS). We swim every Sunday at 9:00am from the Jax Beach pier. Because of them, I’ve found my love for swimming again. They get me up and moving on the weekends, have introduced me to open water racing and have challenged me to try things I never even contemplated – like swimming in the St. Johns River.

image

Some of our Duval Ocean Swimmers

2.2 Mile River Swim Launch Pad

2.2 Mile River Swim Launching Point

Roger, St. Johns River Keeper, as our yak leader at the end of 2.2

Roger, St. Johns River Keeper, as our yak leader at the end of 2.2

I’m in the best physical shape of my life, mostly thanks to Timed Exercise (I think I’m even in better shape than when I swam competitively as a USA Swimmer). I’m proud of my commitment to the program, which is only possible because of the entertaining trainers and the fabulous friends I have made there. T:E, much like DOS, has helped me do things I never thought I could do – like Pull-ups! Or power cleans with a press.

TE5

“Girls can’t do pushups…”

TE8

Slow release.. note to self: widen grip

TE14

Round 6 of 8 reps..?

I’m also running again. I’m running without any hip pain, which is exciting. Although I do feel a little burn afterward, immediate icing seems to do the trick. The most exciting part about running is that I’m running faster than I have since running track 8th/9th grade. I’ve been focusing on shorter distances with improved speed versus long distance running. This morning, I ran an 8:47 mile after my 2.2 mile ocean swim. Insert big, goofy smile here! I probably have T:E to thank for this, too.

I’m eating better. My idea of healthy a year ago and my idea of healthy today are completely different. While not perfect (I will always have a serious sweet tooth), I’ve completely changed my diet. Meat, veggies and fruit are my staples; dairy and grain are primarily gone from my regular menu. I really do see a change and I love it.

Lucky Professional

I have such a rewarding profession. Every day I witness little miracles, like a child saying his or her first word.. or putting a three word phrase together for the first time. My favorite day is cochlear implant activation day: seeing the look on a child’s face the first time he/she hears a sound, seeing the look on the parents’ faces.. this is the day they have been waiting for. The most recent reward came in the form of a kiddo telling me she loves her “Cochlear EARplant” followed by statements like, “This thing really works!” and “Did you know that the iPhone button makes a SOUND when you push it!?!?” She also turned to her name when called from a distance; something should could never do with just her hearing aids. While I work hard and often stress about the long hours and endless paperwork, I technically get to play for a living. I color, paint, play games and play with toys. Who could complain about that?

I also work for an incredible company. This September will make 5 years at the children’s clinic and I am so grateful that life directed me here. I have the best coworkers, an amazing boss and I work under a fantastic (and hilarious) surgeon. And, really, who else hires SUPERHEROS to wash the windows??

Window Washing Day

Window Washing Day

On Fridays and Saturdays, I teach swim lessons. Teaching swim lessons helps keep me in touch with my number one passion: coaching. Oh, if only I had the time to coach for a competitive team again. I’d say coaching is the only thing missing from my life right now. I’ve filled that void a bit by creating a small, team-like group Saturday mornings. These kids are absolutely a-mazing. They are strong little swimmers who work hard and keep me laughing. It’s such a blast :) Even my two year-olds impressed me this week… many of them can do things in the water that the average adult can’t do – like roll over to float!

Lucky Friend

I have such great friends in my life – near and far. I wish I kept in more frequent contact with those who are far away (actually with those who are close by too… ah hem… Stacey), but it’s such a good feeling when I do see them and connect as though we see each other every day. Locally, I know some of the most extraordinary people. I’ve surrounded myself with athletes and people who focus on supporting each other. Every day I’m impressed with their successes and grateful when they support mine. They set goals and achieve goals, try new things and motivate me to be better every day. Thank you to all the positively wonderful people in my life.

Lucky Girlfriend

Insert sappy paragraph about my wonderful boyfriend here. But really, I’m grateful to have found someone who supports me in everything I do. He supports my profession, my swim lessons, my open water swimming, my running, my weight lifting… you name it. He even supports my eating habits… except when he lovingly buys me cheesecake ;) I love that we are an active couple and can workout together, either at T:E, running, cycling, long walks, etc. He works incredibly long hours and rarely has a day off, but always finds time to make it to things that are important to me… whether that be escorting me as my date to a party (even when he doesn’t know anyone), waiting for me at the finish line of a half marathon (in 20 degree weather) or pulling my teammates out of the water at the docks/finish line of my river swims (in 90 degree weather). This year, he sacrificed pretty much all of his vacation time to spend with my family on two big trips (albeit awesome trips: LA/Santa Barbara and cruising on Allure of the Seas) ;) Most incredibly, he manages to listen to me when I talk.. and I talk a lot. He might just be pretending to be interested, but if so, he does a good job!

Typical

Typical

So there you have it. Add in the fact that I have a pretty awesome family and my happy little life is summed up in a blog post. I want for very little and am thankful for every day that I have. What can I say? Life is good. Someone I know often sarcastically states, “Oh, I’m living the dream.” I can say without any sarcasm… I AM living the dream.

But I wouldn’t mind a winning lottery ticket :)


1 Comment

Been a While

I’ve been feeling like I want to write a post, but don’t have anything to write about. Then I took a look at my calendar and felt overwhelmed with events.. and I realized.. I have tons to write about. Maybe nothing earth shattering, but they will do for now. Also, I have an entire pile of clothes that need to be ironed… but, no.

So, let’s see here. “Winter” and spring seemed to last forever here in Florida this year. Typically, I would’ve been able to begin swim lessons the first weekend of April. Instead, I waited until after our California trip because the air and water temperatures were just too cold. Even though that first weekend of lessons had warm weather, the water was freezing. Thankfully, once summer decided to appear, it appeared in full force. It’s officially HOT and so is the pool.

I spent Memorial Weekend in Marco Island at the annual FLASHA conference. We stayed at the Marco Island Marriott, which is absolutely gorgeous. I can’t even begin to explain how beautiful the grounds are. Actually, all of Marco Island is beautiful. It’s definitely one of my favorite places in Florida.

Marco Island Sunset

Marco Island Sunset

June was here before I knew it, and it was time to suck it up and hop back in the ocean. Last year, I was so incredibly excited for open water swimming. Although I’m still excited this year, the novelty has worn off a bit and sleeping in Sunday mornings is enticing. I also think that my commitment to Timed Exercise makes it difficult to choose swimming over the gym… if only the two weren’t at the exact same time on Sundays. And… if only we hadn’t seen this two weeks ago:

SHARK!

SHARK!

Yes, while walking back from our north-bound swim, we spotted a half-eaten (from the belly down) shark. Insert mild panic attack here.

I’m seeing a beach theme here as my next pics are from a random, Thursday night date night complete with custard on the beach:

Date Night

Date Night

<3

<3

I’d say he’s a keeper. Also on the keeper list are my incredible TE ladies.. although they keep me up way past my bed time ;)

IMG_0550

IMG_1077

And, of course, I dearly love my Duval Ocean Swimmers. We had 21 swimmers come out this morning and 10 of us swam a round trip. Just a few of us:

Swim Art, Courtesy of Jim

Swim Art, Courtesy of Jim

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead my calendar is full of markings and notes. In July, we’re hopping on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas for eight days with my family for my dad’s 60th birthday (and yes, while counting down for this cruise, we’re already looking to plan a March 2014 cruise with friends). August is actually kind of quiet aside from lots of river and ocean swims.

On September 7th I have the 2013 Up the River event, where we will swim 10k from Jacksonville University to the Fuller Warren Bridge (Riverside Arts Market). This event is the main motivator behind my getting up every Sunday morning. I’m really looking forward to it :)

UpTheRiver

At the end of September, I’m headed to NYC for a friend’s bachelorette party. In October, I have to decide whether I want to swim Siesta Key again or run the 1st race of the Tri 2B Tuff series. I was really motivated to run these three half marathons this year.. but I had SO much fun at Siesta Key with my DOS team last year. Both events are on October 5th… one day before my 30th, yes, 30th, birthday. Which one is a better way to say goodbye to my 20s? Decisions, decisions. Soon after, Ben and I are off to Virginia for his sister’s wedding.

November comes with Lindsay’s wedding and Thanksgiving, and December will be right around the corner with Christmas (destination TBD) and the new year. I know it’s only June, but 2014 seems so close, already. Where does time go? I guess life is good if time is flying by :)

Time for that ironing I guess… just for a bit. Then, it’s date night <3

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 499 other followers