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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

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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.


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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


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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/

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Happy Swimming!


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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!

 


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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.

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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.

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“Girls can’t do pushups…”

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Slow release.. note to self: widen grip

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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 :)


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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

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<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 ;)

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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 :)

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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


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Holy Ragnar! Race Re-Cap

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Chuck Norris never Ragnar’d, but if he did he would run it by himself. Barefoot.

It’s done.. 200 miles from Miami to Key West in 36ish hours with about one hour of sleep in a hot, sticky van. The fact that this race is over is sort of sweet sorrow. Let’s start from the beginning:

Jacksonville to Miami:

We were supposed to leave Jacksonville at 6:00pm Thursday night. As anyone who has ever travelled with a large group knows, “being on time” and “large group” are phrases that do not belong in the same sentence. So, we left at 6:47pm. We were so excited to get on the road! We had two short stops along the way and arrived at our hotel just before midnight. I can’t speak for the other two rooms, by my room took a trip back in time and had a middle school sleep over until about 2:00am, when the giggles finally subsided and we fell asleep. The 6:30am alarm came too quickly but we bounced out of bed, ate breakfast and found our vans.

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Miami – The Start: Key Biscayne

Our start time was 9:30am and it was recommended we were there by 8:30am.  We spent about an hour in the morning organizing the two vans, making sure everyone had everything they needed. Van 1 headed to the start and Van 2 headed to Exchange 6. As soon as my van, Van 1, got to the start, we realized our head lamps and tail lights were still in Van 2. Safety Check! Thankfully, Van 2 was able to meet us at the start line to hand over the goods. We checked in, had our safety briefing, got our swag bags (bibs, tattoos, race shirts, Gu). And in the end, it was nice to have the entire team there to watch Monica start off the race for us.

Monica rocks the start

Monica rocks the start

Miami – Exchange 6: Tamiami Park

While Monica was running the first leg of the race, we were able to pull over and cheer her on before driving toward Exchange 1. The handoff was smooth and Leif took off as our second runner (and maybe we accidentally drove to Exchange 3 instead of Exchange 2 and realized it in time to drive back to Exchange 2, just before Leif finished). Leif then handed off to Andrea, who handed off to Brooke, who handed off to me. Everyone had complained about the heat. I knew it was hot, but I began my leg in a neighborhood park that was lined with trees. I had plenty of shade and a slight breeze for a few minutes and I felt incredible lucky….. and then I turned onto Bird Road. Bird Road – a long, boring, six lane, non-tree lined, non-shaded, high-traffic road. Death. It was SO hot, I just wanted to lie down and die. It was really hard to push through and it was really hard to keep a reasonable pace. I also found myself stopped (Oh, thank God) at six major intersections, waiting for the lights to change so I could cross.. that took up a significant amount of time. Eventually, I handed off to Lindsay and my 3.6 miles were over. We met Van 2 (Adam, Roxie, Melissa, Amanda, Robert, Stacey) at exchange 6 and enjoyed a box of Krispie Kreme doughnuts. Exchange 6 also had some Ragnar swag for purchase, but we didn’t see much else going on.

Monica hands off to Leif at Exchange 1

Monica hands off to Leif at Exchange 1

Ready to go for my first run

Ready to go for my first run

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And here we go – Brooks hands the slap bracelet to me

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Finished. Thankfully. Handing off to Lindsay.

Not so happy or excited after my 1st leg. Hot. Sweaty. Thirsty.

Not so happy or excited after my 1st leg. Hot. Sweaty. Thirsty.

Miami – Exchange 12: Homestead Speedway

After chowing down on doughnuts and reorganizing our van supplies so that we could actually find things, we headed to the Homestead Speedway to wait for Van 2 (and made a Panera pit-stop for a real meal/clean restrooms to use to change out of our now disgusting outfit #1). Exchange 12 was a fun little party. We realized people were tagging vans with magnets and marker (something we wish we’d known about before hand), they had a medic tent, a massage tent, pizza for purchase and FREE S’MORES! Most importantly, there were really nice, clean restrooms – much appreciated. Many people took this opportunity to socialize with other teams or nap. I found it incredibly hard to fall asleep – I was too wired. Van 2 arrived at Exchange 12 to wait for their last runner. We had at least 45 minutes to catch up and talk about our experiences so far. Stacey soon arrived, finishing her leg in full force and handed off to Monica (for her 2nd leg). It was time for us to go again!

Best Van Design! http://ragnarruhroh.blogspot.com/

Best Van Design! It even LIGHTS UP! http://ragnarruhroh.blogspot.com/

Andrea & Brooke enjoying s'mores

Andrea & Brooke enjoying s’mores

Cat nap under the stands of the Homestead Speedway

Cat nap under the stands of the Homestead Speedway

Florida Keys – Exchange 18: Key Largo

Exchanges 12-18 were all nighttime running legs. We donned reflective running vests at all times and head lamps/tail lights while running. Out of complete fear of the intense darkness, we also had glow stick bracelets around our wrists and vests! It is SERIOUSLY dark in the Everglades at night! Monica ran through Homestead and lived to tell stories of, “Hey girl… whatchu running for??” (Her thought: “MY LIFE!”) and Leif survived running on a narrow road, which soon turned into a dirt road in the middle of the swamp. Andrea survived 8 miles of this:

Can you see anything? Because I can't...

Can you see anything? Because I can’t…

Lake Surprise in the middle of Crocodile Refuge!?!?!? *Image courtesy of Roxie*

Lake Surprise in the middle of Crocodile Refuge!?!?!? *Image courtesy of Roxie*

A dirt road in the middle of the swamp.. water on both side, vans right on top of her. What a champ! Brooke survived her 11.8 mile midnight run over an intense bridge and then I was up again. I had 7.1 miles down lonely US-1 at 2:30am.. the only thing to look at was the head lamp shining on the sidewalk in front of me. Strange noises came from the mangroves, so I turned my music up louder. I passed the occasional gas station and at least 20 fish-related places: Joe’s Fish Camp, John’s First Camp, Fish House, Conch House, Bait House…. yeah. Stinky. I felt like a champ for the first 3 miles, maintaining my planned 10:30 pace. Right at mile three, I felt like Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked me in the lower back. The pain was intense and a run/walk became necessary. I managed an 11:50 pace, but that was way too slow :( I fought back tears the last two miles and thanked the Florida Keys Gods that I didn’t have to crawl across the exchange line to hand off to Lindsay. Despite not having any music (her iPod died at the start), Lindsay rocked her night-time run.

Safety first!

Safety first!

We arrived at Exchange 18, which was Coral Shores High School. For $3, we could use the school’s locker room showers (gross because #1 it’s a high school locker room and #2 a few thousand, disrespectful runners had come before us and left all their crap lying around). Clean water has never felt so good. Unfortunately, the Spaghetti dinner was sold out. No food for you. We ate our van bagels… again. Some of our team slept in the school gym, some slept on the grass in the cool, but humid, island breeze. I slept in the van from 6:00am-7:00am. One hour that I am grateful for.

Unfortunately, at this point, our team had fallen somewhere around 2 hours behind schedule. Between the extreme heat, multiple major intersections that needed to be crossed, lack of sleep, dehydration, hunger, injuries.. everything had just fallen apart. Van 2 coincidentally got into a discussion with another team who mentioned they were “Leap Frogging” because they were behind. The fear was that we (and they) were so far behind, that the course would be taken down ahead of us, instead of behind us. We would arrive at Key West by midnight, long after the finish line had been removed. We also wouldn’t receive any medals. After learning more about our options, our team chose to alter the race. Instead of each person running back to back, runners teamed up in groups of two or three to run a leg, while other legs were skipped. For example, Andrea’s leg of the race was skipped (we drove through it) but Andrea and Leif ran Leif’s leg together (7 mile bridge,baby! Those kids are rock stars!). In the end, everyone still ran the distances the planned (or more.. ah hem.. ANDREA)… except me. If the race had gone on as planned, I would’ve sucked it up and cried my way through my last 3.9 miles. But, since we were changing the race anyway, I bailed. It might sound like wimping out, but that’s fine. I’ve had enough injuries this year to learn that no race is worth the pain when you don’t know what the pain means. Though extremely disappointed, I know I made the right decision. What’s important is that everyone got to make a decision regarding what they wanted to do for the race and it worked out well.

Florida Keys – Exchange 24: Marathon

We started to have a little more fun here :) The sun came up and we were happy with our Leap Frogging decision. Monica reached a lack of sleep level that lead to delirium and began tagging every van in sight. She left witty Chuck Norris quotes on vans and only got caught once! She also caught someone tagging back.. nice try, friends. We had heard rumors of another “Chuck Norris Never Ragnar’d” van and soon learned it was not their name, but just a slogan they had written on their window. Chuck Norris doesn’t like imitators, and we let them know:

Don't mess with her - She ran through Homestead, and survived

Don’t mess with her – She ran through Homestead, and survived

I guess they didn’t appreciate being called out, because they rubbed off our paint before the next exchange. Maybe we shouldn’t have used bright red ;) #soresports

Chuck Norris made a Happy Meal cry

Chuck Norris made a Happy Meal cry

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She was really on a roll

For our Leap Frogging, Leif and Andrea ran the 7 mile bridge together. They seriously are idols in my book. Not only was this bridge long and hard, they kept an incredible pace. Brooke, Lindsay and Monica ran the next leg via “virtual exchange” (e.g. we texted them to let them know Leif/Andrea finished and they could start.. since we skipped the leg in between and could not hand off the slap bracelet). Andrea then turned around, like a maniac (one I aspire to be like) and ran my 3.9 miles at something around a 7:20 pace – over a bridge. Beast, much? The bogeyman checks his closet at night for Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris checks his closet at night for Andrea.

Seven Mile Bridge!

Seven Mile Bridge!

Florida Keys – Exchange 30: Summerland Key

We reached exchange 30 and handed off to Van 2. We wasted no time heading to Key West so that we could check into the hotel, shower and wait for the rest of our team at the finish line. The drive from Exchanged 30-36 was absolutely beautiful and I’m a little jealous of the routes that Van 2 got to enjoy. They certainly deserved it, though!

Van 1 is done!

Van 1 is done!

Florida Keys – Exchange 36: Key West

I headed over there a little early so cheer on some other friends as they crossed the finish line. It was great meeting up with others from Jacksonville (and some friends from high school) who I knew would be there! The “party” at the finish line was not as impressive as I had expected. The organization, as well as other runners, had hyped it up a bit too much. While nice, I’ve seen better. Some live music and more opportunities to purchase race swag would have been nice. We did receive very awesome medals and decals for our car, though! When Van 2 arrived, we all stood 1/10 of a mile in to wait for Stacey. She had a hard 5 miles at the very end of the race and I can only imagine how tired she must have been. She turned the corner looking like a champ and our team crossed the finish line together. It was great hearing our team name, “Chuck Norris Never Ragnar’d” announced!

Finish line pic

Finish line pic

Key West – The Party

We ended up splitting for dinner because some people were ready before others and we all had different cravings. By the time dinner was over, I had little interest in doing anything other than going to sleep. I walked around Duval street for a bit with Amanda and Robert and then caved to my drooping eyes. Sleep was amazing. Others managed to party until around 2:30am.. I don’t know how they did it. I could barely stand up by 11:30pm. We were out the door Sunday morning to drive back to Jacksonville (a few stayed behind until Tuesday – lucky!). Our van took some quick pictures at the Southermost Point before making the 9 hour drive home.

The "We have to be at work Monday" van

The “We have to be at work Monday” van

The Most Common Question: “Would you do it again?”

If you had asked me about this during the first 1/3 of the race – I would’ve said YES! This is awesome! (Even with the heat). If you had asked me at 3:00am during the second 1/3 of the race I would’ve told you “Absolutely not.” I was tired, cranky and hot. Ask me again during the last 1/3 of the race and I probably would’ve said, “Maybe,” with a discussion about what I would change. Ask me on the van ride home and I was back to yes. Most of our van agreed that we would do it again. We would make some changes and plan a little better.. knowing what to expect would make things a lot easier.

Things I Think We Did Right

  1. Splitting up the food as discussed in the Pre-Race Post. We pretty much had everything we needed and then some. Do plan on stopping at a restaurant for a real meal, though; it’s rejuvenating.
  2. Packing each outfit in a Ziploc bag. This was a great idea we found on some other blogs. Not only did we have easy access to our next outfit (and could carry it to the restroom easily without taking the entire overnight bag), we could put our stinky, wet clothes BACK in that bag and the smells were contained! I also had all toiletries in one Ziploc bag and all electrical stuff (Garmin, ipod, plugs) in a Ziploc bag – they stayed away from any moisture.
  3. Having 15 passenger vans. We saw some people in mini vans. I can’t speak for their experience, but honestly, I can’t imagine being cramped in there. We really valued our space and it gave us room to sleep in the van when we didn’t want to sleep outside.
  4. Focusing on fun – when we realized how far behind we were, no one really cared too much. Everyone just wanted to run.. and finish. Because of that, the decision to Leap Frog wasn’t a difficult one. We had a fantastic time doing something totally wild, ran some incredible routes and got to cross the finish line. That’s all that matters. That, and no one was eaten by an alligator.

Things I Would Consider For Next Time

  1. Sleeping supplies. Some people had some pretty awesome air mattresses and blankets. They seemed like they packed up pretty small and were battery operated. This would have really helped me (and I’m sure the rest of our team). I probably would’ve been able to sleep more at the Homestead Speedway and at Exchange 18.. I only had a small blanket and pillow, as recommended by the organization (you do have to remember van space, but we would’ve made it work). One of our runners had ear plugs, which she said really helped.
  2. Be more modest with running pace. While a few of our team members were able to run the pace they intended, most of us were significantly slower. While we are all capable of running our stated paces in half marathons with a good night’s sleep, a decent breakfast, good hydration and the excitement of the large crowds throughout your entire run.. Ragnar is a whole different ball game. I would recommend everyone add some cushion time to their typical race pace. You often find yourself running alone, dealing with all the previously stated elements. If you happen to run faster, great. I’d rather everyone run a tiny bit faster than significantly slower. I would stress more about being behind the holding times, than ahead of them. Ahead of them, you just have to have wait time between exchanges. Behind then and you end up Lead Frogging.
  3. Van Decorating. Every single van was decorated but some were absolutely incredible. I thought our van was pretty great until we saw others.. then we were just shamed. The problem was, we didn’t know. We knew to decorate, but not like THAT. In our own defense, we also had to drive down from Jacksonville very late the night before the race. We had no time in Miami to take care of anything (another thing I would change). We also did not know about tagging other vas. The magnets were hysterical and we wanted our own! We improvised, however, and got a lout of laughs out of it.
  4. Before and after time. This is something I wanted but could not make happen. I would’ve loved to have arrived in Miami a day early and stayed two days after in Key West. Unfortunately, this race is only a few days after the holidays and I just couldn’t take any extra days off work.

Overall, a fantastic experience and one I certainly recommend to others. Plan ahead (start in advance) and focus on just having a really awesome time :)

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2012 Year in Review

I suppose I should’ve written this a few days ago, before we actually entered 2013, but I didn’t get the urge until today. 2012 was a pretty great year and I wanted to reminisce a bit. So let’s get to it…

Ben and I rang in the New Year together.

And Ben celebrated his 30th Birthday – A surprise party that I’m convinced he knew about.

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Then, I ran a half marathon in 20 degree weather with a bum hip.

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And ran 13.1 again two weeks later in Disney with Lindsay.

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We went on an eight day cruise with some friends.

And I successfully completed my first rock climbing experiece.

I also stood on Maho Beach in St. Maarten.

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We took a lot of pictures.

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In April, we hosted a murder mystery party.

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And Ben stole everyone’s money when they weren’t looking.

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Some people were a little too good at this ;)

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We had a good time :)

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Swimming season started and I taught 20 lessons a week for 20 weeks. I also swam in the Atlantic Ocean.

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And the St. Johns River.

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And I raced a 5k in the Gulf of Mexico (Siesta Key, FL) with some really great people and new friends.

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We went on [another] cruise with more friends.

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And took more silly photos.

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I had a birthday.

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Then went to New York for a big exam, which I passed :)

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In November, I visited grandma for a few days, went wedding dress shopping for Lindsay, spent Thanksgiving with Ben and then headed to Tallahassee for FSU vs. UF with Hannah and Megan.

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In December, Anthony and Eric (friends from high school) came to Jacksonville for The Big Ticket.

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And I visited family in the mountains.

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Finally, we had a nice, quiet NYE at home (after an early evening with some friends).

I began 2013 with one heck of a workout at Timed Exercise, which I finished with two and a half minutes to spare.

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A pretty good 2012, if you ask me!


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Ragnar Florida Keys: 200 Miles in T-2 Days

So, Thursday evening I’m hopping in a van to drive to Miami so that I can run from Miami to Key West. Yep.. 196.9 miles* by foot. Thankfully, I’m only running 14.6 of the total distance.

*Map says 196.9 but when you add up runner distances it’s 197.1… make up your mind, Ragnar. Two tenths of a mile matters! And elsewhere on the website it says 199 miles. So confused.

Course Map Overview

Course Map Overview

What is Ragnar?

“Ragnar is the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport. A team is made up of 6-12 individuals; each individual runs 3 legs. The legs of the race vary in difficulty and distance, from 3-8 miles, allowing elite and novice runners to run together. Over 2 days and 1 night, teams run across 200 miles of the country’s most scenic terrain. Pair that with crazy costumes, inside jokes, a great finish line party and unforgettable stories. Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant. We call it Ragnar.”

Our team, Chuck Norris Never Ragnar’d, is composed of 12 runners: 3 men, 9 women.  9 of us are from Jacksonville, 1 from Tallahassee (Alaska.. technically!), 1 living in Orlando and 1 in the Ft. Lauderdale area. We’ve been planning since last January when we became incredibly jealous of the 2012 Ragnar Florida Keys live tweets. Although it’s been hectic maintaining 12 people (it’s difficult to commit to something a year away), organizing van rentals, reserving hotel rooms, ordering t-shirts, picking runner distances, and organizing food and supplies… I have a feeling it will all be worth it.

Thanks Stacey for the awesome design! Runners' names are on the back.

Thanks Stacey for the awesome design! Runners’ names are on the back.

Each of the 12 runners will run three times. Runners 1-6 will run their relay legs first with Van 1 (Van 1 is “on” while Van 2 is “off”), then exchange the race with Runners 7-12 in Van 2 (Van 1 is “off” while Van 2 is “on”).. the cycle then repeats until everyone has run three times. During the “on” times, the vans can park on the side of the road and cheer for runners or drive ahead and wait at minor exchanges. During the “off” times, vans can cheer or drive ahead to the major exchanges and party at the many fesitivites occurring along the way… or, you know… sleep. Maybe. Confusing? It is at first, but the more you look at it, the more it makes sense.

Runner Legs/Distances

Runner Legs/Distances

I am runner number 5 on the team, so I will run legs 5, 17 and 29:

3.5 miles through Miami

3.5 miles through Miami around 12:15pm

7.1 miles through Key Largo

7.1 miles through Key Largo around 12:30am

3.9 Miles from Ramrod Key to Sumerland Key

3.9 Miles from Ramrod Key to Sumerland Key around 2:00pm

This will be my first “race” since dealing with my hip saga. I did not run at all from February to September and have run minimally the last three months. I know I can handle these short distances, though, and I’m focused on having a good time – not my pace!

The most interest part the last two days has been packing. The number one goal: Don’t over pack! We may have two fifteen-passenger vans with only six people per van, but we have a lot of STUFF. To make sure we don’t have 12 jars of peanut butter and no knives or spoons, we split up our supply list. For example, runners 1&7 will bring bagels, peanut butter, jelly and string cheese. Runners 2&8 will bring bananas, oranges and chewy bars… etc. etc. Other runners are responsible for dry goods such as baby wipes, paper towels, TP and trash bags. This way, each van will have equal supplies and everyone only has to bring 3-4 items. Everyone is also responsible for their own night-time reflective running vest and we need a total of four head lamps and tail lights. I’ll let you know how this all works out.

Packing personal items.. yikes! After reading what Ragnar recommends and reading several blogs, I came up with this list:

Water
GU, energy beans, whatever you like
Two or three sets of running clothes (in ziploc bags, labeled)
Running jacket
Running Shoes (extra pair if the forecast calls for rain)
Hat, sunglasses
Hand held/running water bottle
Three or four pairs of socks
Extra underwear
Flip flops
Blanket & Pillow (small one)
Sweatpants, sweatshirt (for night-time.. after a hot run I REALLY cool down)
Pair of comfy shorts/shirt to lounge in
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Travel shampoo, soap
Deodorant (honestly though.. why bother at this point..)
Small towel
Eye mask/ear plugs (if you need to sleep during the day)
Flashlight
Camera
Car charger for phone, iPod, Garmin, etc.
Cash (showers, snacks, memorabilia)
Medications
Chapstick, biofreeze
Tweezers
Safety pins
Hair brush/Hair ties/hair pins/head bands
Something somewhat clean to wear after the race at a restaurant/bar/drive home
Coolers for everyone’s cold supplies

Packing it all in..

Packing it all in..

What am I forgetting?

You can follow the race on Twitter with #ragnarflk or follow our kickass team, Chuck Norris Never Ragnar’d, with #CNNRagnarD. And, for a much more eloquently written and more detailed blog on the race – visit’s Stacey’s post :)

1/9/13 EDIT: You can view the race re-cap here!