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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

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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

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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!

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Source: Jacksonville.com

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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 :)

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Photo by Megan on behalf of JumpingFish

JU

Photo by Megan on behalf of JumpingFish

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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


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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.

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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.

TE5

“Girls can’t do pushups…”

TE8

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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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.

Bens 30

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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Oceans, Rivers and Pools, Oh My!

Oh, my goodness.. well, I had an entire post about last week’s St. Johns River Swim and I didn’t post it because I was waiting for a picture or two from a friend. However, that river swim is old news! Here are some recaps of this crazy week I’ve endured:

Saturday, August 11th  –  St.Johns River Rebel Swim 180*

I hauled over to Riverside (after my nine swim lessons) to hop in the St. Johns River with a few other swimmers. Yes, the St. Johns River. No, I did not turn green, nor am I sick, nor do I have an extra limb growing. I’ll admit I was terrified – more terrified than I think I’ve ever been for any swim.. but as soon as I hopped in the water (after some serious internal conversations with myself), all those fears were swept away. Literally – the current pushed me north pretty quickly ;)

Long story short, we swam from the Fuller Warren at the end of ebb, caught the train as we swam under the tracks, took some pictures under the Acosta and arrived at the Main Street Bridge right at slack. We hung out for a few minutes then rode the flood back south to the Fuller Warren. 2.2 miles. We had 7 swimmers, 5 kayakers and a walker. Thanks to Underbelly on Bay Street for hosting our post-race celebration. The folks there are fantastic and they make one heck of a pulled pork sandwich! Most importantly, they support our efforts to protect the river. $1 of every draft purchased was donated to Voices of the River, a project support by the St. Johns River Keeper.

Fuller Warren + JSO escort behind us

Caught the train

Main Street Bridge.. ready to turn around and go back to the Fuller Warren!

Love the view of The Landing from in the water

Almost done – Acosta behind us

GPS Map of our 180* Swim

 

Join the Thursday Night Drinking Club at Underbelly on Thursday August 23, 2012 to raise money for the St. Johns River Keeper. Your $5 donation will get you your first drink free and live music. Party starts at 7:00pm. Underbelly Downtown 113 East Bay Street Jacksonville FL (904) 353-6067 (at the base of the Main Street Bridge).

Sunday, August 12th – DOS

Good ‘ole Duval Ocean Swimmers workout in Jacksonville Beach. We swam our usual route from the pier to a mile north and then headed back south. 2.2 miles-ish if you count swimming out and in. Fabulous meal at Pho King afterward :)

Saturday, August 18th – Hammerhead Ocean Marathon AND Downtown Rebel Swim

I swam the Hammerhead Ocean Marathon 2.5 mile option. It was fantastic! It was so incredibly organized, especially considering everyone is a volunteer. The water was a brisk 76* but felt great after a minute or two. This was definitely a hard and exhausting race, despite the north-pushing current. When I reached the 1.25 mile buoy, I thought it was a joke.. only halfway?? I swam hard the entire way and ended up 2nd in my age group, 9th over all. It’s a small race, not many swimmers, but I’m still very pleased! I swam it in 1:15.43.. new goal to beat for next year. Most exciting, all my DOS teammates were out there and one of my swim lesson kiddos met me at the finish line!

6:30am.. beautiful day for an ocean swim

As if a 2.5 mile sprint in the morning wasn’t enough, Jim, Diego and I decided to hop in the St. Johns for a one way (1.1 mi) Downtown Rebel Swim. We swam from the Fuller Warren to the Main Street Bridge. This current was MUCH different than last weekend’s. We were right in the middle of ebb and the current was picking up quickly. I was pretty sure I was going to slam into the cement blocks under the railroad.. instead I put my head down to swim hard and ended up hitting Candice’s kayak (sorry Candy!). We angled in pretty sharp to the dock at The Landing and had to hand on tight when we got there – the current was trying desperately to pull us under the bridge. When we got out we had some supporters at Fionn MacCool’s cheering us on :)

Yes, we do cannon balls into the St. Johns

cruising along

Cheesin’ under the Acosta

Finished at Main Street – Time for food!

 

Sunday, August 19th – DOS

Just another Sunday morning ocean swim with Duval Ocean Swimmers. Swam the mile north from the pier and decided to walk back with some others. However, about halfway back I ended up hopping back in the water to swim with someone who needed a little motivation to finish the distance. 1 comfortable 1.5 miles overall for me.

9.5 miles in open water plus a few pool workouts… I think I’ll take a day off tomorrow.


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Your Fears are Worse in Your Head

So I’ve been braving the waters every Sunday.. as you probably know by now (apparently this is turning into a swimming blog). Even though I’ve joined the group at least five or six times, it still scares the crap out of every time I walk in the water. My “worry list” started out with just one or two scenarios but has grown as I talk to more people and learn their experiences.

My worry list, in no particular order:

  • Jelly fish (ok so maybe this is my main worry)
  • Sharks (look, it does happen)
  • Being swept out to sea (irrational I know, but whatever)
  • Getting a charlie horse/cramp.. the kind that paralyzes your body for a moment.. and drowning (there are no lanelines in the ocean to grab onto)
  • Sting ray tails (thanks to Joni being whipped a few weeks ago)
  • Fisherman hooks (not a thought until last week until someone pointed out how far their lines go from shore)
  • More worries TBA

Admittedly, my main worry is jelly fish. And yes, it’s justified. Somewhere around 2004 I had a “staycation” in South Beach for three days with an ex boyfriend. Thirty minutes into our staycation, he was called into work and I found myself sitting on the beach alone. Thirty minutes after that I ventured into the water, which I NEVER do in South Florida due to a) sea lice;  b) jelly fish; and c) Portuguese Man of War. My body hates nature; it hates stings, bites, grass, leaves, etc. I may not go into anaphylactic shock, but I don’t have the best reactions.

Of course, within minutes of being in the water I felt something wrap around my ankle and quickly had a massive water-splashing panic attack. I dragged myself out of the water and wanted to DIE when I saw a jelly fish wrapped around my ankle. Some kid screamed and some lady went to get a lifeguard (who was pretty useless by the way). Using a stick (thanks, lifeguard) the jelly fish was peeled off my leg to reveal my already forming elephantiasis look-alike (no, it’s  not “elephantitis”, people…). Oh, did I mention I blow up like a puffer fish when nature touches me?

Half a bottle of vinegar later, I was finally able to collect my things and go back to my tiny South Beach hotel room. Boooooring. I made my way down the block to the Fridays and sat the bar, leg propped, with a bag of ice, for the next. six. hours. I watched a ridiculous amount of Euro Cup soccer and ate a crap ton of fried food. The bartender felt so bad for me he ended up not charging me for anything. My ankle remained swollen for a week and then turned black and blue for a week after that. So, there you have it.. my justifiably appropriate jelly fish fear.

Today, the ocean looked gorgeous…

..which is exactly why I was terrified. The calmer the water, the more likely it is there is “stuff” peacefully floating around., thinking it’s their home or something…

The swim up was easy. There was a north-pushing current and I swam it in 24 minutes. The swim back was harder; we were against the current and the tide was coming in, which made for choppy water. But I felt great! I felt strong and was enjoying the challenge.. until it happened. All of a sudden my arm and my cheek were on fire. I looked at my arm and saw nothing; I felt my cheek and felt nothing. I swam another minute and couldn’t take it any longer. I got out .25 miles short of my finish and before I made it to the pier my arm was beginning to swell and I had a bunch of red, painful dots protruding. The lifeguard sprayed vinegar and… what do you know? It felt better. The swelling went down in just a few minutes and although my skin still stings a bit and is sensitive to the touch, I survived this a lot better than the last time. Apparently I just had a “stray tentacle” brush up against my face and arm. And apparently having a jelly fish wrap around you is an unusual situation.. who knew?

My biggest fear occurred.. and it wasn’t so bad. I think I can even move it down the list. Maybe it can be listed second.. but then what do I move up to first? I probably shouldn’t think about it.

Love the beach early in the morning

 

**Duval Ocean Swimmers swim every Sunday at 9:00am from the Jax Beach Pier. Park at the north end of the pier parking lot and look for a bunch of people standing around in Speedos. We swim a little over a mile north. Some choose to swim back and some walk back. Swimmer ability varies; everyone is welcome. Feel free to join the facebook page to ask questions/get more info.


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I Found my Groove!

I’m perfectly aware that this is the third time I’m blogging about ocean swimming.. but I found my groove! Besides, it’s my blog.

My first two ocean swims were “fun” but I wouldn’t use any exciting term beyond that. However, July 1st’s swim was thrilling! Saturday evening someone posted on the facebook page that we would be swimming in “Lake Jacksonville Beach.” I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, considering I’ve never swum in a lake before. Apparently, it’s a good thing:

Entering our “lake”

This could not be more beautiful

A very good thing! Really, this was such an amazing swim. So amazing that when we finished the 1.1-ish miles heading north, at least eight of us from the original 21 decided to swim the distance back south. Oddly enough, swimming south felt so much easier than swimming north; I finally found my groove. I swam next to two other swimmers, keeping a very comfortable but strong pace. It was glorious.. aside from the few sea lice bites I discovered this morning. I’ll take it over a jelly fish sting!

*Duval Ocean Swimmers swim every Sunday at 9:00 from the Jacksonville Beach Pier. Meet at the north end of the pier parking lot, near the rest rooms. All swimmers are welcome.. you can get out and walk the beach at any time. No pressure. There is also a 6:45am Friday group forming (not set in stone yet) from Atlantic Beach.

*Photos courtesy of Candice, Keeper of the Keys and Fabulous Photographer. In other words, they were stolen from facebook.


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You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I braved the waters for the first time last week with Duval Ocean Swimmers. At least, I thought I braved the waters. I was pretty sure that we swam in some crazy conditions and I thought we were all a little insane. Boy, did I not know what I did not know. To say I’m naive about open water swimming is a significant understatement.

This looks pretty, doesn’t it?

Please excuse my thumb

And this almost looks like Delray Beach. Nice and calm…

Pretty Day

Eh, not so much.

Despite living along Florida beaches my entire life, I don’t know much about the water and wave patterns. However, there seemed to be three separate breaks, which meant if we wanted calm water we’d have to swim out really far. That being said, even the water far out was extremely choppy (extremely, in my opinion, anyway).. and swimming past the third break seemed to be too far. In addition to the issue of crashing waves, each wave set had multiple waves and the sets were really close together. Basicaly: lots of waves, hard to swim, what-the-heck-am-i-thinking.

Since the current was pushing south today, we walked north first and then swam back. It was ridiculously hard to swim out past the waves to our starting point and when we got there we had a difficult time getting a head count. We had nine. Last week, I found myself swimming alone most of the way but today I was able to swim side-by-side with someone I know from the Brooks YMCA. I’m definitely a fan of swimming along side someone; it was much more comforting and gave me a little push. I swam fast and hard but felt great when we finished. I couldn’t believe it only took us 21 minutes (thank you current) to swim the 1.1 miles because I felt like I’d been swimming for at least 45. When we finished we had a head count of 7… hmm. Scanning the waters for two missing swimmers is daunting. You know they’re fine and they’ll be along in a minute or two, but a little piece of you starts to worry. You would think with neon yellow and neon pink caps we’d be able to see the swimmers, but honestly, you can’t see anyone that far out. I’m sure the lifeguards hate us. Eventually the two missing people appeared.

I decided to join everyone for breakfast this time at Beach Hut. Great little place, if you’ve never been! It’s the kind of place that will always be crowded on a Sunday morning and you may have to wait in line for a table, but the food is fantastic and very inexpensive. I had a chance to get to know some of group a little better and learned about a ton of open water swims that I’m considering placing on my calendar!

I also took a hefty, much-needed nap this afternoon……

**Duval Ocean Swimmers meet at the Jax Beach Pier at 9:00am every Sunday. Park on the north side of the parking lot near the restrooms. I recommend getting there a few minutes early.

Happy Swimming

Updated: Group picture post swim – I braved my Jolyn suit (orange top) and it stayed in place the entire swim despite being tossed around by waves!

Group Shot