How do you stay motivated?

“How do you stay motivated?”

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When it comes to exercise, I get asked this a lot.  If I had “a A + B = C” answer, it may only work for a certain few and not pertain to your situation.  Honestly my motivation waxes and wanes.  Since I have been running off and on for fifteen years and dabbling in triathlon for three, I feel like I am at liberty to share a few things.

1) I need rewards:  I was reading this spring that we make our decisions based on rewards.  We may do something that is not always pleasant and maybe not fun because we reap the reward it provides.  For instance I hate cleaning but I love looking at my sparkly organized kitchen.  Running is the same.  In the very beginning and for many years afterwards it was unpleasant and I didn’t enjoy it.  But I loved the accomplishment afterward.  That reward motivated me for many years and still does during tougher weeks.

2)  I need more tangible rewards:  I was trying to incorporate track runs into my marathon training and I hated the anticipation of doing them.  Often I would skip them all together.  Because Jamba Juice and Dutch Brothers coffee are both close to the track, I would reward myself with a juice or coffee after a track run.

3)  I need to be running with others:  It took many years to find people to run with mostly because of my unpredictable schedule with babies and toddlers.  Now I love the fact I have to get up and meet my friend for a run.  It is a waste of her time to leave her on a street corner waiting for me.  I’m a bit of a people pleaser and in this situation it works in my favor.

4)  I believe our bodies were made to move:  Our ancestors had to endure physical labor or they would starve or freeze to death.  No one had to go for a run because they worked their bodies all day long.  Now with many desk jobs and work from home positions, we spend a lot of time sitting.  I don’t believe God created everyone of us to be an athlete, but I do believe we are to honor Him with our physical bodies.  Part of taking care of our bodies is getting out and moving.

5)  I need activities too…not just my kids:  The kids sporting world is overwhelming to me this day in age.  There are many options and so much pressure to be a star.  I honestly think some moms should have their children take a season off from sports and they as moms should pursue their own activity or sport.  Many moms I have spoken to share how running or going to the gym helps them be better moms because they are getting their exercise time in.

6)  I want to set an example for my kids:  My kids see me run and do triathlons and support me in my endeavors.  I don’t know if any of them will be runners or triathletes, but I am exposing them to it.  As a kid I remember my dad going to the gym or taking me on bikes.  If exercise is part of our normal lives, it makes it much easier for them to incorporate it in their lives as adults.

7)  I believe it is more than image and weight loss: I do not agree with weight loss companies that heavily focus on image and pounds lost.  That rarely motivates me.  I do not weigh myself on a regular basis.  I have found that when I do, I get too obsessed with the scale.  I get overly discouraged and I am more likely to quit and start eating whatever I want.

8)  I need healthier ways to cope with my anxiety:  I’ve struggled with anxiety pretty much my whole life.  Soon after I picked up running, I was working for a church as a youth director.  I was on the phone with someone I was trying to plan an event with and we were not seeing eye to eye on an issue.  I told this person he/she was not treating others fairly.  I have a difficult time standing up for myself.  I also tend to communicate with too much emotion.  I managed to hold it together but it was exhausting.  I hung up the phone fuming with anger.  I went for a run and pounded out four miles at a fast pace.  I felt amazing afterwards.  I remember telling my friend, “I had no idea running could do that.”  It really clears your mind and in some ways brings you back to reality.  So often anxiety clogs our brains making us only see anxious thoughts.

9)  I need to be outside:  I have appreciated the seasons, God’s creation, my own neighborhood, weather in general, and quiet mornings since I took up running.

10)  I am out there and trying and sometimes that is enough:  I’ve heard some moms don’t want to run outside or go to the gym because they fear everyone is watching them.  You may not believe me, but people aren’t watching you. Even if they are–who cares?  You’re out there and you are trying.  Some moms don’t want to enter races because they don’t want to be dead last.  Even if you are dead last, you are still faster than the person who is sitting on the couch doing nothing.  Focus on your own goals and don’t worry so much about what others are doing.  Really they aren’t watching you!  If anything they are cheering for you.  The running community is a pretty friendly one.

So there you go.  10 motivators.  Go tackle that run!

 

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Why running is dangerous

Becoming a runner is dangerous.  I am not referring to barking unleashed dogs or dark streets without streetlights at 5 AM.  I am not referring to running your first marathon in Kmart shoes…which I in fact did and do not recommend.  I am not even referring to injured knees or plantar fasciitis.

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Check out those Kmart shoes

Running changes you.  It is easy to get caught up in the inner transformation and make running or triathlon (or whatever sport that drives you) your religion.

You might be like me and discovered once upon a time that running gave you the confidence you never believed you truly had.  When you could hardly run a mile without huffing and puffing and your muscles were screaming, “Mercy!” you never dreamed you would be training for marathons let alone run a 5K.  And when you completed a race, you felt like you could do anything.  That it’s up to you and your willpower.  It’s up to YOUR ability to fight.

Another triathlon mom says:  “I challenge you to fight…face your issues head on. Look your challenges in the eye and put up your dukes.  Your life isn’t going to make itself.  No one is going to come to your rescue.”

What is dangerous?  It is easy to believe it is all about YOU.

But it can’t be.

It is about God.  God orchestrates your life.  And you cannot rescue yourself as much as you think you can.  But God can.

We run and we begin to feel better.  It helps with our anxiety and depression.  It helps us crave carrots and apples instead of Oreos.  We feel more motivated at work.  Tackling laundry does not seem as daunting of a task.  We long for the outside air.  We feel better about our bodies.  We find meaning in life and our joy returns.

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Better. Better.  Better.  It is a word I hear constantly.  Each year we want to become a better wife.  Or a better mom.  Or a better house cleaner.  Or a better (insert your own ambition here).

Although running makes us feel better…it doesn’t make us better.

Because you are like the rest of us.  You’ve screwed up and you will continue to do so.

Christ is better.

Not only is he better, but he is the BEST. As long as you try to make yourself better, you will keep making things like running your religion.  What happens when you can’t run anymore?

And even if you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you will be tempted many times in your running journey to believe it is about you.  You may need to remind yourself (or someone may gently remind you) that it is not.

The Bible verse that is painted on the wall plaque where my and my children’s medals hang from has the verse John 11:25 written on it.  It is also embroidered on my gym bag.  It says:

I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.

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Not a verse that makes you picture running.  However it was the text read at my Grandpa’s funeral back in 1989.  I have run a few races in memory of my Grandpa raising money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. My grandpa went to his heavenly home after a seven year battle with cancer that started in his prostate and spread to his spine and then his brain.  My dad is now a prostate cancer survivor.

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This text reminds me that the one who believes in me [Jesus] will LIVE.  It is through Christ we have life.  Not through running.  Not through swimming.  Not through biking.  Not through whatever it is that drives you.

But running is a gift.  And I don’t want to forget that it is a gift from God.  Because every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

14 years ago I ran my first ever 5K on the campus of Calvin College.  I thought it would be a one time thing. I never believed that it was the beginning of an amazing spiritual/mental/physical journey.  And now in only 33 days I will run my fourth marathon and this time I get to share the experience with my sister.  I am forever grateful for this journey.

I Survived the Hagg Lake Triathlon

Triathlon is an amazing sport because you do not put continuous strain on the same muscles.  Swimming, biking, and running all work different parts of your body thus preventing overuse and even worse…injury.

The challenge for the newbie triathletes like myself is was what to focus on.  If I did not have much of a life, I would run, bike, swim, lift weights, and do yoga twice a week.  Being a mom of three and not wanting to wake up at 4:30 AM every single morning and feeling ready for bed at 8:30 PM when the sun hasn’t fully gone down, I can only focus on one or two areas.  I chose open water swimming.

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After nearly crashing head on into a dock last summer and literally swimming in circles, I knew I had to tackle this.  I had the wet suit (bought super cheap on ebay), the nice goggles (Mother’s Day gift), and access to a private lake.  After several practice swims this spring and summer, I knew I was ready.  A week before my triathlon, I swam in my friend’s lake and did not fasten my wet suit properly.  I felt something dragging and rubbing against my neck, but ignored it.

IMG_1153The next morning I woke up with a chafed neck.  My husband looked at it and had the nice response of:  “Woa it looks really really bad.” Thanks. And it hurt like a neck injury.  I could not fully turn my neck to the right without pain.  Thankfully chafing heals quickly and by Saturday morning (the morning of my race) it did not hurt anymore.

I drove to Hagg Lake and left my house at 5:15 AM.  I printed out directions from Map Quest, from the race website, hand wrote directions, and programmed the GPS.  Obsessive?  Probably.  I almost missed the start of the Portland Marathon in 2006 because we were overconfident we could find the starting line in downtown Portland having only lived in Oregon one month.  Never, ever again.  I can still feel the panic.

I signed up for the “tri-it tri” which is for the novice triathletes who are first timers.  We swim 1/4 mile while the sprint triathletes swim 1/2 mile.  However we bike the same 12 miles and run 3.1 miles. I found out quite a few of my tri-it competitors were not first timers–they were just scared to swim 1/2 mile.  I cannot say I blame them.

All we had to was swim to a green buoy, swim across to another green buoy and then swim back to shore.  They gave us the instructions like four times which I was very thankful for–I think I need them that many times before it sticks.

We were the final wave of swimmers.  When the gun went off it was a big crowd of people all swimming towards the buoy.  I kept bumping into people and finally found a spot where I could push forward.  At one point I looked back and there was hardly anyone behind me.  Oh well–my goal was to swim open water not get first place.  My anti-fog goggles fogged up the entire time but I could look up and see the green buoys.

I made it out of the water and headed up to transition.  I’ve learned the art of transition and had all my items laid out in the order I put them on.  This would be my first triathlon biking in clips–the last two I wore regular shoes and biked on the clips (which is probably more dangerous because there is very little pedal–but I felt safer).  Running with the bike in clips is challenging and hopping on the bike and clipping in is nerve wracking, but I made it.

The best place to eat and drink is on the bike. I learned that on a Triathlon 101 video.  I taped a packet of peanut butter gu to my frame.  I ripped it off immediately and some of the gu got all over my fingers which got on my handle bars thus creating a sticky mess.  And what I am supposed to with the empty packet?  The video never said.  I threw it to the side of road afraid I was going to get yelled at for littering.

Then I made Rookie Mistake #1.  I grab the bottle of Gatorade, drink it, reach to put it back in the water bottle holder…and miss.  It goes rolling down the road settling in the middle of the bike course.  There is a whole slew of bikes coming.  Do I leave it?  Do I stop and get it?  Because I am such a cheap skate and it’s my favorite water bottle, I stop and almost forget to clip out which would have sent me crashing on the bike course thus creating another barrier.  I grab the water bottle just as bikers are coming and I yell, “Sorry just getting my water bottle,” feeling like a total dork.  Later on the course I saw someone’s water bottle to the side of that road so I wasn’t the only dork.

That was the least of my worries.  My friend told me this course is really hilly.  No problem.  I bike on hills.  “No, like people actually walked their bikes up the hill.”  Oh come on–how bad can it be?  Wow!  The uphills were massive.  I actually cried (thankfully not too loud) on the last hill.  But it wasn’t just the uphill it was the downhill too.  I am terrified of going at full speed down those hills.  I see myself wiping out or crashing into someone.  I know I shouldn’t, but I still ride the brake.

It doesn’t help I did crash my bike on a hill in high school and messed up my face–and blacked out.  I don’t remember falling.  I remember seeing a kid in the road and the next thing I remember is being in the bathroom wiping up the blood streaming from my face.  It also doesn’t help an elite triathlete who has given me advice and swims at the same pool as me had a bad crash a couple weeks ago.  I was so grateful I made it and I didn’t have to stop.  I just kept climbing up the hills.  I was proud of my orange road bike that has nice low gears for climbing.

It was a relief to get back to transition and strap on my running shoes.  Running–I can do this!  Then I made Rookie Mistake #2.  I pinned my number to my biking shirt which I was wearing over my tri suit.  I didn’t want to wear my biking shirt in the run because it was getting very hot out.  So I had to unpin the number and re pin in to my tri top.  I had to choose  running in layers when the temp is getting to the 80’s or get the worst transition time.  I chose the latter and yes, I had the worst transition time of all the tri-it triathletes.  But at least I was comfortable on the run.

The running course was partially trail, partially road, and a few rolling hills–pretty normal.  My time was about 9 minutes more than what I normally get on a 5K.  I had to take a few walk breaks because that bike ride nearly wiped me out.

My final time:  1:49:45.  Of the 21 tri-it triathletes, I got 8th place.  Of the women I got 5th.  Of my age group I got first (ha ha–there were only two of us).   Not bad!

What’s next?  I have no idea.  Probably no triathlons anytime soon and that isn’t because I don’t want to do another one.  It’s more of a scheduling and cost reason.  But maybe another open water one in the future?  Lord willing, I’d love to do it again.  And have my training focus on bicycling.

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Triathlon Journey: Swimming in the Open Water

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Last May I did my first sprint triathlon and was hooked.  I wanted to do a mid summer triathlon that required swimming in the open water (my first tri took place in a pool).  I had grown up playing in lakes, rivers, and ponds so I had little fear of not seeing my feet on the bottom.  I had never swam laps in the open water.  I had only learned to swim about eight months before this and had only been swimming laps regularly for about three months.

So when my friends invited me to swim in their lake last June, I was excited.  Here was my chance to swim across it because I knew I had the endurance.  But it went terrible.  I could not stay in a straight line.  I veered so off to the left so I was completely off course from my friends who were swimming.  Coming back I felt so panicky my husband rode next to me in a kayak.  I kept wanting to grab the kayak.  He kept telling me my stroke was off.  How come I can swim in a pool but not in a lake?  I was on the verge of tears and threw my goal of an open water triathlon out the window that day.

When we were in Michigan last summer, I was thrilled we were staying on a lake.  Lots of open water practice right outside my window.  But I was incredibly nervous and anxious.  The times I did try I felt exhausted after two minutes.  How come I can swim for an hour in a pool but only two minutes in a lake.  My brother-in-law said, “Your stroke is off.”  Then my sister-in-law watched me, “Yeah you know your stroke is off?”  Again I was constantly veering off to the shore and almost hit a dock “head on.”

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So my husband said to put the goal off for a year and focus on swimming at the pool.  Why should I focus swimming in the pool when I am trying to learn to swim in a lake?  But I took his advice to heart.  I became a regular at the pool early Wednesday mornings.  I worked on my stroke (which used to be really off), my speed, my kick–everything.

I asked some triathletes this spring when it would be warm enough to get in the open water.  I asked some of them if they could give me lessons.  One of them said, “You can totally do it.  Just have confidence in your swimming.”  Um…I was confident last summer and then I had to hold on to a kayak and almost hit a dock.

 

DSC09185So last week I went to my friend’s lake and took my eight year old with me…mostly for moral support.  I jumped in the water (which surprisingly with a wet suit was quite comfortable). I started swimming and then I looked up–I was going pretty straight!  And I had the endurance–I felt like I could swim for a long time!  I yelled to my daughter, “I can do it!”

My goal on this triathlon journey is to do an open water tri in July.  The moral of this story is 1) sometimes you have to wait for things…at times it takes a little more hard work and postponing your goals  2) sometimes your husband gives the right advice and you should follow it

 

Spring Break Plus A Bonus Week

So we had Spring Break plus “a bonus Spring Break” because my sister and her family ventured out to Oregon the week after our break. Since I had to dig my flip flops and shorts out of the attic for my trip to California and I am not about to put everything back, I feel like summer is on its way.  Especially with the warm sunny weather we are soaking up.  Yet I know well enough about the rain that sometimes invades in May and the June gloom here in Oregon so I am leaving a couple long sleeves and hoodies in the closet.

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So back in March we told the kids we were going to Washington because my husband had an all day meeting at a church. This was all made up.  There was no meeting. We told them they had to spend a full day entertaining themselves in the church nursery.  I hate holding the truth from my kids so I told them we’d stay in a motel with a pool.  Our plan was to surprise them and take them to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.  And yes, they were surprised.

ImageOne of the best things about Great Wolf Lodge with a 8,6, & 4 year old (we have gone when they were younger) is we could do almost everything including all ride on a tube slide together.  There was just one slide my younger two did not meet the height requirement on.  It was refreshing and fun to not have to spend the whole time in the little kid’s area. However, it was nice they still wanted to play there at times giving us a little break too.

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It was a great time for our family.  I am in this new phase of parenting where I am doing more with the kids versus for them.  It really makes events like this enjoyable.

ImageAfter Great Wolf, my family dropped me off at PDX where I flew to LA to visit my friend Linda.  Linda was in the youth group I lead back in Michigan, and somehow she got all grown up on me and is now a graduate student at USC.  I love seeing my youth group “kids” all grown up finding their place in the world.

My first full day in LA I drove in my rental car braving the crazy six lane highways I am not used to.  I headed to Santa Monica where I enjoyed the festivities on the pier and a run along the beach.

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And an amazing sunset!

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 Linda gave me an “inside” view of LA.  We ate at several ethnic restaurants, drove to the Hollywood sign, I went to her Ultimate Frisbee tournament, and we even got to visit the LA opera.

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I could not get enough of the warm, sunny, LA weather.  I am not sure I could live the pace of LA, but the weather and the beaches are pretty amazing.

After four days of being home and trying to revert back into some kind of routine, we were thrilled to have my sister, her husband, and kids come visit us in Oregon.  They live back in Michigan where we used to live so we don’t get to see one another often.

While they were here, my brother-in-law did the Beaver Freezer Triathlon on the campus of Oregon State.  It was my second sprint triathlon.  He has done more and even completed an Ironman Triathlon.  It was fun to do one with a family member.

Amy runningMy time was very similar (only a thirty second difference) from my first triathlon last spring in Stayton, Oregon.  But the swimming went so much better.  Last spring I felt nauseous swimming and could not get into a good swimming pattern.  I felt like I could have increased my speed on the bike, but I am still not totally comfortable “bike racing.”  This is something I hope to work on this summer.  The run for me was by far the best and my run time was only about 1 minute and half more than my normal 5K time.

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My brother-in-law is the guy in the back with the blue shirt and sunglasses.  I thought this picture was funny with the “happy runner” in the front.

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One of the greatest things about having my sister and her family here is seeing all the cousins playing together.  They are ages 12,10,8.6,4–there was a baby every two years.  My brother continued that pattern with an almost two year old and a baby due next month.

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The weather cooperated and we were able to spend most of Monday at Silver Falls State Park.  We have been there many times.  We appreciate it more going with people who have never gone before.

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My sister, her husband, my niece, my nephew, and my oldest two hiked to Double Falls which was about a four mile hike round trip.  My youngest and I made it just past the lower South Falls and took a breather while the rest went on.  We were able to hike back together.

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And then return home to a wonderful dinner cooked by my husband.

After my sister’s family left I cannot believe how tired everyone was.  It has taken us a few days to get our energy back.  My sister made the comment that there is something relaxing about getting back into your normal routine.  I have found that to be true.  The house is slowly getting put back together and everyone is returning back to work, school & regular activities.

Open Water Swimming

I did my first open water swim today.  I swam across at 0.1 mile lake (there and back).  It was tough.  My biggest challenge was swimming in a straight line.  I didn’t do that very well.

Not very encouraging when my oldest said, “Maybe you should stick with the pool, Mom.”

My ego was crushed, but my heart was humbled.

I want to try again.

Story of a triathlon mom…

In the winter of 2011 when I put my oldest in swim lessons for the first time, I realized I desperately wanted to do a triathlon.  I had run two marathons at that point and several shorter races.

I wanted to try something different.

There were several problems.  Number one I could hardly swim.  If you threw me in the deep end of the pool, I could tread water or float on my back and do a sloppy freestyle. I did not know the breathing patters or proper form.

Number two I only owned the mountain bike I received for my thirteenth birthday–and it was in very bad shape.

I thought I would tackle the bike problem first.  I felt like the little child who prays to God to give her a brand new bike.  I shopped for bikes on Craig’s List and put money aside, but I had no idea what I was looking for.  Then I discovered  my friend Jim was starting a biking business.  He knew way more about road bikes.  I asked him to shop around for me and gave him a price range.

In the winter of 2012 he found my bike!  He did extensive work and rebuilt parts of it.  I have always loved the color orange and was thrilled my bike was orange!

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The previous owner also turned in her biking shoes and helmet so I was able to acquire those too.  I had no idea biking shoes existed and that you could actually clip into the pedals.  This is something I am currently practicing…and not  quite ready to tackle the road in clips.

I knew nothing about bike maintenance at that point.  I did not even know how to pump up my tires.  I did not even own a pump.  Which became a problem.  I got my first pinched flat this fall because I was riding on tires that were too low.  After some instruction from Jim, buying a pump from him, and watching a bunch of You Tube videos, I am learning to fix flats, put chains back on, and pump up my tires with hopes to learn even more.

This previous fall I took swim lessons.  I was in good shape and had endurance from running and biking.  Once I got the form down, I could swim!  I am still a slower swimmer and it is probably my weakest of the swim, bike and run combination.  Recently I decided to swim with triathletes one morning a week and this has helped.

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So this past Saturday morning I accomplished my goal and did my first ever sprint triathlon!  My final time:  1:39.50.

Checking into a triathlon is quite different than a running race.  There is gear to set up, numbers for the bike helmet and bike, body markings and figuring out your swim lane.  I felt a bit disorganized, but was grateful for the gracious volunteers at the registration booth.

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There was sprinkly rain when I checked in but was assured it was not going to rain hard during the race.  The volunteers were right.  I felt a slight sprinkle of rain during the biking portion, but nothing major.

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The people in my swim lane were awesome.  We all went about the same pace.  If you want to pass someone you tap their foot.  I was passed by both of my lane buddies the first lap, but then I passed one of them later on.  The buoyancy made me dizzy at points.  I am not used to swimming with so many people in the pool.  However, I felt better and increased my speed halfway through.

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I kept my spandex pants and shoes in the locker room.  I changed into them right after the swim.  I didn’t realize that counted towards my swim time.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have left them by my bike outside.  There were many people wearing flip flops or sandals into the pool.  It did not cross my mind at all to bring those.  A friend once told me to practice the transitions.  It is a big part of the race.  Good advice!  Next time…

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The husband did not get any pictures of the bike portion because he was enjoying a nice breakfast with the kids at Mc Donalds…which was along the bike course.  I did not see him when I biked past.

The run portion was my best.  It is completely different running after you have swam and biked.  My abs and chest was sore.  I had side stitch at the beginning, but not bad enough that I had to stop.

I was thrilled that my run time was only about 1 minute and a half more than my regular 5K time.

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I was thrilled to have all three of my kids there.  They all high fived me when I cross the finish line

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They are my own little “triathlon” kids as my oldest loves to swim!  She has loved the water since she was a baby.  The second child spends hours on his bike.  I am not sure about third but she was running laps around the park last week yelling, “Mommy, look at me run!”

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I always say my medals partially belong to my husband.  Running, swimming, biking–exercise in general is not possible without cooperation and teamwork with him.  Tri training and running is important to me so it’s important to him.  Just like his karate (he earned his brown belt in March) is something I have tried to always encourage him in.

What is next?  Open water tri?  Maybe.  I did just buy a wet suit!