Magical Motivation

What if I told you there was a magic weight loss pill? Lies. All lies. Imagine if I told you that magic pill lives inside you. Truth be told…

Living for today

The philosopher in me likes to quote Sir Webster – Motivation is defined as “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” Unfortunately for us all, motivation is an abstract concept, not a pill or drug to be ingested. Not even an idea to learn and accept. Damn the luck. Life without motivation is a proverbial half squat. You’re literally half-assing your life. Squats, even half, have a place (in life), but you’re not giving it even a good ol’ college try without motivation to complete the full squat. Maybe you have an injury and that’s your reason for being unable to do the full squat. I get it! But does it bode well for you if you’re fully recovered from said hypothetical injury and still only doing half squats? Herein lies the problem.

What does it take to motivate you to begin working on your self? Bribery? Gifts? A new wardrobe? Only you have the answer. I spend the majority of my day eliciting reasons for motivation from members and non-members. Why now? What has changed in your life to bring you here today? Do you have a support system? What results are you looking to obtain? (all actual questions I ask on repeat)

I can tell you I’ve heard it all. From “my wedding is in 3 months” to “my kids are unable to sit on my lap” to “I was recently diagnosed with (insert health condition)”. I share in every reason, every excuse and counter it with the motivational phrase that fits whatever particular puzzle each person is working through. It’s exhausting, let me tell you. But no matter what I say or do, I can only change so much. I can give you the key, the instructions, the time, and the space, but I can’t, as much as it pains me to say, actually MOTIVATE you. I failed the course on miracle-making.

The experts tout a few simple ways to be motivated:

Set a goal.

Get excited!

Commit publicly.

Think about it daily.

Find your WHY!

3 out of 4 isn’t bad! Here’s my advice: find something you love and do it! Think about how whatever it is makes you feel and dive in! It’s perfectly healthy to doubt your ability to complete something; however, don’t let that prevent you from trying. Ask why not instead of telling yourself I can’t. Whether it’s Free By Fifty or going to bed 1 hour earlier than usual, commit with your whole heart!

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I ask you –

What goals have you set for yourself?

Did you share those with anyone or keep them to yourself?

How do you self-motivate?

Injury Prevention (not always possible) – Anticipating a Derailment

You can’t expect not to have an injury, illness, or life event during an 18 week training program. Well, you can…but prepare to be fooled. So at week 6, I got a little ahead of myself and prematurely began patting myself on the back for a job well done. Then it happened. Karma. She’s so sweet.

Cracker Stash

After a night of illness that carried over into the following 2 days, I was forced to re-evaluate what training and nutrition looked like. A diet of crackers and 7-Up isn’t enough for any kind of strenuous exercise. Though it may not sound like a big deal, training is very strategic and we don’t want to miss much because this is how we help our body adapt to the weight we’re placing on it. It’s like a second job! A second job that eats away at our time and forces us to pay for it. But, look, a banana and a medal! Score!

Too familiar with First Aid

Nevertheless, the show must go on. More importantly than keeping to a schedule is the ability to let go of the schedule for a short amount of time to focus on recovery. Rest is best! If this is where you say “but rest doesn’t cross the finish line” – I happily disagree. Rest is a rather large building block of performance. Without it, you got nothin’, friend.

Rest is almost considered indulgent nowadays. Who has time for rest? Today, we go, go, go without a second thought to what rest looks and feels like. The guilt of allowing ourselves the luxury to rest is real. How dare we take care of ourselves as if someone else will do it for us? Pshhh. You said it, Kel. No one else will. And when you don’t, many times, it ends in injury to mind or body. Unfortunately there will be times preventing an injury is out of your control. You could have the best plans and have your nutrition completely on par, but still suffer from illness. The body can’t fight everything all the time. So what do you do then?

Rest. Be gentle on yourself. Say it louder, Kel; the ones who just closed their browser at this ridiculous advice didn’t hear you. Be kind to yourself. Let a few sessions go. Eat crackers. Hold out for the day when you’ll feel better and ready to return. Granted, this isn’t permission to say screw the plan and go rogue. Ummmm no. In focusing more on living for today (post forthcoming), I’m not losing sight of my goals and dreams. I’m just re-adjusting to a temporary norm. Very temporary.

But don’t be mistaken. That 12 miler is still calling my name.

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I ask you –

What was the last injury you experienced?

Is rest really best or do you have some other great advice?

How many crackers can you eat without going completely insane? (package 3 and counting)

Family of Outdoorsmen / Saturday in Photos

“Working”

Recently we held an event at the local Farmer’s Market in Roanoke. It was a hot morning! Above: doing what I do best. Supervising.

Mommy’s helper

Munchkin had been so excited for this day because she wanted to learn how to do “jump jacks”. Repeatedly I had explained Coach Ivan would be there to ensure she learned how to do them. She was not disappointed. Above: learning how to lift with her legs, not her back. Goals.

Munchkin + Coach Ivan

Mini-me insisted on helping with every part of setup. And when she bored of helping, she ran around endlessly. To be young again.

10 lb medicine ball

Fun was definitely had by all. Except me. I wasn’t prepared to do this extensive workout before a long run. What was I thinking? Above: that medicine ball is approximately 1/4 of her weight hence the pride in lifting it.

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I ask you –

Are you an outdoor activity type?

Summer or winter?

Tell me a time your child(ren) were so excited to do something with you!

3 Short Stories

If you know anything about me to this point, you realize my ability to tell a truly short story is impossible. My insincerest apologies. You literally signed up for this. Sorry ’bout your bad luck.

First, the story of the 2 young Sailors I met. In Las Colinas, it’s been rare I meet other Naval personnel. Usually I encounter Army and Air Force. We’re all brothers and sisters in one way or another, but meeting fellow Sailors is a good kind of special feeling. In moving to the area, this couple blossomed under my questioning. Not the intrusive questioning. I’m not a monster. Once I shared I, too, am prior military, they became so animated…sharing how it’s been tough to find a small, quiet gym that feels like home. I knew these people were my calling. They needed to hear what makes Anytime Fitness different. By the end of the night, the handshake lingered and the seemingly uncertain couple I had first encountered at the door were all smiles.

Sailor traversing a flight deck

Next, a story of heartache. In the same day as the above, a wonderful woman approached me in the gym. She inquired about personal training, then relayed to me the story of a past incident with a trainer. She quietly shared her utter disappointment and palpable pain from what she’d been told: her working out 3x a week would never be enough to see the results she wanted and to follow this pamphlet of food guidelines though “no one ever does it”. My heart broke. I felt tears welling up. She looked defeated. Apologies flowed from my own lips. I asked would she ever be willing to try again with someone new, someone who would encourage her, make her a priority, share in her triumphs? She didn’t hesitate when she answered yes. You can’t knock down hope and faith. I offered her a few options and made plans to follow up. She left my office with a smile; I could tell a weight had been lifted.

Finally, a brief introduction to Apolo, head coach at Anytime Fitness Las Colinas. I believe his passion is some of the most incredible I will ever witness.

Coach Apolo

Apolo is a Marine Combat veteran which he rarely shares unless a special occasion arises. He holds an Associate’s Degree in Advanced Personal Training from Bryan University. Apolo is CPR certified and is an AF Functional Training Group Coach. But you know what he truly excels at doing? Forming relationships. He is a builder of things personal and tying it into what makes people tick. His clients share their stories of what he’s done for them, but his humbleness prevents me from being anything other than one-sided. He’ll tell you they did all the work; he simply encouraged them and provided the right tools. But really that’s a lot! Not to take away from their progress, but to be fair, Apolo has gone above and beyond in knowing what they need, how to push them, and to do this over and over again. Somehow he finds time to embark on his own fitness journey! Let it be a reminder: he did verbally commit to running the Marine Corps Marathon with me next year.

These connections are what we’re about. Restoring humanity one workout at a time, one conversation a day.

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I ask you –

Are your stories endless or do they glide to a stop?

Tell me a time you encountered someone who’d had a bad experience and how you tried to turn it around for them.

Will you commit to a marathon with me next year?

Halloween Whodunit / Fall!

Hocus Pocus: one of my most beloved movies

The goal in my house is whoever scares Mommy the most wins. Ugh. I hate this game. You see, I’m not really a likes-to-be-scared type of girl. But my Munchkin takes this game very seriously so I play along. Unwillingly.

Mantle decorations

Who can deny cooler weather and boots and leggings and pumpkin spice everything is awesome?! Basic. Get off me. From a fitness perspective, this is the time people start making their winter goals and trying not to let the holidays impact them too much. For me, it means PRs and an extra cup of coffee to warm up!

I love the change in gym dynamic during this time of year. There’s fun colors and a more relaxed feel, but also some heavy hitters in the weight training area. It’s not lost on me most people use the colder months to lift heavier and do a little less cardio. Even I was trained this way. However, if you want to PR your runs in the spring, it’s important not to neglect the cardio portion of your workout. Insert functional training!

I find functional training combines all my favorite activities: strength building + elevated heart rate. It saves time, too, since I’m not doing 2 separate workouts. Mainly, it holds my interest and keeps me engaged. Pounding away on the dreadmill has all the appeal of going head to head with a mountain lion. No thanks, I’ll pass. I don’t run fast enough for that crisis.

Now I realize I’ve digressed from cooler Fall to colder than snowflakes Winter, but somehow, each year, the transition is less than gradual. You wake up one day to the beautiful leaves changing. Next thing you know it’s an ice warning. What the….

Empty candy bowl = small favors

Typically I end up forgoing a training plan after my final fall race, but I know how important it is to keep up the work and maintain a mileage base for the first glimpses of Spring. So I challenge you each to create a goal for the fall/winter and stick with it. But make sure it’s actually challenging! Try something new: hike in the snow, walking lunges indoors with your kids, try a yoga session! Or come by here and see me and we’ll do a group training session together!

Whatever you decide, enjoy yourself and get through the cold(er) months with your sanity and hoodie intact. If you need some ideas, I’m always listening and will be updating you along the way with the new adventures I partake in!

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I ask you –

Favorite holiday?

Is Halloween your thing or no? Definitely not mine, but as a parent, things change.

Something new you’d like to try when it’s cold out?

Joy and the Rose’s of the World

Such sweet words

Maybe it’s strange to admit, but I feel awkward when others thank me. Especially for just doing my job. That being said, the card above overwhelmed me with joy.

First, it’s a card. A CARD! Someone took time out of their busy day to write and deliver a card. Many of you know I’m a card advocate. I may be single-handedly keeping the US Postal Service alive with the amount of cards I send. I was taught at a very young age cards should be sent regularly, most importantly after receiving a gift on any occasion. I have a drawer filled with blank cards for any moment when a card is necessary. Truth be told, my favorite time to send a card is when it’s least expected. Those bring about the best feelings to find a card just because in your mail box. Who doesn’t love receiving mail?! Hold the bills, please.

Second, what she wrote is so beautiful to me. Ms. Rose is a sweet soul with an easy smile and a kind word for those she meets. Often we don’t see or feel the impact we make on another’s life until much later (if at all). When we find ourselves struggling with life, work, a mood – these small gestures can mean so very much to our needy hearts.

Perhaps you feel you’re at a point in your life where you can’t make a difference or you feel there’s no difference to be made. I implore you to look around. An opportunity exists if only you open your eyes to the possibility. Open them wide! Ms. Rose may not have had any goals other than to get out of her house each day. But, in doing so, she arrived at my house. Not literally, though I can only imagine my face if she’d shown up on my doorstep. She diligently came inside each day with her mind made up: she wanted to be stronger. I won’t see her again for a few months, but I have no doubt her presence made me stronger.

At the end of the day, I will believe the difference I made was in knowing her.

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I ask you –

When was the last time you sent a card in the mail? Have you ever?

Do you struggle with accepting the words “thank you”?

Tell me about someone in your life that has made you feel stronger.

7 Years and Then Some

So I’ve been with Anytime Fitness for a long time. A long time. During this time, I’ve met a lot of people. Some I might could’ve lived without meeting, but there’s a reason for everything. From people coming into my office crying to others coming into my office waving around firearms, I believe I’ve seen it all. Please tell me I’ve seen it all; I can’t stand any more.

James is a retired 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper. He’s much older than he looks and has a sweet, boyish smile. But when he’s not smiling, it’s terrifying. James has the male equivalent of RBF. If you don’t know what this is, Google it. It’s completely worth knowing!

From the first time I met James, in Lawton, Oklahoma, I was overwhelmed by his gentle giant nature. He’s easily 6’3″ and a billion pounds. I imagine him jumping from a helicopter much like a train falling through the sky. A massive train. Hurtling at the ground. I don’t know what holds him together but it’s probably steel. He’ll tell you he’s had more concussions than people have had birthdays. Train. Sky. You get it by now.

“I’m falling apart, but I make it look good!” -JM

As many service members will tell you, the routine is ingrained in you. We’re regimented and controlled. What others see as chaos is, to us, just another day of normalcy. James may not wear a uniform anymore; however, his workouts are daily and deliberate. He lifts weights heavier than me. Like heavier than my whole person.

James didn’t quite encourage my healthy habits. He was notorious for bringing me cookies and never eating a single one. I looked forward to seeing him, but I also rued the days he would come in. I sure ate all those cookies though!

In terms of our friendship, James and I laugh like we’ve known each other our whole lives. We’ve shared crazy stories, laughed at even crazier things, and navigated the transition back to civilian life post-military. It’s friendships like these that remind me I’m where I’m supposed to be. Surrounded by others with the same values…those who believe a healthy body starts with a healthy mind… encourages me to keep trying. On days I don’t feel like putting in the work, it only takes a second to conjure a thought of a ginormous train falling from the sky above to remind me to get my ass in gear. I’d rather be a train than a bug James stomps on.

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I ask you –

Name a friend you’ve known nearly your whole life! Exactly how long is that?

Thoughts on trains falling from the sky?

Remember the movie Operation Dumbo Drop?

Celebrate the Successes /Time Management

This morning while pounding the pavement and by pavement I mean treadmill I realized I was feeling frustrated because there simply was so much to do today I wouldn’t be able to get in the miles I needed. Instantly, being the fixer I am, I changed my plan to run for time rather than distance. This should solve the time issue, correct?

Seen in an elevator – had to take a picture!

But the more I ran, the more upset I became. At myself. For not prioritizing my training. For not having enough hours in the day. For not, for not, for not. I could’ve been living in the mile I was in. Instead I was beating myself up for things I have no control over. Kel, you thought you were somehow responsible for creating the 24 hours we equally have all received?!

Time. That’s the biggest barrier to fitness. I hear this one word so many times (haha jokes) a day it’s become a broken record. I don’t have enough time. To make your health the forefront of your life? To live? To prolong your years? Wow. What a twisted world we live in when we can’t make time for ourselves. Even as I remind everyone Anytime Fitness is a 24/7 access facility, I always find time is a barrier. If there were 50 hours in a day, we would still fill those hours with everything that needs to be done, forever putting ourselves on the lowest ranking of the list.

The day before as I was absentmindedly scrolling through radio stations on “the drive” I stopped on a morning talk show to listen to a guest host state her thoughts on celebrating the small successes in one’s life. It really made me pause to consider what I thought I was successful at.

I have a strong-willed daughter. No, I don’t think that’s what she meant by success. I am a successful business woman. Hmmm, there’s more to me than that. I’m strong and funny and I care about others. We’re on the right track. Oooooh, I know, I know! I get it now! I strive to push through the pain and frustration to seek accomplishments. Internal clapping! Yes, that’s it!

Seen in a different elevator of the same location!

To be honest, I doubt I do this often enough. Do you? Do you celebrate your successes or do you focus on what’s not done, what isn’t flowing smoothly, what more you could be doing? Human nature has made us our own worst enemies in this way. Society certainly hasn’t helped. We force in which we push ourselves to accomplish more and more is so strong. Gazing back at what we HAVE done is seen as selfish, vain, lazy. I excitedly disagree. Because how will you get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.

Sunset on my way home

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I ask you –

What successes have you experienced lately?

When was the last time you felt frustrated with your time or lack of time?

Guest Post – My Biological Other Half

Rep’ing our respective businesses, circa 2018

Some may know I have a twin sister. Now you all do. Brandy was born 1 minute prior to myself. To hear our mother tell it, the timing was much closer together, but our birth certificates read 7:58am and 7:59am, respectively, so we have no choice here. Don’t think for a minute…let the jokes begin…I don’t give her hell for me being the youngest. I know it isn’t her fault; she’s my sister, I do what I want.

(Herein referred to as) Bran has 2 beautiful babies, now 14 and 12. Let’s not get technical; those are her babies. She’s successful in the design and printing business. And she can speak so directly sometimes you’ll think she has drill sergeant tendencies.

L to R: Brandy, Garrett, & Stacey

Growing up, Bran and I played volleyball together. However, our first sport love was badminton. We’d play for hours in our front yard, until one of us got too mad at the other or we wore holes in the rackets. Sometimes this happened simultaneously. Truth be told, Bran and I are just about as opposite as can be. Blonde/brunette. Artistic/left-brained. Loud/quiet. Ok, so the last one is a lie. We’re both loud. I still find it funny we were often confused with the other until adolescence. Sure, as babies we were much more alike, but nowawadays, standing beside each other, clearly we’re related. You’d most likely guess sisters, but probably never believe twins.

Circa 2017 – same shirt, different year

Below is a short synopsis of our conversations together, written in real time, while utilizing video chat so I can type faster than she speaks – maybe we are more alike than I thought:

Me (K): How do you feel about having a twin? B: I’m actually really proud of it, I think it’s an awesome thing, I get excited when I meet other twins because it’s kind of a rare thing. It’s pretty neat.

K: What are your favorite memories of us? B: (laughing) (lots of laughing) I wish you would’ve sent me these ahead of time so I could have time to think! (cuckoo clock goes off – more laughing) (we discuss how to spell cuckoo) There’s so many! When we would go out on Friday and Saturday nights. Remember when we would take turns driving and we’d make the other person who hadn’t done their makeup be the passenger when we’d go to school? Remember the time the pasture caught on fire and you asked me how to dial 911? (K: (laughing) I was hoping you wouldn’t say that one! I felt like such an idiot!) (more laughing) The time Kenneth (our step-dad) was riding a bicycle and you ran into the glass doors. (Side note: I almost broke my face.) Let’s see. I remember the way you were bound and determined to be there when Stacey was born and then you stayed with me for like a month and half. And I kept telling you “you can go home, you can go home!” When we were younger and we jumped hay bales in that old barn. I remember when Brian (our younger brother) and I talked you into jumping off the top of the stairs and you hit the coffee table and had to go get stitches? (Me: laughing but it’s not funny). You had your arms out like you could fly. (Bran is now losing her shit laughing imagining the song “I Believe I Can Fly”) (Me: (also laughing) this isn’t that funny) (B still laughing like this is the funniest thing she’s ever said) I was not amused.

K: Do you cook well? What about baking? (lots of laughing) I can bake! And I can cook. What? What more is there to that? (Side note: this is my way of getting back at her because we both know she can’t cook well!)

K: Remember the time you poured 1 cup of molasses in the cookies instead of the recipe-directed 1 tablespoon? B: No, I don’t remember that. (K: Of course you don’t!) I really don’t remember. Me and you used to cook all the time. And we would bake all the time. They pretty much just turned us loose and we could do whatever we wanted in the kitchen. I really don’t remember that! (referencing the molasses incident) It was that old cookbook, wasn’t it? The Betty Crocker cookbook? (K: Yes, I still have a Betty Crocker cookbook.) They’re not really the same anymore but close enough.

K: Volleyball or badminton? B: Volleyball. We had really good memories playing volleyball. K: We did.

K: Is it true I was so outspoken that you didn’t have to speak for a long time because I did all the talking? (laughing) B: Yes! I tell everybody about that!

K: What’s it like being my sister? Difficult at times? B: (shaking head) I wouldn’t say difficult. Even if we have disagreements, we still talk to each other. Just because we have that bond. We get mad at each other and we disagree but we still depend on each other. Maybe depend isn’t the right word but it…we still like to talk to each other. And when stuff happens, I still think I need to call her and tell her about this. Even if we’re mad. She’ll tell me advice and listen to me. At least that’s how I feel. (K: I agree!)

K: Tell the readers about the difficulties and triumphs being a single mom. B: Oh Lord, now you’re really getting into it. It’s not easy for sure. Ummmm, I guess in my case it was a little different because (coughing) I had done it by myself mostly the whole time so it wasn’t really hard to do, it was just the adjustment for the kids and how they would adjust to it. In fact, when we came to VA to see ya’ll for the first time, that was the first time me and the kids had done something, just me and them. When we came home, it was like a really big triumph for me because I had never taken just the kids and done something with us. Before it was me and Ben (Stacey and Garrett’s father) and I relied on that. It was a huge boost because I did it by myself. I mean the kids were older, they weren’t tiny babies, but I’m one of those moms who visualizes everything that could go wrong and I was like what if airport security says ma’am these are not your kids and tries to take them (laughing). Ummmm. (pause while I check a text). I guess the hardest part was just the adjustment to it and explaining to the kids why I did what I did.

K: Advice for others? B: My biggest one would be as a mom you have to take care of yourself at the same time. You can’t put yourself off. You’ve got to have that time where you can take care of you. Even if you feel guilty, you have to say ok, you find something you like to do and you take the time to do that and you give your body time to rest. Mine would’ve been when the kids were gone on weekends with their dad and I would take time to do what I wanted – clean the house, whatever, read the book, crochet, that was my thing. You have to have that time for yourself.

K: Your weight has fluctuated through the years. What do you think is the biggest barrier in maintaining consistency? B: For me, it’s always been my will to do it. After the kids were born, I wasn’t worried about it and I didn’t care. When I did lose weight, I did it because I wanted to. When I gained the weight back, it was because I wanted to. It’s your will to do it. Now, I’m back down to where I was, again, so…that wasn’t…I lost my appetite and when I went to the doctor recently I had lost 20 lbs but that was stress. As I sit here and eat a sausage biscuit out of the microwave (laughing).

K: Activities you enjoy doing? B: (chewing) I like to crochet. I like reading books.

K: How do you think a history of depression and/or anxiety affects the ability to be healthy? Mental health? B: This really goes back to taking care of yourself. I didn’t notice what was going on with myself before I resumed taking medication. I was crying, didn’t want to talk or be around anybody. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. And, I told (B’s best friend)…she realized ok Brandy this is what it is…I wasn’t eating, sleeping, I just wanted to sit here and go to work, nothing more…she was the one who said Brandy you have to go to the doctor, you have to do something. It really goes back to taking care of yourself. You have to stop and look…(the friend said) you make a goal and I’m going to overcome this…and if you take the medication for the rest of your life that’s ok. The doctor explained depression and anxiety is like a short in your brain and your body doesn’t receive the correct message. And it’s something, like mine, I’ve been off and on medication since Stacey was born and some people don’t have that, some people are on it for their whole lives and there’s nothing wrong with that. You have to do what’s best for you to take care of 2 kids and…life. One time, a doctor, I didn’t realize what was wrong with me, when I started talking to her about how I didn’t want to leave the house with my kids because we’d be in a wreck or someone would try to kidnap my kids. I thought everybody had those thoughts. With her, I’d go back every month. I’d try to put the kids in the car and drive to the end of the driveway. I had to be on the medicine and overcome my fears. I thought this was normal (being scared) but it’s not.

K: For people who deal with these things, how does that affect their overall health? B: Exercise and going for a walk would be an awesome thing. It’s the endorphins that stimulate your brain. (still eating her biscuit) (cuckoo clock chimes 11am, lots of laughing)

K: Further discussion on people who want to lose weight, get healthier, etc – how do you think people can accomplish this? B: Dedication and will because people make time for what they want. They go before work, after work; it’s a will to want to do it (to make change).

As I’m finalizing this writing and we’re recapping what I’ve written, Bran says “I’ve always wanted my name and Betty Crocker’s name published in the same article!”

This kind of banter is our life.

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I ask you –

Any questions you want me to ask Brandy? I promise she’ll answer!

Did. Not. Finish. (COMPLETE)

Actual IG Post several days post-run

DNF might be the toughest words for any runner to bear. When you pour your heart and soul into a training cycle: modify nutrition, beg your family to understand why you must run 10 miles on the weekend, and then get up at the ass crack of dawn for the event, it can be a huge letdown when the race doesn’t go as planned.

Heat exhaustion is defined as “…a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating. It’s one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe.” Complications of heat exhaustion include nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and muscle weakness. Or you could just pass the f*** out. I’ll take option E for $500, Alex! Better yet, I’d like to double my money and add the first 4 to it, as well!

Allow me to paint a pretty picture for you. There I was, valiantly running along when all of a sudden I was struck with muscle cramps, passed out, and came to in a medical tent. Not exactly. The warning signs had been with me since mile 1 of the 13.1 mile race. Running in the humid environment of Virginia Beach, VA on Labor Day weekend already had its challenges but I had trained for the heat and humidity. Really. I had! Alas, it wasn’t my day.

Mile 1 included “side stitches” aka muscle cramps. Honestly, probably every runner has experienced these during training so it wasn’t a big deal to me. When I had to walk at Mile 2, I knew something was off but I told myself it was just nerves. I had run this event at VA Beach the year prior so I knew the course, but I get nervous about nothing sometimes. I continued to drink Gatorade and water at each water stop (approx every 1.5 miles). The cramps weren’t dissipating but I would run until it became unbearable then walk until the cramps subsided. Mile 3 began an incredible headache. Literally. My head felt like it was exploding with every step. I remembered at this time that my dad had experienced a heatstroke many years ago and he kept mentioning how his head hurt so bad. So what did I do? Shrug it off and keep going.

Miles 4-8 are a blur. I can’t recall much of them except stopping to get a drink and soaking wet towels to wrap around my neck. It felt incredible – the cold water dripping down my back. My clothes were a wet mess, but I realized I wasn’t sweating at all. Hello, dangerous! I was vaguely aware at this moment that something was very wrong but I told myself once I reached the finish line I would seek medical attention. But the finish line never arrived. There’s a photo of me walking extremely slowly between Mile 11 and Mile 12. It’s an overhead shot where runners are about to enter the VA Beach Boardwalk. I have no recollection of this part of the race. At approximately Mile 12, I remember sitting down on the boardwalk and a woman approaching me to ask if I needed help. I suppose I said yes, maybe I didn’t answer at all, but I came to with a nice medical support officer leaning over me and asking if I could stand. I realized I was laying on the bricks of the boardwalk, confused and shivering. The paramedics picked me up, laid me on the gurney, and put me in an ambulance.

I’d never ridden in an ambulance before. Quite possibly I’d never even seen inside an ambulance. You could say I’m fortunate. During the ride to the medical pavilion, the paramedic asked me a bunch of questions I don’t remember answering and he attempted, unsuccessfully, to start an IV. I recall apologizing profusely for shaking so badly I was trying to grasp his leg in an effort to hold my arm still for the IV insertion. The joke is I’d be a terrible drug user, but maybe it won’t be received well – so I’m sorry. Some hours later, after being pumped full of fluids, both via IV and drinking 2 huge bottles of Gatorade, the decision was made to release me with instructions to follow up with my own doctor ASAP.

In all this, I have beaten myself up for allowing the heat to get the best of me, both emotionally and physically. Statistically, those who have suffered from heat exhaustion and heatstroke are at a much higher risk of experiencing these events again. With my own history of health issues, it’s agreed I no longer run in the heat. Over 80 degrees outside? No thank you, I’ll pass. Obviously humidity plays a large role in the real feel temperature so that’s accounted for when making a decision to train outdoors. I lost about 8 lbs of fluid that day; insane, right? Recovery was an uphill battle.

Even crazier, I had scheduled VA Beach as the first half marathon in my line of 3 subsequent halfs: Sep – VA Beach; Oct – Crawlin’ Crab; and Nov – Norfolk Harbor Half. I knew I had only a few weeks between VA Beach and the next race. Emotionally, the race in October was a test. I was figuratively running scared; afraid the heat (still hot but had cooled down some) would force me to cancel or not finish the race. I hadn’t trained much since VA Beach because I needed to focus on re-gaining the weight I had lost and maintain hydration. Crawlin’ Crab went well and in November I hit the PR I had been working so hard to attain. Did it all end well? Yes. But it was certainly a rocky road getting there!

Moral of the story: keep pushing unless it’s a battle of your health and your ability to finish an event. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and get help early. Please don’t wait until it’s too late…and you never know when late is too late. I knew all the markers, but kept pushing and stubbornness is not always a virtue. I’m thankful to the lady whom I’ve never met who recognized my silent distress, as well as the medical personnel for their efforts. We pay a lot of money to run races – some of it goes to the emergency warriors who help those of us in need. In my opinion, they deserve more because you just don’t know when you’ll be in need of their expertise.

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I ask you –

Have you had a scary experience during a race?

Tips on staying hydrated?

What was the last event you completed?