Thursday, April 25, 2013

Forgiveness...the Missing Piece

"To err is human, (to forgive, divine)" I've had the "err" part down, it's the forgiveness piece that I struggled with. The importance of being able to forgive escaped me. I am only beginning to understand that the act of forgiveness is for myself, not the other person, and that when I acknowledge and forgive I may then be free to move forward.

In what I fondly refer to as "my former life", it seemed I was a bubbling pot of anger, resentment and depression. If someone wronged me (or if I perceived such an occurrence) I would immediately shut down and close myself off to that person. It was a defense mechanism run awry.

I excelled in the role of victim. In my reflection today upon that time of my life, it became obvious to me I may have enjoyed befitting the self-imposed victim role on some level. As twisted as that may sound, there was power there. I don't think I ever took responsibility for my part in anything. I was dishonest, even with myself. Sad, really. For many years I was so lost. And I lost so very much.

A large part of my self awareness and growth in recent years has a lot to do with my learning how to forgive. And it comes down to honesty. In every situation I have a part. Things don't just happen to me, and I am not a victim. I have to look at what my responsibility is first...always.  What are my motives? Mark my words, a lot of the time I owe an amends for my own actions in the situation. If I keep myself honest and take care of my own domain then I've done the right thing. And that's all I can do.  The next right thing. Once I take care of my part, I am open to heal and to forgive.

It was exhausting holding onto grudges. They were extremely heavy! Dragging them around like a ball and chain. It is no wonder I was depressed. Today, I am slow to anger.  I am not saying that I never get mad or upset.  I am human, not perfect and I do get angry from time to time. The difference today is when the anger arises I handle it immediately. View my part, deal with the situation and move on.  There is no more clinging to resentment as if a blanket, for it has no place in my life today.

With a lighter, less complicated life I am free to be the positive girl that writes her heart out. You know, that's why I am writing. I feel compelled to put the truth out there. No more hiding. Here I am, like me or leave me.  Today, I am no longer lost but found.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Little Ride in Kentucky

What do you get when you take a beautiful stretch of historical land in the heart of Kentucky, and bring in 50 cyclists from different parts of the country for a 151 mile, two day cycling tour?  A lot of fun, laughter and adventure. A delight for all of the senses.  It was a fantastic weekend and I feel privileged to have been part of it. 

Thirteen of us made the trip down from Indianapolis.  The route: The scenic Bourbon Trail.  The ride would take us through iconic Civil War battlefields, breathtaking green pastures of thoroughbred farms, fields of beautiful flowers and several famous distilleries.  The Kentucky countryside boasts rolling hills and some challenging climbs.  The ride promised to be provocative, and it most definitely was.  After the lunch stop at the Makers Mark distillery, the group thinned out as riders departed at varying times.  I rode most of the afternoon with my girl, Monika.

By the time we reached the overnight rest stop at mile 101.3 (a little longer than expected due to a few wrong turns) we were tired, sore and famished.  The rest stop was a picturesque farm labeled The Farm Bed and Breakfast, in Danville, KY.  It is a family owned and operated oasis.  We checked in, took turns showering, pitched our tents in the pasture and settled in for the night.  The sunset was beautiful.  We were served a delicious country-style catered dinner.  Pulled pork, coleslaw and farmer baked beans.  Melt-in-your-mouth brownies for dessert.  (Don't ask how many I put wasn't pretty!)  

The next morning came with temperatures in the lower 30's.  We layered up, broke down the campsite, ate a delicious breakfast with fresh food right from the farm, and packed to depart.  The race director's family provided additional SAG support for all of our things.  We saddled up and set out for a chilly start to the day.

We encountered some interesting characters along the way!

Bikers meet cyclists...they were fascinated by us and our bikes:

The day brought more climbing, additional photo-ops and a lot more fun.  We completed the ride after 60 miles, including one very gravely road.

It was a ride rich in American history, the beauty of nature and active cycling. A feast for the eyes, mind and body.  My spirit was tickled by every moment of the experience.

All in all I would give the weekend a B+.  The only aspect I would have liked to see different was the temperature.  10 degrees warmer would have been ideal!  But I'll take what we were given.  It was a wonderful experience, and I will return next year!  In two weeks the same Indianapolis crew (and more) will travel to Chattanooga, TN for the 3 State 3 Mountain 100 mile ride.  I'm ready to tackle the mountains!

If you're interested in these rides, here are the links:

The Bourbon Cycling Tour:
3 State 3 Mountain:

Perhaps you'd like to join me?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

And So it Begins.....

I'm off...for the first big event of the 2013 season!  I am beyond excited!

The only expectation I have going in is to relax, have fun and embrace the outdoors!  Lots of good things ahead.  I'll write about it when I return.

I hope your weekend is amazing.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Finish Line

A race is the culmination of months of training, planning, dreaming and mental and physical preparation.  Participating in races is such a wonderful experience that I absolutely love.

I've crossed many finish lines since, but I will never forget my first big race.  It was the Rock 'N Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon several years ago. In many ways Philadelphia reminds me of Boston. Rich in history, tremendous people and impressive architecture. The recent tragedy in Boston has been on my mind and inspired me to write about the sport I love.

It had never occurred to me that I could run a half marathon. I didn't picture myself as a runner. I had been happy doing my little turbo kick class at the gym, and occasionally hitting the Elliptical.  Running in a race, and a half marathon at that, was not on my radar. At the time I didn't even have a bucket list. I existed in my little world and thought I was happy with status quo. I was just trying to keep my head above water.

Then came the phone call that would change my life. One of my best friends called and said "why don't we train and do this half marathon in Philadelphia in September?  It'll be fun!" Her enthusiasm won me over and I agreed. I figured, what the hell...I had successfully made other changes in my life why not go for it?  For the first time in my life I had a race on my calendar and a goal to work toward.

We got off the phone and excitement bubbled up inside of me. I immediately got online and researched training, nutrition, etc. I went out the next day and bought new running shoes.  I put together a training plan using Hal Higdon's Novice Half Marathon plan. 12 weeks and I would cross that finish line. I followed the training plan to the letter. You might even say I was obsessed.

Two days before the race I flew to Baltimore, where my friend lived and the next day we took the train to Philadelphia. I was petrified when we entered the city. What the hell was I thinking? I was nuts to think I'd be able to run 13.1 miles.  My stomach was in knots. We checked into our hotel, met two other girls and headed to the race expo. My first expo! It was so exciting. I picked up my packet, and held my first bib in my hands. It was so precious.  It was official, I was a participant in a half marathon.  We ventured to an italian restaurant for dinner, then headed back to the hotel.  How was I going to sleep?

Race morning came, and the alarm sounded at 5:30am. Here we go! We walked to the race start line. There were over 20,000 people from all over the world participating in this event.  It was a massive crowd. I remember wondering if everyone else was terrified also. We made our way to our corrals and waited. I was a wreck!

The gun sounded and we were off!  I had no idea what to expect, but the instant the crowd moved forward my nerves dissipated and my adrenaline kicked in. I started dodging and passing runners, then settled into my stride. Each mile marker I passed increased my excitement. I was actually doing this! My training took over, I relaxed and enjoyed the race. The runners were all encouraging each other and the volunteers and spectators along the course were fantastic.  As I approached mile marker 10 the brevity of what I was doing set in. I became emotional. I felt that I was a part of something great. A year before this race I was at the lowest of lows and almost died. On this day I was in the last 3.1 miles of a half marathon.

The finish line was near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, home of the famous steps Rocky ran wearing his grey sweatsuit.  As I approached the finishing chute I heard The Eye of the Tiger being played over the loudspeaker and I began to cry tears of joy.  I was almost there...I did it!!  It was the most amazing feeling of my life. As I entered mile 12 one of my friends caught up to me. The spectators were chanting "one mile to go!!" We crossed the finish line together and I felt as if I was flying. The feeling was beyond description.

Judy, Me, Janette and Lydia

When I heard of the explosions yesterday my mind went back to this picture, and my first finish line.  Every one since has meant so much. There is a feeling of accomplishment, joy and celebration when the finish line is crossed and the race is completed. Most importantly, I've always felt safe. Whether as a spectator or an athlete.  It's a sanctuary of sorts for us. As if we were running home. The finish line was different yesterday for the athletes and spectators of the Boston Marathon. That is what hit me the most.  As an athlete it made me very angry. How dare the sick individuals invade that precious place.  It will haunt me but it will not stop me.  I will not be in fear. I will continue to work hard and enjoy the sport I love and I will feel safe and secure when I cross finish lines this season.  I will not let this tragedy take that from me.

As I thought about this post I looked at all of the medals and bibs I've collected.  There are quite a few, and I hope there will be many more.  Thank you for sharing this memory with me.

Pray for Boston and for peace.  May your finish line always be safe.  Peace.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Saturday, April 13, 2013.

As I pumped up my bike tires and loaded up my gear at 6:30am this morning, I shivered. Just two days ago the temps were in the 70's, this morning the thermostat revealed the temp was 38. Um...yeah. Today's high will only be 56. What the what?! Shorts and a tank two days ago, today cold weather gear. I was packing for a trip to the southern part of the state for some hill training with 25 of my closest cycling friends. Race season is on. The Bourbon Cycling Tour (2 days/150 hilly miles of fun) is next weekend and two weeks after that is the 3 State 3 Mountain Ride. One day, 100 miles, 3 mountains (yes mountains, not hills). Lots of climbing coming my way. I'm ready. At least, I think I am.

As an athlete, I have to train in all conditions. Sometimes it might be a ride in the wind and rain. Another day might be sunny with no wind. Other days, such as today it feels bitter cold. And this is good, as you never know what race day will bring. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

The training ride we are taking part in today is the course of an annual event I have participated in called the Hilly Hundred, which is held every October. Today we are going to simulate the second day of The Hilly, which is a 49 mile route with three large climbs. One of them, Mt. Tabor is legendary for defeating many experienced cyclists. From the base of the hill, as you glance ahead the incline appears to be straight up. It's very challenging and a perfect training course for the big cycling events which will take place in the next few weeks.

I settle into my cadence and follow the bike in front of me. As a triathlete, I frequently train solo so I am enjoying the company of the other riders. Group rides have a completely different dynamic. Drafting is encouraged and you must be on high alert at all times. You never know what the rider in front of you will do.

As we progress through the ride the temperature is warming, but still very cool. We are riding primarily in the woods today, so the sun is blocked by the skeletal branches of the large trees. With each climb completed successfully my confidence is building. Achieving confidence is the goal of the training. When I capture that I can conquer anything.

Mt Tabor came and went, and it was a challenge as always.  Halfway to the top my legs were burning and the devil on my shoulder whispered "just stop and walk, who wants to suffer?" But I ignored him and pressed on slowly climbing all the way to the top. Everyone stopped and we regrouped catching our breath.  Mission accomplished!

As we finished the ride, the talk turned to next weekend and The Bourbon Cycling Tour. Most of us are participating in the event. It promises to be a blast. We will caravan south to Kentucky, spend the night in a hotel Friday, ride 100 miles on Saturday, camp out Saturday night, then ride 50 miles on Sunday. Did you catch that?  Camp out?  Do I hear snickers? Most people have laughed when I've described our lodging for the second night of the weekend. I must not have the appearance of someone who enjoys camping. Ah, but that is another layer to me...I love to camp. It's been quite awhile, and I'm looking forward to it.

Ha ha, no the accommodations will not be this. Will be very rustic, and I'm sharing a 4 person tent with 3 other women. Shall be interesting!

I've trained hard and now it will come down to my reliance upon my training, nutrition, equipment and mental preparedness. I am so excited for the season to begin!

We finished the ride, and spent some time chatting as we repacked our gear. The cycling community is amazing and I am very grateful for the friends I have made. Every ride is different and provides an opportunity to meet new people and learn about the sport I love. Today was no exception.

Good stuff.  Here we go!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Getting Dirty then Putting on Heels

Hope I'm not disappointing you, but I was referring to actually being dirty. Like, really dirty.

My training ride today consisted of rain, wind, mud and earthworms. I'll spare you the earthworm details, for they are not pleasant. I will say the company on the ride was wonderful. Two terrific women rode with me, my coach and a very good friend. Strong cyclists. Their presence ensured the ride was fun and challenging. It was a blast to engage in drafting, even when the bike in front of me is spewing water and goo from the road directly onto me like a cold, gritty shower. It's all good, as taking turns drafting and pulling gave us each a reprieve from the 30mph headwinds. We rode 30 miles then grabbed coffee. Good times. I came home, hosed off my bike (no details), peeled off my sweaty, muddy cycling clothes and pulled a few earthworm remnants from my hair (a brief glimpse into the details and I will not go further). Yuck. I looked in the mirror and there was a streak of mud on my cheek and something brown stuck to my forehead...hours later I'm still not exactly sure what it was. Probably best if I don't know. Sometimes the sport is not very ladylike. It can get downright raw. (And I love it!!) 

I took a very long, very hot bath. I remained in the tub longer than usual, spending some quiet time with me and my meandering thoughts, then took a shower. I emerged and got dressed. I took my time picking the outfit I finally donned and then found the perfect shoes and accessories. 

I love fashion. I get to indulge in it so infrequently, which makes tonight extra special. We are going to dinner at a nice restaurant with the kids and my mother-in-law, who is the coolest woman ever. Love her! I'm probably getting too dressed up but I don't care. Given my absolutely filthy state pre-bath-shower, I needed to feel clean and pretty.

Hmm...should I wear this Michael Kors dress?

A little Free People black dress:

I opted for the MK dress. I'll save the black for next time.
Dinner was fabulous.  Scallops.
This is
what I usually wear:

  As I close this at 12:45am, I am in my comfy writing clothes, also typical attire.  Black polka dot pj's, white tank top.  Sorry, no picture. (smile).  It's Friday, and the forecast is for sunny skies.  I am hoping all my little wormy friends found their way back into the ground, as I have another ride coming up Saturday.  And a run tomorrow (I mean today....T.G.I.F.,  I'm a habitual night owl).

At least when I'm on foot I can dodge the little gross buggers.

That's all I've got for now.  And with that I'll say nite-nite....Peace out!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Passion Coming to Fruition

I love to write. It is my passion. Like other parts of me, this love lay dormant for many years. I had dreamed about traveling the world and writing about my escapades. I wanted my office to be a simple corner desk at the Washington Post. As a child I loved to create stories about people and places of interest. I was a child who, at age eleven, announced she was going to join the Peace Corps to help people and write about the experience. Surely it would be a Pulitzer Prize worthy endeavor. In college my professors told me I was talented and should pursue a career in journalism. Their words of encouragement will not be forgotten.

I didn't join the Peace Corps. I fell in love. I had my heart broken. I healed. I got married. I had kids. I put my career on hold and the only writing I did for many years was journaling.

So here I am. Starting over in so many ways. One of the things I've come to realize is that it's never too late. I'm in my 40's, I'm not dead. Why not? So here I go. It started with this blog. In writing my little daily thoughts and experiences whether it be my passion for triathlon, a life lesson, a fear, or just a day in the life, I'm gaining power over my fear. I'm putting myself out there, making contacts and landing writing jobs. I'm allowing myself to be vulnerable. That's not an easy thing for me. However I recognize that in vulnerability comes strength. 

When I'm vulnerable I'm living...

I am taking chances. I have opened a door to an entirely different future. A future only I can create.  Good stuff!

The journaling I engaged in throughout the last 20 years is what I'm using as a basis for the book I am writing. I'm finally looking fear in the face and putting chapters together. As a writer I have the ability to live in a fantasy world. Creativity at work. Writing a piece of fiction (loosely based upon real events) is proving to be a blast. The characters come to life beneath my fingertips and the story plays out in my head and evolves on paper. My passion is slowly coming to fruition. And as it is coming a little later than I had planned, it will be so much sweeter.

My blog has been my baby. My jumping off point. Ultimately it has been therapeutic for me. It has allowed me to be honest and straightforward about where I am in life. I'm putting my heart into my posts, and letting it all out. Like it or not, it's me. I hope you like it...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Of Being Mindful

Each night before going to sleep I review my day. Did I put my best self forward today? Was I kind, patient, giving and honest? Or was I quick to anger and selfish? Do I owe anyone an apology? Engaging in this daily inventory helps keep me in check.

I find more often than not, if I stray away from this daily self appraisal the negative parts of my character tend to pop up. I can't allow this to happen. In my quest for my better self to be forefront in my life I have to be diligent with this. Keep moving in the right direction.

Recent events with a loved one in my life have me pondering my actions. I keep finding myself in the same situation and I continue to cling to hope that things will change. But what I have failed to accept is I have no control. Things just aren't always going to go my way. I cannot dictate another persons actions. I can only govern my own.

Repeating the same thing over and over expecting different results. Insanity? Such a harsh word. But I have to wonder, if I allow people or situations to affect me and if I repeatedly allow myself be to be hurt, isn't that insanity? When does hope for the better become unbalanced?

I just answered my own question. A clear indicator should be that I have repeatedly been hurt. To remain hopeful that things will magically turn around is what is out of balance. I have become codependent. This inhibits change.

It is a fine line, isn't it? To strive for positivity and yet not go too far into blindness of self. In effect, inaction. Hope can only get me so far. Then it's up to me. Rather that sit idly by and allowing things to happen to me I can turn it around by taking action. In the interest of my body, mind and spirit I cannot remain complacent.

I can continue to work on me and that's what I plan to do. Continue being my usual positive self and let others handle their own stuff.

I recognize that I've been somewhat vague in this post. Sometimes it's unwise to reveal all of the facts surrounding a situation. I hope my meaning shines through.

Thanks for listening, you always help me. Smile.

See you soon!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Peaceful Solitude

Maybe it's just me, but do vacations leave little time for rest?  I seem to cram so many activities into my vacations that there is little time left for rest and relaxation. Until I collapse into my bed at the end of the day. It is the second to last day of Spring Break and I'm exhausted!  I don't expect you to feel sorry for me, of course.

I come to you today from the balcony of the condo I'm renting for the week in Gulf Breeze, Florida.  It is a breezy, cool morning and the cloud cover is slightly gray with patches of bright blue peeking through.  I can hear the roar of the surf, and smell the salty air.  I am still in my blue silk nightgown, as I am the only one present.  It is so peaceful.  I'm smiling as I sip my morning coffee from a slightly chipped mug.

Today promises to be quiet.  Everyone else is deep sea fishing.  I do not bode well on small sea vessels so I elected to stay behind.  I am not a fisherman.  I still have nightmares about putting the earthworm on the fish hook and sobbing as a child. I felt sorry for the gross little bugger. I have no clue as to the bait used for the larger fish which are the promised find today, and frankly I don't need to know. Plus, being seasick is not high on my bucket list (been there, done that and it was not pretty).  I made the decision to remain on land, and am now catching up on some work, and of course my blog. I'm planning to go for a long run in a little bit and later I plan to park myself on a lounge chair on the beach.  Feeling sorry for me yet?

I am not complaining by any means.  I think I'm just feeling a little disconnected from the real world.  But that's the point of a vacation, right?  I should practice what I preach and live in the moment. Chill.  Admittedly being still is an area I need additional practice.  It drives me a little nuts when there isn't something on the agenda.  There....that unlocks the door to the meaning of why I'm exhausted.  Sudden "light bulb" moment.  I probably should have left my computer at home and taken a real break. But that would not have been wise, as I must have my creative outlet.  My fellow writers out there will certainly back me on that one.  To completely unplug is just not going to happen.  Unless the power goes out, then I'll have to deal.

My outlets are what keep me balanced.  My bike made the journey with me (of course) and so did my trusty Macbook Pro.  It's really which outlet we choose in life that matters.  In my previous existence my outlets were not wise, and I made many negative choices.  Today my outlets are healthy. I exercise, I write and I practice yoga/meditation.  Body, mind, spirit.  Occasionally I will indulge myself.  Peanut butter, the nectar of the gods and dark chocolate.  Naughty yet nice.  Just like me.  (smile)

I have been productive and have worked on my book.  Trying hard to burst the fear bubble that surrounds making progress and (gasp) having someone else read it.  It's one thing for the content to be real and from my gut and onto the's yet another to actually share it.  The old nagging fear raises it's ugly head.  I will smash it, however.  Every word is a step on the bridge to letting go.  Releasing a part of myself, as the raw Michelle is shown in my writing.  I'm holding nothing back.  By saying this am I justifying my fear?  Perhaps, but I'm also putting it out there.  It's not such a secret anymore.  Stay tuned.

Well I'm off to my run, then to my lounge chair in the sun.  Of course, as I am sitting soaking in the sun I will be anxiously awaiting the return of the seafaring group.  Then hopefully I'll have fish to cook for dinner.  (I do love to eat it!!) See you soon....

Peace, out.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Day in Paradise

I awoke from the dream startled by the sound of the alarm.  "Ugh" I grunted hitting snooze and willing myself to return to the same spot in the perfect dream I had been enjoying prior to being pulled from it too soon by the bleep of my iPhone.  I drifted back into slumber, this time dreaming about baseball.  What the hell...I don't even like baseball.  Cruel twist of irony as the previous dream had involved someone who loves baseball. I contemplated trying again to recapture my place in the happy dream. Admitting defeat I figured I might as well get up.  I looked at the clock. 6:30am.  My kids are teenagers, which means they probably wouldn't emerge from the room they are sharing for several hours. The condo was peaceful and quiet. I thought perhaps I'd make coffee then head out on my bike (of course I brought it with me). We are on vacation. Spring Break. a.k.a self-imposed triathlon camp. I need to look at this trip as such because admittedly, with the cold dreary weather at home I have been a bit of a slacker recently. With my first 1/2 Ironman race quickly approaching I can not afford to revel in slackerdom. Time to move it, move it.

I padded to the window and peered through the blinds.  The sky was clear and in the early dawn was dark blue.  I opened the window and could hear the surf pounding the shore.  Heaven on earth.  Warm, sunny Florida.  I chuckled to myself remembering the kids had a snow day just last week.  The temperature here in Gulf Breeze promised to be 78 degrees. Ahhhhh, I'll take it. I come alive in this climate, and especially when I am in such close proximity to the water. Another day in paradise.

Decision to ride made, I dressed quickly, slathered on sunscreen, filled my water bottles and crammed tissues and gels into my pink Fuel Box.  I pulled on my pink cycling shoes, grabbed my helmet and was out the door.  I felt exhilarated. As I've mentioned, I am at home in the saddle.  My bike is an extension of me. I didn't have to leave a note.  My peeps would know where I went (the missing bike would be a dead giveaway, wink...wink).

I pedaled out of the parking lot with a smile on my face.  A few minutes later I reached the end of the little town and entered the protected National Seashore area of the island. The cars thinned out. I gazed ahead and the road appeared endless. It was lined with pristine, white sand which was dotted with tall grasses. The Gulf was to my right and white-capped waves slowly danced along the shoreline. I could smell the salt in the air as the sun warmed my shoulders. Occasionally I would pass a parked car and when I glanced at the water I would see a small number of people fishing along the beach. Otherwise it was just me.

It was beautiful.  I rode fast to get my heart racing, then back down to a lower zone for interval training. Perfect. I listened to Sweet Disposition on the playlist I had compiled for the ride (with one ear, the other ear free to catch the sound of cars approaching).  Safety first. A smile played on my lips and I felt as if I could ride all day.

I stopped briefly to take in the scenery and while I refueled I felt at such peace listening to the surf and enjoying the sunshine.  It was so quiet.

I rode for two hours, and reluctantly returned to the condo on the beach.  My daughter was awake and we took a long walk, chattering happily.  Perfect.

I found myself wishing I could start every day this way.  But back to real life soon, as the kids have school on Monday. But that's ok, as life is good. In the meantime I am content with slowing down, appreciating the little things and enjoying the time we have together in this beautiful place.  We are so blessed.