Progress Is Not A Straight Line

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The thing about progress is that it requires patience. It is a virtue and all, right? That also means that progress requires a continual, daily decision. It’s a daily choice as to which direction your progress will be: forward or back. Sometimes forward progress stalls despite your best efforts. Sometimes you luck out and make progress without trying too hard. However, true, long-term FORWARD progress does not happen without a conscientious effort and daily decision. That means you have to make measurable goals in order to move forward.

Weight loss seems to be a common perpetual goal. Not only of my own, but of many other people I know as well. While maintaining a “healthy” weight is a great goal to have, the number on the scale really doesn’t hold as much clout as we think it does. I place “healthy” in quotations because there really is no magic number. I can be 140 lbs and 18% body fat or 140 lbs and 32% body fat. One is certainly healthier than the other. And, ironically, both have me listed in the “overweight” category of the BMI chart since I’m a whopping 5’2.

The above photo is my REAL progress chart from MyFitnessPal from 2013 through today. The spikes and dips correspond with every big event in my life–and their relationship with my health through my weight. The deep dips were big races and the reward for months of hard work. The tall spikes were life-altering negative events. I stress-eat. I stress-drink.

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I don’t stress too much about this chart, though. (Because then I would just get another spike…) But, I do find it quite interesting and relative to so many other goal quests. PROGRESS IS NOT A STRAIGHT LINE. To achieve your goal, you have to remain dedicated long after you made it. When no one is looking. When it’s 4:30am and cold. When you’ve been up all night with a crying toddler. When everything in your world appears to be falling apart inside your own head and maybe even all around you.

You have to be committed. It doesn’t mean you will soar to your goal in a straight, pretty line. It means that through the dips and the spikes, you will remain focused on what it is you are wanting to achieve–whatever that may be.

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(Photo credit to Tribay Market)

I’m sitting here writing this as I am recovering from a bout with influenza and  associated pneumonia. I’ve currently missed 4 workouts and I’m not entirely sure I’ll make the one tomorrow. You really ponder your goals and your dedication to them when you’re not feeling well and feel as if you’re unable to ever meet them. However, I know that once I’m back to it, I will get right back into my groove. I always do one way or another. It’s either an innate sense of perseverance I have or maybe it’s just pain belligerence. (Both?)

Like wanting to reach up and grab the moon, it is easy to feel as if our goals are unreachable. It’s too high. It’s too big. It’s too scary. It’s unreasonable. While literally grabbing the moon is all of those things,  this isn’t the case for most goals. Many times, our limits are only in our minds.

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If you would’ve told me four years ago that I would be an IRONMAN finisher and training for a second IRONMAN, I’d have laughed in your face. Why?   It’s too high. It’s too big. It’s too scary. It’s unreasonable.

When we feel that our “moon” is too high, too big, too scary, and unreasonable, we just have to find the right ladder to get there.

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(Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me)

It would be SO much easier if it came to you. If it was a given. If it just fell into your lap. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. You have to WORK for the things that are WORTH it.

So, the main question is: how much do you WANT it?  That’s the daily question; the daily decision. How much do you want it? Once you answer that question, the rest will find a way to happen.

DO YOU WANT IT? 

Year of the Phoenix

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 (Painting by Shadow)

It’s been almost a year ago that I lost my home, pets, and belongings to a house fire. A month later I lost my dad to suicide. I also had health issues and had surgery in November to have a softball-sized mass and my gallbladder removed. Needless to say, I took a bit of a hiatus from triathlon, blogging, or really anything else.

Despite all the set-backs and life-altering events, I still participated in the Try Tri race by Racemaker Productions  and somehow won overall female. I completed the TOUGHman Indiana Aquathon (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike) and was 2nd in my group. I also did one of my favorite races– the Go Girl Triathlon last August. So my idea of a hiatus isn’t TOTAL avoidance, but is certainly less than what I desire.

Over the past year of struggle, I unfortunately gained back 30 lbs–mostly bacon and booze–and lost a great deal of the fitness I had worked so hard to achieve over the past three years. I let the things I endured DEFINE me. I let them CONSUME me. Tip to the wise: eating your feelings does not work. Drinking them doesn’t work either. Most things that feel good in the moment do not feel good in the long-term. Lesson learned.

Here I am, the start of a new year and trying to make plans. Do I take it easy? Slow? Ease back into things for a year or so? That would make the most sense. That would be the logical thing to do.

Nah.

IRONMAN Florida.

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Yeah, that sounds good!

So I started back swimming, biking, and running. I’m slower than usual. I’m sorer than usual. But, I am DOING it.

(I still hate getting up early just the same, though, just so you know. I don’t expect that to change.)

I start back with my amazing coach, Brant, from Dream Big Triathlon Coaching  next month and then things will really get REAL.

My dreams may be crazy. My methods may be crazier. Failure is even a possibility. But I would rather try and fail than to wish I had tried. Quitting is not an option.

Here is to rising from the ashes.

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The Crashed Rocket

Anyone who has ever completed an Ironman event will tell you that it isn’t an easy process. To be successful, you put in hours upon hours of training, hours of planning, and a considerable amount of emotional and financial investment. The best analogy I can surmise in regards to what happens AFTER the Ironman is over is with rocket science.

To successfully concept, build, and launch a rocket with an intended target, you have to spend a lot of time on education, training, planning, and have emotional and financial investment. You spend all of this time building the shell, building the inside parts, make sure it has plenty of fuel. You spend all of this time in anticipation of it’s launch wondering if it will indeed reach its target. When it does everything as planned, you feel accomplished and finished. But then what happens?

It falls to the ground. And crashes. And burns.

That’s me. On the ground. Crashing. And burning.

I spent so much time with so much structure and with so many other life stresses going on simultaneously that when I finally reached my target, I crashed and burned.

So, here I sit, 20 lbs heavier than when I was training. Here I sit, unable to complete a 5K without feeling as if I’m dying. Here I sit, downing Long’s Donuts like they’re closing their doors. Crashed. Burned.

I spent so much time planning, anticipating, and reaching for my goal that I didn’t consider the AFTER. I just assumed I would continue and keep doing what I was doing. However, I desperately needed a break. From triathlon. From life. So, I took it. And here I am 4 months later still on the ground.

The good news is that life is a journey, not a destination. I didn’t ARRIVE when I crossed the finish line at Ironman. It sure felt awesome, but it was just a part of the journey.

So where do I go from here? Well, I pull up my bootstraps–or in my case, my Lock Laces–and I go for a run. This is LIFE. This is PROGRESS. Even falling to the ground, crashing and burning, is progress. With progress in life, you just have to decide which direction you’re going.

Me? I’m moving forward. It’s not a straight line. But it’s forward.

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“I Will Power Through–Willpower In The New Year”

“I Will Power Through–Willpower In The New Year”

(Posted as guest blogger at Willpower Works)

Think of Dec. 31 as a reset button. The New Year always brings about a sense of empowerment for me.  It’s just another ordinary day, but something about starting the calendar over gives some kind of permission to start myself over as well.

Last year, I decided to not wait until the new year to start my new self. I knew that if I waited, if I continued my habits, I would be unsuccessful just as I had been for the several preceding years. Instead, I made October 1st my “new me” date.

New Year’s Resolutions are a farce. Visit any gym the first Monday of January and you’ll be lucky to find a spot. Visit any gym the first Monday of March and compare. What will you notice? Probably 100 less people. Why is this? Willpower. What does willpower have to do with it? EVERYTHING.

People start with their New Year’s Resolutions and try to make some drastic changes in ONE DAY. I’ll let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t work. Very few, if any, people can change their entire lifestyle in one day. I know I can’t.

Where to start, then?

I had no idea where to start. I had no idea what to do. What I did know was that I was unhappy. I was overweight. I was tired. I was grumpy. I often had headaches. I absolutely refused to buy yet another bigger size in clothing.  I had no energy to even get up and play with my kids. A bike ride with my (then) 7 year old? No way. I didn’t have time for that. You better believe I had time for sitting on the couch and scarfing down a pint of ice cream, though! Or time for napping. (Ohhh naps!)

I knew something had to give. I also knew it probably had to start with the crap I was eating. I was a junk food junkie. It was nothing for me to hit up a drive thru fast food joint several times per week! It was nothing for me to eat whatever boxed, canned, or packaged foods were available.

I knew, deep down, these things were horrible for me. I always rationalized with “I don’t eat that bad” and “I’m active”. Sure, I was an ER nurse. I was “active”. No amount of “active” can overcome the 5,000 calories I was consuming per day, though!

The body isn’t much different than a machine when it comes to performance. You get out what you put in. Put in crap and guess what? You get crap. Put in good stuff and get good stuff. Simple.

I started by keeping track of what I was putting in. MyFitnessPal is a great, and FREE, app for keeping track of this. Don’t lie to MyFitnessPal. If you walk by the fridge and guzzle down some juice, put it in there. If you walk by the pantry and sneak a Reese’s cup, put it in there. If you are cooking breakfast and you eat half of the bacon before it makes it to the plates, put it in there. (Not that I would EVER do any of these things; they are only examples.) You get the idea. Track everything. A couple of weeks of tracking is truly eye-opening.

I’ve tracked all of my horrible eating, now what?

Well, now you fix it. Start SMALL. One day at a time. One thing at a time. List your vices; your weaknesses. Me? I’m a sweets fiend. Oh, and onion rings. (Pro tip: don’t make this list when you’re hungry.) Pick something you can go without the easiest. Challenge yourself. Can you go without soda for today? What about for a week? A month?

Make a goal

You made it a week without soda. Awesome! Now can you add another serving of a vegetable to your daily food intake? Another fruit? Can you not go through the drive thru or out to eat at a restaurant this week? This month? One thing a time. One day at a time.

My favorite resource for this is the 100 Days of Real Food blog. She lists simple rules for cutting out processed foods and for making small, DOABLE, challenges. She has a great, easy to follow (and FREE) program for cutting processed foods out of your life in only 14 weeks. Several small goals and accomplishments really add up to success when you do this.

What about exercise?

I’m not going to lie. The first 3 months or so of exercising were somewhat miserable for me. I was embarrassed to go to the gym. I didn’t know how any of the machines worked. I didn’t have any of the fancy workout clothes. But, I went anyway. I quickly noticed I had muscles that I didn’t even realize I had when I got back from my first Body Pump class. Talk about ouch. It took a good 2 months to feel like I was actually accomplishing something other than inflicting pain upon myself. However, I also realized there is no instant gratification. True change requires time.

Determination Developed

Within 6 weeks, I had lost 25 pounds. TWENTY FIVE. I could not believe it. Let me add my “results not typical” disclaimer here, I suppose. With that, I do know several others who have had very similar success with doing the same simple things of cutting out processed foods and getting active. They are simple things, but I will be the first to admit they aren’t as simple to FOLLOW. That’s where the willpower comes into play.

It takes a decent amount of willpower for me to walk into the office and see all of the holiday cakes, candy, and snacks sitting around and to not eat them all. It takes a lot of willpower for me to pack my gym bag and to not just keep driving past the gym after I’ve worked all day. It didn’t come all at once. It has always been one day at a time and that’s what it will continue to be.

What keeps me going?

I believe the old adage of “pictures are worth 1,000 words” applies here.

This was 6 months of progress. Six months of cutting out the processed food. Six months of hitting the gym. Six months of, you guessed it, WILLPOWER. This photo sparked a whole new life for me.

I started running. It started with a 5K. I didn’t think I could make it through. By mile 2, I was DONE. Despite that, I pushed on and made it to the finish. Then it happened: I was addicted. I DID it. The 5K turned into a 10K, which turned into a 15K, which turned into a half marathon.

After a few months of running and competing in several local events, something in me needed another challenge. I had recently seen something about Swim Bike Mom and read her book “Triathlon for the Every Woman“. Then it clicked: I was going to become a triathlete.

I didn’t know how to swim or cycle properly, but I knew I could run, so that was as start! One out of the three isn’t bad, right? I signed up for a sprint triathlon and was ready to go. Well, at least I thought I was…

The first time in the pool was a hilarious failure. I didn’t have goggles, a swim cap, or even a proper swim suit. I made it about halfway down the short 25 yard pool before I came up gasping for air. It was then that I realized I didn’t know how to REALLY swim.

I enlisted the help of the Greenwood Gators and took lessons alongside my (then) 7 year old son. All pride went out the window, but I was determined. I quickly went from the pool to open water and Coach Sidner from SwimOpenWater.net helped me with my anxiety about green water.

In eight short weeks, I went from not being able to make it halfway down the pool and thinking I would have to use a snorkel in my event to being able to swim over a MILE and placing second in my age group in my first triathlon. How did I get there? WILLPOWER.

Since then, I have continued my journey and have done 2 more sprint triathlons and 3 Olympic distance triathlons. 2014 yielded a whopping 36 events for me.

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2015

2015 will be more about quality over quantity. While filling my year with many events was fun, it wasn’t the best thing for my body. Let me tell you…walking boots are no fun! There is such thing as too much of a good thing.

I have been lucky enough to have been chosen for the 2015 Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team and have also garnered local sponsorships through Gray Goat Sports, Dream Big Triathlon, and SwimOpenWater.net. With these amazing resources by my side, I will be competing in my first Ironman 70.3 in Muncie, IN on July 11th, 2015!

I will also be competing in the 2015 USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, WI that I qualified for during my first triathlon. As if that wasn’t enough, I will be joining several of my fellow Swim Bike Mom team members for my first Ironman in Louisville, KY on October 11th, 2015. I am trying to talk as many other women as I can into coming to play at the Go Girl Triathlon in Indianapolis late-August 2015. It’s a sprint distance perfect for beginners. It’s made for women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities to compete and to just have fun. So if you’re reading this and you have even an inkling of a spark of inspiration, then I expect to see you there!

While I realize not everyone has the aspiration or inner hidden desire to become a triathlete, I have to say that it has been the most rewarding thing I have done for myself. Call it selfish if you wish, but if we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot possibly take care of anything or anyone else. Our health should be our #1 priority.

Unfortunately, life happens and sometimes it falls to the bottom of the list. The new year offers a new opportunity to change that. Maybe you don’t have the goal to become an Ironman. That’s okay! Just make A goal. Maybe you want to lose 5 lbs or 50 lbs. Maybe you want to get your blood pressure under control. Maybe you want to stop drinking soda. Whatever it is, write it down and do it. Make this year YOUR year. One year can really make the difference of your life.

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The only failure is failing to TRY. And if you fail? Guess what, you can try again. All you need is a little willpower.

– Rebecca

Success is not measured in pounds.

Let me say it again.

SUCCESS IS NOT MEASURED IN POUNDS.

Something has been weighing (pun intended) on me recently. Over vacation, even during training, I gained weight. Nothing overly significant, less than 10 pounds, but still. Even when the scale tips north one half of a pound, it gets to me. It *might* have had something to do with a sudden increase in my tacos and beer consumption, but still…
I’m sure it’s a similar story for many women. Why? Well, because this thing called “society” says so. We are never good enough. We are always too fat, too skinny, too muscular, too flabby, too light, too dark, too… You get it.

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With that, let me tell you this.

You’re perfect.

You know why? Because you’re NOT perfect. Stop the comparing. Stop the whining. Stop the “I’m not good enough talk”. YOU, yes you, ARE PERFECT.

Think about what you’ve done. Think about your goals. The only comparing should be from where you came from to where you are. Think about it. Where did you start? Where are you headed? You better not be going backwards. If you aren’t going backwards, that means you are making PROGRESS and progress *IS* success.

In the words of Meredith, “JUST KEEP MOVING FORWARD”.

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You are competing against YOU. That’s it. If you’re reading this and you’re not a triathlete, this goes for you, too. This goes for LIFE, not just triathlon. You are competing against, guess who….

YOU.

While at the HITS Palm Springs Championship, I met an awesome fellow Swim Bike Mom Army member. She was there competing in her VERY FIRST triathlon. She rocked it. She never gave up. Even after coming back from the bike and needing her inhaler for asthma complications, she didn’t quit. She recovered and finished STRONG. She was now an official TRIATHLETE! I was so proud of her.

I had taken a few photos of us together as well as during her race. I sent them to her after. And, I was so incredibly heartbroken by her response. She said “That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I look at myself in those pictures and it’s hard to enjoy it. I’m so big.

SAY WHAT?! You just did a TRIATHLON!

Success IS NOT measured in pounds.

She had told me about the 58 lbs she had lost prior to completing the race. She beamed with excitement as she crossed the finish line. She had accomplished these amazing things. But what clouded all of that? She was unable to relish in her much-deserved success. Why? Because “I’m so big”.

I’m here to tell you that I personally saw her that day. I did not see anything “big” other than her amazing accomplishments and her awesome attitude.

Going forth, into the new year, let’s all make a pact. Let’s put aside that inner voice that tells us we aren’t good enough. Let’s move forth with a passion. Let’s move forward and leave the excuses behind. There’s only one person that you need to go after; only one person you need to overpower: YOU.

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Now go get her.

 

Back from Paradise.

Anyone who lives in the Midwest knows that any time after October is sketchy for training. It could be 70° and sunny one day and 3 feet of snow and -10° the next. I got to experience this first hand in a race situation just a few weeks ago when it had been beautiful only 2 days prior to the Prairie Creek Tri and then upper 30s and sleeting on race day. That was fun!

So, I couldn’t be happier to have gotten to go to beautiful Palm Desert, California for the past 3 weeks. Being fresh off my injury, I stayed as close as I could to my training plan from Coach Brant. And, it really paid off!

I was so disappointed that I couldn’t take Veronica there. The great guys at Gray Goat were sure to tease me by sending pics of her all finished with LIME GREEN Zipp 808s and LIME GREEN Look Keo Carbon pedals. Turds.

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But, Kevin from BikeMan really hooked me up! I highly recommend seeing him for all of your cycling needs if you find yourself in Southern California! He can fit your needs from just heading out for a peaceful stroll or for your pro racing. He set me up on this awesome KHS Flite 750. It was even LIME GREEN!

We arrived in California on November 19th. I had until December 6th to be tri-ready for the HITS Championship.

My first full day there, I decided to take the bike out for a ride and see how it went. I was curious to see the area around Lake Cahuilla where I’d be racing. So, I mapped it out and rode there from where I was staying. It was right about 15 miles away, so it would make for a great ride. I wasn’t fast and my cadence wasn’t very good. But, I also wasn’t fitted on the bike, so there were lots of things to stop and adjust on the way.

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I came back and did a 1 mi brick run. Talk about bricks! My legs were HEAVY! But, I was still able to pull off a 7:30 pace. For just one mile 🙂

Only 2 miles from where I was staying was the Palm Desert Aquatic Center. It was amazing!

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I thought it was a salt-water pool because how salty the water tasted. But, apparently, according to a master’s coach I met there, they pour in baking soda as a stabilizer for the chlorine. Either way, the pool was awesome. I just had to make sure to be there at 5:30am when they opened to claim a lane and be done by 7:30am when they closed the long course down to 25M.

I trained pretty steady through Thanksgiving when I did a 5K race to benefit a local food bank. It was the Martha’s Kitchen 5K on El Paseo in Palm Desert. You can read the race report HERE. I PR’d but I’m not sure entirely by how much because the course was quite short. My time was 19:49, but the course was only 2.78 mi according to my Garmin 910XT.

I took a few days off as rest and to enjoy vacation and resumed light, tapered training for the tri. During that time, Jeff and I traveled out by ourselves to beautiful La Jolla. While there, I swam in the ocean for the first time. It was insane. To think that only 5 months ago, I was afraid of the diving well at the high school pool and that now I was swimming in the ocean was overwhelming. Just a few months ago, I had anxiety about getting in a lake and here I was jumping in the OCEAN!

It had been raining the couple of days preceding and the health department apparently frowns upon swimming in the cove for a couple of days after. But, this was my only chance! I spoke with a lifeguard there and he said to go for it…so I did.

The beach was empty. No crazies except me out there. Until I saw another crazy! Yeah!!!! I met this nice man named Dave, who was a pro at swimming there. He was so gracious to take me out and stay with me while I kept stopping and having minor freak-outs.

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We swam out to the quarter mile buoy and were on our way to the next buoy when it happened…

we got into the kelp forest.

Ok, ok, ok. Breathe.

Anyone who lives around there will tell you how great the kelp forest is. It keeps the sharks away. It keeps the water clear. Blah, blah, blah. All I know is that when I felt like it was grabbing my feet, I was DONE. Time to go back.

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(Pretty much)

Overall, it was a great swim.

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The water was crystal clear. There were beautiful fish under water. I’m still kicking myself for not having an underwater camera there!!!! Garibaldis flourish there. Here’s a grab from the internet of what I was looking at…

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It was beyond amazing.

We also went kayaking there, which was also fantastic. I did buy an underwater camera for that, but it was circa 1990 and needs to be developed. Updated photos for that coming soon!

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I only puked once. Great follow up to that was a California burrito and beer. That’s the only way to do it! We caught a decent little wave coming back in for some fun “kayak surfing”. Saw some sea lions and steered clear of any sharks. Fun time!

We got back to Palm Desert and I continued my training. Got some beautiful runs and rides in around the desert! Could not beat the weather or the views!

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Time came for the tri and I was more than ready to rock. I knew it was going to be a great time. I was going to make sure of it.

Read the entire race report <HERE>

Being back in Indiana makes me appreciate how hard I have to work in the “off season” to stay fit. Getting up at 5:30 am when it’s 30° out is much harder than getting up at 5:30 am when it’s 70° out. Fact. But, I am determined. I *WILL* be an Ironman in 2015.

One day at a time.

An exciting year lies ahead!

I cannot express how excited I am for the 2015 season. It all started with being accepted into the Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team and that sparked me getting crazy enough to sign up for the 2015 Ironman Lousiville. It just keeps getting better. I was sponsored by the HITS Triathlon Series for the 2014 HITS Championship on December 7th in Palm Springs, CA.

Just three weeks ago, I experienced a scare thinking I had a stress fracture. It was devastating. I had to give up my marathon. Two weeks in a walking boot. Ugh. LUCKILY, it ended up only (only!) being tenosynovitis (inflammation and fluid around my peroneal tendons in my foot). I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to compete. But, I now have the ALL CLEAR from my great sports med team. So, I am going to ROCK this race!

This morning was my first day back on the road running. It was GREAT. I was so excited about it that I was bright eyed at 4am. I forced myself back to sleep and got up again at 5:15 ready to go. Coach Brant had me do a 4:1, run/walk for 20 minutes. 

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Here are my splints for the run/walk intervals.

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I was pretty happy and felt great about them for being the first day back out. I stayed about my normal pace. Only a little slower. It was a great start. You have no idea how hard it was to not keep going for a few more miles!

I have been blessed to have randomly met Coach Brant Bahler of Dream Big Triathlon Coaching a couple of months ago.

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I had been looking for a new bike saddle and he just happened to have the one I wanted for sale. (It was the Adamo ISM Road Saddle, if you were wondering.) Ironically, he had also been recommended to me by someone who had benefited from his services a few years back and completed their own first Ironman. It just seemed like the right decision to hire a coach that knew what he was doing. I totally think anyone considering entering triathlon should do the same. Plus, this guy made it to the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Austria, so he probably knows what he’s doing. He’s also on the silver level (top 5%) in the Ironman All World Athlete Program. I have big goals and I know if I want to accomplish them, I need to remain focused and work hard. I am so glad that I now have someone there who believes that I can and will and will show me how.

I am also ecstatic to report that I am partnering with Gray Goat Sports

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and Specialized Bikes.

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Brian Gootee, the owner of Gray Goat, has been so great amd supportive. This partnership is to help encourage other women in the Indianapolis area to become involved with their own fitness journeys and join the sport of cycling and triathlon. It’s not about speed or times, but about getting out there and just giving what you’ve got. Both of these companies know that. And, how amazing is it that they have bikes and programs actually geared toward women in a primarily male sport?

Gray Goat is kind of awesome and has two locations equal distance from my house. They recently opened their store location in Franklin, IN and it’s pretty sweet. During the proper weather season, (aka, not November in Indiana) they host women-only rides starting in a centrally located park. I cannot wait to be a part of all they have to offer.

My biggest announcement of all?

This pretty lady will be my weapon of choice for the 2015 tri season:

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The Shiv. Otherwise known as a “sharp or pointed implement used as a knife-like weapon.” Perfect for destroying the race course, right?! She needs a name! Lolita? Veronica? I don’t know, she needs a sexy, strong, intimidating name. And, she’s definitely a girl. Jeff votes Shiv Nasty. Silly…

Big things coming. Stay tuned. One day at a time.

In the meantime, be a goat. A gray one.

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