The Race that Changed Me

I know, I dropped the ball a bit on posting this. To be fair, I did begin this post the day after the marathon, but as we all know, life happened. So here I am, not quite two months later revisiting my favorite race I have ever run…

So many people told me that it would change my life forever. They told me I would be hooked, and I would immediately want to do more. That crossing that finish line would be the beginning of something amazing, not the end. They were right.

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Somewhat hard to tell, but the hubs and I crossed hand-in-hand!
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What an incredible victory.

I can now call myself a marathoner, and to say it has changed me would be an understatement. It’s been an emotional, time-intensive, not always pretty roller coaster ride. The amount of training, cross-training, food and time that went into this one day is almost comical to think of now. Did I mention food? Was it worth it? Ten thousand times yes.

To say I was lucky would be 100% accurate. To say I was well prepared would also be absolutely true. May 15th was the combination of both elements: a solid training plan and preparation, perfect weather conditions, ideal speed and pacing, incredible support before, during and after the race (both on and along the course), a wonderful and exciting home-town course, and the list goes on. The 2016 Colfax Marathon, for me, was the perfect race.

I know there are a lot of factors outside my control on race day. As runners, we know that every run is different and you absolutely cannot predict how you will feel throughout the race. I have thanked my lucky stars over and over again that I felt great, set a great pace that I was able to maintain for almost the entire race, and I experienced no real pain. Occassional discomfort is a given when pounding the pavement for over 26 miles, but I am grateful for no pain.

The week leading up to the race was amazing. I got in some last great miles, focused on toning and strengthening through Core Power Yoga Sculpt and Tone It Up workouts, tried to get more sleep and stayed on track with a good diet. The nerves definitely set in throughout the week, and by Friday it was all I could think about.

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 5/9/15 Yoga Sculpt 3.25 mile run
Tuesday, 5/10/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.65 mile run
Wednesday, 5/11/16 TIU Beach Bod, TIU K&K Slay, TIU Tush it Real Good, TIU Toned Arms 3.77 mile run
Thursday, 5/12/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.71 mile run
Friday, 5/13/16 Rest Rest
Saturday, 5/14/16 Rest Rest
Sunday, 5/15/16 RACE DAY BABY Colfax Marathon: 26.43 mile run

Thankfully my boss let us leave a bit early the Friday before the race, so I dashed over

Inspiring women and great friends make packet pickup even better!
Inspiring women and great friends make packet pickup even better!

to the Health and Fitness Expo, housed at none other than Mile High Stadium!! I met up with a few amazing Oiselle ladies whom I met through Instrgram to comemorate the event.  Their first marathon experience was the Colfax Marathon in 2015, so they have been amazing guides and friends to me throughout this process. I’d never been inside the stadium until that day, and the expo was located on the United Club Level. Walking through the expo felt like a dream. I sampled some awesome items from Clif, purchased a Colfax Marathon hat and half-zip, and claimed mine and the hub’s bibs and tech shirts.

SO delicious, and just around the corner from Mile High.
SO delicious, and just around the corner from Mile High.

After the expo, we of course took some epic photos outside the stadium, and then meandered over to Strange Brewing Company for a couple of celebratory beers. The Grapefruit IPA is absolutely delicious and I highly recommend it. This was just what I needed to calm some of my nerves, before heading off to Patxi’s for a delicious whole wheat salsiccia pizza and a glass of Meiomi.

The next day I did very little, which was absolute perfection. I started my morning with a relaxing breakfast and puppy cuddles. I sat down to watch

I am so lucky to have been able to surround myself with such an incredible group of runners!
I am so lucky to have been able to surround myself with such an incredible group of runners!

the highly recommended “Spirit of the Marathon” documentary, which follows the training journey of 6 inspiring athletes as they prepare for the Chicago Marathon. What I loved most is that the documentary focused on both elite athletes as well as regular runners of all ages, races, backgrounds, and experiences. Talk about a major motivator. If you haven’t watched this before a race, it’s a complete must-do.  I spent the afternoon doing a few quick errands, and then I met up with an incredible group of runners for a delicious dinner at Firenze a Tavola in the Highlands. The Pappardelle con Cinghiale with their homemade pasta and wild boar ragu was to die for, and made for the perfect carbo-load pre-race dinner.

Race day started at 3:45am for my morning wake-up call. I was able to sleep fairly well the evening prior, in spite of some seriously weird dreams (broken legs… yikes!). I had everything ready to go: my outfit, my water bottle and accoutrements, my shoes, my throw-away, and our gear check bag. The hubs and I awoke and assembled our items with groggy acceptance, and left the house at 4:35am.  Thankfully we live about 15 minutes south of the starting point at City Park, and could park easily on the south side of Colfax so as not to be caught up in the road closures.

Thanks Gary for such a great shot, and being an expert selfie-taker!
Thanks Gary for such a great shot, and being an expert selfie-taker!

We waited in the car for about 15 minutes before making the 15 minute trek to the northeast corner of City Park, near the Nature and Science Museum. We dropped off our gear check bag and met up with one of my runspirations and some of her incredible running friends, with whom I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet.

We were in corral F this year, so it didn’t take too much longer after the first wave to set off. Oddly at that moment I felt incredibly comfortable and sure of my journey. I knew the destination, and all that was between me and victory was 26.2 miles. Over the past 18 weeks I had put in over 400 miles, so this was just a drop in the bucket. I started off feeling great, though quickly realized a bathroom break would be in my near future. I’d been very determined to hydrate all morning, but the nervous bladder wasn’t feeling that.  So at mile 2 I dashed to the porta potties for the quickest bathroom break of my life while the hubs traversed onward.

So focused at the starting line up - Gary (aka the Hulk) was ready to go!!
So focused at the starting line up – Gary (aka the Hulk) was ready to go!!

The first 10K took us out of City Park and onto Colfax up until Speer Boulevard, at which point we ran through the firehouse and made our way onto the Cherry Creek Trail. At the base of the trail I experienced my first sighting with my best friend Tessa and her roommate and equally amazing friend Kristin. Kristin, I should mention, is a beast and a HUGE source of inspiration for me. She has run Boston twice and is a truly an incredible runner, and person. Seeing Tessa and Kristin there cheering me and all the other runners on at 6:30am meant the WORLD to me. After passing them I definitely teared up with love and excitement.

This section of the first 10K took us along the Cherry Creek and Platte River, and is my weekly training path. It felt like home, and was just the boost I needed. A little familiarity can go a long way. Tessa and Kristin biked down the other side of the trail to meet us again as we turned left from Cherry Creek to the Platte River. Best cheering squad EVER.  After passing Elitch Gardens theme park, we turned left towards the Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Running through major sports stadiums might be my favorite thing ever (um, hello Homerun for the Homeless 5K and Bolder Boulder 10K), and is just such an amazing feeling.

135895-503-020hAfter this point we ran out of the stadium, wrapped around the parking lot, and turned right onto Colfax again (appropriately named marathon, I think). This section was up-hill, but I was still feeling great so I kept on running. We eventually turned right to head towards Sloane’s lake, a great trail surrounding the lake on the edge of the Highlands. The west side of the lake has a perfect vista of the Denver skyline, which I first experienced my first year running the Rock ‘N’ Roll Denver Half Marathon in 2014. Around the lake they had the Chinese Dragon dancers performing for the runners. Tessa and Kristin popped up yet again, and it was at this point I started pacing Jared, a dentist from Florida who is also a Denver transplant. He and I ran together for quite a while, so we chatted it up.

After returning to Colfax for a short stint, we entered into Lakewood and again turned right to run through the Rocky Mountain School of Art campus and some Lakewood neighborhoods. Some hills reared their ugly heads, but thankfully Tessa and Kristin appeared just in time! At about mile 14 Jared and I parted ways so I could run up the hill into the quaint Lakewood suburbs. I walked for a bit to partake in my Vanilla Bean GU, and heard my name by a passing runner. My friend Dana was running the relay, which tracks the same course as the marathon. I was able to catch up with her for a short time and chat about her recent engagement and puppy, before dashing off as we turned east on Colfax.

The next section from mile 16 through 19 was spent fairly solitary but completely peaceful. The city was just beginning to wake up and there were plenty of people cheering along the sides of Colfax. And thankfully this entire section is downhill! Little victories. I flew down Colfax in a blur, and turned back towards Broncos Stadium. Prior to running into the stadium, the race team errected an actual wall just prior to mile 20 that you can literally hit.  Needless to say I did just that, and can thankfully say I didn’t hit any figurative walls the entire run.

Yeah, I was really happy... I couldn't stop smiling!
Yeah, I was really happy… I couldn’t stop smiling!
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Sam and I running through Mile High!

Finally we reentered Mile High, and it was here I met Sam, who was running his first marathon in 24 years. He and I ran together through the stadium, and after exiting Tessa and Kristin greeted us one more time (THEY ARE THE BEST). We turned back onto the Platte River trail and chatted about our motivations and what gets us through. His daughter was graduating that day, and he had determined to run Colfax for her.

After departing the Cherry Creek trail, Sam and I separated and I ran onwards up Lawrence Street to then make the final major turn onto 17th street. This would essentially take us back to City Park, where the finish line awaited. After crossing Broadway, 17th boasts quite a nice hill. I ran up half, walked the rest, and then kept on running. Honestly I could walk the hill faster than I could run it, and it was a fantastic stretch for the hammies. By this time I had less than a 5k left to go.

I began looking around at the people left around me, a mixture of the Urban 10 milers, relay participants, and the determined marathoners. Suddenly I looked to the right and there was the hubs! I arrived at the right time for us both, and we were able to finish those last few miles together. This, for us both, was perfection. Coming into City Park, I heard a shoutout and turned around to see my friend Perri, Dana’s sister, a transplant from the East Coast like me! She had finished the half marathon like a champ and gave me the last boost I needed. After turning a corner, Kristin showed up one more time on her bike, and just ahead was the finish!!

Crossing that finish line was one of the best moments of my life. Immediately a rush of emotion fell over me. I had never before had such an incredible race experience. I had never run this far in my life. And better still, I was able to cross the finish line with my best friend and love of my life. The culmination of thoughts, emotions and knowledge of success made all of the miles, all of the struggle and self doubt, and all of the times I wanted to quite worthwhile.

The best feeling ever.
The best feeling ever.

Throughout my journey, my girlfriends from the east coast continued to text me and virtually cheer me on. They were all tracking my time and sending me words of love and excitement. My family, too, texted me with notes of encouragement. The support I received throughout this entire process is undeniable and something I don’t think I will ever fully be able to express. When I think about what got me through, it was because of the love and dedication from each and every one of them.

As you know, food had become a major priority to me during my training. Honestly, it

Green chili smothered burrito... mmmmmm....
Green chili smothered burrito… mmmmmm….

also became a major thorn in my side. I had, however, been imagining for months my first meal post marathon. I really wasn’t sure how I would feel once I was done. I definitely was looking forward to food, but wasn’t voracious either.  After we picked up our drop bag, Robbie and I slowly moved towards our car. Tessa and Kristin met us at Benny’s, our favorite local Tex Mex restaurant in Governor’s Park. To say I ordered a burrito bigger than my face might be an understatement. The sad part is that I have CRUSHED this burrito in the past, but that day, I was only destined for three quarters of it. Oh well, it was delicious all the same.

After we drove home, the hubs and I got cleaned up and promptly passed out on the couch. The day ended with some incredible Cuban food, and an early bed time.  Recovery over the next few days was actually easier than I had imagined. By Tuesday I was completely back to normal and actually went for a short jog on Wednesday.  Since then I have participated in the BolderBoulder 10K, the Liberty Run 4 Miler, and the Sand Creek Half Marathon and still feel amazing. Is another marathon in my future? Absolutely!!  I am just not sure which one yet….

 

 

Six Point Two to Get Me Through

It’s hard to imagine that the Colfax Marathon is in 16 days – just two and a half weeks from now. It feels like the last 15 weeks have simultaneously flown by and trudged slowly on. My 18 week plan is nearing its end, and I never thought I would really make it to this point.

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After finishing 20 miles, I felt like I could conquer the world!
Last weekend, one weekend off of my original plan, I completed my longest run to date – exactly 20 miles. What an incredible sensation to see double digits starting with a 2 on my Garmin. To say it’s been a long road would be incredibly accurate, and also quite literal. When I first began running in 2013, I could barely run a full mile without stopping, and it was well over a 10 minute per mile pace.  Now, I can easily run a 10k in less than an hour. To actually see and feel that kind of progress is just mind-boggling and humbling. Every step I take brings me one step closer to my goal.  And after May 15th, who knows what new goals I will set for myself.

Over the past two weeks I might have been a little overzealous. The weekend I was originally supposed to run my 20 miler Denver got a lovely spring weekend snowstorm. While the city itself didn’t get much accumulation, where I live we had 8 inches of snow and slushy-icy roads. At this stage of the game, I absolutely don’t want to risk it, so I had to forgo running that weekend. Instead I planned to fit it in the following weekend. Here’s the challenge: I had already planned to run the Cherry Creek Sneak 10 miler and was participating on behalf of CU Denver, my employer. It wouldn’t be good to back out, but how could I fit in 20 miles?

The rational answer would be to run the race, and fit in another 10 miles that day. Of course, it makes sense. Your body still gets 20 miles in a day, so it applies towards the mileage you need to complete. Well, why would I do something that makes sense? When I asked the hubs what he wanted to do, he said simply, “Why don’t we run 20 miles on Saturday and then the 10 mile race on Sunday?” 30 miles, one weekend. Challenge accepted.

There is something about hitting your longest run before the race that seems so surreal.

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 I’m really bananas for bananas… It’s a problem. A delicious problem.
It’s absolutely a mental game by that point. If I can run 18 miles and feel amazing, I can absolutely run 20 miles. It’s not much further, and what’s left is proper fueling, rest, stretching, and mental preparation. Going into the run, I knew I wanted it to be done, but more importantly, I wanted to feel good. I have been using Gu Vanilla Bean and Clif shot bloks during my runs, and that seems to get me through. I still daydream about bananas by mile 12 (if you don’t know, I have a banana obsession…), but it could be much worse. Thankfully I also have a great training trail, the Highline Canal Trail, which spans 71 miles across the front range and has an entrance conveniently 0.8 miles from my  front door. It’s also a great trail as it has very few street crossings, and some conveniently located bathrooms en route (wow have those come in handy). I won’t ever say that 20 miles is easy, but I completed those twenty miles with a respectable 10:34 pace, and generally felt good.

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Cherry Creek Sneak time!
Now waking up the next morning and realizing I had to do half of that was another story.

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Last year’s race was significantly soggier.
The Cherry Creek Sneak is an awesome local race that features a 1.5 mile fun run, as well as 5k, 5 mile, and 10 mile distances. When I signed up I assumed this would be the beginning of my tapering, so 10 miles made the most sense. The 10 mile race began first at 7:30am in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. I ran this race last year, and thankfully, there was no rain and the weather was true perfection. I arrived about 10 minutes before we were set to begin, which was perfect for this type of local race. Just enough time to get psyched, but not enough time for my legs to get cold and tight.

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A runner on a mission.
I really love this course. The race begins just off of 1st Avenue in the heart of Cherry Creek, heads to the east towards Colorado Boulevard, and then veers back towards 1st Avenue to then connect with Downing Street.  The 10 miler takes runners through Cheeseman Park and has a decent stretch along 7th Avenue, before heading back down Downing and ending along 1st Avenue. The race went smoothly enough, and I finished in 1:41:33 with a 10:09 pace, which included a stop on course to take off my long sleeve cover up. In less that 24 hours, I ran 30 miles. The real victory? I can still walk (and run!) and I am not sore. I will take that, and dare I say, run with it.

 

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Don’t you just love that feeling?
All that’s left at this point is another 10k between me and my (current) ultimate goal of finishing my first marathon. I really never imagined I would ever do one, nor could I have imagined the incredible work that goes into training for one. But here I am, a mere 16 days away. Just me and another six point two to victory.

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 4/11/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday, 4/12/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.2 mile run
Wednesday, 4/13/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.2 mile run
Thursday, 4/14/16 Zumbathon! 3.64 mile run
Friday, 4/15/16 N/A 3.61 mile run
Saturday, 4/16/16 Rest Rest
Sunday, 4/17/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Monday, 4/18/16 TIU Beach Bombshell, TIU Sunkissed Abs 3.2 mile run
Tuesday, 4/19/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Wednesday, 4/20/16 N/A 4.1 mile run
Thursday, 4/21/16 Tone HIIT Up, TIU Bikini Body Routine, TIU Bikini Arms 4.1 mile run
Friday, 4/22/16 N/A 3.69 mile run
Saturday, 4/23/16 N/A 20 mile run
Sunday, 4/24/16 N/A 10.07 mile run

How many miles has been your major goal? Ever attempted back to back long runs? What are your favorite recovery tricks? How is your marathon training going?

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I cannot get over the crazy hair!

2015: The Journey Unknown

The end of 2014 came and went, in a bittersweet and far too fast blur.  So many fantastically fun things happened and life got rather too much in the way to report on them!  I finished out my running year with 4 holiday themed races, 2 10K’s and 2 5K’s, and achieved my best 5K time yet: 30:21 at the ColderBolder (it wasn’t a high of 5 degrees this year like it was last year, so I was happy to run it this go around).  I’ll share more about these races later, as I think they’re worth posting about.

One of the most exciting things thus far: I was selected to be an Esprit de She Brand Ambassador!  I cannot wait to share the Esprit de She love and event information.  Although the Denver event won’t be until August, there are Esprit de She events throughout the US, which include running, duathlons and triathlons – something for everyone!  I participated in last year’s Esprit de She 10K in Westminster (there’s also a 5K!), Colorado and loved this race.  It is still my 10K PR, and I had a phenomenal experience throughout the entire process, from warming up with a workout dance instructor, to the cheering squad along the entire route, to the amazing after party at Lifetime Fitness.  It was an all-around awesome experience.  Besides, you end the night with a few glasses of bubbly, so what could be bad about that?  Check out upcoming races throughout the US – if interested, please use code EDS039 when you register!

Esprit de She take two in 2015!  This time as an Ambassador!
Esprit de She take two in 2015! This time as an Ambassador!

Another hugely exciting thing is that my darling friend, Danielle, asked me to be in her wedding.  Having moved from Maryland to Colorado three and half years

This gorgeous lady, and my ColderBolder buddy, will be saying "I do!" in October!
This gorgeous lady, and my ColderBolder buddy, will be saying “I do!” in October!

ago I never knew I could make such phenomenal friends to the point that I would be a part of their big day!  I have already been invited to a wedding in Colorado, which was a stunning and fantastic affair celebrating two of my favorite people, Peter and Ade, in October of 2013.  There is something different, though, about being asked to be a part of the entire experience!  I cannot wait for her and Scott’s wedding day this October in Vail, Colorado.  It’s sure to be a beautiful and memorable wedding.

This year the hubs and I are hoping to take a few more trips, including wine country in June, and a fabulous beach trip in September (this week we’re deciding

I miss Hawai'i!!  Maui is so stunning!
I miss Hawai’i!! Maui is so stunning!

between Hawai’i and Mexico… tough choices).  I realized I haven’t legitimately seen a beach, or really ocean, since Mrs. BakeNBurn’s wedding in March 2013!! That is ridiculous.  It needs to be remedied stat!  We have both been to Maui, and I have also visited Oahu and the Big Island, but know so little about Mexico, particularly the West Coast since it is easier to get to from Colorado.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Otherwise I will have a bachelorette party at an undisclosed location, a long weekend in Disney World with my family (I can’t stay away!), and potentially a conference in Vegas to look forward to!  I will also be attending my sister’s graduation in May, so I will be back in the DC area before long.

My last beach vacation - I miss large bodies of water!  Isn't Mrs. BakeNBurn beautiful?
My last beach vacation – I miss large bodies of water! Isn’t Mrs. BakeNBurn beautiful?

This past year was really a great year for me and the hubs.  I had a job I loved, we were both settled in our home in Denver, we have a fantastic set of friends

And this is only the beginning of our journey!
And this is only the beginning of our journey!

around us, and we had a ton of visitors throughout the year.  My own personal goal of showcasing my interior design initiative, very novice I admit, to the world was realized. Somehow a few of my Instagramable moments were regrammed by Pottery Barn, which is my home decor Mecca. Beyond that, the hubs and I were able to have 2 amazing vacations together, and worked on ourselves as a unit.  This was so successful that, and I have to brag here, the hubs lost 45 pounds!!  I had no idea he had that much to lose, but he looks and feels great, and I couldn’t be prouder.  Once he had shed somewhere around 35-40, we actually had my awesome friend, and photographer, Laura, take some family shots.  She’s the incredible owner and photographer of Red Mountain Studio, and if you’re in need of great shots around the north Denver area, definitely check her out!  It’s amazing to see the things we have accomplished, but even more so to have watched his transformation and how happy he is.

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Look at my happy, healthy hubby!

I know 2014 boasted so many great things, but 2015 is looking just as promising.  Here’s to the journey ahead and wherever it may lead!

2014: An Imperfect, Though Fabulous, Year in Review

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Source

Looking back over this past year, I have been so blessed to have such incredible experiences, phenomenal friends, a job I love, and family that always supports me.  I had made myself a promise last year to work on goals to improve myself, my relationships, and my day-to-day.  Although I like to think we should always be trying to improve and never settle for just okay, I think 2014 was a pretty great year.

I had no idea when I wrote about my 2014 goals last January that I would have accomplished so much.  I am not a believer in resolutions simply because we are human, and if I am unable to do something I wanted to do, I don’t want to see it as a failure.  We are meant to adapt and change as our environments adapt and change around us.  That’s human nature.  As my dad used to say, “Semper Gumby, Always Flexible.”  But the goals I set out for myself ended up being a driving factor throughout this past year.

I can honestly say I curse less (I like to call it my Disney Princess speach – have you ever heard a Disney Princess curse?

Can I go back... please?
Can I go back… please?

No. Exactly.), don’t drink during the week (except during winter break and vacations, but come on, that’s me time!), worked harder on relationships, became more of a fitness nut than I have ever been, attempted to read more (I had a lull, I will admit), traveled to Disney (twice! I have a problem…), DC, Vegas and the UK, focused on broadening my cooking repertoire, forced myself to change my routine for the better, and ultimately worked on being a better blogger.  Again, life happens and all of these goals had to be assessed or readdressed at one point or another, but I made meaningful progress for myself.  That is really what matters.

When I started all of this, particularly the health and fitness piece, I had never even run a half marathon. I had actually only run a 10K and 5K in all of 2013.  I went to Zumba each week, jogged throughout the week, and worked out fairly regularly, but I wasn’t working towards anything.  I can happily say that I completed 15 races in 2014, including 5 half marathons, 1 15K, 6 10Ks, 1 4 miler, and 2 5Ks.  I didn’t anticipate doing quite so many, and thought folks planning to do 14 in ’14 were positively nuts.  Yet here I am, I have already completed my first race of 2015, and have 10 more planned during this year.

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Just some highlights from some of the races this past year!
I am so lucky to have this guy by my side!
I am so lucky to have this guy by my side!

My hubby and I are, thank goodness, often on the same plane of understanding.  He and I often make goals together.  We recently discussed that we both want to complete a marathon together.  I don’t know when, I don’t know which one, but at the end of my life I want to say I did it.  Will it be a 2015 goal?  Probably not, but I intend to train as though it were.  I also want to participate in a triathlon, partly for the fact that cross training is always a good idea, but also because they just look so gosh darn fun.  Of course I am thinking sprint distance, but after the year I have had, who knows what that will turn in to.

This past year taught me a lot about myself: what I am capable of, how hard I can push myself, and how great it feels being the best version of myself.  Can I be better, absolutely!  Always strive for perfection and allow yourself to realize you may never achieve it all.  That, however, doesn’t mean I will ever stop trying.  Let’s have a great year, no matter what life throws our way!

How was your 2014? Any goals you were most proud of accomplishing? Any new or exciting goals to add to the 2015 queue?