Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014…and moving forward

2014 was an interesting year of highs and lows…..of good moments of clarity…a moments of utter sorrow.  I go back to this picture from Ironman Augusta 70.3 because it embodies the hope, vision and possibilities that the future can hold.  The emotion of crossing my 7th Half Ironman finish line was very real and very intense because it was a powerful accomplishment…but it still was not the accomplishment that I was looking for…and that was an Ironman finish.

I spent this year exploring options on making me a better athlete.  I explored the possibility of having additional plastic surgery to remove the excess skin in my legs but found I was not a good candidate for this surgery.  Late in the year, I had gel injections in my knees to help me keep going in endurance sports but have been told that I am at a crossroads where some things need to change.

Years of being at 300 + pounds took their toll on my body..but especially my joints and I knew the day would come where I would have to decide to continue to race and face a knee replacement…or get committed to more weight loss so that I can extend the life of my joints.  I pushed the envelope…I played the game…and now I find myself at that crossroads where a decision needs to be made.

It's hard to admit that you STILL have a problem with food.  It's even harder to admit that you continue to race to show the world that your problem with food does not affect your racing…but in does.  I have come a very long way.  I never ever take for granted the amazing accomplishments that have blessed my life.  No one would have EVER thought all those years ago that I would be able to do some of the things that I have done….but…

That one goal looms just out of reach…that Ironman brass ring waves in the breeze so high up that I just….can't…grab it. You can not fake your way through that sort of race.  You can't pretend that the fitness level exists.  It take so much out of the conditioned athlete…and it requires an athlete such as myself to take a long hard look at what will get me to the line…

And it means facing the demon of food addiction once again.

So this hard headed, frustrated plus size athlete made the decision to listen to her doctors (yes I got a second opinion..but he told me the same thing)…and withdrew from Ironman Maryland.  I wish you could see me right now…tears streaming down my face knowing that I had to walk away…again…from this life goal…but your body and your heart will tell you when it's time to take care of yourself.  Most of the time, I don't want to listen…but this time…I really must.  

Even with the difficulties in my knees, I will still attempt (with every intention of completing) the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World.  For those that do not know what the challenge consists of  it is a 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon in 4 days.  

I truly want to share the struggles of food and weight loss in my blog but if I go silent for awhile, I hope those that follow me will understand it is me…taking care of me.  I will still race shorter distance events (Sprint distance in Clermont Florida and St. Anthony's Triathlon in St. Petersburg Fl) but I am unsure of what will be beyond that.  My goal is 2015 is to finally get to the goal weight that has been as hard to attain as my Ironman dream.  My husband is a great role model.  He has spent the last 6 months losing 50 pounds…and my hope is that we can work as a team…train for short distance triathlon together and he can help me attain my goal. How blessed I am with a wonderful soulmate.

As always…Ill keep you posted. 

Happy New Year :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Re-Birthday

"Come on Melissa….is it REEEEEALLY that important.?" It's just a day…a day that was quite a few years ago…come on….don't make a big deal out of it…

But it is.

Today is my Re-Birthday.  Today is the day 16 years ago that I gathered all the courage I could muster and took a chance on something that "might" change my life…for better or for worse it would definitely change my life.

I swear to you, I remember it like it was yesterday.  I didn't sleep the night before.  Per my doctor's suggestion, I finalized a will and wrote letters to all the special people in my life: my parents, my brothers and, of course, my husband. I remember them giving me valium to relax and I had never had ANYTHING like that before…and I felt giggly…and I cracked jokes.

As I entered the operating room, the nurses were very quiet.  What I didn't realize was that a woman that had had the surgery the day before died overnight.  This was serious stuff…but here I was…loopy…and a little happy…and joking with my surgeon. My surgeon was a short guy…and I joked that they needed to make sure he had a step stool so he could see what he was doing… broke the ice…the nurses laughed…and I counted back from 100…99…and then….

Well…I don't remember after that.

What I DO waking up in ICU. The last thing the doctor had told me the night before was "Melissa…if you lie in this bed…you'll die." You have to get have to get moving." You gotta get up and walk…and you will live."

I woke up in ICU..and the nurses had to hold me down.  I was coming out of that bed because, I didn't want to die.  They were trying to keep me still so those 120 staples down the front of me would  heal. It's funny as I look back on all that pain…and those days in ICU..then in a normal hospital room…and then finally heading home….that with the help of my amazing husband, I never stopped moving…

And I'm still moving forward today...

So…my pace is like a turtle through peanut butter in winter..but it's forward progress…and Im still here…and I have kept 90% of my weight loss off for 16 years.  That is it's own "Personal Record"…even if I don't see many of those PR's on a marathon or triathlon course.

So… yeah…today is a big day for me.  It is the celebration of taking Dr. Samuel's words to heart "Move or you die Melissa"  Yes Doc…I'm moving more now than you would have ever thought possible of that 380lb woman.

Happy Re-Birthday to me.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

40 + 11

As the dog days of summer turn into the early signs of Fall (although in Florida, we are still enduring conditions that feel like you are walking on the Sun)…it comes to that time to celebrate and reflect on my life..

Another birthday has arrived...

I remember in my teens and 20' was about what you would get in those wrapped boxes and blowing out the candles.  Then birthdays became about getting older..and milestones…

And one day, a doctor told me I wouldn't see my 40th birthday..and that's when my counting of years changed.

When I took the healthier fork in the road, I started counting from that fateful 40th birthday and to this day, I still say I am 40 + _ how many years it has been.  It reminds me that I must be here for a purpose because I have made it through quite a number of events that could have taken my life…

I many people do you know that have run into the back of a dump truck at 50mph and walked away? Or..had a heart attack standing in the Emergency Room Waiting room and had their husband resuscitate them?  Or go through a surgery where 1 in 4 survive..and you get to be the 1?

I NEVER take for granted how blessed I am…and I am alway searching for that reason…that purpose..the journey and destination that the big guy upstairs has in mind for this soul.  There must be a reason I am still here..I just want to make sure I find out what it is.

And I learn so much from those around me.  I learn how a cancer patient who is facing difficult odds holds her head high (sans hair) and looks beautiful, happy and positive doing it.  I have watched incredible challenged athletes accomplish goals far beyond their abilities…those with no legs..and even missing an arm…and they go out and show the world that anything is possible…

Anything is possible…You just have to believe…talk it into existence .  Put people around you that BELIEVE in you…have a positive word…that support you even when the tears flow and the doubts creep in…

Fake it until you make it…

Or just work your butt off until it happens…

My 8th Half Ironman is just 21 days from today…and I want it to be the best race of my life….but honestly…how can it NOT BE.  First off…Im still here…breathing and living life.  Second…I have had amazing people along the way who have brought me to this place….coaches, friends, family and total strangers who gave me advice, stuck by me and encouraged me when others just thought I was a lost cause.  I am so blessed and so happy with where I am … and who I am and it is because of those matter how little or how much they contributed.  They are the reason I am who I am.

Happy Birthday indeed…A blessing of another year that I will never take for granted..

21 days until Ironman Augusta 70.3…and then…who knows…the future is bright indeed…

Thanks for following along...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Change from the 380lb life..

It has become almost a tradition on Saturdays  during the summer…I get up at the unholy hour of 400 or 500AM … grab my bike and my gear…and off I go…to the hills of Clermont.

And in those hills, I struggle.  I sweat, and I peddle. I have laughed and I have cried. I strive to be stronger.  I spend hours there.  I can tell you that last year, I had some of the most supportive people in the world helping me up those hills that terrified me so and I will never forget the fun and the pain that we share in those months.  Melissa, Marie, Bonnie, Muki, Jennifer and Maritza never left me behind and helped build my confidence as the miles got longer along with the hours of those workouts.  There was always a high five from my teammates and Coach Sway with a hug somewhere along the line…and to say I am grateful for what they did for me on their journey to a half or a full Ironman (Bonnie is on her way to a full this year) an understatement.

Im happy to say that I do that for people that most of you don't know…a few I've never met face to face.  They are those who are considering gastric bypass surgery…and their desire to be stronger … to be healthier and to be better is not much different than my struggle to be a better triathlete.

When I first had my gastric bypass, it wasn't on the cover of magazines.  People had never heard of the procedure and those considering it needed someone to talk to about the experience.  I became one of several hundred "mentors" as one by one, hundreds…then tens of thousands of people considered and completed weight loss surgery.

A month ago,  one of the first people I helped consider and complete her surgery passed away.  Her experience with weight loss surgery and weight in general was not a good one.  She was over 450lbs at the time of surgery and survived the procedure.  She went on to lose over 200 pounds but as the years went on, so did her weight and before she was 10 years post op, she had gained more than 75% of her weight back.

Late on a Sunday night, her heart simply stopped.  She was 45.

When I look back upon my life, I realize the blessings I have…so many blessings.  Her death reminded me that you have to DECIDE to succeed.  You have to DECIDE to take control of your life.  It doesn't mean that the man upstairs expects perfection…but you can not continue to blame your shortcomings on anyone except the person you see in the mirror every morning.

I got up this morning and groaned at the thought that I would have to hit the treadmill today…but then I realized that it is indeed a blessing that I CAN do that..That I am blessed with a very special running coach in Hector Torres who pushes me to run the longest I have ever run without walking and…Writing in the blog helps me keep me in focus…and to keep my eating in check..

Thanks for listening…

38 days until Ironman Augusta…and the rest of the season…Ill keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Over the hump...

It's a difficult feeling to express unless you have been there.  You spend a year of your life getting ready for your "A" race…you train…and train…and train…to the point where you think your life is nothing BUT training. The race comes and goes with a myriad of possible outcomes…and then .. finally…off season.  The holidays bring food…and friends..and drink…and a few pounds…and finally…some much deserved rest.

The bad part about that is when you return to training…it's…it's…well there is no other way to describe it…'s AWFUL. It hurts.  I affectionately use a hockey term that you have to "knock off the rust"…but this season of triathlon has been especially different.

I was burned out…I was frustrated….I was angry and I was hurt.  My Ironman dream…just 6 miles short.  I put on a smiling face but inside I was a mess…heartbroken and pissed.  Why can the rest of the world accomplish this goal…and me…I just can't seems to get it done no matter how hard I work.

There were people that told me to give up the dream….and I listened.  I thought about quitting triathlon completely.  I considered selling my bikes (yes..that's plural…I have a bike problem) and just sit on the couch and get fat.  I felt sorry for myself and I was just going to sit and pout.

Then I realized that Triathlon was a part of me.  It had become a part of my lifestyle…of who I am … and it was the main reason that I have kept over 90% of my initial weight loss off completely for 15 years.  I needed those race goals.   I realized that as much as I enjoy being at the gym to strength train…Im not a "gym rat"…I needed to be outside…on the bike…on the run..and in the water.

So after racing a sprint at St. Anthony's, I just DECIDED…I was jumping back in the game.  Those first two months were BRUTAL…AWFUL.  Every pedal stroke..every step was difficult.  I hurt A LOT…but it wasn't to last forever.

As I emerged into the first week of July, suddenly, I was back…the triathlete.  The bike workouts felt a bit easier.  The run workouts, although still difficult as a plus size athlete, were a bit more comfortable.  The swims were longer..and I looked forward to them…

And that's when you know…you're over the hump and back in the game.  Am I ready for an Ironman?? Absolutely not…but Im back…getting stronger…my head is in the right place..and more importantly…Im  happy…

Because if you're not racing for money (and lord knows that will never happen for me) you BETTER be having fun…

12 weeks until Ironman Augusta 70.3…and the rest of my season…Ill keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Sag...

Picture if you will…the pool deck of your favorite local swimming establishment.  It's summer which means along with the lap lanes set up for those of us who need a good workout, the little ones are splashing about in the shallow end and the teenagers are soaking up the rays poolside.  It's your typical day by the water.

For me, it is a routine of sorts: Ironman 70.3 backpack over my shoulder full of pool torture devices that my coach LOVES to write into my workout…swim paddles for the hands that make the shoulders and muscles stronger, a pull buoy that makes your legs float (like mine don't float well enough already) and goggles and a swim cap from the latest triathlon I completed.  I grab a slot in the slow lane and proceed to get in the pool.

Have you ever just KNOWN someone is watching your ever move? Today was no exception as I put my things down and took off my warm up pants with my swimsuit underneath.  I looked up and saw this beautiful 6 year old girl…blonde curly hair and big blue eyes…staring at me..and watching ever little thing I did.  She splash around nearby but she never stopped looking at me.

Goggles on and Garmin started, I did my warm up as the gentleman in my lane left the pool.  55 minutes later, I exited the pool a bit tired but excited that I had completed my entire workout on a day that was gloomy.  It  energizes you especially if you struggled to GET to your workout…but once it's're always so happy.

My little blonde friend was now out of the pool.  She walked towards me and immediately said "Hello"
I said hello as well…and she stood there with a interesting look on her face. I could tell she was contemplating something … but she just didn't seem to have the words…or so I thought.

And out of her mouth was this "Why are you legs so saggy and ugly?" Suddenly, I knew who her mom was because from behind the magazine, a look of horror raced across this woman's face. She was mortified…

I leaned down..and asked the little one her name.  She told me her name was Madeline.  I told her mine was Melissa and it was nice to meet her.  I then proceeded to treat Madeline like a person much older than her 6 years as I explained to her that I use to be much heavier than I am now and that I lost a lot of weight.  I explained that when all the fat went away (ok…I WISH all the fat had gone away but you get the idea)…that the skin was empty and it sags. I then told her that I knew that it was not very pretty but because I lost that weight, I can swim a long way and I am much healthier and much happier.

She seemed satisfied with the explanation …and went back to her floating barbie in the shallow end of the pool.  Meanwhile, Mom is out of her chair looking for apologetic words to make amends for her child's question…but I calmed her down…and smiled and explained that this wasn't the first time someone had asked me about my legs..and it certainly wouldn't be the last.  She stammered a bit…and stuttered an apology but I hoped that I made her feel it was ok.

I gathered my stuff and headed to my car.  I got in my seat…and for some reason…I just cried.  Not because of what the little girl said but because sometimes it's hard to explain to the world why you are who you are.  I know my legs will never look beautiful in a pair of heels but one thing is for sure…they look great attached to my bike…or finishing 70.3 miles of a half ironman.  They look a whole lot better under me than in a wheelchair..or better yet…six feet under.

God sends us challenges like this sometimes to make us appreciate what we DO have …instead of focusing on what we don't.  I am so blessed because I have watched many a challenged athlete with no legs accomplish so much…and I have the ability to make mine do whatever I want.  I may not be an Ironman but who would have thought I would be where I am now. I thanked the big guy upstairs for the lesson of the day…and continued forward with my stormy day...

Out of the mouths of babes...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Return to the Beginning..St. Anthony's Triathlon

Learn from your Past
Live in the Present
Create a Beautiful Future
-Joel Brown

As I stared at the whiteboard in my office with a list of races that were my initial goals for 2014, there was "sadness and euphoria" (cue the Billy Joel music…don't know what Im talking about…go to YouTube and look up Summer, Highland Falls by Billy Joel)…I always set the bar high when setting goals because it makes you push past your limiting mind.  A Half Ironman was nothing but a dream a few years ago…now it has been a reality multiple times….The Marathon brought shivers to my soul at one time in my life…now I have completed 4…If you don't put it out there…and dream about it…it may not come to fruition …

But this weekend was about returning to the place that helped me move forward in my triathlon experience.  St. Anthony's Triathlon was my first Olympic Distance triathlon and I remember physically shaking on the beach thinking of the distances…back then..they seemed so far…I mean…26 miles on a bike is a long way…right??  A 6 mile run is TWO 5k's…that's crazy.  The thought of going nearly a mile in open water…totally insane.

But here I was…doing the inaugural SPRINT distance at St. Anthony's…and standing on the beach …shaking again…not because of the distance…but because of the lack of belief in myself.  There was a part of me that KNEW I could handle the distances of a Sprint (750 yard swim, 12 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run) but I never lose sight of the fact that you ALWAYS respect the course and the distance no matter what race you are attempting.

I looked around me and saw women who were just beginning their triathlon journey.  The nerves were high and I tried to calm a few ladies telling them they were going to do great…and maybe I was trying to calm myself.  Let's face it…I was attempting this race …COLD…meaning…no training…just my fitness base to go on.

Meanwhile, my friend Martha Centeno was more than ready.  She HAD been training…HARD!! and she was focused.  This was her FIRST REAL open water ocean swim and she was nervous as well..but I knew she would do fantastic.  She was so ready …

As we headed down the beach, to the in-water start, a lady tugged at my shoulder…and asked "Arn't you the one that likes pancakes!?" I literally laughed out loud that this woman had raced with me before and knew my superstition…I start ever race with the same statement…"You know…we could all just go get pancakes…..Nah…this is much more fun!!"  And with that a few ladies laughed and the tension was eased a bit…and the horn went off…and we were stroking.

Counting buoys in open water swims has always gotten me through.  Whether it was a LONG course like Ironman or just 5 buoys like today…it always feels so difficult to get…that….last…turn…buoy!! Why is that??  It's that painful reach for the top bar that I talked about…it's reaching for that finish…and as I made each stroke in the water, I remembered…Oh My Goodness…this really IS fun!!

Well, the turn buoy did arrive…and as I made my way out of the water, it is the first time I have smiled coming out of choppy water in a long time.  That satisfaction of one discipline completed filled me…and I was off to transition.

Ahhh yes…transition.  It is indeed my happy place.  It is the one place that I can honest admit…Im FAST…damn fast.  While others are fooling around with extra gear…I race light.  No socks…just my clipped helmet, my shades, my shoes, my race belt..grab the bike…and GO.  Although the distance from the water's edge to transition was a long one, my in-transition experience was that of Speedy Gonzales!!

Onto my other happy place. .. Margarita (my beautiful lime green Trek Speed Concept bike) was ready for a workout in the streets of St. Petersburg on a course that I truly enjoy.  Why?? Because it's technical.  I love the turns…like leaning my former Harley Davidson into a turn, I love the feel of that lean of the bike.  I might not be the fastest lady on the course, but I love the lean.  Give me the turns and Ill give you 12 miles of the most fun you can have in a triathlon!!  I grinned the entire way…all the way back to transition.

I racked the bike, removed my helmet and as much as I love the bike, the run is NOT my happy place.  This body was built for comfort not for speed and the run course is usually my torture ground.  Today, I decided I would enjoy the walk/run pace of 2 and 1's…and as I did…I met back up with my past.  My teammates from Team in Training of past years were headed back in from their 6 mile run along with members of my current Tri with Sway Team.  I saw two Team in Training Coaches on the course that remembered me and cheered me on.  I saw a lady that use to work at Disney that now lives in St. Pete who was a spectator…and on and on and on.  People flooded by me like a trip down my triathlon days past and it made me realize just how far this strange trip has taken me.  Before, this race seemed so impossible…even a sprint was so difficult…and now…it's a joy…with every stroke…every pedal  and every step.

In the final mile, as if to make it all perfect, I saw my current coach - Consuela  - armed with a water gun full of ice water….which gave me  a cooling splash to take me to the finish line.  Some of my teammates who had already finished their race cheered me on..complete with bull horn.

A NO race would be complete without the screaming of "Go Cutie Go" from my husband and words of encouragement from my friends, Rene and Martha as they followed me down the road.  Martha had past me at mile 9 of the bike…and it was a joy to see her leave me in the dust (Yes…really!!)…How lucky I am to have a wonderful support crew that cheers even after they race…they are the best in the world.

Then before the final turn, a familiar voice…screaming for me to move it…came from the curb..and it was previous coach..screaming for me to get to that finish line….and with that…I made the turn to a finishing chute that didn't seem real because it was all so perfect.

As with every finish, I look to the heavens to thank the Almighty for one more finish line.  This was my first finish after an Ironman DNF…so it felt pretty amazing.  I stepped across that line…and didn't even look at the time…I didn't care…I got what I wanted…


Belief that Triathlon is my passion and that I really DO belong racing this sport.  NO…Im not the perfect image of a perfectly chiseled athlete but Im willing to wager that I had more fun and had a heart more full of joy on that course than just about anyone…

Who would have thought….all from a mere Sprint Distance Triathlon..

Remember…always respect the distance!!!

And where with this experience lead me? Who knows.  As always…Ill keep you posted.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A weekend of family, flowers, a farmer's market……Happy Easter

At 400AM, I woke with a start….OH CRAP I'M LATE…and I jumped out of bed and started looking for my bike jersey.  My dog looked at me like I had lost my mind…and I guess maybe I had…

Im still in Ironman mode.

Months have past since my Ironman but I still wake up most mornings at body still remembers…but my mind .. well Im not sure where it stands.  As I shuffled around my room to find my way back to bed…I decided to go outside and enjoy the early morning and the incredible moon.

As I walked outside it felt so strange…a Saturday morning that soon would be filled with a cup of coffee, a 3 mile walk/run with my dog (he's never gone that far before…yeah Finnegan), a visit with my parents who are rarely in town this time of year and a visit to the Farmer's Market.  This has NOT been my Saturday morning in a very long time…and I took a deep breath and took it all in….and
tried to enjoy the solitude…the quiet…the relaxation of it all…

And I really couldn't…

It is a very odd thing when the body is restless but the brain is not ready to embrace the pain of training long distance.  I wish I could tell you I knew a way to get the two in sync…but I don't.  It pains me…it frustrates me…and it brings tears.

So to appease my messed up head, I embraced this unique Saturday.  I enjoyed the walk in my neighborhood admiring the homes that I usually ran past in the early hours of Sunday mornings when a 16, 17 or 19 mile run was on the training plan.  Finnegan (my Golden Retriever) and I did our good deed by moving people's newspapers from the driveway to their front door so they wouldn't get wet and greeted other walkers along the way.  I realized as we got past the 2 mile mark that my 2 year old dog was a bit winded…even he needs a bit of training.

After a visit with the folks, it was off to the Farmer's Market to buy some fresh beautiful produce and some plants. This…I miss.  Seeing people you know from high school, smelling the kettle corn being cooked on the street and the blossoms of the flowers for sale was just amazing.  And you know..those plants somehow made it into my car…and to my front porch.

I pulled out the gardening gloves, my hand shovel and began the process of replanting these beauties.  I got my hands in the dirt and it made me smile.  Don't get me wrong…Im not the greatest gardener..I can kill anything and my thumb is more black than green…but I do love the feeling of making our space beautiful and full of color.  Sometimes plants do better when they are repotted and replanted in new soil…

And so do athletes…

A little replanting perhaps is in order for me…a different pot…some different soil…a new adventure…a different challenge.  Not to say that the old challenges can not be revisited…but a fresh perspective might just be the trick to see new growth in this tired frustrated soul…

And that IS what Easter is about…rising again…the promise of new life…everlasting life…and of hope…we can all use that don't you think?  I believe in all those things…and I know that God has a way and a purpose for me and a reason for this path…I just have to have faith and find my way…

Happy Easter everyone...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Changing the course of a boat adrift...

I wish I could tell you how many times I have sat down to write in my blog.  I must have at least a half dozen drafts that I have not published because they didn't sound sincere. One of the promises that I made to myself as I started to blog about the life and times of an overweight athlete is that I would be honest with myself and my words…and sometimes that is hard.

It's hard because,  it's difficult to face your demons especially in an open forum of "blog-dom".  I think blogging is very therapeutic.  Writing to express emotions instead of stuffing them down with food is a positive step I started several years ago.

It's been 14 years this week that I did my first triathlon.  It amazes me that I have been doing this type of racing for this long.  I guess some people would say that you aren't "racing" if you're not "winning" but for me…it's been a race to get to a better me: Physically, Spiritually and Emotionally.

Last year, I poured my heart and soul into this one goal: Ironman.  I put things aside and pushed hard towards this goal that  can not be "bought".  Ironman can not be handed to you.  It is a goal you can not "fake your way through".  Ironman is tough…well at least it is for 90% of the triathlon population.

As I approached this triathlon season, I waited for the excitement to come to my soul…and it didn't arrive.  I waited for the thrill of the first hard bike workout and that first long run workout to appear…and it didn't.  It was then I realized that I had to take a different approach to my goals and dreams in this sport..

It meant realizing I need a break.

When you are driven to accomplish something, it is very painful to admit your plan is flawed.  It's even harder to do when you watch so many of your friends, teammates and acquaintances move strongly forward while you struggle.  It brings me to tears to think that this goal of Ironman just seems so far out of reach as I sit here today…but my plan of continuing to train as I am now is not going to work….so a different plan of action is needed.

After 14 years, I have only taken a break from  triathlon a few times: mostly due to injury or illness…but this feeling is so strange and new to me…I feel adrift.  Like a boat without power, a sailboat without wind, I feel lost with no direction.

It is almost therapeutic, however, to admit there is an issue that needs to be addressed and freeing to admit when you know that you must take care of other matters and then RETURN to your initial goal.  I know in my heart that I will not complete a full ironman unless I grow taller or get leaner.  Im not adding any inches to my height any time soon so, even with the weight loss of last year (i have kept off all but a few pounds of that), it is time once again to face the demons of food, eating and weight.

I have no idea how long this break will be.  I do know that I have a great trainer in Ben Graves who will help me along this new path of finally finding my way to my goal weight.  For now, my race schedule will be filled with running events with friends and some shorter distance triathlons until I get a grip on my body size and on fat loss.  A wonderful Ironman friend of mine told me…"Melissa…you gotta take a break until it's "fun" again.." Ill be search for the fun via half marathons, relay races and some 5k's.

I wish I could express how much I am going to miss long distance triathlon community.  The friends that I have made and the things I have learned about myself have been life changing.  I will continue to write here because training for half marathons and shorter races is still very challenging but don't for a moment think I have given up on Ironman..just realize I must make serious changes to be able to complete that distance…

Until those changes are achieved…Ill keep you posted…Thanks for following along…the next few months should be unique and interesting and exciting no matter what...

Monday, January 27, 2014

You never forget your first triathlon

- “You must first find your limits, before you can exceed them..”

On a cold, windy Sunday afternoon in Raleigh NC, I got to be a part of something very special…and the emotions, excitement, fear and anticipation has been bouncing around in my head so much, I just had to write it down.

For years now, I have had the privilege of hanging out with some pretty amazing athletes who belong on our Triathlon Team "Tri with Sway". Our team has done a lot of different distances but for the most part, we focus on the longer distance stuff : Half Ironman and Ironman and a few Olympic distances thrown in.  I am honored and humbled that I can achieve some of these distances and that I have a coach who has taken my hand and helped me through to achieve these goals.

But on Sunday, I met about 50 women who have NEVER done a triathlon before.  They all have decided to join an amazing organization called "Tri it for Life".  This group focuses on women only and empowers them to move: move forward, move often and eventually..move towards completing their first sprint distance tri.  

I met ever type of woman you can imagine: young, old, thin, not so thin. There were runners who were terrified of the water and wanted to master the swim and there were cyclists who had never run a mile.  There were women who were looking to just move off the couch and make a difference in their lives and in their health….and they all inspired me…

And they made me remember…

14 years ago this month…that was me…terrified…but with this goal of just getting to the end of a Danskin triathlon.  I worked really hard for those 12 weeks…and I made it…and I remember the feeling of stepping across that finish line.  I was elated…I was proud…but most importantly…

I was hooked!!

Enjoying the company of these woman at their kick off event made me revisit what it was like back then…and then made me realize just how far of a journey I have made.  They were amazed when I told them I had done 7 half ironmans …and I guess I had forgotten…that is pretty amazing.

So as we set out to begin another triathlon season with new goals…new dreams…and new visions of those future finish lines, let's not forget what it was like…back then…when it all seemed so impossible because we all wouldn't be where we are in WHATEVER we wish to achieve if we had not first decided to find our limits.  

If you believe…you CAN achieve it….looking forward to the 2014 Triathlon season :)

Ill keep you posted!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Be like the Turtle…or maybe not…The Zooma Half Marathon

Try to be like the Turtle…at ease in your own shell!
-Bill Copeland

Yup!! Were definitely NOT at Disney.  After suffering for 3 weeks with a head and chest cold, I decided the Disney Half Marathon was not in the cards for me.  By time the Disney race day arrived, I was feeling better but still didn't think I was ready for 13.1 miles.  I spent the Disney Marathon weekend cheering on my friends and feeding a lot of people (thanks to some very helpful and talented friends who worked magic in our Disney Vacation Club Villa kitchen).

But as the week after Disney moved forward, that desire for a challenge…and for the bling was in the forefront of my mind.  Since I started doing these races 14 years ago, there are weeks where I just get this need to go push myself to finish a challenge…and hang a big piece of medal around my neck.  Most people would be happy just hanging out by the pool…for me…I just need to see if I can do it.

Most runners are going for that PR…that super fast time…and don't get me wrong…I always want to improve on my time but this race was more about finishing.  After a DNF at Ironman, my psyche (and my ego) kinda needed to cross another finish line so it was off to one of my favorite places in the world: Amelia Island and the Ritz Carlton.

A 36 degree start would prove to be my 3rd coldest half marathon in 14 years.  Wind chill: 28 degrees.  All I could think of was that bed I just left sure was warm.  A small field of just 500 runners meant I would probably be one of the final finishers…but I didn't let that bother me.  I just kept one thing in mind:

Whatever I do…don't let there be a police car following me on the road.

If the police car is on you six, you are LAST…I just didn't want to be last!!

The race ran through historic downtown Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island, some nice quiet neighborhoods and then beautiful Fort Clinch State Park.  These miles were stunning and 
relaxing…it hardly felt like a race.

Then it was onto Fletcher Avenue…the main drag into Fernandina Beach…and it was highway for miles….a highway next to the ocean…but high traffic two lane road none the less. Not my favorite part but the part that makes you focus on your abilities to complete miles.  As mile 9 and 10 passed, the run slowed..the effort got more difficult.  Believe it or not, I turned off my headphones and tuned into me.  What makes this hard? Why do I always struggle here? My legs don't breathing isn't labored…so what's the story??

And then…the sign that made my race "Try to be like the ease in your own shell""  Hmmm…this lead me to think…and think and think as this long highway and LOTS of cones laid in front of me.

As much as I like my "shell"…even animals with a shell will shed it and move to another.  Can you imagine how uncomfortable that must be? I believe that is what the last few months have been for me…moving from a comfortable "shell" to being exposed to the world without the comfort of protection.  For years, I think my weight was my shell and as that weight has come off I have pushed forward to challenge myself…to change myself and to mold myself into something better…something honorable…and a person that is good, hardworking and straightforward.  I want the days gone where I would hide behind that shell….and I want to be strong….I want to be the best me…and somewhere…somehow…no matter what others think…someday…I want to be an Ironman.

With all these thoughts in my head, I saw the sign that took us from that long boring road and opened up to the beautiful ocean and the beach.  The finish was less than a 1/2 a mile away and I smiled.  See…there is always good after the bad…and this race was no exception.  I wasn't last..and as I crossed the finish line and looked back at the beauty that was that Florida coastline, I realize there is good that is coming from the disappointment of the last few months…

I got that bling around my neck…but most importantly…that 13.1 miles helped me realize that I have to go for the dreams I think are important in my life no matter how impossible others may seem to think they are.

Stay tuned…exciting things are on the horizon!! 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Merry Christmas "Mom"

**I delayed posting this entry because it is very personal.  After careful thought, I decided to put it out into the world…Happy New Year 2014."

As many of you know, my husband and I have no children.  It was a decision made by God.  I was super morbidly obese in my child bearing years and as many people know, obesity affects fertility.  Steve and I consider many options but we decided to leave the possibility of getting pregnant in God's hands instead of attempting in vitro. It is a decision we never regretted  because we have faith in his path and we love to heap love on all of our nieces and nephews and on our friend's kids :)

My favorite charity is the Edgewood Children's Ranch in Orlando.  The Ranch helps children who exhibit negative social behavior due to family circumstances and their involvement with negative forces in their living environment.  It is a residential facility that houses, feeds, and educates both spiritually and scholastically up to 70 children from elementary to high school age.

About a year ago, myself and about 15 of our closest friends decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the 100 total people at Edgewood.  My husband ,who is the most amazing turkey fryer on the planet, coordinated frying 12 turkeys while my friends, including one professionally trained chef, put together the sides and dessert.  It was quite a feat but I have never felt so honored to get to know these special children and the incredible people that help steer their lives onto the right path.

I sat down with one of the girls and she asked if I had children.  I told her "No..but you guys are like my kids….I care about you very much."  If you think for a moment that children don't remember what you say or the actions you take, consider this…

Fast forward to Christmas 2013.  I am on the Board of Directors of the Ranch and our December board meeting is very casual and fun.  We enjoy chatting with the people that help put the ranch together in the 60's (including my father and mother) and we get to enjoy the children singing Christmas Carols.  The kids and staff also makes each of the board members a plate of cookies…and let me tell you…they are amazing cookies made with so much thought and love.  I don't eat them for awhile…I enjoy having them on my counter and appreciating the hard work that went into them before they end up in my face (really…you don't think I wouldn't eat those…)

That same little girl came up to me and presented me with my cookies.  I gave her a big hug and asked how she was doing.  She told me she was doing well and she loved her ranch life.  More importantly she told me this…

"I wanted to be the one that brought you your cookies…because I think you really care about us.  I also wanted to tell you "Merry Christmas Mom"…because…you love us like a Mom.

I couldn't catch my breath.  I gave her the biggest hug.  I had the most amazing Christmas with my family and with my friends.  I enjoyed sharing New Years with my husband in Boston and even loved working at Disney on Christmas Day…but this moment in time embodied my Christmas…defined what was important about the season….and it will be a moment that will move me forward in helping this charity achieve it's goals.  This  IS  what Christmas is about…

Here is hoping your holidays were blessed and joyful and that your new year is full of the promise and happiness you seek...