triathlon

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I’m injured. And I’m not very good at it.

It’s a stupid knee injury (nothing actually happened other I played sand volleyball a couple weeks ago, and it hurt a little on the first jump and hurt more on subsequent jumps, and when I finally decided it was time to sit out, it had started swelling) that came at a stupid time — just weeks out from TriRock Clearwater (aka the race I planned to absolutely KILL this year). I should be hitting a really strong groove right now, and instead … well, sure am swimming a lot.

Even though it’s definitely improving — I was able to do four whole minutes of running on the treadmill yesterday! Whee! — it’s still making me feel lame in a lot of ways. Literally, of course, although I’m not terribly gimpy at this point, but also, ugh. So many of the social things I do revolve around running and drinking, but since I can’t run right now, I’ve cut out drinking, and since I’m not running or drinking, I’m a little LOT less fun than I like to think I normally am.

I’m not feeling all that fierce, is what I’m saying.

fierce fund blue wig project

I find that a little fake hair goes a long way when I’m feeling down. Especially when it’s as part of the Fierce Fund Traveling Blue Wig Project

But, that got me thinking — is fierce a feeling, or a state of being? Can you only be fierce when you’re feeling that way, or if you’re fierce, are you always fierce, just sometimes moreso than others?

I have no problem saying it: That's effing fierce.

I have no problem saying it: That’s effing fierce.

I’m going with the latter, because earlier this year, when I completed the Leadman Tri — you know, that time I ate ice out of my sports bra — I was the fiercest of the fierce, as far as I’m concerned. I signed up for a race that scared the hell out of me. I committed to not only completing challenging distances on race day, but to doing some really intense training leading up to it.

And on race day, despite nerves so out of control they brought tears to my eyes, I jumped in that water and started a journey that would take me almost seven hours (no, really — I finished in 6 hours, 59 minutes and change) and make me a different person than I was when I woke up that morning.

Those who have gotten to know me over the last few years might think, “Well, that’s great, but you’ve always done this stuff. You just took the next step.” But the thing is, I haven’t always done it.

In fact, in high school between my asthma and some volleyball-induced back issues (maybe I should just quit it with the VB, huh?), I was really, really not a runner. Training the summer before my senior year to run two consecutive miles in something like 19 minutes in order to make the basketball team was miserable, and I couldn’t possibly fathom why people would run just to, like, run.

(And let’s not forget, I didn’t pick up a bike or start learning to properly swim until about three years ago. So, sure, I’ve been athletic for basically my whole life, but a serious, hardcore endurance event? So far outside my comfort zone it made the trip to Phoenix look short.)

So, here’s my thought — the choices we make (and actions we take) are the things that define our fierceness. Having done a race that scared and challenged me changed who I was gave me a new found confidence and strength. Even if I don’t feel quite the same way right now, there’s something to knowing it’s there. It’s in me. It’s in my heart, and it’ll be back. I’ll be back.

Because, I mean, come on. We can’t all be at our very fiercest all the time, can we? So let’s celebrate the moments of fierceness we all hold dear. I’ve shown you mine. Now show me yours!

*****

This post is part the Clever Girls Collective Fierce Fund Traveling Blue Wig Project (hence the blue wig, although, let’s be honest — I can never say no to fake hair), which is currently deciding which of three awesome non-profit organizations should receive this year’s $20,000 #FierceFund. If you have a second, check it out and cast your vote — this is an amazing group of women doing fabulous work to help worthy causes, and I’m honored to have my story included.

I did not receive compensation for this post (unless you count the wig).

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This year started out with a big, sweaty bang. I signed up for two serious races (a long course triathlon and a half marathon) taking place in the spring, which meant that from January until mid-May, my ass belonged to the gym. And the pool. And my bike. You know what I mean.

I followed a pretty intense training schedule leading up the Leadman 125 Tri in April, but, happily, it absolutely paid off. I finished my first serious, major, for-real-I-am-not-even-joking endurance event with a smile on my face and, well, maybe not a spring in my step, but I didn’t shuffle across the finish line, either. It was incredible. Hell, it was life changing.

I took a few days easy after the race and then jumped right back into training for the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. I upped both my running and my wine consumption in the month between the two races (which, for the record? Not the greatest idea to book two races like this so close together, but I had friends involved in both and just couldn’t say no), and set a goal to finish without hating life (which is more than I can say for any other half I’d done before that). I not only finished happily, but I set a PR. And then I drank ALL THE WINE. It was a big win for me, for sure.

Go Team Wine O! (It's legit. We had shirts.)

And now everybody’s asking what’s next.

I’m not totally sure. I’m planning a sprint tri over the Fourth of July weekend, and hoping to kick a little butt in the swim portion of an Olympic distance relay triathlon later that month, but as far as The Next Big Thing? I’m just not sure.

I want to tackle a half Ironman distance race, for sure — after the two races this spring, I know I can do it. But I need to decide which one I want to do. I’ve kept the training up, for the most part (although I’m certainly a little more lax about some of the longer workouts right now since I don’t have a Scary Freaking Race staring me down), so I should be able to prep for one with two or three months’ notice, but … I don’t know. Do I do it soon, while I’m still pumped up from the spring races? Augusta is in September, which is definitely doable. Or do I hold off until spring? Or next fall? Or …

Sheesh, you want to talk about first world problems? Which big fancy race do I do next? Wah, wah, wah. I kind of want to slap myself. But I also want advice — have you done a half Iron (or similar) distance race that you absolutely loved? What made it perfect for you? (Or, if you did one and hated it, I want the scoop on that, too.)

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I accomplished my goals — I placed within my division, I finished with a time I was (mostly) happy with, and I was not eaten or even nibbled by an alligator. Overall, I’m calling it a success.

Kristen and Patrick at Moss Park tri

With Patrick, sweaty, dirty and smiling big.

One of the biggest challenges of this race, for me, was the fact that it was a 7:15 start in a location more than two hours away, and I had to drive down the morning of the race. Honestly, I never would have done that myself — that 3:30 wake up was pretty unkind, and, while a single (albeit very large) cup of coffee was just fine, I know that drinking too much coffee does Very Bad Things to my tummy, and when you pair that with nerves and then biking and running and no bathrooms nearby, it’s, uhhh, problematic. So a single cup of coffee it is!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it alone. In fact, the main reason I signed up for the race is because my good friend (and coach, and inspiration, really), Patrick, had signed up for it and was moving to New York a few days later, so although we’ve done plenty of workouts together and talked extensively about races, we’d never actually done one together.

Of course, by “together” I mean he did it in half the time. He did win the damn thing last year, after all, and despite doing basically no tri training at all in recent months, he still placed 3rd in his age group and 12th overall. See? Inspiration.

As for me, I honestly did just fine. We ran a little late, so I had to rush through setting up my transition area in order to have time to hit the bathroom before the pre-race meeting. (Tangent — who else believes that a pre-race bathroom break is a non-negotiable? I mean, I would actually start the race a minute or two late rather than stop during the race.)

Unlike other tris I’ve done, this swim took place in a lake (hence my alligatorly concerns), and although the water was, like, black, and I couldn’t sight the buoys for the life of me (which turned out to be a common problem) it was a nice swim. Pretty smooth, and I love that half-mile distance. I was 12th out of the water in the women’s wave, which was a bit of a disappointment, but, hey, that’s what you get for not training, I suppose.

The bike took a challenging but interesting route, through neighborhoods and with lots of twists and turns. My bike computer broke during St. Anthony’s, so I had no idea how far I’d gone, which, honestly, was kind of fun. I just pushed hard without totally blowing my legs for the run and finished the bike right around the middle of the pack.

And the run. Oh, the run. I was actually really excited because it’s just a 2.8 mile run, but I hadn’t taken into account the fact that some of it was on trail, and all of it was on packed dirt, which is great for the knees (it’s softer), but tough on weak ankles. I might’ve aroused a bird or two with my near-constant shrieks of, “Oooh! Woooo!” as I nearly fell over from stepping on a rock or in a shallow hole. I kept something around a 11 minute mile pace — far from great, but nothing I’m going to be embarrassed about.

About 10 minutes after I finished, as Patrick and I were loading up the bikes, I got the best surprise. Jared (who was working in Orlando that day) called, which he said he would do around 9. Here’s the conversation:

J: “Hey, where are you?”

Me: “Still at the race, packing up.”

J: “No, where are you?”

Me: “Ummm, Moss Park? You know, at the race?”

J: “NO. Where in the park are you?”

Me: “Shut up. Shut up shut up! Are you here? No way, you’re not here. Wait, are you here?”

Spoiler alert — he was there. It had been a few days since I’d seen him anyway since he’d been traveling, and then, having him surprise me by showing up at the end of the race was just … well, if you ever hear me complain about him, just remind me of this, okay? It was really freaking cool.

Also, just a note about the race itself — definitely a good one to do. Swimming in a lake is a bit of a novelty when you’re used to swimming in the ocean, and the park itself is lovely, if a bit buggy, so pack bug spray with your sunscreen. It’s not a huge race, but there were multiple events (aqua bike, etc.) which really lent to a bigger feel. And it’s a great one for first timers — they even have a My First Triathlon division with shorter distances (or a shorter swim, anyway, not sure about the rest). I definitely see myself coming back to do this one next year!

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So, I’ve had some difficulty getting back in my training groove since St. Anthony’s which was … oh god, two months ago? UGH.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been running and swimming, but the bike hasn’t gotten much attention, and I haven’t been putting the effort forth that I was earlier in the year. And that needs to change, because I’ve signed up for another Olympic length tri in October. So, yeah, the training needs to pick back up.

And what better way to get back in the saddle than to sign up for a sprint triathlon! For which I’m not at all prepared! But who cares, it’s “just a sprint”! And it’s happening on Saturday! Hahahahahaohsweetjebus.

Truthfully, I’m doing it because a really good friend had already signed up (hi Patrick!), and he’s moving away, and I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to do another race with him. Plus, really, it is a good way to get my ass back in gear. Also, the run for this is actually under three miles, and since I did a 3 mile race Monday and kept just under a 10-minute mile, I honestly think I’ll be able to handle the run, which, as we know, is totally the scary part.

Still, I have a feeling I’m going to be hurting something fierce come Saturday afternoon. I suppose that’s just a little extra (okay, a LOT) motivation to pick the training back up so I’m ready for my October Olympic, right?

I’ll get y’all a race report asap. Probably not many pictures, on account of the fact that the only other person I know there will be, you know, racing. Which is probably for the best, because this whole slacking on training thing hasn’t been as kind to the waistline as one might foolishly hope …

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End of the bike leg, hitting the horribly bumpy cobblestone. Not fair after 90 minutes in the saddle.

After four solid months of training, it’s over — I participated in the St. Anthony’s triathlon on Sunday, and I finished. Final, official time: 3:04:12. Take that, #50 on my Life List!

(I posted a full race report over at Fit Bottomed Girls and you should definitely go read that, but, well, this was kind of a big deal for me, so I thought it was worth sharing here as well.) Read the rest of this entry »

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This is getting serious. My Big Race is in three days. THREE. And while I mostly feel excited rather than nervous, well, there are still some nerves (as evidenced by my super weird nightmare about getting lost on the bike leg and riding through gravel and then ending up in an office building, which appeared to be where Chrysler’s executive offices are, and while there, I ran into the Dyson guy who tried to sell me a vacuum and when I explained I was in the middle of a triathlon, he started showing me pictures of himself doing that exact race).

But, here’s the thing. At this point, I’m just going to have to rely on the training I’ve done over the last four months. There’s nothing I’m going to do in the next couple of days that will make me faster or stronger, other than eating and drinking properly and getting plenty of rest. At this point, I’m just trying to make sure I find a way to relax and enjoy the event I’ve worked really, really hard for.

Still, I have some goals, and while more often than not, I keep those to myself, I’ve been so open about other parts of the training for this that I feel like keeping my goals from you all would be a little unfair. So, here we go.

  1. I want to finish in under 3 hours. This is going to be a real challenge for me, I know, but I also know that, if everything goes right, I can totally do that. And yes, 2:59:59 is still totally under 3 hours.
  2. If I go over 3 hours, I want to still keep it close to that time — no giving up and walking* because it’s looking more like a 3:10 finish!
  3. I want to be one of the first people out of the water in my wave. If I’m being totally honest, what I really want is to be the first woman out, but I’m certainly not going to be brokenhearted if that’s not the case — because I’m competing in the novice division, it’s really hard to have an idea of what I’ll be up against.
  4. I want to finish strong. The run is probably where I’m weakest, and, as it turns out, I’ll be starting that 10k run around 11 a.m., which means I should finish right around noon. And it will be in the mid to high 80s at that point. But I’ve prepared for this. I’ve run in the midday sun, I have Gu, sodium tabs, and plans to drop ice down my pants to cool down (what?). I know I won’t run my fastest 10k ever, but I want that final mile to be just as fast as the first. Ideally, faster.
  5. I want to enjoy it. I know that sounds a bit crazy, because there’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to hurt like hell. But, you guys, this is such a big deal to me. I kind of can’t believe that I’ve trained this hard for so long and that I’m SO READY. Once upon a time, I interviewed Lucy Danziger, the editor for Self Magazine, and she gave me the best advice ever: Always remember when you’re out running (or biking, or whatever) that you’re doing this because you can. There are so many people who can’t, for whatever reason, and what an amazing privilege it is that I’m able to be a part of this. If you happen to be at the race and you see me going by and I have anything but a smile on my face, please remind me of that fact. I might throw something at you, but I won’t have anything heavy on you, so you’re safe.

Those of you who’ve done challenging races — what kind of goals did you have? Did I leave anything out? Well, other than get a cute picture, but I feel like that’s almost a given, right?

*The one caveat to the finishing strong — if I have a flat or something else that puts me way, way, waaaay behind my goal time, I’m just going to have fun with it. I hear that the homeowners come out during the run, and some of them offer beer. If I’m already going to be 30-45 minutes behind what I aimed for, you can expect me to be a bit tipsy by the time I cross the finish line. Hooray beer!

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I’ve probably used this analogy here before, but sometimes I feel like blogging is a lot like keeping in touch with a friend who lives far away. When you make a point to talk on the phone frequently, it’s really easy to just dial her up and tell her about the latest, stupid little thing that’s happened. But, when you haven’t talked to her in a while, you can’t just call her up and be all, “Oh my god you would not believe the size of the ball of ear wax that just came out of my ear!” because first you have to catch up on all the big things that are going on and by the time you’ve heard about how she’s selling her house and they’ve adopted a Romanian orphan, the news of your ear wax ball, impressive though it surely is, seems to pale a little in comparison.

But! Since I get to talk first, you get to hear all about my metaphorical (and maybe literal) ear wax balls before you get to tell me about your new orphan. God I love blogging.

I quit my job. You know, the job writing and editing for Paw Nation (and also writing for other AOL properties) which I’ve done for the last few years and  LOVED. I don’t really want to go into details right here, right now — it just doesn’t seem cool — but let me just say that I’m a big believer in signs, and this time, the universe made it really clear that it was time for me to move on, and so I have. I’m still figuring out exactly what I’m going to do, but I’m planning to use the opportunity (yes, I’m totally considering it an opportunity) to follow my heart and get some exciting new experiences under my belt. It’s all good, I promise.

I did a (practice) tri. My big race, the Olympic length St. Anthony’s tri, is Sunday (as in, like, a few days away), but a little over a week ago I did a sprint distance tri (about half the length) in Jacksonville to warm up, along with my friend Jodi (who took first place in our age group — I took third). Overall, it left me feeling pretty excited for the race, and only somewhat nervous. Maybe a little more than somewhat, but I’m definitely not freaking out. Well, not much, anyway. Most of the time.

I threw a killer party. The animal rescue I volunteer with, Puppy Hill Farm, had its biggest fundraiser of the year on Friday night, and I sort of headed up the committee for the event. It was pretty major and incredibly stressful but, overall, I think it was a pretty big success, and I’m already brimming with ideas for next year. Because clearly I’m insane. (Although one of the main ideas is GET MORE HELP. I think that’ll make a huge difference.) Still, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders to have this over — I’ve been working on it in some way for the last five months, and when I woke up Saturday and knew there was nothing I needed to do, well, I almost wept with relief.

I had an emotional surprise. After the Puppy Hill gala, we had loads of flower centerpieces left over, and one of the women there suggested taking some to a nursing home. I was planning on doing a bike/run brick out in Trenton (you remember this trail, right?), which is where the nursing home where my grandma lived for several years is located. I figured since I’d be in the area, I’d stop in, drop flowers off, thank the nurses for all they did, and be on my way. Well, I got no further than saying, “My grandmother lived here for quite a while,” before the nurses all said, “Oh, you’re Sara’s granddaughter! We just loved her so much.” And then I sobbed. This was not at all expected. I mean, Grandma Sara died over a year ago, and I was pretty prepared for it even then. Why this hit me so hard, I couldn’t tell you, but I’m extremely touched that these nurses cared enough about Grandma to not only remember her, but even remember her granddaughter.

Okay, you’re all caught up on me, I think. (I’ll save the ear wax ball story for another time.) Now what’s new with you all? Anybody moving, having babies, getting a new hair cut?

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The road in my 'hood. It's not exciting, but it's a good place for a quick run.

It is official. I’ve signed up for my first Olympic length triathlon — St. Anthony’s, which takes place in St. Pete on May 1. For those who aren’t familiar with triathlon lengths (and, if you don’t do triathlons, I can’t imagine why you would be), Olympic isn’t quite as scary as it sounds — it’s a 1.5k (.93 mi) swim, 40k (24.8 mi) bike and 10k (6.2 mi) run. Yes, it’s long, but each leg, on its own, is totally manageable, so my hope is that, after training properly, the entire thing will be not only manageable, but fun.

Or at least won’t cause any lasting pain. You know, whatever.

(If you want to know more about why I’m racing, I’m going to be doing a monthly update on my training over at Fit Bottomed Girls — you can check out my first post on that now, if that sort of thing floats your boat.)

At the risk of sounding like a giant conceited bitch, I know I can do this. I’m not sure how fast, but I know that I can show up and cross the finish line and not be the last person to do so. The harder part comes in the meantime — finding a balance between focusing on the training and focusing on family, and when I read this post today, I realized it was something I’ve thought a lot about, but I haven’t really talked about all that much.

When I signed up for the race, I told Jared that I was going to make a point to not let this take over my life and my time. It’s all too easy for me to get totally swept up in a project and start to neglect other things I love and enjoy. And while I don’t want to stifle the competitor in me too much — I’m proud of my “go hard or go home” attitude — I also know that the super slight possibility of earning a medal isn’t anywhere near worth causing issues at home.

bike

Yes, that's a chili pepper on it. And no, that's not the *only* reason I bought it.

It’s not just time, either, although time spent training is certainly a factor. It’s money as well — triathlon is not a cheap sport, which isn’t exactly a surprise to me, but, well, I’m having to really watch myself to keep from spending boatloads of money on things that, admittedly, would make training easier, but aren’t totally necessary. I bought a very nice used bike (isn’t she pretty?), and I’ve gotten a couple new bathing suits on sale (dude, you do not want to know how bad my old one was getting. Because, yes, I basically had just one that I wore for every swim, and, well, it’s about done).

But it would be frighteningly easy for me to have spent hundreds more dollars on gear and equipment already, and I know I’m not quite done. And since we don’t have hundred dollar bills lining our handmade Italian shoes in our fancy custom closets, and I have yet to figure out how to teach my dogs to shit gold, I’m also conscious of the fact that money I spend on this race impacts what Jared and I get to do together — I sure as hell don’t want the fact that I wanted a cuter bathing suit to be the reason we have to pass on going to dinner, you know?

Still, I know that having this extra thing that’s just mine (well, I’m training with my friend Jodi and working with my coach, Patrick, but, you know what I mean) is good for me, and Jared has been really supportive of both the time and money I’m spending. But I’m wondering how the rest of you find balance between interests that threaten to suck up a lot of time/energy/money and the other important things in your life, like family and friends. Do you create a schedule? Play it by ear? Just go with it?

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As you might have astutely discerned from my previous post, I had a bit of difficulty in last weekend’s triathlon — the Crystal River Sprint Tri #1. I finished, and aside from actually showing up, I truly believe that’s the most important thing. In fact, I’m not even going to pretend that I’m too upset about my time, because I wasn’t expecting anything too spectacular.

(See, kids? See how that works? When you set your sights low, you can’t lose! Whee!)

But still, things could have gone better.

The swim was far more difficult than I remembered. Everyone is always telling me how hard they find the swim, and I just never have. For the first half, I was right in the mix, up at the front, and then … I died. I kept breathing in water, and I went waaay off course … and consequently, I came in a couple minutes later than I should have. Not the best start.

Additionally, remember how I was saying I didn’t really train? That included cycling. In fact, I hadn’t been on my bike (which was Jared’s dad’s, and is made for a man about 5″ taller than me) for over a year and a half until the night before, when I rode it around my parents’ cul de sac. You know, to make sure I could. I’m not so good on the bike to begin with. Anyway, I wasn’t fast by any means, but I stayed on. The only problem was trying to get water — I just couldn’t pedal and reach for the bottle (or hold it, or put it back) at the same time, so I ended up only getting one quick drink. Over the course of 15 miles. After swallowing at least my own weight in salt water. Awesome.

Which brings us to the run — the only part I think I probably was prepared for. However, it turns out that, if you sweat a lot and don’t drink anything, your muscles get a little fussy. Both my calves were completely rock solid. My ankles felt arthritic, I was getting chills, and my quads … well, they just had nothing to give. I’ll be honest — I actually considered quitting. And anyone who knows me at all knows that I just don’t do that.

And I didn’t. I stopped numerous times to walk, stretch, and pound on my calves, and when I got to the first water station at Mile 1, I stopped and drank two large cups of water before moving on. Luckily for me, there was another water station at Mile 1 1/2, I drank some more, and, voila! My legs worked again! It’s a miracle, the way that works. Another thing that helped — there was a girl with a big chocolate lab around Mile 2, so I stopped and got some cuddles. That definitely gave me  a boost.

Jared, Mom and Dad were stationed near the finish line (cameras in hand, but I haven’t gotten the pics from anyone yet) — they were total troopers, leaving at 6:15 with me and hanging out for the whole race. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see them, even though none of them wanted to hug my sweaty mess of a body once I finished. Still, as I said before, I finished. My time was 1:45 — I had hoped for something closer to 1:30, but I’ll get it next time. Because I will train and I will hydrate. Lessons learned.

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Talk about a roller coaster of emotions.

Things have been a bit on the crazy side around these parts. For starters, I’ve been working like a dog, and not like my dogs who are lazy and sleep in the same spot so often that there’s already a spot on our year-old carpet (yes, really). No, I’ve been working like one of those cattle dogs who runs through the herd nipping at heels to keep things moving and together and all of a sudden realizes she’s been going and going and going for so long that, holy hell, she hasn’t even had time to go to the bathroom. And how did it get to be dinner time? And thank goodness she has a husband who cooks for her, or she’d be subsisting on a lot of PB&J.

And yes, I’m talking about me and not the dog now. Sorry if I lost you.

It’s exciting to be so busy, but also tiring, which doesn’t leave me in the best position to receive news that’s either really good or really bad. Or make decisions.

Case in point — we accepted an offer on our condo! You know, the one we moved out of almost a year ago and busted our asses (as did our moms) to fix up quickly for a quick sale (excuse me while I LAUGH MYSELF SILLY). So yay! An offer! For lower than our asking price, which was already considerably (CONSIDERABLY) less than we paid for it. But you know what? I’m not complaining for a second — an offer is an offer, and I’m totally happy, although, until the papers are signed and we no longer have the keys, I’m not going to celebrate. Just in case.

So that’s great, right? The same day this happened, we were set to have dinner at our friends’ house, so I got dressed (in real clothes, even), and went to put on my jewelry, which included a diamond ring made from the stones that were in my grandmother’s wedding ring — she died when I was very young, and my mom had the stones reset in a ring that she gave to me for Christmas my senior year of high school. However, when I slid it on my finger, it didn’t feel right, and as I looked down, I saw that it was missing the center stone. Admittedly, it wasn’t large, but it was the largest of the stones, and more importantly than that, it was my grandma’s. Yes, I checked the case it was in, and the last time I’d had it on was at a wedding. In Daytona Beach.

With the ups and downs, the only logical thing is to do is, of course, sign up for a race for which I’m not at all prepared, right? No? Well, too bad, because that’s what I did. I’m now participating in a triathlon. On Saturday. And no, I didn’t sign up while I was drinking, in case you wondered. I just thought it would be fun. Oy.

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