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Training Check-in: Ironman Weeks 3 & 4

Happy hump day! This week has just flown by. I'd hoped to get this post up on Monday, but you now how it is.

So weeks 3 & 4 of Ironman training are in the books! Boy, what a crazy couple of weeks that was! I don't know what was wrong with me. I slept in more than I should and I just felt generally drained. It wasn't really fatigue from over work either. It was that yucky kind of tired where your workouts feel harder, but they're not....and then you're yawning constantly.

I went to see my doctor before training ever started to get his blessing to begin training. (You can never be too safe when starting a training plan like this) I really just wanted to get a base line in case things start to go awry deeper into my training plan. I can always go back to my doctor and compare to my base line. Anyway, I went to see him and he recommended that I start a prenatal vitamin to keep my iron levels up as my blood work showed it was a tad low. I'm thinking this may be the cause of my fatigue. I sat down in week 3 and really tried to evaluate my diet to see what changes I could make and attempt to raise my energy levels. I was really suprised how much difference it made, especially after I started taking the supplements. 

Here is the break down of the last two weeks:

Week 3

Monday - Rest day

Two-a-day-Tuesday: 1600m swim & 30 min run
I just couldn't get up for my swim. I slept in until about 5:45am that morning, but still made it to the gym. My overall swim was horrible. I felt so slow in the pool and my arms were just so tired and heavy. I was only able to finish 1450m of the 1600m swim. I averaged a 2:29/100m pace which really shows something was off. The rest of the day I felt like I was being pulled to the ground by iron chains. I just didn't have any strength. I managed to drag myself to the gym for my second workout of the day during my lunch break. It was awful as well. My heart rate spiked and I only made it 2.29 miles in my allotted 30 minutes. That's a speedy 13:08 min/mile pace.

Wednesday - 30 minute trainer ride
I opted to sleep in again on Wednesday since Tuesday was so tuff. I figured I hadn't recovered enough from the previous week and needed some extra rest. I took a spin class on my lunch break which left me feeling refreshed. I took it easy and tried to stay in Z2 and managed to have a little fun while I was at it.

Thursday - 30 minute trainer ride
Repeat of Wednesday. Instead of a spin class I did an easy ride in Z2, nothing fancy just focused on cadence/speed. Felt pretty good as the day went on. I seemed to be getting a little bit of energy back.

Friday - (two-a day-Friday) 1600m swim & 30 min run
The last few Fridays have also been two-a-day workouts although, I haven't been doing the second workout of the day. In my last check-in I mentioned my local gym had been closed for renovations and it made it so difficult to get all  my workouts in. This week I was determined to get every single workout done! I woke up early Friday morning and got my swim done, I manged to get the full 1600m swim done with a 2:20/100m pace (getting closer to normal). I went home, showered, got dressed for the day and even packed my gym bag for a lunch run. Unfortunately, work got in the way I wasn't able to take a lunch break and go run like I'd hoped. There goes my goal for the week!

Saturday - 30 min trainer ride
I woke up at the butt crack of dawn on Saturday to get my trainer ride done. We planned to take the kids hiking that morning so I wanted to get my ride done early enough so that we weren't hiking in the heat. Mission accomplished! I was done by 9am and my ride felt great. We took the kids hiking for about an hour and a half and then my day went south. I'm not sure what happened, but my energy levels took a nose dive again! I was eating well and staying hydrated, but I felt like I was being pulled to the ground by those chains again. Its such and odd feeling! Went home for lunch and then headed to my brother-in-laws to check out his new farm. Luckily I was able to relax and rest out in the country for the day.
Sunday- 30 min run
I woke up Sunday feeling like I never went to sleep. I knew something was really wrong with me. I took the day off and skipped my workout. I spent this time evaluating my dietary intake and creating a meal plan for the week ahead. I went on a shopping haul and packed my pantry with energy & iron rich foods. I knew if week 4 was going to be a success, I needed to get back down to business. I started taking the vitamin my doctor recommended and prepped my meals for the week.

Week 4

Monday - rest day
Even though I took Sunday off, I let myself have Monday off as scheduled. I took my vitamin and was sure to eat well, stay hydrated and go to bed on time.

Two-a-day Tuesday - 1600m swim & 30 min run
back at the pool! Things felt great! I spent a little time doing some drills and then smashed out my main set. I could really tell my energy was high. I ate a good breakfast and took my vitamin. Later that day I headed out on a run on my lunch break only to, once again, be defeated by a high heart rate. This time I ran a 13:59 min/mile pace in order to stay in Z2 for the full 30 minute run. I practically had a breakdown after my run. I've been running in Z2 since late May and even in the dead heat of Texas summer, I was able to run faster than that while in Z2. Something is just not working for me. I decided to make some changes to my training plan. Going forward, I will be incorporating speed work even though my plan doesn't call for it for another few weeks. Hopefully, the changes in my diet and the addition of my vitamins will also help bring that heart rate down as well as things begin to balance out.

Wednesday - 30 min trainer ride
Another spin class - I always have so much fun doing these. I know as the weeks pass I will have longer rides on the schedule and wont be able to continue doing these lunch spin classes but for now, they are really a treat as I find myself struggling emotionally on other days.

Thursday - 30 min trainer ride
Repeat of Wednesday - focused on cadence and speed

Friday - (two-a-day) take two!
Woke up early for my swim, felt GREAT! I've been taking my vitamins all week, ate great, slept like I was supposed to and it payed off! I did the full 1600m swim with an average 2:17min/100m pace. Felt so stinking awesome. I came home from the gym that morning, ate a good breakfast and packed my bag for a lunch run. The day was a bit stressful and I almost missed my run, but I was determined this time around. I decided to just run for a change. I set my Garmin and then never looked back down at it. I just ran and I needed it too. I was all over Z3 and Z4 the entire run, but I didnt care. I averaged a 9:46min/mile pace and I loved it. Good to know I can still run a bit fast if I want to.

Saturday - 30 minute trainer ride.
Oh. My. Gosh woke up Saturday with sore legs. I guess apparently 6 months of Z2 training makes for weak legs because my run Friday torched my legs. I'm a little ashamed to say it, but its true. This is all the more reason I want to begin incorporating speed work into my weekly plan. The purpose of the first 10 weeks of my plan is to build an aerobic base, but I have been doing that for 6 months. I'm going with my gut on this one.....and keeping my sanity. I used Saturdays ride as a bit of a shake out. Took it easy and just rode.

Sunday - 30 minute run
The weather has been cooling off a lot more here in Texas and it was a bit of a chilly run. It was refreshing to be honest. My heart rate seemed to be doing better. I found myself running in Z1, which is rare sight for me. After the halfway point in my run, I started reaching the upper limit of Z2 and was forced to slow down. I averaged a 12:43min/mile pace. Not the best pace ever, but still happy with it. Especially since I was able to run a while in Z1/Z2.

Well, like I said, its been an interesting couple of weeks. I think the introduction of the vitamin is really helping. As a nutritionist I really don't like to admit that MY dietary intake is lacking, but the truth is, it has been. My iron levels have been low and my energy levels were even lower. Last week I focused on it and I was able to see improvement which tells me that I need to keep my head in the game and make sure I'm eating well and taking my supplements. Week 5 will be my last week of 30 minute workouts. My weekend rides and runs will start building in duration and I will begin brick workouts weekly. Things only go up from here so I know I need to stay focused. Do you have any tips or tricks that you use to keep your nutritional goals in check? Be sure to share them with me in the comments below. I know I need all the extra motivation I can get right now!

Happy Running,

Healthy Shopping Haul with Sprouts

Happy Monday babes! I hope you had an amazingly wonderful weekend! I'm still recovering from mine. We took the kids hiking out at Cedar Ridge Preserve again and then out to the country side to visit my in-laws on their new farm.

It was such an amazing time. They have chickens, horses, cats, dogs, the whole works. I even met the fattest and cutest pig ever. Her name is Chubbs, just look at that face!

All the excitement from hiking and chasing animals left me so drained and worn out that I slept in pretty late on Sunday. I'd planned to do a 30 minute run, but I just couldn't peel myself off the couch. This last week of training really got me down. My energy levels have been beyond low and I think it's due to a mix of low iron levels and a bad diet.

I went to see my doctor before training started to have some blood work done and get a physical. He warned me that my iron was pretty low and that I should take a prenatal vitamin while training. I'm pretty stubborn though and I was sure I could get my iron levels up on my own through diet intake. Unfortunately, my diet has been poo.

It took all the energy I had Sunday, but I peeled myself off the couch for a quick trip to my local Sprouts to pick up some healthy snacks for the week and check out their vitamins. My trouble is that I've been getting pretty "snacky" lately and I've been reaching for those easy-but--not-so-great snacks like potato chips. I just love Sprouts because they have so many healthy options when it comes to snacks and foods and their produce is amazing too!

Today, I thought I'd share my "healthy" shopping haul with you and perhaps inspire some healthier snacks for you as well!

Breakfast is always one of those important meals for me. Especially now that I'm training in the early morning hours, I really find that I need two breakfasts before lunch. You guys should know that the Mexican girl in me about died when I found this chicken chirzo. I LOVE chorizo, but the fat and cholesterol in real chorizo just get me every time. This chicken chorizo is a great alternative. It's higher in iron (which I need right now) and it's also lower in fat and cholesterol.

I also love parfaits for breakfast and as well snacks during the day so I picked up this diary free yogurt alternative in Vanilla. I love SO Delicious products because they don't upset my stomach as much and they're super creamy and delicious.

To go with my yogurt parfaits I found these delicious blueberries and raspberries as well as the sweetest smelling dried figs. Seriously, the aroma made my mouth water in the store. Sprouts has such an amazing selection of dried fruits and nuts. That's one of (the many) reasons I love coming here when I need more of a selection.

To top off my parfaits I picked up this maple dream granola which I think will pair nicely with those figs.

Now, I also wanted to pick up some extra ingredients to make smoothies with this week. I'm hoping to premake a few to take to work with me when I feel that urge to snack. Plus its a great way to get more fruits and vegetables added into my diet.

The  micro nutrients in fruits and vegetable also help in the recovery process which will make for less of those sore days after a hard workout. My body is still adjusting to the 6 days a week training schedule. Even though I haven't had any extremely tough workouts, I find that just working out 6 days a week has made for some pretty sore muscles.

I found these beautiful mangos and these ginormous honey crisp apples. Can you believe the size of these things???

I also found this red beet root powder near the supplements while browsing for protein powder. I opted to get these instead of a protein power because we still have about 5 tubs of it as it is. I've ready a lot lately about the positive effects of beet root on oxygen uptake and efficacy for endurance athletes. Now, while I understand that it has been shown to have SOME benefit I also understand that it's not going to make my Lance Armstrong. I just thought it would be nice to mix in with my smoothies. I've never had a beet root supplement before so this will be an experiment for me. (I'll keep you posted on that.)

While I was in the supplement section I also browsed the prenatal and iron supplements. I'm still so hesitant to take either of them. I just feel like a failure as an nutritionist when I have to supplement because my diet has been off. I want to give my body what it needs so until I can get my act together with food and training, it might be best to supplement.

I picked up this gentle iron specifically because its formulated to digest easily. Most iron supplements are notorious for causing constipation and I definitely don't want to deal with that.

I also picked up the Sprouts brand prenatal vitamin. Important note, I wont be taking both the prenatal and the iron supplement. I wanted to have to options available should I feel the need to boost my iron levels. The prenatal with offer more than just iron and will act as a daily multivitamin but as my diet improves, if I'm feeling like I'm getting enough nutrients from food than I can also opt to take the iron pill.

I also found these yummy smelling lotions and picked up coconut body cream. It gave me a chuckle because my husband's name is Jason. Real talk though, I'm swimming a lot now and my skin has been so dry and itchy. I really needed something to help hydrate it and this body cream seemed perfect.

Last but not least, I stopped by the meat isle so see what specials they had and found these lamb chops. I've never had lamb before and they were a great deal so I picked some up!

Anyone know any good recipes for lamb?

Well that just about covers it. Keep in mind that my pantry was pretty stocked before this trip to Sprouts. I just needed to pick up somethings I couldn't find at my other grocer and I knew Sprouts would have some healthier options.

So, now to the good part! I've teamed up with Sprouts to share some great deals with you and give away a $25 gift card to one lucky reader!

Sprouts is offering 25% off nutritional supplements and body care from October 19th-26th. Plus, you can save an additional 10% when you spend more than $100 on supplements or body care after the discount.

To enter to win the $25 gift card simply enter using one of the entry methods in the rafflecopter below.

If you're sharing on Instagram or Facebook, be sure to enter using the rafflecopter then visit my FB or IG to re-share my giveway post on that social site. It's much easier to re-post then to create a new one.

Open to US residents only. Contest ends Thursday October 20th. Winner will be announced Friday October 21st.

Happy shopping!

Training Check-in: Ironman Week 2

Happy Monday! I hope you all had an awesome weekend and made time to watch the Ironman World Championships. I know I did and it's got be PUMPED!

Week two of training is in the books! This was a good week despite a few mishaps. I'm still struggling a bit to find consistency and get into the swing of things, My home gym was STILL closed this past week and I was commuting to the pool some days. Other days I only had 30 minutes of a workout planned and slept in. All in all, week 2 went well! Here's the breakdown:

Monday - Rest day
'Nuff said

Tuesday - 1600m swim, 30 minute run
Ah two-a-day Tuesday! I'm sure I'll hate this day at some point, but it's nice to have right now with my training being so slow. I slept in a bit this Tuesday. I didn't wake up until about 5:30 am. I've had to commute to the gym over by my office since my home gym (pool) has been closed the last two weeks for renovations. The drive there isn't bad at all, maybe 10-15 minutes max. The drive home is what I need to worry about! I'm fighting rush hour traffic and it creates double drive time. I could have easily showered at the gym and dressed for work there, but apparently I like to make things difficult and drove all the way back to the house. Either way, I sucked it up and got it done. The swim went well. I'm seeing improvements with every swim which makes me feel hopeful. The plan I'm following has swim technique drills worked into every swim workout and I really think it's making a difference, especially since I took so much time off in my off-season. My Garmin was giving me hell on Monday and for some reason that particular swim won't sync with Garmin Connect. So annoying! I feel like it didn't really happen if it's not logged on Garmin Connect. Last week's swim average was 2:30 min/100m, today's swim was 2:25 min/100m so it was nice to see a bit of improvement!

My second workout of the day: 30 minute run. I can't decide if I want to continue to do these runs in the afternoons on my lunch break or the mornings. I really enjoy getting out there in the sun to break up the monotony of the work day, but it's still a bit warm outside and I hate being sweaty and looking a mess on hair-washing day.......wait, you don't have a designated "hair-washing" day?! Ha Ha Ha Welcome to wonderful world of Triathlon!

So as you can see above, the run went SLOW. I spent a ton of time running in Z2 this summer so that I would have an aerobic base to work with this fall. I was averaging 12:30ish in the dead heat of summer so please tell me why, in these cooler temperatures, I'm averaging 13:42 per mile in Z2? Running has definitely become a problem area since training with heart rate zones.  Every single run is a struggle. I keep  hoping for a small sliver of improvement, but with this kind of regression I'm feeling pretty hopeless as I enter this training plan. I've run 9 minute/mile splits in the past (before adopting HR zone training), but I just don't know if I can get back there while maintaining a low Z2 heart rate. Hopefully, I will look back at this post in another 196 days and think, "Wow, I've come a long way!" but for now, I just feel disappointed with my running. 

Wednesday - 30 minute bike
I've quickly learned to love my bike rides! Running has become depressing for me, but riding has become a favorite. I can maintain a 14-16 mph pace while in Z2 while on the trainer. I'll be taking my weekend rides outdoors as soon as my weekend hours pick up so we'll see how it goes! For now, I love sweating it out in the pain cave first thing in the morning. I woke up at 5:30am again to complete this ride even though I could have done it at the gym on my lunch break. I want to spend as much time as I can on MY bike. I know it makes a big difference when you spend time in your own saddle.

Thursday - 30 min bike
Ok, I had wine Wednesday night and slept in Thursday. Guilty as charged! I can't ever wake up early if I've had wine. It doesn't matter if its 1 glass or 1 bottle. It's all the same and it makes me soooo sleepy! I opted to do my ride on my lunch hour at the gym, on the spin bike. So much for creating habits early. I got it done though and I was happy.

Friday - 1600m swim, 30 min run
Ok, Friday was a real test. So, when I was at the gym by my office on Monday running, I noticed that there was a sign up regarding their pool.

Apparently, every freaking LA fitness in DFW was closing for either maintenance or renovations. I called in advance on Thursday to confirm the LA fitness pool to the east of me (Grapevine) would be open. It was about the same distance from the house as the one by work, but in the opposite direction (away from work). I woke up Friday to the sound of pouring rain and the thought of fighting rush hour traffic, in the rain, after my workout didn't sound like the best idea. So, I opted to do my swim after work.

Originally, I'd planned to do my run on lunch, as I had on Monday however, I learned that the locker rooms were CLOSED. Which meant no-post run shower. So again, I held off.

Now, there is ANOTHER LA Fitness about 15 minutes west of my office in Down town Fort Worth. When I got off work I thought it would be easier to head down town rather than fight rush hour traffic to drive back east PAST my house to get the gym I'd planned to go to earlier that morning. As luck would have it, I called the down town LA fitness and they had just re-opened their pool that day. HAZAA! I headed straight there after work only to realize I'd forgotten all my gear at home.

At this point I developed an eye-twitch. No joke. I had my gym bag and suit, but none of my swim gear (goggles, paddles, etc). I'll be dammed if I was going to skip this swim with an open pool (finally) right at my finger tips. Luckily, I'm a hoarder and found an unopened swim cap that I'd shoved in my gym bag months ago. I also had a pair of broken kids goggles shoved in there for some reason. So, I tied the broken goggles strap together, put on my new swim cap and suited up! The swim was awesome! I was even faster than Monday too. Average: 2:22 min/100m. It was pretty late at this point and my family was already home waiting on me. I opted to forego the run and skip this workout. I'm a bit sad that I missed it, but I'm proud of myself for getting that swim in despite all the hurdles I had to jump!

Saturday - 30 min bike
There was a new trail I wanted to test out Saturday, but it was also Kona Day. There was no way I was going the miss the live coverage so I set up my bike in the living room and knocked out the ride before the race started.

How about that finish by Daniela Ryf though! She had a 20 minute lead, incredible! I streamed the race most of the day and just kept thinking about IMTX and how awesome this will be. It's all so inspiring.

[Photo credit:]

Sunday - 30 min run
I woke up feeling super dry on Sunday. I'm not sure if it's just my body adapting to a training schedule or if I'm in the early stages of weight loss. My stomach was flatter, I felt a bit leaner, and things looked great! I took everything I had not to step on the scale. I have decided to monitor my weight, but I'm only checking it once every two weeks. It's so easy to become obsessed with that number. Anyway, Sundays ride went well. I'm not seeing any improvements like I am with swimming, but I hope to very soon. I think as soon as I start doing those rides outdoors things will improve. So, here's hoping!

Well, that wraps up another week of training. I've got another couple of weeks before my schedule becomes a bit intense. Again, the first 10 weeks are base phase so there are no really long rides or swims. I don't even think I will get over 1 and half hours on the bike at any given point before week 11. I'm enjoying this part of my training for the most part. I'm very surprised at my areas of improvements and areas of hardships.

Until next week babes! Happy running,

Training Check-In: Ironman Week1

Well babes I've wrapped up my first week of Ironman training! Woo hoo! As you read this I'm a little over halfway through week two as well, but more on that next week. So far so good! My training plan has a base phase built in so the first 10 weeks are super easy and are meant more for building my endurance base. This means lots of short workouts in zone two (aerobic zone) and lots of focus on technique.

Here's how my week went:

Monday - Rest day
What an awesome way to start a training plan! Day one knocked out with incredible ease! Actually, it was a little hard to know I was officially "in training" and not have anything to do. I knew that I needed to rest up for the week ahead so I stayed true to my plan. No training at all this day, not even weights.

Tuesday - 1600 meter swim and 15 minute run in Z2
Now we're getting to the good stuff! I haven't been in the pool very much this summer so I was a little anxious about my performance level. I started my workout with a 200 meter warm up and actually felt a little winded so I knew I was pretty out of shape. Luckily, I had several swim drills scheduled before my main set so I was able to slow down and tweak my swim stroke for more efficiency. I finished in about 52 minutes which gave me an average of 2:30 min/100m. That's a far cry from a PR, but its a great place to start I suppose.

Tuesday's will henceforth be known as "Two-a-day Tuesdays" as I will have two workouts schedule every Tuesday.

My second workout of the day was an easy 15 minute run while staying in zone 2. I opted to run on the treadmill at lunch since I only had 15 minutes planned. Normally I'll take my runs outdoors to enjoy the sunshine but I went to the gym on my lunch break and did a bit of weight lifting after my run. I'm going to have to figure out how to balance strength training with Ironman training. I'm such a sissy when it comes to sore muscles.

Wednesday - 15 minute bike in Z2
I headed to the gym again on my lunch break for Wednesday's workout. I spent 15 minutes on the spin bike and then did a little more strength training. I took it super easy as to avoid sore muscles.

Thursday - 15 minute bike in Z2
Ok, I skipped this workout. I know, I know! That's no way to to start a training plan, but I had an event Thursday evening with the Dallas Fitness Ambassadors. The DFA was celebrating it's 1 year anniversary and we had CorePower yoga planned so I didn't want to wake up at 5am just for 15 minutes on the trainer and then stay out late with the DFA. Honestly, I woke up with the intention of going to the gym on lunch again, but work got in the way and I just skipped it.

My evening with the DFA was amazing though! We had a huge turn out and the event was just perfect! The lighting was just right (every bloggers dream) the weather was cool and there was a slight breeze. We gathered at Jade Waters at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas for Silent Disco Yoga. What an experience that was! If you have never participated in a quiet event, you should totally check it out. We wore these neat headphones with two channels. One was dedicated to a live playlist of EDM by the DJ we had on site. The other was our instructors playlist mixed with his mic feed so that we could hear the instructions. We had our choice of experiences. So cool!

 After an amazing workout we gathered for live music poolside with lots of goodies. Muscle milk was there mixing up fruit smoothies, Unrefined and Society bakery also provided gluten free cupcakes and cookies (which I ate WAY too many of). Unfortunately, I  had to leave early to be up for my 5am swim session on Friday. I have a feeling I will have many more of these disappointing situations in the next 30 weeks.

(All event photos courtesy of the DFA. You can visit their page and see the whole album here)

Friday - 1600 meter swim and 15 minute run in Z2
Surprisingly, I made it to the gym on time. My home gym is currently closed for renovations this week so I commuted to the gym by my office on Tuesday and Friday. It's a pretty short drive at 5:30 in the morning, but man the traffic back is awful. I woke up feeling really sore from the CorePower yoga session in my legs and shoulders. It had a bit of an effect on my swim as I fatigued quicker but I managed to get it all done in less time than on Tuesday. I was really worried about the upcoming weekend with sore legs. I opted to skip the second workout of the day to save my legs and rest a bit.

Saturday - 30 minute run Z2
Ok so stay with me here. I flipped my schedule this weekend. Saturdays will be my long bike day and Sundays will be my long run day but we had a family BBQ planned Saturday and it was going to rain Sunday. I figured I could get my run in outdoors and then ride indoors on Sunday. Gettin' crafty already! Unfortunately, I woke up Saturday in outter space. My head was super cloudy and I just felt off. to make things worse, I'd scratched my cornea with my contact lens the night before and had to wear my glasses. Have you ever run in glasses???? Well, I haven't. I've had glasses since I was 7 and I have never once had to run while wearing them. It made me dizzy! I actually lost my balance and fell on my knee. It gave me a pretty bad bruise as well. It was just a terrible run! I couldn't keep my heart rate down and ended up with a 13 min/mile pace. I probably would have had better luck walking.

Sunday - 30 minute bike Z2
Talk about a great day! I woke up around 8am, hopped on the trainer, found an awesome channel on YouTube called Indoor Cycling Videos and killed my 30 minute trainer session.

Overall the week went really well. I'd been trying so hard to wake up early the previous week to get used to being up at 5am to train again and just couldn't seem to do it. As soon as Tuesday came around and I had to be at the pool, I popped out of bed like a piece of warm toast out of the toaster. Easy peezy lemon squeezy! Funny how that works isn't is?

Well loves I hope your week is going super! Are you training for anything right now? Hows it going?

I'll check back in with you next week. I have some pretty exciting things planned and hope to start blogging like a real blogger very soon. ha ha ha

Happy running!

Overcoming Depression, Self-harm & Addiction - How Endurance Sports Saved Me

Truth be told, I wrote this post about a year ago. I've been waiting for the "right" time to share it, but something in the back of my mind was always afraid to. Today, as I gear up for a thirty-week training program for my first full Ironman, I feel compelled to share the reason why I decided to do this race in the first place. I also wanted to share my story because it might give someone out there hope and perhaps help them find the light if they're lost in the dark, as I once was.

"Triathlon heals broken things, all you have to do is tri"

If you have ever met me in person you may have noticed the scars on my arm. Most of the time I avoid conversation about them. If someone asks, "What happened?", I have learned to change the subject or just answer "Oh, you know, when I was a kid..." and attempt to change the subject as quickly as possible. The truth is, I suffered from depression and self-harm for most of my childhood and throughout my teen years.

I didn't have the most perfect childhood, but then again, who does? I was raised by a mother who suffered from severe depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder herself. Over the years it developed more into, what was then called, split personality disorder or now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder). I'd rather not go into the dirty details about it, but I will say it lead to some pretty scary situations when I was younger. The police were involved several times and there were open CPS cases against my mother. Over time I think we all began to see that her home was not the best place for any child even if CPS didn't agree. My older brother and sister both moved out when I was about 12 and shortly after I was sent to stay with my older brother, who was still just a young man himself.

Over the years I attempted to remain close to my mother. As her illness worsened she was prescribed more and more medication. The cabinet under her sink looked like a pharmacy and I remember her in and out mental institutions many times. When I got into high school, I attempted to move back in with her, but we fought endlessly. She would have episodes where she wasn't herself, but one of her alters and it frightened me. She attempted suicide a few times during these episodes and, once in particular, I remember having to remove the knife from her hand. Because of the medication she was on, she would also have seizures and blackouts and would need emergency assistance. It was about this time that I began to self harm. It was a very dark time for me. I had been sad and scared for so many years and it was confusing for me to understand her behavior. Both my sister and brother, who had always been my protectors, moved out and I was all alone with this "person". I honestly didn't know how to handle it. Being a teenager is hard enough, but when you live in constant fear, you cope in strange ways.

I moved back in with my brother for my sophomore year and things seemed to get better. My brother encouraged me to begin running cross country and try out for sports. I remember my coach really taking me under his wing. He was the first person that really showed an interest in me because of something other than my family troubles. He believed in me and, with his direction I lettered in cross country that year. Running became my outlet. It became the thing I did to survive. My brother and sister were both always by my side, but running was truly my escape. This birthed my love of the sport.

The time came for me to move out of my bothers house. My sister agreed to have me move in with her and her best friend. She had been through her own struggles, living in several different places over a short period while she struggled to finish high school and learned to support herself. By then however, she was stably providing her herself, in college, and roommating with her best friend in the house her mother had left for her. That year I was granted educational guardianship of myself so that I could join a work/study program and begin to support to myself. Honestly, I was just a kid and did what any kid would do; I went a bit crazy. I moved out and barely finished high school, but I did it with the guidance of my sister and her friend (who is really more like family now).

I decided that I didn't need to go to college and charged head-on into the working force. I was caught up in adult life, but I was still very much a child. I stopped running, moved out of my sister's after graduation and became very depressed. I knew I needed help so I made the decision to see a doctor who then prescribed me the anti-depressant Alprazolam or Xanax as its commonly called.Even now as I look back at it, I can't recall anyone ever telling me that medication wasn't the cure. After all, I'd seen my own mother take what seemed to be an endless supply of medication. In fact, I distinctly remember her and her doctors telling her she would need to be on medication for the rest of her life.

Over the next couple of years, I developed a dependency to these drugs. The more I took them, the more numb I became. My life seemed to spiral down further into depression and I took more and more medication. The time came that I too was having blackouts. I had started self medicating and I wasn't taking the pills as directed. I was still self harming and anytime I felt anything at all, I took a pill.

Eventually there weren't enough pills. I knew that I couldn't stop taking them because when I did I would get sick with dizziness and nausea. I reached out to my family and finally asked for help. My sister and brother helped get me the treatment I needed. I was admitted to the hospital to complete a medically supervised detox for a week to wean myself off of the medication and then I entered an intensive out patient treatment. There I finally had the chance to talk to someone and begin working on me. I learned that self medicating and self-harm had been my only outlets and they were self-perpetuating. I also learned that I had stopped feeling anything at all. There was no happiness, there was no sadness, there was just emptiness. I also learned that I didn't have to feel this way (imagine that!). I didn't need to be empty to survive because I could learn to FEEL and LIVE again.

I can't begin to explain what it's like to have to learn how to feel emotion again. To learn how to cope with real heart-ache head on and sober, feel happiness and joy again and to be filled with the emotion that had been suppressed for so many years. I had so much help from my sister. She too struggled with her emotions regarding childhood but was always steadfast in her therapy to work through her feelings. Without her guidance, I don't think I would have found the strength to make it through that time.

After about a year of therapy, I felt like I was starting to become me again. I finally decided to go back to school and I started living my life. My sister, who was now working on her PhD, was there again guiding me back to a positive life.  I signed up for college classes, got an apartment, and tried to be a normal person. I poured everything I had into my education. I had a few relapses that first year and I stopped going to my counselor due to insurance issues, but I managed to maintain my recovery.

I met my husband about a year later and we got married. He had two small children and I was incredibly excited to have them in my life and be a mom for the first time. I also started running again and really began to remember how much joy it brought me. My husband was so supportive and we even got the kids involved and we all raced our first 5k together. After I completed my first half marathon, I knew that it was time to begin my journey. For so many years I had robbed myself of life. Here I was, with a family who loved me, I was in school bettering myself, and I was still maintaining sobriety!

For the first time it felt like there was endless possibility. I knew I didn't want to waste this life! I decided to throw myself full force into running and that eventually lead me to triathlon. Things got pretty hard there for a few years. As I continued my education, I found myself struggling to balance work, school and family life. At one point I was in school full time, working two jobs, and trying to find time for my family. There were some pretty hard days. I can say without a doubt that training was the only way I coped. It gave me hope to have a race on the horizon. I gave me purpose and reminded me that the stress was worth it.

Every race was a celebration of my life and everyday I decided to go out and train, regardless of the reason or mood, I was celebrating my life. There was so many years that I didn't think I could do any of this. There were so many times that depression clouded my sight of the future or that medication kept me from having hope. It felt like there was no tomorrow. It felt like I didn't deserve happiness. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Today, I celebrate my life. I graduated college with a degree in nutrition (which I've also discovered is my passion). I continue to race triathlon, as you already know. This year I am celebrating 10 years free from depression, self-harm, and addiction. Of course there, are days that I feel down or scared but I know now that I DO have a positive outlet. I know that depression does not have a place in my life and neither does medication or self-harm. If I ever begin to feel those things again, I turn them right into training fuel. I look at my family and I cant even begin to think of what my life would be like without them. I'm strong for them just as much as I am for myself. Everything I do is for them. I want my children to see me and be inspired to do great things. If they ever experience self doubt, I want them to know that there is a positive way to work through their struggles and that medication is NOT the answer.

So here I am, about to train for my first Ironman. Why? Because this has been my journey. When I was little my brother told me about this thing called "Ironman" and said it was the hardest race in the world. I remember him saying that only the strongest athletes could do it. Here I am with years of triathlon and running experience under my belt, years of recovery and mental toughness built into my story. I know that I am that strong athlete!

When I cross that finish line, I truly believe it will be the ultimate celebration of life. Every training day spent represents a hard day that I chose to live through. Every time I made the choice to step out on the pavement or exhaust myself in a pool, I was choosing life rather than the vices that once held me down. I was choosing to keep going even when things felt unbearable. I'm grateful for my past. Without it, I would not be who I am today. The strength I gained from my experiences with addiction and self-harm have brought me to where I am today in my training. I have an Iron will and I know that I can overcome any obstacle. Crossing that finish line means so much more than becoming an Ironman; it means that I am so much stronger than my addiction ever was.

I've also decided to dedicate my journey to become an Ironman to a cause that is near and dear to my heart. Shatterproof is a national organization committed to protecting people from addiction to illicit and prescription drugs. More than that, it strives to end the stigma and suffering of those affected by this disease. It is an organization that truly understands that addiction is a profound public health crisis. One of their many initiatives it to reduce prescription misuse and abuse. They advocate the mandate that both prescribing professionals and dispensing pharmacists utilize their state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) and mandate prescribe education on evidence-based prescribing standards.

I will have more information coming in the near future regarding the local fundraising events I will be hosting throughout the year. For now, if you would like support my cause by making a donation, join my team to help raise funds, or just leave me a message of support please feel free visit my Shatterproof Fit page here for more information. I hope you'll take this journey with me and help spread the message that #weareshatterproof.

Happy Running!

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