Training Update: What am I thinking?

Confused? The idea for my first VLOG came about due to an upcoming assignment.

Next week I’m heading out to the Michigan Ice Fest in Munising. I’m going ice climbing. And no, that’s not a typo. This should be relatively amusing, in part because I’m not a huge fan of cold and I’m afraid of heights. That said, I love a solid adventure, the outdoors and the UP, so I figured when else would I try this if not now. In addition to my standard writing and photography, I’m also shooting video.

Today, I spent some time familiarizing myself with my new GoPro. And, because I’m a total dork, I thought I’d share some behind the scenes suffering of me training for my upcoming race in May. Don’t worry, I won’t inundate you with shots of my legs in spandex over this series of posts I plan to share. But, I do hope to share some of the beauty I see on the trails (once I’m outside) and a little bit about why I run and how tough it is for someone my size to build speed and endurance. Regardless of these challenges, I plan to keep slogging away.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a girl’s weekend in the UP. I’ve carefully plotted out coffee stops to fuel my way through something that’s totally outside of my element. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of shots and maybe even a few stories to share from my adventure.

Early Morning Resolution

Happy New Year! How are those resolutions treating you? I’d just like to go on record right now saying mine are slowly killing my will to live. Fourteen days ago, I started on a quest to factor me-time into everyday of my life to focus on wellness. My solution—wake up by 5:30 am everyday so that it wouldn’t cut into family, mommy, wife, friend or work time. On the flip side, the time once known as end of the day veg in front of Bravo time would go if needed due to being tired.

Let me backtrack one second and preface this resolution by telling you I am NOT a morning person. I cherish my sleep. I do best during regular business hours. The idea that I’d get up an hour early just to ensure I had enough time to hit the treadmill, lift weights, stretch or journal seemed a bit preposterous. But, last fall I started reading a lot by Brene Brown and this notion of creating habits to the point where the norm or your daily habit just is something you do versus something you think about. This theory resonated with me. After all, given how much I value sleep, I question whether I’d really get up early enough everyday to shower if it wasn’t something that had become part of my daily grooming routine.

In the past two weeks, I’ve hit the treadmill 8 times, completed yoga and cardio twice, completed a journal post and what I’m calling meditating once. To others, it may have appeared to seem like me staring at the wall in a zombie like stupor because I had stayed up too late the night before watching the Bachelorette but that’s neither here nor there. This mindful staring took place at 5:40 am. Today was the first time I missed my wellness time because I had an early morning work meeting. Surprisingly, I felt out of whack all day. And this excites me for a variety of reasons. If after a mere 12 days, not working on me in the morning seems unusual, imagine what will happen if I make it another week. Or, better yet, another month? I’m quite excited about the new found potential of this New Year’s Resolution.

Ultimately, I’d love for several things to happen with this experiment. First off, in 15 weeks from tomorrow, I’d love to finish the Journey’s Half-Marathon in Eagle River in under 3-hours. Second, in coming months I’d love to utilize some of this time to have a garden that doesn’t look like a Black Thumb Bomb was initiated within it. Finally, I’d love to write my way into closure on some lingering issues I need to just document on paper for my well-being and ability to live a more present and grateful life. Note, the goal here is to not lose weight. Obviously, this is another issue I come face-to-face with on a daily basis. But, I’m hoping that this experiment will help me understand how to form better habits when it comes to food. In other words, running my fastest half-marathon and creating a beautiful garden out of a pile of sand seemed easier in my mind than practicing portion control.

I share all of this with you just because I know by sharing this, I’ll likely continue on this journey. Or, at least that’s been the case with announcing blindly 5-years ago that I was going to run a half-marathon. If it hadn’t been for my very naïve public statement that I would do that, well I’m sure I wouldn’t have finished my first race and therefore never had the next five. So there you have it. A new year, a different me. We’ll see how that goes.

One last note…if you have 30-seconds, watch this ad. Then resume reading this post. (dramatic pause here).

In the grand scheme of things, this ad is a large online booking company trying to differentiate itself. I’m generally not a sucker for this type of marketing. But this ad, well it played on my first morning on my first day of getting up early. Before the tiger even came out, I was bawling on the treadmill. This might have been because of the early hour. But, I’d also like to believe that maybe, just maybe, this stupid commercial hit a heart string that many of my friends can relate too—the overwhelming love, sense of responsibility and desire to be an amazing mother. It sort of accompanies the bucket list of must do vacations with Jake before he’s too old and doesn’t think his mother is cool. This is a serious concern of mine. He already gives dad preferential treatment over me because I wipe his boogers and attempt to give him weekly baths. Anyways, at the end of the day, I think the underlining goal of this year’s resolution is that by finding me time and ways to improve the things that get me down, I can be a better mom. Now that’s something, I can get up at 5:30 am for daily.

 

2015: You Were Sort of an A$$hole

Happy-new-year-2015-quoteI must admit, when midnight strikes I’ll have no problem saying good-bye to 2015. Looking back, I watched it deal out a lot of heartache and pain. At times it was cruel, callous and calculated on harming those I care about. It served up individual setbacks that on the surface seemed minor, but when combined, packed a powerful punch. In short, it was sort of an asshole.

But, the great thing about time is it keeps moving. Tomorrow, a new year starts. While I’ll gladly flip the calendar, I won’t throw out what I learned this past year. Setbacks made me stronger and wiser. They reinforced what matters. They made me grateful for the amazing people I’m lucky enough to surround myself with in this roller coaster called life. And, they made me enjoy all that was wonderful in 2015, that much more.

Looking ahead, I have a laundry list of tasks I hope to accomplish. I want to clear a 3-hour Half-Marathon, build muscle and blast fat. I want to take more photos, kayak, cook, travel, garden and read more. I want to giggle and snuggle with my son while he still thinks I’m cool. I want to experience new adventures with my husband. But most importantly, I want to continue living life on my terms in a place I love. While I doubt I’ll achieve everything on this list, the one thing I know is I’ll make sure I’m having fun trying.

I hope everyone finds peace with the year that was 2015 and finds comfort in knowing there is always tomorrow. There is always a chance to right the wrong, love, learn and grow. There is time for new experiences, laughter and joy. When life doles out lemons, there is comfort in knowing this too shall pass.

To everyone in my life, thank you for sharing this ride with me. It isn’t always easy but you make it worth it!

Becoming an Outdoor Woman – Pure Michigan

bow bow1A fresh snow on Moon Lake made it finally feel like winter. The snow coincides with me getting the latest travel guide from Pure Michigan. Inside, I finally got to see an article I put together last winter in print. It is all about being an outdoor woman. The assignment was perfect for me. I absolutely love the UP and being outside. The trip was my first time away from Jake for a vacation. Granted, I was working the entire time but I left being reminded of how much I love experiencing nature and how I couldn’t wait to share some of these experiences with Jake once he’s a bit older. The edited version of the piece can be found here. Or, here is a much earlier draft that shared a bit more about some of the amazing women I met over this 72-hour period in Big Bay, Michigan. For anyone interested in experiencing the outdoors in an environment that embraces women and all of the insecurities we sometimes face when exploring the great outdoors, this camp couldn’t be better. Happy Reading!

Girls just want to have fun! The DNR provides a grown-up version of Summer Camp for women twice a year in the northern tip of the UP.

Ding, ding, ding! A bell rings signaling the start to my weekend long adventure along with dinner in what’s fondly referred to as the Big House. I follow the bright eyed, enthusiastic group of 70 women to cafeteria style tables where food and stories are passed with similar enthusiasm. Glancing at the hearty homemade lasagna and catching a whiff of the fresh baked garlic bread, it is easy to understand why. By the time I savor my last bight of homemade apple pie, it quickly becomes clear there will be no carb counting this weekend.

In fact, nothing is off limits this weekend at the Winter Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) Camp at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, Michigan (25 miles north of Marquette). Over the course of the next few days, I watch and participate with mother-daughter teams, friends, seniors and strangers as we build snow forts, sleep outside in sub-zero temperatures, dogsled, snowshoes, ski, cook, learn self-defense, tie flies, fish and laugh… a lot.

Laughing is key. BOW is a national program that originated in the 90s when a professor recognized one of the reasons women weren’t getting into fishing and hunting is because they prefer to be taught by women and want to learn in a non-competitive atmosphere.

This weekend, that sentiment rings true. “I love the instructors,” says Catherine Sanborn of Bruce Cross, Michigan. For 10-years, she’s made the trek to Big Bay. “They teach you to do things without yelling at you the way your husband might.” Over the years, she’s tried everything from fishing to handgun safety, while making friends along the way. “The people here become life-long friends.”

It is easy to understand why, given over half the participants and most of the volunteer instructors have been making the trek to Big Bay for years. “I’m a BOW junkie,” laughs 5-year veteran Carrie Moritz. Each year, she and her mother-in-law drive up from southern Minnesota to attend the summer and winter camp. She’s taken many of the classes, but one in particular has stuck.

“I’ve taken wood burning every year. Over the years, I’ve really honed my skills and now I’m selling pieces on Etsy and making things for friends,” she explains. “It is something I love that I never would have discovered without BOW.”

Woodburning, like so many of the other courses, empower you to try something new. As someone who is more comfortable running a half-marathon than drawing a stick figure, I quickly learn that pushing your comfort zone isn’t just physical. By the time I’m done etching a flaming red pen along a freshly sanded piece of Baswood, my charred name tag and swirling oak leaves are barely legible. But, this doesn’t stop me from wearing it like a badge of courage the rest of the weekend.

In-between classes, impromptu snowshoe hikes along Lake Superior, bonfires and S’moreos, saunas, board games, and relaxing in front of the fireplace provide a backdrop for new friendships to develop and memories to be made.

For Ilene Smith, her only goal was to do something special with her college aged kids. Chatting with them prior to our final meal together, her 19-year old daughter Alex casually says, “I don’t want to be morbid. But, this is something I could see talking about at my mom’s funeral. My mother doesn’t have a ton of money but what she’s given me is memories.”

Mission accomplished mom.

As I make my way to my car, I pause for a moment under the gazebo basking in the surprisingly warm winter sun. Before me, the world’s largest freshwater lake looms large. I soak it all in and can’t help but think back to our speaker the first night who shared her personal story and struggles while circumnavigating Isle Royale. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just worth it.”

How Pepe Is Teaching Me A Thing Or Two About Gratitude

pepeLife on Moon Lake tends to embrace the best of rural living and access to city services. My house is heated with natural gas. I can walk to the library, grocery store, pizza place, elementary school and even a winery on a nice Wisconsin day. But, I can enjoy the tranquility of living on a lake surrounded by trees listening to the sounds of whistling loons. It is a life I love. But, it also comes with some unexpected surprises.

Since entering the chaos that comes with parenting, Steve and I have become a little looser on where our compost ends up. Up until now, this flexible composting has resulted in the occasional squirrel, deer and extra birds. But this fall, while enjoying a binge of Scandal, I noticed a pair of piercing eyes pressed against my window. It turns out Pepe had found our stash. At the time, I was safe. But, I also knew that with a 2-year old, dog, three cats and a husband, this was going to be a problem. I gently, but firmly (aka barked orders), asked my husband to euthanize or quietly relocate our newest critter on Moon Lake. My husband found humor in my angst, patted my shoulder and told me it’d be alright.

Over the course of the next month, Pepe’s visits became more aggressive in nature. In addition to interrupting my television show, compost was missing and several successful garbage attempts resulted in a rather disgusting mess in our driveway. Despite this growing aggression from Pepe, my husband still felt it necessary to let Pepe reside and thrive on Moon Lake.

Things came to a climax in mid-October. Steve let Joey out right before we went to bed. There was an altercation. Before I even knew what had happened, Steve ushered Joey into our home in attempts to prevent her from absorbing the smell from Pepe. The only problem – she had been Pepe’s target and was covered with the hideous smell only a skunk can disperse. By the time I could react, our dog had ran wild in our house, rubbing her sprayed fur on carpets, rugs, blankets and my bed. The smell was overwhelming. Even moreso, when my husband casually asked me to confirm if our dog had been sprayed since he couldn’t tell for sure, I seriously questioned the intelligence of the man I love.

Thanks to Google, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, we were able to salvage much of Joey’s fur (unless she gets wet). After doing 10-12 loads of laundry and breaking our dryer, many of the clothes and blankets were salvaged or destroyed…. With the exception of one. My favorite, plush, micro-fleece blanket that was a wedding gift. I love this blanket. But, despite washing it multiple times, utilizing countless dryer sheets and even leaving it outside to air dry for multiple weeks, every time I go to snuggle into it I catch this lingering whiff of Pepe. I imagine this may be some form of PTSD, but regardless it interrupts my precious sleep patterns.

For the past few weeks, my husband has encouraged me to remove the blanket from my bed. It could go in storage until next spring or permanently retire. But for some reason, I just keep hanging on to it.

As we enter the season of giving, I can’t help but think of the toxic things we love in life that we hold onto even when it is time to let them go. And how sometimes, we focus on them and miss all that is good in our life. Perhaps it is cliché, but last night while snuggling into bed after a weekend of prepping holiday cards, I couldn’t help but think, why? Why can’t I be more grateful for everything I do have and let go of the rest? It seems so simple on paper but seemingly impossible in my life.

A quick google search about practicing gratitude informs me that millions of people have ideas, suggestions and theories on how to be more grateful for what’s in your life. For me, I’m going to start small. If you are still reading this, there is a good chance you play a role in my life. Thank you for that. I don’t need a book or theory to tell me how blessed I am, in part because of the amazing people I’m lucky enough to call family, friends, colleagues or partners.

And, while this sounds silly, tonight when I go home I’m going to remove that lingering smell from my bed. And, as I get ready to enter the craziness that this time of year brings, I’m going to do my best to focus on what matters.

One last note, for my animal lover friends, Pepe lives. Immediately following his Saturday night encounter with Joey, he went into hiding. I’m confident he has not relocated but rather found a safe, secure resting spot somewhere on our property until next spring. My gut says this story is far from over… so for now… to be continued.

Running Towards My Dream

635818006858912368At lunch yesterday, a couple of curious friends casually hinted that I hadn’t posted about the coffee shop lately. I’ve been hesitant to doing so because I’ve found when I put things on this site, they tend to happen. Or in this case, don’t happen. That’s right. The coffee shop is on hold.

I could give an entire laundry list of reasons why—with the largest being a suitable space. There is also the whole regional workforce shortage and inability for me to find work-life balance as well. But the truth is, these roadblocks could be conquered… but only if I was 100% ready to go all in and compromise a bit on my vision for Iron River Coffee.

Over the course of the last year, I spent a lot of time exploring how to make a coffee shop work. I met with a lot of individuals smarter than I and crunched a lot of numbers. I dreamed big about having my own private coffee label and began envisioning my brand. I met with realtors, saved money and read coffee business books. I looked at auction sites and spent a lot of time researching other shops by taste testing drinks and treats and testing wi-fi. I learned a ton. And, I know that someday in my future I will own or invest in a coffee shop.

But someday isn’t today. This fall I spent some time doing the hardest part of business planning—soul searching. And the more I searched, the more I discovered that while there are many reasons I should go into business, there are many reasons I’m just not ready. Sure, some of it is fear of the unknown. Some of it is fear of failure. Some of it is risk tolerance. Some of it is timing. But, even if I push beyond those basic business fears, there was a large part of me that discovered I just don’t want the added stress of a business on my plate right now.

This is tough for me to acknowledge. The old me would have plowed ahead and said well I said I was going to open a business so I’m going to do it… even if I’m not ready and I know the timing isn’t right for me and my family. I know some of you are thinking there will never be a good time for me to do this. But, I can guarantee you there will be a better time for me to do this. And that will be at the moment when my heart says so.

So for now, I’ll continue to jot down menu ideas. Create coffee concoctions at home and set my grill on fire roasting beans from around the world. I’ll visit shops on my travels and allow myself to wonder what if. And someday, what if will become what is. And, when that time comes, I know is it’ll be built on my timeline and achieve my dream of a creative community space where folks can connect while indulging in affordable caffeine.

You might be wondering why a post all about the coffee shop involves a random pic of me running. I’m not sure other than to say, this month I completed my 6th Half-Marathon. It was my best Whistlestop time and I missed a PR by 3-minutes. I didn’t achieve my goal this year. But, I made it halfway. And I’m not done yet. The older I get, the more I’m learning life is about making tough choices. In many ways it would have been easier for me to open a coffee shop and abandon my running goal. I’m pretty confident I’d be a much better business owner than athlete… But, I plan to keep on running.

I’m working on some changes for next spring when I line up again in hopes I can break the 3-hour barrier. Because that my friends, is one dream I’m not willing to put on hold.

Last… As in Last Place. Thanks Nike.

An interesting post came up in my Twitter feed today. If it were a promoted Tweet, I would have seriously wondered exactly what in my Twitter profile exemplifies exactly how slow I run.

Fast Company shared Nike’s latest ad. In the Tweet, they call this ad a soulful tribute to last place. It immediately peaked my attention given my consistency in finishing in the bottom half of races for 5+ years. The ad itself is well done. It certainly triggered one of my favorite Half-Marathon moments, when while running in Door County, I could hear the awards ceremony going on. I still had about 5-miles to go. I remember turning to the person running next to me at the time and saying, “I guess we didn’t win this one.” At the time it seemed funny. But it is true. Running any race is difficult, both mentally and physically. But, I am 100% confident that running a race from the back of the pack is much more difficult. It is harder physically. It is harder mentally since you must maintain focus for twice that of someone in the front half. And, emotionally, it is hard to push through the self-doubt that comes with coming in last.

Nike manages to capture the glory of the back of the pack in their latest ad thoughtfully titled: Last. Watch it now:

I’m not sure if I’m inspired by the notion that I probably won’t die at my race on October 10. Granted, it is a half-marathon versus a marathon. But, I do appreciate Nike acknowledging that there are a whole lot of us in the back of the pack that buy Nike clothes too. Without us inspiring to be better and to try harder, they wouldn’t be nearly as profitable. So thanks for that.

On the training front, I completed my last long run of the season. It wasn’t a great time but I felt strong. The next two weeks will be spent doing some short runs and lots of cross-training and hiking. Fall is gearing up to be gorgeous and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. Hoping for some great race day weather to close-out a fun season of runs.