I Did It!

Running a marathon has been on my bucket list for a while. While it wasn’t easy, and took two years to actually get there and a whole lot of support from my friends, family and co-workers, I’m thrill to say “I Did It!”

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Here is a sweet round up of the best posters along the course: 23 Best Marathon Signs

I definitely remember seeing #1 and thinking of my sister-in-law Courtney, #6, #9, I didn’t see #12 but that song was on my playlist thanks to Matt, and a lot of signs like #14 (sorry Mom, I don’t know why people are so mean to you). The other sign I saw a lot of said “You are running better than the government” but it wasn’t included in this round up.

All in all, the marathon was a great experience (although I am still trying to recover). It was a great day to be a New Yorker, especially one who loves Boston. Thank you to everyone who helped get me across the finish line!

Conquering Fears

This weekend I participated in the NYC triathlon. The race consisted of a 1 mile swim, a 40k (24.8 miles) bike and a 10k (6.2 miles) run. Most of you would probably assume that for me, the race got more challenging as it went along . For the most part, you are right. My swim time was 7th in my age group (not going to lie, a slight disappointment), my bike split was 20th and my run split was 102nd. So yes, things got more difficult for my as the race went along — but that’s only speaking about the physical challenges.

Mentally, the swim was the worst. Ever since I was accepted into this race I’ve been panicking. I mean, swimming in the Hudson? Who wouldn’t be nervous?

Getting ready to brave the waters of the Hudson
Getting ready to brave the waters of the Hudson

But I’ve had a fear of open water swimming for years. Swimming in pools, fine. You can see the bottom, most of the time they don’t contain animals and the chlorine keeps out all of the “bad things.” But swimming in open water, that’s another story.

Some of you may remember this post blog I wrote about visit my grandparents in Florida. In it I mentioned my fear of open water swimming:

Abby and I spent a lot of time swimming in the bay in front of our grandparents house. We would blow up rafts and inner tubes, and see who could stand on them the longest without falling in the water. At the end of the bay, there was a mangrove island, no more than 150 yards away. When Abby was 7 years old, she decided she was going to swim out to this island. My dad jumped in the inflatable row-boat and paddled along besides her as she bravely made her way out to the island and back. When she returned, my grandfather gave her a sliver dollar for accomplishing this feat. Year after year, when we returned to their house, my grandfather would ask me if I was ready to make the same swim. Not until I was 21 years old did I actually do it; and I was freaking out the entire time. Sadly, I never received a silver dollar for my feat of bravery…

So for me, taking on the Hudson, which is fill with who knows what, was a feat for me. And it definitely gave me reason to smile the rest of the race, even when I was running/jogging/trudging at the end!

So happy to be out of the water
So happy to be out of the water
Going out for my bike on the West Side Highway
Going out for my bike on the West Side Highway
One mile into the run, pain is starting to set in
One mile into the run, pain is starting to set in
So close to the finish!
So close to the finish!

Thank you Matt for acting as my support crew. It was reassuring to see you running along the path as I swam, frantically swinging your arms around and telling me to go faster. It definitely reminded me of our days on Gators. Plus your hair looked amazing.

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New England Style

Over the holiday weekend Matt and I took a trip up to Boston. Despite the heat we had such an incredible visit. I think it was the first time that we had taken trip that wasn’t for a wedding or a “real” vacation. We just went to a different city, saw lots of great friends, spent time with our families and just relaxed. It was lovely.

A few highlights from the trip:

  • Walking through Harvard Yard for the first time in years. Literally, I think the last time I was there was in 2010 for our friend’s wedding!
  • Going to the Red Sox game. Thankfully our seats were shaded for most of the game or else I would have melted.
  • Spending the 4th with some of Matt’s high school friends & watching the fireworks from a roof top in Southie
  • Visiting our friends in Hingham and dipping our toes in the ocean
  • Buying our first car!
  • Eating burgers and hot dogs on the back deck with Matt’s parents
  • Hanging out with my college roommate, her husband and their new baby boy – they even trusted Matt enough to hold him
  • Spending the day with my parents in Boston – of course they made it educational by taking us to the MFA!
  • Getting ice cream from my favorite place (Cafe Podima) on Sunday before our bus home

Family

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Me

I need to extend to HUGE thank you to one of our friends who made the trip possible. He was kind enough to let us stay in his beautiful downtown Boston condo. Unfortunately he was out-of-town, so we didn’t’ get to spent time with him, but having a place to go home to made the trip that much better.

It was great to be back in the land that embraces madras print, pinstripe and Lilly Pulitzer all topped off with a Red Sox hat.

So Good, So Good, So Good

Last week was definitely a rough one in the lives of Bostonians and those of us who were lucky enough to call Boston home at one point.

It is difficult to know how to react to the events at the Boston Marathon and what transpired afterwards. At a time when the world doesn’t make sense feeling saddened, angry or threatened are all normal for such a terrible situation.

As a native New Englander and die-hard Boston sports fan, I know that no matter what, the city of Boston will persevere. As the Boston Globe wrote in Tuesday’s editorial “A commitment to rise to the occasion, to endure what must be endured, to remember all who suffered and lost their lives in times of strife, is written into the fabric of the city.” Acts of violence only work if they make people afraid to live their lives fully. We have an obligation not to let that happen. We will continue to live our lives, do our jobs and care for our neighbors.

Often, out of tragedy comes good. Boston’s people showed us their true colors last week. They gave the rest of us something to aspire to.

One of my favorite moments was when the fans at Saturday’s Red Sox game were treated to a performance by Neil Diamond to  Boston’s unofficial anthem, Sweet Caroline.

Rumor has it that immediately after the second victim was captured, Neil purchased a ticket to Boston and called up Fenway asking if he could perform. Not realizing who the operator was talking to, she asked “what song would you like to sing?” His response… “umm, Sweet Caroline. If that is ok.”

Making this story even better, last week – the Yankees started an MLB movement to play this song, after the 8th inning in their stadiums to honor what happened on Monday.

I’ve sung along to this song many times at baseball games, parties and bars. Matt and I even asked the band at our wedding to perform this, along with a  few other Boston favorites, while wearing Red Sox shirts… and they did.

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This weekend, I realized that I didn’t know why this song was claimed by the people of Boston. My mom, aunt and I thought – what a perfect topic for a blog post.

The origins of the song’s association with the Red Sox date back to Amy Tobey, who worked for the Red Sox through a film and video communications company. From 1998 to 2004, she was responsible for selecting the music that would be played in the stadium. According to a Boston Globe article, she had noticed ‘Sweet Caroline’ was used at other sporting events, and she decided to send the sweetness over the Fenway speakers. The song was embraced by the fans, and the more it caught on, the more superstitious Tobey became about playing it – she considered it to be a good-luck charm. The Red Sox embraced the tradition and settled on the song being played during the eighth inning of every game.

Click here to see more of the tribute that took place at the start of the Red Sox game on Saturday (warning, you may need kleenex).

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We are Boston Strong.

Swimming in Success

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For those of you who don’t know (and I can’t image there are very many out there), swimming was a very big part of the first 22 years of my life. And while the end of my swimming “career” was emotional and some what sad, I was looking forward to the end of morning practice, constantly smelling like chlorine and being able to shave my legs like a normal girl (if you are confused by that last one, don’t even ask).

My interest in swimming started at a young age, mostly (or entirely) because my older sister Abby had developed a love for the sport. Oh yeah, and she was extremely talented. Abby would win nearly every race she entered – I would be lucky to find the courage to actually dive off the block and participate in the race. I liked to practice but racing wasn’t my thing. However, with encouragement from my parents, my coaches, and my amazing older sister, I too became a pretty good swimmer. That being said, my sister’s love for the sport was always MILES ahead of mine. So, it is no surprise that after she graduated from college (after an AMAZING senior year of swimming) she decided to take that love for swimming and turn it into a career.

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After working as an assistance coach for two different collegiate teams, Abby was hired as the Head Coach for both the men’s and women’s teams at the University of Mary Washington in VA. Now in her 3rd season there, she has continued to develop a very strong program. Both teams competed in their conference meet last weekend,  both winning soundly.

A few stats from her meet for you swimming nerds (and some pictures for those of you who don’t care about the stats)!

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As Abby gears up for NCAAs, I thought I would share with you an article about one of her swimmers who has a pretty incredible story, and a pretty good chance to win an event at NCAAs. Pretty impressive.

Swimming Into Success
By 

When top Division I schools courted Alex Anderson ’15 for a swim scholarship in 2006, the high school senior wasn’t ready.

Recruiters for such schools as Alabama, Arizona and Indiana universities saw a record-setting competitor who took two state titles in the 500-yard freestyle. Anderson saw a commitment to academics he wasn’t ready to make. He turned his back on school, and for a few years he lost his way – and his sport.

Alex Anderson ’15 is headed to the NCAA Championships in March.

Seven years later he’s making a name for himself as a UMW student-athlete on the Eagles swim team. In February, the sophomore was named Capital Athletic Conference Swimmer of the Year at a meet in which he broke four individual school and conference records and swam in four record-breaking relays. He’ll represent the university at the March NCAA Championships in Texas.

Meanwhile, the water helped Anderson get his life on track.

“Swimming turned into a therapeutic sport for me,” said Anderson, who studies chemistry at Mary Washington. “By this I mean every time I jump in the pool I let all my troubles and worries float away. It seems like such a natural thing for me, like something I was born to do.”

After high school in Vienna, Va., Anderson enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College, NOVA, but he wasn’t interested in school. He often didn’t show up for classes, and his grades stayed low. His mother lost a battle with breast cancer in the summer of 2007, and soon after he moved out of his father’s house.

Over the next two years, Anderson shared an apartment with roommates and worked low-wage jobs to pay the bills. He was a waiter, a cashier, a cook and a carpenter’s apprentice. He managed a company that tended potted plants in offices and supermarkets.

Anderson earned All-American honors in 2012.

It wasn’t the life he wanted. He realized he was squandering his talent and an opportunity for something better.

He talked to his father, and they formed a plan. Anderson would get serious – go back to school, bring up his grades and get back in the pool. The son moved back in with his dad, joined a club team and trained to get back in shape for competition.

Back at NOVA in spring 2010, Anderson retook several courses and signed up for something new – biology. The science class was his favorite, and he aced it. After that, he earned only A’s – grades that could get him into a four-year college.

With new confidence in his academic ability, he no longer wanted only to swim. He decided on a Division III school that would allow him the flexibility to develop his sport and his brain. The science program at University of Mary Washington had a great reputation, and it was close to home. He went for it.

Anderson talked to Eagles swim coach Abby Brethauer, was admitted by the university, and enrolled for classes in August 2011.

When he is in the lane with rivals, he changes from the carefree swimmer in training.

“I bring a different attitude to my racing and competitive swimming,” Anderson said. “I love to race. I can get competitive. I just want to win.”

Anderson and Eagles swimming were a great fit from the start. His first season, he was one of the fastest swimmers, leading the men’s team to its 12th consecutive CAC title.

He qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 50-yard freestyle, the 200-yard breaststroke and the 400-yard individual medley. In his first NCAA Championship, he gained All-America status in the 400-yard individual medley with a ninth-place finish, easily winning the consolation final.

As he heads to the NCAA Championships again this year, he’s even faster, having just broken individual school and conference records in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly and the 50- and 200-yard freestyle. His relay teams – the 200-, 400- and 800-yard freestyle and the 400-yard medley – also set school and conference records en route to the NCAAs.

“Alex has the potential not only to be the most successful swimmer in the history of UMW swimming, but also to turn what have until this point only been program goals into realities,” Brethauer said. “Not only is he a talented swimmer, he is also one of our top students – and he’s a great teammate. He is a wonderful example of what it means to be a Mary Washington student-athlete. He represents both our team and the entire department with aplomb.”

When Anderson started back to swimming, he scrutinized how he had trained, his stroke, his performance and found new ways to better old race times. He fell in love with chemistry for the challenge, too, he said. And his first quiz back with a low score, he used the same skills he uses in the pool.

“I look at what I’ve done and how I can do better. I change it. Since [that quiz], I’ve tried 10 different types of study skills,” he said. “The biggest tool for success is to be willing to try new things and be able to change. You have to look back at what you’ve done to do that. Otherwise you might change for the worse.”

 

Fish Out of Water

This weekend, Matt and I decided to take a day trip out of the city. Living in New York can be particularly challenging in the winter. Unless you are a committed skier, you find yourself never leaving the city. And even though New York is a big city, let’s be serious, never leaving a 23 square mile island, filled with 1.6 million people, can make you a little stir crazy.

We tried to plan a weekend getaway to somewhere like the Catskills, the Berkshires or Lake Placid but our timing wasn’t great – with the combination of President’s Day Weekend and MA/NY school vacations, everything was booked. So instead, we rented a car for the day and drove out to NJ.

We drove out to High Point State Park for a little cross-country skiing. Although the north-east received a big storm only a week ago, a lot of the snow had melted so the coverage on the trails wasn’t great. However, it was well worth it – just to get out of the city. Oh yeah, and to see Matt on cross-country skis for the first time. That was fun too!

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A Mother’s Work is Never Done

In order to get to Telluride, Matt and I had to drive more than 6 hours from Denver. Technically we could have flown into Telluride, however it was much more expensive and would have complicated things since we were flying out of Denver on the way home. So, we decided to drive.

Neither of us were really bothered by this. We don’t have a car now and never spend much time in a car. Really the longest car rides we have taken in the past year have been in the taxi to the airport. And let’s face it – the scenery on the drive to Telluride was going to beat anything we could see on a drive in NY! Plus, in high school (the last time I had a car) I was known to do some of my best sing-along singing in the car . So, not only were we not bothered, we were kind of excited.

See – doesn’t Matt look excited?
Road Trip Supplies

Unfortunately, some people — I won’t name names — were less excited about all of this driving. It seems as though even though I’m nearing 30, the thought of me and my husband driving 362 miles is just too much for my mom some people. I guess the fact that in high school I fell asleep while driving (on the highway) to swim practice will haunt me forever.

I’m happy to report that after a quick lunch stop in Leadville (home of the Leadville 100 featured in Born to Run) to visit one of Matt’s college buddies, we made it to Telluride in one piece.

Not only did we take in some incredible sights during the drive, but Matt even got to enjoy some of my fabulous singing along the way!