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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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)!

UMW

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.”

 

Today Is Somebody’s Birthday!

I first met Matt when he joined my swim team the summer between freshman and sophomore year of high school. I wish I could say that I have a crystal clear image of his first swim practice and that from the moment I first met him I knew we would be husband and wife one day. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But it didn’t take too long until the “Gary Hall Jr.” lookalike cause my eye…

At that point in time, I was training out of a pool in New Hampshire Monday – Friday and then would drive down to Bentley College in Waltham MA for Saturday morning practice with the rest of the team. It took me a while to get to know Matt, since I was only spending 3 hours with him each week. But as he started to make friends with the other kids on the team who trained with him every day, our friendship started to develop.

The following March (7 or so months after Matt joined the team), we loaded up the team buses and headed to Brown for the New England Senior Championship meet. Somehow, I realized that Matt’s Birthday was going to fall during the weekend of the meet. Being someone who LOVES to celebrate my own birthday, I immediately felt sorry for him. While the kids of the swim team were my closest friends in high school, being at a championship meet for your birthday didn’t seem very fun. The focus of the weekend was on swimming, not celebrating Matt’s 16th Birthday. And I just didn’t like the sound of that.

The morning of Matt’s Birthday, we were all in the hotel lobby eating breakfast before heading over to the pool. When Matt got up to go through the breakfast buffet, I placed a surprise birthday present on his chair. I watched from a little ways off as he came back to his seat and tried to figure out who put the gift there. He read my card and opened the box… I had picked out a “graphic tee” from America Eagle that had something to do with life guarding… I mean, how cool is that?

Matt came over, shocked that I even knew it was Birthday, let alone bought him a present, and thanked me. At that moment, I thought to myself,  “there’s something about this guy….”

Unfortunately at that point in time, I didn’t know that buying a high school boy a size medium is a clear insult. Even though Matt weighed all of 150 pounds, he would never be caught dead in a size medium! It wasn’t until years later that I learned Matt went to American Eagle and exchanged the shirt for a larger size. Matt wote the shirt a lot over the next 3 year years and it always brought a smile to my face.

Who would have thought that 13 years later, I would still be trying to add something special to Matt’s Birthday.

 

Happy Birthday Matt! I may not have an American Eagle shirt to give you, but I still love you just as much.

Parenting 101

In the spring of 2010, one of my very best friends from college married her college sweetheart.

She was a member of the swim team. He played lacrosse. She majored in Government. He majored in Economics. She went to Northwestern Law School. He went to Harvard Business School. She is a practicing lawyer. He works for a successful consulting company. Oh, and I did I mention that they are ridiculously good-looking as well?

So when she told me last year that she was pregnant – I will thrilled. However, I was a little worried for their unborn child. Here was a child being brought into a home of high expectations. Both of his parents were Division I athletes. They both went to an Ivy League School. And they both went on graduate school to earn advanced degrees. They know what success was have grown to expect nothing less. I thought that if this kid didn’t come out of the womb faster than all other babies, he would be seen a failure from day one.

When the baby’s due date came and went, I fell for the kid. Already he wasn’t living up to expectations. Thankfully, he arrived in one piece on September 1st.

So now that Will has had time to adjust to his parents, “how are things going?” you ask. Well, let me just say, Will has certainly impressed us all.

He has learned to feed himself

 

He has already been drafted by an NFL team

And he has started to demonstrate his incredible swimming skills (be it in the bath tub)

 

But the very best thing that Will had added into his parents lives is laughter. It seems like every day he is reminding them, just how “not perfect” they are.


And man, what great parents that makes them! I can only hope that one day Matt and I are half as amazing as you two are.

Guest Blogger – Team Building

I am excited to announce that we have another guest blogger today! This is someone who has been highly sought after since I started my blog a year and a half ago but always comes up with reasons why she shouldn’t/can’t write a post for me. After much begging, she finally caved!

This time of the year, people often get together to celebrate the holidays and enjoy each others company. Last night, Matt and I visited the Culinary Loft for his company party and this afternoon, I was be celebrating with my Robin Hood colleagues. And while my sister doesn’t work in a “corporate” environment, that is no reason not to celebrate the festivities surrounding the holidays. Please enjoy her post about the most recent team building activity that she did with her swimmers!

So everyone knows my sister is the just about the best baker ever and so very creative when it comes to her baked goods.

Inspired by her work with Robin Hood and Taste Buds doing gingerbread houses I decided to surprise my swim team on their last official practice with a gingerbread house making party.

We divided into classes and had a competition; at the end of the day prizes were awarded in the following categories:

 OVERALL WINNER: Seniors (they each made a house depicting their apartments on campus and put together village)

 

MOST CREATIVE: Sophomores (what they made isn’t really little things appropriate but it was hilarious)

 CLASSIEST: Juniors (a very classy and well designed house)

 

MOST ENTHUSIAM: First years (they got VERY into building their project…)

 

Thanks to Molly (and mom) for suggesting this as a team project; and thanks to my swimmers for making it fun!

Brethauer Girls, LLC

If you put my sister and I together, it is often a deadly combination. Not deadly for us, but deadly for everyone else who comes in our path.

Over the holidays, we often play charades with our best family friends, the Possees. When Abby and I are on the same team, no one else really stands a chance. All Abby or I need to do it is look at each other and we instantly know what the other is thinking. In a blink of the eye, we are yelling out the right answer.

For one year in high school , we had the opportunity to swim together representing our school. At the state meet we won both relays and we came in first and second in the 100 yard backstroke. Talk about family domination (no, it isn’t worth mentioning that NH state swimming really isn’t that competitive – I want to seem impressive).

Whenever Abby and I are both home at the same time, within 5 minutes my mom can be heard saying, “I hate when you are both here. I just don’t even stand a chance.” Sorry Mom, but you are the one who created this.

So when Abby and I talk about going into business together, I know that we would be an unstoppable duo. Forget “D.C. Cupcakes,” The Kardashians, or Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen – we would create an empire than no other sisters could match. All that’s left is to come up with a business plan, raise some capital and launch our business. That shouldnt’ be too hard…

Anyone have any suggestions for a business idea? And no, starting a swim lesson empire is not an option.

Don’t Wait.

A roll that I have taken on throughout my life has been “cheerleader.” No, I was certainly not a high school cheerleader who stood along the sidelines at football games and performed dance routines during pep-rallys. My cheerleading was done in a different way.

I made psych up mix tapes for my friends to listen to on the long bus rides to travel swim meets. I purchased thousands of dollars of poster board and markers for “poster making parties.” I cut yards of ribbon out for my teammates to wear during soccer games. I designed logos for West field hockey water bottles. I designed and sold car decals for the class of 2001. I created signs to hang on hotel doors for the Ivy league swim meet. I made crimson necklaces, crowns and headbands – because who doesn’t want to wear those at a swim meet. And my shining moment came when I collected hundreds of pictures of my team mates, depicting them swimming at the ages of 5,6 and 7 to create personalized posters with the saying ‘Remember why you swim…” before one of our big meets.

In short, I LOVE to psych people up, including myself. I could spend hours researching inspirational quotes and movie clips. From Miracle to Braveheart, Rudy to Gladiator – I could go on all day. But, I think my sister would agree, that the most inspiration video for us (and probably all swimmers) is the video of the men’s 400 freestyle relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

However, I might have a new favorite. The Director of Development at Robin Hood, Mark Bezos, was invited to give a talk at the TED conference in California a few weeks ago. They invite people to give short talks, palet cleansers, to give inbetween the main presentations. Mark gave us a preview of his talk during our last all-staff meeting, but the video below is from the real thing.

So don’t wait.  Get in the game.  Save the shoes.

Be Robin Hood