Pretty weather, no injuries and a finish line in under 7:59

I’ve written, and re-written this post several times in the past month.  Originally this post was going to be about getting ready for my Half Ironman in Wilmington on the 13th….and then, Florence happened.  After Florence hit, the next few weeks were surrounded with wondering if the race would happen due to all the devastation in Wilmington.  I know how selfish it is to be worried about a race when so many people’s lives were turned upside down after the storm.  However I try to be transparent when I write and my reality is since January my world has been centered on training for this specific race.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to say no to friends wanting to hang out with the excuse, “I’m sorry but I have no social life until after October 13th.”  Six days a week I’ve been running, biking, swimming or some random combination of the two.

With all the time I have invested this past year to getting to the finish line next Saturday, I was really disheartened when the decision was posted last Thursday that Wilmington was cancelled.  Ironman gave the displaced athletes the option to defer to any remaining 2018 race or register for a 70.3 in 2019.  So, October 21st I’ll be racing the Half Ironman in New Orleans!

New Orleans is scary!   The time limit is shorter (8 hours to finish instead of the 8 and a half you have in Wilimington), the course is harder, the humidity is intense and the swim course is a lot harder thanks to choppy water and no current from the ocean to push you to the finish.  I am confident that I could have completed the Wilmington half in under 8.5 hours.  I am not nearly as confident that I’ll be able to do the same in NOLA.  I am still so so SLOW on the bike….so slow that during my tri last weekend I got passed by an EIGHTY year old woman on the bike (so serious).  I have crunched the numbers and know that I am dangerously close to the cut off time.  A DNF isn’t the end of the world, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be crushed to not be able to finish.

The past few months have been surrounded by Ironman training.  Now that I know what kind of work goes into training for a Half, I shudder to think about what next year will look like when I have my sights set on a full…..but, that is NEXT year, and right now my goal is to find the finish line without injuries and in under 7 hours and 59 minutes.

tbd bib


Tomorrow, I’m turning 30!  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I thought 30 seemed so OLD.  Not only did I think 30 was old, but I (wrongly) assumed that I would have life figured out by then – I mean 30 years is a long time to be alive, right?  Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.  As a teenager I thought I knew it all, in my early 20’s I was convinced I had a good grasp on life because the “adult” thing didn’t seem too hard, and now on the verge of entering my 30’s I have realized just how much I DON’T know.  However, one thing I am certain of, is that an attitude of gratitude is the key to happiness.  So in honor of turning 30 I have made a list of 30 things that I am thankful for:

  1. Jesus.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  2. I have never lived one second without knowing how much my family loves me.  As  I continue to get older I am realizing just how rare that is.
  3. My rockstar parents.  I’m convinced my mom is hiding angel wings under her shirt and my dad raised me to believe that doing something “like a girl” is a compliment.
  4. My sister who has turned into my European traveling partner.
  5. The Facebook message from Caitlin in 2012 asking me to do a 5k with her.  Who knew that in 2012 the girl who only ran when she was being chased would be training for an Ironman 6 years later? (the screenshot shows my response to her):img_4365
  6. That my friends are always up for whatever harebrained scheme I come up with – Kristy thought a triple Spartan Trifecta sounded like fun and Jeff and Anna who have hopped on the Ironman journey with me.
  8. Tennis and all the relationships I made through that sport
  9. Dogs!  Jack, Khloe, and Finley all have specials places in my heart.  Jack was around from kindergarten until I graduated high school and made sure I always had someone to play with.  Khloe was my furry child who was loved so deeply her absence still hurts and is thought of every day.  My current furbaby, Finley, certainly keeps life interesting.
  10. My GPS and google maps –  I still manage to get turned around these (I got lost in the London train station….twice), but I can only imagine where I’d end up without them.
  11. Country Musicimg_0310
  12. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  13. Google.
  14. Pancreatitis.  I’m thankful that a dose of pancreatitis led doctors to a mass on my pancreas before it turned into cancer
  15. Ellie, my inspiration, and her sweet family
  16. Accepting that my body is completely different than it was before I had surgery.  I may never achieve my goal of breaking a 24 minute 5k (I haven’t broken 27 minutes since surgery) and finally being okay with that.
  17. Learning to love accept my scars
  18. Campbell and NC State
  19. Library cards and how a good book is never far away
  20. There are no hidden cameras when I take yoga class.  I’m coming to the realization I may never be able to (easily) touch my toes.
  21. Living in the USA
  22. Body Glide (can I get an Amen from my running friends?!)
  23. FS Series (Race Local) and Run N Tri (Shop Local)
  24. Corny Jokes:  How does NASA organize their company party?  They Planet!
  25. A good night’s sleep
  26. Contacts – It still baffles me how some people are so lucky to wake up and be able to see perfectly without contacts/glasses.
  27. Sweet Tea.  Oh, sweet tea I don’t know how I’d function without you.
  28. Teaching.  Despite all the challenges surrounding education, I know I’m making a difference and have developed some amazing relationships with my kiddos.
  29. Really good co-workers/teammates who make going to work fun
  30. That even on the bad days, it’s always easy to make a list of things to be thankful for.  Y’all, life is too sweet to spend time focusing on the negative!img_7168

I’m going to cromit!

cromit (verb) – the act of wanting to cry or vomit

As of Sunday, I am finally and officially a triathlete thanks to the Smile Train Triathlon.  Last summer I decided that I wanted to complete a triathlon. That idea turned into an even crazier one – wanting to complete a full Ironman.  I have two more sprint tri’s lined up, one open water swim and then in October *cue dramatic music* a half Ironman and then hopefully a full Ironman in 2019. In the spirit of tri’s, I’m going to center this race report around the number 3 and 3 things from each part of the race.  


  1. My alarm goes off at 5:55 despite the fact that I’ve been wide awake for sevimg_3696eral hours due to pre-race butterflies (more like dinosaurs stomping around) and I go over my gear for the 100th time. 
  2. Upon arriving at the race sight I quickly realize that my unicorn bucket and bike helmet covered in pink flowers doesn’t fit in with the typical triathlete’s gear.
  3. I began to learn that transitions in a triathlon is truly an art form and everyone has their own spin on it.  I spent a lot of time looking around and trying to copy what I saw other people doing.
Before Leaving for the Race

Swim (250m):

  1. As I was waiting to get in the pool, my main focus is trying not to cromit.
  2. This tri was a pool swim.  All the athletes line up in number order (your bib number is based on how quickly you can complete the 250m swim – faster swimmers go first).  Brent, one of the sweet race directors, was waiting at the beginning of the pool to tell each person when to start. When he realized it was “the girl who was so nervous” he told me to “tell him when I was ready” and he would start my time.
  3. On the bright side -The swim went well.  I am a pretty slow swimmer, but I’ve gotten to the point where swimming is kind of like walking – its relatively easy and a bit slow.  

Bike (12.2 miles):

  1. I hate cycling.
  2. I really hate cycling.
  3. I really, really hate cycling.  

Run (3.1 miles):

  1. Ah, running – the only aspect of a tri that I have any experience with.  I was so relieved to be able to put the little red devil back in the transition area and start running.
  2. The run was hot thanks to the NC heat and humidity and running after biking makes your legs feel really heavy.
  3. THE FINISH LINE!  The first photo was social media approved, the second photo more realistically shows how I felt at the finish.

Top 3 things I would say to someone considering running a tri:

  1. Get comfortable with the idea that you may want to cromit.  I am not new to race nerves and usually get a bit nervous before any race.  However, the nerves I experienced Sunday don’t even come close to the way I’ve felt before any other race.
  2. Your first race should be a local tri that is advertised as being “family friendly” or “good for beginners.”  I was blown away by how nice and supportive everyone was Sunday. Multiple times the race directors told everyone that this was a family race and only positive attitudes were allowed on the course (If you live in the triangle – check out Smile Train next year!)
  3. If I can do it – YOU can do it!

An Inspiration

Since starting this blog I have had several people tell me that I am “an inspiration” to them.  I’ve gotten some of the sweetest emails from complete strangers telling me that they find my story “inspirational” and that they are cheering for me on my Ironman journey.  When I hear these comments, or read these emails, I am always flattered and touched by their sweet words; but, I never truly believe it because I don’t think I’m inspirational at all. 

 Last weekend I took an open water swim clinic and swam in open water for the first time.  Before I actually got in the water I was TERRIFIED. My heart rate was 110 as I was just sitting in my chair looking at the lake in front on me.  Once I actually started swimming those fears quickly subsided, but that was definitely not an inspirational moment. Later that afternoon I was supposed to run 8 miles and the last 5 miles turned into an ugly mix of run/walking because I was already beat from the 3 hour swim clinic and I forgot how terrible running in the North Carolina heat and humidity is.  Again, that isn’t even in the same ballpark as someone who is inspirational, instead – let me introduce you to Ellie, my inspiration.


I’ve been blessed enough to have meet Ellie through the I Run 4 Michael (IR4) program.  IR4 is an online community where athletes “run for” people with special needs. I heard about the IR4 program a few years ago and fell in love with the concept of dedicating my runs and workouts to a kid who has special needs.  June 2016 I was so excited when I received a notification that I had been matched with a little girl! My IR4 buddy, who I usually refer to as my warrior, has Down Syndrome and spent the first 7 months of her life in and out of various hospitals.  She has had several major surgeries and too many medical procedures to count. When I think about my medical issues, and how traumatic they were for me, it’s hard for me to imagine all that Ellie has been through in only 4 and a half years. Last year I was planning to travel to Ohio to finally meet Ellie and complete a Spartan Race with her dad.  However, thanks to my pancreas that trip didn’t happen. I am so excited to say that in two weeks I am traveling to Ohio to meet my warrior and her awesome family. There is a 5k in her hometown that we will be doing.



The quote, “The struggle ends when the gratitude begins” helped me get through a lot of scary painful experiences last year.   I tried (not always successfully) to find things to be grateful for when all I wanted to do was throw a pity party for myself.  When I look at Ellie, I am filled with gratitude that I get to play a small part in her story.  When I look at Ellie’s parents I see a living example of finding gratitude and being thankful for the small things.  Ellie – I can’t wait to meet you this month! Thank you for being my inspiration, my push to run one more mile, and teaching me to run with my heart when my legs say no.

ellie medal
I always get two medals so I can send one to Ellie!

Finding the line between Strong and Stupid

Two weeks ago, I found myself at a 5k only 13 days post fractured ankle.  A few of my running friends made comments about how “tough” and “strong” I was for getting back img_3319to running so quickly.  However, almost all of my non-running friends told me, “I needed to be careful” or “Are you crazy?! You’ll never heal if you don’t take time off.”  I laughed off most of those comments and, much to the dismay of my parents, laced up my ankle brace and limped to the starting line; and somehow managed to hobble my way to second place in my division.

As I was running completing that race, I spent most of the time thinking about how stupid I was for trying to do a 5k so soon after my injury.  One side of my brain told me I was being strong and that I wasn’t going to let an itty bitty hairline fracture keep me from doing what I love.  I spent enough time on the sidelines of races last year to last me a lifetime!  The other side of my brain (the rational side) told me I was being STUPID and I shouldn’t be limping my way through 3.1 miles.  This internal dialogue happens anytime I set my sights on a big goal (hello big, scary Ironman that is waiting for me next year) or when I am pushing my physical limits. This past weekend I ran a Spartan Super on Saturday (strong) and then a 5k on Sunday (stupid considering my ankle still isn’t 100%).

I think that sometimes our best qualities are often a gateway into our worst.  My strong sense of determination and perseverance opens the door for stubbornness.  If you ask those closest to me they will all say that arguing with me is futile because I refuse to give in (even when I know I’m wrong). Finding the line between being strong and being stupid isn’t one that I have mastered yet, and I probably won’t until after I complete a full Ironman next year. Besides, there has to be a lot of strong and an ounce of stupid in every person who decides doing 140.6 miles in one day is a good idea.

Running, Biking, Swimming and Ankle Fractures?!

           Yesterday started out as a perfect day of triathlon training.  I ran 5 miles, swam 1000 yards, biked 16 miles and ended the day with a fractured ankle.  I wish I could say that I fractured my ankle by twisting it while I was running, or that I fell off my bike as I was swerving to avoid hitting the cute family of deer that was playing by the river.  Instead, the truth is – I fell going UP the stairs. Yes, I was going UP. I was literally on the first step when I lost my balance, rolled my ankle, and fell the catastrophic 10 inches back to the ground.


A morning trip to urgent care and x-rays showed a fracture in my lateral malleolus.  I spent the morning in the same spot (same urgent care and even same exam room) I did last January when my pancreas drama started.  As I was laying there waiting to hear if I was going to be out of training for weeks, or months, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander back 14 months.  I think a healthy dose of perspective can often be the key to staying positive when life isn’t going exactly the way we want.  In the grand scheme of things, a fractured ankle isn’t that bad and it could always be worse.  A few weeks off of training isn’t going to squash my Ironman dreams.  So, I’ll just be over here avoiding stairs and enjoying guilt free TV and Netflix binges over the next few days.



Gym Shaming

         As a self-proclaimed gym rat before my health struggles last year, I never struggled with feeling intimidated or unwelcome at a gym.  I would often brag about being one of the only girls in the free weight section and loved knowing that I could go to (almost) any run club and feel like I could hold my own.  Looking back now I realize how arrogant my attitude was and I was probably definitely part of the problem that I’m writing about now.  I recently overheard someone making fun of a girl for taking part in a bench press challenge because she didn’t have a lot of weight on the bar.  As I continued to eavesdrop it was obvious to me that this judgmental behavior was considered normal to this guy and his social circle, due to the laughter that ensued at his condescending statements.  

          Thanks to the jerk at the gym, the idea for this blog post was born.  Before I became sick, I always felt like the gym was a second home. However, after taking almost 8 months off last year, when I tried to return to working out – I felt like a foreigner in a different country.  I vividly remember how uncomfortable and out of place I felt. Several times I had people comment on how short my workouts were, and I heard, “I’m surprised you only showed up for 15 minutes.” Well, what that person didn’t know is how much pain I was in from my surgery and 10-15 minutes on any piece of cardio equipment was about all my stomach could handle.  Also, for some odd (very, very odd) reason after I had surgery I lost the ability to lift both legs up when I’m laying flat on my back. My physical therapist recommended some exercises I could do in hopes of building up my ab muscles again. Two separate times I heard comments about how “easy” the exercises looked followed by statements implying they were a waste of time.  I’m not implying that those people intended to hurt my feelings, it’s possible they had good intentions, however, their words were completely unnecessary since I didn’t ask for, nor want, their opinion.

           I decided to text several of my friends who I know are current members of a gym, or have been in the past to ask them if they have ever felt gym shamed (intimidated, unwelcome or embarrassed by comments others have said at the gym).  Below are some of their responses:

  • “You’re doing a Spartan Race? How are you going to fit your big butt under the barbed wire?”
  • “Aw, you’re so cute trying to lift the big weights.  Let me show you how it’s really done.”
  • “I think you’re in the wrong place.  This is where we lift, not where Zumba happens.”
  • “You can do all the cardio you want.  Until you stop eating all that fried chicken you’re never going to like the way you look with those fat rolls.”

Each quote comes from four different friends who attend four different gyms.   I’m a wellness coach at my gym one night a week and am now making it my personal goal to intentionally talk to members that are new.  I don’t want anyone to leave the gym when I’m on shift feeling unwelcome or like they don’t belong.  Besides, it doesn’t matter how in shape your body may be, if you are making fun of people at the gym – you’re a really ugly person.




Living in Fear of the Glorified Sandcastle

           One of the scariest parts about setting my sights on completing a full Ironman is the fear of not actually being able to complete the race.  In a perfect world, I’d be able to actually compete, and not just struggle across the finish line – but I’ll be satisfied with just being able to finish.  When I registered for the October 70.3 race, I spent a good 15 minutes trying to decide if I should add the (rather expensive) insurance policy that would protect my registration fee.  I’ve never seen the need to add the insurance before because I am usually very confident in myself and my abilities to accomplish whatever goal I set for myself. However, since I became sick last year I struggle with the never ending less of “what if” questions that revolve around the fear of getting sick and being stuck in the hospital again.

         Shortly after I became sick, I decided that working out was pointless because all it does is build up your glorified sandcastle.  I developed this view when I realized that no matter how hard I had worked to keep my body fit, strong, and overall healthy – it still failed me.  Why try so hard to stay in great shape; when, you really can’t control your overall health? I battled the negative, self-defeatist attitude for several months.  I even walked out of a spin class after only 10 minutes because “it was stupid” and “why try if I can just lose it again”? I spent the remainder of the class in the locker room in tears while I waited for my friend to finish the class.  I took a break from the gym and refused to run unless I thought I was being chased (or if the ice-cream truck was near, of course).

             I was right in the middle of feeling sorry for myself when a friend told me that a local racing company, Fs Series was looking for running ambassadors.  She told me, “Sara, with your story this past year, you’re a shoo-in.” Their advertisement said that they were looking for passionate runners, and were interested in the heart of the athlete, not their race times.  I decided to fill out the application because Fs Series races were always my favorite ones to run. Surprisingly to me, but not to the friend that told me to apply, I received an email that I was selected to their ambassador team.  Before the first meeting I was really nervous because I knew that I was going to be in the company of some amazing athletes; and in my current physical state – I was definitely not in the same class as the other ambassadors.  However, thanks to the inspirational and encouraging people on the team, I’ve decided that I’d rather risk watching my sandcastle fade away than sit on the sidelines for the rest of my life.

fs logo


           When I reflect on 2017, I feel like I could sum up the majority of that year with the word scars.  Internal scars from my life taking a drastic change from the path I had envisioned myself on, invisible scars on my left hand where a wedding ring once was, and most notable to an outsider – the scars a surgeon left all over my stomach.

            I was that weird kid who loved getting a cool looking bruise.  The darker and more colorful the bruise, the more excited I was.  That weird kid turned into an even weirder adult who will wear skirts to work the day after a Spartan Race to show off the cool battle wounds.  The amount I love bruises, is the amount I hate scars.  It took me about a week after I had surgery to work up the courage to look at my stomach.  I knew there were 3 small incisions, an incision that held a drain, and one 2 inch incision above my belly button (disclaimer – pics at the end of the blog, if you don’t like scar pictures, don’t scroll to the bottom).  I  started to become ashamed of the way my new stomach looked  because I knew my bikini days were long gone, and would frequently find myself staring at the scars with disgust and hatred.  I didn’t just hate the way they looked, I hated what they symbolized – pain and weakness.

           Around the time I was realizing how vain I was for placing so much emphasis on my stomach,  I heard a beautiful sermon that spoke about how scars and imperfections are often the most attractive traits about a person because every scar is a sign of healing – they show healing and strength, because what once was broken is now made whole.  As I was listening to the message I began to think about how when I view my life I often think about the broken parts, and ignore the strength that came from that brokenness.  My scars,both the physical and the emotional, have all worked together over the past 14 months to make me into a stronger, more resilient woman.  The journey that I have taken with not only learning to accept, but love and embrace my scars, is now fuel to my Ironman journey.  I’m looking forward to earning a few new bumps and bruises as I continue to train to earn the right to call myself an Ironman.   

9 Days Post Surgery
6 Months Post Surgery

Like a Rock

Top 10 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Baby Swimmer:

  1. Taking swim lessons as a kid does NOT translate into being an effective swimmer, it just means you won’t drown.
  2. The first time you plan on wearing a swim cap, practice putting it on at home.  If you wait until you get in the locker room, there will be at least 3 different people that will laugh at you as you struggle to get that thing on your head.  One of those ladies will still giggle and make comments every time she sees you in the gym and ask if, “You figured out how to get that darn swim cap on yet?”
  3. The initial shock of jumping into a cold pool never gets easier.  It always feels like you are plunging into the deep waters of the Arctic.
  4. If you swim with friends who are already Ironmen, be prepared to hear, “Wow, you weren’t lying about how bad you swim.  You really do swim like a rock!”
  5. In addition to #4, when the same friend sends you a message that says, “Guess what? I met someone at the pool today that was worse than you!”  choose to be flattered, not offended.
  6. Flip turns are overrated because learning to do a flip turn means water up the nose and dizzy spells.
  7. No matter what you do – do NOT swim in the lane next to the little kid’s swim team.  Your work out will turn into a much, much, MUCH shorter session because no one likes to get lapped by a kindergartener.
  8. Likewise, when you are swimming beside someone who looks old enough to be your grandmother, be impressed at how fast she swims and ask for her help.  
  9. If you write out swim workouts and put them in little Ziploc bags behind your lane, you will definitely look like you know what you’re doing.  Fake it until you make it!
  10. Life is too short to avoid TRI’ing things because of fear – jump in the water!  

dog water