Get to > Have to

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions.  I think optimistic goals and the idea of positive lifestyle changes that are only made based on the clock striking midnight rarely last (if you’re one of the exceptions to this – kudos, share your secret with me).  Any member of a gym can tell you that in January it’s a struggle to find equipment open, but by March the crowds have dwindled and it’s back to life as usual. Instead of making a list of new goals I want to accomplish next year, I’m focusing on a mindset that I developed after completing my half in NOLA – every time I hear myself saying, “I have to…” I try to change it to, “I get to..”

I have to go to the doctor.I get to go to the doctor and am lucky enough to live in a place with easy access to health care.
I have to run long this weekend.I get to run because I’m healthy enough to train for an Ironman.
I have to go to work.I get to work in my chosen field.
I have to have another MRI.I get to have another test to make sure I stay healthy.

Last month I was scheduled for an MRI to make sure that nothing was regrowing around my pancreas. If you’ve never had an abdominal MRI before – imagine being rolled into a teeny tiny tube-shaped machine and laying there for about 45 minutes completely still. Minus the IV, the procedure is completely painless but if you are even remotely claustrophobic – it is a long 45 minutes. As I was laying there, a lot of the bad memories from 2017 that I usually keep hidden tried to resurface. Every time one would pop up, I tried to spin it into something positive. Thankfully this test had positive results and I’m done with GI for awhile.

I’ve learned to use every doctor visit, medical test, and bad memory as fuel for my Ironman fire. I have one big goal for 2019 – Ironman Maryland. I registered last weekend and am claiming now that on September 28, 2019 I will hear the race announcer call out my name and say that I am an Ironman. I am not the kind of person who cries when she’s happy, but that finish line may evoke all the happy tears.

There isn’t a magic pill that is going to make me or you into a different person in the New Year. The only thing that changes from December 31st to January 1st is the numbers in the year. Instead, positive daily choices and continuing to strive to be better when your original motivation has left is the only way to produce results in 2019 that you’ll be proud of in 2020.

A letter to an Unknown Inspiration

Dear Lung Cancer Survivor:

You don’t know me, and we’ve never actually spoken, so it may seem odd that I think of you often on tough runs when I’m looking for inspiration.   I see you frequently on the greenways surrounding the Triangle and at various races.  You always wear a shirt that says “Lung Cancer Survivor” and each time as we pass each other I am in awe of you.   I always wonder about your story, how you beat lung cancer, and how you use that to fuel your running.

I most recently saw you at the RDC Half and Full Marathon.  I was on mile 7 when we passed each other.  I don’t know how you were feeling at that moment in the race, but I was grumbling because it was so COLD and I was hungry because I forgot to pack enough fuel.  When I saw you, I had this intense feeling of gratitude wash over me.  I turned and looked at my friend with this goofy grin on my face and said, “This is actually kinda fun.  We are so lucky to be able to run.”  When I saw you, I was immediately reminded me of how blessed I am to be healthy enough to run.   Every time I see you, I stop and say a prayer of thanks for both my health and yours.

Please don’t stop running sir.  You have no idea how many people you are inspiring to get that extra mile in.                                                                                                                                                                 -Sara

NOLA 70.3 Race Report

Let’s cut to the end of the story…I found the finish line in time and if I had to sum up my first Half Ironman in one word it would be – grateful.  About two days before NOLA I was reflecting on the 18 month journey that created a desire in me to complete an Ironman and realized that the race date was exactly a year and a half from when this picture was taken:


I had spent so much time worrying what would happen if I didn’t finish and not enough time simply being grateful that I was able to get to the start line.    I am also so grateful for the amazing village of people I have who support and cheer me on.  One of my favorite pre-race messages was:


NOLA Race Report:

We arrived in NOLA Friday around lunch time and headed straight to the race expo for packet pickup, athlete briefing, and the Iron Chapel prayer service to get each of those 70.3 miles covered.  At this point, I was in full cromit mode and when we crossed the Louisiana state line I checked my watch and it said my heart rate was 102bpm.


The Swim:

  1. The NOLA swim was cut short due to really choppy conditions thanks to 20-25 mph wind gusts.  The jet skis weren’t able to get to the swim course due to 4-6ft swells in the lake, so for safety reasons the swim had to be shortened.
  2. I was not prepared for swimming in that kind of chop.  I panicked during the swim because every time I tried to breathe I kept getting a big swallow of Lake Pontchartrain.  Thankfully, kayaks line the swim course and you’re allowed to hang on to one of the kayaks as long as needed to catch your breath (as long as no forward progress is made with the assistance of a kayak).  I ended up taking stops at three different kayaks to breathe and try to get my heart rate down.  I saw several swimmers getting pulled out of the water because of the rough conditions and a lot of swimmers like me hanging on to the kayaks wide-eyed with fear staring at how far away the swim finish was.
  3. This swim caused me to eat the words “I’m not worried about the swim” and gave me a big reality check.  I can do 1.2 miles easily in a pool, and in the local lakes around the Triangle – but swimming in choppy water is completely different.

The Bike:

  1. I still really hate cycling to try and help the 56 miles pass by a little easier I wrote “IR4Ellie” on my left hand and my life verse on the other, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  I spent a lot of time staring at my hands so it gave me something positive to think about. img_4865
  2. The soundtrack to my race is hearing, “on your left! on your left!  on your left!” as other racers fly by me.
  3. The wind caused me to have my slowest bike splits…ever.  I only averaged 12.93 mph (in the world of biking average speeds are usually only that slow when a racer has a flat or other similar issue).   I was so excited when I entered T2 (transition 2) that one well meaning volunteered whispered, “You know the race isn’t over yet? You still have go to on a pretty long run.”

The Run:

  1.  I love love love running.  All along, I’ve described myself as “I’m just a runner who decided to run a tri.”  Running is the easy part – all you need is your legs and a desire to keep moving forward.
  2. The NOLA run course was two loops, and other than a few bridges, relatively flat.  It was a lot of fun seeing the same people twice and hearing them cheer for “flamingo girl.”
  3. As crazy as it sounds, I spent most of the run with a big goofy smile on my face.  I knew I had plenty of time to finish and was going to find that beautiful finish line!



I was told before the race that no matter how well I prepared, at least three things would go wrong and I needed to go ahead and prepare mentally to be flexible.  What went wrong:

  2. The morning of the race the water was one teeny weeny degree too high, so the race wasn’t wet suit legal.  If you’ve never worn a wet suit, imagine swimming with a body sized life jacket that provides a nice, snugly buoyant feeling.
  3. The night before the race I was getting everything laid out when I noticed I was missing something almost as important as my bike- the lid to my Camelback!  Most triathletes don’t use a Camelback during the bike, but this newbie hasn’t mastered the art of drinking from a water bottle while riding so I stick to my beloved Camelback.  After texting people in a panic, calling nearby sports stores (all closed) and checking Amazon Prime Now in desperation, this was MacGyvered-up:

    Thankfully, a Good Samaritan loaned me her hydration pack race morning.


All in all, NOLA was a success!  I still want to do a Full next year and I’m leaning towards Maryland.  My goal was to simply finish in the allotted time, and I did.  Shortly after the race a “friend” told me I should wait until 2020 to try and finish a Full because, “you’re just too slow on the bike and you’ll never make it.”  Well…..they may be right, but I went from just a runner to a Half Ironman in 10 months, so I think my track record is pretty good.  I’d rather fail than never try at all – so, bring it on Ironman!

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!