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Archive for the ‘self esteem’ Category

One thing I have noticed with finally discovering a positive self-esteem is that my tolerance for BS is much lower than it used to be. I’ve had a few relationships that I have moved on from in the past year or so. There are four to be exact. One person suggested that this handful of “failed relationships” is because there is something inherently wrong with me. Although she meant it to be snarky she is correct in that there was something wrong with me…

You see, for years I settled for less than I deserve because, I suppose, at the time I felt it was all I did deserve. I’d overlook hurtful things for the sake of not rocking the boat. I’d pretend that digs and rude comments didn’t bother me. I’d hide my opinion for fear of being judged. If you told me the sky was yellow and I knew it was blue I would agree just so that I wouldn’t risk losing a friend. And… I hated myself for it. I would hide from being myself and it was stressful. On top of that I would give and give to the point where I’d wonder if I was being used and often times that was the case.

As I started to feel worthy of love and true friendship I embraced the fact that we’d be pretty boring if we all thought the same way. I started to share my feelings, opinions and ideas. Some friends were on board but there was that small handful who, for whatever reason, felt that I had changed and not for the better. The fact that I suddenly had my own voice was too much for some, I suppose. Sadly, those were also the people in my life who I would drop everything for when they needed me, yet when tables were turned they were suddenly distant.

This started to become evident when my Mom passed away at the very beginning of 2013. Oddly enough it was also after I’d been running for about a year. Running was one of the things that really brought me out of my shell and taught me about how I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Last March, when I was in the hospital dealing with my heart issues, I started to be aware that a few of the people I had considered close “friends” weren’t really people I should have in my life. There is a saying about not crossing oceans for people that wouldn’t jump a puddle for you. This was certainly the case and I was enlightened.

I also saw who really valued my friendship and lent support throughout the anxious months that followed. I had a very rough year that took its toll. It was quite the eye-opener and by the end of August I realized who had my back and who was apt to twist a knife in it. I decided that if being friends didn’t bring value to my life and constantly left me feeling negative then that wasn’t a relationship I wanted to continue. I faced the fact that if I had to think twice about answering the phone or visiting because the conversation would be draining or drama ridden then it was time to unsubscribe myself from that. After all, it isn’t fair to either party.

It’s amazing what has come from this change. I’ve strengthened relationships with people that treat me with mutual respect. I’ve learned that I want to surround myself with the type of friend where if we disagree with one another that we can at least understand the other point of view. After all, that is the way it should be. I should never have to walk on eggshells because I have different perspective.

I’ve always said that there are times where you have to treat your circle of support like a garden. If you pull the weeds then you make room for the flowers… and that is exactly what I did. .

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A few nights ago, I was having a chat with a lady named Daphne who is considering becoming a runner. She’s a fellow diabetic who I connected with recently and we ended up on the subject of running. I’m a bit exuberant about running so it was bound to happen. She asked me if runners are the type to be cliquey. We talked about acceptance and how there is a culture in certain fitness circles where judgments happen frequently. With running, as I told Daphne, the only judgment I ever found was self-inflicted and stemmed from my own insecurities. It is as simple as John Bingham says,  “if you run, you are a runner”.

I related to her concern. When I first started running I only ran at home on the treadmill where no one could see me. I was over conscious about how I would be perceived and I felt embarrassed. I expected runners to look down their noses at me and act as if I had no business out there. It took a couple of months before I summoned enough courage to head to the indoor track and run in public. A few weeks later I ran outside. That was liberating but my confidence still waned at times. Then I ran my first race. After that my perspective changed considerably. Running brought me to the realization that I ought to be more accepting of myself and runners proved to be some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met.

I have experienced this kindness time and time again. I’ve had a runner stay by my side when I was having issues. She walked across the finish line with me, sacrificing her own time. I’ve had runners who finished long before me, cheer at the finish line. At the Toronto ZooRun a stranger gave me a high-five as he passed me in the other direction. It got me through what was a pretty wet and miserable run. Other runners have sponsored me by donating to the causes I run for. I try to do the same for them. Another runner, I had only recently met, decided to run my first half with me so I wouldn’t have to run alone. She ran at my pace which for the half was considerably slower than what she is used to. She even sprinted ahead near the end to take my photo as I crossed the finish line.

Speaking of speed, one of the other conversations I was part of quite recently was with my fellow members of the Digital Champions (DC) team for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This chat really illustrated what I was explaining to Daphne about how welcoming the running community is.

Prasheel Gopal, posted about the respect and admiration he has for those of us who are slow runners. He went on to mention how our efforts are not to be considered any less than folks who run faster. Prashell also went on to say that slow runners shouldn’t feel discouraged and how much he is inspired by us. His words showed me another perspective—it was something that hadn’t occurred to me before. He said that slow runners have to run for longer periods of time at events and in training thus enduring more extended periods of discomfort than those who are faster. For the longest time I berated myself for being slow but the reality is that I do spend a lot of time on my feet to cover the same distance. I’m sure that has to have an impact both physically and mentally. Other DCs chimed in and it was interesting to hear a similar point of view from other runners too.

Someone once said that the tortoise and the hare cross the same finish line. So, don’t fret if you are a slow runner because other runners know that you have the same commitment to this as they do. Be proud of every step you take towards being the best running version of yourself you can be. Embrace the fact that you are out there, day after day, giving it all you’ve got.

Daphne (and any of you who may be tossing around the idea of becoming a runner), I hope that you will give running a try and, in doing so, come to know the same camaraderie, growth, and joy that I have experienced through a sport that welcomes all.

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the journey continues

Last week I created a page on Facebook to go along with my blog! Sunday I posted a few “before” and “after” photos. A kind lady named Sally, who is a Registered Dietitian, made this comment…

“I’d love to know what other positive changes you’ve noticed as you’ve changed your lifestyle. Weight loss is often what others notice most, but is usually only one of many positive benefits of a change to a healthy lifestyle.”

It’s a great topic so I will share that answer here with all of you. Sally is right about weight loss only being a small part of it, like the cover on a complex book. Let’s look, briefly, at the first chapters of my journey before we talk about where I am now and what some of the other benefits have been.

Emotionally, I was very timid albeit I put on a good front in social situations. I’d get anxiety when we had to go anywhere. I’d actually toss my cookies before we went out and sometimes my husband Bryan would even have to stop the car. I was terrified of rocking the boat. If you said the sky was yellow and I knew that it was blue, I’d agree with you just so you’d like me. I felt like everyone was judging me because of my weight and some people were. I had absolutely no confidence and I felt alone even in a crowded room. When it came to self-image, I hated looking in a mirror and I hated myself. I detested shopping for clothing. I wanted to hide. I quit taking care of myself on the outside and on the inside. I started becoming reclusive and would barely leave the house; instead I would have friends come over to visit. Even then, I’d often cancel at the last moment. I lost all of my passion for the things I enjoyed doing, including artistic endeavors.

Physically, I was prone to extreme bouts of bronchitis and occasionally pneumonia. I’d be down for six to eight weeks at a time and it would take months for my breathing to return to what was normal for me back then. My nails were brittle and my scalp was always dry. My hair would fall out in handfuls. My skin was even affected. I was tired all the time and listless. My posture was awful and I had a hump shape to my back because of excess fat. I had one across the hips too and would often suffer horribly from sciatica. Standing up straight was impossible because of both the weight and years of trying to make my almost 6 foot tall frame appear shorter. I was klutzy because I was so self-conscious and I was always falling.

The transformation started and here’s the answer to Sally’s query.

As Sally mentioned, it wasn’t just the weight that came off. Everything started to heal. My skin and hair were better. My nails became stronger. My posture improved. The sciatica was a thing of the past. I wasn’t horribly hot all the time and I could actually sweat. But what was happening inside was more remarkable. Just over two-thirds of the way through this weight loss I was diagnosed as diabetic and put on insulin, and, as you probably read in earlier postings, I reversed all need for diabetes medications. My enlarged heart started to reverse, my liver enzymes sorted out, my blood pressure went down dramatically. Over a decade of infertility was resolved because my hormones leveled out. Diabetic retinopathy, a serious eye condition, started to heal. My cardiovascular health improved and I can breathe. I can run up the stairs and not have to pull myself up with the banister. Even intimacy is different. Not just with my darling husband but even something simple as hugging a friend. Hugs no longer make me cringe.

Now I’ll tell you about the emotional side of things. This change in me has been as much to do with weight-loss as it has to do with the confidence that came from putting on a backpack for the first time and going into the wilderness. That energized my spirit as well as my body. I wanted more. As the outer transformation started so did the inner changes. I finally decided to become a Mom. In the same year I started pursuing my dream of becoming a published author and freelance writer. I started doing things that I loved again, and picked up a sketchbook for the first time in years. I embraced being daring and did things I thought I could never do. Things that others told me I couldn’t do—canoeing, backpacking, cycling, running, and hiking. I did them despite the naysayers. The more I did, the stronger I became and the more things I wanted to try. I started thinking positive and accepting that I didn’t have to put limitations on myself just because others had—that I can do anything I put my mind to.

I’ve embraced that I am my own person instead of trying desperately to be who others want me to be. I share my opinions even if they differ from my friends. I make the first move to introduce myself to new people and I am strong enough to walk away from negative people who try to sabotage my efforts and hold me back. I even garnered enough courage to teach wilderness cooking workshops and am considering becoming a motivational speaker. Teaching, even though it was my dream, was something that I would have never done when I was obese, because I was just way too self-conscious. I am no longer so ashamed of the obesity and I can share my “before” photos because I’m proud of what I have accomplished—that I have overcome what I once thought was impossible.

So there you have it. Losing weight isn’t just about what others see on the outside, it goes far deeper that. It is a culmination of a healthy body, mind, and spirit. It’s about creating boundaries with how I fuel my body while breaking the boundaries of what I perceive I am capable of doing from a physical standpoint. It’s about becoming whole and being confident, meeting challenges head on and accepting myself and all my idiosyncrasies.

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my little shadow

Funny, I don’t often think of myself as being an inspiration even though my intent of starting this blog was to be just that. I blush profusely when I read comments from strangers such as “I just read your story. Love it! That is so incredibly inspiring.” or “Everyone has the power within themselves to be great and Laurie exemplifies this so beautifully. What a force & exceptional role model for believing in your inner power & strength.” I find it somewhat overwhelming but I also find that it is motivating for me in so many ways.

Going public with my story was profound for me and summoning up a great deal of courage to put it out there has been a gift as well as a learning experience.  Being open about my story has taught me a great deal about how strong I am. To know that I can make a difference to someone who may have similar struggles helps me move forward on my own journey. However, there was something that happened recently that makes me realize how much responsibility comes with the lifestyle choices I make. It was a little closer to home.

The other day I had just come in from stretching after a trail run and as I walked by the full length mirror on my closet door I realized something… I have really great legs. I know that sounds full of vanity but I love how they look and feel. I paused, flexed, and marveled at their definition with a bit of wonder. Hmm… when did that happen? I didn’t remember them being quite that way. I said to my husband, Bryan, “When did I get such defined leg muscles?”  He chuckled and reminded me that I’ve always had strong legs but mentioned that he noticed a while ago that they had become very toned.

A few hours later my almost 2 1/2 year old daughter, Kaia, was in the kitchen with him. She pulled up the hem of her pants to her knee, pointed her toes and flexed her calf just as I had earlier. Then she said “Daddy, I need talk to you. I have muscles.”

Later that day Bryan told me what she did. It isn’t the first time she has mimicked me. Kaia adores stretching when I stretch and playing with her soccer ball like I exercise with the stability ball. However, it was in those few moments, while listening to his story about my baby girl, that I realized there is something bigger at play here. You see, this reminded me that Bryan and I are probably the most influential role models for Kaia and her brother Tobias—a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly.

B(e) positive!

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This has been such a long journey and some days I can’t believe just how far I’ve come, but here I am… finally down to losing those last 20 pounds. I’m almost there and it’s time for the final push. Why is it that the last 20 pounds seems so difficult to lose? Back when I was over 375 pounds I could drop 20 in week or two without blinking an eye. Yet now, with my body being leaner than it ever has been, 20 pounds will take a decent amount of determination and effort. I’m ready for the challenge. It’s going to mean changing up my routine as well as adding in more resistance and toning exercises. Bring it on!

Being here has brought out such a range of thought and emotion. Some of what is going through my mind is difficult to articulate, however, I will attempt to put it into words.

First of all, I didn’t get to this point alone. I have had much support from Bryan, Tobias, my in-laws, and my dear friends. Having people believe in me certainly helped when I had those dark moments where I felt like throwing in the towel before I used it to wipe the sweat from my brow. I am grateful to all of you.

I’ve changed so much from that girl I used to be that she is a distant memory to me—a stranger. Memory is a funny thing and while I try, I can’t remember how it felt to be her from both a physical and emotional perspective. You see, she was really chubby for as long as I can remember. Even in kindergarten she was the big kid that everyone teased because she was different. As an adult, she was scared and unhappy—trying to protect herself in her own strange way, from the plethora of abuses she suffered in her youth. I know that she didn’t have a lot of energy. Even going up and down stairs was a monumental effort for her. Through all the grief and struggles her weight reached a level where she was slowly killing herself. That girl shut herself off from the world because there was less risk of getting hurt and less risk of being seen as a failure if she ever attempted to follow her dreams. Somehow she transcended all of it.

One day this scared and timid girl decided she was the author of her own life and decided that she was going to be the one to write the ending. Her way. She chose a path of her own making and she mapped her own course rather than let the emotional vampires of her past, lead the way. She quit listening to people who were so unhappy that they put her down to make themselves feel superior. She started to follow her dreams and with that began a metamorphosis into the person that has become… me.

I was borne out of those experiences and I will never regret them. I’ve learned from both the negative and the positive. Experiences have allowed me to feel empathy and compassion for others struggling with their own journey. I’ve discovered that there is not a single obstacle that can’t be overcome. Sure, there are people who still try to hold me back, but I now realize that it is often because they are not content in their own lives.

Another thing that runs through my mind surrounds being a Mom. To be quite honest, I don’t know how I would have had the energy to be Mom to Tobias and Kaia when I was so morbidly obese. This rings especially true with Kaia who is just over 2 years old. She’s busy. Really busy. When she takes off at the park I have to run up the hill to grab her before she makes it to the road. My former-self would have collapsed. Seriously.

I look in the mirror and don’t quite recognize my body. That’s a good thing. I no longer hide  in uber-baggy, oversized clothing out of shame. I actually wear things that are fitted, including my running clothes. You can’t get much more fitted than that! While I still have some work to do, I am so proud of where I’m at. I’m somewhat fascinated with my own body and seeing concrete changes to my physique. There are bones that I can feel and see—bones that I have never been acquainted with before. I found a lump. I freaked out. As it turns out, after seeing my doctor, it wasn’t anything scary. The “lump” was merely one of my ribs. Oops. Sure, I’ve always had them, but they were covered with a lot of padding so I had no idea what they felt like. I also have muscles. When did that happen?

It is impossible for me to be any happier. I’m overjoyed with myself for persevering and taking my health seriously. I am also very thankful to those who continue to believe in and support me. Even though this journey isn’t over, I’m okay with that because I can see the finish line.

You know about finish lines, right?

There aren’t any. Finish lines are merely an illusion; they are the starting lines for the next adventure.

PS When Bryan returns from Chicago I will get him to take a recent “after” photo to share with you all.

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The last before & after I posted was in November 2011 and I had just started a Couch to 5K program in order to run my first race. That first race was a week ago and I had a much better pace than I expected. In fact, I set a new PR  (a term runners use for one’s personal record).

Since I started running back at the end of November, I’ve lost more weight and I’ve toned my body more than I expected I would. I’ve discovered I have bad-ass long legs. I always knew I had long legs but it seems the leaner they get, the longer they look. A lady I occasionally run with started calling me “Leggie Lu”. Aside from the legs, I’ve also gained some muscle. Rather than obsess with the scale I’ve tracked my progress with a seamstress’ tape measure. The results… well, since Christmas I have lost 11 inches overall.  I’ve lost inches off my waist, bust, and abdomen. I lost one inch off my neck and a little bit off the upper arms. My calves and thighs are the same measurements but instead of soft and squishy, they are toned and solid. Muscular. I still have weight to lose and toning to do but I can really see (and feel) the results. I’m also finding bones that I’ve never felt—like my hip bones and my collar bone.

Oddly, when I look back, I don’t really remember the obese lady that I was. How I felt and how I carried all that weight has become a mere memory. Sometimes I look at the photos and I forget that was me hiding behind the physical and emotional walls that held me prisoner. Other times I feel like I am looking at a photo of a stranger. Back then I would have argued that I was active and healthy even though I was obese. Obesity is NEVER healthy, physically or emotionally and I am so thankful I did what it takes to get this far. I am now overweight and not obese. Soon I will be out of that category too—I don’t have far to go in comparison to how far I have already come in this battle.

You may wonder why I reflect on this. Why not forget about the past?  Taking a look at the journey I’ve made so far is important because it reminds me that I’ve worked much too hard at achieving a healthy lifestyle to ever regress to being morbidly obese again.  The most important part of why I do this is simply to keep a positive outlook and continue being motivated to move forward. To see how far I’ve come amazes and inspires me. Hopefully my story will bring inspiration to others as well because, if I can do this, anyone can! All it takes is a commitment to change and the motivation to follow through.  No excuses!

So, with that in mind, here is are two more before & after photos.

before – over 300 pounds

morning of my first race

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first 5K

It is time to cross another milestone off my list of accomplishments. Yesterday I ran and finished my first 5K race. Grab your favorite beverage and settle in for what may amount to be the longest post I’ve written to date.

Comfy?

Here we go…

Saturday April 28, 2012 arrived so much sooner than I had expected but I was ready for the race. I was excited, as you know from my previous posts. I had already run the distance, so I was confident. I had a list of everything I had to do. I wrote a note with instructions surrounding my toddler Kaia’s schedule for Grandpa and Grandma. I had carefully packed everything I would need the night before. I even laid out my running clothes. I literally fell into bed with exhaustion at 10 pm but I was awake at 4 am and could not get back to sleep—I was that excited.

It was much colder than I had anticipated so I donned my winter running jacket and wore a long-sleeved top. I had chosen to wear compression stockings and my running pants with the built-in skirt, so my legs were toasty.

sleepy head

We left the house bright and early and I was nauseous for the entire 45-minute drive. Maybe it was all the nervous energy that made my breakfast seem like it was going to make a second appearance. Tobias, my 11-year old boy, was sound asleep in the back of the Jeep. Bryan, my darling husband, was particularly chatty while enjoying a large cup of Tim Horton’s coffee. I was in tears for part of the ride. This was all pretty overwhelming for me and I couldn’t hold back the emotion.

We arrived at Coronation Park in Oakville at about 8:30 am to find that the parking lot was full. We parked around the corner at a school where the event had arranged overflow parking. Then we headed off to find Mandi and Kristin who were going to run with us. The breeze off of Lake Ontario was cold and the ladies decided to sit in Mandi’s car for a bit while the March clan headed to the bathrooms. I have to say Coronation Park has some of the cleanest park bathrooms I’ve encountered. Then, we all headed over to the starting area to wait. Bryan seems to have coffee radar and next thing I knew he was enjoying another cup of coffee. We picked up our timing chips, strapped them to our ankles, and put on our race bibs.

A little later everyone decided a bathroom break was in order but I was good, so I stayed near the start. I met up with Kelly, the race organizer, who snagged me and introduced me to the crowd. I know it doesn’t seem it, but I am incredibly shy about public events. I was glad my group was indisposed (smiles).

I found the rest of the group and we chatted while trying to keep moving so we could stay warm.  Bryan and Tobias had a plan to give it their all and strive for personal bests and I was so happy that they were going to do that. What a support team I have in my running family. Mandi took photos too. I really appreciated that my sweet friends Mandi and Kristin were going to run to the finish with me.

By this time my hands were so cold that they were cramping. Note to self: keep a pair of mittens handy even if winter is over. The race was about to start. I was caught up in the excitement and totally forgot about the butterflies I had on the ride there. We got into our position at the start line, did some warm-up jumps, and the horn went off. I wanted to go but there was a lady with a dog in front of me so it was about 30 seconds before I actually got to the start line. When we made it out onto the road, I instinctively went to run on the sidewalk and Agnes had me come over to the asphalt. She mentioned that it is easier to run on the pavement rather than the concrete. Good advice (noted for future races).

I ran… I tried to keep my pace steady although it is hard to tell when I don’t know the route and I don’t have a GPS.  I chatted with Kristin. We ran and ran and then my right shoe lace came untied. Oops… I had meant to double-knot those suckers. The course loops and doubles back on the same road. The next thing I knew I saw the first runner on his way back. That man was as graceful as a gazelle. Seriously. For awhile Mandi and Agnes ran together while Kristin and I ran side-by-side. Every 10 or 11 minutes I’d walk for a little, just to get my heart rate down.

As we rounded the corner about halfway through the race, Kristin was joking about Gelato (incidentally I’m having some after dinner tonight). We were closer to the water now and it was very scenic along this part. I was thinking about how sweet it was to have my friends as my pace bunnies. Then, as if on cue, there was a little bunny rabbit on the lawn of the building to our left. How strange is that?

Kristin :: Mandi :: Agnes :: Me

We kept running. I could see the end. Now Mandi was ahead of Kristin and I. I didn’t realize that she was actually taking photos. I walked for a moment or two. We decided to cross the finish line together and the four of us joined hands.

I was on the verge of tears but I had a big smile plastered on my face too. I did it! I finally crossed a finish line! And in good time even. As we went over the finish line, I was so overcome with emotion that I hugged the lady trying to retrieve the timing chip from my ankle. She was probably thinking “what the hell is up with this crazy lady?” Too funny.

Oh wait… let’s back up to approaching the finish line. I had shut my archaic mp3 player off a while back and I could hear one of the songs from my running playlist.  That was weird. I was sure I shut it off. Then, as I got closer,  I realized it was coming across the race sound system. The song was Soul Sister by Train. What is totally neat about this is that I am running another race in 28 days. It is a 6-hour trail relay in the hills of Mansfield, Ontario, called the TREAD. I am part of a four person team and our team name is Sole Sisters. When we chose the name and had our shirts made, I also put the song by Train on my playlist as inspiration for training. How fitting that I finished this race with something that represents the next one. I believe that it was meant to inspire me.

with our finishing medals

We got our finishing medals. I stretched, although today my body is telling me I should have stretched a little more. I drank some water; I checked my blood glucose and had some food. Then the awards presentation started. Once again I got called to the stage. Oh brother… my worst nightmare. Apparently I was the top fundraiser. Here we go again. Did I mention I really don’t like this sort of thing?

Then I shook hands with a few people including Jacob. He is a boy about my son’s age who wrote a letter for the sponsor pamphlet about what it is like to live with Type 1 diabetes as a child who loves playing sports. Even though I am Type 2 diabetic and I was able to get off medications for the disease, I was on insulin at one time and I remember how tough it was dealing with four needles a day. It is constantly on your mind. I still have issues with lows and have to check my blood during runs but it isn’t as bad for me now that I don’t have to take insulin. Type 1 diabetics can’t stop taking insulin and to be a kid dealing with that… well it has to be hard. Jacob is an inspiring young man who represents just why this race was so important to me. It was an honor to shake his hand.

me… on stage

Then Amanda from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation gave me flowers and gift cards for the Running Room. Kelly hugged me and gave me a special medal for my efforts. She also asked me if I had anything to say. I mentioned that Tobias helped raise some of the money and I thanked my biggest sponsor, Alexander Zoller. They gave me a special medal for Tobias as well.

Now that you’ve heard all the details I am sure you want to know how I did with time. My original goal was to finish a 5K race and not have to be carried in a stretcher over the finish line. As my training progressed I wanted to finish that race in less than 50 minutes. Then that time went down to 49 minutes because one of my sponsors teased me that he wanted his money back if I didn’t run it under 49.

But first…

Bryan finished with a time of 0:29:28.3 and was in 143rd place overall.

Tobias, finished with a time of 0:27:12.0 and was 89th place overall. Not bad for a first race.

And me…

Well, I exceeded my expectations.

My final time was 0:44:13.0.

I placed 292 out 314. I was 156 out of 172 in for my gender and I was last in my age group.

And, I finished upright and smiling.

Mission accomplished!

Next…

When I come down from being so on-top-of-the-world about this one, I’ll have to make some plans for more races, revise my bucket list, and see what else I am capable of.

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