Monday, August 26, 2013

Little Me, Meet Strongwoman - The Competition Blog

Life is unpredictable. No matter what your creed, that much is true.
Little Me
We step into it with the greatest of intentions. As kids, we dream of who we'll be as adults, what we'll accomplish, who our friends and family will be, and what our lives will look like

I never thought for a moment that Little Me would grow into this...

Me at 26

Me at 32
And most of all perhaps... this
Me at 33
This past Saturday I competed in my first (of most likely many) Strongman Competitions.
Here's the run down of events in order -
70lb 60 yard sled pull for time


200 lb tire flip 40 yards for time 

20lb, 25lb, 30lbs, 35lb Kettle Bell Shots

 Atlas Lifts For Time

Deadlifts 135lbs Max Reps in 1 Minute

Rope Pull, 25lbs + Tire + Rope 60 yards for Time

And after all that... I tied for FIRST....
I went into the competition with the expectation to FINISH and just do the best I could with what I've learned so far.

I think I found something I'm good at. First place beat me by about 30-45 seconds in the tie breaker.

Credit where credit is due though - My Sailor was an amazing support during this emotional roller coaster of a day. I had already steeled myself to fly solo (with the support of my trainer and new-found fitness friends) so the fact that he was able to be here is amazing. He gets extra kudos with the fact that he was very 'present' during the entire day, even when I dashed off to cheer on my friends and TrainerGuy. He's always understood how to actively support me, no matter my endevour. When I am in a show, he runs lines with me and makes sure I make time to eat healthy. During this, he was my videographer, keeper of the gallon jug of water, and always ready to dash back to the car for whatever I needed. Often times what I needed was a shoulder to cry on. He was there for that too. I'm a lucky girl.

Victory has it's own bittersweet taste at the moment - not because I didn't win first place, but because this is still the 'year of firsts'. This was my first Strongman Competition EVER. Just like my first triathlon, profound things happened that are life changing.  One of those things (probably the biggest thing) is that this is the first big victory since April. That snuck up on me. I know Dad is never far away. He's astounded and proud of me, I'm sure. I feel it all the time. There are just some days I really wish he had skin on.

My shirt for the Strongman
On a lighter note, it was also Trainer Guy's Birthday so one of my fellow ladies of badassery came up with the idea of surprising him with fake tattoos. It was pretty epic. More photos to come of that later.
We had a great time, one and all.
Honoring Trainer Guy's Scottish homeland
Worth every bruise, scrape, sweat, and tear.

Trainer Guy and Fellow Ladies of Badassery

 *For those of you just now tuning in - I'm a PCOS patient with Stage 4 Endometriosis, standing at about 5'8" and weighing in at about 223lbs. Oddly enough, I weigh MORE than I did this time last year, and I'm down 3 dress sizes but that's for another post... ;)  Stay tuned! As for the medical conditions - they are just labels. Since my diagnosis with PCOS in 1999 and my diagnosis with Endometriosis in 2010, I've made the concious decision to refuse to allow them to define me. They are something I cope with and bumps in the road of my journey, but they aren't who I am. I'm me. Not a diagnosis.*

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Overdue Anniversary Blog

My Sailor has been adamant that I do an anniversary blog. After all, the guy has a point. Credit where credit is due, he did a good job remembering August 12th, where a village worth of our friends and family got together to make the day amazing. It's a memory with my family that I'll always cherish. A year later, I'm constantly looking back at photos and remembering my family happy, smiling, and relaxed, despite the looming cloud that was Dad's cancer prognosis.
At Stone Brewery with the family in Escondido, a few days before the wedding.
Despite all the craziness that comes with any wedding, it was a fun, good day all around. My parents' 40+ year anniversary was only a few days later.

This year, I didn't expect My Sailor to be home, so I made arrangements to go on the first annual 'girl's trip' with my mom. (See previous blog post for photos and a break down of that trip.) It also lined up with D23 Expo, so it gave me a great 'excuse' to head down to California anyway.

That said, when My Sailor turned up at my door, that changed our plans of, well, not celebrating this particular anniversary. See, while some military families post-pone holidays, we've never really done that. I tried to post-pone Christmas a few weeks one year, but it just turned into this 'Ooo! Look! Presents for Sailor Boy!' thing, rather than something that even remotely felt like a Christmas holiday celebration. So after that, we just decided to let the days pass as they would. If he was home for one, great! We'd celebrate that occasion together! If he wasn't, I'd send him with cards and notes and we'd celebrate them apart - however they celebrate things in the silent world of Submarines.
So I had packed a bunch of anniversary cards and goodies into his seabag, which, on August 12th, sat in the dining room, while I was galavanting down the coast.

But he decided that letting the day go unmarked wasn't quite enough, so he had flowers delivered to the hotel.
 Cool, huh? It was definately a nice touch, even though I didn't get to spend much time in the room enjoying them.
When I walked in the door a few days later back in our home in Washington, he had these beauties hanging out on the dining room table waiting for me.
So, yeah he did pretty well with flowers!

He'd bought some steaks from a local butcher (grassfed, humanely raised awesomeness) and told me of his plans for a home made steak dinner on our balcony. Seeing how much the day ment to him took me from "eh, I wasn't around for it, so we'll just let it go," to "Yeah! This is gonna be awesome! Some actual romantic time! Steak dinner, wine, sunset with a view, flowers... wow!"
Well.... then the next day came. Exhaustion and travel laundry set in and we decided to put it off 'one more day'.
The next morning, we found that our roomie had come home from 2 weeks in Japan visiting his family. Eager to hear his stories, we treated him out to breakfast. During breakfast, My Sailor offers to make Soba (a Japanese buckwheat noodle speciality we make once or twice a month) and do dinner all together...
And then there was Duty (you know, that 24+ hr shift).
And then he was sick...
And then he'd had a REALLY bad day...
And then there was Duty again...

I've been home a week and we FINALLY ate the steaks!

Last night... In front of the TV... While watching Anime.
(For the record, we agreed that this does NOT count as our 'annivesary dinner' which now 'might' happen Saturday night...)
Since My Sailor's birthday (the big 30) is only a few days away, my expectations are lowered to realistic levels now, but he still gets 2 points for flowers, -1 point for rescheduling the dinner... so he still comes out ahead!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

1461 and Hot Rubber

Long Beach Lighthouse from the Ferry from Catalina
If you've had a pulse this year, 2013 probably hasn't been 'your year'. At least, that's the way it often has felt.
I can't think of a single thing that has gone the way I anticipated. But then again, it hasn't been all bad either.

Sometimes surprises are good.

1461 - A Brief History  Shortly before BonBon made her cross country move from So Cal to the shores of Conneticut, she invited me to do one of Danskin's Women's Sprint Triathlons with her. I eventually agreed (somewhat reluctantly - the fact that it was at Disney's California Adventure was a huge bonus).
 It turned out to be a life changing surprise. I was completely out of my element. I LOVE swimming and have always been a bit of a fish when it comes to water. But I wasn't prepared for the combat -style swimming in tri's. I can finally understand how and why people drown! Within the first minute or two, I'd been dunked under and slammed up against a Disneyfied 'rock' (aka concrete beaten to look like a rock) and cut up my leg! And that was just the FIRST event! I was stable on a BIKE before, and I'd NEVER  ran a 5k as an adult before! Yet, here I was with all these competitors, riding my $60 Walmart special bike, singing "Come On Hear the Noise. Girls rock the boys!" at the top of my lungs as I talked myself up another hill. Out of the group of women I was competing with (other friends of BonBon's), I came in last by a good 10 minutes. Out of the entire group of women racing, I wasn't last - which was my only goal.
 That race completely changed my life.
Pre-race, getting my number at the Expo, June 2008

More Current fitness, August 2013
My number? 1461. That was all the way back in 2008, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I had recently gotten divorced and while I was dating someone, I was still healing. No, my then-boyfriend wasn't there to cheer me on, and BonBon and her friends didn't keep pace with me. I was on my own - with every reason to quit. But I didn't. It's amazing how far the simple act of not giving up can get you. Out there on the track, I realized that I wasn't doing it for anyone else but me. If I quit, everyone would have understood. I would have reasoned it out and it would have made sense to just get off the track and out of the way of the REAL competitors. (Sometimes the part of your brain that wants to quit gets VERY LOUD during new challenges. Mine was SCREAMING.) But all you have to do is keep doing what's in front of you, and it's amazing how things fall into place.

One more thing about that race... It was on Father's day.  The first person I called (after a tearful hug from my mom at the finish line) was Dad.
For the first time in I can't remember when, I felt like my parents were truly down deep proud of me. Maybe it's because I was proud of me too...

Anyway... let's fast forward to this month's 1461s, shall we?

My Sailor ended up coming home within days of me leaving town. (Gotta love a good irony, he was home for our anniversary - I was not. Oops!) See, my parent's wedding anniversary is within a few days of the wedding day anniversary My Sailor and I celebrate (though we celebrate our elopement day as well, just more privately). Since this is Mom's first year flying solo, we decided to make a 'girl's trip' out of it. Though we have somewhat different travel styles, we still both had a good time.

Up at 6:30am to ride on Radiator Springs Racers before it gets REALLY crowded for the day.
Princess Tiana Performing

First thing's first though. I had business in Disneyland meeting up with folks for the magazine I write for. That ment late night schmoozing and meeting one of my fellow Celebrations Magazine contributing author's, Jamie Hecker (shameless plug for magazine here), as well as some of my friends from Window To The Magic Podcast and Little Red's Writing Hood. I'm still a theme park commando when I tour parks. I'm up early, up late, with a possible nap in the middle of the day. If I don't log about 7 miles on my feet, I've done something wrong. But this trip was also about showing Mom a good time. I was really glad she got to glimpse the parks the way I do - without little ones in tow. While those trips have their own kind of magic, it's nice to be an adult and be able to marvel at the technology and artistry that makes it all possible, without having to think about diaper changes and height requirements.

But in some ways, my touring has changed as well. I no longer stop at every sweet smelling cart (seriously folks, I had 1/2 a churro the entire time I was there - I know MrsB is just shocked to read that, since we used to be spotted with a churro in each hand). I actually bought more overpriced fruit than junk. I didn't touch sodas. Instead, I refilled a water bottle. And, in addition to all the walking, I visited the Fitness Center at the Disneyland Hotel TWICE in as many nights!

The weight portion of the Fitness Room
Who knew Mickey knew so much about making muscles?

In the past, the walking would have been work out enough. I found myself scouring menus for the healthy options (which isn't as hard as it sounds anymore - Carthay Circle's Sashimi Grade Salmon was to die for...)
Sure, I still enjoyed some luxuries, but it's a far cry from how I toured the park just a few years ago. Usually, it would have left me a LOT more tired. Instead, I found myself somewhat energized to see what the next adventure had in store, despite the less-than-awesome occasion.

Catalina Island. See, Dad never cared for Catalina. The main town, named after the legendary home of the Round Table - Avalon- is VERY small. In fact, you can see it all in a weekend easily. But the island had so much to do, and was so beautiful, that it was hard to stand still and soak it all in.  The only way to get there is by ferry (which does not take cars - the entire town is completely walkable, and locals get around via golf carts) or by helicopter. There are some parts of the island where people love to camp that can only be reached by boat. It had many of the best parts of tropical islands (like Hawaii), only with less palm trees, no Luaus, and a much smaller price tag.
  Catalina was a play ground for the rich and famous of Hollywood's past (Natalie Wood, just to name one) and the Wrigley Family (you know, like Wrigley chewing gum, and the Cubs...). It's a unique landscape where you can see tropical fish under the waves, and buffalo roaming free over the interior of the island. It's a mountain biker's paradise and a nature lovers' dream...

Can't wait to explore the Casino building on the next trip!

Beach day at a Cabana - stroke of Genius.

Ready for our last day

The town of Avalon from the ferry dock

Ocean as far as the eye can see on the Ferry

Mom and I goofing off during our last meal on the island
 The crystal clear waters made for great snorkeling (which I attempted, but the mask either came pre-warped, or got warped in my luggage so it never sealed, besides nearby boats were spooking off the fish). I tried my first kayak ride and actually got a good solid 35-40 minutes out there on the water. It's given me the confidence to look into buying a kayak for the marina by our house... but I digress...

The water was so clear I could spot a few sting-rays and even a lobster doing their thing at the bottom of the big blue sea. Even with all the walking around, I still hit up the gym for a Fight Gone Bad style workout. The gym at this particular hotel was pretty awful, but with my trusty jump rope and a dumb bell, I can pretty much make anything work.
Now, it's REALLY easy to backslide without a trainer laying out a work out plan and telling you what to do. After all, it's great incentive to get to the gym when you're budgeting your funds to make it a financial priority. (It's astounding how fast things that are a financial priority become priorities in other ways too!) But seeking out ways to stay active really help. I got out of shape by making a lot of small, bad decisions. I'm getting into shape by making small good decisions. Every decision is one step closer.

 Once I came home, I had 1 day of 12 hours of work to cram in, because the next day was the Seattle Zombie 5k! I was able to register My Sailor and we ran it together. It was through a fantastic little park (Magnuson Park) and I'd like to get back out there sometime and ride some of the trails on a bike (which I'll be getting THIS WEEK! Yeah!) and explore their rock climbing wall (which is FREE, well - you know, 'free' aside from the ferry ride, gas mileage, and all that jazz). To my surprise, I set a new record on my 5k, shaving 4 minutes off the last 5k I did just a month or 2 ago! Instead of a 34 minute 5k, My Sailor and I finished at 30 minutes 31 seconds! I guess running from zombies is good incentive!
My sailor, Random Zombie, Me, and Brother in Law

Our time

The Whole Team... plus a couple zombies.

My Sailor losing the war
Pre-race giddiness.

Not quite flipping these yet...
This is the year of 'firsts' in so many ways. Oddly enough, it's in ways where were completely unpredictable a year ago, when we were neck deep in getting adoption stuff together, and just finished up the wedding halfway through Dad's Chemo treatments... a lot can change in a year. Now, instead of helping Dad with Chemo, I'm helping Mom go from 40 years of "we" to a new frontier of "me". I'm putting my fitness first (long overdue) and forging ahead in the writing world as well. I've discovered things I now love that I never thought to try before. So, as tough as this year has been, it's a 1461 year full of new horizons, new (sometimes unwanted) challenges, and a year where huge turns and growth is taking place.

If you've made it this far, you deserve to find out what the 2nd part of the title of this blog is all about too.

I can't WAIT for the Strongman Competition on Saturday! That alone is a little surprising. I never thought I'd look forward to things like races and competitions, but I feel prepared, excited, and looking foward to seeing how I pull my weight. I'm a little disappointed to hear they may be 'lightening the load' for the ladies - but it doesn't matter nearly as much to me anymore. I mean, yes, it's a 'Strongman' challenge, and the entire point is to push your limits (and sometimes discover them).

Either way, I've been practicing with a 400lb tire for the tire flip. To my surprise, I can flip that monster just fine.

And after today's massive Strongman prep work out, I made peace with that big old hot hunk... of rubber.

Today's highlights (aside from tire flipping) included 5 reps of 200lb dead lifts (remember when my max was 205lbs - just 1 rep not too long ago? So much for that!), and a couple messy awkward lifts (called Atlas Lifts) of 135lbs. I have burns on my upper arms from the logs we're lifting, but they feel kind of amazing.
I didn't get here overnight, but boy, does it feel good. I think it's safe to say, like that triathlon, this new way of life is another 1461.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Best Laid Plans of Mice, Men, and Submarine Wives - And Time in a Bottle

Ever tried to pick out ONE Sailor in a sea of camo? It kinda feels like this -

No matter how well you think you know your Sailor's face, when everyone is wearing the same thing, from hat (called a 'cover' in the Navy world) to boots, it's nearly impossible to pick out your sailor in a crowd, unless he's insanely tall or short or something. So I was pretty impressed when I picked My Sailor out of a crowd after having not seen him for a while. It's not as easy as it sounds. But it's a feat I accomplished from a distance in poor lighting and on short notice.

Now, I expected him to come home to a clean house, with a built fence, freshly cleaned carpet, washed dogs that smell decidedly-less doggy, folded laundry, a spotless kitchen, and a freshly decorated bedroom, and probably a few more inches off my hips.

 he came home to a sink full of dishes, folded laundry still sitting on the coffee table, floors that could use some vaccuming, dogs that were just as doggy as when he left, and a fence that consist of 2 posts - but hey! I managed to make the bed! And I dressed up! The weather actually was condusive to a nice little sundress out of my closet.

I had the pleasure of explaining my bumps and bruises to him, though they were far from the first thing he noticed, they were large and in charge and on the list.
One bruised up tire flippin' gun  - 8/7/13
We had a few hours together before the Navy had him back in those Camo's again, and I was back at my desk.

So plans change, as they so often do about here. So it's time to flex some of those Obscenely Flexible muscles. Sometimes plans change for the better (like getting unexpected time with My Sailor - yeah!)
And all we can do is roll with 'em.
So we flex our flexibility and roll with it.

But one thing I underestimated was the power of seeing My Sailor again. Though it's not the longest we've been apart, it might as well have been years.
It amazes me how some loves dwindle over distance, and others just get richer.
It isn't 'picking up where we left off.'
While that sounds obviously like what anyone in these situations would want, that's impossible. It's a lesson most military families learn quickly.
Life doesn't have a 'pause' button. And since deployment is part of this thing called life for some of us, you get the picture..
 From the start, I believed the best way to honor
his work is to go out and use that freedom he (and others like him) are helping to protect.
So I go out!
 I go out to meals. I relax and my favorite wine bar in town with a good book and discuss local events with the bartender.
I get to the gym and build my fitness.
I go grocery shopping for what I want when I want to.
I work until 2am.
I participate in events and in life where ever I choose.
I own 2 large dogs without having to have a permit for them.
I build a fence on my property because I own it and I get to make those decisions.
So, no, there is no pause button on life when these guys deploy. We may (at times) wish there was, but there isn't.
It's more like capturing time in a bottle.
 Things still happen within that bottle that has "farewell" as the glass and "home" as the cork, you just spill it out all at once.
We call that 'homecoming.'
And oh, how sweet it is.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's All In Your Head

I've never been afraid to get dirty.  I was a play-in-the-mud kinda kid for a good chunk of my childhood.  Sure, I adored dress up and theater and all that, but I have distinct memories of climbing trees for hours and tearing through knee pads during my years on rec soccer teams. My favorite position was always goalie and I'd like to think I wasn't bad at it. At least I know I was tough. I wasn't afraid of getting hurt. Tender heart but a tough hide.
Somewhere along the way,  I realized I wasn't invincible.  It wasn't the day I cracked my nose by taking a softball and a bat to the face (lets just say...softball pitching clinics are a bitch when they run out of gear...and you're a catcher). You would think that would knock some sense into a kid, right? Nope. Even falling face first into gravel and throat first into a hot cookie sheet fresh out of a 300+ degree oven (now that's a crazy story for another day) didn't change my attitude for more than a few days. I wasn't a dare devil child, nor exceptionally accident prone. (The throat incident was just lots of bad timing lining I said, crazy story).
But I think it's safe to say I've always been very passionate, single minded, and nothing if not resilient.
As I started this fence building project, I had my doubts that I could do it myself. In fact, we talked about just hiring someone for a long time. Building a fence doesn't seem to complicated. Dig hole, fill with cement and post. Hammer nails and boards together and there you have it. A fence. I started today. Measured, dug holes, cemented 2 posts in... overall it's actually something I'm not too bad at. I'm glad to have acquired since muscle mass because roots aren't easy to dig through, even with my awesome post digger.
While I realize that I'm not invincible, I am learning that, as long as I stay open to learning new things, limits are really just self imposed assumptions.
Sure, I doubt I'll figure out the mechanics of time travel or discover the next Star Trek style transporter, but it's energizing (pun intended, Star Trek fans) to learn new things and to keep growing. Even if it's just how to build a cedar fence along my property line.
It's that concept, constantly introducing new projects, that I find invigorating. It keeps at bay the other dogs...
No, I don't mean literal "dogs".
Every man had 2 dogs inside him. Everyday they fight with each other for supremacy. Which dog wins? The one you feed the most. It's all about choice.
I can either feed the beast afraid of new challenges because I might just fail, the one who has trouble understanding the concept of patience, the one quick to jump to the resentment, excuses, and the blame game, OR, I can choose to feed the beast who constantly craves new horizons, who is excited by the prospect of learning, who embraces the possibility of failure and gets right back at it, who remembers how amazing it feels to achieve something unthinkable before, who is always looking for
a reason to celebrate the journey.
Lately, that last dog had been feasting.
Sure, minor construction and yard work might not be some people's ideas of a fun project, but I can already see my training paying off when it comes to hauling poles, mixing cement, carrying dry cement bags (which put my recently acquired Atlas Lift skills to work) and can't wait to throw a "Yards Done" party for friends, quietly steeped in the pride and knowledge that I didn't pay someone to do something I discovered I'm fully capable of.
That's gonna be one awesome party.