Welcome Back Jen

I promised I would get more consistent on the blog, so here I am.  I am still working on updating the subsequent tabs of the site, but the main thing is – I AM POSTING.  I thought it would be good to reintroduce myself.  What I have been doing over the past two years and what people are reading a lot of on my blog.

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This is me Jen D.  Jenny D.  Jen Duf.  In my former life, I was a college pole vaulter at Virginia Tech.  I moved to Charlotte after getting a graduate degree in Accounting.  I passed my CPA exam and went to work for a large accounting firm before I realized for me to have babies, I physically had to be around my husband.  I traveled for work most weeks Monday through Thursday.  While on the road, maintaining my fitness was extremely difficult.

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As good as corporate America thinks they are at maintaining “wellness” programs for their employees, they are failing.  There is no such thing as work life balance.  I have learned it is all a counter balance.  You simply cannot balance it all.  I left public accounting the week before my wedding.  I started my new job in industry (a 40 hour a week in town job) the Monday after my honeymoon.  I also started my career in fitness a few months later when I joined the Flywheel team.

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My second pregnancy at 23 Weeks.

Long story short, I found out once I was physically in town, getting pregnant wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  I began hormones to get a normal period before taking Clomid to conceive my first child.  I started my blog in private while I was pregnant with my first child.  I shared with close friends and family once a week.  Each week, someone else wanted to be added to the list. Eventually, I made it public.

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During my second pregnancy, you really got to see the full story.  My first trimester, I suffered a subchorionic hematoma and didn’t leave my couch much for 2 weeks.  We slowly watched the hematoma disappear as the burden of miscarriage passed.  My daughter Morgan is a blessing. To this day her infectious smile shows the joy that she has for life.

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I left full time work to be a mom.  I passed my personal trainer certification.  I started a new hustle. To get started in personal training, I did a few things to learn:

  • I worked at the YMCA for an hourly wage.
  • I taught bootcamps at SmartCore Fitness.
  • I visited everything.
  • I started training myself for various events. Played around with methodologies.
  • I formed Cross Conditioning.
  • I continued to seek out the people that are the best at what they do (and people did’t know them yet).
  • I ALWAYS ask for feedback.  Trust me, you can always get better.

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Through documenting it all, I learned a bunch of cool things, which I will share, but before I do, let me share where I am at now.

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  1. I have three little girls – My angels.  If I can teach these girls anything, it’s how to love themselves.  Be proud.  Work hard.  Treat everyone the same.  If you train with me, you have likely seen them, met them or been entertained by them.
  2. Cross Conditioning is still going strong – I guess I should start posting again on the Instagram site.  You see, what happened is, after I had my third daughter, I decided that my core group would stay my core group with less workouts per month.  No longer would this be an obstacle race training group, but rather a group centered around intentional planned workouts each week both in person and on your own.  I will now admit that running plays a big part in that.   We still meet regularly.  We still compete.  I simply haven’t had a need to market it.

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3.  My personal training business has significantly grown. Both in person and through programming.  Most people need guidance when it comes to exercise.  It isn’t natural to them.  The thought of getting to a gym, figuring out what to do and executing is overwhelming.  I literally spend hours a month doing that for people.  When will you be out of town? Where do you like to workout?  What are your goals?  There is a way to do it.  Most importantly, I hold you accountable through human interaction.

4.  I co-founded a pop up fitness company called EMERGE – Let’s face it, exercise is not in a great place to the mass.  Some trainers are fueled by the appearance of big numbers over the quality of instruction and execution.  Through EMERGE, five fitness gurus in Charlotte look to come together to bridge that gap.  How do you execute effectively, giving participants a safe workout, while also feeling the energy of a big group?  In a few pop up events a month, we give that to you.  Check it out.

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5. I’m still teaching Flywheel. If you know me, I would do any workout that I would give a client.  I am still a hardcore believer in the Flywheel ride in regards to cross training and low impact exercise.  If fulfills a gap that other brands cannot hit.  I also feel the value in being able to provide my clients with that service when I am in the studio. I’m pretty limited to early mornings, but you can catch me subbing in the evening windows once every other month or so.

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6. I am still running a lot.  I love competing.  I don’t chase people.  I know what I want to do and I try to execute it. I don’t make excuses.  I can only learn from each experience.   I want my people to do the same thing.  The next two races on my calendar are the Orthhcarolina 10K and Around the Crown 10K.  Join me for one or both.  I will also be competing in Beers and Burpees in September.

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Grand scheme of things, I’m present.  I love what I do.  Sometimes I’m too much of a people pleaser.  I want everyone to be happy.  I am learning though. I am getting tougher.  what are people reading on my blog these days:

  • A lot about pregnancy – specifically, pregnancy on a bachelorette, my hematoma, postpartum and my weekly logs.
  • ARUBA – my husband and I went on this amazing vacation to Aruba after the birth of my first daughter.  I posted a lot of good tips on Aruba.  Eats, drinks, activities. I also posted a workout on the beach!
  • Race Recaps – obstacle racing, run racing, you name it.  People want to hear about the course and how tos on hydration, obstacles and time.

What have I learned from all of this:

  • Small groups are the best groups.  I love a big crowd.  It looks cool right?  I build long term clients in intimate situations though.  Small groups.  I like talking to people.  I like helping people.  I want to see people feel good about themselves and feel acknowledged.
  • Everything is not what it appears.  Don’t read too much into someone’s social. I know a ton of fitness professionals that are killing the game and never get on Instagram.
  • The fitness hustle is real.  I talk about this a lot.  Most fitness professionals are not set up for retirement.  Hi millennials.  When you decide to pursue your passion understand this, do you want to be teaching cycle classes when you are 60 because you didn’t save money when you were younger?  While all of your friends are retired what will be cool then?  Take a good hard look at that when deciding to go into a profession that doesn’t have insurance, benefits, retirement.  This is my CPA side talking.  Did I tell you I like to help people?

I hope this was an easy to read version of what’s good for my new peeps.  Sorry to reiterate if you already know me.  Like something you read?  Contact me!

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Love, love, love.  Jen

 

 

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The Importance of Integrating “Body work” and Personal Training

Ever been injured?  Or in pain?  You proceed to make an appointment with your chiropractor or physical therapist, maybe get a massage, get some temporary relief before you head right back to your high intensity exercise class to repeat the same process?  Fitness is in a weird spot.  I train a lot of different types of clients (some performance driven, some for fitness longevity).  The growing trend?  When in pain, they are self prescribing, and not actually prioritizing the root cause.

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I have been lucky not to have experienced any significant injuries in my athletic career (no surgeries or broken bones). That said, I have dislocated a shoulder in a Spartan Race and twisted my ankle in a fluke fall when I stepped on a pile of leaves while running.  In both cases, my range of motion was tested through force, and my body failed.  Recovery time was minimal as was physical therapy.  Here’s the thing, in my own experience, I realized it wasn’t the fall that caused the injury, so much as it was the lack of specific training in those areas.  My ankle mobility is bad.  I often turn my foot out to compensate in my squat.  At the time of my shoulder injury, I had an anterior tilt going on from postpartum pelvic floor issues that had not been resolved. Long story short, I had strength issues in mobility I was neglecting. It was only a matter of time before they were tested.

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I’m a trainer.  When I realized my problems, I talked through my rehab with my physical therapist and I modified my training.  I adapted the way I train personally for specific events and overall quality of life.  It’s not always go hard or go home. You can’t always “modify” a group exercise class. Also, let’s face it, I have to use my body to do my number one job – mom.  Being laid up on the couch is not an option.

So what’s my point?  When you get hurt, ALWAYS figure out the underlying issue.  If you have constant low back issues, have a physical therapist check your alignment, test your range of motion through your hips, find out where you are weak.  Don’t just jump to dry needling, cupping or whatever the newest trend is. These are the areas you will compensate.  Your physical therapist is going to give you a plethora of knowledge and exercises that you might not understand.

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Here is the key that most people miss.  If available, have your trainer understand your weakness and communicate with the person making the assessment. Take that information to them. In the grand scheme of things, your trainer will see you more than your body work therapist, your physical therapist or your chiropractor.  Your trainer should be helping you strengthen your body to correct areas that might be causing pain and ultimately resolving that pain. If your trainer or the person working on your body are unwilling to connect, this should be a RED flag.  Direct communication from these two modalities will save you time, money and make you feel better.  That I can guarantee.

When “body work” and training are merged, big things happen. I have an amazing group of physical therapists, chiropractors and body work therapists that I refer people to and I can’t tell you much I appreciate directly knowing a client’s limitations. And let me preface all of this by saying this doesn’t mean you can’t do high intensity interval training and still work towards a performance goal.  My clients know my seemingly easy workouts sneak up on them. Being on offense is always better than being on defense. Taking care of things before they escalate is better than trying to fix them after they do.

Savage Race Charlotte 2019 Recap

Let me preface this with saying I have been bad about posting.  I haven’t even been looking at my own blog.  The funny thing is, other people are.  I used to be so good about just posting every day stuff.  Not sponsored content, but real stuff.  I vow to be better.

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Here we go.  Savage Race 2019.  I did the Blitz (or short course race) in 2018.  After teaching a Flywheel class and running a few miles with friends after class, my husband and I headed up to the course.  We jogged and “monkeyed” around finishing in the top three in both of our age groups.  I suppose it was time for us to move to the competitive wave and hit the long course.

Day of race, our back door knob broke making it impossible for us to shut the door.  With three kids and a babysitter in 90 degree heat it made it difficult for us to leave for over four house to make the trek up to the race and back.  That said, my husband opted to head to Lowes, replace the door knob and take his chances on being late.  I took my own car and gave myself plenty of time to warm up.  Just typing that makes me sound super selfish.  Sorry Jeff.

Race launched at 9 AM sharp.  Men and women competitive athletes start at the same time. I truly don’t like that.  While some men should be at the start line ahead of me, most men need an ego check with how fast some of the women are.  Fellas, let the ladies move to the front.

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The course was all trail running, as evidenced by my Garmin map above.  Disregard the temperature.  That cannot be right.  Little to no shade the first four miles.  We ran quite a bit before we hit the first obstacle.  This was good as it gave people room to make space.  Bear with me.  Some of the obstacle names are inappropriate.  I will do my best to explain and post pictures.

  • Obstacle 1 – Barn Doors – An 8 foot wall with gaps to assist you climbing up and over.  Picture a ladder of two by fours.  No problems here.  At this point everyone is so fresh, obstacles like this can be done by almost anyone without assistance.
  • Obstacle 2 – Low Crawl – Picture a muddy pit with barb wire.  You have to crawl on your knees and elbows under the barb wire in the mud.  Pretty standard obstacle in these types of races.  Easy, but dirty.
  • Obstacle 3 – Squeeze Play –  Sorry – no pictures of this – they had these barrels that were on the ground attached to a pole.  You had to lift the barrels up and crawl underneath them. Easy once you got the hang of it.

By the time we got through obstacle three we had hit mile 1.  Whoop whoop!  I can’t tell by looking at the map where the water stations were, but I can tell you there were a lot of them.  While I am here let me talk about them.

  1. The water was in bottles.  Weird.  I have never seen this.  So whatever you didn’t drink was wasted.  But at least you knew it was clean.  Was it costly?  Probably.
  2. I stopped at EVERY water station.  Trust me when I say you should get water whenever you can in a race longer than one hour.
  3. I drank water, and I also dumped water on my body.  The heat was intense.  Drink 8 ounces, dump 8 ounces over the top of your head or your chest.  Bring core temperature down.

Back to the race.

  • Obstacle 4 – Mud N Guts  – more crawling around in mud on your hands and knees.  I hate getting muddy.  No lie.  I will swim, run, jump off a cliff, but I hate being covered in mud.  Easy for anyone.
  • Obstacle 5 – Back Scratcher – Four alternating five foot walls.  Some you jumped over, some you climbed under.  Again, at this point in the race with or without assistance this should not be an obstacle people struggle with.
  • Obstacle 6 – Big Cheese – Another wall with places to put your hands and feet as you climbed over it.  Again, with basic core strength and little to no assistance this is easy for most.
  • Obstacle 7 – Swamp Donkey – I don’t remember what this is. Can’t really find it. I think it was us running through a bunch of muddy water.  My biggest tip anytime you have to do this:  Run on the outside, not right down the middle.  It’s shallower and you can keep your hands out of the water.  The last thing you want to do is get your hands wet unless you have to – especially muddy.

We are now at mile 2.  I ran the first two miles around a 7:30 min/mile on trails.  That is fast.  With little to no shade, my legs were already starting to feel toast.  We must move on though.  I had my husband within eyesight the first 1-2 miles before I got slowed down on some on the tall people exercises.

  • Obstacle 8 – The Great Wall – I broke my finger on this obstacle the year before.  This year, I cleared it no problem.  96 inches tall. What’s that? 8 feet?  I got this on my first try as this another standard obstacle I have seen in other races.
  • Obstacle 9 – Venus Guy Trap – Inverted walls.  Jumping over straight walls is one thing. Try them at a slant.  It’s a different kind of control.  Again, this was no problem.
  • Obstacle 10 – Teeter Tuber – I was cruising y’all.  I had no doubt I was going to crush this course.  Until the Teeter Tuber.  I wish I had a picture.  I had to shimmy up a slippery tube that would at some point teeter totter over and leave me on the other side.  My biggest advice on this obstacle is to try one tube.  If you can’t catch your feet and hands, move on quickly.  I used SO much energy on my first tube and actually lost a lot of confidence.  The second I moved to another tub, I made it through very quickly.  That was not after I had lost several MINUTES of time though!

At we are at mile 3.  Lots of running to get to obstacle number 11 and 12.

  • Obstacle 11 – Battering Ram – I actually love this obstacle.  See below.  This was a picture from last year.  You have to heave these metal sliders across a pole.  Switching to a different set half way through.  Grip intensive, yet not a problem for me.

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  • Obstacle 12 – Big Ass Cargo – It is what the name implies.  Climb up a cargo ladder suspended in a tall A-frame and back down the other side.  Stay tight to places the ladder is attached to the frame.  It is easier to move up and down the tighter parts o the net rather than the sagging middle parts.
  •  Obstacle 13 – Chopsticks – NEW! – by this obstacle we had looped back around to the “spectator zone”.  It’s always more fun when people are watching. I did not find this obstacle hard, yet a good test of core strength and the ability to slow down enough to get through on try number 1.

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  • Obstacle 14 – Shriveled Richard – I told you the names were inappropriate.  You are literally submerging yourself from head to toe in ice water to swim underneath floating walls.  I’ll let my facial expression do the talking.  The ice bath was a welcome relief to the flaming temperatures.

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  • Obstacle 15 – Slippery Incline – Now that they got us soaking wet, they asked us to scale a slippery inverted wall by using a rope to assist us up and over.  Much harder than it looks, yet doable.  No tips here other than walk your way up the wall allowing your weight to sit into your hips while trusting your grip strength.
  • Obstacle 16 – Inversion Therapy – This was another new obstacle close to the spectator zone.  I wish I had pictures.  Friends, ADVICE – hook your feet around and let the legs slide.  I warped through this fast because I had high socks on and used my hands to let my legs slide.  You are hanging upside down on a tube shimmying backwards to the bell.

Introduce Mile 4.  We ran quite a bit again into the woods before we came across the next obstacle and mile.

  • Obstacle 17 – Wheel World – I had made SPACE between myself and any other ladies and men at this point.  The photographer (who was suspended off the top of the rig) actually directed me down the best lane for photos.  Thank you!  I love this obstacle.  There aren’t enough obstacles like this in OCR.  Thank you Savage Race for this good one.

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  • Obstacle 18 – Lumberjack Lane – Remember this infamous photo? See below.  This log is a joke.  While I was coming around the bend to return my log, I heard a male in front of me scream and yell about a snake.  Um hell no.  I wasn’t about to run through that area by myself.  Y’all I legit stopped and waited for the next guy so I could follow him through the path.  We did not see a snake, but I know one was out there.
  • Obstacle 19 – Davy Jones’ Locker – Here come the height obstacles – Just to get to the top of this structure was a challenge. As seen by the pictures below. By the time I made it to the top, I wasn’t sure how to proceed other than jump out and away from the structure.  My attempt to keep my hands by my side epically failed.  As did my attempt to keep a normal face.

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  • Obstacle 20 – Twirly Bird – I will be the first to admit, I “failed” two obstacles on first attempt.  The tube obstacle I talked about above and the Twirly Bird.  Note, I did get them on second attempt, which in Savage Race rules counts.  I saw another Spartan SGX coach, Sam, at this obstacle and asked for pointers.  The last time I had seen him was when I was pregnant at the Spartan Race obstacle specialist training.  His tip (which was the key to me passing) – hold as high as you can on the netting and hand holds.  I was trying to actually use the hand holds.  Don’t do that.  Use the rope that supports the handles.  I used a flexed arm grip all the way across in the event that I dropped.  Through all of my chatting and failing, another girl caught up with me!
  • Obstacle 21 – Pedal for the Medal – Instead of trying to pass her, I used a new strategy.  I could hear her breathing hard.  I knew I had her beat on the run and we were matched on obstacle efficiency.  So, I followed her.  When I got to this obstacle I destroyed it.  That’s not me below, but that’s what I did.  Put both feet on one side. Not one foot on each side.  I don’t do deadlifts and hamstring curls for nothing.  I legit crushed this.

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  • Obstacle 22 – Twin Peaks – Matched warped walls to run up and over.  They have redone this obstacle and made it easier by placing footing in the ramps.
  • Obstacle 23 – Sawtooth – The infamous Savage Race monkey bars.  Again, now that my upper body strength and grip strength are so solid, I love stuff like this.  Could I do it over and over without failing?  I would rerun the race all day to hit stuff like this.

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  • Obstacle 24 – Nuttsmasher – As the name implies, if you fall you would smash your nuts.  Maybe. If you have them.  Pictures are from last year. We ran through mile 5 by the time we got here.

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  • Obstacle 25 – Colossus – Lots of trail running to get us to the next mile and end of the race.  I kept running behind the same girl. It was kind of fun at that point.  We chatted.  I probably annoyed her.  We climbed up another structure to go down a big slide.  Again, you’ve got to love my facial expressions.

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  • Obstacle 26 – Kiss My Walls – the death obstacle to my husband and many others.  The girl that I had been following tried this obstacle first.  To which she fell.  I took my shot on one wall and completely crushed it.  At that point, I knew I had her.  This is where climbing is important as a component to obstacle training.  And BODY AWARENESS!  Slowing down long enough to move across.  The fastest girl on the course couldn’t get through this obstacle.  That’s money out of her pocket over a basic grip strength obstacle.
  • Obstacle 27 – Piece of Queso – New!  I liked this.  I actually had caught up to 5th place at this point and had a shot at catching her as she worked her way through it and I started.

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  • Obstacle 28 – Blazed – Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time.  I jumped the fire as  she crossed the finish line.

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My takeaways.  I had FUN.  Was I uncomfortable? YES.  Here’s the deal.  I am 3 months out from turning 35.  Moving into a new age group.  There were women from Colorado, Florida, South Carolina.  All over.  I do not focus significantly on my nutrition.  I drink beer and wine quite regularly.  I took an anniversary vacation two weeks before the race.  I walk 20K+ steps a day between doing workouts and taking care of three kids.  I guess what I’m trying to say is I did pretty bad ass for everything I have going on.  No matter how I finished, I am proud.  If you think that is my ego talking, you don’t know me.  I want nothing more than for the people I surround myself with to be proud of themselves.

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What Running Gave Me in 2018

I’m not an emotional person.  However, as my husband broke off from me for the last two miles of the Charlotte half marathon, I found myself starting to tear up.  As I crossed the finish line, I cried.  I have run a few half marathons.  I have even run a marathon.  What made this race different?  A lot of things.  Mostly being the impact my children have had on my life.  Being a good mom, a mom my kids are proud of, ensures a different level of love that will always be in my life.

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When I saw the Charlotte Marathon was looking for ambassadors to represent the city’s race, I felt a calling.  This was something I wanted to be a part of.  I have preached that I am someone who keeps a very diverse training plan.  I am ready to do all types of things during any given week – ride an indoor bike, do an obstacle course race, crush a 5k or finish the competitive wave of beers and burpees.  How could I challenge those who considered themselves “non-runners” to get off a bike, treadmill or out of a crossfit studio to support this event?  I kept my same training regimen and showed up week in and week out at several local running races.

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I ran some of the fastest races of my life.  Will I remember that? Sure.  However, what  I will remember most about running all these races, rather participating in all of these fitness events, is the community. It gave me inclusion.  Access to a new group of inspiring friends that showed me a whole new side of Charlotte.

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Let’s talk race day.  I had been sick for several days leading up to the Saturday race.  I spent most of Thursday and Friday laying on the couch with a low grade fever.  I didn’t intend to dwell on it, which is why most people didn’t even know I was feeling under the weather as race day approached.  I woke up Saturday with the intention that I would run my half marathon without music, without expectation and with the intention of seeing my city.

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I parked in a parking deck that I didn’t plan to park in due to road closures.  I wore shorts based on advice from my husband and other ambassadors and I did less than a half mile warm up.  Nothing went as planned.  I met fellow Flywheel instructor, Abbie Cooper, and the Charlotte Marathon ambassadors at the finish line to take some pre-race pictures.

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Whatever nerves I may have had were released through the ambassador’s version of a 90’s boy band photo op and a short jog over to the start line where I met fellow FiA (Females in Action) friends for a group picture.  I had every intention of starting with the 8:00 min/mile pacer, until I couldn’t find him.  That’s where I was supposed to meet Abbie too.  Couldn’t find her either.

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I did find Katie Gregory (another Charlotte Marathon Ambassador).  We had already talked about trying to run a majority of the race together, so I felt good about having someone who I knew wanted to run an 8:00 min/mile pace near me.  As quick as the national anthem was played, the race started.  We walked across the start line.  There were a TON of people.  The first mile was slow.  Over the course of the mile, Katie and I picked up Alejandro (another Charlotte Marathon Ambassador).  He was running the full marathon, with a goal of sub 3:30.  GREAT.  Someone else who would pace with us.

The energy at the start of the race was fire.  Katie, Alejandro and I chatted, said hello to friends and before we knew it we were done with the first mile (8:10 pace).  Shoutout to all my FiAs we touched that first mile (Lindsey, Natalie, Katharine).  Katie and I joked about giving and getting high fives.  I ran past a group of police officers running down fourth and high fived each one of them.  It was after the first mile that we also passed a man who eventually completed the half with crutches.  SO inspiring.  There truly are no excuses.

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Somewhere in between the transition from mile 2-3, we lost Katie.  Alejandro and I chatted as we rolled down Randolph at the Colville intersection where I saw Shane.  Shane.  His smile so big, his arms extended up in the air, his voice echoing from 100m away.  He jumped in with us.  He documented on Instagram.  He entertained us.  These are the moments you will never know unless you run without music and technology.  Shane followed my pace as we ran with a man wearing American flag running shorts and a camelback.  He typically doesn’t do races on the road, but rather on the trails. We made the turn on to Providence in the midst of a huge crowd of runners (the first relay exchange zone).

We talked about how I was now in my home.  My neighborhood.  The roads that I knew and had trained well on.  We crushed the hills.  I took my first water.  I ran into so many people on this stretch.  Mary Merlin and her jogging stroller, a former co-worker Danny Weiland (I know his wife, Allison, was out there running) and the Lululemon crew! (Lynn and Allyson).

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Before we knew it, we were on to mile 6.  A steady downhill in which I saw my husband all geared up on the side of the road.  I yelled, “HUBS” and the man beside me looked over and said “huh?”.  I said again, “HUBS”.  He jumped in with Shane and I.  It was at that point that we made one of the most important turns of the day.  Queen Road West.  I knew I would see my kids. The most important people out on the course that day.

Y’all Queens Road West was MAGIC.  There were people lining both sides of the street.  Cow bells. Posters.  Cheers.  I saw my girls and ran by giving high fives and smiles.  I was proud of them as I hoped they were proud of me.  Thank you to all my friends and neighbors that we passed through this stretch.   Kelsey, Shelby, Cody.  The FiA station at the bottom of the hill.  If I didn’t say something or wave, it’s because I didn’t see you.  For that I apologize.  I am truly grateful for the warm showing of people out to support the every day runner.  Shane dropped us at this point, and the hubs (Jeff) took the task of leading me to the 10 mile marker.

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I took my first Gu pack as we cruised down Queens. I actually stopped to walk to make sure I got everything in and drank enough water too.  We picked things back up at a quicker pace as such I wouldn’t lose time.  That’s when we got in a fight.  As we cruised down Kings Drive, I told my husband I wanted to slow down to conserve energy for the big hill coming (Morehead).  He offered his advice, which I did not agree with and we stopped talking.  Sometimes big mama needs a time out.

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So I took one.  As I ran straight up Morehead with a chip on my shoulder, I saw one person standing at the top of the hill out cheering people on.  Allison.  She has been riding with me for over four years at Flywheel.  Allison has been through so much in the past year.  I can’t begin to explain to you how special it was for me to hear her yell, “Let’s go Jen” as I pushed to the top.  Just months ago this girl was admitted to the ER for blood clots in her lungs (from birth control, nonetheless).  She and her doctors attribute her ability to survive at her state to her level of fitness.  Read that again.  Her ability to survive.  Allison, thank you for being my inspiration.

We hit Latta park and found the people.  Charlotte Running Company had a set up.  We ran by the Fillnows.  As we passed the Charlotte Hornets painted basketball court in the park, we ran by Jeff’s friend, Scott Williams and his two boys.  He was as surprised to see us as we were to see him.  I walked through yet another water station before I headed to the home stretch.

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As we approached the point of the race that I knew Jeff would drop me to meet me at the finish line, he said to me “Jennifer, your girls were so excited to come cheer for you this morning.  They are proud of you.”  Mind you, we hadn’t said much since I got mad at him on Kings.  I didn’t say much, but I heard him.  I told him that.  I was listening.  So he kept talking to me.  This is why I love this man so much.

We split as I headed to SouthEnd and he headed uptown. By myself.  I had run the entire race with someone else.  I was finally alone.  Fatigue was setting in.  I was no longer distracted by someone  or something else.  I got sad.  Ha. Weird.  I felt like I was going to cry.  People say running is mental.  I kept trying to figure out why I was getting sad.  I was so close to the finish line.  I saw Scott Williams and his two boys again and I was reminded to embrace the experience and just have fun.

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I cruised by the turn into Panthers stadium fulfilled and slow moving, also alone.  I felt emotional again.  This whole season.  This whole experience.  It was almost over.  I wasn’t ready for it.  It was in these last moments that everything came full circle.  Abbie pulled up beside me and said, “Let’s go girl.  WE got this.” WE.  She didn’t say you.  She said we.  We, two moms, would finish together.  Not out to beat each other.  Not worried about time.  Just there to support each other as we finished.  This amazing feeling swept over me.  The end.  End of an incredible season.  End of this race I had been training for for what seemed like forever.  Regardless of time, I felt so loved as I crossed the finish line.  No matter how fast or slow I ran, I felt loved.  What a feeling.  Running gave me that.

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Don’t get me wrong, I feel loved by the ones who love me, but being a mom is hard.  There are a lot of days that go by unappreciated (especially with kids my age).  At my job in corporate America it was often that I was rewarded and recognized for my hard work.  The days are few and far between in my line of work these days.  My kids (and most people) don’t see me working during the hours they are sleeping.  Moving my whole day around to spend a little bit of extra time doing something for someone else.  Working out on a full stomach, when I’m run down or when I really just don’t feel like it.

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To Abbie.  To my moms and dads that work day in and day out.  To my friends and family who made me feel loved on this day.  I’m proud.  Proud of you.  Aim High.  Dream Big. Never settle.