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Monthly Archives: June 2011


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‘Tis the season for non-traditional endurance events. They’re all the rage these days, ranging from hardcore mountain-biking to fire leaping to city scavenger hunts that are a spin on the traditional bar crawl.

Last summer I inserted a new event into my half-marathon schedule to do something a little out of the norm and a little more dirty. I can’t remember if it was my idea or my friend Laura’s, but we registered for the Columbia Muddy Buddy Ride & Run Series which took place at Harriman State Park, NY.

We wore our chapter’s Team in Training triathlon suits, but some people got really decked out. From matching team running gear to full-out costumes like Buzz and Woody, pirates, ballerinas and superheroes.

Laura and I registered as a team, meaning that we’d complete the 5 mile course as bike/run/bike/run, or run/bike/run/bike, switching off at every obstacle. I started on the bike, and she started running. The course was mostly trails through a park, with exposed tree roots, lots of rocks and was uphill the entire way. Or felt like it. I even fell twice, cutting myself and bleeding, once tripping over a tree root while running on the trail, and once just standing over my own bike.

You got to the first obstacle, (a high balance beam slippery with mud) dropped off the bike, completed it, then ran on to the next obstacle. (A metal wall you climb over with a net to climb down on the other side) Your running teammate reached the first obstacle after you, completed it, then found and picked up the bike that you decorated to make it easier to find, passed you along the way and continued on to the next obstacle where they dropped off the bike. Following?

Upon completing the course over the river, through the woods and obstacles, you finished together by crawling through a mud pit. A smelly, knee gashing, thick, gross mud pit. We felt abandoned sneakers and t-shirts in the mud, while what felt like ground up sea-shells dug into and cut up our knees. Yet we laughed the entire way while trudging our way through, trying not to breathe through our noses. I even captured the entire event on a helmet cam.

It was a lot of fun, but we agreed that next time we’d do it as individuals instead of as a team so we could do the whole course together instead of leap-frogging.

Afterwards, we hosed off the mud in a field where a tanker truck was stationed with 50 hoses spurting water. The men took much longer than the ladies…just sayin’.

It was a great experience, and the only thing we wish was different, other than not doing it as a team, was the obstacles. They could’ve been a little harder. And we wish we received medals. However, the levels of dirtiness and belly laughter were more than acceptable.

Have you done a dirtier non-traditional race? Which one(s), and would you do it again?

A fellow Etsian who’s training to run some 5k’s herself, GeeZees, creates personalized canvas art and recently created this for her husband who participated in Tough Mudder in April. Read her blog post here. This is a great gift or something to hang on your own wall to commemorate your non-traditional race!


Thank You

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John “The Penguin” Bingham, a longtime friend of TNT, motivates us at our pre-race Inspiration dinners and sticks around on race-day long after the middle-of-the-packers have finished to proudly high-five the final  crossers at our finish lines. I first heard John speak at my second half-marathon in Anchorage approximately ten years ago. I’ve read his books, look forward to laughing at his humorous Inspiration Dinner speeches and some of my friends make fun of me for trying to get pictures with him at events.

Until recently, I admittedly knew more about John than I did about his wife, Coach Jenny Hadfield. Last year Coach Jenny spoke at one of our Inspiration Dinners. She spoke to a room of hundreds, and while she probably only knew small percentage of the room personally, she had a cool calm confidence in us all that I’m sure helped many across the finish line the next day.

I started to read up on Jenny, “endurance athlete, writer, motivator, adventreprenuer…” and thought “I wanna be like Jenny when I grow up.”

One morning after starting up the @Mile_Stones twitter account, I followed Coach Jenny. Approximately 10 minutes later (I think it may have been 9, but who’s counting?) Coach Jenny tweeted about Mile Stones, and we’ve received lots and lots of love ever since. She ordered some coasters, and also some as prizes to award on the Caribbean Marathon Cruise. She also featured Mile Stones in an article, Coach Jenny’s 11 Running Must-haves For Spring. We were included in the May/June issue of Women’s Running Magazine as one of Coach Jenny’s “Favorite Things” and we were also honored to be part of her segment that aired on ABC News in Chicago (on my birthday) here: ABC News – Chicago Coach’s Top Picks For Running Gear.

Thank you Coach Jenny for sharing Mile Stones with your friends and fans. As a result, I’ve gotten to “meet” so many fabulous people with their own race numbers, stories, words of encouragement and even great training advice! To quote one of my Ironman customers after sharing congrats and a small piece of my own sprint triathlon experience, “They say you live through your first tri, and live for the ones that follow.” I’m registering for my next in a few days.

I do what I do because I believe in the people behind the bibs. None of you are just that number pinned to your singlet, bike shirt or tri suit. The commitment and dedication put into achieving amazing things is overwhelming and inspires me to be better. As an endurance athlete myself, I get that those hours you wore it were some of life’s most challenging yet rewarding. Every bib that arrives is handled as though it were my own, and I’m honored and grateful for the opportunity to help permanently preserve your race-day memories.

Now what?

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About a month ago we went out for a casual dinner with another couple and their little girls. We sat in the back of the restaurant, and the girls made friends with a little boy. They played with the jukebox about 10 feet away, giggling and shrieking, running back and forth to our tables. Everyone was having a good time. There were no meltdowns, there was a lot of laughing, good conversation and great food.

The little boy ran face-first into a chair and fell down. The kids stopped in their tracks and the parents and adults at the tables around us looked down slowly. Silence while waiting to see if he’d laugh or scream. Now what?

“Get up,” she said. This petite blond pigtailed girly-girl looked down and with all the seriousness in the world told him to get up. So he did, and they continued playing. I don’t know if anyone else picked up on it, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I asked this same little girl about an hour before, “So what’s new?” She rolled her blue eyes around, bit her lip, thought long and hard, then pulled on her shirt, saying, “Well… this is new!” So young and naive yet fully understood what a lot of us have a hard time practicing in adulthood.

Life’s hard. You can plan for it down to the hour, but somewhere along the way you’re gonna get knocked down. Some of us over and over again. I recently had a conversation with one of those over-and-over again people. “I’m scared. I just don’t know what to do. Now what?”

I thought about some of the things I’d been through and remembered how broken down I was. There were times I literally felt like I was going to die. I remembered  something a friend told me years ago. “You’ll always be fine no matter what happens. You deal, you feel better, you live, and you’re fine.” It’s true. I’m better than fine. I remembered a day a long time ago when I forced myself out of bed to watch tv for a few hours and then forced down a container of yogurt before going back to bed. I remembered my friend’s daughter looking down at that little boy with the full expectation that he would just get up, and I was inspired.

I said, “You get up. Everyone’s watching. You look like hell, you feel even worse, you’ll eventually eat when you’re hungry, but it’s not like this is going to kill you. You get up, you make it through an hour, and a day, and so on. You just get up.”

They got up, and I made a magnet to share the inspiration with you. We thank you for the reminder and important lesson, little one.

Get Up
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