The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the tag “Running”

Dressing in the Dark

I awake just before dawn. I am quiet, careful not to wake anyone. I sneak over to the corner, where my clothes lie in a heap and get dressed without making a sound. I do not risk turning on a light. As if on eggshells, I go down the stairs and head into the kitchen for a quick bite to eat. There are dirty dishes and glasses on the counter, reminding me of the fun from the night before. I creep out to my car and drive away. Another morning where I am able to slip away unnoticed.

Does this sound familiar? It has been my Saturday routine since February. I get up early, attempting to be quiet so not to wake JB or the kids, and sneak out for a long run. Sometimes I run right from the house, sometimes I meet friends. Every time I look forward to the cool air entering my lungs, the sweat running down my back and the blueberry pancakes upon my my return home.

I love the weekend long slow distance (LSD) run. But, friends, I am tired. I took solace in this last LSD run before my second marathon event of 2013. For the next two weeks I will be in taper mode, taking it easy on the mileage and allowing my body to heal a bit before heading out to Berlin, Germany, for my last marathon of the year. Two weeks to hold this body together. Two weeks to mend whatever is bothering my left foot. Two weeks to get ready for the trip. Two weeks figure out a better answer to “why are you running the marathon in Berlin?” (Right now the answer is “why not?”)

I plan to take a little break from running after returning from my trip. New opportunities are approaching on the horizon and I am excited to take them on. Two more weeks..

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Advice for a New Mother

Joyce, my cousin, has always been full of good advice. She and I used to be pen pals when we were kids, (remember “pen pals”, where you actually wrote a letter to someone that lived in a neighbouring town and they would write back and the whole thing would take a couple of weeks?). She helped me through awkwardness in adolescence, was an excellent sounding board about boys and the resulting trouble, and what I could expect in college life.

Her kids are older than mine be a few years and stages in life. One particular family gathering a few moons ago, Joyce and I got to talking about parenthood. I was blabbering about the conflict within me, so grateful and happy to be a mom, but I missed things that JB & I used to do before to having kids. Would we ever hike or mountain bike or play tennis again? Those activities and the resulting enjoyment seemed so far in the rear view mirror. And being relatively new to this whole parenting thing, I was not sure I saw them again on the horizon. Joyce pointed to her kids, then preteens, and said – no, guaranteed – that we would do all those things again and more. She explained how they would be different, as they would become family activities, and added that we may even find new adventures due to our kids’ interests. She told me not to worry. I had trusted her with so much in the past, I trusted these words as well.

Fast forward to this summer. Jaybird and I signed up for two runs this year. All three kids are signed up for various tennis, rock climbing, hockey and mountain biking activities. They are pursuing their own interests, but joining us in some of ours, which makes me happy.

Color Me RAD! was one of the events Jaybird and I signed up for this summer. It is a 5k event. I guess you could call it a “run” or a “race” but really, we walked about half the course and definitely did not race. We had a ball. If I may say so, we were a vision dressed in our white t-shirts, old shoes and blue tutus. I have never worn a tutu while running before. Frankly, I had a conversation with a friend while on a long run about how I just don’t really get the whole tutu thing. In this case, however, Jaybird had noted the tutus were cute and asked if we should wear matching outfits. How could I say no?

We walked and ran the course, getting color-bombed and painted while laughing through the whole thing. Jaybird said she wished our entire family had signed up, as she thought the boys would have enjoyed the event. We crossed the finish line, painted, dirty and feeling awesome. We hung around for a bit, dancing, throwing paint at each other and taking pictures. I made sure to tell her that I love that she enjoys doing these events with me, because I have a blast with her. She nodded and hugged me.

This summer I have my kids to thank for getting me back on the tennis court. I have run two events with my daughter. We have hiked, biked and walked many trails. My husband and I are getting back to activities we enjoyed before we had kids. Joyce was right, we are getting back to all those things we so enjoyed as a couple. She was also right in that the activities are a little different, enriched, as our children are with us and enjoying the activities as well. New adventures await as they grow and it is exciting to see everyone growing in confidence to take them on.

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Run Wild Missoula Race Review, Part 2

I had asked Jen 527 times how we were going to get to the start line on marathon Sunday.  So patient, my friend Jen.

The Missoula Marathon starting line was somewhere outside of town, (for a moment I thought we were in Idaho, but whatever), and everyone was required to ride the provided buses from downtown Missoula to the starting line.  This was nice for those of us that were visiting from out-of-town because I would have never found this little place off the freeway on my own at 5:00am.  That’s right, I said 5:00am.  Due to the intense heat Missoula has been experiencing this summer, they moved the start time to 6am.  Smart move.

As I do every race, I had a plan. And I must admit that I giggle a bit calling what I do a “race” because I am only competing against myself, but you get the point. Plan A is a “stretch’.  Meaning if everything goes exactly perfect – legs feel great, no tummy trouble, weather is good, course is agreeable – I just may make Plan A.  Plan B is the more realistic goal. Looking at training, weather forecasts and all that, a finish time goal is named. And, Plan C. Plan C (for me, anyway) is always to finish upright, smiling, with no poop in my pants or vomit on my shirt.  Thankfully, I have always been able to do Plan C.

So, the starting line.  When we arrived the sun was just starting to peek over the mountains.  It was cool and dry outside. The morning was perfect, full of promise.  I joined the others at the start line. A man next to me was looking around.  He asked, “how long is this marathon, anyway?”, which got a chuckle from many of us. I looked for the pace group I was hoping to run with that morning, but did not see anyone with a 4:00 balloon.

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We started off with canons and fireworks promptly at 6am. The fireworks were awesome.  They also woke up every part of my body.  I kept my race pace for a bit and gradually met up with the 4 hour pace group.  The pacer was tall, energetic and wearing a cowboy hat with his five fingers shoes. How I missed him at the start I simply have not a clue.  The course went through farmland and ranches.  Many cows and horses greeted our group of runners with curious looks.  Their owners were also out, lining the road with their coffee and lawn chairs.  It was nice to see so many people out at the early hour.  About kilometer 12.5 there was a scary looking house befitting Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird.  It was grey, broken windows and a big sign stating, “KEEP OUT”. Duh. I looked for a message in the knot of a nearby tree (just like Scout) but found nothing.  Continuing on…

We crossed the Bitterroot River and I sang John Denver songs to myself.  The one sung most often? Wild Montana Skies, of course. This became an earworm for the entire race.  I have the late John Denver to thank for staying with me along the course. (Oh, Montana, give this child a home… Give him the fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes, give him the Wildman for a brother and the Wild Montana Skies!)

Bragging time.. I killed the first half in 1:58. My legs felt great, my body was warmed up and I had a thought that I may just make Plan A of a sub-4 hour finish time. Then, just past the half way mark, the Hill. Or, as our ever sun-shiny pacer stated, “We are coming up on a little bump in the road. Mind your legs and stay hydrated!” It was about 500 yards long and got steep for a small part. The pay off was the view from the top.  There were ranchers on their horses that had come up to say “Good Morning” and green rolling hills all around us.  Though I felt good as I reached the top of the hill, still with the pace group, I knew the Hill had taken a lot of my energy. Thankfully, there was also a downhill.  It got steep at times as well.  Again, the pace leader let everyone know ahead of time the downhill was approaching.  He reminded everyone to keep their legs under them to avoid slipping and we carried on.

As we came up to the next aid station, I decided to walk through and take more nutrition and water. The pace group did not walk through. I thought as long as I kept the pacer in my sights that I still had a chance to finish at about 4 hours, but over the next 8 kilometers, I lost the group. I simply needed another walk break and could not maintain the pace of the first half of the marathon. No matter, as Plan B was to PB (personal best) at around a 4:10 finish time. Feeling good about my adjusted goal, my pace quickened a little. The next part of the course brought us into town.  The neighborhood was full of mature trees, stately homes and flowery roundabouts in many intersections. I took walk breaks when needed and carried on at a pretty steady pace.  People were outside lining the streets. Many had their lawn sprinklers turned into the street and due to the rising temperature, I ran through almost all of them, (thank you, people of Missoula).  The signs were a source of amusement as well. My favorite was worn by a man riding a bike alongside the course. He had music blaring from his backpack and his sign stated, “Psychotic Wife Support Crew”.

The thing about running in unfamiliar territory is that you’re not sure what to expect. Where is there another turn? how much further? any more hills? and, of course, where is the finish line anyway?  In this case, the finish line is on the Higgins Avenue Bridge in downtown.  Rumor had it the bridge will be lined with people and the air will be electric, (totally true). I saw a sign stating 4 MORE TURNS UNTIL THE BRIDGE.  So helpful.  I had something to count, something on which to keep my mind occupied other than my legs, which were starting to ache from my hips downward.

3 MORE TURNS. I start to wonder if JB and the kids went for a hike in the morning and if I will see them on the bridge.

2 MORE TURNS. Muscles in my legs are starting to get tight. I question, for the first time, why I am running this marathon anyway.

1 MORE TURN. I remind myself how much I love to run and that I want to be a good example for my kids. Also, almost done!

LAST TURN. The bridge! I could hear the festivities going on around the finish line area.  I wanted to be there SO BAD. And then, I turned on to the bridge. In my mind I was sprinting (totally not the case). The bridge was lined with people, all yelling, and I felt like a rock star. I heard Jen’s husband yell out to me. I smiled and waved. Then I looked to my right. There was my husband and kids, all cheering. JB took a few pictures. I raised my hands in the air.  A personal best on a glorious sunny, cool morning in Missoula.

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Montana, if only for 4 hours, 8 minutes and 53 seconds, had indeed given me a home. So grateful.

Are you there, Endorphins? Its me, Erika..

Training is ramping up for the marathon in July. My mileage is increasing and my legs are getting that tired/energized weirdness. It is also the time in marathon training where I just want the race to happen already. Mid-training fatigue. Well into training, but not real close to the race, I am having a “mid-life” crisis of sorts. This past week was the pits. Monday’s run went well and was followed by a family bike ride. Tuesday’s run not so much. It was windy and dusty and I struggled through eleven kilometers while eating dirt and gravel stirred up by cars and wind. Then, the rain came. It rained on and off Wednesday, with the only break in the evening when my daughter had a soccer game. I am one of the coaches for her team, so was not able to get a run in on Wednesday. It was fine with me. I was still licking wounds from the day before. But Thursday and Friday offered no relief from the rain. Other issues arose that required my attention and I missed running both days. By Friday evening, I was a cranky mess.
So, what to do? A twenty-nine kilometer training run was on the docket for the weekend and rain was in the forecast for Saturday. Also, all of my kids had activities over the weekend, so to fit in a three-hour run was going to be a trick even on a nice day. I paced. And bugged my husband. And tweeted to friends in town asking for advice. Thing was, if I ran Saturday, chances were I was going to get wet. If I ran Sunday, I would certainly be re-routed by the ScotiaBank Calgary Marathon happening in town. I made a decision and went to bed.
Saturday morning came. I got my daughter to her weekend festivities and ran inside on the treadmill. After lunch, I made my way down to the expo to register for the Calgary Half-Marathon.
Absolutely no regrets. Race day was sunny and cool. I was able to ride down with a neighborhood running partner, running her first race, and met up with other friends prior to the start.
The start was slow. The field was full and moved along steadily, yet slowly. My funk from the previous week was lifting with each step, as it is impossible to stay angry/stressed when running, (Kathrine Switzer guaranteed it). I passed a sign that was meant for a certain charity, “remember why you are here”, and started to think about it. What reason did I have for doing this race? None, really, other than it fit into my training schedule and I was “blah” from the previous week’s training. So I thought about the upcoming full marathon for which I am training. What could I do as a race pace? Goal in finishing time? hmmm..
I sped up to what I am happy to report is my goal race pace for Run Wild Missoula in July. Also happy to report that I was able to maintain that pace, in good humor, for the duration of the race. As will happen on a marathon course, every now and then I would talk with other runners, high-five a cute kid holding out their hand, and laugh at a poster. My favorite today, by the way, was “Other sports require players to bring balls. Runners just have them.”
A successful weekend of training is in the books. And, as a bonus, I have a shiny new medal. So much for the mid-training “blahs”. Sometimes you just need that extra shot of endorphins.

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Mother’s Day Run

This is a race that I have been looking forward to for a couple of months. It is a big deal in Calgary, with over 25,000 people participating in either a 10k run, 5k run, or 5k walk. An added bonus is that, for the 3rd year in a row, Jaybird will join me at the start line. While this is her third 5k race, it is special. First, its Mother’s Day and I am enjoying something I love with my daughter. Second, this race benefits the Calgary Health Trust Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, (NICU). Jaybird called another NICU home for the first 9 weeks of her life, so this cause is near and dear to our hearts.

We arrived early to meet some folks from our team. You can read Cori’s race review here. I was hoping to meet up with another running friend, but missed her.. next time. In any case, you can read Michelle’s race review as well, (she did the 10k). Jaybird asked a few times why we had to be there so early. I just told her that its a big crowd and that we want to be sure that we are not rushed. I spared her stories of arriving at start lines about 4am to be sure that the day starts off as smoothly as possible.

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The start was a bit of a mosh pit, though we were front and center to see the wheelchair race start out. When we saw that we would not be able to get inside the starting corral until well after the starting gun, we jumped the fence to squeeze in. We talked a bit about pace and water and how to navigate the crowd. Just in case of something completely weird, we also set up a meeting place. The time arrived to start and we were off! We kept up with the crowd, headed out of the mall parking lot and into the residential area nearby. A huge sign stating “We Love Mom!” greeted everyone as we headed up the hill. The woman next to us called out to the 20-something man sitting on the deck, “I love your sign! Great job!” He nodded back and smiled.

As we approached a kilometer marker I gasped and teared up a little. As I noted above, this run benefits the NICU and there was a donation bucket along with pictures of fragile premature babies along the route. Once upon a time, that was the girl who was running along beside me. I looked at her, asked her how she was doing and requested we slow down. I meant our running pace was a little fast, but I think there may have been a subconscious voice in there begging her to slow down in every way possible.

We walked through the water station at the half way point. We took stock of our pace and decided that we may have started out a little fast. When we began running again it was at a more practical pace. The course was well-marked and festive. All races have a diverse crowd of participants but this one had a different feel. There were families walking and running together, sometimes up to 4 generations. Spectators lined the course; clapping volunteers were everywhere. When we approached the finish line I heard a man say to his kids, “Mom crosses the finish line first. This is her day.” My heart swelled.

DSC02134Jaybird asked if we could sprint the last 200 meters, (she always does that), but the crowd was too thick for us to race to the finish. We crossed the finish line hand in hand. She was a little bummed out that no medals were awarded, so I called upon a friend and fellow Mom, Brenda Ster, for help. Brenda created a locket for Jaybird appropriate for the occasion. I presented it to her as we munched on fruit, yogurt and chocolate milk provided at the finish line. She smiled and reached out for a hug, loving her new necklace. (If you would like see all the cool stuff Brenda can do, please see her website.) DSC02136

We arrived home to much fanfare with the boys and my husband working like crazy in a flowery kitchen. A Mother’s Day brunch befitting the Queen awaited me, wrapping up a terrific Mother’s Day morning.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms out there, (especially mine).

If you would like to support Jaybird and other premature babies like her, please see these links to the NICU in Alberta and the NICU in Milwaukee, WI, where she was cared for by some of the best physicians and nurses on the planet.

Running and the Law of Averages

It was bound to happen. After logging about 55 kilometers last week and feeling unstoppable, I had a face plant. Partly, I blame Eminem. Here’s the story.

Today I had 9.5km to run as part of the training program, as noted on my calendar. We have been having absolutely gorgeous weather and I have been enjoying all the running in the Calgary sun. This afternoon was going to be great. How could it not? Training has been going so well!

Its the Law of Averages. Every training period has a couple of crap runs and today it was my turn. I dressed, opened the front door and noticed right away that the sunny day had turned cloudy with a cool breeze. I changed my shirt. Opening the front door a second time and taking a deep breath, I headed out. As I completed the first hill, Eminem’s “Eight Mile” came on my run mix. This song usually gets me going but today I clung to the line about the vomit on his sweatshirt, (I think that’s the line anyway). I spent the next 6-7 kilometers concentrating on avoiding vomiting on someone’s front yard. I don’t know what happened. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. Also, my legs were tightening up. Coming into the last bit of the run the nauseousness subsided. Then, something else. I started to pass gas like a grandma getting out of a rocking chair. Oh, crap. I started to think fast.. who do I know on this route that would not think it strange for me to ring their doorbell and ask to use their bathroom? And then would not be completely grossed out? I decided to turn my thoughts to my breathing.

Feeling better, I turned for home. I noticed that I was going to be a bit shy of the required distance for the day so thought about where to do a dipsy-doodle (technical running term) to make up some kilometers. Fuelled by the theme from Rocky (yes, its in my run mix, don’t judge) and a new energy in my legs, I turned away from home to complete the mileage.

So here I am, relieved to share a story about a run that was not great. It was not fast, nor pretty, but it is done. Law of Averages demands that I kick some ass tomorrow. Here’s hoping anyway.

The Magic of the Marathon

Like many, I have been reeling since Monday, trying to make sense of the tragic events in Boston. I have completed my training runs sans iPod, so lost in thought that I about fell off the treadmill.
As marathoners go, I am pretty average. I am a “middle of the pack” runner. Someday I hope to be a “squeaker”, as they are called in Boston, one that qualifies and squeaks in. I don’t know if that will ever happen. Yet, I run.
I run because it makes me happy. It clears my head. It relaxes me. It helps me put things in perspective. I run to stay healthy. I run so I can eat cookies, (a lot of cookies). My daughter has started running with me at times. I love our time together when we share a run.
So what is it about the marathon? As I said, I am pretty average. Before my first event, my children asked me what this was all about. I explained the distance and how long it would take me and how many people were also running. “Are you going to win?” my son asked. “No.” I responded. “Then why bother?” He was confused. Why bother with all the training, racing, hoopla and such if you know that you are not going to win?

That is the magic of the marathon.

I will never be on the field during the Super Bowl to catch a pass from Aaron Rodgers. I will not get a hit off of CC Sabathia during the World Series. But at any given marathon, I will line up with elite runners, Olympians, world class athletes, and I will run the same course, at the same time, on the same day. That inspires me. What other sport is like this? We follow the same training plans, albeit Kara Goucher probably does not drink as much beer or eat as much junk as I do. We have the same struggles during training, lost toenails, BM issues. We persevere over 42.2 km (or 26.2 miles) on race day. Marathons are not about winning. They are about commitment, hard work, the simple joy in accomplishment. When coming into the finishing corral at my first marathon (in Vancouver) I could not stop smiling. “I am going to DO IT!” I kept saying to myself. I had this euphoria, runner’s high, cartwheels through a flowery meadow on a summer day-type joy that would not – could not – keep me from smiling and has inspired me to run a marathon every year since. That is something that will not be taken away from me, or any other runner that has finished a race.

I am a marathoner. And I am not alone. Monday’s horrific events will not end the races. As someone on Facebook wrote.. “If you are trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.”

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Mindset Shift

I picked my races for 2013.  This year I have done the Virtual Half Goofy Challenge, read about it <HERE> and will do Mother’s Day 5k – May 12, Color Me RAD 5k – June 29, Run Wild Missoula Marathon – July 14 and BMW Berlin Marathon – September 29.  And who knows?  Depending on the how my legs and spirit hold up, there may be room for another here and there.

The two biggies are the marathons in July and September.  I wrote out the training plan on the calendar a month or so ago, noting that I need to begin training this week in order to be ready for the marathon in Missoula on July 14.  Writing out the training is always terrifying.  When I sign up for a race I am excited about the place I will run, the gear I will need (shopping!!), the goal time for the race, all the fun stuff that goes along long distance running.  Then, I write it all down on the calendar, starting with race day and working my way backwards with mileage and hill runs and speedwork, usually 16 – 20 weeks prior to the race is the start of training.  You see, race day is exciting and full of adrenaline.  It’s the 4 months prior to race day on your first run where your commitment counts.  It’s the hill workout 10 weeks prior to race day where your endurance is tested.  It’s the speedwork 5 weeks before race day where your resolve will be tested.  It’s the peak mileage week just before the taper where you will wonder, why am I doing this again?  By the time race day arrives, you’ve passed all the tests and just need to run.

I run all year to keep in shape and stay sane, but when training starts, my mindset shifts.  Today was “Mindset Shift Day”.  The first run of training was on the calendar.  It was a beautiful day, warm, sunny and I would have run anyway because, like the hills calling Maria in The Sound of Music, the trails were beckoning me to come outside.  As I started out, the whole thing felt different.  Prior to today I would run through my neighborhood on a nice day because I wanted to or was meeting friends, with no particular goal in mind with regard to pace or distance.  Today training started.  Today its is prescribed.  Today, instead of thinking, “what a beautiful day, I would like to go for a run”, my thoughts are “I will run today, it says so right here on my calendar.”  And I thought about my pace, breathing, feelings in my legs.

The loop that I ran will be the base for my training over the next few months.  I incorporated a new part of the neighborhood trail to mix things up.  I noticed the condos that were just a pit in the ground last year at this time are almost complete and ready for people to move in.  I noticed how many people were out walking their dogs.  I love that it is lighter out later into the evening, as I don’t feel so rushed to get the run done during the day.

The first training run was a success.  My legs feel great and I am ready to take on the year.  Mindset has switched to training.  Let’s run!

News from the Treadmill

With the windchill bringing the temperature to -35C today, I decided to take my run indoors. Initially planning a follow-up to the snark I posted Friday, I looked around a bit while running.

Alas, no snark today. Just a really nice run on the ‘mill. It was Adorable Grandmother Day, apparently, as I witnessed several women over the age of 60 on the ellipticals, walking the track, on and off of treadmills. Right on! And take note, single men over 60, these women had it going ON. I bet they are super fun to hang out with.

A huge “thank you” to the man doing squats in front of me. Yeah, you with the colorful, detailed, inked-up arms. Looking at your tattoos, trying the decipher each one’s meaning kept me entertained on and off during the almost-45 minute run.

Here’s hoping for cleared sidewalks and warmer temperatures!

Treadmill Snark

Ever wonder what runners are thinking while logging miles on the treadmill? Here’s an idea of what went through my head during my 6k this afternoon.
Guy next to me is spitting image of Mike, my friend and fellow marathoner. However, this “Mike” did not appreciate my wit and wisdom in the same way. No matter, I will make up a conversation.
Keith Urban look alike lifting weights. Worth noting, his weight-lifting form is not as pretty as his hair.
Hey, buddy with the hoodie and sweatpants doing squats.. you are not Rocky Balboa. Quit it with the shadow boxing between your reps.
Two Pakistani soccer players also lifting weights. I think so, anyway. They’re wearing the uniform.
Guy walks by wearing surfer shorts and backwards baseball cap. Really?
“Keith Urban” just got on the treadmill next to me. Do I ask him about Idol?
Two teenage girls walk by, in full makeup. No words.
Did I set the goal for 5 or 6k? Am I running under a heat vent? It is hotter than Hades in here. Perhaps next week I will (attempt to) swim laps. There is a hockey game on that elliptical waayy across the gym. What am I doing over here? “Keith Urban” gets off the treadmill next to me and another guy steps on. He obviously had curry something-or-other for lunch. “Mike” is still next to me, though he is slowing down, appearing to be in a cool down mode. Bummer, we were having a nice imaginary conversation where he agreed with all my feminist rants.
Note to all men in the weight lifting area – walking around in the general vicinity of weights does not equate a workout. Do something, for crissakes. Except you, “I am not a jogger” T-shirt guy, you can stay as long as you like. Preferably lifting in front of my treadmill.
CurryMan gets off treadmill. He is headed over to the elliptical with the hockey game playing. Would it be rude for me to ask him to report back with a score?
I set the goal for 6k, evidently, as I just passed 5.25k and “Mike” has left. I am alone.
Woman that works at the gym is doing rounds. She smiles at me. I must look like I’m about to have a heart attack, because I am sprinting in an effort to get off this machine as soon as possible.
Success! 6k complete, headed down to the pool to check out how many laps Jaybird has swum.
Also, a note to all girls working out.. if you still look pretty and smell nice after a workout, it was a waste of time. Don’t be afraid to work up a good sweat with boys around. The guy that flirted with me while I was on a stair-master in a smelly college gym in between his reps and sit-ups became my husband. Nice guys appreciate athletic women.

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