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Its always so hard to start something that you are out of the habit of doing.... diets, exercise, meditation and yoga, or in my case, writing in this blog. To say that our life is in a constant state of busy is an understatement. In fact, by many people's standards, it is downright manically chaotic. A quick follow-up from April's blog post (oops- it really has been awhile!)... switching employers worked out and my new agency I work was worth all of the pre-employment frustrations. My neighbor who cut down the big, beautiful evergreen next to our fence attempted to create a level area with terracing, ended up planting 5 trees along the fence (which will be a bit cramped in a year or two) and determined that a playset would not fit in the space. Hayden got a scholarship to attend camp this summer - but was not a happy camper when I dropped her off every day. She craves the stimulation of being surrounded with typical or higher functioning kids and at this camp, so many of them functioned at an even lower level than she is. I know she wasn't the happiest camper, but I also know she was in a good, safe place and it allowed me to have some special one on one time with Hailey who is growing so much from a little girl into a young lady -way too fast for me but I love the person she is becoming and all we can now do together. While Hayden was at camp, Hailey and I went on so many memorable adventures. We swam (she would talk me into this and bribe me with the idea of Starbucks after our swim), we mountain biked (and treated ourselves to icecream after), and we even went to the Museum of Nature and Science where we learned so much about the flora and fauna of Colorado, studied rocks, minerals and fossils, and of course, went out to eat pizza after!

Racing wise, it was a busy summer as well - too busy really for me. Back in January, I set some pretty high goals for myself for 2016 and jotted them down on a sheet of paper like this: First, I want to win the XTERRA off-road triathlon mountain region title again. To do this, I will have to compete and attempt to win my age group in 4 events over the summer, all before XTERRA Nationals (which is now called the Pan Am Championships) in Ogden, UT in September. Second, I want to win my age group at the XTERRA Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek and earn a spot to go to the World Championships again this year. Last year I placed 2nd in Beaver Creek, but I know deep down that now that I know the course and if I follow a training plan set up by my coach, Yaro, my body could do it. Third, I want to win my age group at XTERRA Pan Am Championships/USA Nationals. Its not that last year's win was a fluke, but I want to know that I really can hold that top spot on the podium. Finally, getting to Maui is one thing, but getting on the podium in Maui... now that would be a dream way to wrap up this hard fought journey of a year. Last year, I felt like I didn't even race there. I was a learning participant. This year, I want to be able to push myself (without getting caught behind so many in a line of mountain bikers walking their bikes up hills or focusing on my stomach rebelling rather than pushing the pace running that final leg of the race).

How would I accomplish these goals? A friend of mine once said, "to be a great triathlete, you must swim with the swimmers, bike with the bikers, and run with the runners." Wise, but intimidating words.

I have always had an aversion to swim training. Over the years, I would drag myself to the pool and stare at the clock as I swam back and forth, focusing on that unexpressive black line at the bottom of the pool, counting down the minutes until I could get out of the water and go home. This year, I jumped in and joined former Olympic triathlon bronze medalist, Susan Williams' Elite Multisport Coaching team (EMC) in January. I used to watch the team swim thousands of yards at crazy fast paces with little rest when I plodded along at the other end of the pool. I would make myself go during the same days and times that they would be there with hopes of gleaning some of their speed through osmosis (that happens in the water, doesn't it?) I have to admit, aside from almost puking in the pool a few times and the butterflies in my stomach leading up to every Monday and Friday swim session for the first month or two (oh my goodness, I truly was more nervous about going to these swim practices than I was for races), it has been the greatest thing I have done all year. I have met the most wonderful, sincere, genuine group of women (and men) who encourage each other, push each other, and are there for each other both during and after practice sessions. I now crave my time with them, even though Susan only gives us about 10 sec between intervals to catch our breath and no time to chat (love her despite this!)

For biking, I needed to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable again. When I trained for Ironman Augusta 70.3, my bike became stronger than my run solely because I learned how to push through the screaming voice in my head, lungs and legs begging to slow down. I would force myself to go to a ride once/week with a team of roadies, almost all men. I wouldn't talk to them (I couldn't, I was breathing too hard), but I would ride and try to hold on until I was dropped each Tuesday evening. By the time I got home, I was usually too tired to eat, shower and sleep. It was so hard, but so good for both physical and mental bike training. This year, I signed up for the EMC time trial races -of course, I was one of the only ones on an entry level road bike compared to the decked out tri bikes that looked to glide much more smoothly over the asphalt. I would ride as hard as I could for an hour at the races, then hop off and run for another 30 min. Was it fun? -heck no, but it was good training. I also faced an intimidating fear and raced in a mountain bike race series this summer. I raced in the Elite race mostly because it was a longer distance race, but also because depending on who showed up, it would be a crazy hard workout, riding fast around turns, pushing up hills and around other riders on the singletrack, tasting a bit of blood in the throat as the heart redlined for an hour. Was it fun? In a way, it was. It hurt, but I got to do it with Hailey as she would race in the 11-14 year old age category. She would tell me before the start of each race, "mommy, I am going to do my best because that's what I can do." -wise beyond years that girl is. What memories we created at those Rattler Mountain Bike races this summer.

As for running... well, my favorite past time took a bit of a hiatus this summer. My nagging hip/glute/hamstring issues have made running effortful and not as fun and freeing as it used to be as well as limiting my running to only about 2 times/week this year. David and I did jump into Dirty Spokes Productions XTERRA Deep South 15K when we flew home over Memorial Day. That race was my intro to not only the XTERRA world a few years ago, but also my introduction to some of the most wonderful, genuine people I have ever met. Getting to see them and race through the lush green woods of central Georgia was a true gift. My feet never felt like they were touching the dirt beneath. It was an amazing day and reminded me of how much I love to run and how much I need these amazing people in my world. They have always believed in me, loved on my family, and have become part of our extended family.

It is scary to see ones goals in writing -once its out there, the world knows. Does the world really care? I am sure they do not. But I do...for me. I am my worst critic and beat myself up fiercely when I let myself down. I suppose I have a lot to learn about grace- giving myself grace when I fail or stumble along the way.  Looking back on the journey of the past 5 years since the kickoff of our little project, Team Miles for Smiles, I see that it really isn't about placement in races, status, and accolades. I realize that what I do every day when I get up and drag my tired bones out the door for another session of hill repeats, or wrestle during those sleepless pre-race nights, is about something else. I do this not only for me so I am not defined as just another over-tired, special needs parent who has to either fight every day as a voice for my child or hide away from the rest of the world in my house, afraid of all the looks and judgements. I do this for my daughter who has to work so hard just to put one foot in front of the other to take a step without losing her balance. I do this for my other daughter to show her that we are not defined my our circumstances. We can fight for "normalcy". We can push ourselves out of our comfort zones. We can surround ourselves with good people who share a similar passion as ours and who have incredible overcomer stories themselves to inspire us. And I do this because somehow along the way, I have become aware that others are watching how we live and what we are doing. Granted, sometimes I feel like we are being scrutinized under a microscope and the critics are waiting until we slip up, fall, or snap at our children. I have done all of the aforementioned more times than I can count or be proud of, but that is also part of the reality. We do live in a constant state of underlying stress. While the pictures of family outings, finish lines and podiums all look so pretty on social media, there are a lot of tough challenges behind the scene just to get to that spot. Its not easy, this daily walk, but hopefully my never give up attitude and belief in a bigger, more glorious dream for my daughter and our family can inspire others to believe in their dreams as well. All of the adventures we have taken, the goals set and finished lines crossed are so much greater and more amazing than what I used to do before this child entered my life. Yes, Deanna, give yourself grace. You may not accomplish all of the goals you have set, but going for them instead of looking back one day and wondering "what if" is going to bring you so much closer to discovering what you are truly made of and all you can do.


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