Graduation

Today’s an enormous day in our family. ENORMOUS. After seven years. Count that. SEVEN. YEARS. Sean is graduating from his general surgery residency program.

And you guys, he’s not quite done yet.

So after four years of undergrad. Four years of medical school. He is finally on his last day of seven years of residency. Today. Today is his last day of residency. (HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND!!) In some ways, it’s flown by so quickly. Over the last seven years, Sean has grown as a human being, a husband, a father, a surgeon, a researcher, a presenter, and an author (Sean will be embarrassed, but I don’t care. Go ahead and search his name on pubmed.gov. Those aren’t even all of his publications.). Over the last seven years we have been challenged – a lot – but we have managed to come away with more insight and love for each other, our girls, and our world.
I remember when we started on this medical journey 11 years ago at Rush University. The end seemed like a lifetime away – some of the best parts for me have been watching him fall deeper in love with this field. I’ve heard his stories, watched him agonize over very sick patients. I’ve seen him study countless hours – for exams and procedures. Many people have asked, why surgery? Sean always says – because he wants to be there for patients when they need it most. And he is. He is there. I can tell you that – he sleeps, eats, drinks very little so he can be there. There are big and small sacrifices he makes so he can be there. Even our small little family makes sacrifices so he can be present for his patients. There are times when it’s hard. It’s hard to see our girls sad when we’re on day four of not seeing daddy this week because he’s left before the sun and come home after they’ve fallen asleep – even after they’ve tried to stay awake to catch a glimpse of him.
The sacrifices can be big but the celebrations are big too. The days Sean gets home at least one hour before bedtime – those are the best days. Those nights are reserved for a quick dinner and then an hour of princess make believe playtime. If you didn’t know, Sean makes a really pretty princess – probably how the girls got their adorableness. The girls cling to their dad and scream and belly laugh in joy.
So, today. Today’s a big day. It’s the culmination of all the sacrifices we’ve made. It’s the celebration of failings and accomplishments. It’s a sign that we’ve made it. We persevered. We endured. And we did it together.
IMG_6651
In two days we start our long road trip to our new home in California. For the most part, we are pretty excited for this move. We’ve been planning for this move for over a year. We finally found a home that we think will work really well for our family. And seriously, we’ve been living out of one suitcase each for the last month and with our parents (WHO HAVE BEEN AMAZING) so we’re ready for bit of permanency.
So even though tonight is residency graduation, we’re not done yet. Seriously. Two more years of thoracic surgery fellowship. This guy. Overachiever is what that is. But he promises that after these next two years he will officially have a real job (haha, he hates when I tell him he’s never had a “real job”). I love him so. And I am so incredibly proud of him.

Taking a moment

I forget. I forget sometimes how hard it is to try to do it all. To try to do it all – and well.

I have worked since early years of high school. I have been a cashier and a waitress at restaurants. I have sold clothes and sunglasses at boutique and big retailers. I have worked in child welfare, in supportive housing, in healthcare. I have held seemingly important titles in my field. And for the last 4 years, I have worked part-time overseeing two housing programs.

About 4 and a half years ago, Sean and I made the hard decision for me to step back and work part-time. Child care costs were/are outrageous, I wanted to stay home with my first babe as much as possible but I also wanted to continue working as a social worker. I was excited when this perfect part-time opportunity at one of my favorite organizations fell in my lap. We are so grateful – beyond words grateful – for the ways I have been able to continue to work in my first passion while still being present for our sweet girls – my ultimate passion.

I have learned a lot about myself these last 4 years – both programs I oversee, I was part of creating them. I loved that part – flushing out the details, the policies and procedures, creating workflows, contracts, scopes of services, testing and perfecting program implementation. I love these parts of program administration. What I don’t love so much? Is after everything is set up – doing the same thing every day for 4 years. That part is tedious and a bit mundane. Of course when you work with people, there are unique situations that come up that require some strategic problem solving. But overall, I have done the same thing for the last 4 years. It became habit, I figured out a way to run the programs pretty efficiently – working in the office 2 days a week and about 10 hours from home the rest of the week. My files are pretty impeccable (patting myself on the back). But let me tell you – no one warns you how hard it is to be a working outside-the-home mother. There are days when I feel completely inadequate in all areas – mother, wife, social worker, athlete. It’s hard juggling all these roles. There came a point when I felt like I wasn’t meeting my full potential in any of these roles.

I realized a long time ago I was no longer invited to the brainstorming meetings for new programs. I wasn’t privy to the details of new contracts or grant applications. Of course I don’t blame them – I was only in the office 2 days a week and had lots of in-office things to get done. Ask anyone – where’s Alice? Oh, at her desk with her headphones in and working. There was no “moving up” or climbing any ladders in this position. 4 years. I have done the same thing every week for the last 4 years at work.

Today, my boss’ boss – (who 4 years ago, was my peer) came into the office on his way to the airport for a conference – to say thanks and goodbye. He wrote an amazingly thoughtful card. There are lots of nice things in it, but this stood out to me: “You are an impressive mother who prioritizes family while successfully balancing the life of a modern woman.” First, let me tell you, this card had me in tears (I literally ran back to his office and cried in gratefulness). Second, the love of a mother – regardless of whether you’re an out-of-home working mother or in-the-home working mother. The love of a mother – it’s fierce. It’s strong. It will do anything for her children – even sacrifice her career and her ambitions. Because the love of a mother pushes for her children’s ambitions. While I am at peace with the stall in my career – it still makes me sad to think about all my peers or even people I supervised over 4 years ago who have now far surpassed me.

Today’s my second to last day of working outside-the-home. When we move, I’ll be full-time at home with the girls. I’m both excited and terrified. I was never the girl who dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom and wife. My examples of strong women were my mom and aunts who have worked ALL of their lives while providing everything for their children. Those were my goals. But here I am, ready to leap into this new life. I am even homeschooling (we’ll see how that goes. Seriously.). I’m ready – but I’m taking a moment of silence and saying goodbye to this life. This life of this very particular and efficient part-time social worker who has housed hundreds of people experiencing homelessness. Who has connected hundreds of people to necessary healthcare services. Who has taken part in writing grants and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for the most vulnerable people in the city of Chicago. Hopefully one day I can fully decide without barriers or regrets to work as a social worker again. But for now, bring on all the people experiencing homelessness on the streets of Silicon Valley (eye roll). Olivia, Lucy, and I are ready to befriend you.

I run this city

It’s my birthday and I turn 34 today. Age is just a number and has never really meant much to me. A year seems to go by faster the older you get though.

This year has been so full. Full of good. Full of love. Full of joy. Full of accomplishments. Full. But life isn’t life if it’s not also full of disappointment and frustration.

The world keeps turning; sometimes in directions I don’t understand. But it keeps going. And I do what I do to make my way around the sun.

IMG_5280 2.JPGI went for a run outside this afternoon hoping to beat the next round of showers. Once I got going along the lakefront path, I just didn’t want to stop – so I kept going. These streets. I’ve been running this lakefront path for 11 years. It has been my sanctuary. It’s felt my tears and my triumph. I have swam along the lakeshore, I have biked on the path, and I’ve run these streets. I have fallen, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed. I have met and made new friends. I have been scared of failure, I’ve limped my way home. I have prayed. I have crossed start and finish lines. I have raised thousands of dollars for causes I am deeply passionate about. I’ve watched the sun rise and the sun set along this path. I’ve been alone and I’ve been one of thousands. I’ve stood in awe of the beauty and juxtaposition of nature and city. I have made commitments here. I have walked this path with my family. Friends. Sean. My girls. I have reached goals here. I have been proud of myself here. This lakefront path. It has been my sanctuary.

IMG_5276 2.JPGWe are officially less than 100 days out from residency graduation. It’s no secret that I am excited. I am ready for Sean to be done with this residency journey (7 years, yo.). I am ready to start new adventures. But the things I will miss are many. Among them is this lakefront path. Seems silly, but through all of the changes in the last 11 years – from newly married, fresh graduate school degree, new jobs, new houses, having babies, new churches, new friends. This path has consistently been a part of my life. It has never judged me – never judged my mismatched outfits, my too old shoes, my slowness, my pregnancies, my un-showered being. It has never judged my thoughts or my points of view. It has only welcomed my tired legs to pound out the miles and gain new perspective. It has only provided a safe space for me to be me. And I will forever remember the literal blood, sweat, and tears that have been shed along this path.

 

So, we love.

carry your candle, run to the darkness
seek out the helpless, deceived and poor
hold out your candle for all to see it
take your candle, and go light your world

Sometime in college, I learned this cheesy song. It stuck. I think S and I even put it somewhere in our wedding program. I think. I mean, that was almost 11 years ago. Pre-kids, I would have known, but post kids? I’m lucky if I remember what I did over the weekend.

But, there was a time when S and I were very green. We looked forward to the future in a way that’s a bit embarrassing to think about now – with eyes wide open, with our palms up, with our hearts broken for others. We dreamed about being a doctor and social worker without borders. We believed that with our love, kindness, and empathy, we could change the world. We thought as long as we carried our hearts on our sleeves, no one could dampen our passion for people. No one could make us second guess what we thought we were created to do. With everything we were, we stood firm.

Along the way, pieces of these strong convictions started chipping away. Looking back, I see two incredibly naive 20 something year olds. Sometimes, I feel embarrassed for them. Because everything that is happening in our world today? In our country. In our community. It would appear that we can’t survive on love. It seems to me, that at every turn, we’ve been told some way or another, that love is not enough. That compassion is not safe. That kindness is too much work. And equality? Might cost too much.

We question how we can raise our daughters in this environment. Where we laugh at peoples names that are different from what we are comfortable with. Where we draw conclusions on a person’s character solely based on the color of their skin. Who they praise. Who they love. Or how they identify themselves. Where we fear what we do not understand. Where we draw lines – us versus them. Legal versus illegal. Good versus bad.

It takes everything within us to continue to love. To continue to pursue our naive dreams of changing the world. To continue to have hard conversations with each other. With our friends. With our children.

The good thing about growing up and developing calluses is being ok with what people think of us. Good or bad. Lots of bad lately, it seems. Though sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s devastating. And I wonder – who is with us? Who is against us? And we may never know. But in the end, does it really matter? Because we are living out what we believe to be true. What we believe whole heartedly:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart. with all your soul. with all your mind. This. is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37 – 39)

So, we love. Even when it hurts. Even when we are fearful. Even when it’s ugly. And especially when it’s hard. We love.

Holy Anger

Acceptance. Acceptance of me. Acceptance of who I am. Of who I was created to be.
If I believe that we are each made equally. If I believe that we are each made in the image of God. Then I must believe that this part of me. This part of me that has always made me feel different. Feel misunderstood. Feel like I never could fit in. This part. This is a reflection of him. So to hate it. To want it gone. Wiped away. It’s to hate that part of who he is.
But honestly? I’ve been wanting that, praying for that often. Hoping and wishing it away.
I distinctly remember talking about equity (with much smaller words) when I was very young. Talking about “fairness” in terms of how people are treated, how people are accepted, how people are perceived. This stuff has been running through my head since I was little. I know a lot comes from being raised by immigrant parents who worked more than half the hours in a 24 hr day and ends seemed to still not meet. I know a lot comes from knowing what government cheese is, and thinking that it was a treat. I know a lot comes from English being my second language. I know a lot comes from doing every. damn. school. assignment. on my own. I know a lot comes from working at a young age and paying for everything by myself. I know a lot comes from paying my own way through college. I know a lot comes from managing bills and healthcare and all those other adults things for my family beginning at a very young age. But. I also know that this part of me is God given.
I’ve made a career-ish out of it. I’m a social worker. I’m pretty good at it too – since it’s innate, seeing and hearing and believing comes easily. It’s in Olivia already too – I can see and hear it from her. And I love it in her. But truthfully, I know it’s a burden too.
Because I cannot not see. I cannot not feel. I cannot unsee. I cannot unfeel. I cannot compartmentalize injustice and move on with my life. I feel every bit of it. I sit in it. I am overwhelmed with it. And it can become debilitating.
I see every single homeless person on every single street I travel down. I try to meet every single one of their eyes. I wonder about their life. Their childhood. Their family. Where they stay at night. If they are receiving some sort of health and mental health care. What they eat. When was their last meal. When they last showered in a private bathroom. Who pays attention to them. And for what reason. What they think of me and the girls chatting with them. I see my parents in every single elderly homeless person. I feel a personal connection to all refugees and immigrants I encounter. I feel a deep connection to ethnic minorities almost instantly.
Break my heart for what breaks yours.
This is real life for me. My heart is broken. Because I believe in a God whose heart is broken for these very same individuals. I believe in a God who suffers when we suffer. I believe in a God who created us in his image. I believe in a God who created us to be equal. So when we aren’t treated equitably, I believe it breaks his heart.
And to justify injustice BLOWS MY MIND. To pass off racism as not a real problem pisses me off. To say that refugees and “illegal” (OMG. NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL) immigrants shouldn’t be here as if each of us documented people earned our place here is infuriating. To discount people who believe in any other religion that is not our own is detestable. To hate people solely based on who they love is abominable. And I believe that this anger I have is God given. I believe whole heartedly it is a holy anger and I am to reject oppression and work for justice and peace.
I write all this for several reasons. Because I am coming around to finally accepting this large piece of me that has ostracized me from so many communities – a lot of them Christian circles. Hopefully this giant purge will allow me a full night of sleep and I’m sure S would love to get a break from me crying about it to him (he is just the best). To encourage others who think and see and hear similarly. And to say to those who are angry. It’s ok. It’s ok to be angry. Stop telling us otherwise. Anger can be justified and it can start revolutions for good and for love. And to encourage others to be respectful. I try. I try hard to still be respectful because who knows why people think the way they do. But don’t take that respect for agreement or approval. It is neither. But I believe you are also made in his image.

If you feel anger and frustration, don’t let that be diminished – maybe that is God’s image reflected through you. And when you feel a connection to someone different, someone the world tells us doesn’t deserve love, don’t dismiss it. Don’t ignore it. Love.

Speak up

There is a time to be quiet but there’s a time to speak out. There is grace in fighting against injustice. There is dignity in speaking when no one wants to listen.
Our collective anger can bring about behavioral change. If we all stood for what was right and decent, then maybe, just maybe calling out racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, all the isms would bring about social change.
If we don’t speak up, the same old  disgusting behavior continues and then we are just as bad as the ones perpetuating it.

The summer before my senior year in college, I had the easiest job. It paid a decent hourly rate while only requiring me to be on the telephone trying to recruit PTs, SLPs, and other acronyms to work at short term nursing facilities. My boss, who happened to be the big boss, was this 50 something year old charming north shore white man. He happened to be a dad to kids around my age. I thought he was pretty cool as he liked to chit chat with his staff about random things. One day he asked me to help him with something. I followed him to the darkly lit dingy parking garage of this north shore building. We stood by his car and he talked to me about my grades, my summer break, blah blah. Then the clincher. “You know, this job is something you could probably do during the school year since you really just need a phone and we can send you lists.” I remember thinking, “heck yes! That would be awesome. I knew he was so cool!” He then said, “of course, if you want to keep the job, you’ll have to have sex with me and my brother.”
And there it was. How much more blatant can sexual harassment in the work place be?

I was freaking lucky to be a semi fast runner and thought I could outrun him if needed. I was lucky that I couldn’t hide my thoughts from touching my face. I was lucky that he didn’t actually make a move to touch me. I was lucky to not be desperate to keep my job to actually live life. I was lucky that if I needed to, I could have easily found other employment if I had tried. I was lucky the conversation quickly ended and he let me go back upstairs and back to my desk. I was lucky that I was so uncomfortable walking in front of him going up the stairs that I leered at him and he said, “don’t worry, I won’t touch you” and I knew it to be true. And I was lucky that the other staff (there were only 6 of us besides him) had started seeing the gross way he and his brother (who was co-owner) would come talk to me. (Like, they would come and whisper shit in my ear.)

But guess what. Not one person. Not one of them stood up for me. Not one. Not one person confronted him. Nope. And I was stupid. And I wanted to get paid. So I kept working there. I pretended it didn’t happen even though I started wearing giant sweaters (in the dead of Chicago summer) to work. I stopped showering before work. I stopped chit chatting with them. I never was alone- I even stopped using the bathroom. I tried to keep my head down. Like any and all of these things were reasons and therefore, my fault that my 50 something year old boss and his just as old brother wanted to have sex with me  and said so if I wanted to keep the job into the school year.

But, I was fortunate that summer. (Lucky. Fortunate. For some reason I can’t think of a better word. Christians- don’t even get me started on saying I was blessed. As if to say those that were actually sexually assaulted were not blessed.) Because nothing physically happened to me, unlike the thousands and millions of other people that were sexually assaulted that summer. I was stupid and kept going back. I was stupid and pretended that whole incident never happened. But you know what? The people around me? They were stupid for sitting back and never saying anything.

This is why I won’t shut up. I won’t shut up about any of it. There are clear standards to being a decent human being- no matter who you are. And standing up and speaking out for people- that’s all I ever want when I’m feeling vulnerable or alone. A nod, an – I see you . You are NOT alone, and it’s not your fault. People are NOT invisible. One person is no more valuable than another.

I cannot even think about the what ifs that will happen in my girls’ lives. It breaks my heart to think about the evil things in this world that lurk around every corner. I can only raise them to stand up and speak up for themselves and those who people refuse to hear. I can only show them how to be decent human beings who love God and love people. I mean, really LOVE them.
So if it isn’t clear, let me be clear. It is not ok. It is not ok to speak about people- no matter their religion, their race, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their gender, their age… the way that Trump has from the very beginning of his campaign. It is disgusting. It is vile. I don’t care what side of the political pendulum you swing, he is not ok. And if we don’t stand against his hateful rhetoric, we are perpetuating the behavior and belief that we are not all created equal.

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report

I have never written a race report before – I’ve done many races, but never an Ironman. This is mostly for me – so I remember as much as I can.

So here it goes.

9/11/2016
I got a decent amount of sleep. I’m not sure how I was so calm, but I was. I think I fell asleep around 1030pm and slept until 2:45am. My alarm was set for 3:15am. Around 3:10, I finally got up and ate my already made PB&J, starting drinking water and gatorade. Got dressed, pooped, took my social media photo. Put in my headphones and dialed into my church, Soul City’s, Sunday Worship Spotify station. I started praying, I prayed over every aspect of the day; from the water to transition 1, the bike, transition 2, and the run. I prayed for safety, I prayed for peace, I prayed for focus, and I prayed for endurance. As the clock turned to 3:30am, I woke Sean up and then I started to freak out. There was something about that hour before everyone else got up – it was just me and my head. I needed it.
Sean got up, smiled at me and said, “today’s the day!”. I freaked out.
We woke the girls, got our things together and headed downstairs. We met up with Sean’s parents (bless them for starting their morning at 2am) and took the bus that shuttled us to the race start. It was surreal. We were on the bus with the rest of the Team World Vision group – I still couldn’t wrap my head around the day ahead.
Thank goodness for this group – I was able to stay calm through dropping off my special needs bags, last minute additions to my transition bags and checked on my bike (thank you, Matt for lending me your bike pump and then pumping up my bike because I wasn’t functioning!).
Something meaningful to me – the rally and prayer we had as a Team World Vision group. It really helped continue the tone of prayer and worship for me. I parted ways with Sean, the girls, and my in-laws and headed out towards the lake.
SWIM: 1:32:05
Somehow I ended up with a couple of TWV people at the beginning of the swim start waiting area. They started letting people into Lake Monona at 630am! That would mean treading water for 30 mins before the start of the race. I had a minor freak out. I can’t float on my back (or swim on my back) as it makes me extremely dizzy – this has been a new issue this year. So I stood at the shallow end (out of the way) for about 5 mins and decided I’m too excited to stay out of the water and headed into the lake.  I ended up towards the ski/boat (?) ramp and stayed towards the front of the pack (I wasn’t really thinking). Those 20 something minutes before the cannon went by fairly quickly, it was amazing to see the swimmers, green caps and pink caps begin to fill in every single inch of the start area.
The cannon went off and there we went. It was ridiculous. That’s almost an understatement. I was expecting to get hit a bit here and there, but I’m talking, clawed at, elbowed, pulled… I swam towards the inside of the buoys. I was able to get comfortable and focus on my strokes, pulls, and sighting. Occasionally, someone would get a little close and I’d get kicked or knocked (OMG, I did get kicked in the mouth and dear Lord thought I was going to lose my new fake teeth! And thought I’d have a toothless grin throughout the race!). At one point, I got really annoyed of one guy who literally swam back and forth in front of me – perpendicular to me! I ended up stopping and yelling at him that he was swimming diagonally and he needed to sight better. He got mad and kicked me in the boob. Seriously? So. Lame.
As we swam back towards shore, I got super excited because I was pretty sure I was doing well (I forgot to mention someone knocked into my garmin watch and it was on triathlon mode so while swimming, I had to click through each set (bike, T2, run), save, and restart triathlon mode to record the rest of my swim). I can’t add or do any sort of math while swimming, biking, and running… so you know, I wasn’t exactly sure how well I was doing. OH! And I mastered how to pee WHILE swimming – best new skill ever. I peed so much that I didn’t have to stop to go after the swim. SCORE!
T1: 0:09:19
I ran up the helix after the wet suit strippers (best volunteers EVER), got through T1 by myself because all the volunteers were helping others. Nothing too memorable here, except I saw lots of butts. Made me feel better about my shorts change for T2.
14258233_10153852382031200_1696428291298498969_o

Photo Credit: Mike Poulos

I ran out and immediately heard my name called, the Poulos family! I didn’t think anyone would be there cheering for me as I told Sean and fam to head to Verona so I could see them around mile 15 on the bike. It was the BEST ever to finally hear MY name called over all the shouts and cheers.
Bike: 08:08:14
From the very start of the bike, I kind of felt off. Like my butt was uncomfortable already and seriously, I had 112 miles to go. Saw a bunch of TWV folks, got passed by lots of people (and kept telling myself that means I passed them in the swim! SCORE!), tried to keep my head down and keep pedaling.
I saw Sean, the girls, in-laws, and Bob & Emily (they are some of the best cheerers out there – they’ve come to a bunch of Chicago Triathlons and now the Ironman to cheer for me) at the beginning of loop 1, the end of loop 1, and the end of loop 2. I saw TWV and Trimonster folks, and the Poulos family (they were volunteering at the Mt. Horeb aid station) randomly throughout the course and it was such a boost.
14360246_10209496058730901_1910434551_o

Photo Credit: Chris Navin

8 HOURS, yo. That’s an entire freaking work day. I was out there on that bike fighting every bit of the head wind, self doubt, and self pity. It was a pretty terrible ride. I cried, I sobbed, I tried to do math (and got really confused) to figure out if I would make the half way bike cut off and then again for the final bike cut off. The second time I saw my family I just looked at them and cried because I had to do the damn loop one more time. My lower back was killing me, my right quad was spazzing out, but I fought. I rode every dang hill except for the Barlow wall (because the first time I tried climbing that in August, I fell over so thought it was smarter and faster to walk). Ain’t no shame in my walking game.

I tend to talk a lot when I’m biking to pass the time. I asked Jesus to literally be my back, my legs, my feet, my arms. I went through hours of loneliness as people passed me by. I thought terrible thoughts of how and when I could just stop – like getting hit by a car so I had an actual excuse to stop (I seriously thought this. Did I mention I am a little crazy?) I thought about what I would say if I didn’t make the time cut offs. Then I started seeing these fuzzy caterpillars. A LOT of them. They all seemed to  be crossing the road during the last couple hours of my ride. I swear, Jesus put those nasty thing on the road for me – we had just gone camping with the girls and saw a ton of them and each time we would stop to talk about them, try to pet them (NOT me), and talk about butterflies. If you know my girl, Olivia, she has been fighting this FEAR of bugs and has finally gotten through it, for the most part, this summer. So the caterpillars made me think about the girls and Sean. And they are my anchor, my confidence.
14324513_10210605320793422_965134068578655762_o

Photo Credit: Emily Wightman

I saw them at the end of loop 2 – the start of the 14/15 mile stick back to Madison and looked at my watch and knew I was golden. I laughed hysterically those 14/15 miles – because, what do you know? I was going to make the bike cut off.

Looking back, things went pretty smoothly on the bike. My chain did fall off once. It happened to fall exactly when a Trek bike support car was passing by and they jumped out and put it back on within 30 seconds. I literally didn’t even have time to freak out. The only other time I got off my bike was at the top of one hill because my right quad was spazzing out so I stretched it out for a minute and then at special needs for a couple minutes to pour extra gatorade in one of my bottles, take a swig of warm coke, and switch out my nutrition. I told the volunteers there were lots of goodies in my stupid bag and they should eat it all (What in the world was I thinking? Like I was going to have time for a picnic of beef jerky, twix, coke, and funyons?).
T2: 00:05:33
 I dismounted off my bike while a sweet volunteer held onto it for me. He made sure I could walk upright. The minute I got off I started sobbing. Like uncontrollable. I don’t exactly remember why, I think between the pain, the joy, the relief… I immediately saw Bob, Emily, and my sweet training bud Lydia (who was supposed to do this race with me but was sidelined by injuries this year). I literally wept in Lydia’s arms.
I felt like I needed to rush (because, math, and I can’t do it), so I ran into T2, had a volunteer grab my bag and headed into the changing area. I apologized to her and changed my shorts and seriously, if I had time, I would have lit a match and watched those shorts go up in flames. My butt hurt SO bad. I quickly got my things together and ran out of there. And that sweet volunteer reminded me to take off my bike gloves (I had forgotten during the Chicago Triathlon and had to hang onto them the entire run). I stopped to get sunscreen sprayed on my shoulders and arms and the port-o-pot. I peed for like 2 minutes straight. I had tried to pee several times out on the bike but just couldn’t relax enough. And I thought I was chasing the clock so didn’t want to stop to pee. How in the world do people do that? That’s a skill I’ll need to learn: pee while cycling.
Run: 06:32:14
Now, this run time is hard for me to write. I went into this race thinking I would run most of the marathon, but it just didn’t work out that way. My plan was to jog every mile and walk through every aid station. That worked out for the first half of the run.
Immediately coming out for the run I saw my family. I started sobbing. In fact, I have a photo.
IMG_4110.jpg

Photo Credit: Thanks Sean

I think it was just an overwhelming sense of relief, again – PAIN, and the realization I still had to do a marathon. I don’t quite remember. What can I say, I am a very emotional person and emotion = crying for me. I was pretty much an emotional mess. I hope I never forget how hard it was though. That’s why this photo is ginormous and posted here. This whole thing was HARD. I never want to forget.
Sean looked at me and said, “you’re doing it!” or something like that and I gave it a go. Once I started to run, I felt GOOD. I realized that getting off that stupid bike was AMAZING and running was AMAZING!!! I was on a HIGH! I had about 7.5 hours to get through the marathon and I KNEW I could do that even if I walked the whole dang thing.
14310565_10210607886897573_2360353488387759399_o

Photo Credit: Emily Wightman

So I jogged every mile except for the aid stations for the first 14 or so miles. I had nailed my hydration while cycling so I had to pee every 2-3 miles on the run. Typically, I’d just pee. But seeing as I needed my shoes and socks to not be sloshy for 26.2 miles, I decided port-o-pots were the way to go. I caught up with a TWV pal, Jess (who I am now in love with and too bad she lives in Michigan). We jogged for a while together telling and then re-telling stories of how awful the bike was. We tried doing some math, but you know,  just couldn’t get it right – we were even counting on our fingers. 🙂 Along came Sean and he told us, we could do 19:30 min/miles and still make the finish. Phew! So then we decided to start walking for a little break, because you know, our back and knees hurt – Jess even pointed out while bending over to put Biofreeze on her knees, it hurt her abs. Basically, every single inch of our bodies hurt. That was probably the wrong thing to do – start pointing out what hurt because all of a sudden, the high was gone, and I just hurt. Though, I did point out to Jess that every inch of my body was rock hard (my muscles will probably never be like that again). By this point I could feel blisters forming on the balls of my feet, and how do you avoid making that hurt?
During the run, I saw so many people – my family like 5 or 6 times – Olivia even ran with me for a bit, I saw Trimonster folks, TWV folks, the Pouloses – who are MASTER spectators (and volunteers). It was a LOVE fest.
Let me take a second to just say, as a mom, most of the time, I play a very good supporting role to our family. Our kids, they come first. As a wife to a resident surgeon, I cheer on my husband and we typically work our schedules around his busy schedule. I don’t always thank Sean for cheering me on even though he does this so well. The entire course was spread out – I mean, we covered 140.6 miles in one day. But Sean figured it all out without me being too involved. He made sure I got to see our girls as often as possible throughout the day.  This one day, if nothing else, was a perfect example of his never-ending support.
Anyhow, I stopped taking in water around mile 15ish because I went into a disgusting full port-o-pot (think: splash back) and worried the rest would be the same. Really bad decision – as that for sure sped up my fatigue and soreness. I drank some chicken broth and when it was warm, it was like the best thing in the entire world. At this point, Jess and I were just walking – speed walking, mind you, but walking. Sheila and Michelle, also TWV folks, caught up to us and the four of us were like the dream team, speed walking our way through the darkness that is the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Towards the end, with just a couple miles to go, we were all wincing as we were stomping on our giant blisters that had formed. I ended up spotting Lydia in the darkness and she and I broke away from the actual TWV dream team of 3. We rounded a corner and could hear the madness of the finishers chute. Some random guy started encouraging me and pulling me to start running. So, I started to jog and Lydia joined the spectators.
14285587_10209496059010908_490915354_o

Photo Credit: Chris Navin

Then I saw and heard Sean. We hugged and he told me how proud he was of me and he told me to go! I started sobbing and jogged towards the lights. I didn’t hear anything distinguishable. Not Mike Reily announcing me as an Ironman (I had to re-watch the finish video like 10 times), not any of my family or friends calling out my name. It was just me, some screaming, and some lights. And I thanked the Lord for getting me through the journey.