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Start now. During an AAR, you huddle together with your team to assess your latest mission. What went right, what went wrong. This habitual assessment is necessary to ensure continued progress. When you adopt a new plan, give yourself an AAR and keep moving forward. AARs are especially useful in a group setting. If possible, go over your plans and tactics with a personal finance buddy in person or online and make sure you take the time to conduct AARs together.
The most useful features of AARs is in creating an open forum where anyone can speak up regardless of rank. While there are many more invaluable life lessons from my time at West Point, these are five crucial lessons that you can use today. This column originally appeared on MSO Life. It was adapted and reprinted with permission. He blogs at MSO Life.
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Most of all, I will think about their love because, without it, I would not be 17 weeks into this brutal training. As Sunday quickly approaches, I am left to ponder what the hell I have managed to get myself into yet again. Elevations on the six gaps in this ride range from 1, feet to 3, feet. Yes, a Miami girl decided that her first organized ride ever would be 58 miles with 6, vertical feet of climbing. If I may say so myself, it was NOT my smartest move ever…. Wolfpen Gap made me cry. I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw my bike off the mountain and never ride again. But I did not quit.
I did not throw my bike off the mountain. I did not even walk once. I finished Three Gap Fifty and it was amazing, glorious, and utterly painful all at the same time. That was the day that I truly fell in love with riding in the mountains. There is something about the pain and suffering that goes along with riding in the mountains that I hate, love, and crave all at the same time. When stuck in that space you only have two options, keep pedaling or get off and walk. The problem with quitting and walking is the realization that you will have to walk the rest of the way up because there is absolutely no way to get back on your bike and get forward momentum again.
So you just keep pedaling, one stroke after another, how ever you have to in order to keep moving. When one set of muscles starts to hurt, you simply start pulling up on your strokes until those muscles start hurting too and then you go back to pedaling like normal. You repeat the process over and over and over again until you reach the top. It appears that I love to put myself through the wringer whenever possible. Despite, analyzing this fact to death, I have yet to figure out exactly why I do these things to myself. I love a challenge. I love the feeling of being on the edge of life and death.
I love proving the doubters including myself wrong. I love the suffering.
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I love giving everything I have and then digging deeper for a tiny bit more. I love crossing the finish line. I love the exhaustion and rush of emotions that comes afterwards. Six Gap Century is a bucket list ride for me and I have been waiting three years to finally get to do it. I even tried to convince my friend we should do it in , thank God that he knew better than I did then. Unfortunately, this has not been a banner year for me so far with all these injuries.
Mitchell read about my Mt. I also know that I have a bike that is lighter, faster, and better than the one I had back then. And, most importantly, I know the drive and determination that I carry inside me to be successful at the stupid things I challenge myself to. I am incredibly lucky that I am going to be able to do this ride with one of my favorite people and biggest inspirations, Caroline. She is, by far, my favorite training partner sorry Zac.
Caroline drives me to be better at everything that I do. Although I am nervous about how my foot and hip will hold up, I am beyond excited for the challenge that is ahead of me. My main goal for Sunday is to soak up every single second of this experience no matter how difficult it gets. I have written about visualization in some of my past posts and that is exactly what I have been doing the last few days, visualizing this experience and visualizing myself in one piece crossing that finish line.
As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed. The objective behind me running a standalone marathon was simple: I want to do a full Ironman so I needed to know that I could run a marathon. I enlisted the help of a friend, Patrick, whom I knew had coached plenty of my amazing friends during their various athletic endeavors. I started running with the Two Rules Running group www. Look Good.
Simple enough, right? I was lucky enough to remain injury-free throughout my training but my journey was not without adversity. The news and the experience sucked the life out of me and sapped me of my motivation to do much of anything. Thankfully, as I have said so many times prior to this and as I am sure I will say plenty more in the future, I have surrounded myself with some of the greatest people in the world and there was no way that they were going to let me get away with quitting.
Not now, not ever. By Sunday afternoon, Leigh Ann forced me to get out of bed and go outside and send her a selfie while outside and Lavonne later showed up with her bike ready to go for a ride. We DID go ride and it was just what I needed; the ride and the cry on the side of the road in the middle of the ride. No one wanted to stop me from feeling what I felt; they kept encouraging the emotions while also gently pushing me forward. I am a big believer in feeling your feelings.
I believe that the only way to move through pain is to FEEL through the pain. The key, I believe, is to not allow yourself to get stuck in any part of the pain for too long. Obviously, this process is quite often easier said than done but it CAN be done. There were many days when I got stuck in the pain and I hid from the world allowing the circular negativity to go round and round in my head but there were plenty of days where I kept going and I kept running.
Running is so very intensely mental for me and there were so many training runs that were filled with doubt and ended in tears. They ended in tears not because of anything that had happened on the run but more so because I expended so much mental energy running that there was no more energy left to keep my sadness at bay. So I kept running and I kept crying and running and crying and running and crying some more.
My friends were never far away, in fact there were an overwhelming number of friends that offered and in turn joined me on my training runs during my last few weeks. No matter how much I wanted to retreat to my bike and call it a day, I kept running. I had a job to do and I was going to finish what I started.
The week after the proverbial shit hit the fan was supposed to be my heaviest training week and that weekend run was supposed to be the longest of my training, 22 miles. Three of my amazing friends Ron, Kelsey, and Alice joined me for some of this run; Alice for five miles, Kelsey for fourteen miles, and Ron for eighteen and a half miles. No matter what distance they each ran with me that day, they all left an amazing impact on me.
Most importantly, although not on purpose, they left me to run the last three and a half miles alone.
A woman's journey with her bike- the thin line between passion and obsession.
In fact, not only did I not give up but I pushed myself to run faster and I felt a sense of happiness creep in. I felt renewed, not necessarily happy, but I felt a renewed drive to run the marathon and accomplish a goal that I had only dreamed of accomplishing before. I kept channeling my inner Wonder Woman and I kept training hard. The last three weeks of training were a blur but what I can tell you is that they were full of lots of running and fear and doubt and then some more running on top of that. A little over a week before the race I received an email saying that we were able to pull up our bib numbers so I excitedly searched for it, it was You see, is the area code for Orlando which was where my recent ex-boyfriend was from and also the city in which we met.
You will wear that number, you will run with everything you have, and you will leave everything about that relationship out on that course that day. The five hour drive down south just served to make me incessantly think about my race plan and the 16 week journey that I had just gone through. I sat down and started reflecting on all the work I had put in during the 16 week journey…. So much of this journey had included so many amazing people but race day was going to be all about me, I would be toeing that line all by myself.
I only had to overcome my own fear and doubt to finish the final It would be my biggest test of endurance thus far and was sure to be one of my sweetest victories to date. I had trouble falling asleep the night before the race which I knew was completely normal but I was able to at least get a few hours of rest. January 29, , Race Day Report : I woke up at am to the sound of howling wind and pouring rain.
I was overcome by panic. I started getting ready and was inundated by thoughts of everything that had happened over the last month, the anger and sadness I was feeling was truly overwhelming. My brain felt like it was trapped in a vice and I was focused on a dark cloud of doubt, fear, and negativity. I pulled out my phone and looked at all the awesome texts, messages, and Facebook posts that my friends and family had taken the time to send. I started to focus in on all the love and light that I am surrounded by and I knew that, no matter what happened today, I had more than enough to be thankful for.
I am a lucky woman and I had everything I needed to push through this day no matter what challenges came up. I bundled up and headed out at am to ride the Metrorail surrounded by tons of fellow runners. I focused on my race plan that would hopefully get me my desired and read all the positive messages over and over. Once I got downtown, I headed straight towards gear check where I handed over my warm pants and phone.
The thought of not having a phone and taking start line pictures was a weird feeling; it had been a long time since I had been that disconnected from the world. I made my way to corral C and tried to take in as much of the start line experience that I could focus on. The first challenge of the day was the MacArthur Causeway Bridge where there were walking people to dodge, a steep incline to forge over, and a cold wind to contend with.
Luckily at the top there were awesome guys playing the bagpipes to greet us which kept me smiling. People were flying past me but I kept reminding myself that the majority of people were doing the half marathon and I just needed to make sure to run my race and not theirs. Somewhere between mile 2 and 3 I heard someone scream something about Team Chocolate Milk and I looked over and saw a woman that I had been standing near in my starting corral who was wearing a Team Chocolate Milk shirt.
She was right ahead and to the left of me so I quickly crept over until I was right behind her. I thought about just creepily running behind her and pacing off of her but then I got to thinking about how lonely the race was already feeling without all my awesome running community friends so I decided to say hi. I asked her what her goal time was and she responded with 4 hours and then asked mine. We introduced ourselves as we continued to talk and get to know each other. I had somehow, randomly or not so random at all picked the right marathon buddy who would help me accomplish something I had never before done.
Meeting Jill was truly my saving grace…. I was feeling pretty good, staying relatively warm, and keeping a pretty steady pace until the rain started at about mile 5. My hands instantly froze and it was nearly impossible to bend my fingers but we kept moving and running. At about mile 6 or so, I stopped to use the port-o-potty which seemed like an impossible feat given my frozen fingers and it felt like I was losing too much time in the endeavor. Jill told me that she was running to my pace so if I needed to slow down at any point that I should let her know.
She agreed to my terms and we kept running and kept talking. I thought back to my 16 mile training run with my friend, Cat, and how we talked for the whole beginning and how I had paid for it at the end of that run and I knew today was going to be the same but I was enjoying the company and the conversation way too much. I believe there was also another potty break in here somewhere during which I was again painfully aware of losing precious minutes.
At mile 17, we both rejoiced in finally having the remainder of the day measured in single digits. We were still holding a pretty decent pace but I knew that my goal of was all but lost thanks to the multiple potty breaks and the brutal weather we were being forced to endure. Mile 17 also brought with it one of my favorite encounters along the course… I have yet to decide if the guy was schizophrenic or had dissociative identity disorder multiple personality disorder but what I can tell you was that his conversations back and forth about himself and yelling at himself about how he was going to finish the race and had what it took to finish the race in different voices and with LOTS of F bombs, I may add were simply amazing.
Like I said to Jill, they say you have to be crazy to run a marathon and here was clear proof of that! I was starting to mentally struggle around mile 18 and I kept reminding myself that despite what I was thinking, my body was more than capable of finishing the race and finishing it strong. I kept reminding myself that the doubt was all in my head and I just needed to keep moving my feet.
Jill was still talking to me and telling me stories but I was significantly less responsive at this point. I told her that I was probably not going to talk much from that point forward to which she said that she was planning to keep talking, for which I was very thankful. Mile I smiled at her, waved for her picture, shouted that I loved her, took one last look at her friendly face, and kept moving. Jill kept talking which kept me distracted off of hitting any kind of wall, my calves were cramping to holy hell, the physical pain was overwhelming, and there was another unnecessary potty break but we kept moving.
I felt like I was starting to fade and I crammed Gu chews in my mouth as well as some Jelly Belly sport beans. I made sure to grab water often from the awesome volunteers but made sure there was no stopping unless it was for the bathroom. There would be no walking today.
Jill did try to tell me that if we kicked it into high gear for the last 5k then I still had a chance to make my goal but at that point, I was just hanging on for dear life by a tiny thread that was dangling over a pit of brimstone and fire. I sloughed off the 5k kick idea and told her that maybe we could kick it with 2 miles left.
This was so stressful and I was burning entirely too much energy on worrying about being run over. At one point, Jill yelled to me to jump up onto the grass because Joe was aiming right for us. We both jumped on to the curb in the nick of time to avoid getting run down by Joe.
Chris McCormack: Embrace The Suck – Triathlete
Thankfully there was a hill ahead and we were finally able to shake free from Joe for the last time. There were more inclines on this bridge and while I was super thankful for all of my hill training it seemed like even the slightest road incline might as well have been as steep as a damn mountain. Jill had other ideas for me at mile 24 when she started speeding up and told me to keep chasing her and not give up.
I just wanted it all to stop. I wanted to lie down and die. Instead, I kept running… I kept chasing the proverbial rabbit. Our pace picked up and somewhere between mile I heard my other high school friend, Gus, yell out my name. She yelled back that the finish line was right around the next corner but I was entirely too tired to be elated.
Why did the race coordinators hate me? I dug deep and pushed with every last ounce I had. I threw my arms up and finished like a champ. I was finally done. I crossed that line, hugged Jill, and then instantly wanted to collapse on to the ground but she held me up. She held me up just as she had done for so much of the race. The minute I came across the finish line I felt every pain that I had forced out of my mind and felt x colder. Jill, my 1 marathon buddy I am truly humbled by the love and support that I got from my family and friends on marathon day and every other day of my life.
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I cannot thank my parents, kids, Steve, Lauren, and Gus enough for braving the cold and rain to be out there supporting me and cheering me on. I could not have done this without their love and cheers pushing me forward. Both my father and teenage son took turns being my human canes to get me from point A to point B while I essentially dragged my leg around everywhere we went after the race. It was the least I could do. I literally laid in a bath of hot water and Epsom salt for an hour after getting home reading it all and crying joyful tears. It is hard to convey the gratitude and happiness I felt towards every single person that has been a part of this journey, no matter how small.
My running community rallied around me in ways that I have never before witnessed. I am thankful and so humbled by it all. I went to Miami to run my first marathon in my hometown and that is precisely what I did. The Aftermath : It has taken me a while to gather my thoughts and sit down to write this post; I am a little over a month removed from the marathon. Unfortunately, I am still healing from whatever I did to my leg during the marathon so I have been unable to run since then.
Life has taken a lot of twists and turns since marathon day and training has really been my outlet for dealing with life the last few years so it is hard to be without it. Fortunately, I CAN still ride but the short winter days often make riding a hard feat to accomplish during the week. My marathon journey changed me as a person in so many ways that it is really hard to pinpoint all the lessons that I learned. And, even thinking about it now, I am not sure if it changed me as much as it reinforced things that I already knew about myself or brought other things to the surface of my life that I had forgotten about.
I am completely grateful for the experience, all of it. I am grateful for the easy days, the hard days, and everything in between. I walked up to that start line alone and finished it next to a new friend who will forever be etched in my memories. I had every intention to run the race alone that day and had somewhat mentally prepared myself for the feat that it would be to get through the day by myself with only my thoughts to keep me company.
I will be forever grateful that God put Jill in my path and pushed me to say hello. I walked up to the start line with a lot of emotional baggage and I finished an infinitely lighter person. I am a strong woman with an incredible drive to push through adversity like a bull in a china shop but during the four weeks leading up to race day, I gave my power to someone else and I accepted much less than what I deserved to receive. Race day taught me that sometimes you have to let go of things to achieve bigger, better things.
Sometimes you have to change your focus in order to move in the direction you want to move in. Instead, I refocused my mind on to other things and I kept moving despite AND in spite of the physical pain to accomplish my goal. To many people, this may seem like a really stupid thing to do but, to me, it means that sometimes we have to let go of the pain in order to get to where we want to go.