MHWTC Final Logo 2 - Copy

My story starts with spring of 2009. Like many women, I needed to lose weight so I decided to try running. Now, I have never been the athletic type…the most exercise I got was walking or chasing after my two kids. The beginning was rough, many minor injuries that could have discouraged me to continue but something was igniting inside and pushed me to keep at it. I remember around the time of Broad Street in 2009, a friend of mine told me I should do it, I told her she was crazy…I was only running a mile, how in the world could I do 10!! But that discussion put a thought in my head that I have never thought of before…entering into racing events! I thought it was for “real” runners. She told me if I wasn’t going to do Broad Street, I should consider this midnight run for BOMF, it was an 8.4 mile loop around the art museum. I took my first plunge and signed up for the August, 2009 run and that was what began my obsession. After completing the run, I was so sore, exhausted and immediately looking up more races on Active.com.

I had always wanted to complete a triathlon. I remember a coworker talking about her marathon running son who also did triathlons and I was in awe! I remember telling her I wish I could do that! I pushed the tri idea to the side…I didn’t have a bike or a place to swim. I didn’t even know where to begin! So, I kept up with the running, signing up for 5, 10, 15K’s and soon after half marathons. I could not get enough so I took the plunge and signed up for my first full marathon, Philadelphia Marathon, in 2010. That one really tested me physically and emotionally. I kept going, training when I hurt, not staying out late so I can wake up early and run, ran when others questioned my sanity. I swore during training and during the marathon that I would never do a full again…then signed up for the 2011 marathon the very first day registration opened. My second full marathon I completed in 27 minutes less than my first! It was soon after my second full marathon that I really put my mind to completing a triathlon. I scoured the internet looking for information and got so lost….transitions, tri suits, clips…oh my!! I joined the YMCA, one step out of the way but I was still lost. That is when a friend mentioned Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club!

 

I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined MHWTC. I was scared to death to join a club where I didn’t know anyone! I was swimming at the Y at this time but did not have a bike yet. I posted on the Facebook page that I needed a bike but didn’t have a big budget and Patty from Action Wheels stepped in and said they had refurbished bikes and to come in. I came in, got hooked up with a bike and was so excited!!! Soon after, I attended the kick off meeting not knowing anyone, scared to go into a room full of women I didn’t know but I walked out with so much more confidence and signed up for Parvin that same night!! I went on group rides, met new friends, attended the Matt Long presentation, ran the Friday night 5K, faced my fear of lake water in the organized OWS!! Then it came down to the real test, Parvin, my first Triathlon….I was crushed when I got the email that the swim was being canceled and that it will be a Duathlon. I finished but still did not get the satisfaction of completing a triathlon. I could not call myself a Triathlete.

Luckily, I had another triathlon to look forward to, the one I was most excited about! Queen of the Hill! I am so happy to have this as my first Triathlon. A tri full of women, many doing their first triathlon as well! It was such a great experience! There was tons of encouragement, cheers and support! It was the hottest day of the week but received ice towels and the residents along the course were putting their sprinklers on and hosing us down. We ended with peaches, blueberries and mimosas! And I left as a Triathlete! I am hooked. So hooked I even signed up for another triathlon, Wildwoods Tri!! Another fear to face, my fear of the ocean but with the support of our club, I was able to face my fear once again. The only fears I think I have left are spiders and bats….but not ready to take those on yet!

 

The best part of this whole experience is that I found myself. I became a mother at 18 and still had some growing up to do myself while raising a child. What I had done for so many years was put my own wants aside and did not develop my own identity aside from being a mother. I love my children with my whole being but I did not have any real hobbies, anything for myself that I so passionate about…until I found the wonderful world of running and most recently triathlons! A few years ago if someone would have told me I would be running a marathon on my birthday (AC marathon 10/21/12) a couple months after doing a triathlon I would have laughed, I am such a different person today. I am so thankful to have found this Tri Club. I got the push I needed that night of the kickoff meeting. You don’t always have to be born with the athletic ability, you only need the desire, the will and patience. I love to tell everyone that it is possible. I am proof!

 

Colleen

My Daddy- Colleen Fossett

Summer 2003
“Hey, Dad, do you want to go watch the Philadelphia Distance Run with me?” No sooner do I ask, does he answer, and we are in the car driving down the Black Horse Pike. He has a lemon Tastykake pie in his left hand and he is frantically pointing to the sign for the Ben Franklin Bridge with his right finger. I roll my eyes and let out a sarcastic sigh. “Dad, I am thirty-two. I know where the Ben Franklin Bridge is.” He smirks, I laugh because I know what is coming next.

“Col, did you know I lived here as a kid ?” He asks as we walk towards the Art Museum.  “When I was about seven, we would jump in these fountains and throw balls over the prison walls.  See that alley, we would place dice there all day.” I expect these stories like clockwork. I have heard them a million times. Impatiently, I listen. I would do anything now to hear just one of those stories again.

The fact that there are thousands of people in the city does not deter the current mission of my father and me. We need to find one person in the sea of runners. No cell phones, no maps, no meeting spots. It is the first time we have been to a race of this size and are both overwhelmed by the athletic spirit in the air. The excitement of it rushes through our veins. Then, out of nowhere, I see her.

“Amy!” I scream. You did it, you did it!” I say, embracing her. My dad is totally caught up in the craziness of the finish line. He gives her a high-five and a huge hug, even though he has never seen her before in his life. He then starts his race interrogation, how far, how fast, where was the start.  He was hooked and for me the next 15 seconds were life changing. As I remember it, my dad pulls me close to him and looks me right in the eyes. “Can you do this Colleen? Can you run this far? 13.1 miles?”

I hesitate, being quite uncertain, but with nervous laughter and a convincing voice, I say, “Sure, Dad, I will run this next year.” My moment of excitement quickly fades as I think, I only hope you are standing here to cheer me on.

Summer 2004  
No more excuses! I have had my babies, I moved into a new house, I started a new job, and with my father’s encouragement, I signed up for the Philadelphia Distance Run. A half marathon! I was a runner in high school, the concept of running was not foreign, but I was out of shape and I had never run more than 5 miles. Determined to cross the finish line, I made a 12 week schedule and stuck to in religiously. My runs were marked on my calendar as if they were a dentist appointment four times per week. June, July, August. A bold “X” would mark off every day completed, inching closer and closer to September 19th. My training started tapering. This was going to happen!  As it turned out, I enjoyed training. I looked forward to my long runs which allowed me to think about everything.  My mind often drifted to the sobering fact that as I was getting stronger and faster, my father was getting thinner and weaker. The air that he so loved to breathe was slowly being taken from him.

Soon it was early September, and the race was only couple of weeks away. My father was excited, “Col, you ready for the race?”  “ Dad, I am actually up to 12 miles Dad. I am going to do it.”

A light danced in his eyes, “Of course you can, Colleen. You can do anything, you know that. Anything.” As he says the second “anything,” he is staring at me with such intensity I feel like my heart is going to burst and my brain is going to melt, because I can’t make sense of any of it. He looks at me like he is never going to see me again, as if he is really concentrating and trying to remember what I look like. With that one look and that one word, I knew our conversations were now going to be limited. That soon the morphine would take over his body and his mind.

September 19, 2004                                                                                                                          I know exactly why I did it, but I am just not sure how I did it. How I got up the morning of September 19th, tied my sneakers, and drove myself to Philadelphia. I stood on the starting line with thousands of strangers, ready to do the longest race of my life. I did not know a soul. I did not have a cheering section. I ran 13.1 miles in just over two hours. My breathing controlled, my pace even, but crying the entire time. Crying for two hours from start to finish. Sweat from my forehead mixed with stinging tears from eyes.

I showed up at the funeral home only a few hours later, hair pulled back, wearing the black dress that I purchased three years ago when my father was initially diagnosed with lung cancer. I had the people I love most in the world standing to my left and to my right.  I greeted, smiled, hugged and thanked everyone who knew my father. Very few people knew that I had run my first half marathon that morning. Most would not have understood…although I know with great certainty, one person would have.

Thank you, Daddy. I carry your  your love of life and passion for sport with me everyday.  I only wish you could see how it all turned out.

 

Erin Hills
Prof. Alexander
Creative Writing
28 September 2011
Creative Nonfiction
Thirteen Point One
I jump up and down to keep myself warm, attempting to let the nervousness that grips my body manifest itself in some useful way. I think about how much I need to pee but I observe how long the line for the port-a-pot in Barksdale Field is. No time to think about that now. I take a look around. A young couple stretching to my left. A father-son duo to my right. A sweatband donning man old enough to be my grandfather to my rear. My best friend and training partner, Nicole, in front of me. Moments later the siren beckons us to begin what we had all come there to do. It is time. My jumping ceases. Nicole turns to me and we pound fists. With Outkast blasting in my ears, I mouth, “Let’s do it. “
Miles one through four are lovely and enjoyable. I set off at an easy pace, just as all of the running magazines preached. Negative splits, they told me. I listen despite how much my body wanted to propel itself forward at a much faster rate. I know I will be thankful if I conserve some energy for later. With my breathing relaxed and my mind at ease, I drift off in my thoughts: Erin, look how far you have come.
*****
Second grade. Mr. Miller’s class. I sat in the back row at my desk listening attentively, like the little teacher’s pet I was. A few desks over from me Howard and Jeremiah attempted to talk at a whisper but failed miserably. Their chatter is heard not only by me, but also by Mr. Miller too. Mr. Miller asked them, “Gentlemen, what are you discussing that is more important than what I am teaching up here?”
“Nothing.” Howard answered, avoiding eye contact.
“No. You were talking while I was. What was more important than what I was saying? What were you talking about?” Mr. Miller asked, approaching the boys
“I don’t want to say.”
“Tell me.”
“We were talking about if Erin or Savannah was the fattest girl in the class.”
Mr. Miller, embarrassed that his prodding lead to this scarring confession, yanked both boys out in the hallway, leaving the class unattended and leaving me feeling, for one of the first times in my life, bad about myself.
*****
I see the “4” spray painted in green on the gravel road. End of mile four. I get water from the water station. By now I am feeling thawed on the cold February morning. The sun is just now beginning to beat down. I finish the paper conical of water. Feeling rather full of myself, I crush it in my right hand and throw it on the ground, Four miles was nothing. Just gotta run that two more times, then you’re there, Er. No problem.
*****
I buttoned what seemed like my sixtieth pair of jeans. “No,” I tell my mom. I looked at myself in the mirror in Sears’ dressing room, angered by the reflection: a chubby, freckle-laden fifth grader. I wanted to wear the cute clothes so many of my classmates and friends wore. They would never have fit me. I had to shop in the plus girls section. “I’m tired of this,” I plea to my mother from the pedestal in the dressing room with tears in my eyes.
Mom came and engulfed me in a giant hug and told me, “You are beautiful.”
I did not buy it for a second. She told me I will see a change in my body if I cut out some junk food and go on a walk with her once in a while. It wouldn’t hurt. I’ll give it a try.
The next month I was at my grandfather’s farm in Maryland. A particularly nice day prompted us to walk to the post office instead of drive, as we usually did when I ran errands with him. With mail in hand, we started back to the farm.
“C’mon, Miss Erin. Lets jog to the telephone pole.”
I obliged and took off towards the pole. Naturally, the ten year old beat the sixty-year-old man so I waited for him and we walked to the next pole.
“How’d ya like that, Gramps? Beat ya pretty good, didn’t I?”
“You sure did. Let’s run to the next pole,” he said after walking a ways.
Breathing heavily, I nodded my head and made my way to the next pole at a much slower pace. We continued this walk-run pattern for the rest of the half-mile journey home.
“I know, Mom aren’t ya proud?” I excitedly exclaimed over the phone, while downing a vanilla pudding cup. Famished from my fitness endeavor, obviously.
*****
Only mile seven? Oh my gosh. I am only a little over half way. Sheesh. Strawberry Pop Tart at the finish. You’re running for that. It’s been literally five years since you have had one. Keep going.
A few months later, on another visit to the farm, my first running partner and I did our first race. We participated in a two mile run-walk in his town in a little over 30 minutes.
I can do this. I’m running 4 miles in 30 minutes now. Keep pushing. Don’t be a baby.
The course takes us past the Anheuser Busch Brewery. The cold is no longer a factor. Proud fans stand along side of the road with homemade signs cheering on their loved ones. I see a little girl bundled up in a winter jacket holding a sign that reads, “Go Mommy!” I used to be that fan.
*****
I sat on the curb of the Pitman Fourth of July parade decked out in patriotic apparel from head to foot. I watch my mom finish the four-mile race that precedes the parade while eating a Pitman Bakery Cream Donut. My entire family cheered her on as she was in the last sprint before the finish line.
I gave my mom a hug, my sticky sugar covered fingers clutching her waist. “Think I could ever do that with you some day?”
“I know you can.” She replied with a smile.
The next year I finished the race more than five minutes before my mom, something I never dreamed of doing. And here I am now. Running a half marathon.
*****
And with that I am back. Mile eight. The time is going by slower now. My legs keep moving without even thinking. I look around. I see a slender teenage girl in front of me opening up a pack of GU at the next water stop. I am getting hungry. It makes me think of my Pop Tart my best friend is bringing me at the end of the race. I love the things, despite their awful nutritional contribution to my body. I justify the consumption of one by running a half marathon.
*****
“No, no, Dad. She’s fine,” my mom said firmly into her cell phone.
I heard a man’s voice on the other end of the phone. I munch away at some chocolate bark while shopping for Easter gifts with my mom.
“Dad…I know she lost fifteen pounds….I know that’s a lot for her frame. But listen to me she’s sitting here eating a bag of white chocolate right now. I guarantee you she is fine.”
I smile. I did it. I am one of the “skinny” girls.
*****
My legs beg me to go slower. Just four more miles. I grant my body its wish and take on a more comfortable pace. There was a time where I would not allow myself to slow down.
*****
The last 100. I saw Coach O’Connor and her bright yellow stopwatch. I heard her voice, but I could not make out the times she is yelling. I could not make out faces, but I didn’t see many girls ahead of me. I was one of the first finishers, maybe even the first junior. I didn’t know who was behind me so I made my legs turn over faster and faster. Like a machine. My breathing was out of control. I crossed the finish line and I heard her yell “6:31. Good job, Erin.” She turned to the rest of the track, “Come on ladies! One mile, that’s all this is!”
I made my way to the side of the field and try not to collapse. I poured cold water all over my face. I finished sixth on my field hockey team of over 60 young women. I was no longer a “skinny” girl like I was a few years ago; I was not built like a runner. I had grown up a bit and developed a bit of a curvaceous posterior, but I was in top shape. I finished with all the skinny girls. Once all everyone on the team finished, Lindsey approached me.
“Er, you are the fastest not-fast looking person I have ever seen. You give me hope that one day I can finish near the front. I want to be able to run like you someday.”
Some people may have taken that in the wrong way, but I still think it is one of the nicest compliments I have ever received. I was recognized for just being me, for making the best of what I had.
*****
I pick up the pace thinking about it. Mile 10. I can’t do this. I am so tired. I cannot believe I thought I could do this. I think of another something else I never thought I could do.
*****
I ran. Up and down the rows of Asian pear trees. Again and again. Searching for something unknown. He surrounded me. I just needed to feel him. I ran through the trees for almost an hour. Just trying to make sense of the whole thing. I needed to be with him before I started one of the toughest things I have ever done: writing his eulogy. I found myself running to deal with the death of the man who I ran with for the first time on that beautiful summer day beneath the telephone poles.
Mile twelve: What on God’s Green Earth made me want to do this? I honestly cannot finish…like actually.
And here I am. A little more than one mile left of my first half marathon. What made me want to do it? The Pop Tart? Yeah, it helped. But food was not the impetus to my interest in running this. I need to run this for me. I need to prove to myself that I have come full circle.
Mile twelve and three quarters. Oh my gosh. I see the finish line. I am actually going to finish. I. Did. It.
I cross the finish line in William and Mary Hall. I feel like I am in a fog. A sea of fans inhabit the chairs in the indoor arena. I am shaking. My legs feel weak. I try to catch my breath. Tons of runners are walking around the floor, extending congratulatory remarks to fellow runners who just endured the grueling journey. I have no energy to even talk, so I just smile at the friendly faces cheering me on. I continue to walk out of the shoot and look up to see none other than Nicole. She outstretches her arms. We embrace. We slowly make our way through the crowd to our group of friends. I see them in the stands holding signs with our names and cheering loudly. One of them throws me my Pop Tart and a bottle of water. I smile. I did it. I have difficulty realizing what I just accomplished. But I know one thing to be true: I am no different than that girl in the dressing room almost ten years ago. Not at all.

A Love Letter to My Daughter

Being twelve years old must be tough.  It’s been so long, I can’t remember!  But every day you wakeup at the crack of dawn worried about the clothes and hairstyle that  will get you through the middle school day.

Our days used to involve after school snacks and tons of conversation (avoiding the inevitable homework) and weekends full of family travel, bike rides and fall football games.  It was so easy to be an active family.  Together, we trained for the Baltimore Run Festival and had the best time.  The picture of you crossing the finish line is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! You were so excited about “working out” that when we moved to South Jersey, you asked me to find a youth triathlon you could compete in.

Until…

We found MHWTC! We were so excited ~this group was in our own backyard – no bridge to cross (you are terrified of crossing the bridges)!  What a let down that you had to be over 18 to participate.   So you did the normal tween thing.  You decided that Facebook, sleepovers with new friends and makeup where so much better than doing “our thing”.  Spending hours on your cell phone and looking at me like I have no clue about life or music is tough to handle, We would ask you to take a walk with us and you said “no thanks”!

Until…

GIRLS ON THE GLOW!!

This is it! Our chances to walk, run, and spend time together without any distractions…simply being together without outside noises ~ all the while meeting new people and exercising our minds and bodies.

For just a few hours a week, you are back to me!  When you talk non-stop during our travel time to and from GLOW about what’s happening in your life and your plans for the weekend and what you just experienced in GLOW and on and on, it takes my breath away ~ because you are GLOWING

To all the Newbies…..

Just like many women in the MHWTC, I never thought I would be swimming, cycling, & running on a regular basis, let alone writing a blog about it.

It all started on New Year’s Eve, 2010.  The Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club was going to be launched in March and Colleen suggested I join the club and consider doing a triathlon in August.  After thinking about it for a while, I said I would join and train for the SheRox Tri but didn’t think I was able to do all three events.  My girlfriend and I decided that we would do a relay.   I was going to run (haha I was NOT a runner) and my girlfriend was going to swim and bike.  The next week she was going to run and I was going to swim and bike.  This went back and forth for a while, all with lots of apprehension.  After the 1st kick off meeting, we changed our minds and decided to do all three events on our own.  I emailed Colleen telling her about the change and her response was, “I was waiting for this email to come.”  – She was confident from the very beginning that I could do the entire triathlon all on my own!

So I started training…. Early one Sunday morning I met two friends at the Future Fitness pool for our first practice swim.  We got into our lanes and started putting on our swim gear, talking, laughing and having fun! On go the caps, then I put on my “face mask” (you know the one that covers your nose i.e. SNORKEL MASK).  We were all laughing at my mask.  This is how new I was to swimming, I didn’t have a clue that I was supposed to have goggles!  Once the weather got warmer, I started the open water swims at Lakes Garrison and Wenonah.  I began to really enjoy them.  I would text my friends the afternoon of the Wenonah swims and would ask, “Who’s interested in swimming tonight”.    I was given the nickname “Swamp Queen”.

I liked the swims at Lake Garrison because most of the time, just as I was finishing the 10th lap swimming the side stroke, the sun began to set.  It was incredible!  After doing the swims for the month of July, I started getting more confident and actually thought, I can do this!  There were days that I couldn’t wait to get home from work to bike, run or swim. I was in a groove!

I participated in the 7am Saturday morning group bike rides.  I have to say, they were a little early but I always felt so good because by 9am I was done with a 15-20 mile ride and had the whole day ahead of me. As I continued going on the rides, I got a little faster and even started saying “on your left”.  For some reason, I would stay behind a person even if I was fast enough to pass them.

When I first started running, I was able to run longer if I listened to songs on my IPod rather than looking at my watch. It was more motivating for me.  At first, I would run for three songs then walk and increase the number of songs each week.  I kept it up, listening to the same 8 songs, yes only eight songs, over and over for 2-3 days a week.  Towards the middle of the summer, everything started connecting.  I started to see weight loss results. I was exercising, I was eating healthier foods and I was psyched! I lost 30 lbs. that summer and didn’t have to say I was still trying to lose my baby weight (considering, my baby was 22 years old at the time – LOL)

The beginning of August came and so did SheRox Triathlon. The night before the race, my husband said, “Now, have fun tomorrow”.  I just didn’t get that, how can I have fun?  I was soooo nervous.  I knew I was prepared though – the swim, like for most of us, was a challenge for me.  Maureen, saw how nervous I was, she took my hand, brought me to the edge of the river and showed me where I had to swim and how far.  As soon as I got into the river, I calmed down and did what I had been training for all summer. I still didn’t feel comfortable swimming freestyle the 1st year so I swam the sidestroke the entire time.  While swimming, I was looking at the mansions and scenery of Philadelphia.   I took my time, and before I knew it, I was doing the happy dance, out of the water and headed to the bike transition. During the bike ride, I noticed my son Ben on the sideline cheering me on.  I was thrilled to see him and had fun the rest of the race. Yes, I had a smile on my face and I was having fun!

This whole Tri club experience is one of the best things that ever happened to me.  It changed my life.  I eat healthier now, I have more confidence and I learned to push myself even if “I don’t want to.” (Still perfecting that one!)  I’ve made good friends and even added more songs to my IPod!

Good Luck Newbies!

 

I am new member to the MHWTC and I couldn’t be more excited.  This is my journey to becoming a triathlete.

August 2008 - After years of trying to get pregnant (including fertility treatments) our first child was born – our daughter, Fiona. I wasn’t in great shape before getting pregnant, and the treatments did a number on me emotionally. Exercise was the last thing on my mind. Even though I lost most of my baby weight pretty quickly, I settled back onto the couch, all comfy in my elastic waistband pants.

Summer 2009 - One year later, I looked at myself in the mirror and decided I wasn’t going to let myself be an overweight mom.  The issue was I didn’t consistently work out.  but I did have a life long goal.  My goal was to complete a sprint-triathlon.  I’m a natural swimmer, I can ride a bike without falling (most of the time) and I figured I could learn how to run. So, I did some research, formulated a 16 week training program, found a partner, joined the gym and hired a trainer. I was SERIOUS about exercise but I didn’t change my eating habits…at all!   I was still sneaking six candy bars a day. (I know, this seems shocking- it is even shocking to me).  I completed the first 12 weeks of the training program, and got in better cardiovascular shape. I was able to run for 1.5 miles without stopping and then found out I was pregnant (I had been told I couldn’t get pregnant naturally, so this was a HUGE shock!) I immediately quit exercising.

April 2010 - Our second child was born – a son, Callum and shortly after, I was determined to become a triathlete FOR REAL.  I rehired my trainer, found a new training partner, and set about doing it. I watched what I ate, and stuck to my plan. In twenty weeks I lost forty pounds. I went from a size 16 to a 10/12! I also got into the best cardiovascular shape of my life – I could run for over an hour. My longest training run was over six miles. SIX MILES!!! Amazing! My running pace was an 11 minute mile, which is simply ROCKET fast, for this former slug. My goal of completing a triathlon was slowly become a reality. One year later after I set my goal I completed my first sprint triathlon: The Dottie’s House End of Season Triathlon on October 10, 2010. YAY me!

October 2010 (post triathlon elation) The feeling of crossing the line is unbelievable, I  promptly signed up for another triathlon which was being held just six months later.  My goal was to lose another 20 pounds and return to my college size. (A solid size 10 — or maybe even dip into the single digits…. did I really just type that)?  But, guess what.. a few months later I got pregnant again. This time, however, I didn’t stop working out or training. I did drop out of the race, but only because I didn’t want to risk falling – I ran 3 miles, up to five times a week, until I was 26 weeks pregnant.

November 2011 - Our third child, another son, Beckett was born. (Our family is complete. Hurrah!)

December 2011 - At six weeks postpartum I was back out there hitting the pavement, slowly, but surely. I joined the Mullica Hill Women’s Triathlon Club.  I am mentally prepared!

March 2012 - I’ve registered for The Riverwinds Sprint Triathlon, and two others this summer. I am also going to get back down to my pre-baby goal weight (he’s 15 weeks old, and I have 35 pounds to go).  I want to say goodbye to my elastic waistband pants once and for all!

So there you have it. My triathlon history in a nutshell. I look forward to meeting you all and hearing your stories

I was never a writer, or a natural born athlete for the first 43 years of my life, but since I have become an  “athlete” in the past two years, I thought I would take my shot as a writer too!

My life was never filled with any sport, individual or team centered.   I dabbled in fitness classes on and off (mostly off) over the years.  I played softball till I was 10, but that is about it.  So when I saw my sister and  my college friends take up running and competed in  Half Marathons two years ago (all well into their mid 40’s) – I started to wonder- shouldn’t I be taking care of myself too?

Then along came the first meeting of the Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club.  “OK, I will go (mostly for the wine and the friends), but that is ALL, I am not committing to any CRAZY triathlon.  I can’t even put my face in the water, let alone run more than one block, and I am NOT an athlete, and never will be.” I told myself and my friends!   Well, that was two years and eight Triathlons ago- so what happened in between?

I figured I needed an incentive to get healthier.  Alone in my basement (where no one could see me)  I started to bike.  Then I decided, to run-in the cold (again, making sure no one would see who I was- see the theme here?) I actually started to like it and thought maybe I could join that “CRAZY CLUB”.  When I finally  ran  once around the block  (a very short block)  I had tears in my eyes and hands raised in victory ( yea- I did look around and hope no one saw me!!)  I began to promise myself IF (notice the key word IF) I did a TRI, it would really be a Duo, as I was determined to have someone, anyone, swim for me.   But I surprised myself, and along with a lot of cajoling and support  from Colleen ( forever grateful to her),  I improved enough to talk myself into  the fact I might be able to stay afloat enough not to die  (well, it really consisted of doing the side stroke the entire length of the swim, but I lived to tell about it, and enjoyed it too)  I was hooked.   I completed  my first TRI…in public.
So what am I really trying to say to all of you who say- “I can’t” , “I’m embarrassed”, “ I’m not good enough to fit in with those CRAZY triathletes” or any other myriad of excuses we all come up with?  First and foremost, YOU CAN DO IT (If I did it, really anyone can).     I got so much more out of this experience than getting in shape.  I have built immense confidence in myself, I have built friendships I would never have known and I have become a true “ATHLETE” (maybe not natural born, but an athlete all the same!)   I also thought that doing a triathlon, or any one of the triathlon sports, was something you did on your own, that it was not a team sport.  I could not have been more wrong.    I never expected to be part of a team, but I am, and that is what this TRI club is all about.  We celebrate each others victories (no matter the size) as our own;  we support; we love ; we encourage and we NEVER judge ( wish I had known that when I was hiding in my basement).
So get out there, proudly tie on those shoes, put on those suits (and in some cases floatation devices, snorkels or any other gear to help you stay afloat) and join us as we start our THIRD year as a club of women dedicated to health, friendships, and support.  You may actually surprise yourself, and find the athlete deep within, just begging to come out!

From Couch to Triathlon- Lori Grelli

If one year ago someone bet me $1,000,000 and told me I would be training for a triathalon I would have said they were crazy and I would have taken the bet, no brainer.  At 250 pounds there was no way I would ever be able to run 1 mile, let alone swim, bike and run.  I am so glad that this bet was not real- I would have taken it and I would have lost!

Most of my adult life has been spent over weight, and not just a few pounds overweight, but over 100 pounds overweight.  I went away to college and gained the normal freshman 15, then another 15 then another 15 and before I knew it I weighed 180lbs. That summer I did whatever fad diet was around and lost a nice amount of weight.  Did not exercise, just drank grapefruit juice and ate cabbage or whatever fancy diet was around that year.  Definitely not the right way to lose weight, but it worked for a short time until I gained every pound back, plus some.  This was the cycle for the next 13 years.  It was Weight Watchers then weight gain, Phen Fen then weight gain, just an up and down cycle over and over again.

In February 2008, my son was born and in May 2008, my mom was diagnosed with cancer.  Over the next 2 years I supported my mom emotionally and then took care of her physically.  In March 2010, I took a leave of absence from work to be my mom’s caregiver for her last few months of her life.  During this time I continued to gain weight.  My days consisted of watching tv, taking care of my mom and eating.  It was a very emotionally difficult time for me and I gained quite a bit more weight.  In May 2010 my mom lost her battle with cancer.

After going through such a life changing experience you learn a lot about life.  Life is very short and no one is ever promised tomorrow.  That is when I decided I was no longer going to sit on the sidelines of life.  I deserved to enjoy each day.  I deserved to be able to run around with my son.  I deserved to look in the mirror and love the person looking back at me.

Knowing that I needed some kind of tool to help me lose weight, I looked into bariatric surgery.  I found a wonderful doctor and a great program.  I took nutrition classes and became very educated on weight loss surgery.  On January 19, 2011, I had gastric bypass surgery.  That became the first day of my new life, a life that I love.  For me, surgery was not a quick fix, I work hard every day.   I was given a second chance at life, how often can you say that you were given a second chance?

Two weeks after surgery I started walking on the treadmill.  I did this for a while and the weight started to come off.  A few girls that I work with are club members and they convinced me to join this Tri Club that they all can’t stop talking about.  I was motivated; I knew that I would never sit on the sidelines again, so I said ok.  Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, but my new motto is “Never say No, I will try anything”.  Once I jumped into this there was no looking back.  I loved it!!!  I learned to love running and I learned to love biking.  Swimming scared me, and I could not commit last year.  So I did complete the SheRox Duathlon and when I crossed that finish line I was proud of myself.  Proud that I changed my life- proud that I worked hard for something that mattered to me and proud of the person I have become.  I walk with my head higher each day because of who am I now.

Swimming… I promised myself that I will do a Tri…And as I already said, I can’t say no to anything anymore, so in the pool I went.  With the guidance of a good friend and some determination I am already feeling more comfortable.  I look forward to my morning swims- it is just part of my day now, just like running and biking.   I am officially ready for my first triathlon.  Riverwinds…here I come!

In a few weeks the date will come that it will be one year ago that I decided to take my life back- I have lost a total of 120 pounds! Today I no longer sit and cheer the athletes on- I am the athlete!

Thank you to Ranae Pollicino, Dana Warner, Christine Desrochers, and Janine Dammann- you convinced me to join this amazing group of women and words cannot even begin to express how thankful I am that I let you talk me into this! You helped me change my life and I am forever grateful! I am beyond lucky to be part of such an incredible organization- thank you!

“An Unlikely Athlete” by Melanie Amadoro

            It started out innocently enough.  My husband Joe (then my boyfriend), asked me if I wanted to come watch him do a triathlon.  He had been a swimmer through college and wanted to try something new by doing a sprint triathlon.  So off I went to Cooper River Park in Cherry Hill, NJ one sunny July morning in 1996.  After watching the race, and seeing all types of people complete it, the only way I can describe it is I was obsessed!  All I could think and say for the rest of the day was “I am going to do a triathlon next year” – alternating with “do you think I can do that?”

            Maybe that’s not such an unusual thing – I’ve heard of others who have gone to watch a tri and quickly got hooked. For me, a couple of problems quickly presented themselves – not the least of which was I did not know how to swim and had never run.  Ever.  My athletic experience growing up was pretty much nonexistent. I played softball for a few years for a rec team but that was about it.  I was a heavy smoker through most of high school and ate terribly.  In college, we were required to take 3 gym classes and that was when I first began to think about working out.  By the time I went to watch the tri, I was working out consistently, mostly doing step aerobics classes.  I had a mountain bike and the previous year had rode one way, 75 miles, in the MS City to Shore Ride, barely making it.  But I was in no shape to do a triathlon.  Joe promised to teach me to swim so we began lessons.

            I think it began to dawn on him that he was in for more than he expected right about when I got in the pool gingerly from the edge holding my nose closed tightly.  The first lesson went something like this.  Joe: “Okay, put your face in the water and blow bubbles”.  Me: “I have to put my face in the water?”  Joe: “Yes”.  Me: “No”.  Joe: “Yes”.  Me: “I don’t know how to blow bubbles”.  And on and on.  Joe had taught countless people to swim during his years as a lifeguard and coaching a summer swim team.  To this day he swears I was the hardest person he ever taught.  Sure, the fact that I was his girlfriend added a different dimension but it was rough!  The fact that we made it through those lessons without killing each other is, in itself, a miracle.  The fact that I actually learned how to swim was a bigger miracle.  I still remember how ecstatic I was when I finally swam one lap without stopping.  Even the lifeguard stood up and cheered!

            Okay, so I was learning to swim, very slowly.  I started to run, mostly on a treadmill and found that that came much more easily.  I actually enjoyed it!  Pretty soon I could run 2 miles without stopping at about a 10 minute per mile pace.  I broke out the mountain bike and started to ride.  After my first ride of about 10 miles, I got so nauseous I thought I was going to throw up.  Even though I had been doing aerobics for some time, it didn’t always translate into making the triathlon training easier.

            Next it was time to pick a race.  I decided on the Marathon Sports Sprint Triathlon in Middleton, DE.  The race would be on a Sunday in June.  At the time, there was no restriction on wearing a wetsuit so that was my plan.  I picked a race with only a quarter mile swim because I knew that was my weakest event.  Race morning Joe and I arrived and I don’t remember being overly nervous until I went down to the lake for the start of the swim.  Sheer terror came over me as I stood there in my wetsuit and surveyed the scene ahead of me.  A quarter of a mile in a lake looks a lot different than the same distance in a pool.  What had I gotten myself into?  I got in the water by sheer force of will and off I went with my wave.  I was simply not prepared for an open water swim with people jostling me around.  I had no idea what it would really be like, even though I’m sure I had heard and read about it.  Experiencing the open water was a totally different thing.  At one point I just floated on my back, grateful for the wetsuit because I swore I would have drowned without it.  Other waves of very fast swimmers were swimming over me, beside me, everywhere.  One man stopped his race and asked me with a look of concern if I was really okay?  But I kept on.  After 16 minutes, I got out of the water.  It had never taken me close to that long to swim a quarter mile in the pool, and I realized I should have done some open water swims beforehand.  Joe cheered me on and off I went on my heavy, clunky mountain bike.  One bike after another passed me on the two loop course.  I averaged about 14.5 miles per hour for 16 miles and finally climbed off.  The run was a 5K trail run and mostly I saw people headed back, almost finished.  By the time I came back towards the finish line, cars were leaving – they were done and packed up!  How humbling.  Still I finished third.  Third from last that is, but happy nonetheless.

            In spite of my ups and downs in my first race, I was happy!  I have a picture of me loading my bike back in the car after the race with a huge smile on my face.  I simply couldn’t believe that I actually did it.  That in the space of less than a year, someone who had never swam or ran, and didn’t really bike much either, could do a triathlon.  In my second race, I took 5 minutes off my quarter mile swim time and that motivated me further.

            I’ve now done 24 sprint triathlons, two ten mile road races, a half marathon, and too many 5Ks to count.  I’ve also completed the MS City to Shore bike ride 6 times, this past year logging 179 miles in two days.  All this is just to say that if you want to, you can do it too.  It’s not about being the best, fastest, or fittest, but about pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.  Truly, if I can become a triathlete in such a short period of time, anyone can!  Go for it!

The short of it is this… I did it! I finished the bloody New York City Marathon in four hours and fifty one minutes. The journey along the 26.2 is something I will never forget.  The details  fresh in my mind and the pain fresh in my quads. My hope is that perhaps one of you will read this and be interested in doing a marathon next year. As much as I love triathlons (and you know I do) this particular race tops it all. Nothing even compares to the NYC marathon. Here is a glimpse into my journey.

The New York Experience “marathon eve”                                                                     Mood: anxious, nervous, but excited

Simply arriving at a hotel in New York City on a Saturday night is exhilarating.  I feel rich, I feel hip, I feel included. We stayed at the Sheraton in mid town which was just crawling with marathon runners, many of whom were international athletes and elite runners. Everyone so fit, so happy, so anxious.  The bright lights of Times Square on our left  and Central Park in all of its beauty on our right. Several camera crews are on the steps waiting for the famous to arrive. I ask who… they won’t tell. After Kim  and I carefully lay out our mounds of clothes and our ridiculous pile of nutrition and hydration we jump in a cab to go to Little Italy to eat some pasta!  Why haven’t I ever been here before? Street after street of Italian restaurants, each one apparently as good as the next.  Slight delay in seating which almost caused a carbohydrate meltdown but overall a great time with Chuck, Kat, Kim and friends.  Ciao,and Gracias Little Italy, I will be back this summer and promise to drink your wine and sing your songs.  A quick cab ride back to the hotel and hugs and kisses for my brother Chuck and Kat. Unfortunately we won’t see them until after the marathon because they are in a much earlier heat (being slow has it’s benefits) and they have to get up at 4 am . It is now 9 pm . Kim and I have a plan is to be asleep by 10:00 pm which comes and goes..and goes and goes. Tossing, turning, worried we were going to miss the ferry, concerned we would not able to get a taxi in the morning, turn the clocks back,  what is that noise,  am I going to be warm enough..I am 20 minutes (countdown starts now) to popping a xanax?   Can I take xanax and run a marathon?  We get to sleep at 3:30 am, alarm goes off at 5:45 am. Two hours and fifteen minutes..not bad. It doesn’t matter, Staten Island here we come.

 

 

 

 

The Marathon Village                                                                                                               Mood: Inspired

First, the Ferry ride is a MUST. It was so beautiful to sail by the Statue of Liberty and see the skyline of NYC and the ominous Verrazano Bridge. A twenty minute ferry ride that led us to a 20 minute bus ride. I am a nervous talker…no doubt, if there is silence I must start a conversation. I wasn’t alone. Everyone on the bus was talking. The two guys next to me were from Australia . I felt the need to mention that I only slept two hours, but they haven’t slept in three days and their body thinks it is 1 am. I immediately feel better . The Italians and their white paper jump suits crack us up.  They smile at us and want to borrow our magic marker and want us to write on their arms. I tried but ran out of room and wrote on his elbow.. sorry Vincentenzo…I told you I should have stopped at Vincent. An older woman standing next to me is from Seattle. She mentioned that she just started running three years ago and this is her 22nd marathon. A cocky wall street guy asks me if I trained on hills, “well then be prepared for the bridges to kick your ass”… well screw you, I ran Union Ave… and then lastly a young girl from New Jersey who gave me the best advice of the day. She told me not to use my IPOD- that I need to experience all of the boroughs, the atmosphere and the crowd. She made me promise. Thank you Cindy from Fort Lee…best advice of the day. We are herded into our corrals at 10:10 and must wait there until 10:50 for the race to begin. Tortured by excitement and a little body odor (not ours)…we are ready to rock this joint.

The Start at Veranzano Bridge / Mile 1-19                                                                 Mood: Giddy like a 8 year old on Christmas morning, heart racing, smiling from ear to ear, doing the NY/NY kicks with Kim. Waving to people in buses. I feel like a celebrity.

I was down right giddy at the start on the Verrazano Bridge.  Nervous laughter about everything. They are blasting (BLASTING) Frank Sinatra’s New York New York. They brought in the big New York Sight Seeing Buses filled with spectators. A look to the left over the bridge and the NY fire department has all of their boats on the water. As I run up the bridge I get a perfect view of Manhattan. I wave to TV cameras, I smile for photographers, I stop and take video, I actually did a jig for one guy then reminded myself I am actually in a  race (and  at mile one-conserve the energy Col).   The Veranzano bridge quickly turns to Brooklyn- which was knee deep and 8 miles long with spectators. We ran through the Polish section, The Italian Section, The Irish Section, The Spanish Section. Oh my god.. there is a guy I work with.. he screams “ COLLEEN FOSSETT” for at least a 1/2 mile. I have never seen such a celebration in my life. Miles and miles of people, and bands and merchants. The music, the churches, the children all singing, playing, cheering! Brooklyn turns to Queens and the miles are flying by. Is it possible I am at mile 12, then 13.1? I am half way there! Each mile is very well marked and as the miles got longer, I would frantically look for a water station sign… a sign from God himself that I was just another mile into the race.  As I make the turn for the very much anticipated but very very very long Queensborough Bridge, I get a little emotional because I could see below. It was an absolute SEA OF RUNNERS on 1st Avenue.  I don’t know why but I get all choked up and  then a spring in my step because I know my family and friends will be at mile 18 . After some phone calls and texts (yes, as I am running a marathon). I get an exact location. “86th and first”, “86th and first” I just need to get there. I start crying because I am so excited my kids are here and they are going to see it. I keep saying to myself “Stu Chloe, Sophie, Mom, Carol, Lauren, Paige, Nicole, Tom, Christine. I say it over and over again until I hear “ There she is, she is wearing pink… COLLEEN, COLLEEN, COLLEEN”. Overwhelmed I stop, I kiss, I hug , I thank, I can barely speak, I give the thumbs up and I move on. 8 more miles to go. Not everyone needs someone at a marathon to cheer then on. I do…. it meant the world to me.

Mile 18 Colleen Fossett (click here for video)

IMG_0091 ( Click here for video of Kim at Mile 18)

Mile 19-22.                                                                                                                                      Mood: This sucks and I will never do another marathon again. I hate the Bronx and I hate the stupid guy in front of me who is wearing an inflatable sumo wrestler costume at mile 21.

I can’t really comment here. Don’t want to dwell on the negative but there were bridges and hills and I just saw my family and knew that I wouldn’t see them again until mile 24. I had to take off of a sock and I had to go to the bathroom. Depression might set it.  I can’t find my sign from god ( or the New York Road Runners)… where is my water station sign?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mile-23-26                                                                                                                                          Mood: I love this race, I love central park, I love everyone who is cheering for me, everyone who is saying my name that I have written on my arm. I love the grass, the sun, the leaves…a virtual love fest.

I think okay.. I GOT THIS. A 5K! I see my friends Chris and Tom…Yippie! I take in the beauty of central park in the fall, I am grateful for everything and everyone I have. I am so excited I start singing and am waiting for Frank Sinatra to resurrect from the grave and sing New York, New York and a pregnant Beyonce to jump from behind a tree and run the rest of the race with me singing “ NEW YORK…concrete jungle dreams are made of,  there’s nothing you can’t do”.   Disappointed, that this didn’t happen, I was happy to pass the guy in the Sumo Suit gave him a wink and a smile and actually forgot that I had to go to the bathroom for the last 12 miles. Nothing matters except the finish line… which at this point is just minutes away.

Mile 26-26.2                                                                                                                                    Mood: Tears welling in eyes, heart rate @ 130 bpm

I can’t explain how sweet the finish line is. As you hit 26 miles there is a count down: 400 yards, 300 yards, 200 yards, 100 yards. The band (The Nerds) are singing 80s music..the song specifically was “ I Want to Be Sedated”. PERFECT! The woman who was next to me throws up her arms “we did it” and all I could say is “yes,we did”. The word we is key here because NYC, the entire city, the entire race sets you up for success. They prepare you from the moment you get in. From the day you sign up they want you to have an amazing experience. Everyone is rooting for you, the crowds, the volunteers, the fireman, the police. I can’t count how many little hands I slapped as I was running. Everyone is kind, everyone is rooting for you. Even if you don’t know anyone there you feel as though you know everyone. Thank you New York City and the NYRR. A fine, fine race- and now I completely understand why you have to turn down 250,000 people per year who want to run every year. I consider myself very lucky to be one of the 48,000 people who ran your streets.

The next 24 hours                                                                                                                 Mood: Not tired Can it get better…. maybe?

Lets just say we had a great time. I should have taken an ice bath, I should have gone to bed, I should have drank water every hour on the hour but I didn’t. I took a hot shower (a no-no), I barely sat on my bed and we celebrated in NYC till 2 am. In lieu of water, I decided to drink beer- rationalizing that it is mostly water. How can you not? How could I actually go to bed. Marathon night in New York. I was certain there was a good time to be had by all. As Christine, Kim and I were walking out the door. Kim said “we have to wear our medals”. Damn straight.. a great idea and an amazing conversation piece! The evening was spent meeting so many medal wearing marathoners from different countries, many who were in NYC for the first time. Italy, Sweden, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Cambodia, New Zealand, England…they were all out that night. We would clink our medals together, talk about the course, about the boroughs and how many marathons we have done. Some couldn’t speak english, who cares? A smile, a beer and a medal doesn’t need a translator. We lucked out and ended up connecting with a group of “elite athletes”, all of whom finished top 25 in the New York City Marathon. One finished 12th over all, another 2nd for the women, another the first American, the first non-kenyan. All of their times were under two hours and 30 minutes. They were professional marathoners. Paid and sponsored by Nike, New Balance, Gu. Most of them were using this as a test for the Olympic Trials next year. Can you imagine being in a room full of people like this? I spoke to this one girl for quite a while, her name was Lauren. She was very sweet,modest and the NYC was her first marathon. She casually mentioned that she had never run a marathon before but her hope was that marathon running would improve her 5K time for the London Olympics . She introduced me to her professional/elite triathlete husband ( how cute right… an elite marathoner married to an elite triathlete)…so literally an hour of conversation about marathons and triathlons and our tri club and their nutrition business and it just went on and on. Our night ended at 2 am (just after a quick stop at a Karoke bar :) . I drank 4 glasses of water and I woke up at 9 am still on an emotional high from the race and from the night. Here is the kicker.. the absolute kicker. As I am packing my bag in the morning. I pick up my Runners World Magazine to put in my bag. On the cover front, front and center is… guess who? I cant believe it…the girl from last night. Lauren Fleshman. She is on the cover of Runners World, then I open the NY Times (see below).  Here she is… my new friend:)   http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/sports/lauren-fleshman-ran-marathon-to-prepare-for-olympic-5000-meters.html?pagewanted=all

The very end

As I sit here and type this my quads are just about recovered. Walking up and down steps are tolerable at this point. I didn’t lose any toenails, no chafing, no issues. I am still on a runners high which really is an incredible feeling. It is more of a thought process than a feeling. It will go away soon, I know it ( which is why I wrote this blog). The runners high is when you can’t stop thinking about the boroughs, the miles, the people.

So, can you do it, should you do it, will you do it? I know for certain if you put your mind to it you can. Consider it.. please for me!  Start with Broad Street, then a half marathon in September and finish with 26.2 in November. A marathon is something you will never ever regret and you will always carry with you.  That is my promise.