Here are some more thank-yous. 

A HUGE shout-out to my Spice Girls.
NOT these Girls

These girls are amazing: Boss Spice, Yoga Om Spice, Honey Spice, Adventure Spice. They have all been adding spice to my life for years. They made signs, bestowed good-luck gifts, dressed in costumes, cheered from the roadside, danced, spilled beer and met us with hugs at the finish line. My life - my race - would not have been the same without you. 

AllSpice & Honey Spice in 2011

Fergie Spice, AllSpice and Boss Spice in 2011

Om Spice in Orange


Christmas Flip

My site is partly inspired by my grandmother's shrimp gumbo. The recipe we have is nothing gourmet, nothing fancy.  For years, my sister and I have tested, tinkered and toyed with our Nanny's recipe. The recipe we have is simple:

Brewer's Shrimp Gumbo
Brown okra and onion.
Add one can of tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, thyme and allspice to taste.
Cook a while.

I'm pretty sure she threw in some love and forgot to write that down. I also think she mixed in hints of her Charleston heritage and a pinch of my grandfather's Louisiana upbringing in the roux - and forgot to list that, too! Of course, we haven't quite perfected it.  But we sure love to keep trying!

In the spirit of gumbo, this blogger is likely to throw in a little bit of this and a pinch of that. Today, I'm throwing in a story of Christmas past. I wrote this piece a few years ago as part of a memoir class. Check it: 

In many ways, the Christmas Eve service that night was no different than it had been for the past ten years we’d been. We had lasagna for dinner beforehand. We tried unsuccessfully to convince, cajole and bribe mama and daddy to let us open one gift. 

Of course, with mom’s diagnosis and her six-month stint of chemo, there was a bittersweetness to the night. Somehow, even Grandaddy and Wally felt the gravity of attending the service, despite the fact that they usually stayed home – Grandaddy smoked cigars out on the porch and Wally usually played Nintendo. They reluctantly joined us for the big event. 
We arrived early so mama could help with any final trimmings to the church. She had signed up this year – as in years past -- to decorate the Chrismon trees in the vestibule and on the altar. She had spent hours helping create ornaments out of everyday items to illustrate the story of Jesus’ birth. She hustled about before the main crush arrived making sure none had fallen off the tree or the wreaths on the front door. I visited with Brent and Kristen outside before we headed in. His mom was in the choir and her mom was the pianist.

The black slate in the vestibule echoed with the clickety-clack of Sunday-best heels on the floor. An usher at the bottom of the stairs handed us tiny white candles. Another on the first landing handed us a bulletin and the usher at the top of the stairs showed us our seat.

Of course, we already knew our way. Our family always sat on the third row on the left-hand side, center of the aisle with dad on the end of the pew. Tonight we all squeezed in -- Anna, Nanny, Wally, Grandaddy and I watched as the crowd grew around us. When the Bridgers and the Sellers came in – there were hugs and hellos before they took their normal places in the first and second rows.

The room buzzed as Kristen’s mom took her seat behind the piano and began the prelude. I counted the people I knew and watched closely to see where the Norton’s might sit. I had a crush on their youngest son – despite his love for Whitesnake and his blonde mullet. 

Like the years before, the star choir soloist started the service with O Little Town of Bethlehem. Her husband, and also the choir director, led Away in a Manger. The minister got up for the message and the first prayer. Far below the balcony dwellers, he began the sermon with a teaching on Advent and the candle we were about to light. Mr. Hilton was small in stature. He was only in his 50’s, but his hair had been completely white since I’d met him fifteen years ago. For a long time growing up, I thought he might be the actor in the Wizard of Oz. Mr. Hilton carried himself like most reverends: with a compassionate tone and a wise demeanor. On the other hand he believed what they say: a child should be seen and not heard. Especially in Big Church. 

Pastor Hilton launched into his story of Jesus’ arrival and a child on the front row of the balcony launched into an interpretive dance of the nativity scene. During the hymns she had pointed up at the stars in the bright sky and looked down where He lay. And, she’d done a great job of showing us ‘asleep on the hay.’ She was now dancing to the beat of her own tune and trying to figure out how to show her family the angels announcement to the shepherds. 

She was clearly a visitor – the guest of a family member of a church member that we didn’t recognize. I watched as our entire pew squirmed in our seats. Daddy sat a little taller and crossed his right leg over his left. The prickly feeling of “shhhhh” crept up the back of our neck and into our minds. The father, looking too large for his pressed Christmas jacket and too hot for his tie, gently reprimanded her. She pouted quietly.

A moment later, though, she started to sing. This time, the father – probably resentful of being there in the first place and embarrassed by the show his daughter was presenting – shhhhed her too loudly. She began to cry as toddlers do: softly at first, followed by soap opera-sized drops of tears and volume to match. Her face pleated like the skirt of her little red dress. Her volume increased when she realized that the row behind her was watching. 

We all cringed when Pastor Hilton paused in the pulpit. He took a long sip of water, but his gaze was fixed on the balcony. He went on. And so did the little girl. As Mr. Hilton placed his glass back on the lectern, the father scooped up the tiny dancer, weaved through the standing-room -only crowd at the top of the stairs and disappeared down the steps. For a moment, the Christmas spirit fell on us like snow. My grandmother nudged my mom with her elbow – as if to say, NOW we can get on with this.

And then we realized that the father and daughter duo had only disappeared from sight. They had stopped on the first landing. The sound of the now-wailing child and the father’s unwhispered pleas amplified like a trumpet pointing skyward. We all shifted in our pews. Everyone re-crossed their legs. 

Dad stood up after several minutes. He took a deep breath – walked down and around the first pew and followed the man’s path down the steps. In less than a breath, he was back up and in his place next to me. Later, he told us he had calmly and quietly helped the dad, saying, I don’t know if you know this, but we can still hear you. 

Moments later, the father reappeared at the balcony. The child in his arms suddenly stopped crying -- perhaps sensing the impending scene. In one motion, the man dropped the child into the lap of a woman in the front pew, he snatched his coat and grabbed that woman by the elbow. WE are leaving!! he announced in an exaggerated stage whisper. The speechless wife and now tearless child moved towards the stairs. Gallantly, defaulting to his church manners momentarily, the man straightened his posture and ushered his family through the parting crowd and down the stairs. Their footfalls sounded like a giant herd of church mice.

Just as his head disappeared, it reappeared again. Red-faced and resembling the Heat Miser from the classic children’s Christmas show, he searched wildly for something I thought he’d left behind. Instead, his gaze found my dad.

The man shook his fist, and then his finger and in an enunciation that could be heard clear to heaven – and at least carried to the pulpit – the man pronounced: FUCK! YOU!

The door at the bottom of the stairs slammed shut -- an aural cue to shut our gaping mouths. Of course, my grandmother gasped. Both sides of the balcony witnessed the scene and had momentarily lost track of the Christmas story. From below we heard Pastor Hilton say: they returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen. Let us bow our heads.

My grandfather was the first to start laughing.



I am so thankful for everyone who made this year's journey to ironman the best experience ever. I mentioned in a previous post that the number of miles was outmatched only by the number of people who supported me in the days and weeks leading up to Beach2Battleship.

The night before B2B, he sat on the floor beside me as I foam rolled and stretched. I mentioned that I was a little nervous and he said that no matter what - he was proud of me. [Which made us both cry] His race plan: when the miles feel impossible and I might want to quit - to think of all the people who love and support me. Those who ask me how and why I do what I do and those who encourage and motivate me. 

I've been thinking about ya'll ever since. 

Me & My Number One Fan

Of course, I am most thankful for him. He's been here through it all. He was there when I launched this crazy idea to him last December - sitting at a sushi spot - and we analyzed all the pros and cons of doing B2B. He endured my months of training. He put up with all my early morning alarms (4:40a most mornings) and my early evening bedtimes (horizontal by 8:45p). He shared his staycation with all of my triathlon friends. He worried about me being on my bike and in the ocean. 

I'm Okay! I Have my Road I.D.

I was gone so many Saturdays and for quite a few weekend events. He had to take care of Sugaree and hold down the fort. He was patient in September and October, when I was riding five-plus hours, then running, then driving home from Johnson's Corner, Mt. Olive or Emerald Isle. He listened to my whining and my excitement (which can be shrill and incomprehensible when I am pumped up from a good swim/bike/run!).  

But, he also shared a lot of this year with me. Tri Club, ocean swims and even a half iron - he was a relayer for Raleigh 70.3. He was my biggest fan, and I often overheard him telling others about my race. He sent me a note almost every Monday encouraging me, congratulating me and motivating me. Here is what he wrote the week before:
You are almost there!  You have been amazing to watch during your training for the race!  You have been so dedicated and worked so hard.  There is zero doubt in my mind that you are going to have a great race.  I cannot wait to see you fly across the finish line.

There is no way I could have made it without him. On race day, he was EVERYWHERE. He drove me (and Jen and Erica) to transition and then to the swim start. He was at the swim finish, out on the bike (twice), at T2 and I saw him on the run five times plus the finish! I keep thinking of him yelling RACE DAY! YEAH! Guess what Day. It. Is!?
I knew he loved me when he helped me put on my FINISHER PAJAMAS and walked me to the car. His support makes me love him more each day. I am lucky to have him by my side!  


IronDawg and IronMan

I must thank my training buddies: Jen and Erica. I spent more time with them than I did with Ace this year. The three of us spent HOURS together every Saturday. We were all on different plans but trained together. We'd meet during the week when we could for open water swims in Banks Channel or runs downtown. 

We spent every Saturday chasing each other on bikes.   By September and October, we had to get out of town. We were taking road trips to the aforementioned Johnson's Corner, Mt. Olive and Emerald Isle. That meant we would wake up at 4:00am. Meet at 5:00a. Drive....somewhere. Ride for five to six hours. Maybe run. Cool down and stretch. Drive back to the start. Make Jen cook us waffles or head to the pub for a  glass of wine. And then go home. 

We made two race road trips together this year, including a three day trek to Williamsburg for the Patriots half iron.

We have seen each other at our worst.  If you want to really know a friend, take her on a trip where she will get hurt, sweaty, dehydrated, and mad at her performance. You will see her cry, cuss and (want to) quit. 

We saw each other at our best. If you want to really know a friend, go on a trip where you will get hurt, sweaty, dehydrated, and mad at your performance. You will cry, cuss and (want to) quit. Your friends will encourage you, find a solution and build your confidence. They will make you laugh and sing. I saw them perservere, overcome and excel - and they helped me do the same. 

We were completely silly all summer long. I took every experience and every story of training into my race and for 2.4 miles on the swim and 112 miles on the bike and 26.2 miles on the run - I was able to remember the fun that we had leading up to this ultimate adventure. 

I will save my favorite story of Erica for my race recap next week. I'll just say that I want this woman on my side through thick and thin. She is as tenderhearted as she is tough (dude, she's an iron woman and she drives a monster truck). I love her. 

Jen didn't race with me, but like Ace, she was everywhere on race day. She took us out to the swim start and like every other Saturday, her excitement was contagious. She was on the bike course near her house. She was on the run (at the aid station that she organized). One of my favorite moments was hearing her yell at the top of her lungs at mile 2, 12 and 14: HERE COMES MY COACH!!! Look at her go! I could hear her every time before I could see her - which is the case a lot of the time.

She is one of the main reasons I even attempted this distance. She has done B2B twice before and made it look - like she makes life look - fun and joyful. This is one reason she is my hero and I love her for it.

I want to thank my sister and dad and Joyce. Let me start by saying that Anna was the only one in our family to do more miles than me that day. She flew in from a vacation from the Dominican Republic on Friday, stayed up too late on Friday night (damn not-a-decaf-cupojoe) and drove from Raleigh to Wilmington on Saturday morning. She was out at two spots on the bike - although I didn't see her standing there with Dad and Joyce! 

I was so relieved and excited to see her at mile 54 on the bike. She had planned to surprise me - but knowing that she was going to be there was actually better. I had something to look forward to and someone warm to hug! She was carrying a sign that Parker made and taking pictures at the same time.

After that, I started thinking of all the ways I am thankful for her. Aside from being an incredible sister, she is a hero to her husband and son. She is an inspiration and I am often amazed that she fits in work, raising a family, having fun and being fit.

When I got worried on the bike at mile 90 - knowing that I was facing miles that I had never ridden - I remembered that Anna had gone the extra mile earlier this year at the pickle ride. She had joined our group and intended to do the 50-mile option. Somehow, we encouraged, cajoled and (dare I say) manipulated her into the 75-miler. In the last miles of that ride, she and Jen and I played Alphabet Game: Rock Band. I wasn't surprised that she finished, but I was proud of her tenacity. 

My favorite video clip of the race is one without me in it. It's Anna walking to the finish chute with the video still on: 

I want to thank my dad and Joyce for their support throughout the year. They always asked how I was doing, where I had been, what I had seen. Dad called me in October - after a reaaaaallly long, hard day of training and left a message about a Canadian woman took a wrong turn during a half, ran the full marathon BY MISTAKE and qualified for Boston in the process. He said, "she claims she was in the zone. May all your races be in the zone." 

They sent me cards: 

And of course, they were out there on my big day. I was surprised to see them at Mile 30ish and again at mile 75ish on the bike.  They took a million AWESOME pictures!

Ironman Can Make Even the Spectators Shadows of their Former Selves.
 I was REALLY surprised on the run course. Not that they were there - but that they were there EVERY TIME I PASSED.  I nearly cried when I saw them the last time in Greenfield park. Erica and I were jog/walking at that point. I expected them to have left their post in the cold and dark and headed to the finish line. They were there, though! Hanging out in their camp chairs, cheering as we rounded a curve! "Look it's Mommy and Daddy!" I felt like a little kid! They inspired me with their love and thoughtfulness.  

A Big Hug from Daaaaaad at the Finish. I could argue that He Started All This

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my coach, Stacey Richardson. She was amazing through the whole process. At the beginning of the year, I attended a seminar that she gave called: MAKE THIS YOUR BREAKTHROUGH SEASON. She gave me my breakthrough season. She prepared me physically and mentally for what was to come. She knew when to push and when to back off. She knew when to encourage me and when to correct me. 

Her voice echoed in my head on every swim, bike and run and throughout the race. Here are some basics she taught me:

Swimming is a Dance

Don't coast
Don't draft


Work with the Wind to Win on the Run

And, because you know I like metaphors, I would argue that everything she emphasized in triathlon was a key to living a breakthrough life. [Sounds like a good post for the new year!]