Living Your Individually Designed Life

As you have no doubt gathered from following my blog, I am an avid fitness enthusiast. While the blog began as a way to help me track my adventures in running while I prepared for races, it has turned into so much more. A friend once told me how much the blog inspired her and that meant so much to me! If through my writing and experiences I can touch someone in even just a small way, then it’s serving its purpose. I truly believe that through an active life we are better able to see the reality of the dreams that we want for ourselves. Fitness has always been a part of my life since a young age and as I’ve gotten older I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my strength and speed improve. But it’s more than just the stats…it’s about the belief in knowing that I am capable of accomplishing anything I put my mind to, whether those running shoes are on or off! Over the last few years I’ve also learned that it’s not just about leaning on my own strength to get there but trusting God more in that process.

Over the last 8 (almost) years, my career has been in health policy and communications. I know that my work, through the policies and programs I’ve helped put in place or improve upon, has had an impact on the lives of others. I will admit, though, that what is sometimes missing for me is an “on the ground” perspective. My blog, to some degree, has provided me an opportunity to express my voice on things that I am passionate about. And just recently I’ve stumbled upon another vehicle for helping people take control of their lives and health.

That vehicle comes through the form of nutrition with a revolutionary new company called IDLife. They have created a monthly nutrition program that is personalized to you! In today’s world personalization and individualization is all around us–from the protective covers we purchase for our cell phones to the variety of individually tailored workout programs we have at our fingertips. So why should something as important as your health be any different? Well ID Life has utilized thousands of peer-reviewed, clinical research studies and 17 years of research to create the first truly customized supplementation platform!

The program starts with an online HIPPA-compliant personalized health assessment that walks you through a series of questions related to diet and exercise, illness and medication, and family medical history. Within seconds of completing the assessment your information is run against IDLife’s extensive database of information populated and backed by the thousands of 3rd party clinical studies referenced earlier–and you are provided with your very own personalized nutrition plan.

In my short time with IDLife I have learned why the right supplementation is important to help fuel our bodies and that, unfortunately, relying just on our food supply is not enough. The medications we take everyday can also deplete our bodies of vital nutrients. I am truly convinced that in just a few years time, the “multivitamin” will be a thing of the past just like the VCR.

I’m thrilled to introduce you to this amazing company as it is changing lives in so many positive ways and helping people achieve their dreams. I’ve provided a snapshot of all it has to offer and I’d love to schedule time to chat with you and share more. Plus, we have an awesome June promotion that you won’t want to miss!!


All IDLife products are organic and/or all-natural, GMO-free, casein-free, gluten-free, and soy-free with no artificial sweeteners. IDNutrition product ingredients are on the FDA G.R.A.S (generally regarded as safe) list and are designated “Pharmaceutical Grade.” Get started today!

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Double Duty Workout

Another evening of LA adventures last month took me to LA Boulders, “a bouldering gym with 12,000 square feet of climbing terrain.” So once again in the spirit of “trying new things” I joined my bestie, Katierose, for an evening of acro yoga and bouldering!

So LA Boulders is an interesting mix of a gym with cardio equipment and weights, rock climbing walls, and an upstairs studio for yoga classes. If I thought lady jazz class was outside my comfort zone, well acro yoga was doubly so! While I’ve taken plenty of yoga, Katie warned me this is nothing like your typical yoga class. So upon arrival to the yoga studio (which required scaling a small section of the rock climbing wall to get to the top—not as scary as it sounds), the class had begun and everyone was sitting in a circle with their arms around the person next to them. We found a spot to squeeze in and began swaying back and forth. Already I was thinking, “what on Earth?!” and “this is so not my thing”, but alas I eventually understood the purpose of this warm-up. We were not just getting our bodies loosened but we were also gaining trust and closeness in our fellow classmates. After some additional warm-up “trust” and “balance” exercises with a partner we were ready to begin.

In ongoing rotations of three to four people we practiced about four to five different “therapeutic and acrobatic poses with a partner” that got progressively more difficult! I definitely enjoyed being a “flyer” over a “base”. But it was amazing to see the kind of strength that we are capable of when we focus on breathing and using our core. And here are a few photos that Katie captured of me in both roles!

Acro yoga 1

Base work is hard work

acro yoga 2


After this we moved on to the bouldering portion of the evening. We changed into our rock climbing shoes (which feel so funny to wear—your toes kind of curl inside) and off we went. In the past I’ve done the kind of rock climbing where you are harnessed and have someone belaying you as you go.

Post-bouldering and feeling strong!

Post-bouldering and feeling strong!

But this was different in that you aren’t connected to anything—it’s just you and the wall. Luckily nothing is too high to jump off when you are stuck and the padded floor makes for a smooth landing. There are a number of different colored rocks spread out all around the gym and varying skill levels to brave (we focused mainly on Level 1).

Katie’s friend, Kieran (another Jersey girl now LA dweller) joined us for the fun. And that it was! I found this very enjoyable because it’s less so about strength, but rather about strategy, flexibility, and core. A good brain test too!

We are so badass

Don’t mess with KSK…Kieran, Sallyann and Katierose!

I’m so excited to find a local bouldering place (and perhaps acro yoga too) and look forward to reporting back to my readers.

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And All That Jazz

A few weeks ago I was visiting the great city of Los Angeles to spend a few days with family and friends. It was a great and a refreshing time to get away from the DC rat race. I always enjoy going back to my roots (yes I’m a real native Angelino) and what’s not to love about LA—the weather, the West coast (more laid back) attitude, the glitz and glam (as long as kept in perspective)!

The first night I arrived was lady jazz night! As background, I was visiting Katierose—one of my dearest friends from high school. She and her boyfriend are talented actors and watching them grow their passion day-by-day always inspires me to do the things I love. Katie is my adventuresome, fun-loving friend who has always encouraged me to move outside my comfort zone and try new things. Thank you for that, Katie! So in that vein of trying new things, off we went to lady jazz class.

Now you might be wondering, what exactly is lady jazz class? Well it’s just what it sounds like—a group of ladies meeting each Friday evening at a dance studio to learn a new routine! This idea had been brewing in Katie’s head for many months. In our image-focused culture, dance classes, in her mind, had begun to bleed into the greater world of exercise classes where halfway through the class the instructor calls out, “ok folks, let’s Ladies Jazz, April 2015grab the mats and start our ab routine.” Katie decided an end must come to this madness and it was time to bring dance back to its purest form (after all dancing on its own is a great workout without having to be identified as an exercise class). So with that vision she and her dance instructor friend, Paula, created a space where their friends could take a dance class each week to learn a new routine that Paula would teach every 3-4 weeks. And with that a good old fashioned ladies dance class was born!

Upon arrival that evening at our dance class destination—a ballet school where young girls were finishing up classes (and making us really feel like “old ladies”)—we met up with Katie’s friends who came out for the inaugural class. I quickly learned that this was a low-key, non-judgmental atmosphere where we were all free to be no matter the skill level. And luckily I was not the only one who felt like I had two left feet!

Ladies Jazz 3, April 2015We did a little warmup and soon Paula was teaching us a fun and sexy little dance to the tune of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. Think jazz hands, grapevine, chasse’ and ball change (those are the only dance steps/moves that came to mind for this non-dancer) and other moves blending together for the first part of this song. It was a lot of fun; we laughed at our missteps and took pleasure when everything came together! Now that a few weeks have passed I’m sure the group has completely mastered the entire song and I’ll be interested in hearing what’s up their sleeve next! Lyrical jazz is the word on the street…

Ladies Jazz 2, April 2015So what about you? Do you miss the days when you just went out for a run without your Fitbit, took a dance class without the built-in ab routine, or just took a walk around the neighborhood to smell the roses! I’m just as guilty as you in tracking time, miles, and goals, but finding new ways to make your exercise routine fun will be rewarding and you may not even realize you’ve broken a sweat!

If you live in the Los Angeles area and would like to know how to get involved in this ladies’ dance class (or know of some fun dance classes in the greater DC-area) post a comment or send me a message.

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Get Up And Go: A Marathon Story

Last fall I had four friends (yes four!) run their first marathon!  I am so proud of each of them in different ways and grateful for their friendships and how each has helped me to grow as a person.  Running may seem like an individual sport, but it’s also a team sport especially through the grueling days of training!  And while I wasn’t able to get to Ohio to cheer on my good friend Nicole, I was with her in spirit!  I ran with her on some hot training runs last summer…and left her before she was done because, well, I just wasn’t in training shape for doing 10+ miles on a random Saturday.  She has been my go-to work buddy (we all need one of them!) and is the one who introduced me to the best workout group in the world–SealTeamPT!  May her story inspire you to get up and go..

Guest Blogger: Nicole Tidwell

As it finally is starting to warm up, I’ve been thinking about getting back out there and running more consistently again. Looking for some motivation, I was scrolling through some emails and stumbled upon a quote that I had earmarked when I first started running (fall 2010) for moments like this:

I think about all those who can’t run. Then, I think about what my life would be like if I couldn’t run. That alone provides me enough motivation to get out the door. We don’t have to run, we get to.

I also found this blog entry that I wrote up two months after my first marathon in October 2014 and I am definitely more inspired to get back out there!


“It’s official, I am CRAZY & registered for a marathon!” That was the subject of an email I sent to a select few in late July 2014. I was several weeks into my 18 weeklong marathon-training plan and I decided to finally bite the bullet and register for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Marathon in Columbus, Ohio. As I said in that email “there was no turning back now that I’m registered and you know!”

I always thought marathons were crazy. I remember crossing the finish line of my first half marathon thinking “yea right, I will NEVER double what I just did.” Well two years later, I did.

The race turned out to be a lot of fun and I was pretty much on happy juice the whole time! I had no idea what I was in for but I knew I was prepared and knew I would finish one way or the other. (Thankfully I crossed it smiling, feeling good and happy with my time of 4:47). Nicole marathon 3The crowd was amazing! The course was the perfect one for me – a tour of my hometown with some particularly cool spots to run through that I have countless memories of growing up. (As a Buckeye fan, the coolest thing though was running through the tunnel onto the OSU football field!) My friends and family were throughout the course cheering me on! And afterwards they threw a party for me! Nicole marathon 2

A lot of people questioned my sanity, why I was doing it and what I hoped to get out of running a marathon. Those 18 weeks of training were a blur of short and long runs and a lot of time to ponder my latest challenge/goal.

The training was painfully boring at times until I figured out I needed to train with people, whether it be friends from boot camp or complete strangers, to get through those long Saturday runs. I found a great running group in DC (Pacers) that required just showing up bright and early at 6:45 on Saturdays to check in & hit the streets complete with course maps and a sampling of running gels and other aids.

Nicole marathon 1The training was full of physical and mental tests: I got my first blister! (I thought it was my badge of honor!) I strained several muscles in my right leg and had a lovely limp for about 10 weeks as a result. On race day my right side (from my ankle to my hip) was covered in bright purple KT sports tape. (I don’t know how that stuff works, but it was a godsend). I was mad because I gave up drinking (& basically as a result being social) during training. I’m pretty sure I covered every range of emotions on long runs from dread at the beginning, to indifference, to rage, to disappointment, to crying to jubilee when it was done!

But throughout my actual race and training (during runs and in between runs), I kept coming back to a variety of thoughts, most of which are applicable to life in general:

• If you want it, go for it.
• Don’t give up.
• The only thing preventing you from running a marathon is your own list of excuses.
• Be patient.
• Be your own hero.
• It’s not always fun, but ultimately there is a reward at the end – satisfaction that you pushed through.

So to sum it up, why did I run a marathon or any race? The peace of mind it gave me and the calming effect it had on me through an extremely shitty year.

An article in the December 2014 Runner’s World, “The Write Runner” by Michael Heald explains it perfectly:

Nicole marathon 5It’s about staying fit and pushing yourself to achieve and surpass goals. It’s also about personal and spiritual growth, creativity, mental clarity and emotional stability. I find these things in running.

And now I’ve got to lace up new shoes and get back out there!

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New Year, New Challenges

Happy 2015!  A little photo journey below of my recent travels…

Moscow, Russia!  A cold day walking through the city and checking out St. Basil's Cathedral.

Moscow, Russia! A cold day walking through the city and checking out St. Basil’s Cathedral.

I can’t believe I’m entering year five of blogging bliss!

Cool view from a coffee shop window in Moscow.

Cool view from a coffee shop window in Moscow.

Brussels at night.

Brussels at night.

And with a new year comes endless possibilities and a clean slate.

View of Red Square from St. Basil's Cathedral.

View of Red Square from St. Basil’s Cathedral.

I have a lot of ideas brewing in my head related to my fitness goals this year and still need some time to sort them out.

Brussels at night, Grand Place.

Brussels at night, Grand Place.

These last few weeks, though, I took a hiatus from all things fitness and took a trip to Russia (over Christmas) and Belgium (over New Year’s).

Ice skating in Gorky Park (Moscow, Russia).

Ice skating in Gorky Park (Moscow, Russia).

Ice skating Christmas night in Gorky park with my friend Jackie.

Ice skating Christmas night in Gorky park with my friend Jackie.

What an amazing adventure!  While I did a ton of walking (in snow boots most of the time, no less) and ice skated on Christmas night, I also ate a lot (especially in Belgium–waffles, chocolate and beer make for a great diet, right?).

Shop four of six on a New Year's Eve chocolate tour in Brussels.

Shop four of six on a New Year’s Eve chocolate tour in Brussels.

14 Brussels (waffle)

Chocolate and strawberry covered waffle…mmm…who’s counting calories?!

The pretty green chocolates were literally to die for!

The pretty green chocolates were literally to die for!

But no matter, I was with good friends and so very happy away from the everyday priorities of life back home.

No, that's not the makeup's CHOCOLATE!

No, that’s not the makeup counter…it’s CHOCOLATE!

My friend Lily gives the thumbs up for this chocolate shop!

My friend Lily gives the thumbs up for this chocolate shop!

And while some find travel to a foreign land stressful, to me it’s somewhat freeing when you don’t understand the language being spoken.

Moreover, “disconnecting” from technology–be it the phone, texting, email, or browsing Facebook was also a welcome respite.  I have returned feeling a bit more whole again.

Pretty light displays in Moscow, with my friend Laura.

Pretty light displays in Moscow, with my friend Laura.

This was a statue that we saw while walking through a park in Moscow.  All I can say is, creepy!!

This was a statue that we saw while walking through a park in Moscow. All I can say is, creepy!!

In the new year, I want to live a simpler life–to more fully enjoy the everyday, to wake up each morning praising God for what He’s done in my life, to truly enjoy moments with friends and family, to quiet my mind from the many to-do’s that float around my brain, and to make more me-time

The churches are so amazing to see in Moscow.

The churches are so amazing to see in Moscow.

(after all, as much as I love being productive and spending time with my friends, every night does not need to be filled with priorities and get-togethers).  Already this week I have incorporated some of these things and what a difference it makes!

Hat shopping at a market in Moscow!

Hat shopping at a market in Moscow!

The Kremlin, Moscow.

The Kremlin, Moscow.

Moscow Christmas market.

Moscow Christmas market.

As for the blog this year, I have some ideas up my sleeve.

Ice skating with friends, Lily and Loren.

Ice skating with friends, Lily and Loren.

For one, I have already signed up for my very first Spartan race (perhaps with a little trepidation) that takes place in August.  I figured this would be a great motivator to work on my upper body strength for the obstacles.

We were sad at first that the European Parliament building was closed, but then we remembered we were in Belgium for New Year's!

We were sad at first that the European Parliament building was closed, but then we remembered we were in Belgium for New Year’s!

Starbucks in Moscow!

Starbucks in Moscow!

I also still hope to do another triathlon–aiming for an Olympic distance.  Race suggestions (and training buddies) are most welcome.  I’d like to incorporate more guest blog pieces on the site, as well as some product reviews this year.  But the main thing is to have fun with it all and spread some inspiration to others.

The oldest church in Moscow!

The oldest church in Moscow!

A beautiful church in Moscow that we visited.

A beautiful church in Moscow that we visited.

Here’s to a fabulous 2015 to you!

I loved all the decorations in Moscow!

I loved all the decorations in Moscow!

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Get Your Stache On

Last Sunday I ran a 5K—the inaugural Stache Dash Run sponsored by Pacers and Samuel Beckett’s Irish Pub. Three great things about this race—1) It was in Shirlington (practically in my back yard); 2) I wore a mustache (maybe more annoying than great); 3) I met up with friends, both old and new, for brunchStache Dash 2014 2 afterwards (and we all know that you can eat anything after running, yes even if only 3.2 miles).

The morning began with bib, t-shirt and mustache pick-up at the pub. One thing is for sure women were not meant for mustaches! It felt weird, granted that is not the way I’m sure a real mustache feels on a man because, well, he grew it, but even so it did not do anything for me as far as looks are concerned. The day was the first true cold morning I have felt in a while—it was the kind of wind that makes you want to curl up under a warm blanket, but alas here we all were freezing together for a run on the first day of daylight savings. Thank goodness for that extra hour of sleep at least!

Mario and Dr. Phil...err Sallyann and Liz.

Mario and Dr. Phil…err Sallyann and Liz.

The run itself was a good course starting in Shirlington and then up through a neighborhood and then back around again to the finish line. There were a few families standing outside their homes watching us run by—no cheering was really happening—but hey at least they came out to watch. We went by the new Wakefield High School (where I go swimming and now I know a new street to take to get there). If anyone tells you that Arlington is not a hilly town, well they are wrong, because there was a pretty decent sized hill that we climbed.

Stache Dash 2014 (me and Gina)

Post-race with my buddy G.

Overall, my time was not as fast as my personal best from the August Lost Dog 5K series, but I was still happy.

Stats: 25:20 (overall time); 11 out of 208 (age group); 125 out of 726 (overall.

And in case you didn’t get your stache on, see you at next year’s race—November 1, 2015!

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Triathlon Redemption

I often wonder what it is that drives me to sign up for races.  They require you to wake up early–and by early, I mean anything pre-5 am!  But I’m not the only one; races across the country have taken off over the years and more and more people are getting past the “I’m not a morning person” excuse in order to be a part of the growing race trend.  Road closures aside, I’m secretly convinced that races start at the crack of dawn to weed out the early morning risers from the non-early risers and that if race officials started offering more afternoon/evening races, the numbers would skyrocket and be unmanageable.  That being said, what do 1,100+ women have in common at 4:30 am on a beautiful Sunday morning in August?! If you said sleeping, think again–we were getting ready for the Columbia IronGirl sprint triathlon in Columbia, MD.

I have been a bit slow to recap my race but luckily I jotted some notes down the week following and have had time since to digest it a bit more.  As my readers may recall the June sprint triathlon that I did at the Jersey shore was a battle of the mind.  While the distances were nothing to write home about, swimming in the ocean was a bit terrifying.  And it’s really difficult to simulate race conditions (ocean waves, wetsuit) in the pool.  Excuses aside I finished that race in my own way, but I wasn’t satisfied with my performance.  And the only way to move forward from your own mind game is to get back out there and try again.

I decided that signing up for another IronGirl race was just the confidence booster I needed.  IronGirlI arrived in Columbia the day before to get my race packet, attend a pre-race talk by the director, and rack my bike.  irongirl gearRacking the bike the night before already took a good deal of stress off my shoulders because it was one less thing I would have to worry about the following morning.  I also had the opportunity to walk around the lake and visualize race morning.  IronGirl Swim FinishAlthough the course looked a wee bit far, it was still not as scary as the ocean!  I dipped a toe in the water and the temperature felt good.  I was not going to need a wet suit.  It was going to be a good race.

Another thing I did to take the pressure off and eliminate the distractions of home was to book a hotel about 10 minutes from the race site.  I used the evening at the hotel to relax pool-side for a bit, read a magazine (what a luxury) and made friends with a little fourth-grade girl who was swimming.  Later I found a Thai restaurant for dinner–half wondering if Pad Thai was going to agree with me for a pre-race dinner (it was fine) and talked to my brother on the phone.  Then early to bed at 9:30; I had an amazing slumber.  So when my alarm went off at 4:30 the morning of August 17, I popped out of bed ready to go–it was time for my redemption race!

IronGirl MorningRace morning had the perfect amount of pre-race chill in the air.  I got a good parking spot and made my way down to the transition area to set up all my gear.  IronGirl Race MorningAfter a little bit of time there and with body marking complete I took one last pit stop and made my way over to the swim start area.

Early morning race sunrise (photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)

Early morning race sunrise (photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)

In a sea of strangers it’s pretty amazing that I spotted a former co-worker.  We chatted for a bit (she was out to cheer on her neighbor) and then I found my friend Nicole who told me she was planning to come cheer me on!

Showing the guns (Photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)

Showing the guns (photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)

After a bit of waiting around it was finally time for my age group to head into the water.  The unique thing about this race was that they sent us into the water as pairs to help with the spacing.

Getting ready for the swim (photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)

Getting ready for the swim (photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)

The water was probably in the low 70’s and felt good.  Once I was a little ways past the first buoy I got into a little bit of a stride, but there were so many women out there swimming that my hand every now and then would graze someone’s foot or vice versa.

Heading in to the lake (photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)

Heading in to the lake (photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)

Every time this happened I had to get out of the crawl stroke and begin breaststroke or side stroke for a bit.  But it was progress–the head games of swimming were not in play and I knew I could finish this race with confidence. [SWIM TIME: 32:46; 3:17/100 m; 0.62 mile]

All smiles finishing my swim (photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)

All smiles finishing my swim (photo courtesy: Nicole Tidwell)


Next up–the bike.  Overall it was a good, but tough course.  Unlike the 12-mile flat beach course, this one was 16 miles filled with a lot of hills.  I would estimate that over half the course was on an uphill trajectory.  One time my gears were not shifting properly and I had to get off the bike and walk it up a hill. But the rest I made.  It was the portion of the entire race where people talk to one another–women are chatty!  One gal was singing (when we made it to a downhill shady street) and we kept playing a game of pass and be passed.  She yelled out to me at once point that I was probably tired of hearing her singing!  I had to chuckle–it made the race more fun in my opinion!  Upon reaching the top of one hill I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was–wish I had my camera–the overlook of a huge farm field was stunning and gave me  an opportunity to enjoy the moment and relish in God’s handiwork of our beautiful country.

IronGirl transitionI worked hard for those 16 miles and finally was inching closer to the transition area.  The run was next and this was my strength–after coming off the Lost Dog 5K series where I did really well I was ready to test my speed in the last leg of the tri.  [BIKE TIME: 1:12:32; 13.24 mph; 16 miles]


It’s run time!  After making my way out of transition (this time remembering to take off my helmet!) I was off for the run.  The race course was along a wooded trail that looped its way up and around the lake.  At the very Irongirl Run coursebeginning of the race there was a group of middle-aged shirtless men running.  I’m thinking “don’t they know a race was going on right now?”  But it was a bit of a spectacle as one of the volunteers was yelling out “oh, hey guys!”  I blew by them which made me laugh even more that I was still faster than them and all they were doing that morning was running.  At about the 1.5 mile mark the trail went uphill for a bit and they called it Gatorade Hill–yep you IronGirl post raceguessed it Gatorade was waiting for us at the top!  IronGirl finish lineAt least I knew we’d have to come back down–the ladies coming down looked much happier than those of us who were going up!  I was enjoying the run and getting into my stride and as the trail curved around the lake I knew that the finish was in sight.  I felt strong and knew that my time would reflect that work. [RUN TIME: 29:27; 8:37/mile; 3.42 miles]

IronGirl 13TOTAL TIME: 2:18:45

This race was a great one–I recommend it for any ladies who are interested in doing a race in an encouraging environment to do this one.  It was just what I needed to boost my self-confidence again and prove that we can accomplish anything with the right attitude and perseverance.  I’m already brainstorming ideas for what I want to accomplish next year–at least an Olympic triathlon; maybe a half Ironman race.

Post-race with my friend Nicole

Post-race with my friend Nicole

Thanks to my buddy Nicole for coming out and cheering me on and taking pictures!  It meant so much having a friend out there supporting me. iron Girl funny

Since then I’m continuing to swim at the local high school pool–it has really been a great form of exercise for me and I want to continue getting better and better so that hopefully one day I’ll be able to tackle that crazy ocean swim.


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