On Saturday afternoon (November 29th) I boarded an Emirates plane at SFO. Technically I was bound for Dubai, where I had a layover, but I final destination is Perth, Australia. I’m racing Ironman Western Australia in 1 week – my first Ironman back since I broke my leg. My journey begins.

My route is likely not the most direct, as it involves a 16 hour flight from SFO to Dubai and then another 10.5 hour flight from Dubai to Perth. But, it was the cheapest option I could get, so as with many things, sometimes we have to sacrifice one thing – in this case flight time – for another – cost.

Currently I’m about 5 hours out of Perth and I’ve been thinking about the way in which I’ve traveled – the things I’ve done on the flight to minimize impact to my body, and I thought I’d share how I travel. This process has evolved…and continues to evolve, as I learn and grow as an athlete.

Here the 8 things I think about (and in some cases failed on!) on a long journey:

  • Clothing
    • An obvious tip and widely in practice in the world of travelers, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of comfortable clothing. I typically wear my Saucony compression tights, a soft, loose-fitting t-shirt, and a pair of shoes (like my fav Saucony Jazz’s) that are easy to slip on and off. I also bring a sweatshirt and usually a jacket of some kind – you never know how hot or cold the planes will be, and when worse come to worse, using the clothing as an extra pillow is great!
    • I also bring a change of clothes in my carry on. After sitting in the same clothes in stale air for 30 hours, it is nice to put on something fresh and clean!
  • Food
    • I have ALWAYS brought my own array of snacks with me to either replace or augment the food offered on the plane, but on this trip we brought it to a whole new level. Prior to my departure my nutritionist, Phil Goglia, created a detailed plan as to exactly what I would eat and when during my trip. When I read the plan, it looked like an incredible amount of food and frequent small meals, but he assured me that it would help with the body’s ability to cope with the travel, as well as retain an eating pattering similar to what I do when I am at home.
    • For my 28 hour journey I pre-packed the following: 7 hard boiled and peeled eggs; 5 “mashes” (1 mash = ¼ cup dry oats, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 tbsp jam (only sweetened with fruit juice, not sugar), ¼ cup apple sauce all mixed together….sounds gross but is actually delicious!!); 1 lb grilled chicken cut up into slices; 2 cans of tuna mixed with hummus and veggies (modified tuna salad); 1.5 cups cooked rice and 1 medium sweet potato cooked in coconut oil; 1 large bag of carrot and celery sticks; 3 Justin’s single-serve Chocolate Hazelnut packets; 2 pears; 1 Clif Builder Max bar (Cookie Dough); 1 Clif Builder Bar (Cookies & Cream), 1 Clif Bar (Sierra Trail Mix)
    • When I prepared what I was supposed to eat I never thought I would get through it all. That is a lot of food! But…shockingly, I’ve never been so happy to have each and every meal. I’ve been hungry throughout the journey and rather than eating foods that only hurt my recovery, I’ve kept a plan I feel great about. And there is really nothing worse than being on a long flight and either starving and being cranky, or having access to food that isn’t great for you. Bottom line – on long flights plan ahead and don’t under-estimate how much food you might eat!
  • Hydration
    • A pillar of travel for me and key to alleviating stress on your body. When I am awake, I strive to drink at least 1 water bottle of water every 45 minutes to 1 hour. I alternate, too, between drinking a normal bottle, one with electrolytes, and one hot bottle (hot water helps with digestion).
    • The down side? A lot of trips to the bathroom. But – that is a small price to pay to help flush your body and keep it hydrated
  • Compression and recovery
    • I have a sensitive body and pretty much anything I do makes me swell. I eat too much junk food. I swell. I don’t move enough. I swell. I fly. I swell. I do an Ironman. I swell.
    • As a result I do whatever I can to help maximize blood flow and minimize the swelling and negative impact on my body. I always wear my Saucony Compression tights when I travel.
    • On this trip I have done a combination of other recovery and blood-flow-promoting things. First – I used my MarcPro almost continuously throughout the trip. The MarcPro is like electric-stimulation. You attach pads to your body and select the strength and frequency. It causes fast muscle contraction and helps to flush the lymphatic system. Second – I wear my Saucony Compression socks. And third, if I can (not always a possibility) I try to elevate my feet for at least some portion of the trip
  • Movement
    • Movement is another key one that I use in conjunction with my frequent trips to the bathroom and to bide time during layovers. Keeping the body moving is really important, so on every trip to the toilet, I do calf raises and stretch my quads, abductors and hamstrings. In my seat I have a small stretch band, and loop that around my knees and do some resisted leg movements. I have two lacrosse balls I use to massage my back and hamstrings in my seat. And during layovers I pull out my foam roller and roll like crazy. I also do my rehab exercises and glute, core and hamstring activation exercises. Don’t worry about the funny looks! Your body will thank you for it later!
  • Sleep
    • When you fly, the best thing you can do is let yourself relax. I was laughing to myself earlier because I felt like a newborn baby on this trip. Pretty much my schedule has been, sleep, eat, toilet, sleep, eat, toilet, etc etc etc…flying is a perfect opportunity to try to get some extra rest and truly let your mind and body detach from the stresses of daily life.
  • Minimizing the white noise
    • You may not realize it or think about it, but that white noise you hear the entire plane flight is really hard on your body! It is a constant stimulant and doesn’t fully let your body relax. The best way to shut that out is through using noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs. On this trip I forgot to check the batteries on my headphones and so unfortunately I’ve been without, but once you experience the pleasure of flying without the white noise, you will never want to go back!
  • Access to the bathroom
    • Until I became a triathlete, I loved the window seat. I liked to be able to look out over where we were flying and liked being able to use the plane wall to rest my head. Nowadays, the aisle is the way to go! I have to get up so frequently to move my legs and use the toilet and refill my water bottle, the aisle is the best way to have easy access and avoid ticking off your seat mates.

Australia awaits! Hopefully everything I have done on this trip will set me up as best as possible for my race. I am beyond excited to get to Busselton (or “Busso” as I’ve been told to call it!) and throw my hat in the ring this coming weekend. 

Until next time…

Don’t Dream It. Be It.

Little Red.

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3 words: Racing. Is. HARD.

I’m about a week post my comeback race and am still recovering! Holy cow that race did me in! I was Ironman-style sore for about 4 days after the race, hobbling about everywhere, and I’m still feeling hormonally run down. Bed time can’t come soon enough at night, and my body is only just letting me start to push a bit more in training.
But I raced. And I finished. And I was THRILLED. It was exactly what I needed and wanted. And I learned a few things to boot.

Going in to the race I felt pretty prepared and ready to race. I was nervous, but confident, and I was excited to see how I fared. As soon as I was out on the race course though, it was a different story! There is a BIG difference between training and racing, and when you are out of competition for so long, I learned it is a true shock to the system when you throw yourself back into it.

In short, I was slow. I was slow on the swim. I was slow on the bike, and I was surprising pleased with my run.
When the gun fired I pretty much got dropped immediately. At 300 meters in, I was thinking “this is SO hard!! OMG I still have another 1600 meters to go! OMG!”….but I plugged along and tried to keep general contact with the girl just up ahead of me.

When the swim was over, I was so amped to get on my bike. I knew I could ride well and really was looking forward to putting up a great ride. NOPE. Didn’t happen. About 5 miles in I felt exhausted. It wasn’t because I was having an off day either – I realized I am not in race fitness and wasn’t ready or used to that level of intensity. As someone who love love loves the bike portion of the race, it was a sinking feeling to feel exhausted with 51 miles left to ride. I wanted to get off my bike, cry, and then take a nap. This was SO much harder than I remembered it being. I wanted to push and my body was yelling back “WTF?!?! STOP!!!!” At the turn around on the bike I could see I was losing time to the lead girls and I was still very far back. I put in a good effort on the back half, but it showed me I’m not where I thought I was.

Coming in to T2 I felt like I had just done an Ironman. I was wondering how I was going to make it through the run. But, I put my shoes on and got out there and started running. It felt surprisingly good. I was running 6:20’s-6:40’s, which given how little running and how little speed work I had done, was really about the best case scenario for me. I was worried that perhaps I was going out to fast, but decided to roll with it and just see how it all would unfold. I really had nothing to lose.

At mile 6.5 we got brought to a dead stop. A freight train was coming through Miami and went right through the run course. We got put into a corral and I sat there for about 3 minutes. It was so weird having that break in the middle – and then off we went. In the end I ran a high 1:25 (which is faster than what is recorded online, which doesn’t account for the mid-run pit stop), which I was thrilled with.

At the end of the day I was 7th. On one hand I was disappointed. It wasn’t what I had expected of myself. It wasn’t where I thought I could be. It wasn’t where I WANTED to be. On the other hand, I was SO SO SO thrilled and happy to have raced. I was grateful for the opportunity to see truly where I am at. And I was humbled and reminded of the fact that you can’t take 3.5 months fully off of all forms of training, come back, train for 2 months and then expect to get out there and compete with some seriously fast and amazing women. It showed me I have to put my head down and work harder. It showed me I have a lot of work to do. It showed me I am not there yet.

Was I disappointed? Perhaps slightly – only because I am competitive and want to do better. Was I discouraged? Really not at all. I’m motivated and hungry to get back to work and get to a place I can feel good about in my next race. Was I happy? I was. Crossing the finish line with no pain and having battled through a lot of “This is SO HARD!” thoughts all day; being reminded of how tough racing at this level actually is – I was very proud and excited to be back out there.

I’m back in SF now. My head is down. I’m focused. And I’m working hard. Next up – Ironman Western Australia on December 7th. Lot of work to do between now and then. Wish me luck!

Until next time
Don’t dream it. Be it.
Sarah-

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Video: ROAD TO RECOVERY – SARAH PIAMPIANO – LITTLE RED RACING

Insight into Sarah Piampiano’s journey back to training from a broken leg

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I’m sitting on a plane, bound for Miami, shooting off e-mails to my sponsors letting them know that “Yes!  I am racing this weekend”!!  I’m also seriously contemplating what is ahead for me this weekend.  The term that keeps coming to mind is “Yikes!”.

It’s been almost 6 months since I last raced.  I know of MANY other athletes who have been out for longer, but 6 months, nevertheless, seems like a long time.  It feels like ages ago when I toed the line a healthy athlete, as almost every race I did this year was executed in pain and with a progressing injury.  This will be my first race of 2014 where I will be healthy.

I’m thrilled and excited and really quite joyous about competing this weekend.  It is a celebration of a lot of hard work and patience over the last many months.  A lot of time spent resting.  A lot of time spent rebuilding.  A lot of time spent on strength, mobility, technique.  A lot of time spent in rehab.  It’s a great feeling to be returning to the thing I love most about this sport – the racing.

But I am also admittedly nervous.

On one hand I know the pressure is off.  It is my comeback race.  I only started running 4 weeks ago and I know I am not in peak racing fitness.  This race is meant to dust off the cobwebs and get my body ready for the coming months of racing.

On the other hand, I feel pressure.  All self-inflicted, of course.  I don’t like using excuses as a pre-cursor to performance – I feel like when you line up to race, you race to win.  No excuses.  And where I have no gauge as to where I am at – the unknown is a scary feeling.

I’m also putting pressure on myself because I want to do my sponsors proud.  I want to validate to them that I not only will be back, but that I WILL be back better and stronger and faster than when I left.  Performance is only one part of how we contribute as sponsored athletes, but it still plays a role, and putting up wonderful races is a way to inspire, motivate and capture the attention of consumers.  So yeh – I want to perform.

One this is for sure, this weekend will be an exciting and special weekend for me, and I truly cannot wait to get out there and at least get a benchmark of where I am and where I need to go.

Miami 70.3.  The start of a new season.  2015.  Here.  We.  Go.

There are SO many people to thank, but a few special shout outs go to Matt Dixon (my amazing coach), Foundry Performance (strength and rehab), Stacy Sims (nutrition), Kevin Burns (massage), Anthony & Robin DuComb (fake SF parents), My real Mom, Dad, brothers and their families, the Shift SF Cycling and training studio & community, and my dear friends and training partners – you all have been so instrumental and played a significant role in my rehab process – Thank you, and I hope you all will be celebrating with me this weekend when I cross the line!

Until next time (and post-race)!

Don’t Dream it.  Be it.

Little Red

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2014-06-21 09.10.23-1A few weeks ago when I sat down to write the blog post below, I was at my lowest point mentally in my recovery process. I was completely over being injured. I was frustrated to not be training. I was bored. I was out of shape and I felt like I had exhausted ways to get rid of all the pent up energy. Pretty much – I was having a “woe is me” moment. And I opted not to post the blog because I felt like maybe it was too negative – maybe I was too emotional in the moment and needed a few weeks to calm down.

Now – 9 and a ½ weeks in to my recovery, everything is brighter. I got off my crutches yesterday (yes!), I am swimming up a storm (albeit still with a pull buoy), I’m about to start riding outside, and I am (hopefully) just a few short weeks away from getting back to running. I’m training at probably 60% volume to full time, and it feels…..amazing! I am a happier person being able to do what I love.

But I came back and re-read what I wrote, and actually, I feel like it was pretty honest and real, and a good representation of where I was at one of my toughest moments in this process. So….rather than giving you the update of how GREAT things are now that I am back to semi-pro status (ha!), I’ve decided to post my blog from the end of June.

Happy reading all!

——
photo 1As of yesterday, Saturday, June 22nd, I have been officially on the DL list for 5 weeks and counting. I feel like it has been ages, and I feel like both my recovery and how I have dealt with it mentally has been entirely different than what I would have imagined.

After Ironman Texas, despite being disappointed, I pretty much pulled up my boot straps and immediately took the mindset that I was going to make the absolute most of my time away from training. I tried to take a really positive approach and turned my focus to maximizing my recovery, to taking the opportunity to sleep in on a regular basis, to do things I don’t normally get to do, to working on brand development and work with sponsors, and allowing my body to rest in a way it hasn’t for years. I also believed I was going to nail my recovery in every possible way, that the pain would subside quickly and that I would be back training in no time….or at least back training in the pool. I kept telling everyone that perhaps this was my opportunity to swim like crazy and work on my weakness.

Things haven’t been bad by any means, but things have certainly not gone according to MY plan.

photo 2When I initially spoke with my doctor he said I was to be non-weight bearing for 3 weeks, on crutches for 4-6 weeks, no biking for 6 weeks and no running for 3 months.

What this translated to in my mind was that I would be non-weight bearing for 3 weeks, during which time my leg would completely heal, and I would be off crutches in 4 weeks. I thought I would be swimming within a week, and at least spinning for 1.5 hour long sessions every day.

Nope – that hasn’t happened

At 5 weeks in, I was only just cleared to begin slightly weight bearing, which in reality means I will likely be on crutches for another 3 weeks at least. In 5 weeks I have swam 4 times, for no longer than 30 minutes, and I have biked twice – both at 60-70 watts and at 60 rpms…for 15 minutes.

After every swim and every ride my leg has been very sore. It hurts to put weight on it.

Now – am I behind the ball in my recovery? I’m not at all.

photo 4But if there was ever a lesson in patience, recovering from an injury is certainly it. I am lucky enough that I have an amazing team of people around me that are not only helping me get back to healthy, but who are also keeping me in check with respect to that process and making sure I do it right, versus rush a comeback and end up prolonging my injury and any future issues. While for the most part I feel as though I have been willing to take the healing process seriously, there have certainly been more than a few times when I have wanted to push the limits and they have been there to hold me back.

I’ve received a lot of comments from people who have said that they have been so impressed with my positive attitude and approach. And while I do believe that my overall attitude has been great (and I will definitely pat myself on the back for that one), this process has not been without frustration and periods of mental weakness.

photo 3Do I believe I will get healthy and return better, faster, stronger? I do – 100%. And I also appreciate it takes time. But as an athlete who is used to spending 4-7 hours a day training – not to mention the strength training, massage and all the other aspects of managing our recovery and careers, NOT training has started to take its toll. When the injury first happened I remember one of my coaches, Gerry Rodrigues, said to me – “its ok to feel pissed off”. And I sort of laughed and him and thought to myself “Its ok Gerry – I am ok with this. I’ll be ok”. And for a good 4 weeks, I was ok. My feelings and positive attitude were genuine and not contrived at all. But admittedly, in the last week, the frustration of not training has caught up to me. I’ve been in a bit of a funk. And then I’ve been pissed at myself for being pissed. I feel like there is absolutely no reason for me to feel disappointed or annoyed. But I think when we are passionate about what we do and we love our jobs, it can be hard sometimes to just be given little tastes of it. It’s like leading the horse to water to some extent and then only giving them a drop or two.

Believe me – I am in NO way complaining. I am thankful and so appreciative of what I have been able to do. And the work I have been doing in the strength room is actually some pretty amazing stuff that I know will have a big impact for me once I am back regularly in the pool.

And there have been a LOT of positives. I have let my body rest in a way it hasn’t in a long time. I’ve had a few fun nights out and not worried about training the next day. I’ve had more flexibility in eating out with friends, staying up a bit later. I’ve been able to live like a “normal” person for a few weeks (albeit with crutches, but still), and I’ve had the chance to really see and understand why I love my job so much.

I’m excited to get back to training. So I think I am a little grumpy because I am getting antsy!

I’m writing this blog for a number of reasons – the first is that I think many of us paint really rosy pictures through social media and give off the impression that things are always ok, that we are always on and never lose it mentally. And while we ARE all mentally tough and things are pretty darn rosy and amazing about 95% of the time, it’s also pretty darn human for things to suck from time to time, and for us NOT to always be on.

2014-06-28 13.49.24I recognize I’ve put up a very positive attitude and I will continue to do that. Because that IS real. But it has been tough at times and the way I have dealt with that has varied. But as in everything we do – all of these experiences offer something for us to learn – to learn about ourselves, to learn about our bodies, to learn about our minds….and in many ways, learn about other people.

I’m heading in to week 6 this week, and my goal for THIS week is to have my pity party for a few more days and then regain the positive attitude I have had throughout so much of this. Refocus, re-commit, and get back on track.

Don’t be afraid to feel frustrated or down. But also don’t let it overwhelm and define you. I know I don’t and I won’t.

Until next time

Don’t dream it. Be it.

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The last few months have been a whirlwind of change, development, growth, excitement, success and – most recently – a bit of frustration. It’s all been an experience, and I’m excited to share the updates of what has been going on.

At the end of January I boarded a plane, bound for Kona, where the team of Purplepatch pros descends every year for a several-week training block. I love our camps – our crew has this really unique ability to push each other to new limits, all while supporting each other, AND while living in close quarters for an extended period of time. My bestie, EK Lidbury, astutely said one night at dinner how amazing it was that 8 athletes, beasted and famished could collectively navigate our way around a kitchen in an amicable way without ripping each other’s heads off in a scurry to get food in our stomachs at every meal. She could not be more right. It’s a hilarious sight actually – all of us arriving home, dripping sweat, dirt covering our bodies, stinking like no other, all racing to the kitchen, a few profanities here and there about how “F-ed” someone is, all shoving our faces with food. And then suddenly, the frenzy is over, everybody clears out, and the house becomes dead silent as everyone retreats to their little nooks to nap, watch episodes of “Breaking Bad”, talk to their kids, read a book – whatever. And then, as the next session approaches, we all emerge, slowly at first, and then the eating frenzy begins again before we head out the door to be beasted all over again.

I love it. And I love the camaraderie and positive environment that our team fosters and creates. It is truly a special team that Matt has created.

One day in the middle of camp, Matt and I sat down and had a long talk about where I was, what our goals were (short- and long-term) and what we needed to do to get there. We both agreed that this year would be a defining year for me in my career, and that it was imperative for me to step up and start racing “like a big girl”. I had expired my two years of “new-to-the-game pro” status and was in a place where I either needed to become a contender, or re-think where my career was headed. I’m not in this sport to be average. I’m in this sport to be great. I want to win. And with that comes an expectation in terms of my progression as an athlete.

We asked the questions: how do we make that happen? What do I need to do? What has been working? What needs to change?

Collectively we decided the best option for me was to head up to San Francisco to spend time directly in front of Matt. We planned for me be there for 2 months. As soon as I arrived back in Los Angeles, I packed my bags, said goodbyes to my amazing group of friends in LA and drove up to San Francisco.

And…it became almost immediately evident that the decision was a wise one. Everything I had been needing and looking for (and things I didn’t even realize I needed) was there in front of me. Matt has pushed, supported and encouraged me to become a stronger and better athlete, and I have started to evolve.

While swimming has taken less of a priority in terms of my training hours, every second spent in the pool has been highly focused. If I take one stroke that is lazy, Matt is on my ass, not allowing me to stop focusing for one instant. We’ve worked on stroke rate, arm position, body position, breathing. On the bike, I do two bike trainer sessions a week in front of Matt at Shift SF (an indoor bike training facility in downtown San Francisco). If my body position moves, my head goes down, my hands are not where they are supposed to be, Matt calls me out. He monitors my watts and my efforts and we adjust things on the fly. Several runs a week Matt is there, his stop watch out, watching my form, my leg turn-over, my knee drive, my arm carry.

I also started working with a great strength, conditioning and rehab team (Foundry Performance) who have played an instrumental part in my training program, and have created a platform for communication with Matt that keeps everyone connected and in-the-know. These guys are showing up at my 5:30 am swim sessions and watching my stroke to discover real-time weaknesses. Same with the bike and the run.

Such positive momentum was hard not to see, and within weeks we had decided that SF was the right place for me to be right now (as much as I love LA and feel it offers so much in terms of training environment). Rather than a 2-month stint, we decided I would re-base myself in San Francisco for the 2014 season. I’m keeping my apartment in LA, and will be back in SoCal several times throughout the season to do some work there, but I’m taking advantage of the opportunity now to be in front of Matt and work with the team of people I have set up there to take the next step up. It is going to be an exciting thing to watch so stay tuned!

At the end of March, as I was getting ready to head off for my first races of the season (including my dirty double (Texas 70.3 and New Orleans 70.3)) I started feeling a bit of tightness in my hip flexor. It was nothing serious – truly nothing preventing me from doing any of my training, but it was there. I would get it worked on with my massage therapist and ART/Chiro team and generally felt like it was improving. When I left for 70.3 Galveston at the beginning of April I didn’t think much about it. I hadn’t even mentioned it to Matt as to me, it was a non-issue – just a small niggle that needed to get worked out.

Galveston was a solid race. I was REALLY nervous beforehand. I had been feeling like my position on the bike was off leading up to the race and I had not been feeling that comfortable or feeling like I was getting good power generation through each pedal stroke. Knowing the bike is a strength of mine, I was anxious on race day as to how I would perform. The entire ride I felt absolutely terrible, but I also was passing people and seemed to be making up time on some seriously strong riders and contenders, so I just kept my head down, stayed focused and tried to not to think too much about how I was feeling. When I pulled in to T2, I was in 3rd, and only a few minutes down on the lead. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the results at the end and saw I had broken the bike course record! Out on the run I started out strong and running right on the pace I wanted. But about 6 miles in my energy started to wane, and I bonked big time. The last few miles were miserable and I sort of limped my way into the finish. It wasn’t a bad race by any means though! I took so much away from it, and my bonking actually led to some big changes in what I was doing for my race fueling, which has had really positive effects for me in my races since.

After the race my hip tightened up a lot – it was the first time I was worried at all about it. The next day it was again tight. When I arrived in to New Orleans later that day I spoke with my Chiro and ART guy, who gave me some stretches and activation work, and I sought out a massage therapist who was able to work on me several times that week leading up to the race.
Race day came. The morning of the race I went out for my typical runs (I do a run first thing in the morning when I wake up and then another at transition), and my leg was hurting me. Not terribly so – but it was there. Once the race started, I felt no pain. It was time to race.

The race was ok. I was exhausted from the week before and really did not have too much to give. My swim was average. When I got out onto the bike, I felt like I didn’t have much power, and it was a frustrating ride for me as with almost no course refs there was a lot of drafting going. I was disappointed I didn’t have more to give as it meant I wasn’t able to break up what was going on behind me.

When I got to the run, I started out feeling very controlled and strong. At mile 9 I was running in 2nd, and I could see the lead girl was fading, but my stomach was not happy. I was trying to keep the pace, but my focus had turned to keeping everything down. I ended up stopping on the side of the road and puking everything up. As soon as that was over, I felt so much better, but I had lost a bunch of time and was in 4th. Once I got going I was able to pull myself back and finish second. I was disappointed with the result and frustrated with the race dynamics, but I also knew that the double was providing me with a great foundation and base to lead me into Ironman Texas, which was coming up in May, and just took it for what it was.

I had a flight out of New Orleans that night as I needed to get back to San Francisco for a team training camp that was starting on Monday. Before I even got on the plane my leg was throbbing and when I got off the plane I was having a hard time standing on one leg, let alone walking without a massive limp. Something was obviously wrong. As so many of us do, I kept telling myself and my team that I was fine; it would be fine in a few days; it was just a muscular thing. And I believed that, but there was admittedly some doubt and worry that had started to creep into my mind.
I went to the camp that week, but with the exception of one 30-minute run to “test” my leg, I did not run at all, and that one run did not go well. When camp ended, I immediately went in for an MRI, which came back negative for everything – no stress fracture, no labral tear – nothing. We all consulted, and it seemed, based on the MRI results, that the pain I was feeling was a muscular issue. We came up with a game plan that involved no running and a boat load of rehab – massage/PT/Chiro/ART/ stabilization work, etc. We decided to move forward with my race schedule and to race both St. George 70.3 and Ironman Texas as we all truly believed I would not be hurting myself further in competing.

St. George was the first big test. I hadn’t run in 3 weeks (effectively since New Orleans) and though I knew my leg was still bothering me, I had no idea how it would hold up in the race. The race itself was good. I had a decent swim – I was pleased with it all in all, but I also felt like I settled in too quickly. Part of it for me is that I have this fear of completely blowing up in the first 200 meters, so I tend to settle quite quickly and go into my pace. It is something I need to work actively on moving out of. Out on the bike I knew there were a lot of very strong riders competing. This race (for those who are not familiar) was the US Pro Championships, and the field that was assembled was effectively a World Championships field, save a few other women. So the level and depth of talent was incredible. Based on that I knew I had to bike my own bike and not fall into the rhythm of the other ladies. I did that for about 25 miles and when I caught the second pack of women, it was hard to break them. There was a lot of back and forth, which meant a lot of short spurts at higher power, etc and I struggled with that. It wasn’t what I was used to, and I honestly didn’t know how to manage it. It completely broke my rhythm. The bike ended up not being an average ride, but I learned so much from the experience and was actually very thankful for that as it gave me a lot of insight into some specific training I will need to do to get ready for 70.3 worlds.

I had a solid run. I had agreed with Matt that I would run the first 4 miles fairly controlled and then would try to open it up. It worked out well as for the first 6 miles of the run my leg was killing me. I actually contemplated stopping, but decided to run one more mile, then one more mile, then one more…and by the time I hit 6 miles I didn’t feel any pain anymore and was able to run in the way I knew how. I felt light on my feet and pain free and I was able to push it.

I finished the race in 8th – a result I was definitely pleased with – and I took a ton of knowledge away.

Immediately following the race my leg felt the best it had felt in ages. It didn’t even hurt and I felt very positive about it. That night though I woke up in agonizing pain. I couldn’t put any pressure on my left side, and was up for 1 hr letting Advil kick in and trying to roll out my leg (as I thought it was muscular) before I was able to get back to sleep.

In the morning I again could not walk on my leg, but thought maybe if I loosened it up a bit it would feel better. So…I hopped on my bike and road for 2 hours. And honestly, it DID feel better. I got off my bike and could walk, and my leg felt much looser.

The week following I was actively doing PT/Massage/etc to rehab my leg and by the time I left for Ironman Texas I felt like I was back to the point it had been before St. George. We all agreed this wasn’t an ideal situation – managing things from race to race – and after Texas I would take a break and let my leg rest and fully heal. But, The MRI had been negative and my overall experience with racing on it in St. George had been very positive, so we did not think it would be a high risk racing on it at the Woodlands.

Ironman Texas was an OK race all things considered. I had an absolutely TERRIBLE swim. I completely missed the pack I should have been in and came out of the water at least 3 minutes back of where we expected me to be. That sucked.

On the bike the first 50 miles were the most enjoyable 50 miles I have ever ridden in an Ironman! We were expecting a strong headwind on the back half of the bike, so my game plane for the front half was: Patient, Conversational riding. I had to write it on my water bottle so that I would not ride hard because what I wanted to do was GO! But I followed coach’s order and when I hit mile 60 the leash came off and I was allowed to ride my bike. Where most of the girls rode 1-2 minutes faster than me on the front half (if not more), I rode 12-20 minutes faster than everyone on the back half. It was a new strategy for me and honestly, I think I rode a bit too easy at the beginning, but all in all we were successful the execution and I put up a solid ride all in all.

The goal for me on the run was to be consistent – to just run consistently. I had no idea how the run was going to go, and as soon as I got on course my leg was in pain. My stride was way off. My knee was collapsing in when my left leg hit the ground. It hurt. So I just focused on engaging my core to support my legs and stride mechanics. I had hydrated and eaten SO well on the bike, so I felt great on the run – the only limiting factor for me was my leg and not being able to push at all. At the mid-way point I took some Advil and once that kicked in I felt WAY better and started to run a bit harder. My pace increased from 7/7:15 miles to 6:30-6:50 miles and I felt great. With 2 miles to go I was in 4th and 1 minute out of 3rd, and suddenly my leg just stopped working. It was the strangest feeling I have ever experienced. My body felt fine. I had great energy, I did not feel fatigued. Mentally I was focused and moving forward, but over the course of ½ mile my leg just completely shut down. The muscles just stopped working and eventually I couldn’t take another step. Rather than driving my knee I was trying to swing my leg around, but the problem was that when I landed my leg just collapsed in. There was nothing I could do. It wasn’t a pain factor for me – I can run through pain. It was a body-flicking-me-the-bird factor. I was 1.5 miles from the finish. I sat there and I knew my day was over – there was nothing I could do. But I hated the idea that I had done all that – worked all day – and RUN on that leg for 24.5 miles to stop 1.5 miles from the finish. I felt like I owed it to myself…to my damn leg..to get to that finish after all I had asked of it, not to mention just respecting everyone out there who was also suffering. My view – if I could walk and put one leg in front of the other, no matter how humbling or how I finished, I was going to walk across that finish line. And I did. My last 1.5 miles took me nearly 35 minutes to complete.

After the race I have NEVER been in as much pain as I was then. It hurt so much it was nauseating. I cried…which for someone who has a high high pain tolerance, meant I was in a tremendous amount of pain. My brother called me the day after the race and when I answered the phone I just started sobbing. It hurt SO much and there was nothing that was helping it.

When I got back to LA, I was able to get in to see one of the top hip specialists around (Thank You Bobby Jaffe for getting that set up). They did an MRI and the conclusion: A fractured Femur – specifically a hairline fracture in my Femoral neck. What does this mean? It means roughly 2 weeks of non-weight bearing movement, then I can start slowly adding pressure to my leg; 3-5 weeks on crutches; swimming only with a pull buoy and no pushing off the wall; 6 weeks of no biking; 3 months of no running. I’ll be back in for an MRI in 6 weeks and hopefully if it I’m healing right I’ll be able to get back on my bike.

Am I bummed? Yes, of course I am. Completely. I LOVE to race. I love it. I LOVE what I do. I love it. So to be sitting on the couch right now as opposed to out in the sun riding my bike – yeh…it bums me out. Do I regret racing Ironman Texas? I do not. My personal view is that as elite athletes we are frequently riding a fine line between injury and not. And I believe that to be great, we have to push ourselves, take risks and take chances. Sometimes those risks/chances and decisions we make don’t turn out in our favor. And sometimes they do. I believed I could win Ironman Texas – even with my hurt leg. And I was prepared to give it a go. I knew I was hurt, and I knew that once the gun fired I would have the capacity to push through any pain. I could have easily pulled the plug on the morning of the race and said I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. But I didn’t. I made the decision to race. If someone had said to me that the result would have been a broken leg – well then of course I would not have raced. But given the information that we had and based on what unfolded in St. George, I felt as though it would be ok.

Am I bummed? Yes, of course I am. BUT….I am also thrilled I don’t have a labral tear, which would have required surgery, taken much longer to recovery, and the guarantee of getting to 100% was much lower. So I feel “lucky” it is only a broken bone.

Am I bummed? Yes, of course I am. Kona is out for me this year. But….I recognize that while this does impact my season, perhaps this is my opportunity to focus on my swim in a way I never have before, and perhaps that will allow me the breakthrough I truly need to have. Perhaps this is an opportunity to help me take that step and become a better athlete and become great.

The near term disappointment is inevitable, but I’m looking for how this is giving me an opportunity to make my medium and long-term brighter. And I promise I will be doing everything I can to make the most out of this time out of competition.

I know this is long, but I really need to thank so many people for their support.

EVERYONE has stepped up and supported and helped me in ways I did not expect, and I am so grateful to you all:

- To Brian and Tina Trimble for taking care of me as soon as I crossed the finish line – getting me in a car, taking me home, picking up my car, my bike, my bags, getting me ice – you two were amazing and I am not sure what I would have done without you.

- To Joseph and Lucy Major and Maureen and Greg Gibbons for helping me pack all of my things the day after IMTX.

- To Tim Floyd for getting me to the airport and checked in to my flight

- To EK Lidbury, Stacy Tager, Heather Gillespie, Heather Reed, Jesse Rice, Laurel Wassner for picking me up from the airport, taking me to my doctor appointment and MRI, for picking up food and my medications for me, for coming to my apartment to do body work, for the flowers and the company – THANK YOU

- To the guys at Foundry Performance – Craig McFarlane, Michael Lord, Ryan West for your help in getting me around, helping to get a plan in place and starting to move forward to get me back to healthy

- To Matt Dixon – for your support, guidance and honestly, just being a freaking amazing coach, person and friend. Thank you!

- To Bobby Jaffe, Dr. Stephen Lombardo and Dr. Jason Snibbe for getting me in quickly and getting an answer even faster! Thank you!

- To Anthony DuComb for helping to get me back to San Francisco

- To so many others – Stephen Clouthier, Eric Neponaschky, Phil Goglia, Gerry Rodrigues, my family and friends – thank you for your support

I’ll be back soon – better, stronger and faster than before. It’s time to rehab!

Until Next Time. Don’t Dream It. Be It!

Little Poo (AKA Little Red)

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Like most people, I really enjoy listening to music when I train.  In the early parts of the season I always have my headphones on, but as the season progresses I actually tend to do most of my training music-free so I can learn about the sounds of my breath and feel what it is like to push myself without David Guetta or some other upbeat DJ burning in my ears.  Particularly for Ironman – developing other cues in training that I can use to motivate me through the tough patches is important.

But….right now I am all about the music!  My musical tastes are pretty diverse.  I really enjoy Top 40 music, hip hop and rap, country, indie rock, coffee house/crooner-type artists, jazz, hard rock, techno – everything.  With the exception of heavy metal (though I can say there are a few Metallica and Nine Inch Nails songs that I like) – I can listen to anything as long as it fits my mood.  I used to only listen to rap to get my fired up in training.  But recently I’ve really been getting more and more into alternative rock and new types of music I had never listened to before.

So – I thought I would share my playlist of the moment.  I have it titled in my iPod as “two steps forward” just signifying the motivation to always be trying to move forward and striving to improve.

Hope you enjoy!

Little Red’s January 2014 Training Playlist

1901 – Phoenix

Young Blood – The Naked and Famous

Wake Me Up – Avicii

Closer – Nine Inch Nails

ATLiens – OutKast

Demons – Imagine Dragons

Outro – M83

Hurricane – MS MR

Nightcall – Kavinsky

Pepper – Butthole Surfers

This Must be The Place – Talking Heads

Team – Lorde

Sweet Disposition – Temper Trap

Spotlight – MuteMath

Sail – AWOLNATION

Shot At the Night – The Killers

Nothing Left to Lose – Mat Kearney

A Real Hero – College & Electric Youth

Trojans – Atlas Genius

V.A.L.I.S. – Bloc Party

She Is Love – Parachute

Payphone – Maroon 5

Once In a Lifetime – Talking Heads

Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men

Mercy – Kanye West

Love Somebody – Maroon 5

Kids – MGMT

Holy Roller – Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Ho Hey – The Lumineers

Fire & Rain – Mat Kearney

Gold On the Ceiling – The Black Keys

Everything You See – Portugal. The Man

Fans – Kings of Leon

Counting Stars – OneRepublic

Clocks – Coldplay

Black Skinhead – Kanye West

 

Happy Listening!

 

Until next time.

Don’t dream it.  Be it.

-          Little Red

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It’s Saturday afternoon and I am sitting on my couch snuggled up with a blanket, listening to Christmas music and feeling…content and happy.  As I sit here and reflect on the last 12 months, it has been filled with many highs and equally as many lows on both professional and personal levels, but this year has also been one of the most beautiful and amazing years of my life and I walk away feeling….thankful, inspired and forward-looking – all really positive emotions.

This time of year is about giving thanks, so I thought I would share with all of you what I am thankful for.  This year, the people in my life and my relationships with them are THE reason why I am sitting on my couch today feeling the way I do.  I’m no Barbara Walters, but here are the most influential people in my life in 2013:

1. James Duffy
James is one of the most important people in my life – not just since I arrived in Los Angeles, but ever.  He has supported me unconditionally through the highs and lows of my job and along the way has pushed me to face fears and strive to become a better person in ways no one ever has before.  His intuition, patience, poise and kindness have helped transform my life and opened doors for me I am not sure I could have on my own.  He inspires me in a truly unique way and I am forever grateful to him.

2. My mother
When I decided to leave the world of finance behind me and take a chance on triathlon, both of my parents has serious concerns and reservations (and for good reason!).  But they swallowed all of those and have shown nothing but the utmost support to me in my endeavors.  My mother has become a veritable triathlon groupie – she reads the blogs of every athlete, she runs the statistics on every race, she knows the nuances of every course from the elevation gains and losses on bike and run courses, to the water temperature, water quality and speed of every swim. She has immersed herself in this sport in support of me and has stood by my side, cheering me on to be the best athlete I can be.  I am so thankful to my mother for her unwavering support and her open-mindedness in allowing me to take my own path and create my own destiny.  Thank you mom!

3. Emma-Kate Lidbury
Eeks, Eccles, EK, EKs – my dear dear friend.  EK moved to LA not even a year ago and I feel like I have known her a lifetime.  She has not only become my closest friend in LA, but one of my dearest, most loved and valued friends in my life.  We have pushed each other in workouts, challenged each other on personal levels, are fierce competitors in races, but at the end of the day love and respect each other.  One day we are beasting each other in training, the next we are cooking dinner together and laughing, and the next we are back at it – creating new physical and mental limits.  We have succeeded in mixing business and friendship so well – something that can be hard to achieve.  I feel so lucky to have EK in my life and her presence in LA has been more important to me than she will ever know.

4. Gerry Rodrigues and Matt Dixon
My growth in triathlon has been a project.  And both Matt and Gerry have taken this journey with me with their arms wide open.  Over the last two years, these two individuals have grown not just to be coaches I respect so much, but friends and family who have offered words of support, love and kindness in ways I did not expect.  I have a family in California, and Gerry and Matt are very much part of that.  I cannot express the gratitude I have for their coaching, guidance and friendship.  We have few opportunities in our lives to have people like Matt and Gerry take part, and I value these relationships so much.  Thank you to you both for being part of it all.

5. Stacy Tager, Heather Gillespie, Todd Larlee and Caroline Bird
My relationship with these three ladies and one gent have grown in exponential ways this year and I could not be more thankful for their friendships.  Each of you have shown what spectacularly loving, kind, generous and thoughtful people you are and anyone who is lucky enough to have a friend in you is blessed.  Thank you all for being part of my life.  I cherish your friendships.

6. My family
Where I would be without my family, I don’t know.  The perspectives, differences in personality and individual strengths and weaknesses bring color to my life.  As we’ve grown, our lives have changed.  We all have taken different paths.  We have evolved as people, as parents, siblings, spouses, cousins and children.  But at the end of the day, we all have each other’s backs, we aren’t afraid to speak the truth, and we push each other all to achieve greatness.  I love you all so much.  I value and love my relationships with every single one of you.  Thank you Mom, Dad, JM, Vanessa, Jeff, Laura, Marcia, Adam, Travis, Zoe and Eliza.

7. Avery Roth
Avery is like my long lost sister.  She was my roommate in college and like James, she has pushed me to break down barriers on a personal level that I am not sure I ever would have without her in my life.  Her loyalty and friendship has created a bond that will never be broken.  Thank you Avery for being such an incredible friend and sister.  I love you!

There are so many other people and things I am thankful for – for the generosity and kindness of so many that have helped me along the way in my triathlon career, to my sponsors, whose support and belief in me means the world, to the city of Los Angeles for bringing joy and happiness into my life.  To Sweet Rose for making un-freaking-believably amazing ice cream and for being located just a few shorts miles from my apartment.  To Primo Passo for their delicious lattes.  To Father’s Office for their ridiculous burgers, and the Taco Truck for mind-blowingly good Ceviche tostadas.  To the beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the Pacific that make me smile every day.  To my girlfriends in NY (V, Kate, Elena, Amy) who I love and miss every day.  I could go on and on.

In a few weeks it will be a New Year and a new triathlon season.  I’ll be taking everything I learned and all of the experiences from this past year with me and working to be a better athlete, better person and better ice cream eater :) .

Happy Holidays everyone.  Have a safe, wonderful and joyous Holiday season and Happy New Year.

Much love,

Don’t Dream It.  Be It.

xxx

Little Red -

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Yesterday I raced Austin 70.3 as a prep race to lead me into Ironman Arizona, which is coming up in 3 short weeks. I hadn’t raced since Tremblant, and I was keen to get a shorter race under my belt and get back into the race mentality after a relatively long break from the competition scene.

I didn’t go in with any expectations (honestly) other then to test myself and see how I was feeling and gearing up for Arizona. We took the opportunity to try a few new things in a stress free environment. I lined up for the first time ever in the middle of the swim pack (versus on the outside, out of the way of the faster swimmers) and I went out much harder than I normally do (only to then blow up and promptly move to the back of the pack!). I also tried a few new things nutrition-wise on the bike in terms of how many, when and how I took my calories.

Net net, I walked away really pleased with how the day went. While my swim time wasn’t amazing, it was a solid swim, and more importantly I felt great – and even stronger as I went along. I felt phenomenal on the bike. I was strong, controlled, and when I asked my legs to respond they did. I’ve been doing almost all my riding in aero-position lately and I think it has made a big difference for me. I ended up posting the fastest female bike split, which is always a nice little perk!!

I came off the bike in second and as I started the run I felt great. My legs felt light, my turn over was good. I felt strong, but very controlled. I kept looking at my watching at seeing 5:30, 5:45, 6:10. Ideally I wanted to try to run a 6:10-ish, pace, so I was happy with what I was seeing. For a moment I felt like I might be able to catch Bek Keat (who was leading the race). And then towards the end of the first lap (about 3.5 miles in) my right quad started cramping. Then my left quad. I slowed significantly hoping to work it out, but nothing changed. As I ran up the hill back into the stadium, Mandy McClane had caught me. I felt comfortable running with her, but then my hamstrings started cramping. I’ve never cramped before in a race so had no idea what to do! I ended up stopping at the aid station (literally stopping) and started downing cup after cup of electrolyte drink.

…..And that pretty much summarizes my last 9 miles of the run. Run, cramp (quad, hamstring, calf – some or all of the above), stop at the aid station – drink cup after cup of electrolyte drink), run, cramp, repeat….

I ended up finishing 4th, which I was thrilled with because the last 4 miles were painful and tough to get through. I was just trying to hold on. even with 1/2 mile to go I had to stop at the aid station and take in more electrolyte drink to make it to the finish.

Austin 70.3 Run

I’ve never cramped before in a race, and in the aftermath I’ve been trying to figure out why that happened. Did I not have enough electrolytes leading INTO the race? Normally I only drink water on the bike during 70.3′s and in this race I actually added in my Clif Shot drink mix. I did take in fewer calories on the bike than I have in the past, but I never felt as though I was going to bonk, and my energy levels were good. The only thing I keep coming back to is perhaps not enough in the days/week leading up after some pretty big and hard sessions.

Anyway, most importantly, I really had fun at this race. I really enjoyed the course, It was a fun race for the women’s field with a real battle for 2nd 3rd and 4th. I gained a lot of confidence in terms of where I stand for AZ, I made a little bit of money, and I got to try out some new things in a stress free environment.

Congrats to Bek Keat, Rachel McBride, and Mandy McLane for well-fought races and for making the race interesting and fun! Well done ladies!

So….that is about it for now! A big thank you to Kara and Donny Hall, who put me up in Austin (and Eric Nepomnaschy for helping set it up).

And to my sponsors: Cervelo, Shimano, ISM, PowerTap, Helen’s Cycles – Thank you SO much for the amazing bike set up!

To Saucony, Clif Bar, Timex, AquaSphere, Game Ready, Kask – Thank you so much for your support and help.

Until next time…

don’t dream it. be it.

xxx

Sarah-

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Over the last month or so I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about balance in my life. As a pro athlete there are a lot of choices that we make to further our development. We may put ourselves on a strict diet, or go to bed every night at 8:00 pm, or rarely eat out or socialize. We train 7 days a week and we are “on” 24 hours a day because how we train, how we rest, how we eat – it all has an impact on how we perform. We put so many of our marbles into our jobs and we ask so much of ourselves – both physically and emotionally – and of the people around us. It is hard sometimes – particularly at the end of the season when fatigue and burn out are creeping in and we are ready for that much needed break.

But, pro athlete’s are not the only people who struggle with balance. In my prior life as an Investment Banker, I worked 120 hour weeks and had no balance at all – in fact, probably much less than I do now.

James has often said to me how lucky I am to be able to ride my bike every day or swim in the sunshine vs in the dark morning hours. He looks at my life and he sees the sexy side of it – I lead a ridiculously healthy lifestyle; I am in better shape than most people could even dream about; I get to run, ride and swim outside all day long; I get massages at least once a week; I get to travel to amazing locations to compete; I have an incredible set of sponsors whose products I get to wear, ride, and test. It seems so glamorous. And in many aspects it is. But like any job, it has its downsides too.

On the flip side, I can look at James and think – he only has to work 5 days a week. He can eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He can take vacations in months other than November and December. He can leave work at 5 pm and shut it off. He can stay out late and drink one too many beers if he wants to. He can decide to go surfing one morning instead of to swim practice, or if he wants to go to that concert on Sunday night and get home at midnight that is ok – the lack of sleep won’t really impact his job the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that. James, on the other hand, only sees the fact that he sits in a 4×4 cubicle with fluorescent lights shining down at him all day long as he pours over documents and answers e-mails. He would kill to be outside.

My point in all of this is that no matter what you do and how you choose to live your life, there will always be amazing parts to it, and there will also be not so amazing parts.

I absolutely love my job. As I have stated so many times, I have never been happier in my life than I am now. I feel lucky every single day that I have been afforded this opportunity, and the people I have met and the places I have been as a result of it are relationships and experiences that I would not change for the world. I. Am. Lucky.

But – part of loving what you do, and continuing to be fulfilled means also taking responsibility and recognizing what is important to you and what your needs are to keep you motivated and loving and living life to the fullest.

I remember when I was working in banking and had just become serious about triathlon. My life was either training or working. That was it. I didn’t have time for much else. And as a result, I began to resent both my job and my then-hobby. I wanted to go out with my friends and have more social time – that is important to me. And I wanted to have time to myself where I could just relax and de-compress. That is also important to me. I was pursuing two things that I loved, but the combination of the two wasn’t particularly fulfilling for me. I suffered through that year. And when I look back, I wish I had taken my training load down a notch, and allowed time for other things in my life.

And even last year, when I moved out to LA, I went full steam ahead. I restricted myself in every way I possibly could and was so focused on achieving greatness that I never came up for air. By July I was fried. I was emotionally done. And once Kona was over I let loose in a big way. I needed to because I hadn’t had any balance in my life for so long. I needed to learn that lesson though to understand that sometimes succeeding (for me) means not holding on so tight.

Today, when I look at what is important to me – I really enjoy that random glass of wine at night with dinner, or my beloved Sweet Rose ice cream for dessert. I love being spontaneous versus always planned and calculated. I love spending time with the people that I love. I love spending time on my own to just be in my own headspace and think – to not talk to anyone. I need these and other outlets in my life to stay healthy, stay happy, and also stay motivated in my job and be the best person I can be for those around me. Yes – there is a time and a place to restrict yourself from certain things or where we have to make difficult decisions. But in general – always asking yourself what is most important to you, and being diligent in remaining true to yourself – the outcome hopefully will be one of great reward.

It is so easy to get sidetracked or lose sight of this. And reminders every once in a while do us all well.

Here is to better balance!

Until next time.

Don’t dream it. Be it.

Sarah-

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