Archive for the ‘races’ Category

Updates!

Posted: August 25, 2013 in exercise record, races
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It’s been over 2 months since my last post.  Life has been really busy, and my summer vacation nonexistent!

I moved into an apartment downtown on July 1, and love it so far.  It has its quirks, but there’s a clawfoot tub, large porch, new stove, and gigantic closets to fill with gear and crafting stuff.  I also get primo parking right next to my entrance because the landlady was worried that another tenant might hit the MINI if I parked it with everyone else.  I’ve established a 4-mile running route that begins in the city, then travels up to my old favorite, Elmwood Cemetery.  I do two loops up there, and head back down, with a couple loops to add distance along the way.  It’s pretty flat, with just Washington Street for elevation gain.

In August, I finally got Steve to do a Spartan race with me!  We corralled 3 other friends to go with us for their first time, too.  I’m proud to say that they not only finished it, but did so without major injury!  It took us a while, but that’s the risk you take when running with various fitness levels – everyone waits for everyone else to finish the obstacle/burpees, regardless of how quickly any one person completed it.  I didn’t run this one for time, and I don’t think I ever will – it’s just a fun course with limited distance.

I’m also signed up (officially!) for my trifecta races this year!  I used some volunteer codes I’d earned, and paid under $31 for both the NJ Super and the VT Beast combined.  I also regrettably won’t be running with my Battle Buddy and Spartan Inspiration, Aja, who is rehabbing from injury (and just kicked Mono.  Seriously).  So, I’ll be fishing for a battle buddy among the NE Spahtens, and giving it my best AROO in spite of changes in expectation.  I’m not too worried, as the Spahtens encompass a WIDE range of abilities, so I’ll definitely find good people!

And on the subject of NE Spahtens, yesterday I joined the team down in Wrentham, MA for the F.I.T. Challenge OCR.  They’ve been talking to the director, Robb McCoy, for a few months and have helped him craft what ended up being a great event.  Although originally billed as being a Mud Challenge 5k, the mud didn’t end up happening, which wasn’t a big deal.  What DID happen was a solidly organized event (logistics of parking, porta-potties, DJ, registration, food, medals, volunteers, results, etc were flawless) with numerous safe, accessible (within reason), and fun obstacles.  Robb teamed up with the local CrossFit to bring in a legitimate Atlas Carry, sledgehammer swings w/ tires, weighted tire pulls, and box jumps – all at various points along the course.  As in CrossFit, these were scaleable – different weights, lighter hammers, lower boxes.  The 8′ walls had strong side supports, an imbedded board for a step, and solid construction all around.  Robb even threw in a 10′ wall, though it was built like a ladder – those afraid of the height could go under the top bar instead of making the frightening transfer at the very top.  The beauty of this obstacle though, is that it CAN be done independently even if you’re not able to do the 8′ walls solo – being built like a ladder, it has graduated “rungs” to use all the way up.  Well done, Mr. McCoy. The one part that disappointed me was in the lack of promised zombies.  In an effort to drum up interest in their race, a local Zombie Challenge race volunteered to have their zombies be an obstacle at the F.I.T. Challenge.  We made it to the Zombie Zone, but no Zombies appeared.  Again, not a deal-breaker, and likely not Robb’s fault.  It just would have been fun.  Other obstacles included a sandbag carry, tube crawl, unders, overs, and throughs, grippy monkey bars (that I scaled only by sitting on the shoulders of another Spahten on my second loop – Ha!), the blazing sun, and a jump into two industrial containers of water (think dumpster, without the “gross”) connected by cargo net.  I ran it once in about an hour, then swung back around to walk it as an “honor guard” for the Mother of Spahten Sandy Rhee (“Mama Hen”).  I upped the weight on all the obstacles for this round, and had a great time walking, helping, and talking to the other Spahtens.  It was a great day, and I went home with a pretty sweet medal.

Challenge - COMPLETE!

Challenge – COMPLETE!

Finally, after all the excitement, I have one day of Inservice left before opening my classroom to my very first class of 5th and 6th graders.  I’m nervous, under-prepared, but absolutely ready to tackle the year.  September will be insanely busy, as every weekend is filled with races or LARPing.  I’ll update the blog as I can, but I make no promises until closer to Halloween!!

AAAAAROO!

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When I said back in March that my schedule was busy, I had no idea what I was really in for.

Life business:

-My Dad had a heart attack about a month ago.  He noticed chest pain, called 9-1-1, then sent me a text saying that he’d called an ambulance.  Come to find out (as I frantically called the local hospital trying to find his status), his heart actually stopped in the ambulance and he needed to be AED’d back to life.  The local folks sent him up to Fletcher Allen in Burlington, where he had 3 stents put in, and they lectured him on getting healthy for the next 48 hours.  Since then, he’s mostly eating healthier, stopped smoking (hooray!), and is about to start cardiac rehab.  I think the best birthday present I got this year was having him survive the ordeal.

-My job is keeping me incredibly busy – we’re wrapping up the school year, and I’m only behind by the one week that I took off from the regular schedule in order to plug in a new unit that I developed myself.

-I GOT THE FULLTIME 5/6 TEACHING JOB! Three rounds of interview, teaching sample, and final interview wore me to the bone, but I secured the job.  I am officially a classroom teacher with a permanent contract.  What this means for the future: 5:15am CrossFit WODs instead of 6:15am, less time this summer in which to play due to professional development, higher income, less time in the evenings due to planning and grading, and on and on.  It won’t be easy, but I’m going to love the heck out of it.

-I found an apartment down in the city and will be moving early July.  It’s closer to CrossFit, easy to access for work, and on a nice low level so I can work on distance without too many hills complicating things. It also has a super big porch and the bathroom has a clawfoot tub: I see outdoor yoga and REAL ice baths in my future.

-Girls on the Run is nearly over.  I landed the position of solo Coordinator for this one, simply because my fellow coaches weren’t able to contribute the necessary time.  It was initially frustrating to be the one person organizing EVERYTHING, but as the season wore on, I got used to the extra workload.  The others pitched-in when they could, too.  Also, I like being the Big Cheese, so it worked out fine.  The girls are all really excited to run our GOTR 5k this Saturday, and some will be rocking some fantastic speeds (seriously, one girl’s practice 5k time is under 23mins). Updates to come.

Fitness news:

I ran the Spartan Citi Field Sprint, and finished in the top 50% for women for the first time ever.  It wasn’t super difficult, but I did plenty of burpees as penalties for the obstacles I missed (ropes, monkey bars, rowing, traverse wall).  I also managed to find a carpool and crash space with some New England Spahtens whom I’d never met, but were super welcoming and awesome.  I knew I’d be racing alone, too, so I sucked it up, and met some people to run with.  I had a great time.  Definitely excited to do Fenway this fall.

-I completed P/T for my IT band, and am pleased to say that all my recent 3 mile runs have been pain-free.  With regular foam-rolling, stretching, and care, I should be able to start training the miles back up again.

-I ran the corporate cup again this year, one day BEFORE my anniversary. Time of 32:30, and again, no ITB pain.  I have my road pace to beat this year!

-I’ve updated and trimmed my proposed race schedule for the year, and it unfortunately is quite slim. I need to start saving for my wedding, and while these little races are great, without a volunteer/free race opportunity, it gets way too expensive.
However, I’ve still got my trifecta on schedule: NJ Super, Amesbury (Steve, my fiancee, said he’d run with me!), and the VT Beast, as well as another Shale Hill run, and the FIT challenge.  I’ll also do another half marathon, but which will depend on dates and funds.  I hope to do Fenway, too, since I have friends in Boston, and I can volunteer for a free race.

So, the schedule is busy, I’ve returned to running the roads, and except for some head/chest cold nonsense over the past few weeks, I’m back to regular CrossFit WODs.  It feels good to be back on track after life got in the way of all that progress.  Here’s to keeping it up!

Apologies for the radio silence over the past month – 2013 is already super busy!  Here’s a quick recap before we get into the nitty-gritty on Saturday’s Peak Snowshoe Race.

After the Polar Bear, I finally managed to get a consultation scheduled with a physical therapist regarding my IT band issue.  My primary care phys. concluded that it really is honest “ITB Syndrome,” and referred me to PT.  Thankfully, my health insurance covers all but the $20/visit co-pay, so this isn’t too much of a yank on my finances.

I’ve gone to see my PT 4 times, and we’ve worked on loosening the tissue with rolling, stretching, and massaging, as well as some abdominal exercises to support my hips, and other things to engage and loosen my hamstrings.  The results are clear though, as I’m now able to run 2.5miles on the road before stiffness sets in my left ITB (read: stiffness, NOT pain!), and more often I’ve been able to stretch partway through and just keep going problem-free.  Additionally, it doesn’t hurt like heck every time I try to roll my ITB, which shows marked improvement. I’ve got one more scheduled appointment with the PT today, then we’ll decide future actions.

Now, onto this weekend!

Back in October, some Spartan friends decided to sign up for a snowshoe race being put on in Pittsfield by the same folks who run the Death Race – Peak Races (This is also the more independent race company of Spartan founders Joe Desena and Andy Weinberg).  We thought it would be challenging and fun to do the double 10k loop and make it the first half marathon of the year – the snow was bound to be well-packed by the ultra-marathoners before us, right?  No problem.

Fast-forward to Saturday morning: Snow fell in large quantities over the past couple weeks, so the course (aka: mountain trail) promised to be one for which you’d honestly need snowshoes.  Still, the temperature forecast said 30’s, so we weren’t too worried about needing heavy layering gear.  Additionally, my race partner-in-crime, Aja, was getting sick, so we planned to take it easy.  We went out with heavy wool socks, mid-height snow boots, insulated winter tights, and various appropriate upper layers. Aja’s personal Outdoor Equipment Guru, Hans, outfitted us with Kahtoola snowshoes – hands-down the best pair I’ve tried in my life (seriously: ditch the LLBeans and the Tubbs before you hurt yourself – Kahtoola is INCREDIBLE).

Aja and Me Pre-Race, looking super sporty.

Aja and Me Pre-Race, looking super sporty.

Once on course, however, I began to realize our mistake in skipping the outer leg layer.  While exertion kept my muscles toasty, and the boot insulation and wool socks kept my feet warm at first, I had grossly misjudged the level of powder still flying on the trail.  Snow packed in around the ankles in my boots, and slipped into the foot area where it quickly melted.  By mile 3, my left foot was soaked, and my right getting damp.  Now, if you know anything about cold-weather survival, you know this is bad – potentially very very bad.  Once you’re wet in the winter, frostbite doesn’t wait long to set-in.  Thankfully, we were able to pick up the pace, as the remainder of the first loop was downhill.  At about 2 miles remaining, though, I noticed a distinctly uncomfortable chill in my toes, and knew I had to get back to dry gear immediately.  So, I did something I tell myself I’ll never do: I left my running buddy behind (with her permission), and pelted down the mountain at break-neck speed.  With the exception of one spectacular face-plant, I made it back in record time.  Good thing, too, as I poured freezing water from my boots, and wrung out my sopping wet socks, I knew I wouldn’t have been in good shape if I’d taken any longer.  I managed to avoid damage, but only just.

Once in dry socks and goretex trail shoes, I considered heading out for the second loop, but quickly dismissed the idea as I realized I just didn’t have the right footwear.  Could my body have handled it? Absolutely, without question.  Would I have been happy with the result?  Probably not.  Without gaiters, I would be tempting frostbite on an unnecessary level, and I’m not willing to risk my toes!

I sucked it up, and accepted that a 10k on snowshoes up and down a mountain would be an adequate second race for 2013.  We still got badass medals (the same ones we’d get for he half-marathon, too, so I didn’t feel too bad), and all the usual race swag, so I’m pretty pleased in the end.

Peak Race Swag: Shirt, Hat, Patch, Bib, and Medal.  Not pictured: minty chapstick from EMS.

Peak Race Swag: Shirt, Hat, Patch, Bib, and Medal. Not pictured: minty chapstick from EMS.

Additionally, the course scenery and weather were gorgeous, and we met some pretty excellent individuals.  For most of the uphill trek, we trudged behind a 50-something gentleman I could only describe as “Triathlete” – the man had the most amazing hamstrings I’ve seen (what else was I going to look at, huh?), and kept the steadiest pace up some pretty brutal inclines.  That, and the fact that he was so courteous and knowledgable about the terrain, was a dead giveaway that this guy was in it for the long haul.  When I asked him his distance, he casually replied “I’m in it for the 100.”  One. Hundred. Miles.  On snowshoes, up and down a mountain for two days.  I bow to you, Mr Ultra Pace Man, as a pinnacle of dedication and epic achievement.  

Yep, the truth is written in the snow 2 miles up!

Yep, the truth is written in the snow 2 miles up!

In all, it was a great experience, and we plan to regroup and attempt the half (or full?  Is that possible?) marathon next year, provided we prepare proper footwear and set out fully healthy.

Panorama at the Peak

Panorama at the Peak

On deck for the future:  Montreal Sprint is at the end of May, I may also do the Tri-State sprint in NY in June, Amesbury in August, NJ Super in early September, and the Beast at the end of September.  I want to do a bunch of little mud runs and obstacle races locally, too, but those dates and costs will have to wait for my finances to solidify.

Personally, I’m in an awesome/weird/insanely busy point in my life.  There’s a full time 5/6 classroom position opening up in my school for the fall, and I have to apply.

I love my new car, Fezziwig: the Chili Red (with black roof & bonnet stripes) Mini Cooper Hardtop <3

I love my new car, Fezziwig: the Chili Red (with black roof & bonnet stripes) Mini Cooper Hardtop ❤

I just bought my first car (leased, but still, it’s MINE!), a 2013 Mini Cooper Hardtop, and Steve and I are beginning the plunge into wedding planning for 2014.  The newest feature of my current teaching job is that I’m helping start the Girls on the Run program at our school.  We’ve got a great mix of women leading this group, from a new runner, to experienced moms, to me with my off-the-wall race menu.  It’ll be exciting to get girls interested in getting out and active in a way I never appreciated as a kid myself.

In all, I’m stressed out but somehow holding it all together for the benefit of how wonderful life is right now.  I wake up in the morning exhilarated and determined, and crash into bed fully spent every night.  I’ve made gains in climbing, I’m back on track with running regularly, and I’m taking care of myself physically, personally, and professionally.   I have the car of my dreams, a loving fiancee, a tight group of friends, and attainable goals.  I plan on this being yet another banner year, so be prepared.

Climb-on, Stacey!

 

Half Marathon 2012

Posted: February 2, 2013 in races
Tags: ,

Half Marathon 2012

Finally bought a photo from the All Women and One Lucky Guy Half Marathon. This is about 10+ miles in – looking good!

You can tell it was one heck of a wild weekend when you can play the “What’s that bruise” game for an entire week afterward.  And while I am pretty beat-up (my stomach is a double-rainbow of purple wall bruises), I have to say that I feel enormously successful after this weekend’s event:

The Benson Polar Bear 8-hour Obstacle Race Challenge.

As I deducted in the last blog entry, this was no easy beginners’ “fun run,” but it was immensely enjoyable on all fronts.  Here’s the recap, starting with the omnipresent struggle to Gear Up Right:

The week leading up to the race involved hours of packing, unpacking, gear testing, and shopping for the best combination of outdoor layers.  I had no idea how much snow was left in Benson after a couple days of thaw followed by frigid temperatures (and no new snowfall), but I knew I had to have a windproof layer to wear over my insulated running tights.  Apparently, in January, this is an extremely odd request in Vermont – whose retail locations seem hell-bent on offering only cotton capris (*shudder*), or boot-leg yoga pants (Read: tight in the buns, and sloppy in the leg).  CLEARLY women aren’t supposed to be running outside in the woods this time of year – ha. ha. ha. ha.

So, about 30 minutes before my Friday night departure for Rutland, I had nearly given up on finding a lightweight outer layer for pants.  I was prepared to wear my hastily-waterproofed hiking pants, but the prospect of having to yank them up continuously while worrying that they wouldn’t stretch enough was not a sunny one.  Standing in the cashier line at TJmaxx, I glanced over to the Men’s section, bemoaning the plethora of appropriate pants in that department.  A stroke of brilliance (and a little “Screw You!” to The Man) had me out of the line and into the racks, scouring for what I hoped would be a good, albeit unflattering, pant.  5 minutes later, I had purchased a weather resistant, reflective, lightweight pair of New Balance men’s track pants for under $15.  Trying them on at home proved them to be not only stretchy and secure, but not the least unflattering – Epic Win!

So, overpacked and a wee bit nervous, I headed out to pick up my partner in crime, Aja.  We made good time down to Rutland, checked-in to the hotel, then scooted over for night-before-race dinner with the New England Spahtens.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the large group is to get along with in person; we’re all at different fitness levels and ages, but there was never a lull in the conversation.  We joked, dreamed of bacon, ate too many carbs (or at least I did…yummm french fries), and had a pretty good time.

At 5am the next morning, with not a speck of light in the sky, we rose, packed, and congregated in the hotel lobby with the other groggy Spahtens.  By 6am we were trudging through the bitterly cold field outside Shale Hill‘s barn, preparing ourselves for the race to come.

Once at the ORTC barn, we were greeted by warm air, a warm welcome, and the best of all: warm BACON.  I cannot praise ORTC enough for the festival area and logistics successes right from the start.  Registration was instant, our long-sleeved shirts were excellent (a wicking cotton blend, which is a great compromise between expensive tech shirts and plain Ts), and the food was bountiful and delicious.  I grabbed some fresh fruit, eggs, and a couple strips of bacon, and sat down to listen to the opening remarks and instructions.

Rob, ORTC’s founder and evil mastermind, thanked the racers for coming out, and described a few things to watch out for on the course (we’ll be going over the frozen lake, don’t get lost at the sandbag carry, there will be water at these two points, etc).  The penalty system was explained as well – at ORTC, if you cannot complete an obstacle, you must grab a colored chip from the cup nearby and hang onto it through the rest of the race.  It’s an honor system, really, since no one’s checking up to make sure you own up to missing the top of the rope climb or falling off the monkey bars, but more on that later.  Once we were properly prepped, the officials let us loose on the starting line.

I’m not kidding when I say it was COLD, folks.  The sky was only just beginning to pale, and the sun hadn’t crested the horizon yet.  A wind promised to blow all day, so I thanked my “Brutal Cold” UnderArmor top and Nike Hyperwarm base layer tights, and shivered with more than just nerves.

7am: Aaaaaand We're off!

7am: Aaaaaand We’re off!

Finally, the clock started and we headed out for our first lap, down the hill into the field, crunching snow under our feet.  Thankfully, most of the thick heavy snow from two weeks ago was gone, replaced by a dry powdery layer over packed crust.  We rounded a corner and reached the first obstacles: log over-unders.  The “unders” were slick with ice, and a darn fun time to slide through, while the “overs” were just high enough to keep me from jumping completely.  The trail continued, and we met with various increasing obstacles:  hop-over bungee cords, walls, and other goodies that slip my mind.

I’m pleased to say that while the obstacles at ORTC are sometimes frighteningly challenging, one thing they never miss is safety.  Little things like smooth wall tops (no splinters or nails) meet solid construction at every corner, which makes for a confident course run, even for someone who is not in great physical shape.  Additionally, many of the walls have built-in ledges or spaces which you can use to lever yourself.  You can tell that Rob really pays attention to the athletes’ comments and takes care of the site.  Everything was well-labeled, and we’d already been warned about which obstacles might not be safe during winter (for which there were no penalties for missing – woo!).

One of the best obstacles is one they call the “Abacus,” as it resembles the archaic calculations tool quite closely.  It consists of a series of ropes pulled taught horizontally between two large trees, forming a giant’s rope ladder.  To add stability, Rob has placed thick vertical boards at various points between the ropes, essentially making a wide-format cargo net.  Because the spaces are wide, the climb is a bit more terrifying, but ultimately less wobbly.

Another unique obstacle (and one that I couldn’t manage to nail during the race) is what Rob calls the Lincoln Logs (Linking Logs?) – a large notched post that hangs from a rope, which you must climb and then kneel on top of in order to tag the top of the support structure.  On both laps at the Polar Bear, my feet just couldn’t make those notches hold, and I slid unceremoniously to the ground.  Add this to the list of obstacles I WILL conquer this summer.

Next up was a rope ladder, made extra challenging by our slick frozen shoes.  I succeeded the first time on this guy, but failed attempt #2 due to a hellish combination of bruised shins and exhausted arms (my technique for climbing this one is to stand on the first rung, then kneel on the next – thereby decreasing backward motion and grip stress when trying to pull one’s leg up 2′-3′ to the next rung).

The rest of the race order blurs in my mind, though I know there were plenty of steep hill climbs (crawls) and opportunities to slide on one’s backside down a ridge with naught to hold onto but your own behind.  By the time we reached the Traverse Wall of Doom (think 4+ Spartan walls linked together with a balance beam or hanging bar), my hands were frozen and not about to handle tiny grips and weeny frozen footholds.  With the help of Aja, though, I made it halfway through on both laps, succeeding in only earning a blue chip (next time I hit up a Spartan traverse wall, I’ll see if I can get away with having a buddy squash me into the wall whenever I feel my grip slipping, Ha)!  Other notable obstacles included monkey bars (to which my hands STUCK in the cold, earning me a chip when I fell), a log carry, (frozen) sandbag carry, rock/bucket carry, a fire pole you had to climb UP (chip me, please!), a rope climb with a platform at the top (chip!), and a battalion of large round hay bales to hop over.

Let’s take a minute to discuss these hay bales, shall we?  When placed in isolation, they’re merely annoying – causing you to smack into them disgracefully, or need a tiny boost to get up and over.  And then it IS over, and you can run along like the svelte and surefooted runner you really are.  ORTC takes a different route, in placing what felt like 40+ hay bales in close progression (there were at least 2 sets of these suckers, so 40+ is probably my estimate for the totals of both combined), so that you literally get no respite.  This is especially hard for the folks who just don’t have the height or the “sproing” necessary to tip one’s center of gravity over the bale’s curve.  Luckily, Aja and I are geeks, and geeks know there is a method for succeeding at ANYTHING, it just needs to be perfected.  Our plan was to have me step on Aja’s quad and boost myself up to the top, then give Aja a hand up and over before sliding off the other end.  Not the best system, but one we could sustain for a while at least.  The kicker to my hatred of these hay bales was the cheeky, taunting grin someone spray painted on the sides – just adding insult to injury!  Well, I managed to vault up and over 2 all on my own, and only needed a small push on another couple.  So it IS possible for non-springy Me to own those hay bales, and I plan to do so this summer.

The final obstacle of each lap is probably the worst (and best, challenge-wise, because it’s do-able and exhausting): The Anaconda.  When you finally pop out of the woods and see the barn and finish line ahead, you think it’s just a few easy obstacles and you’re done.  The “Pick Your Poison” obstacle features a hercules hoist/tire flip/tall wall/rope climb combo, and that’s no problem (I Lift Things Up, I Put Them Down!).  Then comes the realization: the raised running track is only a fraction of your final task.  You must climb down, then back up onto the track, scale an obstacle (Hello Again, Hay Bales!), then go back down, back up, obstacle, down, up obstacle, etc – effectively criss-crossing the raised track in a winding zig-zag of slow going.  By this time on both laps, I was pretty darn tired.  But I muscled through, knowing that dry clothes, water, and bacon awaited in the barn ahead.

Looking like I totally have this covered.  Oh yes.

Looking like I totally have this covered. Oh yes.

Once you’ve crossed the finish line, you are cheerfully reminded that your lap is not complete: It’s Penalty Time!

You cash-in your chips, and choose an index card from the stack.  On this card are the 3 chip colors and a number of reps of either Spiderman Burpees, rope climbs, jump ropes, tire hoists, wall climbs, or tire flips, which you must multiply by your qty of chips to find your total.  Aja (the stinker) pulled freebies both times, and the first lap had me doing spiderman burpees (like mountain climbers, only burpees, blech).  The second (and final) lap wrapped up with my IT band maliciously pulling at my knee for the whole last mile, forcing me to a slow jog to the finish.  I was completely worn out when I pulled my card, but it held the greatest gift of the day:

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Free! Free! Free!

Our Polar Bear experience wrapped up with good food, more social time, the Largest Team award (and a free ORTC race pass!  Woo!), and a super badass spinning medal.

The center circle SPINS!

The center circle SPINS!

All told, it was an awesome experience, made even better by the genuine and dedicated people who put it together.  I will absolutely be back in the summer, for races and training as my schedule and wallet allow.

The whole gang, Spahtens on the left!

The whole gang, Spahtens on the left!

So for now, it’s back to kicking my own butt at crossfit, running in the evenings, and keeping up the momentum.  I’m less than a month out from my 1-year life-changing anniversary, and I intend to do Old Me proud.

Stay tuned, good things abound!

The NE Spahtens

The NE Spahtens