*Warning! Long post. Recommended with a beer of choice and a block of time. As many of you know, writing is extremely therapeutic for me and this was one of the most enjoyable things to document. I… More
I truly wish there was a different word for “beautiful”…something more powerful (ugh, NO that was not a line from the most recent episode of Nashville, how dare you suggest that…but seriously though, #teamlayla). So anyways, if there were, and heck maybe there is, I would use it to describe this past weekend’s wedding weekend extravaganza for my brother AJ and his now-wife, Vanessa. I’ll get into the festivities before the ceremony here in a second…but the wedding day was as if ‘Home & Garden’, ‘The Knot’, ‘Restoration Hardware’ and I dunno, give me some horse magazine, had a baby and it won a cute baby contest…aka absolutely exquisite.
The wedding was at K2 Ranch in Glen Ellen (Sonoma), but the weekend really began on Thursday, when all of the families (this is about 100+ people total…insanity right?), and many of the friends attending came up to enjoy the gorgeous area…you may as well, right? The neat thing is that everyone grouped up and went in on big houses together, in lieu of hotels; it really gave the wedding a sense of relaxation and was a vacation for all. So, what do you do when you are the single sister with family and friends spread out everywhere, from all over, that you, too, are obligated to see? You house bounce.
I began the day visiting my dad & Jeanene’s mansion (I actually don’t use that term lightly, these houses were all MANSIONS), clad with an outdoor pool, a private chef, multiple levels of rooms, margaritas, out of town cattle friends, and a father so happy to be there he was goofy smiling the entire time. After hanging out with them for a while, I trekked over to the Dal Porto cousin’s house. We sat on the deck, drank prosecco, cooked a peasant’s meal of steak and lobster…
…fed my cousin’s 1 year old son some wine (just kidding, but how cute is he?! That’s Hunter, my cousin Matt’s son)
…and then later I headed over to a house a few of the bridesmaids were staying at to say hi and have a drink. ‘Sheesh Lindsey, really?’ you’re all thinking. But hey, when in wine country…and it was only Thursday.
Knowing that I needed to get SOME training in, I selfishly took off on Friday morning on my bike and did a stunning 45 mile ride around Sonoma/Santa Rosa, but not before I stopped over at my mom’s big family’s mansion (that we later dubbed the Adult Castle)…
…then met my mom’s side of the family for lunch and more wine (duh) at VJB Winery – a fan favorite of myself, mom, and Dave. That night was the rehearsal dinner, so I took off and checked into my 4th house of the trip, the cottage on the property of the rehearsal dinner site, Landmark Vineyards, where I was to finally make a home for the next 2 nights. After getting prettied up, we headed to the wedding venue for rehearsal, to go over the logistics of how to walk down the aisle as a bridal party without screwing up and embarrassing Aj and Vanessa. Back at Landmark for the Rehearsal Dinner (we’re calling this wedding #1 because it was like, 90 people or something and absolutely gorgeous – good job, parents!), the wine was flowing, the bbq was tasty, and the speeches were tear inducing. I spoke a bit to the couple over microphone myself, and I did it without offending anyone or fumbling, and got a few praises for it. Go me!
We kept it relatively calm that night – ok, that is a lie, we partied with the cousins until probably midnight, and then tucked away in a sleepless excitement for the big day (sheesh you’d think this was my wedding day, wouldn’t you?)
Early Saturday morning called all of the bridesmaids to gather and get ready together, and we had an entire crew ready and set to make us beautiful on the property of Vanessa’s parents rental…and it was so picturesque you’d think you were walking through a magazine (again).
After photos in our darling robes, sitting through eyeliner being scratched onto our eyelids and mounds hairspray applied to keep our gorgeous hair-do’s…we headed out! The first thing Vanessa’s sister and I did upon arrival…was get a beer…fitting, eh? We did family photos before the ceremony, as Aj and Vanessa really wanted to enjoy their cocktail hour and wedding without having to forcefully rope family away from the bar and into forced smiling for ungodly amounts of time after they said “I do.” I was quite thankful, because the smiles were actually genuine. 🙂
Ahhh, the ceremony. A very dear friend of my family’s, Larry Stonebarger, officiated the nuptials, and he did such a good job that I am pretty sure my eyes were teared up, oh, 99.5% of the time. He really made it about the history of my family, as well as Vanessa’s, and told many stories that referenced relatives who have passed and how beautifully integrated our two families were. It truly is a special bond those two have, as both come from long standing farming families in the bay area, and Larry did a fantastic job of highlighting their love.
After we all got “off stage”, it was time to party…and boyyyyyy did we party. The reception had a live band, an open bar, more tear-inducing speeches, lots of dancing, and of course, a homemade donut stand (?!?!? yeah, I’m taking notes here…). Every single person was in one of the best moods I have ever seen, and Aj was just glowing. As a friend described it, you could just FEEL the love all around. It will forever in my mind go down as one of the most well put together, fantastical, gorgoeous, joyous events I have ever been to (well done, Ness!).
Coming home from such an amazing weekend is always hard, as I have talked about before, but it’s important to remember how blessed I am to have such incredible people in my family and in my life. Back to training reality, sigh…so what’s next?
Do you ever have instances where a person, place, or thing keeps popping up in your life relentlessly and you’re like “ok universe, I hear you…”. This happened to me back in 2008, about 6 months after I graduated from college. I was working at CBS Outdoor, living in SF, and within a 3 week time frame I literally had 4 or 5 people tell me “you should totally work for this company called Backroads. You get to lead biking trips around the world” Whaaaaat? So, I listened…I applied…and 3 weeks later I was on a plane to France to be trained as an active travel tour guide. Oh yeah, and then 3 weeks after THAT I got kicked out of the country for 2 months. But that’s a story for another time. 🙂
Well lately, I’ve got Italy on my mind, folks. Why? Well first of all, my brother and his fiance are going there on their honeymoon, so a topic of conversation happening there…and then, I just booked tickets to go to a VERY dear friend’s wedding in Rome in September (WAHOO)…and then randomly I have had 2-3 people ask me for advice on places to go and see and eat and drink within the past week or two. I think perhaps because I used to live there and all…or maybe, I’m just a self-proclaimed know-it-all and when I hear the words “Florence” I go “OH! You just have to try this one restaurant”…whatever the reason, dishing out advice on Italy sends me into a state that is kind of resemblant of Lucy when she sees a tennis ball…too overwhelmed by excitement to function.
When I lived in Italy, I was either in work, work, work mode, or…I ate, ate, ate & drank, drank, drank…& rode my bike…and then drank some more. SO…maybe think about bookmarking this page for the next time you are headed to the land of La Dolce Vita as a reference, and hit up these spots! It’s just a small collection of favorites in what I like to call “The big 3” – Rome, Florence, and Tuscany because I refuse to send people to Venice. We can start there…but I got tips for DAYS, ya’ll.
+ Here’s one major side tip I would add: when going to Italy (in the high summer or spring months), pack light. Florence is one of the shopping capitals of the world. If you are going there it’s a good idea to save up before and get some good shopping done while you are there, at the San Lorenzo Markets (outdoor markets with more leather and ceramic goods than you can stand). The emptier the suitcase the better!
Alexanderplatz – I love this place because it is full of locals and not something you would “typically” do in Italy. It is a super fun jazz bar in the Prati neighborhood (hard to describe, but its off the “Cipro” metro stop. If you are looking at St. Peter’s Basillica from the front, the neighborhood is to the right and back a little bit). My old apartment during my study abroad was around the corner. Ahhhhh, the nostalgia!
Old Bridge Gelato – (their website is super broken and not functional but I had to include it here because that is just SO adorably Italian and I love it). The BEST gelato, in Piazza Risorgiamento, also to the right side of the vatican…a tiny hole in the wall but aren’t those always the best? Gelato + Pope = YES.
Bar della Pace – The quintessential aperitivo spot, near Piazza Navona on Via della Pace – we’re talking ivy on the walls, cobblestone streets, men playing the accordion, you want that “typical Italian experience”, well this is it. I used to go here allll the time. There are some super cute restaurants right around there, so I suggest you just wander and pick something. I’ve been to Barone, right across from it, and Osteria del Pegno, right around the corner.
- Ristorante Ambasciata d’Abruzzo – I’m not even sure I have the capacity to describe how incredible this place is in just a few words…but as far as food (both quality and amount of it), location, ambiance, and price goes, it’s a 9.999999.
Craving an America Pub after all that wine? Fiddler’s Elbow and Bar “The Friends” (ha!) are both great. On opposite sides of the river, but both pretty cool…I would recommend “The Friends” bar first because it’s on the locals’ side of town, close to Ponte Vecchio.
–Da Il Latini – GO HERE. DO IT NOW. It’s quite possibly one of the best dining experiences I have had in Italy. They don’t take reservations, it doesn’t open until 7:30, the owner is this adorable white-haired man who comes out to schmooze with the crowd while you wait (sometimes offering cheese and wine samples). At your table, it’s a very “what are you serving tonight” type of ordering, and if you go in the fall, it will likely be chingiale – delicious wild boar! – or bistecca della fiorentina really good steak likely made from the Chianine cattle. After more schmoozing by the cute owner at the end of your meal, he comes around and writes a price on the butcher paper table cloth, so best to flirt with him…he’ll probably knock a few $$ off. Talk about Italian charm at it’s finest!
–Vivoli Gelato – so amazing. Sort of ‘off the beaten path’ but if you google it, the map can show you where it is! They have very weird, unique flavors to get outside your typical pistachio rut. Or maybe that’s just me. I am obsessed with pistachio gelato.
Pop Cafe – in Piazza di Santo Spirito (which is also across the river – you’ll see a lot of my suggestions are not in the “touristy areas”), and a super locals spot! Very fun for either coffee and a panino or an aperitivo drink. Often times they have live music.
Cafe Fiorentina in San Giovanni Valdarno ( a 30 minute train ride south of Florence – my old “hometown” as a Backroads leader). So stinkin’ small town it doesn’t even have a website. We went here maybe every single day for aperitivo. They had the best selection of snacks, a killer negroni (for those of you who know me well, you know I lose my marbles over negronis), and excellent “aperol spritz”. Sitting right on the main square, it’s a perfect spot to people watch, rub elbows with the locals, and practice your Italian since literally nobody there speaks English. Over time, this place really did contribute to Italy feeling like “home” for me. It’s worth a trip down there.
+My other piece of general advice – embrace the aperitivo, and when in Tuscany, the “Passegiata” – this happens around 6/6:30pm in small towns. All of the residents come out and stroll, socialize, have drinks, let the kids play, etc. before returning home for family meal. It is so much fun, very relaxing, and very much showcases that Italians truly live life to savor everything from food, to family, to community. Life is slow, fully enjoyed, and methodical…except in Rome. Then it’s just “pazza”.
+disclaimer – Tuscany is HUGE. There are a thousand directions you could go with a trip to Tuscany, but the below are just some of my tip top favorites. Want more suggestions on other towns? Feel free to ask!
Siena (with a car – this place is virtually impossible to get to without one). Honestly just go here, no special restaurants or bars to recommend because everything is good – and so is the shopping! 🙂 The main Piazza is where “Il Palio” is hosted every year – a fantastic horse race with a very cool history behind it. Read up about that here ’cause we ain’t got all day. This area of Tuscany is also home to Brunello di Montalcino, my absolute favorite red wine ever in the history of ever. Drink it all, bring some home, SAVOR THAT SHIT. If a man ever surprised me with a bottle of 1997 Brunello I’d capture him and make him marry me. Not kidding.
Panzano/Gaiole in Chianti & Radda in Chianti (with a car) – all 3 of these are totally doable in one day – they are closest to Florence or anywhere else in Northern Tuscany. In Panzano, definitely, definitely go see “The Singing butcher” at Da Mario andhave lunch there on the terrazza (you seriously gotta love the ghetto-ness of websites in Italy. Am I the only one who thinks everything everyone does in this country is adorable?) This is a FANTASTIC view of the Chianti vineyards. In Radda, go to Bar Dante and ask for Fabrizio – he’s almost as schmoozy as the owner of Il Latini but you’ll find that greasy adorable Italian men are not rare…embrace it and have fun with it. Honestly, the drive from town to town here is the highlight – the views are simply exquisite. And if you don’t indulge in a little Chianti wine as you go…you’re wrong.
Cortona (with a car). The oldest Etruscan city in Italy, and in my absolute favorite region of Tuscany, the Val di Chiana (artfully named after the Chianina beef cattle – gee, wonder why I resonate with this place). The Etruscans were the species before us – if you get a chance to tour the old cities, now a level of topography below us, do so! You’ll never believe how short these folks were. In the summer, the sunflowers – OH THE SUNFLOWERS – in this place are just to die for. I recommend Villa Marsili to stay, and Osteria del Teatro to eat. This is fun town to just wander and explore, it’s very hilly, and if you want some exercise, hike to the very very top of the town. The views will not disappoint.
Lucca (by train via Florence, or car) – where the Dal Porto family hails from! This is a walled city, boasting an adorably cute “downtown”, shopping, cafes, and an excellent bike culture. My family’s deli is actually just outside the walls, if you are at the train station facing the town, walk along the wall to the right about .75 miles. It’s called “Pizzicheria” on the main drag, Viale Giussepe Giusti. Shameless self promotion, check! But seriously go to Lucca…and if you are in a car, check out some of the “bagni” (hot springs and baths) around the area. To die for.
Have fun! Heading elsewhere? Let me know, I’d be more than happy to expand my list of recommendations. Make sure you adequately flirt with an Italiano, walk like you own the country, don’t EVER order a “coffee to go”, learn the difference between “grazie” and “prego” (please, please do this)…and enjoy the most adorably corrupt, crazy, passionate, full of love and amazing wine, gorgeous country on the planet…buon viaggio!
Has anyone ever tried the drink mead? Before our GoRuck event this past weekend (more on that in a second), a whole slew of us went to a meadery called The Rabbit’s Foot to kick things off and have a few drinks socially before “the games began.” I had this very grandiose medieval-like vision in my head of drinking mead, like I was going to do so out of a silver goblet and get wicked drunk and loud like a peasant about to go to war in some old barn like structure. Nope…turns out it’s just a really weird sweet wine-like drink that kind of tastes like cough syrup, in a normal wine glass, in a tiny hole in the wall bar in the middle of industrial Sunnyvale. Good thing the ciders were to die for. And trust me, I know, I drank every flavor they had. It’s a very ‘happy drunk’ type of libation, and perhaps because it was coupled with seeing a ton of awesome folks all at the same time, it all equated to an excellent evening.
Fast forward a few days…there’s this thing I refer to as “PED” (post-event depression). I even googled it, because I know I can’t be the only one who uses this acronym. Well, according to the internets, PED is known as “performance enhancing drugs” (um, hell to the no. I recently watched a few videos of a very well known fitness guru, only to be appalled by the high pitched voice he was rocking, likely from something like steroids. Don’t do em, kids. Au natural). Going home after a weekend of constant stimulation and excitement is never easy. What I’ve taken from these moments is that I am so grateful to have made some of my best friends through my GoRuck community, and missing everyone and our time together only confirms the strength of the bond. Without you all, I wouldn’t be so depressed. So thanks! 🙂
Anyways, I just returned from a GoRuck event that was, for the most part, chalk full of some of my absolute favorite people in this weirdo community and I am feeling the PED pretty hard. It was a custom event called the ‘NordCal Viking Challenge’ that took place on the shores of Santa Cruz (for you Norse nerds, you get it. I am not one. But I happily went with it). The theme of the event was obviously Vikings, which meant we got to dress up a bit, use Nordic language, and the stages of the event were built around Viking culture while still containing all of the traditional “carry heavy shit, get beat up, work as a team or fail” elements of a normal challenge. It was, in one word, epic. I don’t remember having such a good time at an event in a long time. Maybe it was the espresso martinis we drank at 8am to kill the mead headache (the MEADache? Ha)? I don’t know. What I do know is that this was the perfect weekend to put a few days of Ironman training on hiatus. I had a huge volume week last week, and was starting to feel mentally burnt. I needed a breather. The bonus here was that I got a break from the long, slow miles but a great functional fitness workout from the event.
Sunday, for most of us, was probably 75% spent on Facebook re-living the glory and laughs through Facebook picture postings, comments, friending the new folks that we met at the event, and rolling out our sore shoulders. Perfection. The funny (and somewhat comforting) thing about this group is that we all commiserate together about how when we’re ‘in the suck’ of any and most events, we all ask ourselves “why in the hell do I do this. This is so stupid.” And of course, we get through it, out to the other side, and say “that was AWESOME.” One of our cadre brought up an excellent point about morale and being a leader that promotes a good morale, and it reminds me of the Victor Frankl philosophy – you have to find meaning (and, joy) in suffering if you want to survive. Be the guy who can crack a joke or sing a song when things are bad or really painful. I try to remember this when I feel my mood going foul. It’s a great lesson we all need reminded of from time to time, but ultimately, I think most of us GRT’s are like this. Why else would we keep coming back to do these things? We just love living outside our comfort zone; sometimes I think I am most comfortable there (be it good or bad). Never stop iterating on you, or the person you aspire to be. I consistently come home from these events inspired by one person or another…perhaps THAT is why I keep coming back.
A few pictures from our Viking adventure…enjoy!
Cadre Geoff giving us hell during the “welcome party”
Vikings and water go together like Netflix and chill. This is us doing “rocking chairs” as a group (check out that background, though…)
Scrum soccer session aka tackle the crap out of each other. Tons of fun.
Kristina (fellow Sheepdog) and I carrying our boat made of wood and rope. SLTW
Endex – the final chance the cadre get to make us suffer before we get patched
The whole crew! Incredible day with incredible people. So thankful for this part of my life
Our Cadre for the event, Geoff and Danny. These two are the best, I’ll be returning to their events for sure. You also have to love the spirited war pant.
As I was brainstorming the direction to go with my next blog post, I found myself either getting topic block or completely distracted by something stupid like a FatJewish post on Instagram. It wasn’t until I saw an article titled “How to apply lotion to your back without anyone’s help” that I realized…holy cow, people literally will and can write about ANY and everything (by the way, of course I clicked on this article…did you know that all you need to do this is a bottle of lotion and your arms? That’s it? CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?).
I always loved reading those blogs where people talk about the random things of late that make them happy. So is this “Things I’m loving” trend still a “thing”? Sure! I thought an Oprah-inspired post could be both fun for me (read: positive reflection) and for you (read: new ideas!). Mutually beneficial. Win-win. Boom. I’ll try this from time to time as my random obsessions change. Which is probably going to be often.
- Fitness Inspired Cakes. This is like porn for people who workout who like to bake. I find myself browsing these Pinterest compilations, as well as Instagram, when I am bored or on BART. People make ice skating leotard cakes…cakes in the shape of a buff dude doing a curl…cakes with kettlebells on them…so much cute stuff. I would love to learn how to work with Fondant and create my own fitness cake, for someone’s birthday or heck even my own because #loveyourself
- My new smoothie recipe – inspired by one of Club Sport’s smoothies, I have been making this 3-4 times a week either in the morning or at night as part of dinner, and it’s so tasty. It’s also very low sugar, low calorie, high protein, and delicious AF. In a blender:
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 1/2 cup blueberries (frozen or whole)
- 1 scoop Muscle Milk Light 100, Vanilla flavor
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter (I have been using this super fake lower calorie peanut butter from Trader Joe’s, it’s super weird by itself but an amazing flavor add in this smoothie)
- This Hip-Hop Yoga playlist on Spotify. Libby Murfey is a relatively well-known yoga instructor in SF, mainly for being super funky and playing gangster rap during her classes. I love following her on Spotify (and you should too). She also creates excellent non-gangster rap playlists, with modern slower and Indie/chill stuff. She keeps you engaged with her music, and her classes are great as well. I am listening to this right now, in fact. I love me some rap music sometimes. It’s fine, everyone from the east bay has a lil ghetto in them #fact
- Schofferhoffer Grapefruit beer. Oh…my…gawd. It’s like the most amazing, crisp, refreshing, heavenly thing I have ever put my lips on and I love it more than Rombauer Chardonnay right now (and that is saying a lot, people).
I actually drank a whole 6 pack to myself one time. Before you gawk, know that it is like 3% alcohol. My favorite story with this beer is when we were in Scottsdale for my future sister’s Bachelorette party, I ordered one that first day from the hotel bar, and let a few girls try it…well it’s the perfect ‘day drinking on a hot day’ as well as a hangover beer…so by the 3rd day a ton of us were guzzling it. The hotel laughed and said they hadn’t sold that beer in forever and now, they were almost completely out. The beer of choice influencer of the party…dad would be so proud.
- Lucy’s new ‘Double Ombre’ Rope leash. I love my little girl to pieces…but she’s got teeth that’ll chew through the most “non-destructible” well, anything. I had heard from a few people that rope leashes are the solution for little rascals like her, so I found her a SUPER CUTE one. Etsy is great for this kind of stuff, isn’t it? Now for just $30, we are safe from chewing through a leash AND lookin’ fly. Like she needed to get any cuter?
- ‘Modern Love’ podcast on iTunes. A nice zone-out podcast I found recently, it has a great mix of content; from funny episodes like people highlighting their craigslist dating encounters, to the wildly romantic and crazy and random ways people have found and fallen in love, to really deep stories about lovers overcoming hardships like loss, or heartache, or sickness. I’m such a sucker for this kind of stuff, and it mixes up the listening material for my long runs/rides/BART rides/training sessions. Highly recommended!
- ‘It’s a Miracle + Keratin’ leave-in conditioning spray. I’m not a big product girl – my makeup is a pretty generic brand, I use shampoo + conditioner that costs $9.99 a bottle, liquid eye-liner freaks me the eff out, and I hate hairspray. When I started swimming more, my hair stylist suggested I start acting like a girl and at least try throwing a leave-in spray in my hair before I got in the pool to help retain my color. So I listened. I found this stuff at Walgreen’s and now I am in love with it. It leaves my hair super soft and it smells incredibly refreshing. I sleep with it in a few nights a week now, too. Keratin also makes your hair shiny I guess? Awesome. It’s cheap too!
K that’s all for now. Hope everyone is having a great week! I’m off to a Viking custom GoRuck event this weekend with some of my favorites. Yes we dress as vikings, yes we drink mead, yes we pretend like we are in the Game of Thrones but we also do all the hard things GoRuck has you do too. I’m going to channel my inner Spartan woman for this one. Pics to come!
I’m not going to lie, I feel like a feminist just by deciding to WRITE this post, but here’s the deal. Apparently it is ‘Women’s History Month’ and I have one more day to capitalize on this. AND I am now a proud, proud Ambassador of the Movemeant Foundation (I apologize, but you are going to hear a lot about this organization this year…take it or leave it)…which is completely centered around empowering women through strength, movement, fitness, body confidence, etc. Makes sense that I am about to showcase the top 10 influential women in my life, doesn’t it?
I feel that as March comes to an end, it is only appropriate that I pay some well-deserved homage to the top 10 women, both ever-present in my life and that I admire from afar, who inspire and influence me in one way or another. In a world where we are often times our own biggest critic, watching others who are successful at paving their own way or doing something worthy of accolade is like adding fuel to the fire – it ignites something within us. Mankind is extremely symbiotic in that regard – whether we know it or not, we all need each other.
Read below for the women in my life that I am inspired by…and enjoy!
My Mom, Kelley Granger. This feels like a pretty cliche one, no? I admire this woman because while she has made some mistakes in her life (who hasn’t?), she has found a way to gracefully remedy those and ultimately come out on TOP, becoming one of the most cherished people in our lives. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from her is how to repair, grow, and maintain relationships. Life hasn’t always been perfect in the way of a “mother daughter” relationship with us, particularly when I was an adolescent, but this woman has shown me and taught me so many things about resilience, about ‘letting go’, about having faith, and about LOVE. She is one of the most beautiful, successful, insanely happy people I know…and it’s because she did the work on herself. She’s also MY biggest cheerleader, and ultimately one of my best friends. I literally do not know what I would do without this woman.
Kristina Ohlson. A fellow Sheepdog and total badass martial arts expert/instructor, Kristina came into our GoRuck workout group as the 2nd female behind me. At first I was honestly a little skeptical, hoping this wouldn’t be some girl trying to show me up or worse, weak. Kristina blew me away – not only by her grit and strength, but the things that resonate the most with me are her ability to see life situations with a level of objectivity, her honesty, and her ability to relate to every single person she encounters. Beyond her physical strength, her mental maturity and strength truly inspire me to be a better, more understanding, more balanced person. I am truly blessed to call this gal a friend.
Paige Bowie. I have never met her, but she is a GoRuck legend as the only female to ever finish Selection (a 48-hour individual GoRuck event where ONLY the best of the best, the strongest of the strongest, finish). This alone classifies her as someone who is worthy of admiration. To mentally survive this type of event requires an insane amount of strength. By trade, she is also a Firefighter, which in and of itself is an admirable trait – she thrives on saving lives. Overall, I hope to become half as strong as this woman in my athletic and personal endeavors.
Chrissie Wellington. An absolute Ironman legend as a 4-time Ironman Kona World Champion, she’s known as ‘that athlete’ that not only wins everything, but she does it with an insane SMILE on her face. This is the part that I admire most about her. She cherishes every single part of the experience and absolutely loves what she does. She is humble, thankful, constantly positive, leads a truly passionate existence, and is what every athlete hopes for themselves. She also proves that this is possible with the right attitude. I plan on channeling Chrissie many times throughout my first Ironman.
My cousin, Whitney Peek. Whit is a nurse, an athlete, incredibly dedicated to her family, and one of those people you just cannot dislike. She is my age, and was diagnosed with MS last year. The amount of grace she has handled this life altering diagnosis with is awe-inspiring. It’s as if she said “Ok, so this is how it’s going to be, well let’s adjust and keep living.” Perhaps things are upsetting or hard for her, but this woman (in true Dal Porto fashion) puts on a brave face, makes the necessary changes, and keeps going. She’s an admirable, beautiful woman I am proud to be related to.
Leslie Kelly. Leslie and I climbed Mt. Shasta together a few years ago with the Breast Cancer Fund, and while I learned a lot about her story…what I took away was her insane strength. She’s suffered from Breast Cancer for many years, and has a history (that she is very open about) with alienating people and things in her life, but her motto now is to “show up no matter what.” She is vulnerable, open, hopeful, loving, active…and the true definition of “being strong through adversity” for me. I am so lucky to have witnessed a part of her journey, and I follow her as she fights her terrible disease very closely.
My Aunt Tina. I don’t think either of us will ever forget, when I was a child and she was pregnant with my now-cousin, she had a very difficult pregnancy that almost took her life. My “Thanksgiving wish” was that “my Aunt Tina didn’t die.” It touched her heart then, but she really touches my heart now. She’s insanely intelligent, strong, resilient, funny, witty, gorgeous, and one of those people who, for some reason, I have always looked up to. What I love about her is her strong personality. She is “unapologetically herself.” It is a state I constantly strive for and look up to her for, and alongside overcoming extreme adversity, she exemplifies this for me.
Amy Schumer. We all know who she is, and probably all admire her for the same reason – she’s comfortable in her own skin and she inspires us all to be as well. She’s also adorable, funny as can be, and talented. What I love is that she teaches girls that beauty is not just about being a size 2. You can be loved, admired, adored, and successful at any size. I think this is a message that women need, a message that is long overdue, and one I need to remind myself of from time to time. I adore her for living this message out in true authenticity.
My Aunt Sandy. She passed away just shy of 2 years ago, and it was one of the hardest things I, and my family, have likely been through. Sandy was the DEFINITION of strength as she fought her extremely rare disease, giving it everything she had and then some. Sandy was the matriarch of our family, and one of the strongest, most giving, beautiful hearts I have known. She had every single person she met wrapped around her finger, but the greatest thing was that she did so by being 100% genuinely HER. The other thing that I love most about her is that she really took care of the Dal Porto heritage. Her family and our history was something she held very close to her heart, and not only that, she made everyone that came into the family feel loved. She will be missed more than words can ever express.
Christi Leong. A former/fellow Cal Triathlon team member, everyone looked up to Christi. She was not only president of our team, but one of the most fun-loving, fiercely loyal, inspiring athletes on the team. She is a multi-time Ironman, but boasts such a welcoming and calm demeanor, and is somehow able to see humor and happiness in every situation. Goofy yet serious, dedicated yet not rigid, she embodies a lot of traits I work really hard on. She’s always been an inspiration, as well as a friend, to me for years and I imagine she will be for years to come.
**In an effort to help other women (and people) who may experience some of the same situations I do, I want to try and use this blog as an honest and open assessment of things I go through on this ‘Road to Couer D’Alene’, and in life. Some of it isn’t wonderful. Recently, I have been battling depression for the past few months, and I have made an incredibly enlightening correlation between my mental state and my physical Ironman training.**
Curious as to how? Read on…
I’ve always been an impatient, relentless, “can’t sit still” type of person and anyone who knows me is probably chuckling to themselves right now saying “Yep.” When I was a senior in high school, my aunt actually said to me (after asking about all of the activities and sports I was doing) “You’re going to be on Prozac by the time you’re 30.” Little did she know how right she was…and little did I know that my “relentless restlessness” was probably contributing to the declination of my health.
When I began seriously training for this Ironman, a good friend and mentor of mine, Troy, told me to try and get ahead of the physiological side of my training program. Particularly, to take control of my hormone levels, because chronic stress (any kind of stress, mental or physical) tends to screw with those levels – and intense training creates both kinds of stresses, let me tell you. This was an aspect of fitness I had never, ever considered…hmm. He told me that being that I am a “life-long competitive bad-ass” (aww thanks Troy), it would serve me well to get on top of these issues and prevent any fluctuations that would keep me from performing at and being my best. Initially, I took light interest, but inevitably brushed it of and kept doing what I was doing. Sometimes I think I know everything…well, I don’t. Wrong decision.
Fast forward about 2-3 weeks into my training plan (I am currently about 1.5 months in), where I was working out in volumes I hadn’t touched in a long time – the weekly hours probably doubled, almost overnight, from my regular workout program. The positives? I started to drop weight, the distances of the race felt mentally less daunting, and I saw my training as a “distraction” from my personal woes. The negatives? I was really struggling in a lot of areas that were NOT body related….and I was depressed as hell. I had memory fog, sleep problems, a feeling of numbness, all things associated with depression. I was simultaneously experiencing some very upsetting personal life situations as well. I blamed those situations, and this is why I saw my training as an escape…so I dove in head first. The hardest part of all of this is that as someone who genuinely has a lot of things to be grateful and happy about, this whole state was/is very frustrating. It’s as if you are standing outside your body, looking in and shaking your head. It didn’t make any sense. I had been able to shake things before, but this time felt very different.
When you are stuck in a rut, you tend to hit a point where you become almost angry at how you’re feeling and you’ll do anything to escape the dark place. ‘I am better than this’, I thought. ‘I have every reason in the world to be happy. Be happy.’ I took some action and saw a doctor, began taking antidepressants, but it was right about when I hit this frustration point that I began thinking about what Troy had told me regarding hormone imbalance. I began to research. What I found out…was life changing.
So. My drastic increase in training volume is referred to as Overtraining Syndrome…noted from one of my research sources:
“Mood changes are an early and sensitive marker of OTS. Emotional disturbances usually occur before a noticeable drop in performance and parallel an increased training load. Depression and chronic fatigue represent the most common OTS condition observed in highly fit individuals.”
Isn’t overtraining just being tired and sore a lot?…hmm, well…about 2-3 weeks after my mental state was at it’s worst, I hit a week where I was sleeping in every morning, swapping my normally cherished morning training sessions for half-assed evening ones. I had not been that tired in a very, very long time. And I’m like…really sad. Huh.
‘Ok, so what is going on inside my body, from a scientific standpoint, that is causing this to happen?’ I wondered. As it turns out, endurance athletes are very likely to suffer from out-of-whack Cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is released when your body or mind is under chronic stress (read: mental stress, physical stress…basically anything psycho or physiological). The more stress placed, the higher your levels are. According to this, and knowing myself, I have likely been operating on very, very high cortisol levels for most of my life. Wow! No wonder I felt like such shit!
(The other thing I had to research was if the chemicals released into your system from antidepressants interfere with your hormone levels and body chemistry. No real evidence on this, but I couldn’t help but wonder if one was affecting the other).
A secondary yet equally interesting side effect of high cortisol levels, is decreased testosterone (this happens because Cortisol is recruited from OTHER hormones when you hit a certain level of stress and your others are depleted of it…thieves!). Important to note, this inhibits muscle growth, which can obviously lead to an increased chance of injury as well (and in women, it can really mess with your cycle…which causes a whole other set of issues). Suddenly, it made sense to me…strength training for endurance athletes is not only important to keep you functionally strong and balanced, but the secretion of testosterone when you weight train ALSO keeps you, well, more sane. Holy shit. (Ben Greenfield has EXCELLENT resources on how to incorporate weight training into endurance sport training. I highly recommend you read his stuff. He talks about these hormone imbalance issues well).
Ok, so, now what? I can’t cut my volume, or I will never get in shape. I am not going off my medication just yet. Well first and foremost, it is very recommended that one has their hormone levels tested to see what imbalances you have. So there’s that. Then you can troubleshoot from there…
What I found, for the most part, is that there are a ton of alternative additions and changes I can make to my life and training to help regulate these levels and ultimately my mental and physical state while keeping up with my program. I have started to do the following, with almost 180-degree turns overnight:
- Focus on RECOVERY, both mental and physical – foam roll. Ice-cold showers and lot’s of stretching
- Meditation (foreign to me, but trust me the power of controlled breath is kinda strangely miraculous)
- Go to bed earlier. No seriously, just do it. And do anything you can to improve the quality of your sleep (I revamped my curtain situation so that zero light now gets in).
- Drink less alcohol – this one for SO many reasons, but within the last week I have stayed further away from it and it’s really, really helped
- When your training calls for an easy run, GO EASY. Decrease the 110% efforts you do. Relax your mind, smile at the people on the trail, walk up the hills if you have to. GO. FUCKING. SLOW sometimes. Crazy how effective this one is…it also helps you maintain Ketosis (more on that, and it’s benefits in endurance athletes, another time)
Am I blaming my depression solely on hormones? Absolutely not. You have to “Do the Work” (READ THIS BOOK) in all aspects of your life. Is it a contributing factor? Yes, I believe it is. Regardless of the causes, I am definitely walking away from my learnings with a greater sense of self, a better understanding of the contributing factors to my performance and well-being, and a more concrete plan on how to move forward with this ridiculously crazy endeavor I am on. I’d call that a solid W.
Fun. Hard. Time consuming. Annoying. Exciting. Scary. All things everyone who has ever trained for anything, ever, knows.
I think the thing about the training that I am most surprised by is my mindset shift. When I “started” the training program, aka had a daily/weekly plan that I “officially” implemented into my life…I had zero concept of the volume. It had just been way too long since I had trained for something like this. It was intimidating as all hell. With GoRuck HCLS, I honestly relied on sheer fitness and luck to get through the intense amount of mileage we covered (over 65 miles total). When I began this journey, the HOURS you spend swimming, running, cycling, etc…seemed daunting. Now, they feel doable. And I get excited about some of the days. All good signs. Signs I have turned completely nuts. I’m one of THOSE tri-nerds now.
This whole “your life becomes training” ordeal people speak of, it’s completely true, and I’m a huge fan so far. I have found the love of engulfing myself into it, great timing because I happen to be going through a pretty rough and depressed emotional state for some personal reasons, and I have to say, that training is saving me. When I get down or sad or angry, I literally pop my laptop open and google search training plans, biking tips, ironman tips, all that stuff. It keeps my mind focused on the prize and away from going down a rabbit hole. Who has time for that anyway. When I swim, I feel calm. Cycling class occupies my mind and leaves me breathless. Running is my savior, it has always been the best dose of therapy for me. Training is saving me.
I ALSO GOT A NEW BIKE. New toys make for better moods too, am I right? She’s a 2016 Specialized Ruby Sport…and she’s beautiful. You can check her out on my Instagram. 🙂
What else is happening…well I am in love with my work and it’s going REALLY WELL. I feel accomplished, important, very successful, more of an adult than I ever have, oh, and guess what else, I moved to Walnut Creek! I think I love making fun of the suburbs JUST as much as I love living there. Space! A garage! A yard! Lucy can run around without abandon (kinda)! She also has a perma-friend (my roommate has a dog) so that keeps me sane as well. I actually enjoy driving to places like Target. And I live super close to my family. And my little morning routine of smoothies after a tough gym workout at the foo-foo gym snack bar are like, uh, amazing. It’s waspy and hilarious, but I am in love with suburban life. For now.
I miss San Franciscan life sometimes…Postmates (aka anything and everything on demand and delivered to you, always), really good coffee, lot’s of amazing cocktail spots, walking anywhere, those bridge views, the fog (yep, the fog), feeling apart of a “bubble”, insanely interesting people…actually, one hilarious differentiation I have made between SF and the burbs is the dating scene. I am on a few dating websites (Tinder and Bumble, for those in the know), and in SF, every guy you encounter is CEO or CoFounder or VP of this or that, and in the east bay…it’s more like “Construction” or “Teacher”. I haven’t really been out on many dates since living here so I can’t judge too much, but it’s a noticeable difference and somehow makes me think that the stereotypes about SF dwellers being know-it-all brats is true. That would make me a know it all brat. Really? Really. But now I am in the burbs being a know it all brat, so I’m like a hybrid. I’m a Fiat 500e. Sweet.
Lastly, I have some REALLY fun news! I was selected to be a Movemeant Foundation Ambassador for 2016 – 1 of 30 women across the country that will stand for women finding strength, self-love, and power through fitness, getting out of their comfort zone and getting active. I am so proud and honored to be a part of this elite group of women. I will be hosting some events, doing some promotions, and getting to walk alongside these incredible women in this journey to get women moving and be proud of their bodies….more to come so stay tuned!
Love and forza,