Monday, May 11, 2015

Onto the Next Chapter: Life & Training

It has been awhile since I posted any updates on training or life in general, so here is what has happened in the 3 months since my last post.

I completed my last classes as a graduate student last week.

I take my last final exam as a graduate student tomorrow.

I taught my last class as a graduate assistant.

I defend my thesis in two weeks and I'm done.

It is finally starting to hit me that my journey as a "college kid" is coming to an end. It is surreal and odd, but exhilarating and somewhat exciting. I have been in college working towards something, anything since 2007. I can't believe I even admitted to that. I feel as if I have turned into what others refer to as a "professional student." But on Friday when I walk across that stage, no more student here. The last thing on the to-do list is to prep for and defend my thesis. It has been a long road and there were many times that I thought that I would not be able to complete this journey (I guess I technically haven't completed it yet...). There were a lot of tears involved, a lot of curse words, and melt-downs, but I suppose that is what graduate school is for. To teach you how to be strong and fight for what you want, even if it is just a piece of paper with a shiny emblem on it. That piece of paper represents a lot. It represents all the plans I canceled, the holidays I missed, the friends that got left behind. It represents my family's support, my sanity (or lack thereof), the number of Friday nights spent at home or in the lab. It represents a part of me that I knew was there, but I had to prove to everyone else. But most of all it represents all the sacrifices my family and I have made so that I could pursue a dream.

It's scary to close a chapter of your life because honestly I have no idea what comes next. Do I get a grown-up job? Do I apply for more schooling? Do I become a snow bum and move to the mountains? So many questions and no answers. For once I think I am okay with that. I'm excited to see what comes next for me.

Training Update -- for all of you who are curious about my training, well here is an update for ya! It's going great. I ran my longest run in 3+ years yesterday, 11 miles! I went slow and ran the entire way. I was nervous and anxious about this run, I didn't know how my body would respond. My back has been giving me problems for almost a month now. The run was great, the weather was nice, and I even got a nice little tan. That being said I am feeling even more confident about the 24k I have coming up at the end of the month at XTERRA Eureka Springs!

I realized something yesterday with all that time to think. I am not a pretty runner, I am not graceful or elegant as I run. I turn red and look as if I might pass out, my form is mediocre at best, and don't get me started on that posture of mine, but amidst all of that, I am a runner. It doesn't matter how fast I go or the mileage that I do, all that matters is that I lace up those shoes and I put one foot in front of the other. I don't need a cute outfit or the newest shoes. All I need is my music, my shoes, and the road/trail.

This journey so far has been interesting, it has helped me reconnect with a part of me that I thought died when I left the sport of triathlon. It has helped me realize that training for something bigger than yourself is more of a motivator that anything else. Running in support of the Rampy MS Foundation pushes me every day to be better because I know they are behind me 100%. I appreciate everyone who has given me words of encouragement and supported my cause. Because of you the fight against MS is stronger than it was before!

I should probably finish up this last lab report. Until next time.

- J

If you would like to donate to my fundraiser you can follow the link below:

Friday, February 6, 2015

50k Training/Life Update

It's been about three or four weeks since I announced that I am running a 50k. Here's an update on life since I dropped that bombshell.

School has been CRAZY. I get up at 4 am most mornings and try to be at school by 5 so that I can get myself ready for the day, work on homework, or my thesis paper. Load up five classes on top of that and I feel like I am slowly going crazy. Running around trying to figure out what it is I forgot to do this time.

Thesis paper is going okay. Slow, but progress is being made in some capacity...from what I am told that is a good thing. Teaching is GREAT. I love it, so much more than I thought I would.

Free time has been scarce so my training has been sporadic. I manage to get in about three days of running each long runs are already in the double digits! I feel great during my runs; strong, confident, like I could run forever (some days).

I try and make it to Crossfit when I can...which isn't as often as I would like. But I still make a couple of times a week.

I finally got my Donation Page set up so that anyone who wants to support me on this crazy ride of mine can! My 50k isn't until November, but I am starting my fundracin' early (you'll get it when you see my page). There you can read about my back story, if you haven't already heard me blab about it, as well as read about the Rampy MS Foundation.

That is all I have for now, off to the library.

If you want to donate following the link below. Thank you in advance for your support! I appreciate it more than you know!

- j

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Running a 50k....Insane or Ambitious?

Every year when this time of year comes around it gets me thinking. Thinking about my birthday and how much older I'll be. Did I accomplish what I wanted to or I thought I would by this age? Usually the answer to this is no. In fact I never thought that far in advance as a kid/teenager. I could hardly think past the next meal, let alone to what lay ten years down the road for me.

I'll be 26 next month. 26?! I can't believe that I am on the downhill slope of my twenties. Where did my time go? That shouldn't be a question really, more like a statement. I know where they went, if you check in the library of my last two universities you'll find the last 8 years of my life in the "reference" section. I love school, that is why I am still here. At least that is what I tell myself most days...I either love it enough to continue on sticking around or I'm afraid of what the real world holds. If I'm honest, it's both.

This semester will be a defining point in my graduate career as well as my life! I am technically in the last semester of my degree program, I am in the process of meeting all and more of my degree requirements and am finally moving in the right direction on my thesis. These next four months could be my last chance to put off wearing real pants anywhere. (As a college student I feel that being in school is still a valid excuse to wear sweatpants EVERYWHERE. When asked "why didn't you dress up to go out tonight?" "Oh yeah, I had a test today. My brain is more comfortable resting when I'm wearing sweats, but thanks for asking.") The decision I have before me now is whether to apply to PA (Physician Assistant) School, apply for my PhD, or to call it done and become an adult.

So many choices, so little time.

Oh and I started teaching today! It was amazing and so fun. I may be jumping the gun by saying that only after the first day, but it was great getting to share my passion and my knowledge about anatomy with students who are exciting to learn more about it! Or are there by no choice of their own. On top of that I am taking 5 grad classes. Yep you read that right, 5. I'm only on my third day and have barely slept, have papers and assignments that are due soon, but no one ever said that grad school was easy.

Now that I have gotten all of those thoughts out of the way, the real reason behind this blog was to share with you a milestone that I have decided to tackle this year, a 50K! How crazy and exciting is that?! I am nervous yet excited to be taking on something of this magnitude. It was be a 31 mile trail run in November. Who would've thought I would ever tackle that. I have always wanted to run a marathon, but felt like that was something that I couldn't accomplish because of multiple hip surgeries. Now I say screw it, I'm gonna try anyway. Even if my body can't take the training load, at least I will know that I gave my heart and soul to it. The even cooler thing....I will be racing with Team Endurance for MS, which is an AWESOME organization out of NW Arkansas that has partnered with University of Arkansas to find a cure for MS. I am overjoyed to join them on my way to conquering this goal of mine.

If you have any interest in checking them out, which you should, go to their website!; they are doing amazing things, and they are amazing people. Did I mention I know them? I think that ups my cred some. Kidding.

Since I will be running for their team my goal this year is to raise $750 for their cause. Will you support me? You can give me a penny per mile or any amount of your choosing. Help us beat MS!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

See Ya 2014

It seems all my friends are documenting their previous year so I thought I'd join the bandwagon and do the same. I decided this year to forgo the resolution, I try and better myself every day and I don't need the beginning of a new year to try and live up to some resolution I know I'll break by next week any way. 2014 was another year. It marked the final year in my graduate program, a family vacation, the marriage of a good childhood friend of mine, and many other memories. So instead of explaining I'll share them in pictures.
The beginning of the spring semester and shenanigans at the gym
Celebrating 25, a snowstorm with Maximus, and the celebration of Hannah
 and her baby girl on the way!
Welcoming Bear to the family, Eric introducing Max to Michelle's furball,
and my entrance into the 600lb club.
So much fun spending time with the Holmes Family in FL, the marriage of my
good childhood friend Michael to his beautiful bride, and the rebirth of
my love for mountain biking.
Running the Ninja Turtle 5k, Michelle & Eric hard at work putting up hammock
stands, traveling to VA with Junk Brands and my favorite ginger, float trip with the CF417
crew and celebrating Lee's "Birthday Girl'" birthday with a great ride.
On the road again with Junk Brands and the broski, my cousin being deployed to
Afghanistan, and another care package from my favorite company, SKIN STRONG.
Completed the endurance mountain bike challenge, Thorn-A-Thon with a PR 26 miles, and
the loss of our beloved Maximus at 13 years old. RIP baby boy.
Celebrating Eric's birthday with Michelle, Bear Bear over for a visit, and introducing
the family to the love of cycling.

Saying goodbye to the BEST lab group ever, taking family Christmas photos, attempting
to take puppy pics, adoption of Cinna-bon - the newest edition to the Martin Crew,
and celebrating the New Year with 5 of the coolest people under the age of 10.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Goodbye For Now

It's been 75 days since my best friend passed away. I originally wrote this post shortly after his death, but couldn't post it until I felt strong enough to accept the fact. My furball is gone, but his memories live on and I believe that a part of him lives on within me. As I consider a new addition to our family I am overwhelmed with emotions and what ifs. I am scared and excited, but I know that Max would've wanted us to show love to another furball companion. He would've wanted his life celebrated and not his death mourned.

Maximus, I will always love you. For you are the thing that got me through some of my toughest years. May you rest in peace. Until we meet again.

Love always,

It's with an extremely heavy heart that I write this post. My cuddle-bug, my shadow, and most of all my best friend passed away. It'll be two weeks on Tuesday that Max left us. Two weeks. It seems like the world is moving while mine is standing still. It seems as if time has taken on a new meaning. My days are short and my nights long. I find myself dreaming about him or finding something of his randomly placed around the house and I am overcome with emotion again. He fought so hard to stay with us. He was fighting even as he took his last breaths in my mother's arms. He would've done anything to stay with us just a little longer, I would've done anything for him to stay longer.

The bond that you create with an animal, especially with that of a dog is one that is everlasting. It is hard to explain the bond that Max and I shared. I loved him more than most humans in all honesty. His company was all I needed to make a bad day instantly better. He was always sitting at the door waiting to greet me when I got home from school, whether that be in the middle of the day...or the middle of night. He loved to have his nose rubbed and to be loved on. If he felt you hadn't given him an adequate enough belly scratch, he would come back nudging your hand for more. He loved the snow, oh how he loved it! I remember his first encounter with it, he slowly crept into the yard unsure of what he had encountered. It took no more than a minute for him to fall in love and run around scooping the snow up into his mouth and rolling around in it. There was a spark in his eyes and a desire for adventure in his soul. One that up until his last few days served him well, as well as landed him in doggie jail.

I feel an emptiness and a hole in my heart. The area that Max took up the second I saw him at the animal shelter. A hole that will not be filled anytime soon, perhaps never at all. I cannot explain in words the immense sadness and overwhelming loneliness that I have felt. People don't allow you to grieve when it is a pet that you've lost, as if an animal doesn't deserve the acknowledgment as a human death does. I believe that I was closer to my dog than I am to many of my human friends. I need to mourn, to miss, and grieve the loss of him because he MATTERED. For the longest time he was the only one I had. He mattered so much to me. I could lay on the floor and cry and he'd just lie next to me. He was always so excited when I got home, whether he got left in the dark or accidently left in the rain or even as I got out of the shower.

His presence and love made everything instantaneously better. I miss everything in my house being covered in his hair, his constant fidgeting during naptime, his "purring" and nose kisses, but most of all I miss his love and his companionship. His constant "shadow" quality, his love for the wind and the snow, but extreme hatred of anything related to water. The feel of his fur and his awful dog breath. What a gentle and beautiful soul he was. What a blessing he was to myself and my family.

My baby boy, my Maximus is finally at peace and pain free - that is something that I can take comfort in. The hole will always be there, but his memories will dull the ache.

My Maximus 08/11/2011 - 09/23/2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Maximus

"The bond with a dog is as lasting as the ties
of this earth can ever be."
- Konrad Lorenz


Dogs are special creatures. They can change your world if given the opportunity. Thirteen years ago today my best friend entered this world. He has defied me, loved me, explored with me, and been there when all I needed were some furry ears to listen. Today is my puppy's thirteenth birthday and this is what I wish I could say to him...

Dearest Maximus,

Ever since you entered our lives that October morning back in 2001, you have been a blessing. You have been through so much with our family. You brought light into it when there wasn't much. After thirteen years, four moves, who knows how many chew toys and boat rides, you are still as happy as you've ever been. I wish that I could share this day with you and take away some of your pain as you have taken away some of mine. It hurts my heart to know that you don't have much longer left with us, but hopefully these last few months can be filled with lots of walks and even more adventures. You always were one for exploring, from the caves at Devil's Den to chasing deer through the woods as we chased you, it has been a glorious ride.

You've always been one step behind us, making sure that your family is looked out for. Whether that be at the soccer park or the front yard. You've managed to do things without anyone noticing, like sneaking into the house, taking a nap in the back of the neighbor's van, or taking yourself for a walk; you never cease to make us laugh. You are one of the weirder dogs I have ever met. One who does not bark, or fetch, or like water, or other dogs for that matter, which is funny and probably accounts for your stealth like qualities.

Max, you are my cuddle-bug, my partner in crime, my grass eating, snow-loving, shadow of a best friend. I miss hearing the clicking of your nails on the wood floor of my house, your breathing while I study, the constant fidgeting while I nap, and your company. I know that grandpa, grandma, and mom are taking great care of you in these final months, just know how much I love you and that when you are ready to let go, it's okay. Even though you are 91 years old today (human years) you will always be a puppy in my eyes.

Happy birthday you furball and may you somehow sneak your way into the cookie jar for an extra birthday treat.

Forever and always,

Thursday, June 12, 2014

25 Things I Have Learned in My 25 Years

It's hard to believe that I am already 25! Sheesh where did the time go? I feel like it was only yesterday that I was going to high school football games and making a decision on which college to attend...and now I'm a masters student and half-way to 30. What?!

The idea for this blog came to me the other day while wandering around the grocery store and looking around at the people who were aimlessly wandering the aisles.

I love watching people and thinking about their lives and the experiences that I have encountered in my own life. So I decided to come up with a list of the top twenty-five things that I have learned throughout this journey of life.

1. Help people whenever you can: I find immense joy in helping people. It makes me feel good to know that I was able to give back, even if that means the only thing I was able to do for them was to put away a shopping cart. You never know what people are going through, so extending a smile and a helping hand can make all the difference.

2. People will come and go, and that is OK: I have met and lost many friends throughout my life. In the beginning it was hard for me to understand why on earth a friend would leave my life, why all of a sudden the bond that we shared wasn't as sacred anymore, but then I realized it's all in God's planning. Maybe someone only needs you to be in their life during a certain time, maybe it's during a joyous time, or a time where they need a support system. It's OK that people enter and exit your life. Those rare friendships that last a lifetime will always be there, you don't have to talk every day, you just pick up where you left off.

3. There is no finish line or time-limit: This one took me FOREVER to figure out. I always thought that things had to be completed within a certain time-span; whether that was college or my masters degree, having a family, etc. I wanted everything done on a time table. As I've gotten older and hopefully wiser I've realized that things will happen in their own timing. I'll finish my masters when I am done with it, that might be next year, may be two years from now.

4. I am a CLUTZ: there is no way around this, I lose things, trip over my own two feet, and can't hold onto anything to save my life. There's a reason my parents didn't name me Grace.

5. Do what YOU want: this concept also took me a long time to grasp. I have to do what is best for me, whether or not that upsets others.

6. Judging, is well...stupid: there are so many people out there who will judge you. They will judge you for the clothes you wear, the words you say, or the people you are around. Pay zero attention to them. Also the flip-side is true as well, do not judge others. I can't say that I am perfect and I never judge people because that would be a lie. I try my hardest not to. It shouldn't matter what color, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or the make of their vehicle is; don't judge, period.

7. Respect is earned, not given: this is one of those typical clich├ęd sayings that I was taught as a child. I agree with it to an extent. Just because someone doesn't show you respect does not by any means give you the right to be rude in return. Slap a smile on that face and give them respect anyway.

8. You can't make everyone happy: I try so hard to do this, SO HARD. Although at the end of the day, it just isn't possible. Sometimes you need to take a step back and ask yourself "am I doing enough to make myself happy?"

9. Trying to forgive is hard: letting go of whatever hurt you in the past and forgiving that person is physically and emotionally painful, but forgiveness is freeing...

10. My family is my everything: like I mentioned earlier, people will come and go from your life. People will hurt you and leave you, but what I have found is that my family is always there. Always there as my cheerleaders or to help pick me up when I have stumbled. Without them I would be nothing. Literally.

11. Cherish your loved ones: there is no more painful feeling than the loss of a family member or friend, I've experienced too many deaths or brushes with death throughout the last year, more than I would ever care to experience in a lifetime. Tell people how you feel about them. Tell them you love them while you still can, because sometimes by the time you get around to it they're gone.

12. Social media is dumb: I say this, and later this blog link will be posted to my FB page. I just think that social media is a breeding ground for drama and too much information. I stay on there to keep in touch with my friends and family who live far away, but wouldn't it be easier to just pick up the phone?

13. Put. The. Phone. DOWN: this is something that drives me bonkers, about myself and others. These days we can't go anywhere without our beloved smart phones. We are so obsessed about "staying connected" that we miss out on what's going on in front of us. When you are with people, put the phone down and truly be with them, that instagram update can wait until later.

14. Learn to laugh: I like to laugh. I think laughter is a great cure for things. I've even learned to laugh about the serious things. My family and I joke about my mom's cancer and my brain injury, we joke about my clumsiness and my grandma's forgetfulness, we even joke and have competitions about who has the better scars. Life is taken so seriously. I do believe that there is a time to be serious and to treat situations such as cancer with the fear that it deserves, but after that has passed you have to learn to laugh about it. If you don't that fear, anger, and sadness will drive you deep into a dark hole and who wants to be in a place like that? Not me.

15. Don't be afraid to ask for help: No I'm not talking about asking for help with your math homework or help moving boxes, I'm talking about needing someone to talk to. I've dealt with a lot of crap in life and it wasn't until I got older that I realized that those issues I never worked out as a child still haunted me as an adult. There is NOTHING wrong about seeking help from someone, or seeing a therapist. For whatever silly reason needing help is looked down upon in our society, I think that is ridiculous. Sometimes you need someone with an outside perspective to help you see/deal with things better. I was in a dark dark place after my accident coupled with my mom's cancer diagnosis, had I not admitted that I needed help, I may not have been around today to even write this blog.

16. Exercise: Go out and move! Find whatever it is that makes you happy and do that. Go run, ride a bike, powerlift, do CrossFit, join a yoga class, do something that gets that body moving! You'd be surprised at what an amazing stress reliever it is. It doesn't matter what you do, just that you have a passion for it. There is not one right exercise regimen that is ideal for everyone, so do yours and don't bash others.

17. Never forget where you came from: Never ever forget where you came from and what it took to get you to where you are today. I've seen gyms or club meetings that preach "forget your story." Why?! Why would you every want to forget your story? Your story coupled with your experiences and the people involved in that story are what molded you into the person who you are today! Remember your story and let it make you proud.

18. Being angry is a waste of time: I've tried it. I've tried to be angry with people or with myself and you know where it got me? Nowhere. It's detrimental to your well-being and seriously, who likes walking around angry all the time? I do have a temper, it just comes with my personality, but I try to let things go, even though I am not the best at it sometimes.

19. Remember to thank the people who helped get you to where you are: I think sometimes we forget the massive number of people who have helped us out in life. We forget about how far our parents had to drive us for soccer games, or the hours spent helping out with homework. We forget those are the things that helped us get to where we are today. I have my grandparents and my mother, along with my professors to thank for as far as I've gotten. Lord knows without their help I wouldn't have made it this far.

20. Let people talk: people may talk about you or criticize you for certain things or choices you've made, it's your life. So tell them to shut up and just walk away.

21. Ask lots of questions: I am curious, curious about everything around me, therefore I ask a lot of questions which I know can be annoying at times. Without questions how would we ever get any answers or learn to do things differently?

22. Stand up for yourself and others: you may not make friends doing this, but you will gain respect, that I can guarantee. Stand up for who you are and what you believe it. Don't be afraid to stand up for someone else too. It may be scary, but totally worth it.

23. Gain a sense for adventure: I love to travel to new places, whether they are national or international. I love learning about and experiencing new cultures. I've traveled to many different countries and learned about and met so many interesting people. Those experiences have helped shape me.

24. Don't change yourself for anyone else: be confident in who you are, the right person will come along and love that quality about you.

25. Love people: I think the title explains itself. Without love in this world where would we be?