Monday, August 23, 2010

You Can Do Eet!

(And yes, that title is a shout-out to The Waterboy (cajun for 'you can do it, lol).)

I am a fairly goal motivated person. There is something about a challenge that I find utterly irresistible. It is one of the reasons I finished my first manuscript to begin with: I wanted to finish my first book by the age of … what, did you think I was going to tell you? *scoff* Nice try. Let’s just say by my last birthday, and I did! My new goal is to have a contract before my next birthday, and I am working hard towards that goal.

Several years ago, the private lake community where we live (it is much more redneck than it sounds, I assure you) decided to hold a triathlon. It was all very exciting, and many of the people who live here decided to become involved, either by volunteering or actually participating in the race. Our next door neighbors, husband and wife, were just two of the crazy people that showed up bright and early that October morning to plunge into the murky depths of the lake for a 500m swim, hop dripping wet onto bikes for the 15 mile ride, and schlep it on the hills for a 5k run. My neighbors had a long history of competing in triathlons, and lo and behold, he walked away in 1st place out of about a hundred participants from all over the US. His wife also kicked some serious tushie, all while Kirk and I cheered wildly from the sidelines. Eating donuts.

So not kidding.

Afterward, I laughed and congratulated them on their impossible feat, shaking my head at the level dedication and physical punishment that kind of accomplishment required. Interestingly enough, as we went back to our lives and fall turned to winter, it stuck in my head that it was something I secretly wished I could do.

After three months of resonating in the back of my mind, it became my New Year's resolution to compete. Kirk was more than a little surprised at my decision—after all, we had been together since high school, and he had never seen me do any sport of any kind—but quickly got on board, and we began by running in January. I had not run one step since childhood, and even then I never liked it. I used to have a long-standing joke, that if you saw me running, you’d best turn around and run too, because there is either a rabid dog or a serial killer hot on my heels.

After a run in the cold rain

That first, cold, dark January night I tried to run to the top of my street. It was only a few hundred feet, and I was winded and panting by the time I reached the stop sign. The cold air stung my lungs, and my leg muscles wanted to know what the heck I thought I was doing. But I was invigorated and starting making baby step goals: to the stop sign and back without stopping, to the playground and back, to the end of the next road. 

None of it came easily to me, not in the least, but I was determined.

Like I said, it didn’t come easy for me: Asphault 1, Erin 0

Come spring, Kirk hopped on Craigslist, and he found a pretty little yellow and black road bike (almost) just my size. When we brought it home, I was absolutely thrilled that I made it three miles before stopping – 3 miles! That was like 3 million in Erin-speak. My last bike was a pink and purple ten-speed, and here I was cruising through my neighborhood like Lance Armstrong. (Alright, probably closer to Neil Armstrong, but still, I was doing it). It was months before I made it the 10 miles (big hills!) around the lake without stopping, but when I finally did it, it was one of the most incredible, exhilarating feelings of my whole life.

Swimming was the last leg to overcome, as I had never learned 'proper form' or technique. As you know by now, I have always been a bit of a fish, but only for fun and certainly never for distance. Kirk and I nearly drowned the first big swim we took. We were sputtering and exhausted and collapsed on the dock when we returned, breathing great gusts of air as our muscles quivered.

Luckily, swimming did come easier for me (surprise!), and I will never forget the sense of accomplishment that summer when I got back to the dock from a 1/2 mile swim only to look up and see that Kirk was a couple of hundred feet behind me! I laughed gaily when he finally made it to the dock, shook his head and said, "You go girl." 

A month before the triathlon was scheduled, we ran our first 5k. It was sweltering by 8 am and I was sweating before the race even started. At the sound of the start everyone was off, and I was already being passed by grandmothers and kids before the first half mile. After what seemed like 2 hours, I crossed the finish line with Kirk cheering me on. Kirk had finished in record time, and our friends were blown away that he had only started running a few months earlier. I was so proud of Kirk I could hardly stand it.

As for me, I was totally thrilled to have beaten my goal of 10-minute miles - by seconds! Though I was slow as a turtle compared to the other people there, I had done what even three months earlier I had thought impossible. 

The week before the big triathlon, Kirk and I decided to do a dry run of the course. I was ecstatic that my time on the bike had gone from 1hr 35min two months earlier to 1hr 8min for the 15 mile stretch. Kirk was leaps and bounds faster than me, but we cheered each other and blew air kisses when we passed each other at the turn around. We took it easy on the run course since it was our first time on that particular course. At the end of it, we were thrilled to know that, although we wouldn't win any metals (or so we thought) we had finished and were not laying on the pavement panting.

Later that weekend, we actually wake-boarded and surfed and did yard work. We were rock stars!

On Monday morning, I woke up to an awful pain at my right hip. It was excruciating. I couldn't lift my leg even a few inches. I was surprised that I had felt so well on Saturday and Sunday only to have so much pain then. Feeling nervous and upset, I decided to ice it and rest it, and hope for the best.

By Wednesday, the pain had not lessened, and I was starting to really worry. My mom and brother (my dad was stuck in training in Arizona) were supposed to fly in on Friday for the race, and I still could hardly even walk.

That night I sat with Kirk, and wept for one of the very few times in my life. Nine months of hard work, pushing myself as I had never imagined, all the buildup to the impossible-now-possible goal and I wasn't going to be able to even compete. I was completely heartbroken.

We prayed for last minute healing, and I went to see the doctor on Thursday. 

I was terrified that he would shake his head and say "better luck next year." He poked and prodded, moved me this way and that, and finally looked me in the eye. He said that I had strained one of my quad muscles, but he didn't think that I had actually torn it. "You really want to do this?" he finally asked, when I had regaled him with the whole story, and that the triathlon was in 2 days and my family was flying in just to cheer us on. I nodded my head earnestly.

So, he shook his head and described some stretches that I could do, and told me to down Aleves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. "You're not going to set any land speed records, but you should be able to complete it if you are careful." I laughed and restrained myself from hugging him as I hobbled out of his office.

The morning of the triathlon dawned chilly, and quiet, and foggy. Kirk and I were nervous and excited, if a bit tired and cold as we crept to our neighbor’s pontoon at 6:15am. We chatted nervously and huddled together for warmth as we sliced through the glassy early morning water. When we arrived, we set up our gear in the assigned area, and anxiously rearranged it a few times while other competitors trickled in. Kirk checked my bike, and I checked his gear, and we stopped a few times to cling to each other with an exhilarating mixture of giddiness, pride, worry, and excitement.

Cold but excited an hour before the race

Minutes before the race – still cold and excited, but now scared too :)

Before we knew it, we were called to the start line, and then we were off. 
The doctor was right, no land speed records were set that day. But as I finished each leg, I was in awe of having completed each. In my head I was thanking God, and thanking the spectators who were cheering us on, and the Aleve that I had taken moments before jumping in the water. Each time I arrived at the transition area, I would search the crowd for my mom and brother, and of course would find them right away. Up front, laughing and waving and shouting "Swim, Erin, swim! Bike, Erin, bike! Run, Erin run!" (that mantra came courtesy of some long-distance encouragement from my sister and her now husband). I would beam at them, and tried to ignore my screaming muscles and my pounding heart.

And they're off!

Only 500m to swim, I would say. Only 15 miles to bike and you're done with it! It's only 5k, and then you can be finished! I passed Kirk on his way back to the transition area on the bike, and we shouted to each other. Shortly after I started the run, Kirk was almost done, and we grasped hands as we passed. I wish I could have watched him cross the finish line!

I had to walk up the hills during the run, and the brakes on my bike screwed up and rubbed my tire the whole time, and I got kicked more than once on the swim. I was passed by kids, a man with one leg, and even a blind man and his guide, and I cheered them all on with gusto. I didn’t use my legs during the swim in an effort to conserve my strained muscle for bike and run. The pain transitioning from the bike to the run was absolutely unreal. But guess what? We finished!!

No matter how much it all hurt (and lord have mercy did it hurt), the pride in myself felt better, and the entire time I smiled with joy. Kirk's time was awesome, and I was just so amazingly proud of him - bursting with it. He even won a medal for placing in his age group. I finished a little over 2 minutes past my amended goal of 2 hours, but indeed I finished!! 

Several months earlier, my uncle asked me why on earth we wanted to do the triathlon. I thought about it a minute, and answered, "Because I never thought that I could." What can we do when we put our minds, our spirits, and our wills to something? Now, I can honestly say...Anything!

What goals have you achieved that you never thought that you could? Is there something in your heart that you want to try, but have never followed through on? I want to hear about it! And then, a few months from now, I want to hear from you again, telling me all about how you accomplished your goal :)

So, after all your hard work at striving for your goals, it's important to take some time to be princess for a day. The recipe for the day is...

White Chocolate Tiaras!

I originally saw this idea here. Okay, so it's not rocket science, but it is a little tricky, so be sure to practice, and expect a few (highly delicious) mess-ups along the way :)

Melt white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave according to directions on the box. When cooled slightly, spoon into icing bag, and use a size 2 or 3 tip. If you don't have tips, simply snip a tiny hole on one end.

Cut parchment paper into little 1 in by 3 in rectangles. Draw the desired tiara design flat on the parchment paper, being sure not to make any part too thin, and allow to dry.

When firm, carefully place the parchment-backed chocolate over the side of a cylindrical glass (I used our drinking glasses). Take a hairdryer, and on the lowest setting, aim little puffs of air at the chocolate, warming it just enough to wilt the chocolate around the glass. If you get it too hot, the design will be ruined. Then placed the glass in the fridge or freezer to firm up the chocolate again.

Remove the tiara from the glass, peel off the parchment, and place over iced cupcakes.

I'll warn you now this is a pain to do, but they are so cute and fun, it is so worth it!


  1. This year too, yes?! You have to join the Huff's for their very first tri!

  2. Not this year, Ginny! If I had done any training this summer—or still had a bike, for that matter—than I totally would have done it this year.
    I will, however, be waiting with tiara topped cupcakes for you at the finish line, if you so desire :)

  3. Marquita ValentineAugust 24, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    Girl, I cannot tell you how impressed I am. For one I never run...I suck at swimming and fall off of bikes. Can you tell I'm not sportsy...that would never be my Spice Girl name!

    I think I'll need a lesson on the tiaras...I have a little princess that would love those for her birthday in March...we plan way ahead!

    Anyway, I have to say my biggest thing I thought I never could do was to write a novel....and I did it! Now my goal is to find a fabu agent and get it published...not necessarily in that order, lol!

  4. I'm totally with you on those goals, Marquita! And congrats on attaining your novel goal, it is a pretty awesome feat, if I do say so myself.
    We'll have to have a lunch date and practice those tiaras someday :)

  5. Erin, I am so proud of you for what you accomplished! Way to go! And having read your work, I know you'll meet your next goal too. Thank you for sharing the tiara cupcake recipe. My 4 year old will go crazy when she sees them. This year for her b-day she had a princess cake from "Your Perfect Cake" in Greenville--maybe next year we can do these instead.--Sarah

  6. Aww, Sarah, thanks for the sweet words :) I hope you do try the tiaras for next year's birthday - and send me a picture when you do!

  7. Erin, You always have the most inspiring stories. Thanks for sharing with us. My daughter is a leukemia survivor, and I have always wanted to do the Century ride fundraiser around Lake Tahoe for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society. But the Boise winter does me in each year. Maybe I'll give it another shot...

  8. You can do it, Clarissa :) Your daughter is a real inspiration to us all - what a fighter! Thanks for the kind words, and for dropping by to say hello.

  9. Another delightful post. :) Can't you do these more often? LOL (I really do enjoy your posts, and look forward to them.)

    I think everything I've done in life has started out with "I'm not sure I can do this", and then, somehow, I do it. Probably because the stubborn gene is so entwined in my DNA. And then I move on to the next challenge, thinking the last one was easier than it was, because whoo boy, this new one? I'm not sure I can do this. LOL

  10. LOL, Donna, if only I could - these once a week posts are almost too much! I am so thrilled you enjoy them :)
    It sounds like you and I have the same stubborn gene. I think the pc term for my disposition as a child was 'willfull' ;) Still, I think striving toward new challenges is what keeps us young and vibrant.
    Thanks for dropping by, Donna!

  11. Still so proud of was an amazing feat. I have always been so envious of your determination, can-do spirit and raw grit...I wish some of it would rub off on me. I've never been a goal setter (except for big, general, impossible goals like I want to change the world some day) so maybe I should try setting a goal for myself that is somewhere between "walk on the moon" and "walk up the driveway to get the mail." Congrats on another awesome post!

  12. I don't know Kara, I'd say you've achieved some pretty awesome things in your life so far :) Thanks for your encouragement, your still-hilarious video support (which I *almost* included in this post), and your general awesomeness, lol. You next goal - sell that house and go where your heart leads you!

  13. Hahah! I laughed when you mentioned that video...everyone in the whole park was staring at us like we had just escaped from an insane asylum! So glad we could virtually cheer you on:)

  14. Awesome blog, EK! One of my big disappointments was not being there to cheer y'all on that day, especially knowing the extra challenge you endured that day. Your and Kirk's preparation for and execution of that event was..and is...inspirational. Winston Churchill once said, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts." In my view, your "count" is pretty high! You go, girl!!

  15. Erin,

    What an inspiring story! I never thought I would run - EVER. Seriously. But I've been running for about 2 years now. I don't compete and I don't go far, only 2 miles, but I always feel proud when I go a little further or faster.

    Another big accomplishment was finishing my first book. That was my only goal, to finish a book. Now I'm on manuscript 3 and my first book will be published Fall 2011. This is a dream come true and I'm still stunned, happily so.

    My newest goal is to get back into dancing. I attended my daughter's tap class with her this summer and pulled out my old tap shoes. The teacher recruited me for the adult tap class starting this fall. Will I dance in the recital? That remains to be seen. :)

  16. I can tell you are a runner, Samantha - I've seen those killer calves! And I am so proud of you and your soon-to-be published series, I can hardly stand it :) With writing as good as yours, it was inevitable.
    Now, go use those well-toned calves and get thee to the recital! I expect pictures, lots and lots of pictures :)

  17. No worries, Dad, I knew you were cheering us on long distance :) Thanks for your wonderful support, and the awesome quote, as well!

  18. Erin, how fantastic!!!! This is such an awesome story, and I can't imagine how proud you must have felt at the end of that triathalon.

    I find more and more that I want to do things just because I never thought I could. I've always hated running, yet 3 weeks ago, Eric and I started training for our first 5k. We'll be running it in October!! But even after 3 weeks, I'm amazed at my progress. I've gone from being able to run for 30 seconds at a time to 3 minutes at a time. And I'm already averaging a 12-minute mile. Our goal is to do the whole thing in 30 minutes...I'll be back Oct. 18 to let you know if we did it :)

    Great post! And I love the pic of you crossing the finish line. How awesome!

    Oh, and um, you know I adore those tiaras!!! :)

  19. I have had, and still do, many goals and dreams in my life. Two involve travel. I always wanted to take my parents to Ireland, and Ryan and I did that 2 summers of my favorite experiences ever. And the other was to go to Prince Edward Island, which I did last fall, a crazy dream that helped lead me to my current dream--becoming a writer.

    I'm very impressed with your accomplishments, past and present. And here's to all of us kicking some serious butt in the future!

  20. Jerrica, I am so excited about your upcoming 5K! You will have to send me oodles of pictures, and be sure to reward yourself with cupcakes when you are through :) And I specifically thought of you when I posted the tiaras ;)

    Lindsay, it is so awesome that you have already achieved two such major goals in your life! I loved looking through all the gorgeous pics from both trips. I'm so excited for your new goal - and you have some great company ;) I can't wait to hear of your first big sale!

  21. What - no photographer credit? Just kidding. I'm just glad I was there to witness your triumph, one in a string of many. I'm doing pushups twice a week - does that count for anything?

  22. So very impressed! And inspired.

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your story. Wow...

  23. LOL, Andy - you will have to direct your customers to the blog so they can see your 'action' shots :) And push ups twice a week are better than no push ups! You'll have to show me your guns next time I visit ;)

  24. Thanks, Heather! And I know all about the major goals you have reached in the past month :) You go girl!

  25. Very inspirational! Kudos for you on the follow through and good luck on the contract!

    My never-do-it goal wasn't really writing the book, because that just sorta happened, but it was having the courage to get out there and try to see it in print.

    I was a major rejection-phobe. But I did it! And now have an agent helping me on the actual selling!

    What's next? Making some major progress in reducing my triglycerides! So, though the cupcakes look lovely, I'll have to stick with drooling at them on the screen...


  26. Thanks, Maureen :) How exciting to have landed an agent and to be working towards selling! You will have to let us know when we can go buy your books.
    As for the triglycerides, sometimes we all have to relegate ourselves to drooling over the pictures, lol

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  27. Hi Erin,

    I just wanted to let you know I highlighted your blog today on MY blog. LOL On my "Friday Faves" I like to give a shoutout to blogs that I enjoy or that inspire me, and today that's you. :)

  28. Wow, thanks, Donna! I'm honored. I'll head over there now to take a look :)

  29. Yay, Erin!!! Congrats on completing a tri! That's seriously awesome and you wrote about it beautifully. I hope 8 to 9 months from now I'll be telling you that I accomplished what I thought impossible. Three days down! That sounds ridiculous... maybe I should wait a month before counting the days. That'd be a little less depressing. ;)

  30. Thanks, Casey! I have absolutely no doubt you will get through this time with flying colors. With those two beautiful girls to occupy you, it will go by in no time :)
    Hmm, maybe you should set a goal while he is gone. Learn French? Make quilts for your girls? Random acts of kindness once a week?
    Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope you will again when your goal is accomplished :)

  31. Truly impressive. I'd love to take on a triathlon, even more so, an adventure race like the Eco Challenge. Alas, my herniated disc gets mighty grumpy when I run. That, and I actually got winded when Kara and I made that video for you! But this post of yours is truly inspiring and it makes me want to take on a physical challenge. Not sure what it'll be yet... but when I figure it out I'll let ya know!