Boobs, Pods and a Road Race. THAT got your attention. Or at the very least you’re curious how this is going to end up. Me too….

A little about me – I’m an American model competing in the (HIGHLY) competitive European modeling scene for a bit. More importantly, I run. I run for fitness, I run for mental clarity. I run for Parkinson’s Disease which has sidelined my awesome, athletic father. I haven’t run a road race in a while. I’ve been doing a lot more high intensity (HIIT) workouts because I like the results. I highly recommend lifting heavy weights, often. You’ll thank me.

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I’m 40 years old. I’ve been modeling on and off for close to a decade and here’s what I’ve learned – this business is fickle, highly competitive, hard on the body and self-esteem. It’s also a LOT of fun. At my age, I’ve got one shot left before I get long in the tooth, the face and the boobs. Belting them is not fashion forward. 

I’ve had to cut weight to compete with the younger models, especially the Russians and the French. (An average casting call for a job is like an international gathering of United Nations for Anorexia and Adderall. (UNAA). I snapped this pic of a Russian model on the metro home from an open call in Berlin. I have no idea who got the job but it wasn’t either of us.

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While I get a text from my agency daily reminding me to “think thin!” or “tone and tighten!” or “starve for svelte!” (kidding. kind of…) We all get lectured regularly about eating disorders and the negative effects of low body weight. “Your hormones will shut down and you won’t be able to have children EVER!” (I have a kid. All good.) “Your hair will fall out and you’ll be BALD!” (Our hair is professionally done for every shoot. I’m covered.) “You’ll experience anal LEAKAGE!”

Um, what? Excuse me say that again? Anal WHAT? WTF is that?! Everyone is looking around the room with mixed expressions of fear and doubt and then some more fear. Bald can be beautiful but there’s nothing sexy about any leakage.

Ok, Edna, you win. I’ll eat the steak.

Thankfully, I have access to great resources, nutritionists and this week I discovered….the BOD POD.

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According to my Google search, “The BOD POD is an Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) that uses whole body densitometry to determine body composition (fat vs. lean). Similar in principle to underwater weighing, the BOD POD measures bodymass (weight) using a very precise scale, and volume by sitting inside the BOD POD.”

A significant part of my job is keeping in shape – or being whatever shape they need me to be to land a campaign. I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading nutrition blogs, books and podcasts. I get blood work done at regular intervals to make sure I’m not deficient in anything and I know what foods work for me. The information ascertained from the Bod Pod would be another level of info gathering for my personal nutritional science project.

I had to wear a bathing suit or running bra and underwear and a swim cap. I also had to show up in a fasted state.

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My appointment was at 9am and I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since 8pm the previous evening. I get up around 5am so by 9am I would have traded my left breast for an espresso. Thankfully, the paperwork took longer than the actual test. I was out of there in less than 15 minutes and raced immediately to the nearest Cup-O-Caffeine and ordered two of everything.

“Would you like that iced or hot?”

“Yes. Just yes.”

What did I learn? I learned I have 12% body fat and that’s just not enough for a functional female. I also learned that my fat-free mass – meaning my bones, internal organs, muscle – weights 113 lbs. BEST NEWS EVER! Why? Because when my 5’2″ friend is complaining about being 120 when she was 98 in high school or when Edna from the agency shakes her head at my weight I can tell her to SUCK IT because MY DUTCH AMAZONIAN SKELETON IS GIGANTIC AND HEAVY AND WEIGHS MORE THAN AT LEAST ONE OLSEN TWIN.

Suck it, Edna.

Then I ran a road race.

It was the Oktoberfest Dirndl 5k. Do you know what makes dirndls so awesome? Boobs. Those tiny white blouses, cinched in the middle so the cups overfloweth… hold a beer, throw in an apron and you’re instantly the star of every male fantasy.

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I, however, have seemingly sacrificed mine on the altar of Haute Couture modeling.

A moment of silence for my dirndl modeling career.

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The race itself was super fun. My tiny, 98 lb friend ran with me. We encouraged some people along the way and had a great chat about nutrition and exercise (and boobs. We also talked about boobs. When this modeling career reaches its finish line I’m going to want to get a set of those…)

We’re going to the actual Oktoberfest in Germany together this weekend to celebrate all things German. Stay tuned. Or post bail. Both.

Prost.

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Oktoberfest celebrates a new season.  I’m trying to celebrate something every single day. It’s a conscious exercise in thanksgiving that doesn’t involve the bird or a pilgrim. It takes work. Maybe you’re not where you want to be physically. Maybe you’re not where you want to be emotionally or spiritually. There are times I want to hop a plane to Florida, times I want to put down the weights and take a day off, eat the egg AND the yolk. But I’m going to celebrate the season I’m in right now – because every day is a gift. The leaves and the wind are changing but God doesn’t change and that’s something to celebrate too.

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The trees are celebrating with their fragrant fruit and jewel toned leaves. The Germans are celebrating with their pints of Pilsner. Army football fans everywhere are celebrating our team. LL Bean is celebrating sweater season. France is celebrating – actually the French tend to be pissed off quite a lot of the time. Don’t wait for a holiday or a Saturday to choose joy. Find something to celebrate in your life today.  Pumpkin and Pilsner? espresso and Prosecco? Soccer mom lattes and yoga pants? Dirndls and pods and boobs?

YES, just yes.

Celebrate where you are in your journey right now.

 

And Run to Win.

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Nussdorf, Germany

2pm on a Sunday.

The last race before I turn 40 years old.

It’s cold here in Europe. Road races still happen but they are few and far between this time of year. (Far-between in Europe means I may have to run in Germany or France or Italy. First world problems, I realize. Thankfully France is as far from southern Germany as NYC is from northern New Jersey.)

I have had a chest cold for a solid month so the thought of running far or fast spooked my lethargic lungs. Luckily I found a 5k “nordic walk” which seems like a cop out until you meet the competitors. Get in their way and they will stab you with their poles.

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It was a beautiful winter day. The bright sun made the air feel much warmer then its 35 degrees. The race was in a beautiful sprawling field in a gorgeous nordic-bavarian village miles and miles away from big cities or the horrific traffic I’ve become all to familiar with.

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There was an enormous crowd of both competitors and spectators, multiple teams, age ranges and abilities represented. So I was surprised when, upon registering, I learned the walking portion wasn’t available – the reason for which I couldn’t discern with my limited German – and my only option was to run the very competitive 10k field.

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Crap.

The runners were lined up in their compression pants and competitive weather-wicking shirts. I was in yoga pants, a windbreaker and an old Bruins hat from college.

I did not fit in.

Everyone goes through times when they feel they don’t fit in. For most of us it’s the early years – braces, acne, big plastic glasses, frizzy hair. We experience it again and again when we move to new towns, start new jobs, try new things that take us out of our comfort zones. The important part is to face it and push through. (Just not with fashion. Overalls weren’t a good look back in 1990, either.)

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I’m turning 40 in two weeks. If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me how old I am I’d probably say 28. It’s how I feel. However when I spend any significant time with someone in their twenties I quickly realize I am indeed middle aged.

My body felt good on the run, though by the end of the first few kilometers I felt the aches and pains that come from relentless physical exertion. I feel pretty good overall but be clear – my body knows I’m approaching 40. If I smell pizza, I gain a pants size by dinner. If I stay up past 9pm, I wake up looking like I’ve been at an all-night rave doing jello shots when actually I had just run downstairs realizing the laundry had been in the washer for two straight days.

I used to be the life of the party with my sharp wit and stellar conversation skills. Now my stories lead with, “you know… that guy… from the thing… with the girl…”

People say exercise is the fountain of youth. My lower back didn’t get the memo. Nor did my high-heel induced bunions, cellulite, that one chin hair that won’t die….

I slowed down a bit on the run and allowed the reflection that comes from solitude. To those in my peer group or those looking to us to ease the fear of transition from youth to middle age, grab your wine and settle in.

5 Reflections on 40

#1: Love where your body is now.

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Don’t wish you were 20. You can’t turn back time. Don’t pin hopes on the future “I’ll buy it in a size 4 for motivation…” We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow so be present in your thoughts and actions, even if that means the granny bra when you realize you can belt your boobs. Gravity is not our friend. Embrace it. Love yourself as you are right now. That doesn’t mean we can get lazy. If you listen to the world’s top athletes discuss what drives them, it’s not beating the competition – it’s beating themselves. Be your best for yourself. 

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#2:  The only opinion that ultimately matters is your own.

Not his. Not hers. Not the guy you like, not the girl you admire, not the parent who never said “good job” or your celebrity hero. The only opinion that ultimately matters is the opinion you have of yourself.

Sit with that for a moment while I return to the road race.

I get in the chute and off we go for a six mile run up and down rolling hills – big hills – where the only spectators where the local sheep who came to the edge, cheering on each runner passing by.

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It was a three lap loop up and down hills. I was behind the lead group but in front of the casual joggers – a spot that was lonely but I can’t understand what anyone is saying anyway. Being behind the fast group gave me someone to chase (and the opportunity to see these incredible vistas on my way up the hill.)

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5 Reflections on 40 #3:

#3:  We’re all encouraged to be leaders. Be a leader. But also “practice playing second fiddle.”

 “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” Romans 12:10 the Message

After the second lap, while heading up the hill to begin my third and final, the clouds rolled in, the piercing cold followed, culminating in rain. Then, as punishment for lying to my friend in the 5th grade, the hail came. Even the sheep said screw it and headed for an abandoned train car.

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(Runners are perpetual observers of #NoMakeupSelfie.)

5 Reflections on 40 #4:

#4:  Learn Resilience.

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Like this little band that played along the run route. They packed in their instruments during the most extreme moments of the hail storm but they were resilient in their dedication to cheer us on.

 

The difference between the people I choose to hang out with and those I don’t is their capacity for resilience. Successful people don’t stay down for too long. Happy people don’t dwell on what didn’t work or live a life of regret and remorse. Learn. Grow. Adapt. Evolve. Then we can be friends.

I finished the race, got my cup of carbonated water (the least refreshing post run drink ever) and headed to the farm fields that were now mud fields to dig my car out and head home.

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5 Reflections on 40 #5:

#5:  Find your Joy.

“Awesome things will happen today if you choose not to be a miserable cow.” This is true even on the eve of your 30th or 40th or 80th birthday.

Choose Happiness. It spreads. It’s addictive. It makes people like you. It makes you like yourself.

And didn’t we learn our opinion of ourselves is the most important? 

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There you go. Now go be sparkly unicorns.

And Run to Win.

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Do you ever wake up and think,

ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?

6pm on a Friday.

Somewhere in Germany.

I found a gem – a Friday night 5k. Cream of the crop – you get it over with before the weekend, don’t have to wake up at 4am on a Saturday and there’s usually a beer reward at the end. Trifecta. 

Wifi, spotty. Cell range, murky. My 5’10” co-Amazon friend came with me. (Intimidation factor.) We arrived at the GPS coordinated location 30 minutes before race time.

No one was there.

Seriously. This was it.

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Let me tell you something about Germans in Bavaria. They don’t work out. They do, of course, but they don’t advertise it. They don’t walk around in yoga pants or running shoes. You won’t see a Nike symbol for miles.

Insert 2 giant women in head to toe spandex walking through the streets at 5pm on a Friday. We might as well had blinking lights surrounding us saying, “AMERICANS HERE.”

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Despite the fact that my friend was ready to cut and run, we stayed, walking around the block like two Draconian Drag Queens.

A kindly (or curious) bar keeper, leaning on his stoop puffing on his menthol, nodded his head in either approval or disgust. “Lost?” he asked. We showed him the web listing for the event and he pointed us to the city center 400 meters ahead.

We passed teenagers sneering at us in our lycra and headed to the center square. There, we were approached by a lady in lederhosen and a man… with a bagpipe. “Here for the hike?” he said. I showed him the advert for the 5k. “Right-O!” he said.

5k Bagpipe tour of the city. Party of 4.

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The tour was lovely. The history, thorough. The music, plentiful.

It was a good lesson in expectation vs. reality.

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Afterwards, we stopped in the local (and only) Irish pub for a celebratory (or mockery) beer. I abstained, both because I was the driver and because I don’t drink beer. The owner of the bar, a nice enough chap, was a Romanian born half Palestinian Jew with an Irish grandmother and a propensity for flaming whiskey shots.

Take a moment to let that settle in.

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Things are rarely what they seem.

I’ve always struggled with the expectations of being a Pastor’s kid. Does that mean I CAN rebel? Or I’m expected to? Or I shouldn’t because of my father’s chosen line of work?

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My five year old looks up to her father who is a Military Officer. Does that mean she’s not allowed to protest the National Anthem? Or does that mean she has more right to? Do any of us have it all figured out?

Thankfully, God isn’t through with me yet. I’m reminded every day that I’m not in charge. I can’t see what’s around the corner, the storm and/or rainbow on the horizon. None of us know what’s next. That’s where our spiritual muscle comes in to play – so we’re ready for whatever is ahead.

Bonus points if it’s a bagpipe.

Run to win.

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While running the European Union (what’s left of it) for EU Parkinsons Foundation, I’ve been based out of a small village in southern Germany. My little town is great for a lot of things like bakeries, wine stores and biergartens. I’ve consumed so much beer and brats I’ll need a large, Hungarian electrolysis to keep me from turning into a middle aged man. We have farms, horses and goats. (So many goats.)

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Eight months later, it’s time to go home. I need to check on my little Florida flop house, replenish my resources, (working remotely is not for the weak) hug my friends and eat my mother’s casseroles. I’m thankful for my little village and the good Germans who have embraced me. It’s been an amazing but often difficult few months. There is only so much planning you can do before the kid gets sick, the plane gets canceled and you find yourself, out of cash, on a city bus in the middle of Italy with a box of bread sticks and day old fake eyelashes.

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I haven’t stopped running! I’ll share my race experiences in the States over the next few months. Keep running with me. We’re in this together. Exercise isn’t just necessary for my physical well being, it’s important for my emotional and spiritual self. It’s where I emote, process the day, lament that I don’t work hard enough, try hard enough, don’t measure up to who I want to be. By the end of the run, with my well empty, I talk to my creator. You may not hear God but I do. It’s the gentle nudge that says, “you’ve got this.”

Today, during a brief respite from the rain, I grabbed the dog, launched my kid in the jogger and we went for a 5 mile run up through rocky trails and over pine needle strewn paths.

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At the top of an intense hill was an incredible vista – the sweet reward for the upward climb.

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Then I had the satisfaction of the downward slope, reveling in the exhausted joy of having completed a long, tough run.

At the bottom of the steep hill, I came to a sign:

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DANGER! I couldn’t continue into town. There was construction or an accident or I was being punished for past sins.

I had to turn around AND GO BACK UP the mountain and down the OTHER SIDE.

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I had just climbed the hill. I hadn’t prepared for having to climb it again. I didn’t have the motivation. I didn’t have the physical muscle to do it all over.

I’ve talked a lot about spiritual muscle. It’s how we deal with peaks and valleys of rugged terrain in life and in sport – how we engage our muscles of hope and faith to get up the hill when we’re stuck in a rut. But what happens when you don’t reach the top? Or when you crest the hill only to find another, bigger climb? We’ve all felt that depression. Sometimes, even when we do all the right things, we don’t reach the summit. Or if we do, it’s not what we’d hoped. The promotion you didn’t get. The job that isn’t fulfilling. A crumbling marriage, a troubled teen, sickness, adversity, hopelessness. That’s when spiritual muscle becomes crucial. We need help from friends, neighbors, family, church, music, reading, respite, running…  to start the climb back up the hill. Running Europe has been amazing. We’ve seen so much. But my tiny tot and I need to plant our feet on American soil. We need Green Tea Smoothies and Whole Foods. And Target! Oh how I’ve missed one-stop shopping for needless things, endless waste and American’s propensity for hoarding consumable goods.

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I need a break from the constant math of converting kilometers to miles. I need a break from all the speeding tickets because I suck at math. This story isn’t over. We’re just on to the next chapter – Run South America! Kidding, kidding. My Spanish is worse than my math.

Keep running with me. Keep running to win. God’s not through with us yet.

I offer up my favorite poem, abbreviated, by Annie J. Flint. I memorized it at a young age before I really understood what it meant. The language is dated but the message is clear – we’re not alone. There’s water in the well – an eternal supply! Read it, then read it again. Print it out. Put it in your desk drawer at work and your sock drawer at home. We all have “multiplied trials,” and we all need His “multiplied peace”.

He gives more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sends more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He adds His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun!

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

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And Run to Win.

It’s been a while, race fans. Pour yourself a cold glass of Chardonnay and let’s recap.

I’m a hiker, skier, drinker, runner, ENFP on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  I’m running road races around the world – All 50 states (for me) and Europe (for EU Parkinsons) to raise awareness for the disease which has sidelined my awesome, athletic father. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/08/21/daughter-honors-former-west-point-chaplain-father-after-parkinsons.html

I’ve been in Europe now for exactly 8 weeks today. They were rough weeks. Hotels, laundry at friends houses, walking in a jet-lagged induced haze from scary-as-hell German playground to Biergartens featuring… scary-as-hell German playgrounds. Here are a few unique things I’ve learned about Germany (and most of southern Europe in general.)

German Fact #1: Everyone drinks. Want to give your 9 year old their first taste of beer? The waiter will bring you a sippy cup. Want to take your glass of Hefeweisen for a walk downtown? Go for it! And pass some around to others. Just don’t try to drink water – it’s all bubbly and sometimes so packed with magnesium it takes your colon a week to adjust.

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German Fact #2: Everyone smokes. Non-smoking section? There isn’t such a thing. From the kids sand pit to the ladies bathroom someone is smoking. And there are cigarette vending machines all around to enable your desire to smoke with every breath. Everywhere. From the gates of an 11th century castle to the edge of the black forrest – a dozen kilometers from civilization – you will find a cigarette vending machine.

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Germany Fact #3: Sunday is a day of rest. You can not shop – everything is closed. You can not go out to eat – they’re resting too. You can not mow the lawn, paint the house, wash your car or blink. And the old folks around you will call the cops if you do. So best you get your food the day before, hunker down and light up a pack of Marlboros. Because it’s Sunday. It took me a few weeks to adjust. I’m an all-american consumer and I can’t comprehend not being able to buy milk or eggs or zip ties anytime I want. But it’s a good discipline. We should go to church! Read, rest, stop and smell the roses.

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It’s hard to slow down. Hard to switch gears. This adventure has forced me to completely change course. I’ve felt depressed a few times in my life. First, during those awkward teenage years when your hormones are raging and you feel like THE SKY IS FALLING EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE SOMEBODY HUG ME! The second time was right after my daughter was born and suddenly I was responsible for keeping another human being alive. None of that prepared me for putting my entire DC life on hold and uprooting myself and my 4 year old sidekick to another part of the world where we didn’t speak the language and hadn’t prepared our colons for the perpetual onslaught of sparkling beverages. But we survived. How? Because part of this journey is about building spiritual muscle so when the hard times come – and they always come – we can not just handle it but conquer it. I spent a lot of time in prayer. I highly encourage it, whatever you believe. Have a conversation with your creator. Tell him you love him, you believe him, you’re mad at him – doubting him – tell him you feel abandoned or lost or scared. Just like in our everyday relationships, communication is key. And He will respond. It’s not always with the answer we want or when we want. He’s not into instant gratification and he’s not our cosmic cash machine. But prayer works. Try it. God is good, even when the sky is falling.

I’ve run two races here. The first run is always the hardest. I haven’t been training much and the hills are are no joke.  The first one was at the tip of the black forrest with magnificent mountain views. I didn’t do well. It was hard and I wasn’t motivated. But I did it.

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Lesson from Germany: Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump. For some of us, especially perfectionists, people who never fail or people who are afraid of failing, that fear will keep us from doing it. DO IT. Engage that muscle of faith and go. Jump. Run. Failing sucks but character is developed in the struggle.

The second run was a lot more fun. A dirndl 5k. I learned two things about dirndls. First, they are hot as balls. Second, only touristing Americans wear them. My German neighbors thought I had been sniffing schnitzel when I walked out the door.  I didn’t win but my time improved. I came in 3rd place… of the women wearing outfits… had there been such a category…

I’ve referenced before one of my favorite sermons my father would preach at the Academy, around graduation time, about life’s mountain peaks and valleys. The mountain peaks are joyful, celebrations of accomplishments. Life’s BIG DEALS. Graduations, weddings, births, reunions, promotions. But we don’t live on the mountain top. We live in the valley. And to get to the top we have to climb, fall back, get up and keep going. The struggle makes the top more gratifying; the view more satisfying. These first few months represented my climb up and having two races and one country down is my mountain top. It’s all down here from here.

Until the next mountain: France.

Good news, that mountain has wine.

Run to win.

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